a higher quality of nothing, striving toward something

I started reading this article about the sloppiest movie science violations in 2012 and had to stop on number 4, the one about The Avengers. It was pretty annoying up to that point, but that was where I just had to stop. Here’s what the author had to say about Spiderman, for example:

To suspend our disbelief, script writers invoke the bite of a genetically modified spider — an event that grants Peter Parker (aka Spider-Man) a “one-time miracle exemption from the laws of nature,” as physicist James Kakalios told NPR. Only then could Spider-Man pull out of extreme dive-bombs, attached to nothing but spidey silk, without breaking a single bone in his superhuman body. Uh, sure.

When did we start expecting science realism from science fiction? Is that the price for science fiction going more mainstream, for the recognition that many times things posited in science fiction do become fact?

In the late 90′s I worked for the Web team at the American Museum of Natural History. We were rolled into the communications and PR department which meant I got to sit through a lot of meetings that had absolutely nothing to do with me. One of those meetings which really stands out is the one where they were discussing a proposal the SciFi Channel brought to the museum. They wanted to do a special collaboration between science fiction writers and museum scientists and create a show out of it. I remember sitting in that meeting thinking, “Wow! This is so cool!” And then everyone else in the room started laughing derisively and the head of communications said, “Yeah, sure. The science part is fine, it’s the fiction part we want nothing to do with.”

There was no way I could speak up because I was a peon, but I left that meeting seething inside. And now I feel kind of vindicated because I know that if that proposal was brought to the museum now, they’d leap at the chance. I can’t help but think that the people who derided science fiction as not science would have a much easier time just enjoying a superhero movie without worrying about the science behind it, though.

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