This is my astrnomy paper.. Read it, I think it is very interesting.. hahahha... Well, at least my teacher thinks it is a good paper.
Astronomy and the Movie: Zathura
In today’s massive growing world of entertainment, more and more astronomical elements are being used as a way to entertain the viewers. Movies and television shows are made based on the ideas of space, astronomical catastrophe like a huge asteroid smashing into the face of the earth and killing millions (i.e. the movie Deep Impact), intergalactic wars among humans or between humans and other intelligent life forms (i.e. the famous trilogy, Star Wars), and many more. I really love watching movies but I think movies should be made entertaining as well as educational. There is no reason why science fiction cannot be made entertaining as well as informative about the things we do not experience and see in our everyday lives especially astronomy. However, movie producers only have one thing in mind and that is to make their movies as entertaining as possible to earn lots of money. To reach this goal, they are willing to bend the truth about science in every ways possible. One of the movie that I watched recently that fits the above criteria is Zathura: A Space Adventure.
Zathura is a movie about two boys, Danny and Walter, who went into a space adventure. It all started when the younger brother, Danny, found a space-adventure board game called Zathura in the basement of their new house. It turned out that the board game is magical and whenever a turn is taken by pressing a button, the token which is a spaceship, moves on the squares of the board and a card will pop out. Whatever it is on the card will happen in reality. So when the younger brother took the first turn, the first card popped up and it said ‘Meteor Shower, Take Evasive Action’. As they were reading it, a small meteor of a size of a ping pong ball went through the ceiling of the living room and the card and into the floor. Then the whole house started shaking and there was a meteor shower so the kids had to take cover inside the fireplace. The meteor shower destroyed the whole living room including the ceiling but miraculously the rest of the house was unharmed. This is a misrepresentation of meteor shower here. Meteor shower, also known as meteor storm or meteor outburst ‘is a celestial event where a group of meteors are observed to radiate from one point in the sky’(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteor_shower). When a comet goes around the sun, it leaves a stream of debris particles along the orbit of the comet. When the earth atmosphere comes close to these stream of particles, their friction with the air causes them to burn and vaporize ‘leaving a streak of light that very quickly disappears’. That is what meteor shower really is. Meteor shower almost never hit the earth because of their small sizes; they disintegrate due to friction almost immediately after coming in contact with the atmosphere. Those which did hit the earth are no longer called meteor showers but are called meteorites. The common misunderstanding of meteor shower is due to the interpretation of its name literally: meteors from space showering down the sky, hitting the earth and cause chaos. That is exactly how this movie misrepresents meteor shower, meteors falling down and destroyed the whole living room.
Going back to the movie, after the meteor shower incident, Danny opened the door of the house and found out that they were in outer space. Their house with a little piece of land beneath it, was actually traveling along the outer edge of the rings of Saturn. One of the scene shows a boulder, almost the size of their house, flew past by their house. This is actually not true as the rings of Saturn are actually ‘composed of particles that are mostly ice crystals’ (http://csep10.phys.utk.edu/astr161/lect/saturn/rings.html). However, in the movie, they showed that the rings of Saturn are consist of chunks of rocks of all sizes. In that scene, a moon is also noticeable above the rings. This moon must be one of the two ‘shepherd moons’ that keep the outer ring in place by their gravitational force. When the elder brother, Walter, stepped outside the porch, he spat into space and his saliva float towards Saturn. Nevertheless, nothing within the house’s boundaries was floating in the air or flying away to space. Everything was intact to the house as though there was a gravity on the house. I would assume the same gravity also kept the air intact to the house because they were breathing fine. There are many things that are not true here. First of all, there is no air in space. That is why astronauts need air supply when they go to space. A thing as light as a house does not have enough gravity to retain its own atmosphere. Even the gravity of our moon which is so much heavier than the house is not strong enough to retain an atmosphere. What is gravity? Newton’s law of universal gravitation states that ‘every particles in the Universe attracts every other particle with a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them’(Physics for Scientist and Engineers, pg 390). Since Saturn’s gravity is much stronger than the house’s gravity, the house will actually fall towards Saturn. But as the movie showed that the house is orbiting around Saturn along the edge of the ring of Saturn, this mean that the house is not falling directly towards Saturn but around it. The force of gravity acts as a centripetal force that caused the house to orbit around Saturn. Therefore, if the house is falling around Saturn, everything in the house will feel weightless as how the people in the elevator will feel weightless when the cable snapped and they are free falling. So by law of nature, everything in the house should be floating.
Then, Danny and Walter went back to the board game because they reckon that if they want to go back to earth, they must win the game. When Walter took his turn, the card popped out and say ‘Your Robot Is Defective’. Suddenly a robot appears out of nowhere and started attacking them. They ran around the house hiding and dodging from being killed by the robot. In the midst of all these excitement, Danny took his turn in hope that something on the card will stop the killer robot. The card popped out, and everything in the house began to move and fall to one side of the house. And then the scene shows that the house was moving very near a star-like planet and some parts of the house was torn away and flew towards the planet. Apparently, what was on the card was ‘You Pass Too Close To Tsouris-3, Enter Gravity Field. ‘. On a side note, if something is not moving fast enough past a planet, it will be pulled towards the planet by gravity. The boys nearly fell out of the house into space but they held onto something. However, the robot fell into the basement and malfunctioned. Walter took his turn and he was promoted to a fleet admiral and his spaceship token moved 4 spaces ahead. When Danny took his turn, the card read ‘You are visited by Zorgons’. Soon enough, there was a spaceship and it started shooting at the house with its cannons. Again, hoping that it will help, Walter took his turn and he got a ‘Reprogram’ card. He tried to reprogram the spaceship but to no avail, the shooting did not stop. Then Danny took his turn again, and the card said ‘Rescue Stranded Astronaut’. When they look outside the window, an astronaut from space flew towards the house and slammed onto the window. They were scared and did not open the window but the astronaut let himself in through the front door. As it turned out, the astronaut was a good guy. He noticed the Zorgon’s spaceship problem so he told them to turn off all the lights, heater and put out the fire in the house because the Zorgons are outer space creatures who feed on fire. So they did, and the Zorgons went away.
A few more spaces left and they will win the game. And the astronaut was there to help them. Walter then took his turn and a golden card popped out and said ‘Shooting Star, Make a wish as it passes’. Minutes later, a boulder that was really bright like a fireball except that its fire was blueish white, slowly flew passed their house. It was the shooting star. As it passed, Walter closed his eyes and made his wish. Instead of wishing to go home or game over, he wised for a football signed by a famous player. The shooting star has been and still is misrepresented by the media. The name itself has fooled millions of kids, even adults. I remember when I was young, I thought that shooting stars are stars that fly by the earth and from what I saw on television, people always make a wish when they see a shooting star. A shooting star is actually a luminous path created by ‘large sand to boulder-sized particle’ of debris from outer space that enters the earth’s atmosphere and burns out very quickly because of the friction with the air.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteoroid) It is not a fiery ball that travels through space like what is pictured in this movie Zathura. In addition, from what I said earlier, space does not have air, so there is no friction between the boulder and air to ignite it and there is no oxygen to sustain the burning. What is depicted by this movie is totally for entertainment only and contains no educational purposes at all but rather information that isn’t true.
Skipping ahead a little of the movie, Danny took the last turn and his token reached the finish line. There were a little sparkles that came out of the board and then a card popped out and said ‘Game Over, Thank you for playing’. Nothing else happened and just when they thought that was it, the wall of the house was tore away and was sucked into a black hole. The black hole has a funny shape and fire around it as thought it was burning. The black hole is actually a very complicated theory. A black hole is said to occur when a star that is three times greater than the mass of the sun will collapse forever under its own gravity because nothing can stop the core from doing that.(Voyages to Stars and Galaxies, pg 344). The gravity of a black hole is so strong that the escape velocity is greater than the speed of light. The gravity also ‘curved spacetime’ that the collapsing star ‘has become trapped in its own pocket of spacetime from which there is no escape’(pg 346). Everything inside the black hole that tries to escape will end up going in a circular path and therefore not even light can escape from the black hole. Thus there is no light emitted by this collapsing star and therefore is invisible to the eyes which is why it is called black hole. It is also assumed that the black hole will take a spherical shape. The real theoretical black hole is so much different from the black hole depicted by the movie which has a funny shape and seems to be burning. The house was slowly torn apart and sucked into the black hole. Then Walter was sucked into it and when Danny was nearly sucked into it as well, he closed his eyes and when he opened it, everything was back to normal, to the time before the first turn was taken on the board game. That was the end of the movie.
In summary, Zathura is a really bad movie that projects a lot of bad astronomical information. I find the movie not entertaining at all and has very poor educational values for those who has little knowledge about astronomy.
Interesting? Told you so... LOL
Labels: Astronomy Paper