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Neil deGrasse Tyson Questions the Accuracies of 'Gravity' on Twitter

by
October 7, 2013
Source: Twitter

Neil deGrasse Tyson Gravity

If there's one man of science you do not want to mess with, it's Neil deGrasse Tyson. With over 1 million followers on twitter @neiltyson, Tyson is a brilliant astrophysicist who often tweets scientific accuracies and mesmerizing facts about our universe. So, of course, we can't be surprised that he caught Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity over the weekend and had some things to say about it. Not necessarily nice things, instead, Tyson lists a bunch of "mysteries of #Gravity" questioning its scientific accuracy. But he does say after: "if you must know, I enjoyed Gravity very much." Phew. So, what did they get wrong? Read on for all his mysteries.

Despite Cuarón's meticulous attention to detail with the micro-gravity and zero-G environment portrayed in Gravity, there are still some major plot holes, according to Neil deGrasse Tyson. At least he mentions one aspect of the movie that is accurate - it depicts "catastrophic satellite destruction that can actually happen." Freaky. A number of scientific debates have already began in our own Sound Off post, but these will spur discussion. Here are the many tweets he wrote Sunday night questioning some of the moments in Gravity:

So, does he hate Gravity? Does he still recommend it? No. And yes he does, reading between the lines. Two other tweets do confirm that, despite all the fact-checking going on, he still enjoyed the movie "very much" and just because he points out all of these problems doesn't mean it's "wrong" or a bad movie or anything like that. Just that there are some "mysteries" behind Gravity's otherwise near-perfect accuracy. He adds:

As someone who is head-over-heels in love with Gravity, it was a bit hard to read all of this at first. I really want to believe the movie is as accurate and perfect as it can possibly be (as it is in my mind), but obviously it's impossible to get every little last detail perfect. It is still a (Hollywood) movie after all, and even Cuarón admitted in my interview that he embraced the cinematic spectacle side more than anything. Fine with me.

So what should we make of all this Gravity fact-checking? Everything, and nothing. The movie still is an exhilarating cinematic experience, accuracies aside. However, Tyson points out some major issues, but not many that could be solved easily (e.g. the proximity of the ISS and Chinese station for plot purposes). One of his questions can be answered - he wonders "why Bullock, a medical Doctor, is servicing the Hubble Space Telescope." They explain in the movie that she's installing experimental medical scanning technology that will allow the Hubble to scan deeper into space. While not all of his questions have real answers, he's at least fueling the discussion on science and space in relation to Gravity, and that's good for society on all around.

Update! In response to this criticism, The Atlantic reached out to the film's "science advisor", Dr. Kevin Grazier, an astrophysicist specializing in computational orbital dynamics. Asked about ignoring the science:

Often a story worth telling can fall apart if there is a complete dedication to perfect science. The goal is to make everything seem grounded enough in the physical world that it seems real.

So story trumps science every time. It's the job of a science advisor to know where pushing back on the science is important, and where to just say, "Let's go with it."

Read the full interview with Dr. Grazier here, where he explains that some of the actual science just doesn't matter when it comes to the story. On Alfonso Cuaron: "He came in knowing an amazing amount about our space program, and it was clear he'd been doing his research." On the controversial issue with the ISS being too far away from the Hubble Telescope to reach: "After discussing with Mr. Cuarón just how different the orbits were between Hubble and ISS, I offered a recommendation. I said, 'For the purposes of this film, why don't we create a fictitious space telescope that's easier to get to than Hubble?'" Alas, it seems like they didn't go down that route, and the criticism remains. But Gravity is still a remarkable cinematic experience.

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  • mpr
    dude needs to shut the hell up and enjoy a good film
    • OfficialJab
      He did enjoy it.
    • Chuckee Knowlton
      Dude needs to read the article before posting.
  • Chris
    I totally thought about the same things... well some of them.
  • Xerxexx
    Seems like a real stick in the mud. Also why refer to them Clooney and Hillock and not Kowalski and Stone?
    • Dominic
      Because they ARE Clooney and Bullock and if u haven't seen the Movie u don't know their character names ... ACTUALLY he is the highest ranking government official that is STILL promoting space exploration fully . He is often on Bill Mahr , and always entertaining because he's SMART ...so mpr is also wrong - He IS the one who should be out there talking about a space movie . Isn't that what everyone else who likes the movie has said ,that some of space scenes are inaccurate but they had a good time ? ( because of the visuals ) ..
      • Xerxexx
        I understand the need to question films but experts finding holes kinda ruin the magic. Clooney and Bullock are not playing themselves...seems last especially considering his pointing out scientific inaccuracies.
        • Dominic
          :o) yeah well with actors we still think of them AS them , no matter the character . Exceptions abound yes but their real name is still attached to their face . with a Movie itself , we're much stricter ... I LIKE spoilers / other's opinions . I wasn't going to this movie until I saw the 1st 10 raves here . And if the negativity wins ( Riddick comes to mind ) I save my money wait for my 33-cents-a-day Premium Channels ...
  • Reznik
    I wonder why Neil deGrasse Tyson's tweets needed to be made into an article? I admire the guy but what's the point? If not to upset people who think this movie is perfection in the comment section.
    • http://www.firstshowing.net/ Alex Billington
      First things first, I like deGrasse Tyson and thought his tweets were good criticisms worthy of being pointed out for discussion (here on FS.net). Along that line, for all the love and "flawless" praise we've been heaping on Gravity, I thought it would be good to feature some of the negative criticism for once. It's refreshing to be able to look at both the positives & negatives and have a healthy discussion. I felt pointing out his tweets was news worthy and good for discussion, especially considering the endless debates about Gravity I've been hearing all weekend.
      • Dominic
        OK Reznik You're not REALLY criticizing ALEX ? ( What The ...) for DOING HIS JOB ? ( getting ALL the info out there about movies ) , which we all love so much . Or , why are you here ?? As is pointed out further down , He's acting JUST LIKE US who post here . Give him a break for being being just like us and wanting Factually Correct movies this is why it feels like a Black Thing ...
      • Have Hope
        Lord.....so this is like the best film ever made? It BETTER be good.
      • Reznik
        Healthy discussion? Dude this is the internet.
        • http://www.firstshowing.net/ Alex Billington
          Touche... But where else can "healthy" discussions take place? Especially when our entire business is on the internet.
          • Reznik
            I don't know, try weeding out the douchebags? Maybe you should start instituting a banning system. Also, I have no problem having a healthy discussion. I just knew from reading the title this was going to start a silly argument in the comments.
          • Dominic
            Rez u started THIS 'debate ' with a silly statement . Did you insult both Tyson AND Alex on purpose ? and then you kinda intimated that the lovers of the film needed to be challenged ( unless You are one of the think-it's-perfection people - if so just coulda said that ) .....sure u wanna give Alex weed-out ideas ? and yes we have healthy discussions on movies here all the time
          • Reznik
            Dude. I'm done talking to you.
          • Dominic
            of course you are try to ACTUALLY have a Healthy Discussion next time .
  • asscake
    I don't care about his tweets - just want to say this: Tyson is not a "brilliant" astrophysicist. He is just an astrophysicist who likes to be in the spotlight. Any astrophysicist who would see Gravity would notice its minor errors and probably be a bit irritated by them. Even any 20+ physics (or math, etc.) student would know this. That's why he is just an astrophysicist, not necessarily a brilliant one. He just happens to be one of very, very few astrophysicists people actually hear anything about.
    • OfficialJab
      As far as astrophysicists let alone scientists in general go, it's definitely worth noting that he's not necessarily remarkable among his peers. It is important to have popularizers of science out there though, whether they're the top of their field or not.
      • Chuckee Knowlton
        Not remarkable among his peers? Suppose you back that one up smart guy.
        • OfficialJab
          Note the qualifier 'necessarily'. I don't know the IQs or qualifications or accomplishments of any let alone all, astrophysicists. Re-read that.
          • Chuckee Knowlton
            Ok, so you said "not necessarily". So back it up. If it's "worth noting" then you must believe it so put your money where your mouth is and back it up. Otherwise I'm just going to have to call you out as you know what.
          • OfficialJab
            Not sure why you're so bent out of shape over this as my only claim is that I personally dont know whether or not he's the best astrophysicist, so I don't assume he is. I'll restructure the whole statement for you though. "He might not (I'm not sure) be the absolute top of his field, but regardless of if he is or not, he should be valued for striving to make science popular and encourage people to question things.
          • Dominic
            couldn't u have just said that 1st , instead of the veiled insult ? see my point above cause u went for the negative statement that SOUNDED like u had insight into his career and those in his field , FIRST .. The restructured analysis is perfectly correct . I'm thinking he's not absolute tops in his field , because NASA WANTS him to be the PR Face of Space . Thus he's not chained to the lab enough
          • OfficialJab
            It says the same thing. He's not necessarily smarter than his peers, and that's worth noting, considering the post that I was replying to outright said that he's not as smart as most others, which you apparently had no problem with. But soften it with 'not necessarily' and then I'm a smart guy who's dissing him? I think you were just being overly defensive of him.
          • Dominic
            "He might not (I'm not sure) be the absolute top of his field, but regardless of if he is or not, he should be valued for striving to make science popular and encourage people to question things." - 2nd post 1st post - "As far as astrophysicists let alone scientists in general go, it's definitely worth noting that he's not necessarily remarkable among his peers. In What REALITY are those two statements the same ? even with the qualifier after this sentence in your 1st post?? key words "definitely worth knowing " against " might not ( I'm not sure) " and "regardless of if he is or not " . the TONE and certainty are the difference OJ . Especially since u didn't support the certainty of the 1st . So pardon me if I've heard that CERTAINTY about the qualifications of some Black guy TOO many damn times before .( like our current President ! ) None of the insults at his qualifications were supported ; just ranted out . so guess what ? Blacks are gonna see that as YOU Ranters playing the race card
          • OfficialJab
            Waaaaaaaaaaaaah???
          • Dominic
            :o() yes so , of course , when confronted with the REALITY of two incompatible statements made by YOU , u believe I'm the crying baby .. typical dude typical . Can't own up to your own mistakes . ESPECIALLY when it means agreeing with / praising a Black guy ME
          • OfficialJab
            I meant to say whaaaaaaaaaaaaa?? because I was bewildered.
          • FransSusan
            He's an entertainer.
          • OfficialJab
            He is, but he's an entertainer second. He actually studied for years to become a scientist and a professional, the fact that he's become a poster boy for science doesn't discredit his knowledge.
    • IlluminationTheory
      Dr. Neil Tyson is what the science/physics community has needed/wanted for a long time now. The "Cool Guy Scientist" that can connect with today's youth who have clearly placed Science on the back burner. You are right that he does not publish ground breaking research but the role he currently plays may be even more important.
      • Dominic
        EXACTLY Illum . Because he has one of the few voices out there STILL begging for more space exploration . He knows movies like this will turn OFF people as easy as turn on . He wants them to get it right ...agreeing with OJab's last sentence too ...
  • Guest
    In an attempt to sound "educated" he ends up sounding stupid. Quite a few of his posts aren't even valid mistakes and several more are because of storytelling 101. He does understand it's a movie???
    • Guest
      downvoted by a moron
      • Guest
        downvoted by morons
        • Have Hope
          I downvoted you.....THREE times. Just thought you would like to know.
          • Chuckee Knowlton
            So did I. Whoo hooo! The power of the internet!
          • OfficialJab
            Sup guys, this a downvoting party?
  • DAVIDPD
    IT'S A MOVIE!
    • Reznik
      My point exactly.
    • OfficialJab
      You've never criticised logic in films before? He acknowledged that it doesn't prevent the movie from being great, so what's the issue? He shouldn't notice anything and point it out?
      • DAVIDPD
        I was just talking to the people who are over reacting.
        • OfficialJab
          Then we're good.
  • OfficialJab
    It's funny to see so many people complaining about him being a "stick-in-the-mud' instead of just enjoying the casual scientific analysis. It's only a few tweets, people. (see?) This can't be the first time you've all seen somebody pointing out film goofs on the internet, and I wonder how many of you never have yourselves. I have. I'm also curious about what their science advisor said about sacrificing science for story in the script. Some movies it's unavoidable, baloney like The Core for example, but you couldn't write a film about a spacewalk disaster without these liberties? It's really not dramatic enough on it's own without amping it up and making more stretches? Also, how many of these were avoidable regardless of the story? I am prepared for all the downvotes you've got!
    • Guest
      Some of his complaints aren't valid though...this guy is a scientific adviser? I
      • OfficialJab
        Some are wrong? Or they don't meet your personal criteria for criticism?
        • Guest
          They're flat our wrong m0r0n
          • OfficialJab
            It's flat out wrong that Clooney's character didn't need to explain oxygen deprivation? Because of storytelling, the only way to communicate that through dialogue to the audience (assuming they absolutely needed to) was in that way? And I'm not trusting someone named YoMamma who spells with 0's for info on orbital patterns. That would flat out wrong.
      • Dominic
        lol I think you should go into space before criticizing someone who's spent HIS LIFE in the industry .... why don't you expound on those invalid complaints instead of just posting hatred . Give us some facts ; cause actually you sound like you haven't seen the movie , like me ...
        • Dominic
          Also READ this again : "I'm also curious about what their science advisor said about sacrificing science for story in the script." Gee sounds like their ADVISOR had the same concerns noted by all so it's NOT just the Black Guy .... This note about the advisor was in Alex's story so u guys didn't have to go off on Tyson as some bad scientist , if u had just read more clearly
        • Guest
          I actually did in another post you ignorant fuckt@rd
          • Dominic
            BUT YOU DIDN"T HERE and in the post a day ago that started this thread . Official jab is replying to ur day-old post somewhat . "In an attempt to sound "educated" he ends up sounding stupid. " that one . Then here "They're flat our wrong m0r0n " IS why I mentioned the concerns of Science Advisor . so read your own postings before u think someone is a moron or ignorant . u just confirm there's some kinda hate instead of knowledge behind your complaints
          • Dominic
            hilarious
  • YoMomma
    Some of his comments make him sound clueless about basic storytelling and about human nature...the reason Clooney tells her about oxygen deprivation is to inform the viewer as much as it is to reassure Bullock who is most likely in shock or at least suffering from anxiety. what is she going to do...talk to herself? An annoying voice over where she diagnoses herself? This guy is kind of dense to be honest. Plus there's nothing preventing the ISS from being moved closer to Hubble in the fictitious future....it's not scientifically invalid for them to be near each nor is it invalid for satellites in this fictitious future to be in a different orbit Sad attempt at sounding smart.
    • OfficialJab
      So wait, you're smarter than him, YoMamma? http://arstechnica.com/science/2013/10/poking-holes-in-the-gravity-trailer-with-nasas-help/2/ Some more people not as smart as you.
      • YoMomma
        So he's infallible? Smartest man on the planet?
        • OfficialJab
          No, he's educated. As a return question, do you consider two people's views equal regardless of their qualifications? I don't.
        • Jack Handy
          He might be clueless of story, just not about science. You're the one that sounds dense, dunce.
  • http://www.jimmylove.com/ Jimmy Love
    I love how everyone is here to defend the movie! "It's only a movie!" But no any other movie this guy is all of you!
    • Dominic
      hmm if i get ur point correctly ..... yes it does seem more come here to criticize than praise . in the WDYT page I mentioned that this was the first movie review here where I had seen 12 praising posts before one negative one .. So it must be worth defending
      • http://www.jimmylove.com/ Jimmy Love
        Ewww 12 really...
  • Dominic
    k gotta say most of you critics ( mpr xerxexx reznik asscake Guest )prob haven't seen him on PBS or Bill Mahr . Or you'd wouldn't be so knee-jerk in criticizing him or his qualifications .. Please search you souls , and I HOPE you won't tell me this is a "Black Thing " . It's starting to read like it ... .
    • Xerxexx
      I have the utmost respect this man...but I just happen to think watching a movie is just a great way to escape...Gravity was bound to have inaccuracies and he was bound to catch said inaccuracies...I happen to see a respectable stick I'm the mud...doesn't mean this gentlemen is wrong though. My bitching about Mr Tyson not referring to Bullock and Clooney as Stone and Kowalski is just a stab at the man who is pointing out inaccuracies...if he can notice all the issues with Gravity then surely he can use their character names.
    • Xerxexx
      Black thing? That is knee jerk.
      • Dominic
        (shrugs) yep . just like saying ' Who is THIS Guy to .. blah blah " . Without looking him up and finding out . ( not u two others here) . Sorry when you've been on the receiving end of that for mot of your life , the signs of it are quickly apparent . I've heard him speak and watched some of his Nova episode on PBS . And his kids show explaining stuff to them . As well as him getting big laughs and loud applause on Bill Mahr .. I'm not depending on what Google or wiki say about him ...
        • Dominic
          Loud applause for him pushing NASA to get back in space , and Congress to fund it .... even if he IS just the Head of the PR Dept , he's doing a damn good job
    • Reznik
      You're a douchebag.
    • Guest
      way to the play race card douche
  • mooreworthy
    So, Midi-chlorians aren't real?????
  • Dominic
    Ok now that I've actually en the movie I will take his tweets 1 by 1 A) Yes we have all been spoiled by spaceships having shields . a dust cloud of metal shards is pretty scary .. B)Well as Bullock propels herself to the Chinese ship she definitely goes Down and left . When Clooney had to self-correct so that he and Bullock could get to the ISS they went downward SOME . They never explained how far Clooney had to come and get her , so they can say her momentum took her back enough to see around the curve of the Earth , and see all the stations in a semi-straight line . Is that possible ? IDK ... C) well it's a movie lol .The picture of the situation they presented , was that Bullock was actually moving slowly backward , and would get the jerk from the rope around her ankle to propel her back to the ISS . Clooney was moving faster , Forward out into open space , and if he tried to tug his momentum would pull her along to him instead , mitigating the pull of the rope . Was she strong enougho pull HERSELF along the rope backward ? Not with 0 oxy .. Is that correct space physics IDK .. side note : sorry Xerxexx I have forgoten Clooney's chaacter's name already . Those two are just so dominant in his movie ,with what sems to be their natural personalities , that I would have forgotten Bullock's name too ,except that they had Clooney made a point of needling her about being a 'Ryan" D) Because there wasn't IMAX or 3D back then . And we definitely need another push to get out there . I think those images of earth would enrapture anyone . But the other side the movie also shows , is that you CAN'T be Over-Prepared ENOUGH for what goes on out there . Sandra had to hallucinate Clooney before she remembered the re-entry jets ... E and F ) yes they missed both of these . I think either it was in Sandra's contract or the director's mind , that her face should never be obscured . This is related to probablymy only pet peeve of Gravity , is that she takes her helmet off WAYY too ff-ing much ! I can see when she 1st gets the ISS airlock pressurized but the other times were stupid .Too much reinforcement for how space green she was .... the debris ? a how people see things technicality : Most humans are right-handed thus Everything on their right side is dominant , including their right eyes . So we LOOK at things from right to left , starting slightly inward from the right . It takes training to see in 120-180 degrees naturally . Watch films closer charecters enter from the right side mostly and confromtations are shot from there G) Houston did at first say the debris field would miss them . And then the 2nd communication said something else had ben hit and now debris was coming at them . I grant that the technicalities of relative orbits was not explained H) because we aren't the ones dying . Nor any real astronauts .... As I noted , The Movie. makes a great case for being up there , as well as a case for not being under-prepared . And having instructions and controls in one language , so that u don't need paper manuals or guessing to fly the thing ... I) Well he is the astronaut with the longest current space-walking time ; nothing SHOULD surprise him . She was panicking , he had to talk her down ( even as it's wasting HIS oxy as well ) and it's a AMERICAN movie so they had to talk it out . A better film would have more silent times , looking thru faceplates at actor's faces for emotion. ESPECIALLY without the constant LOUD musical score in the background - My 2nd peeve only two maybe three quiet times J and K ) hmmm while I was watching this I was thinking of Ender's Game , because I am re-reading the book before the movie comes out . Ender is celebrated not only for being able to move PRECISELY in zero gee , but also because he creates battle strategies to attack the Bugs in coordinated individual and group movements , with precision . As the human victims of the attack 70 years ago did not . THIS movie needed more sense that the astronauts were trained better in zero gee movements . Maybe our astronauts need to be VERY strong , but flexible enough so that muscle mass does not work against them . and then they use learn precise muscle movements to counter this AM , and use it to their advantage So , Tyson is right alot and prob is just mad that the Science Advisor got ignored some PS for all you hating on Bullock if you only had 6 months of somewhat unsuccessful training , and YOU got untethered , you'd be Panting Scared and wasting oxy too , and losing ur bladder prob

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