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Movie Science

  1. Dec 1, 2003 #1
    This thread has two purposes:

    1) Can anyone tell me of a site (or sites) that deal with the accuracy of the science in modern movies?

    2) If anyone would like to discuss, take apart, or ask questions about the science of any movie, they may do that here.

    As always, any and all participation is appreciated :smile:.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 1, 2003 #2


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    www.badastronomy.com <- both in the main site and the forum.

    My view of science in movies is that if it is intended to be toung-in-cheek or far off science fiction (James Bond, Star Trek), they can do pretty much whatever they want. If treated seriously as realistic science fiction, they should try to be accurate. That often isn't what sells movies though. For example, Armageddon vs Deep Impact. Scientifically, Deep Impact was much better, but Armageddon did better in the box office.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2003
  4. Dec 1, 2003 #3
    Excellent site, russ! I've just read a bunch of the reviews, and they are really good! But then, I appreciate that kind of stuff, whereas most of the people I know have to tell me constantly to shut up, since "it's just a movie".
  5. Dec 1, 2003 #4
  6. Dec 1, 2003 #5


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    Right there with you. I'm slowly, painfully learning to bite my tongue.
  7. Dec 3, 2003 #6
    Glad to know I'm not the only one. You know, I could barely even sit through "Time Machine", since somebody told me I wasn't supposed to say anything when a scientific error presented itself (I usually whisper something like, "Now that's just wrong" or "Who comes up with this stuff?!" to the person sitting next to me)...well, that was one of the hardest things I've ever done...that movie is full of them (mind you, it is a fine movie (IMO), but its science is just WRONG!). I was tappin' my feet, bitin' my nails, shakin' around like I had to use the bathroom...by the time we left the theater I couldn't contain myself anymore, and just opened up the flood-gates until I'd exposed every single error that I found. Yeah, I don't think they're gonna be taking to the theater again any time soon .
  8. Dec 3, 2003 #7
    Speaking of "Time Machine"...the errors include (but are not limited to):

    1) If one travels into the past, then one does what they were going to do, and cannot change it. The movie even tried to agree with this point (the Ubermorlock tried to explain why he couldn't save his fiancee from dying), but failed miserably since the attempted prevention of Emma's death (however big a failure, in the end) changed so many things about so many people's lives, that he might just as well have saved her, since he changed the past significantly anyway.

    Now, I know that his purpose in going back in time was to save her, and that he wouldn't have made the Time Machine if she hadn't died, but that just further begs the question of whether time travel is possible without parallel Universes. After all, if he were to regress in time, to a time when she hadn't died yet, and he changed the course of events even slightly, there should have been two of him, and two Emmas, doing different things. However, if there's a parallel Universe type of time travel, then he should be able to save her, since he made the time machine in a different Universe.

    2) That AI played by Orlando Brown just wasn't believable. It was far too soon in the future to postulate an AI computer (that is programmed to be a perfect librarian) with preferences, dislikes, and the ability for sarcasm.

    3) Also to do with the AI computer...how in the world do you explain the survival of that huge orb ("survival" meaning not only that it still resembled it's previous shape and whatnot, but also that it still worked), when the pieces of the moon crashed right in that area, and it had been 800,701 years!. Even if it did survive the explosions, how could it possibly have survived for over 800,000 years, without any external power supply, and any maintainance?

    4) They never explained how Ubermorlock could use telepathy and telekinesis and all that. They left it to "he had a big sophisticated brain", and ignored all of the scientific problems (such as the very nature of consciousness itself, as is being discovered by current neurobiology).

    I could go one, but you get the picture, right?
  9. Dec 3, 2003 #8


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    When I went to watch Red Planet, I ended up yelling at the movie screen when the station lost power, and - as all things without power do - stopped rotating. That after a dozen or so other instances of reeeealy bad science. My friend was wholly embarrased and asked afterwards what the big deal was.

    I explained to him (he is a big sports fan) that what they did was so wrong that it was like someone making a sports movie and having a scene celebrating a home run by spiking a soccer ball after he went through the endzone.

    I don't think he got what the big deal was.
  10. Dec 3, 2003 #9
    Two things that are more engineering than science, but are still always shown wrong are:

    1. When someone sets off a fire sprinkler in a building, they show every head in the building going off! This only happens with a deluge system, which are rare and usually very limited in scope.

    2. When someone crawls through a duct and it is as clean as an operating room! That person should drop out of there (probably through a seam giving way) and be covered with about half an inch of dust unless the building is new.

    This drives me so nuts that whenever my wife and friends see someone climbing through a duct in a movie, they all say "We know, we know, it's not dirty enough. It's just a movie."
  11. Dec 4, 2003 #10
    Doesn't it bother you when they say that, Artman? After all, do you really think the people who made the film wanted it to be considered "just a movie"? Or do you think they were genuinely trying to make a good movie, and failed because of lack of research?
  12. Dec 4, 2003 #11
    Thou shalt not blaspheme against Bond!
  13. Dec 4, 2003 #12
    I think you'll find that the feasibility of the giant-brain method of developing psychic powers has been established, used, over-used, abused, and whipped like a dead horse since the pilot episode of Star Trek. Therefore it works. In cinema. I guess.
  14. Dec 4, 2003 #13
    If the thing is pushed around (relative to the fuselage) by cogs, then of course it would stop spinning, relative to the fuselage. There's all that machinery preventing it rotating, providing resistence. The only way it would continue spinning is if there's basically no contact between the spinning bit and the rest of it. Of course the way it stopped was kinda crappy.
  15. Dec 4, 2003 #14
    Just once I'd like to see someone pop through the seam of a duct joint that's slipped as a hanger gives way, land on the floor covered with dust, stand up, and say, "Gosh, it always worked in the movies."

    Or have a person setting off a sprinkler with a lighter be the only one to get wet because their sprinkler is the only one whose temperature sensitive bulb has broken.

    Is that too much to ask?

    They spend millions on actors salaries, couldn't they spend the 80 bucks an hour consultant fee to have an engineer/scientist take a couple hours to look at the script and say that will, or won't work?
  16. Dec 4, 2003 #15


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    You may have misunderstood. What I mean is that even though we know much of what he does isn't possible, its ok because he's James Bond.
  17. Dec 4, 2003 #16
    Damn right. Bond is cool because he does what we mere hairless monkeys can't.
  18. Dec 4, 2003 #17
    James Bond has a license to kill and also does not have to follow the laws of any nation or physics.
  19. Dec 4, 2003 #18


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    Uh... if something is rotating in space, then it will keep rotating. If anything, it would slow down and the center part would speed up, both settling at a middle angular velocity...

    But hey,

    I'm a dork.

    I shouldn't be worried about things like that.

    Next problem: Bugs EVOLVING! from FUNGUS in how long? 10 years!!!!! Yeah. I'll buy that for a dollar.
  20. Dec 4, 2003 #19


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    OH. OH.

    And our stalwart hero jumping into the Viking probe and blasting off to meet up with the ship.


    Robot probe = no life support.

    Robot probe with no ascent module = complete and utter BS

    Viking probe taking off. *sheesh*

    Now look what you've done... Now I'm going to be pissed all evening.
  21. Dec 4, 2003 #20
    That's what I said. The machinery connecting the two sections causes resistence which STOPS the rotation, between the two sections. It can NOT continue rotating relative to the fuselage. Sure, it should spin and tumble relative to the movie camera maybe, but not to the fuselage.

    The only rotation worth noticing is the rotation of the ring around the fuselage. That rotation stops due to resistence from connecting machinery.

    The ring should indeed stop rotating. The only complaint is, as I said earlier, the crappy way in which it stopped. It showed no changes in the fuselage orientation, which might have looked nice.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2003
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