The Science of Sci-Fi
Listening Length: 3 hours and 59 minutes

The Science of Sci-Fi Details

TitleThe Science of Sci-Fi
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseNov 19th, 2019
PublisherAudible Original
Rating
GenreScience, Nonfiction, Audiobook

The Science of Sci-Fi Review

  • Lis Carey
    January 1, 1970
    This is an entertaining, informative set of ten lectures on the physics used, whether accurately or creatively, in science fiction. Erin Macdonald is a physicist--and an enthusiastic and knowledgeable science fiction fan. She wants the interested fans to be familiar with the science behind their favorite movies, games, and books, but for the purpose of greater enjoyment and more fun, not for the purpose of telling us, "But that can't work and you shouldn't be enjoying it."She starts off with an This is an entertaining, informative set of ten lectures on the physics used, whether accurately or creatively, in science fiction. Erin Macdonald is a physicist--and an enthusiastic and knowledgeable science fiction fan. She wants the interested fans to be familiar with the science behind their favorite movies, games, and books, but for the purpose of greater enjoyment and more fun, not for the purpose of telling us, "But that can't work and you shouldn't be enjoying it."She starts off with an introduction to the science of space, time, and space-time, including the history of how we arrived at our current understanding. We also get an overview of some really cool ideas, like string theory, that aren't as prominent as they were just a few years ago, not because they've been proven wrong, but because, on the contrary, no one has come up with any effective ideas on how to test these theories. If you can't come up with a way to test a hypothesis on whether it's true or false, it might be a cool idea, but it's not science. At least not yet.In subsequent lectures, she talks about how science fiction uses science to create stories and to make the stories work. Hyperspace, subspace, wormholes, and various ways of generating artificial gravity all get their turns in these lectures. Macdonald relates them directly to popular science fiction franchises, including Star Trek, Mass Effect, Galaxy Quest, and Star Wars. Ursula Le Guin's Ansible, the instantaneous communication device originally developed for her Hainish cycle and then spread to other sf by other writers, gets its share of attention.The Star Trek transporter stands out as something that really can't work, but which she particularly loves because they quietly acknowledge that: a "Heisenberg compensater" is necessary to make it work properly and safely. I.e., the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which states that you can't know both the location and the velocity of any give particle at the same time, means the transporter, which needs to track many, many particles exactly, in both location and velocity, at the same time, means we'll never have a transporter, but we really, really need it to make this tv show work... (Really. It's only on screen that you need this. Plus, it makes for really pretty special effects, a bonus. In print, it's much easier to work around the time needed to get to and from the surface of a planet, whether by landing your ship, or using shuttles.)As I said at the beginning, it's interesting and a lot of fun, and Erin Macdonald gives really good lecture. Enjoy!I bought this audiobook.
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  • Terrill
    January 1, 1970
    This was an audio only book because it is basically a collection of lectures given by the author. She takes specific examples from popular Sci-Fi and explains in layman's terms how they could possibly work in the physical world. Good stuff.
  • seak
    January 1, 1970
    I have to admit, I've always been a little curious as to what sci-fi gets right. This was a lot of fun to listen to and confirm some suspicions while learning some brand new things.Like the fact that the universe is always expanding and accelerating and how long it would take, at a certain acceleration to reach lightspeed. Thus ... is the universe expanding at faster than light speed (FTL) at this point? The didn't address this specific point, but I'm still curious.And that's what I really I have to admit, I've always been a little curious as to what sci-fi gets right. This was a lot of fun to listen to and confirm some suspicions while learning some brand new things.Like the fact that the universe is always expanding and accelerating and how long it would take, at a certain acceleration to reach lightspeed. Thus ... is the universe expanding at faster than light speed (FTL) at this point? The didn't address this specific point, but I'm still curious.And that's what I really enjoyed about this, I'm still curious. It was probably good that I just listened to The Order of Time too.She mentions quite a few science fiction books, but mostly focuses on television and movies, especially Star Trek (not a whole lot of science in Star Wars, though she does address it in the FTL section). I was impressed she referenced one of my all-time favorite shows, Community, for it's multiverse episode (which is seriously the best, please watch it).Interestingly enough, she (and others) have actually tried to calculate what warp speed would look like and it seems to be possible, just the energy required would require pretty much all of it.Definitely highly recommended.4 out of 5 Stars
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  • William Jojo
    January 1, 1970
    This is a marvelous audiobook for nerds, geeks and neophytes. It is 4 hours long and consists of 10 lectures. Every topic is expertly delivered in a concise and easy to understand way such that you need no past experience in these areas to understand them. Dr. Erin is clearly excited about the subject matter and captures your attention with her enthusiasm. (I played this at 1.25x and lost nothing in the delivery of content. For me, it was very easy to keep up at this speed and finished in just This is a marvelous audiobook for nerds, geeks and neophytes. It is 4 hours long and consists of 10 lectures. Every topic is expertly delivered in a concise and easy to understand way such that you need no past experience in these areas to understand them. Dr. Erin is clearly excited about the subject matter and captures your attention with her enthusiasm. (I played this at 1.25x and lost nothing in the delivery of content. For me, it was very easy to keep up at this speed and finished in just over 3 hours.)If you have never watched a sci-fi show or movie, of if you have not seen some or all of the movies and TV episodes mentioned, do not fear. Dr. Erin notes each movie, TV series and episode so you can go watch and perhaps understand more about the topic.If you have seen those episodes, she has a way of making you see those episodes again in your mind with brilliant detail and maybe even in a different light than you had before.Erin's metaphorical explanation of concepts are imbued with mental images that leave you craving just a little bit more. Not because it is incomplete, but because she infects your mind with the need to learn more about the topic or go watch that scene in Interstellar.This is an audiobook I will gladly listen to again and again!
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  • Ray Campbell
    January 1, 1970
    This is an Audible Original series compiled as an audio-book which was wonderful. Erin Macdonald is an astrophysicist who consults on sci-fi films and shows. In this program she explains many very real, current concepts in physics. She then goes on to give dozens of examples of where science fiction films, TV show and books get thing right, comically wrong and creative as they try to maintain interal consistency and explain phenomena which go beyond our current science.The program starts with This is an Audible Original series compiled as an audio-book which was wonderful. Erin Macdonald is an astrophysicist who consults on sci-fi films and shows. In this program she explains many very real, current concepts in physics. She then goes on to give dozens of examples of where science fiction films, TV show and books get thing right, comically wrong and creative as they try to maintain interal consistency and explain phenomena which go beyond our current science.The program starts with some hard physics which, while her explanations are solid, are still hard physics lessons. However, things start to move pretty quickly in chapter 2 and so forth as MacDonald explains the real issues with exploring Mars, gravity in space and time. There are lots of funny examples from everything from i Robot to Futurama with generous helpings of Star Wars, Star Trek and other popular shows.In the end, I feel as though I've learned something while enjoying and recalling much of the sci fi I love. Well worth checking out, though I believe you'll have to listen rather than hold a book for this one.
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  • Deanna
    January 1, 1970
    Since I have been meaning to expand my world of fiction by picking up more Sci-fi books, Audible's March selections for originals came in clutch, specifically this work. Macdonald manages to maintain a steady stream of information paired with geekyness that was thoroughly entertaining and informative. She focuses on ideas that are familiar from pop-culture movies and TV shows, as well as the deeper science that they hinge on.Her delivery was spot on, her voice and descriptions managing to hold Since I have been meaning to expand my world of fiction by picking up more Sci-fi books, Audible's March selections for originals came in clutch, specifically this work. Macdonald manages to maintain a steady stream of information paired with geekyness that was thoroughly entertaining and informative. She focuses on ideas that are familiar from pop-culture movies and TV shows, as well as the deeper science that they hinge on.Her delivery was spot on, her voice and descriptions managing to hold my attention when other narrators might have lost me.I do think that I need to listen to this again, just to refresh some of the more hardcore-science items she discussed as there were times where things were going over my head. I doubt that there is anything that Macdonald could have done to prevent my brain from sliding into a stupor during these points-- I either should have listened closer to her or paid more attention in my previous science classes. I think I will revisit this listen when I have a few more Science-Fiction works under my belt.Strong 4 stars.
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  • Joshua Harkey
    January 1, 1970
    Two stars because it was kind of "meh" for me. Got this for free so I figured I might as well read it. It essentially covers some very basic physics concepts and how they relate to common sci-fi technologies. The narration is good. It really feels more like a podcast or a lecture than a book. (honestly, that's what it is) There's a light dusting of nerdy humor, usually in the form of references to shows, books, and movies.I'm not really sure who the target audience is. As a bit of a physics Two stars because it was kind of "meh" for me. Got this for free so I figured I might as well read it. It essentially covers some very basic physics concepts and how they relate to common sci-fi technologies. The narration is good. It really feels more like a podcast or a lecture than a book. (honestly, that's what it is) There's a light dusting of nerdy humor, usually in the form of references to shows, books, and movies.I'm not really sure who the target audience is. As a bit of a physics enthusiast, I barely learned a single thing. If this book sounds interesting, you've probably already heard a lot of it. And if you're interested enough to consider this book, I'd recommend looking elsewhere for a much deeper dive. Seems like there's probably a very small group of people out there who want to know about Alcubierre drives but don't want to bother reading the Wikipedia article. (which is more thorough than this)I suppose for someone new to sci-fi it might make for a good outline of things you may want to research more.
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  • Thomas
    January 1, 1970
    I have gotten to hear Dr. Erin speak at Starbase Indy the last two years. I enjoyed her lectures and decided to spend an Audible credit and check out her Great Courses contribution. Since I have heard her in person I had heard a few pieces of these lectures, but the lectures were laid out in a logical fashion. I enjoyed her giving me a crash course in physics, not all of which I knew (I never took physics in high school or college), and then we began to play with science and fiction. Her I have gotten to hear Dr. Erin speak at Starbase Indy the last two years. I enjoyed her lectures and decided to spend an Audible credit and check out her Great Courses contribution. Since I have heard her in person I had heard a few pieces of these lectures, but the lectures were laid out in a logical fashion. I enjoyed her giving me a crash course in physics, not all of which I knew (I never took physics in high school or college), and then we began to play with science and fiction. Her enthusiasm for both science and sci fi was evident from start to finish.Recommended to any fan of science fiction who wants to review their real science, and think about the space between what is possible now and what we hope is possible in the future (or wish was possible but know it can't happen with our current understanding of the universe.)
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  • Jeff Willis
    January 1, 1970
    This was a really informative, interesting book. It's not the first to tackle real-life science and potential science behind some familiar science fiction devices and tropes, but this was well-researched and presented in an easy-to-follow format, even for people who don't have a background in or affinity for math and science. The audiobook did a particularly good job of sourcing a lot of different popular science fiction titles, and I really liked the fact that it went beyond just "here's what's This was a really informative, interesting book. It's not the first to tackle real-life science and potential science behind some familiar science fiction devices and tropes, but this was well-researched and presented in an easy-to-follow format, even for people who don't have a background in or affinity for math and science. The audiobook did a particularly good job of sourcing a lot of different popular science fiction titles, and I really liked the fact that it went beyond just "here's what's possible" and "here's what's B.S.," but also tried to talk a little about how some things that are currently not possible *could* be possible someday. Overall, it was definitely worth a listen, for anyone who wants a better understanding of the science that goes into good science fiction.
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  • Vickie
    January 1, 1970
    Fantastic!! I didn't understand a lot of it, but Erin MacDonald does a fantastic job of explaining, in a non-superiority way, the science behind science fiction. It helps that she loves both. I am glad I have it on my Audible so I can listen to it again whenever I want to. For me, it will be like listening to it brand new. Like I said, I didn't understand most of it, but recognized a lot of the information from books I've read and movies and television shows I've watched. She has a great sense Fantastic!! I didn't understand a lot of it, but Erin MacDonald does a fantastic job of explaining, in a non-superiority way, the science behind science fiction. It helps that she loves both. I am glad I have it on my Audible so I can listen to it again whenever I want to. For me, it will be like listening to it brand new. Like I said, I didn't understand most of it, but recognized a lot of the information from books I've read and movies and television shows I've watched. She has a great sense of humor which also helps. And a fab voice, perfect for narration and teaching and podcasts...I can definitely recommend this.
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  • Christine
    January 1, 1970
    If you are a sci-fi geek that has always wondered if your ideas of warp theory and alternate dimensions stand up to real science then this is the book for you.  Even if you have a casual interest in some of the science behind sci-fi as well as why we are not in space already, then this is a good read for you.  MacDonald admits that she entered into her field, partially, because of her love of Sci-Fi, and  shows in her enthusiastic, down-to-earth (pardon the pun) explanations of the science If you are a sci-fi geek that has always wondered if your ideas of warp theory and alternate dimensions stand up to real science then this is the book for you.  Even if you have a casual interest in some of the science behind sci-fi as well as why we are not in space already, then this is a good read for you.  MacDonald admits that she entered into her field, partially, because of her love of Sci-Fi, and  shows in her enthusiastic, down-to-earth (pardon the pun) explanations of the science behind sci-fi.  I learned quite a bit listening to this, I also realized I was not as far off base as I feared.  
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  • Mark
    January 1, 1970
    I had a great time listening to this one. It helps that physics and Sci-Fi both interest me. Macdonald did a great job in exploring many aspects of Sci-Fi physics. As with any arm-chair-physicist, I had my small disagreements with either wording or how I thought something should work, but hey, she's the real physicist. In any case, I had a great time and highly recommend this to any sci-fi fan, especially if you like exploring what could be given what you know.
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  • Alex
    January 1, 1970
    This is an entertaining and very educational lecture series. The lecturer does a marvelous job of tying the principles of physics to popular science fiction, deftly using the latter to elucidate the former. In presentation, she comes across as the kind of professor youd want as a thesis or dissertation advisor, or even as your Physics 101 prof. Shes knowledgeable, articulate, passionate, and deeply nerdy. Strongly recommended for those with an interest in the science of science fiction. This is an entertaining and very educational lecture series. The lecturer does a marvelous job of tying the principles of physics to popular science fiction, deftly using the latter to elucidate the former. In presentation, she comes across as the kind of professor you’d want as a thesis or dissertation advisor, or even as your Physics 101 prof. She’s knowledgeable, articulate, passionate, and deeply nerdy. Strongly recommended for those with an interest in the science of science fiction.
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  • Chelsea
    January 1, 1970
    This was a fantastic explanation of most of the science behind our most popular science fiction stories, whether they be books or tv/movies. It was fun to hear which concepts are accurate, inaccurate, and which are believable fiction based on current theories or unproven aspects of science. Any sci-fi fan will love this mini Great Course.
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  • Kurt Jensen
    January 1, 1970
    Really great. This audio lecture series was purely fun and energizing to listen to. This was like a fun mini seminar you might've taken your freshman or senior year. Liberal arts and continual learning are important to our every day life. If anyone knows of any other great, engaging audio lecture series in any subject, I'd love to know about them.
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  • Marianne
    January 1, 1970
    At times, beyond my level of understanding, but the narrator is so enthusiastic, not to mention a fellow Sci-fi geek, that I felt like I'd met a new friend. Loved all the references to my favorite shows. More than once I though, "oh, so THAT is what an inertial dampener is!"My new, favorite science term: "Spaghetttified" No joke, haha!3.75 stars
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  • James Tomasino
    January 1, 1970
    I don't think this book really got the right mix of science and sci-fi at any point. The explanations were okay for some of the scientific pieces, but some of the more advanced concepts felt a bit rushed. The sci-fi bits were met with enthusiasm by the author, but not enough analysis and exploration.
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  • Matthew Wentworth
    January 1, 1970
    Really cool. I immediately applied some of the information learned here to "Interstellar", which my students are currently watching in class to accompany "If on a winter's night a traveler". They thought the extra information was interesting (or at least they pretended to in order to appease me).
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  • Jesse
    January 1, 1970
    Very interesting listen from The Great Courses. Dr. Macdonald is a joy to listen to as it's clear that she's not just an astrophysicist, but a real lover of geeky sci-fi culture. Her ability to point to science fiction, science fact, and the sometimes minimal line between them is fantastic.
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  • Trina Dubya
    January 1, 1970
    I'm familiar with some of the physics concepts already, having taken some basic astronomy classes, but seeing how those ideas tie in with the science fiction concepts I've read about and seen was fun and very interesting.
  • Gregp
    January 1, 1970
    9 out of 10Absolutely fascinating, I always assumed that sci-fi was far off from the reality of things, but this book shows areas where it really does overlap with real science even if not 100% correct it often scientific roots to explain its worlds. I now need to watch Startrek Voyager.
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  • Chester Johnson
    January 1, 1970
    An intriguing series of lectures about how science fiction plays a role in actual science, and the various movies and shows and the science behind them. A quick, fun, and informative audiobook. 4 out of 5 stars!!!!
  • Jeremy
    January 1, 1970
    Does an amazing job of using concepts from our favorite sci-fi to explain how physics actually works (and how it doesn't). Highly recommend for any sci-fi fan interested in expanding your understanding of physics in a way that's easy to grasp!
  • Humbledaisy
    January 1, 1970
    Quick read about the science behind many of the "inventions" covered in science fiction. The author cleverly divides the book into "lectures" instead of chapters. I especially enjoyed her descriptions of notable scientific failures and how they are covered (or ignored) in science fiction.
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  • Tiffany
    January 1, 1970
    This was a lot of fun! Still can't wrap my head around some of the science, but I loved hearing about how the concepts are used in TV, movies and books.
  • Rae Coleman
    January 1, 1970
    It was ok - I'm not a big sci-fi person, but I enjoyed learning more astronomical information.
  • Joel
    January 1, 1970
    This was great! One of the best of the Audible Originals that I've listened to. Educational and a lot of fun.
  • Cheryl
    January 1, 1970
    (may not be on usb yet, may need to ask R. for it)
  • Colin Davis
    January 1, 1970
    Not quite as much science fiction as I was hoping for but still an interesting listen
  • Brian
    January 1, 1970
    I loved the attempt to tie popular sci fi books and movies to teaching actual scientific principles. It was a little more technical than I personally found helpful, but a good effort.
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