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Movie Night With a Physicist

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Jun 16, 2018

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Movie Night With a Physicist
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  • My name is Dominic Walliman and I have a PhD in physics.
  • Physics tends to be quite a
  • difficult subject.
  • So it's always interesting to see how in the movies they
  • interpret physics because it's sometimes good and sometimes a bit..
  • wonky.
  • [Music]
  • See these neutrinos acting normally minuscule mass
  • no electrical charge-- they, pass through ordinary matter almost undisturbed.
  • okay, so what they said there, was that neutrinos,
  • normally they come, from the sun they normally don't interact with matter so they go through the Earth without actually interacting with anything
  • which is totally true. Ten billion go through every square centimeter of your body
  • every second.
  • It looks like the neutrinos coming from the sun have mutated into a new kind of nuclear particle.
  • Now the neutrinos have mutated into a "new kind of subatomic
  • particle" which interacts with the core of the Earth heating it up.
  • That would be a
  • groundbreaking discovery in terms of like the fundamental theories of physics
  • Which would be awesome, it would suck that the Earth was boiling from the inside as you could see from that big tank of water.
  • Bad design of
  • spacesuit. If it's that easy to take out the critical air supply to your head.
  • So I don't think your head would actually explode if you're on Mars and you got depressurized i think you'd
  • suffocate because all of the air would get sucked out of your lungs.
  • Your blood would boil so you'd get the crazy the bends and..
  • Yeah, things would really not be good you would not last long.
  • So he, like, dried out he, like, desiccated.
  • I'm not sure actually you would lose all the moisture from your body, that quickly.
  • Is that more realistic than your head exploding?
  • Yes. Yeah this is a classic, someone falling down and then someone comes
  • along and saves them by
  • smashing into them [laughter].
  • Like like a freight train so actually the first two: The Superman film
  • They did it pretty well, it seemed like the catch, was pretty gentle
  • Superman: Easy miss, I've got you.
  • but with the Batman one:
  • Those two humans are gonna get snapped
  • by that cable because it was like a metal cable with no flex in it whatsoever so as soon
  • as that catches on the building they're just gonna go : BLOOOSH
  • And they're gonna break all sorts of things. I mean probably Batman's arms are gonna get ripped off.
  • That batman movie is so good.
  • I think that might be the best one.
  • I guess the question is that how
  • mathematicians actually solve mathematics. It tends to be a lot more argumentative than that I would say
  • normally it would be
  • someone draws out the problem and they try and explain it to us, different people will interpret it with different levels of confusion
  • And then at some stage someone gets it and it's like
  • Oh, yeah I know what you're doing! Now I can try
  • and solve it. And then actually solving things right then
  • and there in front of a blackboard I think rarely happens mostly you have to go
  • away and think about things really really hard rather than having these coy, little glances to each other and being like
  • Oh I know the answer.
  • Whatever the signal is we better do something soon, Vega's gonna set.
  • When they're doing
  • measurements of astronomical objects
  • You can't always rely on just a single measurement from a single telescope telescope because there can
  • be systematic errors. So people like to have many different
  • sources, like many different measurements of the same source and so that has come up recently in gravitational waves
  • they, have three different gravitational wave detectors: Two in America and one in
  • Italy and so they can kind of triangulate a certain region
  • and then they can look at it using the electromagnetic spectrum and I imagine a lot of the science in Contact has been very
  • well researched because it was written by Carl Sagan, who is obviously a giant in
  • communicating science. He wanted a
  • realistic mechanism to
  • transport the protagonist
  • to Vega which is on the other side of the galaxy and so they thought
  • about it and they came up with the idea of wormholes stable wormholes which are
  • actually allowable in
  • Einstein's General theory of Relativity so you can have basically a tunnel of space-time that goes from one point to the other.
  • So Carl Sagan basically nerd sniped a load of theoretical physicists with
  • this question, because then for decades they've been working out like, how
  • How these wormholes, these stable traversable wormholes, could exist.
  • People have been trying to work out all this stuff because it's just an interesting science question.
  • Imagine for a minute that this attractive piece of paper represents
  • space-time and you want to get from point A here, to point B there.
  • Like the visual example of the bit of paper with the thing going through it I think that's totally cool
  • it folds
  • space.
  • And the spacecraft
  • passes through the gateway...
  • space returns to normal.
  • It does fall down in terms of actual science: What he said was he used magnets
  • Use a rotating magnetic field to make gravitons to focus a narrow
  • beam of gravitons these in turn fold space-time consistent with
  • tensor dynamics and then the gravitons would warp
  • space-time.
  • So those are two different forces and so there's no known way that you could create gravity, using magnets.
  • Now... [Music]
  • If you created, let's just say you create the gravitons and creating graviton somehow warps
  • space-time.
  • Technically, you're just becoming like a really giant
  • mass. A black hole or something. So if you warped space-time, where you are
  • all of the things around you would start wanting to fall into you and so
  • That might be problematic for your spaceship.
  • We're used to viewing space as flat right, like this piece of paper this is
  • The long way across the flat space in between but given what I was trying to explain
  • we could fold the space... Dominic: So this concept I didn't realize, this concept has turned into a bit of a
  • cinematic cliché. A good reason that the original film had created a really nice visual image for something, which you know
  • there's something to that---so one thing I really liked about that is
  • when the lady said
  • We've spent a huge amount of energy on this. Woman: We used huge amounts of energy to create this.
  • Why can't I see this bridge. Dominic: So yeah the amount of
  • energy, you would need to expend to make one would be equivalent to creating a
  • black hole which is like the
  • remnants of an explosion of the largest most energetic bodies in our universe [stars] so
  • Yeah, you're, gonna use a little bit of energy on that one!
  • So they say you wanna go from here
  • to there. Dominic: It's turned into a real cliche hasn't it?
  • So a wormhole bends space like this. Dominic: So when you, when they were going towards
  • the black hole the fact that you could see things reflecting off the surface almost like galaxies and stars were like
  • reflecting off it kind of like it's a mirror--I mean that's not technically correct. They are
  • black because anything that falls into them
  • disappears. But you know, that's fine then, what they need to show something otherwise you don't know
  • what you're looking at as an audience so that's totally fine.
  • I love that visualization of how
  • from your perspective what it would be like for all of the everything you see around you
  • warp around yourself. It was really cool I really enjoyed it. I have other problems with Interstellar
  • apart from that but that bit of it I think, was really really good.
  • Guy: And it's a dead heat!
  • They're checking the electron microscope and the winner is
  • number three in our quantum finish. No fair, you change the outcome by
  • measuring it. Dominic: In quantum physics when you
  • measure something that's in a superposition, which is the special state where it's in like
  • this special mixed state kind of like two states at once before they measure it
  • Both horses are in a superposition of winning and not winning
  • At the same time and then they measure it and then one of it comes out but
  • According to theory of quantum physics if you measured that
  • again, you might get the other one see if
  • Each time you measure it you get one winning or the other one winning 50% of the time.
  • So, yeah they've got it bang-on i was also a really funny joke.
  • I like their hats.
  • Their special space hats. Well they keep your brain in
  • when you explode. On the Apollo missions for sure they, had little food packets with
  • straws in it. Generally you
  • Want to avoid loose food floating
  • about. I remember one astronaut got into a lot of trouble for bringing a ham sandwich on to one of his space flights.
  • And they were and they're really worried about the crumbs getting out and frying the electronics.
  • Omg, the thing I...
  • 2001 is good but it just
  • takes so long for anything to happen. I don't fall asleep in movies I've fallen asleep in this movie
  • twice on two separate occasions.
  • Yeah, it was it was a good boring movie though, sorry I know people love
  • 2001 but...
  • So, Gravity got a lot of things right but this one thing is kind of the glaring
  • problem in the whole film.
  • You have to let me go. No! The ropes are too loose. I'm pulling you with me.
  • What would happen if they were connected by this tether and he gets pushed
  • outwards, that totally could happen but as soon as it gets taut
  • he would bounce backwards again
  • and he would just gently drift back to her and then they'd go back to the space station so he would have been absolutely fine.
  • I'm okay with
  • bad physics in movies because the job of a movie isn't to be a
  • science documentary the job of a movie is to tell an interesting story. I just feel, like, they could have come up with
  • some much better
  • physics thing but still it's so frustrating when a film does so much stuff really correct
  • and then you've got this one thing that is like.. uhh
  • We have a signal on the luminosity monitors, we have events.
  • Woaaaah
  • firework noises.
  • Man that looked so cool. I really wish all of physics could be explained using that kind of
  • visualization like cinematography they were talking about suspending
  • antimatter. Woman: The antimatter is suspended in there. Dominic: Using nano
  • particles and
  • electromagnetism. Woman: In an airtight nano composite shell with electromagnets on each end. Dominic: That's all good I mean the nano particles
  • They just put that in because nano particles sound cool but
  • the
  • Containment of antimatter you do have to do an electromagnetic field I think the things they actually use a lot
  • bigger than that because the magnets that they use have to be giant
  • Antimatter if it combined with matter does
  • explode in tons of energy. Woman: But if it were to fall out of
  • suspension and come in contact with matter then the two opposing forces would annihilate one another violently. Dominic: But typically the amounts of antimatter
  • That they, store in places like Cern are so small I don't think you would get a massive explosion
  • from it. The best bit is them running on a battery which is gonna run out. Woman: Just before midnight
  • Don't put your antimatter in storage devices on battery power
  • Prepare the red matter.
  • Oh is that the guy from Westworld?
  • I don't know, you get this thing with
  • Sci-fi films where
  • They always have to raise the stakes, so there's kind of like an arms race of like the cool, crazy, super-powerful
  • stuff. They've got this magical red matter and a tiny little piece of this red matter
  • If you put it in the middle of a planet it will create a black hole that will
  • suck the entire planet into it just a tiny drop
  • full. Why the hell does this ship got so much of this red matter on it like if
  • If you tripped and bumped into that
  • vessel containing that red matter you'd create a black hole big enough to
  • absorb the entire universe or something. So yeah I give it a fail.
  • Ahh, I saw this film so long ago.
  • If you had a telescope you would be for a start just
  • beaming out such incredibly high amounts of x-ray radiation that you're giving everyone cancer and also
  • For you to see stuff you have to have the detector of the x-rays at the back. So you fire x-rays through
  • something and then you get stuff at
  • the back and where the x-rays are absorbed like, by your bones that's
  • where you get the white bits and when the x-rays come through you get the black bits, yeah, so that's not really physics.
  • Railguns do exist. They accelerate bullets using electromagnetism and in fact you've got
  • massive giant ones, that can
  • People have thought about launching things into space using rail guns so that's a legit thing.
  • That's why you don't use
  • X-ray vision when you're shooting people because you don't know, who is Arnie and who's a goon?
  • Like this, see see I'm right again, nobody could have predicted that Dr. Grant would suddenly suddenly jump out of a moving vehicle.
  • So this is not a good
  • description of Chaos Theory at all he does explain it with the butterfly effect
  • The shorthand is the butterfly effect
  • A butterfly can
  • flap its wings in Peking and Central Park you get rain instead of sunshine. Dominic: So that is the essence of chaos theory.
  • The whole thing about the water on the hand
  • Aha, okay, okay now freeze your hand don't move I'm gonna do the same thing start with the same stay in place again
  • I don't think that's the best description of it because presumably
  • if you
  • have water on your hand it will drip off the same way the last drop of water
  • Did because it's already kind of wetted that bit of skin
  • so it's more likely actually that the water will go the same route that the second bit of water is.
  • It changed, it changed. Why?
  • But the point of it actually is that Jeff Goldblum's character is just hitting on Laura Dern's
  • character
  • in kind of a creepy way so actual fact I think it's pretty realistic
  • because his character probably cares more about hitting on a chick than he does about getting the right explanation of
  • mathematics. I haven't actually seen Armageddon.
  • What is this thing? It's an asteroid sir. How big are we talking?
  • It's the size of Texas Mr.
  • President. Dominic: I mean it sounds super scary
  • some giant space rock could just turn up out of nowhere and slam into the planet. I think the one that caused the extinction
  • of the dinosaurs was 10-15 kilometers wide.
  • So I don't know how big Texas is but it's, way, way bigger than that. Guy: We need you to prep the team we're sending up
  • We'll send them to the asteroid, they'll land, they'll drill a hole they'll drop some nukes take
  • off and detonate if we can fix this equipment problem. Dominic: That's a really bad idea if you
  • If you do that you basically turn it from from a single bullet into a shotgun blast so then
  • you've just got loads of slightly smaller
  • asteroids
  • that are all radioactive.
  • Yes there's a very real possibility the probability of it is incredibly low.
  • And it is interesting hearing the different ideas people have
  • Some are as simple as you go up there with
  • a spaceship and you just paint one side white and the other side black and if you do it early
  • enough it'll pick up enough solar radiation
  • from the sun on the white side that it will actually deflect it a certain amount
  • And then what was another... another one was attach rockets to the side of it and then deflect it sideways
  • to, again to deflect the orbit. Exploding with the giant nuclear bomb is
  • is
  • not the best idea I think.
  • Painting it---- but painting is not gonna make an exciting move, we have to paint it white! Guy: I don't know but
  • they constructed this three-dimensional space inside their five-dimensional reality to allow you to understand it. Time is represented here as a
  • physical dimension. Dominic: Like the visualizations in that film is so cool
  • When you look in different directions things line up and so it looks like you can travel through different things
  • and that would be kind of
  • So hard to do to kind of imagine higher dimensions and how
  • geometry works they
  • had made time into a physical dimension so as he traveled in certain
  • directions he could find that the time he was looking for but the thing that was navigating him through
  • That higher dimensional space, was the power of love. Cooper: It's like i found this moment. TARS: How Cooper? Cooper: Love, TARS, love.
  • And that's the bit of the film where i was just like
  • Maybe I'm just not sentimental enough but I mean come on guys..
  • Seriously? Not to belittle love, I love love it's good. But I feel like it actually
  • ruins it to reduce love to some kind of physical
  • physics. Physics is so basic.
  • I have no problem with
  • wonky science in movies I even kind of enjoy it to be honest because it's fun to try
  • and imagine the kind of things that they're saying it can be kind of quite imaginative actually how you interpret it
  • When they say things wrong the problem I have isn't with
  • bad science in films, the problem I have is bad films in films.
  • [Music]
  • Is this a military kind of installation because I find that there's often
  • science and the military come together in these sci-fi movies and the
  • scientists are always like trying to explain things and the military people are always just like "No! I need
  • a yes or no answer now!" I mean geez they control all the nuclear bombs I hope they're not just like
  • "Don't give me a jibber jabba! is it nuclear or not!"
  • Denzel Washington getting really angry about science.
  • [Outro Music]

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Description

Physics comes up in movies a lot, and as quite a difficult subject it is fun to see how physics is interpreted through the lens of cinema. Sometimes they get it very right and sometimes they get it very wrong!

A friend of mine who is really into movies picked out a bunch of clips for me to interrogate. Some movies I had seen before, and others I hadn't. See how Hollywood does with some hardcore physics!

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