If you know me, then you know that I am always on the lookout. For what? Science, of course, and art. Interesting and beautiful things. The internet is a better resource for novelty than anything else, but watchful and patient people sometimes get lucky. This was not an especially lucky week, but I did come across something that fulfilled my search criteria on technicalities. It’s pretty and it got me thinking – if my thoughts about it aren’t particularly favorable, they are at least energetic.

Don’t get me wrong, the video embedded below is essentially a modeling reel. It serves its purpose, which is to show-off some animation students’ acquired skills, and it’s quite good in that context. I have no desire to criticize their proficiency in the medium, but the obvious inspiration for the piece is a hot topic on this blog, so of course I took a closer look at it than I might have otherwise, and of course I brought it here to share.

Watch ‘Gliese 851′ then read on to see if it got you thinking along the same lines as me:

The first thing I noticed was the title. Now, there are a lot of stars named Gliese-something-something, but one has been in the news quite a bit more often than the rest; Gliese 581. Specifically because of that star’s unconfirmed ‘goldilocks’ planet. I assume the filmmaker was more interested in capitalizing on the name than on exploring any of the science associated with locating exoplanets or seriously speculating about extraterrestrial life. A couple of clues in plain sight verify my suspicion: For one thing, there is no star named Gliese 851, but that name is a common typo in articles about Gliese 581. For another, there appeared to be only two lifeforms on the wasteland planet depicted in the animation; one large human and one large tentacle-monster. Probably, the writer struck a compromise between savviness and laziness. The concept perfectly satisfies mainstream (i.e. low) expectations of science fiction, and it is about as deep as the average attention span for scientific content in the media.

But even assuming that the filmmakers invented a new star system on purpose, I have some questions about the setting. It looks like an industrial wasteland or a vast crash site. Or I suppose it could be an abandoned colony. Even still, why is the only human survivor wandering around in the open? With skin exposed? The atmosphere and daylight must be very earthlike, indeed. And if so, then what killed or repelled the other humans? Tentacle-monsters? But if so, then what did they eat/kill before humans arrived? I ask because I saw no evidence of other life on the planet, and it seems impossible that a species as complex as that alien could have evolved in the absence of biodiversity. Maybe it was the last of its kind. I mean, that’s possible given humanity’s propensity for environmental disaster.

What are your observations and speculations?

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