8 Things That Don’t Look Anything Like They Do In Movies –



You might want to sit down for this, but sometimes movie makers bend the truth a bit.

You can see why they do it. Reality is boring and no one in their right mind would pay a tenner to see a film that is exactly like their day to day existence. That said, a lot of the inaccuracies occur so often these days that it’s beginning to look a lot like laziness.

Considering how bonkers people go when a film is scientifically accurate, like with Interstellar’s black hole (but maybe not, we’ll get to that) or The Martian’s everything, you’d think that more directors would jump on the realism bandwagon.

Of course, it’s their duty as filmmakers to make something that’s entertaining. It is also our duty as scientists (even if we’re just scientists in spirit) to lift the veil on long-held misconception and smugly ruin films for people.

8. Jumping Through Windows Is A Horrible Idea


At some point during virtually any fast-paced action flick, the hero will go crashing through a window for one reason or another. They might be escaping a terrible threat or heroically knocking seven shades of excrement out of a baddie, but neither of these outweigh the horrific consequences of throwing your fleshy bod through a pane of glass.

When you break a glass at home, you tell everybody to freeze and probably walk around in shoes for a bit until you can be sure that every last shard has been cleared up. This is a good idea, because even the tiniest glass shards hurt. Shards of broken glass can slice through clothing and skin with even the lightest pressure, so slamming your whole body through a window with enough force to break it will force thousands of razor sharp pieces into your skin. Far from leaping up and continuing your fight on the other side of the glass, you’d be very lucky if you were able to move at all without experiencing excruciating, debilitating pain. And that’s just the splinters, a larger, heavier piece of broken glass might well just put you out of your misery by slicing you in half.

You could always tactically throw yourself through safety glass. This would certainly cut down on the laceration levels, however, laminated safety glass, such as that found in car windscreens is made by sandwiching a sheet of plastic between panes of glass, making it incredibly difficult to actually break. The amount of force you’d need to go through it would probably break some bones.

So, deadly lacerations or knocked out cold?

7. Interrogation Is A Bit More ‘Peace And Love’


Interrogation scenes usually involve some of the most brutal action in the entire movie. If you have siblings, however, you’ll know that inflicting discomfort on someone is not a great way to get reliable information.

The problem is with these torturous interrogations is that they just don’t work. If you start hitting someone with a length of chain, they’ll probably say anything to get you to stop. If you hit them a little bit too hard with that length of chain, they might not be in a state of mind to tell you anything at all before long. It is for this reason that information obtained under torture, whether in military or police interrogations, will get you laughed out of a courtroom (or perhaps met with horrified silence).

The vicious treatment of detainees in films like Zero Dark Thirty, apart from being largely ineffective, would have at the very least caused a storm of paperwork – you need written permission from Washington just to slap someone around the face once.

Much of the brutality depicted in these scenes is more akin to the abuse of the prisoners in Abu Ghraib in Iraq. The term “abuse” gives us a clue that these are not exactly sanctioned interrogation techniques. Whilst the secret service does indulge in the occasional bout of waterboarding, a lot of interrogation techniques are a bit fluffier.

Many will actively encourage bonding with the detainee on an emotional level, making them feel safe and even suggesting that they might have had a good reason to commit the crimes that they did. Turns out that people are likely to give you the truth if they think you’re going to be nice about it, who knew?

6. Dinosaurs Are Like Big Angry Ducklings

By Domser (Own work (Original text : eigenes Werk)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

You’ve probably heard by now that dinosaurs are not quite what we thought. Instead of the sleek, scary lizards we imagine, the paeleontological evidence suggests that most of them were probably covered in fluffy feathers. These probably weren’t even the sleek plumage of modern birds, but more of a primitive fluff.

Frankly, I would watch the hell out of a movie full of fuzzy, fluffy, feathery dinosaurs thundering around and trying to look like really intimidating corgi pups but, alas, it seems that Hollywood is reluctant to keep up with the latest findings.

Despite the fact that the first fluffy, non-avian dinosaur was described way back in 1996, just after the release of the first Jurassic Park, the makers of the subsequent movies in the franchise have actually had an explicit “no feathers” policy. You can sort of see why, as it’s probably more difficult to build tension if the main antagonist looks like an oversized duckling. The lack of feathers in Jurassic Park/World is justified by some by the fact that the dinosaur DNA was spliced with amphibian DNA and, as you may have noticed, amphibians don’t have feathers. Unfortunately, amphibians don’t have scales either so, nice try, but that doesn’t make a lick of sense.

The discovery of fuzzy dinosaurs certainly ruffled lots of feathers (not sorry) in those who grew up with scary dinosaurs in their movies, which is probably why filmmakers are so reluctant to change their ways any time soon.

5. Climate Change Is Bad, But It’s Not THAT Bad

Like all the best Hollywood blockbusters, The Day After Tomorrow took a little sliver of truth, pumped it full of protein shakes and sent it to the gym. This is probably because something like climate change, whilst still catastrophic for the human race, would probably make pretty dull date-night viewing.

This is probably the same reason that it’s failed to ring alarm bells with large swathes of the general population in real life. Frankly, if a tsunami isn’t hitting Manhattan, we don’t care.

Whilst sudden shifts in the climate are possible and could even have happened recently (as in, in the last 13,000 years kinda recently), it would still be impossible for that level of cataclysm to occur over just a few short days. In reality, it would probably take at least a decade, if it even happened at all as the warming that took place over that decade could well counteract the effects of an ice age anyway.

In the film, the temperature drops unbelievably fast. This is due to the superstorms pulling down supercooled air from the troposphere and freezing everything in seconds. This sounds pretty sciencey, but it’s actually kinda gibberish. Even if we suspend our disbelief for a second here, the filmmakers missed a trick with this one. When water freezes, it expands, it’s one of the only things that does this. The inclusion of this tidbit of actual science would give the creators the opportunity to crush enormous structures like paper cups and reduce Manhattan to icy dust.

4. Getting Punched In The Face Is Not Okay

If we’re lucky, most of us will go through life without receiving too many blows to the head, but our favourite movie heroes are always getting battered about, which definitely can’t be good for them.

Remarkably, most rugged protagonists will take a punch like a champ and will barely skip a beat before delivering swift vengeance. The British Journal of Sports Medicine found the average force of an Olympic boxer’s punch was 3,427 Newtons, which is enough force to literally punch through a brick. The good news is that the mobility of the neck prevents boxers’ heads from exploding messily on impact. The bad news is that this causes the brain to slosh around like a poorly-set jelly in a washing machine.

The initial impact of the punch will be enough to completely disorient the unlucky recipient, scuppering any chance of retaliation in the near future. As Mike Tyson puts it (and he should know): “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Seeing as many silver screen heroes seem to make a career out of getting punched in the face, they’ve also got the long-term effects to contend with. The effect of the aforementioned jelly in a washing machine is that repeated blows to the head can have horrific long-term consequences. The evidence suggests that, once you’ve had a concussion, you’re three times more likely to get another one and enough trauma over time will result in chronic traumatic brain injury, leading to advanced dementia and death.

The cumulative effect of getting repeatedly knocked about would soon reduce the likes of Jason Bourne and James Bond to shambling wrecks.

3. Terrors Of The Deep Are Mostly Harmless

There are probably few fates for a ship worse than being swallowed up by some kind of deep sea kraken. The idea of an aquatic behemoth just waiting in the deepest depth of the ocean is certainly freaky but, fear not, because coming to the surface to swallow your ship up is probably going to hurt it more than you.

Deep-sea creatures are perfectly adapted to withstand the enormous amounts of crushing pressure that the water column exerts on them at the bottom of the ocean. If you take them out of that environment, they probably won’t thank you for it.

The tissues and membranes in deep sea creatures are much squishier (that’s the technical term) than surface dwellers, this is because high pressure makes this kind of tissue more rigid, at surface pressures they would actually be much more liquid. Remember everybody’s favourite ugly fish, the blobfish? It actually looks more like this when at its preferred depth.

When our giant deep-sea monster surfaces to devour your ship/soul, the drop in pressure will actually cause its tissues to, er, ooze. This is bad news if the parts that are oozing happen to be your nervous system. Far from crushing your vessel with powerful tentacles, the kraken is more likely to sort of limply flop itself up on deck whilst its vital systems begin to melt, suffers a massive cerebral hemorrhage and finally sort of slimes its way back into the ocean.

Looks like it’s safe to go back in the water for now.

2. Cancer Isn’t Cute

In Movieland, The Big C has been transformed from a complex and diverse array of serious diseases into a handy plot device that is at once convenient, requires little explanation and is (dare I say it?) even sexy.

Cancer, in the minds of moviemakers, is a great way to get a plot moving and stir up automatic sympathy for the main character. It is ideal in that it’s not “icky” like so many other deadly diseases, at least not the way they depict it. When people in films are diagnosed with cancer, more often than not, it seems to give them a miraculous lust for life (lookin’ at you, The Bucket List). They go off on crazy adventures or decide to cook up crystal meth in their pants and are generally filled with a vitality that is not usually associated with chronic illnesses.

In reality, cancer and its treatment are pretty tedious and even more draining. There’ll be hours of waiting rooms, operations, treatments and check-ups, all interspersed by lying on the sofa because that’s literally all you have the strength for. What’s more, people with cancer don’t just get a free holiday pass, you’ve still gotta pay your bills and go to work.

Movie cancer is also totally binary, depending on whether it’s a feel-good or sad movie, you either make a complete recovery or you die. The reality, however, is that lots of people survive cancer, but even after being given the “all clear” it’s kind of a lifelong deal. What’s more, it’s not pretty. Treatment can involve getting parts cut off, radiotherapy causes terrible burns, swelling and blistering, chemo is literally filling your body with poison and the effects of this can last a lifetime.

1. We Still Can’t Manage Black Holes

When Interstellar hit our screens, there was much made out of their remarkably realistic black hole. There were even some who hailed it as a scientific discovery in itself. Sorry to disappoint, but the truth is that, whilst Gargantua is a solid attempt, a physicist would probably describe it as “kinda realistic”. Weirdly, this is actually on purpose as Nolan feared that the more accurate representation would be “too confusing” for the audience. Rude.

Well, take a good look at the image above, because this is the mind-blowingly confusing black hole that was published in a paper in Classical and Quantum GravityIf complex mathematics are your thing, then give it a read.

The accretion disk appears to wrap over and around the black hole due to gravitational lensing – that’s when the enormous gravitational force of the black hole causes light to bend and warp around it. This was featured in the final cut of the film, but the part that Nolan thought would be too confusing for a mass audience is that colour change from left to right due to Doppler shift and the gravitational frequency shift.

Both this black hole and the one featured in the movie have actually had their spin slowed down massively in order to make any sense at all. If the black hole was spinning at the speed required to create the kinds of time dilation effects seen in the movie, it would just be a jumbled mess and multiple images of the accretion disk would pop up at the edges. Okay, we can kinda see why they changed it now.

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