Have you ever been locked into a tense sci-fi movie, only to be taken out of it by spotting a glaring mistake? You would think filmmakers would do their research on space before investing millions of dollars to develop films that end up breaking the laws of physics. But, alas, Hollywood continues to release films like Alien, Star Wars Rogue One, and even Interstellar that give a big middle finger to Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. We’re not saying that any of these movies are bad; it’s just that they’re lacking a bit of science. Here are 10 facts about space that are overlooked by Hollywood.
Whether you adhere to the Newtonian theory of gravity or lean more towards Einstein’s theory of relativity, you understand how gravity, or the lack thereof, affects matter. Let’s look at some of the offenders of this basic law:
In Star Trek: Into Darkness, the starship Enterprise losses its central power grid which results in the ship getting caught by Earth’s gravity and plummeting towards the surface. This would have been fine if the ship was much, much closer, but its distance from the earth at the time would have caused a much slower, three-day descent.
2001: A Space Odyssey is one of the few movies that have a realistic way to create artificial gravity. The only thing wrong with it is the scale. In the scene where Frank is jogging around on the wall, the room is too small, and Frank should actually be constantly falling over due to the Coriolis Effect.
Sorry to break it to you, but your head does not explode when you take your helmet off in space. On the other end of the spectrum, you can’t simply hold your breath until you find another source of oxygen, like the scene in Guardians of the Galaxy. Ignoring the fact that he’s not wearing a spacesuit so his body should be doubling in size as the water inside him boils into steam, the air in Starlord’s lungs should have violently release, almost certainly destroying his respiratory system. Then, without any oxygen, he should have passed out after about 15 seconds. Even if he made it back into the spaceship alive, he should have been in critical condition, and should have died shortly after. I guess it is decisions like that that make him so incredibly heroic, even if it is by his own admission.
A Black hole is a region in space that is so dense that it causes a massive gravitational pull that not even light can escape. That makes it hard to stay invested in movies where people encounter black holes and live to tell the tale. One example of this is in the very underrated Disney movie, “Treasure Planet.” The ship and its crew are sucked into a black hole, only to escape again by firing all thrusters and riding a massive explosion out of the hole. If light can’t escape a black hole, a ship and crew have no chance.
In the movie “Interstellar,” the black hole exhibits the properties of two different types of black holes. The movie shows a water planet that has an enormous tidal wave, which would only happen if the black hole were a stellar mass black hole. But, being near it and crossing the event horizon, (which is what Cooper does in the movie,) would turn you into spaghetti, which means it would have to be a supermassive black hole to survive the trip.
Because space is a vacuum and there is no atmosphere, there is no sound. There have been movies that follow this rule, such as “Gravity,” but most movies tend to ignore the science in order to make a more compelling movie. So no roaring of engine thrusters on the Starship Enterprise, no laser cannon fire from the Millennium Falcon, and no Death Stars going BOOM. Speaking of which…
Not only do explosions not make sound, but also there is no oxygen in space to burn, which means there is no fire. Any and all explosions are just things kind of falling apart really fast. You might see a quick flash, depending on what causes the explosion, but otherwise you wouldn’t get those eye-popping visuals we see in Star Wars Rogue One and The Fifth Element. That’s not to say that explosions aren’t still deadly. In fact, because there is no force to slow things down, the shrapnel from space explosions would travel huge distances and tear through everything in its path. That means Corbin and company narrowly escaping the explosion in don’t have a chance once the shrapnel catches up to them. Which brings up another common mistake in space movies…
When cooper devises the brilliant plan to use the black hole’s gravity to gain speed, he forgot about one minor thing: slowing down. Even if Amelia Brand could turn her ship around go full thrusters, it wouldn’t be enough to reduce her speed for a safe landing.
Another common mistake in movies is the amount of time it takes people to travel through space. Putting aside light speed and warp engines, which have issues of their own, many of the trips depicted in films would take months or even years to travel. It takes about nine and a half years to get to Pluto, so the fact that Kal-El in the 1978 Superman movie is only a few years old when he gets to Earth from Krypton is a bit far fetched, unless of course he used a wormhole or he was going faster than the speed of light.
A common misconception is that a light year is a measurement of time. In actuality, light years measure distance. A light year is the distance travelled in one year traveling at the speed of light. One light year is 5,878,499,810,000 miles. That’s about 9.4 trillion Kilometers. That means light travels at 186,000 miles per second. Theoretically, it’s impossible to travel that fast. Even with its hyperdrive, the Millennium falcon would gain an infinite amount of mass, meaning it would need an infinite amount of energy to move at that speed.
But let’s say all of its modifications allow it to travel at light speed. How would that look? In movies like Star Wars, it shows the stars streaking past the windows. But in reality, everything would look black except for a single bright light in front of you.
One of the staples of the Star Wars movies is the dogfights in space. Shooting lasers at each other, zipping around at high speeds, pulling off amazing maneuvers with ease, it’s unbelievable! Especially some of those maneuvers! In space, there is no atmosphere so there is no resistance, which means unlike here on earth, they can’t use air to help turn their space crafts. Take the Battle of Endor for example: In order to pull off some of those moves, they would need boosters in every direction on their ships, not only to face a different direction, but also to slow down and stop moving forward and actually change the direction of their movement. The way their ships are set up now, they would need to make extremely wide turns if they planned on going anywhere but straight.
There has been no shortage of Mars movies, especially now with talk of landing humans on Mars in the near future. Movies like “Total Recall” and “Mission to Mars “ change the conditions on Mars to fit the fiction in the movies, but what are some of the most common mistakes? Firstly, the dust storms on Mars. Every Mars movie has to have one. It is true, Mars has dust storms, and the wind speeds do get to upwards of 60 miles per hour, but because the atmosphere is far less dense than it is on Earth, those wind speeds are no where near strong enough to cause any damage.
Another aspect of Mars that is commonly misrepresented in films is Mars’ gravity. Mars has 62% less gravity than us, so astronauts would be doing more of a shuffle and hop rather than walking normally.
With apologies to “Mars Attacks,” “War of the Worlds,” and “Mission to Mars,” sadly, Martians do not exist. In fact, no life exists on Mars, or at least as far as we know. That’s not to say that life might have never existed on Mars. We haven’t found any physical proof yet, but we have found evidence of running water in the form of dried up streambeds. And Mars does have both North and South poles covered in ice. So who’s to say there aren’t fossils deep in the Martian soil or even organisms frozen in the ice? Martians are only things of fiction for now, but as time marches on and our technology grows, maybe we will be the Martians of the future.
Of course, you can’t sit there watching a movie and dissect all of its mistakes, what’ the fun in that? It’s best just to leave science and reason at the door and enjoy the ride, even if it makes no sense at all.
Which space movie mistakes made you scoff the most? Let us know in the comments. If you enjoyed this video click that thumbs up button and share it with your friends. Don’t forget to subscribe to CBR to see more out of this world videos on comics, movies, TV, pop culture, and more!