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November 6, 2003

Speaking of insultingly stupid.

Daniel Radosh

I'm no longer surprised when I get an e-mail that begins, "In case you'd like one more reason to blog on Gregg Easterbrook..." A lot of people, it seems, are fed up with the man's witless ramblings and have decided that Radosh.net should be the repository for their complains. Who am I not to oblige them?

The latest e-mail comes from Andrew Perny who has just read Easterbroken's complaint about "the once-promising Matrix series." It's odd, first of all, that Easterdick -- who infamously thinks film violence can be linked to the real thing -- admits to enjoying the first Matrix, a film that some people have blamed for Columbine and the DC snipers. Could it be that he only disapproves of violent movies that other people enjoy?

Anyway, here's Eagershmuck's problem with The Matrix series:

Just consider that the underlying premise of the Matrix flicks makes no physical-law sense.

Supposedly in the future, evil intelligent computers keep all humanity strapped into chairs, dreaming a simulation of ordinary life while attended by medical droids, because the evil computers want the heat given off by human bodies as an energy source. "This is what we are to them," the rebel leader Morpheus intones in the exposition scene of the first Matrix flick, holding up an Eveready battery.

Which makes absolutely no sense, as the maximum heat value emitted by a mammal body cannot exceed the heat value of the food entering the body. If future evil computers craved heat, it would be far more efficient just to burn the plants at the base of the food chain--to saying nothing of simply building nuclear reactors--than to waste colossal amounts of resources, and expend huge amounts of energy, constructing the super-elaborate prisons in which the human captives live, and then growing food for the captives to boot.

It's ironic that a guy who is dismissive of real physics because 1) it's too weird and 2) physicists hate God, suddenly feels it's very important to make sure that science fiction (I repeat, fiction) movies should adhere to accurate principles. Easterbutt's solution to the above problem is, "Producers of the Matrix might have borrowed one of the themes of the engaging Dan Simmons Hyperion sci-fi novels," as if what the Matrix needed was to be even more derivative.

Regardless of the merits of this suggestion, it's not a surprise to see Easterbrook (sorry, coming up with juvenile nicknames got dull even for me) make it, since his entire post is highly derivative itself of the entry for The Matrix on Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics:

We just can't buy the explanation of why the computer system bothers to maintain not only the simulation but humanity. Supposedly, the computer system needs people as a power source. This makes no sense. The food fed to humans would have far more energy content than the meager power available from humans. It would require even more energy to run the food delivery system not to mention maintain the slime tubs. Why would the machines bother? Surely there'd be a more effective way to extract energy from the food.

Perny points out that Easterbrook advises us to watch ISMP for their review of Revolutions, but can't quite bring himself to give them credit for the ideas he's just passed off as his own. True, Easterbrook did add his own thoughts about military hardware earlier in his post, as well as the word "absolutely" before "makes no sense," which may pass for original writing in Gregg's mind, but Perny is not in the mood to be forgiving, because he recalls how Easterbrook went off on Hillary Clinton for having the nerve to use a ghost writer on her memoir: "In the last two years Clinton has either been neglecting her duties as a United States Senator -- that is, violating her oath -- in order to be the true author of 'Living History,' or she is claiming authorship of someone else's work," sputtered Gregg in his dear departed ESPN column.

Not such a big deal, you're saying? Maybe not. Maybe I could have just written this post as if I'd thought of it all myself and then at the end said, By the way, a guy named Andrew Perny might weigh in on a similar topic sometime in the future. But I'm happy to give credit where it's due, and I think Andrew appreciates that.

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