Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Angels & Demons - the book

  1. May 15, 2009 #1


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I'm on page 100 (of 700) and I think I'm done with this book.

    (skip to the end* if you're only interested in the physics tie-in)

    The alarm bells started going off in my head when they zeroed in on the plot device in the form of a new component developed at CERN labs that, if in the wrong hands, could make a very powerful bomb.

    Conveniently, despite it being something that would revolutionize the particle physics world, it was able to be contained in a storage cannister about the size of a thermos. And the containment of this extremely explosive substance is kept in check by an internal battery so the scentists can work with it in their lab.

    The battery has a 24-hour charge.

    ...exactly 24:00:00 hours.

    ...you can tell because of the digital readout on the side of the cannister.

    ...that starts counting down the moment the scientists take it out of its recharger ... 23:59:59 ... 23:59:58 ... (It's perfectly safe. What could possibly go wrong with an highly-explosive device that could fit under a trenchcoat or in a knapsack?)

    This book was nothing but the script for a vacuous action movie. I mean, he didn't even try. (I know what you're going to say: "what did you expect???")

    There were other hints that this was going to go awry -

    - The main anatogonist is the albino from daVinci Code with a new coat of paint (and another coat of paint for his ancient, secretive cult masters).

    *- the particle physics that the story is dependent on is terrible. Dan Brown seems to think that prior to the The Big Bang there was a vast amount of energy and the Big Bang event itself was the creation of particles from energy.

    (It's one thing for ancillary physics to be wrong, but the story's premise is based on this.)
  2. jcsd
  3. May 15, 2009 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Presumably part of the same super-villain wiring code that requires all covert tracking devices to have a blinking LED and all bombs to use distinct colored wires for the detonator.

    From the 'how to be an evil super-villain' list ( http://www.eviloverlord.com/lists/overlord.html ) :
    15. I will never employ any device with a digital countdown. If I find that such a device is absolutely unavoidable, I will set it to activate when the counter reaches 117 and the hero is just putting his plan into operation.
    Last edited: May 15, 2009
  4. May 15, 2009 #3
    Haha, yeah..that does sound pretty ridiculous. I wonder if the movie adaptation will be as bad as the davinci code was. Frankly I'm surprised they were able to convince any producer to make another one of his books after the tremendous flop that the last one was in the theater.

    And you would describe the Big Bang as the creation of energy and particles from...what? And why? We don't really know that much about the big bang so I think that fits within the realm of science fiction liberty
  5. May 15, 2009 #4
    It's been a while since I read the book and I'm not sure I remember the details correctly but it seems to me they estimate explosive force of the bomb at around 5 kilotons. I did a quick calculation and came up with about 1 Megaton. I used double the antimatter mass for the calculation, figuring not only would the antimatter annihilate but also an equal amount of matter. The difference in the size of the explosion would make a big difference in the ending of the book. It also doesn't seem concerned about the intense gamma rays that would be given off.

    Someone might check my work.
  6. May 15, 2009 #5
    Forty years ago, I started a short-lived binge reading best sellers. I read four in a row, but I can't remember their names. After those four, I had a belly full and I never read another one until "The Da Vinci Code". My verdict is that it is vastly better than the junk I read back then, but still useless junk. The conversation that went on concerning the backwards handwriting had me mesmerized. "I think it might be some ancient semitic writing system." Comfort me with cabbages! I'm going to wait another forty years before I read my next one.
  7. May 15, 2009 #6


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    If you expect something realistic, I suggest not reading popular fiction. It's not meant to be science fiction, just fiction.
  8. May 15, 2009 #7
    A&D is Brown's second novel, written before the Da Vinci Code. Perhaps he wasn't an experienced writer then. I don't know if he is now. But Brown is not a sci-fi author. He writes thriller novels.
  9. May 15, 2009 #8


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Yeah, except this wasn't a villian's device - it was a good guy's device - that just nicely fits the hackneyed cliche.

    Really? I rather enjoyed it. That's why I started reading this one.

    The Big Bang was all energy. No matter was able to condense from energy until well after the universe had cooled.

    Fiction writers are obliged to check their facts just as much as anyone.
  10. May 15, 2009 #9


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    What did Hitchcock call it a 'McGuffin' (?) - the thing that everybody is chasing that makes no sense.

    It's like Casablanca, the 'letters of transit' can't be questioned or revoked.
    Why not? You have the whole German army, simply wait at the airport and shoot whoever turns up with them!
  11. May 15, 2009 #10
    Angels & Demons was pretty bad. I was cringing more at the whole illuminati thing. He didn't even use much real illuminati lore, just more or less made it up as he went along. Same with the physics I suppose.

    You will find that each Dan Brown novel you read will get worse and worse and eventually you realize that they are all the same book just with different characters and in different places.
  12. May 15, 2009 #11
    You begin with some of the most pathetic writing available on shelves today and then heaven help you if you actually want facts to stand up. Dan Brown is beyond horrible. His popular appeal makes me despair.
  13. May 16, 2009 #12


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Yeah, I guess I have to consider the audience he's aiming it at. If they have to describe what a photon is ("a tiny puff of light") then they're not expecting informed readers - er - viewers.

    I didn't realize it was written before tdVC. That makes more sense.
  14. May 16, 2009 #13


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    It must just be me that enjoyed Angels and Demons, then! I tend to be able to overlook physics fallacies when reading fiction books -- the author is allowed some artistic license!
  15. May 16, 2009 #14
    No Cristo, not just you... :smile: If I wanted facts, I'd hit my textbooks :biggrin:
  16. May 16, 2009 #15
    Dan Brown has the single talent of being able to keep a pace to his writing that sucks you in. Other than that his writing is really average at best. I have picked up various paperbacks off the news stand and found that there are most certainly worse writers out there.
  17. May 16, 2009 #16


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    But it wasn't the physics that turned me off; it was the obvious pandering to a movie deal. The story reads like a script. (I had the same difficulty with Crichton's Prey.)

    A digital countdown is a visual, real-time suspense-generating device. It just does not work in a book. (Frankly, it doesn't work in a movie either; it is such a hackneyed cliche.)
  18. May 16, 2009 #17
    Artistic license, sure. Outright presenting falsehoods as truth is problematic, as Brown did with the DaVinci Code. He couldn't even get the Paris streets right. Make up stuff to add flavour, sure, and I'll go a long way suspending my disbelief for well-written, well thought-out work but don't insult my intelligence.

    DaVinci Code was one long chase scene. Was Angels & Demons any better?

    And, sorry, his writing is just plain bad. I'm certain there are worse writers out there, but that doesn't negate the fact that this guy's writing is just plain brutal.
  19. May 16, 2009 #18
    I once found a page where he gave advice on how to get a novel published. It was pretty bad. The title may well have been "How to get your generic formulaic crap published".

    I think that the only contemporary popular writer I have read that really deserves to be as popular as he is would be Neil Gaiman, and I think he could stand to be a bit more popular. Pratchet is pretty good too though I get it bit sick on the continuous gags and silliness. He at least was number one in england pre-Rowling. And Rowling herself is certainly good but I think that the talent of Gaiman eclipses hers by far.
  20. May 16, 2009 #19
    Margaret Atwood -- AWESOMMMMME writer.

    I really enjoyed The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake << This book is my favorite of all time.

    As for Browns books... I started readin the da vinci code when it was gaining popularity but lost interest really quickly... So why would I bother turning to any of his other books lol
  21. May 17, 2009 #20
    How does getting the streets wrong insult your intelligence?

    Personally I think the puzzles he came up with (and in my opinion very successfully linked together) were pretty damn good. Furthermore, the plot was (is) believable, otherwise there would never have been such an international uproar about it.

    And yet he's managed to publish four already, and is filthy rich... :wink:

    Oh, and Pratchett (who, in my opinion is a literary god) is spelt with two t's at the end :smile:
  22. May 17, 2009 #21
  23. May 17, 2009 #22


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    It's Sir Pratchett, if we're using titles :wink:

    I'm not a big fan of Pratchett; his books are too silly.
  24. May 17, 2009 #23


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    For the literary geeks out there, here is somebody else's opinion of Dan Brown that I will merely present for interests sake (and because I find it funny). :wink:

    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  25. May 17, 2009 #24
    I actually wondered about that but didn't check.
    Apologies again Sir Pratchett!

    That video is apparently not available i my country. :-/
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  26. May 17, 2009 #25


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I've seen this done before. Sometimes I wonder if this is requested (by whom I do not know) deliberately to fictionalize a story and discourage re-enactments.

    No, it wasn't one long chase scene. It was one long chase. There's a big difference.

    That would be like saying Dr.Zhivago was "just" one long love scene.

    A story that is driven by a chase in not a bad thing.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook