With director Roland Emmerich’s “2012” just around the corner, I am already banging my head at some of the insane visual effects seen in the trailer. But Roland isn’t just now figuring out how to piss off a nation of scientists and engineers, he’s been doing it for over a decade.
In his first big summer blockbuster “Independence Day” back in 1996, Emmerich had computer scientists yelling at the screen.
Faced with an alien invasion, an ingenious solution is proposed. “I gave it a cold. A computer virus.” Jeff Goldblum reveals, as though impressed with his own words.
At the time, the general movie-going audience nodded along with Jeff – “A virus! Of course! That makes sense! Do that!”
Jeff Goldblum somehow quickly writes a virus for an unknown alien operating system, uploads it without a hitch to its host through an alien interface he’s never seen, and even arrogantly includes a laughing animated skull GIF complete with sound effects.
Officially, I am appalled at Roland’s ignorance toward physics, science, and engineering. He’s not the first director to violate a physical law or two, but unofficially I pick on Roland because I secretly love his movies. Yes, I will admit I still get chills when Bill Pullman does his presidential speech in ID4, and I still root for the old man fishing in that scene from Godzilla.
So in either anticipation or despair for the release of “2012”, here are my favorite cringe-worthy Hollywood science mistakes, most of them featuring my buddy Roland Emmerich.
There’s a weird psychological phenomenon that humans exhibit regarding cognitive mapping — or how we instinctively choose how to move from Point A to Point B. Apparently we aren’t very good at it.
In fact, in a 1995 UC Berkeley study [pdf], one experiment showed that only 16% of subjects traveled the same walking path from A to B as B to A.
This doesn’t make sense, but I can’t help but find myself doing the exact same thing every single day! I take one route to the coffee machine, and a different route back to my desk. I take one route to work, and a slightly different route back home. It is entirely subconscious, but I’m mentally satisfied that my decisions are appropriately the fastest routes in both cases.
But clearly I’m wrong; both routes can’t be the fastest. Unless they’re equal, but that’s highly unlikely.
Perhaps human brains are easily tricked into thinking a certain route is faster over another. Didn’t we pay attention in high-school geometry?