Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Academy of Sciences Extra Credit

The Academy of Sciences was incredible! The imax presentation of colliding planets was particularly memorable.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Friday, November 8, 2013

Outline for third term paper

-Both animated films and live action, despite their efforts toward realism, require us to suspend our belief with certain aspects of physics.  For example, in The Return of the King, after Frodo and Sam destroy the ring, Mount Doom entirely erupts and rivers of lava flow past them as they rest on a rock above the flow.  According to thermal laws of physics, it would be impossible for Frodo and Sam to remain alive in such an environment, due to all of the principles of heat flow, conduction, convection and radiation.  Similarly, Aladdin's escape from the Cave of Wonders in Disney's 1992 classic would be rather implausible, compounded by the fact that he was in a closed space, despite the speed at which he was flying.

-Heat flow

-How each of these principles creates an inhospitable environment for the characters.
-How the situations could have been made plausible.

-Conclusions regarding plausibility in both animation and live action

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Scientific Fact or Cinematic Fiction?

Superheroes have captivated the attention of audiences worldwide for decades.  The core appeal of superheroes lies within their extraordinary abilities, endowed upon them by any number of sources, from radioactive spiders to godlike powers to remarkable ingenuity.  Whatever the origin story, consumers of superhero media have flocked to theaters for over half a century with the intention of being awed by ever-improving special effects.  The last decade in particular has rekindled the frenzy for costumed vigilantes, and vast leaps in CGI have been the catalyst for it.  Upon executing these grandiose special effects, studios take great care to provide the utmost level of realism possible, but more often than not, disbelief must be suspended in order to enjoy movies of this nature.  At their core superhero films are outrageous, but at times they can push things too far- even small things.  The devil is in the details, and while small errors regarding physics can be overlooked by most, a careful observer is able to identify moments where the realism slips just a little. 

The Avengers is a modern worldwide phenomenon without a doubt.  In contrast to DC’s gritty Dark Knight series, Marvel’s series of films following Spider-Man, Thor, and Iron Man are fun and entertaining, if a bit extreme in their action.  For the most part, Marvel’s latest films have been believable, though if we take the time to look closely at scenes from each of these films, small mistakes in physics can be recognized. 

The first film to be analyzed is the hugely successful Iron Man sequel.  Tony Stark, super genius and unapologetic narcissist, has engineered a biotic suit which grants him the ability to fly and perform other feats which are humanly impossible.  Near the start of the film he is hosting the annual exposition of Stark Industries’ latest technology, Stark Expo.  In his ever-so-flashy style, clad head to toe in the Iron Man suit, Tony leaps from a chopper at an extreme altitude and descends on the Expo.  Plummeting at impossible speed, he falls through a hatch in the ceiling and lands, unharmed, in a crouch in the center of the stage.  A cool entrance, but is this scene truly realistic, even while Tony wears his futuristic, highly advanced, robotic suit?  Not exactly. The principles of momentum and force of impact tell us that the momentum of an object depends on not just its velocity but also on weight, or mass.  To stop an object with large momentum requires either a large force to stop the object quickly or a small force which stops the object over time.  Thus, in reality, Tony’s landing on the showroom floor would have been more horrific than spectacular.  Given that most aircraft fly at least 30,000 feet, coupled with the fact that Tony not only freefell from that altitude but also engaged the thrusters toward the end of his descent, the speed at which he was descending must have been phenomenal.  Even to stop him safely from a freefall of that height would have been impossible.  Realistically, falling at that speed with such a small time of impact would require a huge amount of force.  In all likelihood, despite the advanced nature of the Iron Man suit, Tony would have ended up as a pile of gore amidst a twisted wreckage of metal.  The only way that Tony could have landed safely would have been to slow his descent a great deal before landing, or to land on a very soft surface.


Even gods are subject to physics when they visit Earth.   Thor may be the son of Odin but he is still made of flesh and blood.  Toward the end of Thor’s debut Marvel film, he has been banished to Earth and his powers have been sapped by his jealous brother, god of mischief, Loki.  Loki sends a very nasty, nigh-indestructible metal knight creature to do away with his helpless brother. Their father, Odin, awakens from the godly coma Loki had placed him in, and rejuvenates Thor’s power once again.  Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer, breaks the sound barrier while rushing to return to Thor’s outstretched hand, and he catches it no problem.  A cool moment of triumph, but is it truly realistic, despite Thor being a god?  Not exactly.  To break the sound barrier, an object must be traveling at least 761 miles per hour.  Realistically, keeping in mind the principles of momentum and force of impact mentioned previously, even Thor himself couldn’t catch that hammer.  Similar to the case in Iron Man 2, for Thor to catch Mjolnir without flinching would require the hammer to slow significantly before coming into contact.  Otherwise, in the real world, Thor would be returning to Asgard a day late and an arm short.  Being a little more lenient, a more believable reaction would be a bit of recoil on the part of Thor’s arm, to cushion the blow. 

Similarly, in the most recent iteration of the Spider-Man franchise, Peter Parker pursues The Lizard across the Brooklyn Bridge.  As the villain makes his way down the bridge, he flings a car off the side and Peter struggles to save them and their occupants.  Peter leaps onto the ledge of the bridge and attaches a web to the back bumper of the falling vehicle.  With the web in his hands, Peter stops the car from plummeting into the river below.  A cool save, but is it truly realistic?  Not exactly.  Despite Peter Parker’s powers, his speedy reflexes and ability to shoot webs and climb on walls, it would take a much greater force than simply his own strength to stop the car from falling at that speed.  Given that an average sedan weighs over 3000 pounds, realistically Peter would have been pulled right off the bridge with it- and maybe lost a limb or two.  This isn’t even factoring in the strength of the web he produces.  Not only does Peter stop the car’s descent but he is able to attach the web to the bridge’s railing.  A more realistic approach would have been to make a series of webs attached to the supports of the bridge itself. 

All of these observations aside, the phenomenon of superhero movies speaks for itself.  The world as a whole does not need absolute realism in their films, particularly ones of this nature.  In fact, absolute adherence to the laws of physics would extract the very thing that makes them enjoyable.  It is media such as this that reminds us to relax and believe in the power of imagination and pure entertainment.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Outline for Second Term Paper

Physics principle to be explored: Momentum and Force of Impact.

Thesis: Special effects are meant to augment reality, but oftentimes in movies, laws are pushed beyond believably.

Media to analyze:

  • Underworld
  • Iron Man 2
  • The Amazing Spider-Man

From each film I will select and analyze instances in which the reaction of either the environment or character to forces of impact (punching, landing) are unrealistic even for 'superheroes'.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Stop Motion Animation of Falling

Though the timing could be improved, and the edits I made within Quicktime would not save properly, I feel as though the squash and stretch is fairly successful, which was my objective with using the bomb bird plushie.  I simply photoshopped myself out of the photos and loaded them into Quicktime.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Laws of Physics in a Cyber-universe

The Matrix has become a milestone for special effects in the history of film.  When it released in 1999 it grossed four hundred and sixty-three million at the box office.  The subsequent films in the franchise fared even better.  It is safe to say that it is ingrained into the pop culture of the modern world, and analysis of this success is equally simple.  The source of The Matrix’s fame lies not so much in its fascinating concept, but in its groundbreaking execution.  The cyber-world in which the majority of the action takes place is the aspect which marked this film as one of the greats of its time, as the very fabric of physics is bent by the characters at will, making for its trademark spectacular special effects. Specifically, the three most significant physical manipulations by the characters include defying of gravity, slowing of time, and extremely swift movement.

In the film, two worlds exist parallel to one another, the world in which mankind has been enslaved by machines, and the world within the collective conscious of the sedate human race, called The Matrix.  The audience is fascinated even in the opening scene when one of the main characters, Trinity, is nearly taken into custody by a team of police officers, yet defeats every last one in hand-to-hand combat.  But not just any martial art— Trinity seems to slow time in midair as she prepares for a kick, later runs across a wall to avoid gunfire, and leaps across an entire city street to escape.  We are given a taste of the capability of characters within The Matrix before five minutes of the film has passed. 

If the action within the film was to be classified, there exist three defining types of influence on the physics within the Matrix itself.  One of the most well-known of these is the manipulation of gravity.  Trained characters are able to perform numerous acrobatics which would be impossible in our own world, including running along walls, backflip off of surfaces, leap impossible distances and heights.  For example, when the main character, Neo, is first employing his newfound knowledge of martial arts within a training program against his mentor, Morpheus, Neo performs a run straight up the wall and backflips across the room.  Morpheus plants a kick in Neo’s chest and sends him flying ten feet into the wall.  In a later training program, Neo finds himself standing on a rooftop two hundred stories high.  Morpheus makes an incredible leap to a building nearby, but Neo has not yet fully mastered control over the properties of the Matrix, so he falls to the street below.  Learning the aspects of the physics within the Matrix is exciting for the viewer because they can relate to Neo’s initial inability to perform these incredible feats.

Another aspect of the physics within the Matrix is a residual effect of the defiance of gravity, extreme strength.  In the final fight, Agent Smith sweeps Neo’s leg and with one hand punches him across subway platform.  This kind of action is performed throughout the film.  Several people are simply picked up and thrown as if they weigh nothing. 

The pinnacle of trademark action within The Matrix is the characters’ ability to apparently slow time, or move with such extreme speed that it appears this way. The most well-known sequence in the film occurs near the end, in which Neo bends backward dodging a clip of enemy bullets.  We see this action in slow motion including the trails of the bullets, though later Trinity tells Neo that she has never seen anyone move so quickly before.  This sequence is an example of both defying gravity and extremely swift movement.   In one of the final scenes in which Neo battles the main adversary, Agent Smith, both opponents launch themselves off of pillars and into the air, firing bullets from an airborne flying position.  This sequence is a mixture of defying gravity and slowing time, as the two characters travel through the air and the trails of their bullets breaking the sound barrier are apparent to the viewer.  After the two collide, Neo performs a flying spinning jump to regain his footing, an action that is completely impossible with the laws of physics with which we are familiar. Later in the fight, Neo leaps through the air, delivering multiple kicks to the enemy, traps him in a headlock and slams him against the ceiling, then backflips off of the subway tracks and onto the platform.  In the final climactic scene, Neo is shot multiple times by the enemy Agents and falls dead.  Due to his ability to control the Matrix, he rises again and stops all of their bullets with a motion of his hand.  This is the most extreme of the bending of physical rules within the Matrix.  Until the sequel, that is.

All of these sequences of action are thrown into sharp relief by setting the ‘real world’ side by side with the Matrix.  Despite the physical prowess of the freed humans, the physics of the realistic half of the movie make the action of the trained characters within the Matrix all the more spectacular.  However, the physical vulnerability of the characters within ‘the real world’ as well as the possibility of death in both worlds if death occurs within the Matrix creates a sense of suspense even despite the incredible abilities of the characters.

In conclusion, The Matrix found its success (and ultimately the success of the trilogy) due to the revolutionary special effects utilized within the film.  The heart of these special effects is the manipulation of the laws of physics, made possible by bending the rules of the computer program within the Matrix.  The three main actions used within the Matrix, impossible due to the physical laws of our own world, are the trademark defying of gravity, slowing of time, and extremely swift movement.  The story and world of the film grant logic and justification to the incredible feats performed by the characters, while the ‘real world’ in the film grounds us in reality and gives the bending of physics within the Matrix even greater impact.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Term Paper Outline


A. Live action film with CGI: The Matrix 
B. Thesis- In the 1999 Warner Brothers live action milestone film The Matrix, the constraints of conventional physics are essentially broken altogether in an alternate reality.

Body Paragraphs

1. Physically Impossible made possible by The Matrix
-Moving in slow motion
-Leaping impossible lengths
-Incredibly quick hand-to-hand combat
-Running on walls
-Extreme acrobatics
-Dodging bullets

2. Action within the 'Real World'
-Capable fighters still seem weak as compared to combat in The Matrix

3. Juxtaposition of the two worlds
-What Neo and company are capable of physically vs. mentally
-The 'real world' puts into sharp relief the capabilities of people within The Matrix
-Sense of tension when characters are unable to use abilities
-Keeping the viewer's interest in 'the real world'
-Even crazy fight scenes in 'the real world' seem normal compared with those in The Matrix

-The cornerstone of The Matrix's success is the outrageous action justified by its plot
-Jumping between The Matrix and Real World bring out the aspects of each all the more.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Mini Portfolio

Hi! My name is Colleen, I'm a huge nerd, gamer, cat lover and travel freak. My aim is character concept for gaming. I transferred to SJSU in Fall of 2011, passed the portfolio in Fall of 2012 and will be graduating in Spring 2015.

The First Post

In a world...where First Posts were woman...will follow directions and get Double Points.