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'Hot Tub Time Machine': Weird Science

Two physics professors rate the science of films like ”Armageddon,” ”Watchmen,” and ”Iron Man”

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You may be surprised to learn that the whirlpool wormhole in Hot Tub Time Machine isn’t exactly up to snuff with actual physicists. That may be because the filmmakers didn’t call the Science & Entertainment Exchange, which offers producers expert consultants to ensure that Hollywood breaks as few laws of the universe as possible. (”We’re sort of a 1-800-FIND-A-SCIENTIST,” says Exchange director Jennifer Ouellette.) We asked two physics professors and Exchange veterans, Emory University’s Sidney Perkowitz and the University of Minnesota’s James Kakalios, to grade some recent onscreen science.

Scientifically Sound
Contact (1997)
”It’s based on a book by Carl Sagan, so there’s some real scientific input,” says Perkowitz. ”And Jodie Foster does a really nice portrayal of a dedicated scientist.”

Iron Man (2008)
”When Tony Stark is building the second-generation suit, he uses the same soldering iron I use in my lab, and he’s actually doing it right!” says Kakalios.

Watchmen (2009)
Kakalios consulted on the film. ”They wanted to know about everything: ‘What would Dr. Manhattan actually be working on? What’s an intrinsic field?”’

Houston, We Have A Problem…
Armageddon (1998)
Perkowitz on the movie’s many explosions in the vacuum of space: ”That wouldn’t happen, of course, but I understand the dramatic necessity.”

The Core (2003)
”The brilliant idea is to send down this group of scientists to explode H-bombs in the core of the earth,” marvels Perkowitz. ”That is not a smart thing to do.”

Star Trek (2009)
Kakalios found fault with the time travel in this reboot. ”You can’t come back before you left. You’d need some device at either end to stabilize it, and they don’t have that.”