Last night, the first episode of the reboot/sequel to Carl Sagan's acclaimed series Cosmos premiered on FOX and National Geographic Channel. I'd been anticipating this show since it was announced last year, as the original Cosmos is one of the best educational programs that has ever been produced. This show is hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, whose passion and charisma makes him an excellent communicator of scientific ideas (right up there with Bill Nye) and fitting successor to Sagan.
The new "cosmic calendar".
In this premiere episode, Tyson gives a brief tour of the solar system, recounts the story of Giordano Bruno, and introduces the viewer to Sagan's classic "cosmic calendar". The information presented in this episode is very high-level. I'm hoping that this is due to the introductory nature of this first episode, and that the remaining episodes will go into much greater depth and detail. However, I fear that the one-hour format will be too constraining for Tyson to provide any information of substance. Sagan's original series was made up of thirteen episodes each two hours long, and that format gave him the opportunity give more than just an introduction to a given topic, providing specific details on the evidences and experiments that lead to the discoveries he presented. Will Tyson have the time in later episodes to provide more information than one can get from the first paragraph of a Wikipedia article? I hope so. [More]
I came across this article on National Geographic's website about a new XBox Live Kinect game being released by NASA called Mars Rover Landing. The game allows players to control the descent of a digital version of the real-life Curiosity Rover that is planned to land on Mars on August 5th at 10:30 pm Pacific Daylight Time.
The game itself is pretty short and pretty simple. It's a free, educational app intended for kids, so it's kind of hard for me to judge. I actually found myself more interested in the brief documentary materials that were included in the game. There's a few descriptions of the mission, the rover itself, and a video overviewing the mission as a whole. It's not anything too terribly detailed or technical, but again, it's intended for kids. So if you're a mechanical engineer and want to know about the inner workings of the rover, then you're going to have to look somewhere else. [More]
Prometheus is a disaster of almost Phantom Menace proportions. Its script is a comedy of stupid that makes the Three Stooges look like Isaac Newton, Nikola Tesla, and Albert Einstein.
This movie lost me completely about 10 or 15 minutes in, when Noomi Rapace's and Logan Marshall-Green's crackpot archaeologist characters (Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Halloway, respectively) are explaining their mission to the newly-awakened crew of the Prometheus. They tell the crew (consisting predominantly of scientists) that they had discovered stone tablets all around the world that depict giant men pointing to a particular constellation in the sky, and that they believe that these tablets constitute an invitation from humanity's extra-terrestrial creators that they should visit them in space. They dismiss the possibility of coincidence by saying that a.) the art lines up exactly, and b.) the particular star cluster was too far away for any of those primitive cultures to have been able to see with the naked eye, and so aliens must have told them. The hypothesis itself doesn't upset me on its own. But when asked by a mohawked, punk geologist what actual evidence they have to believe that aliens had intelligently engineered life on earth, Shaw responds that she has none, but it is what she "chooses to believe".
These two crackpot archeologists' wild-ass hunch, thus became the basis for a trillion-dollar space expedition in which scientists and engineers were drafted into without even being told where they were going or what they were doing.
Now, if this silly setup had ended up being my only complaint with the movie, I'd let it pass, and Prometheus probably could have turned into an excellent science fiction (or space fantasy) movie. Unfortunately, Damon Lindelof's script is unbearably bad, and is completely dependent on every character (despite being scientists, engineers, and a hyper-intelligent andriod) being dumb as a rock. [More]
My dad and I drove up to Utah today (near Zion National Park) to try to get an optimal view of the solar eclipse. And boy did we have a good view!
I managed to snap the following pictures with my cell phone (by holding solar-filtered sunglasses up to the camera lense).
Full solar eclipse.
One ring to rule them all, One ring to find them,
One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
According to several sources, insiders have confirmed that Benedict Cumberbatch's character in J.J. Abrams' next Star Trek movie will be who everyone expected (but hoped it wouldn't) be: Khan Noonien Singh.
So it looks like we'll be seeing a pretty by-the-numbers space action movie with a singular villain.
Yep, looks like he's Khan...
This is disappointing for several reasons.
There's two ways to reboot something:
- Retell same stories with modernized style, effects. i.e. Casino Royale.
- Completely throw everything prior out and start from scratch. i.e. Batman Begins.
Star Trek under Abrams is trying to walk a fine line between the two. They tried retaining the original history by setting the reboot in a time-travel-induced alternate timeline (which was actually alternate before the time travel happened anyway). But they also wanted to separate themselves from the original canon as much as possible, to the extent that they fundamentally altered the development of the primary characters. Kirk grew up as an angsty delinquent without a role model father, and Spock had his home planet blown up and his species put on the verge of extinction. So they're not really the same characters, but they are shoe-horned into becoming the same characters because apparently Abrams favors “nature” almost exclusively over “nurture”. Oh, and Spock Prime told them how things are supposed to happen. So much for the Temporal Prime Directive. Or is it the regular Prime Directive since it's a parallel universe that is already developing independently? [More]