Tuesday, July 15, 2008

WALL-E and Plants in Space

At the Science Fiction & Fantasy Novelists blog, fantasy writer S.C. Butler writes about the scene in the Pixar's WALL-E that just about ruined the movie for him:
It’s a short scene. Wall-e and Eva are zooming around outside the spaceship trying to rescue the plant from earth. (SPOILER ALERT!) And they do rescue it. But then Wall-e takes it out to show Eva while they’re both still outside the ship.

That’s right. In a movie that’s basically about the ecological consequences of our failure to properly manage our planet, the heroes wave a plant around in space. And the plant’s none the worse for it.
So what's the problem with that? The problem is that space is very cold (-270°C), and dry, and a vacuum. Would that kill a plant? That probably depends on how long the exposure is for. I haven't actually seen WALL-E yet, so I don't know how long the plant is exposed to space, but it probably would actually survive if the exposure was short enough. Heck, even humans could likely survive space exposure for 30 seconds or so, and plants have the advantage of being able to grow back from

There's more discussion on whether the little plant would survive at Ask Metafilter.

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  1. I saw the movie and I think if 30 seconds is your cut off then the plant probably would have died. The plant wasn't exposed a whole lot. It didn't bother me too much because I understood that it was a movie for kids. It wasn't like he was waving it around in space for half the movie. A few minutes maybe (I can't remember exactly).
    Could it be possible that the plan was hardened by 700 years of evolution and adaptation on a hostile Earth long enough to last a minute or two without significant damage?

  2. Anonymous9:04 AM

    Wall-E totally looks like the robot from "Short Circuit"... minus the cheesy 80's style of course

  3. Anonymous1:23 PM

    Also, as my old plant physiology professor once said "photosynthesis doesn't occur in a vacuum."

  4. Anonymous10:18 PM

    It is only in Wall-e after the life-pod blows-up(Wall-e is probably not air-tight) and in cold space for 2 seconds before Eve picks it up with that beam thing (she probably IS air-tight, looks like a stasis area in Eve). In movie time, the sequence is about 1 minute.

    Since the plant looks rougher, and indeed looses a leaf, after that scene, you could argue that it WAS worth for wear.

    I dismissed it the first time I watched it.

  5. Anonymous12:37 AM

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  6. Anonymous8:03 PM

    The plant might very well die during exposure. A few minutes later, it appears visibly more yellow and loses a leaf when jostled. However, the captain doesn't know this and, mere hours later, they are all back on Earth, where a crane shot at the end shows hundreds of additional plants growing.

    Whether it lived or died, the plant becomes the reason the ship returns to Earth, which is all that matters.


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