Science Fiction Round 61: Zootopia
Zootopia is an excellent movie for a variety of reasons that have been addressed in many other reviews: pretty animation, excellent characters, fun setting, and a storyline addressing some issues of modern society.
This, of course, means that it’s time to have some fun by taking the talking animals way, way too seriously.
How Did This Happen Anyway?
Yup, I’m going there.
We’ve got a scenario with no humans, and many animals are massively changed. I’ve heard it suggested in a couple of corners of the internal: maybe this is a post-human-apocalypse scenario. Let’s go with that.
So, the humans are all dead, and the animals have stepped up to fill in that niche.
But, that leaves us with an issue: why are all mammals now intelligent and capable of walking upright? That’s weird. Evolution alone won’t do that to multiple species at once. That leaves us with a couple of possibilities: either humans did something that “uplifted” all of these animals; or they uplifted a few animals, who in turn uplifted the rest; or they were all somehow altered by human technology after humans went extinct.
Option #1: Humans did it, and then died out. There’s an option here on the animals looking at the humans, deciding that they all suck, and then waging an all-out war of extermination against them. And then lose all the records of that happening in the chaos that follows, leaving them with only the legends of evolving from lesser, savage forms. I think the only thing this theory has going for it is that it supplies an opportunity for human-related artifacts to be destroyed.
Option #2: Humans did some of it and died out, and the animals did the rest. While I feel this would be an interesting plot, it has a big hole: if there was a time of peace when some animals were uplifted and others were not, they should have records or stories of that having happened. Since they don’t, there must have been an animal-apocalypse and a truly immense amount of time for such a big effort to be forgotten.
Option #3: Humans die out, whether from some nasty war or from, let’s say, some sort of ridiculous super-tech gene-editing thing. The surviving mammals end up taking on human-like traits on similar timescales, as a consequence of the super-tech gene-editing thing altering mammals only. Perhaps it’s an AI-super-tech-gene-editing thing, and lonely enough to want to have sentient species around again, or feels guilty about the humans being dead. And then self-destructs in some untraceable way. Either way, there would need to be minimal evidence of this super-tech thing later on, which is the biggest issue.
I’m currently learning towards option #1, just because that one has room for some serious drama. There’s also an option on collecting some of the humans’ cultural baggage (e.g., some Catholic stuff that shows up while referencing The Godfather, as well as the social commentary). They could also have a deliberate propaganda campaign to distance themselves from humans, ultimately leading to forgetting the humans’ earlier role altogether.
“What do the predators eat?” is always a question in these scenarios.
In this case, it isn’t too much of a problem. Most “prey” type animals are largely herbivorous or insectivores, which is clearly fine. Many animals are fairly omnivorous — bears are one example, but foxes and wolves will actually eat a significant amount of plant matter. Finally, since only mammals are sentient, there’s no reason not to eat fish, or some delicious dinosaur descendants.
So, even though we never see Mayor Lionheart chowing down, he’s probably pretty well fed.
What I really wonder is — what’s in those donuts that the cheetah cop loves so much?
One of the big things that we see as Judy Hopps goes into Zootopia are the gigantic artificial ecosystems that make up the different city districts. The most impressive part are the neighboring Sahara-like desert area and the glacial area.
The latter has to be colder than freezing; the desert, if it’s like the real Sahara Desert, should be typically well above room temperature, over 80˚F, although the highest recorded temperatures are over 40˚C/100˚F. If we say that the cold area is at -5˚C, and the hot desert is at 35˚C, that gives us about a 40˚C temperature difference. But, conveniently, mean of those two temperatures is 20˚C, or about 70˚F, which is a nice temperate value.
So, in terms of energy, you can dump the amount you take out of the cold area into the hot area, and that will give you the temperature you want. And that’s essentially what it looks like, with the cold area being chilled and the hot area effectively being warmed by the exhaust from the AC.
Unfortunately, while this conserves energy, we still have to deal with the second law of thermodynamics. In essence, this means that you have to have some additional power coming in from somewhere if you want to take heat from somewhere cold and put it somewhere hot. Using the coefficient of performance for an ideal refrigeration cycle for the temperatures above, for every 7 parts of heat removed from the cold area, about one part of additional energy is needed to make the process happen.
Because this is on a city scale, this has to require an enormous amount of power. Can you imagine trying to run the AC up to max on an office block the size of a small city… which also doesn’t have a roof?
The animals of Zootopia must have a really good power source for their city — something beyond just the dam that’s visited.
Maybe they just have a lot of power plants that we don’t see, but it would make an interesting story if Zootopia’s ecology was powered by some ancient artifact left behind by the humans and restored by the animals…