So I finally saw this movie… Warning, I am pulling out a soapbox.
Enough concern over this movie was generated after it’s release that NASA had to take time off their really job, sending cars to Mars, and make an entire webpage to address the issues brought up in the movie. We often here that the school system is failing our children, BUT WTF! DID IT FAIL US ADULTS TOO!
Anyone who took a science class in high school and actually STAYED AWAKE, for about 10% of the lectures should have been able to point out all the fake science in that movie. Not to mention the fact that it was a fictional action movie. Also some of the science that messed up as literally been explained BY THE NEWS, in the last 4 years with some of our real world disasters.
Let’s start with the biggest issue. It was a movie, a work of fiction. Much like the Day After Tomorrow, another movie about climate change that is massively unrealistic. Secondly lets look at the story, and just spend a few more minutes thinking, before we freak out people. The world’s governments gets together and MAKE ARCS, in order to save Humanity from a FLOOD, and it gets better, at one point Chinese Helicopters can be seen SAVING TWO OF EVERY ANIMAL!
We live in a time in our country where the separation of church and state has become so huge/stupid people want to remove “In God we Trust” from our money. But Hollywood bitch slaps the America Public with a thinly veiled retelling of NOAH’S ARC, and people go.. “Seems Legit.”
Okay so let’s say you bought all that but thought, well maybe some of this shit could happen. Let me be pretty realistic here, Yellowstone is a Mega-Volcano, and it could very well blow it’s top between now and well the next 10,000 years or so. The chances are pretty small. However we will know it is coming, or at least be able to make a good guess. It won’t just explode in an impressive display of multiple shock-wave producing mushroom clouds. We can’t predict seismic activity. However EVERY MAJOR VOLCANIC ERUPTION, is easy to case based on increased seismic activity. Before Yellowstone blows it’s top, we will have smaller eruptions in the area, massive localized earthquakes, and probably a few other pretty obvious signs.
When it does go, it will be impressive, in fact so impressive that Woody Harrelson‘s character would have probably been INSTANTLY incinerated by the shock wave that slammed into him, yeah the one that bends pine tree to a 90 degree angle, would have KILLED a real person.
Other than the damage it would cause to the surrounding area, the cloud released into the atmosphere would bring about another Ice age, but it would probably take a few years, and the cloud would not reach DC in a matter of hours, more like a few days to a week. That’s the big danger with this type of event, it would in theory be an extinction level event. Not an over night DEATH CASCADE! But within 10-15 years something like 50-80% of all species on earth might have gone extinct.
Now all this seems to be happening because the pole are shifting. They are, right now, and on a GEOLOGICAL TIMELINE it is happening pretty fast. As in they might completely reverse in the next 10,000 – 100,000 years. Let me say that again, the poles are shifting, right now, REALLY REALLY SLOWLY ON A HUMAN TIMELINE. Get it? Science can prove the poles shift, but they have to look really FAR back into out past.
Let’s look at the other Major Disaster this move tackles. Tsunamis are massive, fast moving waves, that can be titanic when they hit the shore, and as we all saw in 2004 cause massive damage. But let’s look at the science of a wave. Waves exist because the ocean is relatively shallow at the world’s beaches. Past the continental drop we have what are know as swells, basically they are the ocean’s version of waves, and in storms they can get pretty bad. A Tsunami that let’s say is 25-35 feet tall when it hits land, may only cause a 6-8 inch increase in the swells a cruise ship would face at sea. So even assuming that that Tsunami was a 100 feet tall when it hit land (pretty unlikely.. we will get to that next) THERE IS NO REASON that the cruise ship would have cap sized.
Much like the comedian Eddie Izzard points out in a segment of his stand-up about the Noah’s arc flood, things that float, would probably be perfectly FINE. Cruise ships, assuming a massive hurricane wasn’t right there right then, would be pretty safe places to be IF the events in 2012 actually happened.
Now onto the water bit. There is only a certain amount of water on earth, it is finite. What do we know about Ice? Well ice have a larger volume due to the physical properties of water as it freezes. You can play with this at home, just put a beer in the freezer, IT WILL EXPAND. In fact this is a rule EVERYONE KNOWS, cause mom won’t let you forget it with soda in grade school, and when you do finally move out you forget the rule once, and freak out when the soda/beer in the freezer explodes in your first apartment.
How is this important? Basically, Tsunami is fueled by the water in the ocean, EVEN assuming that all the polar ice/glaciers in the world INSTANTLY(Next bit) thawed, we are looking at maybe 200-250 foot increase in the Ocean’s depths, then EVERY COAST gets hit by a Tsunami at once, those would be pretty small waves, and not capable of submerging the Himalayas. Why you might ask? Well what is displacing the water enough to support that fact that it all needs to travel outward at once? Try this… find a pond, and throw a big rock in it, you will see a tsunami of ant proportions rush out and hit the “coast” of your pond, now throw in a bunch! The middle of the pond goes nuts! But the waves kinda cancel each other out.
Now think about this. Those rocks, are adding foreign Volume to the body of water, and as such that displaced water has to go somewhere. Earthquakes don’t add foreign volume, they swirl stuff around, so a good portion of those earthquakes would create Tsunamis that hit one another, and diminish their power.
Ice caps/Glacier instantly thawing, scientifically impossible, barring the Sun expands and kills us all in an instant. The most likely way for the types of waves to exist in they way they do in the film, would be a meteor or comet strike to happen in one of the oceans. Even then we are looking at a localized issue(Localized to that ocean) not world wide 1 mile high Tsunami waves that erase the entire world.
Let’s get to the aircraft in the film. If they could take off, they would take off. In basic terms, flight works because wind is moving over the wing, not some magically anti-gravity bubble that needs earth under it to sustain. Next let’s talk about the big plane, which never would have recovered from that dive, not enough room… but not what I wanted to talk about.
Sasha, the Russian Pilot, knows there is going to be a fuel issue. Why do planes need so much fuel? They are heavy, what was in the back of that plane? LOTS OF 2-3 ton luxury CARS!
You have 6-8 passengers, let’s say all told they make up a 1000s lbs. of weight. You think you are going to fall a few miles short of China (can’t remember the figure from the movie, it was stupid though…) Why not get rid of the 15-25 cars that weight 2-3tons a piece?
Oh right we need one so John Cusack can make Einstein cry by driving it out the back ramp while the jet is crashing.
I really like most of the cast of this movie, and I wanted to like it just a little bit more… but I need to be able to suspend my disbelief, and in order for that to happen I need some level of real science. I am also disturbed to think that people thought enough of that could happen to freak out…
PS: This was a rant about Hollywood, not a scientific explanation of how the movie was wrong, in as such, some of my “quick and dirty” science is going to be just that. I was not teaching a science calls here 🙂 For NASA’s Take look here: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012.html
- Timeline of a mass extinction (artofthestem.com)
- Japan tsunami saw ‘merged’ waves (edition.cnn.com)
- Japan Disaster Was Two Tsunamis Rolled into One (blogs.discovermagazine.com)