8 of the Worst Science Mistakes in Hollywood

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There are many, many movies that feature terrible science, but the following is a collection of the worst and most painful science mistakes Hollywood has to offer. Heads up, this article contains a few spoilers.

1. Jurassic Park (1993)

The entire plot of Jurassic Park relies on the virtually impossible idea that dinosaur DNA is preserved in amber. While you may have heard of the incredible ability of amber to store the bodies of small creatures such as bugs and insects over millions of years, most scientists agree that it is highly unlikely that amber is capable of preserving DNA – especially DNA that is 66 million years old. Sorry dinosaur fans, it doesn’t look like a real-life dinosaur park is coming our way any time soon.

2. San Andreas (2015)

According to IMDb, this movie features over a hundred errors; most of which are, sadly, science related. One of the most notable – and annoying – errors is that an earthquake with a land-based epicentre causes a tsunami on the same coast. In other words, the tsunami moves towards the earthquake. Tsunamis typically move away from the earthquake epicentre, so if any tsunami had been triggered it should be across the Pacific, not in California. 

This brings me to another major error: San Andreas is a strike-slip fault of which the majority is under land. In other words, it would be highly unlikely for a tsunami to have occurred at all because not enough water would have been displaced. Annoying.

3. Star Wars (1997 – )

Star Wars is well-known for its distinctive battle sound effects, but if the franchise’s famous space fights had taken place in real space, they would have been more-or-less silent. This is because sound waves cannot travel through a vacuum, such as space, since there aren’t any air particles.

This video gives a pretty good explanation of what a Star Wars space battle would actually sound like…

4. Skyfall (2012)

This one is less science and more plain logic, but we’re including it anyway because it’s pretty annoying. In this scene, James Bond has a fight in a frozen lake for a few minutes, before running (probably) to a nearby building. The period spent underwater might not be long enough for hypothermia to set in, but Bond would definitely be experiencing some sort of hyperventilation or shivering. Let’s not even get into the fact he was breathing out the entire time he was  underwater and also looks completely dry after.

Here’s the scene in all it’s annoying glory…

5. Gravity (2013)

Gravity is a pretty good film when you look past the fact it doesn’t actually understand the concept of gravity. The final scene features one of the most talked-about errors in a space film (major spoilers ahead). In the scene George Clooney’s character, Matt, unclips his tether and drifts away to his death. However, science nerds of the internet argue that if the pair were stationary, as they appear to be, all Sandra Bullock’s character, Ryan, had to do was pull on the tether and Matt would have moved towards her. A lot of critics also point out that Ryan could have simply swung Matt around or he could have pulled himself along the tether. 

This is a prominent gravity-based error for a film about gravity, so naturally the science advisor for the movie, Kevin Grazier, stepped in to explain. He claimed the two were still moving during the scene, which would mean both characters would have drifted further away to their deaths. Have a watch of the scene and see what you think… 

6. Armageddon (1998)

Armageddon, whose plot is centred around an asteroid headed for Earth, features a whopping 168 mistakes that are scientifically impossible: that’s more than one mistake per minute of movie. This number is way higher if we go into scientifically unlikely blunders in the film. The science in this film is so bad it is shown to NASA trainees on their management program to see how many errors they can identify. 

We can’t be too hard on the movie since, as astronomer Phil Plait quite rightly said:

Armageddon got some astronomy right. For example, there is an asteroid in the movie, and asteroids do indeed exist…” 

7. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Let’s suppose there’s a nuclear bomb about to detonate a mile or so away from your town and there’s no time to get away. What do you do? According to Indiana Jones, just hide in a fridge. Jones and his miraculous nuclear bomb-proof fridge are catapulted a few metres, then he simply climbs out and walks off. Did George Lucas completely forget that radioactive fallout is a thing?

The camerawork makes sure to pick up on the fact that the fridge is lined with lead, of which a few inches can block gamma radiation. However, scientist Dr. David Shechner conducted multiple tests to see if a fridge could withstand a nuclear blast and concluded that, unfortunately, you would most definitely die if you tried to hide in a fridge. 

8. The Day After Tomorrow (2008)

This film does actually feature some sound science at the beginning, where we get a little geography lesson on the thermohaline circulation (THC): the mechanism that drives temperature distribution across the globe. If the THC is shut off, the temperature of North America and much of Europe would plummet. Facts aside, it’s time for some fails…

According to the movie, THC shutdown would result in an ice age across a large portion of the northern hemisphere. This is incredibly unlikely, as the climate North America and Northern Europe would be more likely to resemble that of current north-east Canada where temperatures only fall to an annual low of around -27oC. In the film, New York and Scotland experience temperatures of -150oF (-101oC).

Another thing this film gets wrong is the speed of climate change. At one point, one of the scientists says the temperature drops by 10 degrees per second. Regardless of whether this is measured in Fahrenheit or Celsius, scientists have concluded that temperature reductions of this magnitude are impossible.

By Morwenna Davies

Header image: screenrant.com