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Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Colbert Debate Scientific Accuracy of ‘Dune: Part Two’ Sandworms

Neil deGrasse Tyson and Stephen Colbert spent the majority of Tyson’s appearance on The Late Show debating worms — Sandworms to be exact.

The astrophysicist and the self-proclaimed Dune superfan began their conversation with Colbert recounting that he and Tyson were both at the Dune: Part Two premiere in New York City last month and watched the screening together.

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“I would say it’s perfect. What do you think, Neil? There are no errors. Go on, Neil,” the late night host began, to which the scientist responded, “I have some issues.”

Tyson explained that the film takes place in the sand dunes on the planet of Arrakis. The dunes are home to massive, very hungry sandworms that will appear wherever a thumper — a device that sends repeated vibrations through the sand — is placed.

“Somebody didn’t do the research on that,” he stated. When Colbert asked if that’s because that’s not how sandworms — which are fictional creatures — actually behave, Tyson said, “I’m saying you can’t thump sand.”

He noted that if someone hits sand repeatedly, it’s not audible because it’s sand. “You can’t hear it, but a sandworm can. They hear things differently than we do, Neil Tyson,” Colbert retorted, jokingly. “If you wanted to insulate yourself acoustically from your surroundings, fill the volume with sand,” the astrophysicist responded. “No one will hear you. I’ve got to let it go because there’s no movie without it.”

Tyson pointed out he also took scientific issue with another part of the film — the fact that the Fremen have to ride on the back of a sandworm as a rite of passage. He explained that the sandworms in Dune: Part Two just move in a straight line, but that’s not how those types of creatures move.

“Have you ever seen a snake chase you as a straight snake? No!” he said. “They’ve got to curl, and they push off the curl. That’s what the curling is.”

Elsewhere in the conversation, Colbert and Tyson chatted about the scientist’s appearance in Jennifer Lopez’s This Is Me … Now: A Love Story, in which he portrays Taurus. The astrophysicist explained that it was his attempt to add some science to a project that otherwise wouldn’t have had any.

“[Taurus is] a constellation, but in that movie, it’s an astrological sign,” he noted. “I said, ‘Show me the script. I can make some adjustments to get a little bit of science.'”

He also described a scene that was cut from the Lopez film, in which he tried to shine a light on the fact that there are 14 constellations in the zodiac, not 12, as people who believe in astrology have been led to believe.

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