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WoP #18: An Objection to Phoenix Wright Bottle Physics

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The Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney series is one of my personal favorite sets of logic/puzzle games of all time. Going through the cases one by one, you begin to feel like a real Sherlock Holmes... if Sherlock made wild accusations in order to buy a little time to find proper evidence which may or may not actually support them. And if Sherlock Holmes involved a bunch of quirky witnesses and pop culture references. And if Sherlock Holmes took place in a universe where California and Japan are somehow the same thing. And if... well, you get the picture. Being one of my favorite games, however, does not excuse it from defying the laws of physics.

The specific instance I refer to (being the game includes ghostly possession which transforms the channeller's body into that of the spirit and telekinetic lifting of rubble which came from absolutely nowhere) occurs during the first case of the fourth game. In this case, the victim was murdered with a glass grape juice bottle (not actually a censor for wine, as cases in later games both include alcohol and outright confirm that the grape juice is of the "non-fermented" variety), resulting in death via cerebral hemorrhaging due to blunt force trauma to the forehead. All well and dandy, right? Except that the bottle was both fully intact and fully empty. So, I got to wondering if this were actually possible, when I found the results from an old MythBusters episode where they tested something pretty similar. They wanted to know if a full or empty bottle would cause more damage to the human skull. To sum up their results, the empty bottle generated less G-force during an impact (28.1 G as opposed to 22.7 G, natural, as it weighs less), could not break a simulated human skull, and DEFINITELY broke when smashed against the simulated head.

While the in game autopsy confirms the cause of death, this creates a contradiction with real life physics. Either the bottle wasn't hit hard enough to break, and therefore shouldn't have caused blunt force trauma, or the bottle was hit hard enough to cause blunt force trauma, and therefore should have broken. While this can likely be attributed to a different makeup of the structure of the glass, I'd be more inclined to believe that this was done due to necessity, as the position of the defendant's fingerprints proves integral in the trial, which means a broken bottle would make certain things much harder to prove. In addition, as with all video games, rule of fun trumps all rules of physics.

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