Science vs Cinema: THE MARTIAN


I’m Andy Howell. I’m in astrophysics
professor but I’m also a huge film geek. So many of my students get huge misconceptions about science from movies.
I want to see a show that celebrates movies that the science right and correct the
misconceptions of movies that get the science wrong. Movies you’re about to get schooled! This is Science Vs. Cinema. This episode: The Martian it doesn’t cooperate astronaut Mark
wanna get the SmackDown put on him by giant dust storm on mars its crew thinks
he’s dead and asked to abandon it is left stranded with no way of
communicating with nasa and only enough food for a few months did the movie get
the science right we’re going to the world premiere at the Toronto
International Film Festival ask the filmmakers how they approach the sci-fi
most his fantasy owners would attract this is the total reality of the
situation changes to the screenplay for a little over the bus I talked to no one ok with that to talk to the real experts
at nasa to see what they thought he was really working hard to get the science
right now not everything is right in the thick a place that is pretty benign to
rain but they actually happened choose or anything it’s pretty rocky you do get
dust storms on mars but nothing quite that dramatic along the way I’ll be
grading the film on everything except this thing is inflating my pants with
see what happens when we introduce the martian wind its ok to cheat a little
you need to tell a better story but first let’s take a closer look at the
film’s real villain bars or century study Mars the only planet where life
may exist now the screen creates for you the fascinating frightening spectacle of
the first flight to Mars we have been expecting a little more
than a hundred years ago even top scientists sincerely believe that there
were aliens from the planet next door and in movies it was a crazy funky place bombardment of Mars by attacking
humanoid to a marsh speak to me right now more than ever before and now
we can take that back to the shit out of the martian started as a science fiction
book by Andy we’re facing the candidates all my life I love the book for its
scientific detail but would any of that be preserved in the movie I asked that
question to screenwriter Drew Goddard I think the biggest decision we made early
was not gonna done this movie down I said that the studio if we don’t get
down I don’t have a movie drew has great intentions but did the movie really get
the science right now we’re celebrating your mars bar travel is no joke it’s so
far away it takes radio signals traveling at the speed of light 2004 and point four minutes to get there
from here so communication is more like a text message with a busy friend that a
phone call incoming class over this but it’s a major plot point in the martian
are you feeling the third two minute round-trip communications time is one
exactly when roundtable of snap you have pretty space travel is much lower the
spaceship in the martian the Hermes uses ion engines we’ve never actually used
those in human spaceflight but nasa’s unmanned mission dawn use them to visit
the asteroid Ceres to really efficient letting you minimize fuel and allow you
to constantly accelerate so that’s exactly what you need for a mars even still it might take something like
five hundred days for a round-trip seriously how do we get there well basically point of bird in that
direction you eight hundred and fifty days and 36 million miles later we
should be at mars that loan in weightlessness wreaks havoc on your body
so you want them to have artificial gravity in the demo space at the University of
California Santa Barbara on the way to mars the astronauts live in this giant
wheel that’s giving them artificial gravity how does that work well we can
use this trick that every kid knows the truth water in a bucket if we turn this
bucket over it would fall out because the gravity but if you spin it around we
can generate acceleration that can counteract gravity see if it works right
look at that the acceleration of me swinging it around is actually keeping
the water in place counteracting breath by spinning faster
I get more gravity longer get more gravity so the martian is realistic to
create artificial gravity in a giant wheel did they get it exactly right when
anywhere saw the trailer he did some calculations so when the trailer first
came out I did a bunch of trees frames federated gets kate mara so that I can
calculate the previous I estimate the radius of the wheel is about 8 cake
mauro’s 442 figured out they would actually have a point 2 G’s but it
doesn’t matter the point is if they have gravity which is the main problem now
let’s talk about sticking the landing when you want to land on Mars this is
the guy this is NASA’s guy for getting a spacecraft safely down to the surface to
land on mars you have to go through the atmosphere very very quickly because the
vehicles flying in from deep space as it comes in it’s going very very fast the
air is very very thin there’s enough pressure and heat from Tennessee didn’t
have a protective heat shield your space craft wouldn’t melt it’s coming in so
fast that a normal parachute would rip to shreds see you need to design a very
special lightweight but very strong parachuting handle these the forces of
opening in those high speeds but that isn’t enough in fact the Curiosity rover
which landed with a parachute and then rockets and then a sky crane and as for
the landing site in the martian they actually landed a real place as a dolly
open Asia said a good spot we talked to planetary geologist Katie step Morgan to
find out you want to pick a place that is pretty benign to rain but they
actually happened to choose landing site that’s pretty rocky it’s got some small
mountain like creatures but as a geologist don’t you want to go to the
cool rock so of course but you know that’s always the constant interplay
between the scientists who want to go to the often the most dangerous looking
places and the engineers who want to make sure that everybody stay safe and
to do a really good job of capturing the current state of the art technology and
that’s what I think I didn’t have the same principle be all in all the mission
to and from mars in the martian is extraordinarily accurate next topic the dust storm in diameter
carrying 24 points 41 degrees that’s shocking right towards US based on
current escalation as to enforce of 8,600 the movie opens with a violent
storm that endangers the whole crew that plausible there are dust storms on mars
and sometimes they can engulf almost the whole planet but that’s a little bit
deceptive the atmosphere of Mars is only about 1% as dense as Earth’s atmosphere
to simulate that got some court dust this is going to represent a really fine
grains and on mars and I’ve also got some salt that’s gonna represent the
bigger thicker lamar’s ok and we’re going to mix up our martian sand here ok
we’ll see what happens when we introduce the martian wind now are Martian dust
into our martian wind the really fine grain dust got along
really far assault just fell straight down the thin
Martian atmosphere can blow around really find us but it can’t really blow
around people the only thing that he had to come up
with that was a little bit on the edge was this very big wind storm that
started the movie I mean if you delivered concessions from the beginning
couldn’t really happened doesn’t have enough it’s it’s so thin it wouldn’t
actually damage anything would have to be going ten times faster than Earth’s
atmosphere to get the same physical force so there is a 50 mile an hour wind
would have to be 500 miles an hour on mars it’s a man versus nature story I
want to be sure to get the first time as a college professor I can’t condone
cheating unless the answer you come up with is better than the right answer onto the weighty subject of gravity is only 38 percent of Earth’s gravity to
see what that would look like I got a gravity treadmill alright so this thing is inflating my
pants have to lift off the treadmill basically a really jump up in the air
with every step basically you can jump higher even look different why didn’t they try to show that in the
martian I asked Ridley Scott did you talk about trying to portray more mars’
gravity i mean as refuses is very heavy so the mathematics roughly it’s kind of
more or less just under normal movement that’s where we made a decision so we’re
not in a place where we can do i mean we can do weightless walking around without
a suit and it still looks like he’s on earth so the real answer is it was just
too hard to shoot but imagine how much more immersive the film would have been
with that little too much space suits are those slim fit suits realistic not
really even on mars you need a puppy pressurized suit in a backpack with
breathable oxygen in climate control met a man should have been a little lighter
on his feet even in a suit the subject of gravity really wish I would’ve gone
that extra mile when you gonna do with the rest of the
science of course the different generations of Mars rovers over and we’ve got the Spirit and
Opportunity class rover and then the big one that doesn’t even fit in here the
curiosity to meet the people exploring Mars rover on the block right now is
curiosity the rover has 10 instruments 17 cameras has a laser and has a true
it’s an amazing robot so these are the tools we use to drive curiosity on the
surface of mars we would love to be able to drive the rover like anybody would
driver of a controlled car but the time delay between Earth and Mars can be
anywhere between a few minutes to 20 minutes we have to do is plan out a
whole days worth of activities and we can plant them out singly them here so
we can make sure that whatever commands we send the rover safe when the river
gets those commands it execute someone drives on the surface of mars for the
sake of video game it’s it’s kinda like a video game to really boring video game
until you think about what it is you’re actually doing that it’s amazing
controlling a robot on exactly so yeah we have a pair of stereo cameras on the
massive the rover with those stereo images you can actually see mars in 3d
so there’s some 3d view of mars to be able to evaluate where go with these Rovers we can stick our
heads inside and look out the windows ISO the rover we can use the robotic arm
as if it was a very own arms that rover are really extension he’s one of my
favorite parts about this rumors that anybody to seize the right size so the
pictures that we take to put on the web as soon as they come back down der so
anybody anywhere in the world can be one of the first people to see a new place
on Mars Mars for all of us feels like it’s not a foreign place it feels like
it’s reading right next door and when you look at the pictures that come back
you look at the bright light of us sunny summer day on mars you really feel like
you are there and it’s just right over there are a lot of people don’t know is
that nasa is developing human Rover for markers that looks a lot like to win the
martian is a pressurized cabin so astronauts don’t need a spacesuit and
has six sets of independent wheels these even let it go up forty degree incline
on the subject of space cars the martian his inspection how it was great that’s
one of the reasons I really enjoyed it because it was believable it’s something
that could actually happen mars egos and cobbles apart pieces of
the old rover’s we know that those Rovers are really there could maybe do
something useful with them so it was so fun to see his ingenuity and what’s
there branded on mars with no way of
communicating with earth and without enough food or water to survive mark
what he has to get creative the book is all kinds of cool
calculations and chemistry the movie doesn’t go into nearly as much detail
but it does preserve the end results of what’s in the book of the same on
anything I doubt I trust that if I love it I’m gonna protect and with this book
I loved it so much she was old are predicting the sole look at this movie
first 20 minutes as a man by himself farming in his own still cannot believe
that they heard that away let’s put that up to you grow potatoes in space dirt
mars used to be a much warmer and wetter place that had all the ingredients that
would have been necessary for discovery was discovering out a habitable
environment on the surface of mars sometime in the past we think there
might have been awake they’re awake with pretty neutral happy chemistry in which
life could have existed if life had been there her standing at mars is changing by the
day today we’re going to announce that under certain circumstances liquid water
on Mars even with the recent announcement of flowing water I’m not
sure if you could still grow plants and the martian soil but I love the fact
that our quad is a botanist if anybody could do it he could do you buy and he was a big part of the greatest
body on this planet that was what was really attractive about the character I
have to listen to anymore got off he kept his sense of humor in
this incredible logical kind of practical solve one problem at a time
type of thinking and it’s what these guys can actually do it amazing I’m
sitting next to mark what he is doing exactly what a good engineer or
astronaut we do take the most important problem solved at first then saw each
other one in turn on the topic of space MacGyver during the martian doesn’t just
past the best green since apollo thirteen houston we have a problem now
the subject that’s the biggest pet peeve of mine in any movie about space alien
poking scooby-doo characters and Prometheus oil drillers and I’m again inexperienced and suicidal medical
doctor and gravity or even the randomly homicidal Matt Damon himself in
interstellar not about my life always tries to inject artificial drama by
making their astronauts both crazy and stupid there is a moment they’re cool under fire it teamwork psychiatric evaluation and choose teams
whose personalities mesh the martian gotta write the crew here works together
to joke around and they care for each other and they don’t have stupid fights
for no reason Ridley Scott that the scoop street from
this just called him up and they said everybody takes Ridley’s call you have
to look at the interactions between headquarters in The Associated senators JPL is running the robotic missions and
Johnson in the crew I live that every day all that communication causes
conflict because it raises different opinions different approaches and
somebody’s gotta be in charge and somebody’s gotta say we’re gonna do it
this way and you see that in the movie you are ready I’m the director of nasa
what would you do if you were daddy and you had to make the decision between
leaving Matt Damon there or sending people back and field everybody sees focused on different
priorities hashed out and come to the right decision in the ends I also loved
that they didn’t portray nasa a stereotypical nerds did you go on a tour
GPS I did it found its way it was just that threadbare feeling about life it’s not
just that it’s portrayed in these things we had eighty days before scientists
regular people their men and women and they come from all different cultural
backgrounds one thing I’ve seen since starting on mars is that the fraction of
women is striking you see a lot of women scientists a lot of women in operations
a lot of women in leadership roles and I personally found that very inspiring to
see you don’t think that’s your and this is exceeding achieving the goals you set up your cat
scans base write that down ok I wonder if things look a little too
hollywood hermes is much bigger and much cooler looking in the film that I
imagine it but the rule of us has to be cool the astronauts and NASA employees all
look like movie stars and the set all of what they were made by designers instead
of Engineers that’s a forgivable sin and abandoning the tired old cliches and in
taking the effort to portray nasa astronauts correctly it’s a small step
for this movie but it’s a giant leap for mankind all right let’s take a look at the final
report card the martian bailed on its portrayal of martian gravity cheated on the dust storm but it gets
high marks for the betrayal of space travel realistic Rovers have scientifically
accurate portrayal of NASA and the afternoon overall is a huge win for
science science fiction is extremely important in our culture and some
teachers see something he knew that this one this one is pretty good student but
actually it was really cool story for and I thought you know I want to do
that I want to see that just about every scientist I know got into their career
because of science fiction Blade Runner absolutely 2001 a Space Odyssey
unbelievable the big daddy of science fiction reduced but I watch 17 2001 it
was a threshold of nowhere to a science fiction movie about a new release got a
job favorite action movie dr. Strangelove
come on that impacted me personally the most would-be space training ground favorite science fiction movie is
actually only after Mars rover so he’s hard not to love because you look at him
and he seems very familiar instruction really projects vision of the future something that we aspire to whatever
really enjoyed about the book and the movie is how close to reality it can be
its just around the corner for its well it’s funny you know i jus got her two
adopted the screenplay when i SAT and talked with him it was the first thing
he said he said this is why I want this to be a love letter to science that’s
what this movie is and I think that he’s part to that because he has that same so
those who love for science I don’t think anybody has ever made science and math
look sexier and more interesting and more thrilling let someone who really do and we had a
long conversation about that and how that’s a really wonderful thing to put
out into the world right now and I don’t have any lofty expectations but I do
hope that some kid see it and he got on the signs and enjoy it and maybe it’s
one thing many other things in their life that
might push him in that direction you know I really think that that indeed
will happen you know we’re talking about the mars generation you know around when
we landed on the moon lunar generation that was pretty spectacular but when we
landed curiosity on Mars we had the world’s attention and that’s the mars
generation that’s the inspiration that will propel our economy forward by
bringing them to scientists and engineers and move in the book is a
fabulous opportunity for us to celebrate that the first human to set foot on mars
might just be a kid in a movie theater today was inspired to study science and
become an astronaut all because of the martian

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