Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dan Brown's Angels and Demons:Truth or Fiction?

Watch the movie trailer
A more in-depth evaluation of Angels and Demons

Dan Brown's novels are, without a doubt, some of the most action packed, fast-paced novels around. His stories follow Robert Langdon, a symbology professor at Harvard, on whirlwind journeys travelling all around the world. Langdon comes face to face with technology that seems so be years ahead; but is it? In this post I will investigate how real the inventions are in Brown's Angels and Demons.
Brown opens up this story by saying everything is real and that the technologies exist. While some do, no doubt, exist, some leave us wondering.
In Angels and Demons, Brown's first novel following Robert Langdon, we are whisked away on a 24 hour journey through Rome. Someone has stolen antimatter from CERN and placed it, as a ticking bomb, somewhere in the city. While still searching for the bomb, we find out that four cardinals up for election to become pope have gone missing and are turning up one by one murdered in the four "gods" of science. Earth, Air, Fire, Water. We follow the path of illumination to save the cardinals, and the city, from destruction.
But how does Langdon get from the US to Rome in such an urgent situation? The X-33 of course! This aircraft can "travel at mach-15 (over 10,000 mph). The X-33 space plane cruises at an altitude of almost 100 miles, on the edge of space. (Brown, Dan)" But what is the truth behind this plane? While there was indeed a X-33 and even X-34 project, it no longer exists. "NASA announced...that the problem plagued X-33 spaceplane project, a venture that aimed to create a single-stage-to-orbit spaceliner, has been scrapped. In addition, the American space agency announced that another reusable rocket, the X-34, is being axed. (David, Leonard)" So, while a program did exist, it appears there will never be a X-33 flying us from New York to Tokyo in an hour.
On to the main event, antimatter. Antimatter is a substance that is "extremely unstable and explodes when it comes into contact with absolutely anything (even air). (Brown, Dan)" CERN makes the substance using a hadron collider. Brown says in his novel that it can be a wonderful energy source, but a deadly weapon. I took a look through the CERN webpage. "In 2002 two experiments...managed to produce tens of thousands of antihydrogen atoms, later even millions. However, although "tens of thousands" may sound a lot, it's really a very, very small amount...If we could somehow store our daily production, it would take us several billion years to fill the balloon...the Angels and Demons scenario is pure fiction. (CERN)" CERN also says that not only is there no way to hold the antimatter, you can not make a bomb and it is not an efficient energy source.
While Dan Brown's novels are fun based on cool technologies, we can certainly make from this that while entertaining, it is purely fiction based on technologies. This story shows how science can be misinterpreted in the art world. People can take this art as fact when it is simply not so.
Read my Sources
These are all valid sources as they are reputable. Brown and CERN are also original sources. There is no room for bias as these sources just state facts.


  1. I thought this was so interesting to read about. I had no idea that scientific ideas from stories were actually going to be real concepts at one time. I wish i had more information on why they didn't end up going through with the ideas especially the one for the flight that would take a hour to go around the world. That would change things so much in our society. This was a great post because i got a lot of new information out of it.

  2. Dear Rachel,
    In the beginning of class we were asked, “What is the connection between Art and Science?” thinking about this for a minute I clumsily stumbled upon the idea that art was the inspiration, the creative idea, which formed the pursuit of sciences. However, after reading you post, I clearly see that science also influences the arts as well. And although it may seem impossible to generate enough antimatter to generate any form of power, could Dan Brown’s writing inspire someone to create a future where such fiction is possible? Art influence Science, which influences art, which intern influences sciences again, and as this cycle moves forward, so do we, into a future of possibilities.

  3. Our world would be so different if you could travel around in an hour. That scientific concept is truly so amazing because it would change the way we function in society. You never no what is possible in the world until you try and your post really helps to prove that theory.

  4. The X-33 and 34 sounds like an amazing technology that, if survived the cut, would certainly make people rethink travel. I can see why the projects were scrapped. Going Mach-15 pulls a lot of G-force and can put a lot of strain on a humans cardio and respiratory system if not in good/great health. The space shuttle goes from a standstill to about Mach-22.6 in 9 mins. That's why they train.

  5. Wow this is some interesting technology. I've heard of planes like this one. They have mad blue prints and plans for concept planes that I have seen. One of them went up and down like a roller coaster and was very unpleasant for the passengers, but it could get to anywhere in the world in under 3 hours. Its amazing with these 3 posts to see where the world and technology is going.

  6. I've never read a Dan Brown book, but it's really cool that he based the technologies in his stories on things in the real world. That plane sounds super cool, and reminds me of this train that we learned about in Concepts of the Community last year. The train could travel at extremely high speeds using very little energy.

  7. I agree with Kylie said, I have never read a Dan Brown novel either but I think the ideas he talks about are fascinating, I too would love a society with faster, cooler modes of transportation

  8. Dan Brown uses pseudo-science to over compensate for his lack of talent in anything related to written language. That being said, reusable rockets would be cool.

  9. I think it would be amazing if we had transportation that could go that fast. The world would definitely be much more efficient. This makes me think about all of the possibilities of technology in our future.

  10. You rule out some of that technology, but isn't it possible with future technology that thing like the X-33 could see the light of day? Or is it possible that maybe the technology does exist but its simply concealed by the government or private organization. There is always more than the eye can see.