Sci Fi Writers Have / No Sense of Time

Sci-fi writers cannot determine time. Overlaps more frequently than other variants with Writers Cannot Do Math.
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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Excel Saga episode "Legend of the End of the Century Conqueror" (a parody of post-apocalyptic anime, mainly Fist of the North Star) opens with the announcer shouting "The Future, 199X!" The studio audience shouts "It's already over!" and the flustered announcer replies "Oh, Crap!, you're right!"
  • In The Five Star Stories, Lachesis and Amaterasu have apparently searched each other through space-time for six billions of years (dependent). It took them only ~4500 years on the independent clock, though, and Joker's standard year is about three to four times shorter than the Earth's one.
  • In Space Battleship Yamato, the Earth has either the most ridiculously efficient populace or the universe's fastest-recovering planet. By the start of Series 1, the surface of the Earth has been devastated. It's highly radioactive, all life is gone, the oceans have boiled off, and it's shown as a lifeless rock with humanity existing underground. Starsha's Cosmo-Cleaner cleanses the Earth of radiation, but in only a single year's time the oceans have reappeared, forests have grown.. it's like the reset button has been pushed. They even managed to create fleets of a few dozen immense space ships.

    Comic Books 
  • In Watchmen, soon after Dr. Manhattan arrives on Mars, he mulls to himself about trilobites two million years earlier, at the time as the Andromeda supernova. Except that the last trilobites went extinct about 250 million years ago; he's off by two orders of magnitude. Rather, he should have been pondering Homo habilis.
  • This hits Uncanny X-Men hard after The Dark Phoenix Saga. Not immediately, but starting at least as early as the story "I, Magneto" in Uncanny X-Men 150, from 1981. There, Scott tells Magneto that Jean had died a year ago, suggesting that the story was running in something approaching real-time. Then, In a story arc from 1983, Scott reveals that the date of Jean's death was September 1, 1980 (the date of record of publication of Uncanny X-Men 137, where Jean was killed). And an issue or two later, Professor X talks of having sensed Jean's death "years ago", again suggesting a real-time progression of the story. However, enter Kitty Pryde. She is introduced as 13 1/2 years old in her first appearance in 1980. In issue 179, ("What Happened to Kitty?", with a March, 1984 publication date), Storm, Wolverine and Rogue go to a morgue to recover what they believe to be Kitty's corpse (the Morlocks having faked her death in a bid to kidnap her). When the morgue attendant muses about her age, Storm replies that "she was not yet fifteen," implying that a maximum of one and a half years would have elapsed from the time of Jean's death. This makes nonsense of the internal timekeeping in the comic, as Kitty cannot have been 13 1/2 around September 1, 1980 and still fulfil the two time points of Jean's death being "years ago" and Kitty being "not yet fifteen" in 1984. She would have to be closer to eighteen in the 1984 story for the two to not be mutually exclusive.

    Fan Fiction 
  • In Kyon: Big Damn Hero, Tsuruya will be the One Hundred and Eighth family head when she eventually assumes that position. A single generation is approximately 25 years, so this implies that Tsuruya's family has been around for 2700 years — the ancestors of the Japanese did not even exist in Japan at that time. Even if we are charitable and assume that the position of family head has sometimes passed from sibling to sibling, or that some heads have resigned the position while still alive, and estimate the time between the 1st and 108th heads to be a quarter of that, then the family would have originated in the Muromachi period (c. 14th century). However, as a Yakuza family, it could not have existed before the Yakuza originated, at some time in the Edo period (c. 17th century).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Demolition Man, the entire mainstream society gets completely overhauled, eradicating violence, swearing, and anything deemed hazardous to one's health, within 30 years. There are people (or at least one police officer) who were working adults in the ultra-violent past society, who are still in the workforce.
    • There is also no information on whether these practices are in use in the rest of the USA, or for that matter the rest of the world. Dr Cocteau seems to only preside over San Angeles, so either it's the new capital or they seceded in the past (which is not entirely unlikely).
  • When The Matrix enters Bullet Time, the bullets from semi-automatic handguns are sometimes only a few feet away from each other. That would only be possible if those handguns had about the rate of fire of a minigun. Rule of Cool almost certainly has something to do with it. Every physics oddity also comes with its own handwave: The Matrix is not real as we know real, but rather a very detailed simulation driven by its own rules. And sometimes driven to severe lag.
    • In every movie that features bullet time, the gunshot is always heard when the bullet leaves the barrel, regardless of how far the camera is from the gun, despite bullets usually traveling faster than sound waves.
  • Water World:
    • At the end, the protagonists find the dry land - complete with sandy beaches. It takes a LONG time to erode rock into sand.
    • The confusion when you realize that their society somehow still has a supply of gasoline and canned goods that are still edible, while no living person can remember dry land and some people have begun to evolve gills which would take hundreds of generations to begin. Not even Spam would still be good at that point.
  • Santo and Blue Demon vs Dracula and the Wolf Man: Before Dracula could be brought back to life, seven solar eclipses and seven lunar eclipses had to pass. This is specified in the film as taking 400 years. Earth averages one total solar eclipse every 18 months, and has at least two total lunar eclipses per year. (If those eclipses were all supposed to be seen in the same locale, which is not specified in the subtitles but might be in the original Spanish dialogue, Dracula and Cristaldi must have jumped in a time machine before their fight. The average cycle for total solar eclipses visible in one spot is one per 370 years; getting seven of them would take 2,590 years on average.)
  • Star Wars:
    • One of the biggest time examples comes in A New Hope with Obi-Wan's line that the Jedi Knights were the guardians of the Old Republic "for over a thousand generations". A generation is about 25 years (defined as the time from one generation's birth to their giving birth to the next generation), so 25 times a thousand equals... 25,000 years?!? Just for reference, that's the same amount of time that's passed between the end of the Neanderthals to the present day. The Expanded Universe kept faithfully to that number, even though it means that the Republic has gone the whole length of human civilization with no major advances or changes, and kept the same overall government. George Lucas may have eventually thought better of it: the prequel trilogy has Palpatine saying instead that the Republic's stood for "a thousand years", which seems like a more reasonable estimate. Nowhere is it suggested that Obi-Wan was just being figurative.
    • As if to prove how stubborn people can be, later Expanded Universe material continues to state that the Republic did start 25,000 years ago, but it reformed in the "Ruusan Reformation" about 1,000 years before the films, which is what Palpatine refers to.
    • There's also some indication that the stasis is because scientists in that universe have actually mastered all the laws of physics and there isn't anything else left to discover in that group of sciences. In Knights of the Old Republic, one NPC remarks that all that seems to be changing is that every year, ships get a little faster.
    • Even taken at face value, there's just a few days (from what we see) between the Falcon's departure from Hoth to the showdown on Cloud City. During that same time, Luke flies off to Dagobah to learn advanced telekinesis from a muppet before having to cut his training short just as Yoda was starting to enjoy riding piggyback around the swamp to go stage a rescue. So, did the Falcon's journey take weeks/months and Boba Fett was content to sit on his ass stalking them for that long instead of calling in the Imperials immediately, or did Luke's Jedi training take mere days?
    • Another example from Star Wars is this: In the original movie, Obi-Wan Kenobi was played by Sir Alec Guinness, who looked like the 63-year-old man that he was. In Revenge of the Sith, Obi-Wan was played by Ewan McGregor, who looked like the 34-year-old man he was. Except that Luke and Leia were born at the end of Revenge, and are supposed to be in their late teens by the time of the original movie (in fact, Mark Hamill was 26 and Carrie Fisher was 21). So Obi-Wan appears to have aged almost 30 years in about 18 years. Maybe the idea that the Jedi can use their powers to slow their aging process is faulty. This could be Jedi mind-tricked away by saying that Obi-Wan had to stay under very deep cover so doing things like slowing his aging process would be too dangerous a use of the Force, plus the desert ages a body pretty quickly. Still, it looks like his exile was particularly hard on him. Illustrating the issue rather well is Bail Organa, who was played by Jimmy Smits in both the prequels and Rogue One (which is chronologically set just before the events of A New Hope). Bail is old enough to have been Obi-Wan's friend and contemporary during the period of time covered by the prequels, yet doesn't look nearly as old as him by the time of the original trilogy.
    • In-Universe, of course, he was alone in a desert, surrounded by monsters and paranoid about being detected by Palpatine or Vader. Out of universe, the timeline of the series wasn't ironclad yet. Palpatine is 94 when he dies, but he's implied to be much younger.
  • The Oblivion's backstory includes a manned mission to Saturn's moon Titan in 2017- four years from when the film was made. NASA doesn't even have concrete plans for a mission to Mars.
  • Prometheus is set (initially) in 2089, about 75 years in the future at the time of production. At the time of production, the world's largest superpower, the USA, had no way of putting people in low earth orbit, and depended on old-fashioned Russian launchers to get their astronauts to the ISS. At the time of production, less than two dozen humans had been more than 300 miles from the surface of the earth; which hasn't happened since the 1970's. From this poor starting point, the film asks us to believe that in 75 years we'll have reached a state of technology where a private company can mount an interstellar exploration mission with a faster-than-light ship, requiring only four years between deciding to do the mission and arriving at the target planet.
  • In X-Men: Apocalypse, twenty years have passed between X-Men: First Class—the first film in the franchise reboot—and this one, but the returning actors are at least ten years younger than what their characters should be and there is no age makeup in sight. Xavier, Magneto, and Moira should be pushing 50, yet their actors were in their 30's during filming. Havok and Beast should be at least 40 even though their actors were in their mid-20's, and Havok and Cyclops' mother doesn't look nearly old enough for her eldest son to be middle-aged. The only returning characters who get a pass are Mystique because not physically aging is one of the few things in the movie that are consistent with the comics, and Quicksilver because he was a teenager in X-Men: Days of Future Past, the previous movie, and is now in his late 20's like his actor Evan Peters.

  • The original Dune series by Frank Herbert was set 10,000 years (human history goes back roughly 7,000-10,000 years at present) after the Robot War known as the Butlerian Jihad, featuring an old, decadent society that had presumably been going downhill for a long time. However, when Frank Herbert's son picked up the reins and wrote prequels set before and during said Butlerian Jihad, the prequels end with all the social orders and customs, and the religion, of Dune already established as nearly identical to the ones in the original novel. And the reader is expected to believe that they stayed exactly the same for longer than the time between the invention of writing and the present.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • George R.R. Martin's novels has the earliest dates in its fictional world's history set at 12,000 years earlier, with the oldest family in the land able to trace their history back 8,000 years with apparent accuracy and detail, and with that family name never once dying out due to infertility, war or famine caused by the planet's frequent mini-ice ages. However, in the third book when one character is about to be elected the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, one of his friends is puzzled he can only find records of less than 600 previous ones, indicating the dates may not be reliable. Furthermore, Martin later confirmed that there are problems with date-keeping in the fictional history of Westeros, and dates much past 2,000 years ago are to treated as mythological, legendary and highly suspect. This may be due to the planet's highly unpredictable seasons (which last for years at a time), meaning that only a tiny minority of the population (those who keep track of astronomy) can accurately track the passage of time.
    • Additionally, the fact is that the people still live in Medieval Stasis. Many fantasies can hand-wave this with a healthy dose of Functional Magic, but A Song of Ice and Fire has slowed technological innovation to a level that boggles the mind for a setting where magic cannot replace ingenuity. However, the author has hinted there may be a plot-based explanation.
    • An in-universe theory is that before accurate records the years are doubled, especially since much of it takes place before the invention of writing (or at least writing anyone knows how to read). Going by clues Sam finds to how they lived back then, that's the early bronze age to a medieval period in 5-7 thousand years with iron showing up ~2000 years from the current setting, pretty close to reality.
  • Orson Scott Card's Homecoming series is set about 40 million years into the future, with an external force creating technological (and to some degree, social and genetic) stagnation. However, nothing is enforcing geological stagnation, and the series tends to be rather hit-or-miss on the sort of changes that take place. For example, the main characters pass by the ruins of a city carved into the side of a mountain. The city has been abandoned for tens of millions of years (with the aforementioned external force keeping people away), but the degree of erosion described is more typical of thousands of years. (A thousand years will round off the edges of stonework, and can cause localized collapses of structures. Ten million years will make the mountain hundreds of feet shorter, with the slopes moving back a similar amount to maintain stability.)
  • In Andre Norton's Dread Companion, at one point it is established that Kosgro is four generations separated from Terra, whereas to Kilda, Terra is a legend, possibly even destroyed, and she has never heard of anyone with a connection. Later, when they return, it turns out that Kosgro landed on Dylan a hundred and twenty years before they did. And there were no major wars or other disasters that would have explained the loss.
  • Douluo Dalu is very guilty of this. While ten years or even a hundred years old monsters might sound reasonable, it continues on base ten- some monsters are 10 000 or 100 000 years old. To give scale, in our world, agriculture is believed to have been invented 10 000 years ago. In the sequel, it manages to get even more ridiculous, as it happens ten thousand years after the original story, but the school and main families have survived (and most have thrived) while the main character finds a million-years spirit beast. At least it claims being the only one who survived that long.
  • H.P. Lovecraft is usually okay with this, even though most of his stories deals with enormous time differences, he doesnt usually bother putting it in exact numbers. His problem is rather the opposite, the ones taking place in "present day" dont take ENOUGH time into account. The worst offender is probably The Lurking Fear where the Martense family had somehow managed to degenerate into inhuman beasts in less than 200 years. Most of Lovecrafts stories are set in the U.S and feature characters of anglo-saxon descent, where even the oldest European colonies only dated back about 400 years by his time, hardly enough time for anything in particular to happen, much less the kind of scale he was talking about.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Doctor Who, particularly during the Patrick Troughton era, dated an awful lot of its high-tech future stories to the 21st century. Going in the opposite direction, the story Doctor Who and the Silurians named a species after the era hundreds of millions years before they were around. Someone caught this too late, and in their next appearance, the Doctor pointed out that their name was a misnomer.
    • And says that they're properly Eocenes - which is ALSO inaccurate. (The Third Doctor sourcebook for the Doctor Who tabletop RPG Doctor Who Adventures In Time And Space suggests as another option that, since the Silurians apparently call themselves that as well, it may simply be the proper name of their species and the fact that the human-given name for a given geological period happens to sound exactly the same nothing more than sheer coincidence.)
    • In Frontios, the Doctor and companions travel to the extraordinarily distant future (millions, billions, and sometimes even trillions of years), only to discover humans have not changed in any way. In the episode Utopia, which is stated to be set sometime beyond the year A.D. 100,000,000,000,000, the Doctor handwaves this by saying that humans have evolved into higher life-forms countless times, but keep reverting to homo sapiens sapiens out of nostalgia.
    • Stories in the classic Who series never went further than a few million years into the future. The two most extreme-set stories were "The Ark" and "Frontios" - The Ark was set 10 million years in the future (and 700 years after that), and Frontios was mentioned in its novelisation to be set at about the same time but elsewhere in the galaxy. Both were about human colonies setting up on distant planets after the Sun supposedly burnt out (which would be more in the region of 5,000 million years from now)...
    • "Kill the Moon" is set in 2049, a mere 35 years after broadcast. When the 2014 schoolgirl Courtney posts pictures on Tumblr, the astronaut Lunkvik says she remembers her grandmother used to post things to Tumblr. If Lunkvik was meant to be in her 30s or younger (the actress was 47) then maybe "mother" would have just about worked. Given the actress's age, however, it's more likely that Lunkvik was a millennial, born roughly the same time as Courtney.
    • The 2007 episode "Utopia" established that life in the universe - and the universe itself - will continue to exist until some time after the year 100 trillion. However, the 2015 episode "Hell Bent" continually refers to the end of the universe as occurring roughly 4.5 billion years after the modern day. (Although the episode does offer some wiggle room on this).
  • Space: 1999 had an advanced base on the moon in the year of its title. In fairness, that didn't seem so far-fetched in the heady days of the Apollo missions, which was when the programme was created. This is more a depressing case of the opposite of Science Marches On.
  • Power Rangers has shown the year 2025 (Power Rangers S.P.D.) to be more advanced than the year 3000 (Power Rangers Time Force) with the latter series actually being aired four (4!) seasons before the former, and once traveled back to show Salem-esque witch hunts in 18th century English-colonized California.
  • Parodied on Late Night with Conan O'Brien's Year 2000 sketches, where Conan O'Brien and Andy Richter would make ludicrous predictions about the year 2000 (the show began in 1993) while wearing "futuristic" robes and employing "dramatic" lighting (flashlights held under their faces). The sketches were set to dream-like music with "In the year two-thoooousaaaaaand..." repeated by band member Richie "LaBamba" Rosenberg. Even as late as 2007, Conan and different guests continue to make predictions about what will happen in the year 2000.
    • The absurdity was lampshaded by Andy Richter on the second episode of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, which began in 2009. The replacement sketch, In the Year 3000 takes the lack of scale in the opposite direction, making predictions for a thousand years in the future based on current politicians and celebrities still being around.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • An early episode had the team encounter a civilization which used technology to allow the knowledge of one person to be given to everyone else on the planet (giving the donor brain damage in return). The entire planet had no concept of school, traditional learning, or play (even the word play was unknown), despite the introduction of the technology having been only 50 years previously.
    • Another issue is the timeline regarding the Ancients and the Asgard. The Ancient timeline for living in our galaxy was arriving here around 50 million years ago, leaving for the Pegasus Galaxy around 5 million years ago, and returning 10,000 years ago. This is headscratching when one remembers that the Asgard, who in a season one episode where established as being in alliance with the Ancients as one of the Four Races, are a civilization only 100,000 years old, and who only began exploring outside their home galaxy 28,000 years ago.
      • It simply means that the alliance of the 4 great races formed in the 10,000 years AFTER the Ancients returned to the Milky-Way fleeing the Wraith war. This makes sense as the other 2 races, the Nox and the Furlings, unlike the Asgard, are native to the Milky-Way. They would have had to evolve after the Ancients reset the Milky-Way following the great plague that forced them to leave for Pegasus. So they couldn't have been around in the 40 million years that the Ancients first inhabited the Milky-Way.
  • The Eureka episode "Ship Happens" has an organic computer in the form (and with the rough physical capabilities) of a human being, said to be packed incredibly densely with information. It starts writing out the information by hand, but says that it would take 2000 years to finish writing it all out. In 2000 years, a human could write out roughly 100 GB worth of data — that is to say, the amount stored on a moderately-sized hard drive. If a human-sized object is densely packed with information, surely there should be a lot more of it than that...
  • Series set in pre-human times fall victim to this like woah. For example, there is currently some confusion as to when exactly Terra Nova takes place. Some sources say 80 million years ago, others say 150 million years ago. But what's a 70 million year difference? Animals and environments stay the same for that long, right? Right.
  • Some science fiction series refer to the 20th century as "Ancient" despite only being set a few hundred years into the future; this is slightly jarring when you realise that applying the same scale to the present day would render the colonisation of the New World, the Renaissance and handheld firearms as also being "Ancient."
  • It is remarkable how many non-fiction TV documentaries there are that try to invoke a sense of foreboding when speaking of the fact that in five billion years our sun will swell into a red giant, frying the earth. "What will we do when this happens?" they ask. The earliest evidence of human history is a mere 35-40,000 years old. The human race as we exist is believed to be only about 200,000 years old. The dinosaurs were only 70 million years ago, and humans didn't exist then. Going back five billion years brings you to around the time the solar system formed. Worrying about something that will occur five billion years in the future (that's 5,000 millions of years), as if we will be in the same boat then as we are now (or even still exist to worry about it!), is a little extreme.
  • The Red Dwarf stayed functional for three million years, how is not exactly explained. Lister's survival is explained by the stasis pod freezing time while he was in it but the rest of the ship had to maintain normal time flow for the radioactives to decay.
  • Babylon 5 has an episode in which Commander Sinclair specifically indulges this trope. In response to a reporter asking him why Humanity should be in space he states that "Whether it happens in a hundred years or a thousand years or a million years, eventually our Sun will grow cold and go out. When that happens, it won't just take us. It'll take Marilyn Monroe, and Lao-Tzu, and Einstein, and Morobuto, and Buddy Holly, and Aristophanes, and - all of this - all of this - was for nothing. Unless we go to the stars." Nice sentiment, but the sun is expected to "go out" in at least five thousand times longer than his longest estimate, and the idea that Humanity should be spending resources on space travel with this in mind is kind of absurd. What makes this especially idiotic is that there's plenty of space-based threats that could do the exact thing Sinclair describes, anything from asteroid impacts to gamma ray bursts, that could literally come out of nowhere and wipe out humanity within anything from "a thousand years" to "in the next 5 minutes".


    Tabletop Games 
  • The timeline in Eberron goes to the point of self-parody; the elves are stuck in Medieval Stasis despite living unchallenged on their own isolated island for forty thousand years; the goblinoid empire lasted uninterrupted for 5,000 years before succumbing to the aberrations and the Dwarfs created their kingdom around 12,000 years and banished the Mror Dawrfs for 7000 more or less until the were worthy. For comparison, human civilizations started in 3300 B.C, while agriculture and writing form would make it around 10,000 years old at most. And this are the most templed examples in the setting.

  • In BIONICLE, the average lifespan of the characters, both biomechanical and organic lasts for more than a hundred thousand years. After the Shattering happened, and the planet of Spherus Magna blew into three separate planets, all forms of advancement came to a halt on the largest chunk, the desert planet Bara Magna. The story picks up 100 thousand years later, and beyond the creation of the Glatorian fighting system, nearly nothing has changed. The death-rates are said to be high, yet no indication is given towards new people coming into being. Then, there's the fact that even 100 thousand year-old fighters, such as Gresh, are considered youngsters, and others treat them as if they were kids. And he becomes a skilled veteran just in a few months' worth of story time.

  • The original Mega Man series, set in 200X, includes 4-foot-tall robots equipped with fully developed artificial intelligence, superhuman speed, reflexes, and fighting ability, and weapons involving plasma cannons, lasers, time manipulation, and holograms. This was later revised to 20XX.
  • The speed of human political expansion in Mass Effect seems to follow this trope - integrating themselves into pan-galactic society to the point where they have the military-industrial capability to rival established alien societies that have been around for thousands of years like the batarians (though they're nowhere near the level of the other three Council races); from Hidden Elf Village to N-11 in thirty-five years. However, that's the whole point: human expansion is so amazing and unprecedented that much of the rest of the galaxy is quietly terrified of humans. One has to realize that when aliens speak of colonies they are referring to planets with hundreds of millions of people; humans are referring to supply outposts of maybe fifty-thousand. Eden Prime, the "pride of the Systems Alliance", has less than four million, Terra Nova only four and a half. Compare to a typical asari world like Cyone, which has 260 million people. And the push for colonization is so great because Earth is getting crowded; twelve billion people with all that implies. And on top of that, humans armed forces are only 3% (compare to 10%-40% of the others races) of the population.
  • Fallout 3 takes place around 200 years after the war, but by the general state of things you'd think only a couple years had passed. Unmaintained buildings are still standing, no new plants have grown, and pre-war packaged food is still fresh. Word of God has it that the developers were aware that by 200 years later the buildings would have returned to nature and new growth would be rampant, but decided to go with style over accuracy - a "post-nuclear role playing game" set in virgin forests with no standing buildings left over wouldn't be much deserving of its title, after all.
    • At least partially justified by the fact that every location the series has taken place in was a target for China's entire nuclear payload, razing the areas so terribly that some places still have radiation hot zones and the water that would help greenery grow is still irradiated. It doesn't help that the Glowing Ones run rampant, spreading radiation wherever they go.
  • Assiduously avoided in Frontier: Elite II, which featured proper Newtonian flight physics via a velocity-vector, view-vector, thrust-vector avionics system and a galaxy of realistic size and scale. Spaceships are legally required to do their jump into hyperspace at a minimum safety distance from the surface due to the harmful radiation produced from the process, meaning about 3 days or so journey is needed to get to a planet, even after using hyperdrive to get to the star system in the first place. Luckily, like the military sims of its day, it implemented "accelerated time" in logarithmic increments, up to 10,000 times real time.
  • Similar to the Dune example, Knights of the Old Republic has planets, cities, societies, and technology virtually identical to the six movies. Despite KoTOR being set 4,000 years prior. There are minor changes, particularly in the size of warships, but nothing significant.
  • Galactic Civilizations is all over this. Expanding from a backwater on the eastern rim of the map with a population of eight billion to controlling fifty worlds and nearly a trillion people takes thirty years. Culturally subverting your opponent's worlds can take mere weeks. Frequently lampshaded, reports on population growth will often mention that the numbers you're seeing are clearly impossible.
    • In-game fluff also tries to soften it a bit. The population of your empire is actually higher than what your population counter says, the numbers going up so quickly are because your colonies' better-established governments are taking more accurate censuses. In addition, some of the population increase is because your empire is accepting immigration from other species. This, of course, can't possibly justify a 1,000 times population jump in one generation, but it blunts it a bit.
  • Civilization and its various successors are best described as having a sort of time-based Units Not to Scale. In the early game, a single turn represents as much as a decade, meaning it can take as much as twenty years for a unit to travel from a city center to its outskirts. That same unit probably took 50 years to construct. Military campaigns measured in centuries are not uncommon. (On the other hand, this means that the general progression of technology is at least in the right ballpark (most of the time). You win some, you lose some.)

    Western Animation 
  • Spoofed in an episode of Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law. George Jetson, after arriving in our time, treats Birdman like an inferior creature, stating proudly, "We are from the future! The far off year of 2002!" Birdman glances at his calendar, which reads "March 2004".
  • The backstory of the various Transformers continuities typically extends back millions of years from the present date, and that's just the most recent activities of the current generation of characters. Granted, they're immortal robots, but still.
    • And in the original cartoon, it's implied that nothing of importance happened on Cybertron during the four million years the season 1 protagonists lay dormant on Earth until they reawakened in 1984. Shockwave promised Megatron that he would keep Cybertron as he (Megatron) leaves it, but... damn.
      • Shockwave is good at two things, being a Magnificent Bastard (a very creepy one) and taking everything to the logical extreme.
    • The Dreamwave comic series attempted to justify this by stating that due to ongoing rebellion and quashing of said rebellion, both Autobots and Decepticons formed a truce because they simply ran out of energon, and needed to go into a long period of stasis. In fact, by the time the Earthbound Autobots and Decepticons get home, they find that Cybertron actually is much better. The War Within series also had characters noting how, despite their level of technology, they had yet to go beyond their own moons.
    • The Marvel comics actually delved into the history of the war during those four million years in some detail, chronicling the rise and fall of multiple Decepticon and Autobot commanders, the raging of the battles over vast distances of the planet, and the gradual pushing back of the Autobots on every front, until by the time contact is reestablished with Optimus Prime and co. on Earth, the war on Cybertron has effectively been over for several thousand years and the Autobots are no more than scattered guerrilla bands fighting on against all hope. The comics also seemed to postulate at one point the existence of many other Transformer factions and neutral forces other than Autobots and Deceptions who rode out the war, but this idea was seemingly later abandoned with those factions not being mentioned much past the Target: 2006! story arc. The comic also suggested that many Transformer factions had abandoned Cybertron to live in peace on other worlds, such as the Cybertronian Empire under the Liege Maximo and the later-Headmasters under Fortress Maximus, spreading the war over a much vaster distance of space as well as time.
  • In the "Breakout" episode of Megas XLR, highly-advanced sentient beings are shown to imprison a criminal. A title card then says "1,987,462,128,012 years later..." and cuts to present day, making the timeframe a little over 132 times the current length of existence.
  • In one episode of Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, the evil Fleeblebroxian decides to go to a supermarket for a while ("just a couple of megaseconds") on the way back. He's going to be there for about two weeks- 1 megasecond = 1*10^6 sec = 278 hours = 11.6 days.