May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

NASA Names Most Realistic and Unrealistic Sci-Fi Films of All Time

Posted: Thursday, January 6th, 2011

by Alison Nastasi (Subscribe to Alison Nastasi’s posts)
Jan 3rd 2011, from Cinematical on Moviefone

Working through the year-end best/worst movie lists can be a feat of Olympic proportions, but there’s one list which is so damn cool you’ll definitely want to give it a whirl. NASA has compiled a list of the “least plausible science fiction movies ever made,” and they ranked the disastrous (in more ways than one) ‘2012’ as the most “absurd” sci-fi flick of all time.

You don’t have to be a science nerd to see why Roland Emmerich’s end of the world-meets Mayan calendar-meets everything explodes movie is worthy of inclusion, but Donald Yeomans—head of NASA’s Near-Earth Asteroid Rendezvous mission—explains: “The film makers took advantage of public worries about the so-called end of the world as apparently predicted by the Mayans of Central America, whose calendar ends on December 21, 2012.” Yeomans continued, explaining that the paranoia surrounding the movie’s concept has overwhelmed his organization. “The agency is getting so many questions from people terrified that the world is going to end in 2012 that we have had to put up a special website to challenge the myths. We have never had to do this before,” he said.

If you need more proof that these astro-badasses have impeccable taste, perhaps their “worst of” vote for box office bomb, ‘The Core,’ or the lava-crazy ‘Volcano’ will convince you. Michael Bay’s ‘Armageddon’ also made the blacklist — which may cause flux amongst some fans who dig its grand visuals and effects — but as far as being scientifically accurate, it doesn’t make the grade. It isn’t all doom and gloom though, as the organizations did praise several films for their realism. ‘Gattaca,’ the 1997 movie about liberal eugenics, topped the “best of” list, alongside ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Contact.’

Now that the scientists have spoken, it’s time for the movie herd to weigh in. In your opinion, which side of the coin do sci-fi classics like ‘Soylent Green’ or ‘2001’ fall on? Where does a movie like ‘Blade Runner’ hit or miss the science textbook? Leave us your most ludicrous or science-savvy votes in the comments section.

Link to NASA article about 2012 (courtesy of Robert Victor).

Worst Sci-Fi Movies

1. 2012 (2009)

2. The Core (2003)

3. Armageddon (1998)

4. Volcano (1997)

5. Chain Reaction (1996)

6. The 6th Day (2000)

7. What the #$*! Do We Know? (2004)

Most Realistic Films

1. Gattaca (1997)

2. Contact (1997)

3. Metropolis (1927)

4. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

5. Woman in the Moon (1929)

6. The Thing from Another World (1951)

7. Jurassic Park (1993)

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

4 Responses

  1. My primary surprise is that What the #$*! Do We Know? did not rate a higher position. We all expect fiction to have errors of science. However, the number seven worst movie was presented as fact! The movie deliberately misleads audiences. I had people I knew coming to me and asking about it, even urging me to see this wonderful science movie that was all claptrap.

  2. The NASA commentary challenging the myths in the film 2012 can be found at

    Hollywood pseudo-science aside, there will actually be many visually striking astronomical events occurring in 2012. Some of the best ones accessible to teachers and students will be four of the five naked-eye planets visible at dusk in late February-early March 2012, a brilliant pairing of Venus and Jupiter high in the western sky at dusk in March, an annular solar eclipse for parts of western North America in May, a transit of Venus across the face of the Sun on the afternoon of June 5, and a compact gathering of Mars, Saturn, and Spica at dusk in August 2012.

    An interesting school-year 2011-2012 sky observing project for students will be to follow Venus and Jupiter in the evening sky beginning in October 2011, when both can first be seen simultaneously above opposite horizons at dusk. Month by month they will draw closer together, until they will appear only three degrees apart on March 13, 2012.

    Jupiter will disappear below the western horizon by late in April 2012, but Venus will continue to be of interest, passing the Pleaides in early April, and showing interesting phases through telescopes and binoculars.

    We are planning to provide illustrations and details of these and other events in time for school year 2011-2012.

    Currently (January 2011), Jupiter and Uranus can still be observed together within the field of view of binoculars. Both planets appear near the Moon on the evenings of Jan. 9 and 10. A telescope shows the Galilean satellites of Jupiter, and the dark north equatorial belt, and higher power shows Uranus’ bluish disk.

    In the southeast to southern morning sky an hour before sunup in Jan. 2011, Mercury, Venus, and Saturn now form a nice lineup. A telescope shows the rings of Saturn now tipped about 10 degrees from edgewise and reveals Venus about half full. The waning crescent Moon will appear near Venus on the mornings of Jan. 29 and 30, but by then Mercury will rise in brighter twilight and be harder to observe.

    Illustrations of these events and a detailed finder chart to locate Uranus during January 2011 are available at

  3. What happened to “The Day After Tomorrow” & “Deep Impact” (the movie, not the mission)? The first had some accurate science, although the timeline was a bit off. The second, I thought, had a very endearing plot, with a realistic ending.

  4. Soylent Green was the worst sci-fi movie I’ve ever seen!

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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or

New Information Now Available On-line:

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 2017)

Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy:

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.