7 Famous Sci-Fi Inventions With Huge Flaws the Movies Ignore
Science fiction movies give us a glimpse at what could be better worlds. Worlds with flying cars, bartending robots, and ultra-powerful weapons so awesome that you couldn't help but grin even as you were getting annihilated by them. But even accepting that every one of these devices are possible, the consequences of using them would still be a freaking nightmare. For example ...
The Matrix Would Be a Troll's Wet Dream
One of the rules established in the Matrix series is that, since we're all living in a computer simulation, anyone can write a program that affects the rules of the "game." It's exemplified by the scene in which Tank pops in a floppy disk (because this world ended in the mid-'90s) and Neo instantly gains the ability to do gravity-defying kung fu. It's like turning on a cheat code. The idea continues when Trinity learns how to pilot a helicopter in the same way, and Morpheus gains the ability to make those sunglasses stay on his face without the ear parts.
His nose is really sore.
That's the whole seductive appeal of the franchise -- most of us would probably accept living under the thumb of an evil artificial intelligence if it meant gaining the occasional ability to hack the very universe into awesomeness.
As long as you're on the right side of the hacking, that is.The Horrifying Downside:
In the first movie, the number of people who have this reality-bending ability is tiny, and they're all anti-Matrix freedom fighters using their abilities to free minds (even if, you know, they're leaving hundreds of bystander corpses in their wake). But if we generously accept the two sequels as canon, then after the third movie, the machine overlords allow us the choice to remain in the Matrix if we feel like it (because let's face it, the world outside kind of sucks). So anyone living in the comparative comfort of 20th century virtual reality is still subject to the rules of the game. Rules can apparently be hacked by anyone who has the time and dedication.
And those people are inevitably assholes.
Now there are all sorts of people living outside the Matrix -- anyone who chose to drop out and live in the cold, dark real world. So how do you think those people would feel about the ones who chose to remain in the pods? Remember that the first people with the urge to break out were all hacker types -- what do you think that crowd would do with their newfound powers? Imagine a reality in which the denizens of something like 4chan are actual gods, able to hack in at will. Imagine you suddenly start jacking off in the middle of a business meeting because someone from a higher plane decided it would be good lulz.
Take the blue pill and you see cat pictures all day. Take the red pill and you poop pretty much everywhere.
Hell, the software even allows a user to take over the body and free will of anyone inside -- the agents did it all the time. Imagine what they'd do with that power. If we were forced to choose between an advanced artificial intelligence or the whims of bored Internet teenagers dictating our lives, we'd probably say bring on the robots.
The Avengers' Helicarrier Would Destroy Everything It Passed
Heroes in the Marvel cinematic universe have two distinct advantages over regular folks like us: magical superpowers and technology that seems to be about 50 years ahead of what's available to everybody else. Take the helicarrier, for example. As the name suggests, it's an aircraft carrier that flies like a helicopter, an advanced fortress that can go wherever the heroes need it, while likely chopping up several thousand birds in the process.
"Half our operating budget comes from selling 'chicken' for McNuggets."
Of course, what geeks are interested in is whether it's technically possible for such an immense aircraft to exist, even with SHIELD's seemingly unlimited budget. And the answer is yes! If you don't mind obliterating everything between it and the ground.
In order to keep something as massive as the helicarrier afloat, you'd have to achieve a level of downward thrust that would peel the very flesh from the bones of anyone standing underneath. Scientist Phil Plait, who blogs as the Bad Astronomer, figured out the physics and concluded that, in order to keep the helicarrier in the sky, you would need a power supply equivalent to a trillion watts, which is enough to power a billion homes. But that's no big deal, since they've got Tony Stark's arc reactor (or something) to power it.
We think we just figured where Stark's hordes of illegitimate children go.
But the problem is that no matter what's powering the engines, the physics don't change: to stay afloat, an equal amount of force has to be pressing downward. But where standing under a helicopter would merely mess up your hair, the downward thrust of the helicarrier's rotors would basically scour the earth clean underneath it. It'd look like when you use a leaf-blower on your lawn, except the leaves are houses and shopping malls and screaming civilians reduced to a viscous red sludge.
This scene ends right before the ocean turns red and scores of dead dolphins float to the surface.
That would also kind of render the helicarrier's cloaking ability useless, since it could be located by following the massive hurricanes that follow in its wake. In short, if the government were to create an aircraft like the helicarrier, they wouldn't need to arm it with missiles -- simply fly it over a war zone and let physics do the rest.
Speaking of which ...
The Jaegers In Pacific Rim Would Do Massive Collateral Damage ... Just by Walking
Pacific Rim finally gave us the only thing mankind has truly wanted since the invention of film: giant robots beating the shit out of giant monsters. We don't care that, in reality, giant robots don't even make the top 10 for the most practical ways to handle a giant monster invasion. We just want to see how a battle between skyscraper-sized Rock 'Em Sock 'Ems and Godzillas would play out. But in the real world, such a battle inside a city would make the destructive climactic fight in Man of Steel look like a scene from West Side Story.
To be fair, the good guys in Pacific Rim try to keep the fights away from metropolitan areas for precisely this reason. But they're eventually forced to take the battle into the heart of Hong Kong, and the sheer extent of the resulting destruction is glossed over for more witty dialog between the nerdy comedy relief characters and Ron Perlman. But we'll give them the damage of errant punches crashing into an office building -- that comes with the territory when you've chosen the Giant Battle Robot lifestyle.
Which 100 percent of you would.
But some extremely smart people who also love science fiction movies sat down and did some math and concluded that the jaeger in this scene, Gipsy Danger, would have to weigh at the very least a whopping 10,582 tons. While this means that, on one hand, those rocket punches really would kill the shit out of a giant monster, it also means that, thanks to something physicists call the "square cube law," even taking a step would murder everyone nearby.
It doesn't matter what technology makes the giant mechs possible -- due to the sheer nature of the ground upon which we all walk, the jaeger would sink waist-deep into the dirt the moment it landed. And god help you if it falls -- applying math to the scene where the monster throws Gipsy Danger aside, the machine's sheer mass suggests that its landing would create a crater over 2000 feet across and 450 feet deep.
"Another city saved!"
Warp Drive Technology Could Cause Apocalypses
Every single science fiction film that involves space travel is forced to make up some excuse about how they're able to break the laws of relativity, which make travel between stars impossible in one lifetime. In space operas like Star Trek, Star Wars and various other star-related derivatives, this usually involves a "warp drive," some device that enables faster-than-light travel.
The exciting thing is that modern scientists think warp drives are possible, like in the really real world, and they've even done the math to figure out how we could theoretically make one. The so-called Alcubierre warp drive even works the way that sci-fi assumed it would -- by bending the fabric of space so that your craft can take an interstellar shortcut through the universe. The unexpected downside is that you'll rain unspeakable destruction upon whatever you find on the other side.
Although, by then, you might be too high to care.
See, as the Enterprise or the Millennium Falcon shoot through space on a bubble of relativity, they're also sweeping up every particle they find on the way, like a giant broom. It turns out that "empty space" is actually rich with radiation and subatomic particles of more flavors than you'll find in one of those computerized Coke machines at Five Guys.
These particles stick like intergalactic bugs on your spaceship's windshield, but they don't stay there when you finally pull the brakes. When your ship decelerates out of warp speed, these particles keep their momentum -- and although they're tiny, their velocity makes the Death Star laser look like a pop gun. According to Brendan McMonigal, one of the scientists who theorized this, you could either irradiate entire planets to death, or straight-up obliterate them, depending on the distance traveled.
Alderaan truthers claim that this is what really destroyed the planet.
Basically, if your goal is to explore the fragile ecosystems of other planets, like in Star Trek or Interstellar, you'll want to make sure that you're not pointing directly toward the planet you're investigating, or else you'll not only violate the Prime Directive, you'll haymaker it in the face and then bang its mom.
Spider-Man's Leftover Webs Would Be Dangerous as Hell
Before we get swamped with outraged emails telling us we don't know shit about Spider-Man, we should mention straight out of the gate that we're talking about the (second) movie version here. In the comics, Peter Parker is a genius inventor who creates his own biodegradable webbing, but both movie franchises opted to give Parker a more realistic level of intelligence for a skateboarding teen. The Sam Raimi movies made him shoot webs right out of his wrists, but the new Amazing Spider-Man series figured that was either too dumb or too sexually suggestive, so they had him buy his webs wholesale from Oscorp.
Oscorp, incidentally, is the evil corporation run by Spider-Man's nemesis. But we'll ignore the fact that, if the Goblin family want to find out the secret identity of the masked man who keeps spraying their corporate-patented webbing material all over the city, they just have to check their invoices. Our point is that the movie Spider-Man is creating a dangerous environmental nightmare every time he slips on the red latex.
"I don't know who this S. Piderman is, but he loves our products."
In the films, Oscorp's webbing is described as a "bio-cable," designed for industrial applications due to it being ten times stronger than steel. So unlike the comics, in which the webbing dissolves itself in mere hours, we can reasonably assume that a futuristic industrial adhesive isn't designed to deteriorate so quickly, if at all. By spraying it around the city with reckless abandon, the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man is taking vandalism to a whole new level, even by New York standards. But the implications go further than ensuring city cleaners leave the office armed with blowtorches.
Through the course of his nightly fight against crime, Spidey regularly leaves petty crooks trussed up like this:
"Looks like you're in a sticky situation! Seriously though, now's the time to make peace with your mortality."
Granted, this guy was trying to steal a car, but let the punishment fit the crime -- Spidey's industrial-strength super-steel may very well have made him a permanent fixture on that wall. Worse, his airways are clearly blocked here, which Spider-Man did for shits and giggles. This makes Spidey look less like a wise-cracking superhero, and more like the killer from the Saw movies. "I want to play a game, officer. You can free this man before he suffocates, but it will require you to apply acids and open flames directly to his face."
Star Trek's Transporters Would Make Petty Crime Unstoppable, Tourism Impossible
Star Trek's transporters are nifty devices introduced as an easy way for characters to get from scene to scene through the vast expanse of space without breaking up the action. It seems there's no limit to the distance that you can instantly teleport yourself on a planetary scale -- we know Ben Sisko and Harry Kim regularly teleported from Starfleet Academy to their hometowns and back again to visit family -- and at various points in the TV shows and movies, we see transporters small enough that you can carry them around like cell phones.
And also like cell phones, they make most preexisting technology obsolete.
But while instant, portable teleportation at the press of a button would basically solve 50 percent of the problems in the world today, from traffic jams to product shortages to global warming, they'd replace them with entirely new problems that would make the world arguably suck even more.The Horrifying Downside:
For example, imagine how it would revolutionize crime. You can't walk out of a Walmart with a TV set without paying for it, because someone's going to stop you at some point before you get it into the back of your pick-up. But imagine if you could grab the box off the shelf and immediately zap it and yourself back to your home before the security guard could put his donut down. Or say you're a depressed chemistry teacher who decides to break bad and flood the market with crystal space-meth. Rather than run a chain of chicken restaurants and pest control companies as cover operations, you could simply teleport the drugs directly into your customers' houses, entirely avoiding any shady back-alley meetings that risk getting jumped by enemy cartels or the DEA. A customer could call you up, and you could get the drugs to them faster than Domino's Pizza.
They just ran out on the bill at Applebee's.
But let's humor the idea that, in the future, some technology or the simple perspective of an infinite universe teeming with advanced life has completely negated man's inhumanity to man and wiped out all incentive for crime. That's the whole premise of Star Trek, right? Well, even in a world at total peace, instant cross-country teleportation has some major problems.
For instance, that mandatory family pilgrimage to Disneyland is more or less a once-in-a-lifetime thing for anyone outside of California, thanks to the deterrent of the cost, plus hours of driving through Death Valley just to spend six hours waiting in line. Now imagine if any bored jackass in Washington with a day off work could simply teleport directly into the park. When everyone has the ability to go wherever they want, whenever they want, tourist traps would become tourist warzones, as literally millions of people jostle each other for viewing space at the Grand Canyon. Because being able to go anywhere, anytime isn't that great if everyone else is already there.
They're in line at Applebee's.
The Death Star Would Take More Damage Than it Dealt
Star Wars' Death Star is an immense, moon-sized space station whose creators apparently felt "Death Moon" didn't sound lethal enough. It was constructed for the exclusive purpose of blowing up planets with a giant laser, with the one drawback being that it has to get pretty close to do it (which was of course the entire premise of the first movie's finale).
But what the movies don't tell you is that the Death Star is less a doomsday weapon than it is a tool of mutually-assured destruction -- after destroying Alderaan, the Death Star's staff would have had a hell of a bad day trying to survive the aftermath.The Horrifying Downside:
We'll need to start with a brief physics lesson. They tell us in the films that the Death Star is the size of the moon, but all things considered, the Moon is rather lightweight -- it's half the density of steel, which means the Death Star could be 50 percent hollow and it would still have the same mass. And as this official diagram from Wookiepedia shows, it's clearly more solid than that:
Pictured: Not nothing.
When the Death Star explodes a planet, all the chunks of debris that made up that planet need to go somewhere. And in outer space, they're all going to move toward the next most massive object nearby. Guess what that is?
To give you an idea of how bad a time the Death Star is about to have: when a space shuttle re-enters Earth's atmosphere, it's moving at 17,500 mph. The Moon's gravity is 1/6th that of Earth's, so the Death Star would see the debris coming at it at roughly 3000 mph, which is four times the speed of sound. And where the space shuttle slows down because Earth's atmosphere causes drag, the Death Star has no such atmosphere, meaning the debris would be slamming into it at full speed. That's going to do some major damage, and we know the Death Star isn't made of some impervious metal (since we watch two of them get disintegrated due to nothing more than an explosion in their power core).
They actually rolled down the window and had Chewie throw rocks at it.
This means that, unless they want an entire planet's worth of debris to hit them at supersonic speeds one Bantha-sized chunk at a time, the crew have to be ready as soon as the planet explodes to man all of the Death Star's lasers and shoot each rock into pieces before it slams into them, like a moon-sized game of Asteroids.
Even so, the planet-chunks aren't going to go away -- they're only going to be blasted into smaller and smaller pieces that will keep coming like a zombie horde, thanks to the inescapable tyranny of gravity. The best-case scenario is that the Death Star will find itself coated in a thick layer of planetary dust clogging up its viewports, docking bays, and even that crucial thermal exhaust port. It's like the universe has its own built-in self-defense mechanism against giant evil space weapons.
For more ridiculous sci-fi technology, check out 5 Deadly Sci-Fi Gadgets You Can Build At Home. And then check out 15 Real Sci-Fi Technologies About to Change the World.
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