Taking science too seriously

Real science can’t compete at the movies with bad science. So writes my erstwhile colleague, the estimable Philip Ball, at news at nature.com.

" "I’m arresting you for breaking the laws of physics," says the policeman to the levitating man, in a cartoon that speaks volumes about the curiously legalistic terminology that science sometimes adopts. In this spirit, two physicists [Efthimiou and Llewellyn] at the University of Central Florida in Orlando seem intent on making a citizen’s arrest of all of Hollywood. In a preprint, they examine some egregious physical errors in recent blockbusters."

In the article discussed by Phil, the authors explain (with equations) why the bus in Speed couldn’t jump the gap, why the Green Goblin in Spiderman couldn’t hold up the cable in the New York tramway, and so on. The words "point" and "missing" come to mind.

As Phil more eloquently puts it: "Should we endorse the violations of physics routinely perpetrated by Hollywood? Efthimiou and Llewellyn clearly think not. I would argue that you might as well complain about ‘errors’ in the Greek myths or fairy tales, or Warner Brothers cartoons."


Out of date with myself

Euro Crime and I are now meta-out of date. She’s late with last week’s update, and I’m even later because I haven’t bought you news of the week before.

No more messing about, here we go. I review the most wonderful book, The Coroner’s Lunch by Colin Cotterill: sheer perfection, which I urge you all to read. However, I have to admit that I gave it to Malcolm (aka the M(ad) P(rofessor)) to read on his latest trip to a Harvard Business School course for UK institutional leaders (very appropriate reading choice I thought) but he did not get into it and bought Robert Harris’s Imperium at the airport instead. (Breaking news, he says it is excellent: better than Robert Harris’s previous few, which he has enjoyed more than I’ve done — does this make them "boy’s books"?). But, never mind what these leaders of academic institutions think, please do read The Coroner’s Lunch for a beautiful exposition of humanity under the most extreme conditions of privation, and for a crackingly good mystery. (For another view on the same book, see here.)

Other Euro Crime reviews last week include Uriah (Norm) Robinson (Price) enthusing about The Devil’s Star by Jo Nesbo (Scandinavian noir); Karen M enjoying Hakan Nessar’s The Return (more Scandinavian noir), Sunnie Gill basically positive about The Library Paradox by Catherine Shaw and Declan Burke not enjoying Time to Pay by Lyndon Strachey as much as the week’s other reviewers ranked their assignments. I would read Declan Burke writing about the gas bill, though: I now fully understand the term "the charm of the Irish".