Goodness gracious! Great balls of fire?!

While Jen and I were watching the Doctor Who Christmas Special on Christmas Day, I couldn't help pointing out that the meteoroids currently bearing down on spaceship Titanic orbiting Planet Earth would not, in actual fact, be massive fireballs, as they were still in space. Meteoroids only start to burn after they enter a planet's atmosphere, when they are known as meteors. Any parts of them which survive the passage through the atmosphere and the subsequent collision with the planet are known as meteorites.

I also pointed out that magnetising a spaceship's hull seemed like an unlikely strategy to attract passing meteoroids: the magnetic field required to do this would need to be inconceivably immense, especially as we had already seen that the meteoroids' original trajectories came nowhere near the ship's.

Then it occurred to me that it was rather odd of me to complain about minor scientific inaccuracies like these, when I was quite happy to accept that our hero was a double-hearted Time Lord from Planet Gallifrey who regenerates every time he dies, and who travels the universe in a box which is bigger on the inside than on the outside. So I shut up.

If you can't suspend disbelief on Christmas Day of all days, when can you?

Richard Carter

A fat, bearded chap with a Charles Darwin fixation.


  1. For a fairly accurate synopsis of suspended disbelief in the space time contimium, you could do worse than google 'the radio is broken lyrics'

  2. They say that people believe you when you tell them there are a hundred million stars, but will always touch paint to see if it's wet.

    Amazing what we take for granted by familiarity - my two-year old girl asked my why the sky is blue a couple of weeks ago. Asside from trying to explain Rayleigh scattering to a two-year-old, it made me wonder how many adults have never asked that.

  3. When I was at university, a friend who was going to an interview to determine whether he got a first or a 2:1 in physics asked me to ask him some physics questions. I asked him why stars twinkle. He hadn't a clue. I told him the answer (fluctuations in atmospheric air density causing the light to bend differently).

    His first iterview question: "Why do stars twinkle?"

    He ran back from his interview, gave me a big kiss, and dragged me out for a pint. He got his first.

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