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Given that there are 6.5 billion people in the Matrix, and given that despite the population density of these farms being quite high compared to current human settlements that the farms must occupy quite a lot of space (I'm estimating they must cover at least a thousand square miles), how did the Nebuchadnezzar know where to find Neo's pod in the real world?

There are two things that bother me about this: I may be assuming incorrectly, but I assumed part of the purpose of the red pill is to disrupt the person's input/output carrier wave, which I took to mean they were using the disruption to find the person. The Nebuchadnezzar got to Neo very quickly after he woke up, so I don't see how it could have gotten to Neo so quickly if they didn't know where he was.

Even if the Nebuchadnezzar knew where Neo was ahead of time, there still must be significant travelling time involved back and forth between Zion, which isn't referred to at all.

So, how did the Nebuchadnezzar know where to find Neo in the real world and get to him so quickly?

  • 3
    It's a simple lookup... SELECT b.meat,b.tower,t.drain FROM batteries b JOIN towers t ON b.tower = t.tower WHERE b.meat = "Thomas A. Anderson"; Did you imagine that when they hacked the Matrix they didn't cadge a database here and there? – gowenfawr Jan 6 '17 at 15:53
  • @gowenfawr That's a reasonable suggestion, but seems entirely speculative. Do you have any evidence? – Ian Newson Jan 6 '17 at 15:55
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    It is completely speculative, which is why it was a smarmy comment and not an answer :) :) :) – gowenfawr Jan 6 '17 at 15:56
  • They seem to know which tower he's in. They need his signal to fibrillate so that they know where to get his corpse from. I would assume that each tower has a dozen sewer mains. – Valorum Jan 6 '17 at 16:18
  • @Valorum Ok, thanks. I wonder if you know of any references to the size of the farms anywhere? I.E. does anyone ever say the farm is a thousand miles wide, for example? – Ian Newson Jan 6 '17 at 17:02
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Given that there are 6.5 billion people in the Matrix, and given that despite the population density of these farms being quite high compared to current human settlements that the farms must occupy quite a lot of space (I'm estimating they must cover at least a thousand square miles.)

Your estimates are off by a very large margin. According to this website, if you took all 7.3 billion people in the world (circa March 2015) and stood them shoulder-to-shoulder, they could fit in an area 27km squared (16.8 square miles.) And since that source is talking about everyone standing on the ground, it's not factoring in the space savings of stacking them vertically.

We know the machines don't pack them in quite that tightly, but even with the distance between pods seen in the film, 6.5 billion people could easily fit in an area the size of a major metropolitan city (like New York.) We don't know exactly how fast a hovercraft can get from point A to point B, but I imagine they can cover that area and move to a specific point within quite quickly indeed.

how did the Nebuchadnezzar know where to find Neo's pod in the real world?

The red pill allowed them to interrupt the carrier signal that kept him stuck in the Matrix, and presumably to pin-point his location in the farm. You can't interrupt a specific signal until after you've identified what it is. You can jam a wide band of signals all at once by broadcasting a jamming signal, but that's not what they were doing to free Neo, otherwise they would've interrupted a lot of people's carrier signals at once (and likely brought the machines down on them as they would notice the disruption.)

Given that they have already identified Neo's specific carrier signal before giving him the red pill, they could also trace it, which would at least tell them which farm he was in. The pill then allows them to find his precise location in that farm (which is probably not bigger than a major city, as above) and the hovercraft can zip over to wherever he comes out since there's no traffic to speak of (barring sentinels.)

I assumed part of the purpose of the red pill is to disrupt the person's input/output carrier wave, which I took to mean they were using the disruption to find the person.

The disruption does not allow them to find the signal, it only interrupts the signal, so that the person is forcibly flushed out of the Matrix. Finding a signal can be done without interrupting it. Given the way people need to reach a phone to get into or out of the Matrix, "finding Neo's signal" is most likely what they were doing when they went into the Matrix and searched for Neo therein.

Even if the Nebuchadnezzar knew where Neo was ahead of time, there still must be significant travelling time involved back and forth between Zion, which isn't referred to at all.

The Nebuchadnezzar didn't wait in Zion until Neo's signal was interrupted. The ship was already in the vicinity of the body farm (after having determined which farm it was by locating Neo's carrier signal.) They only needed to travel from their hiding spot near the farm to the specific location where Neo came out after the signal was disrupted. As such, the distance between Zion and the farm is not relevant to the scene.

  • Thanks, I think the first part of your answer is most enlightening. – Ian Newson Jan 7 '17 at 2:37
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  • The tracking program

The "red pill" program is referred to as a way for them to track his connection. This allows them to get him disconnected, but also gives them a general area in where to look. They also don't need to get to his pod; the machines automatically dump him anyway.

  • They're in the area

The hovercrafts don't hack the Matrix from Zion. They do it from the field, meaning they're already under the plant complex when this operation begins, and before Neo even makes a choice. Depending on the range of their hacking signal, they may have never even exited that area during the entire movie (although Morpheus later refers to bringing them back up to broadcast depth, so presumably they went deeper to hide after the extraction).

  • They know where he'll get dumped

The sewage system that Neo travels through after he gets ejected connects many similar pipes. Presumably the power plant is big enough to have several such points, but if they have Neo's location, they'll know which pipes he was connected to and get there quick enough. This crew has also done this before (Cypher, Mouse, at a minimum), so the guesswork should be minimized.

  • ... and honestly, there's no guarantees.

Neo does almost drown because his muscles are so atrophied that he can barely stay afloat as they are coming to get him. It's entirely possible other recruits have been lost that way.

  • Thanks for this answer, but I don't think it addresses the crux of my problem and reason for my question which is the size of crops/farms. It must be huge, assuming that there's one farm which contains everyone and not separate fields all over the world (which would make the problem worse). I don't see how they travelled the huge distances implied by this so quickly. – Ian Newson Jan 6 '17 at 15:53
  • Also I was just using Neo as an example as we see it in the film, but the same question applies not only to everyone else rescued from the matrix, but all other hovercraft too. – Ian Newson Jan 6 '17 at 15:54
  • @IanNewson shrug Neo was in the structure high up enough that the ground wasn't visible, so we're already outside the realm of basic city planning. I haven't done the math on how tightly you can pack the human race like sardines when all you need for living space is their goo coffin, but presumably it's smaller than you think, and the later movies show that the power plant doesn't cover the land horizon to horizon. If this is a "I don't like these presumptions" question rather than some missing details we can provide, I'm not sure what might satisfy you. – Radhil Jan 6 '17 at 15:58
  • @IanNewson - Other do have better access to tie-in materials than I do, so a better answer may come along. – Radhil Jan 6 '17 at 16:02
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I'd say plot convenience:

  • Everybody who can connect to the Matrix in the ship is connected when Neo takes the red pill. They must all exit in order to be in the "Welcome to the real world" scene. We see in the Oracle part and with Trinity in the beginning that finding and accessing an exit is very hard.
  • Where do they land in the sewers? In Matrix : Reloaded Morpheus says they have saved a lot of souls so they might have found a technique...
  • In Matrix : Reloaded Morpheus says that it is hard to find broadcasting areas, therefore the Nebu... the ship must be in a coverage zone and look again my first point...

I assume that the disconnector robot may not have come as quickly as shown to Neo's pod (maybe one hour or more) so Morpheus' crew could organize themselves and do some research where Neo would land.

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