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Technobabble

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It's not a doughnut, it's er, uh, a quantum transmutational tachyon-powered toroidal flux graviton-protected device!
Style over substance

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Not to be confused with a deepity — which fallaciously refers to complex concepts, rather than to complex words.

Technobabble (also sciencey) describes arguments that use the language of science without actually being in any way scientific.

Technobabble uses terms from mathematics, science, or engineering incorrectly, in order to create a false sense of technical solidity around a field or concept. When real terms are used, it is similar to equivocation.

For example, homeopathy advocates use terms like "nano-particles" and "quantum" as special pleading to talk around the obvious problem that typical homeopathy dilutions exceed the Avogadro limit, by which point effectively none of the original material will remain. These are sciencey-sounding arguments but they have no actual scientific basis.

The purpose of technobabble is to replace the childish word "magic" with the stylish word "technology". Arthur C. Clarke said that "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic"; the phrase "sufficiently advanced" in the above is believed unnecessary by technobabblers. Patience and education are the only ways to cure the disease.

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[edit] Woo

When used in intended non-fiction settings, technobabble is an epitome of the style over substance fallacy, taking "if you can't blind them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit" to heart. Technobabble is very popular with quack doctors and New Agers, who have come up with "treatments" like "DNA upgrades" and "tachyon-infused water". Many such quacks, most notably Deepak Chopra and Gary Zukav, are notorious for abusing the word "quantum", playing on quantum mechanics' reputation for being difficult to understand to avoid having to give an explanation for their snake oil. Conspiracy theorists also do this, and can even technobabble themselves, coming up with spurious and unlikely evil functionalities for technology they and their fans do not understand.

[edit] Fiction

Technobabble in fiction, especially science fiction, is used to cloak the impossibility (by our knowledge of science) of materials, technologies, or devices without really explaining them. (Star Trek's Heisenberg compensator is a prime example of this). It is also often used as a deus ex machina to get the written out of a corner they have written themselves in.

Star Trek writers have gotten a reputation for being particularly notorious for this shameless dress-up, though to be fair the often cited "reverse the polarity of the neutron flow" example comes from Doctor Who not Star Trek.

If combining terms up in nonsensical ways ala "reverse the polarity of the neutron flow" or proposing that our scientific understanding it not up to addressing the issue there is are the old standbys of Unobtainium[wp], Handwavium[wp], or a rarely used scientific name as with dihydrogen monoxide (water).

Sometime the technobabble is really good at cloaking itself in the garb of science. For example, the short lived Threshold (TV series)[wp] uses the properties of 4 dimensional physics and triple-stranded DNA to explain nearly all the alien's abilities and those they have converted but even it produces nonsense. For example, it is stated that the alien's effort is to save life on Earth from the radiation produced by the collision of two neutron stars 400,000 years ago which a letter from NASA confirms...problem is light itself is a form of radiation so for NASA to see that the collision has occurred means that the radiation wave has already hit Earth!

More over how would aliens no matter how technological advanced be able to build 4 dimensional objects when they (and us) are effectively trapped in 3 dimensional space?

[edit] Reverse Technobabble

The same is true in reverse: when a debater uses technical or scientific knowledge to obfuscate the central argument by calling into question the use, application or context of each and every technical term, definition or concept presented by their opponent. In this way, the opponent is left defending their use of terms, definitions or concepts rather than their overarching argument. Technical nitpicking is a common technique in actively delaying, and ultimately suspending, any opportunity for a debater to properly verbalize their position.

[edit] See also

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