Movies in physics class? It’s time to think about why physics is one of the most unpopular school subjects. In my physics lessons I always try to pick up my students in their world: Can Arnold Schwarzenegger really shoot relaxed from his wrist? Could there really be King Kong? What happens during beaming? And how heavy is the incredible Hulk? The physics of Hollywood offers plenty of examples on exciting scientific questions.

IT Chapter Two Poster

Stephen KINGs IT

Personally, I was disappointed with the new film adaptation – I liked the old TV film adaptation much, much better. It started with the framework story: You got to know the characters as children and adults at the same time and thus you noticed more clearly the patterns of behaviour (Beverly as the daughter of a violent father marries one as an adult), from which we too can only free ourselves with difficulty. And it stopped with the completely exaggerated use of CGI effects: Did you really need to dump 10,000 gallons of blood out the sink? Wouldn’t it also have been – like in those days – one single big bubble? Hmm. Hmm.
Only the portrait monster (the flute player) I found really creepy – the rest was more like that (I write that as a total scaredy-cat!)

In order to do justice to Stephen King’s work (and so that I’m less annoyed about the cinema money spent) I physically questioned at least one scene: After the first third of the film, Pennywise climbs out of a slide show as an oversized apparition – his figure reaches the ceiling of the garage on his knees. As someone who can almost be called huge himself (fifth grader last week: „Is it true that you are five meters tall???“), the question naturally arises: What physical effects must such a monster have to struggle with? I mean the clown, not the physics teacher.

The physics of IT

In the horror movie IT (2017), the place Derry is haunted by a monster in the guise of the clown Pennywise. In the course of the film you can see the clown crawling out of a slide projection into reality in huge stature, he reaches – crawling on all fours – up to the ceiling of the garage. For an adult, the thigh bone will be able to withstand about 8,000N, a vertebra (which only has to carry half of the body weight) about 3,600N.

  1. Make suitable assumptions. Are the bones able to support Pennywise after it is magnified?
  2. Which size could she be at maximum before its bones would break?
  3. The pitch (frequency) of the human voice is about 200 vibrations per second. To what factor would Penny wises vibration period change? (Hint: Look at the vocal chords as a thread pendulum)
  4. The human hearing ability ranges from 20 to 20 000 vibrations. Would we still be able to understand Pennywise?
  5. Simplified, hearing ability depends on the size of the ear drum (Hint: Surface!). So in reverse, would Pennywise be able to still understand normal sized humans?

More exercises

Would you like to have even more tasks for your own lessons? On more than 130 pages in „The Physics of Hollywood“ you will find numerous additional tasks (and solutions) for your physics lessons. Available at Amazon (click). More information can be found here on the blog.