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12 Scientific Inaccuracies in Prometheus

How to Mess Up Biology

The Movie: After the crew wakes up from suspended animation, Shaw gives a presentation about how she believes that the alien moon houses humanity's creators. Millburn pipes up with the objection that she's discounting "300 years of Darwinism." Later, Millburn sees an alien with a neck frill and is all, "oh my Gawd, adorable," which were his last words.

Real Life: Where to start. The year is meant to be 2094, which would actually make Darwin's theories only 235-years-old. But the bigger fish to fry is the term "Darwinism." No scientist uses this word today because it has shuffled through so many definitions over the decades, and remains imprecise. The word is now used as a pejorative by creationists, or as a rude way of implying that people who die in outrageous circumstances have done us a favor by removing themselves from the gene pool (see: the Darwin Awards).

Actually the context of the latter makes sense in Prometheus: Millburn definitely earns a Darwin Award for approaching an alien that is clearly demonstrating what biologists call "deimatic behavior." Every species has its own version of it, but it means the same thing to all of us: "This is a warning shot, so back off now." Despite being a biologist, Millburn somehow misreads the display of the neck frill and the hissing of the alien as... purring? We couldn't possibly guess. Too bad he didn't live long enough to explain it to us.

Tags: movies, science, slideshows, reviews, prometheus, space, nasa

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Becky Ferreira

Becky Ferreira is a writer, performer, and raptor based in New York.

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