September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

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 Is Now Accepting Nominations for Board Members

Posted: Friday, November 17th, 2017

Current, incoming, and outgoing CSTA Board of Directors at June 3, 2017 meeting.

Updated 7:25 pm, Nov. 17, 2017

It’s that time of year when CSTA is looking for dedicated and qualified persons to fill the upcoming vacancies on its Board of Directors. This opportunity allows you to help shape the policy and determine the path that the Board will take in the new year. There are time and energy commitments, but that is far outweighed by the personal satisfaction of knowing that you are an integral part of an outstanding professional educational organization, dedicated to the support and guidance of California’s science teachers. You will also have the opportunity to help CSTA review and support legislation that benefits good science teaching and teachers.

Right now is an exciting time to be involved at the state level in the California Science Teachers Association. The CSTA Board of Directors is currently involved in implementing the Next Generations Science Standards and its strategic plan. If you are interested in serving on the CSTA Board of Directors, now is the time to submit your name for consideration. 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

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Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.