Mar 8 2010 6:12am

GGG#010: Space Battles! Giant Ants! Physics! (Guest: Tom Rogers)

Tom Rogers, author of Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics, joins us to talk about exploding cars, battles in space, and the problem of scale in the insectoid world. Dave and John discuss how much science there should be in science fiction.



0:00 Introduction by

0:46 Dave and John introduce the show

Interview: Tom Rogers

Tom Rogers, author of Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics02:55 Interview begins

03:11 Tom’s background and how he got interested in science

04:36 Flashing bullets, exploding cars and the website that resulted

10:15 Nuclear bombs: the solution to incoming asteroids?

11:12 The problems with blowing up alien space ships

13:30 The wheelbarrow as munitions delivery system

14:13 Do we need to worry about giant ants any time soon?

15:30 Find out which movie Tom thinks is scientifically the worst movie of all time

16:35 Don’t despair, fellow geeks—there are a few movies with reasonably good science!

18:34 The limitations of humans and cybernetic counterparts

21:01 More movies that get some things right

22:23 Tom’s opinion of the recent Star Trek movie

24:36 Feedback from movie fans

26:03 How to get better scientific realism in movies

30:33 End of interview

Dave and John talk about science in science fiction

31:36 Dave’s fall from grace: Red Shift Rendezvous by John E. Stith

37:04 Other stories that combine hard science with some necessary fudging: Time for the Stars by Robert Heinlein; Larry Niven’s The Long Arm of Gil Hamilton. Discussion of telepathy and mental powers as an SF trope, The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester

44:02 The Kheper scale, Grading SF for Realism; also see The Moh’s Scale of Scientific Hardness

46:29 Created worlds in science fiction: Larry Niven’s Ringworld; Hex and “The Other Side of Jordan” by Allen Steele (which can be found in Federations); Iain M. Banks’s Culture series and story collection State of the Art; the work of Alastair Reynolds: Revelation Space, Zima Blue and Other Stories, Deep Navigation, and Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days

53:09 Dave and John have some advice for movie makers

55:37 More on the new Star Trek movie, and what’s the deal with sexy aliens? Whatever it is, John won't judge you.

58:28 Dave and John explain the Singularity

01:00:39 Show wrap-up

Next week: Alexandre Phillippe, director of The People vs. George Lucas

Thanks for listening!

John Joseph Adams ( is an anthologist, a writer, and a geek. He is the editor of the anthologies By Blood We Live, Federations, The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThe Living Dead (a World Fantasy Award finalist), Seeds of Change, and Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse. He is currently assembling several other anthologies, including Brave New Worlds, The Living Dead 2, The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, and The Way of the Wizard. He worked for more than eight years as an editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and is currently the fiction editor of Lightspeed Magazine, which launches in June 2010.

David Barr Kirtley ( is a writer living in New York who has been called “one of the newest and freshest voices in sf.” His short fiction appears in magazines such as Realms of Fantasy and Weird Tales, and in anthologies such as The Living Dead, New Voices in Science Fiction, and Fantasy: The Best of the Year, 2008 Edition.

Show notes compiled by podtern Christie Yant. Friend us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Jared Kardos
1. darkknightjared
Red Shift Rendezvous sounds really cool--I found it under Google Books, but MAN is that cover brutal. This was apparently made around the time when we just figured out how to create 3D renders of people on computers.

One idea I was really struck with was the "terra-forming of the solar system" that one of you mentioned that hadn't been used much--as a budding writer, that really started to make my gears turn. Can you recommend any books that have this sort of premise?

One thing I was struck with was the idea of more space ships that are more circular. I believe The Fountain had something like that, but they don't really explain it so it's probably very soft. But what I was reminded of was that it was used in the most unlikeliness of sci-fi movies--the craptacular guilty pleasure that is the Lost In Space remake. They're in the very beginning of the movie, so you don't have to go far, and they do have some form of wings, but the main component of the ships are clear spheres with holographic readers.
David Barr Kirtley
2. davidbarrkirtley
Well, don't judge a book by its cover. :-)

No seriously, that cover art was done by the author himself for the e-book edition. The actual published book, which is what I read, had much different cover art. (If you go to John Stith's website you can see the different covers.)

I'll try to think of some good examples of what JJA was talking about with stories in which humanity is limited to our solar system and has terraformed every available scrap of real estate, but as he said, it's an underused scenario, so I don't know how many good examples there actually are.
John Joseph Adams
3. johnjosephadams
The closest thing to what I was talking about are Ben Bova's "Grand Tour" novels (Mars, Jupiter, etc.). Some of them deal with the concept I was talking about more than others. I'm not sure it ever really feels FULL like I was saying. But he has a trilogy that's set in the asteroid belt, and there's all kinds of conflict over those resources.

It's been a long time since I read them--the earlier volumes were among some of the first sf novels I read--but one I remember being particularly good is one called Privateers. The later books weren't as good as the earlier ones I remembered, so I'm left wondering if the earlier books were just better or if I just wasn't as critical a reader back when I read them. (Of course, it's possible it's a little of column A, a little of column B.)
Josh Kidd
4. joshkidd
The main work that comes to mind set in a fully terraformed solar system is The Memory of Whiteness by Kim Stanley Robinson. The book is basically about a musical tour through the solar system that starts at the outer planets, where there are some new planet-like and even sun-like constructs, and continues inwards ultimately to Mercury.
Theresa M. Moore
5. TheresaMMoore
I went a little out on a limb when I wrote about terraforming on a planet outside the solar system in my first SF/vampire book Destiny's Forge, but I did not dwell overlong on it. The problems associated with settling on a planet which lacks all the usual resources available, (with two white suns to boot), serves as a backdrop for the introduction of my heroine Antonia Bellero. Then in my second book To Taste The Dragon's Blood, I talked about beginning the terraforming process on Mars, but at some future date as the book ends.

I tend to think that Frank Herbert's DUNE saga creates a whole different paradigm where terraforming is concerned, especially with the transformation of Arrakis into an Earth-like planet. But I took it in the tradition of Clarke's axiom: "any sufficiently advanced culture's technology can be perceived as indistinguishable from magic." (paraphrase, please don't hit; it's been a long frustrating day)If miracles do count as having physical properties, that is.
Celia P.
6. Celia P.
This was a fantastic episode, my favourite so far :-) Partly because I've read so little hard SF, so it was a fascinating discussion and I have a whole heap of new books I want to read.

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