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The science of Battlestar Galactica
George Dvorsky   Feb 7, 2006   Sentient Developments  

Okay, I have to admit that I’m a Battlestar Galactica junky. For an American TV show, it’s not half bad and damn entertaining. Sure, it has some ‘eyes roll to the back of your head’ moments, but then again, as a show that attempts to mirror current social and geopolitical issues in the United States, along with obnoxious American attitudes and sentiments, one rolls their eyes to the back of their heads when they read much of today’s news.

Galactic-scale cheese and corn aside, the show isn’t entirely insulting to one’s intelligence. The writing, drama, and characters are pretty solid and it has a “West Wing” set in space melodramatic feel. You really empathize with the characters and their predicament; these people have just been put through a holocaust and their would-be destroyers are still hot on their tail. Needless to say, tempers and prejudices run very high.

Oh, and the cylons are seriously bad-ass—both the robotic ones and the cyborgs. In a neat bit of sci-fi writing, when a cylon dies their memories are immediately uploaded to central computer on board a “resurrection ship.” The memories are then relayed to a cylon clone who is in turn sent out to re-terrorize the crew of the Galactica. I suppose it’s how satan would manage reincarnation if he had the opportunity.

While not quite at the level of hard science fiction, the science isn’t terrible. In fact, the writers are going out of their way to make this show realistic—unlike its campy 1970s predecessor. A recent article, Reach for a Battlestar [link discovered on Gravity Lens], explores this very issue, sorting out the pseudoscience from the real science. The article covers issues such as the movement of spaceships in space, the sounds of laser fire, and uploaded memories.

Much of the show’s success, I believe, is due to the fact that nature abhors a vacuum and Battlestar Galactica has beautifully filled the ecological niche left absent by Star Trek. I bet a quick survey of Battlestar fans would unveil a slew of Trekies.

Still, it’s very good television space opera sci-fi and I recommend it for those who enjoy that kind of entertainment. Like me.

George P. Dvorsky serves as Chair of the IEET Board of Directors and also heads our Rights of Non-Human Persons program. He is a Canadian futurist, science writer, and bioethicist. He is a contributing editor at io9 — where he writes about science, culture, and futurism — and producer of the Sentient Developments blog and podcast. He served for two terms at Humanity+ (formerly the World Transhumanist Association). George produces Sentient Developments blog and podcast.


Battlestar Galactica has a science advisor, Dr. Kevin Grazier, from NASA/JPL. If you’re interesting in learning more about the science of Battlestar Galactica, I invite you to

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