Dan and Morgan talk about Don’t Look Up, Hammer of God, and The Expanse (believe it or not). What are we going to do about the threat of impacts? What are we going to do about climate change? Who is Timothee Chalamet? All this and more!
Dan: Hello Space Cadets and welcome to The Expansing. We are doing things a little differently today. I’m speaking to you before the episode because we forgot to do our introductions. We seem to be pretty bad about that actually. We just talk and talk and at some point someone remembers to press the record button. But today we’re going to be talking about the new Netflix movie Don’t Look Up, as well as two other examples from Sci-Fi that feature planetary impacts heavily in their plot lines. The novel Hammer of God by Arthur C. Clarke and of course, The Expanse. Spoilers ahead for all three so proceed with caution.
D: Don’t Look Up.
D: Holy crap. There’s a lot going on in that movie.
M: It was just very good timing. Because you took home the Hammer of God.
D: Mm hmm.
M: Which is a great Arthur C. Clarke book about asteroids. And we’ve talked about it before.
D: Right. Right.
M: And then that came out. And then also, you know, we’ve been talking about The Expanse So.
D: Yeah, it’s wild how there’s this…And it’s not like the first time that that has been explored. I mean, obviously, it feels like the asteroid movies in the ’90’s were straight up: “Oh, Hammer of God came out. Did you read this book? That’s pretty cool.” And then, like everyone says, “Let’s make movies about that!”
D: Great. Deep Impact and Armageddon and all that. So it’s not like we haven’t explored the idea of an asteroid hit and then people doubting things.
M: Those movies were about the asteroid. Like, “What are we going to do?” Don’t Look Up is something very different.
D: Right. So we got Hammer of God, Don’t Look Up, and connecting that to The Expanse. There’s the obvious, “Okay. There’s rocks.” But the thing that connects all of those is the level of doubt expressed after initial warnings. And then…
M: Compared to the level of destruction.
D: Right. Okay. “This is a massive, massive risk that you’re taking, not listening to us.” It’s not like—
D —“oh, you’re going to run over a speed bump or something. You know, it’s like if you’re right and I’m wrong, nothing happens. Everything goes on into hunky dory. But if I’m right and you’re wrong, everything dies literally everything is gone.”
D: Like the highest stakes imaginable, and you’re like, “Eh.” as it is said in the movie, “Sit and assess,” and that is so mind bogglingly frustrating, not just as an audience member, but because it’s a very obvious allegory about climate change. Right?
D: That’s that’s what they’re saying. But it’s also an extremely real possibility on its own right. Which is why I think it works really well, because everyone can see it. And also everyone knows that who’s not actually lost touch with reality, understands that asteroids are real. And and yes, theoretically, one could and will eventually hit. And if we aren’t able to stop that, then those will be the consequences. Right.
D: But that seems very far off. But we accept it. But the climate change thing, they’re like, “No, no, no.” Especially because it is objectively our fault.
M: Yeah. And we have already passed the point of no return.
D: To an extent, yeah.
M: Like we’re at the point now where the oceans will rise. It’s just a matter of how far. But, we can’t avoid that anymore.
D: Right. We’re at the screaming on the news.
M: “We’re all 100% for sure going to fucking die.”
D: Where we’re at in terms of the level of frustration with how much more time we have.
D: We’re at that point where it’s like, Okay, we could theoretically still avert this, but we have to do it right fucking now. As in now as in like yesterday. As in We wish we already knew this decades ago.
D: Which funnily enough [laughs] about that, we have. But beyond that, it’s no seriously right now. Full breaks. Throw it in reverse. It’s still going to be a problem, but we might be okay. As in continue existing.
M: Yeah. Well, the six month thing was a little…
D: It’s short.
M: Well first of all…
D: Too short.
M: Did you like the movie?
D: I really liked the movie.
D: It was [sighs] it was extremely frustrating for the first 30 minutes—
D: —to the point where I had to, like, stop myself from, from talking to the television because I knew it was like, this is the point. They want me to feel this way.
M: Yeah, I kept, like, bunching my body up, like, I was getting so tense.
D: There’s the obvious comparisons to Idiocracy, but this takes that idea and really makes it. It’s still fun. A lot of it is very fun. While being unbelievably frustrating, but it’s a lot more serious than Idiocracy because it is the most serious stakes.
M: I felt like the point of the movie was about our detachment. You know how our society has sort of allowed us to be and encouraged us to be very self-absorbed.
D: The problem in the movie, definitely in Hammer of God and in The Expanse, I think, is that to a certain level, society has like beaten most things, right? We sort of won evolution’s battle. Like we’re we’re smart enough that we’ve made this huge globe spanning society that is for the most part, pretty stable in terms of the complexity of it.
M: And adaptable.
D: Yeah. And we’ve done amazing things. We can control forces of nature that were just magic before. Like, we, we are like gods on this planet. But when you get to that point, we are still animals in the generations go by. And if you have just a few generations of people who grew up in a really stable, successful society, they get extremely complacent about what was necessary to get there and what was necessary to maintain that against the actual forces of nature, fighting against us, trying to kill anything that’s alive.
M: Yeah, we become the dodo.
M: You know? Where you grow up and on an island with no natural predators and abundant food sources and a perfect climate, they weren’t smart enough to know to run when a predator showed up. And…
D: Well, it wasn’t even just that they weren’t smart enough. It’s that they had no frame of reference anymore.
D: For “this is a dangerous thing.”
M: So, you know, here, here we are. We’re we’re pretty fat and happy, all things considered.
D: Yeah. At least in this country, which is obviously this is going to be very American centric because the story takes place in the U.S. and it’s about the United States government and—
M: With an obvious Trump stand in.
D: Yeah, of course.
M: This person who’s basically appealing to the lowest common denominator of their voting base and then appointing billionaire donors to decision making positions where they really should not be.
D: Right. I love that those kind of political intrigues in the movie. But I also felt it’s not just about that. And I actually stumbled on to a very off-the-mark take from a CNN editorial.
M: Oh, yeah.
D: And, that I would like to read some of to you because it was like, wow, you really missed the point of this movie, because one of the weaknesses of the movie is that there are people who will come away from it thinking it’s political when it’s it’s not really political. It’s really more about the communication between people and the complacency on all sides of any kind of human endeavor where the scientists are bad at communicating the importance of what they’re saying. Dr. Mindy can’t turn off the math, right. And he shouldn’t have been the person explaining the stuff anyway on the news. And then his assistant is understandably frustrated and flies off the handle, which is in a way exactly what she should do. But the movie portrays it as everyone is going to interpret you as being crazy, which is correct, but also extremely frustrating. But none of them can really get a handle on how to talk to the people they need to talk to, including the administration, because obviously, if they behave the way they’re behaving, they’re just going to set these people off. They they aren’t actually stupid. They know that these scientists think this stuff and they just think they’re wrong. But that’s exactly how you get somebody to do something like leak it to the press. And even in the in the movie’s moments where it is portraying sort of the regular people, like in the bar where they overhear things and say, wait, what are you saying? Just tell us what’s going on. There’s, I think, supposed to represent the actual reasonable, normal people who are not ideologues who just want the truth. And then, even that backfires because when they tell them exactly what’s going on in plain language, they all freak out and go wild.
M: Well, that was a that was a really powerful moment in the movie because there are a few times where you see people have face-to-face confrontations with the reality, like the people in the restaurant and their mouths fall open—
M: —and they both absolutely aghast. And then you cut to the Internet reaction, which is I think it goes beyond complacency—
M: —because it’s not that people don’t care about anything it’s that they care more about a specific type of thing than actual real world stuff. So when…
D: But that is a kind of complacency because they get so comfortable with like, I’m safe in my bubble. Nothing’s wrong. I don’t have to lift a finger. And then someone goes along and say, Hey, there’s a problem. And then they immediately go to denial. Denial, denial. Denial.
M: Yeah. And the first reaction is to retreat to the Internet where you can turn everything into a joke or a challenge or a funny tweet. And that is the priority in your comfortable modern life.
M: So when you see the people in the restaurant have that reaction, like, oh fuck, actual existential dread, which is something that we as a society feel rarely. And the only, only opportunity we have for that now is, you know, we’ve kind of solved the hunger crisis. I mean, for Western civilization, at least. There’s still people starving all over the planet, but nobody cares about them anymore. [Dan scoffs] Much like the dodo, things are going extinct left and right. All the time, and you cannot get people to pay attention.
M: And the only thing that’s left that could actually inspire that kind of drive is nuclear war and climate change. Which nobody in there how old are we? We are in our thirties, how long does any person live? You don’t get to witness.
M: We haven’t seen nuclear war.
D: That’s the frustrating thing here is that it is so much Don’t Look Up because you speak to people who are older. And I know it’s it’s a trend now to bash on Boomers, but anyone older than a certain point, like if you were born before the 1970s, let’s say, you cannot tell me with a straight face. I’m old enough to remember. You cannot tell me that you have not noticed massive shifts in how your surroundings are during certain times of the year. You cannot tell me you don’t remember how much colder it was how much sooner in the year, anywhere you are.
D: I’m, I’m in Miami. I moved here about ten years ago. And when I moved here, the first couple of years, there were multiple days throughout the winter where it was so cold that we had to go out to… We were on a property that had an old greenhouse that had plants in it, that were tropical plants and we had to go out and put kerosene heaters because that was the way there was no power out there. That’s how you did it.
D: Because if you didn’t that they were going to frost and and die—
D: —and that happened multiple times throughout the winter. Ten years ago. This year, I haven’t worn a long sleeve shirt this year by necessity.
D: I’ve worn in one a couple of times because I felt like it because it was cool enough that I wouldn’t be sweating. But it has barely dropped below the seventies this year. Everywhere used to be colder you can’t tell me you don’t remember that. And if you do, if you tell me that, then maybe you should go to the doctor. [Morgan laughs] Maybe you have early onset Alzheimer’s or something because you should remember the difference. Where are all the love bugs?
D: Those of you from Florida or nearby… [there] used to be just swarms of love bugs at certain times of the year. I haven’t seen a love bug in a long time. That’s a bad sign.
M: Yeah. My favorite winter coat from high school. I have not worn in like 15 years. This is a thing though. We live in Florida and Florida is so, it is a swamp. [Dan laughs] It is so environmental and any change is really noticeable to us. In Miami, you’re witnessing the effects of ground water, like the salt water actually moving, not just the actual sea level where it’s moving closer on the surface.
M: It’s seeping into the ground and moving inland and it’s destabilizing and it’s degrading things that are under the pavement.
D: Yeah, it’s hydraulic power. That’s what’s happening.
M: We walked past that parking garage.
D: Right. Yeah.
M: Just a few weeks ago. That was brand new and already had cracks, not to mention the condo that tragically collapsed. And—
M: —yes, you can blame that on bad building or poor maintenance, but call it what it is. These structures do have saltwater damage.
D: There are plenty of buildings in Miami, and everybody starting to pay attention now all of a sudden because, and you could see other people that kind of stopping and looking at buildings and going—
D: —“Oh Man, there’s another crack. You see that crack?”
D: And people are paying attention and it’s, it’s everywhere.
M: [Whispers] And it’s too late. [Dan laughs] Yeah, when I lived in Merritt Island, all the islands have canals and people will have like a little dock and a boat in their backyard. I remember that really bad algae bloom.
M: The algae was as thick as guacamole—
D: So gross.
M: —about three inches on the surface, and so many fish died. And I used to love to go for walks in my neighborhood, and I couldn’t walk for months because the smell of rotten fish.
D: Yeah, it stinks.
M: And all of the canals and the rivers were a carpet of white dead fish bodies. And then after that came the green guacamole algae, and then the manatees had to leave because they couldn’t surface and breathe. They couldn’t get through the algae. And it was horrendous for months, all because in the state of Florida, there was a loophole where they didn’t have a deadline to appoint a new head of the EPA when one leaves. So that position sat empty for years. And our previous governor did not appoint somebody that position and continued to allow factories to dump their waste in the wetlands, which destroyed everything. We see that. But to somebody who lives in Nebraska, they’re so far removed from the parts of the country that are actually touched by climate change, it’s easy to put the blinders on. And I think that was the point. It’s not just an allegory for climate change, you know, but it was trying to directly reach those people. People like us don’t need convincing.
D: Whenever people talk about waste in our minds, we think of it as like something like Out of the Ninja Turtles.
D: I think a lot of people think it’s like goo that goes into they just dumping glowing barrels of… No. It’s it’s usually like water.
M: Or glucose, like excess glucose.
D: If you looked at a glass of it, you would just think it was pond water. But it’s full of phosphates or glucose—
D: —or like it’s you couldn’t drink this. It would it would hurt you, it might kill you. And then they’re just dumping it in the water like, “Ah, it’s a lot of water. It’ll diffuse.” Yeah.
D: Yeah, it will.
M: Everywhere. Also living close to the water, you probably grew up being taught this. Every piece of trash ends up in the water.
D: And ends up in the ocean.
M: You throw something out your window when you’re driving on the highway, it ends up in the water. So you take it so seriously when you live in a place like this.
D: People don’t understand that erosion goes all the way from the highest point to the ocean because water eventually carries everything, including whole mountains to the sea.
M: Which is what it’s supposed to do.
D: Yeah. If that’s what gravity does with water. And if you throw something away at the top of a mountain, one day, it will make its way down. It might be 100 years from now, but it’ll happen.
M: Yeah. And if you live within three miles of the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, it’s going to get there a lot faster. And it’s going to do a lot of damage if it’s made out of plastic or Styrofoam and it doesn’t biodegrade. So, the Earth has this natural cleansing process, this natural way of keeping itself alive with weather patterns, and we’re just shitting all over that. [both laugh] And you can’t convince people who don’t see it firsthand that it even exists at all. Much like in the movie, the “sit and assess,” allowing a bunch of billionaires to make the decisions about what we consider to be the best for all of us.
M: Even, you know, this is one thing that really bothered me because Don’t Look Up is not an amazing movie. It’s not like a cinematic masterpiece. It had some beautiful moments. I thought the pacing was pretty okay. Much like Idiocracy, the moral of the story is more important than the actual quality of the film.
M: Sadly, it is doing the job that documentaries are supposed to do, where if you watch it, it will force you to think about something that’s very important that could change the world. But you have to deliver it to people in a package that’s at its most serious a dark comedy, whereas Idiocracy was almost completely off the wall comedy.
D: I don’t think anyone in this movie that was one of the main characters, like I wouldn’t count maybe Dr. Mindy’s sons, but all of the main characters do everything wrong the whole time. Everything they do is the wrong way to do it.
D: Not the wrong thing to do, necessarily, but the wrong way.
D: Every single one. The, um, what’s her name? Dibiasky.
D: She is too quiet when she shouldn’t be, lashes out when she shouldn’t. She just goes between not saying anything and being snarky to just screaming. So that’s like she has to find a middle ground, right? Dr. Mindy is a complete klutz and flubs every interaction with important people every single time. He does it all the way up until the very end.
M: But is so malleable.
D: Right. And he’s like, he’s easily to manipulate, but he’s he’s well into he’s he’s such a flawed character and but so believable. Right? I mean…
M: Also I would like to say Leonardo DiCaprio, unrecognizable.
D: This is like his best role maybe.
M: Seriously, it’s actually, probably his best.
D: He is, he disappeared. He disappeared.
M: It’s similar to the treatment that Bill Nye has gotten. Neil deGrasse Tyson and Brian Cox who are like the three rock stars of astrophysics right now. Where people pay attention to them because they think they’re cool.
M: Or attractive and maybe that is a good thing, and I don’t want to pooh-pooh that because if that’s what gets you to pay attention to astrophysics, then by all means. But I think the point of showing those characters failing and flailing is that their message was correct, but the way that they were delivering it and responding to what was happening around them was very much who they are.
M: They were being their purest selves in those moments. And it is not their responsibility to make the message palatable to you.
D: No, that’s true.
M: It’s your responsibility to receive that information. And nobody was willing to do that because they couldn’t overlook who these people were on a surface level. Dibiasky freaking out on the news. The best she got out of that was they made fun of her. No one listened. They’re not listening. I think that’s the part that maybe should hit home the hardest about this movie. It’s not even about the fact that an asteroid hit that’s actually kind of minor to the story, much in the way that in The Expanse, the appearance of the Protomolecule is actually kind of a minor player.
M: Until the ring-gates open, it’s sort of in the backdrop of this political drama, which is kind of what we see in Don’t Look Up.
D: Yeah. The Protomolecule almost never presents any direct danger to characters.
D: Like, It isn’t the reason they’re in danger.
M: And much like in Don’t Look Up, a bunch of billionaires want to exploit it for profit.
D: It’s, that’s beautiful. That’s not even subplot. But that, that part of the plot. That might have been my favorite character or at least my favorite characterization because the little subtle things that he did, I mean, it’s not subtle in the sense that… it’s obvious. You get the message very well. But his performance is delightfully subtle. The little mumbling things that he does.
M: The very fake teeth.
D: Yeah. And when he says…
M: Everyone is wearing fake teeth in this movie.
D: And he suddenly will switch into the all this techno speak and it’s clear that he’s just playing a character all the time when he’s in his interactions with people and he’s completely cynical and manipulating. It’s it’s beautiful. And then when he finally even when he finally is like, oh, no, everything’s messed up and you think he’s cracked, then they have that sort of post scene where they’re all going to the, the other planet and—
D: —he’s suddenly back in control again, and he’s just back to his old self. Even when she gets, even when she gets eaten.
D: And he’s like, well, don’t pet them.
M: And they’re literally naked.
D: Yeah, and I loved that they were literally naked, especially after the president’s son told her—
M: Jonah Hill, yeah.
D: —“Thanks for dressing up, by the way,” to rag on the scientist who discovered the comet and is totally right about absolutely everything. And then the reverse of that when they’re the ones who are the powerful, important people, and now they’re just all naked.
D: And she’s got a tramp stamp. And I love that.
M: I thought I was really cute. [Dan laughs] That was that was one of the more elegant moments in the actual storytelling that was happening when Isherwell, the sort of Bezos/Musk/Steve Jobs kind of stand in character is confronting Dr. Mindy. And he says, “We have so much data on you, we can even predict how you’re going to die.” And it was so unremarkable I don’t even remember what it was, but I do remember one thing “You’re going to die alone.” And he doesn’t. He doesn’t. And that, to me, was very powerful upon reflection, because in the end, he does make the right choice.
M: That’s what allows him to break out of this stream that we’re all being forced down, being carried along by society and culture and this grinding progress towards nothing.
M: It’s towards nothing. It’s towards a phone that reads your emotions.[Dan snickers] It’s towards the comet challenge where you shoot yourself in the face with a Roman candle.
D: That was a nice touch.
M: This was, this is the stream of progress. It’s not even towards evolution or towards the stars. It’s towards this mindless indulgence and this horrible gray area between performer and consumer that we’re all sort of trapped in. [laughs] Like, we’re not even having this conversation privately.
M: We’re having this conversation to share it with people.
M: Like, you know, we have…
D: by the way, Like and Subscribe.
M: [laughing] Like and Subscribe guys! Mash that like button! But I mean, does this not prove the point?
M: Is that we’re all swept up in this stream and he breaks the stride and that’s what allows him to, he does not die alone. He dies surrounded by the people he loves most.
M: Doing a completely mundane thing.
D: And maybe at one of his happiest moments, even though it’s all bittersweet and everything, like all the people in that room are, they’re having a good death. They’re having—
D: —they’re with each other.
M: It’s what we all want.
D: They’re resigned but thinking about what was good.
M: Peace surrounded by love.
D: But I really like what you just said about him making the right decision and earlier had this little blip of a thought of the only way to get people to listen to you, I think, is when you shut down any attempt by them to upset you—
M: Distract you.
D: —because they’re trying to make you do the thing. They want you to be the monkey they think you are.
D: They want you to like it. Reminds me of Jon Stewart on Crossfire. When he actually, you know, destroyed Tucker’s early career and then unfortunately maybe nudged him on a trajectory that ends with American democracy falling. But, and in that moment, everyone listened because he was like, no, I’m not your monkey.
D: I’m not going to do you do the dance. I’m not going to make jokes because this is serious.
D: And if they had gone on, like if Mindy had had his shit together and had calmly explained it in a very straightforward way, that would have had way more impact and maybe gotten the message out early. But he couldn’t do it, and then she freaks out. And that’s why I know he’s listening. But if someone said something shit like that on television, people would stare at it and be like, Holy shit, what’s going on? Like, they’d at least want to know, is this real?
D: Is he really serious?
M: The frustration is with the chokehold that the media and the powerful people that control everything have on this actual truth. That’s the point—
M: —is that the truth is being strangled because the first thing they do is contact NASA and the person in charge of NASA isn’t qualified to run it.
D: [laughing] Right.
M: They were appointed because they’re a super donor, and then they go to the president.
D: And you don’t even know that at first. Like you—
D: —you see her in the beginning as like, well, I’m a little bit doubtful, but I mean, well, you seem to know what you’re talking about. And it’s like she suddenly takes it a little bit seriously.
M: Yeah. Playing it subtle.
D: And then you find out later that she’s actually just just a political appointee.
M: Right. So she is the first one and then the president is the next one who literally strangles the speed of information and then they resort to trying to get on the news. But the most popular TV show with the widest audience is the one that’s the least receptive to this message.
M: And every point, every word is just crushed and stomped and flattened into something that is completely superficial and flat. It’s a flattening—
M: —of the sincerity of this discovery. And that is that frustrated feeling you have where you feel like you’re being strangled. That’s the point.
M: You’re supposed to, you’re supposed to live in that moment and realize, like, just because it’s true and just because you have this global reach and you can technically speak to the entire world if you really wanted to. Does not mean that you’re actually going have access to those avenues—
M: —because the people who control them have their own agenda and then, boom, we’re all dead. That’s it. That’s the movie.
D: Yeah. I feel like one slight miscalculation of the movie… I mean…
M: There were a few.
D: Yeah. In the in the context of the world that they’re presenting, which is like a hyper realized version of now.
M: Yeah, it’s obviously some near future.
D: The idea that she discovered a comet that is all without dispute. Right. She’s a Ph.D. candidate… that counts, you’re a scientist, is on a very popular program sitting there calmly while this other guy flubs about and is like a goofball. And then she just screams, We’re all going to fucking die and then runs off. [Morgan giggles] I think the viral meme would be less about her just being a crazy person and being like, what’s up with this?
M: [laughing] Yeah.
D: Like, that’s so bad that a scientist lost their mind on television screaming about the end of the world… who just discovered a comet. Da da da da da. I don’t know that it would just be—
D: —“Oh look at the crazy girl. Ha ha ha,” I feel like it would be a little bit closer to, it’d be closer to having gotten the message out then presented.
M: Yeah, like when you see your parents, when you’re a kid and it’s the first time you see your parents, like, worried about something but they’re not telling you, but you’re like, “Guys, what’s happening?”
D: [laughing] Yeah.
M: “I think we’re going to lose the house,” [both laugh] you know, on their face, you know, freaking out.
M: I would hope that would be the response, but…
D: Going real quick, back to the phone call, I was thinking that that was him finally doing that thing saying, ‘you know, I’m not even going to indulge you right now. I’m just saying no. And I’m walking away from the conversation because it’s clear that we’re not having the same conversation.’ And it’s like if he had made that connection way earlier, he might have been able to do something better. And even the uh…
M: But he didn’t—
D: Go ahead.
M: —he didn’t have it in him.
M: That’s not who he was. And I frankly, I don’t think it’s the responsibility as the bearer of the news to make it palatable.
D: I don’t think it is.
M: But, but, but, unfortunately, we have to.
D: It’s like… Yeah, exactly. It’s it’s a a necessity, even though it’s an injustice.
M: Like when Abraham Lincoln was elected president, most of the people in the country had never seen him.
D: Right. [laughs]
M: They’d never seen an illustration or photograph because it just didn’t exist. And then after he was elected and that famous photo of him with like the shitty beard and the gaunt face, and people went, “Whoa! Oh, shit.” [both laugh] Like, if people actually went and saw him in person rather than just reading in the newspaper—
M: —what he had said, he probably wouldn’t have gotten elected.
M: Your image is the most important part of you now.
M: I don’t think it’s fair, but it is true.
D: We’ve had this shrinking, not just of our historical perspective, but also of the perspective on our own lives. It’s great that we’re able to connect with other people so rapidly. And so, uh, effortlessly we are bombarded by these media portrayals in advertising and all of the things that we all complain about, but we also enjoy them turning to an extent. And they’ve made everything seem like, like you were saying, it compresses time to the point where this moment is just so important all the time. Right?
D: And there’s no perspective on what’s going to happen in 20 years, what’s gonna happen in 50 years. I mean, you didn’t build things like the pyramids and, you know, the Great Wall by saying, well, five years out, this is not going to be profitable yet, you know, not that those are the only things that matter to humanity, but even the idea of like not starving as a society it’s like you have to prepare grain storage and such if you’re an agricultural society, you can’t just go by this year and you can’t just go by what you see outside. If scientists are saying everything we’ve found for decades has pointed to the like, the like the numbers going down to zero on on the math board in the early part of the movie, everything the scientists are seeing says we’re looking at a very near future sudden spike, based on what we’re seeing here. And it’s going to be a big deal.
D: And everybody going, “Nah. Definitely not. See it snowed this week.”
M: “We’ll figure it out.”
M: “We’ll come up with something.”
D: How can you not see beyond this? You know, the society grows great when men plant trees that they know that they’ll never sit under that, that—
M: Yeah, and…
D: —thinking is, is seems to be disappearing slowly.
M: And sadly, the movie does perpetuate that to a degree because one of the biggest little gripes that I had was the timeline with the asteroid strike within six months, right?
M: Somehow in this short amount of time, even this this billion dollar tech company is able to manufacture all these drill drones, this is brand new technology. They come up with this from scratch, build it, launch it. I mean, just even meeting the the comet halfway would take time. [Dan laughs] And then at the very end, weirdly, there is an “Ark?” Someone built an “Ark.”
D: I love the idea, though, that the ark thing, they had already been thinking about for decades—
M: Obviously. It’s art…
D: —to the point of building it. Right? That was important to them escaping.
M: Right. Yeah.
D: The concept that they could escape, but it wasn’t as important to them to save—
M: As infrastructure. [laughing]
D: —the fucking planet. Sure it’s infrastructure. Yes. But to save the planet for everyone by having things that could deflect anything that might destroy the planet.
D: That wasn’t as important as funding an—
M: Yeah, and that was another…
D: —escape pod for all the rich people which was really on on brand for most rich people in our society today.
M: That was another really hilarious beat. Was that one of the end credits scenes. They do get to an earth like planet.
D: Yeah, it looks awesome.
M: And they’re alive, they’re the last humans alive. But like, they’re, they’re billionaires. Who’s building houses?
D: Yeah. And also…
M: How long do you expect to live? And they’re all like, geriatric.
M: Making babies? To drive home the point that these billionaires, these, these ancient people that are in their seventies and eighties that are running the world, all they care about is keeping themselves alive as long as possible and getting as much of the pie as they can get. But they’re going to die. We’re all going to die.
M: And it might not be a comet, but that’s a fact of life, is we all die and nobody gets out it. No, you don’t get to take it with you. And these people are just so focused on their own personal self-preservation. They could give a fuck about the rest of us. They spend all that money to build an ark to travel 22,000 years to another planet with no planet for how they’re actually going to rebuild civilization. But they made it another day.
M: So fuck you guys.
D: It reminds me a little bit, a little bit, of in Hammer of God when what’s the name of the religious cult that thinks that, no, we need to let the asteroid hit and they do the sabotaging.
M: Oh, I don’t remember.
D: So spoilers for the book. Obviously. It, part of the process of trying to deflect this asteroid is that we’re going to push it away, right? We have a mass maneuver to just latch on to it and let the rockets go and push it the right direction. And that is sabotaged by religious fanatics who think that was just…
D: Right. We just suppose…
M: Christianity and Islam have like, melded.
D: “Chrislam,” right. I forgot about that.
D: Which was an, an interesting conceit.
M: Well, they used to just be one thing. All Abrahamic religions are kind of based on the same thing.
D: That’s true.
M: So why not come back together.
D: That would be interesting if we have a re-merger.
M: They bend far enough apart eventually they meet again.
D: [laughing] It’s a corporate merger. [both laugh]
M: Sidenote, on NPR, they already have a what is it called? Talking on Faith.
D: Oh I don’t know.
M: The three wise men, the Jewish rabbi, a Christian minister and an Islamic imam. And they just discuss issues.
D: Obviously, one of us is right, guys, right? Am I right? [mock laughs]
M: It’s actually pretty interesting if you choose to listen. But yeah, I mean, that’s kind of already happening. So.
D: But the the sabotage aspect, it makes me think of that group because they were willing to do that because they thought they, you know, they had detected a signal from another system and they thought they must be very advanced. So we’ll download ourselves into a signal and beam it to that star system with the assumption that it’ll be received and they’ll be able to just make us again.
M: Hey, why not?
D: And we’ll be we’ll be reborn and it’ll be… and which is actually a really believably wild idea for someone to think up that a religion would think.
M: Thank you Arthur C. Clarke
D: That sort of thing. Excellent idea. Excellent story beat. But it makes me think a little bit of them because they’re like, we’re it’s fine that we’re all going to die because we are not going to die. We’re going to be beamed over there. So whatever, which is very correlated to the way that a lot of religious people think, because who cares if we destroy the planet, heaven’s coming. Okay. But what if not?
M: Yeah, that’s that’s what I was saying. It’s really hard to get people to care about what happens to life on Earth when they believe that they will be raptured off of it. They believe that they have a reward waiting in an afterlife. And whatever happens here is part of God’s plan. If we are destroying the environment, then that must be what we’re supposed to do.
M: So let’s just keep doing it. It’s a weirdly juvenile… Anyway, I don’t want to get too much—
M: —into the religious side of things, but…
D: A lot of these stories do different takes on this. But I also like how much detail they put into the attempts and then why the attempts failed. So, like, Avasarala fails to stop things just because of the complacency of the system. The government thinks like, well, there’s no way we would miss any rocks—
D: —and who would even think to put stealth technology on a rock?
M: Because they, they only know at this point that Mars has stealth tech.
D: Right, they’re not willing to think outside that box. And then in Hammer of God, spoilers, they don’t die. Everybody doesn’t die. Some people die. The rock breaks into two. And one piece just grazes the atmosphere and all that. They dealt with that sabotage and then they’re, they’re successfully pushing it out of the way. And then they talked about this geyser on the other side. So I was like, oh, no, it’s not an asteroid. Oh, no, this is so much worse [both laugh] because it got it was heating from the sun—
D: —and the last little bits of cometary water and everything had built up steam and was starting to push it the other way back towards Earth. But in Don’t Look Up there’s a huge effort in actually sending all of these ships to try and do it. And it’s a pretty inspiring moment because you had up to that point just thought you were seeing the one shuttle—
D: —and then this huge armada goes off the ground and then turns around.
D: Because they were like, wait, what if we can get rich?
D: And then they just completely abandon the plans. And that is really on point, because it’s pretty much a known quantity at this point that the oil companies and from the seventies on totally knew what was happening with climate change and that it was our fault.
D: And it was because we were burning fossil fuels and they were like, “Yeah, but all the money!”
M: They refused to do anything about it…
D: “But all the money! We can, We’ll get it. We’ll figure it out later. Right now we got so much money!”
M: Or my personal obsession, lead. All the lead that we’ve been pumping into the environment that’s been poisoning all of us.
D: And that’s the one example of one person managing to scream to the heavens for decades and then finally get something accomplished because this one person wouldn’t shut the fuck up about it. I forget his name off the top of my head, but there was basically one guy who realized how bad the lead situation was, atmospherically, and just kept pushing and pushing. And I think he might have died before anyone actually did anything about it. I don’t remember.
M: Yeah, leaded gasoline was not officially banned until 1996 and they knew it was bad in the forties. But “Car go fast! Yay!” Like nobody…
D: Yeah. And that’s something that I think comes up in conversations in age groups like ours that maybe the older generations don’t know that we have these conversations. But a lot of us think that a lot of you were brain damaged when you were younger and it’s not your fault. But lead poisoning makes you less intelligent and more violent. And that’s a fact.
M: Can I actually share a little detail with you? I have not researched this recently, so I might not be exact, but…
D: We’ll footnote it.
M: Since they banned leaded gasoline in 1996, the IQ point of kindergartners has gone up on average by five points.
D: Which IQ is kind of bullshit metric, but it’s the numbers we have.
M: It goes beyond that. But that is a, that is a quantifiable factor because yes, all that lead is still there. But reducing the amount that we’re continuing to pump into the atmosphere and the environment has had a noticeable effect. Those numbers have noticeably gone down and it has actually increased the average IQ of kindergartners across the world by five points.
That’s a lot.
D: Yeah, not to mention—
M: That’s average.
D: —that in the past half century or so, most places, despite what they would love you to believe, have gotten less violent.
M: No, no, we can’t actually. We can turn the ship around, just like we see climate change happening in front of our faces, immediately, because of where we live. The people that are studying this have shown that when we do make small changes like banning “hydrochloroflourons.” And, you know, certain plast—
D: “Hydroflourocarbons.” We both got it wrong.
M: What is that?
D: CFCs. [HFCs, CFCs are Cloroflourocarbons, HCFCs are Hydryocloroflourocarbons, all are bad.]
M: Okay. So when we banned CFCs, it did actually have a measurable effect. The ozone is kind of doing better, but we’re just not doing enough fast enough. Unfortunately, that was the one part of the movie that made it, this is what tips you to the fact that it’s a satire—
M: —which is like, whenever you have a story that you want people to leave with a laugh. So you make it a little unrealistic so that it doesn’t hit quite as close to home.
M: It was that six month timeline and like the building of the tech and like having the Ark and everything. Like, that’s what made it unrealistic. But…
D: Yeah, they had to make the average viewer panic a little bit with six months.
D: Because if someone like us who’s, you know, more of an astrology, “astrology” [laughs], you’re the astrology nerd. More of—
M: My favorite!
D: One, more of an astronomy nerd types would hear say, three years and think, “Shit, that’s not much time.”
M: “Oh shit.”
D: “That is not much time.”
D: “Oh my God, can we are we all going to die?” Like that. If I heard anything under five years, I’d be starting to freak out a little bit. Like we might want to get our affairs in order. [laughs]
M: Yeah, I would just quit everything. Yeah.
D: But six months would be almost liberating, because if you, if I heard on the news as a comment that’s definitely going to hit the Earth in six months, it’d be like, “Oh, well.”
M: Oh, that’s time to say goodbye.
D: Like, we’re not going to that’s we’re dead.
D: We’re not going to fix that. That’s, that’s not enough time.
M: No, I’m going to go swim in the ocean and, like, lay in a field. And…
D: I did really like the, with the robots. I like to think that that was a little bit of a dig at Elon Musk personally.
M: For sure.
D: Because of the, the kids in the cave thing with the submarine idea where he, I feel like this is something that Isherwell would have already been working on this sort of thing because he’s been thinking about mining asteroids probably for a while, or mining the moon or something like that. So like we have these things that kind of drill rock, or he’s thinking about going to Mars, which is why we have all these fancy tunnels showing up all of a sudden from Elon Musk because he wants to practice boring through rock. And he’s like, look, I made a tunnel. You guys can like drive in it or something.
M: You might do it other places.
D: It’s the future. “Future! Look, give me money, let me go to space.”
M: Well do it though.
D: But it’s like exactly that thing where—
D: —where the opportunity came up. And he was like, “Oh, well, I have this thing … developing …” No, you totally were already working on this, and you’re pretending like you’re just that good at coming up with something—
D: —but you’re just adapting a different thing to suddenly try and do this job. Because the idea of them actually developing and implementing that within any amount of time is, is absurd. Even if you’re talking about super future stuff like, six months? No. That’s not, because—
D: —that means you’re doing that in a couple of weeks from start to finish. That’s literally not, it’s just not possible.
M: Designing manufacturing. Yeah.
D: Six years, maybe.
M: Yeah. I also I really liked how he harped on the lack of peer review.
M: And he kept saying, peer review is such an important part of the scientific process. And everyone’s like, “Yeah, yeah, whatever. We can do, whatever we want.” I did. I do hope that if anybody watches this movie and takes away one message, it is that we should listen to the science.
D: Also, as someone who grew up… and we can talk about our beautiful elf boy Timothée in a in a minute, mister Chalamet.
M: I actually, I had no idea who that was. And when the movie was over and the credits rolled and it said that it was Timothée Chalamet, and I was like, “Oh, that’s who that guy is.”
D: Yeah. [laughs]
M: Because I’ve never seen his face. I don’t, I’m so out of pop culture. [laughs]
D: God, you still didn’t watch Dune. And it’s going to start we’re going to have to…
M: Oh! Is he in Dune?
D: We’re going to have to not be friends anymore at this point. I think.
M: That’s fine.
D: I’m going to have to think things over.
M: Goodbye forever.
D: But I loved his character and I’m talking about in a second.
M: We’ll still do the podcast but we’re mortal enemies.
D: [laughing] Yeah. Shit, what was I saying?
M: Timothée Chalamet.
D: Boy, this one really got away from us, huh? Join us next time as we have part two of this conversation and tune in next week when we will continue discussing the actual plot of The Expanse. I’m Dan Winburn. I’ve been joined by Morgan Wilson. You can find us on Twitter at @TheExpansing. And on our website, theexpansing.com. Hey, have a good week. And remember, “Don’t Look Up.”