10 Common Misconceptions About Science In Film And TV That Bug Real Scientists

Some of the most annoying misconceptions from the bizarre to the downright dangerous...

Harley Quinn Suicide Squad
Warner Bros.

It’s no secret that when it comes to the portrayal of science in TV and cinema, that reality is often an afterthought.

For most people, this is not an issue. Cinema is escapism. Fantasy. Fiction to blunt the real world. So some fantasticism is fine.

That being said, for those whose lives revolve around the subject, spending their days to produce new innovations and research to better society and the lives of many others, this can become rather irksome, especially when these misconceptions become widespread beliefs due to their continued use throughout various media.

This however is not true for all movies and TV shows, 2019’s Dark Waters for instance, which depicted a more accurate account of the work scientists conduct, though with a few embellishments. These representations however are in the vast minority.

10. Mutations Mean Superpowers

Harley Quinn Suicide Squad
Marvel Studios

Let’s start out with a rather obvious, but no less irritating example. How often is it that we see on our screens someone suffering a horrible and tragic accident, generally involving some kind of radiation or chemical spill, leading to alterations in their DNA that give them superpowers?

Well my friends, for those of you who may have slept through science class I regret to inform you that in the real world this would not happen. (I know, I know, a shocking revelation). But what would actually happen?

This all depends on numerous factors, for example: the intensity and type of radiation, what part of the DNA is affected, and just random luck. Whatever the case however, the outcomes are never good.

Say you were in a lab and were blasted with a burst of high energy Gamma radiation which shredded your DNA. Your two likeliest outcomes from this are either a somewhat fast and painful death as your body begins to disintegrate from the inside (we’ve all heard of radiation poisoning, right?), or a highly aggressive development of cancer in your body, followed shortly by once again, painful death.

This would happen for most chemicals and radiation that alters your body’s DNA. Each one of your DNA containing cells has many varied systems that examine for the signs of DNA damage. If any of these signs are recognised and are deemed irreparable (much like what would happen with high intensity radiation) the cell essentially initiates a self-destruct sequence known as apoptosis. If this occurs in enough cells, it will lead to a breakdown of tissues, resulting in multiple organ failure.

Moreover, if these alterations in DNA happen to affect enough of these cellular systems directly, the self-destruct sequence may never be started, and a rapidly dividing, immortal cell line can come into existence, more commonly known as cancer.

Less intense, lower energy radiation, such as UV-light, may only penetrate the top layers of the skin, and cause much less significant damage to the body’s systems. Some of the DNA may even be able to be repaired without issue. Repairs like these are not infallible regrettably and may lead to skin cancer. In order to negate this, the cells will often just commit suicide, resulting in what we call sunburn.

But if these mutations can occur so frequently, such as with UV light, and as mutations are meant to give superpowers, why has nobody come forward yet with such powers?

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