Everything I needed to know about physics I learned from Hollywood

No, not really. But that does seem to be the case for many people. Of course, there are plenty of areas where audiences can draw a clear line between entertainment and reality. Superman shooting heat rays from his eyes? I think everyone would agree that is fantasy.

But there is a subtle level right below the surface that people swallow without thinking, and then go through life accepting as fuzzy fact. The speeding bus did clear the gaping chasm, didn’t it? That’s possible, right? Even that might not be a good example for what I’m talking about. This newspaper article describes a scene from a Spiderman movie that better illustrates the point. The audience probably isn’t even remotely thinking about how the bad guy is holding everything, but that right there is the point. It doesn’t strike anyone as odd. Thus Costas Efthimiou’s class at the University of Central Florida about movie physics. I’m not sure about the point in the newspaper story concerning people having a “fear” of science, but I do agree that movies featuring bad science do contribute to the dumbing down of the public.

Apparently, Efthimiou has even tangled with vampires. Brave, isn’t he? I’m not sure if he has anything to do with this movie physics website, but he has written papers about his courses here and here. I love the idea and wish I had an opportunity to sit in on one of his classes.

And while we’re on the subject, here’s a writeup about movie monster biology.

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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