The greatest thing about good science fiction is that it lets viewers explore a new reality. But, some sci-fi movies have a little more fiction than science, which can lead to some major scientific flaws in the film’s plot.
Of course, these movies aren’t always meant to be scientifically accurate. And, regardless of the science, they’re pretty fun to watch.
Here are some sci-fi movies that got some of their science wrong.
Recreating dinosaurs from DNA — as seen in the “Jurassic Park” franchise — doesn’t seem plausible.
BBC science writer Mary Halton spoke to paleontologist Steve Brusatte earlier in 2018 about this series, and he essentially said the likelihood of cloning a dinosaur is close to impossible.
“In order to clone a dinosaur you would need the whole genome, and nobody’s ever even found a little bit of dinosaur DNA,” Brusatte told BBC. “So we’re talking about something that’s pretty difficult, if not impossible.”
Director Michael Bay may have consulted NASA experts on “Armageddon” — but the premise of the movie is still scientifically questionable.
A line of dialogue from Billy Bob Thornton’s character – meant to be a NASA scientist named Dan Truman – described the asteroid the film hinges upon as being “the size of Texas.”
The team only has 18 days to do something about the asteroid before destruction ensues. The entire premise of the movie is founded on an asteroid that, in reality, would have been detected a lot sooner.
University of Manchester senior science communication lecturer David Kirby told Smithsonian Magazine, “Any astronomer would tell you, if you have an asteroid the size of Texas, it would have been visible probably years before.”
“Gravity” did a good job at many things — except perhaps the concept in its actual title.
In a piece for Slate, astronomer and science communicator Phil Plait wrote that Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity” got a lot of things right – but it had a major flaw.
As Plait explained, gravity works differently in space than it does on Earth. George Clooney’s character, Matt Kowalski, didn’t have to die. It turns out, all Bullock’s character had to do was give a gentle tug to save him.
“… Gravity wasn’t pulling Clooney away from Bullock; there were essentially no forces on him at all, so he had no weight for Bullock to bear,” Plait explained. “… Literally, an ounce of force applied for a few seconds would have been enough.”
Many scientists have called out various issues with the science presented in “The Day After Tomorrow” — but one particular issue looms large.
At the time of its release, the UK government’s then-chief scientific adviser Sir David King told the BBC that this movie unrealistically condensed a scenario that would take decades or a century into just a few weeks.
He then called the movie’s overall premise an “unlikely or even impossible scenario.”
However, Sir King said the movie did a pretty great job of getting across a message about the dangers of climate change. The message was relatable to general movie-going audiences – even if the science wasn’t completely correct.
Luc Besson’s film “Lucy” hinged on the popular myth that humans only use 10% of our brains.
In the movie, Scarlett Johansson’s title character used a drug to unlock the large percentage of her brain that wasn’t previously in use.
“The notion that we humans have massive reserves of grey matter just sitting there waiting to be summoned into service has obvious appeal, but there is no scientific evidence to support it,” science writer Kate Wong wrote for Scientific American.
Wong also quoted a previous Scientific American piece where another science writer, Robynne Boyd, spoke to neurologist Barry Gordon about this pervasive myth. As it turns out, “we use virtually every part of the brain, and [most of] the brain is active almost all the time.”
The movie “Outbreak” had a bit of a scientific error.
Sam Daniels – as played by Dustin Hoffman – couldn’t possibly have seen that the virus had mutated by simply looking through a microscope.
“The vast majority of viruses are way too small to be seen with light microscopy,” reports World Science Festival. “If the Motaba virus is as small as the Ebola virus, you could only see it in detail with an electron microscope.”
In “Independence Day,” Jeff Goldblum saved the world in the most implausible way.
Even if you love the film, it’s difficult to fathom how Jeff Goldblum’s character distributed a virus to so many computers.
Engadget writer Mike Wehner wrote an entire tongue-in-cheek piece about the PowerBook 5300 that changed the world – even though no one in 1995 or now could figure out how he managed to connect it to the alien invaders’ computer network in the first place.
Dean Devlin, who wrote and produced “Independence Day,” and did a Reddit AMA where he offered a little more insight into this plot point – but he still didn’t explain exactly what happened.
“The Core” presents a few scientific inaccuracies.
Physicist John Ortberg re-watched “The Core” for the Toast and then proceeded to take apart several scientific inaccuracies in the film.
Among other major flaws, he said the suits worn by the crew of the Virgil as they walk around outside of their vessel seem much lighter than what astronauts wear when going into space – and there’s simply no way that could work.
“To put this in perspective, have you ever felt the pressure change when travelling in a plane or up and down mountains? That’s about a 25% change in pressure,” Ortberg told the Toast. “The pressure at the earth’s core is 330,000,000% stronger than at the surface.”
Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” strove for scientific accuracy — but still had some missteps along the way.
Although the film’s scientific advisor Caltech theoretical physicist Kip Thorne seems to have done a pretty great job, the film still had some scientific issues.
Astrophysicist Katie Mack, who wrote for BuzzFeed about various plot points in the film, pointed out that pulling quantum data out of a black hole would be next to impossible.
“Anything that gets close enough to the singularity at the center of the black hole to learn something about quantum mechanics would be stretched to spaghetti (or ‘spaghettified,’ to use the technical term) and destroyed,” wrote Mack. “As for getting the quantum data out? No way. You’re in a black hole.”
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