Sunday, May 12, 2019

Sunday rant about a Netflix eclipse

In the latest Netflix mystery show 'The Society' - "constructed around the premise of what happens to 200 teenagers who think they’re going on a school field trip, and are instead deposited in a carbon copy version of their small town, except with no adults and no younger children around" as summarized here - an unexpected annular solar eclipse takes place at the beginning of episode two.

To anyone with basic knowledge of astronomy - which includes none of those teenagers, sadly, or the showrunner, obviously - this would immediately raise a number of questions and potentially go a long way to answer what's the main question of the show at this early stage: are they still in the original New England town after all (which is isolated by dense forest on all sides now, though), are they in a copy of it somewhere else on this planet, are they in some parallel Universe (as happens on Netflix all the time) or are they, like, dead?

The dates of solar eclipses can be predicted since several millennia and their ground tracks since at least 300 years: nothing would be easier than to check whether on that date there was an annular eclipse in New England (the last one there was exactly 25 years ago, BTW, on 10 May 1994). Or elsewhere on Earth. Or nowhere at all - which would hint at either a parallel or fake reality, Truman Show-style.

Alas, the only question the solar eclipse raises on The Society is whether some of the teenagers had 'caused' it with an esoteric ritual they had been performing at the time. Hey, they had been going to school, remember? Wonder what they had learned there about the ways the Universe works ... basic 'sky literacy' was obviously not included. And for the showrunner ... he apparently also lives in a pre-scientific world where eclipses happen at will just for dramatical effect.

(Other obvious experiments not performed by the teenagers at this point ten days into the mystery: getting a shortwave radio receiver which at night would catch radio broadcasts from other countries and continents even, in case other humans still existed. Or using a GPS receiver - built into many cell phones as well as car navigation systems - to read out their coordinates ... or detect the disappearance of all GPS satellites. Now that would scare me ...)

UPDATE: Near the end of the episode someone does finally find out that the eclipse was not supposed to have happened (referring to the next total one in the U.S. coming in 2024 only, though the one shown had been annular) - and he boldly concludes that they are no longer on Earth and perhaps even in another solar system or parallel universe. That eclipses also happen elsewhere on Earth - who cares ...

UPDATE 2 / SPOILER: In Episode 7 (!) the one nerd of the group finally reveals the eclipse anomaly to all, half a year later - and also reports (as apparently nobody else had noted) that there are no artificial satellites in the sky and, most importantly, that while the star pattern is fine for the northern hemisphere, Betelgeuze has shifted a bit. Parallel word hypothesis confirmed, apparently.