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Bad Movie Physics Hurt Scientific Understanding

samzenpus posted about 7 years ago | from the mommy-push-the-reset-button dept.

Movies 910

eldavojohn writes "A paper published by UCF researchers claims that bad movie physics hurt students' understanding of real world physics. From the article, "Some people really do believe a bus traveling 70 mph can clear a 50-foot gap in a freeway, as depicted in the movie Speed." The professors published this paper out of fear that society will pay the price. One of the authors commented on advancements in the past years "All the luxuries we have today, the modern conveniences, are a result of the science research that went on in the '60s during the space race. It didn't just happen. It took people doing hard science to do it." I commented on the physics of the most recent Die Hard having problems detracting from my enjoyment of the movie but is it really the root of a growing problem of poor science & math among students?"

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Idiots (5, Insightful)

iamacat (583406) | about 7 years ago | (#20243509)

Learning is learning, entertainment is entertainment. Star trek has way more fundamental problems with physics than Speed or Die Hard. People shouldn't get their science from TV.

Watching movies is not physics homework... (5, Funny)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | about 7 years ago | (#20243595)

... and it ain't no muthufukin English homework neither!

Re:Idiots (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20243623)

At least Start Trek made an effort to workaround the limitation of physics, in somewhat consistent ways (remember the Heisenberg compensator ?)

Re:Idiots (3, Interesting)

or-switch (1118153) | about 7 years ago | (#20243643)

Actually, Star Trek should be given more due than that. They spent a lot of time considering real physics when coming up with some of their ideas. It's science FICTION but they based a lot of it in basic principles. Warp drive functions by bunching space up in front of the ship, and then letting it expand, carrying the ship forward. Gravitational fields and some concepts of wormholes work the same way. The problem is a matter/antimatter reaction doesn't provide enough energy for this, but being the most energetic source imagineable, they went with it. They took real ideas in quantum and theoretical physics and ignored the details. You would use a tachyon particle beam to communicate at faster-than-light speeds since the particles (if the existed outside of mathematical constructs) travel faster than light. Never mind that they can't be used to convey information. This 'stretching' of the physics into fiction is a little different than the bus from Speed example that falgrantly ignores the most basic concepts of Newtonian mechanics. Bravo to the professor for trying to bring a little reality back to where it's due.

Re:Idiots (5, Interesting)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 7 years ago | (#20243861)

Star Trek, like most sci-fi, basically invents technologies which work around what we currently consider physical limitations. IIRC, in Star Trek, they don't use "tachyon particle beams" to communicate at FTL speeds; they use "subspace", which is never really explained in any detail. That's the way it should be too: what's important for the story is that they have the means of communicating FTL, not the exact details in how they accomplish this. So they invent a plot device to allow the story to progress. Sci-fi which gets too involved in the details of speculative technology usually gets dated very quickly; Star Trek has lasted this long I think because the stories were more important than the technologies. They have a ship, it goes faster-than-light somehow, they have energy weapons, and can transport themselves from place to place instantaneously, within a certain range (orbit to planet surface). Given these, they come up with stories that work within that framework.

There's a lot about the universe our physicists don't understand yet. They can't even figure out how to get Quantum Theory and Relativistic Theory to agree. They don't even really understand how gravity works, and that's the most important force which affects us humans in our daily lives. There's now some evidence that there might be other dimensions besides the 4 we're familiar with, and various particles have been detected (like neutrinos) which previously were only hypothesized. Many people like to claim that lightspeed is a hard-and-fast limit, and that it's impossible to travel faster. 150 years ago people thought it was impossible to fly in a machine that was heavier than air. There's no telling what other facets about our universe exist which we are unable currently to observe and understand, just like we had no idea how to split or fuse atoms and create enormous amounts of energy 100 years ago.

Re:Idiots (4, Insightful)

SamP2 (1097897) | about 7 years ago | (#20243909)

>Star Trek should be given more due than that.

O rly?

So it is realistic to hear loud explosions in space from abroad another vessel, when there is no air to propagate the sound?

So it is OK to use the hottest buzzword around to explain whatever piece of technology you need to explain, with the actual meaning of the buzzword having absolutely nothing to do with the operation of said technology (but it sure sounds "techy" so let's use it!)?

At best, Star Trek popularized scientific theories into science fiction, leading (some) people to be more interested in science. But even then, the people who were interested in these kinds of movies (the so called "nerds", "geeks", "losers", and other anti-social labels) were the people who were interested in science to begin with. Do you really think your average 60's football jock has became interested in physics as a result of watching Star Trek?

At not so best, Star Trek abused genuine scientific terms, due to their "scientific" sound, to suit their needs, with little regard of the actual meaning of the word. I know, they were not the first. In the 50's, "atomic" was the hot buzzword, in the 70's and later, it was "quantum", and there are a few newer ones today as well. The ironic thing is that the media is constantly looking for terms people DON'T understand, in order to capitalize on their names (since many people actually have the basic concept of "atomic" nowadays, the attempt to call the sci-fi teleporter or warp drive "atomic" won't slide anymore, but quantum? Sure. Nobody knows what quantum really is, so it's free game for the media, including Star Trek.

At even worse, Star Trek & co have stooped to using the same dirty tricks the rest of Hollywood uses -- like loud explosions heard through a vacuum, or complete disregard for the law of momentum conservation.

Star Trek didn't turn science haters into science lovers. It just gave established science lovers something they'd be interested in, and made a pretty buck out of it as well.

Re:Idiots (4, Funny)

Sunburnt (890890) | about 7 years ago | (#20244031)

loud explosions heard through a vacuum

How is this unrealistic? Space fleets of the future outfit their crews with situational aural feedback implants. These use a miniaturized tricorder to detect environmental cues and respond by overlaying predetermined noises, which, as everyone in the Federation surely knows, greatly increases human reflexes and situational awareness.

Hell, the directors of Star Trek are doing you a favor by reproducing that audio track in the show. Of course, I might be lying. I imagine at least one Trekker will fact-check this post.

Re:Idiots (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 7 years ago | (#20243921)

Speed example that falgrantly ignores the most basic concepts of Newtonian mechanics.
You had me up until there. Sound in space? Isn't that a violation of some pretty basic science? :)

Re:Idiots (1)

jazir1979 (637570) | about 7 years ago | (#20243979)

Yes, there is a difference between SCIENCE FICTION that is fiction with a scientific basis, and SCIENCE FICTION where all of the science itself is the fictitious part.

Re:Idiots (1)

alexfromspace (876144) | about 7 years ago | (#20244005)

Agreed. Warp-like effect has been studied in theoretical physics, and has even been considered by the US military. Unfortunately, creating a gravitational field strong enough to warp space requires far too much energy, that is outside any practical capabilities our technologies will have any time soon. Even with the ability to build anti-matter containment fields, which is currently an actual research topic. There are several multi-billion dollar particle-collider laboratories around the world which can be used to create antimatter. NASA has even seriously considered building an anti-matter photon propulsion engine as a means of traveling to Mars. Unfortunately anti-matter containment field technologies are not currently mature enough to safely store enough anti-matter for such a trip.

Re:Idiots (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | about 7 years ago | (#20243751)

It's amazing how much Gene Roddenberry changed the world just by making it all up. If we're seeing Star Trek gadgetry now, I'm in awe/wonder/terror as to what it's actually going to be like in the 23rd century. There is a documentary out there on this topic called How William Shatner Changed the World [imdb.com] by the History Channel.

Re:Idiots (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 7 years ago | (#20243757)

I call bullshit on this. Name anything in Star Trek that blatantly violates the principles of physics. If you're going to be stupid and say warp drive, that's why it's called science fiction: it predicts technologies which don't exist yet. 150 years ago, people thought flight with heavier-than-air machines was impossible. 100 years ago, splitting atoms (and consequently changing one element into another) seemed impossible. We still don't really understand gravity.

There's a big difference between speculating on technologies which work around currently-known principles of physics, and depicting things which blatantly violate very simple well-understood physics.

Re:Idiots (1)

Sunburnt (890890) | about 7 years ago | (#20243825)

Name anything in Star Trek that blatantly violates the principles of physics.

Simultaneity of communications across interstellar distances.

Replicators.

I'm sure others will have more examples.

Re:Idiots (1)

Short Circuit (52384) | about 7 years ago | (#20244033)

Simultaneity of communications across interstellar distances.
Point. Though they posit another medium outside what some physicists today would term our "brane". It's conceivable that waves in that medium would not have the same maximum velocity as in our brane. In ST:TNG, they do give an upward limit to the velocity of those waves, by mentioning it would take a certain number of years for their subspace communications to reach their home galaxy. (This was the episode with the introduction of the Traveler...I forget its name.)

Replicators.
3D printers that don't require physical contact, and rely on an energy-to-matter conversion mechanism. We can currently convert matter to energy under certain limited circumstances. Who's to say we won't figure out how to do the reverse at some point in the distant future?

However, single-homed transporters seem the least likely to me. I can see teleportation devices (ala Niven's stepping booths, and even stepping plates) somewhere in the distant future, but rebuilding a physical pattern from data from thousands of kilometers, and in an uncontrolled environment?

Well, I can't say that would be impossible...but it would require serious calculations dependent on intimate knowledge of atmospheric conditions and any other material between the emitter and where materialization is supposed to take place.

Re:Idiots (1)

corsec67 (627446) | about 7 years ago | (#20243883)

Flying like an airplane through space.

One that bugs me quite a bit in a lot of movies:
Coming to a stop relative to *big thing near by* just by killing the engines.

Re:Idiots (1)

mobby_6kl (668092) | about 7 years ago | (#20244015)

I can't quite answer this myself since I haven't seen a single full episode of Star Trek, but here's a blog on just this topic. [wordpress.com] I'm not a regular reader, but apparently there's an old version of the blog somewhere with more Star Trek posts.

Re:Idiots (1)

alexfromspace (876144) | about 7 years ago | (#20243787)

Yes, and Star Wars has even more fundamental problems with physics than Star Trek. And now, forgive me, but I have to get back to ruling my Sith Empire. Remember, when Dow goes back up, it was all me, muahahaha, I have all your dollars now, for I am strong with the Force!

Not new (1)

gronofer (838299) | about 7 years ago | (#20243513)

...but is it really the root of a growing problem of poor science & math among students?
I don't think so. I remember being similarly irritated by stupid plot details 20 years ago. Hollywood has never had a clue about physics.

Oh please.. (1)

AskChopper (1077519) | about 7 years ago | (#20243521)

I grew up with Ghostbusters and Star Wars but I never once thought that when I grew up I'd be creeping around old libraries with a Nuclear Device as a backback or tickling an Ewok under its chin while flying my spaceship around like it was a jet fighter.

Some people just worry too much and can't face the simple fact that plently of people out there are just plain stupid. Always have been, always will be.

This is why we need "Mind your Head" signs and warnings not to remove game cartridges or turn off the power when saving your game..

That said if showing some kids a 2 minute clip of Superman gets them to sit their ass down through a whole Physics lecture they wouldn't normally have attended then it certainly isn't a bad thing.

Re:Oh please.. (1)

davinc (575029) | about 7 years ago | (#20243551)

>I grew up with Ghostbusters and Star Wars but I never once thought that when I grew up I'd be creeping around old libraries with a Nuclear Device as a backback or tickling an Ewok under its chin while flying my spaceship around like it was a jet fighter. I do remember trying to move things to my hand when I was in bed as a kid after seeing Empire... not something I think anyone needed to worry about.

Re:Oh please.. (1)

gronofer (838299) | about 7 years ago | (#20243621)

I grew up with Ghostbusters and Star Wars but I never once thought that when I grew up I'd be creeping around old libraries with a Nuclear Device as a backback or tickling an Ewok under its chin while flying my spaceship around like it was a jet fighter.

I remember watching "Land of the Giants" at a young age, noting that it was set about 20 years in the future, so making a plan to become a pilot so that I'd be able to operate the fantastic space planes that would be invented shortly.

Fortunately I never followed through with this, since the modern day airlines have taken an entirely different approach.

Oh please-Everyone else is stupid...except for me. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20243635)

"This is why we need "Mind your Head" signs and warnings not to remove game cartridges or turn off the power when saving your game.."

Really? And for those who don't understand solid state physics, or engineering why should one not turn off the power or remove the cartridge? Apparently the intellectual crowd thinks that everyone should have their degree of understanding and if they don't then they label them "stupid". Is it any wonder most people roll their eyes and just ignore you.

Re:Oh please-Everyone else is stupid...except for (1)

AskChopper (1077519) | about 7 years ago | (#20243717)

You don't have to be an intellectual to realise that the ticking timer might signify that your game is BEING save rather than it automagically saving it instantly.

You also don't have to be an intellectual to realise that turning off your machine while its doing this might lose your save game altogether.

I don't have a great understanding of solid state physics or engineering but I possess enough common sense to realise the bleeding obvious when it's staring me in the face..

Re:Oh please-Everyone else is stupid...except for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20244011)

"You don't have to be an intellectual to realise that the ticking timer might signify that your game is BEING save rather than it automagically saving it instantly."

Might? Isn't the device designed so that's perfectly clear? Maybe it's reading, or preheating the chips or something?

"You also don't have to be an intellectual to realise that turning off your machine while its doing this might lose your save game altogether."

See above, plus why would one assume it "might" lose your save game? Guess the extra cost saved by going without a soft-switch "might" explain it.

Like I said and the guy who modded me didn't understand. When you do product design you leave very little up to "might". The fact that I have to come back and explain all this just bolsters my original argument.

Re:Oh please.. (3, Funny)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | about 7 years ago | (#20243761)

I grew up with Ghostbusters and Star Wars but I never once thought that when I grew up I'd be creeping around old libraries with a Nuclear Device as a backback or tickling an Ewok under its chin while flying my spaceship around like it was a jet fighter.
Hey, it's not our fault you lack imagination. ;)

Think of the children... (5, Insightful)

davinc (575029) | about 7 years ago | (#20243523)

Is there anything left that someone hasn't claimed is 'hurting the children'?

Re:Think of the children... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20243765)

Suppositories? I heard doctors still use 'em on children...

Re:Think of the children... (4, Insightful)

RockModeNick (617483) | about 7 years ago | (#20243927)

Possibly antibiotics, the over use of which by hypochondriac parents is currently actively damaging their immune systems.

Well (5, Funny)

stupidpuppy (955515) | about 7 years ago | (#20243531)

It does go a long way towards explaining the epidemic of bus jumping accidents.

Follow the money (4, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about 7 years ago | (#20243541)

American students are non-science jobs because that's what our economy rewards. Dentists don't have to contend with global competition. Apparently the envisioned future is that the Chinese and Mexicans will do all the work while we sit back and "manage" them, e.g. continue glutting ourselves by skimming all the profits off their work. Personally I think we're headed for trouble.

Obligatory sarcasm (1)

Sunburnt (890890) | about 7 years ago | (#20243583)

Apparently the envisioned future is that the Chinese and Mexicans will do all the work while we sit back and "manage" them, e.g. continue glutting ourselves by skimming all the profits off their work. Personally I think we're headed for trouble.

Why? That would imply that trusting economic policy to the self-interested wisdom of businesspeople would be a bad thing. What are you, some sort of commie?

Re:Obligatory sarcasm (1)

superwiz (655733) | about 7 years ago | (#20243859)

Maybe he is a technocrat. Slashdot is, after all, the Technocracy Party of America.

Re:Obligatory sarcasm (1)

Sunburnt (890890) | about 7 years ago | (#20243931)

Maybe he is a technocrat. Slashdot is, after all, the Technocracy Party of America.

Really? Judging by the comments, I thought it was the Libertarian Daily Kos.

Daily Taco, perhaps?

Re:Obligatory sarcasm (1)

superwiz (655733) | about 7 years ago | (#20243973)

Well, technocrats share a great deal with libertarians. They are both not fond of administrators who don't have intimate knowledge of the domains they administer.

Re:Follow the money (3, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 7 years ago | (#20243695)

Dentists are a poor example. Dentists actually work and provide a service. No, I think you're referring to speculators, brokers (stock, real estate, mortgage, etc), and middle managers. Just about anyone who takes a percentage of someone else's transaction or work would apply. Very little value is given, and normally the value is simply in navagating a set of rules (governmental, legal) that is not normally encountered in daily life.

Why bother working hard in school, when you can make 6 figures as a real estate broker without ever worrying about anything but a nice smile and the ability to sell an absolute lemon to even the most simple and innocent buyer.

Re:Follow the money (1)

Grishnakh (216268) | about 7 years ago | (#20243939)

Dentists are a poor example. Dentists actually work and provide a service.

Dentistry is a great profession, but it's also a service job: part of the problem is that you can't run an entire economy on services. If everyone wants to be a realtor, or waitress, or doctor, or dentist, and just provide services to each other (some more expensive than others), the economy won't survive because no one is creating anything new.

Follow the prejudice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20243797)

"American students are non-science jobs because that's what our economy rewards. "

Really, Mr "I'm an expert on the economy"? List them and hope and pray I don't come up with a bigger list proving you wrong.

"Apparently the envisioned future is that the Chinese and Mexicans will do all the work while we sit back and "manage" them, e.g. continue glutting ourselves by skimming all the profits off their work."

Yes, all those "Mexican and Chinese" HB1's

"Personally I think we're headed for trouble."

Personally I think you're an idiot. We're headed for trouble but I doubt this crowd has a firm grasp on all the reasons why.

Re:Follow the money (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | about 7 years ago | (#20244027)

if you think management is just "skimming all the profits off their work" you probably won't amount to much in life untill you realize your error.

proper management allows you to focus the best talent you have on the most critical problems or most profitable production. a good manager will ensure that the ace programming team (or insanely great solo coder) doesn't have to spend his time doing stupid menial shit by hiring some mediocre and somewhat above average coders to complete the mediocre tasks.

a skilled manager allows an artisan to concentrate on his work and ensures materials, storage, and marketing gets done.

a skilled manager makes sure a team of ordinary office workers are operating efficiently and work does not get wasted and duplicated.

Oh Great! (1)

chill (34294) | about 7 years ago | (#20243549)

Next you're going to tell me that in The Bourne Ultimatum, Jason Bourne really DIDN'T know that the hydrofoil to Tangier was faster and took the ferry just to get some "personal time" with that hot Nicky! I mean, if we can't trust Hollywood, who can we trust?!

Riiiiight... (5, Insightful)

Sunburnt (890890) | about 7 years ago | (#20243555)

It must be the movies. Before movies, everybody had a perfect understanding of physics.

Re: Idiots (1)

NMajik (935461) | about 7 years ago | (#20243557)

Although physics in movies causing test scores to slump is a legitimate concern, it is unlikely that the kids who will actually need an understanding of physics to contribute to society later in life will be so swayed by movie physics as to become less productive.

Imagine if the English profs get hold of this (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | about 7 years ago | (#20243689)

The way people talk in movis is impacting on people's English. People in movies should only speak in the Queen's English with no profanities, slang or double negatives.

... or if the cops got hold of it. Movies plots glorify crime. People in movies should not break laws. They should drive carefully and keep to the speed limits.

Re:Imagine if the English profs get hold of this (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 7 years ago | (#20243999)

Well done, that man.

      And I expect if they fail to comply we should jolly well knock them for six wot eh? Smashing.

Acme School of Physics (1)

starglider29a (719559) | about 7 years ago | (#20243567)

I actually use those as lessons in HOW/WHY the physics would REALLY be. Wile E. Coyote is my teaching assistant. Fan blows into sail... pure genius...

Re:Acme School of Physics (4, Interesting)

Sunburnt (890890) | about 7 years ago | (#20243653)

Reminds me of a firearms instructor who'd compiled a videotape, no doubt illegal in spite of Fair Use, consisting of terrible movie moments in the context of firearms safety. "True Lies," if I recall correctly, was a particularly egregious offender.

Re:Acme School of Physics (1)

russotto (537200) | about 7 years ago | (#20243831)

_True Lies_ has a sequence where Jamie Lee Curtis drops a machine pistol and it falls down the steps, firing a burst every time it hits. I'm pretty sure the filmmakers knew that firearms weren't being depicted in a manner conducive to their safe operation :-)

Re:Acme School of Physics (1)

JackieBrown (987087) | about 7 years ago | (#20243949)

So dropping an automatic weapon down the stairs is bad?

research (1)

timmarhy (659436) | about 7 years ago | (#20243573)

I think this idea that no new science is going on is just scare mongering to try get more fat cat grants. There's plenty of research going on in every field. sure we could always use more, but that's up to the individual to get involved.

We don't need to make movies more realistic... (5, Insightful)

Hamster Lover (558288) | about 7 years ago | (#20243597)

We just need to ensure that we teach our children critical thinking skills. Never mind movies, in a world with Fox News and entertainment and lifestyle stories that cloak themselves as "news", this is more important than ever if future generations are going to enjoy a standard of living that even approaches what we have now.

No, Really?! (1)

morari (1080535) | about 7 years ago | (#20243607)

Bad movies (pretty much anything that has a commercial nowadays) tend to hurt the understanding of everything!

These days (1)

Burz (138833) | about 7 years ago | (#20243609)

Seeing a movie is like watching a cartoon dressed-up like reality: An animation 'skinned' in flesh-and-blood.

The movies use lots of tricks now (mostly CGI) to aim for a transcendent quality in action sequences. At the same time, there is also a trend toward hyper-realist imagery (through CGI) in both video games and movies. I can see how the tight association of this action-transcendence with realist imagery could hamper a student's sense of real physical phenomena.

Re:These days (1)

morari (1080535) | about 7 years ago | (#20243661)

I don't recall ever seeing any hyper-realistic CGI. That stuff always looks fake to me; plastic-like with the wrong lighting.

Speed calculation (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20243615)

(50 feet) / (70 mph) = 0.487012987 seconds
0.5 * g * ((0.487012987 s)^2) = 1.16297871 meters

So as long as the receiving end of the freeway happens to be 1.16 m lower than the departing end, YOU'RE OK!

Re:Speed calculation (1)

davinc (575029) | about 7 years ago | (#20243867)

except w/o a ramp the nose of the bus would fall first as the wheels lost contact with the ground... landing it on its nose or back.

Re:Speed calculation (2, Insightful)

Sunburnt (890890) | about 7 years ago | (#20243887)

Unless you should somehow happen to decelerate during the flight. As if, say, the power transfer surfaces of the vehicle were not in contact with a surface, or if air resistance in front of the bus countered a portion of the bus' kinetic energy.

Re:Speed calculation (1)

dfsmith (960400) | about 7 years ago | (#20243987)

Hey, if the wheels are turning fast enough, it should aid the jump!

And wind resistance can be made negligible if the bus is heavy enough. How do you know what its mass was? Eh? Eh?

Re:Speed calculation (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 7 years ago | (#20243967)

So as long as the receiving end of the freeway happens to be 1.16 m lower than the departing end, YOU'RE OK!

I was going to say something about the bridge collapsing but I guess that would be in bad taste.

It'd make the jump. . . (2, Funny)

mosb1000 (710161) | about 7 years ago | (#20243971)

It'd make the jump, but you might want to try dropping a bus 1.16m before making the determination that it'd be okay.

Oh Noes! (1)

whisper_jeff (680366) | about 7 years ago | (#20243625)

Who cares if the burger-flipper at the local fast food joint believes that a bus can jump a 50-foot span? Sure, it highlights how not-bright a lot of society is but does it really matter if people who do no science at all have a faulty understanding of physics. All I care about is whether or not men-of-science know the truth of it.

Well, that and my bus driver...

Re:Oh Noes! (1)

gronofer (838299) | about 7 years ago | (#20243669)

Who cares if the burger-flipper at the local fast food joint believes that a bus can jump a 50-foot span? Sure, it highlights how not-bright a lot of society is but does it really matter if people who do no science at all have a faulty understanding of physics. All I care about is whether or not men-of-science know the truth of it.
Well, they may steal a bus one evening after drinking too much. Or worse, they may have learned everything they know about food hygiene from the same movie.

Re:Oh Noes! (1)

Burz (138833) | about 7 years ago | (#20243705)

Well, the burger-flippers can vote and don't seem very critical of programs like SDI.

That's why I care.

Re:Oh Noes! (3, Insightful)

Dunbal (464142) | about 7 years ago | (#20243945)

Who cares if the burger-flipper at the local fast food joint believes that a bus can jump a 50-foot span?

      Agreed. I mean after all, you have to save room for 50% of the population on the OTHER side of the Gauss/normal/bell curve.

      Then again, if you look at all the scientific progress made SINCE the 1960's, I'd say the world doesn't have to fear stagnation yet. Also bear in mind that most of this progress has been made by the same generation that was busy smoking pot/other things in the 1960's...

      This is just the same old fallacy about "this generation is morally depraved, completely off the rails, etc" that has been around since Plato and Socrates. Old farts never understand the young idiots that are going to replace them. It's the way of the world.

Coyote and Roadrunner; Pixar (5, Interesting)

bcrowell (177657) | about 7 years ago | (#20243639)

I teach physics at a community college, and I actually like to use Coyote and Roadrunner as an illustration of people's Aristotelian preconceptions. When the coyote steps off a cliff, he has to stop moving forward before he can look down and go, "oh, time to fall." This is exactly what Aristotle said had to happen: an object could be doing forced motion or natural motion, but it couldn't do both at the same time. One reason Aristotelianism was accepted for thousands of years was that it does a good job of codifying the incorrect expectations that people tend to have intuitively. If it wasn't for Coyote and Roadrunner, it would be harder for me to teach this!

My sister works at Pixar, and a lot of her work is physics simulations. (She's working on hair and cloth these days.) She says that a lot of the time, they try simulating the right physics first, but then that comes out not looking the way they want, e.g., water splashes realistically, but they want a cartoon splash, not a realistic splash. So they intentionally mung the equations to get the artistic effect they want. Well, why not? Picasso painted people with two eyes on the same side of their face.

The reason people in the US are ignorant about physics isn't because they see movies with incorrect physics in them, it's because K-12 science education in the US is a disaster.

I'll cut the crap right now. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20243801)

You're going to get tons of people agreeing with your every word and placing you in their friends list, but I'm not going to play their games and be straight with you instead: can you ask your sister to get me a job at Pixar? And will she be my girlfriend? Either will do. Thanks.

Re:Coyote and Roadrunner; Pixar (5, Interesting)

fm6 (162816) | about 7 years ago | (#20243989)

You sum it up nicely. (Though I'm not sure that Aristotle would consider the coyote's hanging in midair to be a valid interpretation of his physics.) In fact the problem is exactly the reverse: movies have bad physics — and bad science in general — because it's what people expect.

Two examples: on Star Trek TOS, they tried very hard to be scientifically correct (later versions were less careful) but wimped out when they depicted the Enterprise moving through space. They tried doing it without sound (no sound in a vacuum), but everybody complained that it "felt wrong". So we got the famous "whoosh" during the opening credits and a strange rumble when the ship orbited a planet..

In Babylon 5, they tried even harder. ("Conceptual Consultant" Harlan Ellison has many unendearing qualities, but he's always a stickler for scientific details.) So when spaceships docked, they had to pitch 180% so they could use their reaction engines to slow down. Perfectly good physics — but many casual viewers wondered why all the ships were flying backwards!

Not at all the problem (4, Insightful)

Shky (703024) | about 7 years ago | (#20243641)

Look, if you think that Speed is realistic, that isn't the movie's fault. That's genetics, the education system, and parenting to blame. Movies are not making people ignorant, they're pandering to peoples ignorance. Movies with realistic technology would be boring to most people. Sure, movies might be amplifying an existing problem, but they're not the root cause here.

An Inconvenient Truth (0, Flamebait)

isa-kuruption (317695) | about 7 years ago | (#20243663)

So... people are going to actually believe the bogus science in Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth? Amazing.

This is similar to people who mis-interpret history by watching movies. For instance, I know people who insist the government actually bombarded NY City during the Civil War during rioting about the war.... because it was depicted in the movie Gangs of New York.

John Ford (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20243685)

You never saw John Ford fuck up no physics!







And Elvis never did no drugs neither!

Die Hard Example (1)

OS24Ever (245667) | about 7 years ago | (#20243723)

I guess maybe I thought more of the 'kids these days' going into school would be pretty easy to NOT believe that you could floor a police cruiser, hit a toll booth, and manage to land the car on a helicopter.

I guess for decades now I've always felt a movie was entertainment, not 'how things work' otherwise I'm pissed and I want my lightsaber and personal shield.

Bad Guy looks like Icaza (1)

rojebrio (997893) | about 7 years ago | (#20243727)

I think that the bad bad guy [imdb.com] looks a bit like Miguel de Icaza [guadec.org]

The real question... (1)

zakezuke (229119) | about 7 years ago | (#20243747)

Does a lack of a suspension of disbelief hurt one's chances of getting a date?

Re:The real question... (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 7 years ago | (#20243879)

Does a lack of a suspension of disbelief hurt one's chances of getting a date?

      Nah, plenty of dates to be had in the supermarket.

      They're in the exotic section, next to the figs and other stuff. Oh, that's not what you meant, is it? I have NO IDEA about the OTHER kind (shrug).

88mph (1)

geoffrobinson (109879) | about 7 years ago | (#20243763)

88mph won't let you time travel. You have to be close to the speed of light like Superman: the Movie.

speed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20243769)

I thought I read that tey really did the jump on one take (empty of course) and it did not fare well?

I disagree with TFA (5, Insightful)

Jazzer_Techie (800432) | about 7 years ago | (#20243771)

Let me preface this comment with the fact that I am a physicist (astrophysics) and am quite often frustrated by the poor physics shown in movies.

However, I think they're neglecting a very basic fact. Humans have evolved to find Newtonian mechanics intuitive! (especially in translational cases, somewhat less in rotational ones) If someone throws a ball, you can quickly figure out approximately where it is going to land. You have no need to do calculations, because its evolutionarily hardwired into your brain. Watching a movie which doesn't accurately display a free-falling bus is not going to erase that.

It's true that people don't know enough physics to determine the validity of what they see in movies, but they already know enough to get through life. I'd love for everyone to know enough physics to be understand the devices that they use in their lives, but that's probably not a reality in the modern age.

I think what they're encountering is a resistance to learning the formalizations of physics. As soon as you step beyond Newtonian mechanics (really, beyond two-body problems) all that evolutionary intuition is gone. When you get to physics at that stage, you must place it on firm mathematical footing, or you have no hope of understanding: that is hard work.

They are seeing this decline in science understanding, but I think that's an artifact of an overall educational decline, rather than a specific effect of Hollywood movies. Young people are now expecting to be entertained, and while physics is beautiful, at some point it requires you to sit down in a empty room with a pad of paper and a pencil. If anything, it's the "action-packed entertainment" nature of movies, rather than any bad physics that is likely having the detrimental effect. However, if they can entertain these students and have them learn something too, that's fine with me.

Re:I disagree with TFA (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 7 years ago | (#20243853)

Humans have evolved to find Newtonian mechanics intuitive! (especially in translational cases, somewhat less in rotational ones) If someone throws a ball, you can quickly figure out approximately where it is going to land. You have no need to do calculations, because its evolutionarily hardwired into your brain.

      Actually I wouldn't say it is "hard wired". That's what the first few years of life are about. Throw a ball at a 6 month old and see what happens.

      It's more that we grow up in a world where gravity is constant, and we learn to predict future ball positions through observation , trial and error.

      "Look, an object heads towards me. I predict it will arrive here.. no.. here... little bit more... here. gotcha."

in a word, "no" (4, Insightful)

superwiz (655733) | about 7 years ago | (#20243777)

We are not only behind in science. We are also illiterate. Most people never read any classic texts. And I will probably make at least one spelling error in this post. The problem is lack of standardized curriculum. Almost every nation that is cited as an example of someone we "really shouldn't be behind but still are" has a standard curriculum in science, math and humanities. We have too much local opposition to it from all-too-powerful teacher's unions. This is not meant to start conservative vs liberal debate (even though I happened to mention teacher's unions). Most of the time in K-12 a program for educating people over a period of 12 years is designed by teachers who can't plan for more than 1 year. They don't have the time or the background to see "the big picture" of where their particular class fits in the overall education. A separate bureaucracy (there, now you can't accuse me of being too conservative) of experts on development could do a much better job of it by designing and tweaking a curriculum for the entire nation. China does it. So does Russia and so does every European country.

Re:in a word, "no" (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about 7 years ago | (#20243809)

We are

tl;dr

(too long, didn't read)

Re:in a word, "no" (1)

damsa (840364) | about 7 years ago | (#20244021)

Half of China can't read. Pick a better example. China's success is because of the sheer number of people there, there are bound to be enough people who become talented scientists and engineers. Same with India.

darwin awards (1)

gekoscan (1001678) | about 7 years ago | (#20243783)

Nature has a way of sorting this kinda things out :)

If a person thinks movie physics is the all knowing truth, we can only hope they try to emulate them. For all the rest of us that have a reasonable understand of mathematics and physics, we will just continue to enjoy the show.

Watch the Right Movies (1)

imstanny (722685) | about 7 years ago | (#20243789)


"Some people really do believe a bus traveling 70 mph can clear a 50-foot gap in a freeway, as depicted in the movie Speed."

Forget Speed. If you want a real lesson in physics, watch Road Trip. Not only does the Ford Taurus clear the gap based on their calculations it also loses its suspension, and then explodes. Don't forget, they had to recalculate their speed for approach after a loogie launched by 'Stifler' collapsed one side of the broken bridge.
...If that's not an accurate lesson in physics, I don't know what is.

Not yet? Really? (1)

Gottlos (1143259) | about 7 years ago | (#20243805)

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the fact that in Speed the bus couldn't go UNDER 70 mph... it could have been traveling much faster. Now I know that still does not make it very believable but is anyone willing to do the math to see what speed and incline are needed to jump a 50 ft gap? What's the average mass of a bus anyways?

Re:Not yet? Really? (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 7 years ago | (#20243873)

ask the mythbusters

Re:Not yet? Really? (1)

BigMike1020 (943654) | about 7 years ago | (#20243993)

What's the average mass of a bus anyways?
With that last sentence, you're proving the opposite point. The mass of the bus would actually have very little to do with how far the bus would fly. The only things that would matter, neglecting air resistance, are its speed and gravitational acceleration.

Re:Not yet? Really? (5, Informative)

litghost (704377) | about 7 years ago | (#20244019)

Well this comment shows the problem right away. This is actually a mass independent problem, as gravity is always accelerating things (on Earth) at ~9.81 m/s^2. The problem is more what the drag on the bus is over the course of the flight. However, since I am not in the mood to calculate Reynolds numbers for flying busses, I will assume inviscid air.

Problem statement: A point particle moving at 70 MPH at some angle must cross a 50 foot gap, and be at the same height when it reaches the other side.

Given:
v0 = 70 mph // Initial speed
x = 50 feet // Distance to travel horizontially

Assumption: Force-free motion
Constant gravity ( g = 9.81 m/s^2 )

Solution:

v0 = 70 mph = 31.2928 m/s
x = 50 feet = 15.24 m

t = Time of flight
theta = Angle from horizon

x = v0*t*cos(theta)
y = v0*sin(theta)*t - g*t^2
Solve for t t = x/(v0*cos(theta))
Substitude into y equation
y = x*v0/v0*sin(theta)/cos(theta) - g*x^2/v0^2/cos(theta)^2
Set y = 0 and solve
x*sin(theta)/cos(theta) = g*x^2/v0^2/cos(theta)^2
sin(theta)*cos(theta) = g*x/v0^2

g*x/v0^2 = 9.81*15.24/(31.2928)^2 = 0.15267

sin(theta)*cos(theta) = 0.15267 can be solve graphically. The first valid solution is 8.89 degrees.

So yes, a bus (with no friction) can cross a 50 feet gap, if the ramp was at an incline greater than 8.89 degrees.

Yay.

Hollywood Porn Biology Hurts Sexual Understanding (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20243819)

I dont know about Hollymood movies and physics but Hollywood porn sure destroyed my understanding of women and sex. Here are some of the things I learnt from Hollywood porn that I found out (the hard way) weren't really true:


1. Women always wear 6-inch high-heels to bed.
2. Men are never impotent.
3. Women never have headaches... or periods.
4. If a woman gets busted masturbating by a strange man, she will not scream with embarrassment, but rather insist he have sex with her.
5. When going down on a woman 10 seconds is more than satisfactory.
6. If you come across a guy and his girlfriend having sex in the bushes, the boyfriend won't bash seven shades of shit out of you if you shove your cock in his girlfriend's mouth.
7. Women always look pleasantly surprised when they open a man's trousers and find a cock there.
8. Women moan uncontrollably when giving a blowjob.
9. All women are noisy cummers.
10. A common and enjoyable sexual practice for a man is to take his half-erect penis and slap it repeatedly on a woman's butt or face.
11. A woman can't wait to get it in the ass.
12. People in the 70's couldn't cum unless there was a wild guitar solo in the background.
13. Men always groan "OH YEAH!" when they cum.
14. Double penetration makes women smile.
15 Assholes are so clean, you could eat out of them.
16. When taking a woman from behind, a man can really excite her by giving her a hard slap on the butt.
17. Nurses always suck patients' cocks.
18. Men always pull out.
19. When your girlfriend busts you getting head from her best friend, she'll only be momentarily pissed off before fucking the both of you.
20. Women smile appreciatively when men splat them in the face with sperm.
21. A man ejaculating on a woman's tits or butt is a satisfying result for all parties concerned.
22. Asian men don't exist.

I hope the next generation fed on an abundance of internet porn doesn't have the same misconceptions.

A really nasty case of movie physics (1)

fm6 (162816) | about 7 years ago | (#20243823)

Ronald Reagan didn't understand why ballistic missiles couldn't return to base. Wouldn't have been so bad if he'd still been an actor, but he was Commander in Chief at the time.

What about Star Trek? (1)

Franklin Brauner (1034220) | about 7 years ago | (#20243843)

Do the value of physics learned on Star Trek (in particular TNG) outweigh the theoretical physics discussed and movie conventions?

Speed bus (1)

dfsmith (960400) | about 7 years ago | (#20243849)

A back-of-the-napkin calculation shows that a ballistic object traveling at 70mph (102ft/s) can stay airborne for 4.5s (if that 70mph is directed at 45 degrees from horizontal), during which time it covers 325 feet. Then it smashes to bits (having just fallen from about 80 feet in the air).

A 50ft gap? Totally unrealistic.

(Usual disclaimers for napkin-arithmetic.)

Re:Speed bus (1)

Old Wolf (56093) | about 7 years ago | (#20243977)

Except that the bus's angle would have been more like 7 degrees. If you've ever seen the making of the movie, you would know that they actually filmed it by placing a steep ramp there, and editing it out of the final version. Watch the movie scene closely next time and you will see the front wheels of the bus rise up , before the bus leaves the first half of the bridge.

Re:Speed bus (1)

dfsmith (960400) | about 7 years ago | (#20244029)

Good grief, you want me to WATCH the movie? Again!?

Die Hard has died (2, Informative)

roman_mir (125474) | about 7 years ago | (#20243875)

The last Die Hard is most definitely the worst.
Spoilers included, so ROT13, use this to read [mozilla.org] .
Gur vaqrfgehpgnoyr nfvna tvey trgf uvg ol n gehpx naq fgvyy svtugf yvxr abguvat unccrarq. N pne vf ynhapurq ng n uryvpbcgre naq fhpprffshyyl gnxrf vg qbja. Gur S35 be jungrire wrg syvrf orgjrra oevqtrf naq ohvyqvatf naq cbjreyvarf, ybbxf BX, ohg unf abguvat gb qb jvgu Qvr Uneq. Wbua ZpPynar vf fhccbfrq gb or guvf beqvanel pbc jub fnirf gur qnl, ohg vafgrnq ur vf fbzr fbeg bs n fhcrezna, whzcf bhg bs n pne ng bire 100xz/u naq whfg jnyxf njnl sebz vg, ohg trgf orng hc ol gung nfvna ynql cerggl jryy. Gur FGHCVQ fprar jurer fbzr angheny tnf yvar vf qviregrq gb n cbjre-cynag naq whfg oybjf hc rirelguvat, V qba'g trg vg. Xriva Fzvgu nf guvf Jneybpx unpxre fhpxrq. Jnf vg uvf jrg-qernz gb nccrne va gur fnzr zbivr jvgu Jvyyvf? Gur ivyynva fhpxrq. Ur vf oyrnx naq whfg ab pbzcnevfba gb Wrerzl Vebaf sebz gur ynfg zbivr. Gur cybg fhpxrq. Gur onq thl pna qb cerggl zhpu nalguvat sebz uvf pbzchgre. Fgbc na ryringbe va fbzr cevingr ohvyqvat? Fher jul abg. Unpx vagb rirelguvat, pbageby nalguvat (nyy gur fgerrg yvtugf, fgbpx znexrgf, cbjre cynagf.) Jungrire. Jul gur uryy vf cbjrecynag pbageby vf npprffvoyr sebz gur Jro naljnl? Gur jubyr zbivr vf oebxra vagb whfg 3 be 4 ybat ynfgvat fprarf ernyyl. Vg unq ab cnpr. ZpPynar sylvat n uryvpbcgre sbe gur svefg gvzr va uvf yvsr naq orvat noyr gb qb vg juvyr gur cbjre vf qbja ba gur ragver pbfg. Fubbgvat gur onq thl guebhtu uvf fubhyqre, bx. Naljnl, Jvyyvf vf byq naq va guvf zbivr vg fubjf. Pna'g gurl unir fbzr arj npgbef?

As to the students thinking of science as hard, I don't think the movies are responsible for this. Being smart is apparently not cool anymore, why should it be? You can make much more dough selling SCO Linux subscriptions :) or at least playing basketball. Oh, and chicks like basketball players, not nerds.

I approve (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20243877)

I rather like the idea of the stupid ones removing themselves from the gene pool.

People who get their physics from movies... (0, Flamebait)

WerewolfOfVulcan (320426) | about 7 years ago | (#20243895)

... are far more likely to believe that an airplane crashing into a skyscraper causes the entire structure to collapse.

Also the decline of the American car industry (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20243965)

IMHO Hollywood movies are also a cause for the decline of the American car industry.

Who the hell will still buy a American car when nearly every car crash in a movie results in an explosion of the gasoline tank?

More Idiocracy (3, Insightful)

Q-Cat5 (664698) | about 7 years ago | (#20243975)

Physics don't matter. In a few years, all fuel will be replaced by Brawndo [imdb.com] . (It's got what Buses Crave.)

This is an old debate. Yes, TV and Movies largely rob you of time and money, and take up brain-cycles and memory capacity that could be used more productively for other things. Largely. It's because people choose to watch that kind of movie. We could all be watching intelligent, thought-provoking documentaries and technical films. But we don't. (Exceptions are noted.)

Suspension of disbelief is a wonderful ability. I'm glad I have it, it allows me to be entertained by reading, hearing, and watching works of pure fiction. I'm also glad that I'm smart enough to know the difference between fiction and fact. I got that by asking questions (stimulated in many cases by unrealistic scenes in movies, I'm sure). Not everyone wants to learn, however, and those that don't want to learn are probably irredeemable anyway. And laying the blame for their failures at Hollywood's doorstep is like blaming Goth Music and Violent Video Games for school shootings. It completely misses the point that solid education (or other forms of intervention, usually originating with parents that actually, gasp, pay attention to their children) would obviate the need for babysitting people through basic fact-versus-fancy analyses of obviously unrealistic media.

Some of us are able to handle our mindless entertainment responsibly. Those that can learn, will. Those that can't, will probably massively outnumber us within a generation or two anyway, if they don't already.

Twisted Physics (2, Insightful)

Mal-2 (675116) | about 7 years ago | (#20243981)

Movie and cartoon physics have always been highly suspect. The difference is that until fairly recently, it was blatantly obvious when special effects "cheats" were called into play. This started to fall apart with the advent of the green screen, and ironically went completely to hell with CGI. Why ironically? Because the same computing power used to render can also be used to do the physics properly -- but it generally isn't.

Another irony is that some movies that look cartoonish (Pixar films, for example) have more reasonable physics than movies that are meant to integrate the computer-generated effects seamlessly. Cartoons are one place where suspension of physical law is often accepted in order to support the overall comic effect, though there seems to be a sort of convention of "cartoon physics" [funnies.paco.to] as well.

Mal-2

go watch start trek and star wars (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 7 years ago | (#20243991)

and put your speakers on mute whenever they show something happening in space. it's realistic, but boring

the point is, who cares if people know there is no sound in space or not. the purpose of movies is to entertain. i want to HEAR R2D2 scream when he gets hit by shrapnel and i want to HEAR romulans decloak with a whoosh. if we can accept the "force" and "vulcan mind melds", we can accept sound in space damnit. it means joe blow doesn't know space is silent? frankly, who cares

All I want to know... (1)

hydroxy (863799) | about 7 years ago | (#20244009)

Is where the hell you got a movie ticket for $7.50. In the DC area, I havn't seen that price in ~10 years.
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