Tropic Thunder

After seeing plenty of sneak previews about this movie, I decided I had to see it.  I was not disappointed.

This folks, is the best movie of the 21st century.

This was the first time I spit my drink through my nose probably since Pulp Fiction.

Tropic Thunder delivers MANY lines that will be remembered for a long time.  Possibly one of the best lines, not coincidentally, is delivered by Tom Cruise and is taken directly from, you guessed it, Pulp Fiction.

But the absolute stealer of this show is Robert Downey Jr.  The lines Stiller gives him to work with are classics.

A lot was made by the mental health associations for mocking people with learning disabilities.  That does happen.  However, in the context of what’s happening, it’s appropriate.  And, it feeds Downey my favorite lines of the entire movie.  And, in context of the entirety of the movie, they should feel relieved.  Other groups I can think of who should be offended would include:

  • PETA
  • Vietnamese
  • whoever is supposed to be offended by child abuse
  • whoever is supposed to be offended by contributing to the delinquency of minors.
  • gays
  • anyone who is offended by the presence of Tom Cruise.
  • whoever liked Risky Business
  • whoever is offended by drug abuse
  • whoever is offended by excessive gore
  • whoever is offended by cannibalism
  • NAACP

The list just goes on and on.  Nothing is spared.  Toss in some big booms, lots of guns, some helicopters, a dose of midget wrestling/karate, and you’ve got the makings of a testosterone classic.  Toss in Matthew McConnaughey to keep the wives happy.  The only thing missing in this movie, was overt female nudity.  Given Jennifer Love Hewiit’s recent epiphony that she should have been naked for the last fifteen years, she wasted the perfect chance to unleash the regret she’s been bearing.  However, it just didn’t really matter all that much.  This movie played about every other card known to man, and pulled it off flawlessly.

I’m serious folks, this is the best movie of the last ten years to me.  It’s a classic.  I truly can not believe Ben Stiller had anything to do with this.  It’s just that good.

Drake’s theory and why man may never be the aliens on another planet

Dang, that long title is guaranteed to screw up some formatting.  But, it addresses a whole bunch of my posts very well.  What got this post going was a recently released article written by Ian O’Neill for Universe Today.  In it, he cites scientists who conclude:

It is highly improbable that humans will ever explore beyond the Solar System. This downbeat opinion comes from the Joint Propulsion Conference in Hartford, Connecticut, where future space propulsion challenges were discussed and debated. It is widely acknowledged that any form of interstellar travel would require huge advances in technology, but it would seem that the advances required are in the realms of science fiction and are not feasible. Using current technology would take tens of thousands of years, and even advanced concepts could take hundreds. But above all else, there is the question of fuel: How could a trip to Proxima Centauri be achieved if we’d need 100 times more energy than the entire planet currently generates?

Now, I have breached that topic here before.  Namely, the technology involved to travel with ease to other planets is profound by our standards today.  These scientists put it in even simpler context by basically saying it’s not there.  That no matter how powerful we make our thrust, it will still take hundreds, if not thousands of years to get there.  That’s been my point regarding UFO’s.  Why would they sacrifice the resources necessary, and the lives, to travel thousands of years to gut cows and taunt people in small towns? There’s just not been a logical argument to date made for UFO’s.

However, the assumption has always been made that the technology we need, as well as the aliens piloting UFO’s effortlessly throught the universe, is just not here yet.  We have the concepts down, we jsut haven’t mastered the technology.  One guy on the Universe Today post even puts the math there to assert it is feasible:

Essel Says:

August 20th, 2008 at 4:22 am

Very poorly researched article.

“According to Brice N. Cassenti, an associate professor with the Department of Engineering and Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, at least 100 times the total energy output of the entire world would be required for the voyage”

Assuming a cruising speed of c/10, the energy required to reach that speed would be 1/2 mv^2, a payload of 10 tonnes would need an energy of 1/2 X (10,000) x (3 X 10^8/10)^2 = 4.5 X 10^18 Joules. Earth consumes more than 6 X 10^20 Joules every year. That is 1/133 rd of energy consumption p.a.

Considering a total round trip of 85 years and two acceleration and deceleration phases. The energy required would be 4 X 4.5 X 10^18 joules over 85 years that would be 1/2833 times the consumption of earth energy during comparable time.

If we send a compact probe of 100 Kgs the requirement would come down by 100 times……

Simple huh?  I don’t have a clue about math at that level, so I’ll just take his word for it.  All he’s proving is the energy required i actually available, maybe.  Problem is, we have never figured a way to generate that much energy in a concentrated situation.  When, and if, we do, all our energy issues will have been solved.  Then, once we’ve solved all our energy issues, the issue of time has to be addressed.  The most popular theory is some type of warp drive.  In essence, shortening the distance between to points.  That comes from Star Trek.  It makes too much sense to ignore.  Only problem is no one has a clue, mechanically, how to make it happen.  The laws of physics simply prevent it from happening as we understand them now.  The problem, as I see it, is if you reach the speed of light, you become light.  Your atoms spray all over the place and your energy goes flying in all directions.   Just doesn’t sound too good to me.  So, we have to get around that pesky issue.  However, since the fastest we’re going now is about 50,000 mph, and light, in regards to warping, travels at 670,616,629 mph, we’ve got a long ways to go before we have to worry about that.  And when we do get to that point, it would only take about 4.2 years traveling at the speed of light.  And, if you got there without hitting anything at all, not even a grain of dust, at over 670 million miles per hour, you probably see something like this:

And nothing else.  We’ve been pointing our telescopes at Proxima for a long time.  If that trip proves fruitless, then the trip starts getting a lot longer real quick:

Proxima Centauri 4.2
Rigil Kentaurus 4.3
Barnard’s Star 6
Wolf 359 7.7
Luyten 726-8A 8.4
Luyten 726-8B 8.4
Sirius A 8.6
Sirius B 8.6
Ross 154 9.4
Ross 248 10.4
Ross 128 10.9
Luyten 789-6 11.2
Procyon A 11.4
Procyon B 11.4

Once you get past the closest 15, it starts jumping pretty dang quick.  Within a very brief span, you’ll easily be past 100 light years.  In a not too lengthy list, you’re past 1,000.  So even if you’re travelling at warp 10, you’re still talking, as I understand warping, decades, if not centuries at the speed of light.  My main issue with warping tho is what do you do with all the stuff between point A and point B?  Dodging comets and asteroids at fifty times the speed of light just sounds real dicey to me.

OK, so now you’ve figured how to get more energy than mankind has ever generated, you’ve figured out how to bend matter, you’ve figured out how to travel faster than mass is known to exist, and you’ve figured out how to dodge stuff while traveling billions of miles an hour.  The question then becomes, why would you even want to?  The plausible explanations have always been that Earth was dying and man would be looking for new places to live.  That seems plausible enough other than if Earth were truly in that dire a situation, I doubt the technology would be available to do it.  In simpler terms, that technology would be used to fix the problems here on Earth.  If you can do all that, you can fix the planet.  Or, man’s curiosity just keeps expanding and the desire to explore strange new worlds kicks in.  That would be about the only one I would buy off-hand, but the technology would have to be there and ready to use before man could put the concept to practice.  In other words, why would a person be interested, and willing to finance the development of the technology involved in inter-stellar travel other than to do inter-stellar travel?  We developed rockets not for space travel, but to bomb other countries.  Once the technology was developed to destroy ourselves, we put men on them and went to the moon.  Even after fifty years, most rockets are still intended to do others harm.  If someone developed the technology necessary to generate the energy necessary to travel at warp speed, who’s to say it wouldn’t be used for destructive purposes initially?  And, if it is, man won’t have the resources to use it for much else.  So, to say the least, man, with the mindset man has right now, isn’t mature enough to deal with the power necessary for inter-stellar travel.  When man does develop that maturity, we won’t be the same animal we are now.

A lot of sci-fi movies have pondered alternative means of transportation.  I think my personal favorite has to be from the movie Contact.

You got this huge magnetosphere and you drop someone into it while the turbines are spinning incredibly rapidly.  At that point, the pod is magically transported exactly where it was intended to go.  You never really know where it is she is, but she’s there.  Since it apparently distorts time as well, no one ever knows she was even gone.  Pretty cool huh?  All problems solved.  Distance becomes a non-issue entirely.  However, we’re not certain what exactly she goes to.  Even though she travels great distances, when she’s there she has no pod.  So, I’m not too sure this concept is too well thought out.  I’m not sure I want to get somewhere and have nothing when I get there.  So, as neat as this concept is, it’s not terribly useful.  Other than concept, most sci-fi just ignores all the issues of physics and just gives us inter-stellar travel with ease.

Bottom line, I tend to agree with the scientists who are skeptical of inter-stellar travel in man’s distant future.  Sure, technology has exploded in the last century, but it’s still bound by the very simple laws of physics.  None of those laws have been broken in any way.  They haven’t even changed.  The “next level” for science will be changing and breaking the current understanding of physics.  And, given man’s current fear, nay paranoia, over things he doesn’t understand, I don’t expect those laws of physics to be changed any time soon.

Underwater Volcanos don’t melt ice

That is a typical underwater volcano.  I love to watch them.  Something eerie looking, kinda alien.  So, I finally found a story that gives me the opportunity to show a video of one.  Here’s today’s story:

Volcanoes Erupt Beneath Arctic Ice

New evidence deep beneath the Arctic ice suggests a series of underwater volcanoes have erupted in violent explosions in the past decade.

Hidden 2.5 miles (4,000 meters) beneath the Arctic surface, the volcanoes are up to a mile (2,000 meters) in diameter and a few hundred yards tall. They formed along the Gakkel Ridge, a lengthy crack in the ocean crust where two rocky plates are spreading apart, pulling new melted rock to the surface……

Which, I read with special interest since CNN ran a poll about the story of the polar ice caps melting entirely this summer.  There has been quite a bit of media interest and speculation as to why the polar ice caps are melting.  Now, we had been through this scenario before.  Everything was melting in Greenland, and it was all man’s fault.  Until, that is, they figured out there was a large volcano underneath Greenland heating everything up.  Once they figured that out, Greenland hasn’t been mentioned since in the global warming debate and the polar ice caps immediately started melting.  Not one person thought to see if the same thing was happening at the North Pole as it was in Greenland.  Well, now that they have found that the same thing IS happening at the North Pole, this is what they figured out:

“We don’t believe the volcanoes had much effect on the overlying ice,” Reeves-Sohn told LiveScience, “but they seem to have had a major impact on the overlying water column.”

Now, I’m inclined to believe they don’t want to believe it has any effect on the overlying ice.  My limited science background does tell me that heat rises.  And, it also tells me volcanoes are very hot.  Now, granted these volcanoes are under a lot of water, that heat still has to go somewhere.   It just bugs me that although “scientists” are more than willing to research the connection of gases moving from continental US and photosynthesizing over the Arctic, thereby trapping the sun’s rays closer to earth and slightly warming the atmosphere by less than five degrees and thereby causing all of the ice at the North Pole to melt, they are unwilling apparently to explore the concept that a volcano releasing lava at 1,250 degrees directly below the ice would melt it.

Maybe it’s just me, but I would hope anyone reading these articles will scratch their heads as well.

My bet, in the not too distant future, someone is going to hypothesize that the extreme heat of those underwater volcanoes is contributing to the melting ice directly above them.

Duh.

Black Holes and Ice Ages

A team of Japanese astronomers using ESA’s XMM-Newton, along with NASA and Japanese X-ray satellites, has discovered that our galaxy’s central black hole let loose a powerful flare three centuries ago.

The article then goes on to do what articles, and most usually scientists, do in general.  They dig deeper and deeper into the why’s, what’s, and how’s of the black hole itself.  I’m not quite that curious as to the mechanics of a black hole.  They’re cool for sure, but exactly what sparks them to life and when they take naps doesn’t really pique my curiosity that much.  I’m more inclined to look at things like this in the manner of “what does that mean to me?”.  Possibly, it means nothing other than some cool mind provoking reading.  Sometimes, it leads to me putting two and two together.  How many times it’s actually four is not relevant, I just like connecting the dots.  In this case for example, something ELSE happened approximately three hundred years ago as well:

We experienced something called “The Little Ice Age“.  For some inexplicable reason, the Earth’s temperatures plummeted in regular fashion over several hundred years.  We really didn’t get over the Little Ice Age until either the late 19th century or early 20th century, depending on who you ask.  However, other things happened around that time as well.  The Sun was in it’s best cooling phase as well.  So, someone like me would have to wonder if the combination of a cooler Sun along with a blast from a black hole could trigger an ice age?  Others, of course, would insist because I question how much of an impact something other than man has on the Earth’s climate, I’m nuts.  Something happened about three to four hundred years ago to affect the Earth’s climate in a major way.  According to most, man was already causing global warming by burning everything he could get his hands on.  So, what cooled the Earth in a profound way?  Volcanoes?  The Solar Cycle?  A black hole?  An asteroid strike?  It certainly wasn’t Al Gore.

Greenland – The Poster Child for Global Warming

A LOT has been made of Greenland’s ice melting.  I mean, a LOT.  National Geographic ran an in-depth article about just how bad man has destroyed Greenland just about a year ago.  Some snippets to give you an idea just how bad it is.  The headline itself starts you off:

Global Warming: Greenland: When It’s Hot

And they don’t slow down from there:

Since Steffen established Swiss Camp 16 years ago, much has changed. Global warming has evolved from an obscure concern of environmentalists to a headline-grabbing motion picture–inspiring crisis of staggering proportions. Due to something called the polar amplification effect, Greenland is heating up at an exponential rate and has become a kind of barometer for the rest of the planet. What happens here in the next ten years will answer key questions about how much the Earth will warm in the next hundred. That is why there were more scientists out on the ice this year than ever before—the United States’ National Science Foundation alone helped fund 144 researchers, three times as many as in 2000. They’re all scrambling to track the tremendous changes while working against the narrowing window between winter storms and a melt season that turns the cap into a slush field mined with scientist-swallowing crevasses.

Things are so bad in Greenland that people like Robert Roy Britt of Livescience use it as the ultimate justifcation of how stupid people are who question how much we actually know about what is going on.  He has no doubt whatsoever that the warming permafrost in Greenland is all man’s fault.

Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth cites Greenland as a prime example of what’s going on.  A lot of people just jumped on his bandwagon.  Greenland was the poster boy for everything from the warming of ocean currents to polar bears’ shinking nuts.

Only one problem tho.  It is now becoming evident, THROUGH SCIENCE, that the warming of Greenland may have nothing to do with man at all:

The newly discovered hotspot, an area where Earth’s crust is thinner, allowing hot magma from Earth’s mantle to come closer to the surface, is just below the ice sheet and could have caused it to form, von Frese and his team suggest.

“Where the crust is thicker, things are cooler, and where it’s thinner, things are warmer,” von Frese explained. “And under a big place like Greenland or Antarctica, natural variations in the crust will makes some parts of the ice sheet warmer than others.”

What caused the hotspot to suddenly form is another mystery.

“It could be that there’s a volcano down there,” he said, “but we think it’s probably just the way the heat is being distributed by the rock topography at the base of the ice.”

That article in Livescience was not written by Robert Roy Britt.  Apparently he doesn’t read the articles that don’t support is opinion.  I doubt you’ll hear any sigh of relief from Al Gore’s bunch either.

Now, at the risk of being insulted and taunted, I again will ask the same question I’ve always asked.  How much of the climate change in Greenland is actually man’s fault?  Apparently quite a bit of the fault lies with Earth.

Global Warming May Boost Deaths

That’s the headline from WebMD.  The sub heading states:

Hotter Summers May Mean More Heat-Related Deaths, Experts Predict

It’s a very brief article explaining that hotter summers may increase heat related deaths.  But, I gotta wonder why the obvious other side of this story wasn’t acknowledged, it would go something like this:

Global Warming May Prevent Deaths

Warmer winters may mean fewer cold-weather induced deaths, Expert Predicts

and/or

Warmer winters may mean fewer inclement weather driving deaths, Expert Predicts

Just seems kinda obvious to me.  Thought I’d help them out.

Cassini Iapetus Flyby

This is getting cooler than I really thought it would. Check out this incredibly ugly little Saturnian moon, Iapetus.

JPL has a lot more pics. It’s getting really close now. However, unlike Io or Europa, the closer it gets to Iapetus, the uglier it gets. This poor little moon has obviously been battered hard by meteor strikes. It’s little spine circling the moon is the source of a lot of speculation. However, my completely uneducated guess is those two really large strikes on the same side have something to do with it. If you’ve ever squeezed a pingpong ball really hard you’d know what I’m referring to. That’s just a guess tho. I’ll leave the hard science up to those who get paid to do it. I’m in the boat of those people who just LOVE seeing this for no other reason than curiosity.

Do sunspots foretell heavy rains?

Well, apparently someone read my blog:

Periodic peaks in the number of visible sunspots may help predict heavy rains and subsequent disease outbreaks in East Africa, according to a controversial new study. Although previously questioned, the sunspot-rainfall link suggests that many of East Africa’s wettest rainy seasons during the 20th century were closely associated with highpoints in the mysterious solar cycle that yields the sun’s large dark blotches.

The take-home message, researchers concluded in the latest issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research, is that careful scrutiny of past climatic conditions may generate better long-term predictions of destructive weather events in the future.

There’s a lot more reading to that article, and it’s interesting.  I’ve been “guessing” there is a connection here for a long time.  Other cycles just correlate to closely to the hurricane cycles for a long time.  Hurricanes involve lots of rain.  So, apparently J. Curt Stager noticed this as well.

I really like the part that I think explains all the doubt of why such a simple correlation could exist:

“The weak part,” Stager conceded, “is we don’t know exactly why it works.”

That has always been a weakness of man.  When he doesn’t understand, he either dismisses it or attacks it.  My request is this learned field of scientists just simply try to figure why this COULD happen.  If, in the process of trying to figure out why this COULD work, no explanation is found, then I’d be a lot more comfortable in believing that it doesn’t work.  But, to dismiss something as simple as violent solar activity affecting a very close planet while at the same time telling me there is stuff out there that they can neither find or fully explain just never has flown with me.  There’s a connection, it’s just a matter of figuring out how much of an impact that connection truly is.

Keeping an eye on the sun

I asked a question on August 24, 2005.  It was a simple question.  It was largely ignored.

How will this affect Katrina and the waves?

Now, when I asked the question, Katrina was barely a named storm.  I like keeping an eye on two things this time of the year, hurricanes and solar storms.  So, I noticed something was happening on the Sun.  Namely this:

Within a couple of days, Katrina would be a category five monster that pretty much destroyed a good part of New Orleans. Let’s fast forward two years almost to the day and see what the Sun’s up to now:

Not quite as active, but coming around the corner is a pretty good blast. However, according to NOAA, no hurricane activity is expected within the next 48 hours. So, maybe this year we’ll get a pass.

Or, the NOAA may get a surprise. We’ll see. My “bet” right now is there is nothing for this little sunburst to excite, which is a good thing.

Arthur Clarke and Plasma Life

Better turn down the lights and pour yourself a strong one, this post is DEEP.

OK, ready?

I have been a huge fan of Arthur C. Clarke, particularly of 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Most people are familiar with the movie.  I consider it the greatest sci-fi movie ever made.  However, it is somewhat vague in what is going on.  However, the book does explain what’s going on.  Not in profound detail, but in little snippets that told us of our future.  Debit cards, video conferencing, using gravity to slingshot around planets, all kinds of little bits telling us what was to become.  And, in some cases, trying to explain where we came from.  He doesn’t say evolution is the rule, he just laid out how evolution occurred.  And, sometimes, when that evolution wasn’t progressing appropriately, how it got a little help from a god-like being.  The help was in the form of a simple shape.  It wasn’t a cross, but even simpler, an obolisk.  However, the “being” had more religious overtones.  Digressing a little, all of the main religions of the world today expect a belief in “God”.  This “God” can neither be seen, touched, or heard.  In other words, it is a being purely of energy and no matter.  When one communicates with “God”, it is purely by an energy force.  There is no audible sound.  This omnipotent “God” created our universe as we know it.  Clarke morphed this faith in a non-matter God into 2001 and gave it some definition:

And now, out among the stars, evolution was driving toward new goals. The first explorers of Earth had long since come to the limits of flesh and blood; as soon as their machines were better than their bodies, it was time to move. First their brains, and then their thoughts alone, they transferred into shining new homes of metal and of plastic.

In these, they roamed among the stars. They no longer built spaceships. They were spaceships.

But the age of the Machine-entities swiftly passed. In their ceaseless experimenting, they had learned to store knowledge in the structure of space itself, and to preserve their thoughts for eternity in frozen lattices of light. They could become creatures of radiation, free at last from the tyranny of matter.

Into pure energy, therefore, they presently transformed themselves; and on a thousand worlds, the empty shells they had discarded twitched for a while in a mindless dance of death, then crumbled into rusty

Now they were lords of the galaxy, and beyond the reach of time. They could rove at will among the stars, and sink like a subtle mist through the very interstices of space. But despite their godlike powers, they had not wholly forgotten their origin, in the warm slime of a vanished sea.

And they still watched over the experiments their ancestors had started, so long ago.

What Clarke states here is that “life” doesn’t have to have matter.  It can be pure energy.  Without the confines of matter, physics as we know it completely changes.  Being of matter, I don’t see how Man can travel at the speed of light.  Therefore, visiting far away galaxies is impossible.  However, without the confines of matter, traveling at the speed of light is simple.  Traveling throughout the universe is simple.  Manipulating matter is simple.  The power this entity would have is mind-boggling.  Convincing a very simple animal that you are God would be simple.

All of this ties into today’s events in two forms.

First, we have the creationist vs evolution fight going wild right now.  Neither side is in any mood to compromise or even try to understand the other’s reasons for believing what they do.  What they are both doing is struggling to understand how all this came to be.  Arthur C. Clarke I think struggled with those two concepts long ago.  He came up with a unique answer.  “Our” universe is limited by what we can see and understand.  For some people, “our” universe is limited to matter.  For other people, “our” universe is not limited to matter.  There are things beyond matter that they don’t want to try to understand.  They just know something is more powerful than matter.  That something to them is “God”.  That “God” to Arthur Clarke was a being no more wise than the average man.  He did however, have the power to change entire worlds simply to amuse himself.  He was however, a product of the universe.  He was both a product of evolution and subsequently creationism.  Since I read the book, I have been more a believer in Clarke’s understanding of “God” than probably any other.  Both the creationists and evolutionists expect me to believe they know the answer to a question that is extremely profound based on nothing but limited evidence and a faith in what they are saying is correct.  I don’t work that way.  I don’t think the two theories are totally exclusionary.  Neither did Clarke.  I’m in good company.

Secondly, all of this sounds pretty damn crazy I imagine.  I’m OK with that.  Start by reading the actual 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Then, read this:

Electrically charged specks of interstellar dust organize into DNA-like double helixes and display properties normally attributed to living systems, such as evolving and reproducing, new computer simulations show.

But scientists are hesitant to call the dancing dust particles “alive,” and instead say they are just another example of how difficult it is to define life.

Put me on Arthur Clarke’s team on this one.

The heavy religious overtones continue throughout 2001.  Clarke definitely had “the Dawn of Man” on his mind when he wrote this.  So, I see no coincidence here at all.  However, what he did not have in 1967 was access to plasma. Maybe, if Clarke is correct, we’re getting our first glimpses at something we’ve never understood before.  And, it could get rather profound.