Biochemistry as Portrayed in the Movies
Many people have pointed out that many phenomena portrayed in the movies are unrealistic from a physics standpoint. For example, gas tanks on cars would never explode with the evident ease that they do in the movies. Cars also don't flip over for no reason. Bullets, even if they are steel-jacketed, don't make sparks. And explosions can't be heard in the vacuum of space.
However, as far as I know, no one has mentioned the movie stunts that break all the laws of biochemistry. If anything, these offenses against the laws of nature are even more improbable than the physics mistakes. I've listed a few of these below. If you know of others, I'd be happy to include them.
loning involves inserting bits of DNA into specific sites, known as
restriction sites. The title "GATTACA" itself, although obviously selected
to suggest a prison society, is supposed to be a restriction enzyme site.
Needless to say, GATTACA could never be a real restriction site.
Restriction sites are all palindromic with their complementary sequences,
which means they read the same backwards as forwards.
The complementary sequence is made by matching G with C and A with T.
For example, look at the Eco RI site (GAATTC), on the left, compared with GATTACA:
GAATTC GATTACA |||||| ||||||| CTTAAG CTAATGTThe complementary Eco RI site on the bottom, when read from right to left, is the same as the original site. But the complementary site for GATTACA is just nothing.
This kind of thing really pisses me off.
for blood - could be a silicon-based life form. Boron and phosphorus
also form polymers with oxygen. Strong acid might very well be advantageous
to such a creature. But why would a silicon-based life form want to incubate
inside a carbon-based creature? First of all, the creature's blood, and any
other secretions, would dissolve the host. Carbon-based life contains little
silicon, and would have little or no nutrient value. And there are
constant risks from crazy carbon-based ladies with flame throwers.
According to the first Alien movie, the creature has an outer layer of protein polysaccharides with a coating of crystalline silicon. If so, it would probably have a coating of silicon on the inside as well, to prevent its acidic blood from dissolving the protein.
Even in humans, there are some types of protein that cannot be dissolved by acid. A perfect example is the protein in the plaques found in the brains of people with a certain neurodegenerative disease. These proteins cannot even be dissolved by trifluoroacetic acid, a powerful acid commonly used to dissolve protein for experimentation. Moreover, some carbon-based animals, like ants, produce and secrete strong acid. Many species of ants spray their victims with formic acid, as a sort of preliminary meat tenderizing step. The bombardier beetle squirts a boiling hot mixture of hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinone. Although these aren't acids, they have a similar effect on their victims. But even if the creature in Alien were based on carbon, the chances of it being able to digest human protein are minimal. For one thing, the amino acids would likely all be different. For animals, even a change of an amino acid into its mirror image (e.g. from L-alanine to D-alanine) completely changes its biological function, often changing it from a nutrient into a deadly poison. Alien creatures, who evolved in a biosphere with a different complement of amino acids, would get sick and die if they ate us. And it would serve them right. Come to think of it, maybe that's why the creature in Alien acts so unfriendly.
The same thing with viruses from outer space. Viruses on Earth evolved alongside their hosts, becoming more effective over time by gradually mutating using the process of evolution. A virus in space, even if its DNA structure were somehow compatible with ours, would have a zero chance of infecting a human because it never had the opportunity to coexist with one.
movies and TV shows, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer and
Star Trek, depict a process in which the minds of two people are
switched into each other's bodies. Sometimes, the mind is just removed and
stored in a globe or a computer and then (usually) returned to its original
owner later in the movie.
Needless to say, this is just impossible. Memories are stored as synaptic connections of varying strength in the brain that are reinforced with learning. Although certain regions subserve specific functions (for example, the hippocampus is used for processing spatial memory), these nerve connections are unique for each individual.
This means that even if the 3-dimensional pattern of neuronal connections could be recorded and stored, imposing them on another brain would require obliterating all the existing synapses, determining the appropriate 3D stretching and warping function, growing new synapses in the desired locations at trillions of specific points in the brain, determining the function of the millions of motorneurons and sensory neurons in the brain, and reattaching the neurons to them at the correct points.
Even if there were some way to cause a synapse to grow at a specific point in the brain, and endow the synapse with the desired strength, no technology could avoid the fact that motor and sensory neurons are in slightly different locations in each person, This means each neuron would have to be tested electrically before connecting to it -- a process that would take years.
|The Fly||he fly illustrates the hazards of eating too much sugar. (Not finished.) Help me|
|Blade Runner||ny movie where the biochemist gets killed automatically goes on our sh*t list. However, other than this, for the most part Blade Runner is not too bad. The organs are grown individually and kept in ultra-cold liquid until use. The scene with the guy who makes eyes and speaks only Cantonese and broken English is probably an accurate representation of the type of technology that would be used. Replicants, if built from parts, could be programmed to live for only three years. But the explanation given by the biochemist as to why they can't extend the Replicant's lifespan is pure gibberish. "Extend lifespan by creating a virus" indeed. Death's too good for him.|
|Burning Zone||on't get me started. Super-intelligent talking viruses. Creating vaccines in five minutes. Sheesh. The only parts of this show that were realistic were the scenes where the two scientists bitch at each other and accuse each other of stealing their work.|
|Jurassic Park||ot finished.|
people have commented on the biological absurdity of using human
beings as a source of energy, or "batteries" in The Matrix.
But no one seems to have mentioned the logical inconsistency behind
the whole Matrix concept. As you know if you watched the movie,
the basic premise of The Matrix is that the world is not real
but a computer simulation. The hero, Neo, is able to hack into the
computer program and change the rules so that he can fly, do back flips
in extreme slow motion, see clearly in dimly lit rooms while wearing
sunglasses, and stop bullets in mid-flight. His friends are also able
to change things by giving him weapons and unlimited
quantities of ammunition. However, this is a glaring inconsistency: if he
could change the simulation in such a way, he would have unlimited power.
Why does he need to be concerned about bullets at all? Why not create a
600-foot tall mastodont or a black hole, or better yet simply reprogram
the simulation to give the desired result without having to be inside it?
Neo seems unable to think outside the box, in a literal sense.
The only possible explanation is that Neo is still following somebody else's rules. His "discovery" that the world is an illusion, along with the resistance, Zion, and the other characters in the movie, are all just another part of the original simulation. It cannot be, as Neo supposedly discovers, that Neo is a real person who has been co-opted to be an integral part of the simulation's self-correcting algorithm. The entire "computer simulation" is itself yet another illusion. Neo has in fact made no progress at discovering the truth about his world at all. He has just exchanged one illusion for another.
|Turning into a Cave Person||
don't have to be a biochemist to know that changing a person into a
different species is impossible no matter how advanced your technology.
In one episode of Star Trek Voyager, Captain Janeway and Tom Paris both
change into Gila monsters and then go off to some distant planet to mate.
Luckily, the ship's doctor is able to easily reverse the changes. This
story was so bad that I'm sure even the screenwriters were embarrassed
Star Trek: The Next Generation had a similar episode, where the entire crew changed into cavemen, except for the ship's counselor, Lieutenant Deanna Troi, who changed into a giant frog. Becoming a caveman is a common theme in science fiction. It was also used by that SF masterpiece Space: 1999 when the entire crew of Moonbase Alpha mutated into cavepeople, clothes and all, with the female ones suddenly finding themselves wearing skimpy tiger-skin costumes.
I guess it should be obvious even to a Hollywood screenwriter that such a thing, desirable as it may be, is just not possible.
Alanna Peterson writes:
In Doom, yes it's based on a video game so you can't expect much, the only difference between the Martians and the humans on Mars is a "magic" chromosome called chromosome 47. C47 apparently confers total viral immunity as well as advanced healing capabilities and strength. Oh, and yes, when injected into an "evil" human, it also causes amazing new facial and body morphology. Besides the obvious ridiculousness of C47's abilities, the main character is able to incorporate C47 into all of his somatic cells through an large injection of pure C47 into his blood. It was this part that I just could not believe someone had the audacity to include. Obviously, if injected into the bloodstream, a chromosome from another species (in this case derived from a Martian), if we assume it is packaged with protein, would launch an immediate immune response and would be more likely to cause anaphylactic shock than anything else. At the very least it would be filtered out of the bloodstream and urinated out. What a crock.
Last updated April 7, 2006