Let’s look at some of Hollywood’s greatest scenes and see if the science behind them actually holds up (warning: contains spoilers).
Movie: Scarface -Tony Montana’s last stand.
Fuelled by a mountain of cocaine, Al Pacino’s Tony Montana takes on an entire cartel as they assault his mansion. Hit a couple of times in the torso and upper body, Montana fires away, laughing like a madman “You need an army you hear! An army to kill me!” More bullets hit him but he doesn’t fall, yelling “I’m still standing, huh?” It takes all this plus a shotgun blast from close range to bring Montana down as he crashes into his indoor water feature.
So does cocaine really give you superpowers? The short answer is no, but it does create feelings of euphoria and focus. Montana would have had increased alertness and energy, feelings of supremacy and strength. Cocaine is a powerful nervous system stimulant, and just maybe Montana had snorted enough to protect his body from the shock of being riddled with bullets. Cocaine usage in military and militia worldwide is prevalent, but it’s used to maintain alertness rather than to rush headfirst into fire without fear of death. This one is plausible, the science aided by Al Pacino’s amazing performance as the immigrant drug lord who strove to make the world his own.
Verdict: Every dog has his day
Movie: Happy Gilmore – Happy Gilmore’s incredible long drive.
Adam Sandler’s Happy Gilmore transfers his power in striking an ice hockey puck into driving a golf ball ridiculously far. With a running start Happy unleashes, scoring the occasional hole-in-one where everyone else needs two shots just to make the green.
Every golfer has attempted a ‘Happy Gilmore’ shot of their own, with ESPN’s Sport Science putting professional golfer Padraig Harrington to the test. He averaged around
30m further than his regular drives, but was wildly inaccurate. Running up to the ball gives you forward momentum and enables a greater rotation of the shoulders-key to achieving more power and distance in a drive. Harrington’s back swing was identical on both the ‘Happy Gilmore’ drive and his regular style, but the ability to rotate his upper body through the shot was the deciding factor in gaining extra distance. One can only assume that with Happy’s extensive ice hockey background he would be far more adept at perfecting this swing, and that he would be able to achieve more than 30m gains on the rest of the field.
Verdict: Oh, man. That was so much easier than putting. I should just try to get the ball in one shot every time.
Movie: Cool Runnings – Can sprinters really make a decent bobsled team?
Since this one is based on a true story, the science behind it is pretty strong. A faster start and you’d have more speed to attack the first corner and so on down the course. You would still need driving skill to take the corners smoothly and maximise this start advantage, or else a good start could be blown by a poor first bend. Also, the ice provides less friction than an Championships. Jones needed to put on around 10kg of muscle, with more upper body strength needed to push a bobsled than to jump hurdles, and still required an experienced driver to guide the bobsled down the course.
Verdict: The key elements to a successful sled team are a steady driver, and three strong runners to push off down the ice… ICE? Ice!
TV Series: Seinfeld – The psychology and norms of society.
Seven dates with someone and you need a face-to-face breakup, the biggest step in a male relationship is “helping a guy move”, a bottle of wine is acceptable to bring to a dinner party (Pepsi is not), and glasses make you look more intelligent by fooling people into believing you spent too much time reading books and blew out your eyeballs. Seinfeld taught us these lessons and more about the “very complex… fabric of society”.
And try as we might, we’re not 100% colour-blind. While we claim ‘not to see through colour’, this often seems insincere to those hearing it. Jason Alexander’s George spends an entire episode trying to convince his African-American boss Mr Morgan he isn’t racist. He tries to make black friends to prove his offhand remark Morgan looks like boxer Sugar Ray Leonard was not a reflection of the racial lens he views the world in. His elaborate plan involves calling an African-American man who once exterminated fleas from Jerry’s apartment and taking him to crash Morgan’s dinner. When Morgan exposes the plan and storms out, George asks for the cheque. The waiter, an African-American man, responds “Sugar Ray Leonard can eat here on the house”, proving George right all along. Thus, Seinfeld showed us how difficult it can be to navigate social situations and the psychology behind human interaction.
Verdict: You see, Elaine, the key to eating a black and white cookie is that you wanna get some black and some white in each bite. Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate. And yet still somehow racial harmony eludes us. If people would only look to the cookie, all our problems would be solved.