Friday, July 31, 2009

STbtM 034: Distress Call from Vulcan

Previous: Why Spock Never Made the Debate Team 1

Spock claims that maintaining personal and command control "…is a quality expected in every Starfleet Captain." While arguably true, Kirk's performance during three tests, convincing his mock crew to appear, convincing his test administrators and even Spock himself to show up repeatedly for the simulation suggests that Kirk maintains control and persistence. With all this evidence right in front of him, Spock appears unable to see any of it – and for no good reason. Pride would be a good motivator, but that would require some explanation since this is an emotion that vulcans like Spock are trained to manage so that it serves their judgment, not the other way around.

In response to this pitiful excuse of a criticism, Kirk hangs his head and melodramatic strings swell in the background, as Kirk is suffering over the haunting memories of his lost father…which he really doesn't have, since he never met the man… But never mind, because the film is best enjoyed if the fore does not interfere with the hind brain.

An aide walks in and delivers a pad to the Admiral Barnett, (leading the inquest) who announces "We've received a distress call from Vulcan. With our primary fleet engaged in the Lorenzian (sp?) System, I hereby order all cadets to report to hanger one, immediately. Dismissed." In this timeline, the Federation may be involved in the Erselrope Wars, a series of conflicts that occurred prior to 2364. Much about these wars is unknown in the prime timeline. In TNG: "The Arsenal of Freedom", it is established that the planet Minos became rich and famous weapons suppliers to both sides of the Erselrope Wars, sort of like the U.S. is today.

As the auditorium clears, McCoy walks up to Kirk who appears still weakened from the traumatic mention of his father being killed in action, and Kirk sensibly asks him, "Who was that pointy-eared bastard?" McCoy answers "I don't know, but I like him." This reply makes sense if we have some certainty that Kirk will be cleared by the inquest committee, but since McCoy later emphasizes how dicey the outcome actually is, voicing that he likes Spock is close to being disloyal - particularly when Spock's discussion was so irrational. It seems clear the line is an attempt to establish the underlying affection between McCoy and Spock, but it is completely inappropriate for the situation, and McCoy's already-established relationship with Kirk.

The film cuts to the hanger, where cadets are marching single file into the hanger at evenly space intervals, which looks so unnatural, the obviously choreographed Riverside shipyard scene (STbtM 025) seems far less stiff. The crane-cam zooms into a rank & file collection of cadets as we hear the male Commander announce ship assignments to vessels like the Philpott, Farragut, Enterprise, and the Hood. He finishes, and then blesses the cadets with a quick "Godspeed." Apparently, Starfleet is also a religious organization.

If an officer under my command was invoking the blessings of his invisible friend who has supernatural magic powers, a detailed counselling session with individual apologies to the cadets with a reality-based worldview is the least that would happen! Kirk looks to McCoy and says: "He didn't call my name… Commander! Sir, you didn't call my name: Kirk, James T?"

Of the 5 speaking roles in this segment, none are women.

Next: Uhura Gets the Enterprise

Thursday, July 30, 2009

STbtM 033: Why Spock Never Made the Debate Team 1


Previous: James T. Kirk, Step Forward

The Kobayashi Maru win and academic inquest is our first chance to see the adult, alternate timeline Spock in action since his absolutely fabulous line at the end of his meeting with the Vulcan Academic Council (see STbtM 018). This council leader gives Spock, now at a lectern opposing Kirk's the floor with: "Commander." Spock: "Cadet Kirk, you somehow managed to install and activate a subroutine in the programming code, thereby changing the conditions of the test." The problem with this statement is that the conditions of the test are identical; it is the test itself that was changed, because it went from a test of crew response with certain failure to a showboat of Kirk being clever with his instructors and using the simulator to make an emotional and philosophical statement. This should have been explored, but either the writers did not understand the underlying dynamics, or any clue we may have that they do understand and have something to say was not included in the film. The only reason I can imagine that Spock is using the term "conditions" is to match Kirk's description of the event from Wrath of Khan, but regardless of the reason for this line coming out as weak as it did, it is just the start of a bad spiral. Only the general weakness of the entire script keeps the exchanges appearing below from really standing out.

Kirk asks: "Your point being?" "In academic vernacular, you cheated" announces the council leader. Kirk responds with "Let me ask you something, I think we all know the answer to: the test itself is a cheat isn't it? I mean you programmed it to be unwinnable." Here he is attacking the assumption underlying the complaint against him, suggesting that the structure of the test is inappropriate for the standard regulation to apply. The counter to this approach is to explain why Kirk's assumption is a special pleading fallacy, and that an exemption from the regulations is not justified, but that would be logical – something which is largely beyond the film.

"Your argument precludes the possibility of a no win scenario." This language must be either vague or inaccurate. "Win scenarios" and "No win scenarios" are easily excluded from the realm of possibility. If win/loss categories are concepts which someone decides, then scenarios upon which someone is making that judgment are tenuously related to it, but it does not make that scenario intrinsically "a win" or "a loss". Categorizing an action or event within a scenario is not part of that scenario, regardless of what some versions of the Copenhagen Interpretation propose. This dialogue is a case where they could have read Shakespeare, or watched TNG, or Kenneth Branagh (my favorite Hamlet) and recalled "Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." Kirk very appropriately responds that "I don't believe in no-win scenarios."

This comment by Kirk was a great opportunity to argue that StarFleet and the Federation are dedicated to improving society due to a belief that this commitment will make things better. It is an optimistic worldview and, Kirk could argue, it would be unethically pessimistic not to attempt to overcome our limitations, and that his intention was to demonstrate that to his instructors. However, this film is written to portray not that effort, hard work, and compassion lead to success, rather it is "destiny", "faith", prayers, aggression, and a series of miracles that carry us to "winning", which seems a very small, sad view of life… and dangerous in the long term for any just, cosmopolitan society.

Spock replies, "Then not only did you violate the rules, you also failed to understand the principal lesson." Ridiculous in three ways: first, categorizing this statement we cannot even call it a "response" to Kirk's comment but rather it is a Red Herring fallacy changing the subject from the matters at hand: Kirk's apparent violation and claim that test conditions offer a justification. Second, the content of Spock's reply is defective as well, in that whether Kirk did actually violate the rules is in question and has yet to be decided, so stating this as an established fact is an error that perhaps might be made by a freshman debate team member, but the best mind that Vulcan has to offer? No. Kirk seems interested in Spock's fallacy detour, "Please, enlighten me," he encourages. "You of all people should know, Cadet Kirk, a captain cannot cheat death," says Spock. Ridiculous. Spock is going after Kirk's family in an appeal to tradition and/or authority fallacy? The film already repeatedly established his distaste for argument based on parental decisions, and his proper rejection of this tactic, but now he is shown trying to beat Kirk over the head in the same way. This strikes me as inconsistent with the character as portrayed, unless we are blessed with divine creativity and have faith that can make black white. Also completely silly is the term "cheat death", a meaningless phrase within the context of a logical argument, and such a character in this situation would never utter such flippant clich├ęs in support of a conclusion.

Kirk repeats "I of all people…," to which Spock non-sequiturs "Your father, Lt. George Kirk, assumed command of his vessel before being killed in action, did he not?" Perhaps this detour would eventually weave back toward some dialectic progress, but Kirk (in front of the council) ignores this question from one of the most distinguished graduates at SFA and the highest achieving graduate on Vulcan so that he can try to change the subject to an ad hominem fallacy against Spock by offering "I don't think you like the fact that I beat your test." Spock then says, "…Furthermore you have failed to divine the purpose of the test," a ridiculous non-sequitur. It also makes no sense to ask a question and link it with "furthermore" unless one is asking a clearly related follow-up question, and asserting a statement afterwards without clear relation to the preceding. It is also completely inappropriate to design communications that require students to resort to "divination" in order to gain the target understanding. This almost looks like a shooting or editing error where several scenes were filmed and then spliced together in a way that seemed to make sense at the time.

Kirk says "Enlighten me again." Spock replies, "The purpose is to experience fear, fear in the face of certain death." Even if "inflicting fear of certain death" was possible in a simulator, would that not criminally violate laws against torture? Before I get emails on this, I realize it is not torture according to the Bush/Obama administrations (when the U.S. does it), but is our time not better spent developing scenarios which training officers to make the best possible choices? Overlooking that, isn't it more likely that the fear cadets face is fear of performing poorly? No one on the simulator during Spock's test gave any impression they experienced ANY real fear, much less that of "certain death". Spock appears to be the most deluded and unaware test designer ever.

Spock continues "…to accept that fear, and maintain control of oneself and one's crew." Well, it seems Spock can't count either, because he just named off at least three purposes to the test, four if you want to count general fear and fear in the face of certain death.

Only men speak in this segment.

Next: Distress Call from Vulcan

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

STbtM 032: James T. Kirk, Step Forward

Previous: Cheating to Win

Back in the simulator control & observation room, a male test administrator turns away from Kirk, (now looking at them and waiting to converse), asks "How the hell did that kid beat your test?" as the camera zooms in on Spock who answers: "I do not know." Apparently, not a single member of the test administration team is interested in asking the one person who presumably knows what happened and has indicated he wants to show off his efforts. They prefer to stare at each other or into space and ponder deep, inscrutable mysteries rather than say, "Nice one cadet! What did you do?" How can these writers become so famous (and rich?) writing characters that constantly ignore the obvious and even act contrary to minimal sensibilities? It blows my mind that there are people giving this film 5 stars!

We cut to a large meeting auditorium, where 10 senior officials, numerous lower officials, aides, and hundreds of Academy members fill every seat. The head of the meeting, (male) announces "This session has been called to resolve a troubling matter. James T. Kirk, step forward." Kirk inappropriately looks surprised, as if he was unaware that everyone we've seen at the academy, including Gaila, McCoy, Uhura, and his instructors are here for him to explain evidence that he cheated on the Kobayashi Maru test. This makes no sense at all, but then again, the idea of the grandiose meeting makes no sense either. Kirk was standing in the simulator, facing the administrators and waiting for questions and to explain what happened and why, and now we go to a trial-format inquiry involving hundreds of people, and much of the senior staff of StarFleet Academy.

The head of the board of inquiry continues "Cadet Kirk, evidence has been submitted to this council suggesting that you violated the ethical code of conduct pursuant to regulation 17.43 of the StarFleet Code." Apparently StarFleet takes schooling very seriously if they have cadet test performance in the code for all of StarFleet, rather than in an academic code of conduct, as is appropriate and customary for most schools. "Is there anything you care to say before we begin, sir?" asks the council lead. Am I supposed to overlook that a senior member of StarFleet Academy, head of a council, and primary authority on a board of inquiry is addressing a cadet suspected of ethics violations with the honorific "Sir"? Orci & Kurtzman, did you honestly write this dialogue?

"Yes," Kirk replies "I believe I have the right to face my accuser directly." Spock rises from an aisle seat and in response to the request "Step forward, please" he walks down as head of the council introduces him with "This is Commander Spock, he is one of our most distinguished graduates. He has programmed the Kobayashi Maru exam for the last 4 years." This gives us some additional timeline information, and we now know that Spock is highly respected at SFA as well.

Only men speak in this segment.

Next: Why Spock Never Made the Debate Team

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

STbtM 031: Cheating to Win



Soon-to-be-suspended cadet Kirk orders "Alert medical bay to prepare to receive ALL crew members from the damaged ship." Uhura asks "And how do you expect us to rescue them when we're surrounded by Klingons, Captain?" "Alert medical," he repeats superciliously, and Uhura returns to her workstation looking furious.

McCoy reports: "Our ship's being hit. Shields at 60%." Kirk says, "I understand" and reaches under his seat to pull out an apple in homage to Wrath of Khan. "Should we, I don't know… fire back?" McCoy sarcastically asks. "No." "Of course not!" With klaxons in the background the simulator seems to shut down as everyone (but Kirk) bumbles around trying to figure out what happened. I was disappointed that yet again, without any apparent work, study, preparation or effort, Kirk was able to astound everyone around him with a computer subroutine that altered the simulation.

When power returns, Kirk says, "Hm…" then orders "Arm photons prepare to fire on the Klingon warbirds!" McCoy mentions "Jim, their shields are still up." "Are they?" Kirk asks, taking a big bite of the apple. McCoy rechecks his sensors and announces "No, they're not!" Gleefully, Kirk orders "Fire on all enemy ships, one photon each should do it – let's not waste ammunition." "Target locked and acquired on all warbirds. Firing." Granted, this is a simulation and an important feature of the Trekverse, so there's very little to which we might object. My impression is that this scene received good attention from the writers, as even uniform misogyny can produce contradiction free dialogue. Here, however we do have a problem with a status report of "Target locked and acquired."

"Acquired" means that we have sufficient information on enemy location to monitor or target them. "Lock" refers to some optimal targeting state in which directed weapons can adjust automatically to changes in source or target position, movement, or other factors without operator intervention. There is no reason to mention "acquired" if one has already announced "locked". This reminds me of a creationist I emailed recently, whose material included a criticism of evolution as being unable to explain the big bang. I responded that the big bang preceded the replicating entities to which evolution applies, so this objection was a bit like saying that a recipe for apple pie was defective if it didn't include "Step 1: Create the Universe."

We see the ships on the simulator's viewscreens blowing up, after which the tac officer announces "All ships destroyed Captain." Um, actually there are two ships still in the area, but that's splitting hairs and would spoil a pretty nice, funny scene.

Kirk immediately says "Begin rescue of the stranded crew… So, we've managed to eliminate all enemy ships, no one on board was injured, and the successful rescue of the Kobayashi Maru crew is underway."

This was a very fun and satisfying moment in the film, and perhaps one of the better scenes… This scene does remind me of the Physics Olympics I attended at North Texas State University while I was in high school. I walked out of one competition where calculator use was tested. It turned out that a school in Azle, Texas had a class where math students trained for this exam, and when the test began I heard the kid next to me clattering away like a court stenographer, and when I looked, his right hand was a blur as he touch-typed some super complex (for me) equation without even looking at the calculator. I decided to exit the test right then and check out the water balloon catapults. Later, a test was passed out face down on tables, and we were told there were 6 problems on various physics topics. Our instructions were to answer all questions that we believed we could correctly solve in 30 seconds or less. There were time clocks on the tables and when we finished, we were to put our test into the clock on the table, and every answer we got wrong or left blank would add 30 seconds to the time so, we were told: minimize our total time, the lowest total wins.

Through the overturned sheet, I started reading the (backwards) question at the top of the last page while final instructions were given, it was a question regarding power output of a Carnot cycle engine with a couple of heat reservoirs, and although I did not know the appropriate formula, I realized that even if I were really good at these problems, there was no way to derive an answer involving a 2 stage solution with only 15 seconds to accurately complete each step.

The test was about to start. I glanced at the last question further down which was larger than the previous and realized that 30 seconds was almost certainly not a believable time for any of the questions, so I put my test in the clock just as the proctor announced "Begin!" The power to the clocks was turned on, and my paper was stamped "00:00" and I held up my test for collection by the proctor, who looked bewildered, along with my teammates. I waited 3 minutes, i.e.: 6 x 30 seconds. No one stamped a test, and I kept waiting. It was nearly 10 minutes as I recall before one of the best students stamped his test and walked out. I was not a gracious winner – and my gloating inspired the professors to retroactively change the scoring rules after the competition in a manner preventing me from walking across the stage to accept the blue ribbon. The advocacy of my physics instructor and his assistant did get me a first place ribbon privately, with their congratulations on quickly developing such an effective strategy. 

We'll see how that old ability functions when StarCraft II comes out…

Monday, July 27, 2009

Revolution by the Book Structure #1


In my upcoming presentations like this one, I'm considering 3 sections:
  • Revolutionary Science (RS) Paradigms
  • RS Project Management (RSPM)
  • Use Cases
These 3 sections roughly equate to background information, standards for administration of RS projects, and future areas where RSPM could be applied. The use case section most prominently focuses on development of technology for faster than light transportation, which seems a nearly ideal area for project management to aid physical science research.
Current research in cosmology might be characterized by a diverse group of really smart researchers searching for something for which they have no clear definition and no known path to progress. They are basically adrift in the fog, seeking new models to explain anomalies like Dark Matter, Dark Energy, space-time dimensionality, conflicts and paradoxes between relativity and quantum mechanics and others.
A small group within the cognitive science community has identified two critically important factors relating to this.  First is the the process by which new ideas are developed in science.  This process appears to be very similar to the everyday sort of new ideas we are coming up with all the time, where we might ask ourselves: should I go to the store early in the day, or just before they close?  Making this decision is prompted by some sort of problem we are trying to solve.  

A concrete problem is what triggers our creative imagination: we envision possible solutions based on our memories of similar situations, and get a sense of what options "feel" good.  Copernicus problem was to develop a system for accurately calculating the date for the Pope, who needed to tell people to what saints they should be praying on which days.  The original scientific revolution of "heliocentrism" was not his goal...it was fixing calendars.  This gave him a practical approach that emphasized testable reliability, and every schoolkid now learns his centuries-old notion that the Sun is not really moving, its apparent motion results from the Earth's rotation.  The effort to solve a calendar problem triggered development of revolutionary heliocentrism, the same way our shopping problem triggers development of our ideas about scheduling daily errands.

The second important factor in revolutionary science is the other side of the coin, not what makes revolutionary science similar to ordinary thinking, but what distinguishes it as different. Understanding this requires detailed explanation we will examine later. 

Suffice to say now: it is possible to know a great deal about what the next revolutionary cosmology will look like, the conceptual structures it will contain and how that new paradigm will differ from those we hold now, and finally how such paradigms can be pursued.

We should note that pursuit is successful when sought indirectly.  A good shopping plan is developed and determined not by our seeking a plan, but rather one that fits our schedule well, is convenient, saves time, allows us to take best advantage of whatever we need to do during the day, etc.  Revolutionary models are developed in order to solve a problem requiring a restructuring of conceptual rules – and faster than light technology development is a concrete problem that would require creation of such models.  

Testing potential physics models' for applicability to technological development automatically and naturally enforces a quality control that pure mathematical investigations lack.  It enables inexpensive testing and quick identification of ideas that should be abandoned, making the work incomparably more efficient and reliable.

STbtM 030: Kobayashi Maru Begins


Previous: Roommates
Gaila is not happy that Uhura has started stripping in front of Kirk, hidden under the bed, and actress Ms. Nichols responds to Uhura's clothes removal and simultaneous story of the klingon distress calls with a perfectly deadpan "Oh no." "Yeah! A klingon armada was destroyed – 47 ships." "So, [nervously] you're not going back to the lab tonight?" "Gaila, who is he?" "Who's who?" "The mouth breather hiding under your bed."
Kirk jumps up and asks, "You can hear me breathing?" "You!?" As Kirk grabs his clothes in a bunch, he says in as serious a tone as he can "Big day tomorrow." "You're gonna fail," Uhura hisses, throwing some clothes at him with "Get out!" followed by pushing and all of it resonated authenticity of real dorm experience.
Kirk blurts out to Gaila "I'll see ya around…" at which she smiles like an imp and nods enthusiastically as Kirk stumbles backward looking at Uhura, and asks "If I pass, will you tell me your first name?" "No! Goodnight."
"I think the fact that you found that you picked up a transmission is very interesting!" as Uhura pushes him to the door and closes it in his face. This is the best comedy moment in the film, only marred by continuing a disgraceful media trend that admittedly is a sin of omission. Part of what I loved about Star Trek was that it tried to provide entertainment that uplifts our spirits, fires our minds, inspires our imagination, and moves our emotions. Roddenberry did not want to choose from the media options available to creators at the time. He did not want to have weak women, subservient Africans, conniving Japanese, evil Russians, and others augmenting a cast dominated by strong, intelligent white men who prevailed in endless barfights, gang fights, gladiator fights, space fights, gunfights, showdowns, and fights with fists, poisons, knives, swords, guns, bombs, and every other imaginable instrument of harm. All of them heroic victories over evil – just the kind of show advertisers prefer for "conditioning audiences" to look upon their product favorably, and war tends to be very profitable, as Adam Smith and notable others like Smedley Darlington Butler observed.
We cut to a closup of Uhura on the bridge simulator, "We are receiving a distress signal from the USS Kobayashi Maru, the ship has lost power and is stranded. StarFleet Command has ordered us to rescue them." Now, some purists voiced the objection that in the previous simulation from the movie, the captain could decide whether to attempt a rescue or not. I have no problem with this version however, since it is presumably an earlier version, and it seems reasonable that a later simulation would have more decision options built into it.
Kirk turns from her com station aft, to the forward viewscreen and corrects her with "StarFleet has ordered us to rescue them…Captain." McCoy, who is at the helm rolls his eyes and says "Two klingon vessels have entered the Neutral Zone and are locking weapons on us." The "skipper" smirks back at him: "That's OK." "That's OK?" "Yeah, don't worry about it." In the observation room, we see one male sim technician ask, "Did he say don't worry about it?" and another male asks: "Is he not taking this simulation seriously?" Back on the sim bridge, McCoy announces "three more klingon warbirds decloaking and targeting our ship. I don't suppose this a problem either?"
Kirk has no chance to respond as a crewman announces "They're firing Captain!"

Friday, July 24, 2009

STbtM 029: Roommates

Previous: Ship of Fools

McCoy continues: "I'm a doctor Jim, I'm busy." Kirk asks "Bones, it doesn't bother you that no one's ever passed the test?" "Jim, it's the Kobayashi Maru, no one passes the test and no one goes back for seconds, let alone thirds." Supposedly, the "No Win Scenario" exam given by StarFleet to cadets is designed to assess their character and abilities dealing with zugzwang. Based on this conversation, cadets now have the opportunity to "go back for seconds" and "thirds" to redo major assessments by tests which consume significant time, people and equipment. I'm sure any student or cadet at an academy can tell you how realistic this is! Kirk slaps Bones on the shoulder as he bolts off with "I gotta study!" and we see the doctor watch Kirk hustling away, mumbling "Study, my ass!"

We cut to Kirk making out with a buxom green orion girl "Gaila" who says to him "Jim, I think I love you," to which the ever-romantic Kirk replies "That is so weird…" "Lights! Dijyoo just say 'That's so weird'?" "I did, but…" "You doh love me too?" and then we see lights and hear sounds indicating a door opening. From the intensity of the light, someone is successfully creating unshielded nuclear fusion in the hallway. Gaila says: "That's my roommate." Kirk says: "I thought you said she was gone for the night." "Well obviously she isn't. Quick, you've got to get under the bed," and she starts to hustle him onto the floor with "She can't see you here." "Why not?" he asks. "Because I promised her I'd stop bringing guys back to the room." "Wha… wheh… How many guys have you brought back to the room?" OK, this is pretty funny, but completely out of place for someone declaring "I love you" in a sexual encounter. One would expect "I love you" as a comment reserved for those we have known longer than a couple of hours, as it appears Kirk has not even met the roommate.

Gaila starts waving Kirk down under the bed as Uhura comes walking around a translucent divider. When I saw this, I thought Uhura must be cranking the iPod or deaf, since she came from a silent hallway and is standing in a very small room which is completely quiet except for the two people excitedly discussing something. It's unfortunately just another mistake by the film makers, as we see when Uhura detects Kirk by his soft breathing while hidden and muffled… Although written as a sex kitten with crippling dialog, Gaila's character was played wonderfully by Rachel Emily Nichols.

Kirk watches Uhura come in and undress as the roommates greet each other. Uhura says, "It was the strangest thing: I was in the long range sensor lab…" "Yeah, I thought all night." "I was tracking solar systems and I picked up an emergency transmission." Ridiculous. There is only one solar system, which includes our sun "Sol" and its planetary system. "Star system" sometimes refers to a single star and its system of orbiting planets. Whichever term one prefers, "solar systems" are not what one would track. By the way, why is one of the best cadet specialists in xenolinguistics spending her final year at the academy doing stellar cartography in a long range sensor lab? OK, maybe the lab includes subspace communications gear and her tracking stuff that she doesn't even know the name of was for the purpose of picking up some Klingon. But the Kelvin Incident already established that the border with the klingons is too far away for any StarFleet help, or even from other members of the Federation. In other words, it's REALLY far.

"Really?" asks Gaila. "Yeah" says Uhura, stripping off her sweater, "…from a Klingon prison planet." Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favor of appreciating sexy women, but at some point, doesn't it get a little insulting if EVERY portrayal is insubstantial? After re-reading that last sentence I realize that all the characters are insubstantial, and just seem to randomly escape, obtain rewards, and benefit from miracles, so relatively speaking, Gaila's all-too brief role is not bad.

Next: Kobayashi Maru Begins

Incompleteness of Paradigm Objection

Incompleteness of an evolving paradigm based on its reliance on poorly elaborated models should not be considered a valid criticism. Progressive elaboration is inherent in development efforts as repeated cycles of planning enable better information, details, estimates, and the overall plan becomes more complete .

Exceeding the scope of good practices however, is a valid target for criticism. Apparent contradictions to minimally elaborated model will usually be examined carefully by model developers. (See Model & Analogy Evaluation)

Revolutionary changes often occur when undirected, diverse approaches to measuring or forecasting produce surprising results. This was recently the case with a model from the UK, which predicted an inverse relationship between surface sea temperature and low cloud cover, providing positive feedback to temperature oscillations. This model predicted more accurately than any of the other 18 simulations reviewed, and it was also closest to the average of the results of the group. Positive feedback mechanisms are destabilizing, and finding them in climate models of current weather generates reasonable concern.

Whether this particular model (or just averaging the others a la "The Wisdom of Crowds") contains processes that meaningfully relate to actual ocean and cloud interactions is not completely certain but, absent other obvious constraints to incorporate into the model, this possibility is the most likely area for productive investigation. If we look at debates over evolution and human caused climate change that are considered settled within the research community, we often see critics claim incompleteness as a defect.

In measuring the maturity and explanatory of a paradigm, we may choose to examine such characteristics of criticism, as these will change over time and in different ways for successful and unsuccessful concepts.

Favorite line of the day: "...conceptual innovation involves changing and creating new constraints", (Nersessian 2009) p.188

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Star Trek by the Minute 028: Ship of Fools

Previous: Three Years Later

Nero walks onto the bridge, and Ayel says: "Sir, we've arrived at the coordinates you've calculated, there's nuthin' here. What are your orders?" Nero and the Romulan miners apparently have advanced since they came out of the original lightning storm from beyond visual range, now they not only can calculate when and where they are, but have taught themselves temporal cosmology beyond that of any scientists in any of the planets of the Federation, and the miners' retroactively analyzed trajectories through time and space for both their ship and that of Spock prime, and were able to predict that Spock would reappear not merely in the same universe, but when and where his ship would emerge. Compared to these sand diggers, the Vulcan Science Academy Council looks like Pakled Larry, Moe, and Curly. Unfortunately like many super geniuses concerned with lofty physics, these Romulans lost interest in mundane trivia like razors, and the mysteries of shaving were lost.

Looking at the viewscreen he has just approached, Nero responds "We wait, we wait for the one who allowed your home to be destroyed...as we've been doing for 25 years." Apparently, Nero is referring here to a home that *might* be destroyed…in the future…in an alternate universe…possibly, or possibly not. No one on board says a word about how lunatic this course of action is – perhaps they fear the biker tattoos – but it is a bit hard to swallow characters doing things so much against their situation, and no one reacting.

Ayel asks: "…and once we've killed him?" Nero (crazed): "Kill him? I'm not gonna kill him – I'm unna make him watch," MWahahaha! And lightning flashes ominously around the bridge, which is a great effect take on the mad-scientist / evil genius villain. The flashes are not coming from the viewscreen where they turn to look, but that's pretty minor – and the evil green glow of their ship is appropriately sinister. I think they secretly hired Lurch & Morticia for decorating.

They both gaze (Nero and Ayel, not the Addams) at the viewscreen to see a ship emerge from a large vortex that appeared. Nero orders: "Capture that ship! Welcome back, Spock."

Meanwhile, back on Earth at Starfleet Academy, we see McCoy and Kirk walking in what is supposed to be San Francisco…only sunny, and with lots of miniskirts. McCoy asks "Why are you so happy?" Kirk: "I don't know what you're talkin' about!" "No, I don't suppose you do…" Kirk eyes some women up and down saying: "HELLO ladies! I'm taking the test again." "You gotta be kidding me!" "Yeah, tomorrow morning. I want you there." "You know, I've got better things to do that watch you embarrass yourself for a third time."

Next: Roommates

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Not Destroying Someone

The proposition "Not destroying someone certain to kill only postpones" was just presented to me. The passive, defensive wording is, as far as I know, universal among aggressors who must cast their violence as protecting virtue X from mortal peril. I would maintain that "Not destroying someone certain to kill provides an opportunity for them to change", "Not killing prevents unavoidable killing of children and others innocent and a spectrum of of other possibilities to non-destroyed people", which happens in war. The proposition also disregards the fog of war, which is "uncertainty regarding one's own capability, adversary's capability and adversary intent during an engagement, operation or campaign." We might observe that "Not destroying others" is a morally obligatory form of behavior that embodies courage. In all but the most unlikely circumstances violence appears to remain morally unjustifiable.

People who ascribe to the idea that violent destruction is often justified are more likely to deem violence acceptable, feel greater certainty about such judgments, and are rightfully considered more likely to commit or support violence.

The proposition is also weak in describing realistic conditions because it assumes we have the resources and willingness to incur the costs necessary to predict others' decisions and actions with near perfect certainty. Given that merely good decisions are so much cheaper and do not risk commission of destructive, irrevocable mistakes.
People who honestly adhere to this belief are certain to make errors destroying the wrong people simply because humans make mistake. Shall followers of the proposition be killed to protect the innocent victims? The proposition is an unstable concept because of this internal contradiction in violation of Karl Popper rules for logical stability.

Lacking the fog of war acknowledgement is significant in a description of dealing with potential violence. Another major weakness is in its prescriptive actions based on a "false dilemma" fallacy. The proposition assumes the only options for future states are either "wannabe killer A is destroyed" or "victim B is killed". Merely restraining A from killing B so both can lead happy, productive lives is excluded as impossible. We may ask: If we know an employee in military or weapons industries whose choice of work is certain to kill, when might we consider it proper for us to "destroy" the employee to "avoid postponing" violence?

I'm not aware of any conditions where I would consider this course of action acceptable, but I'd be interested to receive scenarios by advocates of the view "Not destroying someone certain to kill only postpones."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

F22 Raptor Purchase

Please support the amendment to the FY10 Defense Authorization bill to eliminate any and all funds for procurement of F-22 Raptor fighter jets and avoid a Presidential veto. The Senate voted this week to cut the funding and I am writing to urge the Defense Appropriations Committee to do the same.

The United States should be leading the world to a future free from warfare. Modern military conflicts in the world today appear much as we might imagine evidence that industrialized weapons sector had been allowed to circumvent democratic control by exercising its economic power: obtaining favorable legal status and the ability to influence policies directly affecting that sector's welfare, control and profits.

It seems reasonable that profitable, violence-related globalized industries will drive increasing authoritarian domination rather than better defense of individual liberty and democracy, a dynamic we observe in many countries. Significant high-level allocation of resources to the military yields easily measured profits, the usual metric equated with societal "benefits". Unfortunately, the costs are less easily perceived. Support of violence-related industries generally reduces the overall wealth of the state unless used efficiently to extract wealth from outside the state. This allocation adds various immediate risks and problems but most important are the especially high deferred costs it entails.

Dispensing with ethical arguments against killing and waging war, a highly profitable arms industry remains a steady danger to any society because of its survival need for violent conflict – perceived or real – which justifies sustained and growing profits for the industry's members.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Star Trek by the Minute 027: Three Years Later


Previous: Addicts Aboard!
Kirk holds up the flask and says: "Jim Kirk" as if anyone would introduce themselves this way, and in response, the wannabe doctor delivers a "Bond…James Bond" homage/ripoff with "McCoy, Leonard McCoy". I can't help but imagine Bart Simpson sitting at a word processor, writing the script, and giggling after re-reading that line. In an external shot, the shuttle cruises off to San Francisco, and Starfleet Academy.
In another external shot (somewhere in deep space), we see it is "Three Years Later", and the Romulan deathship is happily cruising through nothingness – apparently to nowhere. In an extreme close-up, we see Captain Nero gazing maniacally out at us. In the background, we hear someone tell him he is "…requested on the bridge. Ayel says it's time." If Kirk was 21 in the bar, this would make the current time about 24+ years after the Kelvin incident.
One wonders how a mining ship that has been ripped apart by the ramming and subsequent explosion of a Kelvin-class starship could possibly manage to effect repairs, and then hang around for what turns out to be a quarter of a century. It's a miracle! In 25 years, none of the crew seems to have thought something like, "Maybe we should go home for a couple of years, save our planet, and get a tan?" Is there any possible reason for them to hang around for a quarter of a century? Apparently, it's a matter of faith, pay no attention and you'll enjoy it more.
Perhaps Romulus had been destroyed when their ship was returning from Miraculon VI with a full load of retconidox... There's no clue what they were hauling, but it seems safe to say they, and the writers were full of it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Star Trek by the Minute 026: Addicts Aboard!

Previous: Safety Belts?

Kirk spots Uhura while strapping in and smirks: "I never did get that first name…" as she looks away and smiles. In the background, we hear a raised female voice say, "You need a doctor," followed by a male voice responding a bit more loudly: "I already told you people: I don't need a doctor dammit, I am a doctor!" The woman (flight attendant?) demands more loudly "You need to get back in your seat!" as we see her pushing him aft, toward the stern of the shuttle. Nope. I'm terribly sorry scriptwriters, but this is as phony as the opening scene of "A Million Little Pieces" and for similar reasons. Long before any controversy, I received the book as a gift, admittedly with skepticism based primarily on the kind of praise that my generous and enthusiastic friend provided. The praise had a similar feel as that received when a couple I met after a nice day of skiing started extolling the virtues of OxyContin in our shared Jacuzzi; I didn't know what the thing was, but I felt fairly certain they liked it a bit too much for the recommendation to be reliable. Assessing the risk of reading a book much differently than that of mind-altering, recreational chemistry, I read the opening of the book which featured the author claiming that he was flown on a commercial airline with open, bleeding wounds – a ludicrous claim.

Here, the doctor appears agitated, panicky, unruly and disruptive, which the attendant has noticed. According to 20th century guidelines, he is thus considered a potential danger to himself, his fellow passengers, and possibly the crew or the entire flight. The first thing that should be done is to calm and remove the passenger from the craft prior to takeoff. The passenger should be interviewed and assessed and the flight proceeds on schedule. The attendant's response which implies that because he is a doctor he doesn't need professional attention is absolutely ridiculous. Pushing and yelling at an agitated passenger is absolutely ridiculous. Aside from being ignorant, the script advocates escalation of threats and violence as a fun, efficient way to resolve conflicts and this is no exception. The doctor and attendant continue to increase the volume and hostility of their interactions:

Dr: "I had one – in the back with no window!" Att: "You need to get back to your seat now!" Dr: (panicky) "I suffer from aviophobia, it means fear of dying in something that flies."

At this point, the attendant actually threatens the doctor with force, claiming "Either sit down or I will make you sit down." Completely stupid: he was trying to sit down when she started raising her voice and pushing him, and now she's making what ordinarily is considered a challenge to fight. In this case, it has a tranquilizing effect on calming the panicked passenger and he becomes totally docile, it's a miracle! This is the terrorist view: people who are doing something we don't like can be threatened into "having some sense", "learning a lesson", or "thinking twice before they act". One almost suspects some of the film makers never met a death penalty they didn't love, which is part of a common paradigm in highly militarized states.

Here, even the doctor's submission to this unbelievable threat makes no sense when he says "Fine." In resignation, but steps forward and takes a seat near a window next to Kirk. He looks at Kirk and warns "I may throw up on you." Kirk: "I think these things are pretty safe." "Don't pander to me kid, one tiny crack in the hull and our blood boils in thirteen seconds." Wrong again, Professor Dalton! As discussed in STbtM 002, Phil Plait's "Bad Astronomy" blog caught this goof also. To me, such lack of basic science literacy in the script indicts the writers as either apathetic or incompetent, whether by circumstance or design.

The "doctor" continues to provide evidence against having an accredited degree: "A solar flare might crop up and cook us in our seats," Bzzzt! I'm sorry, but thanks for playing - we easily track solar flares already and they do not "crop up" without plenty of warning. ...but what if this were a evil invisible flare? Bzzzt! Still wrong: spacecraft are designed for shielding crew from normal stellar radiation, including flares. ...but what if the shuttle were directly attacked by a stealth flare from the sun which was secretly controlled by vicious insectoid minions and what if their reptoid overlords controlling Starfleet had also secretly removed this shielding because they had come from the future and wanted to kill Kirk? Bzzzt, still wrong: the magnetic field of the earth is proof from any flares our sun can emit for the next many, many millions of years, and there would be no reason for a shuttle flight from Iowa to San Francisco to leave sub-orbital space, much less leaving our magnetosphere.

McCoy's raving about "Andorian shingles" is safely fictional though. He says: "Space is disease and danger, wrapped in darkness and silence." Kirk responds: "Well I hate to break this to you but Starfleet operates in space." "Well, got nowhere else to go, the ex-wife took the whole damn planet in the divorce. All I got left is my bones." Another stinker! Dr. McCoy's nickname of "Bones" is from the slang term "sawbones" dating from 1837, according to Merriam Webster. This ham-handed attempt at retconning something to a darker and less-sensible alternative inevitably must be chalked up on the blunder scoreboard, which is already indicating this film stands as a modern tribute to the Han civilization in ancient China, where negative numbers were first invented. Also, this dialog is used to reemphasize that the Starfleet setting is not the optimistic best of humanity in the future rather, it is the last resort of violent criminals and addicted fools with precious little consciousness and no moral direction other than aggression and destruction. I feel it necessary to mention again, that these are the good guys!

McCoy pulls out a flask and takes a swig, as Kirk gazes longingly at it. McCoy offers it to Kirk who immediately accepts.

Next: 3 Years Later…

Monday, July 6, 2009

STbtM 025: Safety Belts

Previous: Bike Ride

It is a bright, shiny morning as Jim Kirk rides into Starfleet's Riverside Iowa shipyard on his motorcycle with wheel rims, but for some reason possesses no hub or spokes. Alas, there are no more shots of the Enterprise under construction, but we do see lots of workers running around and one of them comes up to Kirk, admiring his bike and Kirk tosses him the keys and says: "It's yours." This is apparently another sad and misguided effort at substituting apathy for virtue and arrogance for style. On a more basic level, one wonders why discard a perfectly good motorcycle? Are personal vehicles not allowed at Starfleet?

Captain Pike, who has been watching Kirk approach, is standing at the shuttle hatch when Kirk strides by and says: "Four years? I'll do it in three." Is this claim anything other than arrogance? As far as we've seen, Kirk only asks for information when he's trying to ridicule, as in the sarcastic and drunken "Who am I, Captain Pike?" or trying to get laid questioning Uhura, also while intoxicated. True to self-centered form, Kirk declares "I'll do it in three" while walking away. In virtually all cultures, this is considered dismissive at best. The higher authority or decision-maker is the one who determines when discussion is sufficient, not the subordinate or advisor.

Kirk comes grinning onto the "shuttle for new recruits", looks around, and plows his head on the beam, perhaps in an homage to James Doohan's Scotty knocking himself out on the Enterprise. Kirk then walks past some of his fight opponents from the night before in their red silk cadet uniforms. It seems Pike lied yet again: this is not the shuttle for new recruits, it's the shuttle for cadets who have been accepted and are at least a year in the program, and all of whom have been issued their uniforms, of the 34 passenger appearances I counted on screen. Obviously some of these shots are repeats of the same people, but if there are new "recruits" we might expect to see at least one other violent & destructive addict-criminal on board without a uniform, but apparently Kirk is well, "special".

One notable thing we do see which has been all but unheard-of in the Trek universe: safety belts or harnesses. There are dramatic reasons for omitting them, like having people fly across the screen during explosions, but at least we have some on the shuttle.

As this segment ends, Kirk catches sight of the spectacular-looking and well acted but horribly written Uhura, played by Zoe Saldana.

Next: Addicts Aboard!

Friday, July 3, 2009

STbtM 024: Bike Ride

Previous: Starfleet Wants Felons

Pike walks out of the bar, apparently leaving behind a model of the Kelvin (with "Authentic Battle Damage!®") which Kirk picks up and holds in front of the camera, possibly to signify he's thinking about the disaster or something. The music has lots of gentle, bittersweet strings flowing in the background to tell us this is an emotional moment… which may explain something of the shaky-cam close-ups that have infested this scene. While it worked in The Blair Witch Project, here I'm actually glad I hadn't seen it on a big screen with a half hour of salty, buttery, coconut oil popped fluffy deliciousness in my stomach.

The next thing we see is Kirk zipping down a lonely road in the early morning mist past fields on a sportbike, somewhat like Maverick in another Top Gun homage. In the next shot, he is riding off-road and we see that he's been tearing around on this motorcycle with nothing to protect his eyes. Even with goggles, grasshopper and ladybugs scrape up riders pretty well, and scrubbing their dried guts from your forehead, checks, and teeth are bad enough. They also are very hard on the knuckles, but Kirk's bike has some nice protective air foils for hand protection. Note to writers: in Iowa, (or anywhere growing densely with edible plants) there's a lot of insects, helpful and not. Nevertheless we should look on the bright side, because a day without sunshine is exactly like night, but when we always look at the bright side, we experience the same life-changing event that happens whenever we ride a sportbike 70kph on a road through agricultural fields without eye protection: blindness!

In close up, we see that Kirk has cleaned up, shaved, styled his hair, and refreshed his base layer and eye-shadow, but darn it all: forgot to change that instant dry t-shirt that soaks up a few drops of blood, but is impervious to liters of alcohol.

We do get a great FX shot here though: a reverse shot of Kirk shows him in silhouette looking up at the Enterprise under construction in the shipyard. Marred only by the goofy rear lighting on the bike, the steaming, 2/3 constructed starship really looks great, and would have been a great moment if I had not seen it in the trailer, which left me a bit down. I started thinking at this point that the only thing to look forward to was going to be occasional great lines like Spock's farewell to the council, within pages of dreck and a story that was not worth telling - and certainly not worth the fabulous presentation brought to bear in this film.

Another thought occurred: it was really amazing: miniscule Riverside Iowa not only hosts the construction zone for Starfleet's premier vessel in the entire Federation of Planets, but also is home to its most famous captain! Not only that, but the big hole into which the Corvette went flying? Rumor has it this was open pit mine where the ship's duranium (or whatever) happened to be quarried for ship construction. It is miraculous how so many things upon which the fates of billions keep popping up in this tiny patch of cornfield on a planet that is merely a novice at warp technology among starfaring races.

To be fair, if I only had a couple of months to put out a Star Trek manuscript, and I was working on 4 other projects, and I had a boss who loved to brag about "not being a fan" of Star Trek, and he arbitrarily changed story requirements, I might not be able to do much to save the final product - so perhaps we should give them a break...

Finally in this sequence, we see Kirk driving his bike out (for some unknown reason), of an area marked as the Starfleet construction area at "Security Level 3".

Next: Safety Belts?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

STbtM 023: Starfleet Wants Felons

Previous: Leap Without Looking

Captain Pike asks whether Kirk feels he was meant "for something special", pauses and then commands: "Enlist in Starfleet." Oops: "enlist", according to Merriam Webster, means "to enroll oneself in the armed forces". It occurs to me that this entire film should have been set in "mirror universe", and Pike should have said "Enlist in the forces of the Star Empire" because to enter Starfleet, one has to apply, pass tests, get recommendations, etc. Look at Wesley Crusher: grew up on the Enterprise, served as acting ensign for years, saved hundreds of lives, was an inventor, genius, and had recommendations up the wazoo, and the best he was able to do was get a chance to test for entry into Starfleet. Abrams' Starfleet is now a place for young, violent and destructive scumbags with senior officers who advocate deliberately blinding oneself from the consequences of one's actions? Incredible.

Kirk replies "Enlist? You guys must be really down on your recruiting quota for the month!" This entire exchange and the film itself seems like it could have had some real military recruiting consulting in on it.

I agree with Kirk that Pike sounds like an underperforming military recruiter, and in apparent confirmation Pike tries the old "McFly 'Chicken' Challenge": "If you're half the man your father was, Jim, Starfleet could use you." But that might not be enough, Pike seems to think and offers a typical bribe that: "You can be an officer in 4 years;" which doesn't seem to be impressing Kirk, so Pike ups the ante: "You can have your own ship in eight!" Kirk still isn't responding, so Pike tries to appeal to, well, what I guess he thinks might appeal to this criminal's "nobler" character with the nonsensical, rhetorical, and inaccurate: "You understand what the Federation is doncha? It's important; it's a peace keeping and humanitarian armada." Another amazing goof by an increasingly unbelievable captain, written by guys who couldn't seem to spent 10 seconds with wiktionary on terms they used but did not understand. I'm almost feeling a need to use really small words to explain, in the event the writing team ever sees this: The fleet of ships tasked in Star Trek with exploration and humanitarian missions is different than the administration of federated planets assigning those missions. To avoid any confusion, the fleet is called "Starfleet", and federated planets' administration is called the "Federation". This should not be difficult.

Actually, maybe this isn't difficult and what we are really seeing is a more accurate image of military recruiting than intended: where an impressive looking authority figure targets a disadvantaged youth. The kid is on his way to multiple felony convictions and hard prison time, and currently drunk, which would help Pike "have his way" with the guy, who is probably without much in the way of career prospects, either – also very accurate. In a 1996 study to confirm how best to prey upon and enlist members of the public, the Navy Recruiting Command found family income and education was the most important predictor for success, summarized as: "Enlistment rates are much higher when income is lowest and college enrollment rates are low."

Kirk asks, "Are we done?" Pike says "I'm done," but as we are starting to suspect, Starfleet captains in the "new" Star Trek can't keep their word and Pike, true to form continues: "Riverside shipyard, the shuttle for new recruits leaves tomorrow at oh-eight-hundred." Kirk raises his nearly finished beer. Another miracle! He was previously able to order a beer from the guy cleaning the floor behind him and was thanking that guy for already having it in front of him 10 seconds later. I'd be thanking the guy too, and wondering why he wasn't doing the illusion circuit in Vegas…

Pike gets up to leave, but stops and tries another McFly dare, "You know, your father was captain of a starship for twelve minutes. He save eight hundred lives, including your mother's and yours. I dare you to do better."

This does look like a military recruitment effort, albeit heavily sanitized but then again, so does the entire film. The war industry need portrayals of the enemies, as crazed monsters absolutely dedicated to violent destruction of "us" good guys for patently absurd reasons. Recruiters act like Pike in dangling future carrots of status, power, and other rewards, while leaving out the part about killing others, dying painfully, or living with physical scars that make children cry in fear. Perhaps worse is watching best friends who have risked their life to save yours descend into depression, addiction and too often: suicide. Care for victims isn't profitable, and when you can reach them, recruiters who seemed like best friends feign helplessness and senior command dismisses pleas for aid with apathy, interested more in polishing decorative jewelry for their uniforms. Obviously, there are big incentives for recruiters to lie about risks, rewards and conditions of service, but also incentives to condone lying by fellow service persons, and encourage recruits lie about their histories regarding health, criminal background, or anything else that might reduce enlistment. When this malfeasance is exposed for some reason, the recruits get thrown to the wolves with a dishonorable discharge while officers who encourage deceit are given a non-punitive LoC: letter of caution. Recruiters have illegally threatened kids for "failure" to enlist, and in New York they have been caught bragging about how many felony charges they've been able to have dropped in exchange for the young man or woman "volunteering" for military enlistment.

Like the portrayal of idealized technology, this film portrays an idealized military similar to the ultimate recruiting movie of the '80s: Top Gun, which actually had recruiters in the theaters to sign up kids who dreamed of flying jets, seducing supermodels, and saving honest, freedom loving people of the world from "the evil empire". It's the kind of fairy tale told in societies where anything spent on the majority of citizens like health and education which strengthens society is considered wasteful big government, but no expense is spared for weapons of destruction & violence, or advertising for manipulation and deceit. Yikes!

Next: Bike Ride

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

STbtM 022: Leap Without Looking


Previous: Barfight!
Kirk, miraculously saved from being pummeled to death in the fight he started, lays across a table at his Starfleet benefactor who asks, "You all right son?" Kirk gurgles through the blood and alcohol, "Yoo c'n really wissel loud, y'know that?" Fortunately, he was wearing an instant-dry shirt, so all the dozens of drinks and bottles-worth of alcohol he was rolling in a second ago have disappeared without a drop of wetness remaining - cool!

We cut to a few minutes later and Kirk and Captain Pike are sharing a drink at a table. Shouldn't Pike be getting Kirk's open and bleeding wounds cleaned and closed somewhere? What about checking for concussion, the most common traumatic brain injury and one which kills thousands? Behind the two, the floor is getting more attention than this injured and bleeding lowlife. If Pike really has no care for this violent criminal's welfare, he might as well have left Kirk drooling blood on the floor. Apparently, this captain is not concerned with his own Starfleet cadets having committed battery or attempted murder either, nor those who exhibited dereliction of duty by failing to take any preventative action to end the violence, nor did any of them render aid, nor did anyone even notify security. I suppose Starfleet officers are really busy, and can't be expected to notice EVERY little thing, like making sure cadets change out of uniform before a night of abusing civilians. The uniforms do look great, btw.

When Pike says: "Y'know I couldn't believe it when the bartender told me who you are." Kirk asks: "Who am I Captain Pike?" "Your father's son." 

Kirk slurs over his shoulder while waving an empty glass: "Can I get another one?"

"For my dissertation I was assigned the USS Kelvin. There's something I admired about your dad, he didn't believe in no-win scenarios." lf only Pike were referring to his current approach to Kirk, but alas, this is merely a non-sequitur, unworthy attempt at an homage to WOK. WOK is not a great classic merely because of the great battle scenes, it featured good writing with intelligent actions by smart characters despite many flaws.

Kirk opines sarcastically: "I sure learned his lesson."

"Well, that depends on how you define winning. Yur here, arncha? …You know that instinct to leap without looking that was his nature too, and in my opinion it is something Starfleet's lost." Actually, this might be OK as a feel-good line to build rapport in a counseling session under different circumstances, but here it seems more likely that Captain Pike is delusional, since skippers in the real world who "leap without looking" end up killing themselves long before their hubris gets a chance to slaughter crews and destroy ships. Ignorant and negligent individuals who do get to offices of authority typically are too cowardly to endanger themselves, preferring others to die for their gut "instincts" and leaps of "faith". They unwittingly betray and weaken those who trust them for protection squandering precious resources causing reckless harm, and thereby creating enemies. Such behavior causes legitimate fear, anger, resentment or even hatred as we have seen in very recent history – but the past has famous examples as well.

The bold, leap-ahead-in-the-fog skipper of the Titanic springs to mind, as does the Exxon Valdez. 133 years and 5 days ago, a leader followed Captain Pike's advice, leaping into action without "wasting" time on looking to where he was jumping. He was killed with his brothers, nephew, brother-in-law and hundreds of others under his command, ending George Armstrong Custer's hideous genocides against the indigenous peoples of North America. Despite the fact Pike's recommendation is without merit under the best circumstances and contrary to any institution's stability, (much less one involved in the kind of risks space exploration entails), even I would have to admit a catastrophic ending to a career of mass murder would represent a step up of sorts for Abrams' version of James T. Kirk.
Kirk asks "Why are you talkin' to me, man?" "Because I looked up your file while you were drooling on the floor. [Ha!] Your aptitude tests are off the charts, so what is it? You like being the only genius-level repeat offender in the Midwest?" Kirk: "Maybe I love it…" "So your dad dies, you can settle for less than ordinary life, or do you feel like you were meant for sump'm better?"

Isn't it miraculous that more than 20 years after the Kelvin incident, Riverside Iowa hosts two survivors from an impossible anomaly about as far away from earth as it is possible to get? It's even more amazing that 4 people in Riverside end up as bridge officers on the Federation's flagship! It's even more unbelievable that the survivor who shows up disregards every responsibility he has in order to obsess over the history and future of some unknown guy in a bar fight, who may not even survive the week without getting to a hospital? Wow; clever plot twists or insults to audience intelligence? You decide! 

GMO Safety Defined as "Nutritional Equivalence"

As far as I can tell, the definitions of safety used by the scientific community are not the same as those used by the general public. The a...