Monday, August 20, 2012

Knowing: The Rabbits Are Coming, Doomsday! Doomsday!

So I watched some of the Nicolas Cage science-fiction thriller, Knowing, last night. I saw it in the theater, in 2009, and really liked the film's concept, although I thought it bogged down into the formulaic traps of many recent end-of-the-world movies. But last night, I noticed something that eluded me upon first viewing: even though the whispering aliens provided for humanity to survive—our species is still doomed.

As shown in the last scene, on the "Eden" planet, there are about half a dozen ships departing after dropping off their presumed pair of children. So, including Caleb and Abby, there are maybe five other pairs of "Adam and Eves" to rekindle humankind. (Even if there are more ships across the planet, and thus more pairs of children, you will see that this is essentially irrelevant...)

We are doomed because the aliens foolishly—and without the foresight one would assume superior beings to possess—allowed Caleb and Abby to bring that pair of rabbits with them. Forget that the rabbits are likely no more than an afterthought to the aliens, and merely an on-screen symbol of the fertility that these children will one day need to regenerate the human race—we all know the rabbit's well-deserved reputation for rapid breeding.

According to Dana Krempels, PhD, of the University of Miami's Department of Biology, a single female rabbit can birth up to 14 bunnies. Dr. Krempels then goes on to base her estimates (http://www.bio.miami.edu/hare/scary.html) of rabbit reproduction on just three female offspring (rather than at least six to eight of that litter likely being female), using, again, a very conservative time frame of six months (a female produces a litter one month after impregnation and, in contrast to Krempels' six-month parameter, can become pregnant again almost immediately after giving birth).

By the end of the first year on planet "Eden," there would be approximately 37 female rabbits. By the end of Year Two, more than 1300 rabbits. Within three years, more than 50,000—and Caleb and Abby haven't yet even reached their teens...

So...keeping in mind that Caleb and Abby—and, likely, the rest of the young Adam and Eves—won't reach childbearing age for at least five years after arriving on "Eden" (probably longer), the rabbit population will be growing exponentially, with no competition from humans. By the time that each pair of "Adam and Eves" can produce one child—making, at most, a half-dozen offspring across this "Eden" planet—rabbits will outnumber humans by the tens of millions, and, as you can see from Dr. Krempels' Year 6 and Year 7 estimates, the population will further explode into the tens of billions, with no end in sight. The ecosystem will be overrun, and eventually destroyed, by rabbits, forcing humanity into extinction. Even if the kids learn how to construct rabbit traps and acquire a taste for hassenpfeffer, they won't put a dent in this leporine ascendancy. Besides, enjoying such dominance, rabbits will probably grow to gargantuan proportions, as in Night of the Lepus, and begin to feed on the humans. Regardless, all traces of human existence would be gone from this rabbit-packed planet in a handful of years.

This nightmare scenario was literally drawn for us in 1946 by Looney Tunes. In "The Big Snooze" (Dir. B. Clampett; Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.), Elmer Fudd's serene dream is invaded by Bugs Bunny, wreaking his rabbit-based havoc. We can see the sleeping Elmer physically shaking in distress as, in his dream, he is trampled by a parade of neon rabbits. Within the dream, Elmer laments, "Billions and twillions of wabbits! Where are they all coming fwom?"

At an adding machine, the quick-witted, and quick-breeding, Bugs retorts, "From me, doc! I'm multiplyin', see? I'm multiplyin'!"

Soon after, Elmer, bound to railroad tracks, cries in a-go-NEE as he's run over by the "Super Chief," a seemingly endless train of rabbits.

Like the 50-year-old page of apparently random numbers that serves as humanity's warning of its doom in Knowing, "The Big Snooze," itself, serves as a warning for those to be spared in Knowing. Of course, Caleb and Abby might be too young to ever have seen "The Big Snooze"—and certainly too young to have grasped its message even if they had—but John Koestler (Nicolas Cage's character), like anyone of his generation, almost certainly had seen "The Big Snooze" at some point in his life and, being a professor of astrophysics at MIT, unquestionably should have understood its dire warning of a race that humanity simply cannot win.

Thanks for nothing, benevolent aliens!

(Images from Knowing copyright Summit Entertainment; images from Looney Tunes copyright Warner Brothers.)

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