Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Gravity & Gravity Lensing

I'm not sure my fellow Robot editors want to weigh-in on the issue of scientific accuracy in our fantasy/scifi/comics/graphic novellas etc., but I for one, like to see films play by their own rules.  This means that I'm going to hold a film like Thor or the Avengers to a lower scientific-adherence-standard than, say, a hypothetical film version of Larry Niven's Protector.

The recent film, Gravity, has made a big impact with critics and movie-goers alike though the science part of this science fiction is conveniently set aside for key plot points.  That, on its own is not a failure.  But it does raise the question: how much setting aside of science can you tolerate in your science fiction?  Let us know in the comments (this means you too, editors).

For a fast-talking treatment of the sciencey problems with Gravity, the film, click below. 

You will also be treated to a fairly lucid descirption of the amazing new method  NASA is using the gravitational distortion of space-time caused by super-massive galaxies as lenses (not metahporical lenses, mass bends light like glass bends light --these are actual lenses).  Essentially we humans are using our knowledge of physics to turn the universe itself into a telescope to peer into the past and uncover more about the vast abyss we call home.

There items are related because, I argue, if we don't remember to take the science seriously in our films, not only will we not fund universe-changing work like this, but how will our kids get excited about it?  The connection between science fiction as funnel into science practice is well documented.

1 comment:

  1. I think a film should be judged by its own definition of itself. That is, if it claims to be fantasy (like Avengers), it only has to be consistent with the rules of its own universe. If it purports to be science, though, like Gravity or Contact, then I think the bar does indeed need to go up. I don't want to jump all over X-Men for not taking Newton's 3rd law into effect with Cylcops' eye beams (though this guys does: http://books.google.com/books?id=yYHbRJc-SZ8C&lpg=PT231&ots=w7hY3Gf1R1&dq=x-men%20physics%20cyclops&pg=PT293#v=onepage&q&f=false) but I totally buy critiques of Gravity, which aspires to be high science.