A subterranean volcano, rumbling under the La Brea Tar Pits, prepares to belch its molten goop all over L.A. Or how about this one? The upper management of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory turns out to be run by aliens who are plotting to crank up the global temperature so they can colonize Earth.

Don’t laugh. Such far-fetched plots have heated up movie screens recently, with healthy box-office and video receipts to show for all that, uh, highly imagined destruction and havoc. On the other hand, the so-called “junk science” and other convoluted twists in movies such as Volcano, The Arrival and other techno-thriller films have rankled real scientists — and their equally real lawyers.