Which Sci Fi World Is the Most Accurate?

April 27, 2021 8 min read

If there are aliens out there, where are they? If we are going to discuss which Sci-Fi world is the most accurate we first need to discuss the why’s and the how's.


First Paradox = Evolutionary Time is a LONG, LONG, LONG TIME.

Alien life, if it exists, could be as simple as bacteria, or more complex than humans—and there are optimal strategies for searching for both.  And often when we think of Aliens and other worlds, we tend to think of Hollywood’s version.  And why not? It sure is fun to imagine a vast Multi-Verse full of interesting species and amazing technologies.

So I started this research thinking about Bacteria and why.  For the most part, this is a slow Tuesday in researching aliens and sci-fi worlds.

Our own solar system is about half the age of our galaxy. Since life formed in the prehistoric soup soon after our planet cooled, it is estimated that it took THREE BILLION YEARS for even the most rudimentary forms of life to appear.

So, yea, if there is LIFE, it is mostly going to be simple, not even yet fauna.

You can read more at Scientific American.

Second Paradox:  We have to Pass the Great Filter.

What is "The Great Filter?"

With no evidence of intelligent life in other places than the Earth, it appears that the process of starting with a star and ending with "advanced explosive lasting life" must be unlikely. This implies that at least one step in this process must be improbable. Hanson's list, while incomplete, describes the following nine steps in an "evolutionary path" that results in the colonization of the observable universe:

  • The right star system (including organics and potentially habitable planets)
  • Reproductive molecules (e.g. RNA)
  • Simple (prokaryotic) single-cell life
  • Complex (eukaryotic) single-cell life
  • Sexual reproduction
  • Multi-cell life
  • Tool-using animals with intelligence
  • A civilization advancing toward the potential for a colonization explosion (where we are now)
  • Colonization explosion

According to the Great Filter hypothesis, at least one of these steps—if the list were complete—must be improbable.

Okay, in layman's terms, what is the great filter?  

Well, basic probability asserts that alien life must exist. Since we haven’t made contact yet, one theory goes, there must be something barring life from interstellar travel, or, at least, barring it from communicating with other alien species. This barrier is known as the “Great Filter,” and it is a force or event that stops a civilization from getting to the aforementioned point of interstellar travel or communication.

So the Great Filter say’s, despite the age of our Universe and the incredible expanse of evolutionary time (measured in Billions of years mind you) that two things must be true:

  1. The Technology required for interstellar travel doesn’t exist anywhere in the Universe
  2. That species kill themselves off before they reach the technology level needed to achieve interstellar travel.

Yea, so, its either TOO HARD to invent and create, OR they killed themselves before they got there!

If the theory holds true, neither option is particularly pleasing.

From Futurism.com, Theories of Intelligent Life: the Fermi Paradox

Robin Hanson, a research associate at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, in his discussion of the topic.

No alien civilizations have substantially colonized our solar system or systems nearby. Thus among the billion trillion stars in our past universe, none has reached the level of technology and growth that we may soon reach. This one data point implies that a Great Filter stands between ordinary dead matter and advanced exploding lasting life.

We believe a third option exists: That Aliens have travelled to Earth, and that they have done so throughout antiquity, and that our scientific community still needs to come to a consensus regarding it.

That said, let’s explore what other worlds (planets and moons included) are REALISTIC in our popular culture.

This list might actually shock you.

Worlds We Like in Sci Fi Movies

2001 Space Odyssey (for the Moon and Space Travel)

Kubrick spent a great amount of time researching on the science behind the film, and he got the technicalities of the film almost near to perfection. What’s stunning here is that the film was actually head of time, because the real moon landing would only take place a year after the film was released. Kubrick was serious about the science and wanted it to be as realistic and technically accurate as possible, and did not want any fictionalized or fanciful depictions of space. The film’s construction of the space world and the workings of the spacecraft were truly beyond perfection and laid the foundation for films of its genre.

As SpaceX was chosen by NASA for the next moon landing, you will notice a few similarities in how SpaceX plans to land a Starship on the moon, and Kubricks masterpiece filmed 50 years ago.


The science in ‘Interstellar’ was probably the most fascinating aspect of the film and the Nolan brothers got it as accurate as possible. Nolan worked with theoretical physicist Kip Thorne in order to ensure the accuracy of the science used in the film. The concepts of blacholes and wormholes were really challenging as they were rarely used in cinema and so it was important that thy all made sense. In fact, Timothy Reyes, a former NASA  software engineer, said of the film’s accuracy, “Thorne’s and Nolan’s accounting of blackholes and wormholes and the use of gravity is excellent."  You come away realizing the power of gravity on space time.  Everything is relevant and sound science.  My brain hurt after I watched this movie.

The Martian

I thought this movie was exceptionally boring and very slow… BUT... they got all the science right with writer, Andy Weir, by using the reader feedback for the process of improvement.  Ridley Scott worked with James L. Green, the director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, and discussed the details about the winds and dust storms of Mars.  All of which really was a major challenge considering how speculation of Martian Weather backed by the existing data we have and the physics behind it would actually translate into a believable movie reality. Despite its slow pace, I find that the best thing about the Martian is that none of the science it uses or the technology was Hollywoodized.  You enter a completely real experience, and nothing seems far-fetched.  The true success of The Martian is the use of the technology that is real and exists today.  

The Most Scientifically Accurate Movies Ever Made 

The Expanse

The Expanse is a science fiction television series set in a near future where humanity has colonized the Solar System and established colonies on the planets, moons, and even asteroids.  (Personally I get super excited about Asteroid Mining!) 

Most spaceships in other shows have been flat platforms that, if you’re looking at a football field, only accelerate in the direction of the plane of the football field. That doesn’t create gravity for you. In ‘2001: A Space Odyssey,’ they did it by rotating the spacecraft, which is a reasonable way to generate gravity, but the better way to do it is the way ‘The Expanse’ did it with perpendicular acceleration. I commend the creators of ‘The Expanse’ for creating gravity in a realistic way.

Astrophysicist Explains How the Expanse More Realistic Than Star Wars or Star Trek

Spoken of highly by the scientific community, The Expanse has set the bar high in realism, physics, and created a truly factual future when it comes to space travel, gravity, g-forces and inertia inside a moving ship.  You will find practical and realistic ship designs, and the realities of how precious air and other resources are in space and on other planets.

The Very Real Science Behind the Expanse

Prometheus LV-223

My First thought about Prometheus was HOLY SPACE COW BATMAN!  Those Aliens are RIPPED!   My second thought was that the Myth of Alien God’s seeding planets was an interesting take on Ancient Alien Archeology.  I do believe our future lies in understanding our PAST, and whether or not the movie got the myth right, it is worth the recognition of this simple fact.

Finally, the Science! This Planet was not a Planet. It was actually a Moon of a Gas Giant Planet… AND, if any of you are space nerds like myself, you know that Gas Giants are planets that ALMOST became Suns.  And it is the thought that many moons of Gas Giants contain microscopic life, in the form of bacteria or other simple single celled organisms.

The Science of Prometheus

We are in the midst of an explosion of exoplanet discoveries. We are just now starting to get some data about what the typical configuration of other stellar systems is likely to be. We still don’t have enough data to answer this question, and our methods of finding exoplanets are biased toward large planets close to their suns. But we are starting to find smaller Earth-sized worlds far enough out to be in the goldilocks zone where liquid water can exist on the surface.

Obviously there is a great deal of curiosity about how many planets out there might be capable of harboring life. We may need to expand our concept of what such a planet might be like, and one possibility is that it could be a large moon of a gas giant planet. This would certainly make for a beautiful sky, and it would be very interesting to work out what the experience of someone living on such a world would be like. A moon of a gas giant would likely be tidally locked, so that the planet would always be in the same place in the sky. It would also likely be frequently eclipsed by its giant companion, so the day-night cycle would be partly a factor of the rotation of the planet, which would likely be slow, and also a function of passing into the shadow of the gas giant.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (film)

Vogsphere is ashy and derelict, with annoying spatula-shaped bugs that slap beings in their face if they ever say anything having to do with ideas, thinking, or anything of the sort. The Vogons still live there, and have buildings which double as their starships, as well as a rather lousy tram system. It orbits around a single sun.

Well, we could talk aboutMagrathea. Magrathea is an ancient planet located in orbit around the twin suns Soulianis and Rahm, in the heart of the Horsehead Nebula.  It was purpose built, but in my opinion kinda lame, considered the home of the industry of "Custom-made luxury planet building." It was a market aimed at the richest of the rich, during the days of the former Galactic Empire.The Magratheans would design and create entire planets for wealthy clients. They were so successful that Magrathea became the richest planet of all time.

Honorable Mention goes to....

Total Recall (1990)

We like to stick with the ORIGINAL ‘Total Recall’ a 1990 American science fiction film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The film is loosely based on the 1966 Philip K. Dick short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale".

Set in a near future, the entire script centers around the colonization of Mars, and it, surprisingly, gets a lot of things right.  Underground Mining will be a critical infrastructure piece, yet another tell tale sign of Elon Musk creating companies relevant to the needs of future Mars colonization.  (I wonder if 1990 Total Recall was as big a hit for the teenage Musk as it was for me?)

What did we miss? Tell us!


Stay weird…



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Mike Holm
Mike Holm

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