StarTalk and Baba Booey Rock Comic-Con (Part 2)

Post Date: 13 January 2013

Listen now:

Season 3, Episode 26

©2012 Broadway Video. All rights reserved

In part 2 of our show from San Diego Comic-Con, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Gadget Gary (Baba Booey of the Howard Stern Show) and The Bad Astronomer Phil Plait turn from gadgets that exist to gadgets we dream about. From Star Trek and Star Wars to Doctor Who and James Bond, the guys expose the coolest fictional technology to the harsh light of science. Could the Starship Enterprise travel faster than light? What would happen if you beamed a person from one place to another using a transporter? What are the practical problems with the lightsabers in Star Wars? Could the Death Star really blow up a planet? How possible are Doctor Who’s sonic screwdriver, psychic paper and TARDIS? And are they any less plausible than James Bond’s vehicular cloaking device or bullet-deflecting magnetic pen? Join StarTalk at SDCC and find out for yourself.

Gary Dell’Abate (a.k.a. Gadget Gary and Baba Booey)
Phil Plait


Star Trek: The Next Generation Theme Song
2001 A Space Odyssey Opening Music
Star Wars Theme – John Williams
Star Wars Imperial Death March – John Williams
Star Wars: Into the Trap – John Williams
Star Wars: Bounty Hunter Hot Pursuit – John Williams
Dr. Who 40th Anniversary Theme
Dr. Who music video “I am the Doctor” – lyrics spoken by Jon Pertwee: The Third Doctor
James Bond theme music

  • Brian

    I wonder if Jupiter has the same effect as NDT was explaining the sun has. Jupiter is quite large. Does Jupiter rotate faster at the equator for any reason? Does it rotate faster in an particular point at all?

  • Elizabeth

    On self-driving cars, we should all refer to New Zealand scientists who have developed amazing dog-driven car technology. But really, I wonder why we haven’t developed that yet. I’m sure Google is working on it.

  • Bob

    I’m still fascinated by Asimov’s moving beltways in his Foundation series. Imagine a series of moving sidewalks side by side each moving 2-3 miles an hour faster or slower than the one on either side. Within a couple of hundred feet you could walk across to up to 60-80 miles an hour and then walk back down as you approach your destination. No cars, no parking, no pollution (electric) and open to everyone!

  • Noah

    the light saber is a beam of charged plasma not light, and the emitter plate is oppositely charged making the beam “stop” but it does fold back up on itself, and also making the “blade” adjustable if desired

  • Sandra

    It wasn’t a magnetic pen, it was a magnet in a watch (Live and Let Die).

  • Tobias Green

    Neil… Please come back on the Joe Rogan Podcast

    You blew my f***ing mind…


  • vecna00

    The only thing that stops certain leaps in science is someone saying it wouldn’t be “profitable.” :(

  • Adrian Morgan

    I’d like to add a few points to add to the discussion in the Doctor Who segment.

    (1) Psychic paper was obviously conceived as a way to solve a recurring issue in Doctor Who — that the plot requires the Doctor to quickly integrate with the societies he encounters, but there’s no way to do that realistically. It’s one of those plot vs plausibility issues the Classic Series simply avoided, along with “everyone speaks English”, etc. The new series handwaves such issues away too, but it prefers to do its handwaving with a much more scientific-looking robotic hand with fancy lights and buttons and stuff. Which is better is an open question.

    (2) Consensus is that the D in TARDIS stands for “dimensions”, but originally it was “dimension” (singular). The writers of the TIMELORD role-playing game made a point of adhering to the original, with a parenthical comment in the rule book explaining this. Of course, originally the name was made up by Susan, which has since been thorougly overwritten and is a more significant continuity gap than the difference between “dimension” and “dimensions”.

    (3) Re the TARDIS being bigger on the inside, what bothers me is the lack of respect given to conservation of momentum. When the outside of the TARDIS is tipped over, or knocked about, you see the inside being knocked about likewise, even though dimensional trancendentiality ought to act as a very effective dampener — what with the inside being not only bigger but also much more massive than the outside. Now, this is something that has varied over the history of the show: Doctor Who has had phases where a TARDIS journey is often a bouncy ride, and others where it isn’t. Personally I think they got it right in “Pyramids of Mars” — only something extraordinarily powerful should be able to knock the TARDIS around so badly you can feel it from inside.

    (4) Personally I like the “I Am The Doctor” poem, but some people hate it, probably because it’s too rich in metaphor for their tastes. I seem to recall once reading someone complain about the reference to demonic forces, but of course, in context “demonic” doesn’t mean eminating from demons, but having qualities associated with demons. It’s as literally true to say that daleks are demonic as it is to say that Venus is hellish. Neither statement implies the actual presence of religious entities.

    That’s all I have to say about Doctor Who for now. Re Star Wars vs Star Trek, it is of course true that Star Wars is the McDonalds of science fiction (loosely defined), but I tend to feel that Star Trek is the Watching Paint Dry of science fiction — the show just doesn’t appeal to me. Partly because of the whole stiff-limbs-and-greasy-hair thing, and the society in which everyone seems to be defined by their function. Give me Doctor Who or give me Stargate.

    • Jeff

      Adrian, as someone who is new to Who (as BBC America so recently phrased it), I can’t begin to speak to the perspective you bring to the subject. I never much liked to older series, but am a big fan of the 9th, 10th and 11th Doctors. (The 10th being my favorite.) But I will stand to the defense of both Star Wars and Star Trek any day. Not in justifying the science of it, though there is good and bad in both, but in the science fiction of it. And legions of hardcore fans stand with me. Like any science fiction, personal taste comes into play. Asimov vs. Heinlein vs. Gibson vs. Herbert vs… you get the point. (Part of me is itching to take Stargate (the series, not the movie to task), but I won’t for that very reason. It’s a big universe, and when it comes to science fiction, there’s room enough for all.

  • Adrian Morgan

    Re my comment currently in moderation: I meant “satanic” rather than “demonic”, of course (demonic didn’t sound right but I didn’t think it important enough to check).

    And as a postscript combining Doctor Who with James Bond — I’ve always thought “He Who Wins Shall Lose” (from Rassilon’s inscription in The Five Doctors) sounds like a title for a James Bond movie, and wonder what the title track would sound like.

  • David

    I live in S.Korea and I actually have to use a fingerprint scanner to get through the main apartment door. :)

  • Adrian Morgan

    Jeff — agreed. I take it as axiomatic that any time a fan of one science fiction series bashes another, it is always, ALWAYS, intended in good humour.

    • Jeff

      Adrian, absolutely. To outsiders, it might seem like we’re being vicious or insulting, but to geeks, it’s just conversational thread #6b. Right up there with who’s stronger, Hulk or Thor.

  • Adam Bruce

    The Concord was a terrible aircraft prone to a large array of problems for almost no gain. Supersonic speeds might sound cool, but the implementation of that idea embodied by the Concord was a strange mutation quickly ‘breeded’ out by the aeronautics community. For a more complete discription, see “The Simple Science of Flight” By Henk Tennekes