Does E = mc² or mc³? The Science in Bond Films Thread

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  • RichardTheBruceRichardTheBruce I'm motivated by my Duty.
    edited February 2023 Posts: 12,815
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    This beautiful and popular flower contains a deadly poison. CC-BY 2.0/Gail Hampshire
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    Introducing the poison that inspired Van Gogh and
    almost killed James Bond: Digoxin
    wednesday 21. September 2022

    The otherwise innocent-looking flower Digitalis contains the poison that can make your heart stop. That unfortunate effect is also the reason why the poison has been used for treating heart ailments for more than 200 years.
    • Timothy Patrick Jenkins assistant professor at the department of biotechnology and biomedicine, Technical University of Denmark
    • Lorenzo Seneci guest researcher at the department of biotechnology and biomedicine, Technical University of Denmark
    • Christoffer V. Sørensen PhD student
    • Charlotte Risager Christensen Bachelor’s student at the Department of Biotechnology and Biomedicine, Technical University of Denmark
    After only a few sips of an otherwise innocent-looking martini, James Bond is shakingly leaving the game of poker against the villain Le Chiffre. The rhythm of his heart is being disturbed by the poison in his veins, causing him to promptly contact the MI6 headquarters. They immediately conclude that 007 is suffering from ventricular tachycardia (VT), a specific type of abnormal heart rhythm, caused by the plant toxin digoxin.

    Bond nearly dies but is saved by shock from a defibrillator at the very last moment.

    This famous depiction of digoxin poisoning comes from the James Bond movie “Casino Royale”. This toxin is derived from an otherwise harmless looking plant with bell shaped flowers of varying colours such as purple, white, and yellow. The plant is called foxglove (genus Digitalis) and throughout time it has caused many deaths while at the same time saving many lives – both thanks to its potent poison.

    The deadly effects of digoxin have been known for over 400 years, and yet even the great 007 almost fell to the poison of a simple foxglove plant- already enough of a reason to explore what makes digoxin so lethal.
    The sly features of digoxin
    What makes digoxin lethal is also what makes it intriguing, resulting in its frequent appearances in fiction. The fascination for this toxin might stem from some of its many sly features:
    1. Foxglove is easily accessible due to its wide distribution throughout most of Europe, the US, and Canada.
    2. Digoxin poisoning is very slow-acting as the toxic effects manifest 30 minutes to 2 hours after ingestion. Also, symptoms of digoxin poisoning can be easily mistaken for other illnesses, both of which makes identification of poisoning by foxglove difficult.
    3. Lastly, the poisoning will result in heart-attack and ultimately death. However, since heart-attack can be caused by many factors, foul play is often not suspected in cases of poisoning.
    Overall, digoxin is easily accessible, difficult to trace, and extremely lethal, which has made the toxin particularly popular as a murder weapon in fiction- and sometimes even in reality.

    Admittedly, not many homicides by digoxin have been reported to date, though it is possible that several cases might have been missed due to the exceptionally concealed mechanism of the toxin.

    Nevertheless, a few high-profile cases have been confirmed over the years, including one from Toronto's Hospital in 1980–1981. In this case, a nurse was charged with the murder of four babies by poisoning with digoxin. An older case from 1935 in Belgium reports a total of 26 murders via digoxin poisoning by a woman tending to elderly patients.

    But how exactly does the poison work?
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    Many species of Digitalis exist, all of which are highly toxic. Left: Common foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) Top right: Woolly foxglove (Digitalis lanata), the digoxin-producing specimen. Bottom right: Yellow foxglove (Digitalis grandiflora).
    Picture: Katya.
    The heart-stopping mechanism of digoxin
    Irregular heart rhythm and eventually heart-attack is what makes digoxin poisoning so dangerous. When digoxin enters the body, it binds a transport protein called the sodium-potassium pump situated on heart cells. Binding of digoxin blocks the pump, ultimately resulting in heart muscle contraction caused by a complex chain of responses.

    To understand this mechanism, it is essential to know how muscle contraction works. An important factor for muscle contraction is calcium – high concentrations of it induce contraction of muscle fibres, whereas low concentrations cause relaxation.

    To keep things simple, we can say that this mechanism is primarily regulated by three proteins: The calcium channel (here called the ‘activator’), the sodium-calcium exchanger (which functions as the ‘relaxer’) and the sodium-potassium pump (interpreted as the ‘motor’).

    When the activator opens, calcium is imported into the muscle cell, activating the muscle, and causing it to contract. For the muscle to relax, calcium must then be removed by the relaxer.

    This transport can only occur if the concentration of sodium inside the cell is low. This is the function of the motor, which keeps sodium levels low in the cell. Thus, one can think of the motor as a battery powering up the relaxer.

    When digoxin is present, it blocks the function of the motor, leading to decreased functionality of the relaxer in turn. This blockage causes irregular heartbeats and – in the worst cases – heart-attack since the muscle can’t relax properly.

    The dysfunction of the heart rhythm can also lead to symptoms of weakness, disorientation, and even vision disturbances. Interestingly, one of the more commonly observed effects of digoxin on vision is the appearance of a yellow tinge in all objects (See textbox below).
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    The action of digoxin. Activation of the muscle leads to import of calcium resulting in muscle contraction. Under normal conditions the relaxer will export calcium, relaxingthe muscle. In a poisoned individual the motor will be blocked leading to a dysfunctional relaxer, thereby causing the muscle to keep contracting.
    If poisoned, don’t do as James Bond
    So how can you counter the effects of digoxin poisoning?

    First of all, it is of crucial importance that the functional heart rhythm is regained. In Casino Royale, Bond saves himself with a defibrillator.

    In reality, this is not recommended since this method is generally ineffective for correction of heart rhythm in patients with digoxin poisoning.

    Instead, the first measure to be considered is the decontamination of the poisoned individual if the poisoning is caused by ingestion.

    This should be done by ingestion of activated charcoal since this can bind remaining toxin in the stomach. After decontamination, a digoxin antidote ought to be administered.

    Currently, the only available antidote is called DigiFab. It consists of antibody fragments sourced from sheep immunized with digoxin. When administered, the antibody fragments will bind digoxin, which in turn cannot bind to, and block, the motor.
    Treating digoxin poisoning can in general be quite challenging since the toxin is extremely small and therefore spreads widely throughout the body, which makes clearance especially tricky. Having said that, Digifab is still life-saving in the majority of digoxin poisoning cases.

    However, the antidote is often not administered due to cost considerations. In fact, the price of this product is very high (up to USD 60k per treatment) which leads to only 25% of poisoned patients actually receiving the drug.

    Thus, digoxin poisoning can be a very dangerous situation to be in, without many treatment options.
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    Function of digoxin antidote. The antidote (blue) will bind the digoxin molecules (yellow) which in turn cannot bind to and block the motor (purple).
    One of the oldest medicaments for troubled hearts
    Despite its lethality, digoxin can also be beneficial to human health when administered at the correct dosage.

    In fact, this toxin has been used therapeutically for around 200 years for treatment of heart disease, which makes it one of the oldest medicaments in cardiology.

    Digoxin is beneficial in heart disease treatment since it increases the force of heart contractions and reduces the heart rate by blocking the motor.

    This action is useful in treatment of several heart conditions such as congestive heart failure (-meaning that the heart does not pump blood efficiently), atrial fibrillation (irregular and excessively rapid heartbeat) and other heart rhythm conditions.

    Due to the high prevalence of heart disease in the 21st century and the low price of 0.47 – 0.56 USD per pill, digoxin is widely used globally - around 66,000 patients in Denmark receive it each year and it was the 184th most prescribed medication in the United States in 2018, with more than 4 million prescriptions. Unsurprisingly, most of the patients receiving the drug are elderly, with nearly one-third being 85 years of age or older.
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    An example of Van Gogh's use of yellow which might have been caused by digoxin poisoning.
    Was Van Gogh’s vision affected by digoxin poisoning?
    One of the more common indications of digoxin poisoning is vision disturbances. Often people report experiencing a yellow tinge to everything they see. This condition is also known by the name xanthopsia. It has been suggested that this condition is at the root of what is known as Vincent van Gogh’s “yellow period”. This theory is supported by two portraits of Van Gogh’s doctor, Paul Gachet, where he is depicted holding a foxglove flower. The artist may at this time have taken foxglove for treatment of epileptic seizures, although today it is known that digoxin is not suitable for treatment of epilepsy. Due to this misconception, Van Gogh could have unintentionally overdosed with digoxin leading to the yellow tint in many of his paintings.

    Thin line between treatment and poisoning
    Although many patients are treated with digoxin, it carries serious risks if administered incorrectly.

    In fact, the toxic dose of digoxin is only 1.6 times that of the therapeutic dose, meaning that minimal overdosing can result in severe poisoning.

    Dosing of digoxin is not an easy task since differences in body size, age, and multiple other factors can change the response of different patients to the therapy.

    As a result, toxicity often occurs among chronic users (especially in elderly patients or patients with renal impairment) , with a mortality rate between 7-30%.
    Additionally, it is estimated that over 5000 emergency department visits for digoxin toxicity occur annually in the United States. Thus, poisoning from clinical use is actually the most common reason for digoxin poisoning-not malicious assassination attempts like the one depicted in Casino Royale.
    Because of this, other drugs are now preferred for treatment of heart disease, such as Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme (ACE), Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARBs) and Beta-blockers.

    In general, the matter is still debated and differences in heart conditions and patient response to different drugs all affect which drug option is the best in each individual case.

    Thus, there is a need for either safer dosing or improved options for treatment of toxicity. Otherwise, digoxin is likely to be replaced by alternate drugs in future heart disease treatment. In the meantime, we can at least take a valuable lesson from 007’s life-threatening encounter with digoxin: no matter how fancy the event, never accept a martini from a mysterious stranger.

    The article was originally published on our danish sister site Forskerzonen.

    References
    • ‘Digitalis poisoning: historical and forensic aspects’, Journal of the American College of Cardiology (1983), DOI: 10.1016/s0735-1097(83)80080-1
    • ‘Digoxin: clinical highlights: a review of digoxin and its use in contemporary medicine’, Critical pathways in Cardiology’ (2011), DOI: 10.1097/HPC.0b013e318221e7dd
    • ‘Pharmacological treatment of cardiac glycoside poisoning’, British journal of clinical pharmacology (2016), DOI: 10.1111/bcp.12814
    • ‘Digoxin Toxicity and Use of Digoxin Immune Fab: Insights From a National Hospital Database’, JACC: Heart Failure (2016), DOI: 10.1016/j.jchf.2016.01.011
    • ‘Emergency Department Visits and Hospitalizations for Digoxin Toxicity’, Circulation: Heart Failure (2014), DOI: 10.1161/CIRCHEARTFAILURE.113.000784
    • ‘Drugs for Heart Failure’, MSD Manual (2020)
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  • j_w_pepperj_w_pepper Born on the bayou. I can still hear my old hound dog barkin'.
    Posts: 8,635
    Regarding digitalis/foxglove (German: "Fingerhut" = thimble in English). We've had it in our garden/yard for decades, not having planted it, and in previous places before. It is a wonderful and attractive plant, and we're happy to see each one of them when they bloom in spring or summer. And everybody here knows that they're poisonous, but beyond that, nobody cares. The plant is also protected, so you mustn't even pull any of them out...which won't change much anyway, since their seeds are all over the place.

    I love them and cherish them and refuse to condemn them, since I won't eat them. They're absolutely welcome in our place. A beautiful gift of nature.
  • CommanderRossCommanderRoss The bottom of a pitch lake in Eastern Trinidad, place called La Brea
    Posts: 7,925
    j_w_pepper wrote: »
    Regarding digitalis/foxglove (German: "Fingerhut" = thimble in English). We've had it in our garden/yard for decades, not having planted it, and in previous places before. It is a wonderful and attractive plant, and we're happy to see each one of them when they bloom in spring or summer. And everybody here knows that they're poisonous, but beyond that, nobody cares. The plant is also protected, so you mustn't even pull any of them out...which won't change much anyway, since their seeds are all over the place.

    I love them and cherish them and refuse to condemn them, since I won't eat them. They're absolutely welcome in our place. A beautiful gift of nature.

    They grow in your garden... do you have more plants with similar attributes in your garden?......
  • j_w_pepperj_w_pepper Born on the bayou. I can still hear my old hound dog barkin'.
    Posts: 8,635
    j_w_pepper wrote: »
    Regarding digitalis/foxglove (German: "Fingerhut" = thimble in English). We've had it in our garden/yard for decades, not having planted it, and in previous places before. It is a wonderful and attractive plant, and we're happy to see each one of them when they bloom in spring or summer. And everybody here knows that they're poisonous, but beyond that, nobody cares. The plant is also protected, so you mustn't even pull any of them out...which won't change much anyway, since their seeds are all over the place.

    I love them and cherish them and refuse to condemn them, since I won't eat them. They're absolutely welcome in our place. A beautiful gift of nature.

    They grow in your garden... do you have more plants with similar attributes in your garden?......

    Not really. Our real enemies are wild blackberries, whose shoots (several meters long before you realise it) overgrow everything else, and prick your skin all the way through thick gloves when you try to remove them. Or wild black cherries (prunus serotina), which are really an invasive species which we would like to get rid of.

    But I suppose quite a few plants we have here (intentionally or unintentionally) also qualify as being sort of poisonous. It's all a question of the dose one swallows.

    No competition for Safin's island, at any rate.
  • RichardTheBruceRichardTheBruce I'm motivated by my Duty.
    Posts: 12,815
    739ba58cdcf42188ebdbc8eb717ac686--vintage-space-retro-vintage.jpg
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    Moonraker was the most obvious, but not the only,
    Bond movie with a space theme. (credit: United Artists)
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    Bond, in orbit
    See the complete article here:
    by Dwayne A. Day
    Monday, January 8, 2007

    Last week, Amazon.com billionaire Jeff Bezos revealed images and video footage of the November test flight of his Goddard rocket in the Texas desert. Bezos’ company, Blue Origin, has been operating in extreme secrecy. But why should we expect anything else? It is, after all, what we’ve been fed by the movies for five decades.

    The concept of billionaire businessmen developing secret space programs is not a new one. In fact, it has existed in science fiction literature and film for decades. One could trace it back at least to Robert Heinlein, whose screenplay for the 1950 movie Destination Moon featured a rich industrialist sponsoring an atomic-powered rocketship to the Moon. But the much more common, familiar, and tired cliché comes from James Bond movies, where rich industrialists have usually employed space to evil purposes.

    Of course, James Bond movies suck. Yes, the latest Bond film, Casino Royale, has been widely praised for essentially rewriting the Bond genre and dispensing with many of the silliness in favor of a more muscular and raw protagonist. However, one film does not make a trend, and over the years Bond movies have demonstrated a number of overused characteristics: too many gadgets that prove to be perfectly suited for whatever predicament Bond finds himself stuck in, sexist character names, lame double-entendres, and, of course, megalomaniacal rich supervillains.
    The concept of billionaire businessmen developing secret space programs is not a new one. In fact, it has existed in science fiction literature and film for decades.
    However, despite their overall godawfulness, Bond movies often also feature clever plot ideas that really belong in much better movies. Occasionally an unremarkable non-Bond movie will contain a great Bond-like idea that should be in an even better movie, but then gets stolen for a Bond movie. This has happened a few times. For instance, Jackie Chan’s amusing Rumble in the Bronx featured a fantastic action sequence involving a massive hovercraft barreling down a city street. That was cool. Bond lamely ripped it off in 2002’s Die Another Day, where it became a smaller hovercraft used in a chase through a minefield. It’s such a great idea that it really does deserve a better movie than either of these.

    Which brings us, in a very roundabout way, to the subject of James Bond movies and space. James Bond movies offer several examples of neat space storylines or plot ideas that really deserved to be in better movies. There have been twenty-one Bond movies, and space themes have appeared in five of them. In most cases, the script took a good idea and then hyped it into something silly. This started very early in the Bond franchise, in fact, right at the beginning.
    Dr. No
    The very first Bond movie, and the one that supplied the iconic image of Ursula Andress emerging from the ocean in a bikini. It is also the least typical Bond film, but does involve the stereotypical, rich evil genius up to nefarious deeds. This time the evil rich villain wants to interfere with an American Mercury spacecraft launch. However, Bond conveniently blows up a nuclear reactor in Jamaica, foiling the plot. The movie does not bother to explain how irradiating the Caribbean is a superior outcome, however, especially when one considers that hurricanes come from that general direction—atomic hurricanes, now that would be bad (but might make for an amusing movie).
    You Only Live Twice
    This 1967 movie started with a Gemini spacecraft being abducted in orbit by another spacecraft that moved in behind it, opened its payload fairing, and swallowed it like an alligator, leaving one spacewalking astronaut outside to float to his doom. Naturally, Bond is sent to investigate and discovers that evil billionaire Ernst Blofeld is trying to instigate global war by capturing both American and Russian spacecraft. He commands his forces from his headquarters inside an extinct volcano from which he launches his rockets. This concept might have seemed cool and futuristic in the midst of the space race, but it is partially undone by limited special effects. The plot device of the evil billionaire instigating mayhem, usually by stealing something belonging to a superpower, and then being taken down when his command center is attacked by commandoes led by James Bond, was recycled numerous times, most notably in both The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker.
    Diamonds Are Forever
    In this 1971 movie Bond discovered that the nefarious Ernst Blofeld was stockpiling diamonds for his massive laser satellite that he intended to use to fry various targets around the globe. His adventures take him to Las Vegas, where he gets involved in a moon-buggy chase in the desert. The diamond-studded satellite gets launched and blasts an American ICBM, a Soviet nuclear submarine (under water) and a Chinese missile base. Naturally, Bond wins in the end by leading a massive firepower-heavy assault on the bad guy’s offshore oil platform lair.

    The movie is yet another frustrating example of the Bond genre, filled with both silliness and clever ideas, although the special effects had notably improved since 1967. It is clear from the various Bond space movies that the screenwriters at least did some homework about real spaceflight. In this case, the satellite is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, which actually makes a lot of sense, because a satellite launched into a polar orbit from there could cover the entire globe.

    Remember when the Space Shuttle was still full of promise and seemed incredibly futuristic? That was around 1979 or so, and Bond was there, trying to capitalize on the sci-fi genre reinvigorated by Star Wars.

    Unlike You Only Live Twice, this time it is clear that Blofeld doesn’t have his own space program and actually has to find a real aerospace company to build his satellite, which he does by secretly taking over an American company run by a billionaire American aerospace executive clearly modeled on Howard Hughes. In a surprising twist, the man is neither batty nor evil. He does, however, have the Texas accent and attitude that the British consider to be shorthand for the American cowboy swagger that they publicly despise, but often secretly admire.
    Moonraker
    Remember when the Space Shuttle was still full of promise and seemed incredibly futuristic? That was around 1979 or so, and Bond was there, trying to capitalize on the sci-fi genre reinvigorated by Star Wars. Once again an evil billionaire has concluded that once you’ve become insanely rich, the only thing left to do is kill everybody on the planet and remake it in your own image. This time the evil villain is named Hugo Drax, who, despite his megalomania, seems awfully bored, if not downright sleepy, for most of the movie.

    Drax runs an aerospace empire, manufacturing space shuttles and training astronauts for NASA (an early example of NewSpace, anyone?) But when one of NASA’s space shuttles is abducted in flight (firing its main engines from the back of a 747 despite the lack of any fuel tank), Bond investigates and discovers that Drax has a plan to wipe out humanity with a nerve gas and then breed a new master race based upon his herd of perfect, scantily-clad astropeople—all of whom will live on Drax’s orbiting space station.

    Based largely upon its campiness and derivative plot, Moonraker is widely regarded as one of the worst Bond films, but it was the highest grossing Bond movie in the US until GoldenEye, sixteen years later. Is it a coincidence that spaceflight (human and robotic, respectively) was integral to the plots of both films?

    The criticisms of Moonraker abound: a plot essentially stolen from the previous film The Spy Who Loved Me, stunning action sequences and locales that have little connection to the actual plot, and a performance by Lois Chiles as CIA agent/astronaut Holly Goodhead (insert obligatory snicker here), who is more wooden than a tree. Rather surprisingly, the special effects actually tend to slow the film down rather than add excitement. Of course, watching a Space Shuttle dock with the real space station is not exactly gripping entertainment, so it is hard to see how Moonraker could have made it seem dramatic. The movie would have benefited from some judicious editing, not to mention recasting, starting with actors who possessed some actual charisma in addition to nice legs (on Ms. Chiles, not the guy who played Drax—although I will confess to falling in love with the doomed Drax helicopter pilot Corinne Cleary the first time I saw her).

    Drax has to steal a NASA shuttle to replace one of his own, which suffered from manufacturing flaws. This was not terribly original, because at the time the movie was made the actual shuttle was then over a year behind schedule due to problems with the main engines and the thermal tiles. Drax has six shuttles that he launches from underground silos in the Amazon jungle (where does one find a construction company willing to do that kind of work?) The models were excellent, although the special effects appear dated today. The initial liftoff of the shuttles is almost as realistic as the actual launches that started only two years later—primarily missing the huge smoke plumes produced by the solid rocket boosters. Some of the effects are cheesy. For instance, to produce a smoke effect that streamed away rather than floated up around the shuttle, the special effects team filled a small model with salt, which then drained out in a thin white trail. Far worse is the space station design. Intended to look like a spider, it makes absolutely no sense at all. There is no way to get gravity by spinning such a contraption. The bigger sin is that it is one of the stupidest-looking space stations ever committed to film.

    But one parallel to the real space program is Drax’s megalomaniacal vision, which, except for the killing all of humanity part, shares some similarity with longstanding space enthusiast dreams of conquering the heavens:

    First there was the dream, now there is reality. Here in the untamed cradle of the heavens will be created a new super race, a race of perfect physical specimens. You have been selected as its progenitors. Like gods, your offspring will return to Earth and shape it in their image. You have all served in public capacities in my terrestrial empire. Your seed, like yourselves, will pay deference to the ultimate dynasty which I alone have created. From their first day on Earth, they will be able to look up and know that there is law and order in the heavens.

    Okay, maybe not too much similarity… Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and others want to build affordable rockets to send humans into space, but to date there has been no indication that they are actually intending to conquer the planet or breed a new race of supermen.
    Despite its flaws, Moonraker also had some clever ideas and concepts.

    Drax’s speech does bring up a little question, however: when his genetically and physically perfect breeding stock learned that all their friends and families were going to be wiped out with nerve gas, did they have any problem with that? Or was the promise of zero-gee procreation simply too good to resist?

    Despite its flaws, Moonraker also had some clever ideas and concepts. Upon discovering Drax’s space station, the United States launches Marines aboard a Space Shuttle from Vandenberg Air Force Base, where the US Air Force actually constructed a shuttle launch site that was never used. In a poetic touch, Drax’s killer nerve agent is concocted from a flower known as the Black Orchid, which itself was responsible for the deaths of the Amazonian tribe that cultivated it, and whose ruins he now inhabits.

    If you’re a chauvinist, the most clever idea in the entire film is the sexist concept of putting leggy female astronauts in low-cut miniskirt uniforms. It’s a far cry from the plain blue jumpsuits that NASA uses, and not terribly practical. Of course, that wasn’t really the point.
    GoldenEye
    This passable 1995 film wins my vote as the Bond movie with the best plot device worthy of a better movie: a space-based electromagnetic pulse weapon. The story is that during the Cold War the Soviet Union developed the GoldenEye satellite, equipped with a nuclear device capable of generating a single massive, directed-energy electromagnetic pulse that can fry all electronics for tens of square miles. They placed two of them in orbit before the country fell apart. A Russian crime syndicate with plans for holding the West hostage steals a crucial control disk for the GoldenEye and detonates one of the weapons to cover their tracks. Bond is already on the case and eventually follows the bad guys to Cuba, where a giant dish for controlling the satellite is hidden under a lake, which is dramatically drained to reveal the dish and its antenna. Like most modern action films, all the high tech gadgetry and cleverness is abandoned for the finale, where the fate of the Earth is ultimately decided by a fistfight between our hero and the villain.

    GoldenEye is admittedly not all that bad as an action flick, and the basic plot device is one of the best ones in any Bond film. A number of movies during the 1990s tried to use the concept of Russian weapons falling into the wrong hands after the Cold War, but none as innovatively as this one. The final fight between Bond and an ex-secret agent was filmed atop the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico—a site that was also featured in the Jodie Foster movie Contact. It’s a spectacular location for a fight scene, although remarkably stupid in terms of logic—it does not require a 300-meter dish to control a satellite in Earth orbit; ten meters is more than enough.
    Now considering that most of the above movies had some pretty clever space elements, it would be neat if somebody stole them (okay, in Hollywood they don’t steal, they pay homage) and put them in a better movie. Maybe something where the hero travels to the former Soviet Union and “acquires” a derelict Buran space shuttle to fly into orbit to prevent the detonation of an electromagnetic pulse weapon.

    Then again, how do we know that Bill Gates is not already planning this?


    Dwayne Day meant to write this article in time for the premiere of Casino Royale. Unfortunately, at that moment he was tied up, hands and feet, hanging above a swimming pool full of great white sharks equipped with lasers.

    Fortunately, he escaped.

    He can be reached at [email protected].

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  • DwayneDwayne New York City
    Posts: 2,560
    FYI @RichardTheBruce,

    While Mr. Day doesn't think much of Bond films, he does like one particular Bond Girl!! :))
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    ....On this I can agree with my namesake.
  • RichardTheBruceRichardTheBruce I'm motivated by my Duty.
    Posts: 12,815

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    Why Couldn’t
    Q Save Bond? No Time To Die’s
    Science Explained
    See the complete article here:
    By Holly McFarlane | Published Jan 9, 2023

    Q insists he can’t save James Bond at the end of No Time To Die, but is the danger of Project Heracles’ nanobots actually supported by science?
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    Project Heracles poses a significant threat to James Bond and the greater public in No Time To Die due to Q’s and MI6’s inability to reverse it, but the real-life science behind the weapon suggests Project Heracles is more complicated than meets the eye. No Time To Die famously shows the end of the line for James Bond, as his infection with the bioweapon Project Heracles leads to his demise. No Time To Die makes the stakes of Project Heracles’ leak and corruption clear, but the scale of the weapon poses the question of whether Project Heracles would be possible using real-life science.

    When it comes to James Bond movies, some suspension of disbelief is required. However, Project Heracles exists on the border of what is and isn’t scientifically possible, making it harder to suspend that disbelief. While Project Heracles’ technology is rooted in real science, its precise scientific accuracy leaves something to be desired. The usage of nanotechnology in reality clashes with Project Heracles’ presentation in No Time To Die, casting doubt over if it can be reversible. Project Heracles’ dubious realism makes it ambiguous whether Q can't save Bond at the end of No Time To Die.
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    No Time To Die's DNA Nanobots Virus Explained
    No Time To Die
    establishes the clear threat posed by Project Heracles, but fully understanding how the bioweapon works is not quite as simple. Project Heracles is a DNA-programmable nanobot bioweapon developed under the supervision of M. Project Heracles’ nanobots target a certain person for death in No Time To Die through their DNA but are harmless to any other person without that DNA. M claims Project Heracles is meant to save lives and eliminate collateral damage by ensuring a clean shot to the target, which is great in theory but becomes dark in practice if it ends up in the wrong hands, as it does in No Time To Die.

    Although M has good intentions with Project Heracles, the nanobots’ intended purpose becomes warped when it is discovered that the scientist working on the project, Obruchev, is actually working for Safin and has reprogrammed the bioweapon. Whereas Project Heracles is intended to only pose a threat to the target, Obruchev modifies it for No Time To Die's Safin to kill anyone related to the target or someone who possesses certain traits. The broader targeting of Obruchev’s version of Project Heracles is how the nanobots can target Madeleine and Mathilde or eradicate the entirety of Spectre, making it incredibly dangerous in No Time To Die.
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    How Realistic & Scientifically Accurate Is No Time To Die's Virus?
    Project Heracles’ nanobots are a huge threat in No Time To Die, but their scientific accuracy, and the possibility of such a weapon in real life, is a different story. The concept already requires a leap of faith to believe such a weapon would be sanctioned under a department head like No Time To Die's M, given its potential to be corrupted. However, one aspect of Project Heracles that doesn’t require a suspension of disbelief is its basis in science, which exists in reality, even if it's not entirely accurate.

    Nanotechnology similar to what is represented in Project Heracles does exist, although it is used to fight certain ailments on a molecular level rather than for targeted killing of people like in No Time To Die. However, this is a field of medicine that is still developing and improving. With that in mind, Project Heracles is accurate in its conception being rooted in real-life science, but that is where its realism ends.

    Beyond whether the creation of such a weapon would occur, using nanobots to target people with certain DNA on the scale of what Safin does in No Time To Die with Project Heracles is not currently realistic. For Project Heracles to work, it would require a perfect understanding of DNA and nanotechnology, which isn’t yet possible. Additionally, the nanobot virus is shown to be fast-acting, which would take several hours in actuality. Perhaps a bioweapon like Project Heracles could exist in the future, but it would not be able to work on the scale shown using current scientific understanding and capabilities, making its depiction in No Time To Die inaccurate.
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    Why Couldn't Q Save Bond (Can Nanobots Be Removed)?
    Although Project Heracles poses no actual threat to James Bond when he is infected by Safin in No Time To Die, Q claims there is nothing he can do to help him. When Daniel Craig's 007 asks Q how someone can rid themselves of Project Heracles after coming into contact with it, Q says there is nothing that can be done, as it is “permanent” and “eternal.” This explains why it is so threatening and needs to be destroyed. Because of Q’s insistence that Project Heracles is irreversible, Bond decides to remain on the island and sacrifice himself rather than pose a threat to Madeleine and Mathilde.

    Despite Q’s insistence nothing can be done to help 007, this might not actually be the case. Though No Time To Die claims that Project Heracles is permanent, real-life nanotechnology can be removed or decommissioned. The body can eliminate 90% of nanoparticles, so, assuming Bond doesn't come into contact with the targets in No Time To Die's Madeleine and Mathilde, it might be possible with Project Heracles. Additionally, in the case of a malfunction/failure with nanotechnology, nanobots can be deactivated using an EMP or MRI, which short-circuits them and corrupts their memory. Given the fail-safes for nanotechnology, this method of decommissioning might have worked for Project Heracles.

    Since Project Heracles poses no threat to James Bond, Q might have been able to save Bond using real-world fail-safes for nanotechnology. Given his profession and employer, Bond would have access to some of the most advanced technology and greatest minds to treat him. Despite not being dangerous for Bond, though, decommissioning his strain of Project Heracles would require separation from Madeleine in No Time To Die, something Bond can't do. In the end, Bond’s reluctance to be separated from his targeted loved ones and desire to keep them safe is why Q can't save Bond in No Time To Die, even if science suggests he can.

    About The Author
    Holly McFarlane (90 Articles Published)
    Holly McFarlane has been a Movie/TV Features writer for Screen Rant since June 2022. She is currently based in Wisconsin, USA. A recent graduate of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, she has a Bachelor's degree in English and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She has a deep love for critical analysis and social justice as well as a lifelong love for visual media and music, which are focuses that she likes implementing in her writing. Holly likes consuming a variety of types of media, although she adores sitcoms, Mad Men, Indiana Jones, and S
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  • RichardTheBruceRichardTheBruce I'm motivated by my Duty.
    Posts: 12,815

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    The 007 saga gets a tech upgrade for the 2020s
    By Alan Boyle
    April 10, 2023

    Kim Sherwood, author of "Double or Nothing," in an Alpine A110S sports car
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    Kim Sherwood checks out the driver's seat of the Alpine A110S sports car favored by her fictional Agent 003. (Photo by Rosie Sherwood)
    Imagine a James Bond story with quantum computers, brain-computer interfaces, a cloud-shifting climate control system and a billionaire who owns his own launch system and satellite constellation.

    Now imagine that James Bond is missing from the story.

    That’s the unconventional tack taken by British author Kim Sherwood in her first-ever spy thriller, “Double or Nothing” — the kickoff to a trilogy that introduces a new cast of secret agents, plus some old favorites including M, Miss Moneypenny and CIA agent Felix Leiter.

    James Bond, a.k.a. Agent 007, made his debut as the debonair MI6 spy 70 years ago in Ian Fleming’s first novel, Casino Royale, and went on to star in more than four dozen books and 27 movies. But “Double or Nothing” is not your grandparents’ 007 thriller.

    “Ian Fleming, of course, was a product of his time, and I’m a product of mine,” Sherwood, a 33-year-old lecturer in creative writing at the University of Edinburgh, says in the latest episode of the Fiction Science podcast.
    https://cosmiclog.com/category/fiction-science-club/

    Sherwood has dreamed of writing James Bond novels since she was the age of 10, and she finally got her chance when she was chosen by Ian Fleming’s estate to update the 007 saga for a new generation.

    Part of that task involved bringing more diversity to the traditionally white male cadre of secret agents in the James Bond universe.
    “It was really exciting, this idea of developing new heroes, but also a challenge, of course,” Sherwood says. “If you’re writing a James Bond novel and you are asking readers to care about other characters, it’s a stretch — because it’s James Bond, you know. He’s an icon. He dominates the spotlight. If he’s there, he’s who you pay attention to.”
    Sherwood’s solution was to leave Bond completely out of the picture.
    “I thought I would work that challenge into the story itself, and have him missing from the beginning, and introduce these characters who care about him and are trying to find him. So he’s both absent and present,” she says.
    One of the main characters is Johanna Harwood, Agent 003, who had a romantic relationship with Bond (and whose name pays tribute to a screenwriter who worked on the early 007 movies). Agent 004 is Joseph Dryden, a gay Black veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Agent 009 is Sid Bashir, a spy of British-Asian descent who was involved in a love triangle with Harwood and Bond.
    Sherwood says the double-O diversity isn’t just a politically correct gimmick: “There’s also this idea in intelligence agencies called perspective blindness, where if everybody in your group comes from the same perspective, they’ll all miss the same clues, and they won’t challenge each other. So intelligence agencies in the last few decades have really sought to diversify their agents as a strategic asset.”
    That’s not the only nod to modern times. “Double or Nothing” also features a dramatic update in 007’s tech world. The biggest change has to do with Q, who has traditionally been James Bond’s geeky gadget-meister. In Sherwood’s novel, Q is a quantum computer that sifts through terabytes of sensor data to anticipate the bad guys’ next moves.
    “A lot of intelligence agencies are using quantum computing and artificial intelligence to crunch these massive data sets — things that would usually take hundreds of years for the human mind to work out,” Sherwood says. “But they’re using them for things like trolling through the financial records of terrorists.”
    Sherwood says turning Q into a quantum computer was a no-brainer.
    “When I found out that intelligence agencies were using quantum computing, I just thought, ‘Oh, Q, quantum, “Quantum of Solace” — I can’t resist this. It has to go in the book,'” she says. “And the Flemings are really happy with it, because they felt like this is the way that spy agencies are going.”
    Although Sherwood’s double-O agents have to deal with an international mercenary force that parallels Russia’s Wagner Group, the biggest threat they face in “Double or Nothing” comes from a billionaire’s scheme to manipulate the planet’s climate through geoengineering. Sherwood suspects that if Ian Fleming were alive today, he would have addressed the climate crisis as well.
    “He wrote about the major concerns of his day, whether it was fear of communism or fear of the bomb, whether it was civil rights issues or changing gender politics,” she says. “He’s working out all of these issues through his stories. So I looked around and thought, what’s our biggest concern? And it felt to me like our biggest global concern, both existentially and practically, is the climate crisis.”

    Intelligence agencies are concerned about climate as well — concerned enough to issue a report about the national security implications. “One of the things I found really intriguing in that report was this idea that rogue actors or states could use geoengineering to try and avert the climate crisis, but without global consensus and without really knowing how it would work out,” Sherwood says. (In 2021, a follow-up report projected increased risks to U.S. interests over the next 20 years.)

    Sherwood asked a science-savvy friend to do a reality check on her fictional geoengineering scheme. “It was kind of worrying in a way, because they got back to me and said, yes, it can occur, and actually it could be much worse than you think,” she says. “So what I had done was a sort of watered-down version.”

    She also talked to medical experts about the idea of giving Agent 004 a hearing aid that doubles as a brain-computer interface connected to Q. “They said, yes, that’s basically what’s going to happen — and they talked me through how a kind of neural link might be made between the human mind and a quantum computer, which I ended up using in the book,” Sherwood says.
    Yet another tech twist was inspired by the multibillion-dollar space efforts created by the likes of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson. The billionaire in “Double or Nothing” controls a satellite network like SpaceX’s Starlink or Amazon’s Project Kuiper, as well as an air-launch system like the one pioneered with Branson’s backing at Virgin Orbit (which filed for bankruptcy last week).

    Sherwood is intrigued by the mindset of today’s billionaires.
    “Do they not see themselves as part of humanity? Do they imagine that on their private island or on their spaceship, they’ll somehow be safe?” she says. “I wish I could ask someone in this position how they rationalize it to themselves.”
    Throughout the book, Sherwood works in subtler details that acknowledge how much society has evolved since Casino Royale came out in 1953. For example, Ms. Moneypenny is in charge of the double-O agents after what Sherwood calls “the world’s most overdue promotion” — and she drives a Jaguar sports car that’s been turned into an electric vehicle.

    Will James Bond evolve as well? Or will he always be the martini-sipping spy with a penchant for bedding beautiful women?
    “If there’s no martini, there’s no James Bond,” Sherwood says with a laugh. “For me, the really fun challenge of making this set in the present day was to take the essence of the character that we love, and to work out how you make this person psychologically viable today.”
    In other words, stay tuned for the sequels.
    ]
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    Double or Nothing” is the first book of a trilogy by Kim Sherwood.
    (William Morrow / Harper Collins)


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