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Movies Technology

Structural Engineer On the Fallacies of Movie Bridge Destruction (hackaday.com) 211

szczys writes: Suspension bridges like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Brooklyn Bridge are favorite victims for movie makers but are almost always shown to perform in violation of the laws of physics. Structural Engineer Alex Weinberg couldn't stay silent any longer. He covers how bridge collapses in several major films should have looked. The biggest offender? Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises.
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Structural Engineer On the Fallacies of Movie Bridge Destruction

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 18, 2015 @06:36PM (#50958559)

    Next they will be telling us that X-Wing fights can't really bank in space and don't make that "rrrrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaararrarrr" noise.

    • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

      Next they will be telling us that X-Wing fights can't really bank in space and don't make that "rrrrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaararrarrr" noise.

      There's no reason why an X-Wing can't bank in space, it just needs to use attitude control rockets and it can bank in any direction it wants to. Since X-Wings can fly in the atmosphere (where banking would be useful), maybe the R2 units automatically bank the fighter in the vacuum of space to give the pilots a more consistent feeling.

      There are a number of explanations for the sound that you hear when a fighter flies near the camera in the documentaries you're watching. It could be that the fighters are mic'

      • by lgw ( 121541 ) on Wednesday November 18, 2015 @09:00PM (#50959511) Journal

        ere are a number of explanations for the sound that you hear when a fighter flies near the camera in the documentaries you're watching

        The explanation in Babylon 5 was that the fighters are actually making noises in the cockpit when other fighters fly nearby, as an audible cue to the pilot about where in the sphere to look for that other fighter. Real world fighters use all sorts of audible cues, so that the pilot can keep his eyes on the target.

        • So did Babylon 5 have sound during in-cockpit scenes and silence (or background music, but nothing else) during exterior scenes? (One of these days I need to get around to watching Babylon 5...)

      • The banking would also provide consistent acceleration on maneuvers, as if you bank when turning, you are pushed down in your seat, if you just turn you are thrown sideways into the cockpit side panel. The banking would allow turning maneuvers to act like gravity at times and would make it easier for the pilot to deal with.

    • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
      They have to make a noise. So why not "rrrrrrrrrrrrrraaaaaararrarrr"?
  • Pretty much everything in every movie is not realistic. Why should blowing up bridges be any different.

    Go see movie. Suspend your disbelief. Enjoy it. Go home. Get on with the rest of your life instead of sitting around with nerds over analyzing everything.

    • by gnupun ( 752725 )

      You don't get it... he wants to be hired by Chris Nolan to produce more realistic bridge explosions. Movies have become more realistic over the years. Why not consult engineers for these destruction scenes?

      • Oh, and I forgot to comment on the fact that I absolutely do not believe you that movies have become more realistic over the years. At all. Because they haven't.
        • Oh, and I forgot to comment on the fact that I absolutely do not believe you that movies have become more realistic over the years. At all. Because they haven't.

          Don't you miss the car going off a cliff and always bursting into flames? A staple of 70's movies and TV.

          I remember for a while, the Simpson's would spoof that - the best one was when a baby carriage rolled down some steps, fell over, and blew up.

        • Did you miss the attempt at realism of
          The Martian
          Interstellar
          Gravity
          ?

          They may not be perfect, but at least Hollywood is trying to get it right.

          • I would argue that those movies aren't exactly realistic either. Maybe better than some but they still have a long way to go. And they're the exception rather than the rule.
            • That is pretty much what I said. Gravity tried to get it right, but they had her doing some crazy orbit changes that just wouldn't happen. There are some things you just can't get completely right and have a story.

              • Which takes us back to my original statement. It's just a movie. Suspend your disbelief. Enjoy it. Be entertained. Go home and get on with your life.
    • Fuck your nerd-hate. You don't belong on Slashdot.

      Also: Don't tell me what to do. You want to enjoy crap: fine. I don't have to.

  • by Radical Moderate ( 563286 ) on Wednesday November 18, 2015 @06:54PM (#50958693)
    If you have a few minutes to waste, or are passionate about suspension bridge structural integrity, well worth a read.
  • Can physics professors enjoy Road Runner cartoons, or do the blatant violations of physics drive them nuts?

    I know one who attempted to codify the cartoons rules, such as "a being doesn't actually fall until they realize they are (inadvertently) suspended in the air." She said, "If you are going to make a fake world, at least be consistent in it."

    Maybe one expects cartoons to be goofy, whereas action and drama movies attempt to look real, and that's what sets subject experts off.

    I know some real crime analy

  • James Bond physics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by swm ( 171547 ) <swmcd@world.std.com> on Wednesday November 18, 2015 @07:36PM (#50958983) Homepage

    Heh. My brother and I grew up watching James Bond movies. And obviously, these movies are entertainment and fantasy, not documentary and physics lectures. We all knew that. We all accepted that. But one day my bother went to see a James Bond movie, and he came home positively spitting nails.

    It was the the movie where there is a chase scene on skis, so Bond skis down a mountain, and the bottom of the mountain delivers him to the roof of a chalet, and he skis down the roof, and off the edge, and lands on a picnic table, and skis across the table and then keeps on going. And when I say "picnic table", I don't mean a deserted, snow-covered table. The table was laid with a table-cloth and a picnic and people sitting all around. (I don't recall if Bond came off of it with a dinner roll stuffed in his mouth, like a Loony-Toons character).

    Anyway. The problem was that my bother skied. And he knew, from painful, first-hand experience, that if you are skiing down a mountain, and you hit just the tiniest bare spot--just the tiniest patch of dirt or rock--it feels like your ski has been grabbed by a bear trap, and you're lucky if you don't tumble right there. Skiing across a picnic table isn't a skill, or a stunt--it's just flat impossible.

    Bond movies are unrealistic, yes, but this one was unrealistic in a way that he couldn't accept. And it killed the movie for him.

    • The problem was that my bother skied. And he knew, from painful, first-hand experience, that if you are skiing down a mountain, and you hit just the tiniest bare spot--just the tiniest patch of dirt or rock--it feels like your ski has been grabbed by a bear trap..

      Bullshit. Youtube ski stunts, and you'll see all sorts of tricks on all sorts of surfaces other than snow...

    • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

      Yes a change of snow conditions, hitting a bare patch etc. does feel like your ski has been grabbed by a bear trap. However if you do fall over that is because your position on the skies, was bad in the first place and you where too slow to correct it.

      Here is a YouTube video on how to box slide which is probably the closest freestyle trick to the James Bond ski over a table stunt you are referring too.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

      The stunt in James Bond is perfectly possible for a good freestyle skier,

      • On top of that, it was a polished wooden table, no tablecloth. It likely would have been pretty slippery from the water/snow the ski brought with it. But the deck railing snapping like that with the bikes hitting them, that is utterly unbelievable. :)

    • by Cederic ( 9623 )

      ..and yet: the stuntman successfully did actually do it. That was real, so clearly it can happen.

      The article is referring to CGI bridge failures. If they built a scale model and wrecked it the behaviour could well match reality - even though in reality Godzilla just isn't going to walk through the Golden Gate.

      This is why films which still use physical stunts are inherently superior to those that rely on CGI. The Blues Brothers wouldn't be a classic if they hadn't set a world record.

  • OMG Pacific Rim (Score:5, Informative)

    by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Wednesday November 18, 2015 @08:24PM (#50959321)
    Very fun movie to watch, but wow the bad physics. TFA mentions the Golden Gate Bridge standing in the background with the center span broken. Compared to all the other physics goofs, I didn't even notice that one.

    - Oil tanker swung like a baseball bat (it would buckle and snap in half just lifting it by one end).
    - Helicopters carrying gigantic armored robots (a C-5 Galaxy can carry a single M1A2 Abrams tank).
    - EMP-type event not affecting one robot because it's nuclear powered.
    - Nuclear reactor causing a nuclear explosion (they can't do that, their fuel isn't even the right type to attain uncontrolled criticality).
    - Giant monsters with exoskeletons (they would collapse under own weight). I let this one pass because of the Godzilla tradition, including the streets and buildings.
    • by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Wednesday November 18, 2015 @09:27PM (#50959661) Homepage Journal

      I'm with you on all of those.

      For those that might be wondering about the oil tanker(and such). Consider how strong, proportionally, insects are compared to humans. This scaling continues. It's relatively easy to make a toy helicopter that can fall from several times it's height, ram it's blades into objects, and such and still come out without damage. A helicopter big enough for people? No way.

      Things like oil tankers are carefully balanced and strong where they need to be strong for their designed purpose. A tanker is designed to carry it's weight while supported on all sides by water.

      It's also why Superman's hands should tear through vehicles like paper instead of lifting them, much of the time. You don't jack up so much as 1/4 of a car without using specific points that are capable of holding the structure.

      • Indeed. When I read something like "if an ant was as big as a dog it could lift a bus" it makes me spit blood.

        No it couldn't. If its legs didn't collapse under its own weight it would suffocate.

      • If you're talking about a movie about an alien from a faraway world that blew up, who looks just like a human male and is romantically interested in human females, and has all sorts of weird abilities when the star he's near is yellow instead of red, the only way to accept it is in its own world. In that world, Superman can indeed carry an ocean liner around on one hand, and buildings can indeed fall like dominoes.

        You could just as well complain about Lord of the Rings for having elves, orcs, trolls, an

        • It was only one example, sheesh...

          The point is that, much like the uncanny valley, it's often the little things that break our suspension of disbelief, not the big things. We can take superman just fine, but we go 'wait a moment!' when he picks up a car by the bumper.

          Elves, orcs, trolls, and such are easy to take - alternate evolution. *shrug*. Wizards operate by unknown/unknowable rules. So we accept that they can TK lift a car.

          Superman, though, is presumably trying to do it by sheer physical force. W

          • I may be coming from a different viewpoint. I read a lot of Superman comics as a child, and I assure you that, in the comics, Superman can hold up an ocean liner, pick up a sheet of ice by the edge, and catch someone in his (presumably unyielding) arms just before they're going to hit the concrete and they'll be fine. A Superman movie that tried to be realistic about this would jar me out of accepting what was going on.

      • An excellent fan theory that covers all of Superman's abilities with a single physics-defying concept is that he can alter the kinetic energy of himself or anything that touches him, and can extend that effect around fairly solid objects.

        It's still silly, but at least it's only *one* bit of silly to have to overlook.

        Well, that and the yellow Sun thing, and how shards of his home planet seem to have inexplicably crossed the void at FTL speeds *and* magically found their way to Earth. And nobody ever mention

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      Nuclear reactor causing a nuclear explosion (they can't do that, their fuel isn't even the right type to attain uncontrolled criticality)

      There was a Russian fast breeder RTG thing that could have been like that if it was scaled up and a similar US design - but yes, unlikely to the point of near impossibility even then. See also exploding cars and a vast list of Hollywood getting silly for no good reason. Compare the scary scene but realistic scene of a drop of nitro going off with a bang and small dust cl

    • Ah, yes...I enjoyed Pacific Rim because it was so bad in so many ways. =)
    • - EMP-type event not affecting one robot because it's nuclear powered.

      Actually, this wasn't the reason given in the film. It was even better. Gypsy Danger was ANALOG, not digital, so that's why it survived the blast.

      I would love to see the schematics for that thing's control boards, since they apparently don't have a single microcontroller in there, no memory, nothing. For some reason they decided to build the entire robot with 1930's technology. Not to mention, how are they modulating the power to all the insane motors they must have all over the place? The world's largest p

      • If they're AC motors, a variable autotransformer (Variac®) would suffice. For electronic control, thyratrons have been around since the 1920s. Air motors and hydraulic motors with appropriate control technology are other possibilities.
        • I guess the question is what was meant to be implied by "Analog" in the context of the movie (and the real answer is they just needed some technobabble to explain why one robot was EMP immune and another one wasn't).

          The thyratons are interesting - how would they be used for analog control? It looks like enough current can be sourced, but they can't be operated in a linear region so you're talking about switching still, which smells digital to me.

          And, I don't doubt that analog components could be up to certa

  • Perhaps ... (Score:4, Informative)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Wednesday November 18, 2015 @08:45PM (#50959427)

    ... Washington State can offer its consulting services for authentic [nwrain.com] bridge [publicbroadcasting.net] collapses [wordpress.com].

    Always happy to share our vast quantity of experiences.

  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Wednesday November 18, 2015 @10:08PM (#50959809)
    It's been a bit of a shock to see that buildings in real disasters tend to fall apart just like some of the cheap and nasty models in some old low budget Japanese disaster movies. Something that initially looked very fake turned out to look just like real footage of earthquake and tsunami destruction.
    • They are building a large apt building near Conshohocken. The thing must be 5 stories tall but the whole damned thing went up with wood framing (at least it looked like it from I-76). I'd imagine that there are quite a few buildings like that which would have model like collapses if subjected to typical movie building trauma.

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