Neil deGrasse Tyson Has Opinions On The Scientific Accuracy Of Dune

Estimated read time 3 min read

If you haven’t seen Dune or Dune II, now is a very confusing time to be on social media, seeing posts about some guy named “Paul” and naturally assuming they’re some sort of accountant, before the post pivots hard to talking about space worms. 

The films, like the cult classic 1984 version, have grown a pretty dedicated fanbase who enjoy the movies (in part) for their big, silly alien worlds, including the planet Arrakis, a desert planet containing a drug known as “spice” that is guarded by gigantic sand/space worms.

While a silly idea, it’s undeniably fun. But not everybody is on board with suspending their disbelief, and one of those people is, of course, Neil deGrasse Tyson.

“It’s quite the spectacle,” deGrasse Tyson told The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

“This movie takes place in sand dunes. And there’s a worm that’s very hungry, and they just plow through the sand, and they’ll find you if you make a sound that repeats.”

In the movie, they use a device called a “thumper” to summon the sandworms to the surface, where it typically would go on a killing spree.

“I’m just saying you can’t thump sand,” deGrasse Tyson explained, thumping his fist. “If you do this to sand, nobody else is going to hear it. Because it’s sand.”

“If you wanted to insulate yourself acoustically from your surroundings, fill the volume with sand. No one will hear you.”


Neil deGrasse Tyson does have a bit of a reputation for questioning the science behind sci-fi movies, up to and including space-wizard movie Star Wars. However, he told Colbert that he does let these things go in order to enjoy the movie.

Another aspect he found difficult in Dune was the rite of passage the indigenous inhabitants of the desert world go through: riding on the back of the sandworm.

“They have the worm just going straight. Fast. That’s not how physics works. Have you ever had a snake chase you as a straight snake? No. They’ve got to curl, and they push off the curl. That’s what the curling is.”

In a compromise to Colbert, or to keep his own suspension of disbelief in tact, deGrasse Tyson agreed that perhaps they are moving with some other mechanism, though the only idea he could think of on the spot was that the propulsion comes from pooping.