Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Why I Look Critically At Sci-Fi and Anime

This past January, after having done my Anime Mythbusters lecture for two years, I rewrote the introduction. For the first time, I addressed the reasoning behind doing such a lecture. While part of it was just for fun, and part of it was to teach good science, another reason that I do it is to remind people that there's a lot of bad science out there and that we take it for granted.

While obviously the lecture concentrates on the worst of the worst science (because it's just more fun to debunk), there's a lot of silly science out there that is just real enough that people actually buy it. Just because a show is fiction, doesn't mean we dismiss all the science in it as complete fiction; we don't reject gravity because we saw someone fall down a flight of stairs. We will probably question the physics if they jump off a building and walk away without a scratch, but there's an intermediate area in there that bad science can make it into the public consciousness.

And a new study in the UK backs that up.
• More than a fifth of adults believe light sabers exist.
• Almost 25 percent of people believe humans can be teleported.
• Nearly 50 percent of adults believe that memory-erasing technology exists.
• More than 40 percent believe that hover boards exist.
• Almost one-fifth of adults believe they can see gravity.
With so many people believing in fantasy technologies, it's no surprise that people can't understand just how poor of science Creationism, anti-vaccination, homeopathy, and the rest are.

This is why I do the lecture taking hundreds of hours of my time each year to prepare it. It's an introduction to critical thinking and skepticism on grounds that people aren't likely to find offensive. And at the same time, it's a reminder that science can be fun, without being bullshit.


JupiterIsBig said...

How do we know they actually believe these, or are they just not thinking about the question ?
What was it Ford Prefect said ? - "if human beings stop excercising their mouths, their brains might start working"

Watcher said...

Was this study based on what can actually be done now or wether the believe it at least possible at some point? Cause I'll be honest and say I believe 1-4 are possible...just not yet, potentially/most likely not even in my lifetime. But i still believe its not impossible at the least.

1-4) instead of Fantasy technologies wouldn't it be better to call them possible future technologies? Going to the moon in the 1800s would have been thought of as pure fantasy back then as well, but well hey look mid 1900s. And truthfully 1,3,and 4 do "exist" just not like people think from movies/tv. 1) isn't destructive and can't hold its shape, but you can make a "lightsaber" 3) sucks but its called blunt force trauma :P 4) using magnetic fields "hovering" objects is possible.

As for point 5 i would imagine when they answered that way thinking about the effects of gravity not gravity itself

Adam Drabik said...

How do we know they actually believe these, or are they just not thinking about the question ? tipy