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Shut up, Spock! – how Battlestar Galactica beat Trek babble

TV science adviser talks Cylons with El Reg

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Fanbois versus PHDs: the science community votes

"A lot of people get frustrated," Grazier said of BSG's following. "You have to have a good sense of when the science can be stretched and not be absolute. I found it's people with a little science education who will give us grief online. People with a lot of science education are more forgiving. They'd say: 'You did this here. If you did this, it might work.' The people with PHDs in physics are more willing to give us leeway. That's counter-intuitive!"

A clear sci-fi fan, Grazier gets frustrated with films that try to artificially ramp up the dramatic content when the science itself would have been dramatic enough. Just "getting it right" can create the impact - something he aimed for in BSG.

Grazier cites 1998's blockbuster Armageddon, when a "planet-killing" asteroid the size of Texas - Texas is the US' second largest state with 261,797 square miles of land FYI - is bearing down on Earth, and roughnecks led by Bruce Willis swing into action. Grazier claims it lost him less than a minute from the start of the film.

"In the first 39 seconds, we see the K-T Impact of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. Had they had a science adviser, it would have been more dramatic," he reckons.

"Charlton Heston said in his best Moses voice [over]: 'It hit with the force of 10,000 nuclear weapons.' It was more like 41 million. It was only four to six miles across, maybe 10, but that was a lot of energy, and had they checked on the science they could have made it much more dramatic. They didn't and they just picked some number out of a hat."

NASA's Impression of the K-T Impact

Smaller than Texas, but just as bad: how the K-T Impact might have looked according to NASA

Details for Grazier clearly lend credibility and sell a story. He's a huge fan of 2010: The Year We Make Contact over the more widely acclaimed 2001: A Space Odyssey, also by Arthur C. Clarke. Why? Details.

"When they approach Discovery [the ship that's home to the murderous Hall 9000] in orbit around Jupiter's moon Io and it's covered in sulphur, which it would be because it's a volcanic moon, I thought: 'How cool is that?' That's a level of detail they didn't have to do but they thought about it."

"That movie is influential for me in terms of how much the science is right. There are a few places where they say: 'Come take a leap with me,' such as adding mass to Jupiter to turn it into a star and the fact the moons didn't vaporize, but that was one that was real influential for me because of the level of detail and how well they got the science right."

It was details that got him hooked on BSG too, when Moore was touting his idea. Grazier was attending Galacticon, celebrating the anniversary of the original Battlestar Galactica series, where Moore showed clips from the then up-coming miniseries.

"The moment I realized I wanted to work on the show was [when] they were lining up a Viper in a launch tube, and you see the wind swirling down and the water condensing as it swirls down the launch tube. That was the moment when I said: 'I so want to work on that.'"

He asked a film industry contact for an interview with Moore and got it. Grazier got five minutes, and Moore asked about Grazier's military background, which turned up the fact Moore was also ex-RTC. A recommendation helped nail it.

How did Grazier end up as a science adviser before that? Studying as a UCLA grad student, he pitched an unsolicited manuscript to Paramount for an episode of Voyager with a writing partner. The studio got 3,000 such manuscripts a year with the vast majority rejected, but Grazier's was read. He was asked to pitch more and one of the people he pitched was Voyager's Michael Taylor, who went on to join the BSG crew.

To infinity and beyond

Since then, Grazier's worked on Syfy's Eureka - set in an Oregon town populated by boffins working for the Global Dynamics corporation - and consulted on Warner Bros.' planned space thriller Gravity, and the pilot of NBC's political and science thriller The Event. When The Reg last spoke to Grazier, he'd been filming a series for National Geographic on - yes - space. It covers stars, things you can mine in space, and the effects of travel in space on the body.

Despite his TV and film commitments, Grazier says he's not a full-time science consultant or adviser. His job remains with NASA and Cassini. But sci-fi does leak into his daily life: Grazier describes his office as "nirvana" with its life-size poster of a Cylon Centurion, a 4x6 poster from Eureka and models of the USS Enterprise and a Klingon Bird of Prey.

He has, he says, a dream job. Two dream jobs, in fact: science and science fiction. For someone who was a kid when man landed on the Moon and the first episodes of Star Trek hit US TV, that's hard to beat. ®

You can find out more about The Science of Battlestar Galactica, including where to buy it, here.

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