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The Science of the Movies

Could a shark sink a boat?
Aggravated by having barrels repeatedly harpooned into him, the shark leaps out of the water and crushes the back of the boat, sinking it. Take that, puny land-dwellers!
Possible, but highly unlikely. “The shark in the movie was supposed to be 25 feet [8m] long. Are there really sharks that big out there? I personally believe yes,” says marine biologist and creator of the first protective sharksuit, Jeremiah Sullivan. “I’ve swum with sharks about 18 feet [5.5m], and on Guadalupe Island in the ’80s, a group of professional shark guys and I saw a great white that we conservatively guessed to be just over 20 feet [6m]. The bigger they are, the more cautious they are – they don’t come around people much. But if a shark that big jumped onto a boat that size – which sharks sometimes do, especially if people are trying to fish them and they’re in distress – it could sink it.” You really are going to need a bigger boat.

What would an adrenalin shot to the heart do?
John Travolta revives a heroin-overdosed Uma Thurman by stabbing her in the heart with a shot of adrenalin.
First, injecting anything into someone’s heart is a no-no, according to Eric Newman, MD, of Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. “An intracardiac injection is very dangerous and can result in severe bleeding in and around the heart, which can be fatal.” That’s mistake number one. Mistake number two: adrenalin isn’t even used to treat heroin overdoses – a drug called Narcan (aka Naloxone) is, and it’s typically administered through the vein, and should never, ever be shot through the heart. Why? Because (a) you’d kill your buddy, and (b) you’d give love a bad name, which, surely, is even worse.

Will an electromagnetic safe open if the power goes off?
Having reached the final, impregnable level of the safecracking process – the electromagnetic lock – the crooks are delighted when the Feds cut the power, opening the vault. Good work, FBI guys!
This is about as likely as Al Powell buying only one armload of Twinkies. “Electromagnetic locks are used just for access control,” says Lynel Berryhill, vice president at Brown Safe Manufacturing. “Never as the final lock. The most secure thing would be a mechanical lock, because there’s no way to hack it the way you could with, say, a biometric one. All the high-tech locks would be in the early stages, and a mechanical one would be last. The vault in Die Hard isn’t even close to anything I’ve seen on a real vault, but even if you had a situation like in the movie, it still wouldn’t have worked, because they would have had to wait four or five hours for the battery backup to turn off.”

Can you swing on human intestines?

Will we ever see a real-life hoverboard?

Could a penny-shaving virus make you money?

Can you chop someone up with a chainsaw?

Can the human voice shatter glass?

What would happen if the Earth’s rotation were reversed?

Can one man kill a whole army?

For the full feature and images grab the August 2014 issue of MAXIM, in stores from July 17 to August 21.

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Samantha Hoopes

Gabi Grecko