Sunday, August 11, 2013

600 Helicopters to Lift a Jaeger: The Scientific American Takes on the Physics of the Movie Pacific Rim

We discussed the physics of the movie Pacific Rim a few weeks ago. There, one of our commenters did some cool stuff with math and the various materials that would have to be used to create robots of the size shown in the film.

Scientific American also examined the physics of Del Toro's movie. Their column "Overthinking It" has come up with answers to some basic questions that you/me may have had about Pacific Rim:

1. It would take about 600 helicopters to lift one of the mechs in Pacific Rim. Talk about impractical.

2. The force of one of the thrust assisted rocket punches from the Jaegers would be equal to being hit in the face with a 747 going 60 miles an hour.

3. The kaiju which carried the mech Gypsy Danger into Earth's stratosphere is implausible: the Kaiju itself would not have been able to breath and the air is too thin for the beast to sustain the thrust necessary to carry the robot so high.

Kyle Hill, the author of Scientific American's pieces on Pacific Rim also shows his math! I love it when folks talk the talk and walk the walk.

As I said in my original comments about the movie, applied science is a wonderful means of encouraging students, especially younger ones, to see how all of that "science stuff" has real world applications. I do hope that their teachers are taking notes on how to use movies to spark the imaginations of their students and are not limited by the rules of standardized testing and curricula to that end.

What is your favorite science/physics fail in a movie? Mine would be Independence Day, as the size of the alien ships would be enough to alter the tides and cause massive flooding that would destroy the Earth. No need for an invasion folks--just park huge ships in orbit, rinse, wash, and repeat as needed.


Scopedog said...

Very interesting...but yeah, "overthinking it" definitely fits here. Look, maybe it's just me, but when I go to see a film--particularly an SF film--I'm not sitting there thinking about the "realism" of the science in the movie. Why? Because it's a _movie_, and many SF films are built on premises that are, to be fair, preposterous or outright ridiculous.

One of my favorite movies is the 2006 film version of Komatsu's JAPAN SINKS. The movie and the novel it was based on has an outrageous premise to begin with--a tectonic shift causes the entire country of Japan to sink into the sea--but you end up focusing on the characters and the implications of such an event instead of scientific accuracy.

Don't get me wrong, Chauncey--this was a fascinating video to watch--but I cannot help but think, "'s a movie. Ever heard of dramatic license? Or just sit back and enjoy the film?"

(Of course, to be fair, a giant robot series like MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM did have a lot of solid hard science elements behind it, such as O'Neill-type space colonies and nuclear fusion powering ships and "moblie suits"...)

chauncey devega said...

That is part of the fun, no? I hear you. But, it is nice when the physics make sense. One of the biggest physics failures is in Star Trek where the saucer section of the ship is too large and not in the center of the vessel's gravity. Federation design would result in ships spinning around like tops or Frisbees..

Vic78 said...

How about every movie where dogfights in space play out like dogfights on earth? They even have noisy explosions in space. That slipped past just about everyone that has done a sci-fi film.

chauncey devega said...

The things that have to be done to have an entertaining tv or movie. Transporters in Star Trek, hyperdrive, warp drive, etc. etc. etc.

Adam H said...

lol. Yo mama's so fat that when the NIS places tide gauges for research, they need to account for her latitude and longitude to make appropriate calculations.

DanF said...

As much as I loved Independence Day, that movie has so much tech fail it's funny. You navigate the stars but you want to "piggyback" on our telecom systems to coordinate your attack? Right. An armed alien invasion? Why not take out the people with a genetically engineered plague? But Air Force One escaping a fireball explosion is just plain funny. Explosions expand at many times the speed of sound - hence the concussive "boom". Air Force One can't even achieve Mach 1.