Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Ten Percent Solution

I just started watching the Heroes screener, which I acquired through completely legal and non-Torrent-related means. Four minutes in and we already have a reference to people only using 10% of their brains. I saw a commercial for that Eureka series recently which referenced the same "fact." Why is it that sci-fi writers can keep abreast of basic concepts in advanced science, can learn actual science words and toss them about in a halfway realistic manner, but can't wrap their brains around the debunking of that idiotic myth?

Maybe it's the sci-fi writers who only use 10% of their brains.

Sigh...I know this is nitpicky, but that phrase has gotten to be like nails on a chalkboard for me. That and "it's just a theory." Ugh...sends chills down my spine just thinking about it.


Richard said...

Thank you! This old saw has been driving me nuts.

But I must quarrel on one point: these are not science fiction writers making this mistake. Or perhaps you used the term "sci-fi" deliberately as a pejorative term for the bastardized pseudoscientific technobabble mumbo-jumbo we invariably hear in television, film, and comics? The people writing this stuff don't know a damn thing about actual science or science fiction, nor do they care. At best they read articles in Wired, or New Scientist if they're clever, to soak up the latest jargon and buzzwords...but it's all just window dressing for World War II in space or another way of saying a wizard did it.

Tom Foss said...

Well, I was giving the folks behind Heroes and Eureka the benefit of the doubt; at least the latter looked pretty smart from the previews, though I haven't actually seen an episode.

Even so, it's not as if good writers are above this sort of idiocy. See also: Grant Morrison in JLA: World War III (the Million Monkey thing) and in Frankenstein (Masauru Emoto's magic water).

But I agree, these clearly aren't science fiction writers in the vein of Asimov or even J. Michael Straczynski, who actually do research and check facts before filming them.

Anonymous said...

Now, on the other hand, if they said something to the effect that the average human only lives up to 10% of his or her capabilities, I'd be willing to go along with it.

Tom Foss said...

That's the only way it really makes sense--if you're talking "mind" as opposed to "brain." People might use 10% of their potential or capabilities or something ephemeral like that.

However, in that case, there's no way one could measure percentage, nor could one know the whole capacity. So the "ten percent" figure is meaningless, and comes wholly out of the speaker's anus. Of which we also use 100%.