Everybody knows that actual scientific advances have started out as science fiction, including Radar and geostationary satellites. Your tablet computer is basically right out of Star Trek. But that doesn't mean that every scientific idea expressed in science fiction is automatically true.
In fact, science fiction is full of beautifully nonsensical ideas about the universe — which make no sense but are so beautiful, or silly, or exciting that you have to love them anyway. Here are 10 wonderfully insane theories expounded in science fiction.
10. The Ballpoint Disappearances
In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, there's a theory that all lost ballpoint pens slip off to their own planet where they get together, form families, and live 'the [ballpoint] equivalent of the good life.' One man says that he even went to the planet and worked as a driver for a family of 'cheap green retractables.' Eventually the planet gets raided, and all these free pens get taken and resold. The only reminder of any of it is a lone survivor on the planet who 'repeatedly claimed that nothing was true, though he was later found to be lying.'
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9. The Turtles of Discworld
The world is a disc. It's stacked on the backs of four elephants. Those elephants are balanced on the backs of a giant turtle. The mechanics of this situation are both fun, because it's created by Terry Pratchett, and frustrating. It turns out that, compared to trying to do biology at a distance, the universe we inhabit is relatively easy to understand. You can spot most of the relevant things about a planet by watching it orbit, doing spectroscopic analysis of the light coming off of it, and looking at its surroundings. Not so with a space turtle. This scientific theory really helps put the real world into perspective.
8. Futurama's Dark Matter Engines
The crew of Futurama are able to jet around the galaxy above light speed, because of the special dark matter engines, invented by Hubert Farnsworth. But how the engines operate is somewhat difficult to describe. Even Farnsworth doesn't know how it's done, saying, "It came to me in a dream, and I forgot it in another dream." It's up to his clone, Cubert, to figure out the answer: The starship stays still, and the engines move the universe around it. Sure. Why not?
7. The Infinite Improbability Drive
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy racks up its second mention of the list, with its infinite improbability drive. 'Improbability' generators can be used to force atoms to hop from one place to another, over short distances, but that's just a warm-up. An infinite improbability generator can be used to get a group of atoms to infinite improbability — which allows a spaceship's atoms to suddenly flicker simultaneously through every point of the universe, allowing the space ship to travel anywhere in an instant. It's made by programming a regular improbability generator exactly how improbable an infinite improbability generator is and brewing it a cup of hot tea.
6. Alien Wormhole Transport Pods In Contact
Take a quick trip through a massive, rotating circle in a small, dropping sphere, get blasted through space and time, and wake up on a tropical beach and talk to glowing versions of dead relatives. A massive roller coaster and a day on the beach - this is the perfect way to get around. Which makes it even more of a shame that no one believed the character who did it.
5. Dark Matter is Linked Through a Single Nonlocal Particle
Futurama comes at us with another theory. The dark matter engines only work because all dark matter is linked to a single energy-rich particle, and a single anti-particle, which if they ever meet will annihilate. But the best part of the theory is its reasoning for it: "As Deepak Chopra taught us, quantum physics means anything can happen at any time for no reason." That opens up the field for a whole new set of theories.
4. Firefly's Space Psychosis
Although Serenity revised the Reaver legend, Firefly's space psychosis was one of the most interesting theories of psychology ever. Gaze into the abyss, the Firefly universe told us, and you go outright 'bibblety' with it. Next stop; mutilating your skin, torturing people to death, eating live flesh, and driving your beat-up star ship around 'without core containment.' That, my friends, is a lot cooler than 'the abyss gazing back.'
3. Battlestar Galactica's Origin of Species [Spoilers]
Darwin was wrong, wrong, wrong. Of course humans on earth didn't evolve slowly from sludge, to fish, to crawling land creatures, to primates. That's just silly. Instead, humans on earth were the result of space-humans and space-humanoid-robot-who-thinks-its-a-human sex. We're all human-and-robot-space babies. I just don't see how that didn't occur to people sooner.
2. X-Files Theory of Genetics
In reality, it's hard to get the genetics of different species to combine successfully, even in pieces. If some foreign DNA is introduced to an animal against all odds, it's almost never expressed. When it is expressed, it often takes special processes to even see the change. Genetics is more subtle than anyone thinks.
X-Files genetics is way cooler: Any species can cross with almost any other - sometimes through unethical experiments done by aliens or shadowy government conspirators, but more often through straight-up boning. As a result the world is lousy with hybrids. Human-alien hybrids. Human-other-alien hybrids. Human-flatworm hybrids. Human-close-relative hybrids. Human-demon hybrids. Human-superintelligent-clone hybrids. And even a human-sand hybrid that came near the end, when nobody cared what happened anymore because David Duchovny had left.
1. The Terminator Trilogy's Time Theory
In the Terminator movie, we got the interesting theory that 'The future is not set.' If Sarah Connor got a tip off on what the future would most likely hold, well, that just made it more likely that she could change the future and avert the coming nuclear apocalypse when the Skynet computer system gained consciousness and took over the world. Ah, but it didn't actually work out that way. Sarah got pregnant by the guy that got sent back in time to save her - which couldn't happen unless the future was set. What's more, in Terminator II it was revealed that Skynet would never even have began to get data unless it had been (will be) built in the future and sent back to try to kill Sarah Connor. This indicates that the future is most definitely set. The fact that there is no other record, in the Terminator universe, of such a thing happening at any other time, nor does Skynet take another shot at Sarah by, I don't know, sending something back to where her parents lived and nuking the whole area, means that the whole of history is so set that even time travel doesn't mess it up. There is no possible variation of an already-established flow of history. We're all just going through the motions. Scientific experimentation proved it.
Top Image: Ankh Morpork Discworld Game
Second Image: Roger Ebert
Third Image: X-Files Wikia