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In the movie Prometheus, we hear an exchange of dialogue which proceeds roughly as follows:

Janek: You know, if you wanna get laid, you really don't have to pretend to be interested in the pyramid scan. I mean, you could just say, "Hey, I'm trying to get laid." Heh.

Meredith Vickers: I could. I could say that, right? But then it wouldn't make sense why I would fly myself half a billion miles from every man on Earth if I wanted to get laid, would it?

As Neil de Grasse Tyson has pointed out, this is absurd, because it puts LV-223 well within the confines of our own solar system.

enter image description here

The minimum distance between earth and Jupiter is about 366 million miles. The maximum distance between them is roughly 602 million miles. The average distance between the two is around 490 million miles.

The film tells us that the planet (which is actually a moon of the gas giant Calpamos) LV-223, also known as "Varsa", is actually 35 light years away from the earth, which works out to roughly 206 trillion miles. This means that the real distance is 412,000 times greater than Vickers' estimate. When the earth is closest to Jupiter, it is only 32 light minutes away - the number of light years mentioned is greater than the actual minimum number of light minutes to Jupiter.

The screenwriter, Damon Lindelof, has commented on this issue, but refused to explain the contradiction:

Charlize [Theron] has a line in the movie where she says, “I wouldn’t be half a billion miles away from every man on earth if I wanted to get laid.” And Neil deGrasse Tyson [the well-known astrophysicist] came out said “This would put her somewhere in the neighborhood of Jupiter, when they are much, much further out.” I chose not to say anything because the line was intentional. It had been dinged before we even shot it. But we stuck by it for reasons I don’t feel like discussing.

We also know that there are other obvious goofs in the dialogue. From the same interview quoted above:

Q: There was also a lot of debate about a line in which David the android says that the crew has been asleep for “2 years, 4 months, 18 days, 36 hours, 15 minutes.” People didn’t understand why he wouldn’t have just said “2 years, 4 months, 19 days, 12 hours, 15 minutes.”

A: The “36 hours” line has been burning a hole in my side because I wasn’t there on the day they shot it. I don’t know if it was an ad-lib by Michael or an idea by Ridley, that wasn’t the line that we wrote. So when people contact me and say “Explain this. Is it a glitch in David?” I have to say “I can’t take responsibility for this.” So, I do think in terms of fair play with the audience, Twitter is a medium for me to say “I can’t come out now and bullshit you.” God forbid somebody pulls the script one day and sees that line is not even in the script. So I have to be honest.

How do we make sense of these conflicting accounts of where the planet is? How could the pilot of an interplanetary mission be so wrong about the distance her spacecraft has traveled?

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    It's meant as an off-the-cuff remark. Nothing scientific or construed. Like you'd say in the middle of the Sahara Desert: "I'm a million miles from nowhere" knowing full well you can get anywhere on the planet in 12,500 miles ... She's just saying she's a long ways from home and doesn't want to get laid. It's not bad writing or poor research - she's just spitting it out. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Jul 16 '15 at 1:09
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    @Paulster2 - The problem with that argument is that Lindelof probably would have said it if it was true. He doesn't. He says "we stuck by it for reasons I don't feel like discussing". If the explanation is that simple, why didn't he say it? (And on a side note, she does want to get laid, because she goes on to tell Janek to meet her in her quarters). – Wad Cheber Jul 16 '15 at 1:13
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    @WadCheber - As he said, he just didn't want to talk about it. It's the easiest, simplest argument there is which just happens to ring true. People want SciFi to be perfectly scientific. Why can't it just be entertaining? – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Jul 16 '15 at 1:51
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    Reasons probably means someone for fed up on set and they decided to move on instead of forcing a reshoot of the scene. – user16696 Jul 16 '15 at 5:09
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    Ironically I find Neil de Grasse Tyson and Prometheus equally tedious. – lucasbachmann Dec 28 '20 at 11:22
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On the subject of why Damon Lindelof felt that he had to keep the line in the film until the final edit, it's notable that the Art of Prometheus book has a large and prominent image of Jupiter (and Ganymede(?) and Europa(?) on the very first page.

It seems likely that some element of the film was originally going to take place in orbit of Jupiter rather than transitioning from Earth directly to LV-223.

enter image description here

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    Interesting hypothesis, although I'm not 100% convinced that that's Jupiter, and I'm 100% convinced that that's NOT Europa, or any actual moon in our solar system. But this image could be just as well explained by someone using a stock photo of Jupiter to stand in for Calpamos while working on concept art. Is there any direct evidence that the filmmakers originally planned to have scenes set in the vicinity of Jupiter? – ApproachingDarknessFish Dec 28 '20 at 11:44
  • @ApproachingDarknessFish - No, and given the colossal mess that happened in editing, it's unlikely that this made it past the planning stage. It might be another gas giant, but it sure looks like Jupiter to me, down to the equatorial banding and spots. – Valorum Dec 28 '20 at 11:52
  • This is not Jupiter - that nearby moon doesn't look like any moon of Jupiter. All gas planets look presumably somewhat alike (the planet in Alien:Isolation looked even more like Jupiter, but was whirling much too fast) (also, big spot weather systems seem to be inevitable components for reason of fluid dynamics) (also, moons that close to each other? Nope. That's a Saturnian ring forming in a couple of centuries; dammit modern artists are bad, we need to resurrect Chesley Bonestell) – David Tonhofer Dec 28 '20 at 14:29
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    @DavidTonhofer The foreground moon is obviously CG but the gas giant does look a LOT like real photos of Jupiter. If it is CG, it must have been rendered separately, because it looks a lot more realistic than the moon(s) and doesn't seem seem to be lit from the same direction. My best guess is that it's a pair of CG moons clumsily slapped on top of a free NASA stock photo of Jupiter. Whether it was intended to be Jupiter is a separate issue. – ApproachingDarknessFish Dec 29 '20 at 2:21

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