Military strategy and Pac-Man

The Core: the worst science ever in a movie?

I recently saw The Core, and I must say, it rocked the house with furious vengeance. It had a witty script that skated close — but not too close — to being meta; note-perfect fidelity to the conventions of the disaster-flick genre; and, of course, Hilary Swank.

There was only one major problem. The science.

I do not, of course, expectation disastersploitation flicks to reflect rigorous, peer-reviewed science. But nor do I expect them to just wantonly, promiscuously screw stuff up with total and complete abandon. Among the most painfully egregious errors: The ship is shaped like a subway train falling head-first downwards into the core, but everyone walks around on the floor as if gravity didn’t exist. Christ, even Plan 9 From Outer Space doesn’t have continuity errors that bad. I was talking about this with a friend afterwards, when he remembered his own worst-science moment in a movie — Armageddon:

There’s this moment on the space station when Bruce Willis leans over to throw a switch and yells, “I’m turnin’ the gravity on!

Later on, they’re flying the Space Shuttle through a blizzard of meteorites, and it’s swerving around all over the place, handling like a Porsche.

Though when I think about it, I suppose that “turning on the gravity thing” is actually possible. Gravity equals acceleration, so if you had a cylindrical space station, you could theoretically “turn the gravity on” by flicking a switch that set it quickly rotating — effectively producing gravity, a la the space orbiters in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

So I’m thinking it’s time to produce the Top 10 list of Worst Science Moments Ever In Movies. Any suggestions?

(Coolness alert: Check out the discussion thread for this item. Plenty of people have written in superb examples, and we are building a really great list of stinktacular movie science!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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