Summer movies that make scientists chuckle

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Published May 31, 2012

| FoxNews.com

It’s summer, and that can mean only one thing. Will Smith will travel back in time and come face to face with an alternate universe. 

And an alien vessel will land on a forbidden planet in a movie directed by Ridley Scott that involves a woman dressed in a skintight jumpsuit. And scientists all over the world will chuckle to themselves about atomic tests that can cause massive thermonuclear explosions.

Summer movies have never claimed to be scientifically accurate. Yet, some of the best unintentionally funny punch lines come from the lips of superheroes and pseudo-scientists. Here’s the top eight most laughable moments in summer blockbusters from the past few years and this summer.

1. Prometheus
Claim: Aliens planted DNA that formed the first multi-cell organisms

“A dead rotting alien is always a great way to jump-start evolution,” Darren Campo, a sci-fi author and media professor at NYU, told FoxNews.com. He wonders if anyone takes this stuff seriously. 

Douglas Natelson, a professor of physics and astronomy at Rice University, says the theory of "Panspermia" -- which claims that life came from a meteorite -- is already well known. Yet molecular biologists who study DNA say there is one common ancestor for all organic life on Earth. “Only in the movies is it suggested that such an ancestor or source of biological material came from an alien spacecraft,” Natelson said.

2. Men in Black 3
Claim: Characters can travel in time between multiple universes

The multi-universe theory is well-established in science -- it's just unprovable. The idea is that the Big Bang formed multiple universes that exist in parallel, and we perceive just one of them. A character in Men in Black 3 named Griffin can see these multiple universes. 

Most scientists reject any notion of travelling between universes, and even question how multiple universes could co-exist. Proving anything that happened so long ago is almost impossible, of course, and if every decision we make creates a new universe, where does the energy to create it come from?

3. Angels & Demons
Claim: The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will cause a massive explosion

The threat of the LHC in Geneva causing a massive nuclear explosion is downright silly, said Dr. Don Lincoln, a sci-fi fan and senior scientist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory outside of Chicago. Each collision in the LHC involves 8 trillion electron volts of energy, but that's peanuts compared to the energy carried by some of the cosmic rays on Earth. “You'd have to run the LHC for 100,000 years to generate as many collisions as are already happening,” he told FoxNews.com.

4. The Avengers
Claim: A self-sustaining orb can open a channel across the universe

The Tesseract is a fixture of the Marvel universe and in The Avengers. "Scientists" in the film talk about how the orb can generate power on its own. Unfortunately, that violates the law of conservation of energy, which says that energy cannot be created or destroyed. (That’s why you need gas to drive your car.) “If energy were to flow out of the Tesseract, it would have a net deficit of energy,” Lincoln said. Of course, science-fiction offers an easy fix: The energy originates from a remote power source. Duh.

5. Star Trek
Claim: Spaceships can use wormholes to traverse space

Wormholes are space-folds that might not even exist at all. Even if they did, using them would be a challenge to life and limb, Lincoln said. A black hole bends space in a way that causes spaghettification due to the immense gravitational field. In a wormhole, this effect would be exponentially greater.

6. The Matrix
Claim: Humans make great batteries
Human-powered PCs just aren't efficient, Natelson told FoxNews.com. He argues that the human metabolism maxes out at only about 80 watts, and that the energy required to feed and sustain humans is too high. But the filmmakers missed an opportunity: They could have suggested that The Matrix was powered by human brains instead. “That would've made much more sense, and would have been even more insidious,” Natelson said.

7. Total Recall 2012
Claim: Memories can be implanted in your brain

This reboot starring Colin Farrell, which comes out August 3, relies on a popular sci-fi plot device: We’ll be able to implant memories in humans and change their personality. Sorry, fans, Campo says the science is suspect. Memory is more than just a line of code in your brain -- it’s partly based on how we recall that memory and interpret the circumstances at the time. Plant a memory of a sporting event into the brain of an artist, and the artist would see the event differently.

8. Jurassic Park
Claim: Frozen DNA can be used to make new dinosaurs

The classic summer movie, and in some ways the one that started it all, the first Jurassic Park relied heavily on a curious scientific fallacy: that DNA could last for millions of years. “DNA is highly organized organic matter that is just going to spoil over time,” Campo told FoxNews.com. 

“Even encased in amber and frozen, the DNA would have lost its cohesion -- the pattern that conveys the information.”

Spoilsport.

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