July 25, 2015
Never let it be said that Hollywood doesn't know how to beat a good idea into the ground. I gather that The Lego Movie was a surprise hit a few years ago, and everyone wants to play.
I haven't seen a movie in a theater since The Matrix and I don't remember the last Hollywood movie I saw in any format, but it's been years. It's apparent I haven't missed anything.
July 24, 2015
IO9 asks, "Could Life Have Emerged on Earth's Near Twin?"
Could it? Entirely possible. Right at the moment we don't know of anything that forbids it.
Has it? We have no idea and it will be a long time before we can find out.
Also, keep in mind that "life" and "tool-using life" are not synonyms. Life has existed on Earth for more than 3 billion years (IIRC it's actually been more than 4 billion), and for nearly all that time it was exclusively single cell.
Tool using life only appeared here a couple million years ago, a mere blink of the eye in geological terms. (Reasonably advanced tool users, by which I mean "metal users", only go back maybe four thousand years.)
Eventually someone is going to suggest beaming radio at this particular planet, and it can't hurt to do so. But the chance of it making any difference is painfully small.
July 18, 2015
Jules Bianchi died today. He was in a horrible accident last October in the Japan Grand Prix at Suzuka racetrack, and never woke up. In private email this afternoon, Wonderduck said, "It'll happen again. It may be 20 more years but it'll happen."
And he's right. They do the best they can to make racing safe, and perhaps that's why this is the first driver death since Senna died 21 years ago. But he's right: it'll happen again.
Thinking about that, it occurred to me that for some sports the risk is part of the attraction. We're not Romans attending the Gladitorial Games expecting to see men butchered; it's not like that. But the knowledge of the risk adds tension and interest. It's part of what makes us human. And as a result a lot of sports do in fact have an element of risk, in some cases quite a lot.
And this doesn't just attract the audience. It attracts the participants, too. Indeed some sports do not have audiences, such as "free climbing". That refers to people who climb rock faces without the benefit of any safety equipment: no ropes, no pitons, no nothing. If they make a mistake they fall and are crippled or killed. The degree of danger is entirely a function of what you're climbing, and some cases are preposterously perilous.
Traditionally Motocross is considered the most dangerous sport for participants, not so much because of the risk of dying as because of the amount of cumulative damage it does to the riders over the course of a career. They're doing things to their body routinely that we are not designed to have done to us. (At least it was traditional when I was younger. Now I'd have to vote for bull-riding.)
High speed motorcycle racing on a track give me the willies. If a race car driver loses it in a corner, well, he's inside a safety cage and has lots of equipment in there for purposes of keeping him alive in the resulting crash. But if a motorcycle rider loses it, he's right there out in the open. The only thing between him and the ground is his suit, and that won't keep him from breaking his neck if he starts to roll.
And it does happen. Not every race, not necessarily even every year. But it does happen. The people participating know this -- and for a lot of them it's (a small) part of the attraction.
Don't ask me to explain it because I can't. Maybe it's the same thing that makes people ride roller coasters and watch horror movies. (Neither of which I do.) It's a danger rush, and for those actively risking life and health it's probably an even bigger rush.
But it's real, and it's part of the sport. If car racing was perfectly safe it probably wouldn't be as popular, either with the audience or with the drivers. No one wants to watch a driver die, but part of the attraction is the knowledge that it could happen.
Which doesn't change the fact that it's a tragedy when someone finally dies.
July 17, 2015
Oregon State University (from which I dropped out in 1975) is not one of the ones you think of when trying to name great universities responsible for great advances.
They don't even have a good football program. U of O fielded a great team last year, but OSU is traditionally at the bottom of the Pac 10 (or is it 12 now? or 14?)
But once in a while OSU gets it right. They have one of the best Oceanography departments in the world, and those guys just found an edible seaweed that tastes like bacon!
So now all the vegans can eat BLT's without meat.
July 16, 2015
Why in hell is a recruitment center for the US Marines designated as a "gun free zone"?
Today four US Marines in Tennessee paid for that with their lives. A young man named Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, who was born in Kuwait, shot up an Army recruiting center and then a Marine recruitment center and then himself died.
Not yet clear if he killed himself or was shot by police. What we know for certain is that he wasn't shot by the Marines because they didn't have any guns.
As always, "gun free zone" means "targets who can't shoot back". mutter...
UPDATE: This is entirely too reminiscent of the 2009 Ft. Hood shooting. Which was even more egregious: why is an Army base designated as a gun-free zone?
I think every soldier should be required to wear a loaded sidearm at all times when in uniform, whether on a base or not. (Unless they're carrying an even heavier weapon.) If we don't trust them with guns, why in hell do we even have a military?
UPDATE: "We will treat this as a terrorism investigation until it can be determined that it was not.” Well, at least that is progress. Used to be they'd deny it was terrorism until it became blatantly obvious that it was.
But maybe it's just that when the attacker is named Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez we've already crossed the "blatantly obvious" threshold...
July 14, 2015
A map of Pluto showed that the names of underworld denizens have been informally associated with the dwarf planet's whale-shaped feature and other dark spots along the equator. The "whale" is nicknamed Cthulhu, after the dark god from H.P. Lovecraft's horror stories. Another spot is called Balrog, after the fiery demon from J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Other spots are labeled Meng-p'o, Krun, Ala, Vucub-Came and Hun-Came — after underworld figures from Chinese and Maya mythology as well as Mandaean and Nigerian Igbo beliefs.
July 06, 2015
30,000 rubber ducks in a dump truck! (shudder)
And then they escaped!!!
June 24, 2015
Dzokhar Tsarnaev has been sentenced to death. And maybe, in 20 or 25 years, or 50 if we're still executing people by then, he might get the needle. Or the rope. Or face a firing squad. Or get vaporized by an antimatter beam. Or whatever contemporary fashion dictates.
Assuming capital punishment hasn't been banned outright. Again.
My biggest complaint about the current practice of capital punishment in the US is that the process is entirely too inefficient and too long. The appeal process should be expedited -- and limited -- so that it ends in a reasonable amount of time.
June 16, 2015
Rule #1: Treat all guns as if they are loaded.
"Alcohol was involved."
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