Thursday, November 19, 2009

Science errors movies make over and over that drive me crazy

I actually have no problem with sound in space. It's an obvious way the director uses to heighten and emphasize the events of a scene. I like to think of it as another kind of background music.

There are a few scientific errors that are so common I really hope I never see them again in any movie. Hollywood does it so often, they ought to have learned better by now.

Rivers of Lava

I always wondered how it is there are these gushing rivers of lava that seem to ignore the principles of thermal equilibrium. If there really were rivers of lava underground, the heat would spread until the walls and eventually ceiling are molten hot.

Also, I'm a little tired, too, of those flimsy, rickety bridges that always seem to be draped over lava perilously, although perhaps that's for another blog entry.

"The Nuclear Reactor Turns Into a Bomb"

With this one, I specifically mean the absolute worst offender, the otherwise factually accurate K-19 The Widowmaker, which perpetuated the Hollywood voodoo science that a submarine nuclear reactor can be transformed into a bomb. A nuclear explosion requires a very precise series of explosions and a particularly refined, "weaponized" variety of plutonium to take place and can't happen because some dummy sneezes in the general direction of a nuclear warhead. It is literally impossible for a nuclear power reactor to turn into a hydrogen bomb.

One of the slimiest moments in recent American political memory was the saber-rattling over Iran's nuclear power reactors, which can in no way be used to produce nuclear weaponry. The reason that bothered me was that it banked on the scientific illiteracy of the American public to scaremonger.

Nuclear power is occasionally very dangerous for many reasons. The biggest is contamination from its deadly and poisonous byproducts: many kids that live around nuclear power plants find they have Strontium-90 instead of calcium in their bones and teeth.

"You only use 10% of your brain"

Actually, you use 100% of your brain, but usually not all at the same time, because parts of the brain are dedicated to different tasks. One of the best parts of my psychology graduate school experience was watching the brain light up in an EKG scan during different tasks.

Anyway, think of it like this: did you ever hear of anyone that got shot in the head and survived because the bullet passed through the 90% of the brain that most people don't use?

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