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This question may contain spoilers for Serenity:

Why was Miranda used as the experimenting ground for the Pax? It seems sensible to put it way out of the inner planets, but why not do some smaller tests first? Is the history of Miranda expanded on anywhere?

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    Because like any government operation, why do it small when you can do it BIG?
    – Xantec
    Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 14:44
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    "First rule in government spending: why build one when you can have two at twice the price?" --S.R. Hadden
    – gnovice
    Commented Jan 30, 2012 at 15:00

3 Answers 3

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I don't think there's any canon answer, but I can answer from a real world perspective. There are a couple of things at play here, I think.

Firstly, I imagine that they did extensive testing on a smaller scale, and it probably worked fine. It was only when the testing was expanded to a larger scale that the problems arose.

Why did the problems arise on a large scale? A couple of points there as well...read the Challenger investigation chaired by Richard Feynman. There's a lot of discussion of the engineering culture whereby you rose in your career if you were optimistic, and were filtered out otherwise. Secondly, read about Agent Orange (a large scale defoliant) use in Vietnam. The chemical engineers come up with a safe way (for the deployers, anyhow) to use the product, the company relaxes that standard, the contractor relaxes that standard, the military relaxes that standard, and so on and so on, until you have soldiers exposed to toxic levels of dioxin.

Finally, and most significantly, the Alliance believed in the boundless good of their own intentions. They believed themselves, to paraphrase Jefferson, booted and spurred to ride mankind - people were merely pawns on their chessboard, and not human beings - that's the ultimate message of the series and the movie. This arrogance, borne from the self-regard of their own piety, made them careless.

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    As Mal put it, "A year from now, ten, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people…better." As River put it, they're meddlesome.
    – jfrankcarr
    Commented Jan 31, 2012 at 1:17
  • Your first point is especially important: they probably did test it on a smaller scale, but things only went wrong when they deployed it broadly.
    – Nerrolken
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 13:51
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    I agree. Note that the actual fraction of people that became Reavers was quoted as "a tenth of a percent"; if you had less than 1000 people in your small-scale studies, that's not even a whole person. And the other damaging side-effect (people laying down to die) likely only happened after extended exposure.
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 14:15
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    @mikeedenfield - Or they cocked up the dosages. Easily done if you're trying to medicate a whole population by air.
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 14:30
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An additional point is that it does not suffice to test the effect on individuals, you need to test it on entire society to tests how it effects it. Consider that a very laid-back passive individual can still contribute to society in meaningful ways. But society needs not only people who calmly do their assigned job, they also need leaders, thinkers and artists in a healthy mix.

Even if Pax works fine on single individuals, for example criminals, the effect of Pax on an entire society can not be estimated or studied by testing it on a few people in a lab. If you test it on a society, it needs to be isolated and large enough. Due to the modern transportation a planet on the outer rim is your best bet for a relatively isolated society.

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Looking at a map of the 'verse, you'll notice that Miranda is one of, if not the, farthest planet from the core.

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Knowing this, there are several feasible reasons why the Alliance choose Miranda:

  1. What they were doing on Miranda would be easier to hide from the citizens of the core.
  2. Knowing that war was brewing, they probably planed on using Pax on any rim planets that rebelled. Miranda, as a rim planet, would be as good a place as any to test their weapon.
  3. If anything were to go wrong, it would be much easier to hide the results from the core citizens.

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