Astrophysicist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson is known for being an incredibly inspiring orator who extols the virtues of science and exploration, while also being a huge buzzkill who tears apart our favorite science fiction films by explaining why they aren't possible. Neil deGrasse Tyson can find fault with even less fantastical sci-fi films like Gravity that appear realistic to the layman. So what does he have to say about the goofy 1997 sci-fi comedy Men in Black? Well, speaking at the Cosmos: Possible Worlds Comic-Con panel attended by CinemaBlend's own Jessica Rawden, Neil deGrasse Tyson took issue with the film's Macguffin. He explained why the galaxy on Orion's belt is not a possible world, saying:
It was imagined 100 years ago or so as we started probing into the atom and we discovered, 'Oh my gosh, there's a nucleus and particles orbiting it, like a solar system.' And is it that way all the way down and could it be that way all the way up. And what we discovered is that as you go into the small, the laws of physics manifest differently and effect matter differently than they do in the large. And this is the difference between general relativity -- Einstein's theory of gravity -- and quantum physics. They manifest differently on those two different scales. So, it's not just a scaling relation all the way down. And inside the atom---we've been inside the atom---we've been inside the proton---we've been inside the neutron. There are quarks there. We've found fundamental particles. It's not like there's a solar system inside the quark. So, no there is no Galaxy on the belt of Orion.
Neil deGrasse Tyson touched on all kinds of stuff here, but basically, his reasoning that a cat can't have a galaxy the size of a marble on his collar is because scientists have went super small before, discovering the particles that make up the universe, and alas, there are no super small galaxies within them. Also at that super small scale, the laws of physics operate differently, meaning that a galaxy as we understand them would not form in the same way at that scale. In some ways, the nucleus and the particles orbiting it look like what we see on the macro level of solar systems and galaxies. So it perhaps wasn't entirely off base to consider a small galaxy a possibility at one point, but we have long since moved beyond that as we've gained better understanding.
You have to appreciate that in any debunking of movie science, Neil deGrasse Tyson is sure to provide a science lesson explaining the history of our scientific knowledge and exactly why something doesn't make sense. And even in explaining why something fantastical in a movie couldn't exist, Neil deGrasse Tyson still manages to fascinate us with his depictions of the wonders of real science.
Scientifically accurate or not, I always thought Orion's Belt was one of the cooler parts in Men in Black. It provides a MacGuffin to hunt, a great 'aha' moment and gives the cat more screen time. All in all a win win, I'd say. It's kind of funny too that in a silly movie with all kinds of crazy aliens and such, this is the one thing that sets off his astrophysicist believability alarm. Speaking of aliens, Neil deGrasse Tyson's new season of Cosmos, titled, Cosmos: Possible Worlds will, among other things, explore topics like extrasolar planets, astrobiology and paradoxical realities. Cosmos: Possible Worlds arrives on Fox sometime in 2019.
Also arriving in 2019 is what I'm assuming will be more scientific inaccuracy in the Men in Black spinoff. The spinoff will star MCU vets Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson among the new faces, while also including at least one returning one. The Men in Black spinoff hits theaters on May 14, 2019. For movies hitting theaters a little bit sooner and probably riddled with scientific errors, check out our 2018 release schedule.