Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Star Wars Technical Flaw That Isn't

I'm not a huge fan of any of the star industries, which includes Trek and Wars and People magazine, but I check them out now and again just to try to find something the goggle-eyed fans have missed. Being an outsider, I might see things in a different way. I think I found something.

I think I have a doozy, and it has to do with Star Wars.

It's at least in the first movie, which somehow is subtitled Episode IV. (I have no answer for that.) (Neither have I seen any of the other movies, to see if this is also in one or more of them.)

Fans point out a technical flaw. They say that the flying fighters and space machines with engines can't make sound, because this is in the vacuum of space, where there can't be sound.

However, I have a wonderful answer to that, courtesy of a little tour I got with a pilot of an American air-breathing fighter plane. I extrapolated a concept I saw in the cockpit of an aircraft that is rightfully called a Warthog. I'm sure I could have seen this idea is in many others.

Anyway, flying in space is especially deadly, considering the amazing velocities at which things move. Even marble-size objects can have a five-figure closing speed and more, and can therefore destroy whatever they hit in a blink.

When one is flying fighter craft in the vacuum of space, one therefore needs as many sensory clues as possible to gain advantage in the fight and avoid damage.

Visible information through cockpit windows is a given. So is a variety of onboard sensors that transmit location of surrounding craft and objects to a screen or heads-up display.

One more thing, which is my answer to the so-called flaw: These craft are also equipped with surround-sound equipment to produce artificially-generated engine sounds from all quadrants. These sounds provide additional information to the pilot as to type and location and approach of potentially-threatening craft and objects. It's as if the pilot was outside of and free of the aircraft and could hear exactly what was around and what it all was doing.

Naturally, it's a skilled pilot who decides from moment to moment what sensory information is the most vital, be it directly-visual, display icons, warning lights, feedback from the controls, or artificial auditory clues.

The fact that theater viewing of this movie included 3D sound should have tipped off the audience that there are many ways to be environmentally aware, and the setting of space may not present every way that could prove useful. The technology outfitted in the craft would make up for that, giving every pilot every possible bit of vital information possible, in every way useful to a pilot's full compliment of physical senses.

Zoom! Roar! It's sound, but not from space. It's what it could be, if space transmitted sound.

Not a flaw.

Now can I be a Star Wars fan? 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Headlong To Wrong

We prefer a sound bite to accurate communication.

While I can't patent this discovery, I can explain it, with a note that fine writers understand this and take advantage of it.

We'd rather state something in a minimal count of syllables than to clearly and accurately convey the message. Its equally evil twin is our urge to get done, rather than call that spade exactly what it is.

You'll find the occasional exception, such as weathercasters using "significant" instead of "substantial". "Significant" signifies something; it's a symbol for something. "Substantial" means "an outrageous scary load".

An example of syllabic shorthand:"Birth control."

It doesn't control birth, but it has three syllables, and flies out of the mouth so you can go on to other words.

"Pregnancy control" is more accurate, not to mention five syllables. But that's still not accurate.

"Pregnancy prevention" is as accurate as English-speakers can state it. Six syllables.

Too much for ... all of us?

Have you ever heard anyone--even doctors--use that term?

I'm betting the lunch money that's a "no."

So are we open to change? Change is good. That's what is implied.

So a broken leg is change, right? So are you in favor of a broken leg?

I think you'd prefer "improvement", each and every time. Three syllables. Take a moment and ask for that, instead. You always seem to get some sort of change, for good or ill, but a shift is all you get, like a kiddie roller coaster. Go get that improvement. No one's asking for it, so there must be plenty left to grab for yourself.

I do understand that we're guilty of the inaccurate shorthand because we know it works and we may feel we have loads to say and little time to get it out.

My main point is that fine writers may recognize that a dive into a thesaurus for a better/cuter/sleeker/eggheaded substitute word may appeal, but they may also realize that a replacement that's accurate will prevent the reader from sliding by the term, forcing them to slow and allow a thought to get attention and sink in, rhythm be cursed. Calling a spade nothing but a spade sometimes does the job better than a swoopy poetic schuss. Look up the word, "schuss" (which you will) and it means, "ski downhill." A schuss is fun, but maybe the speaker doesn't want to put the listener on a fun ride.

The author may want uplift, not downhill travel.

This may improve your communication.

It'll at least tell the audience that you're thinking, and that may be the actual effect you're trying to bring across.

I'm no grammar nanny, so I won't encourage you to find your own examples and give it a try, but you may stumble onto others.

I just wanted to note that accuracy has a purpose, and you may appreciate that all the more in your daily interactions.