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:
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)