Scientific proof that Hollywood has broken the law

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Scientific proof that Hollywood has broken the law

Wed Feb 24, 2010 @ 08:49AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Starshiptroopers1 We now take a break from Hollywood law to discuss the laws of physics.

Physics professor Sidney Perkowitz, who teaches at Emory University and is a member of the Science and Entertainment Exchange, has introduced a set of guidelines for Hollywood that is gaining support among his peers. The proposals were laid out last week at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

In introducing his proposals, Professor Perkowitz offered some examples of careless oversight by sci-fi producers:
  • If the space bugs in "Starship Troopers" were scaled to size, they would collapse under their own weight.
  • If the team of scientists in "The Core" drilled to the center of the Earth in order to restart the planet's rotation, they would be vaporized instantly.
  • Tom Hanks need not worry about the Illuminati using a destructive antimatter device to blow up the Vatican in "Angels & Demons," because, as every physicist knows, antimatter can't be held in an iPod-sized battery.
Fortunately, not all Hollywood films and TV shows are physics law-breakers. Perkowtiz believes that the depiction of Na'avi flying about on multicolored prehistoric-looking birds seems accurate enough. Similarly, the TV show "Lost" gets a thumbs up for its illustration of time travel. 

It's surprising that physicists in the quantum age believe in such notions as objective truth and can't seem to appreciate how imagination has contributed to real scientific work. 

We have a compromise: If some films are scientific scofflaws and have abused their poetic license while other films are scientifically sound, let's at least set up a cap-and-trade system for Hollywood. It would be a shame if the guardians of the "Star Trek" franchise were shipped off to some wormhole for their transgressions. 

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to

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