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How do Sci-fi movies get the science Wrong?
Posted: 06 August 2008 09:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Rocinante - 06 August 2008 08:49 PM

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.

Have you ever noticed how often they forget to shift the transmission and pull the parking brake? They go to get out and the car rolls some?

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Posted: 07 August 2008 05:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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I don’t know if it is a true story or not, but allegedly Alfred Hitchcock heard from a doctor after he saw Psycho.  The doctor mentioned Janet Leigh’s eyes remained contracted after her character’s death instead of the pupils dilating as they would have in a real dead body.  Hitchcock checked around to see how he could fix this “problem” and apparently used belladonna drops in all the actors who played dead bodies in his future films.  Could be an urban legend.

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Posted: 24 September 2008 06:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Last night on “Eureka”, they had something they called “baryogenic radiation”, which was emitted by Element X. I tried to figure out what “baryogenic” would mean, from the Greek prefix “baro-” for weight, and the root “gene” for reproduction.  “Heavy reproduction”?  Obviously the writer just threw together a word that sounded “scientific” without worrying about what it meant.  wink

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Posted: 24 September 2008 07:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Rocinante - 03 August 2008 08:27 PM

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

LOL ... every US movie with a view of London in it has to show a red bus going past some well known landmark (Buckingham Palace or Trafalgar Square) and the bus is almost always the old style that went out of service about 20 years ago. There’s also stereotype English people, either posh (“anyone for tennis darling?”) or cockney (“Cor Blimey Guv!”) although I’m sure our films do much the same for Americans.

Kyu

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Posted: 24 September 2008 08:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Hey, let’s give fiction its due. Fiction is not supposed to be real—it’s supposed to digest the complexity of human life down to something simple that can be grasped immediately. The characters in fiction aren’t real human beings—what real human being would be as brave, as clever, or as stupid as the characters in fiction?

That said, I do enjoy finding obscure scientific errors in movies. For example, for the movie 2001, there was a publicity shot showing a bunch of people standing in a lunar crater at local sunset, with the earth visible low in the sky. I realized that the situation depicted was impossible: if the terminator (shadow edge) on the moon were at that particular crater, then the earth as viewed from the moon could not show the phase (gibbous) that is was depicted with. How’s THAT for a pinnacle of nerdy know-it-all perfection?

Another example is in the opening sequence for the television series Star Trek: Voyager. The space ship cruises over the rings of an alien planet. The computer graphics people show off by showing the glinted reflection of the space ship on the rings. Unfortunately, the reflection covers such a vast area of the rings that the space ship must be thousands of miles long.

But I still like Star Trek.

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Posted: 24 September 2008 04:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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advocatus - 24 September 2008 06:26 AM

Last night on “Eureka”, they had something they called “baryogenic radiation”, which was emitted by Element X. I tried to figure out what “baryogenic” would mean, from the Greek prefix “baro-” for weight, and the root “gene” for reproduction.  “Heavy reproduction”?  Obviously the writer just threw together a word that sounded “scientific” without worrying about what it meant.  wink

  Well, in Latin the prefix, baro- means blockhead or simpleton.  And, as I recall, in a Startrek TNG episode, they had to decontaminate the Enterprise by using a Baroscopic sweep (I’m sure Mriana can give a more accurate description here).  Also, don’t forget the use of baro- meaning weather, e.g., barometer, baroscope.  It could also have meant radiating or generating baryons, heavy atomic particles.

Occam

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Posted: 24 September 2008 06:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Medical personnel watching medical shows have to ignore all of the procedural errors in the shows (no, we don’t crack a chest in the elevator when someone has heart attack—we do CPR). And it is especially annoying that they show the doctors as doing all of the work wink , when anyone who has ever been hospitalized knows they may go days without seeing their doctor—although s/he will be monitoring you through the nurses reports. I’ve talked to police personnel and they have the same problems with police shows (that is illegal, If I did that, I would be fired/prosecuted), I suspect all professions have similar complaints with the portrayal of their field of expertise by the media. Unless it is grossly misleading the public in a way that could cause harm—-I just shut up, sit back, and watch the show! Otherwise, it would be a source of endless frustration! grin

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Posted: 24 September 2008 11:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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Chris Crawford - 24 September 2008 08:32 AM

For example, for the movie 2001, there was a publicity shot showing a bunch of people standing in a lunar crater at local sunset, with the earth visible low in the sky. I realized that the situation depicted was impossible: if the terminator (shadow edge) on the moon were at that particular crater, then the earth as viewed from the moon could not show the phase (gibbous) that is was depicted with. How’s THAT for a pinnacle of nerdy know-it-all perfection?

Very good. If you start looking at these…  Any moon crescent in the middle of the night. Or in the evening at the northern hemisphere, but in the wrong direction?
I also like thise one: in ‘Contact’ the girl is looking at shooting stars… with a telescope?

Chris Crawford - 24 September 2008 08:32 AM

Another example is in the opening sequence for the television series Star Trek: Voyager. The space ship cruises over the rings of an alien planet. The computer graphics people show off by showing the glinted reflection of the space ship on the rings. Unfortunately, the reflection covers such a vast area of the rings that the space ship must be thousands of miles long.
But I still like Star Trek.

Ehh… I like this opening sequence! Do not touch it! Ehh.. the Voyager is just very close to the rings? OK?

GdB

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Posted: 25 September 2008 02:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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GdB - 24 September 2008 11:51 PM

I like this opening sequence! Do not touch it! Ehh.. the Voyager is just very close to the rings? OK?

So, as one of the apparently very few people who actually likes the show, do I!

Kyu

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Posted: 25 September 2008 07:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Oh yes, I love Voyager. And I think that the opening sequence is truly beautiful. Yes, it’s scientifically very inaccurate (I could list a number of other mistakes in that short sequence). But it’s not a science textbook, it’s a story! It’s not supposed to be correct, it’s supposed to be beautiful.

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Posted: 25 September 2008 10:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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asanta - 24 September 2008 06:58 PM

And it is especially annoying that they show the doctors as doing all of the work wink , when anyone who has ever been hospitalized knows they may go days without seeing their doctor—although s/he will be monitoring you through the nurses reports.

 

I still remember the time many years ago when I went into the Women’s and Children’s nursery at a well known regional hospital to draw blood from an infant only to find the 1 nurse in charge of all of the infants safety and well being fast asleep at her post.  I was able to do a heal stick, collect the blood, and leave w/out her batting an eye.  She must have been working so hard that she fell sound asleep…

I can see how showing the doctors as the only ones doing the work can be bothersome.  As my example shows, there are always exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, everyone at the hospitals that I have ever been at all seem to be working very hard—even the doctors.

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Posted: 25 September 2008 04:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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It’s true that TV shows leave a lot to be desired in terms of accuracy.  I get a kick out of the misuse of various chemicals to do things they just won’t do, but my main enjoyment is the unbelievably bizarre mispronunciations of chemicals by supposed chemists and technicians.  smile

Occam

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Posted: 25 September 2008 04:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Oh man! If that had been my hospital, that nurse would have been fired immediately! Doctors work INCREDIBLY hard, and they have my deepest respect! Working night shift, part of my responsibility is to make sure all of the mundane issues are covered so they can sleep undisturbed as long as possible. The difference between the doctor and nurse is that while I am responsible for my few patients, the doctor is responsible for the whole ward, and in some hospitals, medical section of the entire hospital. S/he can’t be at every bedside all the time unlike the TV docs. Even nurses have to share time between patients! When we admit to the NICU, and the patient doesn’t need immediate resuscitation or intubation—i.e. is relatively stable, generally we start doing standard tests and assessments before calling and waking the doctor, no sense in wasting their time. When we had patients in the PICU that had changes in their condition, we would make intervention measures that were within our nursing parameters (ABGs, suctioning, repositioning, draw labs early, change oxygen level, etc, THEN call the MD to talk about the results in our interventions and ask for further measure requiring a MD order such as CXR, fluid bolus, change in meds etc.) We are the doctor’s ‘watchmen’ so they can do their work, they can’t be everywhere, and not everything that needs their attention is equally urgent, that’s what nurses do. To make TV shows more exciting, they show the MDs doing everything for the few patients the show is focusing on giving people an unrealistic idea of what the roles of doctors, nurses, respiratory therapist, etc. If I could give you a dollar for each time a patient has told me they wanted the doctor to place their peripheral IV, you would have a nice vacation. First, it’s a waste of the doctor’s time, and usually the doctors laugh and tell the patient ‘you REALLY don’t want me to start your IV, nurses are MUCH better at it, they get MUCH more practice’.

(edited for clarity)

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Posted: 25 September 2008 05:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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Again, let’s not forget that this is fiction, not a documentary. Doctors have to go to the bathroom, too, but they don’t show that because it’s boring. A writer’s task is to strip away all the clutter and zero in on the dramatic parts. The real world is really boring, so storytellers have to distort reality to make it interesting. Sometimes these distortions are obvious, and sometimes they’re subtle. For example, I have noticed that they’re starting to play with color balances in some TV shows—they’re brightening the blues and oranges, say, while dimming out greens and reds. Is this wrong? I don’t think so. It’s part of the art of storytelling. The problem is that people take these things too seriously. How many kids have decided to go into forensic science because of the CSI shows? And how many of them lose interest when they realize a) just how bad it smells; and b) just how much boring legwork goes into this stuff.

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Posted: 25 September 2008 06:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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Well, they wouldn’t show this on TV, but there are times it’s nice to have the doctor perform the procedure.  During my last stay, they needed to insert a catheter.  The nurse jammed it in and it stopped.  She yanked it out and tried again.  I put up with this torture four times, then as she prepared for a fifth onslaught, I told her to stop and call a urologist.  She called the supervising nurse who agreed with me.  The urologist explained that I had a kink in my urethra, but nurses were not allowed to use the bent catheters (at least in that hospital).  He slipped it in very nicely, and I had no problem.  However, most of the nurses were quite professional and pleasant.  I made it a point of not bothering them, but always asking to explain what they were doing when they had to do something, and they were quite willing to do so. 

Occam

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