We are all fans of science here, and most of us are fans of pop culture (I assume.) So it’s always fun to see science captured or involved in popular media. Unfortunately, that often leads to bad science information.
We’ve all seen it: rush orders on lab samples making them finish faster, adding detail to images when the protagonist zooms in, a lion dragging its kill up into a tree; heck, there is a whole Tumblr page dedicated to improper use of a pipettor.
Anymore tv shows and movies have at least one real scientist on board as a consultant, and that does wonders, but I think we have all seen it enough to know it still happens.
That is why when we go into science fiction books, or super hero movies, or basically any fictional work; we have to enable certain suspensions of disbelief. And in the big picture that goes swimmingly, but what about the little things? Are you fine with accepting that gamma radiation can turn a scientist into a giant green monster, but not when the same scientist wants to put gamma radiation spectrometers on the roofs of labs around the globe to find something; when as a professional in the field, he should have known that most of the worlds gamma radiation spectrometers are located in space (because our atmosphere blocks gamma rays).
Do you get mad at the show/movie/video game/book, when they do this? Do you laugh and go on? Or do you manage to complete turn off your BS detector and just revel in the show, not even picking up on these mistakes? Personally I can generally get past them, but not without a moment or two of verbal complaint. Something I am sure my partner would wish I didn’t need to do. I enjoy having the bad science pointed out. I loved when Neild DeGrasseTyson went on the Daily Show and was all, “Your Earth is spinning in the wrong direction.” I didn’t notice, but I was happy when it got called out. For me those little details are what spread the misinformation; nobody is going to think that Star Wars is real, but they could be forgiven if they thought (based on the Star Wars space battles) that there is sound in space.
So when I was in a local Natural History Museum and happened upon a small movie screen in the entomology room (Bugtown), I was delighted to see a couple of movie clips from old sci-fi movies… But with figures in the foreground, much like MST3K, mocking the movies’ bad science. Well, I emailed the museum display manager to get a copy to share with you for this post and his response was, “I think I have that disk somewhere under a stack of stuff, but the easiest way would be for you to just go record them with your camera.” So that is what I did, because they are only about 3 minutes each and you need to enjoy them like I did. So I present to you the KU Natural History Museum’s presentation of “Them”, and “The Wasp Woman.” (Also, I’m sorry if you can’t handle my cam versions.)
Now, how about you? What are the little details that get under your skin? Do they ruin things for you, or do you let them slide?