Sunday, 5 August 2012

Biologist point-of-view review; Dark Knight Rises

A more than satisfactory conclusion to the Batman trilogy, this franchise has largely dodged biology, possibly because they were avoiding any "super" people. I'm sure physicists and engineers may have a few issues with the science though - even my head hurts at the "it's cool but how could that work" spinning wheels of the bat-bike.
The only thing I can comment on is the view of how academic publishing works in the world of "Batman". Don't read any further if you want to avoid spoilers.

So there is a physicist who apparently publishes a paper on how to turn a fusion reactor into a bomb. It's pretty impressive considering no-one has built a fusion reactor (except for Bruce Wayne who then shelves the project because of the paper). Let's say the guy published a paper on the theory of how to do this. Well, the villain, Bane, goes to great lengths to capture this scientist and it makes for quite the spectacle when he informs the citizens of Gotham that this is the only person who knows how to make the bomb, which is now armed. He then kills the scientist - implying there is no hope. The problem with this is that if the guy published a paper on how to make a fusion bomb then by definition he should have detailed how one could be made. In terms of peer review a key criteria for a paper being published is that others can replicate the results. This should mean that any decent physicist should also be able to make a bomb. 
In fairness maybe the scientist never published his paper on how to theoretically disarm a fusion bomb in which case he would be the only person who would know how to do so (or it would take a while for others to figure it out). The lesson here, therefore, is that you should publish your results as quickly as possible, nevermind the threat of being scooped - their may be an odd-voiced terrorist super-villain wanting to use your work. At least once published there's no need for them to kill you to keep your work a secret.

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