Angels & Demons: The Vatican must thwart the threats of the Illuminati, a group of scientists seeking revenge for being persecuted by the church in the 17th century.
Reality: A secret society called the Illuminati cropped up briefly in 18th-century Bavaria, but not as A&D writer Dan Brown imagines it (and it doesn’t exist now). ”The church was responsible ?for hunting down heretics,” says Fr. Michael ?Collins, author of The Vatican, ”which is ?different than hunting down scientists.”
Angels & Demons: The church’s cardinals meet in a ”conclave,” sequestered in the ?Vatican’s Sistine Chapel to elect a new pope.
Reality: The cardinals do indeed deliberate in the Sistine Chapel to elect a new pontiff, says Collins. Just how quarantined are cardinals during the meeting? Well, conclave derives from the Latin word for ”under key.”
Angels & Demons: Following the pope’s death, the Vatican’s camerlengo? (Ewan McGregor) ?destroys the papal ring, called the Ring ?of the Fisherman.
Reality: This practice dates back to the Middle Ages, says Collins. The Ring of the Fisherman, used to seal documents, is smashed and buried with the pope to prevent forgery. (The Vatican does have a camerlengo, or acting head of state, but he’s significantly less powerful than McGregor is in the film.)
Angels & Demons: Scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, create enough antimatter to power a city — or decimate it.
Reality: CERN has done research on antimatter and produced small amounts. According to ?Lawrence M. Krauss, a theoretical physicist at Arizona State University, it would take ?”longer than the history of the universe” to produce enough to destroy an entire city.
Angels & Demons: A member of the ? Illuminati steals antimatter from CERN and takes it to the Vatican via a portable canister.
Reality: Carrying antimatter in ”this little container is just ridiculous,” says Krauss. ”You need huge magnetic fields. It’s not something you carry around in your back pocket. More like an ocean liner.”