by James D. Livingston (Harvard)
No, MIT professor Livingston writes, the magnetically levitated island in Gulliver’s Travels (or its homage in Avatar) is not possible—“magnetic forces decrease very rapidly with distance of separation. . . . Sorry about that.” But while Jonathan Swift’s version of levitation is science fiction, it and other cultural examples dot this accessible illustration of the physics that allow for real-life wonders like maglev trains.
—Elise Marton, Nicole Dyer & Andrew Moseman
Mondays, 9 p.m. ET, FOX
Following in the footsteps of Wall-E, Fox’s new sci-fi drama eschews the shiny future of The Jetsons in favor of the dystopian fear that our society is headed for disaster. Terra Nova’s characters, the Shannon family and a supporting cast, are fortunate enough to find a way out of the dying world of 2149: by traveling through time, scooting 85 million years into the past to found a new settlement. There they discover a lush planet with ample resources, along with ample opportunity for executive producer Steven Spielberg to stir up Jurassic Park-like adventures. We hope Terra Nova digs its teeth into the human drama of restarting society in an unfriendly Eden. And, we admit, we also look forward to a few good, old-fashioned dinosaur chases.