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That Star Trek Wormhole Scene

I rewatched this movie recently, and I was reminded of when I first saw this scene when I was 10 years old or so. It was the late 80s and CGI effects weren’t what they are today, so this wasn’t too far off from the state of the art for the time (the film was released in 1979). The whole feel of the scene still a little bit disturbing to me, but you get a sense of relief when they finally blast out of it.

From imdb.com’s trivia page for the movie:

Issues with the wormhole sequences caused further delays. The footage for the scene was filmed two ways; first, at the standard 24 frames per second, and then at the faster 48 frames; the normal footage was a back-up if the slow-motion effect produced by the faster frame speed did not turned out as planned. The shoot dragged on so long that it became a running joke for cast members to try and top each other with wormhole-related puns.

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Having Your Head in the Scientific Sand

aristotle_teaching_alexanderExperience the horror of this very crudely paraphrased argument I had with someone on the IMDB message boards. I searched my darndest to find the original but it’s been lost in the black hole of Internet history, possibly for the sake of its participants’ sanity.

When you are raised in a philosophical climate—the techno-Enlightened West—that tries to reduce every epistemic phenomenon to Science, Baby!™, this is the result: an equivocation fallacy (I think) of the highest order.

[A bunch of posts about science vs. religion, Galileo, spherical vs. flat earth theory, etc.]

Guy: Well, the church taught everyone that the earth was flat, so there ya go…

Me: There were different theories but the Church went with the prevailing opinion of a spherical earth from what they got from the Greeks. There was always a little debate. You don’t need science to know the earth is round anyways. You can just look at it.

Guy: How is that?

Me: Well, find the nearest spaceship, climb in, go into orbit (or further), and look at the earth. Bam. If there’s no spaceship available you can climb on top of a mountain and observe the curve of the earth and reasonably conclude a spherical form. Or you can induce it by looking at the spherical shape of other planets. Probably other ways, but those are pretty much nearing science anyways.

Guy: That makes sense. But going into space…you need science for that.

Me: Yes, but the science of shooting into space isn’t going to tell you the earth is round*. It’s your sensory input concluding it, not the scientific method. Sphericity is primarily a sensed thing. You can theorize with a blind man that the object in front of him is a ball but he can’t really understand sphericity until he touches it with his hands.

Guy: I disagree. There would be no conclusion that the earth was a sphere if science didn’t make the orbiting aircraft possible.

Me: Again, in this example, orbiting didn’t prove sphericity*, someone observing the earth’s sphericity from space did. If I were born on a space station, I would know the earth is round as a toddler by looking at it, long before I knew the any formal geometric proofs.

[Guy continues to reinforce science as the only way of knowing earth’s sphericity. Conversation disintegrates.]

* I actually think I was wrong on this point. Is it possible to orbit around non-round objects?

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