Sheldon Cooper’s Holographic Laptop

So I noticed something that amused me while watching Big Bang Theory the other night — apparently Sheldon has a holographic display on his laptop. The real-world explanation, of course, is the conceit of television’s visual language, but that’s not nearly as much fun to believe.

So I noticed something that amused me while watching Big Bang Theory the other night — apparently Sheldon has a holographic display on his laptop.

Obviously, some evidence in the form of screenshots is in order (all from Season 4, Episode 15, “The Benefactor Factor”, though I noticed this in Episode 14, “The Thespian Catalyst”, as well).

First up, a shot of Sheldon videoconferencing with Amy. This is mostly to set the scene, there’s nothing much to see here.

Big Bang Theory: Sheldon videoconferencing with Amy
Sheldon videoconferencing with Amy.

Next, a POV shot of what Sheldon sees while sitting directly in front of the computer.

Big Bang Theory: Sheldon's POV while videoconferencing with Amy
Sheldon’s POV while videoconferencing with Amy

Finally, here’s the shot that caught my eye — a shot over Sheldon’s shoulder.

Big Bang Theory: Looking over Sheldon's shoulder during the videoconference
Looking over Sheldon’s shoulder during the videoconference

Compare those last two shots. In the first shot, from Sheldon’s POV, we see Amy from directly ahead. She’s looking directly into the camera, as would be expected. However, in the second shot, she’s turned slightly to her right, giving us a slight profile shot (and while it doesn’t really translate in still shots, this isn’t because she was shaking her head or momentarily turned her head for some reason — she holds her head in this position through the entire shot).

The final impression is that as the camera switched from Sheldon’s POV to the over-the-shoulder shot, the perspective changed in our view of Amy, so that we see her from the same angle as if the two characters were speaking face-to-face rather than over video chat…but the only way that could happen would be if Sheldon’s computer had a holographic display!

With our normal, flat, non-holographic computer screens, of course, even when moving to the side of a computer screen, we would still see the other party looking straight into the camera…so we’d see the image something like this:

Big Bang Theory: What real-world laptops would display
What real-world laptops would display

Of course, in the visual language of television, that looks odd. We expect characters to look at each other, and we know that Sheldon and Amy are looking at each other, so the technically correct shot seems a little odd, as Amy is still looking directly out of the screen, apparently at the viewer instead of at Sheldon. The solution, then, is to have her turned slightly to her right when filming those sequences so it still appears that she’s looking directly at Sheldon, even though it gives the somewhat amusing impression that Sheldon has a laptop far more advanced than any currently on the market (as does Amy, as she’d have to have a laptop that can both film and broadcast 3D video chat streams) — but then, would we really expect anything less from Sheldon Cooper? ;)

I have no idea how often this technique is used on other shows, as this is one of the few times I’ve noticed it. In fact, the only other time I can think of that I noticed this technique being used was in Star Trek (TNG comes to mind, though I can be relatively sure that it was also done this way in DS9, VOY, and ENT). However, in the Star Trek universe, it’s known (at least to the more geeky technobabble obsessed fans) that the main display screen on the bridge of the Enterprise is a holographic display, and it’s not that far-fetched to believe that the smaller displays might be as well, so the conceit was never as jarring when I noticed it there.

So…there’s my ridiculously over-analyzed geek moment of the day.

Trolling Middle Earth

Where today, ‘troll’ is almost universally understood as the second of the above quoted definitions — a person solely out to provoke annoyance — I’ve always preferred the first definition. In _that_ sense, a properly constructed troll is something I’ve always respected.

First off, the gorgeous new trailer for the first part of The Hobbit has just been released:

Now, a slight digression. Back when the internet was new (and I’m not entirely exaggerating with that), the Jargon File was created as a living encyclopedia of words, phrases, terms, and events common to the geek communities of the day. In that document are the original definitions for the term “troll” as used in the electronic world.

  1. v.,n. [From the Usenet group alt.folklore.urban] To utter a posting on Usenet designed to attract predictable responses or flames; or, the post itself. Derives from the phrase “trolling for newbies” which in turn comes from mainstream “trolling”, a style of fishing in which one trails bait through a likely spot hoping for a bite. The well-constructed troll is a post that induces lots of newbies and flamers to make themselves look even more clueless than they already do, while subtly conveying to the more savvy and experienced that it is in fact a deliberate troll. If you don’t fall for the joke, you get to be in on it. See also YHBT.

  2. n. An individual who chronically trolls in sense 1; regularly posts specious arguments, flames or personal attacks to a newsgroup, discussion list, or in email for no other purpose than to annoy someone or disrupt a discussion. Trolls are recognizable by the fact that they have no real interest in learning about the topic at hand – they simply want to utter flame bait. Like the ugly creatures they are named after, they exhibit no redeeming characteristics, and as such, they are recognized as a lower form of life on the net, as in, “Oh, ignore him, he’s just a troll.” Compare kook.

Where today, “troll” is almost universally understood as the second of the above quoted definitions — a person solely out to provoke annoyance — I’ve always preferred the first definition. In that sense, a properly constructed troll is something I’ve always respected.

The comments for yesterday evening’s io9 post about the Hobbit trailer contain a beautiful example of trolling in the old sense (“…a post that induces lots of newbies and flamers to make themselves look even more clueless than they already do, while subtly conveying to the more savvy and experienced that it is in fact a deliberate troll. If you don’t fall for the joke, you get to be in on it.”). This comment gave me a good laugh this morning:

Yawwwn, sequelitis strikes again.

Hey Hollywood, how long’d it take you to come up with yet another unnecessary backstory?! Do we really need to go with Frodo’s dad on his quest to find the ring?

I bet they’ll dumb it down and make it all kiddy too. Hard R or I ain’t watchin!

How much you wanna bet they’ll figure out a way to shoehorn half-a-dozen giant spiders to compete with the one they had in LOTR2.

Now that, ladies and gentlemen, is how a troll is supposed to be done.

Awkward Family Photos: The Game!

Long-time readers will know that my family has been featured on the Awkward Family Photos website not just once, but twice, and both photos were also featured in the Awkward Family Photos book. Well, you can’t keep a good thing down — we’re now also featured in the Awkward Family Photos game!

Long-time readers will know that my family has been featured on the Awkward Family Photos website not just once, but twice, and both photos were also featured in the Awkward Family Photos book.

Well, you can’t keep a good thing down — we’re now also featured in the Awkward Family Photos game!

Based on a popular website, Awkward Family Photos will be your new favorite party game! Combines classic and never- seen-before Awkward Family Photos with probing, open ended questions for a memorable game night full of laughter and creative discussion. Simply flip over an Awkward Family Photos featuring uncomfortable moments from weddings, vacations, and holidays and read aloud the open ended questions. Your hilarious answers guarantee a night of awkward fun…. and if you know your fellow players well enough, and impress them with your answers, you’ll get the last laugh.

Here’s the sales pitch, courtesy of AFP co-founder Mike Bender’s grandparents:

Mechanical Life and Intelligent Design

‘…this is proof that Autobots were not assembled on Cybertron by hurricanes or any other means envisioned by Darwin, and were Intelligently Designed. That makes the Transformers series a compelling parable for ID, and I expect several of this year’s Republican presidential candidates to recommend the movies on that basis alone.’

From On the Origin of Transformers:

The advocates of ID, who are arguing that their belief should be included in science classes in Texas, Tennessee and other states, say that if a living organism has a design that cannot be explained by the theory of natural selection, it is proof of an Intelligent Designer. If you consider a Camaro, for example, wouldn’t it obviously have had a Designer? Could its parts have been assembled by a hurricane (or a trillion hurricanes) blowing through a junkyard?

Certainly not. Therefore, this is proof that Autobots were not assembled on Cybertron by hurricanes or any other means envisioned by Darwin, and were Intelligently Designed. That makes the Transformers series a compelling parable for ID, and I expect several of this year’s Republican presidential candidates to recommend the movies on that basis alone.

Roger Ebert, making the case for Intelligent Design…at least within the universe of the Transformers.

When Harry Met Sally 2

This was far funnier than I expected it to be. I only wish it didn’t have the big “Funny or Die” banner and the intro, so that it was less immediately obvious that it was a joke. They should have saved that for the end, and started with a cold open.

Continue reading “When Harry Met Sally 2”