August 20th, 2006

In SF ...

... and having a great visit with TNG. We went to the Cartoon Art Museum today (picture the proverbial kid in a candy store) and saw the Titanic exhibit at the Metreon. He's got a Titanic fascination so it was really a lucky find. Then I let him play a few decadent video games and took him back to his mom.

I moved out of the hotel (it was getting spendy) and I'm staying with an old friend. We're being couch potatoes and watching videos now.

Greatest. Educational. Video. EVER.

Okay, it's a subjective judgment. But I think it's really hard to beat "The Future Is Wild" from The Discovery Channel. It's one of those few videos I can watch over and over again.

What they did is they took a bunch of paleontologists and evolutionary biologists and asked them to envision what life on Earth might look like in five million, 100 million, and 200 million years. And they animated it.

It's three disks, five and a half hours all together, and simply riveting.

First of all, the computer animation is incredibly good quality. Especially since they put the animated sections back-to-back with live footage from present-day Earth. To be able to do this, and your eye doesn't go "aw, that's bogus!", they must be doing something right.

The presentation is great. They do a wonderful job of relating the imagined future developments to observed phenomena in Earth's ecosystem. Transitions between imagined future and known present are logical, and always signaled with a sunburst device. The scientists explain exactly what they've introduced in their future scenarios, and why it makes sense. There's lots of information about climate, adaptation, evolution, and stuff like that, and it's always presented in an interesting and understandable way.

The design is elegant, with graphic devices attractive but not gimmicky or intrusive. There are clear diagrams that show the development of each animal from the present to the future.

(Cephalopods: A bright future. Mammals: Not so much.)

Predatory behavior is dealt with frankly but not graphically. All the biting and tearing is done off-camera.

The ecosystem of the future Earth is carefully envisioned. They've worked out what each animal eats, and where it fits in the food chain. And they explain every feature they've introduced, and why it makes sense - and every time you're tempted to say, "Oh, come on! That's crazy!", they turn around and say, "Well, actually there's an animal in the Amazon Rain Forest (or wherever) that does that right now."

This is one of those presentations where you learn an incredible amount without feeling like you're learning anything. It's just fun to watch and I would recommend it to anyone and everyone.
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