Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hero Acquisition Device

(screen shot from online video)

Folks, I can suspend my disbelief with the best of them, but there are times that pop culture pseudo-science references try my soul. One of these times occurred on Monday night's premier of the superhero show Heroes.

While slicing into good, sweet, honey, sugar-candied Clair's brain, über villain Sylar marvels at the brain's complexity, then, disappointingly, repeats one of the greatest neuroscience fallacies of all time: the brain only uses 10%-20% of its capacity.

There is zero factual basis to this ridiculous claim. "Though an alluring idea, the "10 percent myth" is so wrong it is almost laughable, says neurologist Barry Gordon at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore" (Scientific American). The writer's could't spend two minutes Googling around to check up on this tid-bit? Hmmm? Really? Unfortunate. Even the Neuroscience For Kids website debunks this idiocy.

In Feb 2007, blogger Peggy at her Biology in Science Fiction blog ran down a few genetics related plot devices that make her start shaking her fist at the screen. An enjoyable read. More recently, she took on the new adrenelin plot device here.

Note: feel free to track down the homage in my italicized description of Clair (wink).


Erin said...

I am starting to compile a list of films and TV shows that get diabetes wrong, myself. (When you're a sweating, shaking, wild-eyed diabetic, you don't need insulin, you need sugar.)

Chris said...

Nice. Are you also compiling a list of shows that get it right? Might be nice to give a shout out to the writers who actual do a little research.

My pop-culture senses tell me that teen TV shows are probably ripe with errors about things like diabetes.

Jason M. Adams said...

TV shows feel even less of a need to get things right than journalists. I noticed that bit in Heroes too, which was even more annoying given that Sylar was supposed to be "understanding" how the brain worked while he was doing it. *Pffft* (spitting sound)

The googles tell me that quote comes from Aphra Behn, but i had never heard of her, so I feel like a cheater. And of course that could still be wrong.

Chris said...

Yep, Aphra it is. It's a line that has stuck with me since undergrad days. The ironic condescension is classic Restoration chic.

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