Starts With A Bang

The Suspect Science Of Star Trek: Discovery, ‘Context Is For Kings,’ Season 1, Episode 3 (Synopsis)

Michael Burnham, initially brought over as a prisoner, finds herself aboard the USS Discovery, captained by the intriguing but sketchy Gabriel Lorca. Image credit: Jan Thijs/CBS © 2017 CBS Interactive.

“If I die trying but I’m inadequate to the task to make a course change in the evolution of this planet…okay I tried. The fact is I tried. How many people are not trying. If you knew that every breath you took could save hundreds of lives into the future had you walked down this path of knowledge, would you run down this path of knowledge as fast as you could.” -Paul Stamets

When you look at the dark matter network of the Universe, what do you see? Do you see patterns similar to other networks, like neurons in your brain or the mycological mats found beneath the soil on Earth? Of course you do; our brains are extraordinary at seeing and recognizing such patterns. But do those patterns mean that there’s a relationship between the structure of the Universe and these other, biologically-based examples?

Atoms can link up to form molecules, including organic molecules and biological processes, in interstellar space as well as on planets. Is it possible that life began not only prior to Earth, but not on a planet at all? Image credit: Jenny Mottar.

That’s a question that you need math and science to investigate. Superficial relationships may have nothing deeper beneath the surface, and it’s against that false flag that scientists must be vigilant, in order to not fool ourselves. Yet even though this plays a vital role in Star Trek: Discovery, the episode not only falls for this fallacy, they make it a vital part of their latest episode: Context is for Kings. And it leads to some science-fiction that’s rooted in the opposite of science, instead tending towards pure wish-fulfillment.

On the largest scales, the way galaxies cluster together observationally (blue and purple) cannot be matched by simulations (red) unless dark matter is included. This cosmic web may look like a web produced by fungi on Earth, but the analogy does not go deeper than that, either mathematically or physically. Image credit: Gerard Lemson & the Virgo Consortium, with data from SDSS, 2dFGRS and the Millennium Simulation.

The suspect science of the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery sets up an interesting plotline, but fails on the count of believable science fiction. Read on for the full story.