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Gravity: Can Film Ever Get the Science Right?

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the suspension-of-disbelief dept.

Sci-Fi 438

dryriver writes in with a story lamenting the lack of accurate science in movies. "The relationship between science and science fiction has always been tempestuous. Gravity focuses on two astronauts stranded in space after the destruction of their space shuttle. Since Gravity's US release (it comes to the UK in November) many critics have praised the film for its scientific accuracy. But noted astrophysicist Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, had several issues with the accuracy of Gravity's portrayal of space. Through a series of posts on Twitter, Tyson — who later emphasized that he 'enjoyed the film very much' — highlighted various errors. He noted the Hubble space telescope (orbiting at 350 miles above sea level), the International Space Station (at 250 miles), and a Chinese space station could never be in line of sight of one another. On top of that, most satellites orbit west to east, yet in the film the satellite debris was seen drifting east to west. Tyson also noted how Sandra Bullock's hair did not float freely as it would in zero-gravity. This is arguably not so much an error in physics, but a reflection of the limitations of cinematic technology to accurately portray actors in zero-gravity. That is, of course, without sending them into space for the duration of the film. The Michael Bay film Armageddon is known for its woeful number of inaccuracies, from the space shuttles separating their rocket boosters and fuel tanks in close proximity to each other (risking a collision) and to objects falling on to the asteroid under a gravitational pull seemingly as strong as the Earth's. More than one interested observer tried to work out how big the bomb would have to be to blow up an asteroid in the way demanded in the movie. Answer: Very big indeed. Nasa is reported to have even used Armageddon as part of a test within their training program, asking candidates to identify all the scientific impossibilities within the film."

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Moo (5, Funny)

Chacham (981) | about a year ago | (#45124861)

That is, of course, without sending them into space for the duration of the film.

That doesn't seem like such a bad idea.

Re:Moo (4, Funny)

MikeBabcock (65886) | about a year ago | (#45124951)

Lets send Congress while we're at it.

Re:Moo (4, Funny)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | about a year ago | (#45124991)

Even though they killed Mars Direct I'll be happy to donate to a fund to send them on a Sol Direct mission.

Re:Moo (2, Funny)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | about a year ago | (#45125013)

Oh no, you don't! No way in hell am I going to let those fuckers into space. They've voted against funding NASA since the end of the Cold War and have recently shut down NASA (and everything else) entirely. They get to stay here on boring old Earth while the rest of us get to have an awesome party on the ISS.

Re:Moo (4, Funny)

brainboyz (114458) | about a year ago | (#45125053)

I think you missed the point of putting them in space. No one mentioned adequate life support.

Re:Moo (3, Interesting)

plover (150551) | about a year ago | (#45125333)

Or a return trip.

Re:Moo (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#45124985)

Have you ever been near a film shoot?

The number of people needed, and the time involved for a typical 15 seconds of video won't be possible in space for another hundred years.

In the mean time, why can't people simply enjoy a film, without trying to pick apart ever millisecond?

What makes the same people eat up LOTR or the Hobbit with total suspension of disbelief, but grouse incessantly about flowing hair?

Re:Moo (4, Informative)

aardvarkjoe (156801) | about a year ago | (#45125143)

What makes the same people eat up LOTR or the Hobbit with total suspension of disbelief...

Not all of us do! [cracked.com]

Re:Moo (4, Funny)

s.petry (762400) | about a year ago | (#45125489)

The Battle Droid Syndrome.

The mutated muscular soldiers of Mordor turned out to be hilariously ineffective fighters, a dozen of them held off by a single dying human. Apparently they made the beasts by crossing Orcs, Goblins and the French.

I almost wet myself!

Re:Moo (5, Insightful)

Chacham (981) | about a year ago | (#45125153)

What makes the same people eat up LOTR or the Hobbit with total suspension of disbelief, but grouse incessantly about flowing hair?

  • Gravity intends to be accurate about our world. LOTR is somewhere else.
  • Gravity explores real-world possibilities. LOTR explores fantasy worlds.

Re:Moo (1)

WalksOnDirt (704461) | about a year ago | (#45125161)

The number of people needed, and the time involved for a typical 15 seconds of video won't be possible in space for another hundred years.

You could do the shoot on the Vomit Comet. It would be a lot cheaper, although not very comfortable.

Re:Moo (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45125571)

Ron Howard did this for the film "Apollo 13".

Re:Moo (0, Troll)

rudy_wayne (414635) | about a year ago | (#45125299)

Why can't people simply enjoy a film, without trying to pick apart ever millisecond?

.

Why didn't Neil deGrasse Tyson point out some of the other glaring errors in the movie -- like the fact that Julia Roberts isn't really an astronaut and has never been into space. Or the fact that they weren't really in space, they were on the set of a movie studio. And that isn't really a spaceship they are in, it's fake.

If you're going to complain about "mistakes" or "scientific errors" you should cover them all.

Re:Moo (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45125493)

like the fact that Julia Roberts isn't really an astronaut and has never been into space.

I can't tell if this is a joke or not, but I laughed. In case it's not a joke, the movie stars Sandra Bullock, who also isn't an astronaut.

Re:Moo (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45125327)

Because SciFi movies spend millions of dollars for a few seconds of supposed realism

whereas the others are about fairies and dragons and magic.

You can replace "magic" with "ridiculous technobabble" and there you go - few have issues with Star Trek either.

Re:Moo (2)

mwecksell (1178565) | about a year ago | (#45125379)

Please. Space Station 3D was shot in IMAX 3D on board ISS and was was one of the best $10 I've ever spent in a movie theater. (As for the budget - it would have been a much better film if they DIDN'T have the narration by Tom Cruise.)

Re:Moo (4, Interesting)

Z00L00K (682162) | about a year ago | (#45125017)

I can live with glitches like the hair of an actor not behaving correctly. If that's the only scientific glitch you can find in a movie then it's definitely well done, and there are ways around it too - like letting the actors have special hair styles that aren't as sensitive to gravity or not. And I think that Kubrick would have done it that way too - hide what's not critical, be a perfectionist in other parts. It's hard to beat the realism presented in the movie 2001 (aside from the fashion parts).

But we watch movies for pleasure, not to get educated.

Re:Moo (1)

rwa2 (4391) | about a year ago | (#45125229)

The price of realism: $750,000
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:2001_CENTRIFUGE_SET.jpg [wikipedia.org]

Apollo 13 shot parts of their scenes on the KC-135 "Vomit comet" to put the actors in actual microgravity for ~90 seconds at a time.

What a load of bullocks. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45124909)

Sandra to be exact.

Re:What a load of bullocks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45125129)

hah! funniest joke I've seen on /. today.

Moo (4, Funny)

Chacham (981) | about a year ago | (#45124921)

"My pet peeve is inertia," says Trollope. "There are many good reasons for keeping your engines on in space, but 'maintaining speed' is not one of them. If you turn your engines off, you don't stop."

I have *years* of experience watching Star Trek to know that isn't true. Indeed, the only thing inertia can do for space travel is keeping horrid shows about it from being cancelled.

Re:Moo (4, Insightful)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#45125137)

To be fair, warp technology makes this point pretty moot in Star Trek. If they lose engines, they're either A) already stopped, B) at warp, thus losing the warp field but keeping the inertia they had in the warp field (which is to say, none) or C) not in range of another unpowered object from which to get a frame of reference... when a powered ship comes across an unpowered ship in Trek, they could both easily be doing a third the speed of light relative to the nearest planet, but at a stop relative to each other.

In short, Star Trek's warp-related physics doesn't break nearly as many real-world physics as it seems to at first glance... most of the time.

It CAN be done (but not always is a good idea). (2)

mfarah (231411) | about a year ago | (#45124927)

Shows like B5 got physics quite right when it came to Starfuries, but were purposefully ambiguous in other respects.

Sometimes "rule of drama" wins out, and it's understandable. There's no excuse, however, to bad physics becoming a pivotal plot point (I don't think I need to list any examples here).

Re:It CAN be done (but not always is a good idea). (0)

edawstwin (242027) | about a year ago | (#45125081)

The excuse for "bad physics becoming a pivotal plot point" is always story. If it serves the story, do it. I'd much rather watch a hugely entertaining film like Gravity with a few inaccuracies than one that gets the physics absolutely correct but suffers because of it. Whenever I watch a film that is not a pure documentary and set on/above Earth, I just imagine it's in a universe similar to ours, but has differences that just happen to help the plot. It is just entertainment, after all.

Re:It CAN be done (but not always is a good idea). (0)

TrippTDF (513419) | about a year ago | (#45125307)

I loved the movie "Sunshine", but I thought they missed a golden opportunity with physics and gravity. In the film, they ship is transporting a bomb roughly the size of Manhattan. The bomb is at the front of the ship, with a long crew compartment behind it, kind of like a bus. The bomb itself was large enough to have it's own gravity. In the film, the crew compartment's gravity is what you would think of on a bus- you can walk the length of it with the gravity being on the "floor".

With just some changes to set design, they should have had the center of gravity been the bomb, so that the crew compartment needed to be climbed up and down, like a bus on it's side.

Re:It CAN be done (but not always is a good idea). (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#45125149)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starfury#Real_world_interest [wikipedia.org]

"During an online conversation with fans on AOL in December 1995, Straczyski reported that “we've received a number of inquiries from folks associated with NASA about the prospect of perhaps someday actually building working Starfuries, mainly as the space industry equivilent [sic] to fork lifts and heavy loaders”.[12] When asked if there was still interest in doing that, during an interview in 2009, he indicated that he had not “heard anything new about this in several years”. [13]"

Short answer "NO" (4, Funny)

tekrat (242117) | about a year ago | (#45124931)

Long answer: Gravity is about as close as Hollywood's *ever* come to doing it right, and will probably be as close as anyone's ever going to get, until the day you can actually shoot your movie in space itself.

But by then it'll probably be a reality TV show -- "the real housewives of the moon", or something like that....

Re:Short answer "NO" (1)

invid (163714) | about a year ago | (#45124999)

Long answer: Gravity is about as close as Hollywood's *ever* come to doing it right, and will probably be as close as anyone's ever going to get, until the day you can actually shoot your movie in space itself.

Apollo 13

Re:Short answer "NO" (1)

edawstwin (242027) | about a year ago | (#45125125)

Back to the Future

Re:Short answer "NO" (1, Funny)

Freshly Exhumed (105597) | about a year ago | (#45125171)

Iron Sky... d'oh, I just did a Godwin!

Re:Short answer "NO" (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#45125289)

I thought Iron Sky was a documentary until they revealed Canada's spaceship had *weapons*. That was just silly.

Re:Short answer "NO" (1)

firex726 (1188453) | about a year ago | (#45125135)

There was actually quite a few factual errors with Apollo 13, but most of them were nitpicky, which is the same level of stuff people whine about Gravity. Things include; their breath rising like normal instead of stright forward as happens in zero g, wrong NASA logo at one point, taking suits off before a docking maneuver which would be both not allowed and dumb.

There was also a number of other deliberate mistakes which like Gravity were done in the name of entertainment.

Can Apollo 13 really count though? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45125223)

Isn't Apollo 13 really more of a dramatized documentary [with Tom Hanks] than a traditional movie?

Gravity is pure Hollywood and in that category, he's probably right. This is as good as Hollywood will get.

Not that you don't have a point. (You may try combing that down.)

Re:Short answer "NO" (1)

timeOday (582209) | about a year ago | (#45125513)

Apollo 13 was FAR less ambitious in what it depicted though. Those shots in the opening scene of Gravity of the astronauts working on the Hubble outside the Shuttle were awesome. I loved that. Especially with 3d. I have never felt so close to floating in space.

One thing that did stick out at me, but I haven't seen pointed out, was the control authority of the space chair that Clooney was zooming around in. There's no way it can accelerate nearly that quickly, is there?

Re:Short answer "NO" (3, Funny)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#45125057)

Gravity is about as close as Hollywood's *ever* come to doing it right

Oh, they can do better, but it has to be filmed in England. ;-)

Don't care (2)

Hatta (162192) | about a year ago | (#45124945)

If they got the science perfectly right, there would be no film. What they got wrong doesn't beggar belief, the way Armageddon does. Of all the problems this film has, the one that bothers me most is casting. I'd love to go see this in IMAX 3D, but I don't know if I can sit through 90 minutes of Cloony and Bullock.

Re:Don't care (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about a year ago | (#45125185)

It's actually not terrible acting. Give it a shot.

Re:Don't care (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45125227)

Don't worry, it isn't 90 minutes of Cloony.

Bullock is very good in this role, deserving of an Oscar nomination.

From the previews I thought this was going to be "Open Water In Space". It isn't. Way better than that.

The most annoying thing. (5, Funny)

Kaenneth (82978) | about a year ago | (#45124953)

I now understand how my dad (A Boeing inspector for many years) felt when watching movies with airplanes... pointing out that they took off in a 737, but the landing scene shows a 757!

I still recall how annoying it was to have such things pointed out all the time... So I try and keep my mouth shut during shows.

Imagine what it must be like for a real medical doctor to watch 'House', or a real serial killer to watch 'Dexter'.

Re:The most annoying thing. (3, Funny)

CAPSLOCK2000 (27149) | about a year ago | (#45125121)

It must be just like Slashdotters watching IT-Crowd. They would hate it!

Re:The most annoying thing. (2)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | about a year ago | (#45125155)

Hackers and Antitrust pissed me off a bit. But for some reason War Games was amusing and engaging. I suppose in some cases it really doesn't matter. What bothers me more than anything though I think is how the mass audiences swallow it as if that were how things really are. Even worse when people try to make conversation with you and you're forced to either grin and nod or explain to them that that's not how things really work without rolling your eyes and calling them a moron.

Re:The most annoying thing. (1)

dgatwood (11270) | about a year ago | (#45125391)

WarGames, ignoring the suspension of disbelief regarding an artificially intelligent computer, didn't have many truly egregious technical implausibilities. The ones I caught were mostly pretty subtle, like the dubiousness of wardialing with an acoustic coupler.

Contrast WarGames: The Dead Code, which had dozens of technical inaccuracies—about one every couple of minutes—that were so glaring that they should have been obvious even to a casual observer... like drones that could fly all the way across the country without refueling. I've repressed most of the details because it just hurt too much.

Re:The most annoying thing. (3, Funny)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#45125179)

"or a real serial killer to watch 'Dexter'."

They usually became serial killers as the result of being a doctor watching House, a lawyer watching Law and Order, or anybody in IT watching any sort of computers.

Re:The most annoying thing. (1)

edawstwin (242027) | about a year ago | (#45125203)

Or the writer of a decent show to watch Dexter.

Re:The most annoying thing. (1)

DexterIsADog (2954149) | about a year ago | (#45125425)

Got it. You don't have the sophistication to appreciate the masterpiece that was "Dexter".

Re:The most annoying thing. (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#45125243)

Surely you meant "movies with Boeing airplanes". What about Tupolevs and Ilyushins? Also, I'm sure that even doctors get silenced by the irresistible charm of Hugh Laurie, and serial killers have better things to do than watching TV. ;-)

Re:The most annoying thing. (5, Funny)

EkriirkE (1075937) | about a year ago | (#45125337)

Oh man, don't get me started on cooking meth...

Re:The most annoying thing. (1)

TeknoHog (164938) | about a year ago | (#45125575)

This is why I generally skip every physics article on /..

If The Film Is Any Good... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45124959)

If the film is any good, the science doesn't matter and even rocket surgeons won't care about glaring inaccuracies.

P.S. What is with the sycophancy over Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson?

Re:If The Film Is Any Good... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45125039)

"Float like a butterfly and sting like a bee"

Unrealistic. (4, Funny)

nospam007 (722110) | about a year ago | (#45124963)

George Clooney talking for hours with a woman his age?
Pure Fantasy.

Suspension Of Disbelief (1)

Freshly Exhumed (105597) | about a year ago | (#45124967)

Going into a theatre to watch any science fiction film implies a tacit agreement that what will be seen may or may not reflect our best scientific knowledge and conjecture. That's the whole point: entertainment. If you're into cinematic kitsch it is especially entertaining to see films that get the science very, very wrong, and you don't come out thinking that you just watched an episode of Nova that you could have watched at home.

Science FICTION (0)

tist (1086039) | about a year ago | (#45124973)

The movie is science fiction. At some point there will be inconsistencies (we have all groaned when hearing explosions in space.) Based on the post, putting the stations in line to advance the plot and getting the rotation wrong are pretty minor issues.
JW

Re:Science FICTION (5, Insightful)

invid (163714) | about a year ago | (#45125239)

I don't think Gravity falls under the category science fiction. If I was to make a movie about a fictional accident in a fictional submarine, would that be science fiction? People can make movies about space now and it doesn't have to be considered science fiction if all of the technology is contemporary.

And this summary... (1)

feepness (543479) | about a year ago | (#45124975)

...focuses on spoilers regarding a movie about space.

hair, faugh. (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#45124995)

Tyson also noted how Sandra Bullock's hair did not float freely as it would in zero-gravity. This is arguably not so much an error in physics, but a reflection of the limitations of cinematic technology to accurately portray actors in zero-gravity.

More like Hollywood isn't interested in mussing an actress's hair. Pepper Potts fell into an inferno, and the wonder drug not only healed her, but grew her hair back with the same haircut and combed it.

If you want to go see a movie, expecting to see accurate science or other reflections of reality shouldn't be one of your motives.

Re:hair, faugh. (1)

gewalker (57809) | about a year ago | (#45125091)

Hollywood does not represent the science accurately. This is intentional. If read of several "science consultants" over the years talking about pointing the innacuracy and getting the response -- I don't care, that's how were are going to do it.

Star Trek being an old and well known example -- Starships don't swish -- They actually tried it then said, "without the swish it does not seem fast". I would have thought the mother of all sonic booms would convey speed, but hey.

It's entertainment, not a documentary.

Re:hair, faugh. (1)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about a year ago | (#45125235)

Pepper Potts fell into an inferno, and the wonder drug not only healed her, but grew her hair back with the same haircut and combed it.

Hell, in The Fifth Element [wikipedia.org] , Leeloo was regenerated from the DNA in her charred, severed hand with her long, tussled, orange hair, wrist tattoo and memories intact.

Re:hair, faugh. (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about a year ago | (#45125463)

If you want to go there...

Then when she came out of the fire you also have to wonder why his sports bra and such were intact after stepping out of an inferno.

Re:hair, faugh. (2)

Hatta (162192) | about a year ago | (#45125557)

Comic book superheroes are not scifi. I do agree with the general thrust of your argument, that it's not necessary for a movie to follow rules. But you seem to think it's always wrong to expect a movie to follow rules. I think there is good art to be found in movies that do follow scientific rules. What's the point of asking a "what if?" question, if the answer is always "In movies, anything can happen."?

It's called fiction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45125011)

Can film ever get crime investigation right?

Can film ever get historical events right?

Can film ever get geography right?

Can film ever get the law right?

etc.

No, because reality is FUCKING BORING (4, Insightful)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#45125015)

Would you watch a Rocky movie if the boxing were as boring and silly-looking as a real professional boxing match (with most of the opponents time spent hugging each other)? Would you watch Mythbusters if they sent out all their results for months of peer-review? Would you watch House of Cards if almost of of the Senator's free time were spent at boring fundraiser dinners?

Re:No, because reality is FUCKING BORING (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45125411)

Much of the "hugging" is actually a relatively new phenomenon in boxing. It wasn't that prevalent at the time of the original Rocky, and as I recall, the boxing wasn't totally unrealistic in the first two Rocky movies. It was the introductions of Mr. T and Dolph Lundgren in Rocky III and Rocky IV that brought the boxing way over the top.

They get EVERYTHING wrong (3, Interesting)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#45125037)

Guns in movies never run out of bullets, which is okay because only a headshot is actually lethal. People only very rarely obese or old or ugly. Perhaps as a consequence, they're always having sex. Lawyers make dramatic moving speeches most of the time and rarely do boring paperwork, and cops do almost every other part of the legal system.

Anything more technical than that is bound to be even more unrealistic in movies. Hair floating is pretty trivial. Just pretend a wizard did it if it bothers you that much. Otherwise, applaud movies that do more ACCURATELY than usual.

Re:They get EVERYTHING wrong (2)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about a year ago | (#45125101)

That's why I actually liked "The Last Action Hero." It pointed out so many of those great action movie cliches. My personal fav is "action movie glass"--that glass that never cuts anyone and is so easily broken.

Re:They get EVERYTHING wrong (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about a year ago | (#45125197)

Not true. Guns always run out of bullets with dramatically convenient timing

Re:They get EVERYTHING wrong (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year ago | (#45125375)

Guns in movies never run out of bullets

While an otherwise awful movie in every other respect, Ultraviolet actually got that one right. An effectively limitless supply of bullets were stored in a pocket dimension and chain fed through the event horizon into the weapons. Of course, they never resolved the overheating issue, but then if you can create your own pocket dimensions for convenient storage, surely you could figure out a little bit of cooling...

I get what he's saying here (4, Interesting)

jollyreaper (513215) | about a year ago | (#45125041)

Tyson is correct in every point he makes but he's missing the point. This was first and foremost a good, stunning movie. While I noted science quibbles in passing, it was hard to be preoccupied with them because I was fully engaged with the film. I do my worst nitpicking when I'm in hate with a film for wasting my damn time.

There's no sound in space. They stuck with that. I'm impressed so much by that one detail. What's more, read up on the notes the studio gave the director about things they wanted to see. They wanted flashbacks to Earth, they wanted Russians deliberately shooting missiles at the survivors and other silliness.

How would I rate the realism of this movie? It looks real-ish. Apollo 13 is hardcore real, only strained interpersonal dynamics were hammed up from what actually happened. But Gravity is a damned good film.

The only physics bit that bugged me was the tether scene. Spoilerish. Two astronauts tied together falling past a structure, once one of them grabs on and withstands the shock of the other astronaut snapping the tether taut, he should rebound back towards the secured astronaut, not dangle as if still being pulled by gravity. This would not be the case if, say, they were on a rotating structure or on a rocket making a significant burn but neither is the case.

Re:I get what he's saying here (2)

X0563511 (793323) | about a year ago | (#45125253)

They did a very good job with the sound, definitly gotta give them credit with that - everything from the lack of sounds for things you typically see presented with sound, to the sounds transduced through the suit (eg listen closely while they are working on the Hubble in the beginning).

I was also impressed with the little spurting noises from the maneuvering thrusters on the (Russian vehicle and the Chinese copy that I just for some reason cannot name at the moment).

Re:I get what he's saying here (1)

QuantumPion (805098) | about a year ago | (#45125257)

Spoilerish. Two astronauts tied together falling past a structure, once one of them grabs on and withstands the shock of the other astronaut snapping the tether taut, he should rebound back towards the secured astronaut, not dangle as if still being pulled by gravity. This would not be the case if, say, they were on a rotating structure or on a rocket making a significant burn but neither is the case.

My impression of that scene was that the cords tangling Bullocks' character were barely taught enough to stop her momentum and rebound, and if Clooney did not let go the cords would have broken at the other end leaving them both floating away. Like two people bungee jumping, while decelerating under tension, they notice the cord start to break due to excessive weight, so one guy detaches himself and falls to his death while the remaining elasticity of the cord is enough to save the other.

Re:I get what he's saying here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45125271)

Glad I wasn't the only one that got the tethered discrepancy.

Re:I get what he's saying here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45125287)

Tyson is correct in every point he makes

Actually no, he's not. He does a "first glance" analysis that is just as wrong as some of the things he complains about.

As for the tether scene, look at the stars in the background. They are rotating.

Re:I get what he's saying here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45125309)

I think we have to agree that a well known astrophysicist is going to have some comments about a space movie.

Re:I get what he's saying here (1)

EGenius007 (1125395) | about a year ago | (#45125525)

Apollo 13 is hardcore real, only strained interpersonal dynamics were hammed up from what actually happened.

My understanding is that the way that film presents the multiple crises (air filter conversion, weight discrepancy due to lack of lunar samples, fixed point needed for avoiding gimble lock during manual burn) also had, shall we say, "Hollywood conversion" applied to their time frames and threat-to-survival-legitimacy levels. Not that it wasn't an awesome movie, but they tweaked more than one aspect of the story to keep it compelling.

Suspension of disbelief (2)

cdrudge (68377) | about a year ago | (#45125045)

It's entertainment. Not real life. Not a NASA training video for what to do in case of an emergency. They don't have to get every last detail right in order for the movie to be successful both from a entertainment stand point as well as a general scientific standpoint. Sure Bullock's hair may not float right, or the debris drift away in the right direction. But neither are critical to the effectiveness of telling the story. Suspend your disbelief and just enjoy it.

Mark Kelly had a well-written review (3, Informative)

peter303 (12292) | about a year ago | (#45125095)

A review [washingtonpost.com] from astronaut and engineer. Basically the artistic effect was great, but physics wrong.

It is called nitpicking. (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about a year ago | (#45125097)

Take a look at Les Misérables. The film is goes south very quickly at the end.
After Jean Valjean becomes wealthy why did he become mayor? He was still a wanted man after all. That was a stupid risk to take.
Why after escaping and saving Cosette why did he still stay in France? He seemed to have access to much wealth so why not go to Spain, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, or Canada? I mean how stupid was this man?
Simple... It would have made for a terrible story.
Most if not all the "errors" in Gravity were to make a good story.

Nitpicking (3, Interesting)

tylersoze (789256) | about a year ago | (#45125111)

Listen, I'll be the first to point out or notice glaringly dumb science inaccuracies in films, but going after Gravity on this count is pretty ridiculous given that the filmmakers knew *exactly* what they were fudging into order to, you know, giving us two hours of decent thrills instead of 2 minutes of, OK they're all dead now, or 2 hours of them drifting in space dying of asphyxiation. It's fine to point out the inaccuracies in order to inform people about the actual facts, but implying they somehow should have gotten it absolutely right is dumb, and really, the hair not floating? Come one, suspension of disbelief anyone? Besides, who's to say in the universe of the film that all 3 stations weren't in the same orbit very close to each other from some inexplicably crazy reason. :) That's really the only way they would have had a chance of survival, or at least tell a compelling story in that circumstance. And either space shuttle was still in service in that universe or it took place in the years it was in service (gasp movies can show things that aren't happening right now?). To me the silliest things were the Chinese station somehow being knocked into such a lower orbit that it was starting to immediately deorbit, but I see where they wanted to introduce yet another against the clock obstacle, and Clooney have to let go to save Bullock.

Re:Nitpicking (1)

Nadaka (224565) | about a year ago | (#45125363)

Or maybe Sandra Bullock used way to much hair gel and it was too rigid to float around.

One other thought (3)

jollyreaper (513215) | about a year ago | (#45125123)

It's pretty much impossible to do a space disaster film with anything close to modern technology. It basically boils down to "Everything works exactly as planned or you die." Yes, we have Apollo 13 but most disaster scenarios are going to be more like Challenger and Columbia.

Entertainment beats science (1)

The_Star_Child (2660919) | about a year ago | (#45125163)

Film at 11.

Tyson (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45125175)

Of course, Tyson also promoted the idea that Pluto wasn't a planet, so what does he know?

Re:Tyson (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45125311)

He knows that Pluto isn't a planet and, in fact, should never have been called a planet in the first place.

So there's that.

This is why... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45125181)

This is why nobody ever invites Neil deGrasse Tyson to the movies. It was a great movie. If your biggest quibble is that they made navigation line of sight to avoid tedious scenes full of calculating orbital mechanics, you're a killjoy.

Physics better than most movies. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45125183)

Tyson was blogging for the sake of being heard; he's actually wrong about some of the things.

Several of the so-called errors aren't, and several others (like the relative orbits of Hubble, ISS, and the Chinese station) are "adjustments" for the sake of the story, (ie, there's no physical reason they couldn't be in those orbits, they just aren't in this particular universe. There's also no Space Shuttle "Explorer" in this one, either.)

The argument about the direction of satellites orbiting is stupid. If the debris were really orbiting east-to-west, you'd never see it (approach rate would be about 34,000 mph). It's in an orbit (actually, a whole bunch of orbits) with a relative speed of a few hundred MPH to the station. The orbits would soon diverge, but the whole movie only lasts a bit over two orbit periods.

Astronaut Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) has short hair in the film. Of course it doesn't drift around. Look at real videos of astronauts (male or female) with short hair.

Biggest gaffe is Kowalski saying the debris is moving at "50,000 MPH" -- which is twice escape velocity.

There's a scene where Kowalski untethers himself and drifts away. If you look at the stars in the background during that scene, it's apparent that the astronauts are rotating, so the drift is from "centrifugal" force.

As for Armageddon, it's a freaking Michael ("physics? we don't need no steenkin' physics") Bay film. Why is it even being mentioned in the same breath as Gravity?

Westerns do it (2)

mbone (558574) | about a year ago | (#45125189)

Most of the westerns I have seen have no trouble getting the science right. Nor, for that matter, do romantic comedies or crime dramas.

The difference, of course, is that everyone is fairly familiar with the physics of bullets and the fluid dynamics of smoke in the wind. Once space travel reaches that level of penetration, the movies will have no trouble getting it right too.

Re:Westerns do it (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45125405)

No, they don't.

How many westerns or crime dramas have you seen where somebody manages to outrun an explosion? Or where an explosion involving high explosives and no barrels of flammable liquid manages to end up with a giant fireball? Or where a bullet impact knocks the recipient flying backwards? Or where something as flimsy as a car door protects against a rifle bullet? Or drywall against a pistol bullet? Or the hero takes a 20-foot fall and gets up with nothing broken or sprained? Or somebody dives through a window and gets nary a scratch?

No, movies make shit up for dramatic effect. Period.

But most of them don't have someone who thinks they know it all making their own erroneous accusations of bad physics. (Not that there aren't some such errors in Gravity, but not as many as Tyson thinks he found -- and he missed some actual.)

Because the books always get it right? (2)

wjcofkc (964165) | about a year ago | (#45125209)

Almost all science fiction in the history of science fiction goes so far as to flat out make up extra laws of physics to keep the story going. There are even famous hard sci-fi novels that implement impossible technologies for the sake of the plot. Science fiction is fantasy, consequently the science itself is often fictional. In the face of that, a few minor transgressions are nothing and there was no way to move the plot along in an entertaining Hollywood style fashion without these mistakes. This is an average movie for average people, as are most and we should be glad that average people find space interesting enough to see the movie at all.

Can we please stop fact-checking the movies? [cnn.com]

Killjoy never gets invited out with the cool kids (3, Informative)

ClayDowling (629804) | about a year ago | (#45125225)

This is why nobody ever invites Neil deGrasse Tyson to the movies. It was a great movie. If your biggest quibble is that they made navigation line of sight to avoid tedious scenes full of calculating orbital mechanics, you're a killjoy.

Am I the only one... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45125237)

Am I the only one that imagines the NASA Armageddon test originating as a drinking game among colleagues?

Tornadoes don't pick up houses intact (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45125261)

Tornadoes don't pick up houses intact either; but The Wizard of Oz is a classic. So. Whatever. Not science, blah, Blah, BLAH. It's a fecking movie. Sheesh.

Obligatory 2001 mention... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45125265)

Nothing particular. I just thought I'd mention it. Because everybody seems to have forgotten the first SF movie to actually work at getting everything right.

I think that Kubrick would be amazed that we're well into the 2010s, and still not able to make accurate space movies as well as he did...

Artist Rendition (1)

vettemph (540399) | about a year ago | (#45125331)

    I don't so much mind a work of fiction bending science to align the story. That's what fiction does.

    I'm much more bothered by science adding fiction to their work by providing an 'Artist Rendition" of a planet that might be like Earth. NASA sees a reddish speck near a star and suddenly the article has a picture of terrain, instead of a picture of a speck. That is a crime.

These science in fiction dicks need to stop picking on the wrong people.

Thank you for listening.

Gravity: Can Film Ever Get the Science Right? (1)

sumergo (2510518) | about a year ago | (#45125343)

No. It's movie - the best they can do is try. I'm less worried about ABSOLUTE scientific authenticity in movies than I am bored by hearing about another self-aggrandizing "photo-op" piece by Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson.

2001 (3, Informative)

DoctorChestburster79 (3017229) | about a year ago | (#45125403)

Seriously? Nobody is going to cite 2001 as being probably the most accurate film for space travel...ever?

No noise in the vacuum of space?

Bowman's head not exploding when he has to blast himself into Discovery's airlock?

The fact Discovery has an area that rotates fast enough to simulate 1G for the sleeping crew as well as Bowman and Poole to keep from losing bone mass?

The trip from Earth to the space station (the latter of which had to rotate to also simulate 1G)?

Lensed in England by Stanley Kubrick, and still pretty damned accurate, especially since this was Arthur C. Clarke's work we're talking about here.

hmmmm but.... (1)

TheCarp (96830) | about a year ago | (#45125451)

> On top of that, most satellites orbit west to east, yet in the film the satellite debris was seen drifting
> east to west.

Haven't seen the movie (yet) so I can't comment on the exact scenario, but, wouldn't debris be moving "east to west" if you were moving west to east faster* than it was?

Of course, if you are at the space station when it is destroyed.... given that each orbit is uniquely defined as a function of velocity and radial distance (before anyone forgets: velocity is a vector quantity, so this works, speed is a scalar - not enough info) then you really shouldn't ever see the debris it creates, as its going to be in such a similar orbit that it will take a very long time to either lap or be lapped by it.... in fact, oddly enough, lower orbits are slower and have shorter orbital periods so anything thrown off against the orbital direction should actually lap you before things tossed in that direction, which will move to slightly higher, faster,and longer orbits.

And yes, I have played way too much KSP recently.

* Locally faster anyway, or having larger angular velocity at the intersection point of the orbit might be the most accurate way of saying it

Damned if you do, damned if you don't (4, Insightful)

miniMUNCH (662195) | about a year ago | (#45125485)

"Why don't they make more movies with space realism?"

"Damn, that *space realism movie* had some minor/moderate inaccuracies... I was really disappointed [that they didn't spend 500 million on production cost to really film he whole movie in microgravity]."

For space sake... there seems to be no way to please certain people.

If you are a NASA, space-science, space-exploration supporter: There is a time to be scientifically brutal and honest, and a time to sell cars (to borrow the phrase from Steven Spielberg, among others). When something like Gravity gets made, spend 95+% of time lauding the good aspects of the film... less time preening your own scientific ego about how much you know about space.

That's what you get ... (1)

Kaz Kylheku (1484) | about a year ago | (#45125491)

for going to the movies with Dr. Sheldon Cooper!

Tyson's is correct but Bad Astronomer's better (5, Interesting)

Caledfwlch (1434813) | about a year ago | (#45125509)

OK, I saw the movie, it is awesome in the true sense of the word awe, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The special effects are great, the story line simple and engaging. The the effects, especially the interior shots, are very detailed and the few technical issues didn't pull me out of the film to a large degree. While Tyson's comments are correct I think the link below from Bad Astronomer is a more interesting and full description of the issues: http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2013/10/04/ba_movie_review_gravity.html [slate.com]

Pushing two suits attached by rope vs joining them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45125577)

The one part that really bugged me was the way Clooney's character chose to undertake their two trips. They were in their space-suits (with his having propulsion), joined by a tether. He would propel his suit and have his companion be jerked every time the tether went taut. What a horrible way to travel! Unless I'm missing something, the way to go in this situation would be to have Bullock ride in front of him - with the two masses rigidly joined. It'd be more efficient and less strenuous (though admittedly less dramatic). I can't believe an astronaut of Clooney's level didn't come up with the right strategy.

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