Factual Scientific errors in movies...

I’m not talking about the types of Hollywood out-and-out babble as seen in Minority Report or Face-Off, but pure errors.

Such as if in a movie, someone says, “a prime number is a number that can be divided by any integer” --> basically total bloopers that are just factually wrong.

The sum of the squares of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square of rht remaining side. … Oh, joy! Rapture!”

It rarely bothers me unless there’s some uber-critical plot point that hangs on it. Sometimes things like that are stretched, for a bit of fun, methinks.

That said, I know I can probably drum some up, but it’ll take me some time.

kaylasdad99, what is that from?

In The Matrix, Morpheus says that “the machines” are using humans as an energy source. Humans produce a whole bunch of energy, and the machines harvest that energy, while putting our brains into “the matrix” to keep us under control. This has been discussed a whole bunch, and I don’t remember the details, but this whole aspect of the plot makes no sense. I was kind of hoping the sequels would answer this conflict, but instead they just answered the question, “How boring can these two movies possibly be?” But I digress.

I remember a huge thread on a particular scene in Speed where a bus makes a physically impossible jump. Do you mean things like that or just lines of dialogue?

I’m exactly the opposite. Hanging an important plot point on it is the only excuse I can think of. I hate it more when it’s irrelevant; then, the mistake is just lazy stupidity, nothing more.

No, I guess I should stretch my definition to include physically impossible manouveres too.

Wizard of Oz, by the Scarecrow just after he gets his diploma.

This occurred in the original TZ ep “From Agnes With Love,” starring nebbish-at-large Wally Cox. (Raymond “Mr Drysdale” Bailey is in this one.)

Wally Cox asks this question to the computer (whose name is Agnes):

“What is the first prime number larger than the 17th root of 12 trillion, (some number) million, (some other number) thousand, and (the rest)?”

(I apologize for the gaps, but I don’t remember the exact number.)

The computer responds “5.”

Not true.

If the number was supposed to be 12 BILLION, etc., then 5 is correct.

But he said “trillion.”

The first prime larger than the 17th root of 12 trillion is 7.

(Personally, I think the intended number was supposed to be “billion,” and either Wally misread, or a writer mis-transcribed the wording.)

Oh come on! It was in Oz, for crying out loud! And it was said by a scarecrow! Reality is different there, and what he said is probably true, in his environment.

Didn’t you ever wonder how our universe would be different if Planck’s constant was another number than what it is?

AVP was filled with delightful little gems of ignorance and stupidity, but one of the more insulting moments was when archaeology-boy declares “The Aztecs used a decimal time system” (or something like that) “so I think that [an important event will happen*] every ten minutes.”

Yes. Naturally.

Aztecs used decimal time (Did they? I honestly don’t know.) So they’d chose an interval of ten minutes. Minutes, of course, are a sexigesimal unit of time which came to us from the Babylonians by way of Egypt. So the Aztecs, with their decimal time system, obviously divided their day in to 24 hours (not decimal), then divided each hour into 60 minutes (also not decimal), then chose ten of those minutes. Because they used a decimal system.

*Despoilerized for your protection.

Planck’s constant is another number than what it is, and that explains everything about our universe.


Oops. Forgot the :wink:

There are too many to count. I’ve long been annoyed by the scarecrow’s messed-up Pythagorean Theorem. In fact, I wonder if they did hat deliberately.

Martin Gardner devotes a chapter of his book Weird Water and Fuzzy Logic (actually, it’ a reprinted article of his) on science errors in pop culture.

Th 1950s monster films were a virtual bonanza of bad science. Some of them are priceless. In The Cape Canaveral Monsters four teenagers save the world from corpse-animating alien by building a hydrogen bomb from their plastic belts (I kid you ot). In Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers the aliens’ exoskeletons are made of “Solidified Electricity” (That’s as good as the 1960s Narvel Comics character Klaw, who’s made of “solidified sound”). Riders to the Stars, a Curt Siodmak-written epic starring (I think) Lee van Cleef, had all our rockets burnoing up when they tried to leave the atmosphere, so the Air Force outfits special planes with meteorite-catchers, so we an find out what keeps them from burning up (I’m confused – don’t meteorites burn up on the way dwn?) They finally catch one, nd ue the mystical substance o coat our rockets. Yay!
Some other notable errors:
In the James Bond film Diamonds ae Forever Howard Hughes-clone Willrd White (Jimmy Dean) says: The first laser beam was made using a diamond!" Well, no, it wasn’t. Ted Maiman used a synthetic ruby. The first laser beam I’m aware of that used a diamond was one built by Steven Rand in the 1980s. But the title is * Diamonds* are Forever, after all, and it’s a James Bond flick, so I’ll cut it some slack.

In The Flight of the hoenix they say that “Henson an Stringfellow built the first heavier-than-air flyer powered by rubber bands”. as I noted in a pice I wrote for Teemings, this is grossly in error. Henson had long been out of the project by the time a flyer had been built. Stringfellow never ued rubber bands – he built his own stea engine(!!) His flying machine – a onoplane – looked a lot more modern than he rght Brothers Flyer, which it predated by a century. It undenabl flew, but t was not a manned craft. And it woulda worked a lot better if he’d pt a tail on it (something obvious in hindsight – but Stringfellow knew that he had no lteral stability, and I’m still surprised he didn’t think of it.) You could argue that this is a historical error, but mixing up rubber bands and steam engins is a big tech error.
I really hate the film ** Hardware** on several levels, but the one that annoys me the most is when the heroine tries to hide from the heat-seeking robot by sitting in a refrigerator!! This would make her particularly visible, since she’s really hot and th background is really cold. It’s like trying to hide a lit candle by placing it in the mddle of a really dark room. Arnold Schwartzenegger didn’t do much better in Predator by covering himself with mud. I might work briefly, until the temperatue of the mud equilibrated, but once t heated up to body heat he’d be just as visible to the redator’s thermal sensing unit. At least the movie Tremors 2 got it straight – the hero doused his clothes with cold stuff, which hid him from the thermal-sensing baddies until it melted off.

It’s pretty hard to beat Saturn 3. Kirk Douglas and Farah Fawcett are being chased around a Space Station by Harvey Keitel’s evil robot.

How do they get rid of the robot? They cut a hole in the floor of the Space Station, cover it with a blanket, then stand on the other side while the robot falls through the hole and out into space. Then they embrace. The End.

In the epic science-fiction masterpiece Never Been Kissed, the nerdy kids hold a bake sale where they sell pies, and their banner says “Pi = 3.1472…” followed by more digits that are just flat-out wrong. It seems the set decorators were just too nerd-a-phobic to actually look up the real digits of pi.

(And, yes, it is a science fiction movie. No way in the real world would Drew Barrymore have that much trouble getting a date.)

Correction … the incorrect digits of pi in the above movie were “3.1457869986”.

Haven’t done this in a while: BAND NAME!

Speaking of movies with nerdy kids, how about Real Genius? There’s a lot of fun stuff in it, but it bothers me that Val Kilmer’s character kept his liquid nitrogen temperature cylinder in an ordinary freezer. (ordinary freezer = 273 K, give or take; liquid nitrogen = 77K. Even if you’re just trying to keep it a little longer, just use a Dewar flask, fer cryin’ out loud!) On top of which, his scam of slicing off disk from the cylinder to use as fake coins in the vending machine would never work – the density’s all wrong, and the anti-slug and anti-counterfeiting afeguards would never l3et them through. Plus they’d probably freeze to the walls and get stuck on the way down.
How about the “Oxygen destroyer” in the original Godzilla? How does that make water act like acid and dissolve fish (and Godzilla), bones and all? And if it’s a mis-translation, it’s a doozy (although my subtitled uncut version has the phrase, too).
No one thinks of tripe like Battlestar Galactica as good SF, but it still bugs the hell out of me to hear them saying that “the enemy is 5 microns away!” A micron is a millionth of a millimeter (missed it by that much). If yu’re going to suddenly use a real measure of distance, don’t make it comically small.

Speaking of which, I still haven’t forgiven George Lucas for having Han Solo complete “…the Kessel Run in Five Parsecs” in the original Star Wars. They made Greedo fire first, but they didn’t fix this? If you’re gonna choose real units, make sure that they match the thing being measured. I don’t care even if this was intentional – it causes a Disturbance in the Force.

Among other problems in the recent Alien vs. Predator, the month cited at the beginning of the film is October and mysterious pyramid is found in the Antarctic. The characters run around the spooky darkness of the abandoned whaling station and… hey, shouldn’t October in the Antarctic be within that six months of daylight stuff?

Honey I shrunk the kids:
Rick Moranes’ character explains that his incredible shrinking machine works by simply reducing the space between atoms.
Fine, but anything would then weighthe same. The kids would have sunk into the soft earth like a 60d spike being stood upon.