Neil deGrasse Tyson, the celebrity astrophysicist, has caused a minor kerfuffle by issuing a series of tweets that diss the popular space movie “Gravity” according to an October 6, 2013 story in the Business Insider. He was engaging in one of the more enjoyable aspects of watching a movie, which is nitpicking some of the details.
“Mysteries of #Gravity: Why Bullock, a medical Doctor, is servicing the Hubble Space Telescope.
“Mysteries of #Gravity: When Clooney releases Bullock's tether, he drifts away. In zero-G a single tug brings them together.
“Mysteries of #Gravity: Why Bullock's hair, in otherwise convincing zero-G scenes, did not float freely on her head.
“Mysteries of #Gravity Astronaut Clooney informs medical doctor Bullock what happens medically during oxygen depravation.
“Mysteries of #Gravity: Nearly all satellites orbit Earth west to east yet all satellite debris portrayed orbited east to west.
“Mysteries of #Gravity: Satellite communications were disrupted at 230 mi up, but communications satellites orbit 100x higher.
“Mysteries of #Gravity: Why we enjoy a SciFi film set in make-believe space more than we enjoy actual people set in real space.”
Tyson’s nitpicking tweets roused the wrath of Keith Cowing, a space blogger, who responded thus, correcting his questioning about how a medical doctors wound up servicing the Hubble:
“Clearly Dr. Tyson is unaware of the cross training and multiple skills possessed by NASA astronauts. Astronaut Scott Parazynski did a solar array repair on STS-120. He's an MD. John Grunsfeld did a number of arduous Hubble EVAs involving hardware repairs - no astronomy. He's an astronomer. Sally Ride (a physicist) was a robotic arm expert as was elementary school teacher Barbara Morgan. Rick Linnehan is a veterinarian and did a Hubble repair EVA (with Grunsfled the astronomer). With one exception, every human who has walked on the Moon doing geology was not a geologist. And so on. There are endless examples of people in the astronaut office trained in one area becoming experts in others. That's why they were selected in the first place. But Tyson did not bother to do even superficial research before Tweeting. So much for accuracy.”
Tyson has since tweeted that contrary to the impression left by his previous tweets that he rather enjoyed “Gravity.”