Total Drek

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Friday, March 09, 2012

So here's the thing...

I'm a major sci-fi geek and have a fondness for older stuff. This means that I am inevitably excited by the notion of a movie version of Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter books:

You know what I'm talking about: John Carter of Earth is magically transported to Mars Barsoom where he proceeds to kick ass and take names because he's from a world with higher gravity and is, therefore, super strong on Mars Barsoom.* It's classic stuff and is really perfect for a summer blockbuster because it was pulp adventure to begin with and therefore already includes gobs of fight scenes and whatnot.

But, sadly, I'm enough of a geek to want to make a couple of quick observations based on the trailers I'm seeing:

(1) Lower gravity, especially on the scale they seem to be implying, would potentially mean lower atmospheric pressure. So, unless the atmosphere of Mars Barsoom has a much higher concentration of oxygen, John Carter would be having some problems.** It's not out of the question that the atmospheric pressure could be pretty high- Titan, for example, is less massive than the Earth but appears to have a higher surface pressure- but given that Mars Barsoom is pretty Earthlike in other ways (including in terms of how much solar energy it's receiving) I'm still curious.

(2) Lower gravity means a reduction in weight but not in mass. This reduces the energy requirements to move objects in that you don't have to fight another vector of acceleration (i.e. gravity) but a bigass piece of rock in free fall is still hard to move even if you're not fighting gravity.

(3) Rephrasing point (2) above, lower gravity does not mean reduced inertia. Once you get that bigass piece of rock moving, it's gonna be difficult to stop it again. Just, you know, be sure to plan ahead.

(4) With less gravity your feet also have less friction, which in turn makes it more difficult to walk or, less prosaically, swing giant boulders around with an attached chain. Maybe try wearing some big, rubber-tread shoes? Maybe cleats? Ah, you'll think of something.

(5) We all knew the depiction of Dejah Thoris was gonna be tricky, but it just amuses me that for once a female character in a summer action flick will almost certainly be wearing clothing MORE OFTEN in the movie than in the book.

* Maybe also because he was a white dude and, let's face it, when the author was writing it was pretty much assumed that white dudes were better than everyone else.

** Yeah, that's a major exaggeration, but anoxia is still no joke.

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Anonymous Jay said...

My best guess as a chemist is that the Barsoom atmosphere is rich in nitrous oxide (N2O, aka laughing gas). This would tend to oxygenate people extremely well, and is heavier than oxygen so that light gravity could capture it. It's also pretty unstable, so watch out for fires.

This has been another episode of Highly Educated People Rationalize Very Silly Things.

Friday, March 09, 2012 2:58:00 PM  

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