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Neil deGrasse Tyson Pokes Scientific Holes In Prometheus And Men In Black 3

Renowned Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is an avid movie watcher but he’s also a man of science and pays close attention to the details in movies. For example,he once complained that James Cameron’s Titanic was wrong because the stars in the night sky were not in the same place the Titanic sunk at sea 100 years ago.

Tyson was on NPR’s Morning Edition to talk science and movies. There he talked about this year’s crop of science fiction summer movies, like Prometheus and Men In Black 3.

We have often written about the plot discrepancies in Prometheus but I don’t think I’ve ever read anything like what Neil deGrasse Tyson said about the opening of the film. He said the origins of human life in the movie were unrealistic, not that we came from humanoid space aliens, that the space aliens are humanoid. He continues by saying most of life on Earth is not humanoid but bacterial so it would make more scientific sense if we evolved from a bacterial alien rather than a humanoid alien. Tyson states…

“The unrealistic part of it is that it’s a humanoid alien planting DNA seeds to seed all of life on Earth. And most life on Earth is not humanoid. In fact, most life on earth is plant and bacterial. So if they were to represent that accurately, it would be some kind of bacterium dropping its DNA into the oceans of Earth.”

Tyson also talked about Men In Black 3, a movie he loved because a majority of it took place in 1969 when the country was excited and enthusiastic about NASA and a mission to the moon. Tyson believes this is a point in American history the country’s collective state of mind needs to get back to.

“I was so moved by how they portrayed 1969,” he says. “You realize that was a time when people were dreaming about tomorrow.”

But of the accuracies of the Apollo 11 moon launch itself, Tyson says that on the night of the launching the moon itself wasn’t full, like it was in Men In Black 3, it was “a skinny, itty-bitty crescent.” Whoops.

Comments

  • BOX

    Ah, the limited imagination of back seat driving Earthling
    scientists… oh my. Why not consider that the seed was a more complex serum of
    genesis DNA designed to spin-off the totality of all base life forms needed to
    seed a world. The engineers were ultra advanced thinkers not like earth
    scientist. Keep in mind its called science fiction for a reason and some
    imagination is required :)

  • Some Random Guy

    Dr. Tyson’s analysis seems to be based on what I believe is a misinterpretation of that sequence. The “black goo” is clearly the real catalyst in that opening scene; not the “Engineers”. The “Engineers” (or “humanoid aliens”, as it were) were just lucky enough to find and make use of the “black goo”. Granted, we aren’t specifically told that the “black goo” is bacterial, but it’s clearly not a plant or animal. Not by Earth standards, anyway.

    That was my interpretation, anyway. I’m sure plenty greater minds than mine (like Dr Tyson’s) will disagree, and that’s okay. That’s the beauty of subjectivity, after all.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004280914687 Jeremy Prince

      Well here’s the thing. The only thing stated in the movie is that humans are created by the engineers. Our DNA matches theirs. Our DNA codon resembles no other bacteria on Earth. They never said engineers created all life on Earth.

  • http://twitter.com/JamesOelmann James Mark Oelmann

    Hasnt this guy got anything better to do for one … but also why nit pick scientific details of a film that 1) contains an humanoid robot with human emotions 2) also contains a squid like creature that is born by a human this then becomes a giant squid after it was killed and then creates the Alien we are all familiar with and 3) takes place on a made up planet with made up people and about a made up idea? … a film that is so far-fetched that this guy can only worry about the ratio of plant DNA in the water in the opening scene? … on a lighter note how was this guy not crying during the titanic and worrying more about the stars … he must be a bundle of fun at parties!

    • LMP

      Tyson is awesome and a genius. I’m nowhere near as gifted as he but I still like to find holes in stories. That doesn’t necessarily make someone cynical. So long as the person can praise and respect good and realistic entertainment when it’s made.

  • Shawn

    ” Tyson believes this is a point in American history the country’s collective state of mind needs to get back to” I totally agree. But we can all forget about that from happening! Why? Thank the spoiled, politically and socially correct “give me-give me and you better not offend me society we live in these days. Those good ole days of the `lets spend our taxes on space exploration are over! Dont agree? Ask the new private/commercial space pioneers that are financing things.

    • LMP

      Love the comment. Our society sucks for those reasons, among a few others. And the ramifications create consequences much worse than just the stunting of scientific advancement. But well said, bravo sir.

  • BIGGEN

    JESUS CHRIST!! IT JUST A DAMN MOVIE PEOPLE.

  • Harriet Tubman

    What an arrogant Jackass. He may be smart, but that doesn’t mean he is the authority on what makes good fiction. If we want to point out scientific holes in fictional movies, then why does a squid baby come out of a woman’s uterus and throat-fuck an engineer to create a new kind of alien? Because it’s fiction and when creating fiction, you bend reality and suspend disbelief for the sake of telling a story.

  • Biggen

    You people are crazy, to take a stupid movie so damn literally.

    • that guy

      amen!

  • Calinutz

    Prometheus states that earth was terraformed by humanoid aliens, that planted their DNA here after the terraforming in order to bring humans to life, that is to speed the process into a direction they wanted. In order for a planet to be inhabited by air breathing creatures, you first need air, and what easier way to do that but by planting oxygen generating bacteria on the planet. Of course after you terraformed it, if you do not intend to wait a million years to see what comes out of an uninhabited planet with breathable atmosphere … you will want to jumpstart the evolution of some creatures already found there that are closer to what you would like to see evolving. What better way to do it than to pick some animals already evolved there (and look closest to your expectations) and mutate them genetically using your own DNA that is already evolved.
    So I do not agree that the prometheus premise is wrong. You should see beyond that first scene. There was no statement anywhere about Earth being absolutely uninhabited when that alien gave his DNA to the river. Especially when he did not only give us his DNA… but probably a virus carrying his DNA, an aggressive virus that will do the mutation on the animals that will ingest them. The fact that there were no monkeys down by the river drinking the water… does not mean they weren’t there.
    If you are a true negativist then, after seeing the opening scene, you will assume that actually on Earth there are more intelligent fishes than humans evolved from that DNA, because they were probably the first creatures that got in touch with the respective DNA.
    Also inform yourselves about the possible interpretations of sumerian writings that some scholars say, talk about the exact idea of this film. Aliens arriving on earth, finding different kinds of species evolving here… no intelligent ones though, aliens that for some reason decide to genetically modify the apes (that looked more like them than any other creature on earth) so that they become intelligent. It’s the Garden of Eden story told from a different perspective… a more scientific one.
    An looks a hell of a lot like the idea of Prometheus.

  • Mister Donnie

    The great scientific mind missed Theron’s comment that she wouldn’t have to travel a half a billion miles to get laid.This would put her in the midst of our own solar system while the nearest star is over four light years away (about 25 trillion miles) and God only knows where they were! As a science buff I find it offensive that they couldn’t afford a high school physics student to get such simple stuff right.

  • Pervy McDirty

    Screw you Tyson! You already took away Pluto,now you’re gonna crap on all the half-way decent science that doesn’t involve Mars or bord games too?

    • cary simmons

      i thought he tried to “save” Pluto?

  • Josh

    I dont know why Dr Tyson loves 1969 so much. Im sure he must have forgot he is black and that 1969 wasn’t a good time at all for him. Sys it right in the movie. Must be have that republican “better days” mentality.

  • Robin Öberg

    The black goo adapts to the surroundings, which obviously has alot of bacteria and plant life already in it. It’s rapid evolution, nothing more.