If there’s one thing I’ve learned from MythBusters — aside from not to test-fire a cannon near a residential area — it’s that Hollywood tends to play fast and loose when it comes to science in the movies. Sure, it’s ridiculous to see a guy blown backwards through a window with a shotgun blast, but it just looks so damn cool. Still, the folks behind the movies do sometimes at least try to get things right, and that’s why they bring in people like Professor James Kakalios. He served as science consultant on The Amazing Spider-Man, and amongst his other duties, he invented a brand-new equation specifically for the film. Check it out.
If you’re not somewhere you can watch the video, Kakalios explains that the producers asked him to come up with an equation “relating to cell generation and human mortality” — effectively, they wanted an equation that explained why people die. He used the real-life Gompertz-Makeham law of mortality as a starting point, and then eventually had to adjust his equation because the filmmakers wanted the equation to be visually complex, so he added some “mathematical glitter” to make it look more convoluted. Gotta love Hollywood; appearance is everything.
It’s a cool little look into just one of the many things that go into giving a movie a sense of verisimilitude. And hey, this is a movie about a teenage genius named Peter Parker, after all, so it’s only appropriate that they try to get the math right.
The Amazing Spider-Man opens in theaters this Tuesday, July 3rd (with midnight showings in many locations).