Science fiction and science in general; there is an abundance of media grounded in science. Whether it’s purely fictional science, aka nothing like the real thing, or a heavy dose of reality mixed in, there are successes and failures alike. With that in mind, today we’re going to look at our Top 10 Fictional Scientific Failures. Which of these do you know about and which of these are forgotten like the mistakes they were?
10) Honey, I Shrunk The Kids
When your dad is a crazy inventor, you know you’re going to be testing all sorts of crazy gadgets and gizmos. Imagine, an automatic waffle maker? Or what about an automatically refilling glass? What about a device that shrinks you down so small that no one can see you? Yeah, okay, maybe an inventor father isn’t the best thing to have – and that’s exactly the themes covered by Honey, I Shrunk The Kids.
The film doesn’t even try to take itself seriously what-so-ever, which is part of the charm. Whilst you could argue there’s some serious discussion about how far you should go to try and bond with your kids, shrinking them appears to be the bottom of that list. A charming film, the title makes an appearance in the film itself and lo and behold, we get an amusing scientific failure to start this list.
9) Ditto – Pokémon
The original failed experiment of Pokémon. You can make the case for Mewtwo, if you’d like, but I think Ditto is a much stronger example of an experiment. Ditto came to be as a failed experiment to clone the mythical Pokémon, Mew. This was done in a similar capacity to how Mewtwo was created with Mew’s DNA. However, every Ditto you see is an experiment that effectively turned into a blobby mush.
Pokémon is a series that delves into some strange topics; gang warfare and their inexplicable rap language for one. However, amongst the strangest recurring themes, experimentation sits up there. Ditto may be able to transform into any other Pokémon, copying it nearly exactly, but it still doesn’t change the fact it will transform and keep its original derpy face.
8) Jurassic Park
Who thought this was a good idea?
Jurassic Park was originally released in novel form in 1990 by Michael Crichton. It was met with fair success so when the film came about in 1993, that success was extrapolated big time. No more were we just going “oh yeah, that sounds a bit daunting”, we now were able to see the terrorising dinosaurs in all of their dominance. But what about the Jurassic Park makes it a failed experiment?
Oh I don’t know, I think the idea that having a park full of fully cloned dinosaurs was a bad enough start. Sure, it sounds like a great idea, as it’d be fascinating from a zoologist’s perspective, but for the folks who just wanted to visit a fun theme park? This would be a nightmare.
7) Lucy – Elfen Lied
The Diclonius are an evolved species of human, each of which has psychokinetic abilities far greater than any human. It’s with this in mind that humans wanted to study and, of course, to try and obtain the powers of the Diclonius. So when they captured the Diclonius, Lucy, they thought they had undertaken every precaution to study. However, they were of course wrong about that.
When Lucy breaks out, wearing nothing at all, she uses her psychokinetic powers in a brutal way. It’s hard to believe she’s the primary protagonist of the series, but after she slaughters everyone, she leaves the lab – and that’s that. There’s not much more we can say about the scientific failure here, but when your research murders your crew and just leaves, I think it’s a pretty big scientific failure.
6) Brundlefly – The Fly
A sci-fi horror classic, The Fly tells the tale of how dangerous the notion of teleportation can be. When destroyed in one place and rebuilt in another, most of our fears are based on whether the rebuilt creature is the same as the one who was destroyed, or just a quantum clone. Seth Brundle’s experiments are more genetically focussed, and that makes the idea a playground of David Cronenburg.
After being sent through a machine of his own devising with a housefly stowaway, Brundle and his travelling companion are fused into a hideous amalgamation creature that slowly loses essences of humanity and becomes increasingly like the fly. For a more accurate representation of the original novel, check out the Simpsons Treehouse of Horror retelling, in which two creatures reemerge, one is a fly headed Bart, the other a Bart headed fly.
5) AI – Isaac Asimov
We could have raised The Matrix, Skynet, or a dozen other examples of artificial intelligence turning on its creator but if we were to pick any one example, we’d have to roll the ball all the way back to the most famous progenitor of the notion, Isaac Asimov, most famous of all for his three laws of robotics that would come to dictate the behaviours of machines.
Asimov’s bibliography is a catalogue of warnings, on how we must come to coexist with the inevitable creation with care to recognise its eventual rise to equality with man, and its eventual apotheosis. He was ahead of his time, beginning way back in the 50s when computers were still leviathans, he was already considering the physical reduction and staggering advances of robotics and computing to the point where the dominant species that may follow humanity may be our creations, not our descendants.
4) Invisible Man
Griffin makes himself invisible, havoc ensues. H.G. Wells story is one of power and responsibility, or perhaps more accurately one of accountability. If you can’t catch what you can’t see, then might as well do whatever you please, for an invisible human being it’s easy to hide for a day or two and re-emerge to wreak fresh invisible chaos. He steals, cheats, murders, and would come to do far worse when remade by Paul Veerhoven in 2000.
Griffin’s behaviour would eventually catch up to him and his arrogance would be his downfall. He eventually gets killed by an angry mob while fleeing law enforcement, he dies begging for mercy he could never show, and his broken, naked corpse slowly fades into view in front of his former victims.
3) Rapture – BioShock
Video games have been known to dabble in science fiction, so by the time BioShock was released, we had a vague idea of what we were getting into. BioShock is based in the underwater metropolis known as Rapture, a place where technology and incredible science came hand in hand. Unfortunately, this metropolis, this safe haven, wouldn’t remain very safe for long.
It all started with the discovery of a substance that drastically alters your DNA, known as ADAM. This stuff allowed people to come up with all sorts of powers; but it also led to some seriously dangerous mutations. These mutated people quickly became addicted to the power of ADAM, thus turning them into splicers. They would kill the little sisters, guarded so well by their Big Daddy, just because they needed their quick fix.
Sometimes, humanity should stop striving to improve.
2) Jekyll and Banner and Hyde and Hulk
I don’t like to seperate them, they’re so happy together.
Jekyll and Hyde was a curious case of psychology, in which the irreconcilable differences between Id and Superego are thrown into harsh relief as a man ingests a serum which causes a mental divide, leaving Jekyll the demure scientist and Hyde the malevolent stalker of the night, and not a great simian monster. The monster is a metaphor.
The only excusable use of the monstrous “other” is The Hulk, the destructive green horror that time-shares a body with Bruce Banner, a divide caused by exposure to gamma radiation on a deadly level that – thanks to some quirk of genetics – instead caused Banner to turn into the WMD of Marvel comics.
1) Frankenstein’s Monster
Taking the number one slot over Jekyll and Hyde only for its literary importance. By the strictest definition of the genre, Shelley’s infamous tale of modern necromancy is the first recognised science fiction story. I’m not going to quibble the minutia on this one, have a look at this video and come back.
The Modern Prometheus is a being composed of dead pieces and brought to life by an infusion of electricity. The defibrillator wouldn’t be demonstrated for another seventy years, making the notion of a corpse animated by an electric shock so much more astonishing in literature, and the creature itself would redefine our views on mortality, on science, and on science fiction for centuries. The Monster also tormented his creator from the first moment of its twitching unlife, until its last, jaded moments after years of torment at the hands of an uncaring world, abandoned by his creator.
Now that we’re done with our fictional scientific failures, here are some examples of humans knowledge being a flawed and dangerous thing.
Humans Interacting With Aliens
Alright, so science is pretty amazing and in the confines of what we believe; we all want to believe there is life out there. Whether or not we actually will meet aliens or lifeforms of some kind, that’s another matter. However, perhaps we’re better off not meeting aliens? Here’s a few real situations and film plots that shows we probably are better off not meeting them:
Abduction phenomenon – This is a collective name for people who claim to have been abducted by aliens. Some of them go into great detail, others are fairly vague.
District 9 – In what may be one of the worst ideas ever, the governments of District 9 decided to keep aliens in a dirty and disgusting slum.
Ender’s Game – Because the idea that we find insectoid aliens means we must send a child to war with them.
Ok, so H.P. Lovecraft is renowned for some shady and insular opinions. Scared of the outside world, scared of anywhere outside of Rhode Island, scared of the future, scared of the past, scared of the things he didn’t understand like science and technology. And he was scared of air conditioners.
Read Cool Air, a short story concerning a young man who moves into a flat beneath a man with a noisy air conditioning unit, a very new and modern technology at the time. When the aircon breaks the neighbour goes mad, demanding ice to be brought in, and the temperature be kept low until an engineer can be called. As it transpires his efforts to stay cold fail, and his unnaturally extended years start to catch up to him, and he decays while still – technically – living. The lesson: don’t trust anyone with an aircon unit, they’re secretly a ghoul of some hideous kind.
Now that we’ve finished messing with these gadgets, it’s time for us to write up our findings. I think you’ll find that our tests were impeccable, so there’s no wonder in my mind that we have found the best scientific failures across media for you to think about. But I digress, perhaps you’ve got something to add yourself? Great, we need some outside influencers to determine next week’s list:
Another week and another failed experiment, but don’t worry, we’ll be back for more of this next week. Today though, why don’t you let us know what you thought of today’s list. Did we get the right ones, or did we forget some important ones? As ever, we love to hear what you have to say, so if we got the order wrong, or you just want to join in, leave a comment below, or on Facebook and Twitter.