When Hollywood tries to take a peek into the future, the attempts are usually more art and fantasy than science and technology. Which is fine, as our favourite Sci-Fi shows are focussed on making entertaining stories rather than showing scientific realism, and liberties can be taken with what is actually possible if it serves the plot.
But there is a whole range of popular Sci-Fi films and TV series that vary wildly with their realism, from Star Trek’s warp engines and transporters and Star Wars’ hyperdrives and lightsabers to the theoretical physics in Interstellar to the Newtonian physics of The Expanse. when it comes to knowing what makes a good Sci-Fi series.
Mostly, audiences are happy to enjoy the ride without questioning the realism too much. Few Trekkies question the impossibility of beaming down to the planet, or the USS Enterprise crossing vast distances in the blink of an eye.
But the concepts used in these shows need to have some basis in science. Are the show’s ships and gadgets in line with what we know is, or could be possible, even if purely theoretically? For example, beam weapons are possible, that they’d shoot bullet-like pulses and go ‘pew pew’, less likely.
In theory, on a long enough time frame, set the show far enough in the future, then any technology that can exist will exist. It might take us the best part of a year to travel to Mars now, but how long in the future might it be when it takes as much time as it does to fly from London to New York? Or London to France? Or as quick as driving to the next town?
Sometimes we find that the Sci-Fi technology used in shows not that long ago is now with us. Star Trek The Next Generation’s 24th-century PADD devices are now our 21st-century iPads. Many people, not too long ago, would have thought that easily available drones were the product of a Sci-Fi show, but here we are, and you can buy quadcopter drones now from our online store!