Thursday, March 26, 2009

Going to the Movies--Science and the Big Screen

Looks likes this is going to be another fun year of cinema with movies about Wolverine, Star Trek, and Transformers. The film "Knowing" also looks interesting, but Nicholas Cage movies can be very hit or miss with me. He also seems to be doing a fair bit of cinema on the occult, such as cryptic symbols in hiding secrets of America and now the hidden dimensionality of causation in the universe found in a time capsule.

Recently, I went to see the highly-anticipated "Watchmen". When it comes to graphic gore, it seems like "300" was a warm-up for this attraction. So much happened that it's hard to keep it all in my head--it was also nearly three hours long, but that didn't bother me since it was all necessary. I also like what this story, as well as "The Dark Knight" have done with the concept of the Hero. These ideas have developed so much from the early days of comics: hero comes, beats up bad guys, all is great, but maybe there is a cliff hanger such as there was at the end of every Batman episode back in the '60s. And for a movie with lots of blood and some sex, there didn't seem to be that much cursing, unlike "Casino" which had a rate of F-bombs per minute. I will now need to read the graphic novel to see what changed, considering the creator of the book was not pleased by the film version.

Also coming up soon is "Angels & Demons", again with Tom Hanks (great actor) and director Ron Howard (director of movies such as "Apollo 13" and "Frost/Nixon"). This one is a must-see for me not because of the novel, but because of CERN. The book wasn't that great to me, and the ending had so many twists Dan Brown made me feel like a ragged doll being whipped about. But the movie crew actually took a trip to CERN to look at the detectors and center, and it looks like they were inspired (taken from this trailer clip).

It looks like the rendered the ATLAS detector pretty well, but this glassed-in section at the bottom? Definetely not there in reality. It had to be there for a part of the book where the scientists and Langdon watch a matter-antimatter collision. Of course, when CERN is running there will be a huge amount of bremsstrahlung radiation. Also, this image only was sensible when the detector was being put together. This is no space to see anything, and all the activity is happening inside pipes and the core of this detector, leaving nothing to see. Besides, the collisions can only be detected with the use of advanced electronics; the eye isn't the best for viewing kaons.

Also, note the fashion of the scientists there. White coats? Total stereotype. These guys are chemists at the lab. When I was at CERN, most everyone was wearing much more casual clothing: blue jeans, tee shirts, etc. But it seems that crazy white hair and a lab coat and a crazy personality it just what Hollywood portrays the scientist as. For example see Doc from "Back to the Future". I don't necessarily mind. Bill Nye plays on the stereotype as well, comically and educationally, so I don't have a problem. But it should be pointed out that the dress of these guys on the set is quite reality.

The antimatter is also comical from a scientific standpoint.

That glowing mystery substance? Antimatter? In reality, antimatter is no different from normal matter except that the particles have their opposite charge. Electrons are positive (so called positrons), protons are negatively charged. In a universe dominated by antimatter, I would look the same. The only problem happens when matter and antimatter meet, and when that happens they annihilate and produce pure energy. If this matter was glowing, it would be because the vacuum is not perfect and the stuff is giving off photons, probably some gamma rays. In other words, you can think of the substance as decaying. By the end of the movie, there is no antimatter to "explode", and whoever carried this thing around will suffer a bad radiation dose.

Still, the trailer looks great, even more action-packed than the book it felt. The editors knew what they were doing. I'm also interested to see how much Vatican history the movie will talk about; from what I can gather, it won't be much better than the "history" found in "The Da Vinci Code". I bet the Catholic League will be all up-in-arms again when this movie comes out. Isn't that reason to see the film?

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