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Gravity: Can Film Ever Get the Science Right? 438

Posted by samzenpus
from the suspension-of-disbelief dept.
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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Gravity: Can Film Ever Get the Science Right?

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  • Moo (Score:5, Funny)

    by Chacham (981) * on Monday October 14, 2013 @03:43PM (#45124861) Homepage Journal

    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 (Score:5, Funny)

      by MikeBabcock (65886) <mtb-slashdot@mikebabcock.ca> on Monday October 14, 2013 @03:49PM (#45124951) Homepage Journal

      Lets send Congress while we're at it.

    • Re:Moo (Score:5, Insightful)

      by icebike (68054) on Monday October 14, 2013 @03:52PM (#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 (Score:5, Informative)

        by aardvarkjoe (156801) on Monday October 14, 2013 @04:02PM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Chacham (981) * on Monday October 14, 2013 @04:03PM (#45125153) Homepage Journal

        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.
      • 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.

      • 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 (Score:4, Insightful)

        by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Monday October 14, 2013 @05:05PM (#45125879) Homepage Journal

        I guess in a movie like LotR it is easy to shut your brain down, or just focus on "how close to the book" it is.

        But many SFs simply have so retarded physics errors that it is simply impossible to shut down the brain.

      • Re:Moo (Score:5, Interesting)

        by TrekkieGod (627867) on Monday October 14, 2013 @09:50PM (#45128303) Homepage Journal

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

        It's not a problem of suspension of disbelief, it's a problem with lazy writing. As a writer, you may define your world however you want to, and I'll accept it, but you cannot violate your rules. You want to write about an alien who can fly when he's in a planet orbiting a yellow sun? If those are your rules, that's fine, I'll accept them. I know nothing about this alien species of yours other than what you've told me, I'm willing to accept their biological structure makes use of some physics that's unknown to us. However, when this alien saves a human who fell from the top of a skyscraper by catching them 2 meters off the ground, you didn't explain how that's any better than hitting ground. You want to write about humans who are trapped in a virtual world by sentient AIs and don't know it, and how liberated humans are able to enter this world and hack it just enough to perform feats which seem impossible? That's alright, that's your setting. However, when one of those humans starts performing those impossible feats in the real world, you failed to explain how that would work.

        In a way, the more detached you are from reality, the more difficult it is to screw up. If you're writing about a world of hobbits, orcs, elves, dragons, and dwarves, there's very little you can possibly do that's going to make me question it. Everything you do in that setting I take as simply additional information that I didn't know about that world. The only way you can screw that up is by contradicting whatever you've established before. If you tell me all dwarves are all short, and then introduce a dwarf character that happens to be taller than an elf, you better have an explanation. In the very same way that you should have an explanation for why a woman floating in zero-g doesn't have free-floating hair.

      • by jamesh (87723)

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

        I don't understand... picking apart a film like that _is_ how I enjoy it. Are you cross because I enjoy a film in a different way to you?

    • Re:Moo (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Z00L00K (682162) on Monday October 14, 2013 @03:54PM (#45125017) Homepage

      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.

      • by rwa2 (4391) *

        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.

        • Re:Moo (Score:5, Interesting)

          by plover (150551) on Monday October 14, 2013 @05:14PM (#45125977) Homepage Journal

          Apollo 13 had a huge advantage these other stories don't: it wasn't fiction nearly as much as it was a recreation. They didn't have to write the drama into the script, they didn't have to invent science, they didn't have to invent an oxygen tank stirrer that might explode (which sounds like a plot device from ST:TOS). They even had first-hand reports from the scientists involved. They didn't have to fake anything.

          If you're filming a space drama from scratch, there are a lot of gaps you have to fill in. In a science fiction movie, technology is always just beneath the veneer of the characters, embedded in the very set. Their lives are intertwined with the tech, dependent upon it for everything, so it's always visible on screen, and in the back of the audiences' minds - will the tank run out of air? Will a micrometeor strike rupture the hull? But if that mission has never taken place, the tech is imaginary. We think a manned mission to Mars would require X and Y and Z, but we've not done it yet. That leaves some tech up to the imagination of the production designer.

          2001 did a phenomenal job incorporating imaginary tech into the sets. The rotating set shots were indeed brilliant. Even so, how many astronauts would you need to enter an actual 2001-era CPU cabinet to shut down a rogue AI program? While he nailed the vision of centripetal gravity, he completely missed on some of the most important technical advances. In 300 years would Lt. Ripley really need a separate room to access MOTHER? Would MOTHER really still be displaying on a green screen CRT?

          These days it only takes a few such mistakes to break the tech-savvy audience out of their willing suspension of disbelief.

          You can say "we have a great story, let's have these great actors and actresses carry it. Behind them, we'll place some blinking lights and switches that look all spacey, paint them white, and we'll get ILM to add smoke and rocket exhaust, but for the most part we're not going to worry about it." Or you can say "let's take the design for an actual rocket that might be used for this mission, and build the set to resemble it. For the plot devices, we need a panel to access the cryo stirring control valve, and a different hatch to access the electrical bus, and each should contain all the appropriate parts, lines, hoses, and wires in our imaginary spacecraft. The astronauts are expected to live 40 years, so we'll need 372 cubic meters of storage representing food and water, 69 working CO2 scrubbers, the tanks will need to hold 4.3 million liters of fuel, etc. We'll film all the scenes on the Vomit Comet so that we don't make any mistakes regarding zero-G." They end up spending 30% of the budget on scientists and engineers and sets, and 60% on a zero-G film crew, and they haven't even told you the story yet.

          I hope you like Polly Walker and Eric Stoltz, because they're the only actors they can afford on what's left of the budget.

          • by Grishnakh (216268)

            Even so, how many astronauts would you need to enter an actual 2001-era CPU cabinet to shut down a rogue AI program? While he nailed the vision of centripetal gravity, he completely missed on some of the most important technical advances.

            This is normal with real sci-fi. Sci-fi is about speculating what the future will be like, not inventing stories set in the present day. Sometimes sci-fi writers do a good job predicting things, other times they don't. Writers in the 60s and 70s almost universally did a

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sandra to be exact.

  • Moo (Score:4, Funny)

    by Chacham (981) * on Monday October 14, 2013 @03:47PM (#45124921) Homepage Journal

    "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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SJHillman (1966756) on Monday October 14, 2013 @04:02PM (#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.

  • 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).

    • 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 “hea

  • by tekrat (242117) on Monday October 14, 2013 @03:48PM (#45124931) Homepage Journal

    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....

    • by invid (163714)

      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

      • by edawstwin (242027)
        Back to the Future
      • by firex726 (1188453)

        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.

    • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Monday October 14, 2013 @03:57PM (#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. ;-)

  • by Hatta (162192) on Monday October 14, 2013 @03:48PM (#45124945) Journal

    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.

    • by X0563511 (793323)

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

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.

    • Re:Don't care (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nharmon (97591) on Monday October 14, 2013 @04:57PM (#45125787) Homepage

      If they got the science perfectly right, there would be no film.

      I disagree. Actual manned spaceflight is dangerous and damned scary as it is. The scenes with the remains of dead astronauts were just freaky. You didn't need a monolithic cloud of space debris, just a few pieces that cripple the shuttle's windows and heat shield. Then what do you do? Houston says they can't launch a rescue shuttle due to the unknown debris factors so your only choice is to chance a transfer orbit to the ISS using an experimental jetpack. Despite the differences in orbital shapes, IIRC the delta-V required isn't that obscene and probably easily written into the capabilities of an experimental jetpack.

      You could cut out 90% of the drama in Gravity, and still have a beautiful, compelling, and downright terrifying movie. It's really too bad they felt the need to overdo it.

      • Despite the differences in orbital shapes, IIRC the delta-V required isn't that obscene

        The delta-V is pretty obscene - Hubble and the ISS are on completely different inclinations, and changing inclination involves a *lot* of delta-V.

        I've not seen it yet (WTF do we have to wait a *month* for it to be released in the UK?), but I suspect I'm going to have to turn off the bits of my brain that have learnt a bit about orbital mechanics from KSP :)

  • by Kaenneth (82978) on Monday October 14, 2013 @03:49PM (#45124953) Homepage Journal

    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: (Score:3, Funny)

      by CAPSLOCK2000 (27149)

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

    • 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.
      • by dgatwood (11270)

        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 ac

    • by SJHillman (1966756) on Monday October 14, 2013 @04:05PM (#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.

    • by edawstwin (242027)
      Or the writer of a decent show to watch Dexter.
    • 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. ;-)
    • by EkriirkE (1075937) on Monday October 14, 2013 @04:18PM (#45125337) Homepage
      Oh man, don't get me started on cooking meth...
  • by nospam007 (722110) * on Monday October 14, 2013 @03:50PM (#45124963)

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

  • 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.

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

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      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."?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bobbied (2522392)

      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.

      Oh I learned that with Al Gore's "An inconvenient Truth.. "

  • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Monday October 14, 2013 @03:54PM (#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?

    • by Kennric (22093)

      Bullshit. A hell of a lot of fascinating, gripping, dramatic stuff happens in reality, and if you are free to choose a setup and some character personalities, you can make some incredible on-screen fiction that doesn't clash with realism at every turn. Someone mentioned Apollo 13 - a hell of a dramatic story that did indeed occur within boring old Reality.

      I don't mind a bit of fudging in a movie myself, and I am willing to accept some unlikely premise on which a story can be built, but what drives me crazy

  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Monday October 14, 2013 @03:55PM (#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.
    • by TWiTfan (2887093)

      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.

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

    • by wagnerrp (1305589)

      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...

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Monday October 14, 2013 @03:55PM (#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.

    • by X0563511 (793323)

      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).

    • 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 sto

  • by cdrudge (68377) on Monday October 14, 2013 @03:56PM (#45125045) Homepage

    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.

  • by peter303 (12292) on Monday October 14, 2013 @03:59PM (#45125095)
    A review [washingtonpost.com] from astronaut and engineer. Basically the artistic effect was great, but physics wrong.
  • 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

  • Nitpicking (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tylersoze (789256) on Monday October 14, 2013 @04:01PM (#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.

    • by Nadaka (224565)

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

  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Monday October 14, 2013 @04:01PM (#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.

  • by mbone (558574) on Monday October 14, 2013 @04:06PM (#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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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 div

  • by wjcofkc (964165) on Monday October 14, 2013 @04:08PM (#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]
  • by ClayDowling (629804) on Monday October 14, 2013 @04:09PM (#45125225) Homepage

    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.

  • 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.

  • 2001 (Score:3, Informative)

    by DoctorChestburster79 (3017229) on Monday October 14, 2013 @04:23PM (#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.
  • > 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

  • by miniMUNCH (662195) on Monday October 14, 2013 @04:29PM (#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.
  • for going to the movies with Dr. Sheldon Cooper!

  • by Caledfwlch (1434813) on Monday October 14, 2013 @04:32PM (#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]

Somebody ought to cross ball point pens with coat hangers so that the pens will multiply instead of disappear.

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