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areteus
11-17-2011, 08:38 PM
Ok, in the 'would you like someone to point out errors in your published work' thread, there was a small offshoot about errors in history knowledge. I thought this deserved its own thread and I am chucking science in there as well because, well, science is my thing and I think the same problems occur there too...

So, here is the situation. You are writing a story, you want to include some historic setting or show some science. Two things to think about:

1) Should a writer strive to achieve as accurate a portrayal of history or science as they can, making best use of research that they can because there is a chance that a history or science geek will spot the errors and make a massive thing out of them (as many will do given half a chance... Sheldon in the Big Bang Theory is not so much of an exaggeration as some might think...)

2) Additional to the above, does the writer have some responsibility for ensuring accuracy because someone may read their version of history or science and assume it is true and this could potentially impact thier understanding of the subject in question?

Now, I am not talking about clear parallel universes where you have quite blatantly made it clear there are differences. Nor am I talking about far future sci fi or space opera where it is obvious that warp engines and so on are not real. I am talking about stories that are stated as being 'set in X period of history' or are clearly based on the real world and I am not even talking about things that the characters could achieve (i.e. assassinating Henry VIII and putting someone else on the throne) because in those cases the cause of that is obvious... I am talking about the little things, the details which most people might not know were inaccurate but which an expert might go apoplectic about.

So, discuss...

Filigree
11-17-2011, 09:05 PM
If a writer claims their work is non-fiction, it needs to be backed up by fact.
If a writer is using real-world cultures, places, and processes in their fiction, they should at least do enough research to make it convincing. In fiction, writers can riff on established facts, but they need to know those first. 'What was' is often a great way to start thinking about 'what if'.

Writers will always miss some tiny details, there is no helping that. We make mistakes, and there is always some new bit of information that comes out long after we've researched and written something. But we should at least try.

NeuroFizz
11-17-2011, 09:19 PM
This is going to be genre specific. But for the most part, if some scientific technique or some historical place and time is mentioned, yes, it should be accurate. Research is part of writing, and it comes under the umbrella of writing excellence. But do the research for the right reason--because of pride of product. We will be judged by more than just your stories, and I don't want to be know as a writer who is sloppy with the real world facts.

One of my peeves is when writers get their human anatomy and physiology wrong. This stuff is readily available on the web, in texts, and in libraries. Having an MC knocked unconscious for a period of time then have him get up and do something heroic is a big one. Anyone who has had a concussion severe enough to lose consciousness can testify about the resultant physiological consequences of the injury, which can require immediate hospitalization. And when writers give one of their characters an injury and then forget about that injury just a few chapters later, it really gets me in a lather. Realistic injuries deserve realistic consequences and realistic healing times, even in fiction. This is part of excellence in writing and storytelling.

If one is going to talk about radiation and its effects, they had better know about the kinds of radiation and the properties of the various isotopes. It's not that difficult--it's at our fingertips on the web.

To me, if the information is wrong or inaccurate, it's akin to putting San Francisco on the East Coast and New York in Brazil.

JimmyB27
11-17-2011, 09:20 PM
I particularly like George MacDonald-Fraser's approach to this in the Flashman books. They're presented as 'genuine' memoirs of Sir Harry Flashman, and quite often there are bits where there's a mistake, but a footnote where GMF has annotated Flashman's text with something like "Flashman must be misremembering here, this didn't happen until two years later."
I always imagine the history pedants going "Ahah - that didn't happen until two years later, this author doesn't know anything!" *Flips to annotation at back* "Oh....bugger."

JimmyB27
11-17-2011, 09:22 PM
If one is going to talk about radiation and its effects, they had better know about the kinds of radiation and the properties of the various isotopes. It's not that difficult--it's at our fingertips on the web.
You mean like how gamma rays turn you into a big mean green monster?

NeuroFizz
11-17-2011, 09:23 PM
[For Jimmy's first post] But I would contend those are purposeful mistakes used for effect. In that case, they become writing tools.

NeuroFizz
11-17-2011, 09:25 PM
You mean like how gamma rays turn you into a big mean green monster?
You forgot "glowing" green, in which case it fits under suspension of disbelief. Science Fiction, Horror, and other genres modify science and reality with the big stuff, but they still better get the small stuff correct or readers will notice.

The Lonely One
11-17-2011, 09:32 PM
I do think if a fiction writer establishes a place as the place people know in reality, it can be detrimental to keeping the reader "in" if they screw up facts.

But do I think they have a historical obligation? Naw. As a rule I don't think novels should be read in that context.

Jamesaritchie
11-17-2011, 09:38 PM
I don't believe you always have to be right with history and science, but you should try to never be wrong.

Don't tell me Abraham Lincoln was halfway across the country on the day he gave the Gettysburg speech, but it's fine to say he met with a fictional character, or even a real historical figure, at a time and place when history shows that he could have done so.

Likewise, it's fine with me if a writer uses FTL travel, as long as it isn't achieved simply by going faster and faster and faster until the ship is moving five times light speed. I don't need exact details of how FTL travel is achieved, but I need some explanation that doesn't violate the physics we're sure about.

areteus
11-17-2011, 09:46 PM
Yeah, I think the Hulk is an example of 'far fetched fiction' which is fine under what I have described above. I am mainly thinking of characters wearing the wrong type of sandals or the old controversy about Romans having stirrups (which I think is still a controversy in history as there is now archaeological evidence...).

I agree about the physiological details too. A character with an injury should act as if they are injured and that means possibly fainting from shock not long after being stabbed... though, again, there is a precedent in heroic fiction for this. Heroes have more endurance than 'ordinary folk' and this is even acknowledged in some cases as in the Wold Newton family: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wold_Newton_family Though I agree that it happening too much is a little annoying :)

quicklime
11-17-2011, 09:48 PM
This is going to be genre specific. But for the most part, if some scientific technique or some historical place and time is mentioned, yes, it should be accurate. Research is part of writing, and it comes under the umbrella of writing excellence. But do the research for the right reason--because of pride of product. We will be judged by more than just your stories, and I don't want to be know as a writer who is sloppy with the real world facts.

One of my peeves is when writers get their human anatomy and physiology wrong. This stuff is readily available on the web, in texts, and in libraries. Having an MC knocked unconscious for a period of time then have him get up and do something heroic is a big one. Anyone who has had a concussion severe enough to lose consciousness can testify about the resultant physiological consequences of the injury, which can require immediate hospitalization. And when writers give one of their characters an injury and then forget about that injury just a few chapters later, it really gets me in a lather. Realistic injuries deserve realistic consequences and realistic healing times, even in fiction. This is part of excellence in writing and storytelling.

If one is going to talk about radiation and its effects, they had better know about the kinds of radiation and the properties of the various isotopes. It's not that difficult--it's at our fingertips on the web.

To me, if the information is wrong or inaccurate, it's akin to putting San Francisco on the East Coast and New York in Brazil.

this. especially with the web, you can do a lot of research in a short time.

I don't ecpect anyone to get a PhD in physics so they can focus in a ridiculous, boring level of depth on neutrinos in some boring aside, but if they have a super-virus described as "closely related to the black death" (bubonic plague is from a bacterium, so that's like saying a cat is a close relative to the porcini mushroom....) then there's a problem.

rainsmom
11-17-2011, 09:52 PM
I don't believe you always have to be right with history and science, but you should try to never be wrong.

Don't tell me Abraham Lincoln was halfway across the country on the day he gave the Gettysburg speech, but it's fine to say he met with a fictional character, or even a real historical figure, at a time and place when history shows that he could have done so.

Likewise, it's fine with me if a writer uses FTL travel, as long as it isn't achieved simply by going faster and faster and faster until the ship is moving five times light speed. I don't need exact details of how FTL travel is achieved, but I need some explanation that doesn't violate the physics we're sure about.

This exactly.

I also agree that the degree of accuracy required varies by genre. Fantasy writers get to invent their own reality. Sci-fi writers get to imagine a future that hasn't happened, science that we don't yet possess. But many novels are set in the real world. If you vary from established fact, I want that variance explained or justified. Feel free to invent a town or to claim that the house on the corner of Main belongs to your character, but don't try to tell me that Union Ave. will take you to Graceland. (Lookin' at you Marc Cohn!) That's not literary license -- it's just sloppy.

gothicangel
11-17-2011, 10:20 PM
This is so strange that we're having this conversation today. :)

I bought a book this morning, and I've just been studying the route of Dere Street [the legionary road.] And I've just realized that the route my MC takes doesn't make sense. I have him visiting Vindolanda, and crossing at Housesteads. Now, it looks dumb. It has to be Corbridge [travelling to Trimontium.]

Now that's sloppy research. ;)

Devil Ledbetter
11-17-2011, 10:24 PM
One of my peeves is when writers get their human anatomy and physiology wrong. This stuff is readily available on the web, in texts, and in libraries.
In one of the Twilight books the MC was camping out and shivering uncontrollably. The big concern was frostbite. No mention of hypothermia, which would have been the more serious threat in that situation.

The Lonely One
11-17-2011, 10:26 PM
In one of the Twilight books the MC was camping out and shivering uncontrollably. The big concern was frostbite. No mention of hypothermia, which would have been the more serious threat in that situation.

Jack London should have written a letter.

Phaeal
11-17-2011, 10:31 PM
this. especially with the web, you can do a lot of research in a short time.

I don't ecpect anyone to get a PhD in physics so they can focus in a ridiculous, boring level of depth on neutrinos in some boring aside, but if they have a super-virus described as "closely related to the black death" (bubonic plague is from a bacterium, so that's like saying a cat is a close relative to the porcini mushroom....) then there's a problem.

Agreed, though maybe the Y. pestis bacteria were themselves infected and genetically altered by the supervirus...

Bunny!

But, yes, the writer should do her best to get the science and history right. Besides, research can charge up your plot, like when I realized that a Puritan minister was highly unlikely to marry the uncle's widow I'd set him up with. Much better plot came out of the changes I had to make.

gothicangel
11-17-2011, 11:14 PM
But, yes, the writer should do her best to get the science and history right. Besides, research can charge up your plot, like when I realized that a Puritan minister was highly unlikely to marry the uncle's widow I'd set him up with. Much better plot came out of the changes I had to make.

So true.

I've just finished translating some Plautus into English, in which I had to Google a particular word, and hit on a website of Roman profanities.

Gold Dust. :D

Lyxdeslic
11-17-2011, 11:50 PM
In my novel, one of the characters is a direct descendant of George Washington. IRL, old Georgie boy was sterile. I don't address the issue directly because it's not dire to the plot. I simply built a world where the broad history we know is b.s.

Lyx

areteus
11-18-2011, 12:03 AM
Ooh, Roman profanities. I have a use for those... link?

gothicangel
11-18-2011, 12:44 AM
Ooh, Roman profanities. I have a use for those... link?

It might be a wiki link, but it's just too good. :)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin_profanity

MDSchafer
11-18-2011, 01:45 AM
The biggest thing that looks amateur to me is to have a modern, or mostly modern woman historical fiction. Yes, it happens with men too, but in a lot of the unpublished fantasy/historical fiction I see a self-confident woman who doesn't need a man and sling a sword/run a business as well as any man and doesn't seem to suffer any sort of sexism as a result.

The other biggest thing I see is that people take freedom of movement for granted. I've seen Roman era stories where the main characters move from Rome to far flung outposts in a matter of days or week, not months, or a year.

We're fiction writers, not history professors, but more often than not I think being true to the real world details can make for a better story.

jennontheisland
11-18-2011, 01:50 AM
The biggest thing that looks amateur to me is to have a modern, or mostly modern woman historical fiction. Yes, it happens with men too, but in a lot of the unpublished fantasy/historical fiction I see a self-confident woman who doesn't need a man and sling a sword/run a business as well as any man and doesn't seem to suffer any sort of sexism as a result.
I strongly suggest you never ever ever read historical romance.

Karen Junker
11-18-2011, 02:00 AM
I was an editor for a couple of years for a small romance publisher (in their historical department) -- and the things mentioned above are some of those I most often had the author go in and correct (after recommending they do some research).

I notice things such as names for colors that were not in use during the period of the story, clothing names, Americanisms in stories set outside the US ('back yard' instead of 'garden'), distances traveled by coach or horseback being realistic, and other types of anachronisms.

As a reader, I tend to overlook this type of error if the story and characters are otherwise engaging.

gothicangel
11-18-2011, 11:36 AM
The other biggest thing I see is that people take freedom of movement for granted. I've seen Roman era stories where the main characters move from Rome to far flung outposts in a matter of days or week, not months, or a year.

We're fiction writers, not history professors, but more often than not I think being true to the real world details can make for a better story.

The problem with this though, is that I would bore the t*ts off a reader by going into detail of my MC travelling from Judea to Rome. Better to jump the specifics, while leaving an accurate passage of time between the scenes in Judea, and his arrival in Rome.

gotchan
11-18-2011, 12:07 PM
You cannot satisfy Sheldon. It is not humanly possible.

If a writer fails in research, or chooses to change something, it doesn't make the story worse than if every detail were correct. I demand only two things from writers when it comes to facts:
Be internally consistent, and
If something is critical to the plot or is the reason A leads to B, it had better be accurate.

areteus
11-18-2011, 02:12 PM
The biggest thing that looks amateur to me is to have a modern, or mostly modern woman historical fiction. Yes, it happens with men too, but in a lot of the unpublished fantasy/historical fiction I see a self-confident woman who doesn't need a man and sling a sword/run a business as well as any man and doesn't seem to suffer any sort of sexism as a result.



Modern social mores is a common one, I agree. It is too easy for a modern writer and a modern reader to react as a modern person would and impose those morals on the characters. It's not just sexism, but racism and classism too.

On the one hand you have to accept that sometimes the MCs are exceptional people who are more enlightened than the average person of the period. Often the story is about how the bigoted old baron came to understand that the woman who cleaned his toilet is an intelligent and thoughtful woman he might fall in love with or how the staunch Nazi forms a friendship with the Rabbi and learns that the propaganda is not true. I think it becomes annoying when everyone in the world is happily egalitarian - as if someone from the modern day had travelled back in time and taught them all 'the error of their ways'.

I did put a throwaway line in Gods of the Sea when introducing Rachel - who is a strong woman of the type you describe above. It was a comment about how the country she came from is considered 'weird' by every other place because of their strange attitude to women (they could own businesses! Dress how they like! There was even women in the Government!) which I think covered that issue nicely.

There was a LRP game I played where the players displayed this sort of behaviour. It was supposed to be authentic medieval (around 10th - 11th century) attitudes and as a result any female players got bonuses to make up for the fact that they would get sexism. Trouble was many of the male characters were too nice and modern to actually play that out so they got the bonuses for nothing anyway :) And there was a specific incident where my wife decided to play a Jewess from York at a time, historically, just after the infamous well poisoning incident (where the Jews were blamed for poisoning the wells because, likely, they were a convenient scapegoat). She was looking forward to lots of accusations and drama and sidelong glances and mutterings and being socially ostrachised and Christian priests trying to preach to her. Unfortunately, as the referee said at the time, it seems as if the shadow of Belsen caused the players to be nicer than they should have been and about the worst she got was 'So, you're a Jew, are you? How is that working out for you?'

It is very difficult to play or write or think like a person from a historic period...

gothicangel
11-19-2011, 01:26 PM
I think this discussion with a friend sums up the subject of a film:

Friend: "Well, the costume was cliched, wasn't it?'

Me: "What? You mean historically accurate?"

[I'm still trying to pick my jaw off the floor.]

areteus
11-19-2011, 02:37 PM
Yeah, everytime you dress a Roman in a toga you are just perpetuating the cliche that all Romans wear togas :)

gothicangel
11-19-2011, 03:21 PM
Yeah, everytime you dress a Roman in a toga you are just perpetuating the cliche that all Romans wear togas :)

Which [strangely enough]is similiar to the response I gave. :)

Another classic is 'it has cliched ideas of honour.' Well, duh, that's exactly how the Greeks and Romans thought about honour. :Headbang:

VictoriaWrites
11-19-2011, 10:44 PM
I think authors should strive to be as accurate as possible- in most cases.

When authors purposefully change history for the sake of the novel, I like it when there's an afterword. (I made this up, but that was true, etc.)

What really got me was when I read a(n) (amateur) review of Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan. It's an alternate history, where WWI is fought using giant "Clanker" machines and huge fabricated "Beasties". The entire history- the entire world was different. But this person was more concerned about the fact that the Archduke Ferdinand was poisoned, not shot. (A matter that was addressed in Mr. Westerfeld's afterword.)

You will never please everyone. But you can do your best. ;)

Lyra Jean
11-20-2011, 06:16 AM
I remember when Titanic came out. I believe it's one of the most historically accurate movies at the time. They tried their best to make it accurate without turning it into a documentary and people were still complaining.

The town that Jack said he is from wasn't founded until 5 years after Titanic sank. The corset that Rose is wearing didn't come into fashion until 2 years later. The song that Rose is singing wasn't written until 1914.

I have no idea if those times were right. I was making the time up as an example but they did complain that those particular facts were wrong. I'm like wow really that is what you are going to complain about with this movie.

I know it's a movie and not a book but thought it fit.

Lyra Jean
11-20-2011, 06:19 AM
There is a book I used to like the author was a scientist. I think she specialized in biology. One of her characters is a doctor and she went into boring detail about heart defects. It was part of the characters job to try and come up with new cures, programs, or something for the sick on his homeworld. Yes it was science fiction. But she went on for chapters at a time and it was like I know this stuff so I want my readers to know I know this stuff. I ended up giving the novel away. I swear you could skip large parts of that novel and not miss a thing.

gotchan
11-20-2011, 08:08 AM
I have no idea if those times were right. I was making the time up as an example but they did complain that those particular facts were wrong. I'm like wow really that is what you are going to complain about with this movie.

I was involved in a discussion about the objectification of women, and, fooling around in Photoshop, I came up with a cow pin-up. (Link here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gotchan/5830255062/ Possibly NSFW, in case the phrase "cow pin-up" didn't give you a clue.) I've gotten several critiques that were nothing more than accusing me of never having seen a cow, because udders aren't built like that nor is that where they are located.

I'm like you, Lyra. I'm thinking, "Really? You look at that picture and your complaint is the udder's in the wrong place?"

You can't satisfy Sheldon.

thothguard51
11-20-2011, 08:37 AM
Yeah, everytime you dress a Roman in a toga you are just perpetuating the cliche that all Romans wear togas :)

And exactly when did togas go out of style? Geezzzz, no one tells me anything...

Becky Black
11-20-2011, 11:52 AM
I like to be able to tell that the writer has done their research and has a grasp of the subject. But if the facts are bent a little in a mindful way to suit the story I don't mind that. Historical events annoyingly don't always arrange themselves to fit a nice story structure, so have to be tweaked. Things like taking a couple of real life incidents that happened during an event to a couple of different people and giving them both of one character instead, just to cut down on the dreaded "cast of thousands" problem for a story is very common.

But in the end I have to say to myself, it's just fiction. If I want to learn about the actual facts I should read a history or science book as well. The story writer's first obligation is to keep me entertained by and enthralled in that story. If I'm fool enough to think that what I read or see in fiction is the way things really are, then that's my funeral. And people definitely fall into that trap. The number of people I've talked to who've cited The Da Vinci Code as their source for their claims about the iniquities of the Vatican is worrying! :D

gothicangel
11-20-2011, 01:51 PM
And exactly when did togas go out of style? Geezzzz, no one tells me anything...

:roll:

gothicangel
11-20-2011, 02:02 PM
Things like taking a couple of real life incidents that happened during an event to a couple of different people and giving them both of one character instead, just to cut down on the dreaded "cast of thousands" problem for a story is very common.



Oh, my God. The Tudors, for morphing Margaret Tudor [who married King James IV of Scotland] with her sister Mary [who married the King of France.] Which really f***ed up the Scottish history.

http://www.thetudorswiki.com/page/Princess+Margaret+Tudor

amlptj
11-20-2011, 02:40 PM
My series takes place in the real world and my Freaks i want to be completely explainable by science. I strive and pride myself on making everything explainable by real world science and historically accurate. To do this i painstakingly do a massive amount of research.

For days in question in my stories i even look up what the weather was like!

For the science aspect. I'm already a chem major in college right now but i have sat in and secretly taken biology classes that are not relevant to my major just so i would get a better understand of the human body so i could make my Freaks completely explainable by science. There mutations I've actually done research to figure out what genes they effect and such. Yes there abilities and the outcomes of the mutations are only theories but i still base it off of hard core real science.

Personally i find it is the writers job to do there homework and create a real world experience for there readers as much as within there capabilities.

areteus
11-20-2011, 03:11 PM
Lyra's point about going on too long with the details is a good one. There is a limit between 'realistic setting' and 'lecture' and a good editor should have cut all that stuff about heart defects out or at least minimised it a bit to reduce the drag on the flow...

I've only once been impressed by the accuracy of biological science in a story. That was Greg Bear's Blood Music. In it there are descriptions of cell biology techniques which tallied with how I've done similar research on blood cells so I felt comforted to know that the detail was there. I suspect only a small number of the population would even care about this but it reassured me :)

Of course, the fact that phycisists tend to get riled by sci fi more than biologists (because more sci fi touches on concepts like time travel and ftl travel than it does on genetics in general) is another issue I shall have a rant about later :)

I remember watching the X files once and they were 'doing PCR' and not only was the investigating officer (Scully) doing the actual work (slightly dodgy from a procedural PoV due to risks of skewing the evidence due to having a vested interest) but it seemed to take her less than 2 hours to do the whole process - from isolating the DNA (at least 30 minutes in my experience, even using a kit which speeds the process up), to amping it up in the minicycler (anything from an hour to 8 hours depending on the program you use - common practise is to leave it running overnight) to running the gel (30 minutes to an hour again, depending on the length of the gel) and analysing the results... OK, you could do it in about 2 hours but I've never managed it- most of the programs take at least 2 hours to run to get enough DNA to work with. If they wanted accuracy in that they should have said 'next day, minimum' but the plot needed the result quickly so a bit of a stretch was done...

shaldna
11-20-2011, 03:39 PM
I think it all depends on the genre and the rules you set up for yourself.

For instance, if you are wititing military hisotry then I expect you to get dates right, and to know the available technology and the key players involved in big events.

If you are writing alternate history then you can do as you please, I'll not care.

If you are using, as the example upthread was, radiation then how you handle that depends on what your end goal is and what your genre is. If you are writing a superhero type novel then I have no issue with your character gaining superpowers, it fits my expectations of the genre. But in other circumstances, say you are writing a sci-fi type thriller about a terrorist attach on a nuclear power plant, then I expect you to know all about radiation and what it really does and how it works,.

That said, is you are clever in how you write these things then the average reader will overlook the mistakes, even when they spot them.

For instance, CSI is a case in point. I have a science background and can frequently be heard shouting at the TV when it's on - luminol, for instance picks up lots of stuff, including fruit juice, so that purple lit 'murder' scene is probably, in the real world, where someone spilled their orange juice. And all those women who AREN'T WEARING HAIR NETS, not even tying their hair back, CONTAMINATING EVIDENCE!! (breathe in, breathe out) it annoys me because I know the protocol and I know the science.

BUT I'm still willing to overlook those things because of the way they are presented to me, and I would say that most people, even those who are familiar with the science, would overlook those mistakes.

gothicangel
11-20-2011, 03:52 PM
That said, is you are clever in how you write these things then the average reader will overlook the mistakes, even when they spot them.



If the story is good enough, then I will overlook errors. But saying that, I set myself high standards. I would never say, 'oh X author got away with this, why can't I.'

I had an instance yesterday while reading Ken Follet's The Pillars of the Earth. One character employs a torture method that wasn't used until the Spanish Inquisition [300 years later.] Though a quick Google would have told him the Romans had quite an ingenious variation.

Becky Black
11-20-2011, 10:41 PM
Oh, my God. The Tudors, for morphing Margaret Tudor [who married King James IV of Scotland] with her sister Mary [who married the King of France.] Which really f***ed up the Scottish history.

http://www.thetudorswiki.com/page/Princess+Margaret+Tudor

Now that sounds like a bit much!

Lyra Jean
11-20-2011, 10:55 PM
Lyra's point about going on too long with the details is a good one. There is a limit between 'realistic setting' and 'lecture' and a good editor should have cut all that stuff about heart defects out or at least minimised it a bit to reduce the drag on the flow...

I've only once been impressed by the accuracy of biological science in a story. That was Greg Bear's Blood Music. In it there are descriptions of cell biology techniques which tallied with how I've done similar research on blood cells so I felt comforted to know that the detail was there. I suspect only a small number of the population would even care about this but it reassured me :)

Of course, the fact that phycisists tend to get riled by sci fi more than biologists (because more sci fi touches on concepts like time travel and ftl travel than it does on genetics in general) is another issue I shall have a rant about later :)

I remember watching the X files once and they were 'doing PCR' and not only was the investigating officer (Scully) doing the actual work (slightly dodgy from a procedural PoV due to risks of skewing the evidence due to having a vested interest) but it seemed to take her less than 2 hours to do the whole process - from isolating the DNA (at least 30 minutes in my experience, even using a kit which speeds the process up), to amping it up in the minicycler (anything from an hour to 8 hours depending on the program you use - common practise is to leave it running overnight) to running the gel (30 minutes to an hour again, depending on the length of the gel) and analysing the results... OK, you could do it in about 2 hours but I've never managed it- most of the programs take at least 2 hours to run to get enough DNA to work with. If they wanted accuracy in that they should have said 'next day, minimum' but the plot needed the result quickly so a bit of a stretch was done...

I remember that episode. I have a couple of books about the science behind the X-Files. That is the only sciency thing that Chris Carter really cheated on. He put a lot of time, effort, and research to make sure that everything was as accurate as could be. Which is why Scully isn't an expert in all things science and actually has to refer to other science type people for things.

Dave.C.Robinson
11-20-2011, 11:49 PM
What really annoys me is when an author goes into very specific detail and then gets it wrong. Stephen King is particularly bad for that - especially with cars. If you're going to go into make, model, and year get it right.

areteus
11-21-2011, 01:22 AM
I remember that episode. I have a couple of books about the science behind the X-Files. That is the only sciency thing that Chris Carter really cheated on. He put a lot of time, effort, and research to make sure that everything was as accurate as could be. Which is why Scully isn't an expert in all things science and actually has to refer to other science type people for things.

Oh, I know, which is why it stood out more than it might have done in CSI who break the rules all the time :)

Though I find CSI useful as a teaching aid sometimes - either to give an example of where science may be useful or to point out their mistakes. A pop culture reference is always handy to have to hand in an emergency :)

Lyra Jean
11-21-2011, 01:29 AM
Oh, I know, which is why it stood out more than it might have done in CSI who break the rules all the time :)

Though I find CSI useful as a teaching aid sometimes - either to give an example of where science may be useful or to point out their mistakes. A pop culture reference is always handy to have to hand in an emergency :)

Ah okay. I was just like oh goody something I know. LOL. There are even classes like this in college. One I took was Ancient Rome in Film.

IceCreamEmpress
11-21-2011, 02:18 AM
I say either get it right, or be vague. Don't be specific and wrong.