A place for new ideas to settle.

30 December 2010

Jeff Bridges Face-Off: “True Grit”

The man (Dude?) has been rather prolific of late. I first saw him in Iron Man, where he played Obadiah “TONY STARK! BUILT THIS! IN A CAVE! WITH A BUNCH OF SCRAPS!” Stane, the bad bald guy who likes making money off of things that blow up. I have never, regrettably, seen The Big Lebowski, but that’s just a result of my slowness in watching Cohen brothers movies. (I watched No Country For Old Men only a couple weeks ago; it was excellent, excellent, excellent.)

Okay, speaking of the Cohens, let’s start with the good news: True Grit. Again I have not had time to tap the source material(s), either the original movie or the original-original book, but I did watch my roommate play Red Dead Redemption so I feel qualified to judge this 2010 remake on its modern Old-West aesthetic.

13 October 2010

Midweek Progress Report XI, Futurist Sneak Attack Edition

Speculation time is over, friends. The future has jumped us like a ninja in the night.

There's been talk of eventually and gradually transitioning to autonomous automobiles, but of course the going has been slow since one flaw in a driving algorithm could needlessly cause a bunch of collisions. Well, surprise surprise: Google has outfitted a fleet of seven cars with self-driving software. Yep, these cars have been driving without human hands for the past 140,000 miles. To be fair, there were still people in the cars, so they weren't entirely unmanned, but that was just in case of emergency.

You might have heard about the discovery of Gliese 581 g, the best candidate so far for an Earth-like planet within a habitable range of its star (the "Goldilocks zone"). Maybe you heard it from me. Well, as it turns out, alien life might be much more close to home. The Japanese Hayabusa probe, that was sent to collect dust from the asteroid Itokawa, might have recovered some organic, possibly biological, stuff. (Further analysis pending.) And meanwhile, on Mars, caves and lava tubes could host bacterial life, just as the lava tubes and sulfur vents of the deep ocean support a vast and weird ecosystem.

Maybe we should start planning for more exploratory missions, you say. Not to worry; NASA has proclaimed the next 23 months to be the "Year of the Solar System" (that's a Martian, year, in case you were wondering). One of the more exciting projects includes launching a probe into space with a box of organic chemicals and microbes, in an experiment to see what effects the conditions of outer space might have on life and its component parts.

Oh, and manned missions could be just around the corner too. Aren't they retiring the Space Shuttle? Yes, and a new crew vehicle is still in the design stages. But all the major space agencies have been tossing around the idea of using the International Space Station as a kind of launchpad for moon landings.

But there's also a need for stuff back here on Earth. Take electricity, for example. Solar and wind farms are catching on as the price of that power goes down, but one big problem is an apparent lack of available space. Well, as it turns out, Google (what can't it do?) is backing an offshore wind-power grid that will light up the Eastern Seaboard. And the federal government has authorized solar power plants to be built on public land.


30 September 2010

Return of the Living Blog

Oh, it's been so long. As it turns out, summer wasn't actually the optimal time to keep updating this space with musings and especially links to things (although I managed to plurk a few). Now I feel like there's a very good reason for me to keep up, namely, my almost certain lack of literature classes this quarter. So while it's not November (a.k.a. National Novel Writing Month) I will be jonesing to write creatively and think with the right side of my brain.

But to quickly catch up on an amazing development: Astronomers have found a planet in the 'Goldilocks' zone of its parent star. What's more, this planet is somewhere between 3.1 and 4.3 times the mass of Earth, meaning that it's probably of a rocky composition and the absolute most Earth-like planet discovered so far... other than Earth, naturally. The 'Goldilocks' zone, by the way, is an area around a star at which water will exist as a liquid, and is therefore assumed to have the best possible conditions for life as we know it.

The one downside to the discovery is that the planet's host star system, Gliese 581, is about 20 light-years from our Sun. Even via a nuclear-bomb-powered spaceship, it would take a few hundred years to get there. But this is like a major step in the hunt for alien worlds that won't roast or freeze or squish any astronaut that touches down on their surface. And according to some statistical analysis done by other scientists, we should confirm the existence of an Earth-like, habitable planet in "early May, 2011." According to them, that's the median point; so if we don't discover one before then, it's only a matter of time before it happens after that. Mark your calendars!

So what else is new? Well, instead of a bona fide, English class reading list to go over and make thoughtful comments on, I'm going to tackle both my own personal list of science fiction and Dr. Margaritis' "ultimate reading list" of classics. Let's see how well I hold up!

06 May 2010

The Way of Words [Language]

or, Something from Nothing

Last week, I attended a presentation by Dr. Kim Yong-Taek, my professor for Japanese 302 during winter quarter, called “Linguistic Descriptions of the Same Event in Japanese, Korean, Chinese and English.” A talk about how we do things with words! Okay, so it wasn’t about performatives per se, but it did make me think a lot about language in general, and continue to pester me with thoughts of linguistics study even though most of it makes my eyes glaze over.