It’s when I go to see a film that I’m most often reminded that I am a total geek.

When I first saw Spiderman 2 I got excited when Peter Parker drops his stuff on the way to lectures and (if you look closely), it includes a certain Quantum Mechanics textbook I used at uni. (Quantum Physics by Stephen Gasiorowicz, if you were interested).

I approve Spiderman's choice of physics textbook

There’s also a point in X2 where Bobby/Ice Man freezes the contents of a tea-cup. The frozen tea then slides out of the cup. The physicists I watched it with all came out whingeing that, of course, the tea would have expanded on freezing and broken the cup.

Given that pretty much all the laws of physics are ignored in most comic book films, you might wonder why I’m getting pedantic over something small like frozen tea. Basically, it doesn’t bother me when a comic book adaptation ignores the laws of science if it’s an integral part of the plot (unless the violation is really egregious).  No one can expect faithful adherence to the way the world really works.  It helps if they don’t try and posit some nonsense explanation of what is going on. Viz: X-Men never tries to explain how Cyclops shoots lasers out of his eyes. We just take it as read that somehow he can and the physicists move on.

What does get annoying (for pedants) is when a basic point of science is portrayed incorrectly out of ignorance.  There was no plot reason why the frozen tea couldn’t have cracked the cup.  And just for a few seconds it broke my suspension of disbelief.

This brings me to the last film I saw, Iron Man 2, where one gratuitously bad IT moment stood out.  Mickey Rourke’s bad guy engages in some Hollywood Hacking (warning: tvtropes will ruin your life).   He’s hacking into the network controlling a bunch of drone robots, which consisted of:

  1. Guessing the password in seconds
  2. Another character spouting some obligatory techno-babble.

Stupidly, this scene could’ve been cut without affecting the film anyway.

The rest of the film featured some pretty dubious science but I’m more willing to forgive it because I enjoyed the film and the bad science was mostly important to the plot.  In my next post, I’ll analyse one particular subplot more because it sheds light on some interesting real world physics and chemistry than to grouse about the bad science.

This post has been meddled with edited by Shona.