4 More Things Every Sci-Fi Movie Gets Dead Wrong About Science

Published January 12, 2015
Updated December 4, 2014

The Conservation of Mass Literally Never Occurs to Anyone

Energy is the elephant in the living room for most science fiction. Have you ever thrown a rock into the air as hard as you could? Imagine throwing it hard enough that it escapes the Earth’s gravity. Now picture doing that to all of the rocks on and in the Earth, until there is no more Earth. How much energy do you think that would take? As it happens, scientists are on that shit:

In case you have one of those diesel-powered computers that doesn’t play embedded video, the Dark Lord of Science in that video calculated that the absolute theoretical minimum mass that has to be 100-percent converted to pure energy, without friction, to blow up a planet such as Alderaan is roughly equal to Mount Everest. The Death Star has to—safely!—convert a mountain’s worth of matter into pure energy that can then be directed down a beam without losing a single megajoule to blow up a planet. One way to tell when it’s time to fire your weapons designers is when they build you a battle station to kill whole planets, and then make it so impractically large that the same planet-killing effect can be had just by crashing the station into the planet like a comet. Although, that again skirts the issue of how you’re supposed to move something that heavy in the first place, which is just as well, because…

Richard Stockton
Richard Stockton is a freelance science and technology writer from Sacramento, California.