5 Things That Aren't Nearly As Dangerous As Hollywood Thinks
As we've previously explained, Hollywood has some weird ideas about how easy it is to survive falls from great heights and, say, explosions that occur 10 feet away from the hero. But it's almost stranger the way movies and TV exaggerate the dangers of other things. For some reason, it's not a big deal to jump away from an erupting fireball, but we're supposed to believe that encounters with the following are certain death.
According to Hollywood:
Scorpions are deadly creatures that can incapacitate a man in seconds. Which is to say, a villain once tried to use one to kill James Bond in Diamonds Are Forever. They're an instrument of torture for pirates, and should basically be approached with the same caution that one would use with a schizophrenic serial killer with radioactive lightsabers growing out of his body.
What short of a man in gloves, could best this mighty beast?
There are around over a thousand species of scorpions, of which 25 to 50 have venom that is dangerous to humans. OK, fine, but Bond assassins probably use one of the dangerous ones. Even then, the adult mortality rate for a sting is around one percent. So you'd really need a whole suitcase full of scorpions and for Bond to lay still for you for a bit while they get 100 stings in. And if he's being that cooperative, you could honestly just kill him with the suitcase.
How were we to know a movie in which James Bond hijacks a moon rover
is an unreliable source on entomology?
Unless you're a child (for whom the nasty ones cause death in about 10 percent of cases), a scorpion sting is painful and might be incapacitating in a bad case, but it's not going to kill you.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but a scorpion's natural behavior when confronted with something bigger than itself is to hide and try to escape. So the chances of being attacked by one are laughably small. In fact, the odds of dying from a scorpion sting are one in 300 million. To put this in perspective: Your odds of dying by simply falling over in the shower are one in 65,000. In other words, if you find a scorpion in your shower tomorrow morning, the shower stall itself may still be the greater danger.
"Would you mind using the 'No Tears' stuff?"
Running Out of Fuel in an Airplane
According to Hollywood:
In a panic, the pilot looks out of the window and sees that the propellers have stopped spinning -- or his instruments show that the fuel gauge is on empty and his engines have ground to a halt. Cue the Kamikaze dive-bomber sound effects as the plane plummets toward a deadly crash.
They say small planes are the deadliest, but seasoned travelers know that the most
dangerous plane is whichever one you are on right now.
The heroes have a matter of seconds to find parachutes on board -- or if they have the skill, to bail out at the last moment, perhaps in a life raft, as in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Anything is better than staying in this plummeting deathtrap!
"This was the most logical action to take!"
Remember a few years ago when a jet flying out of LaGuardia lost both engines after a bird strike? The plane was at a mere 3,200 feet and still managed to stay in the air for four minutes and fly the length of Manhattan before ditching safely in the Hudson River.
We hope they'd had their shots.
The reason is that even if you lose power, you're flying a plane, not a jetpack -- the same principle of aviation that lets planes fly also means they can glide. Granted, jets make pretty bad gliders, but even they have glide ratios of between 10 and 20 to one -- meaning you can fly 10,000 feet horizontally for every 1,000 feet you drop. Get a jet up to a cruising altitude of 30 to 40,000 feet and you can travel over 100 miles before metal is going to meet dirt.
Your average private plane is surprisingly not as glide-worthy since it's got less mass and can't coast on inertia for quite as long. However, it makes up for distance with survivability. A typical prop-driven four-seater plane will keep gliding until it slows to about 40 to 50 mph, which means you don't need a hell of a lot of space to land and stop short of kissing a tree. Jets need to be traveling at least 140 mph to remain airborne, which means that you'd better find something long and paved (or long and wet) to land on.
Let's look back at that scene from Temple of Doom. As you might recall, the pilots had parachuted out of the plane, leaving it running on fumes, and both engines quickly failed. As the plane began to plummet toward the mountains ahead, Jones and his two companions (Floozy Girl and Annoying Boy) jump out on an inflated life raft, eventually hitting a snow-covered slope and going over a waterfall.
In reality, if a life raft could have made it to that slope, the plane certainly could have glided to the river they end up floating down. You can argue that Jones didn't know how to fly a plane, but even a ham-handed attempt to turn it around and ditch in the river probably offers better odds than jumping out of a plane in a life raft. Something to do with a large metal hull offering better protection than a flimsy piece of inflated rubber. But we're no scientists.
Getting Shot with an Arrow or Crossbow
According to Hollywood:
These pointy projectiles are death with feathers. Get hit with one (especially if you're a bad guy or an expendable cowboy) and you pitch over and die. Legolas seemed to perfectly average one dead orc per fired arrow in Lord of the Rings. Before that -- for almost a century's worth of movies -- if a cowboy got tagged with one, he'd be on his way to the pearly gates.
There is no functional difference between that bow and an Uzi.
If you've got a strong stomach, take a look at the picture on this page. Yes, that's a guy with a crossbow bolt sticking out of his chest. Not only did he survive the initial wound, but he survived a seven-hour plane ride to the hospital (it was in Australia, and he was shot in a remote location, presumably by a giant bow and arrow wielding spider we've yet to read about) before the sucker was removed.
How could he do this and survive, you ask? Basically, arrows and other type of longish projectiles tend to stay in the wound, providing a nice plug to hold in the blood and keep things intact. By comparison, getting shot -- something that Hollywood heroes survive in every other scene -- is more dangerous by magnitudes. When a bullet strikes a body, it starts chewing up everything inside, bouncing off bones, tearing major blood vessels open -- just generally doing all it can to kill you.
Ask any hunter who uses a bow, and they'll tell you that it's not uncommon to have to trail an animal for hours after it gets hit by an arrow.
Exploding arrows are harder to come by than you'd think.
According to Hollywood:
It is one of the most common murder methods in Hollywood.
The unsuspecting victim is soaking in a bathtub, while we get a POV shot of two hands holding a radio or a toaster. The victim looks up just in time to see their attacker, then the electrical appliance of doom is tossed into the water. Cut to the rest of the cast, wondering why the lights have flickered, then back to our victim, now dead and smoking.
It toasts bread and vulnerable coeds.
If you're not familiar with how electricity works, let's briefly go over it. Electricity is just a flow of electrons from some place that has too many of them to some place that really wants them. But where they really want to go is to the ground. If generated power is a shipload of sailors on shore leave, the ground is a whore house that's having a two-for-one special.
The light switch is ... a dental dam?
So those horny electrons are going to make a beeline for the ground, and totally ignore anything that doesn't get them there as quickly as they can. This is why a welder could put his hand on a piece of metal that he's zapping hundreds of amps of current through, because the metal is connected to the ground with a big clamp. Compared to the air (which sucks at conducting electricity), the welder's juicy 80 percent water body might seems like a good road to Miss Kitty's House of Ground, but there's a convenient superhighway running through that clamp and electricity will always take the path of least resistance.
So going back to our bathtub, the person sitting in the tub doesn't offer any kind of decent path to ground. In older houses, the drain will provide a nice path (all that copper pipe), and in newer houses with PVC pipe, there may not be a path at all. Not to mention that if you plunge a radio into a bathtub, the first thing that's going to happen is that the water will short out the circuit and trip the circuit breaker.
Depending on the proximity of Rihanna's most recent release, that might be a mercy.
Don't get us wrong -- it is totally possible for electricity to ruin your day in the bathroom. If you're holding a hair dryer and you're soaking wet, your body may very well be the best path from the dryer to ground. And along the way, the current is likely to make a rest stop at your heart, and not pick up the trash when it's done.
But you're still more likely to slip and crack your head on the porcelain.
This is why, if you are in a newer house, your bathroom outlets have little black and red buttons on them. They're supposed to trip and shut off the current if some dumbass tries to dry his mullet in mid-shower.
According to Hollywood:
Drop a cigarette into a pool of gas leading to the car with the bad guys in it, and you're just seconds away from an explosion. Or light the trail of fuel left by a leaking jet on take-off, and watch it turn into a nice fireball (we're looking at you, Die Hard II).
Obviously gasoline is really good at burning, that's why it makes a good fuel. But getting it to explode takes real effort. That's also why it makes a good fuel. You don't want every stray spark doing a Michael Bay on your gas station.
To that end, liquid gasoline doesn't explode at all -- you can drop lit matches into a bucket of gasoline in cold weather, and the match will probably just go out. (NOTE: We said PROBABLY.)
So smoking at the gas pump? Totally safe.
It's the vapor you have to worry about -- those tiny particles swirling in the air are what is catching fire when you throw a match onto a pool of gas. But to get an honest-to-goodness explosion takes a lot of vapor mixed with oxygen, and only in the right amounts. You can get it in tanks with just a little gas left in them, but as the Mythbusters have demonstrated on numerous occasions, you can do just about anything to a car and it won't explode.
Now, if you get a car burning, the fuel tank will eventually burst, and then maybe you'll get a nice fireball as all the gas combusts. But more often than not the fire will just burn steadily until all of the fuel is gone.
You're no fun anymore, gasoline.
Jet planes are even less likely to go Boom. Turbine (jet) powered aircraft use Jet-A, which is an aviation fuel that has a flash point of 100F. So certainly on that snowy day in Washington, John McClane wasn't going to have much in the way of fumes to ignite. Yes, transportation safety guidelines ruin yet another action movie premise. We're wondering if it's all really worth it.
For more things movies got wrong, check out 5 Ridiculous Gun Myths Everyone Believes (Thanks to Movies) and 8 Scenes That Prove Hollywood Doesn't Get Technology.