Believe it or not, Matthew McConaughey’s thesis (from behind a bookshelf inside a black hole) that love is the most powerful force in the universe isn’t the most scientifically accurate thing Hollywood has offered us lately. It should come as no surprise that movies take a lot of liberties with astrophysics and what is possible or impossible in the realm of outer space. Like, sending up a crew of men less qualified than Donald Trump (too soon?) to blow up an asteroid? That’s probably not in NASA’s Plans A through “we ran out of letters” of how to stop a meteor on a collision course with Earth.
Even in more fantastical movies like the Star Wars or Star Trek films, you just get very inadequate image in your head of how space works. Take asteroid belts, for example. It’s a belt! Made of asteroids! Asteroids as far as the eye can see! You can’t safely pilot your ship through them because there are just so many damn asteroids! I’ve had it with these motherf**king asteroids on this motherf**king belt!
We’re sorry to say that’s now how the asteroid belt works at all. The average distance between bodies in the asteroid belt is 600,000 miles, which is more than double the distance between the Earth and the Moon. So traveling through the asteroid belt is less dodging asteroids like Han Solo and more, “we passed through the asteroid belt?”
To dispel some more myths about how space works, Jack O’Brien and Alex Schmidt are joined by Dr. Farah Alibay, a real life scientist at JPL who gets to play with styrofoam models of planets all day and is currently working on a mission that’s trying to scoop a 2o-ton boulder off an asteroid, which is as cool as it sounds.
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Farah Alibay Bio Podcast: How NASA Was Born Out of Magic Loving, Orgy Having Nerds Video: To Scale – The Solar System GIF: Jupiter’s Surface in Motion Video: Pigeons in Space Video: Spiders in Space Video: Russian Meteor Reaction Image Gallery: Cupola Module on the ISS Article: The Drake Equation Article: Myths Everyone Believes About Space (Thanks To Movies) Article: Things About Space You’re Picturing Almost Exactly Wrong Article: Reasons Space Travel Will Always Suck Article: Reasons Life in Space Sucks (That Sci-Fi Doesn’t Show You) Article: The Most Mind-Blowing Things Ever Discovered in Space Article: Real Planets Way Weirder Than Anything in Science Fiction Article: Mind-Blowing Things Found in Our Own Solar System