A nice comedy with super stardom like Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Blanchet, Jonah Hill,
Timothee Chalamet, Meryl Streep or Ariane Grande. In the opening scene, the orbit
of the comet hitting the earth is computed by Dr Randall Mindy by hand on a whiteboard. Nice for effect,
but nobody of course would even dream to do such a computation by hand. Gauss pioneered such
data-fitting exercises and spear headed on the way things like Gaussian elimination or least square
fitting while tackling the problem to predict the motion of the planetoid Ceres.
Gauss managed to get from Piazzi's 41 day observation in 1901 a correct prediction, where Ceres
would reemerge for observation. It is reported that Gauss needed more than 100 hours to
do this computation. There is no question that the computation done by DiCaprio's character
in the movie would be even more difficult than Gauss's. But this is hollywood.
Of course, the story is also nudges at the inability of humanity to assess risk.
Actually, the most recent decades have shown that the movie is not off the mark, even understates
the ability of us to assess real risks.
We completely ignore risks like a nuclear war or catastrophic climate change which would decimate
if not annihilate all life with a yawn, while other risks are overrated even so scientific data
do not indicate extraordinary danger. The pandemic of the last two for example has
worldwide not made the slightest dent
in the growth rate of the human population.
The US population gain has slowed down a bit, but mainly due to a decline in migration and
declining birth rates. It was been no danger at all for humanity.
A meteor impact as described in the movie however would be catastrophic similarly as a nuclear
catastrophe (which only needs a technical failure of cold war developed rotten equipment) and
in the worst case end all life. I liked the movie because it illustrates how stupid we all are in assessing risks.
The movie will not change things a bit of course. We are and remain stupid. We are unable to look up.