Cordial Deconstruction

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Archive for the ‘Space’ Category

Sci-Fi Science and Skepticism Fail on Syfy

Posted by Karl Withakay on June 10, 2010

A couple of months ago, I was flipping through channels on my POOP TV* and caught a few minutes of one of those really bad, direct to cable movies they run all the time on the Syfy channel.  The movie was Savage Planet and before I changed the channel, I chanced to hear the following lines of dialog spoken by one of the characters in the movie:

“I always believed there had to be a scientific explanation for everything.  Science was the only answer.  Since I’ve been here, I’m rapidly becoming a skeptic.”

I hit the record button on my DVR remote so I could preserve that line of dialog for a potential future blog post.  However, I didn’t continue watching the program, and I stopped the recording after the dialog, so I only have a few minutes recorded.

I don’t really know what the character was specifically talking about, but I imagine it had something to do with the killer space bears the reviews say the movie contains.  Regardless, this quote is an epic fail on the part of the writers of the movie.  They apparently buy into the philosophy that “science doesn’t know everything”, which is really a misunderstanding of science, since science is a process, and not a body of knowledge or answers.

To quote the Wikipedia article on science,

“Science is a systematic enterprise of gathering knowledge about the world and organizing and condensing that knowledge into testable laws and theories.”

Science is not the answer, it is the means to an answer; it is they way to provide the explanation.  If it is beyond  your ability to explain scientifically, that is not a failure of science; that is a failure of your ability and knowledge base.  Lacking a scientific explanation for a phenomenon does not make that phenomenon supernatural or paranormal, it simply means you haven’t found the scientific explanation yet.  It can be very frustrating to not have the answer for something.  It can be even more frustrating to know that the answer to that question may never be discovered during your lifetime, but that is no reason to engage in a god of the gaps fallacy and invent some supernatural explanation just so you can have an answer.

The dialog is also a profound misunderstanding of skepticism and the skeptical community.  While the word skepticism can technically mean any questioning attitude, skepticism is about challenging claims lacking empirical evidence.  It is also about challenging and examining the evidence that is used to support a claim.  Skepticism is a crucible for inquiry in which claims are subjected to the fires of scientific scrutiny to burn away the extraneous fluff, leaving only scientific knowledge and/or more questions to be answered.

I don’t really expect any better for a low budget sci-fi movie that likely went straight to Syfy, but I wanted to blog about it because I’ve heard the “Science doesn’t have all the answers” gambit many times before, and I wanted to give my take on why that concept is so wrong.

*POOP TV:  Picture Out Of Picture.  I have a 40” HDTV sitting next to my 60” HDTV.  When I was researching buying a new 60” HDTV, I wanted to get a model with PIP (Picture In Picture) because my then current TV had it, and it was pretty nifty for watching one football game while keeping track of another.  I discovered that it would cost a lot more extra to get any of the current models with PIP, more than the cost of buying a second, smaller HDTV.  So I bought a budget model 32” LCD TV to go next to my new 60” model.  I found that I liked the setup not just for watching two football games at the same time, but also for watching TV while playing video games, especially when I am just performing some boring, repetitive action to level up a character, exploit a flaw in the game to generate endless amounts of money, or get some achievement.  I liked the POOP TV setup so much that a couple years later, I sold my 32” TV to a friend and upgraded the POOP TV to a 40” model.

I have no wife or kids, I have to spend my money on something, right?

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Posted in Critical Thinking, Criticism, Quotes, Sci-Fi, Science, Skepticism, Space, Syfy, Television, Thoughtful/Random Observation | Leave a Comment »

Final Follow-Up on the Probability of an Alien Invasion

Posted by Karl Withakay on June 3, 2010

This post is part 3 of my Deconstruction of Stephen Hawking’s comments about contact with alien intelligences being risky.  Part one was a general overview of why alien visitation/invasion is highly unlikely.  Part two involved some rough numbers regarding the energy requirements for interstellar space travel at the near light speed velocities required to get anywhere in a remotely reasonable time frame.

In this post I will address the hypothetical “what if” scenario where some advanced alien intelligence has made a fundamental advance/ breakthrough in physics and engineering that allows interstellar or even intergalactic travel at effective speeds far in excess of the speed of light at a relatively low energy cost.

So, what if it is possible?  What if the laws of physics as we know them need to be rewritten or at least get greatly expanded, and it turns out it is possible to travel interstellar distances in practical time frames instead of decades, centuries, or longer?  Further, what if it is possible to do so with a relatively low energy cost instead of needing energy equivalent to tens of thousands of thermonuclear weapons or the yearly outputs of thousands of nuclear reactors?

Well, in short, in that case we’re probably screwed, and there’s still no reason to worry about it because there’s nothing we can do about it anyway.

Any alien civilization that advanced would probably be so far beyond us technologically that we probably couldn’t hope to resist their invasion or even evade detection by them.  We’ve been making radio transmissions for well over 100 years, and during that time, our transmissions have been leaking into space to worlds more than 100 light years distant.  I think it’s reasonable to speculate that any civilization capable of effectively superluminal travel is likely to have an equally advanced ability to detect and locate other intelligent civilizations or suitable worlds.  If such a super advanced civilization is out there, and they are bent on conquest, they probably already have thousands or even millions of probes scattered throughout the galaxy looking for worlds to plunder in addition to their super advanced observation/ search techniques they will be using from their home world.  Basically, if they are reasonably capable of getting here, they are probably capable of finding us whether we want them to or not.

Certainly, if they are capable of getting here, there can be little question of their ability to conquer us with little difficulty, as long as they’re not to worried about our welfare.  Some might point to US and Soviet difficulties in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq as reasons to think we could have some hope of resisting a technologically superior invader, but I would disagree.  First of all, the difference in technology would be closer to trying to fend off A-10’s with paper airplanes, the Ethiopians fighting off the Italian Army in 1935, or the Aboriginal Americans fighting off European invaders, settlers, or colonists.  The Soviets did pretty well in Afghanistan until we started supplying the other side with modern military equipment.  Our problems in Vietnam have been well documented and much debated, but I think it’s at least safe to say we weren’t engaged in an unrestricted attempt to eliminate North Vietnam’s military capability, and they had some help from the Soviets to boot.  Likewise, we’re not attempting to eliminate the populations of either Afghanistan or Iraq.  I’m pretty sure we could do that if we wanted to and we didn’t care about preserving the infrastructure.  Independence Day may have been a fun movie, but it was delusional in regards to our ability to fight off an alien invasion.  We very probably have little chance against a super advanced alien invasion force unless we can find some equally advanced alien allies or a fifth column to help us.

Additionally, Stephen Hawking seems to be implying that if we just stay silent, ET may not find us.  This super advanced ET probably doesn’t need our help to find us.  Irrespective of all the radio transmissions we’ve been leaking into space for over a hundred years, ET would probably be able to detect our rich blue and green world on their own without our help.  We are already are able to detect planets only a few times more massive than the Earth orbiting other stars and detect elemental composition of stars with what would be extremely primitive techniques and technologies compare to what any superluminal civilization would have at its disposal.  It seems likely that ET would be able to find our rich, garden world whether we were here to transmit to them or not.

In summary:  If extraterrestrial aliens have the ability to get here in a reasonably short period of time without bankrupting their planetary economy, then they can probably find us, come here, and kick our butts if they want to.

Frankly, the fact that we haven’t yet been conquered by ET is a hint that maybe either ET isn’t interested in or capable of coming here and conquering us.

Posted in Critical Thinking, Criticism, Followup, Science, Skepticism, Space, Stephen Hawking | 3 Comments »

Deconstruction Review of Fringe, Episode 21, Season 2, Over There, Part 2

Posted by Karl Withakay on May 20, 2010

As usual, an episode synopsis can be found over at Scott’s Polite Dissent.

Kind of a Short Deconstruction Tonight

Maybe there wasn’t as much to Deconstruct again, but I know I’m burned out from work this week.

Quaternary Park

It’s nice to know that millions of years from now when some other life form rules the Earth, they will be able to extract DNA from humans encased in quarantine amber, clone them, and build a Quaternary Park.

The Name Walternate is Now Show Canon

It’s now the show’s official designation for the alternate universe Walter, thanks to Walter.

Quote of the Show

“The laws of physics were changed into mere suggestions”

Apparently Peter Prefers Brunettes As Well

“…but you hair’s different.  I think I like yours better.”

Do They Know Scott Watches the Show?

The comic books on the wall were a nice touch, especially the Red Lantern/ Red Arrow cross-over comic.

Motivation Explained

The motivation for the original espionage against the alternate universe was to obtain their advanced technology for our universe.

Prop Convenience Theater

Did the show explain why the device is keyed to Peter’s genome?  Did Walternate obtain it from some third-party source, and is the design therefore out of his control?

You Lost Me at Stars In The Sky

“I’ve traveled between universes so many times, my atoms are ready to split apart at the slightest provocation.  You taught me there are as many atoms in the human body as there are stars in the sky.  That’s how many atom bombs I am.  That should be enough power to get you home.”

There are an estimated 2X10^22 stars in the observable universe, which is an order of magnitude less than one mole of atoms.  Let’s take a 70kg human (154lb) for an example.  The human body is mostly water (Hydrogen and oxygen) and various carbon compounds.  Lets assume every atom in a human body is oxygen (the “heaviest” of those three elements) just to get a ball park number of the approximate number of atoms in the human body.  That would make a human body consist of roughly 4000 moles of atoms, or ~2.5X10^27 atoms, many orders of magnitude more than the number of stars in the sky.

Also, I suppose that traveling between universes could increase the internal energy in atomic nuclei, making them unstable, buy not so unstable that EACH atom was as powerful as an atomic bomb.  If that were the case, Bell’s body would contain more energy than 9X10^23 kg of antimatter annihilating with the same amount of matter (if we assume a very modest Hiroshima type atom bomb).  That is on the order of an antimatter Mars and a regular matter Mars mutually annihilating.

Was William Bell In On The Plan the Whole Time?

For that matter, is that really our William Bell, or was he lying about Willaimternate dying?  By the way, hands up anyone who didn’t figure out half way through the show which Olivia was coming back to our universe.  I hope there aren’t a lot of raised hands out there.

A Little Out of Character, Don’t You Think?

I would have expected Olivia to be a little more defiant and angry, rather than behave like a frightened little girl at the end

All Math is Approximate In This Post

The numbers are ballpark figures for illustrative purposes.  The results of all calculations were imprecisely rounded to give simplified, rough estimate figures.  If my figures are off, I’m blaming it on lingering  exhaustion form working 32 hours without sleep on Montuesday this week.

Any spelling, grammatical, or typo errors will also be attributed to the same cause.

Posted in Fringe, Prop Convenience Theater, Quotes, Science, Space, Television | 6 Comments »

Follow-Up: Energy Requirements of Interstellar Travel

Posted by Karl Withakay on May 2, 2010

This is a follow-up to my recent post, Cordial Deconstruction of Stephen Hawking? (Am I So Bold?) where I discussed the likelihood that an alien intelligence would bother crossing the universe or galaxy to plunder the resources of the planter Earth.

In this post, I will discuss the energy requirements of interstellar travel.  Before I begin, I want to explain that I’m not going to show the math involved in the numbers, both because many people won’t be interested in the equations, and because this post is going to be long enough without showing all the calculations and equations involved.  I’ve also ignored the time dilation factor which would reduce the relative travel time of the journey for the passengers of a spacecraft traveling close to the speed of light, but it only makes a significant difference at speeds that are energetically prohibitive anyway.

First, a discussion of the distances involved when discussing interstellar travel.  To quote Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe,

“Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the drug store, but that’s just peanuts to space.”

A typical galaxy is about 30,000 light years in diameter, the Milky Way being about 100,000 light years across.  The distances between galaxies is even more mind bogglingly huge; the typical distance between galaxies is about 3 million light years.  The visible universe is about 93 billion light years in diameter.  (This is the current, commoving distance, not the distance at the time the light from the furthest visible stars was emitted.)  So, to start, lets rule out intergalactic travel and focus on interstellar travel from within the Milky Way galaxy to see how practical that would be.

The nearest star to the sun is Proxima Centauri at a distance of about 4.2 light years, but Proxima Centauri is not a great candidate for habitual planets, for several reason.  It’s a red dwarf, and that could pose numerous problems.  It’s also variable, which almost closes the door on Proxima Centauri as a candidate for our hostile ET to come from.  Moving on, there are 64 known stars within about 16 light years of the Earth, so let’s just say ET is coming from our back yard, say 10 light years away, though the aliens probably wouldn’t be so local unless life is very common in the universe.

So let’s look at how much energy it would take ET to get here from an unspecified plant 10 light years away.  If we assume ET doesn’t want to spend 200 or more years making a round trip to Earth, they’re going to need to travel fast, really fast.  Even 10% of the speed of light isn’t going to cut it.  Let’s shoot for 90% of the speed of light (c).  At .90 c, it’s going to take about 11 years to make the trip from ET world to earth, if ET can accelerate and decelerate nearly instantaneously.

So now we have our target speed, but we need to know the mass of ET’s vehicle.  An object the size of the space shuttle (~110,000 kg for the orbiter by itself or around 2,000,000 kg for the whole system with boosters and fuel) seems a little physically small for an 11 year journey, so let’s try something a little bigger.  A Virginia class submarine is about 8,000,000 kg and is a craft designed for long term endurance travel; let’s assume ET’s craft is the same mass.

The amount of energy needed to accelerate an object of a mass of 8,000,000kg to.90 c is 7.45 9.32 * 10^23 Joules, which is about 180 million megatons of energy.  This is the equivalent of 3.6 ~4.5 million Tsar Bombas, the most powerful nuclear weapon ever detonated.  It would take more than four five million kg of antimatter annihilating with the same amount of matter to produce this much energy.  It’s worse than it looks, because the ETs need to slow down to a relative stop when  they get here, which will take the same amount of energy as the acceleration, so we’re talking about 360 ~450 million megatons of energy just  for a one way trip.  But it’s even worse than that.  We are ignoring the mass of the energy source and any propellant used in for ET’s spacecraft, and we are assuming 100% efficiency in the conversion of the energy source into vehicle velocity, which isn’t going to happen in the real universe.  All things considered, without going into the increasingly complicated math (which would require us to start using calculus since the mass of the vehicle now decreases as we consume reactant & propellant), we probably need to increase our estimate of the energy requirements by an order of magnitude or so.

So, bottom line, at the end of our rudimentary estimate of the energy requirements to travel at .90 c, we’re talking about an energy requirement in the order of a billion megatons or so.

OK, what if ET is a little more patient and is willing to endure a 200 year round trip at .10 c?  The energy requirements drop to ~17,000 ~870,000 Megatons of energy (or 17,000 Tsar Bombas) for a one way trip. (It’s not a linear decrease because we’re talking relativistic mechanics here.)

(For reference, doing a little math, I calculate the Callaway Nuclear Generating Station in Missouri generates about 8 megatons of energy a year.)

So, in summary, the energy requirements are massive for velocities even 10% of the speed of light, and absurdly huge for speeds 90% of c, and even at those speeds, we are limited to about 10 light years of distance for any reasonable length journey.  Why would any ET, no matter how conquest driven they were, bother expending such energy resources to plunder the resources of another world, assuming they could even find a suitable planet to plunder in their local stellar neighborhood?

I think we can sleep soundly at night, never having to worry about Stephen Hawking’s ETs ever attacking the Earth ID4 style.

In regards to the energy requirements of some mythological faster than light propulsion system, who can really say what those would be?  I can speculate that they would be much greater than those of traveling at velocities at “significant” percentages of the speed of light, and someone else can say that as long as we are speculating about faster than light travel, why can’t we speculate about some relatively low energy process to achieve those speeds?  It’s all wild speculation if not outright fantasy at that point, so there’s really no numbers to talk about.

Posted in Critical Thinking, Criticism, Followup, Science, Skepticism, Space, Stephen Hawking | 12 Comments »

Cordial Deconstruction of Stephen Hawking? (Am I So Bold?)

Posted by Karl Withakay on April 26, 2010

Would you drive to Alaska to buy gasoline?  Stephen Hawking seems to think you might if your local gas station ran out.

Here’s my take on the ID4/ hostile aliens thing:

(And here is where I dare to Cordially Deconstruct the position of someone who is much, much, much smarter than I am)

There’s something on the order of 100 billion galaxies in the known universe, and there’s something on the order of 100 billion stars in each of those galaxies.  We’re just beginning to scratch the surface of figuring out how many of those stars might contain planets and how many of those planets or their moons might be remotely habitable by life as we know it.  I think it would be wise to assume that some forms of extremophiles could survive on worlds more hostile than what we conservatively call habitable.  And although we don’t really have any reasonable clue for estimating the probability of life arising on a suitable world, let alone the odds of intelligent life developing, 10,000 billion, billion stars is a lot of stars (10^20), and that’s a lot of spins on the roulette wheel of life to hit the jackpot only once.  In the absence of actual data, it seems reasonable to speculate that there’s life elsewhere in the universe, and some of it is probably more advanced than we are.

That being said, it also seems likely to me that inter-galactic space travel isn’t particularly likely, and we don’t have to worry about whether ET is friendly or not.

You may think this is modern arrogance, but despite mysteries like dark energy and dark matter, we have a pretty good idea of how the universe works, and it looks like the universal speed limit (can not obtain) for things with mass is the speed of light.  The practical effect of this limit is that inter-galactic travel would take an incredibly long time to get anywhere not in you own star system.  Intergalactic travel would also take an impractically large amount of energy if you wanted to travel at any velocity approaching a significant percentage of the speed of light.  Even if we speculate the discovery of some way to travel faster than the speed of light, it seems reasonable to also speculate it would extremely (prohibitively) energy intensive.

So what might we have here in an ultra-advanced, space faring, alien species?  We have ETs that have no motivation to travel to other stars for anything other than esoteric knowledge gathering that probably won’t be of any use to the folks back home anyway, since they’ll likely all be long dead by the time the explorers got back.  Listen, if you have the energy resources to travel across the galaxy (either at sub-light or superluminal velocity), you don’t need to plunder the resources of other worlds; you’ve got resources coming out of your ying tang, and you’ve got the technology to do whatever you need  with those resources.  You’d be better off just terraforming some reletively nearby world rather than traveling across the galaxy to plunder a distant Earth-like planet.

Traveling across the galaxy to plunder the Earth’s resources would be like me driving to Alaska from Missouri to buy gas if my local filling station ran out.  Why bother if I already have the resources to get there?

5-2-10:  See the followup post here:  Followup: Energy Requirements of Interstellar Travel

Posted in Critical Thinking, Criticism, Science, Skepticism, Space, Stephen Hawking | 7 Comments »

Eureka: Recycling Bad SF Physics.

Posted by Karl Withakay on July 27, 2009

Eureka

Eureka

This post kind of goes off on a tangent for a while, but I felt it was necessary to give an insight to my thought processes regarding deconstruction science fiction in general, seeing as this is my first sci-fi deconstruction.

It’s not my intention to do much deconstruction of the show Eureka, mostly because the show doesn’t take itself as seriously as, say, Fringe does, but this week’s episode, “Insane in the P-Brane” the writers went to the classic sci-fi plot file drawer and pulled out the “We’ve been shifted to another dimension  and nobody can see us.” plot, and recycled the plot point’s huge holes along with it.

It seems like every SF series has to do the episode where one or more characters somehow gets shifted out of phase, into another dimension, or is otherwise modified such that nobody can see them and they can’t interact with the world around them.  Star Trek TNG, StarGate SG-1, and numerous others have done it.   So aside from the bad physics plot points it always creates, it smacks of lazy writing to recycle the idea, especially since nobody ever manages to take that idea and make it their own by doing something really different with it.   Note to Sci-Fi writers out there:  Feel free to recycle a plot idea, but be sure to do something different with it to differentiate your story from every one else’s.

It’s not really fair to deconstruct science fiction in the same way you would a spy thriller.  Almost all science fiction includes elements that are against the known laws of physics, and are just not possible in reality, and Eureka is a fairly over the top show in that regard.  So, when deconstructing science fiction, you have to draw the lines of what you’ll accept and what is BS.

There are a couple of keys to creating an acceptable science fiction universe:  explanation and consistency.

#1  Explanation:  First establish a (fictional) explanation for a phenomenon to make it acceptable.*  As bad as a movie and as riddled with bad physics as The Core was, I give the nod to them, on Unobtainium.  By calling the hull material unobtainium, they basically acknowledged to us that the properties of the hull alloy they put in the story were BS asked us to accept it and move on, and there’s nothing wrong with that in science fiction.

#2  Consistency:  Once you define your sci-fi universe, it has to be internally self consistent.  That’s not to say that you’re necessarily locked into the universe as you defined it, but you must at least provide an explanation for any changes that contradict the previously established laws of your universe.  You can’t have warp drive tearing holes in time and space in one episode and forget about it while blazing away at warp 9 in later episodes unless you explain that new technology has been introduced to correct the issue.

Implied by #’s 1 & 2 is that any sci-fi universe is pretty much governed by the same rules as our own, except as otherwise specified.  This may seem blindingly obvious, but this Zeroth Key (With a nod to the Zeroth Law of Thermodynamics) is the basis for most of my science fiction deconstruction as you’ll soon see below.

I’m not going to deal with the specifics of this  Eureka episode, but I will instead address the plot point in general.  I’ll also add that in science fiction, I am more likely to accept a sci-fi plot point with gaping  holes in it if it’s the first time that plot point has been used.  I’ll have less tolerance for followup uses of that plot point that continue to fail to address those same holes.

For the sake of science fiction, I will accept that a person could be phase or dimension shifted such that they cannot interact with the rest of the world, but let’s look into what that would actually mean.

In the universe we live in, which is the only one we know about, there are four funamental forces through which all things can interact, and all interactions between any matter or energy involve these four forces.

Without going into physics 101, electromagnitism is the force most responsible for our interaction with the world around us.  The ability to see light, feel heat, and touch objects is all a result of the matter in our bodies interacting through the electromagnetic force with the matter and energy around us.

The plot holes in dimension/phase shifting mostly revolve around  gravity and electromagnetism.  If you’re phase shifted from the rest of the universe and can’t interact with it, you should no longer be attracted to the Earth by the force of gravity, since the Earth is in a different phase or dimension, and your momentum from before you were shifted should cause you to be flung tangentially off of the face of the earth.

For the sake of plot convenience, let’s assume that the force of gravity permeates dimensions/phases such that you can still interact gravitationally with the rest of the universe unaffected by your shift.  (We have to assume the strong and weak nuclear forces do not permeate phases, or there would be  all sorts of nasty, but interesting nuclear interactions to occur as you interact with  matter from the normal world with out the benefit of electromagnetic repulsion.)  In that case, you should fall through the surface Earth ending up in a nearly linear, highly elliptical orbit around the Earth’s center of mass ranging from surface to surface since you can no more interact with the stuff the Earth is made of than you can the stuff other people and door knobs are made of.

Speaking of door knobs, how come these plot points always involve normal world humans walking through the phase shifted people, but the phase shifted people almost never just walk through walls to get to where they’re going?  I mean, they can walk through other people, they can’t interact with the computers to type out a cry for help, but they are somehow blocked from passing through the walls and floors without at least a made up explanation, what’s the deal?

Another thing to consider is that the phase shifted persons should not be able to see anything of the unshifted world (or themselves unless they posses their own light source), as their eyes cannot interact with the unshifted photons of light from the rest of the universe.  We’ll have to stipulate that the phase shifted persons can somehow interact with photons (energy), but not matter from the unshifted world if we want them to be able to see.   This would also slow down the rate at which they freeze to death:  they could then receive heat from the sun and   surrounding matter via thermal radiation, but not via conduction or convection.

Of course, all this is also ignoring that fact that the shifted persons should not be  able to breath unshifted air, and should therefore suffocate fairly quickly.

So, can one use the phase/dimension shifting plot point and avoid some or most of these plot holes?  Here’s my plot outline of a phase shifting story that minimizes the holes.  A ship’s engine’s fail in the dead of interstellar space.  One or more crew members must go EVA to fix the problem, and there is some soft of “event” that causes them to be phase shifted, and they are stranded with a finite amount of life support and thruster jet fuel left in their EVA suits.  They must find a way to return themselves to normal or at least alert the ship to their predicament before either their life support runs out or the ship is repaired and leaves them behind.

The action of the story focuses on the actions of the rest of the crew as they try to determine what happened to their crew mates and the interaction between the two shifted crew members as they try to resolve their situation.   (They can see each other via the lights on their suits.)

AFTER POST UPDATES BELOW:

* This can also be thought of as acknowledging the absurdity.  By acknowledging the absurdity, you premptively point out your own plot hole instread of leaving it to the viewer to criticize.

I forgot to add the sound perception plot hole.   Even if you stipulate that shifted persons can see the non-shifted world via some sort of two way mirror effect for photons from the non-shifted world, if they can’t interact with matter from the non-shifted world, then they shouldn’t be able to hear anything from the non-shifted world as their ear drums cannot interact with the air molecules in which sound from the unshifted world propogates.

Posted in Eureka, Science, Space, Television | Leave a Comment »

World marks 40th anniversary of NASA screwing it up for everybody else.

Posted by Karl Withakay on July 20, 2009

Today is the 40th anniversary of the day NASA set an unreasonably high benchmark for every other human effort by successfully landing two men on the moon and returning them back to the Earth 4 days later alive and well.  Ever since then scientists, engineers, and other people in all walks of life have had to deal with an unreasonably high benchmark for human achievement, frequently having listen to others complain, “How come we can put a man on the moon, but we can’t have a VCR or microwave clock that won’t lose the time when the power goes out?”

One can only guess that Neil Armstrong must regret his involvement in the mission as he’s probably never been able to get out of a single household chore since the day he landed, likely having had to listen to his wife say “You mean to tell me you can land on the moon and come back, but you can’t go to the store and pick up some groceries or do a simple job like cleaning the gutters?” on more than one occasion.

NASA, to its credit, has attempted to rectify the situation on several occasions.  However, one of the first major attempts to rectify the situation was an uncategorical failure.  NASA seemed to have reduced everyone’s expectations by incorrectly grinding the main mirror for the Hubble Space Telescope, but then screwed it up by ingenuously fixing the telescope in space, setting the expectation that any failure, no matter how big, could now be turned into a stunning success.

NASA is now of victim of its own success and further pathetic attempts to rectify the situation, such as incorrectly mixing English and metric units on the Mars Climate Orbiter mission have failed to reduce expectations set by the “Apollo Standard”, and have actually subjected NASA itself to criticisms such as, “How come NASA can put a man on the moon, but they can’t figure out the metric system?”

One can only hope that the inevitable first mission to Mars will take a colossal wrong turn and end up on the strip in downtown Las Vegas instead of Mars.

Seriously, though, the Apollo program was (in my opinion) one of the top three achievements in the history of space exploration, which are,  (in no particular order)  Apollo, Voyager, and the Hubble.

If you want an actual Apollo related Deconstruction, I don’t stand a chance of doing it as well as Phil Plait has done over at the Bad Astronomy site.

(This blog post is partly inspired by a Jerry Seinfeld stand up routine.)

Posted in Deadpan, Humor, Science, Space | 1 Comment »

 
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