Friday, November 26, 2010

Bullets and Sense

Almost every action movie, animation, TV show or anything with guns in it has something wrong with it. I'm not talking about the fact that only heroes can aim, and I'm not talking about the fact that bullets don't have that much momentum. No, we have the much simpler to fix problem that automatic firearms generally don't have that many bullets!

Take, for example, the weapon pictured above. That is an FN P90. This weapon is pretty standard for military and counter terrorist forces throughout the world today, and is very popular in movies, due in large part to it's futuristic look and wide availablity. But there is a problem with how they are used, let me show you:

Carter's P90

Watch the video, and pay attention to the number of seconds she is firing on full automatic for. By my count it's about 6 seconds. But with that firearm she only has a 50 round clip, at 900 rounds per minute, the clip would be empty in 3.3 seconds! This is the problem that I'm talking about. Even in movies where they remember to reload at all, they forget that most assault rifles and sub machine guns will run out of ammunition in less than 5 seconds with full automatic fire. Just casually glancing through wikipedia, I couldn't find a single assault rifle or SMG with more than 10 seconds of continuous fire on full auto.

So remember, if your protagonists or antagonists use their weapons at full auto, they'll probably need to reload every 3-5 seconds.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Elementary Mistakes (Spoilers ahead)

I recently saw a movie in theaters that hit a bad chord with me, because it's allegedly a movie based upon reason and logic. As has likely been deduced from the title of this post, this movie was Sherlock Holmes. Although I have few complaints with the movie overall, there was one scene in which terminology was so out of place that it distracted me from the story they were trying to tell.

There was a scene where Nefarious Villain was attempting to use a wireless device to poison the British Parliament, and take over England. Although the device itself was fantastical, there was no particular reason why it wouldn't work. It should be mentioned that the device had a magnetic "anti-tamper" field, which was probably impossible to generate at the time, but we're talking about the entire technological expertise of a country being directed at it, so we'll give them the benefit of the doubt. So, what is the problem? To discover the error, we have to take a look at the year in which the movie takes place.

During the movie, there are scenes of the Tower Bridge in London clearly being constructed. Since the Tower Bridge was opened for service on June 30th of 1894, it can be safely assumed that the movie takes place, at the latest, in 1894. The problem arises from the fact that Holmes described the device used to activate the poison dispenser as a "Radio" device. The first documented use of the word radio can be tracked to 1897, and while Sherlock is quite the detective, he never claimed to be prophetic.

Getting historical details right is just like nailing the science—there are usually details that can be corrected to avoid conflicting with the facts, without harming the story-telling.