Friday, November 28, 2014

The Movie Will Remain Unnamed

This post is an utter waste of time - and yet, strangely, I feel a need to write this out.

I'm wasting my time because, on the internet, once someone has invented a factoid that is later proved false, the false proof then remains absolute, unquestioned dogma until the end of time.  For example:

The original factoid - false - was that we use 10% of our brains.  We were told this in school when I was a boy.  It is unquestionably false.  We have all this brain matter for a reason.

The factoid is universally understood to be false.  But the determination of this falsity has itself become a factoid.  One that cannot, ever, be disputed.

"We don't use 10% of our brain.  Now let's never have any discussion, EVER, about brains or how much of brains we use.  We use 100% of our brains, you fucking moron.  Silence, everyone who dares say otherwise."


Question: how much of our brains do we use at the same time?

Let's say the brain is a football field.  And let's say that the presence of a person on the football field represents an active brain cell.  Finally, let's say that every other person-sized space on the football field is an inactive brain cell.  Now, at any given moment, how many persons are there on the field?

From, paraphrasing from Barry Beyerstein's book, Mind Myths: Exploring Everyday Mysteries of the Mind:

"Brain imaging research techniques such as PET scans (positron emission tomography) and fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) clearly show that the vast majority of the brain does not lie fallow. Indeed, although certain minor functions may use only a small part of the brain at one time, any sufficiently complex set of activities or thought patterns will indeed use many parts of the brain. Just as people don't use all of their muscle groups at one time, they also don't use all of their brain at once. For any given activity, such as eating, watching television, making love, or reading, you may use a few specific parts of your brain. Over the course of a whole day, however, just about all of the brain is used at one time or another."

Do we use the same 10% of the brain all our lives?  No.  Do we use all of the brain all the time?  Hey, guess what . . . no.

Is it possible that we use only 10% of the total brain in a given moment, recognizing that this may not be the same 10% of the brain from nano-second to nano-second?

Well, in fact we aren't sure.  We certainly don't use all of it, all the time.  We're not really sure how much of it we're using in any given nano-second.

Looked at this way, is it possible to describe the use of the brain in terms of some percentage of the brain's CAPACITY?

Fuck yes.

See, the football field has a given capacity.  This describes how many people can use the football field at the same time.  If we say that the capacity of the football field is at 10%, does this mean that the people in the field are only able to stand perfectly still?  NO.  Those people are still able to roam about the entire field.

Why am I talking about this?

Because there is a significant number of people in the world who heard this line from a movie:

"The average person uses 10% of their brain capacity."

And thought that what was said was:

"The average person uses 10% of their brain."

Then hundreds of thousands of people rushed out to write about how the movie did not do the research.

When in fact, the listener did not understand fucking English.

Because, once a factoid has been proved wrong, there is no need whatsoever for the new factoid to be questioned just because the writer has taken time to carefully nuance the way the phrase is used.  There is no need to remotely consider the use of the word 'capacity' in the sentence, or in any way consider that word to have any meaning or purpose when spoken by the actor.  All that matters is that 100,000 morons rush out to explain how fucking smart they are, because they already know that we don't use 10% of our brain.

Well, ain't that fucking great.

Funny.  When I heard the line, my first thought was, "Well fuck.  There are going to be one hell of a lot of people who misunderstand that sentence."

And there were.


Tim said...

Heck, a Time writer got so worked up about it he went into a big long rant about the history of the factoid... and somehow didn't understand the tagline after his research. Kinda ironic considering his snide, quibbling remark about grammar regarding the singular "their" in said tagline.
Then again, I imagine he was only using 10% of his brain capacity.

Eric said...

There is a technical term for having most or all of your brain activate at once: grand mal seizure.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Yes, that's true Eric.


1) We only understand the effect from OUTSIDE the subjective perspective of the sufferer

2) The storyline postulates a chemical inducement

3) The fundamentals of science fiction are not compromised by the technical condition you supplied.

Thus, there's nothing wrong with the FILM. As regards to reality, why is it that zombie films and vampire films do not have writers for TIME freaking out because zombies and vampires do not exist?

Alexis Smolensk said...


Imagine a New York Times review for 'Warm Bodies' that begins with 8 paragraphs on the implausibility of zombies.

Issara Booncharoen said...

I love how Morgan Freeman stresses the word capacity.

Also the beautiful scene where an armed response team is rushing into a building and totally ignoring the Chinese mobsters who are casually going over their assault rifles in plain sight.

And that thing with the bazooka.

Basically all the ludicrous things that happen outside the context of scifi explanations.

Alexis Smolensk said...

You're right, Issara. Luc Besson should have consulted with you before choosing that filming angle.

Perhaps if he had filmed the shot from the point of view of the front door of the University, past the cops with their backs turned towards the park, the Chinese loading their guns there would have appeared tiny enough on the screen to satisfy you.