As I’ve mentioned occasionally in earlier postings, having an extensive science background, there is not much more that upsets me in the world of “Hollywoodization” than the industry’s blatant disregard for science. I suppose, in a sense, I am “nitpicking”. After all, the average person has such a poor grasp on science and engineering that a few buzzwords and descriptions that are semi-plausible that anything can seem like it’s sound science. However, if you have even a mediocre understanding of some things you can want to rip your hair our every time Hollywood pulls out “BS Science/Engineering Plot Device #3”. So…I’ve compiled a short list of things Hollywood does that “sounds good” and what makes the scientists out there just plain hate going to the movies.
Honorable Mention – “Machines Take Over the World”
Sadly, I can only list this as an “honorable mention” because (sigh) technically it could be plausible one day as opposed to the other entries which are only plausible if we somehow are able to bend the laws of space and time using science that must obey the laws of space and time. But don’t hold your breath waiting for your cell phone to revolt and try and scramble your brain. As anyone who is in the computer field could tell you, the idea that a computer could actually do the slightest thing independently, including overthrow humanity, is ridiculous. Computers. Are. STUPID. They are unbelievably stupid. Trying to program a computer to do something as simple as perform a basic math algorithm is ridiculously complicated for a beginning programmer because they assume the computer has the slightest bit of intelligence, which it doesn’t. For a good analogy, if you’ve ever seen “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”, do you remember where that king is trying to get the guard to do the very simple task of watching his son and making sure he doesn’t leave? That’s pretty much what every programmer has to do with every program they write. Pretty much the only way that a computer could take over the world at this point is if a programmer programmed it to do so…and rest assured, the computer would screw it up numerous times and require months of debugging before it could succeed.
5. “Laser Death Beams”
What if I told you that humanity has had the ability to make laser cannons capable of wrecking mass havoc and destruction for years now? Yeah, all of those weapons they have in “Star Wars” and other science fiction blasting…what if I told you we could make stuff like that? Well, your first response would probably be: “How come we don’t do that?” Fairly simple. You know how if you shoot a bullet at the right type of reinforced metal, all you’ll get for your effort is the bullet bouncing right off, right? Well, bullets actually have the nice side effect of being imperfect and exploiting things like friction. Therefore, if you shoot that bullet dead on at that kind of surface, the bullet will deform and smash…as opposed to bounce off perfectly back into the gun you just fired and shoot you instead. Lasers don’t suffer from that sort of thing. No…lasers that are intense enough to destroy things not only would bounce back perfectly, they’d bounce off of the air. So if you ever tried using those sort of weapons on Earth, you’d only blow yourself up. Now, you could use them in a vacuum, say space, so maybe you can still have your X-Wings vs. TIE Fighters. But if the Death Star tried to blow up Alderaan, that moon-sized space station would go up in smoke while the citizens would point and laugh like Nelson from “The Simpsons”.
4. “Monster Biology”
I touched on this earlier on one of my trope suggestions, so I’m not going to go as in depth here. You can see it in detail looking it up in my archives. Suffice to say, “monster biology” might as well be called “f**k you, entire science of biology”. Whenever any monster shows up, it’s automatically ideally suited to killing humans, even if it never preyed on a human before that movie. Nope, the monster immediately thinks a human would be its new ideal prey the moment it sees it. On that note, the monster always has to eat continuously, meaning it will never stop eating humans so long as there is still one around to eat, whereas in the wild if a lion would finish killing one antelope and then immediately went after another one, not only would it do so on a full stomach but scavengers would come along and snatch up its latest kill. And yet in spite of needing to eat all the time, the monster can wait indefinitely for a trapped human to become available as a food source, when the fact that it needs to eat continuously means it would be better off going to find something else to kill and eat or it would starve to death quickly.
3. “Lamarckian Evolution Trumps Darwin”
Even if you’re not scientifically inclined, ever think that a movie with mundane animals and plants that suddenly turn into mankillers is insulting your intelligence? Well guess what…you’re absolutely right! Part of the reason that evolution probably still gets a bad wrap is because Hollywood essentially treats evolution nowadays in the same way it treated radiation back in the 60s and 70s. “Oh no! Radiation turns people into big green monsters instead of killing them through radiation poisoning! Why? Uh…it’s radiation!” Hollywood seems to have the idea that animals and plants can pretty much just “evolve overnight” to become hostile to humans. Seeing as examples are somewhat specific, I’ll pick on two big examples. In “The Ruins” (dear goodness…), we have ourselves a man-eating plant that can mimic cell phone signals. Wow. (A) I don’t think science has found a plant yet that can mimic sound of any kind. (B) Evolution doesn’t happen within individuals. Lamarckian Evolution suggested that if something wanted to evolve, it only had to “try hard”…like a Pokemon. But no, evolution takes place within populations over generations. (C) Assuming the plant was using real evolution and COULD mimic noise, that meant it would have had to have devoured human prey for millions of years that all would have had to have been using the exact same cell phone signal and gradually would have eventually had to have, by pure chance more or less because PLANTS DON’T HAVE EARS OR BRAINS and couldn’t do this behaviorally, gradually been able to mimic a cell phone signal of that type. It’s just…dang. You can pick on “The Happening” for similar reasons, but “After Earth” is worse because the suggestion is that everything on Earth has evolved to kill humans over the past 10,000 years. Just…pretty much everything that can be wrong with that statement is wrong. First, in terms of evolutionary time, 10,000 years might as well be a single second. If things could evolve that fast, we would never need to abandon Earth because everything on Earth would have evolved in response to our activity. Second, you can’t evolve to kill humans when there aren’t any humans around to create selection pressures to evolve in response to. That makes as much sense as saying that humans have evolved to kill xenomorphs from the “Alien” franchise without having ever encountered one.
2. “Surface Area-To-Volume Ratio…Whatever”
This is a classic one. How come we’re in no danger of being menaced by King Kong, Godzilla, or even big rabbits from “Night of the Lepus”…or for that matter the countless other critters that Hollywood has blown up to monstrous size over the years? Well, there’s a little thing called the “surface-area-to-volume-ratio” going on. What is that, you might ask? I’ll have to ask you to drag up your old math skills for that. Imagine, if you will, that you have a line that’s ten inches long. Now, how would you make a square out of that? Easy, you’d take four lengths of ten inches and make a square. But what is the surface area of that square? If you remember, it’s multiplying the length times the width, or 10 inches by 10 inches, and you end up getting 100 square inches. So…you see that something that is 10 inches long is 100 square inches in area. Now…remember volume? How about a cube that is 10 inches on a side? Well, similar to a square from a line, if you take those 100 square inch squares, six of them specifically, and put them together, you got yourself a cube. But what’s the volume? 100 square inches (the area of the bottom) times the height, which is 10 inches…for 1000 cubic inches. So…a cube that is 10 inches on an edge and 100 square inches on a side is 1000 cubic inches in volume. The central idea: as you increase the size of an object in one dimension, the size in another dimension grows much faster. That means you can’t get any creature up past a certain size before it crushes itself under the weight of its own skeleton or organs. Yet that hasn’t stopped Hollywood from blowing up creatures to unusual size for years. So much so that, in spite of this being overused, I hardly even care anymore.
But number one still drives me nuts…
1. “It’s Not on the Periodic Table”
They always talk about in sci-fi movies how aliens always technology made of elements not on the periodic table. That makes absolutely no sense. The reason the periodic table is so useful is that it is consistent for elements throughout the universe. Not just Earth…everywhere. That’s because all matter is made of protons, neutrons, and electrons everywhere. They aren’t made of phlebotonium and flubber simply because you go to a different galaxy. You can’t just “dream up” new elements. What you see on the periodic table is what you get. Oh, there are elements that aren’t on the periodic table yet…but that’s because those elements exist for only a few tiny fractions of a second before they split up. That’s why the radioactive elements are toward the rear end of the periodic table…they’re radioactive because they break apart into simpler elements over time. And the heavier the elements become, the more unstable they are (generally speaking). Even the elements that we have in the hundreds on the table don’t exist for too long. In short…if scientists found that alien technology was made out of a new element…they should check it again in a thousandth of a second. It’s probably on the table now.