Space.com (March 4, 2010)
"The film 'Avatar' takes viewers to a fictional moon, where the plants glow, shoot poison leaf tips and communicate. None of this fits exactly with our definition of "plant," but one botanist has pieced together an ecological back-story for how plants may have evolved on this strange world.
"The moon Pandora is depicted as a lush rainforest that may remind some of Hawaii or Borneo. But the Earthlings who venture onto this exomoon are confronted with plants (not to mention animals) that behave in surprising ways.
" 'There's a balance of familiar and fanciful,' says Jodie Holt, a plant physiologist from the University of California, Riverside. 'I think if the organisms had been too bizarre, viewers would have dismissed them as unreal.'..."
Or, if they're too much like what we're familiar with, viewers might assume that some filmmaker took a camera to the woods north of San Francisco filmed a few shots there, and called it an alien world. Again.
The Space.com article does a pretty good job of discussing the (somewhat) serious science behind Avatar's setting. Including the 'transduction' reference: which was a make-or-break factor in my being able to enjoy the movie. If they'd cut that one bit out, I'd have been left watching a show with marvelous special effects and cinematography - and the same old nature worship stuff that I've seen for decades.
Forty years ago, that approach had the virtue of being something of a novelty in film. Now? Not so much.
Back to that article: It's not going to give you a good grounding in exobiology (yes it's a real word); but there's enough to show you how a filmmaker took an unreal (as far as we know) setting, and made it plausible. As well as visually stunning.
More, from a link in the Space.com article:
- "Fall Colors on Alien Worlds"
Astrobiology Magazine (April 13, 2007)