When it comes to the scientific accuracy of popular films and TV shows, one might think renowned astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson would be a stickler.
But in a recent interview with TODAY's Neal Carter, the host of National Geographic's “StarTalk" and director of New York's Hayden Planetarium explained, "I don't so much judge whether a movie gets the science right or wrong. I celebrate the fact that there's science in the movie at all."
However, Tyson — who once famously persuaded James Cameron to correct the sky's appearance in "Titanic" — gamely shared his expert opinion on various big- and small-screen favorites. Here are some of his observations.
"Gravity" finds its characters in hair-raising situations — but strangely, not literally.
"In the movie 'Gravity,' Sandra Bullock's character is in a zero-G environment, and they invest all this energy and cinematography in having things float," Tyson pointed out. "And her bangs are just hanging straight down over her forehead. The bangs knew where gravity was on that set."
Sheldon and his "Big Bang Theory" pals get an A-plus.
"The actors brilliantly portray the geekiness of the scientific world, of young scientists who have this bubbling curiosity to explore and discover," Tyson said. "And they have a full-time Ph.D. physicist on staff that writes the equations on the whiteboards in the back, that helps edit the script, that trains them how to say certain words."
Even if a zombie apocalypse is unlikely, the struggle to survive on "The Walking Dead" is real.
"We need to think of 'The Walking Dead' as an exploration of what would happen if a virus did exactly what these zombies do," Tyson said. "It's not simply a study of avoiding zombies; it's a study in the psychology of people who are surviving this. Where do you get your food? Where do you get your ammunition? How do you kill zombies and not run out of ammunition? If you use bullets, one day you're going to run out of bullets, you know why? Because the bullet factory got zombie-fied. And zombies don't work — they only want to eat your flesh. So, one by one, the services of our culture get taken out. And that's kind of what would happen in an incurable virus."
"Star Trek" found a loophole in the laws of physics.
"'Star Trek' puts out an effort to connect their storytelling of the future with the science we know today," Tyson said. "As a basic example, the warp drives. They knew because of Einstein's laws of relativity that you cannot move faster than light. So they had to come up with a way that didn't violate known laws of physics, but was still allowed. So, you develop a warp drive where space is warped, enabling you to cover those distances. They think about that. Other fantasy series, such as 'Star Wars,' there's no such investment."
For more with Tyson, tune in to the new season of "StarTalk," which premieres on Nat Geo Sept. 19. A companion book, "StarTalk: Everything you Ever Need to Know About Space Travel, Sci-Fi, the Human Race, the Universe, and Beyond," was just released.