Paging SG-1—Colonel O'Neil, we need to you kill Apophis again!

An 690-1080 foot wide asteroid named 99942 Apophis will narrowly miss the Earth in 2029 but could collide with our planet in 2036, according to this science article I found on Fox News. We won't know the chance of Apophis hitting us in 2036 until we fully understand the orbital effects of the near miss in 2029. With how little we know about Apophis and exact measurements of its size and mass, let alone the margin of error in understanding the size, mass, and velocity of Earth and the other planets, we'll have a hard time of judging anything but probabilities for many years to come.

Why the Stargate SG-1 reference? Because Apophis is also the name of the Goa'uld the SG-1 team fought (off and on) from the pilot episode to the first episode of Season 5.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Science Fiction, Technology” Wednesday, Nov 28 2007 04:47 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

Battlestar Galactica Season 3

Battlestar Galactica Season 3 officially kicks off this Friday, and the Sci-Fi channel is showing a preview of the first act.

My impressions in the full entry. Spoiler alert for those that have not watched the preview.

Seems straightforward. Four different people are tortured in the first act, with varying results. We are shown why they are being tortured (the bombing). All of them (Tigh, Adama, Kara, Ellen) are being tortured mentally, not physically. Adama's torture is his feeling of leaving people behind (why else would they recap that?).

I think they are showing the difference between the way humans fight and love (visceral, physical, raw) with the way Cylons fight (mental, calculating, a little OCD). When the Cylons were reduced to fighting *our* way they slaughtered almost everyone, but they are fascinated with humans. They feel they are missing something humans have. Is it passion? The only passionate players in Act 1 were humans. The happiest were destroying things. The saddest were toys of love.

For a steak knife it sure looked like a tactical folder. Nice trick. They made us focus on the knife (it looked like a fighting knife) when the innocuous fork became the murder weapon. I'm glad for the payoff of using that knife to eat her steak.

Another nice trick was giving the viewers the impression that a suicide bombing was coming up. Vaguely middle eastern music. Preparations and scene jumping that made us feel like there were flashbacks. Was Ellen sending a soldier off to battle? Were we going to lose Tigh? Ellen? Tyrol?

I look forward to this season.

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Science Fiction” Wednesday, Oct 4 2006 08:55 AM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

I Can't Wait

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Science Fiction” Wednesday, Jul 19 2006 08:29 PM  |  Permalink  |  1 comment  |  No trackbacks

Review: Spielberg's War of the Worlds

I went to see War of the Worlds yesterday full of lowered expectations primed by a variety of negative reviews I had already seen around the Internet. Luckily lowering my expectations led to an enjoyable experience at the theater.

I have read the novel by H. G. Wells, and I have seen the original movie from the 50's, both of which have their own tone. I never heard the famous radio drama, however, so I have missed out on some of the history of this story. While most people should be familiar with the premise, I'll try not to ruin the ending anyway.

The story is based on the idea that distant aliens have watched Earth from afar and plotted its demise from long ago. This particular telling of the invasion is more faithful to the book than the old movie, even keeping the three legged tripods from the novel. (I suspect Wells, like the later L. Neil Smith, want aliens that were, well, alien, not exhibiting the same bilateral symmetry of most species on Earth.)

The movie is quite creepy and horrifying, as the novel and the radio show were intended to be. When our gaggle of friends was discussing the movie afterward, Independence Day was brought up. Of course, the ending of that movie was intensely unsatisfying to me. This movie handled the ending far better, although some aspects were weak. I get the feeling that Spielberg hates endings, as I have been unhappy with the last act of many of his movies. However, the opening and ending narrations (by Morgan Freeman) directly quoting the novel were excellent bookends to the story in between.

As corny as Tom Cruise has been in public, he made a solid performance in this movie. He was a solid realistic anchor. In fact, most of the special effects in this movie were no so much spectacular as realistic. It is the realism of the entire thing that makes it so creepy. It's as though this could happen, if you can suspend reality enough around the items that are far-fetched.

After all, burying death machines on a planet such as ours before the dawn of recorded history is a very long-term plan. However, I can buy that. Crossing space with people is a lot more tricky affair than sending hardware. Ship the hardware first and the people afterward. One could even wonder if the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs was really the delivery of underground death machines all over the planet. Robert Ebert had difficulty with this point, I can let it pass.

Spielberg had to modernize certain aspects of the novel to make it pass for modern day. We can accept that. There is very little in the modern world that is common with the world of 1898. At least Spielberg does not set those two worlds at war as well. In doing so, Spielberg also had to change the story to make it more emotionally compelling. The characters so added did not take anything away from the novel's undercurrent. Survive! Do what is necessary! Wonder at your luck!

There is less of the sense of wonder in this movie as there was in, say, Close Encounters of the Third Kind or E.T., as these aliens are most definitely a threat. But you can feel it when people want to know what's going on, or they crowd around a hole in the street where lightning struck tens of times. Random quotes from the crowd also underscore the “we have no idea what is going on” aspect. Spielberg is trying to tell a human story with an alien backdrop. The point is the relationship between a father and his two children, not the invasion from another planet. That sets this movie apart from the B-movies of the 50's or Independence Day.

As I said at the beginning, I ended up liking the movie and I expected not to. I don't know if will work as well as a DVD in the hyper-distracted household. You have to sit there and experience it. A lot of movies lose their impact in the home. links:

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Review, Science Fiction” Saturday, Jul 2 2005 07:43 AM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks

The Probability Broach

The Probability Broach, by L. Neil Smith, whose Nagasaki Vector arguably got me interested in libertarianism and guns, is available as a graphic novel. Oddly, I didn't like this book as much as Nagasaki Vector and Tom Paine Maru although I pretty much have every book he's written.

Update: Another L. Neil Smith initiative, The Libertarian Enterprise, celebrates its 300th issue. links:

Josh Poulson

Posted in category “Politics, Science Fiction” Wednesday, Dec 15 2004 02:02 PM  |  Permalink  |  No comments  |  No trackbacks


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