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Old 01-16-2018, 09:11 PM
SlackerInc SlackerInc is offline
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What movies/TV shows qualify as "hard" science fiction?

I've been getting the sense lately that there is very little consensus on what this term means.

By the definition I'd use, I find very few movies or TV shows qualify. (Novels and short stories are a whole other matter, but they are also so vast in number and reach such a relatively niche audience, I think we should leave them out of this discussion.) Maybe the easiest way to explain my standards would be to point out some examples that don't qualify, IMO (although a lot of the content excluded is stuff I nevertheless greatly enjoy):

(1) Anything with "warp", "hyperdrive", or "FTL" travel. That knocks out Star Wars (which has no chance anyway for so many other reasons), Star Trek, BSG, Stargate, Andromeda, and Interstellar.

(2) Portrayal of "artificial gravity" that does not involve acceleration or rotation. Now we also lose Firefly/Serenity.

(3) Instant communications, with no lag. I'm not sure if there's anything that escaped the above two but gets knocked out here, but it's another strike against Firefly/Serenity.

(4) Probably the most arguable category: anything where the science gets a little hazy/mystical and slides over into woo. After a promising beginning, this was how Arrival fell apart for me. 2001's middle act is truly excellent hard sci-fi, but everything involving the monolith gets very "woo". And it's another strike against Interstellar (thinking here about the sappy ending, although there are some other lesser issues earlier).

So what survives these cuts? It's a lot easier for near-future type stories, stuff we could imagine happening in our lifetimes: Gattaca, The Martian, Gravity, Deep Impact. Sunshine probably fits in this category, too: although its last act jumps the shark badly (whereas its first half might be the best hard sci fi movie ever made), it does so in a way that doesn't necessarily disqualify it as hard SF. And quite a few of the Black Mirror stories would qualify, I think (there might be some disagreement as to how many and which ones).

When the setting is further in the future, 22nd century and beyond, there is very very little I can think of that doesn't run afoul of one of the rules I laid out. In fact, I can think of only one movie and one TV show. The movie is for my money one of the most underrated releases in recent memory: Passengers, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. And the TV show is SyFy's The Expanse, although I caution that I've only seen the pilot of that show.

So what others am I missing? Or do you think I've unfairly disqualified some worthy contenders?
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  #2  
Old 01-16-2018, 09:27 PM
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Babylon 5 does not qualify, but it comes close. They have hyperspace travel, though.

And while some races use rotation to create gravity(Even B5 spins), there are races that have artificial gravity.

The attempt to be "somewhat hard sci-fi" was made, though.
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Old 01-16-2018, 09:27 PM
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The Time Machine (and probably most early science fiction that doesn't leave the planet).
Logan's Run.
Blade Runner.
The Andromeda Strain.
A lot of post-apocalyptic fiction probably qualifies--Mad Max et al., I am Legend...
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Old 01-16-2018, 09:38 PM
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The Time Machine (and probably most early science fiction that doesn't leave the planet).
Logan's Run.
Blade Runner.
The Andromeda Strain.
A lot of post-apocalyptic fiction probably qualifies--Mad Max et al., I am Legend...
I like most of your examples, but you are reminding me that I should have added: no time travel. And certainly no zombies (not even pseudo-scientific ones like in 28 Days Later).
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Old 01-16-2018, 09:45 PM
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Primer deals with a lot of the technical issues other time-travel movies hand-wave away.

On preview: oops, oh well.

Last edited by snoe; 01-16-2018 at 09:46 PM.
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Old 01-16-2018, 09:59 PM
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I'll nominate the Alien films (the first two, at a minimum). Sleeper ships (suggesting no FTL travel), and, IIRC, no instantaneous interplanetary communication.
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Old 01-16-2018, 10:01 PM
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Blade Runner.
Doesn't Blade Runner have some sort of FTL travel though? It's not explicitly mentioned, but having far-away off-world colonies to which you can travel within the lifespan of those older model replicants seems to implicate it.
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Old 01-16-2018, 10:01 PM
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Primer deals with a lot of the technical issues other time-travel movies hand-wave away.

On preview: oops, oh well.
I do agree that it's an excellent entry in that genre though! And I actually really like time travel stories (if they are done well); I just don't think they are totally "hard". (TWSS)

One thing I think would be really cool in the case of Primer is if someone watched it without even knowing going in that it's a time travel story. It seems designed to provide a real "whoa" moment for such a viewer, but I'm not sure how many people have seen it that unspoiled.

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Doesn't Blade Runner have some sort of FTL travel though? It's not explicitly mentioned, but having far-away off-world colonies to which you can travel within the lifespan of those older model replicants seems to implicate it.
Maybe they are on Mars, or moons of Saturn or something?

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I'll nominate the Alien films (the first two, at a minimum). Sleeper ships (suggesting no FTL travel), and, IIRC, no instantaneous interplanetary communication.
Oh, you might be right. But do they follow through with there being a whole different generation of people on Earth when they get back? I wish I could remember about the communication, but you might be right there too.
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Old 01-16-2018, 10:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Ethilrist View Post
The Time Machine (and probably most early science fiction that doesn't leave the planet).
Logan's Run.
Blade Runner.
The Andromeda Strain.
A lot of post-apocalyptic fiction probably qualifies--Mad Max et al., I am Legend...
I'm going to veto The Time Machine and any other time travel movie. Any movie where you can hop in a machine and travel to the past is as least as preposterous as warp drives.

Andromeda Strain is also pushing it. An extra-terrestrial virus that turns energy into matter? Plus from what I've read, an extra-terrestrial pathogen would no more be able to infect a human or other Earth creature than an extra-terrestrial would speak English.

Also Babylon 5 not even close.



Some "hard science" films:
Moon
The Martian
Ex Machina
Gravity
Children of Men
Sunshine
Her

TV Shows:
Westworld
The Expanse (I think...never seen it)
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Old 01-16-2018, 10:13 PM
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Oh, you might be right. But do they follow through with there being a whole different generation of people on Earth when they get back?
At the beginning of Aliens, when Ripley is brought out of hypersleep, she learns that it's been 57 years since the events of the first film. However, IIRC, she was adrift, and I don't know how long the flight "home" should have been.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 01-16-2018 at 10:15 PM.
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Old 01-16-2018, 10:20 PM
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Star Cops. It was a short British TV series. No artificial gravity (early episodes in orbit showed the people in Zero G). No warp drive. No aliens. No violations of the laws of physics (one episode, "Conversations with the Dead", got its title from a spaceship whose engines fired too long, so that it was impossible to reach them before they ran out of air: they were as good as dead). There was a delay in communication due to distance.

The one fantastic element of the time was a computer that fit in your pocket and was voice activated. That was pretty speculative at the time, but it was basically an iPhone.

Bonus: theme song performed by Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues.
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Old 01-16-2018, 10:24 PM
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I'll nominate the Alien films (the first two, at a minimum). Sleeper ships (suggesting no FTL travel), and, IIRC, no instantaneous interplanetary communication.
Artificial gravity.
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Old 01-16-2018, 10:24 PM
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The Expanse is pretty good. At least the physics of space travel seem to be relatively realistic. There is some weird alien shit going on that the characters don’t understand yet and it’s not fully explained to the audience.
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Old 01-16-2018, 10:26 PM
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Artificial gravity.
Oooh, good point, I'd forgotten about that part.
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Old 01-16-2018, 10:30 PM
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Oh, you might be right [about Aliens]. But do they follow through with there being a whole different generation of people on Earth when they get back? I wish I could remember about the communication, but you might be right there too.
Why would Earth send the Sulaco to LV-426 on a rescue mission if it took years or decades to get there? Who are they going to rescue? Their great grandchildren?

Remember that Ripley also told Hudson that the little girl, Newt, survived a lot longer than the 17 days it would take for the Sulaco to be declared "overdue". I don't think she meant "years longer". So we can assume that while travel and communications in the Alien universe is much slower than Star Wars or Star Trek, it is still much faster than the speed of light.


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Oooh, good point, I'd forgotten about that part [artificial gravity].
Also killer space cockroaches.


And does anyone besides me think that "nuking from orbit" or driving a 2 mile long spaceship into Africa as a response to getting overrun by what are essentially dangerous wild animals a bit of an over-reaction?

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Old 01-16-2018, 10:42 PM
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So we can assume that while travel and communications in the Alien universe is much slower than Star Wars or Star Trek, it is still much faster than the speed of light.
Yep. Military ships get to go fast; spaceborne refineries, not so much.
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Also killer space cockroaches.
Ain't nothing wrong with space cockroaches according to the OP.
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And does anyone besides me think that "nuking from orbit" or driving a 2 mile long spaceship into Africa as a response to getting overrun by what are essentially dangerous wild animals a bit of an over-reaction?
If I recall correctly, this was literally the first actual alien their improvised survey craft had come across, and they wanted to militarize it.
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Old 01-16-2018, 10:59 PM
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Some "hard science" films:
Moon
The Martian
Ex Machina
Gravity
Children of Men
Sunshine
Her

TV Shows:
Westworld
The Expanse (I think...never seen it)
Nice list!

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Why would Earth send the Sulaco to LV-426 on a rescue mission if it took years or decades to get there? Who are they going to rescue? Their great grandchildren?
Ah, good point. Nice catch. So that, and the artificial gravity, disqualifies it. They do make it seem "hard-ish" with some of the other touches though.

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And does anyone besides me think that "nuking from orbit" or driving a 2 mile long spaceship into Africa as a response to getting overrun by what are essentially dangerous wild animals a bit of an over-reaction?
That's actually a really good point. They are so creepy and gross that it seemed totally reasonable at the time, but I can't think of any real rebuttal to your point that they are essentially "dangerous wild animals". It's not like they are something like the copycat aliens of The Thing, or something similar like Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, where letting them get a foothold can mean human extinction before long.

What about those two movies, BTW? We aren't explicitly shown any violation of the first three rules AFAICR; the question would be whether the ability to nearly perfectly imitate someone crosses the line from speculative science to woo. For me, the stuff the Monolith did in 2001 does cross that rubicon, while those two movies do not; but I'm not sure how solidly I can defend this position.

Oh, and what about The Matrix? (The Terminator franchise, with its similar premise, is nixed due to the time travel element.) My initial impulse was to defend the bonafides of the first movie, since the "mystical" abilities shown are only within a computer simulation. But then I remembered that the ostensible reason the machines keep humans around (as batteries) makes no sense scientifically. Oh well.

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Star Cops. It was a short British TV series. No artificial gravity (early episodes in orbit showed the people in Zero G). No warp drive. No aliens. No violations of the laws of physics (one episode, "Conversations with the Dead", got its title from a spaceship whose engines fired too long, so that it was impossible to reach them before they ran out of air: they were as good as dead). There was a delay in communication due to distance.

The one fantastic element of the time was a computer that fit in your pocket and was voice activated. That was pretty speculative at the time, but it was basically an iPhone.

Bonus: theme song performed by Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues.
This sounds very cool! Unfortunately, there's no sign of it anywhere on Netflix (and we have a disc plan as well as a streaming one).
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Old 01-16-2018, 11:04 PM
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...
Oh, you might be right. But do they follow through with there being a whole different generation of people on Earth when they get back? I wish I could remember about the communication, but you might be right there too.
I just watch the directors cut for the first time in probably 10 yrs this past weekend. There is a deleted scene where they say it takes two weeks for communication between Earth/LV426. The little girl is shown to be the same before the Aliensing happens as after, so it probably didn't take too long to actually travel there.
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Old 01-17-2018, 12:36 AM
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To snip your criteria for exclusion:

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(1) Anything with "warp", "hyperdrive", or "FTL" travel.

(2) Portrayal of "artificial gravity" that does not involve acceleration or rotation.

(3) Instant communications, with no lag.

(4) Probably the most arguable category: anything where the science gets a little hazy/mystical and slides over into woo.
And you later add time travel.

I completely agree with (4). But I don't agree that featuring (1)-(3) or time travel necessarily excludes something, although it certainly makes it much more challenging. I think the overarching principle is that the scientific issues and principles behind the technology that's portrayed must be explored in a convincing way. It's not necessary that every last detail must be explained, or that everything must be within reach of current technology; but you can't just handwave (say) time travel or FTL travel for plot convenience. There are good reasons why these things are probably impossible, and you must address those issues in a convincing way in order for your science to be remotely plausible.

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Primer deals with a lot of the technical issues other time-travel movies hand-wave away.

On preview: oops, oh well.
So, yeah - I think Primer is hard sci fi, or at least it has a semi, because it actually tries to get to grips with difficult questions surrounding the idea.
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Old 01-17-2018, 01:37 AM
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The Expanse pretty well violates rule 4 as well, though I think it's useful to make a distinction. All the human stuff in The Expanse is pretty believable, with only a few stretches beyond current tech. However, the alien stuff is... alien. It does stuff that isn't understood and is generally dangerous. From the human perspective, it violates physical law.

I'm ok with this type of "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" stuff as long as it's kept at arm's reach and there's some thought put into the consequences.

As for other shows, Planetes is a great hard sci-fi anime.
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Old 01-17-2018, 01:38 AM
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Star Cops. It was a short British TV series. No artificial gravity (early episodes in orbit showed the people in Zero G). No warp drive. No aliens. No violations of the laws of physics (one episode, "Conversations with the Dead", got its title from a spaceship whose engines fired too long, so that it was impossible to reach them before they ran out of air: they were as good as dead). There was a delay in communication due to distance.

The one fantastic element of the time was a computer that fit in your pocket and was voice activated. That was pretty speculative at the time, but it was basically an iPhone.
"Anna, if you tell me to bend like a willow I'm gonna throw up."

An excellent show, especially considering the limited budget they must have had for such ambitious special effects. And while there were only nine episodes, I think two (at least) had crimes that were committed by a scientist looking to prove some controversial theory. I think in "Conversations with the Dead" the crew's only chance of survival was to use some experimental suspended animation pods that they were carrying. Turned out the ship was sent off course deliberately by the people who developed the pods, but couldn't get approval to test them on humans. It was a hard science-fiction show, but not with a terribly positive view of scientists.

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Yes, but everyone I've found who remembers it seems to hate it.
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Old 01-17-2018, 01:56 AM
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While looking up Star Cops I found a couple pages at TV Tropes that might be of interest to the OP; Mundane Dogmatic and Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness, both of which set limits on the amount of impossible or speculative elements that can be included in a work of science fiction.
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Old 01-17-2018, 02:19 AM
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I've recently been binge-watching Person of Interest which I think qualifies as hard SF. It begins as not much more than a cop show with sciency elements - the protagonists are attempting to help victims of crime which have been identified Minority Report-style via a wide-scale AI surveillance device - and ends up as a deep exploration of the possible consequences of powerful independent AIs.

Not always realistic (one dude working by himself is supposed to have written the first superpowerful AI...) but no actually scientiffically impossible elements.

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Old 01-17-2018, 02:55 AM
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I've recently been binge-watching Person of Interest which I think qualifies as hard SF. It begins as not much more than a cop show with sciency elements - the protagonists are attempting to help victims of crime which have been identified Minority Report-style via a wide-scale AI surveillance device - and ends up as a deep exploration of the possible consequences of powerful independent AIs.

Not always realistic (one dude working by himself is supposed to have written the first superpowerful AI...) but no actually scientiffically impossible elements.
I watched that pilot and was basically "meh"; but come to think of it, I actually have heard that it takes some interesting directions later in its run. Intriguing!

Does the James Cameron Avatar universe have FTL? I can't remember how the trip there was portrayed. It's supposed to be, per Wiki, in the Alpha Centauri system, only a little over 4 light years away. A little Googling tells me that if you kissed your spouse and newborn baby goodbye and went on a trip to Alpha Centauri at 1g up to just under light speed, and then reversed the process as you approached, you could stay there a few weeks and make the return voyage in time to see your kid's eleventh birthday--although to you, depending on how close you got to light speed, it might only seem like a year or two had gone by.

That doesn't seem too out of line with what we saw in that movie, does it? Or is the communication the problem? I'm not sure they had an eight year lag in sending a message to Earth and getting a reply.

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While looking up Star Cops I found a couple pages at TV Tropes that might be of interest to the OP; Mundane Dogmatic and Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness, both of which set limits on the amount of impossible or speculative elements that can be included in a work of science fiction.
Thank you--of great interest indeed! That site is so awesome, yet I never just go there on my own (it's always following someone else's link). I tend to disappear down a rabbit hole when I do, so that's probably for the best.

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So, yeah - I think Primer is hard sci fi, or at least it has a semi, because it actually tries to get to grips with difficult questions surrounding the idea.
It definitely does in terms of the paradoxical aspects. It doesn't at all in terms of how the time travel would actually be possible, although it does present a veneer of realism by having it result by accident from seemingly mundane research, as well as requiring travel to occur at real-time speed (sitting in a box for twelve hours to go back in time twelve hours).

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The Expanse pretty well violates rule 4 as well, though I think it's useful to make a distinction. All the human stuff in The Expanse is pretty believable, with only a few stretches beyond current tech. However, the alien stuff is... alien. It does stuff that isn't understood and is generally dangerous. From the human perspective, it violates physical law.
Ohhh...interesting. It's been a little while since I saw the pilot, but I don't recall any aliens. I wonder if they started off with one idea in mind and then pivoted.
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Old 01-17-2018, 03:20 AM
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(3) Instant communications, with no lag. I'm not sure if there's anything that escaped the above two but gets knocked out here, but it's another strike against Firefly/Serenity.
Some scifi stories do this with quantum entanglement - would that still invalidate them from being "hard" scifi? Not sure if any movies/TV shows use that explanation though.
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Old 01-17-2018, 03:24 AM
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Some scifi stories do this with quantum entanglement - would that still invalidate them from being "hard" scifi? Not sure if any movies/TV shows use that explanation though.
Although physicists say this wouldn't work, it sure is hard from my interested layperson perspective to understand why not--and if a show or movie explicitly noted this as their mechanism, it would sure bring them a lot higher up the scale. (When I posted the OP, I was thinking more along a binary, but I like the rating scale someone posted linked at TV Tropes.) Bonus points if it ironically required sort of going backward to telegraph-style messages (that have to be very carefully rationed) rather than HD Skyping.
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Old 01-17-2018, 03:42 AM
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Ohhh...interesting. It's been a little while since I saw the pilot, but I don't recall any aliens. I wonder if they started off with one idea in mind and then pivoted.
Well, I don't want to give too much away--but no. It follows the books reasonably closely and there's a clear story arc from the beginning.

To be clear, we aren't talking about rubber-mask aliens that speak English. Or even space robots. This is more like a child finding a gun. The gun does things that the child doesn't understand. The child doesn't understand how it was built, or why, and certainly couldn't reproduce it. The gun is effectively alien technology as far as the child is concerned and it's unlikely the discovery will turn out well for anyone.
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Old 01-17-2018, 04:05 AM
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Some scifi stories do this with quantum entanglement - would that still invalidate them from being "hard" scifi?
It depends. Just a vague "it's quantum entanglement, innit" is pretty weak. I think good hard sci fi doesn't just throw out buzzwords at the level of Doctor Who or Deepak Chopra to "explain" things.
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Old 01-17-2018, 04:16 AM
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Yes, but everyone I've found who remembers it seems to hate it.
You can add another, then, coz I never liked it either.

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Ohhh...interesting. It's been a little while since I saw the pilot, but I don't recall any aliens. I wonder if they started off with one idea in mind and then pivoted.
No, it's just that we don't find out that the maguffin from Episode 1 has an alien origin till the second season. I believe they're following the books tolerably closely.

Regarding your list: personally, I'm inclined to allow instantaneous communication as dramatic license, provided it doesn't otherwise affect the plot, and other elements seem real-worldly enough.
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Old 01-17-2018, 05:02 AM
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Regarding your list: personally, I'm inclined to allow instantaneous communication as dramatic license, provided it doesn't otherwise affect the plot, and other elements seem real-worldly enough.
What do you mean by "allow"? I hinted at this in passing in my OP, but to really spell it out: there are movies and TV shows that violate all kinds of rules here that I like or even love: the original Star Wars and some of the sequels; the original Star Trek and many of the later shows (which could be said to include The Orville); and especially the first season and a half of the BSG reboot, which is about as good a 25 episode stretch of TV as I can think of. But I still don't think any of those fully qualify as "hard" SF.

So are you saying you're okay with instantaneous communication on an otherwise enjoyable show? If so, I agree 100%. If you're saying you think it should fully qualify as hard SF, I'm going to take some convincing (especially if it's not my telegraph-style quantum entanglement device or something similar).

There's a great scene in Passengers (again, I really think it is so underrated) when (pretty mild spoiler here from early in the movie) our protagonist Jim
SPOILER:
makes a very expensive "phone call" (recording a video message for the people in charge back on Earth) and for a moment is relieved that he has found a way to send a message and someone to send it to, damn the cost. Then the computer shows him how long it will take, and there's a great graphic showing the time the message will take to get back to Earth and the then greater amount of time it will take for a reply to get to him (since the ship, travelling at half of light speed, will have moved a fair distance in the interim) and his shoulders just sink.
So well handled.

The delay in The Martian was much shorter (20 minutes or so) but still made for an interesting wrinkle in the proceedings. But apparently (checking Google just now) maintaining that delay was one of the hardest thing for the studio bigwigs to accept! So no wonder we hardly ever see it.
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Old 01-17-2018, 05:03 AM
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I watched that pilot and was basically "meh"; but come to think of it, I actually have heard that it takes some interesting directions later in its run. Intriguing!
The main characters become increasingly well-drawn as the series progresses, too It's an excellent series. There's also that rarest of things: a canine sidekick that actually adds to the show.
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Old 01-17-2018, 05:19 AM
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(1) Anything with "warp", "hyperdrive", or "FTL" travel. That knocks out Star Wars (which has no chance anyway for so many other reasons), Star Trek, BSG, Stargate, Andromeda, and Interstellar.

... 2001's middle act is truly excellent hard sci-fi, but everything involving the monolith gets very "woo". And it's another strike against Interstellar (thinking here about the sappy ending, although there are some other lesser issues earlier).
Ahem!! You claim that Interstellar is not "hard science"? Interstellar, the film that recruited one of the world's leading theoretical physicists as consultant and executive producer precisely to create a strong scientific grounding? Which physicist, in fact, actually wrote a book called The Science of Interstellar that explains the real and/or at least plausible science in the film, and had this to say about it:
Kip Thorne, the Caltech theoretical physicist who is the author of The Science of Interstellar, served as the science advisor for the movie and was involved in it from the very beginning, when a friend of his, producer Lynda Obst, discussed with him the concept for a science fiction film she was considering. He signed on, thrilled to help shape what could become a major movie. “But most important to me,” he writes, “was our vision for a blockbuster movie grounded from the outset in real science.”
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2718/1
Now granted, a couple of the science ideas are pretty speculative, and the sappy stuff at the end is best granted a few dollops of artistic license, but by and large I'd cite this movie overall as a prime example of one that works hard to base the plot ideas on plausible real science. There's certainly no FTL or warp drives in it; in fact, Christopher Nolan wanted such a plot point, and Thorne flatly refused, resulting in a lengthy impasse before Nolan finally relented. The only way Interstellar could be regarded as not hard science fiction is if you defined the criteria so narrowly that you strictly limited yourself to known present-day science that has a broad consensus of support, but that would not be so much a science fiction movie as an engineering project proposal.

I'd make similar comments about 2001, particularly since Arthur C. Clarke was known for his many hard-science writings. There's lots of real science throughout. The monoliths are not "woo", they are emblematic of how highly advanced technologies might appear to us, inexplicable and foreboding, capturing the spirit of Clarke's own words: any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Indeed that's just what a primitive savage would see when looking at a modern processor microchip: a miniature black monolith that can be induced to work magic.

Just for contrast, a good example of NOT hard science fiction is Star Trek, which really just a space soap opera using spaceship settings for all kinds of silly plots, and which has a kind of cheerful careless disregard for real science.
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Old 01-17-2018, 05:32 AM
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The movie Contagion. It's about as realistic a portrayal of a mass plague as you will get. Doesn't fall into any of the melodramatic Hollywood traps most disaster movies do and treats the subject seriously but is still very entertaining. It came and went from theaters and is basically forgotten now but I really really like it.
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Old 01-17-2018, 05:37 AM
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Sorry, wolfpup: I think that "sufficiently advanced science...magic" quote from Clarke is too easily used to handwave what are essentially wizards, or mysterious spirits. And the sappy stuff at the end of Interstellar isn't just a minor problem: it's the culmination of the film. The
SPOILER:
tesseract, the Morse code, the causality paradox:
all pretty "woo" IMO.

Which is not to say there isn't some cool hard sci-fi elsewhere in the film. In particular, the
SPOILER:
visit to the water planet near a black hole event horizon that leaves a crewman waiting on the ship for years and years
was neat.

But even earlier in the film: I had a very hard time buying the idea that
SPOILER:
a civilization capable of creating interstellar spacecraft was unable to make food, somehow, someway.
Even if I accept that
SPOILER:
they couldn't use agrotech to save outdoor farming from the "blight", what about greenhouses or hydroponic vegetable growing done in sealed, sterile environments using nuclear power? Or even purely synthetic calories? I have faith that humans, back to the wall with that level of technological capability, would come up with something other than "move everyone to a faraway planet".
Furthermore, how to explain that
SPOILER:
the public school teacher (a government employee) is hostile to science and technology, and seems to represent an official line; while presumably trillions is being spent by another branch of the government on the interstellar travel program?
You can't, other than "it will be cool for plot purposes".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Baron Greenback View Post
The main characters become increasingly well-drawn as the series progresses, too It's an excellent series. There's also that rarest of things: a canine sidekick that actually adds to the show.
You've convinced me! I'm going to start with the third season episode "Lethe".

ETA:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Quimby View Post
The movie Contagion. It's about as realistic a portrayal of a mass plague as you will get. Doesn't fall into any of the melodramatic Hollywood traps most disaster movies do and treats the subject seriously but is still very entertaining. It came and went from theaters and is basically forgotten now but I really really like it.
That is a great movie. It's set in the present day, without introducing any new technology or anything; so I'm hesitant to even call it science fiction. But I can see how that argument can be made. If it is science fiction at all, it's definitely 100% hard and just an excellent film overall.
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  #35  
Old 01-17-2018, 05:45 AM
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You've convinced me! I'm going to start with the third season episode "Lethe".
I wouldn't recommend jumping into the middle, to be honest. The show starts of as "number of the week" but increasingly less so as it progresses. This is a pretty good spoiler-free essential episode guide for the first 4 seasons:

http://uk.ign.com/articles/2016/04/2...l-catch-you-up
  #36  
Old 01-17-2018, 05:54 AM
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You've convinced me! I'm going to start with the third season episode "Lethe".
I'd start earlier; a good point would be the 16th episode of Season 2, "Relevance", which is the first appearance of eventual regular cast member Sarah Sahi.
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Old 01-17-2018, 06:26 AM
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The main characters become increasingly well-drawn as the series progresses, too
...with the glaring exception, sadly, of the putative lead, who is still brooding and glowering in Season 5 in exactly the same way that he brooded and glowered in the first episode. Everyone else gets waaay more interesting though. And - yeah, I'm not much of a dog person myself but Bear is certifiably adorable
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Old 01-17-2018, 06:27 AM
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Ain't nothing wrong with space cockroaches according to the OP.
Obeying the conversation of mass seems like a pretty good criterion for hard SF. What did the aliens eat to get so large?
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Old 01-17-2018, 06:30 AM
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Hardcore fans of TV shows are always horrified by my selective curation (based on reviews, numerical ratings, lists of best episodes, etc.) of ballyhooed TV shows. You've got to see it all! they always insist. But there's just not enough time. There are after all over a hundred episodes of this show! To even contemplate watching half that many (if it hooks me enough) is pretty major. But I am really interested in the subject (AI).

Bottom line is I'm not going to get to everything before I croak, not even close. I'd rather get through the best halves of two shows than all of one show and none of the other. Completists will obviously disagree...completists gonna complete.
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Old 01-17-2018, 06:39 AM
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I wouldn't recommend jumping into the middle, to be honest. The show starts of as "number of the week" but increasingly less so as it progresses. This is a pretty good spoiler-free essential episode guide for the first 4 seasons:

http://uk.ign.com/articles/2016/04/2...l-catch-you-up
Okay, I did read this, and it convinced me to start three episodes earlier, with "Endgame". Happy? Or at least less unhappy?

(BTW, I hope you all are taking my recommendation of Passengers seriously! So underrated/overlooked.)
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Old 01-17-2018, 06:44 AM
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A little Googling tells me that if you kissed your spouse and newborn baby goodbye and went on a trip to Alpha Centauri at 1g up to just under light speed, and then reversed the process as you approached, you could stay there a few weeks and make the return voyage in time to see your kid's eleventh birthday--although to you, depending on how close you got to light speed, it might only seem like a year or two had gone by.
At a constant acceleration of 1g (flipping over at the middle) for 4.3 light years, the time passed on Earth would be almost six years, the time on the ship a little more than three and a half one way. To have only one year ship time one way would require a constant acceleration of 6g.
  #42  
Old 01-17-2018, 06:46 AM
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Sorry, wolfpup: I think that "sufficiently advanced science...magic" quote from Clarke is too easily used to handwave what are essentially wizards, or mysterious spirits. And the sappy stuff at the end of Interstellar isn't just a minor problem: it's the culmination of the film. The
SPOILER:
tesseract, the Morse code, the causality paradox:
all pretty "woo" IMO.
I already acknowledged that that part of the ending was a weak point. But it's a very tiny part of the overall narrative of events -- of which there are so many important science-driven events that Kip Thorne wrote an entire book about it, as I said. To then call the movie "not hard science fiction" because there are one or two things in it that you don't like is absurd. The science of Interstellar is predominantly the science of physics: Newtonian, relativistic, quantum, and quantum gravity.
Quote:
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Which is not to say there isn't some cool hard sci-fi elsewhere in the film. In particular, the
SPOILER:
visit to the water planet near a black hole event horizon that leaves a crewman waiting on the ship for years and years
was neat.
Yes, and if you read "The Science of Interstellar", or watch the movie carefully, that was just one out of a very large number of such events that permeate the whole movie and make it the fascinating spectacle that it is.
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But even earlier in the film: I had a very hard time buying the idea that
SPOILER:
a civilization capable of creating interstellar spacecraft was unable to make food, somehow, someway.


Even if I accept that
SPOILER:
they couldn't use agrotech to save outdoor farming from the "blight", what about greenhouses or hydroponic vegetable growing done in sealed, sterile environments using nuclear power? Or even purely synthetic calories? I have faith that humans, back to the wall with that level of technological capability, would come up with something other than "move everyone to a faraway planet".
Why? That may not be a likely outcome, but there are many reasons that it could happen. We already have real-life underground vaults safeguarding crop seeds to guard against food crop extinction due to natural or man-made catastrophes and global warming, and indeed some crop seeds have already been withdrawn. You not only have to be able to grow or make the stuff, but you have to do it economically and on a very very large scale. Thorne addresses this briefly in the book:
Throughout recorded history, the crops that humans grow have been plagued by occasional blights (rapidly spreading diseases caused by microbes). The biology that underlies these blights is based on chemistry, which in turn is based on the quantum laws. Scientists do not yet know how to deduce, from the quantum laws, all of the relevant chemistry (but they can deduce much of it); and they do not yet know how to deduce from chemistry all of the relevant biology. Nevertheless, from observations and experiments, biologists have learned much about blights. The blights encountered by humans thus far have not jumped from infecting one type of plant to another with such speed as to endanger human life. But nothing we know guarantees this can’t happen. That such a blight is possible is an educated guess. That it might someday occur is a speculation that most biologists regard as very unlikely.
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Furthermore, how to explain that
SPOILER:
the public school teacher (a government employee) is hostile to science and technology, and seems to represent an official line; while presumably trillions is being spent by another branch of the government on the interstellar travel program?


You can't, other than "it will be cool for plot purposes".
Wow! No, I can explain it just fine! I can explain it in terms of the growing tsunami of anti-science ignorance that was one of many contributing factors to the results of the last presidential election. This dichotomy that you claim is so improbable can be found right within the executive branch of government right now: NASA is still spending billions on advanced projects, the National Science Foundation, the NIH, and many other government bodies are still funding billions worth of scientific research, yet simultaneously there are important government departments run by ignorant doofuses with nothing but contempt for science. If this can happen right within the executive branch of government in real life, it seems more than a bit silly to criticize a movie because it portrays a freaking schoolteacher as not being in lock-step with technological thinking! That's not even a criticism of the movie's science, it's a social commentary, and it's a rather astute one, IMO.

tl;dr: Interstellar is an excellent and entertaining science fiction film that features a much greater attention to scientific detail than most such films, due in large part to expert guidance from Kip Thorne.
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Old 01-17-2018, 07:00 AM
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Wow! No, I can explain it just fine! I can explain it in terms of the growing tsunami of anti-science ignorance that was one of many contributing factors to the results of the last presidential election. This dichotomy that you claim is so improbable can be found right within the executive branch of government right now: NASA is still spending billions on advanced projects, the National Science Foundation, the NIH, and many other government bodies are still funding billions worth of scientific research, yet simultaneously there are important government departments run by ignorant doofuses with nothing but contempt for science. If this can happen right within the executive branch of government in real life, it seems more than a bit silly to criticize a movie because it portrays a freaking schoolteacher as not being in lock-step with technological thinking!
It's not just "a schoolteacher". There is a strong implication that this is the "official line" throughout the entire country (world?) in terms of educational policy, and general social disapprobation toward science and technology. If we ever get to the point, Khmer Rouge style, where this antiscience philosophy has extended that far, there will be no more funding for NIH, NSF, etc., you can be sure of that.
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Old 01-17-2018, 07:02 AM
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At a constant acceleration of 1g (flipping over at the middle) for 4.3 light years, the time passed on Earth would be almost six years, the time on the ship a little more than three and a half one way. To have only one year ship time one way would require a constant acceleration of 6g.
I stand corrected!
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  #45  
Old 01-17-2018, 07:13 AM
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The OP's standards for "hard SF" differ from mine, and, I think, a lot of SF fans. we'll allow perhaps one or two beyond-present-day tech items like FTL travel in order to let you get into the situation, but insist on scrupulous attention to known science beyond that.


But, taking the OP's restrictions and looking at SF films, here are some not yet listed (I think):

Metropolis
The Lost World
It! The Terror from Beyond Space
Destination Moon
When Worlds Collide
War of the Worlds
The Lost Missile
The Quatermass Xperiment/he Creeping Unknown
Quatermass 2/Enemy from Space
Quatermass and the Pit/Five Million Years to Earth
Conquest of Space
Robinson Crusoe on Mars
Panic in Year Zero
The Man in the White Suit
Crack in the World
(despite its scientific howlers of errors)
2001: A Space Odyssey (if you except the "trip" sequence)
2010: The Year we Make Contact
The Monolith Monsters
Creator
Marooned
Fail Safe
Firefox
John Campbell argued that Fail Safe is science fiction. If so, Firefox is, too -- a point I asserted last weekend at Arisia



There are lots of other, lesser films that are arguable SF but aren't really very good, but which don't violate the OP's rules -- Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. Earth II (not the Gene Roddenberry TV pilot, but a pilot for life aboard a spinning space station),
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  #46  
Old 01-17-2018, 08:01 AM
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I'd make similar comments about 2001, particularly since Arthur C. Clarke was known for his many hard-science writings. There's lots of real science throughout. The monoliths are not "woo", they are emblematic of how highly advanced technologies might appear to us, inexplicable and foreboding, capturing the spirit of Clarke's own words: any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Indeed that's just what a primitive savage would see when looking at a modern processor microchip: a miniature black monolith that can be induced to work magic.
Not just primitive savages. I recall reading an article in the mid-sixties that supposed a target drone fell into a time-displacing worm hole and wound up in 1945. Bereft of any control signals, it goes into safe mode and orbits for a while until it runs out of fuel then comes in for a hard landing that leaves it intact, if somewhat bent up. The article then went on to ask what conclusions researchers and engineers analyzing of the remains would come to.

Several aspects were covered but the one I remember is how their vacuum tube technology would be utterly at a loss to explain how the solid-state circuit boards could work. Resistors would be familiar to them as would capacitors but the transistors would leave them baffled. If they sacrificed one they would conclude that the speck within was pure silicon -- the doping would be less than they could detect -- and pure silicon doesn't do anything interesting no matter what voltages you apply to it.

The article concluded that the researchers could only surmise that the strange object came to them from hundreds, if not thousands, of years in the future, not just twenty. Imagine what they would conclude if they got their hands on a smart phone with millions of transistors they can't even see without an electron microscope -- which they don't have -- in an area the size of your fingernail.
  #47  
Old 01-17-2018, 08:24 AM
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Yep. Military ships get to go fast; spaceborne refineries, not so much.
Per the Alien Wiki, regarding the Sulaco:
Quote:
Sublight propulsion is provided by four GF-2400 rocket motors using industrial carbon-diamond as reaction mass. Faster-than-light propulsion is provided by a hyperdrive tachyon shunt, with a maximum speed of 0.74 light year per sidereal day.
So FTL travel is part of the Alien milieu even if it doesn't really feature or get mentioned in the early films (no idea about the later ones).
  #48  
Old 01-17-2018, 09:15 AM
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CalMeacham, I would say in 2001 the opening sequence is also “softer” than all the stuff with HAL-9000. As cool looking as the monolith is, and as neat as the idea of its proportions being the square of the first three integers, there is an awesome hard sci-fi movie in the middle of the film about an AI and some astronauts, that has nothing to do with the monolith (HAL’s motivation could be anything mission-critical).

I’m not familiar with most of the movies you listed, but as for 2010:
SPOILER:
turning Jupiter into a star
might be a little too far for me to find plausible enough to qualify as “hard”.

Jophiel, interesting. But I wonder about these wikis: how do we know their information is canonical? Do the screenplay writers sign off on this stuff?

Desert Dog, amazing that electronic technology changed that much in those twenty years. What if the drone had gone back 10 years? It’s interesting for me to ponder the exact number of years that would put them right on the 50-50 edge of maybe being able to reverse-engineer it, or maybe not. Or for that matter the 99–1 position where they might figure it out if they talk to the right people and do everything right.

But I guess, for all our advances since then, that was quite a time for technology. I remember a few years back marveling that there were still passenger jets from the 1960s in service; I don’t know if that’s still the case.
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  #49  
Old 01-17-2018, 09:30 AM
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Jurassic Park.
  #50  
Old 01-17-2018, 09:36 AM
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One entry I see missing from the hard SF movies is The Europa Report, a low budget first contact movie that nonetheless tries to adhere to hard science.
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