The sci-fi thriller “Gravity” proved to be one of 2013’s biggest box office hits. The film’s story of two astronauts stranded in space piqued viewers’ interest, but was the science behind it accurate?
Darren Williams, professor of physics and astronomy at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, will discuss the popular myths surrounding gravity in “What is Gravity?”, the next Open House Night in Astronomy lecture at the college.
Williams’ presentation will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 6, in room 180 of the college’s Jack Burke Research and Economic Development Center, 5101 Jordan Road. It is free and open to the public. Astronomical observing from the college’s Mehalso Observatory will follow, weather permitting.
According to Williams, films like “Gravity,” “Star Wars,” and “Apollo 13” have been inconsistent in their portrayal of gravity and the physics of space travel, but the problem actually goes beyond that.
“Isaac Newton didn’t understand gravity either,” says Williams. “He was the first to offer a mathematical explanation for how it worked and how it related to motion on Earth, but it is safe to say that Newton would be flabbergasted at our inability to explain – more than three centuries after he did – how to put ourselves into orbit.”
Open House Nights in Astronomy are an outreach program of the School of Science at Penn State Behrend. These nontechnical presentations are intended for ages 8 and up; for additional information, contact the school at 814-898-6105.