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How do Sci-fi movies get the science Wrong?
Posted: 18 July 2008 07:37 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I thought it would be fun to mention things that the movies get wrong.  I don’t mean the obvious stuff like explosions making noise in outer space, that’s too easy.  I mean more fundamental things.

For example right off the top of my head, in the Stargate episode “Thor’s Chariot”, Daniel Jackson and Sam Carter (I think she was still a captain then) are trying to figure out a riddle left behind by the Asgard, an advanced race of aliens.  Across one wall are various geometric shapes—circle, triangle, hexagon, etc.—and across the adjoining wall a series of runes.  Jackson eventually translates the runes as numbers—31416—which Carter points out is Pi, the ratio of the Circumference of a circle to its Radius.  He goes to the circle shape, draws in the radius, and —hey, wait a minute!  Pi is the ratio of Circumference to Diameter, isn’t it?  Oops!

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Posted: 18 July 2008 11:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Well, for those of you who can read spanish, http://www.malaciencia.info

My favorite is ‘The Core’. They reach the core of the planet in order to reactivate it with a couple of nuclear weapons. When they realize, surfing around the planet’s core, that the last atomic bomb should had been bigger, the main character (*) tooks the plutonium bars from the ship engine and puts them on the side of the last nuclear bomb, what, of course, makes the explosion bigger. Of course, it is not the only weird thing from the movie.

(*)I hated the main character. He was a arrogant, megalomaniac scientist who uses to dress like Carl Sagan. I wonder if we should kill the screenplay writer, the director, the costume designer or all of them.

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Posted: 18 July 2008 12:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Sort of a nit-pick here, but in Iron Man, when he is switching the old core for the new one, the ECG lines are switched.

And in Ben Stein’s Expelled, they made a huge error…a movie wink

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Posted: 02 August 2008 08:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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There was a Star Trek episode called “The Chase”, where they eventually discovered some sort of code (left by an ancient super-race) which was planted in the Human, Vulcan, Klingon, Romulan and Cardassian DNA billions of years ago.  The code not only drove them all to evolve into humanoid forms, it also spelled out a written message.  It seems to me that if it was placed in the “junk” section of the genome to that it wouldn’t be erased by natural selection, it would still have been erased by simple genetic drift.  Wouldn’t it?

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Posted: 02 August 2008 03:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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advocatus - 02 August 2008 08:24 AM

There was a Star Trek episode called “The Chase”, where they eventually discovered some sort of code (left by an ancient super-race) which was planted in the Human, Vulcan, Klingon, Romulan and Cardassian DNA billions of years ago.  The code not only drove them all to evolve into humanoid forms, it also spelled out a written message.  It seems to me that if it was placed in the “junk” section of the genome to that it wouldn’t be erased by natural selection, it would still have been erased by simple genetic drift.  Wouldn’t it?

  Well, yeah. but such a super-race would have included a duplicating system for catching and deleting such changes as is done in computers to prevent random glitches from being propagated.  smile

Occam

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Posted: 02 August 2008 08:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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One of my biggest pet peeves was Armageddon when the asteroid and all its debris fly past the moon with none of it affected by the moon’s gravity at all.

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Posted: 02 August 2008 10:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Wasn’t ‘Space 1999’ just the worst of the worst? The wooden puppets in ‘Thunderbirds’ were better actors.

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Posted: 03 August 2008 09:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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What bugs me is getting things wrong for absolutely no purpose.  They could have done it right and hurt nothing.

In the Babylon 5 episode Day of the Dead Part of the station is sold to the Bakiri and presumably becomes part of their home world.  One of the characters that returns from the dead says, “The other side of that corridor is 200 million light years away.”

Now the Milky Way galaxy is only 100,000 light years in diameter so Bakiri would have to be VERY FAR outside of the galaxy.  But the White Star was one of the fastest ships and it would take 54 just years to cross the galaxy.  But the way things happen in the B5 universe it made no sense for Bakir to be even 1000 ly away..  So if the character had said 50 light years instead it would not have harmed the plot in any way.

It is like Kirk saying 1 to the 4th power in Court Martial.  Duh, that’s ONE.

I think there are lots of liberal arts people in TV and movies and they don’t care if some details are wrong, they don’t expect the audience to catch them.  I figure that 200 million sounded impressive to somebody.  It communicated LONG DISTANCE to people who don’t know what a light year is anyway.

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Posted: 03 August 2008 04:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Anyone knows what a light year is.  It’s half as much as a heavy year.  LOL

Occam

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Posted: 03 August 2008 08:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Not just Sci-Fi movies, but pretty much all types of movies:

When the sound of the EKG goes from, “Beep, beep, beep,” to the one long steady “Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep” You don’t shock a flatline!   Yet every time it happens, they grab the paddles and yell, “Clear!” 

At a flatline they could give CPR.  But when giving CPR, the elbows shouldn’t bend, or they are doing it wrong! smile 

When a person gets shot, they don’t fly backwards across the room unless the shooter also flew back across the room in the opposite direction.  Newton’s Third Law!

When an airplane gets a bullet hole in the fuselage, the plane doesn’t explosively decompress, sucking people out of the hole.

Bullets don’t flash when they hit something hard.

And not really wrong science, but an overused stereotypical convention in movies is this:  When the hero gets shot and falls down, he must wait just long enough for the audience to think he is dead, then pat his chest several times, then dramatically rip his shirt open to reveal the kevlar vest he was wearing with the bullets lodged in it. 

Another convention in time travel movies:  As soon as the time traveler goes back in time, he walks over to the nearest trash can and grab a newspaper out of it to check the date. 

Every apartment in Paris has a view of the Eiffel Tower.

Every grocery bag brought home in the movies has a loaf of garlic bread partly protruding out of the top of it.

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Posted: 06 August 2008 09:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Occam - 02 August 2008 03:16 PM

Well, yeah. but such a super-race would have included a duplicating system for catching and deleting such changes as is done in computers to prevent random glitches from being propagated.

Occam

Good point, but the “junk” parts of our genome do in fact vary randomly from person to person, don’t they?  Isn’t that the part they use for DNA fingerprinting, because it varies randomly?

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Posted: 06 August 2008 09:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Rocinante - 03 August 2008 08:27 PM

When the sound of the EKG goes from, “Beep, beep, beep,” to the one long steady “Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep” You don’t shock a flatline!   Yet every time it happens, they grab the paddles and yell, “Clear!”

I’ve always wanted to ask someone about this.  Are you telling me that defibrillators are ONLY used to stabilize a heart that is beating erratically?  Is that what they mean by PVCs (Premature Vascular Contractions)?

At a flatline they could give CPR.  But when giving CPR, the elbows shouldn’t bend, or they are doing it wrong!

Yes, I’ve always wondered about this, too.  They even do it on “ER”.  Real CPR actually compresses the ribcage against the heart, to start it pumping.  I suppose they’re afraid that if people saw it done properly, they’d be stupid enough to try it and break one another’s ribs!  wink

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Posted: 06 August 2008 09:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Well, to be fair I suspect if the actors did CPR realistically they’d be hurting the actor playing the patient. When done correctly, CPR almost inevitably breaks ribs, so we might want to cut the actors some slack here.

As for defibrillation, Rocinante is correct that the reason to use one is to convert ventricular fibrillation (usually) into a flatline in the hope that the pacemaking center of the heart can reset and organized, normal electrical activity can be restarted. Asystole w/ no electrical activity or PEA (pulseless electrical activity, with a normal ECG but no actual heartbeat) is treated w/ CPR and drugs, not defibrillation. PVCs are a generally beningn extra beat originating in the ventricles which often doesn’t have any clinical significance at low rates. Many people get them after eating a big meal and lying down, when anxious, etc.

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Posted: 06 August 2008 09:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Rocinante - 03 August 2008 08:27 PM

Not just Sci-Fi movies, but pretty much all types of movies:

When the sound of the EKG goes from, “Beep, beep, beep,” to the one long steady “Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep” You don’t shock a flatline!   Yet every time it happens, they grab the paddles and yell, “Clear!” 
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Every grocery bag brought home in the movies has a loaf of garlic bread partly protruding out of the top of it.

Most tales told are clichéd - the bible(s) are an example. Others are ‘fairy’ tales, urban myths and the like. They resonate with us. Astrology, ‘psychic’ readings and the like even more so - the generic term is ‘cold reading’.

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Posted: 06 August 2008 09:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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mckenzievmd - 06 August 2008 09:37 AM

Well, to be fair I suspect if the actors did CPR realistically they’d be hurting the actor playing the patient. When done correctly, CPR almost inevitably breaks ribs, so we might want to cut the actors some slack here.

I thought they could substitute a dummy or something, like they do when they “operate”.  But you make a very good point.

As for defibrillation, Rocinante is correct that the reason to use one is to convert ventricular fibrillation (usually) into a flatline in the hope that the pacemaking center of the heart can reset and organized, normal electrical activity can be restarted. Asystole w/ no electrical activity or PEA (pulseless electrical activity, with a normal ECG but no actual heartbeat) is treated w/ CPR and drugs, not defibrillation. PVCs are a generally beningn extra beat originating in the ventricles which often doesn’t have any clinical significance at low rates. Many people get them after eating a big meal and lying down, when anxious, etc.

And thanks for the brief lesson.  The only reason I asked about PVCs is that when I used to watch “ER”, they used that term all the time, when somebody was wheeled in on a gurney—“He’s throwing PVCs!”  I looked it up in a medical dictionary to find out what it meant, but the dictionary didn’t give a detailed description.

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Posted: 06 August 2008 08:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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mckenzievmd - 06 August 2008 09:37 AM

Well, to be fair I suspect if the actors did CPR realistically they’d be hurting the actor playing the patient. When done correctly, CPR almost inevitably breaks ribs, so we might want to cut the actors some slack here.

It’s called “Method Acting!”  If they aren’t willing to suffer for their art then perhaps they shouldn’t be playing lifeless corpses!  grin  wink

Seriously, I don’t expect actors to harm other actors or movie makers to resort to using anthropomorphic dummies or CGI in an effort to get every CPR scene a bit more accurate just so an actor can keep their elbows straight.  This is just one of those little things in movies that must be done “wrong” and the audience must suspend disbelief, assuming they even notice. 

Movies are filled with little things like this.  Rear view mirrors are removed from windshields of cars so the actors can be seen without distraction.  Actors hardly ever reach in their pocket to get the car keys - they just jump right in the car and start it up.  Then they always find a parking spot right in front of wherever it is they are going.

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