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Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
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July 30 2015

Could the Firefly Universe Exist? "The chances of finding five stars each orbited by a brown dwarf would be about 1 in 3 million" (video)

SciShow's Reid Reimers discusses Firefly's complicated star system.

Of course, what with there being 100 billion stars in the Milky Way alone (and an estimated 10 trillion additional galaxies beyond it)... I'm actually surprised the odds sound so high.
I always thought the issue was with the perfect positioning of the planets that allowed for terraforming. This stars talk made for an interesting change.
So the game is considered canonical?

I remember the discussions prior to Serenity being released, we were not even sure if our BDH's travels were intra or interstellar. I don't remember anything from the series or movie or commentary on either one, that would have suggested a multistar system.

Joss's treatment of interplanetary travel in the movie seemed very static as if the planets were laid out in a fixed and unchanging cartography. We do know that humanity in the Firefly verse had at least a limited ability to impose artificial gravity.

So it is conceivable that the human race could just lay out stars and planets in the system as desired and then nullify the natural gravitational effects, so that everything would stay in place.
Brinderwalt, That number is the ultra-conservative estimate. It's generally been accepted that there are probably 200-400 billion stars, and a recent study I glanced at (so correct the heck outta me if needed) suggests there may be as much as 500 billion.

So yeah, 1 in 3 million seems pretty easy to find....

Haven't watched the video yet, but as far as the show was concerned it's always been implied that there is one system. But even before the board game there was definite talk of there needing to be a binary system at least. I've not done the calculations myself (nor likely could I), but storytelling-wise it makes sense to me that there is one star, one system. The terms "core planets" and "outer planets" don't make much sense otherwise. It's much neater for the narrative. Gravity works on spaceships, and beyond that it even works when they're so out of power that the life support fails, the logical layout of the stars is of little consequence.

[ edited by bobw1o on 2015-07-31 07:54 ]
That 1 in 3 million was for finding 5 separate stars with a brown dwarf orbiting it. That's 5 separate stars. The video didn't even try to calculate the odds of all of those 5 stars being in a single system.
Speacking of Firefly, did you know that among the informal names for features on Pluto’s moon Charon there is a Serenity Chasma? :)
RobynH, I haven't sen the video so I can't be entirely sure which game but if you're referring to Firefly Online and the Cortex map, those maps are based on the QMx licensed maps and on the associated The Verse in Numbers PDFs. (The latest version, which does account for Leaves on the Wind, is located here. I do warn it's a massive document.) But... that doesn't answer your question. It only turns it into: are the QMx materials considered canon? (I'm personally reluctant to do so sometimes because I believe their layout of Serenity doesn't seem to exactly match what's presented in the episodes. On the other hand, the QMx Official Map of the Verse was developed by Geoffrey Mandel, the graphic designer for Serenity including the on-screen maps, and TVIN is based off that. So, it is what it is.) In regards to the canonicity of The Verse in Numbers, Andy Gore says in the preface of TVIN:
So, what does that make The Map of the Verse? Canon? Extended Canon? Speculation? Here's how I like to think about it - it's as accurate as it's possible to be right now. Meaning to say, it's 100 percent accurate, until Joss says it isn't. It's Joss' Verse, after all.

I personally employ a hierarchy of canon similar to that the Holocron apparently sets out for the whole Star Wars universe: absolute canon of what is seen directly in the episodes, film, session 416, and comics; production materials like the screenplays, blu-ray and DVD extras, commentaries, props, interviews with cast and crew; QMx and other licensed works, including FFO (but not including the film novelization, for reasons). If something in a lower tier contradicts something of the higher tier, such as some minor contradictions in the layout of the ship, than the higher tier wins out. Buuuuut, since there isn't much information about the actual structure of the universe in the episodes, QMx is the most canon we got, and it's more of a pseudo-canon? And since FFO maps are based off TVIN and The Official Map of the Verse, I guess it's also a psuedo-canon and so that quote from Gore applies to it also, in my opinion.
Physics, schmysics. A wizard did it.
"We live in a spaceship, dear".
I always thought since Blue Sun was involved that some of the stars were artificial or manufactured. Like turning Jupiter into a star in 2010.

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