Saturday, June 28, 2014 07:45 AM
Archduke Franz Ferdinand
of Austro-Hungaria (1863-1914)
On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the presumptuous heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was assassinated by a Serbian militant named Gavrilo Princip. This lead to a chain of events that ignited the powder keg of European mutual defensive pacts and triggered the first World War.
And war was never the same again.
Horses were replaced with mechanized, armored tanks for the first time. Radio was used to triangulate artillery bombardment without a direct line of sight. Land mines halted enemy advances. Air planes patrolled the skies for the first time and dropped bombs and rained machine gun fire onto soldiers. Chemical and biological weapons were deployed for the first time with horrendous results. War stopped being the close, personal, visceral evil that it had been since the beginnings of human history, and it became distant and impersonal. Armies could fight each other from a distance through crosshairs and scopes. War could be waged with bombs and machines at a global level with industrial killing efficiency.
When the dust had settled and peace had come, the nations of the earth were so horrified with what had transpired, that they declared this "the war to end all wars".
They were wrong... [More]
Edge of Tomorrow mimics video game respawning.
Video game adaptations have generally been pretty awful. Edge of Tomorrow isn't based on a video game (it's actually based on a Japanese novel), but it manages to feel more like a video game than any game-based movie that I've ever seen, while still providing an interesting and fun narrative built upon a unique time-travel premise.
The movie takes place in a present-day earth that has been invaded by hostile aliens, slowly but steadily consuming the cities of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and the combined forces of earth's nations can't slow them down. William Cage (Tom Cruise) is ordered into active combat in a surprise assault against the aliens, despite being a propaganda officer rather than an actual soldier. During the assault, the human soldiers are ambushed and slaughtered, but Cage manages to kill an alien only to be boiled alive by the alien's acidic blood. However, Cage gains the alien's ability to go back in time to reset the day after he dies. So when Cage dies, he immediately wakes up back at the army base just prior to the invasion to start the day over again.
Cage gets stuck in a "Groundhog Day" cycle, constantly reliving the same failed invasion over and over again. He tries to change the outcome, but plays such an insignificant role in the grand scheme of things that his efforts are all in vain, and he must repeatedly experience the invasion until he has effectively memorized every event. In each repeat cycle, he gets a little bit better at staying alive, just like a video gamer playing a trial-and-error level in an old-school video game (think Castlevania, Contra, Ninja Gaiden, or the more recent Demon's Souls). He learns the location of every alien, every mortar shell, every landmine, every piece of flying debris, until he can essentially walk through the invasion with his eyes closed either avoiding or eliminating threats with virtually no effort.
As a gamer, it was very interesting for me to watch a film narrative that is completely based around one of gaming's central conceits: respawning after a character dies... [More]
Cover of Uncanny X-Men #141:
Days of Future Past.
So, what's the deal with the "Days of Future Past" X-Men story, anyway? Sure, it's a great storyline, but other comics also have similarly great storylines. Yet, I can't think of any other comic story that is treated with as much reverence as this particular one. No other comic book story that I can think of has been directly adapted as often as this one. Not "The Night Gwen Stacy Died", not "The Death of Superman". These comic stories have been reference in numerous media, particularly Gwen Stacy's death, but rarely are they adapted. But I've yet to see an incarnation of X-Men that does not include a version of the "Days of Future Past" storyline. It's been featured in multiple animated series, video games, and novelizations.
Of course, all of the various retellings of this story take their own creative liberties, and the new movie from 20th Century Fox is no exception.
This film is designed to be a sequel to both the First Class and Last Stand movies in the X-Men franchise. I was kind of surprised that the studio took this particular approach, since there were some nagging inconsistencies and continuity issues with the two timelines. But I guess Hollywood never cares as much about continuity as the nerdy fanboys do... Fortunately, these continuity issues don't come up or interfere with this film.
In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed this film. The creative liberties were generally positive, and the combination of the two timelines actually works surprisingly well. I wasn't terribly thrilled with the depressed, brooding depiction of the younger Xavier, but I don't know enough about the character's comic book history to know whether this is anachronistic, and it definitely wasn't to the movie's detriment. [More]
16-year longsnapper Patrick Mannelly has retired.
The Chicago Bears have lost a lot of veteran leaders and stars this past couple seasons since Marc Trestman took over as head coach. I wasn't terribly surprised when Brian Urlacher became a free agent and retired, although I was extremely disappointed that he would not be back in a Bears' uniform. Earlier this offseason, return specialist Devin Hester was released and signed with the Atlanta Falcons. Hester was one of the most electric players in the league in his prime, and he was a huge factor in making me watch football (and specifically the Bears) on a more regular basis. These guys were probably my two favorite players, and neither of them is a Bear anymore.
And now, yet another elite veteran leader has departed from the team. 16-year veteran longsnapper Patrick Mannelly has retired.
Longsnappers are unheralded players. You won't find any action figures or jerseys for Mannelly in sporting goods stores, nor would you even find Mannelly in the rosters of some Madden NFL video game (that I can recall); although, I would always add him to my roster every year before starting a franchise. But whether he's a household name or not, Mannelly was a cornerstone of the Chicago Bears' special teams for 16 years! His precision has been a key factor to the success of the special teams unit, which has been widely considered an elite unit during Lovie Smith's era. In his 2006 Pro Bowl acceptance speech, kicker Robbie Gould praised Mannelly specifically for his role in Gould's kicking success (Gould is currently one of the most accurate field goal kickers in NFL history).
Patrick Mannelly practicing longsnapping with holder/punter Adam Podlesh and placekicker Robbie Gould.
Mannelly had suffered from injuries the past few seasons, but when he was playing, he was as good as perfect... [More]
Concept of the IXS Enterprise
Recently, a NASA physicist Harold G. White made headlines in the science and technology media by showcasing a 3-D artist's render of a "real life" warp drive starship (affectionately named the "I.X.S. Enterprise" - not sure what the "I.X.S." stands for). The starship model poposed is based on mathametical calculations that suggest that the Alcubierre warp drive could actually work!
In the 1990's, theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre, mathematically demonstrated that a warp field could be created which could contract the space ahead of an object and expand the space behind said object, allowing the warping of space to effectively propel the object faster than the speed of light. The theory does not violate the "cosmic speed limit" imposed by relativity, since the object isn't being accelerated past the speed of light. Instead, the space around it is being manipulated to reduce the distance between the source and the destination by taking advantage of the fact that space itself is permeable and its motion is not constrained to the cosmic speed limit. Best of all: astronauts inside such a ship would not be subject to relativistic time dilation effects. A one-year trip for the astronauts would also be only one year for the people of earth!
One of Matt Jefferies' original concepts for Star Trek's starship Enterprise.
Alcubierre freely admitted that his ideas were inspired by concepts from Star Trek, and considering that no similar theory of warp propulsion existed at the time of Star Trek, the concept and designs of the show are surprisingly prophetic. Alcubierre's models were met with early excitement when they were first proposed, but examinations by other physicists exposed certain flaws that made the effect impractical for human space exploration and travel:
- The drive would require a tremendous amount of energy ranging from the equivalent of the total mass of Jupiter to the more mass than is contained in the observable universe! This, by itself, made the theory a non-starter.
- The drive also may not be steerable or controllable from within the ship.
- Also, there were concerns that a build-up of particles along the front of the bubble during travel would be shot forward when the drive slows down or stops, potentially destroying anything in its path (including the destination, whether it be a planet, another ship, or a space station).
- There were also concerns about whether Hawking radiation inside the bubble would destabilize the bubble and/or kill the crew.
But that hasn't stopped physicists from thinking about the possibility... [More]
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