In the film The Matrix, Morpheus tells Neo that human beings produce 25,000 BTUs of body heat. But do they? And if they don’t, what does? BestHeating investigates!


Was Morpheus Right

The Matrix is one of my all-time favourite movies.
I love it.
The concept, the actors, the ‘bullet-time’ scenes – back when I was 18, the entire thing just blew the minds of me and my friends and completely freaked us out.
It was a ground-breaking movie that contained some really amazing ideas.

SPOILER ALERT

I mean machines – taking over the world and growing humans like some sort of cosmic computer batteries, using us for our body heat to keep themselves sustained – what’s not to freak you out about that?

I can think of nothing more disturbing than discovering that the world I live in is make-believe and that the sole purpose of my existence has been to create power for a bunch of faceless mechanised dictators.

Image by G-WaTT - DeviantArt - Creative Commons

Image by G-WaTT – DeviantArt – Creative Commons

Imagine it, terrifying!

Knowing what I know now, I’d have taken the blue pill all day long.

Anyway, at BestHeating we deal with heat every day and when Morpheus tells Neo that ‘the human body generates more bioelectricity than a 120 volt battery and over 25,000 BTU’s of body heat’, it got us thinking – is that really true?

Would it actually work?

Could the human body produce enough heat to sustain something as vast and as complex as The Matrix?

Would we make useful batteries?

Morpheus google image CC

Do we actually produce 25,000 BTUs of body heat?

Was Morpheus – in his leather-clad sunglasses wearing glory – just another part of the machine system?

With so many questions, we decided to investigate.

LET’S GET TECHNICAL

If you’re anything like most people I know, you’ll be thinking – ‘What is a BTU?’

Well, a BTU or British Thermal Unit, is a basic measurement of heat (thermal) energy.

To heat the average UK living room it takes around 10,500 BTUs per hour.

So, according to Morpheus (and assuming the machines in The Matrix had living rooms), it would take half a fully-grown human to heat a front room.

(The top half probably, cos that’s where all the warm gooey bits are.)

But – and I am sorry to kill the dream of Matrix fans everywhere with this – humans just don’t produce that kind of heat.

Far from it.

turning-humans-into-batteries_w_500

THE FACTS

If you are sat at home, relaxing in your living room, watching telly, slobbing out, the most amount of heat that your body is going to produce is about 356 BTUs/hour.

That’s a long way short of the 25,000 that our leather clad friend suggests we produce to run the Matrix.

Even if you were doing some light activity – such as ironing or vacuuming – your body would still only produce around 571 BTUs/hour.

Still a long way short!

Wait Mr Anderson - Image by Number14 - DeviantArt Creative Commons

Wait Mr Anderson – Image by Number14 – DeviantArt Creative Commons

In The Matrix movie, lots of the heroes and heroines are seen running for their lives as they are chased by menacing ‘Agents’ of the system; and running is a sure-fire way to increase your BTU output.

But even so – running at maximum capacity – Neo and his mates are still only going to produce a maximum of 3377 BTUs/hour.

Just because he’s ‘The One’, it doesn’t make him any hotter than the rest of us!

And 3377 BTUs/hour is about the same output as some of the largest radiators we stock.

Now to be honest that is pretty impressive, but still some 21,623 BTUs short of the figure that Morpheus insists we humans produce – and the humans plugged into the Matrix are all lying down in pink jelly cocoon beds, they aren’t running around anywhere!

So what could realistically (or unrealistically dependent on your POV) produce that amount of BTUs?

THE FIGURES

The simple truth is this – it would take far more than just one human to create the amount of BTUs Larry Fishburne’s character says it does in The Matrix.

To achieve the 25,000 BTUs that Morpheus tells Neo we pump out, you would need –

  • 29-and-a-half laid-back businessmen (easy enough to get your hands on)
  • 18 shoppers (though if half of them are as stressed as I am when I go shopping, it may be less)
  • 14 casually active agents of the Matrix (let’s say they’re doing a crossword while jogging – that’s casual enough)
  • 9 light Kung-Fu warm-ups (some leg extensions and a bit of chi cultivation) & 1 agent
  • 1 battle between Morpheus and 3 agents of the system.

And to top it all off, it would take a whopping 293 of those déjà vu cats to pump out enough heat to meet Morpheus’ target.

The truth is – it’s just not feasible.

Image by Jows - DeviantArt - Creative Commons

Image by Jows – DeviantArt – Creative Commons

IN REALITY

If humans in pink gloopy pods were to be used as a power source, they would need 59 hours to generate the 25,000 BTUs that the captain of the Nebuchadnezzar says they do.

And that’s just enough to heat one room for around two hours.

Inefficient or what!

The reality is that, at only 20% efficiency, the machines would be better off burning the food that a human battery would eat than they would having entire crops of us to tend to.

So, in short, Morpheus was at best misinformed or, at worst, just another part of the system that had been created to ‘pull the wool over your eyes and blind you from the truth’.

And as for the machines, they clearly aren’t as clever as they think they are, and if they needed heat, they should have just bought some radiators before they took over the world; they’re much more efficient and less trouble than Morpheus, Neo and their mates!

But then again, that would mean one of my favourite films of all-time wouldn’t have been made, so maybe it’s best just to shut up and leave it alone – either way, I’m off to collect some cats!

If you think (like me) that Morpheus is a big fat machine loving liar – and that he was just part of the system all along – leave a comment below and spread the word on Facebook and Twitter – #MorpheusWasWrong



11 replies
    • John Lawless
      John Lawless says:

      Hi Wayne, we understand that figure would be for humans doing light activity though. Those in the Matrix are lying still. They would have to be doing ironing for 24 hours in a day, constantly, or some other activity to produce that kind of output, and the fact is that they aren’t! So are the figures correct in the movie? Maybe not…

      Reply
      • craig
        craig says:

        Actually no, everyone in the matrix is plugged into a system that controls and regulates their body. There is no reason why this system can’t just shift the homeostatis of the human body up a notch and crank out more heat, effectively emmulating a level of light exercise.

        Plus there is the secondary bioelectical power gain. Combine the two and times it by the several billion people in the matrix and you really do have all the power they would need.

        Nice mathmatics but no, its plausible.

        Reply
        • Kadigan
          Kadigan says:

          I don’t buy it. “Living” is a wasteful conversion process, the energy needs to come from somewhere. Our food gets it from the sun, as much as the machines did. We’d need to have different means of producing our food – which would be further inefficient. Why wouldn’t the machines just appropriate our food-growing technology to power themselves directly at much less of a conversion loss? You can’t grow food electrically, and any source of electricity or heat necessary for the process would be a power source already available to the machines, no? Using humans as intermediaries introduces more problems than it’s ultimately worth, and quickly — so we’d just need to assume that the machines were, for all intents and purposes, “sticking it to us”.

          Reply
        • Kadigan
          Kadigan says:

          You’re failing to notice that managing and maintaining the entire infrastructure would also have energy costs – something the machines wouldn’t miss. And any such regulation as you mention would also come at a cost in terms of energy and food. Combine that with food production (liquefying the dead would probably just barely put a dent in that demand, and that too would cost energy) and the resulting system is one of the more insane Rube Goldberg setups I’ve seen. So unless the machines were dumb af, they probably sustained themselves on their “form of fusion” entirely, and just kept the fields going as essentially payback.

          Reply
          • Kadigan
            Kadigan says:

            I’m not sure that’s relevant. In-movie reality clearly shows these fields existing – Neo wakes up in one of the pods, after all. There is very little point to lying to him about their purpose, mostly because it doesn’t really matter. Also, Switch calls Neo a “coppertop”, which would mean she’s in on it too. No, there are too many issues w/ it being a conspiracy. The plausible explanation is that they simply don’t really know the purpose, and speculation in time became accepted fact – quite possibly long before Morpheus came along. It’s also entirely irrelevant — regardless of their purpose, the human race will never be free so long as these exist. And whatever Morpheus’ true colors may have been, he did end up serving the armistice, and I don’t see any realistic possibility of events turning into anything better than what was achieved, so it mattered little either way. Morpheus, for all his presence, simply wasn’t all that important in the end (but yes, I do recognize his ability to make things move, one way or another). And for better or worse, he did have certain respect for the machine collective — and I’d go as far as saying that anyone with half a brain should, whatever their other feelings on the matter.

          • John Best Heating
            John Best Heating says:

            Well, consider me schooled Kadigan. I appreciate your input, but it wasn’t meant to be taken as a hugely serious blog article. Morpheus mentioned BTU output and we deal with BTU output, every single day. We thought it would be a nice way to put a different piece of content together, that wasn’t all about trying to sell you a radiator. Incidentally, have you bought a radiator from our store yet? We’ve got an incredible new range of coloured radiators that have just landed – http://www.bestheating.com/radiators/popular-searches/new-for-2017/milano-capri.html – there’s a green one in there that I’m sure will go down a storm with Matrix fans.

  1. BOB
    BOB says:

    Unless these calculations were taken with the test subject submerged pink transluscent gooo in what i guess is some type of heat transfer media …”your” (reposted)math does not apply

    Reply
  2. Mike Sealander
    Mike Sealander says:

    I actually enjoyed this blog post. I am in the process of building a sauna in my back yard (climate zone 6A) and it occurred to me my sauna may be so energy efficient that I could keep it at room temperature on a relatively cold day just by being inside it. Turns out not quite true. I ended up turning to ASHRAE Fundamentals to get some information on heat output of humans.

    Reply

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