1. Stammis

    Stammis Banned

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    Technology that defies logic

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by Stammis, Aug 9, 2017.

    So I'm using a premise that, I realised half way in, would be impossible in reality.

    And instead of trying to explain a reasoning for this, I'll have a technology that's so advanced that they cannot even phantom how it manages to do what it does.

    Can this be done well or do you think the reader would feel cheated?

    It fits into the story, however, that there could be such technology and isn't thrown in at the last minute
     
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  2. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I don't know, to be honest. I think there are loads of examples of sci-fi where the technology is handwaved for story purposes, and impossible from what we know at the moment. I mean, warp drive or faster-than-light travel? That's so common in sci-fi, but apparently it 'can't' actually exist if the laws of physics are correct. In fact, interstellar travel doesn't exist either, and yet sci-fi almost universally assumes it can happen. SOMETHING we don't have now will need to be invented or discovered before any of these things will be possible.

    So ...I wouldn't worry too much about impossible technology, especially if your story is laid in a time and place where that technology already exists. Just incorporate its use into the story, and allow your readers to suspend disbelief. It might be more difficult to pull off if you have present-day people inventing it or using it, however.
     
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  3. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor Contest Winner 2022

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    Just don't explain the technology in too much detail. I don't mind fantastical technology in sci-fi, but I despise misused real physics.
     
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  4. Stammis

    Stammis Banned

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    Very true. It's not a present-day, but rather vastly into the future, so far and alien that earth doesn't exist (it may have existed at some point).

    I don't want to say too much, but the technology defies laws of physics and even the people that operates has no idea how it works because that knowledge had been lost at some point. They know how to operate it though, and knows fairly well what it does.
     
  5. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I am the kind of person who prefers technology to either be realistic (even if fantastical and futuristic) or be acknowledged as improbable or not understood. In other words, if technology is just assumed (or stated) to be consistent and plausible but actually isn't, I can no longer suspend disbelief.

    In my sci-fi WIP, I have a technology which is not currently possible. Furthermore, if the characters in the story knew how it worked, they would be able to circumvent the actions which ultimately led to the tech's destruction. So I had to do what you are suggesting - the people themselves do not know how the technology works.

    This brings with it the problem of how it came into existence in the first place. I managed to get around this by having the technology created by other technology, and also have sapience of which the human characters are not aware. You might solve this problem another way, but however you choose to address it I do think that implausible tech should be acknowledged as such. Trying to fob readers/viewers off with implausible technology with no acknowledgement of this is a bit insulting in my opinion.
     
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  6. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    In Foundation, Isaac Asimov created a whole new discipline of science - psychohistory - simply by naming it and suggesting that it was a way to 1) predict the future and 2) make plans to avert disaster based upon those predictions.
     
  7. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    And backed it up with a whole new branch of science - his argument in creating psychohistory was that when you've got a large enough number of people, their behaviour is predictable -

    The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations, published in 2004, is a book written by James Surowiecki about the aggregation of information in groups, resulting in decisions that, he argues, are often better than could have been made by any single member of the group. The book presents numerous case studies and anecdotes to illustrate its argument, and touches on several fields, primarily economics and psychology.
     
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  8. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, but my point is that he did not get into the specifics of how it was done.
     
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  9. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    Sorry, Ed, but that's a bit like asking for the full mathematical treatment of atomic bomb theory in a book that mentions they have a bloody big bomb, based around nuclear reactions.

    Asimov included the general description of "big enough populations are predictable" to support his "leap of faith" that future scientists would create the science. That's a lot more than merely handwaving it, which is the approach advocated by most of the posts above.

    Asimov also pioneered the "Jump" (Jump drives were used in many science fiction universes for space vehicle movement, initially suggested in The Foundation Series of novels by Isaac Asimov from 1942) as a means of rapid transit between the stars, and that was rather more handwaved...although the folding of space/time could be described as a manifestation of the Jump.
     
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  10. EdFromNY

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Which is exactly why the answer is to take the vague approach. Asimov included just enough detail to make psychohistory sound plausible.

    The OP was concerned that he might be replicating what Asimov had done. I was assuring him that it was highly unlikely. Since we are talking about methods of predicting future events, and since the science of that has advanced significantly since 1942 (although not enough to predict with the kind of accuracy that Asimov suggested), I believe the OP has little to worry about.
     
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  11. zoupskim

    zoupskim Contributor Contributor

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    It depends on how the presence of the technology affects the story. If you break the laws of physics to create strife between characters, put your characters in unique situations, and explore interesting concepts, I think a little pseudo-science is fine. So long as the entire premise of you book isn't to explore the feasibility and use of this technology, essentially making it hard science-fiction, I think readers would be fine with it.

    This is a little trickier. What you describe here is pretty close to what humans in the Warhammer 40k series do: because WH 40K humans don't understand how certain technology works, and they can't replicate it, they worship it, going so far as to describe repair and maintenance procedures as rites and ceremonies, complete with all the pomp and pageantry of religious ceremonies. They don't know why pouring the Holy Promethium of Adeptus Mechanics (motor oil) on the Divine Block of Metallic Motion (engine) makes it work, they just know that it works, and that it's been done for thousands of years.

    This is used to great effect in the warhammer universe to illustrate the fallen, medieval, new dark age state of humanity, despite access to space travel and lasers. So, I'd go so far as to say explaining the relationship your people have with this unknown tech is more important than the tech itself. Maybe they have manuals, and a lot of data on the technology, but simply can't construct it anymore. Maybe they have computer programs that can work out the math, but only a few people know how the computers even work, so the MC never worries about it.
     
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  12. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Space Sci-fi writing rules:

    1. Don't sweat faster than light travel... nobody cares how it works.
    2. Don't sweat instantaneous communication between ships/planets... the plot won't work without it.
    3. Don't sweat the ridiculous range of sensors/scanners... enemies would never be able to find each other without it.
    4. Don't sweat why "lasers" appear to travel slower than contemporary bullets... it'll look stupid in the movies if they didn't (the same theory applies to sound in space... too much dead air on screen)
    5. Don't sweat why all species appear to speak the same language... too many subtitles in the movies and too much of a hassle to write around in a book
    6. Don't sweat the logistic and political absurdity of the "galactic government"... seriously, we can barely coordinate ordinances between rural counties, let alone planets on opposite sides of the galaxy (actually, I'd never include a galactic government, that's the dumbest idea ever, but others do it well and it serves a purpose in certain stories)

    I've found that for every tech head that wants to pick apart all the inaccuracies there are 50 people who don't give a shit. This is one of the few times where I'd suggest embracing the ignorance of the masses.
     
  13. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Senior Member

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    1. The wisdom of crowds, even when it meets all four criteria listed here (and it almost never does) does not apply to Black Swans.

    2. Most of the critical events of history have been Black Swans, i.e. not an expected event.
     
  14. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Ha ha! This did make me laugh out loud. Especially the bit about how all species can speak/understand the same language. How about Farscape's marvellous 'translator microbes?' The writers actually make a joke about how nobody understands how they work ...but they work.
     
  15. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    People were fine with unobtainium in Avatar. Time travel and crossing impossible distances in space don't bother too many people.

    A lot of writers use quantum mechanics as explanations because readers don't know enough about it to recognize how wrong the writer has the physics. Surely we'll look back on stories of today that get quantum mechanics all wrong and roll our eyes the same way people smoking cigarettes in space ships in old sci-fi stories makes one react.
     
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  16. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I ain't getting on any spaceships if we can't smoke!
     
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  17. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    It's fascinating that Star Trek actually got the physics right (even though the technology is currently impossible) with warp drive.
    The idea was you warp the fabric of space and skip through it instead of traveling along it.
     
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  18. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    Oh, I didn't know that. Cool. And the scientific theory actually was inspired by the show, rather than the other way around? Even cooler!
     
  19. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Wouldn't contracting and expanding regions of space damage the things within that space? I wouldn't want to be on a planet within an area that got stretched or contracted.
     
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  20. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

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    If it's a commonly used cornerstone of the setting, and a technical description isn't necessary for the plot, don't worry about it. In a novel set in the modern day, a character getting in a car wouldn't narrate to themselves how the internal combustion engine works (and probably wouldn't know in any detail), they'd just turn the ignition on and drive off. Even a scene where a car is being repaired would be unlikely to linger on the technical details unless they matter to the plot.
     
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  21. AustinFrom1995

    AustinFrom1995 Active Member

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    I would just be careful, some may find their suspension of disbelief broken if you start throwing in technology that can do who-knows-what without explanation. It really just ends up depending on what sort of genre your story is set in. :)
     
  22. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    Which is why The Mule is such a disruption to the psychohistorians of the Second Foundation.

     
  23. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    Which is why starships go to such trouble not to enter warp within an inhabited solar system.
     
  24. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I would still worry about it. Compressing space will pull distant matter closer together. So a star could be brought closer to a planet, potentially wreaking havoc due to the gravity of the larger object.
     
  25. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    No, it won't. The compression of space is a local phenomenon; distant objects would not be affected.

    (You know we're discussing something that hasn't ever been done? And that, if my understanding of the conservation of energy/matter is correct, could only be done by using all the energy/matter in the universe? In which case, the effect on a planet of the increased gravity from a newly-closely-located star would be the least of your worries. Oops, sorry, didn't mean to give you something else to worry about!)
     

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