Science fiction and fantasy tend to trend more towards the fiction and fantasy side of the things the closer it gets to becoming a movie. This is perfectly understandable because Hollywood is in the business of scaring and amazing us, and that’s why we keep paying them to make pretty shiny movies where stuff blows up for seemingly no reason at all. But what if there was, in the middle of the gun fights with never ending ammo magazines, the big booms, the aliens, zombies, and outer reaches of space and time, a tiny bit of real science or scientific theory that actually made it into the movie? Sometimes, the science in movies isn’t completely made up. Some writers and directors actually take this very seriously, as you’ll see, and the movies end up being better for being at least partially based on or grounded in realism. Here’s a list of 25 Moments Of Genuine Science Found In Movies.
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The Andromeda Strain (1971), based on Michael Crichton's book of the same name, is about a satellite that crash lands in a small town releasing a virus from space that kills everyone. The movie uses surprisingly accurate scientific language about biology, immunology, and virology.
Finding Nemo (2003) had some surprisingly detailed science go into it. Animators spent time getting up close and personal with nature (including taking pictures of the inside of a dead whale) and even removed kelp from scenes when a marine biologist explained the water temperature was wrong for kelp.
Deep Impact (1998) was very accurate to the technology of asteroid detection and interception at the time it was made. NASA has since updated their protocol on object deflection, as of 2007.
Interstellar (2014) got a few things right in the science department, and one of them was that if you get too close to a black hole, time would move differently for you than it would for people back on the home planet due to the gravity well and the fabric of space-time stretching. Yeah.
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004) deals with targeted memory loss (purposeful memory loss, in this case). While the technology to accomplish how this happens in the movie doesn't exist, the theory - severing the connections in our brain that form memories, or memory triggers - is accurate.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) got the science right with the spaceship gravity. First in acknowledging that a spaceship doesn't have any, and secondly in building an artificial gravity wheel to spin, to create centrifugal force, to make pretend gravity.
While the main theme of Minority Report (2002) - that psychics can predict crime - is a bit out there, other things in the film, such as iris scanning, self driving cars, and a holographic OS are either already in use or being tested.
Maybe it's not the BIGGEST impact of "accurate science" in a movie, but all the equations for A Beautiful Mind (2001) were written by a hand double, who was an actual mathematician, so they had a "natural flow" and looked like math, as opposed to what Hollywood thinks math should look like.
If you've watched The Fountain (2006) a few times and still can't wrap your head around it, that's okay. You aren't alone. Still, it's a stunningly beautiful film. That bit where Izzy goes on about how all life and creation is connected isn't entirely wrong. According to Carl Sagan, everything is made of "star stuff," everything that exists was once created in the heart of a star. Then when that star goes Supernova, those elements mix with gas clouds, and the element rich gas clouds eventually make planets, which eventually evolve life.
Even Neil deGrasse Tyson has praised The Martian (2015) for the accuracy of the science it depicts, which is some pretty high praise. There are little details like the difference in gravity of Mars vs Earth, which is apparently pretty spot on.
The science behind genetic alterations portrayed in Gattaca (1997) is either possible to do already or will be in the near future. As in, scientists are making genetic modifications to living tissue in worms and mice by manipulation of genes. Not sure if this is exciting or terrifying, but it's...something.
While the science in these films are plausible, here are 25 Science “Facts” That Were Proven Wrong.
The main premise of the film Her (2013) - an AI so advanced that it can be human, and lovable, and someone could fall in love with it - is considered to be plausible in the near future, according to some scientists/futurists (yes, that's a real job. It means, among other things, making highly educated guesses and predictions about future technology).
2001: A Space Odyssey (1969) was awe inspiring enough to get two spots on this list, and in this spot, we're pointing out how (spoilers) HAL 9000's transition from friendly and helpful to utterly psychotic is plausible for a computer. Yay?
Most of the science in the movie Contact (1997) about contacting Alien life is pretty accurate. It should be; it's based on the book written by Carl Sagan. From the use of radio signals to the conformation of what they're seeing is all in line with SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) protocol. The wormhole bit at the end is obviously a bit more...theoretical.
Moon (2009) is a not very well known indie film that explores a lone man on a lunar base dealing with his isolation. The plausible science bit is that he's there to mine helium-3 for use in energy production, which is very real possibility in the near future.
When thinking "Scientific Accuracy In Films," perhaps Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (2005) isn't the first to come to mind, but the bits where they're explaining the sheer immensity of space and time are pretty accurate. Also Vogon poetry is that bad; this is a fact.
Star Trek (2009) has one little bit of accurate science that just annoys me to death when people get wrong - there's no sound in space. So when the hull is breached and a Red Shirt goes swimming into the abyss, her screams are cut off because in space, there's no sound.
Dante's Peak (1997) is a film inspired by the Mount St Helens eruption in Washington State. While some things were very wrong - the lava moved way to fast, for one thing - the portrayal of a composite volcano eruption was actually pretty darn accurate.
World War Z (2013) is a zombie movie, so let's start by clarifying there isn't really a scientific basis for Zombies. But there *is* a basis in reality of a viral outbreak starting in China as it does in the movie. In 2002, China had an outbreak of SARS (sever acute respiratory syndrome) virus that spread to the rest of the world and infected some 8,000 people, killing about 10% of them. While 8,000 people isn't a lot on a global scale, Ebola infected over 23,000 people, and around 9,000 died. 24 cases of Ebola were treated in Europe and the US.
The basis for the amazing balloon ride the house in Pixar's UP (2009) takes is actually plausible (wired.com had someone do the math), but you'd need around 112,000 balloons, and pixar's animators only used around 10,000. The balloon ride is based on something people already do, called Cluster Ballooning, just with people in harnesses, not full houses.
Alien (1979) actually gets a few things right about space travel or theoretical space travel - ship interiors are industrial as opposed to sleek and minimalist, and space travel is dark, and it's long. Long enough that NASA may put the first crew to Mars in deep sleep for part of the journey.
The main plot line of the movie Into The Storm (2014) is about a storm that spawns multiple tornadoes. The scary science reality behind this is that some storms can and DO actually have multiple vortexes, and they're called "Multiple-Vortex Tornadoes." In fact, the largest tornado ever recorded happened in May of 2013, in Oklahoma, and it was a Multiple-Vortex Tornado.
While sharks raining down from the sky in a tornado and eating people alive, which is the premise of Sharknado (2013), will never ever happen, a phenomenon called "Fish Rain," where a tornado or storm picks up fish in the water and drops them on land, HAS happened before in the United States: in 1947 in LA, and in again in 1957 in AL. The one in Alabama included crayfish and frogs, and it's noted that many of the critters were alive and placed in pools and ponds. Guys, sharks are a type of fish.
Not to continuously harp on how amazing The Martian (2015) is (it is), but that whole growing potatoes in martian soil augmented with poop? Totally plausible. Just consider that here on earth most of the veggies you eat have been grown in dirt that's mixed with animal poo. In fact, NASA is currently conducting similar experiments with simulated martian soil.
Jurassic Park (1993) actually got some of their facts about dinosaurs correct (though sadly, the part about bringing them back, not so much). Large dinosaurs like brachiosaurus lived on land not in swamps, the T-rex is believed to have stood more horizontal than upright, and some dinosaurs were really smart and really fast.
Looking for more crazy science? Check out 25 Modern Science and Technologies You’d Swear Are Fiction.