earth layersSometimes one has to find out if a film is as bad as almost everyone says it is. This was the case with me and ‘The Core.’ I had to discover if the movie is really that bad. And it is. The acting is overwrought, the dialogue is hollow and trite, and the premise is ludicrous. In the 2003 film, the Earth’s core has stopped spinning, and a team travels to the core in a special vehicle and detonates nuclear bombs to get the core spinning again.

First, if the Earth stopped spinning, we would all die. The Earth rotates a little over 1000 mph at the equator; as you travel to either pole, the speed decreases. If the core stops spinning, then the rest of the Earth stops spinning. When a car going 70 mph crashes and no one wears a seatbelt, the passengers are sent through the windshield. We are not tied to the Earth, so if the planet ceases to rotate, then those of us not “strapped in” will be hurled several feet; either we will slam into something solid or tumble across hard landscape. Also, the atmosphere will still be moving at several hundred miles per hour; the winds will sweep us up, and the force of the high-speed winds will shear our flesh. If the Earth stops spinning, then it is death by slamming into objects or being shredded by winds. Once the core stops, there would be no one around to build a ship and go to the center of the planet, so ‘The Core’ should have been a short movie filled with a montage of horrific deaths.

magnetosphereThe film did get the basics of the Earth’s structure and the function of the magnetosphere correct. Earth has three main layers: the crust, the mantle, and the core. The core has two parts; the liquid outer core surrounds a solid inner core. The nickel and iron inner core spins faster than the rest of the Earth and is extremely hot. Heat from the inner core causes currents in the outer core; the constant motion in the outer core is the source of the magnetosphere, or the electromagnetic field. The magnetosphere helps protect us from cosmic radiation and solar winds. High-energy particles from solar winds interact with the magnetosphere, directing the winds around the planet and giving the field its shape. Some cosmic radiation does reach us, but this amount of exposure is natural. Our ancestors lived with this exposure as well, so we inherited the ability to withstand contact with cosmic radiation.

The magnetosphere does fluctuate. It increases and decreases in strength, and the EM field has reversed or flipped. This means magnetic north has not always been near the geographical North Pole. These shifting periods in the electromagnetic field are approximately 300,000 to 500,000 years apart, but life on Earth is accustomed to the fluctuations in the magnetosphere and has evolved during the changes. The magnetosphere shifts, but it has never completely disappeared.San Francisco being destroyed - The Core movie

What if the EM field vanished? In a scene from ‘The Core,’ a hole in the magnetosphere opens over San Francisco. Radiation floods in and melts the Golden Gate Bridge, causing death and mayhem. Would that happen in real life? No. If the EM field did disappear, more radiation might enter, and the risk of some cancers might increase. Why do I say “might”? The rest of the atmosphere remains to protect us. The atmosphere, which is several miles thick, is the main source of protection from all forms of radiation. The magnetosphere presence is not integral to the survival of life on Earth. There has been a hole in the ozone layer for over two decades. We have been fine because the rest of the atmosphere remained intact. The atmosphere shields us. Only a fraction of the EM spectrum and cosmic radiation penetrates the atmosphere and reaches us. Without the atmosphere, life would not be possible because the full force of the sun’s energy, of the solar winds, and of all types of cosmic radiation would bombard the planet. Earth would resemble the Moon. The ozone layer and the magnetosphere help the atmosphere shelter life. The disappearance of the atmosphere would be a life-threatening concern worthy of a film. A weakening magnetosphere would not do any of the damage depicted in ‘The Core.’

Unobtainium - The Core
'Avatar' is not the first appearance of Unobtainium in film; the box is made from the material, which is why the laser can't destroy it.

I understand some allowances should be made in works of fiction, but good science fiction grounds itself in as much scientific fact before making leaps into speculation. We should allow one conceit, one idea that is true in the world. For example, in ‘Spider-Man,’ the conceit is genetic engineering. A radioactive spider can alter a man’s DNA, giving him the abilities of a spider. In the ‘Spider-man’ world, Peter Parker is a man who can climb walls and shoot webbing because of the changes in his genes. The majority of his villains are a result of other genetic experiments, so in this world, genetic manipulation is a reality. In ‘The Core,’ the conceit is advanced technology. A ship made from Unobtainium can be used to take six people to the Earth’s core. This advancement in technology could also explain why other advanced devices exist: a weapon can stop the rotation of the Earth’s core, a laser can cut through almost anything, and special suits can resist extreme heat and pressure. However, the film’s premise relies on events that would not happen. Even if the magnetosphere vanished, we would not be in as much danger as seen in the film, and if the core stopped spinning, then none of us would be alive to get it spinning again. If there had been a different reason for travelling to the core, then perhaps the film would not have been so bad.