Thursday, August 16, 2007

It's not just archaeology UCF physicist says Hollywood movies hurt students' understanding of science
Movies such as Spiderman 2 and Speed generate excitement among audiences with their cool special effects. But they also defy the laws of physics, contributing to students’ ignorance about science.

Two University of Central Florida professors show just how poorly Hollywood writers and directors understand science in an article published in the German journal “Praxis der Naturwissenschaften Physik.” Common sense may indicate that people should know the stunts in movies are just make believe, but the professors say that’s not necessarily true.

Some people really do believe a bus traveling 70 mph can clear a 50-foot gap in a freeway, as depicted in the movie Speed. And, if that were realistic, a ramp would be needed to adjust the direction of motion to even try to make the leap, said UCF professor Costas J. Efthimiou, who co-authored the article.

“Students come here, and they don’t have any basic understanding of science,” he said. “Sure, people say everyone knows the movies are not real, but my experience is many of the students believe what they see on the screen.”

Ergh. I don't find this terribly distressing, any more than Lara Croft conducting good archaeological research. Personally, movies like that irritate me. There's a certain suspension of disbelief that I just can't handle. Such as when physics is blatantly violated. Such as, oh, say, two guys fighting while standing on a rock in the middle of a river of lava. No, lava can't burn you unless you actually touch it. (Hello? Anyone heard of radiant heat???). Or, say, someone jumping up and delivering a few kicks while hovering in mid air. Mike Meyers will always have a special place in my heart for actually showing Fat Bastard's wire fightin' wires in Goldmember.

Not like it's a new thing. Remember when people used to get shot, but you'd only know it because they grimaced and grasped their stomach? Wow, people died with no apparent blood loss. Or die instantly when shot.

That's what school is for. What these guys are really demonstrating is that pre-university education sucks.