I’m an old Indy fan from way back, and I always gave the movies a free-ride because after all: divine wrath melting Nazi faces is not scientifically accurate. But while I did enjoy the roller-coaster that is Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, it’s got some science blunder doozies. (Spoilers below the fold)
The crystal skull is magnetic. Oh, not your everday garden variety magnetism. It’s strong enough to attract gunpowder to itself. Yes, gunpowder. You know, the stuff made of charcoal, salt peter and sulfur. Apparently it’s paramagnetic. What the heck..? Gunpowder is not paramagnetic. Gunpowder in the presence of a strong magnetic field… does nothing.
Next, Indy uses buckshot to narrow down the location. Unless the Soviets used some sort of iron-based buckshot, I’ll assume it’s lead. Small problem: it’s diamagnetic. That means lead is not only not magnetic, it’s slightly repelled by magnetic fields.
When they finally dig out the box, the magnetic field seems to have very odd strengths. It’s strong enough to pull on dog tags and Kalashnikov’s, but yet not so strong that it pins people by their belt buckles.
Then it gets funny. Later, we see the skull can attract gold coins. Guess what, kids? Gold is also diamagnetic. And what’s funny is that the screen writer specifically gives a line to Shia LeBeouf stating that gold is not magnetic. So the take home message is: the skulls attract metals, but in an arbitrary way, and everyone calls it magnetism.
Flora and Fauna
Beware of learning about biology from movies. The first one was scorpions: apparently the big scorpions aren’t dangerous. I can’t find any specific rule of thumb, but most scorpions aren’t deadly. Their sting is compared to a bee string, but some like the bark scorpion, have very strong stings that won’t kill a healthy adult. See this wikipedia article for more details.
There are some vicious army ants in South America, but not anything like in this movie. They’re huge! We’re talking the size of your whole thumb. And apparently, they will sting you and drag you into their hive (presumably for laster feasting). If you believe such ants exist, I’ve got a rock to sell you that will protect you from them.
A commenter said the movie identified the ants as siafu. An ant native to Africa and ranges to tropical Asia. Definitely not South America. They can bite and sting, but they prefer to attack, not eat, people.
How to Survive an Atomic Blast
Indy is escaping from the Commies, and stumbles across an idyllic community in the middle of the desert. He calls for help only to discover a) it’s a fake community with dummies, and b) a nuclear test is about to go off in 1 minute. How does Indy survive? By hiding inside a lead-lined refrigerator. The blast occurs and the mannequins melt, the houses are blown off their foundations and shrapnel everywhere. And Indy? His fridge is thrown clear of the house and he stumbles out and looks up at the huge mushroom cloud.
Where do I begin…?
Reference: Effects of Nuclear Explosions
Overall, it’s a fun movie, but it was really hard to ignore this reality problems which impaired my ability to enjoy this film. I can suspend disbelief like the rest (Hell, I enjoy Star Wars!), but this was a little too much.