Anglican Samizdat

May 21, 2009

Angels, demons and tedium

Filed under: Pop-Culture — David Jenkins @ 12:10 am
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I watched the film “Angels and Demons” this evening. If you are tempted, don’t bother: the religion is wrong, the science is more or less wrong and it commits the cardinal (not a pun, really) sin of being boring: the hero played by Tom Hanks is Indiana Jones on a valium overdose. The supposed contention  between religion and science is part of the plot, but in such a ham-fisted way that even the casual viewer will come away convinced that there is no contention. There is an anti-matter bomb whose only reason for being in the film, as far as I can tell, is so the heroine can talk about the God particle. The Higgs boson actually has no more to do with God than any other particle; nevertheless, its appearance is portrayed as  somehow challenging God since it was present “at the moment of creation”. The anti-matter bomb also blows up, of course, but, really, an anti-matter bomb isn’t terribly practical:

Antimatter is a real substance, first theorized in 1928. “Every time you squeeze a lot of energy into a small space, you produce equal amounts of matter and antimatter,” Landua explains. “Nature doesn’t like to create just one sort; it always produces both to keep a balance. I compare it to digging a hole in the sand, and then you have a pile next to it. You can’t do one without the other.” The first antielectron was produced in 1932, and particle accelerators helped scientists create the first antiproton in 1955. Antimatter was first produced at CERN in 1995, though not by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). But unlike in the movie—where CERN has produced a gram of antimatter—the facility has actually only produced a small amount of the substance. “In the movie, we switch on the LHC and it produces a gram of antimatter in a few minutes,” Landua says. “That’s not possible for two reasons: It would need much more energy to do it—with present efficiency, it would take 10 ^ 22 joules—and the reality of how quickly antimatter can be produced … it would take about a billion years to produce a gram. We can make about a billionth of a gram in a year.”

All of this I could forgive if I had been entertained: alas, the film is dull. The acting is stilted, the characters unconvincing and the plot silly. The worst part is the Tom Hanks character wasn’t killed, so he could be back.

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