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The Martian

The film is set up in planet Mars, a crew of astronauts working on collecting


samples when a storm forces them to an emergency exit, one of the crew members
Matt Watney is hit by storm debris and left to die in the red planet. Unexpectedly he
survives and is faced with a survival challenge, there is no oxygen, water, or fertile
soil on Mars, yet he managed to grow potatoes and survive until he was rescued by
the same crew that left him behind.
In our world energy powers everything, from bacteria to a whale shark but
the first law of Thermodynamics indicates that energy cant be created, or
destroyed [1]. As humans we obtain energy from eating plants or animals, a good
source of energy are potatoes because they contain a high amount of
carbohydrates. This may be the reason the film featured potatoes instead of
spinach which contains 0.1 g. of carbs per cup. If we consume Carbohydrates
excessively the energy is stored in our body as fats, unfortunately Matt had a
limited amount of potatoes and was forced to minimize his portions. Surprisingly the
character showed no weight loss throughout the film, which I found inaccurate. To
survive in any environment we also need water, not just potatoes.
Water is a vital compound made up of hydrogen and oxygen [2], potato
crops need oxygen, water, energy, and fertile soil to grow. Mars has none of these,
but these were no obstacles for science. To create a form of energy the character
repositioned the solar panels to direct sunlight into the artificial atmosphere,
because sunlight is a form of energy [3]. To fertilize the soil he mixed human
waste with it, this was an inaccuracy, according to Bruce Bugbee a Botanist and

NASA scientist, there is no reason why this wouldnt work except that in the film
human waste was mixed directly with the soil "This would be microbiologically
dangerous and probably toxic to the plants. The waste has to be composted first
usually for several months in a rotating drum." Bugbee is also the crop physiology
director at Utah State University.
To solve the lack of water Matt obtained hydrogen from the ships rockets, and
ignited it in an oxygenated habitat, which is where he had the potato crops. His first
attempt resulted in an explosion because the artificial oxygen that allowed him to
breath was turned on, there was an excess of oxygen and caused the hydrogen to
explode. His experiment was accurate and overnight the water had condensed and
created a humid habitat for the potatoes plants to grow.
Plants have chloroplasts which are vital in the process of photosynthesis,
without them there would be no oxygen in our atmosphere. There was one
particular scene that showed this; after the potato plants were fully grown he was
walking around them without an astronaut helmet, but in this scene it wasnt
specified if the artificial oxygen was still turned on, or if he was breathing oxygen
from the plants. This could have an impact on the audience, some may think that
sustaining life in mars is as easy as it was portrayed on the film, a simple recipe;
some human waste, an oxygenated chamber, a lighter, hydrogen, and some seeds.
That is what I was thinking while watching.
In my opinion the biggest inaccuracy was the soil fertilizer. I know from
hands on experience that its not possible mix human waste directly on soil as a
fertilizer, it needs to be processed. Aside from that I believe the film was highly
accurate. There was even one quote that stuck with me I will be killed by the laws
of thermodynamics the phrase came about because the character was in a rover

with no heat, he was freezing. Thermodynamics refers to the science of energy


changes, and heat is energy. Perhaps the film may have a positive impact on the
audience, it could even be seen educational to some, in particular for those that
know about the different sciences applied in the film. Some may argue that life is
possible in the red planet, but that is for the scientists to decide we can only make
assumptions based on film material.

Sources
Raven, Peter H. "1." Biology. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2014. 27. Print.
Raven, Peter H. "6." <i>Biology</i>. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2014. 108.
Print.
"Could We Really Mix Feces into Martian Dirt and Grow Potatoes?" Tech Insider. N.p.,
n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2015. http://www.techinsider.io/growing-food-on-mars-like-themartian-2015-9