Just after the first of the year, a story came out that NASA had held a private meeting at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to discuss the movies Hollywood has been releasing, asking filmmakers “to stick to more rational plots.” Additionally, the article — which was widely passed around and republished on lots of big news sites — reported that the people at the meeting came up with two lists of movies: one was the top seven worst science fiction movies ever and the other was the seven most realistic science-based movies. Comments about the story ranged from disagreeing with the lists to, more importantly, people wondering why NASA suddenly taken on the task of being movie critics. It turns out, they didn’t.
“This was a case of spectacularly bad reporting,” said Don Yeomans, a senior research scientist at JPL, in an article on the Planetary Society blog by Charleen Anderson. “We would never be so foolish as to compile a list of the worst science-based films.”
Yeomans was misquoted in the original article in The Australian Sunday Times, and the lists were attributed to NASA and the Science & Entertainment Exchange, but both organizations say no such lists were ever discussed.
There was a meeting between NASA and the film industry, but it was a way for NASA to showcase itself as a great resource for science in movies, “as well as a source of wild and strange ideas that just happen to be based in science,” said Anderson, who attended the meeting.
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But there were no discussions of lists of bad movies and good ones. So, if you got your undies in a bunch over the lists, you can now relax. Unless — like me — you worry about how false stories can get such incredible legs on the internet.
Read more in Anderson’s article, “Worldwide Game of “Telephone” Distorts NASA Meeting,” and another dressing down of the erroneous article by Dave Kellam at the website eightface.com