In a science fiction movie, when a spaceship explodes the vibrations from the shock wave destroy a nearby spaceship. If you were the science consultant for the movie what would your advice be for the producer?

1 Answer

A shockwave is a function of air and so wouldn't be good physics. Debris rushing out from spaceship 1 and destroying spaceship 2 is a much better way, physics-speaking, of destroying spaceship 1


We have a plot where spaceship 1 explodes and we need spaceship 2, sitting close to hand, to explode as well. The director wants the reason to be the shock wave from the explosion of ship 1.

A shockwave is a large and sudden surge of air, sort of like an air tidal wave and on Earth, where there is an atmosphere, this is a reasonable result of an explosion - a shockwave.

In space, where there is no air, there can't be a shockwave.

What there can be, however, is debris from the explosion. On Earth, where we have gravity and air resistance, pieces from an explosion blast out but they in general don't go all that far. In space, however, there is no air resistance and much different gravity effects - so the director could have debris explode out from spaceship 1 and destroy spaceship 2 that way.