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Hollywood flims with
flawed science

by Satish RM , Young - Scientist.in


The Matrix Trilogy -
a) Violation of the First Law of Thermodynamics

The entire premise of this trilogy is based on the use of in-vitro grown humans as power sources by the machines. The first law of thermodynamics says that the amount of energy that can be extracted from a human body can only equal the amount of energy supplied. Since the machines are cultivating humans in a field, they need to provide energy in the form of heat, food and equipment power. The law of conservation of energy tells us that energy cannot be created out of thin air. Human bodies convert energy from one form to another and cannot magically create new energy.

b) Violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics

To make things worse, thermodynamics tells us that the maximum efficiency of a thermal process cannot be 100%. This means that the machines would actually be getting less energy than what they are supplying to keep humans alive.
Image ©Warner Bros

Jurassic Park  
a) DNA reconstruction

The dinosaurs are created from a prehistoric mosquito that was preserved in amber. We are told that the dinosaur DNA was extracted from the blood inside the mosquito after it had bitten a dinosaur. However, DNA strands disintegrate within a few centuries even in the best-preserved conditions, let alone millions of years. Even if the DNA was preserved, the task of reverse engineering multiple species from a single blood sample is something that is extremely far fetched. It is akin to a puzzle with billions of little pieces and we have no computer or an algorithm to solve such a genetic puzzle.

b) Lysine contingency

To prevent escaped dinosaurs from being a nuisance to humanity, they are genetically modified to be lysine dependent. The film claims that the lysine is provided in the special food prepared for the animals. However, lysine is a common amino acid and found in almost all types of food: meat, milk, fish, grains, eggs, etc.
Photo by George Poinar, Jr


CRISPR doesn’t work like shown

CRISPR is a cutting edge technique in genetic engineering where sequences of DNA from different species can be spliced together to modify the morphological features of an organism. This means that it is possible to create a dog with wings or a shark with hands. The important issue here is that these genetically modified organisms are grown from a single cell. There is no special substance that can modify the DNA of a mature organism and induce the growth of strange physical features or powers. This is not how CRISPR or even biology works.

Average humans use their entire brain

The film perpetuates a myth that the average human being uses only about 10% of their brain capacity. Brain scans show that almost the entire human brain is thriving with neural activity even under normal conditions. There is no magic drug that can boost the brain capacity to superhuman levels. The development of cognitive skills takes time and effort and significant changes cannot happen overnight. Also, if the average human only uses a fraction of their brain, then brain damage wouldn’t be as serious as it really is.
Image © EuropaCorp


Not enough water

This dystopian film claims that uncontrolled global warming has caused the complete melting of ice caps and the entire land surface of the planet has submerged. Unfortunately, there simply isn’t enough water in the form of ice to achieve this. 

Star Wars
The world building

Even if we ignore the fantasy of the concept of the “force”, there are several aspects of the movie franchise that makes little consistency with known science.

(i) Laser beams would be invisible in space. We can view the laser beams on earth because the light gets scattered by particles suspended in the air.

(ii) No sound is generated in space and hence blasters cannot make the characteristic sound effect as depicted.

(iii) The jedi are able to deflect blaster projectiles which are laser pulses travelling at the speed of light. First, this would require impossible reflexes. Second, light travels too fast for us to see it travel.

(iv) If the spaceships are travelling at lightspeed, as claimed, then there would be complications due to time dilation as per Einstein’s special theory of relativity.

(v) The same theory prohibits any object with mass at travelling at the speed of light since it would require infinite energy.

(vi) Astrobiologists would tell you that it is extremely unlikely to have planets with singular geography. Tatooine is likely not a planet covered in sand and Dagobah isn’t entirely made of swamps.


Star Trek 

Instantaneous communication relay

In several scenes of the movie franchise, we see characters communicate with each other without a time delay. This happens when they are on different planets or even on different solar systems. Faster Than Light (FTL) communication violates the special theory of relativity. The communication delay between astronauts on the moon and ground base is 1.25 seconds in comparison.
Image © Paramount

a) Inconsistent shrinking mechanism

The Antman suit works by using the fictional “Pym Particles” which reduce the distance between molecules. This ensures that the mass of the person wearing the suit remains the same. That’s why the shrunken person can punch with a large force despite the small size. The film itself is inconsistent with the depiction of the mechanism. In one scene, Scott Lang falls on the bathroom tile while shrinking and damages it. This means that his mass is unchanged. In other scenes, he is seen riding ants which would be impossible since his weight would have crushed the insect. This seems to imply that the suit can control the mass of the wearer as well, although it is never made clear how. In another scene, Hank Pym carries a shrunken tank in his pocket.

It must be mentioned that while there is space between molecules and atoms, it is not sufficient to cause the scale of shrinking as seen in the movie.

b) The Quantum Realm

The movie claims that the suit can shrink the person to subatomic scales. This poses multiple problems. Even if we allow for the removal of mass from the wearer to a different “dimension”, which can be retrieved later when returning to normal size, the wearer is still made of atoms which cannot be smaller than other atoms. Here, the movie strongly suggests that the suit can alter the size of atoms and subatomic particles like protons, neutrons and electrons. This is neither explained or even mentioned. The shrinking of subatomic particles is a fantasy that has no basis in particle physics and quantum mechanics. The movie also depicts the quantum realm in a visually stunning manner. While this is beautiful, this makes no sense since the scale we are dealing with is comparable or even smaller than the wavelength of visible light. The quantum realm would be a very dark place.

Image ©Marvel Studios


Angels & Demons
Anti-matter Containment

Even if we allow for the possibility of creating anti-matter in the amounts as shown, it is extremely difficult to contain the material. The equipment necessary has to produce strong magnetic fields and would consume enormous amounts of energy. To be realistic, the amount of anti-matter we have so far been able to produce is so small that the energy that would be released from its annihilation would lift an apple by 20 cms. Also, the longest we have stored anti-matter is only 16 minutes.
Image ©Columbia Pictures

Independence Day
Creating an Alien Computer Virus

The invading aliens are defeated by developing a “malware” and uploading it into the mainframe of the mothership. Jeff Goldblum achieves this by merely looking at a few lines of code of the alien programming language. This is ridiculous since the code is alien and their computer may not even use a binary system. Any computer scientist would tell you that it’s impossible to learn an entire programming language by studying a few lines of code.
Image ©20th Century Fox

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