We’ve learned a lot from watching movies. At the same time, action movies have taught us things that were completely false. Big screens have the habit of exaggerating things or making things appear dramatic, in order to keep the viewers attention throughout the entire screen time. When spending millions to bring their stories to life, it’s understandable that Hollywood includes some myths about the way the world works. Sadly, millions around the world blindly believe them. Today, we are going to debunk 10 of them.
Myth #1: Tracing a phone call takes time.
The myth that it takes a pre-determined amount of time to trace a phone call is widely spread throughout the movie industry. Contrary to popular belief, police know where you are as soon as the call is made. Showing someone hanging up the phone right before the call can be traced might look dramatic in movies, but the same does not apply in real life. This doesn’t just apply to landlines or pay phones. All types of phones, whether they are wired or wireless are required by the FCC to have location-tracking technology for this exact purpose.
The only time the technique interpreted by Hollywood works is when the caller is using some form of masking technology to bounce his/her location. Such technologies are not easy to be replicated by an average human being. (source)
Myth #2: Police have to read you your rights while making an arrest.
Most crime shows and movies that focus on the law enforcement portray the system in such a way that the arresting officers read the bad guy his rights on the scene. Contrary to public belief, the police do not have to read you your rights every time you are arrested. They only have to read you your rights if they wish to interrogate you with incriminating questions while in police custody. However, they have to advise you that you have the right to remain silent since anything you say or do can be used against you in a court of law.
Movies show the police finding the bad guy, arresting them and reading him/her the Miranda rights: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say….”. Of course you have heard that hundreds of times but those things only happen in movies. The police are under no obligation to recite the rights like a poem while cuffing you. They only do so while they intend to question you for the accused crime. If not, every criminal would simply use it as a “get out of jail free card” since the police supposedly “violated” their Miranda rights. (source)
Myth #3: Piranhas are extremely predatory.
The piranha is a type of freshwater fish found in the rivers of the South American jungles. Most movies portray them as dominant creatures who feast on unsuspecting swimmers. The 1978 film Piranha and the 2010 remake, where prehistoric piranhas feast on humans in 3D, did not do any favors for the fish. Such movies only earned them a bad reputation and unwanted fear among the public.
The omnivore will eat almost anything that it can find but will only attack you if you mess with them. Despite their wild portrayal in movies, most swimmers typically emerge from piranha-infested waters without loss of their body parts. (source)
Myth #4: You can drown in lava.
Magma is molten rock beneath the earth’s surface and lava is magma that comes above the surface; usually through volcanic eruption. Movies portray bad guys falling into lava and drowning. This happens only in movies because magma and lava are molten rock and they don’t behave exactly like other liquids. They are two to three times denser than water and the human body. This density difference will cause a body thrown into a volcano to float. So basically, the nature of lava/magma makes it unlikely that you’ll sink. (source)
Myth #5: Giant fireballs are formed during a blast.
Movies often show dramatic fireballs erupting when a charge is set off. This is to grab the viewer’s attention in order to keep them entertained. Unlike the movies, charges don’t create fireballs, but rather dust and debris. (source)
Myth #6: Sonar looks like an Atari game.
Movies portray sonars as a circular screen with a dial going clockwise and detecting blips. It looks simple and resembles an Atari game but things are not as simple as Hollywood portrays them to be. It looks fun to see a dial circling and finding the target. Such techniques peek the viewer’s interest. But in real life, an active sonar basically sends out a ping and waits for the signal to return. When the signal returns, the sub gets an idea of the size, speed, and position of an object.
At the same time, everyone around the submarine are also capable of detecting the ping. In order to remain undetected, most submarines use passive sonar. The above image shows how different a sonar looks than that in movies. (source)
Myth #7: Large unknown asteroids capable of taking out Earth are heading our way.
The 1998 thriller Armageddon tells the story of a large asteroid heading towards Earth, threatening the existence of all life forms. In order to save Earth, NASA hatches up a plan to split the asteroid into two so that it misses Earth and travels far into the universe. This sounds promising and is something that could happen. NASA scientists are aware of every large asteroid on a near-Earth course for the next 100 years, so surprise visits from asteroids is something we don’t have to worry about. Scientists are always monitoring our galaxy for any unwanted objects heading towards Earth. (source)
Myth #8: You can make large jumps with vehicles and still be able to drive it when it lands.
Unlike movies, cars and buses can’t make large jumps and still be able to drive when they land. Speed is one of the great ’90s action movies. The movie has a 11 second scene where the bus they are driving cannot go under a specific speed limit, but at the same time have to make a jump from an unfinished bridge.
The directors and film crew nailed the shot to make the scene appear extremely realistic but such a scene could only happen in movies. In real-life, if a bus makes a jump that high, its suspension would be badly damaged or destroyed; making it immobile. Bus and car suspensions are not designed to be airborne. (source)
Myth #9: That you can drown in quicksand.
If you fell into quicksand in real life, you wouldn’t sink in like people do in the movies. It is actually unrealistic since quicksand is a mixture of sand and water that looks solid, but acts like a liquid when you disturb it. We are less dense than quicksand, so you can’t sink unless you’re holding heavy items or you struggle and make the quicksand liquify more. It’s the same principle that explains why you float in water. You float better in quicksand because it is acting as a fluid that is twice as heavy as water, which is why one only sinks to about half of one’s body length. The heavier the fluid, the better things float. (source)
Myth #10: You can enlarge CCTV footage to identify people of interest.
In movies, we see high quality videos that are taken using professional equipment and edited to look as if they were taken using a CCTV camera. However, real-life CCTV footages are always grainy and in low quality. One would wonder why it’s not as advanced as our mobile phones that can record in 4k? Well, the reason is that CCTV camera sensors are sophisticated. Surveillance cams these days are equipped with infrared (IR) illuminators designed to capture video in low or no light environments.
Although they have powerful optical zoom, digitally zooming into an already captured image can prove to be difficult. This is because the storage system in the CCTV is also very complex. With a multitude of cameras feeding footage into the central system, videos from A DAY’S worth of surveillance in decent resolution can easily chew through 1TB of storage. So, manufacturers have to prioritize their design in capturing images in the lowest light possible with the memory the system is equipped with, for the longest period possible. (source)