Posted by: movieotaku | April 8, 2007

Battlestar Galactica: Call for blunder nominations

Although the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica is quite a good show, and it does a lot better job with the science than more TV shows, it still has some… issues.

Send me your nominations for science blunders in Battlestar Galactica (either by e-mail or via the comments section).  I’ll tally through the responses and start posting them as soon as I get enough entries.



  1. The entire concept of the episode WATER was bad. Ice is very common throughout our solar system and I doubt ours is special in that regard. Even if water is rare hydrogen and oxygen are not and I should think the Galactica could combine the two to create enough water to satisfy their needs.

  2. Their culture is literally ours, same dress and mannerisms. If there is other humans in space there is no way their culture is exacly like ours. You have a better chance on hitting the lottery than that happening. Overall Galactica gets the science mostly right.

  3. The science in BG is terrible. So bad, in fact, that I have paused the show with the manifest purpose of finding a website that criticizes the science in sci-fi shows, just so I could gripe about it. Maybe because I expect sci-fi shows to have better physics than ‘Earnest goes to Camp’, or maybe because I’ve been spoiled this week by watching to much Firefly; either way, I find myself much more annoyed much more often with this show than with others who are, episode for episode, just as unrealistic. What annoys me? Well, I haven’t really got the time for specifics, but… I’ll list a few things.

    First, the shows entire approach to the concept of space travel is ridiculous. At the end of the miniseries that starts the show, the cylons decide that they will chase humanity, even if it takes ‘decades to find them’. The next thing you know, the fleet is being attacked every 33 minutes. Now, perhaps the cylon agent on the olympic carrier was solely responsible for this, and perhaps the cylons previously mentioned either did not know about this agent, or were simply trying to be dramatic. Regardless, this terribly coincidental pattern continues; every episode, the fleet is bumping into cylons; they’re guarding the astroid with the fuel on it, they’re orbiting Kobol, they’re randomly popping up in outer space… What universe do these people inhabit, where the odds of running into anyone or anything in outer space, randomly jumping from resource to resource, is so terrestrially low that it will happen not once in a million years, but every other day? The odds of ever seeing ANYTHING in space that you don’t already know where is and aren’t trying to see are phenomenal; it just couldn’t happen (this is the problem with firefly, too; though it only happens about 3 times, and always in coming and going between known locations). Basically, if you don’t want to be found in space, you won’t.

    Of course, I understand that if they just got away and found a new planet to inhabit, it would be a very short, dull show. But then again, if you don’t understand anything about the world outside of our own atmosphere, maybe you shouldn’t be writing science fiction.

  4. TJ:
    What universe do these people inhabit, where the odds of running into anyone or anything in outer space, randomly jumping from resource to resource, is so terrestrially low that it will happen not once in a million years

    Well, for the “33” episode, my understanding was the cylon agent was transmitting (somehow) a beacon to the chasing cylons and it took the cylons 33 minutes to triangulate & jump there. That wasn’t so bad.

    The rest is getting a tad weird. From what I gather, the Galactica is setting random co-ordinates with in a cone heading in a “general direction” giving the cylons a elipsoid of probability (the galactica would make a jump between a certain minimum & maximum distance within a few degrees of their well-known heading). Problem is, I suspect that sphere is very large and I keep wondering how they manage to find the ships if they aren’t using FTL communication.

    But I seem to recall other shows where ships got tracked down in space but without a clear explanation of _how_. The better shows talk about “vapour trails” or residual radiation from the warp engine.

  5. With the Gallactica running into Cylons all the time, it is not that bizarre. They are actively tracking them, and in the cases where the Gallatica comes across the Cylons (such as the asteroid mining facility) it is a large supply of a somewhat rare resource.

    The Cylons had a large time to prepare for the conflict, and are a manufactured race. This means they could potentially have an unlimited amount of ships and “people” out in space. They also have the advantage of not needed the supply lines of the Colonists, a Resurrection ship is all that is needed and it seems to have a huge range (given how far into the series it is until the are used). The Colonists would need food, water, fuel and other expendables which would make long distance travel infeasible due to costs, even if you ignore monetary costs. As you add extra ships, you need to lay down extra provisions, and extra ships to carry it. At some point it becomes too expensive to warrant.

    Thus it is possible for Cylons to have mapped out and expanded a large area of space, and although space is large enough to hide in the Colonists aren’t actually hiding. They are running and looking for resources necessary to survival, which would also be staked out by the Cyclons even if they don’t need them. They know that the Colonists will need them and the Cylons are exploiting this.

    As for tracking the fleet through FTL jumps, one would assume the jump has a set heading for travel. The jump requires an engine, and engine are designed to push a vehicle in a single direction. Given this you can calculate the heading of the jump.

    An FTL jump is also shown giving off some sort of radiation – there is a glow about the ship. This can be measured, and would give a hint about the amount of energy used. A diffenent amount of energy would be required for each jump dependant on the mass of the ship being moved, and the distance it is moved. From these pieces of info an equation could be formed to calculate jumps. There would be a margin-of-error of course, but you would end up with a sphere where they could be.

    For the “33” episode, you could use the above idea to locate the fleet, especially with the help of an agent onboard. Fleet jumps and as soon as it reaches the end-point the agent flashes off a message using slower-than-light or close-to-light speed technology. The Cylons jumps into the exact centre of the “margin of error”, detect the transmission and triangulate the fleets location. Another short jump and they are on top the fleet. This would also explain the exactness of the timing, which actually isn’t all the exact. There is a period before the clocks are started where the fleet is surveyed by Gallactica, and the Captain makes the decision and gives the order to start the clocks. There is also a period after the clock hits 33 minutes for the Cylons to appear.

    As for throwing off the pursuing Cylong fleet, in one episode they talk about making multiple shorter jumps to throw off the Cylons, which would work well. However this would increase the strain on the ships, and would only be a short term solution at best. And it would only throw them off until they strike another fleet – once they are “re-acquired” they can be tracked again.

    And, finally (well, for this part anyways); once the rough heading of the Colonial Fleet is known then the Cylons can commit increased resources to that particular area, pulling them from other areas as needed. This would increase the density of patrols in the area they are headed (why track them when you can be ahead of them and prepared).

    Oh, and for the Water episode: Water itself is common throughout our solar system chances are most of it is unusable for human usage. It would most likely by contaminated with all sorts of chemicals and impurities. It is possible in the series that they were looking for a specific “cleanliness” of water and had their systems calibrated as such – if the water didn’t match the specs it was ignored. There would have to be a limit to what could be scrubbed out by the Gallatica’s purification system, so they would have planned accordingly.

    Although you do have a point about the abundance of hydrogen and oxygen, it is possible that they discarded that idea in order to preserve the Oxygen supply. They may also lack the ability to manufacture an effective scoop to collect, or method for storing, and hydrogen or oxygen.

    Phew, that is a lot of words 🙂 I do like the series, but am not a raving “fanboi” of it (seriously, I am not). But I just thought I would offer some explanations for the above comments. It doesn’t invalidate those comments at all, it is just some food (or ideas) for thought.

  6. I wonder what happened to weightlessness in the open space. Everybody and -thing onboard any space vehicle in the series are moving quite comfortably as if the were on Earth. Actually that’s an enormous blunder!

    [It was established in Water that the Colonial fleet has artificial gravity and in Sine Qua Non. –Travers]

  7. Ok, what about all the big space “explosions”? Surely things like ships and fuel tanks will only explode in space to the extent in which there is oxygen to support it.

  8. One thing that baffles me is that they never act like they truly have lost their homes. No one ever goes catatonic with depression over losing their entire family, home, pets, hometown, culture and everything else that has surrounded them for their whole lives. There are few if any psychotic breaks or severe PTSD from the unremitting danger, uncertainty and ongoing loss and deprivation piled on top of the unimaginable losses they have all suffered. They should be the most dysfunctional, damaged society that could be imagined.
    No one ever broaches a bottle of whiskey while remarking that this is going to be the last bottle of Old Janx Spirit (I know, I know!) for the next thousand years. Many years ago I gave my uncle some very expensive Nat Sherman cigars for his 50th birthday, which should tell you how expensive they were. When he unwrapped them, he said, “You don’t smoke these; you spend them.” That should be the attitude shown every time they open a bottle, light a cigar, use a medication, etc.. Yet on BG they go through essentially irreplaceable commodities as if there were an unlimited supply.
    I enjoyed the series, but I found all of this very unrealistic, a real failure of the writers to fully realize the implications of their own storyline.

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