TV Book Club: The Science Of 'Battlestar Galactica'
As regular readers may know, I've recently started watching Battlestar Galactica. Anytime I start watching a sci-fi series, my mind is always drawn to the question of what in the fictional world is even remotely plausible. I love knowing what makes these universes tick. Thankfully, Wiley-Blackwell has a handy book to help answer that question: The Science of Battlestar Galactica, by Patrick Di Justo and Kevin R. Grazier.
The Science of Battlestar Galactica answers all those questions fans want to know about the series' underlying science (in fact, some parts of the book include exchanges with a fictional "smartass fanboy"), including how the Cylons escaped detection for so long, artificial gravity as opposed to real gravity, and investigations of each of the Twelve Colonies. Ever want to know what Galactica's mass would be if it were made of powdered milk or sawdust? I know you didn't, but that's in there, too. Genetics, physics, nuclear weapons - the book covers all the major areas of science that come into question through Galactica, and probably a few things you didn't ever think about along the way. As it was just published this past October, it also has the benefit of having the complete series to draw upon and dissect. (Although, if you haven't seen the entire series, there are naturally spoilers.)
Almost more importantly, the book is incredibly accessible. I know I'm not alone in admitting that math and science were my two least favorite subjects in school, and it continues to be brain-numbing to me, unless you put it into a context I appreciate. To that end, most of my science education has come from reading books like these, ones that taught me the science of the X-Men, of The X-Files, of Star Trek. As the latest addition to my library of volumes regarding real science in fictional universes, The Science of Battlestar Galactica holds up well. It has a casual, sometimes snarky tone that keeps it from being just the dry explanation of complicated facts. There are plenty of specific examples, so you can easily relate something you've read to something you've seen. The actual scientific content is explained as simply as possible; yes, there are naturally lots of big words, but the authors make sure you know what they mean after they've invoked them. For people like me who are confounded by science but love Battlestar, you'll be able to easily navigate your way through and come out smarter at the other end. Be aware, though, that this is particularly hard science, so it's not for the casual geek.
There's also an amusing note here: at certain points, the authors decide they've explained enough and remind you that it's really just a TV show. Some might call it a cop-out, but I found that an amusing truth; not everything in any fictional universe can be explained in the real world. That's where the "fiction" in science fiction comes in, if only for the simple reason that we're not really that far in the future yet. The Science of Battlestar Galactica reminds us that while it's okay to explore the science behind a great TV series, we should also enjoy the fiction involved as well.
At 336 pages, this is a solid enough volume to cover many topics in depth (although, as mentioned earlier, the more casual fans may find it too daunting). If you're looking for a solid exploration of what makes the Cylons tick, however, you're in the best place possible. I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to BSG fans and fellow fans of pop-culture science. You can order your own copy of The Science of Battlestar Galactica at the Amazon discounted price of only $11.50 by using the handy link at the top of the page.