11.21.2014

Interstellar Follow-up

First, here's the embed of the radio show we did last week for ease of reference:


Check Out Movies Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with The AMDG Radio Network on BlogTalkRadio

For those who haven't listened, this is the first work covered by Swords and Space where I give it a full 5/5 stars. In my view this is destined to be a Sci Fi classic on par with 2001: A Space Odyssey and I am really glad I had the opportunity to see it and discuss it on my radio show.

There's a lot of science in the film and it was all handled in such a way that even a guy like me who generally dislikes and finds "hard" Sci Fi boring, loved it. My wife who is not a Sci Fi person, but consented to watch it because she liked Christopher Nolan's other films, also loved it. This has given new opportunities to learn some more about science:

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has been tweeting about the science behind Interstellar and recently followed-up with an interview with NPR well-worth reading: http://www.npr.org/2014/11/14/363798836/neil-degrasse-tyson-separates-fact-from-fiction-in-interstellar

Another science-ish topic we covered on the show was Christopher Nolan's refreshing new take on Artificial Intelligence which I thought was really well done, and really ought to be the gold standard in Sci Fi versus (with all due respect) Isaac Asimov's rules that dominate the genre. Here's an article that echoes my thoughts so rather than rewriting in my own words I'll just share the link: TARS, the Interstellar robot, should be the future of artificial intelligence.

Finally, Hans Zimmer posted his reasons for delaying the release of the Interstellar soundtrack on Quora: http://www.quora.com/Why-has-the-soundtrack-for-Interstellar-2014-movie-not-been-released-yet/answer/Hans-Zimmer-11?srid=ttEB&share=1

11.12.2014

Some Thoughts on the Zombie Apocalypse


I had the opportunity recently to play some of the iPad app "The Walking Dead", which got me thinking about the "zombie apocalypse" which continues to be all the rage (apparently the TV series the game is based on is in its fifth season). One thing that I have a hard time accepting from the genre is how quickly and totally the zombie virus spreads, such that there is complete societal breakdown and anarchy, with only a few survivors here-and-there within days if not hours.

Given that the zombie "disease" is communicable only by the zombie biting or otherwise exchanging fluids with victims, I don't really see how this would spread that quick. Even extremely contageous airborne viruses do not spread as quickly as zombieism is portrayed. Further, what allows things like Ebola to spread is the fact that someone can be symptom-free yet contageous for a certain period of time. Not so with zombies. It seems to me that it would be localised to one area since zombies can't drive and it would take them a while to get out of a given city -- leaving authorities plenty of time to quarantine the threat.

I would expect that the army, and the highly militarized police forces in modern society, would be able to take on zombies, even in fairly large numbers, quite handily. Zombies need to get within arm's reach to bite and -- although rarely portrayed as fast as in 28 Days Later, and World War Z -- are slow and shambling. Certainly easy pickings for standard infantry weapons to say nothing of attack helicopters or armoured fighting vehicles which would be totally impervious to zombies.


On the other hand, if zombies could spread as quickly as portrayed, I unfortunately do find it entirely credible how abominably survivors behave in most of these series. I read from time-to-time the blog "SHTF School" written by a survivor of the wars in the former Yugoslavia. He describes from his experiences pretty much all the awful things you see in films like The Road and TV series like the Walking Dead. The sad truth is that there are a lot of people out there who only act like civilized human beings because they have to. From that perspective, one can see the justification for the expanding police state -- in an age where the majority of people are not restrained by religious belief/morals, or a tight-knit community, most of society is one natural disaster away from a replay of what happened in New Orleans in my view.

It's interesting that in the Middle Ages there were no police and the local lord was away on other estates, or crusading, or attending the king. Compared to the control and supervision western democracies exert over their citizens, people lived in anarchy back then. There were bandits, to be sure, but the reason the great majority of people were not robbing and killing each other were the strength of the Catholic religion and the close social bonds people had in that time.

11.10.2014

"Interstellar" on Swords and Space Radio Tomorrow


 We're back on the air tomorrow night with episode 26 of Swords and space. I'll be going with my wife today to see Christipher Nolan's Interstellar in preparation for this show. I am really looking forward to it, not because I know anything about the movie (I've purposely kept myself in the dark) but because I have really enjoyed all of Chris Nolan's films. Fortunately, so has my wife. Here's the link:

Swords and Space XXVI: Interstellar 11/11 by The AMDG Radio Network | Movies Podcasts

11.06.2014

Virtual Walk-Through of 17th Century London


A little history today for a change of pace -- I was sent the above by a family member and found its depiction of 17th century London fascinating. This video was created by six students from De Montfort University. Due to the Great Fire of London in 1666, most of the buildings are conjectural, but the streets are based off of period maps and primary sources like diary entries describing the buildings including details like tavern signs.

I do love the Tudor style buildings, however the video gives it a rather dark/depressing feel I thought. I'm not sure that it would have been that bad in reality -- I've been the Shrewsbury which has a large area dating back to the 15th century (we stayed in a hotel that was a 15th century house -- albeit renovated) and it featured the narrow alleyways and overhanging stories but did not have a dreary or dark feel at all. I felt rather at home in that setting -- it somehow felt more human than modern cities.

10.22.2014

Shot-For-Shot Remake Of 'The Empire Strikes Back' In 480 Different Styles

A friend made me aware of this recently. Definitely different, and entertaining. Apparently Lucasfilm accepted submissions for remade/envisioned shots of the Empire Strikes Back then compiled them into a full-feature-length film. Although even I didn't watch more than about 15 minutes. I'd rather watch the real thing:


I'll probably go back to see how scenes like the Battle of Hoth were done, though.

10.20.2014

Obsession with Safety = No Adventure



The obsession with 100% safety and the absolute intolerance for any fatalities is, as far as I'm concerned, one of the main reasons we've have no Age of Space Discovery (1492-17th century) losses were very high. One would think that it would be easy to find data on just how dangerous it was but after spending a half hour in futility I can't give any detailed information. But suffice to say that many ships went down, more than one expedition disappeared entirely. Columbus, during his first voyage, lost one of his three ships and barely made it home after hitting a severe storm on his way home.

If people of the Age of Discovery had the same intolerance for risk that investors, scientists, government, etc. have today, I'd be living somewhere in Europe with no clue that the Americas even exist.

I've written on the Mars One program in the past -- the planned one-way trip to Mars to explore and establish a colony -- and this week I saw an article on that program that piqued my interest. It features yet another wet-blanket researched railing against the idea of such an expedition because there are (gasp) risks of death: Mars One plan has potentially deadly flaws, scientists say.

No kidding. Well, the Santa Maria had potentially deadly flaws too, being a  Renaissance carrack, and ran aground. It was the best technology they had at the time, though, and Columbus didn't feel like waiting 400 years for maritime technology to advance to the safety of a modern ship. But would modern ships have ever been developed if no one took to the sea because older vessels had "potentially deadly flaws?"

Dr. Sydney Doe, of the MIT kill-joy research team, says: "Someone has to ask themselves: Am I ready to rely on this technology which has been tested for two years to operate for an extra 50 years, since my life is dependent on it?" Well, the Canadians on the Mars One short list, at least, are ready to rely on the technology.

Tyler Reyno, from Nova Scotia, said "Obviously, keeping humans alive on Mars is extremely difficult. You just have to understand there's a lot of uncertainty and a lot of unknowns and those who are passionate and inspired will understand that and do it anyway."

Exploration of any kind just can't happen without risk. I suspect that the modern aversion to deadly risk is at least in part due to the widespread lack of belief in the afterlife. If this is all you've got, then you want to live as long as possible. Maybe it's also part of a life filled with too much comfort.

10.03.2014

More Interstellar


A new trailer came out for Christopher Nolan's next film, Interstellar, a few weeks ago. I have yet to see a Chris Nolan film that I didn't thinks was fantastic, so I would go to see this anyway, but as each trailer is released it looks better and better. If nothing else the visuals are going to be absolutely stunning. Even watching the trailer on my iPhone had me impressed, such that seeing them on the big screen alone will be worth the price of admission as far as I'm concerned. So here's the trailer:


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