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Thread: The 20 worst science and technology errors in films

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    The 20 worst science and technology errors in films

    The 20 worst science and technology errors in films

    A far-from-definitive list of the 20 most annoying science and technology errors in films, from slow-moving lasers to extraterrestrials who use Windows Vista.
    Everything I need to know I learned through Googling.

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    whenever something like this comes up, i always think of the scene in "History of the World: part 1" where the guy walks by the building in ancient Rome carrying a boombox on his shoulder that is blasting "Funkytown"..

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    Actually, Star Trek did end up addressing point #1.

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    In reference to the BladeRunner (3d "enhance" of a photo) it is stated in the movie that they are holoprints or something equal to that. i.e. they are not a 35mm snapshot but something else entirely.

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    I can think of one in a recent T.V. advert: A fiery meteor streaks high over a glass-domed Moon colony.

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    How about my favorite: GRASS on the asteroid in "Armmaholycrapthissucks"

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    3. The Ice Storm
    Star Wars is guilty here. Young Luke grows up on Tatooine, a desert planet; by the start of The Empire Strikes Back, he’s found his way to Hoth, an ice planet. Endor is a Forest Moon. Do none of these planets have some warm bits and some cold bits? Do you have to go to a different planet for a skiiing holiday?
    Very noticeable.

    7. In space, no-one can hear an elephant scream
    Yes, but what are movies without sound effects?

    (The Matrix/#8) humans are kept alive as a sort of electricity generator (bringing a whole new meaning to the term “battery farming”). This is not just unlikely – it’s fundamentally impossible. They will need more energy to keep alive than they will produce.
    But it was so cool. And creepy.

    #12:...you cannot then press some magical “enhance image” button and make it all perfectly clear. A pixel is a pixel.
    Some people are no fun. Imagination is a good thing.

    #18: When you get shot by a gun, you will not fly backwards (see: The Terminator, every John Woo film ever made). This is because a bullet does not weigh very much.
    Well that's a relief: If I'm ever shot, at least I won't go flying violently backwards.

    Interesting article. But movies would be a lot less fun without all the thrills and frills. And lots of these films *do* pique interest in science and etc. I think...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Buttercup View Post
    Yes, but what are movies without sound effects?
    Better?

    Without inappropriate sound effects that is.
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    The movies would only be less interesting without, oh, sound effects in space were the screenwriters lazy in the story--or, to be a little pedantic, were the studios willing to make intelligent films. After all, it's not as though they can't be both entertaining and intelligent.
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    I thought the list kind of wandered. I'm sick of the "no sound in space!" thing on these lists. We're all aware of it. Move on.

    But some of the complaints were general / common errors. Some were specific parts of specific movies. I mean, can two male robins building a nest really be one of the 20 worst science gaffs ever on film?

    I'm tempted to write a "10 worst 'worst whatever' list topics" list, with "Bad Science in Movies" as one of the top 10.

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    I consider ID4 a guilty pleasure, but I've never been able to use my considerable powers of Hollywood-induced, temporary suspended disbelief to squeeze that alien virus one past my forehead-slapping filter.

    One I'm pretty easy to forgive is the whole easy interstellar travel shtick. SF writers use it as often as Hollywood does; I mean, you gotta get to Thorvald VII somehow, or else there's no Zack Hollister to save the Empire, which doesn't exist because interstellar travel was never, ever possible, which means our hero is stoically hunting down garlic pepper turkey slices at Publix instead of, you know...doing story things.

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    Am I the only one that immediately thought, "The blasters in Star Wars weren't lasers"?

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    Well, it's silly that desert planets and ice planets are called out, considering we have them in this solar system.
    We've got Mars (cold desert is still desert) and hellish Venus, and several of the moons of the gas giants look like, well, balls of ice.
    I've got little problem with Tatooine and Hoth; there's probably millions of trillions of worlds like them in the universe. Their oxygen atmospheres are an issue, though--where're the plants? I guess lichens and ice-algae could produce it, slowly. If Hoth has tundra about its equator, you could get peat moss-like plants.
    Forrest moons, on the other tentacle, are a different story. A mono-biome across an entire world is highly unlikely--outside of being artificially maintained.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SkepticJ View Post
    ...
    I've got little problem with Tatooine and Hoth; there's probably millions of trillions of worlds like them in the universe. Their oxygen atmospheres are an issue, though--where're the plants? ...
    In the oceans? Half of earth's oxygen comes from single cell marine organisms, so I suppose you could make it 80 or 90 percent or greater if the oceans were more extensive, or the marine ecology different, or if less oxygen was lost by mineral oxidation or respiration.

    Nick

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    I pick on ID4 too, but having been tinkering with micros for a bit now, I don't look upon that particular scene quite the same way. What comes out the port, for a competent hacker, doesn't necessarily have anything to do with what is going on in the OS. Basically, they had to add a physical port anyhow that was compatible with the alien's equipment, and they had to write code in whatever it was using for an OS. The fact that the file streamed off a MacBook (or whatever) is about as germane as asking which OS is running the internal CD player whilst it is streaming some audio to a set of speakers.

    On the other hand, that's some cramming to get whatever the aliens were using into the frame of a laptop. Good thing it wasn't some really bizarre physical protocol, like analog via pulse modulation of a high-power UV laser! And then there's the question of figuring out security loopholes in a mainframe by looking closely at a single limited peripheral.

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    In Alien: Resurrection (also known as An Alien Film Too Far), the Ripley clone has memories of her old self. This could not possibly happen unless in some way our memory was written on to our DNA. Just to clarify, it isn’t.
    I know this wasn't the best movie ever made, but I do give the script writers partial credit here because they did explain that Ripley's recovered memories shouldn't have happened. I was posited (I believe by Brad Dourif's character) that it might have something to do with the intermingling of her DNA with the alien's DNA, giving her the equivalent of a "race memory" imprint.

    Yeah, hokey, but they did call it out as not being normal.

    13. Are we nearly there yet?
    In The Empire Strikes Back, the plot hinges on the Millennium Falcon’s hyperdrive system failing, forcing them to travel from the Hoth system to the Bespin system at sub-light speeds.

    If we take our own solar system as a guide, the nearest other star – Proxima Centauri – is 4.2 light years away. Even if it was only that far to Hoth, and even if “sub-light” meant relativistic near-light speeds, we could still expect several years’ journey time. Make sure you pack a good book.
    I hate to use non-film material for sources, but there are numerous references in SW books to back up drive systems. Limited, slower than heck, but still FTL. Lucas has a bad habit of leaving important bits on the cutting room floor, so this one might be out there somewhere...

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    Quote Originally Posted by SkepticJ View Post
    Well, it's silly that desert planets and ice planets are called out, considering we have them in this solar system.
    We've got Mars (cold desert is still desert) and hellish Venus, and several of the moons of the gas giants look like, well, balls of ice.
    Indeed.
    I've got little problem with Tatooine and Hoth; there's probably millions of trillions of worlds like them in the universe. Their oxygen atmospheres are an issue, though--where're the plants?
    Well, everyone in the Star Wars universe is an alien (to us) living in a galaxy far far away. It's not clear that they breath oxygen.

    But while their biology may be different, their physics should be the same. The worst offenses in Star Wars would be the way vehicles move in outer space. It makes no sense.

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    For me, the most jarring science/technology "error" was in Sphere.

    The scientists board a mysterious "alien" starship. However, the walkways are human sized, the doors are human sized, the controls/handles are at human height. Even though the filmmakers try to obscure it with dark lighting, it's immediately obvious--this is a HUMAN spacecraft designed for and by humans. That should have been the first thing the scientists were thinking.

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    IMHO "The 20 easiest cheap shots against common errors" would be more appropriate.

    Seriously, we are probably all aware of them, but I can't help wondering to what degree they really affect our enjoyment of the movies.

    What's next? Should we complain that there should be no music in space? How is that orchestra playing "Blue Danube" in space in 2001?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fazor View Post
    I thought the list kind of wandered. I'm sick of the "no sound in space!" thing on these lists. We're all aware of it. Move on.
    Yep.

    But some of the complaints were general / common errors. Some were specific parts of specific movies. I mean, can two male robins building a nest really be one of the 20 worst science gaffs ever on film?


    And since when is Mary Poppins a science film anyway? I think it's sort of odd a person would even notice that, same as all the errors noted in films at IMdB's "Goofs" section. Ever read the Goofs list for Aliens? Who's got the time/effort to notice all those alleged mistakes?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Buttercup View Post
    (The Matrix/#8) humans are kept alive as a sort of electricity generator (bringing a whole new meaning to the term “battery farming”). This is not just unlikely – it’s fundamentally impossible. They will need more energy to keep alive than they will produce.
    But it was so cool. And creepy.
    Actually, it had the opposite effect on me. I generally like The Matrix, but that idea was so stupid (I thought that the very first time I saw the movie) that it sort of ruins it for me.

    I've had what I think is a better premise (which I think I've mentioned before). Humans are necessary for the Matrix, not as a power supply, but as part of the computational power.

    If the energy use was thermodynamically correct (it isn't), you don't need humans, you could mice or dogs or any warm-blooded animal. So, what's special about humans - our brains.

    My premise is that the Matrix's software runs on this vast network of both non-organic and organic computers (the later being human brains). Sort of the ultimate in distributed computing.

    Given the redundency in the system, the loss of a couple of units is no big deal, but if the vast majority of humans were liberated, the Matrix would shut down because of a lack of computing power.
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    wrt the Matrix: I could have forgiven the premise if it was a one-and-done film. I'm willing to suspend a lot of reality in exchange for a good film. And then there came the sequels. I don't believe I ever saw the third one, and I hated the second. Absolutely unnecessary. Again, I can look over a bad premise for one move. But not for three.

    And the same holds true for Keanu; one movie? Okay. Three? Okay I give in! I'll tell you everything you want to know!!! ...what? What do you mean this isn't some sort of CIA interrogation technique?

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    Fazor - both sequels nearly ruin the first film. Its like a revisionist sledgehammer.

    Also there is a story called "Wake Up to Thunder" that is remarkably like the Matrix in a nearly lawsuit sense. "Wake Up to Thunder" was written in 1973 by Dean Koontz. It has humans in EXACTLY the same vessel (a large bowl, suspended in liquid), asleep and hooked into a computer system. In fact the very first time I saw the wide shot of all those humans asleep in the Matrix I thought "holy crap someone is getting sued" because it is so very exactly like "Wake Up to Thunder". Its also the very same message/plot with a few additions/changes.

    ANyway it is a great short story.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Swift View Post
    Actually, it had the opposite effect on me. I generally like The Matrix, but that idea was so stupid (I thought that the very first time I saw the movie) that it sort of ruins it for me.

    I've had what I think is a better premise (which I think I've mentioned before). Humans are necessary for the Matrix, not as a power supply, but as part of the computational power.
    Neil Gaiman agrees with you. Here's a link to his short story "Goliath".

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    Hmm. It's "odd" to be able to tell one species of bird from another?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fazor View Post
    And the same holds true for Keanu; one movie? Okay. Three? Okay I give in! I'll tell you everything you want to know!!! ...what? What do you mean this isn't some sort of CIA interrogation technique?
    "Whoa"
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    I've been unhappy for the last couple of years about something I couldn't put my finger on and I finally realized what it was when I saw what's become the second quote in my signiture.

    Science fiction was never meant to be a educational tool, it was always intended to be entertainment. I had stopped enjoyng science fiction because I had gotten too critical. As an attempt to stave off crotchetiness as long as I can, I'm going to ease up on this matter a whole hell of a lot.

    And it was either Asimov or Niven who addressed the sound it space issue nicely, in my opinion. As a pilot on a combat spacecraft has enough to keep his eyes busy, the ship's sensors would translate different energies in picked up into sounds in the cockpit so a pilot could know if the craft overtaking him was known hostile or not, plus give him attitude information by the engine "sounds" without him having to actually look at it or a scope.
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    You know what? They are cheap shots. This is because they're everywhere. They're errors that people just keep on making. What's wrong with being annoyed about that? Doesn't the best fiction test the boundaries of its genre? Shouldn't good science fiction be beyond these errors?

    Oh, right. It's because we're too picky, not because they aren't good enough.
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    "You can't erase icing."

    "I can't believe it doesn't work! I found it on the internet, man!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by IsaacKuo View Post
    For me, the most jarring science/technology "error" was in Sphere.

    The scientists board a mysterious "alien" starship. However, the walkways are human sized, the doors are human sized, the controls/handles are at human height. Even though the filmmakers try to obscure it with dark lighting, it's immediately obvious--this is a HUMAN spacecraft designed for and by humans. That should have been the first thing the scientists were thinking.
    Am I missing something? I thought that was the whole premise of the film. They realized it on their first entry into the ship when they saw a trash container marked "trash". They could have been thinking it very strongly until they had evidence to actually say something.

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    Your thoughts on The Matrix are interesting, Swift.

    SkepticJ:Forrest moons, on the other tentacle, are a different story. A mono-biome across an entire world is highly unlikely--outside of being artificially maintained.
    An entirely -- or mostly -- forested moon (or planet), even if it were possible, would be terribly claustrophic. I couldn't handle a place like that. Han Solo would have to come rescue me.

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