10 Science Myths You Probably Believe (Thanks To The Movies)

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10 Science Myths You Probably Believe (Thanks To The Movies)


  • Movies perpetuate scientific myths, leading to dangerous consequences and a decrease in public understanding of basic scientific principles.
  • Explosions in space are actually quiet and lack fireballs or smoke due to the absence of air molecules.
  • The idea that silencers can completely silence gunshots is a myth. They only reduce the noise by around 30 decibels, which is still loud.



Science myths perpetuated by movies can be harmful in a number of ways. Sometimes, they can be outright dangerous, especially when movies show and inadvertently promote wrong ways for viewers to react to emergencies. Moreover, fake science from the movies can also dramatically decrease the public’s overall understanding of basic scientific principles and facts, which can be more harmful on a larger and more long-term scale.

While there are movies with surprisingly accurate science, the film industry is quite notorious for eschewing scientific research for the sake of entertaining audiences. This is why the National Academy of Sciences created the Science & Entertainment Exchange, an organization that connects scientists with entertainers in order to dispel myths and accurately portray science in fiction. This is also why scientists like Neil deGrasse Tyson publicly speak out against inaccuracies seen in movies and shows. Indeed, even the greatest movies and franchises in history have contributed to the public’s false understanding of certain scientific facts. Here are 10 science myths that most audiences believe thanks to movie magic.

Related: 5 Sci-Fi Movie Premises Debunked by Real Science

10 Sucking Out Venom Helps Treat Snake Bites

It is generally a very bad idea to try and suck the venom out of a snake bite. The sucking motion does nothing to prevent the quick dispersal of the venom through muscular tissue and veins. In fact, sucking an open wound may even exacerbate existing lacerations and allow the venom to spread quicker. The person doing the sucking may also poison themselves if they’re not aware of any wounds inside their mouths. This ill-advised practice is perhaps the most famous of all the science myths perpetuated by movies. It began in classic Westerns but was more recently portrayed in movies like Snakes on a Plane and The Brothers Grimsby.

9 How Explosions Look And Sound In Space

The Enterprise explodes in Star Trek 3: The Search For Spock.

One of the most common things that sci-fi movies get wrong about space is the spectacular results of explosions in a vacuum. In reality, explosions that happen in the vacuum of space are actually quiet, as there are no air molecules to vibrate or compress/decompress human eardrums. Due to the lack of an atmosphere, fire can’t exist in space either, which means space explosions produce no lingering fireballs or smoke. Scientifically, explosions in space happen instantaneously, and the only observable effects are quick flashes of light and the invisible shockwave’s effects. Unfortunately, from Star Trek to Armageddon, explosions in space are often depicted inaccurately.

8 Silencers Keep Guns Quiet

John Wick uses a silenced pistol amid a crowd in John Wick Parabellum.

Modern silencers decrease the noise from a gunshot by around 30 decibels (dB). This isn’t nearly enough to keep most guns quiet, as firearms typically produce around 150 dB. Using a silencer can only really reduce gunshot noises down to the level of a nearby jackhammer. Even the firearms industry recognizes that the term silencer is a misnomer, and has shifted to calling them suppressors in order to more accurately describe what they do. Nonetheless, silent gunfire remains one of the most widespread science myths in the history of Hollywood – as seen in the film adaptation of Hitman, the John Wick movies, and the Bond franchise.

Related: John Wick’s Top 20 Weapons, Ranked

7 Gunshots Can Greatly Knock Back The Target

Chow Yun Fat shoots and pushes back an enemy using two pistols in The Killer.

A common occurrence in action movies, people shot by guns are often shown getting thrown back by the impact as they would with a melee hit. However, bullets are not only designed for penetration but are also thousands of times lighter than any human body. This is why they tear through flesh and actually have a minimal impact on anywhere else apart from where they hit. While gunshots throwing people off their feet has been largely perpetrated by Hollywood blockbusters, the roots of this myth go back to classic Hong Kong action cinema – particularly the birth of gun-fu through the first John Woo movies.

6 Asteroids In Space Are Always Densely Packed

The Millennium Falcon flies through an asteroid field in The Empire Strikes Back.

Perhaps the most famous scene of a densely packed asteroid field in space is when the Millennium Falcon flies through one in The Empire Strikes Back, with Han Solo having to narrowly dodge obstacles in every direction. This area would be considered an anomaly by real-world scientists, as there are actually hundreds of thousands of kilometers of distance between asteroids in clusters, fields, and belts in observable space. In fact, even though there are millions of rocks over a kilometer in size floating in the solar system’s asteroid belt, several spacecraft such as NASA’s Pioneer 10 have safely passed the area without incident.

5 Laser Beams Are Always Visible

Star Wars: Death Star Superlaser

Much like explosions in space, lasers are generally invisible and quiet when unleashed inside a vacuum. In order to be both visible, a laser has to interact with the surrounding matter or atmosphere – or aimed/reflected directly into the viewer’s eye. As is the case with most false science facts perpetuated by movies, lasers being colorful and visible all the time is a product of the film industry prioritizing entertainment over scientific accuracy. To be fair, it wouldn’t be all that interesting for viewers if lasers produced zero to minimal visual effects in Star Wars, Star Trek, and other sci-fi films and franchises that frequently show the vacuum of space.

Related: Most Powerful Weapons In Star Wars, Ranked

4 A Defibrillator Can Restart A Stopped Heart

Bond holds a portable defibrillator in Casino Royale

Never use a defibrillator to save someone who is flatlining or registering no electrocardiogram rhythm. When a person’s heart has stopped beating, administering CPR is the correct emergency response. The electric shock of a defibrillator can only really help a person when they have an arrhythmic or irregular heartbeat. Using a defibrillator to restart a non-beating heart is a wrong practice that was made popular by movies like Flatliners and The Abyss. However, the infamous scene in Casino Royale – where James Bond’s poison-induced arrhythmia gets fixed with a defibrillator – is actually scientifically accurate. It’s one of the very few movie scenes that uses defibrillators correctly.

3 Chloroform Knocks Out People Instantly

saw chloroform obi tate

Out of the movie lies people still believe, the instantaneous knockout effect of chloroform is among the most widespread. Movies like Raising Cain, The Vanishing, Renfield, Saw, and dozens of others depict people immediately passing out from being forced to inhale chloroform. Soap operas around the world have also done their part to perpetuate this myth as well. In reality, it would take several minutes of even forceful chloroform inhalation for the drug to actually cause unconsciousness. Thankfully, with modern audiences being wiser to the science, chloroform use has become largely regarded as a movie cliché, and most directors now tend to avoid inaccurate depictions of how the chemical works.

2 Humans Only Use A Small Fraction Of The Brain

As seen in movies like In Phenomenon, Lucy, and Limitless, humans supposedly use only a small percent of available brain power – only around 10%. However, this percentage can be significantly increased through certain methods. Once the apparently dormant parts of the brain are activated – whether through drugs, training, or other ways – humans are capable of unlocking their real potential. It’s a wondrous idea, but it’s unfortunately completely scientifically inaccurate. MRI and PET tests have consistently shown that humans already use most of their brains on a regular basis (via Britannica). Doctors and biologists also haven’t found any part of the brain that doesn’t contain observable activity.

Related: 15 Secrets Behind The Making Of Lucy

1 Human Bodies Make Great Batteries

A baby hooked up to machines in the Matrix, and Morpheus holding a battery in The Matrix.

In The Matrix, robots farm humans to harvest the bioelectricity produced by organic bodies. To be fair, the biological processes keeping humans alive do result in an electric charge. However, even when these processes are combined, the human body’s output is minimal and negligible – especially for a civilization of robots. According to biochemistry professor Ladislav Kováč, “The energy output of the resting adult human body is equal to the power of a 100 W electrical light bulb.” (via National Center for Biotechnology Information) Considering everything that’s needed to keep humans alive, stable, and bioelectric, a human body makes for a feasible but minuscule and highly inefficient power source.

Sources: Britannica, National Center for Biotechnology Information

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