Angels & Demons – the movie

Next month, a new movie will be released which is based on a prequel to the enormously successful Dan Brown novel, the Da Vinci Code. Its called Angels & Demons – and the trailer is out.

The story? An ancient brotherhood of artists and scientists thought to be extinct for four centuries and started by Galileo himself, known as the Illuminati, steal a canister of a highly explosive antimatter from the physics laboratory CERN. It looks as though they had quite a lot of issues with the Catholic Church. So, to take revenge they place the antimatter at the heart of Vatican city, after having some good fun killing the former Pope and four cardinals who wanna become one – and wait to blow the sh*t out of the entire city. Science and religion clash in this terrifying war. Now, it is upto a Harvard research scholar and a sexy CERN physicist to save the world.

Take a breath.

If the story sounded implausible to you, it is because…well, it is implausible. OK, I know it was real thrilling to read the novel – it was unputdownable when I first read it two years ago.  I instantly fell in love with the book – it was exceedingly well written, the vivid characterization and deeply heart rending flashbacks, along with a complex plot, is still unforgettable.  The ambigrams – words designed in such a way that it looks the same when read upside down – that were featured in the novel were totally awesome. And it sort of became a passion of mine to make ambigrams of my own.

The problems crop up when Dan Brown calls fiction as fact. Like its sequel, there is an author’s note in the first page which claims all the works of art and other facts mentioned in the book are completely accurate. The truth is rather different. The Illuminati was not founded by Galileo. There is no such thing as the Altars of Science. Antimatter could not be produced in quantities mentioned in the book, nor could antimatter bombs. It is not a reliable source of energy in the future.  CERN doesn’t have spacey aircrafts, or for that matter a huge Glass Cathedral or an indoor sky-diving hamber. (They do have, however, an entire page discussing the inaccuracies in the book.) The entire novel is worthy of a conspiracy theory. Much of what Dan Brown calls as original research seems to be nonsense.

When the movie is released, I fear it will probably create a new group of believers who refuse to doubt the wisdom of Dan Brown. I still love the book immensely – but as a work of fiction.

Dina Malar doomed

Tamil dailies rarely get it right when it comes to scientific news, but for the the newspaper Dinamalar, well… it seemed to have scaled new heights in its stupidity.

Here’s a summarized translation…

Sky watchers in Coimbatore were able to see Saturn during midnight, quite close to the moon. I was visible around 12.33, and disappeared at 1 o clock. The Geography teacher at Government Arts College explains that planets move around th sun in orbits and sometimes they approach quite close to the earth. There are 9 planets and many more have been discovered. Yesterday, Saturn which is greenish in colour , came close to the earth. Using a powerful lens camera he photographed the incident.

Umm, what?

Oh come on people….it seems completely obvious that the ‘green orb’ in the picture is a lens flare…something that happens in your camera when you take a photo of bright objects such as the sun, or in this case the moon. (It is strange how in in this and in UFO sightings you tend to ignore explanations that are inches in front of your face and jump to the supernatural and paranormal). And thats nothing to say of the fact that Saturn is much much farther than the moon is from the earth, so far that you wouldn’t notice it at all – you would just think that it was a star. Besides, Saturn is a yellowish in colour…I can imagine the students at Government Arts College laughing their heads off.

There is really a widespread interest in all astronomical and meteorological phenomena, and it saddening to see that it is being mixed with misinformation. I mean – all the interesting stuff about astronomy goes completely unreported and it is replaced by the ramblings of crackpots. When the Eta Aquarid meteor shower started two weeks ago, the event went largely unreported in the media (The Hindu reported it after the event was over). But I saw it, I saw more than five meteors within the same day – and I would have seen more if I paid proper attention. People need to know about science, about what is real and what is not.