The movies can be a great source of education as well as entertainment. Much of the current batch of sci-fi movies and tv shows, in particular, are doing great work in terms of explaining science and its principles to audiences.
However, it’s also important to recognize that some of the things the movies have taught us about science are just plain wrong. That’s not to be deliberately misleading, it’s to make sure that movies are entertaining.
These 10 things are examples of when that happened and the “knowledge” from movies mistakenly entered the mainstream. We’d bet that you won’t believe number four on our list.
10. Shotguns Don’t Work Like That
In the movies, somebody gets shot with a shotgun and “boom,” they’re flying across the room. In real life, if that really happened, then Newton’s Laws state that the person who pulled the trigger would also fly across the room in the opposite direction. Doesn’t happen, does it?
9. Lasers Can’t Be Seen
We do love the red light laser beams that appear in nearly every sci-fi movie but you can’t actually see a laser beam in real life. The only way that you could see a laser would be to put reflective particles in the air of the beam’s path. That would significantly reduce the efficiency of the laser.
8. Science Does Not Happen Quickly
Every time there’s an engineering, or biotech, or chemical disaster in a movie or TV show, it’s always resolved in a few short minutes. In real life, science doesn’t move at this incredible rate of speed. Inventions and improvements take years of hard work to come up with, they don’t happen on demand.
If you think that’s odd, wait until you read number 5.
7. Dinosaur Cloning Isn’t That Easy
Discovering dinosaur DNA wouldn’t actually lead to the manufacture of dinosaur babies. Jurassic Park aside, DNA degrades over time and as it degrades it becomes more and more difficult to clone. Dinosaur DNA would simply be too old to be viable for cloning procedures. Which is both sad and a relief at the same time.
6. Chloroform Isn’t A Good Knockout Drug
Chloroform in the movies is placed on a bit of cloth and then held over someone’s mouth. Two seconds later, they’re unconscious. While it’s true that chloroform can render someone unconscious, it takes a few minutes rather than a couple of seconds to work. Five minutes of kicking and struggling wouldn’t look good on TV – so they take a short cut.
5. Silencers Don’t Silence Gunfire
There’s actually no such thing as a silencer. It’s actually called a suppressor. Suppressors remove the noise of expanding gas when a gun is fired. They don’t affect the noise made from the initial explosion or the noise made from the cycling of the bullets. So, while a gunshot is less noisy with a suppressor fitted, it’s not a whisper either.
If you sort of knew that, then you won’t believe number 2.
4. Photon Torpedoes Would Be Invisible
Photon torpedoes, when shot from a space ship, are always quite impressive when they’re seen on screen from the bridge. Yet, by definition, a photon torpedo would be traveling away from the ship at the speed of light and you wouldn’t be able to see anything if it was moving away from you.
3. No Radioactive Superpowers
In movies, radiation gives you superpowers. In real life, it gives you cancer. Exposure to radiation is a really bad idea. Even when it’s used to treat cancer, radiation makes someone very sick and that’s in the hands of a skilled physician. In general terms it’s best to avoid highly radioactive materials.
2. Silent Explosions In Space
Those wonderful big budget moments when something explodes in space and you can hear the noise? They’re not very accurate. Space is a vacuum and sound doesn’t travel in vacuums. So no matter how noisy the bang, there’s no way that you could hear it at a distance.
1. No Glow With Your Radiation
That gorgeous and slightly spooky green glow that accompanies everything radioactive in movies and TV? It’s not real. It’s just a TV shorthand. In fact, most radioactive materials are just plain materials though phosphor can be made to glow in the right circumstances. It’s not very common, though.
Incredible isn’t it? Who would have thought that so much common knowledge could originate on the big screen and that so much of it could be so wrong?
The good news is that once we know the truth, it doesn’t take away from our ability to enjoy the movie. Otherwise, we’d probably not have shared these secrets.
Which one did you find most shocking? Is there another secret that we should have included on our list but didn’t? We’d love to know what you think about this topic, so please tell us in the comments below.