I recently watched the movie Another Earth. The movie is really depressing, but aside from that it’s also bad. I should have stopped watching when the directory of SETI was trying to contact the other earth and said:
Let’s try another channel
Radios don’t have channels, unless the radios you know are the consumer devices that you can buy at your local convenience store.
What really irked me though, is the letter the protagonist writes. She writes that when people sailed to the new world, it wasn’t aristocrats who did it, but convicts and other rejects. So far so good. Then she says that they sailed thinking the Earth was flat. Wrong! Maybe she was taught the same lies I was told in elementary school, but since she got into MIT and was interested into science and specifically into astronomy, I would have expected her to have the facts right. I mean, didn’t she watch Cosmos?
Around 200BC, a guy named Eratosthenes, not only knew or figured out the Earth was round; he actually measured it. Interestingly we know the number of said measure, but not which units he used. He might have been off by as much as 16% or as little as 2%. I’m impressed either way. Not done with that, he then measured the tilt of the axis and invented the word geography. Actually, he invented geography itself.
Fast forward to the late XV century. What’s going on? All educated people, all people of science, actually know that the earth is round. Not only that, they actually knew it was approximately 40000km in circumference. Granted, education wasn’t that great for the common folk during the dark ages; but Christopher Columbus was no common folk.
So, what did this guy Columbus do? He calculated the circumference of the Earth again, using his own method, and came up with this number: 10000km. The earth is 300% bigger than he calculated. He should have shut up and study Eratosthenes, but we know he didn’t. Instead, he decided he was going to travel around the world to reach India. A feat that was possible in the small Earth that was inside his head, but impossible in the real one. He tried to secure financing from several people who rightly so told him “Are you fucking stupid or what?”
Eventually, Columbus managed to convince the Queen of Spain… I have two hypotheses… she was either very naive or she was sick and tired of this guy and it was actually cheaper to send him off to die at sea. Being fair, governments should make risky investments, otherwise, we wouldn’t have as much science and technology as we do today. Columbus set sail in an impossible voyage, one that should have killed him and all his crew and the only reason why this didn’t happen is because there was a continent in the middle. Even then, they barely made it. That’s not all, Columbus actually didn’t realize he found a new continent. He thought he was in India.
Long story short: Columbus was an idiot, who got lucky, but still an idiot. We can also argue about his morals, but that’s another story. The discovery of the new world is not a grandiose epic story to tell our children. If you want a story, tell them about Eratosthenes and how he measures the Earth after receiving a letter with a puzzling comment.
Back to Another Earth… our evidently clueless protagonist then goes on to describe a little incident that happened during the first manned flight to leave the Earth. She then says
and he had 25 days to go aboard the ship in space
or something like that. 25 days? do they have any freaking idea how hard it is to stay in space for 25 days? The Vostok 3KA made an amazingly long first trip: 108 minutes. Yes, that was an amazingly long trip. Let’s put it in context: America was doing its best to beat the Soviets after the Sputnik crossed the skies broadcasting a repetitive beeping. The United States’ Mercury program managed to put someone in space for a grand total of 15 minutes. Sending people up there is hard and the movie tell us the first cosmonaut stayed up there for 36000 minutes.
The disregard for the history of science and technology that this movie shows is shameful.