Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist, TV personality and author, really knows how to make the most confusing and seemingly unexplainable things about science digestible for us normal folk. But aside from charismatically explaining science to us, one of his favorite things to do is tell us what’s impossible about all those sci-fi movies we love to see. And with a sense of humor.
While some might say he’s raining on our parade, it’s actually quite fun (and educational) to see whether or not growing potatoes on Mars is hopeless, regardless of what Matt Damon in ‘The Martian’ would have us believe. Here are some of Tyson’s debunking facts about sci-fi movies.
Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson had a good chuckle when he watched the zero-gravity scenes in the movie ‘Gravity.’ Despite the production’s meticulous efforts to float everything else in each shot, Sandra Bullock’s bangs miraculously didn’t follow suit. They were neatly planted on her head as if she were on planet Earth. Come on now… Tyson remarked on Twitter (@neiltyson): “Must be using really good astronaut mousse.” He also pointed out how “interesting” it was that Bullock’s character, a medical doctor, was the one to service the Hubble Space Telescope, yet astronaut George Clooney informs her what actually happens (medically) during oxygen deprivation. Hmm…
Legends of centuries past illustrate zombies as awakened human corpses controlled by witchcraft or voodoo, but today’s Hollywood zombies often are created by some sort of infectious virus. And for some great cinematic effect, the zombie plotline rides on contagion through zombie bites. Tyson commented on how some diseases, like rabies, can be passed through bites, but symptoms don’t develop instantly. As he said, “When something bites you, you don’t turn into that thing. If that were remotely possible, Evander Holyfield would have turned into Mike Tyson long ago.”
According to Tyson, lightsabers just don’t make sense scientifically. Astrophysicist Phil Plait says, “Maybe the name is just wrong. Maybe they just call it a lightsaber. That doesn’t mean it’s made of light.” If that were really the case, Tyson had this to say in his tweet: “They would just pass through each other.” Star Wars creator George Lucas explains the lightsaber as a heavy sword with a laser beam.
Tyson apparently really liked the film ‘The Martian,’ but he questioned whether or not Matt Damon could actually grow enough potatoes to live months by himself on Mars. Tyson pretty much said that it might be possible. Enough water and grow lights do indeed make the theory plausible, but essential soil nutrients that potatoes need to grow would be majorly lacking on Mars. And he said even human fertilizer wouldn’t help.
In ‘Superman,’ Clark Kent uses his notorious X-ray vision to tell Lois Lane what color underwear she’s wearing. That’s after he checks her lungs for cancer while she’s smoking a cigarette. “If he has X-rays…it’s not going to see the color of her panties,” Tyson remarked. “The X-rays would go right through the panties.”