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Hollywood Science is a general term given to the phenomenon of scientific principles being misinterpreted, ignored or abused by the Hollywood film industry.
The term has given rise to a number of television programmes which endeavour to expose whether phenomena seen in films can be replicated.
BBC series (2001–02)
In the show, presenter Robert Llewellyn, with the assistance of scientist Jonathan Hare, look at the science behind a scene in a film. They experiment or perform calculations, to see how the scene would work in real life. The scene is then given an accuracy rating.
The approach is similar to that of the Bad Astronomer, who also uses films as a vehicle to teach science.
The presence of Robert Llewellyn means the tone of the show is fairly light-hearted.
The show started in the BBC's Learning Zone, a section of education programming broadcast in the early morning, meant to be recorded and watched later. It was then given a higher profile programming slot on BBC2 in the early evening. The programme is currently repeated on UKTV Documentary.
The first series of six ten-minute episodes premiered in the Open University's Learning Zone on BBC2 at 12:30 from Thursday 10 May 2001.
Each of these episodes concentrated on the science of a single film.
The second series consisted of four half-hour episodes.
- The Score - If one fills a safe with water, will an explosion produce a more powerful door-busting effect?
- Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves - Could a mediaeval trebuchet fire Robin Hood and Will Scarlet into a castle, and land them on target?
- The Thomas Crown Affair - Would knocking out the air conditioning cause Infra-Red cameras to become useless?
- Waterworld - Is it possible to sufficiently purify one's own urine to be able to drink it?
- Fight Club - Can high quality soap be made from liposuction fat?
- The Great Outdoors - Could someone eat a 96-ounce steak?
- Deep Blue Sea - Is it possible to be surrounded by electricity and water without being electrocuted?
- The Last Castle - How far can a water cannon fire a grappling iron?
- A View to a Kill - Can one survive underwater by breathing the air from a car tyre?
- Chain Reaction - Could a hydrogen gas cylinder move a concrete slab?
- Escape from Alcatraz - Can one braze together a spoon and some nail clippers using a US dime, and some matches?
- Hollow Man - Would you be able to move a metal bolt using a hand-made electromagnet?
National Geographic series (2006)
In 2006 the National Geographic Channel began broadcasting an hour long series with similar premise to the BBC series.
Classified into episodes with various themes such as Spy Gadgets, Car Chases, Amazing Vehicles and the like, the episodes combine footage from the films and television series they analyze with footage of similar real-life objects and opinions from experts on the subjects covered. The screenwriters, producers and directors (among them James Cameron, Doug Liman and Frank Marshall) also offer their perspective on the realism showcased in their productions.
Unlike the BBC series, however, the shows do not feature specific tests of the scientific principles in the films or television programs, nor are they hosted (just narrated), but rather use the statements of experts as well as real life footage to prove their point. The series is also more serious than its BBC counterpart, but does have its light-hearted moments in the form of witty anecdotes from its guests.
The productions featured in the episodes include Dante's Peak, various James Bond films, Enemy of the State, The Conversation, Minority Report, I, Robot, True Lies, 10.5, Mr. & Mrs. Smith and 24, among many others. Security systems, tracking devices, futuristic vehicles and fictional disasters from these shows are examined.
- MythBusters; an Australian/American television show in which myths, urban legends, common misconceptions and the like are scientifically tested, checked, researched and evaluated; often features cases/examples from Hollywood movies.
- BBC series website
- Robert Llewellyn's Hollywood Science
- The Bad Astronomer
- Jonathan Hare's Creative Science Center
- Jonathan Hare's work with the Vega Science Trust Freeview Science Programmes.
- Hollywood Science at National Geographic Channel's website
- "The Role of Scientific Integrity in Cinematic Science", David A. Kirby, Berfrois, 14 June 2011