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Why the 'Matrix Movie' is unrealistic

  1. Nov 29, 2006 #1
    I'm going to keep this thread rooted in science, please post replies on topic. I know the movie the Matix brings alot of creative people and discussions whenever its mentioned, so lets try to keep that passion grounded in realistic terms.

    That said, here is a reason why I think the movie the Matrix was flawed in its idea that colonies of humans would be harvested as batteries for the Matrix's power supply...

    The human body uses very little energy. In fact, the human body (on average) uses only 100watts of power throughout a typical day. In real terms, this means that a normal lightbulb (incandescent) which has a wattage of 100watts, equals the power usage of a human body. Conversely, your home computer uses about 300-500watts depending on the model. A human can reach peek power usage levels of ~500watts for short bursts of time, like riding a bicycle full out for a minute. So if we consider each human as equivalent to 100watts, we can multiply this number by 6 billion people to reach a total power output from the entire human civilization of 600 billion watts (600GW).

    Here is a link to a thread where this was discussed in more detail: https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=145043

    600GW might sound like alot of power and it is, but consider that the world produced a total of 3,700GW of electricity in 2003. (http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/electricity.html) We can see now that our entire population, if used as batteries, would only produce 1/6th the electricity that all other means of electricity generation produce. Note that this number of 600GW is a very high estimate too, because it assumes that the human body is a perfect battery that can perfectly transfer all of its power to the Matrix AI. However, there are several caveats to this 600GW number that would greatly reduce its effective power transfer levels. Here are a few off hand, 1) these human bodies would still need to use some of their 100watts to mediate their bodily functions necessary for sustaining their lives, 2) these human bodies still radiate away some of this 100watts as heat, 3) these human bodies would lose alot of this 100watts at the junction between their body and the AI matrix interface. I'm sure you can think of many more too.

    All in all I think you can appreciate that the human body is a pretty lousy battery and the AI Matrix would be better off extracting energy from the 'food' that they feed the humans, whatever that is. The idea is plain inefficient, just like getting your calories from a steak, when you could have eaten the cornmeal they fed to the cow instead. And if machines and computers have taught us one thing, its that they like to be efficient!

    All thoughts appreciated.

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    Last edited: Nov 29, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 29, 2006 #2
    Very good point. And I thought you were going to analyze the "bullet-time" effect using classical mechanics...
  4. Nov 29, 2006 #3
    But we all know we are very unefficient in using energy. I belief (fantasise) that we will be able one day to use energy from empty space.

    Give that, and assumption machines figured out to use energy very efficiently, i think i got contra argument for you.

    But sure, it would indeed for machines easier to create chemical, thermal, or other kinds of energy.
  5. Nov 29, 2006 #4
    Who says that the machines require our current levels of energy production? Perhaps there are only 1/6th as many machines.

    In addition, the movie takes place far in the future when non-renewable energy sources may have been exhausted. Since the sky is completely blackened, perhaps biological energy production is the only viable method.
  6. Nov 29, 2006 #5


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    The whole movie is quite unrealistic even in principle. It is very entertaining that is for sure. The dialing the phone with a servo motor and old rotary dial phone had me rolling on the floor. I also couldn't understand why there were only certain geographical places in the simulated reality where you could zap back into real physical reality and out of simulated reality. I guess we are to believe that anything that actually happened in the movie was a bug in the matrix software that ideally would not have been allowed. It's not as if these bugs weren't known about. I could go on and on and on and on....
  7. Nov 29, 2006 #6
    Do you really think the the Wachowski brothers intended for the Matrix to be seen as realistic? The philosophy behind it is what it is. What's the point in questioning the realism of the world they placed on top of the Matrix? To me, that has no bearing on the main idea of the movie.
  8. Nov 29, 2006 #7


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    I understand where you're coming from but I believe there should be more to it than the main idea. Believe me when I say I could have taken their idea and created a VERY bad movie that kept the same 'main idea'. And I'd be willing to be that you'd feel differently than you do now.
  9. Nov 29, 2006 #8
    I loved the matrix, but i really believe dark city is a much better film =)
  10. Nov 29, 2006 #9
    Aw crap, I've created a monster. I thought my disclaimer would stop replies about the movie in general and we could focus on humans as batteries, but I admit, I was wishfully thinking.


    Now you are dragging this thread into speculation about the energy needs of a hypothetical # of Matrix robots. You know this is the physics forums right?

    Someone please lock this if it gets out of hand. I thought my thread had at least a few interesting facts, but wrapping it in the 'Matrix' framework has brought in more ....ahem.... than its worth.
  11. Nov 29, 2006 #10
    Considering the question bases itself on speculation to begin with, I don't see the problem with that. We're talking about a movie here... :rolleyes:

    You make the assumption that the robots require a certain amount of energy; I'm saying that your figure is just a guess. If you had some concrete number of robots, then perhaps we could actually gauge feasibility. We don't even know the number of humans hooked into the system: Remember, this is far in the future.

    Another argument I've heard is that the network of brains could be used as a gigantic parallel processor, so it's possible that the robots are using the humans as a computer farm in addition to a power source.
  12. Nov 29, 2006 #11
    ok you win
  13. Nov 29, 2006 #12
    So you're saying that an unrealistic movie = a bad movie? :eek:
  14. Nov 30, 2006 #13

    Chi Meson

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    @ Order,

    I think you're opening post pretty much covers the battery aspect. I doubt there is much to add beyond everyone just nodding their heads, saying "yeah, I know." The premise of the entire movie is absurd. The rest of the Matrix also does not adhere to any scientfic principles either. You might as well discuss the poor physics that is dislayed in the Harry Potter movies.
  15. Nov 30, 2006 #14
    Didn't they also have fusion? Redering the bio-battery absolutely useless?

    (Sorry if it was already said, I couldn't be bothered reading all that)

    I also like when he travelled so fast he blew up everything behind him and then caught Trinity while going that speed.
  16. Nov 30, 2006 #15


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    Please point out where I said this. Don't put words in my mouth, it's inSane. :wink:
  17. Nov 30, 2006 #16


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    A realistic film is rarely a film worth watching. :tongue2:
  18. Nov 30, 2006 #17


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    Wasn't he using a warp drive technique? With precision he catch her couldn't he?
    *cough* march of the penguins
  19. Nov 30, 2006 #18
    Yes, but don't worry about the massive impulse on her body that would vaporise her.
  20. Nov 30, 2006 #19
    Think about it. You said the Matrix was unrealistic. I said that's besides the point, because that doesn't deter from the 'main idea' of the movie. Then you said that's irrelevant because you could make a movie that is bad without affecting that same idea. But what's the point in making that argument, if making "a VERY bad movie" doesn't mean making an unrealistic one? If you're just saying that making it bad can keep its theme intact, so what? You're throwing tomatoes in the fruit bowl.
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2006
  21. Nov 30, 2006 #20


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    Getting back to the OP's claim - I would suggest a modification.

    The premise of the movie is flawed. Forget about the details. The premise is that humans are used as batteries because nonrenewable sources of energy are tapped out.

    This is the problem I've had with the movie from the beginning.

    1] The humans have to be fed nutrients to keep working. Those nutrients are a source of chemical energy. Where is the energy coming from to create the nutrients to feed the humans?

    2] The machines are stumped by overcast weather??? They can't - oh I don't know:
    - fix it?
    - build a tower that extends beyond the clouds to reach sunlight?
    - blow off the whole atmosphere and its black cloud?

    Forget about the details. If you have an energy crisis, making 6 billion power transformers doesn't fix your problem.
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