Your Unresolved 'Avatar' Questions Answered

Using a James Cameron-approved guidebook, we fill you in on the Pandora details you need to know before your second or third viewing.

No one, it seems, can get enough of Pandora. "Avatar" notched a fourth straight week at the top of the box-office charts, creepily devoted fans started making their presence known and parodies popped up on the Web.

For my own part, I just caught a long-delayed second viewing of James Cameron's CGI epic and afterward still hadn't had my fill of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and his adventures in big blue wonderland. Giving in to irrepressibly geeky desires, I pulled out a copy of "Avatar: A Confidential Report on the Biological and Social History of Pandora," a sort of Cameron-approved bible of franchise mythology. The book, it turns out, contains a wealth of compelling "Avatar" info, answering a bunch of questions that go unanswered in the film but which fans surely would like to know before the next trip to the theater.

Why Were Avatars Developed?

Genetically engineered from human and native Na'vi DNA, avatars were originally envisioned as mine workers who did not need protective gear to breathe the alien air. However, the cost proved prohibitive and not enough avatars could be produced. When Sully arrives, avatars are only used for scientific field work. Unlike the four-fingered and -toed Na'vi, avatars maintain five fingers and toes for reasons that are still not understood.

The History of the Resources Development Administration

The RDA is at the center of the story — they're the ones plundering Pandora for resources and transporting folks through space — but we don't get any backstory about how the company came to be. According to the book, the story of RDA's creation is a familiar one: Two founders borrow money from their folks and launch their business in a Silicon Valley garage. Just a few decades after its beginning in the early 21st century, RDA began construction of a global network of super-fast trains that allow workers to commute to work from thousands of kilometers away. From there, the trip to Pandora was just a quick 4.4 light years.

How Long Have Humans Been On Pandora?

The guide puts the arrival of humans as several decades before the events of "Avatar" in 2154. After astronomers identified Pandora as an Earth-like world with intense magnetic properties, an unmanned research craft discovered a substance later dubbed "unobtanium": a naturally occurring superconductor that can be used as a powerful energy source. Granted monopoly mining rights to the resource, RDA built a ship called the ISV Venture Star to travel to Pandora and begin bringing unobtanium back to Earth.

Traveling to Pandora and Communicating with Earth

Now powered by unobtanium, RDA's 10 starships travel at 70 percent of light speed, resulting in a one-way trip that takes nearly six years. Conveniently, though, communication with Earth is instantaneous. The process, made possible through a deep understanding of quantum mechanics, was perfected in the decades prior to the events of "Avatar." But that doesn't mean folks on Pandora get to phone home all the time. The cost of sending a message is "approximately $7,500 per bit."

Check out everything we've got on "Avatar."

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