How can you have a point of origin with only one coordinate? is a good example, and I suspect we'll see many questions asking, say, how is it possible that Tom Paris got to Warp 10 in Voyager when that's supposed to be impossible, and many other such questions.

Trying to make sense of these things is really a matter of trying to apply logic to something one really needs to suspend disbelief over. I can see many such questions coming our way. How should we handle them? Should we close them? Is there a standard we can edit them to?

(Personally, I love trying to make sense out of this stuff, but I feel it has no place on Stack Exchange we would need to figure out how to make it work in the Stack Exchange framework.)

On the other hand, trying to make sense out of these assumptions can be instructive. Discuss? Perhaps there's a way we could frame these discussions that would make the site useful and make the internet better? (That last is the mission of Stack Exchange; quibbling about warp drive doesn't achieve that end, but perhaps educating people in science would?) Perhaps we need to reach out to the Physics site if we ever get out of private beta?


3 Answers 3


That question is actually one of the rare non-list questions. There are two parts in science fiction: science and fiction, and that question is about drawing a line between the two in the given example. In my opinion that is more on-topic than most the questions here, including my own ones.

(Personally, I love trying to make sense out of this stuff, but I feel it has no place on Stack Exchange.)

It's a question that actually does have an answer. Neither of the answers is even subjective. As far as I know, this makes it compatible for Stack Exchange Q&A philosophy.

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    My issue is that such answers cannot be verified or backed up, how do we address that aspect of this? Jan 18, 2011 at 21:20
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    @neilfein: True. We cannot verify things that don't exist. But we can verify what is said about these things within specified works and provide references and quotes. Also, real-world explanation why this is or isn't possible is easy to provide. Jan 18, 2011 at 21:47
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    The good answers will always be backed up by links to an franchise wiki, eg. memory-alpha for star trek. I don't see any problems as long as a lot of people like to join the discussion and provide additional information and details. Although I think the SG topic is a good example for a wrong picked answer (obviously, mine would be correct ^^). So as long as there is discussion and people enhance their answers with new content I think it will help this site to grow. Jan 19, 2011 at 16:43
  • @Samuel - To play devil's advocate... if answers are pulled from wikis, what does Stack Exchange add over, say, a discussion on a wiki talk page? (Accessibility, ease of use, and the fact that it's all in one place, I assume?) Jan 20, 2011 at 0:44
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    @neilfein I think they offer at least another digestation. Lots of people seem to have problems to understand the canon-like technobabble on some wikis. And Wikis tend to have useful information only on 1 of 3 relevant sites. (Compare: Stargate, DHD, Stargate Adress on wikia e.g.). And I think there are also questions which aren't answered sufficiently by wikis. Jan 20, 2011 at 2:08

I don't see that this differs from "How plausible is X?" questions significantly. Both are taking a certain fictional presentation and analyzing it.


On the contrary, I think that the idea that

Trying to make sense of these things is really a matter of trying to apply logic to something one really needs to suspend disbelief over.

only applies to fiction that is intentionally self-inconsistent, which does not apply to most sci fi or fantasy. That is, it might apply to farce (e.g. Space Balls) or dream sequences, but even these settings have answers (e.g. because it's funny and it parodying X, or because it's a dream and relates to Y).

For the most part, I think that this type of question is extremely relevant to SF. For much traditional written SF, and even for a lot of flashy Hollywood SF, a major theme of the work (in main cases, the main theme) is "imagine what if some situation were true - what would that be like?" While many people relate to such settings as "oh well then anything can happen - anything can be true, so we should stop expecting anything to make sense", many other people are interested in that major question posed by the setting, and have a very reasonable expectation that it will make sense and be self consistent.

What a SF would be like is only answered when the rest of the universe doesn't also randomly abandon logic. So yes such questions are common around SF and fantasy, and rather than being something that shouldn't be done, have always been the meat and potatoes of many works in the genre. Some people might see them more as the vegetables, and argue against it, but they're definitely on-topic except on a site that sets out to avoid it.

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