Do You Know If These Things Are From Dr. Who or Actual Science?

SCIENCE

Mark Lichtenstein

6 Min Quiz

Image: YouTube

About This Quiz

There's a startling amount of technology out there that was actually conceived of by a science fiction writer. You're probably going to touch at least one device today that some marvelous nerd read about in Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, or Issac Asimov and said to him or herself, "You know, there should really be a real version of that!" 

From the 3D printer to instant messaging to the heads-up display to a rather new heat ray (thankfully non-lethal in its current iteration), there are all sorts of devices around us that entered a fiction writer's imagination before they were made flesh.

Doctor Who is no exception. Even though it relies on an awful lot of "bad" science - something that inherently afflicts any show that has time travel as a major plot point - it's not actually all as magical as it looks. Some of the technologies used by the Doctor are plausible, even if they weren't when the show first aired in 1963.

That means it's time to find out if you can identify them! Is the sonic screwdriver just a fun gimmick, or a real device? Could a room be bigger on the inside? Might we cause a crack in space-time? It's time to find the answers.

The Flux Capacitor

The Flux Capacitor, while alluded to in the Doctor Who episode The Shakespeare Code, does not appear in Doctor Who, nor does it have any basis in science.

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Chameleon Circuit

Indeed, the Chameleon Circuit, famously broken on The Doctor's TARDIS, is a thing of fiction, until he breaks through the barrier between worlds to enter ours.

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The Planet Gallifrey

In 2013 Kepler 47 system's planet HD 106906 B was found, a planet orbiting around two suns. There was a petition to name the planet Gallifrey.

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Time and Relative Dimension In Space

According to the very real, and very ironically named scientific paper Traversable Achronal Retrograde Domains In Spacetime (TARDIS), the TARDIS of Doctor Who is at least scientifically possible, if implausible.

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FTL Engine

FTL engines (or drives) appear in the Canadian science fiction show Dark Matter, and are neither on Doctor Who, nor are they based in any real science.

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Hypertext Transfer Protocol

Hypertext transfer protocol is "an application protocol for distributed, collaborative, and hypermedia information systems." It's represented by HTTP:// at the left side of your web browser's URL window.

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WOTAN Computer System

The idea of WOTAN may have been science fiction in 1966, but since then artificial intelligence has become a very real thing, with AIs building other AIs; breeding in effect.

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The Cybermen

While organ transplants and bionic body parts are very real, the wholesale replacement of the human body and diminishing individualism, as a result, are a Whovian invention.

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Sontarans

While non-human bipedal aliens who speak English are scientifically possible, they are highly unlikely.

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A sonic screwdriver that can control machines

While the sonic screwdriver of the Whovian universe can modify and operate nearly any device, there is a sonic screwdriver IR remote that can be set to control any device that uses infrared signals to operate it.

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Pocket universes

Indeed, inflationary theory and pocket universes originate in science, not Who.

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Quark Star

The concept of a collapsing neutron star turning into a star made of Quarks, the constituent parts of neutrons, is from theoretical physics, not fiction.

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Nanogenes

While nanomachines are theoretically possible, they don't exist quite like this yet.

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The Medusa Nebula

The Medusa Nebula is planetary nebula on the edge of Canis Minor, in the constellation of Gemini. It's real.

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The Medusa Supernova

The Medusa Supernova is totally made up. It exists in neither science, nor the Whovian universe.

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The Medusa Cascade

The Medusa Cascade sits at a rift in space and time, and is the site of many battles between the forces who would dominate all of reality. It's not real, and it's from Doctor Who.

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"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff."

Scientists have shown that there is actually a space-time fabric to the universe and that if it bends far enough, time travel is possible, meaning that time is not necessarily linear but is more of a big ball of... well you get the idea.

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The bees are disappearing!

While the disappearance of bees on Doctor Who may be colorful, in reality, colony collapse disorder may be the result of bee-illnesses due to certain pesticides, an incursion of invasive species, and the transportation of varieties of bees to far-flung parts of the world they did not come from.

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TARDIS Translation Circuit

Google Pixel Buds can do this, and while they don't do it as well as the TARDIS, it's a massive first step.

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Binary Vascular System

While very few people have ever been born with two hearts, certain heart transplants are done by grafting a new heart onto a partially functioning old one, giving the patient two hearts.

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A crack in space-time!

According to string theory, the fabric of the universe could actually have tiny cracks in it, but it's nothing to worry about because they would be very small, and even a big one might not actually affect anything.

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The Pandorica Paradox

This is actually a writerly paradox, one that exists because plot demands The Doctor get out of the Pandorica, and has no basis in science.

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Etheric Beam Locators

In the first Doctor Who Red Nose Day Special "The Curse of The Fatal Death", The Master explains that the Daleks' bumps are etheric beam locators, and so he had two grafted onto his cheat. These things are totally fictitious.

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Iron Catastrophe

The Iron Catastrophe was the time during the formation of The Earth, when the iron descended into the core of the planet.

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Thorium

Thorium has been a reactor fuel for ages but was never fully embraced by America because it has no use for making nuclear reactions, only power stations.

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Robot Dogs

While K-9 could do a lot more than just walk on four legs, scientists have built quadrupedal robots, a huge step towards walkers that could take the place of wheelchairs, jeeps, and stretchers.

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Gondwanaland

Gondwanaland is the scientific term for the super-continent that existed in prehistory before continental drift started.

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Emesis

Emesis simply means the act of vomiting, and is not some foreign planet of ant-people.

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The Invisible Enemy

While The Doctor's brain was infected with a brain parasite that had to be confronted by miniaturizing his companion, real brain parasites can cause personality changes as they consume brain tissue.

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Zectronic Energy Beam

The word Zectronic doesn't really mean anything.

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Scientifically speaking, words are the same as numbers.

In The Shakespeare Code, The Doctor and Martha Jones meet The Bard and the Carrionites, a race of aliens who appear as witches and use words for their science, as opposed to math, making it a form of science that appears as magic. Still, their big spell references the numeric coordinates of their homeworld.

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The Bootstrap Paradox

The Bootstrap Paradox or Causal Loop is a paradox theoretically caused by time travel. The example given by The Doctor is a music lover traveling back in time to have Beethoven sign a book of his music, only to find that Beethoven never existed. The book of music is cast aside, found, and thus the world gets the music of Beethoven, but that, of course, begs the question, where did the music come from?

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Enema Pan Beetle

Indeed, this beetle is a real thing named by Johan Christian, an 18th century etymologist.

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Borborygmus

Borborygmus is just a fancy word for the sound made when your stomach is grumbling.

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Emesis

Emesis is a very clean word for the very dirty activity of vomiting. Yes, next time you feel ill and don't want to put anyone off, just say you need to take care of a little emesis.

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