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Podcast: Weightlessness in Movies

This week's podcast is all about movie magic. How do filmmakers simulate weightlessness when they want to make movies that take place in space? Today I talk about three movies that each tried different approaches to this problem.

Popular Mechanics talks about how Gravity defied gravity. Here's the movie trailer:



Update: Listener Steve very politely pointed out an error I made in the podcast: in my description of a reduced gravity aircraft I stated that the period of "weightlessness" for the passengers ends as the plane turns back down toward the Earth. Actually, that period occurs during the entire peak of the parabola, including a few seconds as the aircraft starts to descend. Check out the graphic below to see exactly what I mean. 
Image: NASA



2001: A Space Odyssey used a number of tricks to beat gravity. Check out this PhysicsBuzz post about rotating sets (which were also used by Fred Astaire and in the movie Inception). Here's the floating pen scene (and an article discussing how they did it):


Here's a video explaining how the weightless scenes in Apollo 13 were shot inside a vomit comet; also known as a reduced gravity aircraft. And here's the movie's trailer:

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