Seismologist Lucy Jones Live Tweeted 'San Andreas' To Give An Expert Take On What's Realistic & What's Totally Bogus
It's an early summer blockbuster starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson about a major earthquake that destroys California. Right off the bat, you know San Andreas is not going to be on the same level as, say, Schindler's List. Where it excels in explosive visual effects and heart-pumping action, it lacks in actual science, or so says a real-life earthquake expert. Seismologist Lucy Jones screened San Andreas to give the public the low-down on what the movie got right and what it got way, way wrong. Her consensus? "[It's] a lousy documentary but a good movie."
Jones, who works with the U.S. Geological Survey, attended the Tuesday night's Hollywood premiere of San Andreas, where she had her picture taken with The Rock and live tweeted throughout the movie (I wonder if she got any dirty looks) about what which scenes were scientifically reasonable and which were just plain impossible. Speaking to USA Today, Jones sums up the scientific authenticity of the film:
Don't consider this your seismology course.
So what were some of the most egregious errors? In the movie, California is hit with massive magnitude-9.6 and -9.1 earthquakes, which Jones told the paper can't happen along the San Andreas fault. According to one of her tweets, the highest-magnitude earthquake that could hit California would be an 8.2.
Another implausible plot point? The earthquake creates a monster tsunami that swallows the Golden Gate Bridge and drowns California, which Jones said also can't happen since the San Andreas fault is under land, not the ocean. Tsunamis are only caused by ocean quakes.
Lastly? It might not even take a seismologist to recognize this but that wave is way too big. She told USA Today:
You can't get a tsunami bigger than the ocean is deep.
Oh, and also? Buildings don't explode in earthquakes — that was clearly the director taking creative license to maximize the destruction as much as possible.
Despite the major suspension of disbelief required to accept what happens in San Andreas, the film does get quite a few things right, according to Jones. For example, earthquakes are often followed by aftershocks, which she says the film portrayed realistically.
The people in the film also reacted in the appropriate way in the event of an earthquake, which is to "drop, cover, and hold on."
So what was her takeaway from San Andreas? Jones says that while the movie won't teach you real lesson on seismology, she hopes it will inspire people to be better prepared for a real-life earthquake.
Image: Warner Bros. Pictures/YouTube