Tag Archive: science

#AppleVsFBI Talking Points

By this point, most people in the tech world know about Apple’s fight against the FBI on hacking an iPhone used in a terrorist attack. Most in the tech world are siding with Apple, while many outside the tech world side with the FBI. Because of the controversy, we though it would be useful to present a summary of what is going on. View full article »

Late in the film, one character declares that the nice thing about dystopia is that no one has to work for it. This, almost accidentally, bookends with a repeated analogy about two wolves. One represents light, the other dark and both are fighting each other. The one that wins is the one you feed the most. It’s a serviceable piece of trite fast-food enlightenment.

Now that Tomorrowland has been released to the world, there seem to be no end to the critics who enjoyed the film, but shredded the ideas behind it. Many felt that this was director Brad Bird’s least accomplished work, while others pointed out that the dream of “tomorrow” in Tomorrowland is more dystopian than it first appears.

The Deconstruction of Tomorrowland

Adam Rogers of Wired is quick to point out that virtually everything promised to us at the last great World’s Fair has been accomplished. We have jetpacks, albeit not for the general consumer. We have flying cars, but no one wants to see what happens when a drunk driver gets behind the wheel. We have robots to clean for us and transnational corporations to make it all at an affordable price. In order to get that, he points out, we also have to put up with things like pollution and heavily implied fascism. Not to mention the fact that we must exploit Third World workers to achieve the cheap prices that make all of this possible.

Steve Rose of The Guardian continues on the theme of fascism by pointing out that Walt Disney’s vision for the future came at a cost of enforced transience and dictatorship. Disney’s original vision for Tomorrowland included renters who could only stay for one year. Further, there were no voting rights. It was Disney’s way, all the way. In an sense, Disney was the Steve Jobs of his time. He pulled together many successful ideas and packaged them into something that seemed new and exciting. Once the vision was realized, however, it was “perfect” and he wanted no deviation from his masterpiece.

These discussions, I think, miss a bigger issue. The bookends I alluded to earlier are important to remember. The reason for this is that they are both inaccurate views of the problem. There isn’t a light and dark side fighting for the future, and no one is sitting back and letting it happen. Further, the critics have so focused on the failed illusion of the film, that they haven’t noticed the important issue that is accidentally brought to light. Everyone is fighting for a Tomorrowland. Everyone. The problem is, everyone’s Tomorrowland is exclusive to the others.

Tomorrowland as a Battle Royale

When Adam Rogers ended his article with “To get the future you want, you’re going to fight the one you already have”, he missed the fact that our world exists precisely because of this sentiment. Boko Haram and ISIS are not trying to create a terrible future. They have a utopian vision and they’re fighting for it. It’s just a utopia that no one else wants, so they’re going to subjugate as many as possible to get it.

When Neil deGrasse Tyson or Bill Nye discuss the importance of science in general, or climate change and evolution in particular, they are fighting for a future of science. Those who oppose them, the creationists, climate change deniers and so on, fight for a future where they are allowed to continue as they please without scientists telling them how to live their lives.

The Koch Brothers fight for a future where government is all but non-existent while others fight forĀ  a future where government regulates businesses to keep them from getting out of control. Anti-vaxxers fight for a future where vaccinations are akin to child abuse while doctors fight for a future where people actually listen to the medical advice that they are given.

The list goes on. Everyone fights for a future that is, more or less, exclusive to the other. That’s why the world is the way it is today. The importance of a film like Tomorrowland is the hope that we can create a better tomorrow. No one seems to realize, however, that the game is not to actually create a better tomorrow, but a question of who can defeat each other’s vision first. The king of the hill, so to speak, is the one that dictates the rules of the future. That’s a problem.

Building Tomorrowland

There are two ways to build a future, a new Tomorrowland, so to speak. One is to destroy what exists now. The other is to build what will exist then. Both require a certain flexibility. When we look at extremists causing acts of terrorism or social justice warriors harrassing people off the Internet, we see attempts to create a better tomorrow by destroying today. When we see chatterbots like Siri, or robots to take care of the elderly, we see attempts to build a better tomorrow by improving today. The missing element is adaptation. In all cases there needs to be the understanding that this perfect envisioned utopia is not going to solve all the problems the world has. Further there is always the possibility of making certain things worse. This is why any utopia is an unattainable goal. The problems are constantly shifting and changing with time. If this understanding can be baked into the vision of a better tomorrow then perhaps there would be more overall coordination to realize it.

At the end of the film, recruiters are sent out into the world to bring in people from all walks of life. People who are dreamers and will work together to create that better future. It’s a good start. If we could arrange something like that in the real world, perhaps we could have that hope for a better future come back to us. Until then, however, it’s basically a battle royale deathmatch. It will be for quite some time.

The Blood Moon: Two down, two more to go!

Lunar Eclipse, AKA the Blood Moon

April 15, 2014 Lunar Eclipse courtesy of Wikimedia.org

The 2014-2015 Blood Moon tetrad reached it’s halfway mark on October 8, just two days ago. The remaining two occurrences of the tetrad will occur in April and September of 2015. Stargazers won’t be the only ones excited about the lunar eclipse of course. It turns out that Blood Moon tetrads are part of a Biblical prophesy. Depending on who you talk to the End is near, or we’re just going to have a bad time of things.

The phases of the Blood Moon, starting from the regular moon, going through the eclipse and then the reflection of the reddish hue. Image courtesy of WikiMedia.org

Revisiting the Blood Moon

The Blood Moon that occurred this past October 8 was the second of a series of four Blood Moon’s, the whole series being known as a “tetrad”. Tetrads are generally rare. We won’t be likely to see another until somewhere around 2032. The term “Blood Moon” is a more exciting way of saying “Lunar Eclipse”. The popular name is gained because of the reddish hue the moon takes as it passes the shadow of Earth.

April 15, 2014 Lunar Eclipse, animation courtesy of WikiMedia.org

April 15, 2014 Lunar Eclipse, animation courtesy of WikiMedia.org

The moon, during this time, doesn’t pass through the entire shadow of the Earth, but just skirts around the edges of the shadow. The Earth is between the moon and the sun. Because of this, the Earth’s atmosphere absorbs the blue light wavelengths, which is why our sky looks blue during the day. The remaining red wavelength passes by and hits the moon. This light is then reflected and comes back to Earth as a reddish hue, which is why we refer to the moon at this time as a “Blood Moon”.

The Blood Moon Tetrad

The first Blood Moon of the tetrad presented itself on April 15, 2014. It started around 12:00am and ended around 3:30am. The October 8 installment began at 2:00am and ended around 5:30am. In both cases, both professional and amateur astronomers streamed live video feeds of the rare event over services like UStream and Youtube. If someone couldn’t see the event with the naked eye, there were plenty of other ways to see what was going on.

The next installment of the tetrad will occur on April 4 2015 and the final installment on September 28, 2015. In both cases, be prepared to either stay up late or get up early. Or, conversely, check it all out on your favorite video site later on.

Bloody Moons mean Bloody Times

Perhaps it’s a given at this point that religious prophecies are going to pop up. Any rare or unusual astronomical phenomena seems to warrant some kind of “end times” announcement. It’s kind of like Christmas for doomsayers if Christmas came multiple times a year for a variety of different reasons.

The current Blood Moon prophecy originates from Pastor Mark Blitz, who believes that passages in the Bible (particularly statements in the Book of Joel and statements made by St. Peter during the Pentecost) reveal that our current tetrad is a sign of end times. Pastor John Hagee then seized on the idea and wrote the book Four Blood Moons: Something Is About To Change, which made it to the best-seller list on Amazon (for what it’s worth). Hagee differs from Blitz’s idea that the end times are coming and instead hints that something “bad” will happen, but the grace of God will pull Humanity through. As far as doomsaying goes, even Quantum Pop Blog’s own Mike Longo got into the act with a little work of fiction tying the Blood Moon to the Necronomicon. That article, as far as we can tell, was not meant to be taken seriously. Blitz and Hagee are a different story altogether.

Bloody (moon) times ahead

Regardless of what you think of the Blood Moon tetrad, there are two more moons to go before the cycle has run its course. If you believe it is just a fun astronomical event, call in sick for work and spend a late night watching the sky. If you think the tetrad is a sign of the end, well, we hope you have your preparations in order. And if you liked Mike Longo’s article on the Blood Moon, you are a reader of astute taste (though we may be biased in stating that).

Happy Blood Moon tetrad! Two down, two more to go!

It’s time for the masses to love science again

Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey is coming to Fox on Sundays. This is good news. It’s a continuation of the Cosmos series that was hosted by Carl Sagan back in the 80s and is even co-produced by Sagan’s widow, Ann Druyan. The new show will be hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, who was influenced by Carl Sagan to be an ambassador of science to the rest of world (and I write that with as little exaggeration as possible). In point of fact, the Huffington Post just did an interview with Mr. Tyson and the following exchange should prove illuminating:

DF: You must get a lot of strange questions from your lecture audiences. Do you find yourself having to correct people’s misconceptions?

NT: That’s not my goal. As an educator, I try to get people to be fundamentally curious and to question ideas that they might have or that are shared by others. In that state of mind, they have earned a kind of inoculation against the fuzzy thinking of these weird ideas floating around out there. So rather than correct the weird ideas, I would rather them to know how to think in the first place. Then they can correct the weird idea themselves. I don’t just tell them no. That’s pontifical.

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