Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Neil DeGrasse Tyson Has Too Much Time On His Hands

In Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity, Sandra Bullock plays Ryan Stone, an astronaut careening through space after an accident.
Scene from 'Gravity' - Did the minor errors really detract from viewing? Hardly!

Some readers may recall that I took on Neil DeGrasse Tyson before over the issue of Pluto and whether it was a planet or not. See e.g. http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2010/03/neil-degrasse-tyson-is-wrong-about.html  Now, it appears, Neil has been blasting - tweeting the new space flick 'Gravity' as "scientifically inaccurate".  Note that this is on the basis of maybe 5-6 occasions for artistic license and perhaps 1-2 actual errors from a film that gets 99% of gravity -free action correct. Can Tyson really have this much time on his hands?

Some of the tweets dispatched from this Director of the Hayden Planetarium follow, and then the responses from Jet Propulsion Laboratory astrophysicist Kevin Grazier, who was science advisor for the film:

- "The astronauts couldn't think of getting to the International Space Station (ISS) as it's no where near the Hubble - they're in totally different orbits."

Dr. Grazier's response:

"The creators knew that in the real world you could not get from the Hubble space telescope to the space station. But so WHAT?  We're not doing documentaries."

Tyson again:

"When Clooney releases Bullock's tether he drifts away. In zero-G a single tug brings them together".:

Dr. Grazier:

"Right. Whoops."


"Why, in an otherwise convincing zero G scene did Bullock's hair not float freely on her head."


"Look, story trumps science every time. When I looked around the theater people weren't going....'errrmm....no that's wrong', but their eyes were glued to the screen in awe. I think we had it."

 I think the last is the most germane. In the end, producers - movie makers, to make a film audience -worthy, will always take some exceptions to reality. Hell, that's why we watch movies. If we were only invested in strict facts, we'd stick to documentaries. Having said that, 'Gravity' is a film vastly more faithful to the real physics in the zero -G environment than many similar space flicks. I mean, even 2001 -  A Space Odyssey, didn't get everything perfectly correct. But so what, it was still a great film.

No one should let Tyson's nitpicks deter them from seeing a terrific movie. In fact, wifey and I plan to see it again .

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