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My Own Private Star Trek

by Jon Lomberg

I had no idea when the week started that I would be publishing not one but two essays on Star Trek. But Jon Lomberg was inspired by Athena Andreadis’ take on the new movie to write down his own reflections on the series in its many forms. Lomberg’s name should be instantly recognizable to this readership. Jon was Carl Sagan’s principal artistic collaborator for many years, illustrating Sagan’s books and serving as chief artist for COSMOS. He storyboarded many of CONTACT’s astronomical animations and designed the cover for the Voyager Interstellar Record, which is now pushing into the heliosheath and bound for true interstellar space. In addition to regular lecturing, Jon is the creator of the remarkable Galaxy Garden in Kona, Hawaii and remains an active astronomical artist in many media. Herewith his thoughts and recollections of Star Trek, Sagan, Roddenberry and more.

galaxyjon_-fountain

I wasn’t a fan of the series when it first came out. The first episode I recall seeing was in the summer of 1967. It was the episode was about a Shakespearean actor in some murder mystery. I was staying with some hippie friends at a beach house on Long Island. I got bored after 10 minutes and returned to the beach to smoke a joint and admire the real stars.

2001: A Space Odyssey—now THAT was science fiction. Clarke’s cosmic view of human destiny captured what had always obsessed me about space exploration. The cheesy effects and cheesier writing of that episode of Star Trek did not whet my appetite for more.

Image: Artist Jon Lomberg with the black hole fountain he designed for the center of the Galaxy Garden.

A few years later, when I was beginning to show my art at SF conventions, I couldn’t help but absorb some of the excitement of fans, and eventually started watching the show in reruns. But it was a guilty pleasure. Reading the Shklovskii/Sagan’s book “Intelligent Life in the Universe” was much more congenial to my own developing visions of space. Carl himself was contemptuous of Star Trek. Bad stories and bad science did not represent the space program in the most positive light, nor did a galaxy filled with humanoids of roughly similar technological development follow his own sense of what Galactic Civilization might be like. He did like the diversity of the crew, which itself was a cultural breakthrough, even if the sexism had the women as little more than nurses, phone secretaries and coffee deliverers.

I met Gene Roddenberry in 1976, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, on the night Viking 1 landed on the surface of Mars, about which I was making a documentary for CBC radio. Roddenberry and Nichelle Nichols were in attendance, along with Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury and other luminaries.

Not yet 30, I was brash enough to alienate Roddenberry with the following question/observation: most Star Trek fans of my acquaintance were less interested in missions to Mars than in trivia like the name of Kirk’s brother. Gene bristled and defended his fans as believers in the space program, and he and Nichelle did end up giving me some usable quotes.

roddenberry2

(I do stand by my assertion 30+ years later, and it is born out by the recent movie, which is completely character driven and self-referential. The excellent casting found actors who plausibly play the crew in the film version of an Origin Issue in superhero comics. The film is really not about space at all —there’s no exploration, no interesting aliens, no sense of wonder. Fans who loved the characters will love seeing how everybody met. Fans of the slash fanzines [amateur stories of a sexual nature with all possible couplings, including gay Kirk/Spock storylines] will love seeing the heat between Uhura and Spock. But it’s really just soap opera with better effects).

Image: Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. Credit: Paramount Studios.

I was working on COSMOS at KCET in Hollywood when Star Trek:The Movie was in production. Those of us making the animations for COSMOS were worried that a big budget movie would make our sequences look awful by comparison. Then we started hearing horror stories about the sad fate of SFX creator Robert Abel, who lost his shirt and his company when the effects for ST:TM ran into trouble. There were lots of problems with that movie, including weak depictions of space itself, but the film’s most redeeming quality was its incorporation of the Voyager Record into the plot. It closed the circle of real and imagined space exploration in a way that I found very satisfying, having worked on the real Record myself.

When Star Trek:The Next Generation came out, it won my heart. Everything was better — the stories, the acting, the imaginary technology, even the uniforms. And space itself looked good — finally. A lot of the credit for that went to my COSMOS colleague Rick Sternbach, who along with Michael Okuda acted as art and technical advisors. Besides designing the look of all the technology, their role went something like this: a writer would call and say “We need something to go wrong with the engine.” Rick and Mike would come up with something like “tachyon pollution of the dilithium crystals.” The writer would respond “Great, now how do they fix it?” and Rick and Mike would describe how reversing the polarity of the anti-matter flow would solve the problem (reversing the polarity being the all-purpose sf equivalent of smacking the TV set on the side to eliminate the static).

In 1989, my wife and I were at JPL for the Voyager spacecraft’s encounter with Neptune. Rick invited us to visit the ST:TNG set, which was wonderfully memorable. We toured the bridge, sat in 10 Forward, and learned some backstage truths about, for example, how budget determined whether the Enterprise used warp drive or stayed at impulse power: impulse drive only required stagehands to slowly roll a painted starfield past the viewports; warp effects out the window required more expensive blue-screen compositing. If an episode was going over budget, they had to drop out of warp and make do with impulse.

st_tng_crew_season3

Best of all, ST:TNG presented a positive view of the future. We have always been much better imagining hell than heaven — and readers of Dante’s Inferno must outnumber readers of his Paradiso by orders of magnitude. For the most part sf films deal with horrors of the future of the killer computer, homicidal robot, devilish alien, post-nuclear apocalypse variety. Exciting movies, but who would want to live in any of those futures?

But ST:TNG presented a future that was positive in every respect, with humans who had somehow surmounted all the problems that currently beset our world. Sagan finally came around to seeing the series as a positive contribution to public attitudes about space exploration, and Gene Roddenberry was an active supporter of the Planetary Society, the organization Carl founded to demonstrate public support for NASA science programs. (Majel Barrett Roddenberry later narrated a Planetary Society video in which these contrasting sf futures were compared).

The Star Trek franchise developed more TV and film projects and retained a strong bond with NASA, to the point where the prototype Space Shuttle was named Enterprise. The Star Trek universe became a common reference point for science fiction fans and space science buffs. Even the “science” of Star Trek could be used to sweeten the teaching of real physics.

In this sense, the new movie, enjoyable and nostalgic to old fans (but perhaps incomprehensible to newer ones) represents a backward step. I couldn’t recognize in the credits any names from the Paramount crew that had guided the development of all new additions to the Roddenberry canonic universe. Even the technology seemed all wrong. ST:TNG’s solid-state, no moving parts engine room, where never a grease spot appeared, was replaced with what seemed like a petrochemical facility, with miles of piping, valves, and lots of sloshing liquids labeled “reactant” (and shouldn’t that be “reagent”?) It just did not feel right, even allowing for the fact that it was a century earlier than Geordie LaForge’s spotless engine room.

Since this movie seems to have opened the possibility of subsequent adventures of Kirk’s crew, we can only hope that the films-to-come will return to the trajectory of boldly going someplace other than to a battle.

My own connection with the Star Trek universe is now on Mars, part of the Planetary Society’s Visions of Mars DVD carried aboard NASA’s Phoenix lander, presently somewhere in that cold desolation of sand, rock, and (yay!) ice. This disk is a gift to the future human inhabitants of Mars. It represents the important symbiosis between sf and real space science. It reminds those who live on Mars that it took the dreams of visionaries to have gotten there.

visions_mars_dvd

Image: The Mars DVD aboard Phoenix. The DVD is mounted on the deck of the lander, which sits about one meter above the Martian surface, visible in the background. Credit: NASA/JPL/Univ. of Arizona.

As Director of this project, it seemed important to me that Star Trek be part of the package — and it is. There is an image of the (never seen in close-up) plaque on the bridge of ST:TNG’s Enterprise, giving the ship’s commissioning date and the fact that it was built in the Utopia Planitia shipyards on Mars (bet you didn’t know that). A section of the disk containing Orson Welles War of the Worlds radio broadcast is introduced by the voice of Patrick Stewart, the actor who played Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Also in that section is part of that radio documentary I did in 1976, including the voices of Gene and Nichelle. Gene said, “The real space program provides the science, we supply the dreams that keep people interested.”

Amen to that. Let’s hope future Star Trek vehicles return to that mission.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Athena Andreadis May 15, 2009, 13:05

    Wonderful memories, Jon, and a loving, eloquent tribute to Star Trek, its creators and its impact. All subsequent sf series and many films emanate from Star Trek, whether in support or reaction. We who still believe in space exploration may seem throwbacks, not in step with the brittle sophistication of the present era. But I’d rather be Malcolm Reynolds than Bill Adama.

    When a magazine editor asked me why I wrote The Biology of Star Trek, my response was The Double Helix, in which I attempted to describe the vision that fuels us hopeless/hopeful romantics. Its concluding words echo yours :

    “Before any of these outcomes happen, we’d better be able to take to the stars, whose fiery engines created the elements that comprise our bodies. From the stars we came, and to the stars we must return. And though science will build the starships, it’s science fiction that will make us want to board them.”

  • ljk May 15, 2009, 14:33

    The actual Voyager Interstellar Record placed on Voyager 1 and 2 in
    1977 was not on the Voyager 6 space probe, or at least it wasn’t there
    when Kirk and pals found it after the robot craft had been transformed
    into V’Ger (I wonder what Voyager 3, 4, and 5 had on them for
    information packages?).

    Instead there was a simple rectangular golden plaque that had the
    vessel’s name on it in large block letters as its focal point. The letters
    “OYA” were covered in some black interstellar smudge, so that the
    “living machines” at the other end of the Milky Way galaxy who later
    found Voyager 6 after it popped out of a black hole somehow knew to
    read and understand the Roman alphabet of the English language
    pronounced it as “Veeger”.

    Harlan Ellison once quipped that the inhabitants of the machine planet
    which found Voyager 6 were smart and advanced enough to equip the
    lowly Earth probe with all sorts of amazing technology, but they couldn’t
    wipe some dirt off its plaque!

    Here is an image of the Voyager 6 plaque with Captain Kirk doing what
    the living machine aliens did not or could not do:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:V%27ger.JPG

    I saved an earlier blown up version of this image so I can better see the
    details on the plaque. The two designs to the left of the probe’s engraved
    name are defintely from the Pioneer 10-11 Plaque: The hyperfine
    transition of neutral hydrogen and the position of Sol to fourteen
    pulsars in the galaxy. These same two diagrams were also placed on the
    covers of the Voyager Records.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/59/VgrCover.jpg

    On the right is a diagram of three phases in Earth’s continental movements
    over millions of years, which was included as one of the images on the
    Voyager Record:

    http://re-lab.net/welcome/images/image039.gif

    This artwork itself came from another plaque for the Earth satellites
    LAGEOS 1 and 2, which will circle our planet for 8 million years.

    http://www.bigear.org/CSMO/HTML/CS07/cs07p02.htm

    So while there are undoubtedly influences from the Voyager Record, by
    the time NASA sent off the sixth member of the series they apparently
    opted for the low-budget nameplate.

    The Voyager Record did play a direct role in the 1984 SF film Starman,
    which the aliens who found on one of the probes interpreted as an invitation
    to visit Earth. The Rolling Stones song “Satisfaction” was not on the disc,
    however. :^)

    On a related note, Star Trek was not very kind to the Pioneer 10 probe
    in the fifth ST film which came out in 1989. We got a brief glimpse of
    the Pioneer Plaque attached to humanity’s first interstellar probe before
    it and the craft were blasted by a Klingon warship using it as target
    practice on what it considered to be space junk.

    http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Pioneer_10

    Regarding Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which came out 30 years ago
    this year, I consider it to be one of the best and truest to the original
    spirit of the original series. Sadly many fans have dismissed it because
    of its slow pace and there were some flaws, but the main characters were
    a logical progression of what their lives had been after that famous five-
    year mission.

    The “alien”, or at least those who turned Voyager 6 into V’Ger, were
    certainly new life forms to the Federation. And Kirk and company came
    to a reasonable solution despite the threat to Earth, rather than blow
    V’Ger up, though they were planning to do so, but only if all else failed.

    Jon, it would not surprise me if when future Martian colonists come upon
    the Visions of Mars disc some day and come to the Star Trek related parts,
    they not only recognize the series but that it will be going through its
    latest incarnation. :^)

  • george scaglione May 15, 2009, 15:12

    jon,athena,thank you for your wonderful comments above.and i would be remiss if i did not say a resounding thank you! again to both of you for your wonderful contributions to the space program.not 5 minutes ago i added a couple of comments to the other part of this site which deals currently with the new st movie,i will not repeat myself but simply invite everyone to go over there and have a look if they care to.would be wondrful to receive everyone heres comments on what they think,want,dream in relation to st and space exploration in general.as always ,very respectfully to all,your friend george

  • Adam May 15, 2009, 19:51

    I like the summation – science builds the starships, and SF puts us onboard. I just hope we don’t lose that hopefulness that SF inspires. People look around and see Earth suffering, and they’re driven to despair imagining it’s Gaia’s death-throes, but – as “Star Trek” leads us to hope – it’s really labour-pains. Earth is pregnant and needs to send forth her children from their womb…

  • Kenny May 15, 2009, 21:01

    For me, the original Star Trek mirrors my discovery of astronomy. The series first aired just around the time I picked up my first book on the solar system and discovered strange new worlds (they didn’t tell us much the heavens in Catholic school). The pictures in the thin book were all drawings, artist’s conceptions, but I was amazed that all these worlds actually existed and so I was enthralled. It was entirely new experience.

    And the same was true for Star Trek which aired shortly after. The special fx were crude (like stone knives and bearskins) and the characters overacted (except for Spock, who I thought was brilliant at showing subtle irritation), but I was absorbed. For a ten-year-old 60’s kid, Star Trek was a revelation.

  • David May 15, 2009, 21:44

    I am reminded of Caral Sagans comment on Star Trek Biology It went something like I have a better Chance of crossing with a petunia than a Vulcan!
    But there were a couple of hints of science. Orci said the orginal Trek universe is safe if Quantum Mechanics is right -well he sort of got that right -if the any Worlds Ontology is correct and Duetsch is correct that time travel is really parallel universe travel than yes….
    Warp Drive looks more like Alcubierre-more and the transporter seems to hint at a different method when Scooty and Kirk tranport across a vast distance which makes it ore like personla warp drive rather than atom or information scattering-maybe Well see . I think he purpose of this was to reboot but not completly pretend the original never existed(James Bond) and to be able to avoid non exsitant wars of the 1990s..

    I did howver like seeing the Enterprise built in Iowa m neighboring state but I would sure like to know where the Iowa Canyon came from!

  • ljk May 16, 2009, 9:41

    David said:

    “I did howver like seeing the Enterprise built in Iowa m neighboring state but I would sure like to know where the Iowa Canyon came from!”

    I read where one Star Trek “apologist”, after being confronted with
    that very question, said maybe Starfleet was digging up the local
    scenery for building resources and that canyon was the result!
    Apparently the EPA is much more flexible in the future.

    I think it would have been a lot easier to build a giant starship
    in space using resources already floating around up there, like
    the many planetoids in our Sol system. But then it might not
    have looked as dramatic, and that is what matters most in this
    latest incarnation of what was a groundbreaking SF series.

    This Web site comments in detail on the design of the new
    Enterprise and the film in general:

    http://www.ex-astris-scientia.org/articles/new_enterprise_comment.htm

  • george scaglione May 16, 2009, 10:39

    ljk,well i myself am amazed that a star ship would not be built in space,i agree with your comment but do not worry by the next movie they can be or will be built in space! a couple of paragraphs written into a script is all it takes! wow! i wish it was that easy in real life! as always thank you for your comments and keen insights. your friend george

  • kurt9 May 16, 2009, 13:28

    An entertaining thought about the cinematic “reboot” of Star Trek is that certain events depicted in the original TV series (and one movie) are supposed to have already occurred. Khan’s eugenic wars was supposed to be during the 1990’s, with Khan being born sometime in the 1970’s!

    Clearly certain aspects of Star Trek will have to be adjusted to account for how real history has occurred since the late 60’s and to accommodate reasonably expected technological (and social) developments over the next few decades (mostly biotech and nanotech).

    I think the best approach for the screen writers to do this to take the same approach as they did with the Daniel Craig “Bond” movies and to start out with mostly a clean slate. The “trekkies” won’t like this, of course.

  • Bragdon May 16, 2009, 23:48

    I’m sorry, but the dressed interior of Long Beach Water & Power did not a starship engine room make for me. And the destruction of Vulcan, an essential balance in the exploration of rationality and emotionality, was a deadly creative blunder. I have it heard it said that this is not my father’s Star Trek. It’s not mine, either. Science took a back seat, right next to the uneven production design.

  • PG15 May 17, 2009, 2:33

    Actually, Gene’s vision of a better tomorrow for all of humanity was most apparent (and heavy-handed) in the original series in the 60s. Beyond the cheap production is a very sound, and very lovely idea that, thankfully, he was able to realize on a larger canvas with TNG.

    Oh, and there was another little homage to real life space exploration in the last series in the franchise, Star Trek Enterprise. In the second-to-last episode, “Terra Prime”, we were treated to this:

    http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Carl_Sagan_Memorial_Station

    http://images3.wikia.nocookie.net/memoryalpha/en/images/4/48/Mars_Heritage_Site.jpg

    Finally, it seems that the new ST film (which I loved despite the various science errors; it was just so much fun) is doing quite well with new fans and the general public, if you look at the box office returns. In fact, it’s on its way to being the highest grossing Star Trek movie.

  • David May 17, 2009, 11:13

    I have a hunch Kahn is back in the alternate universe. I met Ed Begley who was in Voyager during…the 90s no Eugenics War in Voyager for some reason He had a a laugh but any long running series has these problems because the writers often do not watch them.
    Reality too is always a problem like the mysterious Kansas Hill people in Gunsmoke in those Kansas hills….
    Thye did hint at new technology in this warp drive worsk differently much more like we would now expect – a bubble is formed and boom you are at Vulcan the tranporter was great more like personal warp drive-I agreethe engine roms was terrible

  • ljk May 17, 2009, 11:20

    Kurt9, whenever you run into a paradox or contradiction in
    the Star Trek universe, you simply invoke the parallel universe
    scenario.

    This newest version of ST is just the latest of many alternate
    Star Trek universes to appear.

    http://www.ex-astris-scientia.org/inconsistencies/stxi_continuity.htm

  • george scaglione May 17, 2009, 12:03

    well guys i have read everything above and mostly agree.i hope science sits much more in the front seat for the next trek movie.as i have said before it is after all a movie.any problems can usually be corrected with afew lines of dialogue.lol much better and easier than real life in that respect!! by the way,it is doing so well that i cannot doubt that we are into a new star trek series (of movies at least)! regards to all as usual your friend george

  • ljk May 17, 2009, 14:16

    Star Trek stopped being “just a movie” and “just a television series” a
    long time ago, when the fans themselves turned it into an actual
    movement.

    Star Trek also stopped being just entertainment when people and
    companies began making real devices based on what they saw in the
    series, such as floppy disks which Spock so often used to input data
    into his science station banks on the Enterprise.

    Of course many fans simply enjoy Star Trek for its characters
    and soap opera elements. This will probably make up the large
    majority of the ones who will now follow the new series, as
    clearly focus on character over believable science and
    technology was the name of the game in ST 11.

    That is the good thing about Star Trek, it can be many things
    to many people. Hopefully despite this weak new film, ST can
    still inspire us towards a better future as the original series
    always aimed towards.

  • Brad Neuberg May 18, 2009, 1:39

    If you look closely the “Iowa Canyon” is actually a strip mine in the movie, so it makes sense. Something was being mined in pieces from the side walls; I only noticed this the second time around.

    BTW, I heard a good quote from one of the Star Trek writers recently. He said that when he first got on he tried to write some episodes that were more “science” friendly, and the main writer rejected them by saying that Star Trek isn’t meant to follow science, its meant to inspire science into new directions currently unknown ala warp drive, the personal communicator, etc. It’s not meant to be hard science fiction, its meant to be fantasy science fiction that inspires us to try to achieve those things some day.

  • NS May 18, 2009, 4:54

    I still think the original series (which I saw when it was first broadcast) was the best. At a time when TV sci-fi was defined by shows like Time Tunnel and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Star Trek was remarkable for its intelligence and humanity. And despite that, how often the humans turned out to be wrong! A monster killing miners is actually a gentle creature trying to protect its eggs. Super-human aliens more than once have to step in to prevent us and our rivals from fighting catastrophic wars. The characters of the original series were actually far more plausible than the eerily and inhumanly “perfected” ones of TNG or Voyager. Of all the series after the original, only Deep Space 9 had a similar spirit. OK, I admit I liked “First Contact”, mainly because the Zephram Cochram character injected some badly needed human foibles in the midst of all that stiff 24th century perfectionism.

    Still haven’t seen the latest movie. I probably will when Netflix gets it.

  • ljk May 18, 2009, 10:24

    Brad Neuberg, as I said previously in this thread, if Starfleet was actually
    strip mining Iowa to build a starship on the ground deep enough to make
    a canyon, then the EPA has clearly become as lax about regulations in the
    future as Starfleet apparently has about how they allow cadets to become
    spaceship captains.

    That former Star Trek writer you mention wrote about his experiences
    for Newsweek, which you can read online here:

    http://www.newsweek.com/id/195083

    The response he received from his boss regarding his suggestion to inject
    some exciting new science development into an episode of ST:TNG (see
    the top of page 2) would certainly have put off most people from daring
    to make ST more scientific. Perhaps this was the attitude with the new
    film, or even more likely, they couldn’t be bothered from the start.

    I know Star Trek was never meant to be a documentary on astronomy
    or space physics, but the series did come at the subject with at least a
    modicum and sense of realism – they knew what a galaxy was, when most
    other SF series constantly confused galaxy with solar system and vice
    versa.

    Among its many major faults, ST 11 blew science out the window (a
    supernova that can destroy an entire galaxy is just one example). It was
    junk food for the mind designed to strip mine money from the wallets of
    ST veterans and newbies alike. It may still inspire people to dream of
    reaching for the stars, but only in the most indirect way. Someone will
    still have to do the actual work of making interstellar travel a reality,
    and not in the way they showed it on the big screen.

  • ljk May 18, 2009, 11:00

    The new Star Trek film was beamed up to the crew of the International
    Space Station for their viewing enjoyment:

    http://www.universetoday.com/2009/05/15/new-star-trek-movie-beamed-up-to-space-station/

    It will be interesting to see if they honestly critique the film or if they
    were simply entertained by it.

  • Gregory Benford May 18, 2009, 11:45

    Jon’s own career matches exploration to aesthetics, and he points out these best qualities in the series. I hope future films follow his finger.

  • george scaglione May 18, 2009, 11:58

    when i checked in this morning i found some good comments i just had to answer, first…ljk,you are really very correct there is alot to be said for star trek that will tend to inspire us toward a better future! brad,if star trek does indeed inspire science in new directions then that too is very important i agree. ns, i too saw the first series when it was first broadcast and wow was it better than shows like voyage to the bottom of the sea!!!!! i have watched star trek ever since,wow,come to think of it alot of years! have seen all of star trek with kirk and picard and all of the movies to date.the other star trek series’s i have seen alot but far from all of! thank you one and all i always like to read your comments. your friend george

  • Pat Galea May 18, 2009, 13:01

    I loved the new ST film. I’m not a particularly big fan of any of the old series, and I think only some of the films were any good. I always liked the *idea* of Star Trek more than the execution.

    But this new one was great. Actually genuinely entertaining.

  • ljk May 19, 2009, 9:17

    I am sorry to say, Pat, but that is exactly waht J. J. Abrams and his gang
    want from the new Star Trek fans, people who are not familiar or into the
    original series and will gladly shell out hard earned cash for anything that
    simply resembles Star Trek.

    If you saw all the previews which came out before the film, you will see
    that this summer is full of popcorn flicks designed to merely entertain
    while siphoning your wallet. Star Trek should be a cut above them.

    I know there will be a Star Trek 12 film. What I don’t know is if it will
    be any better.

    This interview with Abrams merely confirms for me that the Star Trek
    I and so many others knew is but a shell of itself now. He says the writers
    of the film were “massive” ST fans, but clearly physics and plot logic were
    not their primary goals.

    http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Memory_Alpha:Ask_J.J._Abrams/Answers

  • Brad Neuberg May 19, 2009, 19:15

    @ljk: I agree that a ‘normal’ supernova explosion should not take out a galaxy. However, it could take out a quadrant of the galaxy. If I remember correctly the Star Trek ‘universe’ has 4 quadrants in the Milky Way galaxy, which roughly divides things up into four portions. Most of the Federation and the other races are pretty much in a single quadrant. Could a massive supernova take out 1/4th of the galaxy? Not sure.

    BTW, remember, Star Trek is art. In art, characters and relationship come first before everything else, otherwise its a work of non-fiction or something attempting to explore non-standard forms of art. Lets not put the original Star Trek up on a pedestal; it was full of silly non-science. Some of the discussion on here feels like a ‘back in my day… Star Trek was all science!’ type talk which simply isn’t true.

  • ljk May 20, 2009, 7:47

    Brad, I think you are misinterpreting what was said here. No one I
    know thinks the original Star Trek was all science and I could easily
    point out numerous instances of this.

    What is being said is that the original Star Trek was of a definitely
    higher quality and art than this new film. Yes, Star Trek 11 is art,
    but just because it is entertainment and not a documentary does
    not mean I want to watch poor quality art. ST 11 failed on just
    about every level other than base entertainment, and we will have
    more than enough of those kinds of films this summer and beyond.
    While far from perfect, Star Trek has higher ideals than this pale
    imitation we have been given by J. J. Abrams and his bunch.

    Regarding the presentation of science in ST 11, I highly recommend
    that you read the Bad Astronomer Phil Plait’s take on it here:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2009/05/08/ba-review-star-trek/

  • ljk May 20, 2009, 13:55

    And here is another look at science and physics in Star Trek overall from
    Scientific American:

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=star-trek-movie-science

    Regarding that galaxy-destroying supernova and Star Trek quadrants: First
    of all, they should be called octants, but we’re stuck with quadrants. These
    four sections of the Milky Way as divided in the Star Trek universe are huge.
    Even a hypernova couldn’t do more than sterilize all life on planets many
    hundreds of light years from the exploding star, so an entire galaxy or even
    1/4 of it is out of the question.

    Here is more than you probably ever want to know about the layout and
    dimensions of the Star Trek galaxy:

    http://www.stdimension.org/int/Cartography/cartography.htm

    http://www.geekstir.com/trekmapbig.html

    Just note this: The careful (and sometimes not so careful) construction of
    the Star Trek universe, as noted above, was thrown out the window with this
    new film. You and others may not care, but it is a slap to all the fans who
    have been with the series from the beginning. Will the new crop of fans
    care about what Star Trek inspired in our world, including the desire to
    spread our wings and explore strange new worlds and seek out new life
    forms and new civilizations? To boldly go where no one has gone before?

    We shall see.

  • Luis Dias May 22, 2009, 9:53

    I enjoyed the movie as well. For the science addicts, I understand their grief, this movie does not reek on “science” stuff. It was a reboot, and therefore a lot of explaining about the crew was necessary, dropping the main plot to the background.

    So I understand the author quoted in this post, but then he goes on to admit he’s the main source of the infamous star trek technobabble, which was a way to put “science” into star trek. He just lost my respect right there. If that is the standard in which you’ll have “science” in movies, then I rather have “red matter” a gazillion times.

    Because “science” isn’t about polarizing the plasma cores. That’s called engineering and it’s boring, it’s dull and stupid. It’s not even geeky. “Science” is about discovering what was considered impossible. A science fiction should involve amazing concepts, like Rama, or like The Childhood’s End premise. These don’t have “technobabbles” at all, and yet so compelling.

    We should be able to visualize Ring Worlds, Dyson Spheres, Star Clusters, strange objects in space, and things that defy logic. Now that’s Sci Fi.

    In this movie, I got to see a black hole eating a planet, and the landscape of Saturn. Not bad. What did ST made me see in 10 besides a mad clone? What did ST 9 made me see besides a bunch of sissy hippies happy with their little bubble of a life? What did ST 8 made me see besides a woman that is in fact a spider? Etc.

    I think you want too much of ST 11, which was mostly a reboot and a character rebuilding plot. I say, let’s see ST 12, now that the characters are “built”.

  • ljk July 8, 2009, 17:23

    Did you know that three people involved in the original Star Trek series died
    within a week of each other in June of 2008:

    http://philosophyofscienceportal.blogspot.com/2008/06/deceased-joseph-pevney-alexander.html

  • ljk October 15, 2009, 13:33

    Transparent aluminum is real, but for now it does not last very long:

    http://www.quantumdiaries.org/2009/10/13/star-trek-iv/

  • ljk December 4, 2011, 3:02

    http://citizenofthegalaxy.com/wordpress/?p=169

    CURIOSITY’S MARTIAN SUNDIAL

    Posted on December 2, 2011 by Lomberg

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

    Contact: Jon Lomberg
    P.O. Box 207
    Honaunau, Hawaii 96726 USA
    lomberg@aloha.net
    http://www.jonlomberg.com
    808-328-9598

    Honaunau, Hawaii, Dec.2, 2011

    CURIOSITY’S MARTIAN SUNDIAL: an instrument and a special message is sent to Mars aboard NASA’s latest mission.

    Artist Jon Lomberg, working with a team of space scientists, announces the launch of a new message artifact destined for the surface of Mars: a sundial whose four edges each contain a panel of text and image, written by Jim Bell and the MER sundial team and accompanied by graphics designed by Lomberg.

    NASA’s latest and most ambitious scientific mission to Mars is the Mars Science Lander called Curiosity. Like its predecessors on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity, this new sundial doubles as the camera color calibration target for the Mastcam camera system that is the rover’s primary instrument for imaging the surface of Mars. Mastcam was developed for NASA/JPL by Malin Space Science Systems, Inc. of San Diego CA, under the guidance of Principal Investigator Michael Malin.

    Curiosity’s calibration target provides a valuable educational activity for students, who can use the image of the sundial transmitted from Mars to Earth to learn about the ways that such simple but elegant instruments can be used to determine the time, date, season, and latitude on a planetary surface. The global spirit of space exploration is symbolized by the decoration on the “face” of the sundial—the names of Mars in 16 languages, including ancient Sumerian, Mayan, Inuktitut, and Hawaiian.

    The original idea for the educational project came from Bill Nye The Science Guy, now the Executive Director of The Planetary Society. MER imaging scientist, Prof. James Bell led the team, which included Lomberg to design the sundial and its message. Dr. Bell is President of The Planetary Society.

    The message on the edges of Curiosity’s new sundial is not meant for Martians or other extraterrestrials. Rather it is really meant for humans–“martian” humans who will be on Mars, many decades or perhaps even hundreds of years from now. Someday today’s Mars missions will be the stuff of history, and some explorer, prospector or geologist will find our long-lost robots. The message is for them—we hope that they can easily find somebody who understands English, the primary language of the nation that launched this spacecraft.

    The illustrations of the message try to evoke our species’ long fascination with the Red Planet. They use classical imagery of the god Ares, as well as astronomers’ drawings of Mars, the Viking lander and other Mars-bound spacecraft. The footprints, in the sands of Mars and the sands of time, symbolize humanity’s wandering spirit that has led us to Mars.

    Bell and Lomberg were both on the team that designed the similar sundials on the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. That sundial carried a different date and motto, and a different message along the edges using children’s art and Lomberg’s drawings. That team, Malin, and others also provided advice on Curiosity’s new sundial message, including inputs from Diane Bollen, Lou Friedman, Sheri Klug, Tyler Nordgren, Bill Nye, Steve Squyres, Larry Stark, Woody Sullivan, and Aileen Yingst.

    Jim Bell is a planetary scientist from Arizona State University in Tempe AZ, the Payload Element Lead for the Pancam instruments on Spirit and Opportunity, and President of The Planetary Society in Pasadena, CA.

    Artist Jon Lomberg was Design Director for NASA’s Voyager Golden Record and a long-time collaborator of Carl Sagan. He won an Emmy Award for his work as Chief Artist of the TV series COSMOS.

    Along with the two sundials on the MER rovers, and the Visions of Mars DVD aboard NASA’s Phoenix mission, this is the fifth message artifact of his design that Jon Lomberg will have launched toward the Mars. The first was on Russia’s failed Mars 96 mission. Three have made it there, perhaps destined to be received by some future human society on Mars. The fifth is now on its way.

    For additional information contact:

    Jon Lomberg

    P.O. Box 207 Honaunau, Hawaii 96726 USA 808-328-9598

    e-mail us: http://jonlomberg.com/contact_jon.html

    visit us: http://www.jonlomberg.com

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