Seed has asked all the sciencebloggers to respond to the following question:
What movie do you think does something admirable (though not necessarily accurate) regarding science? Bonus points for answering whether the chosen movie is any good generally….
I talked with Greta about this last night, and we each used similar logic for our choices. Greta’s pick was Jurassic Park, which of course generally has appalling science, but in one scene demonstrates an incredibly important scientific lesson. The scientists at the Jurassic Park Institute “knew” it was impossible for their dinosaurs to reproduce in the wild because they were all males. When the dinosaurs reproduced nonetheless, it showed that scientists can’t really “know” anything — they can only attempt to explain the phenomena they observe.
My pick is Dark Star, the satirical sci-fi movie from the ’70s. The basic plot involves a spaceship flying from star to star destroying “unstable” stars so that unsuspecting humans don’t colonize them. But most of the time, the astronauts are just incredibly bored, since interstellar travel takes a long time. I like this notion that interstellar travel isn’t just a matter of switching into “hyperdrive” and arriving at Alderaan (or what used to be Alderaan) five seconds later, so Dark Star gets my vote. Of course, even Dark Star’s version of interstellar travel is wrong. The only way we might ever be able to “colonize” another star system is if we developed a ship that could sustain many generations of humans, who took hundreds of years to reach their destination.
Are these good movies? Sure. Jurassic Park is a great action movie, where the excitement never stops, and Dark Star is a hilarious (if sometimes a bit boring) sendup of pre-1974 science fiction.