A Physicist Breaks Down ‘Sharknado 2: The Second One’

Tornadoes and chainsaws are no match for logic!

The unnatural phenomena that is “Sharknado 2: The Second One” is catapulting its way into your eyeballs via the SyFy channel tonight, and we haven’t been able to stop puzzling over two of the highly-andicipated “Sharknado” sequel’s promotional images.

Namely: one depicting a cyclone of swarming sharks, presumably about to descend upon the unsuspecting New York City masses, and another featuring bloodthirsty fish-fighting hero Fin Shepard (that’s Ian Ziering of “Beverly Hills 90210″ fame, to those of you in the know) poised to slice a flying shark in two with a chainsaw.

Sharknado 2: The Second One SyFy/NBC Universal

Though we’re well aware that most of the fun of this movie derives from its utterly inconceivable premise, we thought it’d be a hoot to consult our friend, physicist Phillip Schewe (who you’ll remember from our look into the physics of “Fast Five”), regarding the plausibility factor (or complete lack thereof) behind the scenarios in these two photos.

MTV News: Could a large tornado ever potentially pick up a bunch of sharks, or is that just physically impossible?

Schewe: When contemplating a shark scenario like this, I begin by saying, “Well, in art anything is possible. It’s all good (stupid) fun.” But if you want to consider how plausible it is, then the scenario becomes ridiculous. First, tornadoes are land phenomena. At sea, there are water spouts, but not with enough force to pick up much other than to overturn boats. The spout might pick up a volume of water which might contain a shark or two (and lots of other things, but mainly water), and would transport all of the lifted objects some (short) distance.

So, suspending disbelief for a moment – what would happen to these sharks once they were dropped out of the sky?

Schewe: Even supposing (a big supposition) that a million sharks were to be thrown into downtown Manhattan and not be crushed by the dropping, then the first thing they will do is not look to eat, but to breathe. They will all suffocate in a few minutes and would be writhing around – after all, they’re fish out of water.

Sharknado 2: The Second One - 2014 Syfy / NBCUniversal

Right then. Moving on. How about our friend Ian Ziering and his chainsaw? All things considered: speed of the shark, weight of the chainsaw, size of the man – does this photo look staged for any manner of plausible action?

Schewe: Looking at the position of the chainsaw and the shark (which is coming at him at 100 mph), if the saw is already going, then what will happen is that the shark will be cut in two, but lengthwise (beginning obviously with the gaping mouth). There would not be enough time for the blade to come down from above to chop off the head. And anyway, a lengthwise cut is probably more (cinematically) interesting than a mere decapitation anyway.

With your knowledge of physics, is this the kind of movie you’d avoid completely, for fear of utter frustration throughout?

Schewe: I was a playwright for some time (and am now writing a novel), so I relish the difference between science and art, and I know the license that art must have. For that reason, scientific errors or implausibilities in movies (such as in the movie “Gravity”) seldom bother me. What bothers me (as it would for any movie critic) is bad acting or weak story.

Will you be watching “Sharknado 2: The Second One” tonight? Let us know in the comments!