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April 11 2009

How Good of a Doctor is Dr. Horrible? On this particular episode of the podcast "Science or Fiction," the hosts discuss the science behind "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" and how realistic it truly is.

I like their accents. But they didn't pay much attention to the show, and they don't know enough physics.

Their freeze ray discussion consists of a painfully confused attempt to explain it in terms of relativistic effects, followed by a long and totally pointless discusion on whether it might be a cryogenic device, even though Dr H makes it abundantly clear that it freezes time (tell your friends).

Freezing time locally is a question of finding an appropriate solution to the Einstein Field Equations, and applying the necessary dynamic mass-energy density. A case like this usually calls for hypothetical stuff called exotic matter. Gee, does the freeze ray require any kind of exotic substance to work?

This is the same physics as is behind the Alcubierre FTL drive, which showed that Star Trek's warp drive is backed by scientific theory. Alcubierre's paper is fairly well known in both academia and popular science, and I would expect science geeks discussing the scientific merits of sci-fi to know this stuff.

Their death ray discussion goes completely off the rails as they somehow get the idea that the death ray kills people without physical damage, despite the fact the ray is never shown killing anyone, and Dr H specifically sings "it's going to be bloody".

I stopped listening at that point.

ETA to add: on a more positive note, I like their attitude and their approach. They're not being arrogant or dismissive, and they don't come across as science snobs, which is what I was expecting. They seem genuinely positive and interested in brain-storming creative explanations, rather than saying "this is wrong", or "that's impossible". They just need to do their homework more.

[ edited by AlanD on 2009-04-11 23:41 ]

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