Superspy Science: Scientist debunks some of the weirdest and wackiest plot ... trends now

Superspy Science: Scientist debunks some of the weirdest and wackiest plot ... trends now
Superspy Science: Scientist debunks some of the weirdest and wackiest plot ... trends now

Superspy Science: Scientist debunks some of the weirdest and wackiest plot ... trends now

From lethal laser beams to ladies covered in gold paint, the James Bond films surely include some of the most spectacular set pieces in modern cinema. 

But often, even die-hard Bond fans are left wondering if the various stunts and plot lines in the beloved blockbusters are based in reality. 

Thankfully, a new book finally separates the scientifically accurate from the utterly fantastical.

Dr Kathryn Harkup, a British chemist and author, has studied all 25 James Bond films made by Eon Productions, starting from 1962's 'Dr No' up to 2021's 'No Time to Die'. 

In the book, she debunks some of the weirdest and wackiest set pieces involving the fictional spy, while others are, she says, are surprisingly scientifically sound. 

From being cut by lasers and electrocuted by headphones, a chemist reveals whether plot lines in James Bond films are actually scientifically sound

From being cut by lasers and electrocuted by headphones, a chemist reveals whether plot lines in James Bond films are actually scientifically sound 

SUFFOCATION BY GOLD PAINT

Surely one of the most memorable scenes in the whole James Bond franchise comes in 'Goldfinger' (1964). 

In a Florida hotel, Bond (played by Sean Connery) finds the dead body of Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) who has been coated from head to toe in gold paint. 

In the following scene, Bond explains to his superior M at MI6 that humans suffocate if the body is painted unless 'you leave a small bare patch at the base of the spine to allow the skin to breathe'. 

But as Dr Harkup reveals, despite assumptions from Bond fans, this is not scientifically accurate at all. 

In actual fact, only about 2 per cent of the body's oxygen supply is absorbed through the skin – so blocking it with paint wouldn't stop us from breathing. 

The only way we'd suffocate from paint is if it obstructed our major breathing pathways – the mouth and the nose. 

Dr Harkup says: 'The image of Masterson's gold body lying on the hotel bed has become ingrained in popular culture and the idea of being killed by skin suffocation has become accepted as fact, even though it is nonsense.' 

More than 40 years later, the scene was recreated in the 2008 Bond film 'Quantum of Solace' starring Daniel Craig. 

In 'Goldfinger' (1964), Bond (played by Sean Connery) finds the dead body of Jill Masterson (played by Shirley Eaton) - who has been suffocated by having her skin painted gold

In 'Goldfinger' (1964), Bond (played by Sean Connery) finds the dead body of Jill Masterson (played by Shirley Eaton) - who has been suffocated by having her skin painted gold 

Dr Kathryn Harkup tackles all 25 Bond films in her new book, Superspy Science: Science, Death and Tech in the World of James Bond

Dr Kathryn Harkup tackles all 25 Bond films in her new book, Superspy Science: Science, Death and Tech in the World of James Bond

In a nod to the original scene, Bond finds MI6 agent and love interest Strawberry Fields dead and covered in crude oil.

However, considering the character was drowned in the oil rather than just being covered in it, this scene is more credible.

DEATHLY LASERS 

Later in Goldfinger, Bond wakes up to find himself strapped to a table by the film's eponymous villain, played by Gert Fröbe. 

Goldfinger flicks a switch and a bright red laser beam starts advancing towards Bond's crotch. 

As Goldfinger explains, his 'industrial laser' that emits 'an extraordinary light not to be found in nature' is able to 'project a spot on the moon or at closer range cut through solid metal'. 

As Dr Harkup points out, the laser should make short work of slicing through a secret agent and would have 'started its bisection at one of the most sensitive parts of Bond's anatomy' before eventually reaching his vital organs. 

While it's true that lasers can cut through flesh and metal, it wouldn't have looked like the red one coming from the villain's contraption. 

James Bond (Sean Connery) has been captured by Auric Goldfinger, who has set up a gold laser beam inching towards 007’s crotch

James Bond (Sean Connery) has been captured by Auric Goldfinger, who has set up a gold laser beam inching towards 007’s crotch

In fact, it should have been infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye, but then it wouldn't have been visible to cinema-goers. 

'The red light from Goldfinger's laser would be almost completely reflected by the metal and it doesn't have the power to cut through Bond's body either,' the expert says. 

BULLET IN THE HEAD

When we're introduced to villain Renard (Robert Carlyle) in 'The World is Not Enough' (1999), he has a bullet lodged in his brain.  

However, he's still alive, and apart from a nasty scar the only side effect seems to be the loss of his major senses – touch, smell and pain. 

As the MI6 doctor explains, the bullet is still moving – albeit very slowly – through the part of the brain called the medulla oblongata, killing off the senses. 

She says: 'He can push himself harder, longer than any normal man. The bullet will kill him, but he'll grow stronger every day until the day he dies.' 

So is this even at all possible? 

In 'The World is Not Enough' (1999), the villain Renard (Robert Carlyle) has a bullet lodged in his brain

In 'The World is Not Enough' (1999), the villain Renard (Robert Carlyle) has a bullet

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