The video below is from an audience Q&A session in which the delightful scientist was asked to elaborate on what he thought was the worst "bad science" movie ever made. While you'd expect an astrophysicist to hate a work rife with lunatic science, films like Armageddon, he shares, are easily dismissed because they make zero effort towards accuracy. However, a film that falsely claims to be scientifically accurate, like Titanic, really sticks in the man's caw, "There are movies out there where the director just doesn't care, and if they don't care, why should I care? I'm okay if they don't care. It's when there's a premise of accuracy and precision that they just mess up, that pisses me off."
From there Dr. Tyson joyously relates how he once marveled at the attention that went into recreating the RMS Titanic, and how he was flabbergasted that someone as driven to detail as James Cameron could not be bothered to accurately recreate what the stars were like on the night of April 14th, 1912, something Dr. Tyson explains could be accomplished by any kid with a computer. "There is only one sky she shoulda been looking at, and it was the wrong sky! Worse than that, it was not only the wrong sky, the left half of the sky was a mirror reflection of the right half of the sky! So not only was it wrong, it was lazy!"
But Tyson's story doesn't end with normal fanboy disappointment at yet another Hollywood blunder. Over the decade since Titanic's groundbreaking release, Tyson repeatedly crossed paths with James Cameron, and every single time they met, he could not help but pester the director over his astronomy no-no. And while I'd love to just tell Tyson's humorous struggle to break through to Cameron for him, there's no way I could do it justice.
The "bad science" movie talk begins around 24 minutes in, though Tyson's Titanic story doesn't come in until the 26 minute mark. So skip ahead or click here to have the wonder of the Internet do it for you.
I think my favorite part might just be Cameron's indifference to Tyson's second prodding for justification behind the mess up, "Well, last I checked Titanic worldwide had grossed $1.3billion. Imagine how much more it would have grossed if I had gotten the sky correct."
Now granted, I have no clue what the sky should have looked like on the night the Titanic sank, but the fact that a computer program that costs a few bucks can render with 100% accuracy exactly what it looked like tells me that a production with a budget over $200million has no excuses for getting it wrong. And though his slavishly researched film should have gotten it right the first time, I love that James Cameron took the good doctor's pleas to heart and eventually digitally altered the night sky at the end of Titanic to be scientifically accurate.
Ah, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson... world-renowned astrophysicist, friend to all of the Colbert Nation, champion of making science cool again, and meddling fanboy. Now if only we could get him to talk some sense into the rest of Hollywood.