Surviving at 220 Degrees

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By Larry Bambrick
Executive Producer

Shoot Day 4: Thursday August 13

Just watched some of the rushes from the first two days of shooting. George D’Amato (our director for this episode) and Paul Tolton (our director of photography) have done a great job giving a visual look to this show. Almost every frame looks bleached out and hot. Heat haze is warping the pictures, and it feels like it’s a world that would be almost impossible to live in. Just what we want!

Today we’re asking the question: what if the temperature on Earth climbed to 220 degrees Fahrenheit? Could we survive? Would human life be possible?

Far in the future — about two billion years from now — that’s going to be the reality on our planet.

If humans were still alive — if somehow we were all transported two billion years into the future with our cities still intact — how bad would things be?

Well…we couldn’t survive above ground. 220 degrees is the boiling point of water. If we opened our eyes, the moisture there would boil off. Trying to breath air that’s that hot would scorch our lungs. The fragile tissue inside that absorbs oxygen would be ruined. If the air was too hot — we’d suffocate. Not because there wasn’t enough oxygen, but because we couldn’t absorb the oxygen that we were breathing in.
Underground, it would be a little cooler. If somehow we were able to create oxygen, and stay out of the heat, we’d be able to survive. But if we wanted to walk the surface of the planet, we’d need to have protective clothing — like a space suit.

Today, we’re trying to create the feeling of that unimaginable future.

We’re shooting scenes of people living underground. And we’re putting one of our actors in a space suit. There’s a danger that this sort of shooting is too strange. That it’s too far-fetched to tell our story. But I’m convinced that the only way we can explain this story is to keep the human element in it as long as possible. Soon, as the sun continues to age, the world will be simply too hot for humans to live on, even in a spacesuit.

To simulate life underground, we’ve found a perfect tunnel that runs between an old Toronto castle and the stables about half a mile away. It sure looks like a subterranean end of the world down here.

This is the end of the recreations today. But next week we’re going to take the space suit on the road. Down through Utah — where the salt flats are going to stand in for a world that’s been scorched lifeless — and to New York City. There we’re going to try to get our space suited “earth-o-naut” to walk through deserted streets. We’ll have to find ways to steal that footage early in the morning when the city hasn’t fully woken up. But in the city that never sleeps… when will that be?

Shoot Day 10: August 25 — NYC: If We Can Bake It There…

Very luck with our locations down in New York.

Just heard from the crew — they ended the day at the top of the Bloomberg Building, taking time lapse shots of the setting sun.

Our AD — James Rait — just sent me a picture of them from up there. Quite the view.

Dallas Dyer — our line producer — has been down in New York helping with the shooting. Today, he was wearing the astronaut’s suit to simulate what it would be like to try to walk around a deserted, incredibly hot “future” world.

You wonder what you’d do in a situation like that.

If you lived in a world where most of the rest of the population had died. If going outside was too difficult. If you had to live underground. If the world as we knew it was gone. It’s been the fodder for hundreds of books and movies of course. But it’s hard to imagine such a massive change. What choices would you make? Would it be worth living, if everything you knew was gone?

Last Day of Shooting: Wednesday September 30 — Making Things Go Boom

The final day of the Red Giant. And the last shoot of the entire series. What a long strange trip it’s been.

Today, for the second day in a row, we’re working in a studio with a super high-speed camera, trying to give some extra “wow” to the show. We’re shooting super high-speed shots of soda cans exploding (if it gets too hot, the pop boils, the carbonation escapes, and the can shatters), lots of things melting, and then burning.

It’s all to help us tell the last part of the story. Eventually, in about five billion years or so, the sun will expand outward and begin swallowing the planets closest to us. Earth… will be the last of the planets to be devoured.

Again, our challenge is to find a way to give this galactic event a human scale. We decide to take things that are dear to us — books, suits, toys — every day objects, and melt them. Trying to get them to stand in for all of us, and all of the things in our world.

In some ways, it’s a really fitting way to end the series. There’s something about watching a paper globe of the earth go up in flames that sort of symbolizes this show.

We live in a lucky moment. Especially in North America, the majority of us live in luxury that couldn’t even be imagined a hundred years ago. From the iPod (5000 songs in a box the size of a playing card) to space travel to nuclear energy, the leaps that have been made in the last century are staggering.

But in this show we’ve tried to demonstrate how fragile Earth, and our life on it, is. How changing just one element — oil, population, spin, the sun — would change our world forever.

It may seem trite, but I hope that by watching a simple set of ketchup and mustard containers melt, viewers will hold what they have a little more gently. They’ll treat the world — and our time on it — with respect.

We’re incredibly lucky — and we don’t often stop long enough to see it.

Naked Science‘s “Swallowed by the Sun” premieres Thursday, July 22 at 10P et/pt.