Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Stand Up Against Neil DeGrasse Tyson's Bullying.

                Recently, I saw a preview for the upcoming Summer Movie, Pacific Rim. For those of you who don’t know, Pacific Rim is a dramatic movie how man uses technology to help overcome the deep distrust of nature and of each other. Also, it features giant robots wailing on giant monsters. Did you see the preview, where the one robot picks up a bus, then he starts swinging it at the giant monster, and then it’s all like WHAM! BOOM! SMASH! And then he fires off a rocket fist and smashes his giant arm into the head of the monster, and he all like falls. Yeah. That’s pretty awesome.
                My point is that Pacific Rim looks like an awesome summer movie, and I’m going in to enjoy it because I have an affinity for giant robots, giant monsters, and the movie’s star Idris Elba. (Who also co-starred in the soon to be cinematic classic: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengance.) But that didn’t stop some scientists from publishing their “groundbreaking” article that talked about the physics of giant robots, and how these particular giant robots just wouldn’t work.
                I’d like to point out again that this is a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters who are emerging from another dimension. The second the word “giant” appears anywhere, unless preceded by “Andre The” then I really don’t want to hear your scientific rants. I understand it’s not real. That’s part of the reason I’m going to see a movie. Because to my knowledge, we don’t really have giant robots that fight giant monsters, unless you count the car-sized robots that I’m sure Charlie Sheen and Nicolas Cage have built and use to fight on their secret island off the cost of Alaska.
                Next you’ll be telling me that Amy Pohler doesn’t really work at the City Council in Pawnee, or that Ke$ha is a real thing.
                I’m bringing this up because this is part of a disturbing trend where a cool movie will come out, and then some mean scientists will work as hard as they can in proving that the physics just don’t add up. Or something doesn’t add up, and that really couldn’t happen. A “big” news story (big in nerd-land) came out that professional smart guy Neil DeGrasse Tyson (I did enjoy his video game, “Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s Punch-Out!!” when I was growing up) declared that Star Trek was more believable than Star Wars.
                I’m not sure if he used it by the metric that the Star Trek point eared guys aren’t green and they don’t speak conspicuously like Fozzie Bear, or some other strange thing, but I guess we’ll never know the logic of one of the smartest men on the planet. There’s also no word on whether he thinks the doctors on Grey’s Anatomy are any better than the ones on ER, but I like to think that the ones on ER didn’t all sleep with each other. Again, I’m not sure.
                It’s called “suspension of disbelief.” Yes, I know that there’s no rocketship from a dying planet that contains a small child that will go off to fight crime. I know that if a rich guy could build a suit of armor like that he’d most likely use it to play polo in space with his rich friends (rich guys still play polo, right?) I know that Vin Diesel doesn’t actually command an army of street racing jewel thieves. And I know that Jason Statham doesn’t… Jason… no, I’m pretty sure that Jason Statham is real.
                Movies, books, TV Shows exist to help us escape from our giant robot-less, John McClane-less, Lightsaber-less, Green-skinned women-less lives. We use it as a way to say, “hey… let’s go explore the depths of our imagination.” We do it because we’ve never seen a guy fly before, and it would be pretty neat to see it. We’ve been imagining these things back before CGI existed, when it just had to be done on green screen. Or better yet back when we just had to read about it and use our own brains to figure out what it would look like when the son of Zeus decided he’d had enough and was going to lay the smack down on some Greeks. (Has anyone re-done Hercules with the Rock yet? You should get on that, Hollywood.)
                Look, scientists are awesome. They gave us all the things in life that we need to survive, like Penicillin, roads, refrigeration, Netflix, and eventually, Scarlett Johansson. I respect what scientists do. Up until they spend money to tell me that the giant robots fighting giant monsters couldn’t happen. I know that it won’t really happen. I just want to imagine that for two hours that if it did, it would look like what’s up on the screen. Rather than wasting time on disproving science in a movie, we focus on curing disease or figuring out how to make a Butterfinger so it won’t break before you eat it?


  1. They're not being mean.

    Scientists like to make such pronouncements because an astonishing number of people develop their beliefs about how the universe works, or how science works, from popular media. Unlike you and me, there are sadly too many who accept as real whatever pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo is being portrayed onscreen. It's a 'teachable moment' and they want to take advantage of it. The intent is not to harsh your vibe, or put you off the movie, just up the collective intelligence a little.

    As well, most scientists are geeks and/or nerds of one variety or another. They get a kick out of thinking how you might take what's shown in the movie and make it real; usually the result of this thinking or experimentation is "you can't". Having geeked out over it, they want to share their results with the world, and maybe get a little attention for their work.

    As for Neil deGrasse Tyson, he probably made that statement because someone asked him directly, "Which do you think is more realistic, Star Trek or Star Wars?". What's he gonna do, say "no comment"?

  2. I think the Tyson response is more about pontification than about informative science. I have more problem with his condemnation of the stupidity of ancient civilizations of course they belived in the world of the naked eye THE DIDN'T HAVE TELESCOPES. He also shows ignorance about the real history behind Giordano Buno. He was not the discoverer of the heliocentric view and the eternal cosmos. That myth is based upon Bruno's old telling of the events and the the work of an early 19th century romantic naturalist by the name of T. A. Rixner. He chooses Bruno because he can make a better case against Judaism and Christianity. Unlike Tyson's story Bruno got in trouble at Oxford for reading the work of Marsilo Focino as his own. He also wrote the eteranal dream of Lucretius as how own. You can't fool all the people all the time. We should really not honor the pope who ordered his execution in 1600 nor the Bruno the author of such a monomaniacal book as 'Heroic Frenzies.'