Monday, January 25, 2016

I Cant Hear You, Space!

     Star Wars: The Force Awakens is now the highest attended movie in 18 years. Within days, Force Awakens will be the first movie to cross $900 domestic (not adjusted for inflation) and only the third movie ever to make $2 billion worldwide. So clearly, there's a fanbase. The Star Wars movies are considered science-fiction. Because of the "fiction" part, there will definitely be some implausibilities in the series, such as star-destroying planets (is this an oxymoron?), vehicles being able to travel at the speed of light, and everyone in the galaxy having a British accent, but one thing that Star Wars has possibly made people forget is that there is no sound in space.
     Space movies have been flooding cinemas and our HBO Go accounts lately. Movies such as Gravity, The Martian, Interstellar, Guardians of the Galaxy, Jupiter Ascending, Star Trek, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens have all been released in the last three years, and all, minus Jupiter Ascending, have been financial and critical successes. That's great news for the genre and for fans. Hollywood is all about making films fun and exciting, and having sound, or foley as it's called in film making, adds a crucial element to the experience. Sound even gets its own category at the Academy Awards. 
     Of all these recent movies, Gravity was the only one to take the no-sound-in-space to scientific heart, but even then they cheated by allowing us to hear the terror and mayhem through Bullock's suit. While these movies are great cinema, it's important to remember it's all for drama.
     There is no sound in space. There is no air in space. There is no vibrations. There is no noise. Space is a vacuum. A supernova is when a giant, dying star explodes. Supernovas are the most violent events in the entire universe, and I mean violent, but if you were able to stand next to one, you wouldn't hear it. If you were able to drive over to the Sun and park right next to it, you would expect to hear something close to a roaring and crackling furnace, right? Well, because there is no sound in space, you wouldn't hear a thing. Oh, you'd definitely feel it, but hear it? Nope. Technically you wouldn't be a thing either at that point, but we'll save that for another day.
     Well why isn't their sound in space? It's because space is a vacuum, making it void of air. Sound travels in vibrating waves, and the reason we can hear everything on Earth is because those waves are able to travel through air and water. With no air in space, there is nothing for them to vibrate or use to travel. That in turn means no noise. If you and a friend stood two feet from each in space and tried to have a conversation, it'd be useless. Lack of air and freezing temperatures aside, the sound waves coming out of each of your mouths would go nowhere, because there's nothing between you and your friend to carry the waves from your mouth to their ear. You may ask "but radio waves travel in space and they're sound." This is true and false. Radio waves are just another form of light. You can't hear them (or see them) without special equipment. If you stand next to a radio tower, you wouldn't be able hear Kiss 95FM or Power 103 All Tha Hitz. In order to hear those waves, you have to have some kind of radio.
     Light does not have this handicap; photos are free to zoom and zip around, vacuum or not. This is why we can still see in space - the photos give our eyes something to pick up. Our ears though, are unfortunately out of luck. As with electricity, sound needs a conductor. If there's something for the sound waves to travel on, then they'll travel, otherwise it's a hopeless journey. 
     Next time you watch a space movie, don't penalize it in your review because there's sound in the space scenes, but just remember it's zero percent accurate. I mean could you imagine Star Wars without sound? Some things you just have to let go. Though this is all just another reason why you're better off visiting New Zealand than space.


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