Angels & Demons/Headscratchers

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  • When the big controversy [1] is over whether or not the camerlengo should be allowed to succeed as pope (because of his age), why don't they elect someone else and wait for him to get older?
  • Film problem: So a bomb with an equivalent nuclear yield of 5 kilotons detonates apart four or five kilometres above St. Peter's Square. The buildings remain largely intact, pretty much everyone survives with no-one getting flash blindness or even punctured eardrums- when a 5 kiloton blast would heavily damage everything in the Vatican area. That really bugs me.
    • That massive plot hole showed up in the book too. I think the film makers/Dan Brown are banking on the fact that most people do not know how destructive a kiloton is. On a side note, antimatter annihilation produce massive amounts of gamma ray radiations, the explosion would have killed all living things in the city of Rome.
    • This troper assumed that punctured eardrums and at least some injuries occurred as a result of the blast-- a freaking HELICOPTER BLEW UP, no matter how strong the rest of the explosion was, there's going to be bits flying around. Also, was anyone else annoyed in the movie when the destruction of so much property in the Vatican was kind of handwaved away? I know, it's better than a city full of people dying, but we're supposed to take the destruction of a ton of historical artifacts and private property as the happy ending?
      • at least in the film, they showed the bomb produced a pretty horrific shockwave, with people flung bodily into walls, cars getting blown away, debris smashing into people, even the roof of St. Peters caved in. In the book, everyone just stared at the pretty lights for five minutes and nothing happened.
      • As for the property damage, they just saved Vatican City, Rome, and everyone in it from total annihilation; a few sooty churches and a few chipped statues seems pretty trivial in comparison. Although I would guess that CERN and Langdon will wake up to a trillion-dollar-plus restoration bill in their mail once they find themselves in the Catholics' bad books again.
        • The Vatican is the richest organization in the world. They wouldn't try billing a professor, especially not when one of their own was responsible.
      • In the novel, if I recall correctly, the anti-matter caused a rumble on the ground comparable to a minor quake.
      • I did the math and covered it under Slap-On-The-Wrist Nuke. Such an explosion wouldn't necessarily cause that much of a shock wave or an earthquake, since it's a purely photonic release (at least heavily implied to be so in the story) which makes sense, since we've not yet been able to contain antihydrogen, just positrons. In an air-detonation of 250 milligrams of positrons (with another 250 milligrams of matter), we'd get about the flash-burn effects of Fat Man. Everyone and everything in line of sight would get soundly blinded and baked.
        • The Little Boy bomb had a blast yield of between 15-18 kilotons. at a distance of 1 mile / 1.6 km it had a blast pressure of 5 psi. the firestorm was a mere twice that. At 5 miles, a 4 kiloton blast would barely rattle the windows and the gamma pulse would likely do very little to people at ground zero. If anything, the level of destruction we see in the movie is far overboard of reality. Nukes are powerful, they aren't that powerful.
  • In the film, the camerlengo's plan makes no sense. For starters, he would have had to plan Langdon's arrival to pretty much the exact minute, since if he had been a minute or two earlier Vittoria would have just diffused the bomb, and a minute later the bomb would have gone off and killed everyone before he could get high enough to save the city. What's more, even if people had known that the bomb was set by the Illuminati (which they wouldn't have judging from the reporters at the end) that still would not have gotten the church to rally against science, it would have got them to rally against a very specific and apparently small terrorist group. Los Illuminati might have represented science and reason 500 years ago, but right now very few people know about them and even less associate them with science as a whole (less; as in no one). Of course, none of that matters because if the bomb went off the ENTIRE catholic leadership would have been killed, so it's unlikely there'd be any rallying of any kind, since anyone who could have been rallied around would have been in the explosion. Basically, the plan ONLY works if he stops the bomb, which required perfect timing on Langdon's part. (Also probably worth mentioning that Langdon was almost killed twice, which would have made it much harder for him to actually find the bomb).
    • The camerlengo had ordered that all the cardinals be evacuated beforehand (an order that was cancelled by the Swiss Guard). The destruction of Vatican City by a new and even more powerful Weapon of Mass Destruction would have turned people against further research into this dangerous energy source -- and therefore stopped research into the God Particle, whereas a religious version of 9/11 would have rallied people behind the Catholic church. The camerlengo was pretty much playing it by ear in the end; when the cardinals refused to leave he had to get the bomb out of there fast rather than let Vittoria defuse it (which also wouldn't have the same impact as a mid-air explosion which couldn't be covered up).
    • Still does not explain how he got to the bomb. He only found it because Langdon took him to it, and Langdon almost died twice. If he had just walked to where the bomb was without actually looking for it, that would have just raised loads of suspicion. And I still don't get why he had to kill the Pope to make any of this work.
    • Two points: The Pope had to die because a Papal Conclave is the only way to get all those Cardinals in the same place. Second, the Camerlengo intended to stop the bomb. Here is the Camerlengo's original plan: Frame the long-defunct Illuminati for the murder of the Pope, the four Cardinals and the bomb threat against the Vatican, create the illusion of "Evil" Science trying to destroy "Good" Religion in order to rally support for the Catholic Church. Then "save" the Vatican by claiming that "divine guidance" had led him to the bomb. Then Langdon shows up. Fine, keep him running around Rome looking for the Cardinals and not the bomb. Whether Langdon saves them or not doesn't matter because either way the Camerlengo wins.
      • "The destruction of Vatican City by a new and even more powerful Weapon of Mass Destruction would have turned people against further research into this dangerous energy source" But the energy source isn't inherantly dangerous, it was just used as a weapon. It would be the equivalent of the Catholic Church rallying against the manufacture of metal products after the assassination attempt on John Paul II. The idea that the entire Catholic Church would rally against something just because a fringe group used it as a weapon greatly misunderstands how people think.
    • It was clear the Camerlengo was playing much of the situation by ear. There were implications he was skilled at Xanatos Speed Chess.
  • In the film, how does a professional assassin not check for a car bomb?
    • For that matter HOW did the camerlengo plant the bomb? He can't exactly say "Guys, I'm gonna make a speech to the college of cardinals (hereby breaking one of the Church most sacred rule) and then I'm gonna plant a bomb in the car of a professional assassin that I'm paying. See you in an hour."
    • I kind of figured that (along with the keys attached in the wheel well of the car) the car was planted there as a getaway vehicle beforehand. Possibly by a minion. (And as for why a professional assassin wouldn't check for a car bomb-- either he really does trust the cause that hired him, which doesn't seem likely, or he wanted to get as far out of town as possible before the bomb went off, and made a stupid mistake.)
      • The assassin had to get a move on, both Langdon and Vittoria had seen his face and the police were combing the city for him.
    • The assassin implied this wasn't the first time he was hired by men of God. The Vatican, (even the Camerlengo) was probably a repeat client, so he had no reason to suspect treachery when a getaway vehicle was provided. As for how the bomb got planted, as with many things, this task was delegated to a third (fourth... fifth...) party
      • What irks me is that the engine-activated bomb is just so cliche and expected that any human being with more than two brain cells would know to look out for it. Why not have the Assassin turn the engine on, sigh in relief, then turn the headlights on, and then have the car explode?
    • He crosses directly into Too Dumb to Live when the car isn't even his own -- The Camerlengo gave him the keys and told him specifically what car to use.
      • Of course he told him what car to use. The keys would be useless if he didn't know what car they were for.
  • So, we have a room with special air conditions to keep the books from deteriorating. Fair enough. When the power goes out, you stop getting the air re-circulating, and the door can't open. Serious health and safety problem right there. But what makes it an absolute wallbanger is that there is still enough power for an electronic display telling them that the oxygen is running out. Which means they're also tesing the oxygen level constantly. WHY CAN'T THEY USE THIS POWER TO OPEN THE DOORS!
    • Doesn't button batteries enough to light up LCD screens but not strong enough to power a motor to the door?
    • The still-active displays are clearly Rule of Perception at work. Considering other statutes in Vatican City are still rather dated, a lack of OSHA safety precautions (or concerns) makes some sense in the semi-evacuated archives.
  • Someone on my flist pointed out a plan that would've worked better in the film; instead of fiddling with the lights in each individual section, simply turn off the lights in each half of the city in sequence, and then turn off the lights in half of the section where the lights went out, then turn off half of the lights in that section, etc. Why would they brute-force it?
    • Wouldn't matter anyway since they for some reason never guessed that the light could be connected to that bit of arcane technology called a battery!
    • They were trying the lights to see if the Illuminati terrorists were that dense (they weren't). But it was made clear, given the Swiss Guard's regard for having a symbologist on hand that they weren't an academic lot, (or a necessarily bright lot) at that.
  • So, did nobody else find it weird that the Camerlengo kills himself? Sure, the guy was maybe not quite in his right mind at that point, but suicide is completely forbidden in Catholicism, and it's difficult to believe that someone as obsessively devout as he is would be okay with committing such a serious (and unambiguous) sin.
    • Suicide is different from self sacrifice, even in Catholicism. He was out of his gourd and thought he was martyring himself.
    • Catholicism also does not allow you to hire an assassin to ritually murder people, the Camerlengo is not exactly working under conventially Catholic morality from the start. Then again, maybe Dan Brown simply did not research Catholicism hard enough to realize that suicide is a mortal sin.
      • But to be fair, killing other people can be a lot more ambiguous. It's incredibly easy to find examples of very devout Catholics who thought killing people was okay in at least some circumstances (the Crusades were pretty popular, after all). And in addition, suicide is unique because it's the only mortal sin of which it's generally impossible to be absolved, for obvious reasons. So I'll agree with the more obvious explanation.
    • Or maybe the guy honestly believed he deserved to go to Hell, once he realized how pointless his crimes had been.
      • That, or he believed that dying that way (even if it meant going to Hell afterwards) was the only way he could spare the Church's reputation from being sullied by his own crimes. This way, nobody's going to be able to claim that he was a Catholic fanatic, because a true Catholic wouldn't commit suicide: he'll just be remembered as a nutjob, so out of touch with the legitimate faith that he'd willfully damn himself.
    • I remember the Camerlengo in the movie appearing to pray as he was burning. Can a person be absolved of the sin of suicide if he prays for forgiveness after committing the act but before he actually dies? I doubt the person would be sincerely repentant of the act at that point, but I'm no theologian.
      • This question is discussed in a piece of theatre by german poet Friedrich Schiller. According to the character discussing, you wouldn't be forgiven because it's a way of having your cake and eating it, too, thereby discouraging the protagonist of suicide.
      • This troper also recalls the Camerlengo saying something along the lines of "I leave my life in your hands now" when praying and interpreted this like theorized above that he was simply willing to take whatever the Hell was waiting for him on the other side.
  • Why does the book present making an ambigram as extremely difficult? It even says that the best symbologists and artists haven't figured out a way to make "Illuminati" into an ambigram... But Dan Brown does it in the first few pages of the book! What?and he does it later on in the book, too, with Earth, Air, Water, and Fire! I repeat, WHAT??
    • This troper thought that the Illuminati ambigram was imperfect (it read to him as "Illiuminati"), and thus the assertion is upheld. Ambigrams are kinda easy to do (if you know the secret), so the other ambigrams made not his wall approach his head.
    • Oh, and John Langdon created the ambigrams, not Dan Brown.
    • Technically, he didn't say that anyone making ambigrams out of those words had been judged impossible: he said that historians had dismissed the notion that the original Illuminati ever created a set of brands from them. And they might well have been right, if the ones the Camerlengo used were recently-crafted fakes inspired by the ambigram-brand urban legend.
  • On a related note, why would anyone believe that an organization that advocates science would pander to antiquated alchemical pseudo-science by referencing the classical four elements? That's about as logical as the Discovery Channel adopting an animated iguanadon as its network mascot, and depicting it as a crocodile with a thumb-claw on its nose.
    • Note that the Illuminati was founded during the edge of the Renaissance/Age of Enlightenment. At that point, Science as you and I would know it is still under construction. At that point, chemistry was still part of alchemy, and the four element theory might very well be true (there was not enough data to say otherwise). Most scientists of the time dabbled in the "mystical" side.
    • True, but to pay homage to those mystical beliefs, instead of disregard them as well-meant but erroneous gobbledygook, directly undermines the presumption that the attacks are supposed to have been carried out to strike back at superstition and credulity in the name of science.
  • The reason they created the bit of antimatter was to prove that they could create it in large enough quantities to be feasibly used as a fuel. But it doesn't make sense why they would want to use it as a fuel. You get exactly the same amount of energy out of it that you put in.
    • Think of it of as a better battery rather than a alternative energy source. You can't get free energy, but you can pack heaps into small payload from where it's plentiful.
      • At about a billion dollars a gram, it's the most precious substance on Earth.
        • At the moment, they was thinking about the future. Like a far off Star Trek future.
  • At the end, it's revealed that the Pope sired a child via artificial insemination, meaning he didn't have to break his vow of chastity to become a dad. But how was his semen obtained? Wouldn't it be just as sinful for a priest to visit the fertility-clinic men's room with a cup and a dirty magazine?
    • Not at all. Masturbation is a sin specifically because it does not engender life. Sperm donation for medical reasons or for artificial insemination would be perfectly in keeping with the morals of the church.
    • He didn't use a magazine?:P
      • They use a really big needle?
    • Except that under Catholic faith, artificial insemination is against church teachings. [1] If Dan Brown had done even a little research, he would have realized this.
    • I think that´s precicely why he didn´t tell anybody. I´m no scholar, but I presume breaking the vow of chastity is a much bigger sin than fathering a child, no matter the means.
  • Why does the teaser trailer have somebody talking about how "we" (the Illuminati) are about to get revenge, when the Illuminati actually have nothing to do with the antimatter bomb plot or the kidnapping of the cardinals, and are probably extinct anyway? I mean, who's talking?
    • The Assassin in the novel was a much more important figure, with about half the story told from his point of view. He also genuinely believed he was working for the Illuminati and against the church. The trailer may have been recorded with this in mind.
  • Camerlengo's speech bugged the tar out of me. Knowing what exactly lightning is and how it works isn't going to give a person with a lick of sense a careless, fearless approach to being in a situation where lightning could strike them. On the other hand, if someone does get struck by lightning and doesn't die, doctors knowing what lightning is, how it works, and what to do could very well save that person's life. I get that the lightning example wasn't exactly the point, but the same principle applies basically applies to religion and science. A person can know exactly when the universe started, understand the scientific process behind it, and still believe that a deity/deities were responsible for setting up the science and letting the universe be created. I think the book did a fair job at making this point, but the fact that people and characters both were impressed and heartwarmed by that speech fills me with dread that overzealous religious leaders and followers are still going to continue to try to block scientific progress by claiming that said progress is going to impede faith. In some people, yes, it will, but there have been people whose faith have been impeded when there was little-to-zero scientific progress. Faith is a sometimes complicated, sometimes simple thing, but whether a person has it or not has nothing to do with whether scientists can say, 'Here's how lightning works, and the universe was formed by process of whaty-thingy xxx years ago.'
    • I wonder if he knows how magnets work...
  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't cold temperatures help preserve battery power? Not drain it?
    • Depends on the type of battery. Most rechargeable batteries will perform worse at lower temperatures.
  • When a pope dies, do they really carry his dead body around Rome, exposed, and air it on TV as they did in the movie? If so, I need to know so that I can avoid TV when Benedict XVI and his successors die. I have severe issues with seeing dead bodies. I prefer reading news on the internet to watching it on TV for that very reason.
    • They gave John Paul II an open casket for part of his funeral.
    • Several of the popes' preserved bodies are on display in St. Peter's, as well.
      • Why? I'm not trying to insult Catholicism, but aside from my own issues with seeing dead bodies, it just strikes me as disrespectful of the dead to display their bodies. Of course, I suppose, at least, that's better than the Egyptian mummies whose graves were not only broken into and stolen from but they themselves were removed from. Maybe it's a case of Values Dissonance on my part, but it seems the dead should either be cremated, buried, or, if they consented when still alive, studied by doctors/scientists and the only morally acceptable reason to disturb a grave/the remains is if it's needed to help solve a crime.
        • Catholicism frowns upon cremation (as does Islam and Judaism, but at least they bury the body almost immediately). Also, a Saint's body is frequently displayed in a reliquary. At one time, a Saint was chosen by whether the body rotted or not. Since popes are supposed to be holy (but sometimes were not, I'm looking at you, Alexander VI) it is assumed that they are on a fast track to sainthood. Also to an extent, all St Peter's is a reliquary for the first Pope. Veneration of saints through their remains is an old tradition.
          • Thank you for explaining it. I still don't agree with it, but it's nice to know the reasoning behind it. And now, I know to avoid St Peter's if I should ever be near it.
  1. before we find out the full conspiracy