AI: Science and Cinema

Hollywood has a rather abusive relationship with science. Films tend to misuse, ignore, distort or just invent scientific principals to suit their needs. Sometimes this is out of ignorance, sometimes it is out of apathy, sometimes it is out of narrative necessity.

What movie science has cause you to cringe? What misuse of physics has had you throwing popcorn at the screen? What films have been awesome enough for you to forgive their scientific failings?

The ART Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Mad Art Lab community. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3pm ET.


Ryan is a professional nerd, teaching engineering in the frozen north. Somewhat less professionally, he is a costumer, author, blacksmith, juggler, gamer, serial enthusiast, and supporter of the Oxford comma. He can be found on twitter and instagram @studentofwhim. If you like what I do here, feel free to leave a tip in my tipjar.

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  1. We only use 10% of our brain. Imagine the human potential if we used all 100%. We would all have superpowers!

  2. Funnily enough, Science being used badly in science fiction / end of the world films does not bother me. I expect them to violate science. However when they use science well or make jokes that require a real understanding of science they get major kudos (Futurama is quite good at this).
    The sort of thing that drives me crazy is pierce Brosnan era James bond where there will be 30 bad guys with machine guns firing at him and they will all miss from a close distance.

  3. One word: Mimic. I can accept a sci-fi movie where it doesn’t pretend to be realistic. But I have problems when a movie is supposed to be centered around a particular real scientific principle, but totally screws it up. If they go to all the trouble of making an entire movie about a scientific principle, they should get it right.

    But this movie is particularly bad since not only did they get their basic premise totally wrong, every time they tried to discuss anything even remotely scientific they invariably got it wrong.

    It doesn’t help that the movie was terrible.

    By comparison, I can forgive the totally implausible cross-breeding of wildly unrelated species of spider, because at least by my understanding they otherwise did a reasonably good job. They got the idea of eusocialality more or less right, they got ambush spider attack strategies pretty close, they got the importance of geographic barriers right. It was unclear what the spiders were eating, but I’m willing to forgive that since it was a good movie.

  4. Nadir just recently did a review of Big Bang, a sci-fi noir starring Antonio Banderas which sparked a debate of how terrible movie science plots can be. It caused me to coin the genre: “We Need to Bomb This Problem” movies. I.e Armageddon, Sunshine, The Core, etc

    Funny, the 10% of the brain thing came up on reddit about the post 😀

  5. The flagrant breeches of the laws of thermodynamics in The Day After Tomorrow broke my suspension of disbelief. I can accept freeze guns in Batman, I can’t accept instant corpsicles in anything semi-scientific. The trailer for 2012: Ice Age nearly broke my mind.

    Move the movie setting to outer space, the far future and a galaxy far far away I can accept a lot more, but you should still be think twice before breaking the laws of thermodynamics.

  6. @Bjornar: “If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well, these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can offer you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.”
    – Sir Arthur Eddington

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