Thursday, January 21, 2010

More Pandoran Biology

Now that Avatar has won the Golden Globe Award for Best Picture and there is buzz that it could take top honors at the Oscars, I figured a round up of links about Pandoran biology would be timely:

• Darren Naish has written up the Tet Zoo Guide to the Creatures of Avatar
A lot of thought and time obviously went into the design of Pandora's ecosystem and creatures. In part, I'd say that this was a success: a lot of people (even many not that interested in the natural world) have been very much taken in by the movie's xenobiology - if only this inspired them to become interested in, and passionate about, the biology and ecology of the real world.
 Read his spoilery speculations on the biology of Avatar's creatures.

• io9 interviewed some of the designers who worked on Avatar

Read how the movie's Bio-Lab was inspired by a visit to biotech company AmGen, why the plant life was green instead of cyan, and how human "drivers" might control their avatars from a distance.

• Production designer Rick Carter explained the inspiration for Pandora's bioluminescent wildlife.
Cameron's inspiration for that, Carter believes, came from his deep-sea diving experiences. "The whole idea of (that) bioluminescent world at night is something he'd actually witnessed when he was down at the bottom of the ocean during his 'Titanic' time," Carter says. "That bioluminescence is almost like a nervous system of the planet, and that's what's at stake in the movie, as you start to get past the initial foray into the Na'vi culture and seeing the drama start to emerge between the military-industrial complex that wants to exploit the world."

• At The Intersection Sheril Kirshenbaum shares what she enjoyed about the movie's science
Sigourney Weaver’s portrayal of a research scientist was uncharacteristically good. Instead of the typical caricature we see in Hollywood, she wasn’t socially inept (i.e. typical Rick Moranis roles) or out to destroy everything (i.e. Dr. Evil). Instead, Grace conveyed the natural curiosity about the world that I observe so often in colleagues. Also noteworthy, she was funded by a program with corporate interests, but really using the opportunity to pursue her own research. Sound familiar to anyone?
• Peter Watts commented a bit on Pandora's biology in his review of the movie
 Someone put a lot of thought into Pandora’s wildlife; it was beautiful to behold, it was amazingly diverse, it even seemed (for the most part) phylogenetically consistent. Across a wide range of species, everything from nostril placement to jaw structure was nicely suggestive of common ancestry. Except for the Na’vi, which are ridiculously anthropomorphic: tetrapod bipeds where everything else on the planet seems to have six limbs; binocular vision on a world where four eyes is the vertebrate norm.
 Read the post for the rest of his (spoilery) comments.

• Astrobiology Magazine: Avatar's Moon Pandora Could be Real
So far, planet searches have spotted hundreds of Jupiter-sized objects in a range of orbits. Gas giants, while easier to detect, could not serve as homes for life as we know it. However, scientists have speculated whether a rocky moon orbiting a gas giant could be life-friendly, if that planet orbited within the star’s habitable zone (the region warm enough for liquid water to exist).
The gist of the article is that moon with life could exist, and if it does, astronomers should be able to detect it.

And if that's not enough, you could order a copy of the official Pandora field guide: Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora

Related Biology in Science Fiction posts:


  1. What Peter Watts said -- leaving aside the sheer nonsense of neuronal USBs and soul transmigrations.

  2. geemer3:55 PM

    My book, 'I'm You or the Clone and I', available on Amazon, is a biology -based scince fiction/military novel. It's an entertaining read.

    William Goldsmith, M.D.


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