Enjoying the ride

Even if we are all plummeting towards our doom, better to laugh than quake in terror, yeah? Also, bread and circuses, or, updated for modern times, frozen cheesecake and a marathon of Gossip Girls.


Always Falling

Gravity could be described as "the perpetual state of falling". As you see above, the Relativistic concept of Space-Time is an actual medium which is bent by mass, causing distortions in space. These distortions are what we call gravity - Jupiter creates a much, much larger indentation in space than Earth, and thus has much, much higher gravity.

The Sun is well off the chart here, but the sun too orbits something - and to orbit something is simply to be falling towards it. Our sun orbits the supermassive black hole in the galactic center of the good old Milky Way; our supermassive black hole and thus our galaxy orbits around a central gravitational spot we share with the Andromeda galaxy, or in fact the supermassive black hole at the center of Andromeda; together, along with dozens of small galaxies, we all orbit a far, far larger central gravitational spot along with clusters of other galaxies; and so on and such until we are talking about vast mists, spider webs of millions and billions of galaxies swept along the ever expanding bubble which is our reality.

And everything that is not in the center of that bubble - which is everything - is falling, always falling. And spinning.


Defined by Nothing (and Everything)

This is a brand spanking new simulation of how scientists think quasar jets behave. First, some definitions: It's now believed that quasars, blazars, and radio galaxies are all actually the same phenomena: Jets of matter streaming away from the active black hole at the center of the galaxy (as pictured above). We give this phenomena different names due to where in relation we are to this jet - head on, and it's a blazar; at an angle, it's a quasar; at 90 degrees, it's a radio galaxy. A nice analogy is the old saw about blind men describing an elephant - each will have a different description for the same thing.

Anyways, black holes are no longer thought of as simple engines of destruction - as shown above, not only do they spit out a great deal of matter, but they are active agents in the creation of not only stars, but galaxies of stars. Come back with me, to the beginning of time.....

It's a little bit after the Big Bang. Shit is hot, and dense, but uniformly blah. Stuff keeps spreading out and cooling down bit by bit, until the first atoms form (hydrogen and helium). Cooling and spreading continues, and now we have incredibly large clouds of hydrogen and helium, which begin to form denser pockets. These dense pockets continue to get denser as gravity draws matter to matter, until POOF! A star is born (consider: There was a 1st star), and another, and another, and so on. But these early stars lived fast and hot, and died young. Not long after they started forming, we enter the era of the Supernova, which must have been extreme. All these young stars exploded, creating all kinds of new elements in the process, but also, and most critically, creating the first black holes.

This is still not long after the moment of creation. Black holes start doing their thing - sucking down matter and energy. In so doing, many, many, many more stars are created, and some of these explode, forming more black holes, which merge with other black holes, and so on and so on until we have a supermassive black hole, and with this, we have our first Galaxy, which is really nothing but a collection of stars in orbit around a central black hole.

So, in conclusion for now, everything about our reality was formed in large part during this era of black hole creation. We owe our existence to this phenomena of apparent absolute destruction, which has "nothing" lurking at its core.

Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Also, more spirals.

By Orion's Sword

This may be obvious to many of you - and I would actually be encouraged if it were - but I had a bit of a shocking discovery a couple of weekends ago. As you might be able to tell, I love astronomy, cosmology, all of science in fact, but especially space. So vast, so profound, so mysterious and beautiful - it really is the only "god" we need - and yet, I've had few opportunities to really look at stars in any meaningful way. For, I've lived in cities now for far, far too long, and due to light pollution, you can't see many stars in the city!

So, it was with some joy I found myself in Maine, in the country, with a dark, star laden sky above me. A friend had some high-powered binoculars and I pointed them at the above constellation, Orion. I was shocked to discover that you can actually see the Orion Nebula through binoculars, as indicated above. It was magnificent - you could see the fuzzy outlines of the nebula with some color; it was so different than all the stars around it. It took my breath away!

I encourage any and all to do the same if you have the chance. I suspect any old binoculars would work - point em at the "sword" in the Orion constellation, and focus on the second "star", which is the nebula.

You won't see any Stars in the City

A great idea, in principle! This is NYC, 1933.


No Standing

Brooklyn, 1976.

I have come to the firm realization recently that indeed, the 1970's were the best. Miss ya seventies! We won't see anything like you again in my lifetime.

You'll make a great dystopia

On the big scale, any desert city has to be considered fragile and vulnerable - they exist in defiance of nature, kept alive only by constant (and expensive) efforts to fight back nature. Water is the obvious weakness. This is the Burj Tower in Dubai, just a fantastic building - tallest in the world, for now. But like most/many skyscrapers, it was built more because of ego and status than actual need. Thus, as soon as the underlying reasons for Dubai begin to buckle - and you can bank that this will be related to the Oil Economy - then buildings like the Burj, and so much more, will suddenly be very vulnerable to the economic winds of change. Once the economy falls, the house of cards collapses, and we have what should be an awesome dystopia in the wings - imagine being part of some post-apocalyptic caravan, trekking through the Wastelands, and you come upon Dubai, still gleaming amid the sand-dunes and wreckage. Awesome!


Future in the High Tower

Now this is a Tower! 

If we survive, it seems likely that, with ever greater populations, we're going to go ever more vertical in our living spaces, culminating in ideas like this: Tower Cities. I've seen several versions of this concept, and they're all spectacular. Highly fictionalized and no where near real, but still, incredible. It makes tons of sense to concentrate urban environments vertically, rather than horizontally, which we do now, of course. Just not to this degree. As with most cool things these days, it will be the Japanese or Chinese who try it first. Good luck!

The Tower

Spoilers for latest episode of Lost and The Dark Tower series by Stephen King!

Last night's episode, The Lighthouse, really could have been called "The Tower", in my mind, since it made the connection to King's Dark Tower series pretty explicit. Now, in the books, getting to the Dark Tower is the goal of everything - that's what the gunslinger thinks he has to do throughout, and every other adventure is subservient to this goal. I can't imagine that's the case with Lost, as I'm betting this Tower will only be featured briefly again, if at all.

But, apart from the fact that it was a Tower, the main parallel is striking: In the DT, when Roland is walking up the Tower, at each level he's given visions of his past life, and the key choices and events in it which led him directly to the Tower.

In Lost, Jack sees flashes from the "Candidate's" lives, including his own (but also at least the Kwons, and maybe others). Also, as per Flocke last week and which seems clear, Jacob has been guiding these candidates to the island for their entire lives.

As I's said before, the writers have long acknowledged a deep influence on Lost by The DT; the DT deals with tons of time travel, the issues of fate v. free will, black v. white, good v. evil, chaos v. order, etc v. etc. Now, of course, none of these issues are exclusive to any author or book. But these two sweeping stories - Lost and the DT - have enough similarities, and the writers have stated this connection, that it seems reasonable to assume that Lost will be leaning towards similar conclusions as the DT. Which many fans won't like, because of one word:



When Irony Attacks

This must have been awkward all around.

Many Minions

THE MAN has so many minions, different levels of minions, all not necessarily in harmony with one another. In fact, a good trick would be to have some minions constitutionally opposed to other minions, to keep them all on their toes. Divide and Conquer - it's not just for invading a country anymore!



On Vacuums

I do say, the fact of the matter is quite clear, sir: The Vacuum is punishment for our sins, sent down upon us from the hands of our angry God.

I must respectfully disagree. As Asimov said, science at a certain level is indistinguishable from magic. The vacuum is some sort of loud sound device used by the humans to keep us in fear, and under their control.


Richard Hardy, Coroner at Large

It's a nice day today, don't ya think?

Klingon Smoove

I would ask you Worf, how are you going to pay for a fancy yacht? Federation Officers make exactly nada. Try the High Council if you're looking for some bling.



It's all class from here on out.

Real World Winnah

Fret not though, dear readers! It's all fiction! Look, here's the real guy, all happy and wearing a bold pink shirt!

But, to ponder: Is not everything we experience a fiction? That is, an artificial story constructed by an author (in this case, our brains)?

Also, given recent research into the brain, and dreaming specifically (which is, dreaming is the way the brain can more efficiently process new information, AND run through simulations of possible future situations), art as a whole serves many of the same functions: It allows us, the audience, to live through situations we may never experience, and learn from these simulations (for instance, I already know I don't want to be buried alive. No need for me to have to actually go through that process to know this). 



Man, what a story. I've become more and more impressed with the technical details of Lost - specifically, how they've fractured the story into so many different facets, and presented these facets out of order, backwards, repeated, etc. It's all quite challenging.

Consider the last episode - we saw three different versions of Locke: Dead Locke (DLocke), Fake Locke (FLocke), and Alternate Locke (XLocke). Each had different motivations and invoked different feelings in the viewer, simultaneously. I'm hard pressed to see how this same technique could be used in a book without massive confusion. Regardless, how strange to feel the loss of a character, to root for the same character, and to fear the same character in a different form.

All the pictures above are from one and the same Locke, who's now DLocke: He died as he lived, pathetic, humiliated, and used. Very sad, and powerful. 


My New Favorite Moon - Titan

There's a lot of awesome moons in the Solar System. There's our moon, of course - Luna. Which has its charms. Jupiter's got some awesome moons - Io is just metal, Europa might have more water than Earth - but my money for best planetary system is Saturn. This here picture above is a real, actual photo from the surface of Saturn's biggest moon, Titan. For comparison, Titan is bigger than Mercury and would easily be classified as a planet if it had its own orbit around the Sun. 

Titan is wondrous for other reasons though: It has a very thick atmosphere, with a solid surface. Like Earth. It also has liquid on its surface, like Earth. Earth and Titan are the only two bodies in our Solar System that have these two features. Neat, huh? The issue with Titan, of course, is it's cold as heck: Water freezes as hard as rock. The liquid that flows on Titan is methane; propane - fossil fuels. It's a world filled with gasoline in other words. It's weird. There's no oxygen on this moon, and if it were to be introduced, everything would burn.

Finally, and perhaps coolest of all, if you were to ever visit Titan, you would not need a pressure suit. Just protection against the cold, and an oxygen supply (like a scuba tank). Thus, Titan is a highly promising candidate for a future human base - perhaps the last way station in our Solar System for mankind.

Sorta RIP Spirit

I have been remiss in not mentioning this news earlier. Sad news, sorta - NASA has given up on trying to extract Spirit. The rover has been stuck in the sand for some time due to a damaged wheel and bad luck, and the engineers have made many attempts to get her out, to no avail. So now she sits, watching and sending back data, which, over time, is bound to be of less and less value. Inevitably the omnipresent Martian dust will envelop Spirit's solar panels, her batteries will drain, and one day, she just won't wake up.

But like with most lives, Spirit's has been remarkable. Both the rovers on Mars have produced incredible data, and have far, far, far surpassed any and all goals for the project. The relatively paltry money spent on this mission (I think around 250 Million) must be the best "bang for the buck" NASA has ever achieved.

The picture above shows Spirit's damaged wheel making heavy drag marks through the sand, revealing the presence of almost pure Silica. On earth, Silica is only formed in the presence of water, proving once again that some time in the past, water flowed freely on the Martian surface. 

And might do so once again.

If we ever live the dream and actually move off Earth, I hope future Human-Martians build a memorial to the two rovers who accomplished so much.


Imbalance seeks balance

Premise: Nothing is ever created or destroyed; rather, all that we witness, all that we are, could know and ever will know, simply represents energy in a continual state of transformation.

Thus, everything - and I mean everything - can be described in very simple terms, as "imbalance seeks balance". For instance, the wind exists because areas of the earth achieve uneven temperatures - winds are the means for these imbalances to be evened out. For instance, Plutonium is radioactive because it has an imbalance of electrons, and sheds them, seeking out a balanced state (which is Iron, if you recall). Nature abhors a vacuum, they say. On and on....

However, balance, if it ever can be achieved, is a fleeting state, soon to be filled with more imbalances - the wind won't ever stop blowing, in other words.
Consider then, if you believe this, what this means for our lives, our existence, our very reality.
Finally, the spiral is THE symbol to describe this relationship - of unending transformations.


Fan art, sorry, but I like it. Anyways, its about time we got a story from the Smoke Monster's point of view. It seems likely to me that he/it is no pure evil villain, but a conflicted character trapped into playing a role, and wishing for a change. Evil may result from these wishes, but that's not the goal.

Who was the kid who freaked out Smokey? I'm betting it's Aaron, somehow. We know now why they've all been brought to the island: they're all being tested as candidates, to replace Jacob and perhaps Smokey too. But something about this process seems off. I bet this also explains the childbirth issue - this game of Candidates. And substitutes.

LAX reality gets more interesting. Locke is mostly as pathetic as ever, yet he's got his girlfriend and a father in his life, which are two big changes. I hope we get redemption for this Locke, cuz the real Locke was finally put in the ground.

But! It struck me as significant that Flocke screamed out "Don't tell me what I can't do!" to GhostCreepyKid, which is definitely a Lockeism; so, could Locke's personality still be "alive" within Flocke? Here's hoping.


About meme

Ahoy-ahoy! News from the interconnection! "Kate we have to go back!" is sprouting meme-wings!

Is are Children learninged?

The answer is obviously: If God says yes, then yes.

God Hates Flags

What does God need with Flags anyways?

This was a counter protest, by the by, to those incredibly hateful fools from the Westboro Church. And it's good - we all need to push back against the insanity.


Has Obama betrayed your special interest yet? If so, especially if you consider yourselves "Progressive", be sure to align with some rightwing nutjobs in order to express your discontent. They have your best interests in heart, assuredly.


Without sin, yo

If one does not believe in the concept of "sin", is one sinless? Certainly seems so, on the same principle as when one does not believe in the concept of the Sacred Religious (Psst! The Kaaba is just a meteorite, which is cool in and of itself), then one cannot blaspheme whatever sacrosity some propped up holy man wants to sell you. Right?


Kate Hate

I've tried. Really tried not to hate Kate. But I can't do it. She's the anti-Mary Sue, destroying and ruining everything she gets involved with...

But is that really fair? Lost is the story of a bunch of messed up characters. Fer instance, Locke is pathetic and messes up everything he tries to do, but I don't hate Locke.

Is it the casually misogyny  the Interwebs are so well known for? Maybe. I've really searched my feelings on this subject, and am not sure I like what I've found. For example:

Lost has never handled its female characters very well. With few exceptions, the women on the show serve three general purposes: Romance angles, babies, or damsels in distress. Juliet was the only character that somewhat broke out of these roles (though, baby doctor!). Kate should be able to - she's tough, capable, spunky, etc. But instead: Disaster.

It raises a big point in my writer's head: How to write dumb or incompetent characters, well. It's a dangerous line to walk - you want to portray a character who's not all that bright (Kate's criminal career for instance is a joke), but you don't want them to be hated. I mean, in real life, plenty of people do dumb stuff all the time, and they're not villified for it.

Now, to the point I was getting at: It seems to me the vast majority of male writers (myself included) cannot write women characters at all. If they even include female characters, they will most likely be foils or love interests to the male characters, who will receive the vast majority of attention in the story. This is Lost to a T, and so many other stories as well. Sci Fi is rife with this phenomena.

Is it mysogny? I have to answer yes - a general, societal wide misogyny that permeates everything. I think Western Civ  has made great advances in overcoming this misogyny in the past 40 years or so, but there's still plenty of work to be done.

On myself, and this world.


Smoke the Bear

Smokey seems to be Protector and Judge - don't mess with him and he won't mess with you. Problem is, you don't know what it means to mess with him. Or it. Or whatever it is, like a bear, perhaps.

Riffs on Memes gone Wild

This is Damon Lindelof, a Polar Bear, and Carlton Cuse. Here's the website of relevance to this picture. Writers need more glory!

To wit, here's a brief recap of the above: In Ancient Times, some long forgotten genius invented art on velor. Then, some other genius decided to put pictures of Elvis in velor. As all know, Elvis is King, so anything in velor became popular, but then, with the Rise of Sarcasm, it fell out favor. Only to return as a zombie of its former self: As an ironic enjoyment.

As such, an artist friend made Lindelof and Cuse the above painting, in velor. Somehow the concept caught on, and the three men decided to launch an art series with Lost as the theme - you can see all the paintings at the above link.

It's the dialectic, of course. Who could predict it?

Mutations through Copy

It's a cold world out there.


Sleeping Bagman Repeated

Your arms aren't necessary.


Iteration process underway

Review: Avatar

No real spoilers, though if you care about spoilers for this movie, I would assume you should have already seen it. 

Anyways, to wit: It's really just Aliens with better effects and a different narrative focus (the Aliens are the good guys). But that's a very standard story trope and there's nothing special about it here. Not terrible, not even bad - well done even. Just rote. And I mean it: It's shockingly like Aliens.

The effects, however, are amazing. I saw Avatar in 3D IMAX, and the experience was quite intense. Never seen a movie like it before - they used the 3D effects through out to great results. It was immersive, and I recommend the 3D version to anyone just for this experience.

Finally, the movie did not really even touch the aspect of this story I find most interesting: The use of Avatars. It really was not a big part of the movie. However, this concept of working with an Avatar in a "virtual reality" will become more and more commonplace for us, and in fact, more important. A rich area of study, both from a fiction and nonfiction sense.