Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Connor's Database, or why I really need to stop watching Primeval

This evening I was halfway through writing a post about Connor's amazing database on Primeval when I realized that I was attempting to seriously critique the IT aspects of a program whose plot revolves around holes in time that allow fearsome beasties from the past and future to pop up in present-day Britain and eat people. Plainly I have let my fascination with Primeval get out of hand.

Connor's database is a truly remarkable thing. It allows the "team" to identify prehistoric animals, even when it is blatently obvious what they are to anyone that's spent more than 10 minutes looking in a kid's book of dinosaurs. What I find amazing is that all of the animals that come through the "anomalies" are things that are already known to science - given the incredible patchiness of the fossil record, you'd think that every now and again something would pop up that would cause Connor to say "Crikey, Professor - there's nothing like that in the database!" At which point the late Professor Cutter would describe it in Nature and Connor, being a student, would be the 25th author on the paper, just in front of the guy that made the tea.

I had planned to demonstrate the extreme improbability of Connor's database by comparing the current diversity of Neornithes with the fossil record for birds over the last 60 million years. But halfway through totting up the number of genera of fossil Neornithes (I had reached Hydrotherikornis, an auk from the Late Eocene of Oregon), thus showing the lack of biodiversity preserved in the fossil record, when I suddenly stopped. "What are you doing?" I asked myself. This is a program in which guys take ages putting on biohazard suits to enter a room full of lethal fungal spores, then walk out into a crowded lab with their spore contaminated suits still on. And, come to think of it, where the effect of these spores is to turn the infected person into an indestructible fungus monster. The database is the least of their problems.

So, I'm washing my hands of Primeval. Like plucky Jenny Lewis, who resigned from the "team" because she could no longer cope with the fact that she started out as Claudia Brown in another timeline, I'm walking out of the "ARC" for the final time. They've got Jason Flemyng now, so it'll be just like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, only with giant flightless bat/monkey things from the future. Or maybe they're from the past and we just haven't discovered them yet.

Ugh. I'm off to bed.

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