|[TV][Review] Terra Nova - Science of the first two eps
||[Oct. 4th, 2011|10:42 pm]
Fox's new SF-adventure TV series Terra Nova looks rather like a TV version of Dragonsdawn -- the 1989 novel in which Anne McCaffrey reveals the circumstances of Pern's colonization by humans, 2,500 years before the established "ninth pass" stories. But with more terrestrial megafauna (Pern's ecosystem had been repeatedly ravaged by the depredations of Thread, and had adapted) and no blue-toned vegetation. And fancier settlement architecture and computer gear. And no SSTO shuttlecraft flying to starship colony vessels in orbit.|
The show's premise is that, in the mid-22nd century, scientists discovered a temporal rift and determined that it debouched to a parallel-timestream Earth, 85 million years ago. (Awfully convenient that the end-point wasn't anoxic Precambrian Earth, or the surface of Titan, or intergalactic space.) Enlarging it to send colonists seemed like a really good idea, given Earth-Prime's (not their term) pollution. For twenty years they've been doing so, and have sent ten batches ("pilgrammages") of humans, plus lots of gear. (Operating the rift appears to employ two city-sized ring-shaped devices. That's a heck of a capital investment, but still cheaper than interstellar travel.)
What do we see on the far side?
Flowering plants evolved about 130 million YBP, but only half of today's main groups had evolved by 65 MYBP. So when we see baskets of fresh fruit around the settlement, were they gathered locally, or are the settlers raising plants brought from the future?
We see some huge dinos, and some mid-size dinos, but no chicken-sized dinos. And a millipede the size of a garden hose, but no giant dragonflies.
At the end of the premiere (first two hour-long eps) the family is standing around, staring upward at an oversized Luna. The "smart one," 15-year old daughter Maddy, comments that the moon is moving away at (if I recall correctly) half a centimeter per year. It's actually (based on laser range-finding) 38 mm. At 85 megayears, that's 3,200 km less than today's mean distance of 385,000 km -- only 1%. Since angular size is proportional to distance (for small angles) the moon would only appear 1% wider (i.e. 101% today's width, or 102% today's area). A barely visible difference, and probably outweighed by the "horizon effect" optical illusion.
Nobody mentions that the day is slightly shorter (a consequence of such a mass-shift in the Earth-Moon system), and they hadn't been around long enough to notice that the "moonth" (lunar orbit) is shorter too. Maybe in an upcoming episode.
Further, when they notice the constellations are different (wait, weren't they just complaining about the omnipresent orange haze of the mid-22nd century?) Maddy says "expansion of the universe." Um, no. Most everything the naked eye can see is a star in the Milky Way, and constellation-shift is due to their proper motion (vectors imposed atop their (and our) orbits around the galactic center). Heck, every galaxy in the Local Group is gravitationally bound together; universal expansion is applicable at the scale of galactic superclusters and above.
Huh. Maybe she's not so smart after all.