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Physicist Metin Tolan breaks down James Bond’s famous stunts using science

Metin Tolan will also present the lecture on April 1 at German House, Delhi.

Written by AMRUTA LAKHE | Mumbai |
Updated: April 1, 2015 9:22:50 am
Pierce-Brosan-L Whether it is a mid-air airplane chase, unzipping a lady’s dress with a watch or insisting on a signature martini, experimental physicist Metin Tolan breaks down James Bond’s famous antics through science.

A chart of Bond’s physical attributes, drawn by creator Ian Flemming opens the lecture by Metin Tolan. Any actor who played Bond has to be around 183 cm tall and weigh 76 kg — parameters that become significant while calculating the velocity of Bond’s multiple air plunges.

Tolan was in the city to deliver the lecture, “Shaken, not Stirred! James Bond in the Focus of Physics”, organised in association with the German Research Foundation. At a gathering filled with physics students, scientists and IIT-B alumni on Monday evening at Blue Sea Banquet, Worli, Tolan explained Bond’s near-impossible stunts using physics.

“I am able to derive these theories only because I am a fan, first. The idea is not to burst a science myth. I’m not trying to disprove any of the stunts, but trying find a way by which science can prove them,” says Tolan who has delivered lectures on the “Physics of Sinking”, explaining the logic behind the movie Titanic, the science behind Star Trek, among others.


TALK explains Bond phenomena with Tolan’s help:

The Perfectly Balanced Car Jump

In a car chase from the movie The Man with the Golden Gun, Roger Moore sees a half-broken bridge across a river as his only escape plan. Revving up the car, he leaps off one side, does a smooth mid-air swivel and lands safely on the other side. “Bond will have you believe that if you know the exact speed of the car, you can do the mid-air swivel yourself. The car was engineered to be perfectly balanced on its symmetric axis. For it to land on the other side, there should be absolutely no change in mass distribution. So when the scene was being shot, the driver was strapped on the floor of the car, immobile. Bond must have done a lot of math in his head before he made the leap,” says Tolan.

Free Falling Bond

From GoldenEye, Tolan picked Bond’s impossible dive from a cliff where he miraculously flies right into the cockpit of a crashing plane, steering it to safety. “I applied the law of free fall, and took into account the air resistance. I’m happy to report that the dive is indeed possible. James Bond would have to be 14 times more streamlined than an airplane, and science would allow such a stunt. Obviously, Mr Bond got lucky,” Tolan explains.

Mirror Mirror

In the movie Goldfinger, as Bond — played by Sean Connery — gets intimate with his lady love, an assailant jumps from behind a door, ready to attack with a knife. He’s no match for Bond, who sees the attacker’s reflection in the widened eye of the lady, and turns around in time to finish him off in style. The reflection in the eye is many millimeters larger than should be scientifically possible. “Which means the lady had quite a large curvature of her eye, which can only lead us to understand she was blind. Mr Bond just didn’t notice it,” says Tolan.

Magnet Man

Bond’s watches double as pagers, fax machines and laser guns. In Live and Let Die,  a steel teaspoon flies out from distance of two feet right into Bond’s (Roger Moore’s) waiting hand. “We tried this experiment in the university. It will work, only the magnet would need to be the size of a car, and would generate hundreds of Kelvin of heat. But again, you don’t know what kind of gadgets the British secret service is hiding up its sleeve,” says Tolan with a chuckle.
The same watch is later used by him to unzip the Bond girl’s dress, suavely commenting that he’s a magnetic man. Tolan adds, “Also, for those who’d like to know, the magnetic unzipper works perfectly,” he added.

Shaken, Not Stirred

Bond likes his martini, shaken not stirred. “A bioanalytical study of antioxidants of martinis shows that a shaken martini releases less antioxidants,” he says. While combining this with the Brazil nut effect, Tolan added that the heavier molecules in the martini, responsible for the taste, stay on the top, allowing our hero to remain healthy, take a sip and dash off.

Metin Tolan will also present the lecture on April 1 at German House, Delhi.

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