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Sci Fi Writers Have / No Sense of Time

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Sci-fi writers cannot determine time and they frequently underestimate entropy — in layman's terms, how long it takes for objects to decay and crumble to dust. Overlaps more frequently than other variants with Writers Cannot Do Math. Supertrope to I Want My Jetpack and Zeerust. Related to Medieval Stasis, Modern Stasis, and Evolutionary Stasis. Compare Briefer Than They Think. See also 10,000 Years.

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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 for each other through space-time for six billion years. It took them only about 4500 years on the independent clock, though, and Joker's standard year is about three to four times shorter than the Earth's.
  • In Space Battleship Yamato, the Earth either has the most ridiculously efficient populace or is 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 each.
    • The remake, Space Battleship Yamato 2199, explained this by saying that the Cosmo Cleaner is powered by a soul who remembered Earth's initial state, thus returning Earth to that state. It also created a space/time distortion with Year Inside, Hour Outside properties, which Earth installed their primary shipyard in so that they could rapidly build a new fleet.

    Comic Books 
  • In issue #12 of Batwoman (Rebirth), Kate's narration states that she's been on her mission for a year. The series had been running for about that long at that point, but there's absolutely no way that makes sense according to the book's internal chronology. For example, at the start of issue #7, only a couple months at most had elapsed since Kate began her mission, and only a few days pass between issues #7 and #12.
  • 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 fulfill the two points in time 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.
  • 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.
  • Alan Moore's "The Big Chill" features the heat death of the universe, with a last few immortals like Mr. Majestic hanging around at its last moments. This all happens within the span of a story that doesn't seem to take more than the equivalent of some days or weeks. Really, though, according to cosmologists, this kind of end of everything would happen reeeeeeee-eeeeeeeeee-eeeeeeeeeee-eeeeeeeeeeally slowly, like you'd be sitting around a billion years waiting for the next black hole to decay away and absolutely nothing would happen in between because there would be no usable energy left for it to happen with. Of course, that'd be pretty hard to make a story of.
  • The Transformers (IDW): Transformers are at once absurdly long-lived and have existed for, relative to their individual ages, a staggeringly short time. The timeline (link contains big spoilers) on TFWiki puts the origin of the species at 12 million years ago, which is, sure, a long time...but Tailgate, Cyclonus and Kup, to name just three characters, have been around for at least six million years. Tailgate was stuck in a hole on the Mitteous Plateau, inching towards the materials to construct a makeshift distress flare, for half the age of his species, blacking out for hundreds of thousands of years at a time. Rodimus has seen a full third of his species' history pass and he's still the same absurdly impulsive teenager he was back before Homo habilis evolved. Despite all this, they function perfectly well on a human scale, with Thundercracker even having a heavily implied crush on a woman whose entire species has existed for less time than he has personally.

    Fan Works 
  • Antipodes: 10,000 years have passed since the cataclysm that ended Equestria. This is a span of time over twice as long as the entirety of written history. It would be long enough for languages to evolve beyond recognizability, for societies to develop into distinctly new cultures, for ponies to be well on the way to developing into a distinctly new species, for the old world's ruins to have all been eroded down to long-buried foundations, and for almost every piece of Lost Technology to become eroded into nothingness. Despite this, all old-world tech simply needs some tune-ups to work, and the ruins of ancient buildings are only about as worn down as they would be after a few decades to a few centuries of abandonment.
  • Kyon: Big Damn Hero: Tsuruya will be the 108th family head when she eventually assumes that position. A single generation lasts approximately twenty-five 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.
  • 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.
  • Oblivion's backstory includes a manned mission to Saturn's moon Titan in 2017 — four years from when the film was made. NASA only came up with a plan on a mission to Mars in 2015, and they estimate it would be done around the 2030s.
  • Prometheus, released 2012, is set (initially) in 2089, about 75 years in the future at the time of production. By that point, we would apparently 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. Granted as of 2020 we are on track on a mission to Mars and would likely land a human on the red planet by 2030, but achieving FTL travel is still quite a long shot.
  • 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, and about five times longer than all of recorded history. Star Wars Legends kept faithfully to that number, even exploring some of it with the Tales of the Jedi and Dawn of the Jedi comic book series, but Attack of the Clones retconned it to "a thousand years" according to Chancellor Palpatine, which is still insanely long but considerably less so. Legends introduced the "Ruusan Reformation" about 1,000 years before the films to patch the resulting Continuity Snarl, wherein the Republic adopted a new constitution and disbanded its military following the end of the last Sith War (depicted in the Darth Bane trilogy). The new EU has ditched this, sticking with a thousand-year-old Republic (which is plausible, as many civilizations on Earth lasted that long or more)... unless the upcoming Knights of the Old Republic remake is to be considered canon. You confused yet?
    • In the original trilogy it's implied that the Jedi died out a long time ago, as Han calls it a "hokey religion", and Admiral Motti similarly mocks Vader for believing in the Force, and assumes his Force powers are a hoax until Vader starts choking him. Come the prequels, we learn that the Jedi didn't die out until about 20 years before A New Hope, and were well known as the main peacekeepers of the Galaxy (as Palpatine himself points out). While they are wiped out except for Yoda and Obi-wan (and a few others in Legends), it's simply not credible that people would just forget about them in only a couple decades, particularly if they existed for thousands of years beforehand and were also common knowledge.
    • In all honesty, the entire timeframe for the original and prequel trilogies can come across like this. A 1000 year old Republic breaks out into a galactic spanning civil war, wins, is dissolved to form a new Galactic Empire, which then also breaks out into a galactic spanning civil war, which they then lose, and a New Republic is established, all in the span of 34 years. An empire spanning the entire galaxy reigned for less than a single generation! Given the statements listed above, as well as some of the novelizations for the original trilogy mentioning that the current Emperor is simply the latest one in a line of many, it can be implied that the fall of the Republic and the reign of the Empire were originally envisioned to be far longer than they ended up deciding on.
    • The Empire Strikes Back:
      • Even taken at face value, there are 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 there stalking them for that long instead of calling in the Imperials immediately, or did Luke's Jedi training take mere days?
      • We see Han Solo tricking the Empire and floating away with their debris, only to be followed by Boba Fett. Yet, the Empire is later said to arrive before Han and crew do. It's only stated that they "arrived just before you did", but obviously, the Imperials need to have been there long enough to get their point across, station and hide their forces, and then move their ships out of sight. This should at least take half a day. One also wonders that if the Empire knew where Han was going to go before he even got there, why they needed a bounty hunter to follow him in the first place?
    • Revenge of the Sith is similarly confusing about how long its events take, particularly with regards to Padme Amidala's pregnancy: she seems to go from barely showing to looking like she's eight months along in the space of about a week. Star Wars: The Clone Wars addressed this one: Padme had realized she was pregnant much earlier but didn't have the opportunity to clearly inform Anakin until she was almost ready to pop because they barely saw each other the whole time they were married on account of the war, and used her clothes to conceal her baby bump from others.
  • Waterworld:
    • 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. The Smokers still have massive stores of cigarettes, which have a shelf life measured in weeks.
  • In Battlefield Earth, the Psychlo's entire reason for conquering Earth was to mine all the gold from it. Despite having Earth under their control for 1000 years at the time the movie is set, they still haven't managed to mine all the gold, even though they are supposedly an interstellar empire that has similarly plundered countless planets for their valuable metals (it also begs the question why they need it, rather being able to use something else or manufacture artificial minerals needed). And that's not counting things like fully-functional fighter jets.
  • Zardoz: The Eternals are a society of immortals who are bored with life and just want to die after a mere 300 years. While this is about 4 normal human lifespans, it still seems like a ridiculously short time to get bored with everything. To name just one thing: the number Chess games is estimated to be about 10^120 (1 followed by 120 zeros). If you could play a million games a year, it would still take 10^114 years to play every possible game note . And there are obviously a lot more activities in life than chess.

  • 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: while ten year or even hundred year 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 to be the only one who survived that long.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • H. P. Lovecraft averts this by not putting down exact numbers. He does use "vigintillion" (1*10^63) of years a couple of times, even "vigintillions of aeons ago," which it's hard to make sense of even in Cosmic Horror since it's (very) roughly like the age of the universe multiplied by itself.note 
    • Elsewhere his problem is the opposite, the ones taking place in "present day" don't 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 150 years. Most of Lovecraft's 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, and the oldest English colonies only about 300 years, hardly enough time for anything in particular to happen, much less the kind of scale he was talking about. note  Ironically, his other story about familial degeneration, "Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family", takes place over about the same span of time, and even though the family members go progressively more insane, they still look entirely human, despite descending from an Eldritch Abomination.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • The earliest dates within the 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. 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 as he can only find records of less than 600 previous ones, indicating the dates may not be reliable. 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 be treated as mythological, legendary and highly suspect.
    • The realistic implications of a world (or at least continent) in which winters can last from years to decades is probably the largest hole in the series' worldbuilding. An agrarian society like Westeros could not possibly store enough food to sustain a population of tens of millions, much less their farm animals

    Live-Action TV 

In General:

  • 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 be like us calling the colonisation of the New World, the Renaissance and handheld firearms as also being "Ancient."

By Series:

  • Babylon 5:
    • In response to a reporter asking him why Humanity should be in space Commander Sinclair 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.note 
  • Doctor Who:
    • 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)...
    • Particularly during the Patrick Troughton era, the show dated an awful lot of its high-tech future stories to the 21st century. Going in the opposite direction, "Doctor Who and the Silurians" named a species after a geological era hundreds of millions of years before they were around, and says that they're properly Eocenes — which is ALSO inaccurate. Someone caught this too late, and in their next appearance, the Doctor pointed out that their name was a misnomer. (The Third Doctor sourcebook for the tabletop game Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space suggests 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.)
    • "Genesis of the Daleks" featured a 1,000-year war of attrition between two fortresses in walking distance of each other. Lazy.
    • 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 "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 many forms, but it's gone "full circle" and end up resembling modern humans again.
    • "The End of the World", set in the year 5,000,000,000, implies that humanity and its descendants still resemble humans, which was confirmed in Sequel Episode "New Earth". The episode does imply that humanity has cross-bred with other species and drastically altered in other ways, however, and later episodes do acknowledge this by suggesting that humanity develops the ability to "experiment" with different forms, but tends to return to the "classic" template.
    • "Kill the Moon" is set in 2049, a mere 35 years after broadcast. When the 2014 schoolgirl Courtney posts pictures on Tumblr, the astronaut Lundvik says she remembers her grandmother used to post things to Tumblr. If Lundvik was meant to be in her 30s or younger (the actress was 47) then maybe "mother" would have just about worked. Given her age, however, it's more likely that Lundvik was a millennial, born roughly the same time as Courtney.
    • The 2007 episode "Utopia" establishes 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.)
    • In "Hell Bent", the Doctor travels to the absolute end of the universe. Here it's a poor choice of words: while the last of the stars should be dead by 100 trillion years, the universe itself might well continue to exist for almost 10 duotrigintaoctingentillion (10^25000) years after the death of the last stars. A difference of almost 25000 orders of magnitude.
  • 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 small hard drive.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 ("Funding Stops Dead"?).
  • The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "To Serve Man". Mr. Chambers has been lured aboard an alien spaceship and is being taken to the alien's home planet. Both he and his supposedly super-intelligent captors apparently forget that time zones are a thing when he demands to know "What time is it on Earth?"
  • The speculative documentary series Life After People averts this trope *hard*, going into great detail in many of its episodes exactly how long it would take from structures throughout the world to collapse if left unattended, along with scenes shot in real life places that have been abandoned such as Pripyat city near Chernobyl.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology says that a lot of things happened to the Thetans trillions of years ago — gorilla-themed mental-implant carnivals, bear-themed mental-implant explosions, "little orange-colored bombs that could talk", a brass dog that sucked people through it with electricity, etc. despite the Big Bang happening around 13.8 billion years ago. Of course, Hubbard's answer will be that the scientists are wrong and he's right, the Big Bang did not happen 13.8 billion years ago and whoever contradicts it is too blind or brainwashed to understand the truth. This is actually presented in a scene in The Master.
    • One popular anti-Scientology website had an evolutionary biologist explain everything wrong with this account, and sums up the article as “Scientology: Just as wrong as creationism, but in the opposite direction.”

    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 Dwarfs for 7000 more or less until they 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 these are the most templed examples in the setting.
  • Forgotten Realms is little better: Toril has been stuck in Medieval Stasis for at almost 32,000 years. The earliest dates given are for the War of the Seldarine when Lolth turned on Corellon Larethian, starting a series of wars between the elven kingdoms that lasted off and on for almost 8,000 years, each individual Crown War lasting for several hundred. Elves in FR are Long-Lived, but not that Long-Lived. Though justified in this case because of a handwave that the god of craftsmen is actively working to keep it that way, most notably by keeping gunpowder from working.
  • Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden has the titular event being a spell placed on the Icewind Dale that has kept it in arctic conditions (~-45° C and much colder with windchill) and virtually no sunlight for two years. Realistically, almost all of the flora and fauna would be dead long before that point, and the intelligent races would all have long fled to more livable conditions. The adventure frequently seems to forget the lack of light in many of its descriptions and the catastrophe of harsh winter conditions that should change more behavior than it does. For example: one town has a plot that its miners are out of work because the local gem mine has been overrun with kobolds, all of this being announced by a young town crier (also, why is a child shouting in that kind of weather?). So, who exactly is funding all of this gem mining after two years of this nightmare? If exports can get out to buyers, then the townsfolk could get up and leave the area as well. A lot of the mind-boggling issues could have been resolved had the writers reduced the timeline to much less than 2 years. Then again, given that Faerûn is frequently beset with world-threatening catastrophe, there's no guarantee anywhere else would be safer, and they probably assume some adventurers will be along to sort it out. They're correct, of course.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has the story set around the year 40,000 (or 42,000 in more recent stories). Technology advanced a lot in the time between the present and the Horus Heresy in 30,000, which included a substantial dark age, but since then the Imperium of Man has stagnated 'completely''. Somewhat justified in the Imperium's coreworlds, since all technological development is left to the Adeptus Mechanicus, who consider innovation heresy, but you'd think at least some of the Imperium's thousands of planets would have had some kind of technological development. It's also the small element of the Imperium having next to no cultural development in that time, despite the hundreds of generations that would've lived in that time. Religiously motivated stagnation can be bad, but even the European dark ages had cultural developments going on.
  • Fading Suns has multiple noble houses counting over two thousand years, with the youngest of the big five being a mere thousand. It's just on the higher end of believability; the House of Savoy had ruled over the same piece of northern Italy for almost a thousand years and the family of Confucius has kept its records for about 2500 years. One viewpoint character is described invoking his noble ancestors 800 years after his line lost any right to a hereditary title, but which it kept the memory of nonetheless, and major guilds are implied to be still run by direct descendants of their founders from a thousand years in the past, despite them being trade associations supposedly open to newcomers rather than families one could only marry or be adopted into. But the icing on the cake is the Imperial Eye, a spy agency which existed in an unbroken form, under various names and serving all manner of republican regimes and feudal lords, for longer than any of these despite not even having a family line to fall back upon.

  • 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.
    • Occasionally Bionicle would describe things as ancient, stemming from prehistory or time no one remembers. In one book, the Artakha Bulls are said to be one of the oldest animal species known, at over 3000 years old. The film Web of Shadows references a feral, primal age that seemingly no one recalls. When an incident causes The Shadowed One to rapidly age over 3000 years, he becomes frail and old. However, none of these make much sense when most people in the story live for 100,000 years at the least, and thousands of years seem to pass without anything significant happening. Being old or ancient has little to no meaning in the story. In fact, one of the oldest characters, at over 100,000 years of age, is none other than the juvenile, youthful Takua.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Age: Origins combines this with No Sense of Distance by having King Endrin's death first reported in a bar in Lothering, to the south of the map. You can then perform every other quest (which is expected, given the Beef Gate outside) and you will arrive at Orzammar to a dwarven guard mentioning that King Endrin died three weeks prior. You might think you were fast, but the distance from Orzammar to the Circle tower, in the middle of the map, is stated to be two and a half weeks at minimum.
  • 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 devoted to 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.
  • Fallout has the majority of its games set hundreds of years after the bombs fell, yet unmaintained structures remain standing throughout the wasteland long after they would have turned to dust and crumbled away. Downtown Boston is particularly egregious as the exposed steel structures would have long since rusted away given their proximity to the sea. At best the devastation state of the world is congruous to 25 years later, not 205 years later, which actually means one entry of the series averts this trope - Fallout 76.
  • In the canon of Halo, humanity's military-industrial center (at least, until the Covenant burned it to cinders) is the planet Reach, an Earth-like world orbiting Epsilon Eridani. In addition to plentiful transplanting of foreign plants & animals during the terraforming process, the planet seems to also have some notable native life-forms like the ostrich-like moa and the troll-like guta. The problem, however, is that Epsilon Eridani is only about 800 million years old, at most; Reach shouldn't have any native life yet (or at least, nothing more than primitive single-celled things).
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has the Divine Beasts, Guardians, and other Sheikah Magitek created ten thousand years before the present day, with those in the relatively present day having little idea how to use it. This also implies that the ancient civilization in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is even older. Going back eleven millennia in our own time puts us at the start of the Neolithic. Hyrule has always had a lot of Schizo Tech, but at that scale, you'd expect something a bit more high-tech in the later eras.
    • The sequel to Breath of the Wild, The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, doubles down on this featuring a new previously unseen race, the Zonai. Who not helped found the Kingdom of Hyrule, or at least one of its successors, which would obviously make them much older than the 10,000-year-old Sheikah technology, but they also managed to set up flying islands, trial shrines and all sorts of still working structures and robots to aid Link in the modern age.
  • The speed of human political expansion in Mass Effect follows 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. One has to realize that when aliens speak of colonies they are referring to planets with hundreds of millions to billions of people; humans are referring to colonies of maybe a few million. Eden Prime, the "pride of the Systems Alliance", has less than four million, Terra Nova only four and a half, and Joab, the largest-majority colony seen, has 22 million. Compare to typical asari worlds like Cyone, Nevos, or Lusia, which respectively have 260 million, 688 million, and 2.2 billion people. Earth is considered crowded with 11.4 billion, which sounds like a lot but should realistically be nothing compared to the older societies' populations. On top of that, humans armed forces are only 3% of their population, while it is stated to be more for other races.
  • 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.
  • Portal 2 offers a spectacular view of the dilapidated ruins of the Aperture Science Enrichment Center an undisclosed number of years after the events of the first game. Despite the fact that greenery has invaded many of the structures and the physical deterioration is extreme in some places, the lights and power systems still seem to work. This is doubly strange in the "Old Aperture" section located kilometers beneath the modern facility and abandoned for much longer, yet it has functioning audio cassette recordings, power, and lighting, never mind reservoirs of the various propulsion gels that are still completely usable. The incongruities are incidental to the game's plot but still confusing.
    • The first map of the "Old Aperture" section also features some small fires. If they were coal seam fires (which can burn for thousands of years), this would make sense, but they're clearly just regular bonfires. The game doesn't imply that there are other people down there, so who started those fires, and how are they still there? Did the Mantis Men do it?
  • Bravely Default has the Grandship, which has been sitting in the water continuously for somewhere north of 1500 years (and been run by a council that considers itself the same body for at least 2400). And for some months near the end of that time, the planet's oceans were corrosive and inhospitable.
  • Subnautica
    • The game had an extinction level event happen to Planet 4546B that has resulted in surviving life on the planet having to rapidly adapt and bear only superficial similarities to their own fossil record. The issue is that this extinction event happened within the last thousand years or so, which is not nearly enough time for evolution of that scale to have happened. The game tries to address this by offhandedly mentioning that the planet's ecosystem evolves at an unprecedented pace, supported by every single specimen of every species being able to reproduce asexually, but even that doesn't change much about the given time scales feeling off.
    • In Below Zero, as a result of the player's actions in the first game, the Kharaa bacterium has apparently been completely removed from the planet's biosphere save for one sample frozen in a glacier. While it's not stated exactly how long it has been between games, it's clearly not more than a few years at most... not nearly long enough for five young Sea Emperors, who are the only source for the cure to have exterminated the bacterium planet-wide.
  • The Doom Eternal DLC "Ancient Gods, part one" has the (nameless) intern claims that The Dark Lord hasn't manifested in "Like a decillion years", which is either 10^33 or 10^60 years. The Universe itself is only about 10^10 years old, and there's no evidence in-universe that there have been other universes before it or that it's older than humans think. Though this could be explained as the intern just exaggerating.
    • Possibly justified. The Dark Lord and the Father are said to have created multiple universes on their own, so they could be much older than ours and have A LOT of creations under their belts.

    Web Comics 
  • Lampshaded in Grrl Power, where Math claims to be the 999th in a line of martial artists. Assuming 20 years per generation, said line should be twice as old as agriculture and have started in the Stone Age. The comic cast page calls Math's claim "ridiculous unless you assume both parents of every generation in his tree were martial artists", implying that the "999 generations" thing is a Tall Tale.

    Web Original 
  • Sagan 4: In the Alpha timeline, plate tectonics didn't match the actual timescale and new kingdoms of animals would evolve from scratch in just a few million years. The latter is also seen in the Beta timeline, but was quickly snuffed out by the addition of a specific rule against doing so.
    • In both Alpha and Beta, it can take tens of millions of years for a group of organisms to spread across an entire continent due to the timescale system being disconnected from the per-species habitat rules, when in real life a continent can be covered in less than one million years. However, this is somewhat mitigated in Beta with the addition of wildcard species, which can be in as many habitats as can be justified.
    • The inverse also occurs with things happening too slowly. In Alpha, the rules about size increases were so restrictive that plants would take too long to grow large and only reach the size of large shrubs before the next extinction event, sometimes as much as 100 million years later, would kill them off—resulting in there never being any realistically large flora. In Beta, this is addressed and averted with new rules allowing flora to grow large much faster than fauna, and when Alpha was revived these rules were added there as well.

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, XR states that Pizza Planet has promise that if it's not delivered within ten microseconds, it's free. That's quite a delivery service given that a microsecond is one-millionth of a second!
  • 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.
  • 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".note 
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Unicron is a Planet Eater and is said to have eaten entire universes. Yet he eats them one planet or star at a time and just goes up and devours the thing. The observable universe has about 10^24 stars in it. Even if he ate a million planets a year, it would take about 10^18 years to eat all the stars (never mind the planets). Our universe is only about 10^10 years old, and you would think new universes would form before he finished eating even one.
    • Beast Wars is often noted to have its characters hailing from about 300 years after the original series. This is more than a bit odd, as the Great War is more or less treated as Shrouded in Myth and an equivalent to, say, Arthurian legends - even though it's less distant to the main characters than Louis XIV is to us, and it's 300 years of peace in comparison to several million years of war. G1 Ravage even shows up in one episode, as if lampshading the weirdness of this.
    • Transformers: Cyberverse has an even worse problem with this than most other versions of the franchise. All of the characters are absurdly old, to the point where Grimlock scanned his tyrannosaurus mode from life and witnessed the K-Pg extinction event in person - and his replica of the Ark's bridge comes online the moment he puts a tiny little dinosaur hand on the palmprint scanner, even though getting to the door required Grimlock to headbutt his way through a cliff face.
      • When all the characters catch up with each other after this, they act as though it’s been a week tops rather than 65-66 million years.

  • When discussing the distant future of the Solar System, most specifically Earth's one, popular science books and TV Documentaries will often talk about our species evacuating it once our homeworld becomes uninhabitable due to the Sun's evolution, possibly with some sense of foreboding. There's plenty of time - the Sun will only reach red giant status and destroy Earth in 5 billion yearsnote . Even if one meant "uninhabitable due to the Sun giving out way more heat thus making the Earth too hot to live" that's only due roughly a billion years from now. The earliest evidence of human history is a mere 35-40,000 years old. Modern humans as a species are believed to be only about 200,000 years old. The dinosaurs were only 66 million years ago, and humans didn't exist then. Going back five billion years brings you to around the time the solar system formed, and the universe is believed to have enough material to keep producing stars at its current rate for at least 1 trillion years. It is very likely that by the time any of these are an issue humans have either solved it ages ago or gone extinct.note