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Showing posts from June, 2009

STbtM 021: Barfight!

Previous: Animal Lovers The Starfleet cadet friend of Uhura, looming large over Kirk tells him, "Hey, you better mind your manners." Apparently thinking that getting pummeled by Uhura's friends would be more important and fun than spending time alone with her, Kirk ignores her to pick a fight with her friends. Now, this makes sense in the Abramsverse because while Uhura may be gorgeous and intelligent, she's still only a female and to our "hero", simply not worth much time or attention.  So Kirk starts slapping this cadet in the chest and sophomorically trying to insult him with "cupcake". Kirk is supposed to be some super Einstein and this is the best he can do for an insult?

The cadet suggests to Kirk "Maybe you can't count; there are four of us and one of you." Kirk replies "so get some more guys and then maybe it will be an even fight," now slapping the cadet in the face twice, and then in an incredibly stupid move, turns…

Warp Drive Research Qualifications

I recently reviewed a paper by Stefano Finazzi, Stefano Liberati, and Carlos Barceló entitled "Semiclassical instability of dynamical warp drives". It describes an Alcubierre-compatible faster than light (FTL) or 'supraliminal' transportation system, using a distortion of space time to theoretically propel a spacecraft FTL. The authors' knowledge of relevant physics is impressive as is their command of one of the key languages of science: mathematics with which they describe why the Alcubierre drive is not feasible. The speculative research of Michio Kaku is most famous in this arena and similarly based on string theory employed by the authors of this work. Kaku has worked on Alcubierre-compatible FTL ideas in books such as "Physics of the Impossible" and pursues creation of a theory of everything, yet the available evidence suggests that the maturity level of the standard model is insufficient for such efforts to be productive. As acknowledged in the &…

Wikipedia Censorship

Execs "believed" accurate info might hurt, according to a New York Times piece, "For seven months, The NYT managed to keep out of the news the fact that one of its reporters, David Rohde, had been kidnapped by the Taliban." Wikipedia, with an allegedly democratic model, was a "difficult" place to suppress important news, according to the article, which wistfully describes how lying to the public "usually meant just a phone call from one editor to another".
Successfully misled that Wikipedia was open, volunteers tried again and again to update the information; only to have it deleted with more lies and deception. The deceivers' good intentions are not at issue, only their choice of focus on potential loss. For example: What risks were taken by these volunteers to provide accurate updates on the Taliban? This may never be known, because Wikipedia admins decided to freeze the page from editing to protect the falsehoods and suppression. How many …

Star Trek by the Minute 020: Animal Lovers

Previous: Ladies' NightYoung James Kirk is trying to pick up cadet Uhura in an Iowa bar, slobbering: "Doncha wanna at least know my name before ya completely reject me?" She assures him, "I'm fine without it," to which he replies, "You are fine without it. It's Jim, Jim Kirk. (pause) If you don't tell me your name I'm gonna have to make one up." "It's 'Uhura'." With mock incredulity he says, "Uhura! No way, that's the name I was gonna make up for ya. [An OK line, but not that great] Uhura what?" "Just Uhura", she says. "They don't have last names on your world?" "Uhura is my last name." Kirk tries to focus his eyes to point in the same direction before stammering "They don't have first names on your world?" and she start laughing, probably at him rather than with him, since neither his manner nor his attempts at humor are especially amusing.
Sitting at t…

Star Trek by the Minute 019: Ladies’ Night

Previous: Vulcan RacismAs Spock finishes his interview with the council, we cut to a car driving down a lonely Iowa cornfield with the last flames of dusk dying on the horizon. Without stopping (or slowing) at the crossroads, the car pulls up to a what we discover is a futuristic roadhouse bar. The driver appears to be the Uhura, and we follow her swishing red turtleneck mini dress through the club as she approaches the bar and orders a Clavian Fire Tea, 3 Budweiser® Classics (another shameful product placement), 2 Cardassian Sunrises, and what sounds like a "Slushle Mix" at the bartender's suggestion. Now we see there are women everywhere, but at least they're just functioning as scenery, and ordering drinks. At GirlBar in Hollywood one might see 5 to 1 ratios like this…but in Iowa? OK, it's the future in an alternate universe. The bartender goes to work on her order.
"That's a lot of drinks for one woman" comes from our tipsy future hero James T. K…

Star Trek by the Minute 018: Vulcan Racism

Previous: Proud MamaIn a great contrast, this segment makes a sharp cut from the warm light of Winona Horowitz's all-too brief close up appearance with a flash to a slanted, rotating and zooming medium shot in sterile cold blue lighting of a large amphitheater. The closely intimate, loving family interaction supported by soft cellos is juxtaposed with ludicrously high benches occupied by 3 stern-looking ministers and harsh silence. The bench is set against a backdrop of severe, angular architecture with the roof beams giving an appearance of cross-hatched cuts of a scalpel across cadaverous sky beyond. The voice of the male head minister echoes through the high-tech judgment cavern: "You have surpassed the expectations of your instructors. Your final record is flawless with one exception; I see that you have applied to Starfleet as well." It seems reasonable to question the characterization of an application to Starfleet as a "flaw". Without attempting to gathe…

Star Trek by the Minute 017: Proud Mama!

Previous: Sarek Lies to Young SpockAmanda, human wife of Sarek and Spock's mother calls with a gentle smile: "Spock, c'mere. Let me see you", to which he says in a now adult voice and with a note of actual fear: "No." What? She's in the same room looking right at him and he's not going to walk over, but rather deny his mother's supportive request like a petulant human child? Quickly, she thinks of a logical rationale more compelling to the vulcan mind, and presents her reasoned justification for his consideration: "Spock," she repeats. Apparently, he has no response for such convincing and eloquent support for her request, so he walks over.If we take Amanda's repetition as actual advocacy for Spock to meet with his mother, it would be classified as an "Ad nauseam" fallacy. Such arguments are based on the repetition of a single argument, usually ignoring other issues, like objections raised by critics. This tactic delibera…

Cosmology for Profit

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...or "How Lisa Randall Made a Killing in the Recession"


Grammar Geek: "Too much tax, too many taxes, or too much in taxes" would be correct.

Denethor's Garden Song

Love not bright swords with whetted edge, nor arrows swift in flight,
Love not the warrior's victory, nor triumphant army's might.
Remember the wise, old and weak, children hungry and small,
Protecting each is how seek protection for us all.

Star Trek by the Minute 016

Sarek Lies to Young Spock Previous: Vulcan Prep Schoos are Elevated DungeonsThe post schoolroom brawl parental conference continues as Sarek advises young Spock on "The control of feelings, so that they do not control you." This was a great addition to the film, and reflects a profound realization made millennia ago by some of the greatest philosophers in both the East and Western traditions. In Buddhism, this realization was based on the observation that sentient beings' unhappiness and suffering were caused by "attachment" to desired objects, states, and outcomes. 2500 years ago, philosophical teachings were presented in a style containing a problem statement, followed by a recommendation.
Buddhism, although is covers a complex diversity of beliefs, is generally accepted to teach "The Four Noble Truths". These include the existence of suffering, suffering is caused by attachment, suffering ends when attachment ends, and that methods exist for sentien…

Star Trek by the Minute 015

An Emotional Response
Previous: Vulcan Prep Schools are Elevated DungeonsYoung Spock approaches a group of older bullies he "presumed" were determined to try a new set of insults. Spock says: "This is your thirty-fifth attempt to elicit an emotional response from me." "You are neither human nor vulcan, and therefore have no place in this universe." Anyone schooled in the most basic attributes of logic will recognize this proposition is a non-sequitur, uses an undefined term, is factually inaccurate and appears prejudicially racist. Whether or not Spock is X or Y species has no bearing on "having a place in the universe" which in turn, is undefined and a poor excuse for an insult with any intellectual strength. "Neither human nor vulcan" appears both factually incorrect, and commits the fallacy of the false dilemma by excluding the obvious middle possibility. The racism of the comment coming from a member of what was proposed as a noble …

Star Trek by the Minute 014

Vulcan Prep Schools are Elevated Dungeons
Previous: Ban High-Speed ChasesIn a gorgeous shot typical of the space CGI that almost makes me wish for a chance to have seen this in a theater, we wheel above the red planet Vulcan, then get a sweeping homage to the home of the negative magnetic corridor, Mintakans, and where the Gorn love to play – so popular, even Xyrillian holodeck programmers reproduce it!
Top marks to the creative designers of the stalactite buildings suspended from giant overhangs: totally impractical but totally cool looking! Unfortunately, they went for a blue sky – which I don't think holds a candle to TOS' psychedelic red pon farr background, but that's a minor and subjective quibble. Inside the stalactite and standing in a large video bowl, one young Vulcan recites the formula for the volume of a sphere: (4/3)π*r3. We zoom out to see many such video bowls and hear a variety of technobabble as adults pace the darkness above the students, but within the co…

Star Trek by the Minute 013

Ban High-Speed Chases
Previous: Senseless Destruction of Priceless Cultural Artifacts is FunPubescent James T. Kirk is driving dangerously fast to escape a cop on a flying motorcycle. With sirens blaring and lights flashing, the cop tears after the youngster. Apparently, people in the future have forgotten how many cops, innocent bystanders, and fleeing drivers are killed by high-speed pursuits (HSPs). We will examine this from a Vulcan perspective using logic and reason to guide development of sensible decisions.
In such developments, we look at questions of fact, issues of knowledge, and values. Proponents for HSP claim chasing a murderer is justified to protect the community and further: anyone who decides to flee should be presumed guilty of something more serious and they are responsible for the consequences of that choice. Also, it is held that limiting HSPs assists criminals in escaping law enforcement. Opponents claim that fleeing is usually irrational and causes unjustified har…

Star Trek by the Minute 012

Senseless Destruction of Priceless Cultural Artifacts is Fun
Previous: Grand Theft Auto, Pubescent TrekstyleThis segment opens with the wicked step-father ranting over the cell phone to our delinquent hero joy-riding in a priceless 1965 Chevrolet Corvette C2 convertible roadster. In 2235, this car would be a 270 year old world cultural treasure. The rant continues with "You get your ass back home now! You live in my house buddy, you live in my house and that is my car. You get one scratch on that car and I'm gonna whip your ass." Clearly, this is the pubescent James Kirk, who again takes his eyes off the road at high speed to fiddle with the electronic controls on a Nokia® Iphone® wannabe. He actually ducks into the teakwood steering wheel (a $48 option in those days) to reach controls considered unsafe for drivers today, to hang up the phone and crank some rap. Now some nitpickers would ask: why bring up a playlist on the screen and then start blaring music if no tracks …

Star Trek by the Minute 011

Grand Theft Auto, Pubescent Trekstyle
Previous: Shuttles EscapeLens flare mania continues with a Sparticus-worthy title screen, during which we have a few seconds to contemplate the birth of James Kirk, which was previously in Iowa. I would love to ask the writers why they felt it necessary to change his birthplace, and if so, why write a cause for that change via an alternate timeline with an event (the Romulan ship time-travel) that appears AFTER a time when it would cause Mr. and Mrs. Kirk to be on a deep space mission not only far from Earth, but far from any assistance on the extreme edge of Federation space? My guess is that Kirk's birth was an afterthought to the basic plot, and as seen in The Undiscovered Country shows what a disaster this type of change can be for the entire story. This calls to mind a real space disaster that had a similar cause, illustrating an important point in change management and quality control: regression testing.
Regression testing is normally ass…

Star Trek by the Minute 010

Shuttles' EscapePrevious: Family Chat of DestructionThis segment opens on the conversation between George Kirk and his wife, as he gapes his way to suicide aboard the Kelvin with some conversation about the sex of their new baby and choosing a name. The wife declares "He's beautiful – you should be here…" The latter is obvious to anyone with half a brain, but Kirk remains mesmerized by the computer countdown visuals and audio announcements of the impending "impact". Granted, the super high definition wrap around viewscreen on the Kelvin Bridge is amazing, and might tempt a true video addict to neglect those things like spending time with the wife and kids. The computer has inexplicably recategorized the intersection of the Kelvin's locked in flight path with the conveniently stable Romulan ship. Previously, it was a "collision", now it's an "impact", so apparently even the computer has realized that this is not a contest of equal…

Star Trek by the Minute 009

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Family Chat of Destruction Previous: Delivering Shuttles Our scene continues the battle, bravely insane Captain George Kirk has stayed at the helm of the miraculously repaired Kelvin, which we are asked to believe can present a threat to a heavily armed Romulan behemoth from 2 centuries in the future when it is unable to keep its own crew from being spaced…OK, we'll just get a ladder to overlook that, and next we're asked to believe that one person can run sensors, navigation, coordinate emergency evacuation, helm, tactical, engineering, and we will just ignore the huge amount of damage control just to keep life support.  Apparently, the film makers didn't think this was dramatic enough, as they have our hero picking off TORPEDOES with phaser fire. This helmsman would have to be the best than any we've ever seen in 40 years of the Trekverse, but with a crane, we can overlook that. Recall that these torpedoes also split into multiple warheads as I think we first saw in Ne…

Star Trek by the Minute 008 - Delivering Shuttles

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Previous: STbtM 007 As this segment begins, Kirk is on communications to his partner's medical shuttle with: "Captain to Shuttle 37. Is my wife onboard?" Well, we know they are paired because the camera has been following them, (and now we know they are also married), but how much of this is known by random crew hanging out in the lower decks struggling to keep from getting burned alive and blown out of hull breaches? Did someone inform everyone aboard that this helmsman is promoted to skipper? Does everyone aboard know his name and family status? I suppose if the Kelvin's crew complement were about 100 and they had been together for some time, this is perhaps plausible. Why? Through our evolutionary past, we humans have a conceptual capacity to handle about 100 individuals and the resulting 5000 or so possible relationships. If you'd like to see the math behind this, watch this PowerPoint presentation about communications management. As a typical guy, it seems pl…

Star Trek by the Minute 007

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Previous: STbtM 006
As this segment opens, commandos in skin-tight black with black ropes are rappelling down an area that looks possibly like engineering, as pyrotechnics are going off with sparks, flames, and lots of people running around for the evacuation. I'm guessing the assault of the spandex ninjas was thrown in because it looked cool, but one would think that some of the running to shuttles would have been done 4 minutes ago when Robau had ordered the crew to prep for evacuation. That order means: immediately get your emergency gear and report to your boat station. Shouldn't young, fully-qualified Starfleet personnel in the 23rd century be able to perform as well as drunken retirees in the 20th on a Carnival cruise? That said, the craziness looks good, even if insultingly nonsensical.
There's lots of yelling about and wild running through sets that really look primitive, like the inside a refinery, i.e.: gritty. Fortunately, the stunt men running the catwalks are …

Star Trek by the Minute 006

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Previous: STbtM 005  We are on the bridge of the evil ship, Capt. Robau answers his captor's question with: "I am unfamiliar with Ambassador Spock." OK, while it may be true, it is unhelpful and an incredibly stupid response that we would not accept from a 19 year old intern answering phones for two-bit software firms in the year 2009, yet this dialogue is supposed to be coming from a ship captain? Did I mention this is not the skipper of a Pentaran mining shuttle? This command sits in the big chair for a top-of-the-line starship on a deep space exploration mission, in a future with what we hope is a passable education system. As might have been said in a performance review feedback for corrective action: "The correct response, Captain Robau, is to offer to assistance in finding the information or a resource that can provide an answer if there is one, or offer assistance in formulating options if there an answer is unavailable. Is that clear?"
For no reason, the …