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SPIDERMAN - 2002
Lots of movies are made about good guys with super strength giving bad
guys the beating they deserve, which is fine. But no movie has ever
been made (to the best of my knowledge)
that shows what a fight like this would really be like. The single
spider-strength blow that Peter delivers to his bully, sending the
bully flying down a hallway, would certainly have resulted in a
shattered rib cage, massive internal bleeding, and one dead bully.
The rest of the science here I'm willing to let slide, with two comments. First,
a genetically engineered spider is vastly more believable than a
mere "radioactive" spider as in the original comic. Second,
if you want a much better movie about the genetic mixing of a human
with a multi-legged nonhuman, watch Jeff Goldblum in THE FLY.
TREK: NEMESIS - 2002
The show had plenty of the usual gaffs, like sound in space (Quick
Plug for Firefly on FOX, the only SF series EVER to get it right there is no sound in space). But I
want to comment on something more general. As I mentioned before,
this is supposed to be 300 years in the future. Think about what
the world was like three centuries ago, not just in terms of technology
but attitudes, beliefs, everything. My point is that for such a
long time in the future, not much has changed. Other than a few
magical plot devices like warp drive and transporters, their tech
looks very familiar. I have a flat screen monitor just as good as
the Captain uses. Maybe a little more imagination is in order? Just
And mining slaves?
That's a bad sci-fi staple but it's not very well thought
out. A culture like the Romulan Empire wouldn't use slaves
to mine ore. This has nothing to do with morality; it's simply,
vastly, more efficient to use automated mining equipment than slaves.
SUM OF ALL FEARS - 2002
I'm not giving anything away when I tell you that the terrorist
nuke is detonated in Baltimore, while the president is attending the
Superbowl. That's in the TV commercial. Did you see the TV commercial?
Well, then you pretty much saw the whole nuclear explosion.
going to make a movie about such a devastating event you should show
how truly devastating it would be, but they decided not to go that
way. Even the aftermath is severely downplayed, seen only in glimpses
as Jack runs around the ruins of Baltimore, trying to catch a key
bad guy. The science part is this: that ain't snow, Jack. That's
fallout. Heroic Jack ignores warning after warning that he's
in danger from the radiation but like a true hero he ignores the danger,
not even donning a surgical mask to keep the very deadly dust out
of his lungs. I hope his doctor girlfriend still likes him when all
his hair falls out and he starts puking blood.
MEN IN BLACK II - 2002
At one point
a bad guy ally of Serleena mentions that he was in jail for stealing
the Earth's ozone layer. You know how touchy these humans
are about global warming, he tells her, or words to that effect.
This is a common mistake among the science illiterate.
of the ozone layer (which is caused by chemicals
called CFC's*) and global warming (which
people suspect is caused by human industrial carbon dioxide output, though that has NOT been proved by any means) are two entirely separate, unrelated issues.
SCIENCE MOMENT BY
*A threat first discovered by Chemistry Professors Frank Sherwood Rowland and José Mario Molina-Pasquel Henríquez of the University of Irvine, California. In 1974 they presented their paper in the science journal, Nature, bringing notice of the threat to earth's ozone layer (Ozone - O3) from chloroflourocarbons (CFC - Chlorine, Flourine, Carbon). In 1995 they shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, along with Atmospheric Chemist, Paul Crutzen of the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz, Germany, for their work on alerting the world to the danger of CFC. Today, the most prevalent ozone depleting chemical still in consumer and industrial use is Nitrous Oxide (N2O). While N2O occurs in nature, it is largely released by the burning of biofuels.
REPORT - 2002
Spielberg's vision of the future feels very real and the technical
details are stunning and a little nightmarish. For example, every
wall of every building is also a flatscreen monitor, projecting
news, announcements and (mostly) ads.
These aren't just any ads they're intelligent ads
that recognize you as you walk by and talk directly to you. Hey,
Kelly! You look like you could use a Budweiser.
Gah! Leave me
science error involves Gideon (Tim Blake Nelson),
the prison warden. He's in a wheelchair. Mr. Spielberg's
experts clearly didn't include any neurologists, because 50
years from now the only place you'll find a wheelchair is in
a museum. We are so close to being able to regrow damaged nerve
tissue that it's not even worth talking about.
DARK DESCENT - 2002
SCIENCE MOMENT BY
The Marianas Trench (located off the Marianas islands in the South
Pacific) is almost seven miles deep. Think about that for a
second. Seven miles of water above you. That means absolute pitch
dark, cold and most of all: pressure. The pressure at sea level is
about 14 pounds per square inch. At the bottom of the Marianas it's
more like 16,000 pounds (8 tons!) per square inch. Even if you could design some kind of diving suit that would allow humans to walk around on the ocean bottom here, there's no way anyone would have the physical strength required to take off their helmet.
Not that it would be difficult to kill yourself here. There is one very good
scene where a drugged out miner takes a mining drill to the wall
behind his bunk and lets the ocean in. The room is instantly filled
with water and an emergency door irises shut. As it does a thin
stream of water shoots through and kills a poor bastard who happens
to be standing in its way, almost cutting him in half. Water under
that kind of pressure will cut steel. The accuracy of the scene
loses points though because one of the company personnel who responds
to the emergency describes what happened as "Explosive Decompression". Wrong. If you're in space and a wall blows out that's explosive decompression. But here, since it's the outside pressure
that's greater, what happened was Explosive Compression, not decompression.
PYTHON II - 2002
Anacondas are the largest snakes in the world and there have been
unconfirmed reports that anacondas as big as the snake in this movie
(80+ feet in length) actually exist. The largest confirmed specimen was 34 feet long. Anacondas are longer
(and beefier) because they live in the water (which helps to support their weight),
as opposed to the mostly tree-dwelling pythons. So an Anaconda would
have made more sense here, but if you use the actual title of the
movie youre ripping off, people notice.
RETURNER - 2002
There's a little bit of scientific basis in the concept of time
travel (in other words, it just might be physically possible). But even that bare possibility states that you could never go back to a time before your time machine was built.
IMPOSTOR - 2002
This is a movie about a glittery high tech future and there's a lot
of cool tech toys displayed. That's why, by comparison, the ridiculously
low-tech method of telling human from robot by using a heart-ripper-outer
machine just seems stupid. He's a duplicate right down to his DNA?
To every atom in every DNA molecule? I don't think so. Nanotechnology
(which will absolutely change the world in the next 20 years or so) has been picked up by lots of sci-fi screenwriters as a magical plot device that they clearly don't understand. This is not how it works.
SCIENCE MOMENT BY
"He's a duplicate right down to his DNA?"
"To every atom in every DNA molecule?"
Well, those atoms are pretty limited. Atoms can only make specific molecules. You can't substitute one type of atom or number of atoms for another and still have the same molecule. So we start off replicating someone with the knowledge that a human being, ALL of them, can only be made up of a set of four types of nucleotides bases: adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine.
The atoms that make those molecules are pretty specific.
Then you have the Purines,
Guanine: NH2 (2 of), N (2 of), O (one), NH (One).
Adenine: N (3 of), H2N (One), NH (One).
And the Pyrimidines.
Thymine: O (2 of), NH (2 of).
Cytosine: NH2, N, O, NH (One of each).
Add a little sugar (5 carbon atom lumps, please), a little phosphate, and in the darkness bond them with a helix ring of aromatics and hydrogen (I know I'm being Gibbs, but the energy is free!).
Viola! DNA aka Deoxyribonucleic acid or G.A.T.C. Every human being has them: Every single one. Just one nucleotide less than four, more than four, or different from one of those four, will result in a non-human.*
So all that a sufficiently advanced alien technology would need to do (or say, for example, "our" technology this time next week), is surreptitiously attain your DNA (and the means are many), and then replicate it to grow/reproduce your very own you - with an entirely different set of instructions, morals, values, whatever.
*I know, I know. I didn't mention RNA. Don't even get me STARTED on RNA!
FIRESTARTER 2 - 2002
The movie does mention that the drugs (from “lot 6” that starts it all to the new and improved “Lot 23” in use twenty years later) work by activating genes on a specific chromosome and there is lots of work like that being done today, so kudos to the writer for reading a little science news before starting this job. Kudos.
OF FIRE - 2002
First, and foremost, there's just no way (unless you invoke magic, which the moviemakers do not) that an animal bigger than an elephant can fly by flapping its wings. I'll
spare you the equations but trust me. The wings would have to be
many times bigger than pictured in this movie, which makes the muscle
and bone strength requirements quite impossible. Only magic dragons
can fly. Second, even though we see several scenes of the dragons eating unburned people, we are told that their normal diet consists of ash, which is why they burn everything.
Ash is basically just carbon. Its biochemical energy content is essentially nil. You'd starve mighty quick on an ash diet.
Third, if the world had gone through cycles like this for millions of years (and
clearly each cycle can't be more than a few thousand years
long since the last one happened within recorded history),
there would be tremendous archeological evidence (many,
many layers of ash). There is not.
Fourth, even if they could fly and even if there were millions, we'd still
win. Helicopter gun ships could easily outfly them and jets would
be quite safe. Building fireproof bunkers would keep people and
supplies perfectly safe. The list goes on. This would not cause
the collapse of civilization.
LEGGED FREAKS - 2002
First, I refer you to my review of the movie THEM for a discussion of the square-cube
law and why it makes giant bugs impossible.
Second, spiders don't
take a bite out of anything.* They either inject liquefying poisons
and suck the juice or inject paralyzing poisons and suck the blood
and other bodily fluids. The movie actually gets this right at first,
but then forgets it. And third, a huge group of large predators like
this would need way more food than the Arizona desert could supply,
even if you include the townspeople. The spiders would starve in short
*FeoNote: Except for plant eating spiders, which DO eat that way.
'Veggie' spider shuns meat diet