3 movie myths… busted!

Published on September 28th, 2012
3 movie myths… busted!

In the real world, everything works according to a set of scientific rules. But that doesn’t happen in Hollywood…

MYTH 1: You can outrun a massive explosion.
Something always explodes in action movies… and the hero always manages to run and dive for cover just before he’s engulfed in the flames. But is this really possible?

Yeah right. Let’s take a moment to consider the speed of an explosion compared to the speed of a human being. Professional athletes can run at about 10 metres per second, while an explosion can travel at the speed of sound (340 metres per second) or even faster. So, even if our action hero is 300m away from the thing that blows up when it happens, he’d have under a second to run and dive for cover.

And it isn’t just the fire that the hero needs to dodge. There’s also a shock wave that travels a bit faster than sound, plus a pulse of electromagnetic radiation that travels at the speed of light (around 299 000 000 metres per second). So sorry, Vin Diesel – even you don’t stand a chance…

MYTH 2: Spiderman can spin – and swing from – his own webbing.
It looks really cool when Spidey shoots out a strand of stretchy silver webbing and swings from a skyscraper, but the science is more than a little impossible…

First of all, where does all that webbing come from? Even if each strand was only a centimetre thick and 100 metres long, every swing would eject 0,01m3 of material, which is about 11% of Spidey’s total body volume (assuming he’s 1,7m tall and weighs 70kg).

This means that, after only a few quick swings, our hero would be just a fraction of the man he was before he leapt off the first building… and that’s not even considering the fact that his webbing must be extremely dense to have such amazing tensile strength, which means it would take up even more of Spidey’s volume. Someone in Hollywood clearly needs to brush up on their Science…

MYTH 3: You can catch someone falling from a really high building.
It’s one of the laws of movie-making. When a damsel in distress falls off a really high building, there’s always a hero waiting to catch her just in time… but in real life, she wouldn’t be so lucky. Why? Because if you wanted to catch some poor lady falling from a 67th-story window, she wouldn’t survive unless you could find a way to break Newton’s Second Law of Motion… and let’s face it: no one can.

Newton’s Second Law states that F=ma, or force = mass x acceleration. This basically means that the faster an object has to change speeds, the greater the force it will experience. So, when a damsel falls from a high building, it’s not the fall that’ll kill her – it’s the time and the distance it will take for her to stop.

If she hits solid ground, she’ll have to stop extremely fast, which means she’ll experience a massive crushing force. If she hits water, the force would be slightly less extreme because it would take her a bit longer to stop. But if she lands in our hero’s outstretched arms, she’d still have to stop pretty fast (at best, he may move down a teeny bit), so she’ll still basically be completely crushed. In fact, her body may even tear apart, as the hero will only be catching a small part of her total surface area. Gross!!

The above three smart ideas were brought to you by 3M, a company that uses curiosity and creativity to solve problems around the world every day. Click here to read more about this awesome, innovative company.


Credit: image from Flickr/Zamber