Sunday, February 20, 2011

science fiction musings

1. So I started thinking about the implications of "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home," which many fans know as the "Save the Whales" sequel. It's the twenty-third century and whales are, sadly, extinct. Kirk and Company go back in time to twentieth-century Earth to gather some whales, bring them forward in time, and then hope like hell that they won't be too freaked out by the temporal displacement to reproduce. (One whale is, in fact, pregnant at the time of transfer. Good thing she didn't shoot out her calf while inside the Klingon fighter. Scotty would have had a lot of cleaning to do, and I don't think the Klingons had placed any mops in the hold. Klingons don't strike me as a mopping culture.)

The movie ends with the crew's success, of course. Two-and-a-half whales arrive safely in the twenty-third century, communicate with the enormous, marauding probe that's been visiting Old Testament-style destruction on the planet, and all is right with the galaxy.

But wait--

What does all this look like from the point of view of a twenty-sixth century cetacean biologist? Evidence would seem to indicate that all whales had died out shortly after the twentieth century... then suddenly, humpback whales reappeared! It's a miracle! Time travel opens up a whole new realm of transtemporal relocation for endangered species. This would certainly wreak havoc with any fossil record, because now we'd be dealing with man-made gaps. And once the potential to engage in such an activity has been established, then it's only a matter of time(!) before someone actually goes ahead and does it.

I'm reminded of the Simulation Hypothesis, which says that the closer we get to creating perfectly rendered virtual worlds, the closer to 100% is the probability that we're actually living in one right now. The same goes for time travel: the closer we get to making time travel feasible, the closer to 100% is the chance that someone will already have traveled through time. Most unsettling.

2. I'm not the first person to have this thought: the only device you need for a Cylon detector is a penis. Why? Because as we saw in the very first episode of the revamped "Battlestar Galactica," i.e., the miniseries, Cylon spines light up during sex. All you need, as a Cylon inspector, is an inclination to do it doggie style, and voilà-- lit spine = your ass is mine!

For the Cylon women, at least. For Cylon men, well, I guess we need a lady with a willing mouth, and a mirror. Assuming the men's spines light up, of course.

As I joked with my buddy Mike, the writers silently did away with the whole spine-glowing thing as the series progressed, probably because they, too, realized that this could be problematic.


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