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Bad Science in Movies



This chart posted at io9 exposes the many liberties filmmakers take with science in movies about space. The only two films to receive a clean bill are true stories from history. Link -via The High Definite

There needs to be another category for unrealistic spaceship movement/ design.

Too many spaceships look like airplanes, and 'fly' through space.
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Seems kind of unfair to include FTL travel in that list. Aside from the fact that it's necessary to make a movie plot like star wars practical, we don't actually know for a fact that FTL isn't possible until we have an even deeper understanding of the universe, and it's partly thanks to sci-fi that we spend so much time banging our head against wall trying to figure that one out.

A better related category would be outright broken representations of relativity when dealing with near-light and FTL travel.

Also, no star trek movies?
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@Danalan

What does it matter what it looks like. Presuming the movie is in the future designs could be radically different thanks to new technologies we discover.

If the movie is current though it should probably try to refrain from using technology that doesn't exist on the aircraft or designs that just aren't possible.
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There's a problem with Apollo 13, actually. This movie won the Academy Award for sound effects, some of which, mind you, were sounds effects in cosmic vacuum. In space no one could hear you scream, right? But I'm too picky -- praise for the film seems well deserved.
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In Stargate all the gates are on earth like planets so they would all have Earth like gravity, all the "aliens" in the movie are humans and they speak an ancient Earth language. Stargate did however have FTL travel.

Not sure what they were watching in the "Alien Movies" to check the box for interspecies breeding.
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a lot of these seem to ignore the contexts of the films

for instance, criticizing easy communication with aliens in star wars assumes that humans (who in star wars aren't even really humans) are unfamiliar with aliens. it makes sense that humans can't communicate with aliens in most movies, because there hasn't been any time for them to learn about each other and the differences between their languages. when han solo talks to greedo in the cantina however, he is speaking to an alien he personally knows and it isn't that farfetched that in his career as a smuggler he has learned some alien languages. han solo knowing the same language as greedo is about as weird as me knowing spanish. (which i don't, but i should learn, because i work with a lot of mexicans)

in stargate also, the aliens that the humans encounter are familiar with humans. they are supposedly very smart and rule by masquerading as human gods. the fact that they can speak human languages is kind of logical.

the movie contact is entirely about aliens contacting humans on earth, if they choose to engage in such an endeavor without at least a rough understanding of our language they would be complete morons

the fact that other planets have gravity similar to earth in some movies isn't that odd either, for instance in alien the strange harsh world they land on in response to the distress signal is only one planet, which could very well simply be similar to earth in size. while on the planets surface they always wear giant suits also, so it's hard to judge the planets exact gravity. the very idea that highly habitable planets (the only ones we would ever choose to visit) would have at least similar gravity to earth is almost obvious. i can't see why humans would ever visit a planet with extreme gravity.

how can this chart be mocking movies for the use of "faster than light travel" when the chart itself describes lasers as "faster than light"

which is ridiculous, a laser is light, i don't think i've ever heard lasers described in fiction as "faster than light"

usually such laser technology isn't even explained, and sometimes it's not even called "lasers"...so we have no idea what we are really seeing depicted.

is a "blaster" a laser? is a "phaser" a laser? not specifying makes any arguments against their scientific basis moot.
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@cluck

human-xenomorph hyrbid in the alien franchise

calling it interbreeding however ignores everything about the alien franchise

it's not like ripley banged a xenomorph

whoever made this thing needs to watch these movies again
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Ah yes Alien Resurrection but wasn't she like #50 or something. My memory of these movies falls off a cliff much like the series after Aliens.
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Suprised there isnt one for all ships having Earth gravity too.

That said - a good many of those are purely because of budget reasons if nothing else. Ones I hate are the big budget movies that use bad science for no readily apparent reason. Armageddon is one huge bad science extravaganza. I mean I dont think a single space scene actually obeys any law of physics...

Contact - sound in space? When? Trying to remember its been a while but do they ever actually go into space at any point?
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Hrmm, the only part in Contact that they go in to space is the end when she's in the ball. But it's just her talking basically. From what I remember, I don't think there was any other sound, well other than music blahblahblah.

Also in Serenity, didn't they explain how they made other planets more hospitable.. aka like Earth?
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why was my first comment deleted? was it too long? i tried to abstain from using foul language.

i have always assumed the final scene in contact was more of a internal experience than an actual trip into space. although there was space imagery, like the image of her father, it seemed pretty clear that this was a projection concocted by the aliens.
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Since no one has actually met an alien (as far as I know) how is it bad science to imagine that interbreeding or communicating with aliens would be difficult?
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I suppose interbreeding could be a form of communication.

The funniest thing in Star Wars is that hundreds of armour-wearing soldiers can't hit four people without armour, but those four people can just turn around and blast those soldiers without any problem.

reminds me of the Family Guy quote "Do we ever hit anything with these?" "I hit a bird once."
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Star wars (I'll even include the prequels, though I do not have to):

All planets have Earth gravity. No, they all had earth-like gravity. Endor's was a little lower, Hoth's a little higher.
All planets have a climate planet-wide. Alderaan, Endor, Yavin, and Naboo had multiple climates. Bespin and Hoth might well have had a gradient of gas giant and snow world climates respectively. Coruscant would have before it became an unending city with climate control.
Easy communication with aliens. Protocol droids and 25,000 years of interspecies interaction.
Nearby asteroids aren't drawn close by gravity. We saw asteroids for minutes and they were moving at unrealistically high speeds and close to each other. This one is not really able to be ruled on without at least a few hours of star wars asteroid footage.
Faster-than-light travel. Hyperspace is like sub-space, you don't move faster than light, you shift into a plane where the relative distances are warped shorter and traverse them at sub-light speeds. That's why you use the sublight engines in hyperspace.

Enemy Mine:

All planets have Earth gravity. Two planets are shown with two earth-like gravities.
All planets have a climate planet-wide. Two planets with variable climates and seasons.
Easy communication with aliens. Two aliens in the entire galaxy that have had a prolonged war, probably have special teams dedicated to translating war messages and codes, and it takes a long time for them to learn each others' language.
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I'm hoping they aren't classing the "long pull out" at the start of Contact as "sound in space" because it isnt. Its supposed to represent our signal sphere of broadcasts as you recede from Earth.

You get present day broadcasts at Earth trailing off to vintage and grainy broadcasts as you get into the stars. I think our signal sphere is about 85 light years in radius at them moment?

In no way was it meant to be sound in space if thats what they were thinking.
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@egbert

yeah man, i agree, it's clearly a film technique used to represent something metaphorically

the people who made this chart know very little of film, science fiction, or science
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Apollo 13 was great, and almost perfect, but there was one thing that bugged me every time I saw it. The gauge showing CO2 percentage should have been moving very slowly, but every time they showed it the hand was sweeping dramatically towards the danger point. It would have been fatal in seconds if it continued moving at that speed, and each time they showed it it started from the same lower point and swept up. Should have been still in the shots, each time at a slightly higher level.
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