Sunday, July 20, 2008

Unobtanium

Word of the day: Unobtainium, that elusive metallic alloy that is just the right answer to fixing the intergalactic space catastrophe. Or, the impossible last ingredient to complete the world-saving vaccine to avoid the apocalypse.

This is the term used when scientists jokingly refer to a certain component/material they need but it's impossible to obtain for reasons such as cost or insurmountable conditions. In Science Fiction, this might be a material that has impossible strength/properties/physics. Think Kryptonite or Adamantium. Adamantium is "adamant" as in unbreakable. Unobtanium is unobtainable. An impossible alloy/material/mineral.

Despite the low viewer and critical ratings of the movie The Core, I thoroughly enjoyed it in part because it's darn fun. Forget any problems you may find in the science of the film. How can you not like a movie that creates a ship to go to the core of the Earth? To top it off, they use unobtainium as the metal for the hull of the ship. "Unobtainium" is the nod, saying: "Yes, this is clearly impossible, but suspend your disbelief and go with it."
From Powerpuff Girls with their Chemical X to Star Trek's dilithium, futuristic fiction is loaded with the stuff. What powers that FTL engine in that space opera?

All that to say, I've created a graphite material to use in my Science Fiction Romance. Is it unobtainable, or futuristic? What's the new unobtainium? Carbontonium? Graphitilium? Newvium?

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