Why exactly did Neil deGrasse Tyson argue this? The Science of Gravity and Zero Gravity

Yesterday evening, the famous astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson took to his Twitter feed and started pointing out bad science in the latest sci-fi hit film Gravity. But what started it off was on shakier grounds and causes one – myself at least – to question what exactly Mr. Tyson was trying to argue:

What!?

Granted, there are plenty of simulations today which allows people to succumb to “zero gravity” environments. This allows them to acquire the feeling of weightlessness. (Check out: Zero G Corporation) But then in arguing that your weightlessness in space is the result of zero gravity is nonsensical and terrible science.

The fact of the matter is that gravity is everywhere! What do you believe keeps our satellites in orbit? Or how about the Moon? Hell, what about our entire galaxy of planets? Thanks to the Sun’s gravitational pull, the orbit of every planet in our Solar System of the Milky Way galaxy is provided its shape and general location.

In all actuality, anything in or near Earth’s orbit (‘near’ not being as “near” as we define it inside Earth, FYI) – i.e. the International Space Station (ISS) – isn’t experiencing zero gravity, but rather is slowly falling towards the Earth. Zero gravity has absolutely nothing to do with the feeling of weightlessness in which ISS cosmonauts experience while floating outside the station.

The feeling of weight on Earth is the result of gravity pulling you down and the flooring below your feet providing the impression of being pushed up at the same time. Since there is no flooring below your feet when floating in space, you then acquire the sensation of weightlessness.

Knowing this, I would argue that the sci-fi film-in-question’s title – Gravity – is quite brilliant! Mr. Tyson, what exactly were you thinking!?

(Cue in the “Tyson was just using zero gravity as a humorous poke against the film” comments – a likely reasoning, I might add)

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4 Comments Add yours

  1. mike says:

    Sounds like your trying to stir the gravity pot

  2. steve says:

    You do understand, that what you are trying to make a big deal about is really stupid… I’m sure that he knows all about gravity. He is merely pointing out that the lack of a strong gravitational pull is a major plot device of the movie, and most people refer to space as being “zero gravity”. This doesn’t mean that he does not think there is no gravity at all. What exactly are you trying to get at by trying to over analyze his tweet?

    1. B.J. Murphy says:

      This is a blog. It’s not a scientific institution or think-tank. A variety of people visit this page, from those within the fields of STEM to the common laypeople who may be interested in science, but doesn’t know enough to be considered fluent, per se. Thus my posts play the role of providing a layman’s outlook on science, which is both readable and concise. I made note that I was fairly sure with Tyson merely poking fun at the film rather than being literal, but then his Tweet played a nice leaping stone to provide the subject of gravity and zero gravity on my blog. Understand?

  3. Zero Gravity makes more sense, because they weren’t using gravity at all–they were using plot devices. Gravity requires physics; plot devices can be sadly absent of any physics at all. Maybe that’s what Tyson was getting at?

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