It’s a minor bug for me how sci-fi spaceships, when arriving at an alien world, go into orbit sideways on to the planet’s surface. This presumes planets have an up and a down and by extension all of the cosmos has a right way up; an intergalactic orderly convention rather like which side of the road is the right side to drive on (but of course, this varies too).
Nearly all futuristic spaceships clearly have a right way up, a design which seems to ignore gravity, or the benefits of not having gravity (I haven’t worked that one out yet). If we take, say, Star Trek’s USS Enterprise, there’s definitely a right way up there. Although it might not be clear where the “portholes” are, I wonder whether or not passengers and crew would get a better view of the planet if the ship orbited with its top side facing the surface. Okay, this probably would alarm the audience intensely and vex them into composing vitriolic emails to the producers, but it may get us thinking: what is right and what is wrong about orbiting planets?
You might say, look, it’s all right as it is and it’s not a problem. And I’d have to agree. When the Enterprise is in orbit around the planet, the right way up on the telly, and it possibly might come across a potentially hostile craft approaching from around the far side, that craft is always the right way up too, despite a 50-50 chance that it could appear to be upside down, assuming that end on is the right way to orbit planets. This never happens. The producers don’t want more irate emails from the armchair critics. You simply have to understand that somewhere in the universe of television and film, there is a sign; a big arrow under the words, THIS WAY UP.
I wonder what the aliens think. I knew a central heating installer once who had an understanding of where a pump should go in the system. It was a fact he’d followed this all his working life. When it was explained to him using thermodynamics, hydraulics and mathematics, that there was a better position to put a pump, he was having none of it. In response to the science was his own adamant law: “it goes there because that’s where it goes”. It’s a human thing, and so, how can it be wrong?