Monday, August 27, 2007
Physics professor's course corrects movie mayhem
Costas Efthimiou, a physics professor at the University of Central Florida, knows it's just a movie, but it bothers him that the Green Goblin stands still, holding the two objects as if they were bowling balls of equal weight.
"You are going to move toward the force that is stronger," he said. "In the movie, it shows the Green Goblin standing still. That's not possible."
Scenes like this one have had a dumbing effect on viewers, Efthimiou said. He has developed a course for non-science majors examining films and the physical world and has been publishing regularly on the subject. Here's a link to one of his papers: www.arxiv.org/abs/0707.1167.
Caroline Caplan of Port Orange starts next week as a physics major at the University of Florida. She enjoys a movie better when she deems the events depicted possible.
"I think the filmmakers should research what the film is about," she said. "The way filmmakers depict things, physics is scary -- it makes the general public afraid . . . all physics is destructive."
Hollywood may not be listening. Bob Jones, an associate professor of film at UCF, responded to Efthimiou's concerns in a short e-mail: "These are fiction films. Not documentaries. Tell these guys to get a life."
But Efthimiou believes filmmakers contribute to a culture that fears science. Here are a few of his opinions on movies' depiction of the physical world:
"The Core," 2003, starring Aaron Eckhart and Hilary Swank. "The worst ever."
"Armageddon," 1998, starring Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Ben Affleck.
"2001: A Space Odyssey," 1968, directed by Stanley Kubrick. "No dialogue. The students hate it. Myself, I don't like it. However, Kubrick had a lot of advisors."
"Contact," 1997, Jodie Foster and Matt McConaughey. "Carl Sagan wrote the novel. Everything is right."
"Day After Tomorrow," 2004, starring Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal. "It's about global warming, so it has a nice goal. On the other hand, the science is not that good."
"Deep Impact," 1998, starring Robert Duval, Tea Leoni and Morgan Freeman. "This is an alternative version of 'Armageddon.' Both movies were released at the same time; 'Deep Impact,' has better science. The students love 'Armageddon.' They don't like 'Deep Impact.'