I haven’t seen the show “Enterprise” that much, but I caught tonight’s episode, most of which took place aboard a shuttlecraft. Remarkably, after 36 years of Star Trek, they still get basic science wrong. I’m not talking about whether there might be microscopic singularities in space, or whether a warp engine is feasible – I mean Newtonian mechanics.
The shuttlecraft is traveling in normal space, using impulse engines. I don’t know how fast they’re going (the engine is firing, which means they’re accelerating) but I know it’s well below lightspeed. Yet as the view pans to follow the shuttlecraft, you see shifts in the field of stars that indicate the shuttlecraft is actually passing stars at a noticeable rate. They used to make this mistake all the time in the original series – even if the ship was supposed to be in orbit around a planet, they would show it passing stars.
Now, if they really were going at close to lightspeed, using impulse engines, they would be subject to noticeable time dilation; this actually would have come in handy, because their problem was that they only had a few days of oxygen, and didnt’ know if they’d be rescued. So if their time rate had been significantly slowed down compared to the rest of the universe, they would have had a better chance.
Anyway. Later on, they decide to eject and blow up their engine to try and attract attention from Enterprise, hoping that the ship will increase speed to rescue them sooner. (We’re told that they can be seen from Enterprise, which is a quarter of a light year away. This sounds unlikely, but never mind.) Their dialogue seems to indicate that they think they’ll stop moving once they lose their engine, and the special effects kind of make it look like this is what happens. Actually, of course, they wouldn’t slow down at all, they just wouldn’t be accelerating anymore. Whatever velocity they had reached through days of constant acceleration, that’s what they’d have. (Also, for some reason the shuttlecraft immediately goes into a slow tumble. Don’t they have gyro’s?)
For a capper, they repeated the old myth about hair and nails continuing to grow after death. They should have read the Straight Dope report on that subject.
Still an interesting show, but there’s no reason to be so sloppy with basic science. (Do they still have science classes in school? I just ask because I’d like for our country to survive in the modern world.)