Robin Bland

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Everything posted by Robin Bland

  1. I think this is more about language than it is about astronomy, but anyway... http://gizmodo.com/the-word-planet-is-so-important-and-such-bullshit-1793480282 There's a good historical reason for nine planets. (Yes, I said nine. Including Pluto. I'm old fashioned.) But I'm not sure there's a good reason for confusing the definition of big spheres in the solar system by reclassifying all the moons too. If it's over a certain mass, it's spherical and orbits a star, then it's a planet. If it orbits a smaller body around a star, then it's a moon. What's wrong with that? Don't get clever with any comments about Sedna, Ceres or comets and asteroids. Ceres got reclassified as a dwarf planet too, IIRC (Vie will correct me if I'm wrong on that). This does mean we might (eventually) have more than eight or nine planets, of course. But again, if any newly discovered objects were spherical and satisfied certain physical properties, what's wrong with that? (Even if their orbits are irregular?)
  2. I'm looking forward to LIFE: http://io9.gizmodo.com/the-filmmakers-behind-life-strived-to-make-a-realistic-1793568503
  3. Your wife is a wise woman. I suppose, as someone who has a deep and abiding interest in science, but who works in the arts and communication, I'm eager to see bridges built between popular science and media and education. Art facilitates that, good communications facilitate that. If we're gong to try and reclassify anything, perhaps it's the divides between all those disciplines, in a way your wife suggests. (I knew I liked her. And hey, she married you, so clearly she has taste.) Imagining an alien mindset and perceptions, let alone a culture from which such difference springs... now that is real gift and perhaps why we cherish the stories we tell about such imagined worlds so much.
  4. I'm also a science geek, but I'm a cultural geek too. Probably a geek for a lot of other things, I'm sure. Scientists, love them though I do, tend to see things in binary terms - this/that, on/off, yes/no, zero/one, baby/bathwater. In that sense, they're a lot like politicians or religious leaders. Left/right, faith/atheism and so on. Uh-uh. You have to see with better eyes than that. As your example above does. Reminded me of that mind-blowing sequence in The Galaxy Being, the first episode of the (original, B&W) Outer Limits, when the radio station dude establishes contact with the alien scientist - and they just talk. They compare notes. They find gaps and common ground. Two (binary! Ha!) points of view, but there's an overlap there where something simultaneously larger and more beautiful begins to come into focus. Perhaps that's the imagination of the viewer, the observer, beginning to fill in blanks with their own leaps of insight. There has also to be room for symbolism, for artistry and sensory and imaginative perception. None of those things are separate from science. That's what I don't want gone in any pursuits of new systems of classification.
  5. Facts don't matter any more. Everything's a hoax!
  6. Look... Science. Mythology. What was that I was saying upthread? Two different things! Culturally related, especially in our minds!
  7. Pretty sure Mondas exploded in 1987, but that was the Whoniverse! Maybe there's one out there in the Kuiper belt - you know, motoring around, causing all manner of gravity wakes (etc).
  8. Like I say, I have no problem with Pluto being a dwarf planet. The discovery - confirmation? - of that big new planet beyond Neptune's orbit is tremendously exciting.
  9. Actually, you've both sort of missed my point, but I wrote the opening statement when tired, so it wasn't very clear, sorry. Should know better. I'm not saying you shouldn't change from an older system of classification to a newer, more logical one (Imperial to metric, sorta) and I'm not really bothered by Pluto's reclassification. What annoys me in the article above is the implicit elitism of the suggested overhaul which seeks to abandon the language and symbols of historical astronomy to promote a system "that focuses more on concepts and less on memorizing arbitrary celestial objects." While I concur that Earth clearly isn't the center of the universe, you can't just dismiss a cultural idea that has been in use since humans figured out the world was round (Shaquil O'Neill and his pals aside). The nine (or eight plus five dwarf) planets aren't arbitrary. They're cultural markers, buoys in the expansion of humankind's knowledge of the Solar System and its (and our) place in the universe. So, physics and new planetary definitions aside, all those names and celestial shapes have enormous symbolic significance. Astronomers don't own planets or even the terms employed by language to describe them. So Runyon can seek to reclassify them all he wants, but don't then complain about confusing the general public when you tell them that the Moon (hi, Luna) isn't a "moon" anymore but Earth's co-planet. The idea - not the physics or semantics - of families of planets and moons within the Solar System itself, is powerful. It allows an entry point to all those stellar concepts, and the imaginative interest that will bring about future generations of astronomers and cosmological scientists. Missing that very vital aspect of planets as cultural touchstones strikes me as out-of-touch. It even, dare I say, smacks of a vanity project. PS Sehlat Vie, i also like the term 'planetoid' - bit more elegant than 'dwarf planet' ... By all means reclassify, but please take enormous care not to confuse. Which, perhaps is a roundabout argument for better scientific education everywhere.
  10. So, I finally got to see Ex_Machina. Anyone who has read the HUMANS thread knows I have a fascination for the subject of AI, which is why I labelled this thread the way I did - I'll probably wander beyond the subject of the film itself. [Spoilers ahead if you haven't seen the movie.]
  11. Eh. Good taste, m'friend!
  12. ...I really didn't want to spoil it for you, so I'm glad you've seen it, now! I've literally kept schtumm for months! Yeah, Pete, after all he's been through - that was pretty devastating. Karen Voss has gone nuts - is it AI grief, or something more/worse? Phenomenal acting. I wondered if Hester wouldn't also take one of the leads down - it was gripping, fraught stuff. So many questions, but it was also a very satisfying dramatic journey and wrap-up. Where will they go from here? One thing is for sure, HUMANS doesn't shy away from showing all this stuff, from investigating all the dramatic outcomes, so yeah, it's going to be bananas all right! Apparently it's one of (UK) Channel 4's biggest shows - dunno whether that's true for AMC here, but I'm hoping like hell it does get that third season. It really, really deserves to. It is absolutely one of the best TV shows around.
  13. I love those Brit anthology flicks... I also loved Creepshow, stuff like that, that made a virtue of their shamelessly lurid pulp origins. And Horror spiced with comedy and social commentary is definitely a special skill. But I've never seen Tales from the Hood, so that has to go on the "Sehlat Vie Recommends" list - yes, there really is on in this household!
  14. It's not far off! And - Ha! It's true - given the human propensity for loving artifacts, the shell of a thing, we're more likely to lovingly polish them than break them. The holodeck idea is a good one - As VR tech improves, it will likely provide a lot of what WW proposes (if people want that. I don't). I think WW is a good show, there's more good than bad, and it's certainly worthy of the time it takes to watch it and to discuss it. The "investigation of story" and memory as consciousness is really interesting, but the show is also rolling around in the mud of its own pretentious set-up just a little too much. Whereas HUMANS' writers seem far more inquisitive in terms of exploring all manner of dramatic possibilities and curiosities - they're really asking a lot more questions and enjoying extrapolating all kinds of crazy possibilities from them. It just seems a lot more creative, less staid. And staged. And surely, the whole idea of creating AI in the first place, is that it's a creative enterprise, that it's potentially beautiful, that it'll enrich us, even help solve some of our existential problems... I hope it won't have to exist in the vacuum of a park whose sole purpose is so that super-rich immoral a$$holes can get their psychotic jollies.
  15. The Matrix - the original - was everything everyone says it was - a trendsetter, a watershed moment, a trailblazer. it seemed to come out of nowhere, fully formed. It was cool, it was new and exciting rather than the pedestrian plod of near-contemporary films (I'm looking at you, Phantom Menace). It was also one of the few SF films Mrs Bland loved, and she couldn't wait for the sequel. And sadly, for us, that's where the whole thing went off the boil. you can't ever hope to exactly recapture the moment a story becomes a phenomenon, but you absolutely can expand on it in unexpected directions. I call this Art of Giving People Something They Didn't Know They Wanted. The second Matrix film fell victim to its own PR. Where the first film seemed hungry to say something, the second and third films became so rapidly wrapped up in their own mythology, I think they scared off the more casual audience. They were convoluted and self-revering rather than absolute must-sees. Mrs Bland didn't even bother with the third film after the disappointment of the second. i did, but I didn't know what the hell was going on. The first film had all sorts of pseudo-spiritual guff, but it also had an intensity, a clarity and characters that propelled you through the whole adventure. Films 2 and 3 seem more about the visuals, rather than cool visuals in the service of the story and characters - what the hell was that rave sequence in the second film about? What dramatic service did it fulfill? The third film was even further removed from anything rooted in understandable. I have absolutely no desire to see a prequel whatsoever, and in fact, would actively avoid unless the word came back that it was as exceptional as the original.
  16. Social commentary, of a sort! I agree, horror/comedy isn't something that comes along very often (and works) any more. An American Werewolf in London is one of my all-time fave horror films - there's so many laughs in it that throw you off-balance. Get Out was completely dissimilar, but it also featured these moments where you'd laugh, feel discomfited by it, and that, in turn, would get you thinking. Which is absolutely the point of good social satire, which I think this film also was.
  17. Great review, Sehlat - very on point. forgot to mention I'd seen this too, and greatly enjoyed it.
  18. @Sehlat Vie Io9 agrees with us (link below). WARNING - potential spoilers! Do not read until you've seen tonight's season closer of HUMANS. http://io9.gizmodo.com/amcs-humans-is-exploring-all-the-good-robo-stuff-westwo-1793266840?utm_campaign=socialflow_io9_twitter&utm_source=io9_twitter&utm_medium=socialflow
  19. Yawn
  20. Many mediations upon possibilities we discuss on this thread: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/mar/19/yuval-harari-sapiens-readers-questions-lucy-prebble-arianna-huffington-future-of-humanity I cannot recommend Yuval Noah Harari's book SAPIENS too highly. A genuine must-read. I haven't yet read the follow-up, Homo Deus, but hopefully there's still time before we become the Borg.
  21. I actually think this is a separate topic, and an interesting one. Fantasy violence - because that's what superhero violence is - occurs in a many lauded escapist movies from Star Wars to James Bond to GotG and every superhero film you'd care to mention. I just saw Logan, and there's a lot of extreme death in that, much of it perpetrated by the nominal Hero (albeit with an R classification). Reason I'm responding to this is, I actually have the same problem as you, but with Deadpool. I'm not even sure whey I'm singling Deadpool out, but his deadly violence often comes with a quip. But then, so does James Bond's. Even the Doctor in Doctor Who has been known to joke after arranging the demise of an enemy. What makes them different? Perhaps it's time for the creation of a thread on this...? Agree. I could only greet that news with a muffled, "Awww, no!"
  22. Come across this and thought it was interesting. The fact that we only have human civilization as a comparison always makes me laugh. https://www.inverse.com/article/14957-drake-equation-revision-hugely-ups-odds-intelligent-extraterrestrial-life-exists
  23. Yep. Me too. That doesn't happen too often.
  24. Finally saw this. I hoped and suspected it was going to be good, and stayed away from all spoilers. Didn't expect to be blown away. What's so great about it is the way it subverts all the usual rules of cinematic superheroes, and puts a family relationship at the center - and the survival (or not) thereof. At first, I thought there were some pacing issues, but then it becomes clear that director James Mangold is just taking his time to set things up properly. He does that with care and clarity, playing them out, progressing the drama logically, choosing grit and precision over great ostentatious CGI setpieces. He picks his moments, both with action and emotion and it it all works incredibly well. He investigates several scenarios during the running time of the movie and he never lets his characters off the hook. After the last X-Men pic, this wasn't what I was expecting at all. In fact, I got far more than I hoped for. It's downbeat as hell, but Wolverine goes out the way he should, and it's both heroic and genuinely moving. (I can't be worried about his demise - he'll be resurrected. He's too valuable a character not to be. What matters here is how this incarnation of the character is dealt with, in this story, and I think it's perfect. Jackman goes out with honors.) Jackman and Stewart are as fine a double-act as you'd expect. Stephen Merchant - of all people! - is a tortured, appealing Caliban. Richard E Grant has that smug, self-assured, self-justifying villainy down to a T. But that kid playing X-23, Dafne Keen, turns in the most extraordinary performance I've seen from a child in decades. She's up there with Jodie Foster. I don't think that's a stretch. It was an amazingly layered character, who just kept on surprising me throughout the film. She not only held her own with Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart - Patrick Stewart! - she actually stole the limelight from them. Plaudits to Keen, her fellow cast members and Mangold for making this central relationship work so well. Best film in the cinematic superhero genre? Very different from 1978's Superman (which has always easily seen off so many pretenders to the throne in my personal pantheon), but I'd say this one cleaved to the spirit of the character in a similar way as that film did. Astonishingly good. Certainly an instant classic.