Monday, December 7, 2009

The "Climategate" er....Thing

Recently, a large cache of e-mails and computer code was stolen from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia and published on the web. After a flurry of quote-mining, right-wing pundits have been quick to seize upon a handful of messages as a "smoking gun" proving the existence a left-wing conspiracy to promote an Anthropogenic Climate Change hoax. Of course, the reality of the situation is that the stolen data indicates nothing of the kind....



As for the hackers' claims that climate researchers are keeping data to themselves that should be made public, this is also far from the case. Dig through all the raw data you like. It is all out there....

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Magic Highway USA

Once upon a time, people envisioned the future with bold optimism, and nobody presented  such visions of the future better than Disney. Check out this film from 1958 exploring the highways of the future. It is quite fascinating to consider which of the predictions have come true (even if not in the way imagined), and which have not.

The big thing they missed, of course, is traffic jams.



Tip o' the hat to Doc Parker for pointing this one out to me.



The Bohr-Einstein Debates - With Puppets?

The philosophical back-and-forth between Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein helped lay the foundation for Quantum Mechanics. And, make no mistake, Einstein's approach to the problem was far more nuanced than his famous "God does not play dice" line would suggest. His philosophical challenges to Bohr's strictly mathematical approach helped drive the science forward considerably.

So what better way to present this essential element of the history of science than with puppets?



The Bohr-Einstein Debates, With Puppets from Chad Orzel on Vimeo.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Uber-Cool Space Shuttle Footage: STS-129 Ascent Video Highlights


STS-129 Ascent Video Highlights from mike interbartolo on Vimeo.

Spectacular footage compiled by the Systems Engineering and Integration team at JSC. I especially like the video shot from the Solid Rocket Boosters during SRB separation and during splashdown.

I should point out that some of the music in the video is performed by the Celtic band Clandestine, which features some old friends of mine from my TRF days, E.J. Jones (best damned bagpipe player in North America), and vocalist/percussionist Emily Dugas.

(Hat-tip to Stacy Bakri for pointing this one out to me.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

3D Mandelbrot Sets (Sort Of)



Imagine the beauty and complexity of the Mandelbrot set in three dimensions. Fractal enthusiasts are indeed trying to tackle this, as evidenced by this page at skytopia.com.

Okay, technically these aren't true Mandelbrot sets, or even true fractals. Due to a quirk of quaternion mathematics, true fractals generated by quaternions can only exist in even-numbered dimensions of four or higher (quaternions being, by definition, four dimensional), hence these structures are referred to as pseudofractals. When attempting to measure the fractal dimension of pseudofractals, the calculation diverges. (At least this is what I've heard. I've not attempted the calculations myself, but should give it a stab.) Hmmm, space-time is 4D. Possibilities. A time-varying volumetric Mandelbrot set, anyone? Note the expanses of smooth sections. True fractals should be more...foamy.

For something closer to the real McCoy, there are always 3D cross-sections of 4D quaternion Julia sets, discussed here and here.


A basic overview of the mathematics of higher-dimensional fractals can be found here. For a little more depth, read this and this.

I Can't Believe I Totally Missed RH Day!

Yesterday was RH Day, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Riemann Hypothesis with a series of lectures world-wide. In conjunction with this, the American Institute of Mathematics (AIM) has publish the AIM Problem Lists, listings of some of the most important outstanding problems in mathematics, which of course includes proving the Riemann Hypothesis.

Proving or disproving the Riemann Hypothesis is widely regarded as the Holy Grail of mathematics. In 1900, the legendary mathematician David Hilbert listed it as being among the most important unsolved problems in modern mathematics. Last year, DARPA included it in its list of 23 Mathematical Challenges. Settling the issue of the Riemann Hypothesis is also among the Clay Mathematics Institute's Millennium Problems.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Stupidity on Parade VIII



To paraphrase a line from a recent episode of "The Guild," there is so much FAIL in that video that I don't even know where to begin. This is a clip of "Dr." Charlene Warner, talking about the "physics of homeopathy," as if homeopathy has anything to do with reality. This is the sort of garbled nonsense that results when pseudoscientists try to use real science to support their woo. This person has absolutely NO clue what she is babbling about. If the stupidity density in her vicinity gets any higher, she runs a risk of collapsing into a singularity, but it will at least be interesting to have a chance to observe the production of Hawking radiation up close...

The Latest Song Stuck in My Head

"Voodoo Child" performed by the Rogue Traders, written by Elvis Costello (well, he wrote a riff sampled in the song), James Ash, and Steve Davis, not to be confused with the song "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" by the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Doctor Who fans will remember this as the song playing when the Master unleashed the Toclafane on the Earth in the Episode "The Sound of Drums." (Yes, I'm a nerd. What's your point?)

It is interesting to note that lead singer Natalie Bassingthwaighte (who has since left the band) also appeared in the Australian soap opera "Neighbors." Her appearance was disguised in this video so that the song would be judged on its own merits rather than from a celebrity halo effect. Other notable actors to have appeared in "Neighbors" include Russell Crow, Kylie Minogue, and Dichen Lachman (who is currently appearing in Joss Whedon's "Dollhouse" as Sierra).

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Making Lilypond work with TeXShop

I have a confession to make. I have a secret desire to someday write a book on music theory, if only to have the opportunity to start the chapter on key signatures with a quote from Harry Chapin:

Those of you who are musically inclined will note that we have switched to a minor key, which of course means that the plot is about to thicken.

But, hey, how to pull this off? Typesetting a book that would contain equations describing the properties of sound is tough. The best tool for that would be LaTeX (with which I am fond of using the TeXShop front-end). And music engraving is even tougher. Quite frankly, most computer-generated music notation is of very poor quality. Fortunately there is Lilypond, which ostensibly can be made to work with TeXShop.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Pirates, keep an eye on your parrots!

Converting iPhone Voicemails to Custom Ringtones

Recently, I received a voicemail from a friend that was so endearing that I not only wanted to preserve it, but I wanted to turn it into a custom ringtone and associate it with the Contact for that person.  Unfortunately, the iPhone provides no straightforward mechanism for doing this.

Friday, October 23, 2009

DSCOVR May Fly After All

Paid for, built, and grounded by the Bush Administration to gather dust in a Maryland warehouse, DSCOVR may get off the ground after all.  Designed to sit at the L1 Lagrange point between the Earth and the Sun in order to measure the Earth's albedo, the Deep Space Climate Observatory has the potential to settle the climate change debate once and for all. Now Congress has apropriated $9 million to start the process of refurbishing the probe in order to get it fit to launch again.

Friday, October 9, 2009

This is why Alton Brown rocks

On the Jimmy Fallon show, A.B. demonstrates a novel approach to making smoothies. It involves powertools and a fire extinguisher....



Thursday, October 1, 2009

Denial of Reality

Skepticism is a good, healthy thing. It is a key component of rational empiricism, the bedrock of the scientific method, which in turn is the only "way of understanding the world" which has a proven track record of actually working. Skepticism is a powerful tool for avoiding deception, especially self-deception. I love skepticism, and feel that the world would be a much better place if more people employed it. By all means, challenge assumptions. Challenge the status quo. Employ critical thinking. Use the large cluster of neurons between your ears. Just make sure you have the facts to back it up.

That said, it should come as no surprise that too much of a good thing can be bad. To be a skeptic in the face of overwhelming evidence (with absolutely no contradictory evidence) is simply being obstinate. It is even worse when such stubborn skepticism is rooted in nothing more than ideology.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Play With Your Neurons

http://www.neave.com/strobe/

Go ahead. I dare ya. It is tons of fun. Just don't operate any heavy machinery for a while....

Felicia Day: Do You Wanna Date My Avatar?

Okay, I admit it. Ever since I saw Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, I've had a crush on Felicia Day. I find beauty and intelligence to be an irresistible combination.

Wired.com has an interview with her, primarily discussing her online series, The Guild. And check out the promo below for the upcoming season of that web series. It is a nerd's delight...

(Hmmm. Wonder what server she is on in WoW?)


Saturday, September 19, 2009

Stupidity on Parade VII

I've heard a lot of idiotic things ooze out of Rick Perry's mouth, but this one is likely to blow away his chances for re-election by demonstrating just how out of touch he is with the woes faced by ordinary folks. Good riddance.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Dr. Norman Borlaug, 1914-2009

Sad news. Dr. Norman Borlaug has passed away at the age of 93.

"Who?" you might very well ask. Penn & Teller explain very nicely in the following clip:

Monday, September 7, 2009

"Agora" Trailer

"Agora" tells the story of Hypatia of Alexandria, a philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer, and arguably the most extraordinary woman of the ancient world, who was murdered by a mob of Christians in 415 CE. It will be interesting to see how faithful this film ends up being to history.

Spectacular Shots of ISS from the Ground

Phil Plait's Bad Astronomy blog highlights some spectacular images of the International Space Station captured by astrophotographer Ralf Vandebergh with a manually tracked 10" telescope. (Yep, I said "manually tracked." No stepper motor.)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Teaser trailer for "Avatar"

It won't be formally unveiled until tomorrow, but the teaser trailer for James Cameron's upcoming "Avatar" can be seen here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Watch "Ghostbusters" online for free this week!

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the release of the film, Sony and YouTube have teamed up to stream "GhostBusters" for free all this week. Weeee...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Alive in Joburg"

This short film by Neill Blomkamp formed the basis for his upcoming feature, District 9.



Stupidity on Parade VI

A recent editorial on health care reform in Investor's Business Daily contained the following little nugget:

"People such as scientist Stephen Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless."
It seems that the writer of this editorial was blissfully unaware that Professor Hawking is in fact a British citizen. He was born in Oxford, grew up in London, and is currently the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, a chair once held by Sir Isaac Newton.

And the medical treatments for his ALS are provided by the UK's National Health Service.

In responce to this bit of, well, uninformed tripe, Professor Hawking said the following (of course through his speech synthesizer, which lacks an English accent and thus might be considered the source of IBD's, er, confusion):

"I wouldn't be here today if it were not for the NHS. I have received a large amount of high-quality treatment without which I would not have survived."
The IBD article has since been stripped of the Hawking reference. More about this in articles at the Guardian, the Daily Mail, the Register, and the Telegraph.

Of course, this is all part of a larger debate about health care reform in the United States. There are certainly things to be concerned about in the proposed reforms, but rational debate and discussion about them is being drowned out by vacuous and uninformed screaming about things that are not even part of what is being proposed. The "deathers" like Sarah Palin who carry on about mythical "Obama Death Panels" and falsehoods about people being forced to drop the insurance they currently have and like are starting to make the "birther" nutjobs look relatively sane. Conservative talking heads like Limbaugh, Beck, and Malkin spout the lies, their listeners and viewers naively take it on faith that they are being told the truth, go out to town hall meetings with elected officials and vent their anger. Sadly, the most susceptible targets for this misinformation campaign are the elderly, who are being falsely told, point blank, explicitly, that Obama's proposed reforms will kill them!

This isn't civil political discourse. This is a one-sided screaming match.

(FYI: For an interesting glimpse into what is wrong with our current system, take a look here.)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Jack Dagger on the Tonight Show


Last night, an acquaintance of mine (by way of the Buccaneer's Beach Bash) appeared on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brian and showed Conan how to throw knives and axes.

In the past, he has tutored David Boreanaz in knife throwing for an episode of Bones, and has also appeared in an episode of Monk.

He fibs a bit at the beginning. "Jack Dagger" is not his real name. Ladies and gents, meet Mr. Todd Abrams....




Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Stupidity on Parade V


It seems that Bill O'Reilly has absolutely no grasp of basic mathematics, not that this is a big shock....


For some bizarre reason, comprehensible only to himself, he seems to think that there is some strong correlation between population size and life expectancy, invisible to professional mathematicians and statisticians. Mark Chu-Carroll over at the "Good Math, Bad Math" blog sets the record straight quite nicely.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Alice in Wonderland Trailer

A teaser for Tim Burton's version of Alice in Wonderland is out, and it looks quite promising. This project is certainly an ideal vehicle for Burton's skewed cinematic asthetic, and Johnny Depp seems quite at home as the Mad Hatter. (Is it just me, or was Johnny Depp born to play over-the-top characters in tons of makeup and outlandish wardrobes?)



Thursday, July 23, 2009

Stupidity on Parade IV


The stupid...it BURNS! Must be the metal oxide salts...




Rainbows didn't appear in sprinklers twenty years ago? Right.... Outta the gene pool, lady!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Science of Apollo 11

Although the primary impetus behind the Apollo program was absurdly geopolitical (beating those pesky Commie Ruskies to the Moon), once we actually got to the Moon, science rightly took center stage. Wired.com has a nice article about this, but the best part is that it links to two historically relevant science resources:

This isn't dumbed-down pop-sci tripe. This is the real deal, and I'm loving it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Man on the Moon!" - Cronkite and Apollo 11

Forty years ago today, everyone on the planet who had access to a television was glued to it, watching grainy images of what is arguably the most significant milestone in the history of human civilization. President Kennedy's call for putting man on the moon had been fulfilled. As the world watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin bound about the surface of the Moon, most Americans heard this momentous event summed up by a voiceover of four simple words from the CBS News anchorman:

"Man on the Moon!"

Those words were uttered by Walter Cronkite. The camera cut away to Cronkite as his professional demeanor slipped away in a tidal wave of joy and pride. He removed his glasses, and a huge grin swept across his face. For a moment, he was giddy and speechless. His viewers forgave him for that, for they were right there with him, just as they forgave him six years earlier for shedding tears while announcing the death of JFK.

After all, he was "Uncle Walter," a man whom we invited into our homes every evening to find out what was happening in the world. In an age before 24 hours cable news channels and the Internet, he was America's town crier. Not just a talking head who read the news, he was an actual journalist. On D-Day, he landed behind enemy lines in a glider with Allied Troops, and flew on a bombing mission over Germany. He covered the Nuremberg Trials, the Cold War, the Korean War, the War in Vietnam, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the Watergate scandal, and the Iran Hostage Crisis. And his word was trusted.

His iconic sign-off, "That's the way it is," was a nightly pledge to his viewers that he would faithfully and objectively report the facts to the best of his ability. The only time that he allowed himself to deviate from this objectivity was a rare on-the-air editorial from 1968. Following the Tet Offensive, Cronkite journeyed to Vietnam to assess the state of the conflict. His conclusion was that the war was unwinnable, prompting President Lyndon B. Johnson to proclaim, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America." Weeks later, LBJ announced that he would not run for reelection. Such was the gravitas of Walter Cronkite.

So it was that when America watched the televised coverage of Apollo 11, most chose to watch Cronkite's coverage. Since the earliest days of the Space Program, he had eagerly covered it, with all the wonder and curiosity of a child. He loved the Space Program, and made no effort to hide it (while still somehow maintaining a sense of journalistic objectivity). It is no small wonder that watching the glory that was Apollo 11 choked him up for a while, right along with his viewers. And it is all the more tragic that he is no longer with us to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

"We came in peace, for all Mankind." Uncle Walter said so.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bill Gates did something good!

The folks of Microsoft's Tuva Project have made available videos of a series of lectures by one of my personal heroes, the late physicist Richard Feynman. *yeah*

The downside: it requires Silverlight. *boo*

Speaking of personal heroes, here is a video of another (no Silverlight required): the last television interview with the late Carl Sagan discussing his book, The Demon-Haunted World:


Thursday, July 9, 2009

Stupidity on Parade III



Wow. I've always thought that the Netherlands might be the kind of place where I might want to live. Now I'm sure. Yeah for "militant secularism." That, and the fact that the expected high temperature here in Austin, TX today is 106°F, whereas the temperature in Amsterdam right now is 61°F. If only I could telecommute from there.

For the record, contrary to what the reporter says, polygamy is NOT legal in the Netherlands, and the bit about a "suicide pill" is complete bollocks. What do you expect? This is Fox News we're talking about, after all. Facts have never really been of interest to them.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Say it isn't so....

I was quite dismayed to learn today that former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez will be teaching a political science course at my alma mater this fall. Until today, I was quite proud to be a Tech graduate. That is no longer the case. How can I take pride in being associated with an institution which hires as an instructor a man who has brought shame to this nation by aiding and abetting war criminals and subverting the Constitution?

This is a sad day for Red Raiders everywhere.

Codex Sinaiticus

A digitized version of the Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest known version of the Christian Bible, is now available online. It is a fascinating glimps into the history of the text. For example, the 4th century Codex Sinaiticus does not include Mark 16:9-20, which most biblical scholars regard as a later interpolation. The Codex also includes several books which were later excluded from the official canon.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Collection of Spectacular Space Images


Some of these are a bit old, but well worth seeing:



Friday, July 3, 2009

Omega-sub-b Baryons observed at Fermilab's Tevatron


Fermilab's CDF team have announced the observation of Ωb , a baryon consisting of two strange quarks and one bottom quark (s-s-b). The existence of this particle was predicted by the Standard Model. However, the mass measurements for this particle are in conflict with results produced by CDF's sister detector, DZero, which had raised the possibility of previously unknown physics possibly in conflict with the Standard Model. Either way, it is exciting. A preprint of the team's Phys. Rev. D. submission is available at arxiv.org.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Traditional Approach to Wood Finishing

The wood finishing section of any home improvement center is chock full of easy to apply combination stains and finishes which go on in just one or two coats. Unfortunately, they often contain ingredients which are quite toxic and not exactly "green," such as polyurethane or Verathane. On a recent episode of "The New Yankee Workshop" (actually a re-run of an older episode), a more traditional finishing method was demonstrated. Although it takes considerably longer and more effort, the components are of much lower toxicity (although appropriate safety precautions should still be taken with them - its not like you should drink shellac or inhale the vapors), and the result is a stunningly beautiful finish. Here are the steps:

1) Sand to 220 grit
2) Apply boiled linseed oil thinned with mineral spirits, using a cotton cloth. Wipe excess and let dry for a couple of days. This will bring out the richness of the wood color and grain.
3) Apply shellac (orange shellac, for example) as a protective topcoat. 10-12 thin coats. Dry time between coats is a couple of hours for thin shellac, overnight for thick.
4) Polish out brush marks and dust with 400 grit and 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper.
5) Polish with 0000 ("four aught") steel wool
6) Apply a thin coat of paste wax (this will temporarily dull the finish), allow it to dry according to the manufacturer's instructions, then buff out with a cotton cloth to restore the gloss. One or two additional coats can be applied if desired.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

My Work Blog

You may have noticed that I haven't posted any Exchange or PowerShell items on this blog lately. That's because I've taken to doing this over on my "official" UT-hosted work blog at http://blogs.utexas.edu/glenmark/ .

Friday, June 12, 2009

Misc. Goodies

Apollo 11 Owners’ Workshop Manual coverFirst up, a must-have for any technogeek's home library: Apollo 11 Owners' Workshop Manual from Haynes Press. Now I can finally figure out why the engines on the dusty old LEM in my garage won't fire up on cold mornings. (Of course, here in central Texas, we only get cold mornings a few days out of each year. This time of year, I really start to miss those days.)

Next up, an example of what happens when technogeeks have too much time on their hands: "A Unified Quantum Theory of the Sexual Interaction." This is a truly hysterical read, at least for anyone who has ever studied quantum mechanics. The author fails, however, to cover scenarios where couplings between the |M> and |F> states potentially lead to the emission of child particles, with a probability P(t) which varies sinusoidally over a period of 28 days. Of course, this would necessitate the inclusion of creation and annihilation operators, which means that the model would have to be re-formulated as a Quantum Field Theory. The author also fails to model the field emitted by some |M> states which repulses |F> states with a strength proportional to the |M> state's comprehension of this admittedly arcane type of humor.

On a more serious note, SpringerLink has a paper by T. Ryan Gregory of the University of Guelph in Ontario entitled "Understanding Natural Selection: Essential Concepts and Common Misconceptions." This paper should be required reading for anyone engaging in the YEC/ID vs. TOE debate, especially since the vast majority of arguments put forth by YEC/ID proponents tend to be predicated upon rather outlandish misconceptions about how evolution and natural selection actually work. As someone who hasn't actually taken a biology class since high school (it wasn't required in my undergraduate physics curriculum), I found it to be an illuminating read.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Is it "Trek?"

Last week, I watched the new "Star Trek" film (in IMAX, no less).  Yes, it is a fun movie.  It is a thrill ride that will appeal broadly to non-Trekkers, and has enough tips of the hat to the original to appeal to the core fandom (right down to a red-shirt crewman inevitably getting killed), and I encourage anyone to see it.  But there were things about it that bugged me.

J.J. Abrams deftly took an all-too-overused sci-fi conceit, time travel, and used it with great effect to literally reboot the moribund franchise, establishing quite clearly that what is unfolding on screen is literally a pristine, new timeline, where established canon for anything subsequent to the birth of James Tiberius Kirk is officially out the window.  Anything goes.  Assumptions about what must take place for the sake of continuity with Trek of days gone by no longer apply.  Forget about Spock ever taking a trip to Vulcan to calm his raging hormones in "Amok Time." Not going to happen. That was the life of Spock Prime.  The new Spock will have to sort things out his own way, potentially with the help of a certain Communications Officer.

No, I can't say that turning the snow globe of Trekdom canon over and giving it a good shake is what bothers me about this film.  I think my issue is something more aesthetic.  I can overlook the overused lens flares, and the shaky camera work, both of which were exacerbated by the IMAX format. I don't even mind the revamped production design aesthetic.  The uniforms were true to the original, while being updated enough to not look cheesy. The overall look of the ship, well, I'll get used to it, even though the nacelles and secondary hull just look wrong.  I even kind of liked the fact that the shuttles used at Starfleet Academy looked worn and battered, covered with scrapes, dents, and peeling paint.  Let's face it, the Academy would get hand-me-downs from the rest of the fleet.  So, what is it that just doesn't sit right with me?

Oh, I'll just come right out and say it.  J.J. Abrams, what the hell were you thinking shooting the Engineering scenes in a fricking brewery?  Those scenes completely demolished willing suspension of disbelief.  A brewery in no way resembles the inside of a starship.  The walls and floors were made of concrete, for crying out loud, not to mention the fact that no engineer constructing a spacecraft would make such inefficient use of interior space.  Even a reproduction of the set from the original series, as cheesy as it was, would have been more believable.

It is a minor thing, I know.  So much about the film was so very well done, but every time that the scene cut to Engineering, I was left thinking "Is this Trek, or the opening credits of 'Laverne & Shirley?'"

On the next installment, please set aside some of the budget for a proper set, one that won't yank the audience out of the story.  Please.

Two Beautiful Astronomy Videos

The Bad Astronomy Blog at DiscoverMagazine.com has links to two beautiful astronomy-related videos.  The first is a trailer for a planetarium show that I would dearly love to see. On top of everything else, it is narrated by David Tennant.
The second is a time lapse exposure of the Milky Way rising in the night sky.  It is truly a majestic sight.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

BSG Alumni Invade CSI!

Tonight's episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, "A Space Oddity," not only deftly spoofs Star Trek and Trek fandom (especially its more hardcore elements--you know, the ones that embarrass the rest of us), but it also tips a hat to the gritty gestalt of Ronald D. Moore's re-envisioning of Battlestar Galactica, with a little insider help.

In the episode, a television producer is murdered after unveiling at a sci-fi convention a preview of his remake of a much-loved cult series, Astro Quest. There is no attempt to hide the fact that Astro Quest is supposed to refer to Star Trek, from costume and set design to a scene lifted almost directly from "Gamesters of Triskelion" (the same scene that South Park once parodied to perfection). The line "He's dead, Jim" even closes out the teaser, and there are several variants of McCoy's famous "I'm a doctor, not a ...."

But the episode really sparkles due to its nod to BSG's influence on the genre.  The preview of Astro Quest Redux is not well received by the audience of hardcore Questers.  It is dark, gritty, and the characters are clearly flawed individuals.  In the shots panning over the stunned convention audience, Grace Park (BSG's Boomer/Athena/#8) can clearly be seen, then Ronald D. Moore pops up, points an accusing finger at the producer and shouts "You suck!"  I almost fell out of my chair. Irony lives! To top it all off, Kate Vernon (BSG's Ellen Tigh) is a guest star on the episode.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

George Washington on Science

I've stumbled across some wonderful quotes from our first President regarding the importance of science.

Nor am I less persuaded that you will agree with me in opinion that there is nothing which can better deserve your patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.
From his last State of the Union Address in 1796:
The assembly to which I address myself is too enlightened not to be fully sensible how much a flourishing state of the arts and sciences contributes to national prosperity and reputation.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The State of the Economy



A few hours ago, the Senate passed the stimulus package 61-37, largely along party lines. It will now go to conference committee to reconcile it with the version passed by the House. Lest anyone underestimate the magnitude of our current economic woes, here is a rather chilling chart published on the Speaker of the House's blog:

For anyone who is buying into the currently-circulating conservative meme that it was World War II and not the New Deal that got us out of the Great Depression, take a look at this:

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sad News: R.I.P. Ricardo Montalban and Patrick McGoohan

  • Ricardo Montalban passed away today in Los Angeles at the age of 88. No matter how outlandish the role, whether as Captain Kirk's genetically-enhanced nemesis Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, Fantasy Island's enigmatic Mr. Roarke, or simply as a pitchman singing the praises of the "soft Corinthian leather" in the Chrysler Cordoba, Montalban always exuded class and panache.
  • Patrick McGoohan escaped this world yesterday, also in Los Angeles, at the age of 80. First rising to stardom as secret agent John Drake in Danger Man, he went on to create and star in the iconic series The Prisoner. He would later win two Emmy awards for appearances in Columbo, and his performance as Longshanks was a highlight of Braveheart. Be seeing you, No. 6.