The Schiensh of Bond: Licence to Kill

In the latest installment of The Incredible Suit’s monthly exercise in self-harm, Bond – like so many spies before him – Goes Rogue. Here at Schiensh, we try to find some Schiensh in Licence to Kill in a post subtitled Revenge is a dish best served dissolved in petrol and covered in shark.

He disagreed with something that ate him

When Felix Leiter is partially fed to a shark, Bond goes out to seek revenge. Revenge by feeding someone else to a shark. Overall, unprovoked shark attacks and fatalities from shark attacks are pretty low. There are some lovely squishy statistics over here. As an example, worldwide between 2000 and 2011 there were 807 recorded shark attacks worldwide, of which 66 were fatal. The shark that people keep getting fed to is identified by Bond as being a Great White Shark. The Great White is a notorious maneater, thanks –  in part – to post-Jaws paranoia. Film depictions of Great whites are somewhat unfair; as apex predators they are used to being able to eat pretty much anything. But some divers have successfully filmed Great Whites and not suffered attacks. Filmmakers Ron and Valerie Taylor, diver/photographer George Askew, and Piet van der Walt found that the sharks tend to be scared of the divers, even though they had been exposed to blood and exposed flesh. Great Whites mostly bite people out of nosiness. They don’t actively seek out human (unlike the evil revenge-mad shark from the Jaws movies). “Sharks don’t eat humans,” says shark expert Peter Kimley of the University of California, “They spit out humans. Humans aren’t nutritious enough to be worth the effort.” However, there doesn’t seem to be much scientific consensus on what actually causes a shark to attack. If there is food about, the shark is probably going to try and eat whatever is put in front of it like Leiter or Killifer. Although blood doesn’t necessarily cause the legendary feeding frenzies that the films have us believe.

What we do know about sharks is that they have colour vision, have a really good sense of smell, taste and exceptionally good hearing. More interesting though is there ability to sense electric fields. They have a special sense organ. All animals possess electric fields in the form of muscle contractions and heart beats, although this is only useful over very short distances (this totes refers back to my day job 🙂 ) In addition they have an exquisitely sensitive sense of touch and pressure sensors. This information is from the fabulous Shark Foundation website. Go there, they know LOTS.

Shocking encounter with an electric eel

Some hapless henchman get electrocuted to death by an electric eel sitting around in a tank. The electric eel isn’t actually an eel at all, it is actually a species of knifefish. Amongst all the crazy facts, they are air breathers. As to whether an eel can kill anyone, the answer is yes. Using their electrical organs, the eel can generate 600 volts of electricity and 1 amp of current, which is sufficient to kill a human.

The eels produce electricity using electrocysts located at two sites: Hunter’s organ and Sach’s organ. These electrocysts are a lot like batteries. The eel can control the intensity of the shock.

Death by explosive decompression

When Sanchez find the money planted by Bond in the hyperbaric chamber , he throws Krest – whom he suspects of treachery – into the hyperbaric chamber. First, Sanchez turns up the air pressure, and then forces it to drop rapidly by having one of his heavies break one of the tubes, letting the air escape. As a result, Krest’s head explodes.

Would Krest’s head have really exploded? Well, the most similar real life incident was on board the Byford Dolphin. There was a repid decompression from nine atmospheres to one in less than a second. Here’s how wikipedia describes it

Diver D3 was shot out through the small jammed hatch door opening and was torn to pieces. Subsequent investigation by forensic pathologists determined D4, being exposed to the highest pressure gradient, violently exploded due to the rapid and massive expansion of internal gases. All of his thoracic and abdominalorgans, and even his thoracic spine were ejected, as were all of his limbs. Simultaneously, his remains were expelled through the narrow trunk opening left by the jammed chamber door, less than 60 centimetres (24 in) in diameter. Fragments of his body were found scattered about the rig. One part was even found lying on the rig’s derrick, 10 metres (30 ft) directly above the chambers. His death was most likely instantaneous and painless.

Not in any way pleasant.

Cocaine smuggling.

Sanchez plan for distributing cocaine involves dissolving it in petrol (gasoline), transporting it, and then having the recipient reconstitute the cocaine. I very carefully watched it to see if I could figure out what was going on with the cocaine, given how bad my knowledge of chemistry is. Is this possible and would it work.

On the internet, I stumbled across a method for extracting and cocaine from coco leaves. It just so happens that petrol is used as one of the agents to extract the cocaine from the leaves. Cocaine is insoluble in water (its hydrochloride salt however is soluble in water). Adding baking soda to this solution makes a putty, not unlike the putty we see in the laboratory in the film. This putty is mixed with hydrochloric acid in order to make the salt – addition of ammonia precipitates out the cocaine hydrochloride salt – so this method could actually work.

Licence to Kill has been a bizarre viewing experience – it being one of the more scientifically accurate Bond films.

Let’s see if it lasts when we continue. The Schiensh of Bond continues next month in GoldenEye.

  1. #1 by iFlicks on May 7, 2012 - 14:44

    Jawsome stuff.

    Bonus points for squeezing in the phrase “apex predator”. (Someone’s been watching Chronicle…)

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