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Movie Gravity Renews Debates about Hard Science Fiction

hard science fictionRelationship between science (or, rather, reality) and science fiction has always been turbulent.

Some people (what is worth noting, not necessarily scientists) say that fiction should adhere to the scientific facts as closely and as faithfully as possible. Others think it to be unnecessary – after all, a science fiction book isn’t the same as a physics textbook, and has completely different purposes. If the writer needs something to be different from reality or simply cannot be bothered to investigate all the minute details before starting to write – why is he wrong? If readers feel pleasure reading him, what’s the problem?

Movie Gravity was announced in the news as a new take on hard science fiction in cinematic industry. And it immediately showed that no matter how hard editors and directors strive to achieve this “hardness”, there will always be somebody who is able to find fault with their work.

In this case, it was astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, who, after praising the film for both its plot and adherence to scientific accuracy, still found some mistakes in its depiction of space. For example, Hubble telescope and a Chinese space station can never be visible from the same spot, debris and satellites orbit the Earth in the wrong direction, characters’ hair behave unrealistically in zero gravity and so on. Little mistakes which have no influence on the plot, but still mistakes.

Some do it better, some do it worse. And while in literature there is a very strong subgenre of hard science fiction, striving to keep as close to reality as possible, in movies it is not so widespread. The reason is simple – directors often think that realistic depiction of science fiction will be uninteresting for the viewers.

Another reason is the fact that some science fiction clichés have already took such firm roots in people’s imagination that it is virtually impossible to fight them. For example, sound and fire in space – because space is vacuum, there cannot be sound and there is no oxygen to burn. However, if you try to show it in a movie, you first have to explain why it is so, and what you most likely get is accusations of trying to save on special effects.

And it is quite likely that there is no need to eliminate these myths. If people like things the way they are, why try to change their picture of the world?

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