If you thought that the whole point of science fiction was to transport you into a world of the improbable, the impossible, and the utterly fantastical – think again. NASA has stepped into the debate about what makes good science fiction, and the answer is: good science.
The best science fiction takes us to the very edge of what is currently known and currently possible, it draws out the unforseen implications of this present knowledge, it stretches the boundaries and speculates about where we might be in a year or a millennium, but it doesn’t throw aside reason and create a world of nonsense or sheer fantasy. To put it another way, good science fiction is prophetic, it helps us see where we might be going – scientifically, technologically, even morally and politically. And it helps us see where we might not want to go.
How has NASA got involved? By joining with the Science & Entertainment exchange to compile a list of the best and worst science fiction movies of all time. Wenn.com writes:
NASA scientists have named John Cusack’s blockbuster 2012 as the most “absurd” sci-fi film of all time.
Experts at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Science and Entertainment Exchange have put together a list of the least plausible science fiction movies ever made, and the big budget 2009 picture came top.
The film, which depicted Earth besieged by natural disasters, featured ahead of two more ‘end-of-the-world’ movies – 2003’s The Core and 1998’s Armageddon.
Donald Yeomans, head of NASA’s Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission, says of 2012, “It’s absurd. The film-makers took advantage of public worries about the so-called end of the world as apparently predicted by the Mayans of Central America, whose calendar ends on December 21, 2012.
“The agency is getting so many questions from people terrified that the world is going to end in 2012 that we have had to put up a special website to challenge the myths. We have never had to do this before.”
Staff at the organization also compiled a list of the top 10 most realistic sci-fi films, with 1997’s Gattaca, starring Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman as space agency workers, winning the highest praise from the scientists. NASA experts also named dinosaur movie Jurassic Park and Jodie Foster’s Contact among the most realistic sci-fi films.
I’d agree with this. Part of the fascination with these three films is the idea that this could really happen, this could really be round the corner. Gattaca: a genetic underclass is created in the near future and denied certain rights and privileges. Jurassic Park: fossilised DNA is used to recreate the dinosaurs. Contact: we listen for signs of intelligent life beyond our solar system, and one day we finally hear something [but ignore the crazy mystical ending].
Here are the two lists.
The worst sci-fi movies of all time:
1. 2012 (2009
2. The Core (2003)
3. Armageddon (1998)
4. Volcano (1997)
5. Chain Reaction (1996)
6. The 6th Day (2000)
7. What the #$*! Do We (K)now!? (2004)
The most realistic sci-fi movies of all time:
1. Gattaca (1997)
2. Contact (1997)
3. Metropolis (1927)
4. The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)
5. Woman in the Moon (1929)
6. The Thing from Another World (1951)
7. Jurassic Park (1993)