Saturday, May 9, 2009

Angels and Demons: "fact" or science fiction?

I love Dan Brown novels. They are a great read. But when it comes to scientific and historical accuracy, they are laughable. I noticed this particularly in Angels and Demons, because physics and physicists play a major role. This book was the prequel to the DaVinci Code. The movie version, staring Tom Hanks, will be released next week.

CERN, the particle physics laboratory, featured in the novel has a web page which details the many scientific errors in the novel.
To get an idea of just how bad these errors are consider this. The novel has a page at the beginning entitled FACT, which states:
Antimatter is the most powerful energy source known to man. It releases energy with 100 per cent efficiency (nuclear fission is 1.5 per cent efficient). Antimatter cereates no pollution or radiation, and a droplet could power New York City for a full day.
In response, the CERN site states:
The inefficiency of antimatter production is enormous: you get only a tenth of a billion of the invested energy back. If we could assemble all the antimatter we've ever made at CERN and annihilate it with matter, we would have enough energy to light a single electric light bulb for a few minutes.
But my favourite blooper in the novel is Dan Brown's description of the heroine by the CERN director,
She's a bio Entanglement Physicist. She studies the interconnectivity of life systems. Her work ties closely with her father's work in particle physics. Recently she disproved one of Einstein's fundamental theories by using atomically synchronized cameras to observe a school of tuna fish.
[page 69, 2001 Corgi edition]
This is complete scientific gooblygook, comparable to that found in What the bleep do we know, on which I wrote a previous post.

A very long list of other errors, mostly geographical and historical, can also be found here.

Enjoy the book. Enjoy the movie. They are great suspense.
But learn your science and church history elsewhere....
The movie trailer looks very exciting. It ends with Tom Hanks saying, "This is the truth." No. This is a great story which may lead the uncritical viewer to believe the myth that science and Chrisitianity are incompatible.


  1. I disagree with my husband.
    Hollywood produces movies based on what sells.
    Only go to the movie if you want to encourage Hollywood to make more movies that distort true Christianity.

  2. Not that I want to take sides in a polite marital dispute, but.....

    I suspect that the business side of moviemaking is driven much by what people go to see in cinemas. So waiting to see something in the comfort of your own home on DVD sends at least a weaker signal of encouragment.

    Perhaps we could also send a positive signal by looking into movies that take religious views seriously. One I can recommend is "Arranged" - gives an interesting view of arranged marriages.

    Can people recommend other similar movies?

  3. Good point.
    Movies I would recommend.

    The end of the spear

    Amazing Grace