Is the physics in Angels & Demons completely off the mark?

In summary, the book is about a bomb that is highly explosive and can be contained by a battery. The alarm bells started going off in the protagonist's head when they zeroed in on the plot device. Although the bomb is fictional, the story is based on real-world physics.
  • #1

DaveC426913

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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.)
 
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  • #2
DaveC426913 said:
...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:

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.
 
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  • #3
DaveC426913 said:
...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?)

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.

- 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.

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
 
  • #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.
 
  • #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.
 
  • #6
If you expect something realistic, I suggest not reading popular fiction. It's not meant to be science fiction, just fiction.
 
  • #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.
 
  • #8
mgb_phys said:
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.
Yeah, except this wasn't a villian's device - it was a good guy's device - that just nicely fits the hackneyed cliche.

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

junglebeast said:
And you would describe the Big Bang as the creation of energy and particles from...what?
The Big Bang was all energy. No matter was able to condense from energy until well after the universe had cooled.


Moonbear said:
If you expect something realistic, I suggest not reading popular fiction. It's not meant to be science fiction, just fiction.
Fiction writers are obliged to check their facts just as much as anyone.
 
  • #9
DaveC426913 said:
Yeah, except this wasn't a villian's device - it was a good guy's device - that just nicely fits the hackneyed cliche.
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!
 
  • #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.
 
  • #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.
 
  • #12
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.
 
  • #13
DaveC426913 said:
I'm on page 100 (of 700) and I think I'm done with this book.

TheStatutoryApe said:
Angels & Demons was pretty bad.

GeorginaS said:
Dan Brown is beyond horrible.

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!
 
  • #14
cristo said:
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!

No Cristo, not just you... :smile: If I wanted facts, I'd hit my textbooks :biggrin:
 
  • #15
cristo said:
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!

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.
 
  • #16
cristo said:
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!
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.)
 
  • #17
cristo said:
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!

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.
 
  • #18
GeorginaS said:
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.

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.
 
  • #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
 
  • #20
GeorginaS said:
...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.

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.

TheStatutoryApe said:
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".

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:
 
  • #21
phyzmatix;2201812And yet he's managed to publish four already said:
It is the eternal suffering of we the literary geeks to see that common people prefer common literature! ;-p

Phyz said:
Oh, and Pratchett (who, in my opinion is a literary god) is spelt with two t's at the end :smile:
My apologies to Mr. Pratchett!
I am only about halfway through the discworld series. Which is your favourite?
So far my favourite has been Small Gods and Good Omens, of course, is my favourite collaborative effort.
 
  • #22
TheStatutoryApe said:
My apologies to Mr. Pratchett!

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

I'm not a big fan of Pratchett; his books are too silly.
 
  • #23
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:

 
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  • #24
cristo said:
It's Sir Pratchett, if we're using titles :wink:

I'm not a big fan of Pratchett; his books are too silly.
I actually wondered about that but didn't check.
Apologies again Sir Pratchett!

Kurdt said:
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:



That video is apparently not available i my country. :-/
 
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  • #25
GeorginaS said:
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.
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.

GeorginaS said:
DaVinci Code was one long chase scene. Was Angels & Demons any better?
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.
 
  • #26
DaveC426913 said:
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.

I don't know about getting street directions wrong in cities that exist in reality (going the wrong way down an a one-way street and/or driving down a road that in fact is a dead end) is deliberately done to discourage re-enactments. P. D. James frequently uses actual towns and adds buildings and streets for the convenience of her fictionalised story. She makes that very clear at the beginning of her books, though, that, while the place is real, she's added stuff for her own purposes.

It occurred to me that using shorthand when writing on the Internet isn't a good idea or appropriate self-expression. What I intended to convey by pointing out that Brown didn't even get Paris city streets correct was the absolute depth of his carelessness with his books. He begins with something as mundane as not opening a map of Paris to make sure his protagonist is traveling the city properly (and why his proofreaders and editor didn't catch something as dumb as that either, I don't know) and progresses to huge errors in his historical timelines about the existence of the Opus Dei and claiming that the fictional history of the Priory of Scion was factual. And on and on and on. (If you read reviews at Amazon.com about Da Vinci Code, there are some marvelous essays detailing factual errors both big and small.)

Now, okay, the last bits of that you may shrug your shoulders and say, "But it's a work of fiction" which, true enough. Except that writers with any integrity will indicate that they bent things to suit their own purposes in the preface to the book. Brown goes out of his way to preface his book saying that it's well researched and chock-full of facts. He deliberately misleads his audience. I don't like intellectual dishonesty.

And he's a bad writer.

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.

Again, forgive me for my use of shorthand thoughts. (Although I have to admit being a bit boggled by your seeming comparison of a Dan Brown novel to Dr. Zhivago. I don't know you, but really? )

More precisely, Da Vinci Code is a series of chase scenes. Two dimensional, wooden, cliche-ridden characters move from one chase situation to the next. I didn't find it exciting, I found it tiresome. (Did you happen to watch that movie Face Off? There's a chase scene at the end of that movie that, I swear, goes on for a half hour. They begin on foot, move to cars, go to boats, on, and on, and on, seemingly endlessly. I found myself rolling my eyes saying, "Oh for heaven's sake. Get it over with already." {I think Family Guy does a parody of that chase scene where Peter fights with a human-sized chicken. It goes on and on and on and on and seems as if it will never end. It also has no purpose or real relevance to the story.} <I wonder how many times I can digress, here.> Anyway, The Da Vinci Code reminded me of that.)

I'll agree with you, Dave, that there's nothing wrong with a singular idea or movement traveling through a story. DVCode does it and does it poorly.

Forgive me for being entirely off-topic about Angels & Demons. After The Da Vinci Code I'd not go near another Brown novel unless someone whose opinion I respected recommended it to me. And I only made my entire way through the other book because I was driving in a car alone, with a cat, for a twelve hour drive, through a bunch of zones where the radio didn't pick up signals.
 
  • #27
GeorginaS said:
... and progresses to huge errors in his historical timelines about the existence of the Opus Dei and claiming that the fictional history of the Priory of Scion was factual. And on and on and on. (If you read reviews at Amazon.com about Da Vinci Code, there are some marvelous essays detailing factual errors both big and small.)
This is what I call artistic license. Crichton did it too, in Eaters of the Dead.


GeorginaS said:
(Although I have to admit being a bit boggled by your seeming comparison of a Dan Brown novel to Dr. Zhivago. I don't know you, but really? )
If I said 1:5 is analagous to 1 million:5 million, would you think I was equating 5 with 5 million?

GeorginaS said:
More precisely, Da Vinci Code is a series of chase scenes ... characters move from one chase situation to the next.

Face Off? There's a chase scene at the end of that movie that, I swear, goes on for a half hour. They begin on foot, move to cars, go to boats, on, and on, and on, seemingly endlessly.
The critical difference between these two is that, in tdVC, the chases are advancing the plot. In Face Off, the entire chase scene only advances the plot one unit.

GeorginaS said:
Forgive me for being entirely off-topic about Angels & Demons. After The Da Vinci Code I'd not go near another Brown novel unless someone whose opinion I respected recommended it to me.
I will definitely be more cautious in the future.

GeorginaS said:
And I only made my entire way through the other book because I was driving in a car alone, with a cat, for a twelve hour drive, through a bunch of zones where the radio didn't pick up signals.
I'm praying that it was the cat whose eyes were on the pages and not yours...:rolleyes:
 
  • #28
DaveC426913 said:
I'm praying that it was the cat whose eyes were on the pages and not yours...:rolleyes:

Wow, alright then. Not that I can hear tone of voice on the Internet, but your entire post was rather rude, topped off with your final comment and eye roll. Forgive me for trying to have a straightforward amiable discussion with you. I won't attempt it again.

And, for the record, they have books on CD these days.
 
  • #29
GeorginaS said:
Wow, alright then. Not that I can hear tone of voice on the Internet, but your entire post was rather rude, topped off with your final comment and eye roll. Forgive me for trying to have a straightforward amiable discussion with you. I won't attempt it again.

And, for the record, they have books on CD these days.

I am confused. If I said anything that you interpreted as rude, I apologize. It was most definitely not my intention. I wish to correct it. I have PMed you so as not to pollute the thread.
 
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  • #30
All's better.

My cat is adept at reading in low light. It's a talent I value highly while I'm driving. ;)
 
  • #31
TheStatutoryApe said:
It is the eternal suffering of we the literary geeks to see that common people prefer common literature! ;-p

HAHAHA! That's brilliant! :biggrin:

My apologies to Mr. Pratchett!
I am only about halfway through the discworld series. Which is your favourite?
So far my favourite has been Small Gods and Good Omens, of course, is my favourite collaborative effort.

All of the ones that have Sam Vimes in them! I love his cliche'd "super-sergeant" image. :smile:
 
  • #32
GeorginaS said:
My cat is adept at reading in low light. It's a talent I value highly while I'm driving. ;)

It seems that you have a resourceful, talking cat; must be a descendant of Puss from Puss in Boots.
 
  • #33
George Jones said:
It seems that you have a resourceful, talking cat; must be a descendant of Puss from Puss in Boots.

She's a marvel. And she isn't a fan of Dan Brown's either.
 
  • #34
Well Dave, if you disliked the book, try the movie, there's much less about the physics (faulty or not) and, best of all, no digital countdown.
 
  • #35
binzing said:
Well Dave, if you disliked the book, try the movie, there's much less about the physics (faulty or not) and, best of all, no digital countdown.

Assuming that Dave is really, really determined to like it one way or the other?
 

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