Linkdump for March 30th from 13:25 to 16:32

An automatically generated list of links that caught my eye between 13:25 and 16:32 on March 30th.

Sometime between 13:25 and 16:32 on March 30th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

  • The Male Power Fantasy (and why Mad Max and Captain Kirk don’t fit): This relates to a theory I have, which is that the archetypal Western Male Hero is James Bond, to the degree that people (Mainly straight white men) start to see every Western Male Hero as James Bond. Which is to say an aggressively masculine, quip-spitting, hyper violent womanizer. The ultimate Male Power Fantasy. A new supermodel love interest (or two) every film, a gun in his hand, and no consequences for his actions.
  • So many biological genders: If anyone tells you that there are 2-3 sexes in the world I want you to just go ahead and slap them.
  • Fight Club and toxic masculinity (with a side of Mad Max: Fury Road): Hold up – you mean there are people who watch Fight Club and don’t realise that Tyler Durden is meant to be full of shit?
  • Geisha FAQ: Please do not spread misconceptions about these hard-working women artists. They deserve respect and have persevered for centuries with women at the forefront of these professions.
  • Earth is dangerous: I really want a science fiction story where aliens come to invade earth and effortlessly wipe out humanity, only to be fought off by the wildlife.
  • Of privilege and nostalgia: The reality is, there was never a time when everyone could just enjoy things. To be able to say you had that time is to admit the privilege you had at not having to think about problematic behavior because it didn’t negatively affect your life.
  • To everyone else in the galaxy, all humans are basically Doc Brown.: Random Headcanon: That Federation vessels in Star Trek seem to experience bizarre malfunctions with such overwhelming frequency isn’t just an artefact of the television serial format. Rather, it’s because the Federation as a culture are a bunch of deranged hyper-neophiles, tooling around in ships packed full of beyond-cutting-edge tech they don’t really understand.
  • Snarky but amusing and thorough Romeo and Juliet analysis: SUMMARY: Romeo and Juliet is a stunningly rich play that is mostly about how feuds fuck people over badly and how if you have to wait until YOUR KIDS OFF THEMSELVES to figure that out you deserve to lose your children. Romeo and Juliet are victims of the feud and its mindless death-lust, not perpetrators of death on others. They’re not supposed to be figures of ridicule OR representatives of True Love: they’re supposed to make the audience go “oh BABIES, no, you’re going to end so badly” and then be sad when they do.
  • The singular “they”: Next time someone complains about singular “they” I’ll point them to this 17th century rant against singular “you”.

Linkdump for March 30th from 11:01 to 11:37

An automatically generated list of links that caught my eye between 11:01 and 11:37 on March 30th.

Sometime between , I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

Pacific Science Center’s Lucy Exhibit Stumbling

Lucy’s second stop on the tour is at Seattle’s Pacific Science Center, where her exhibit is running from October through March 8th. Unfortunately, that could very well be her _last_ stop before heading home to Ethiopia. Apparently, not enough people are bothering to see the exhibit.

In some ways one of the most famous women ever to walk the Earth, Lucy died around 3.2 million years ago. Her partial skeleton, discovered in 1974, has become one of the most significant anthropological finds ever. Starting in 2007, Lucy went on what was planned to be a six-year, 10-city United States tour — her first time outside of Ethiopia — and began with an engagement in Houston so successful that her stay was extended for an extra five months.

Her second stop on the tour is at Seattle’s Pacific Science Center, where her exhibit is running from October through March 8th. Unfortunately, this could very well be her last stop before heading home to Ethiopia. Apparently, not enough people are bothering to see the exhibit.

Facing up to a half-million-dollar loss on the exhibit, the center laid off 8 percent of its staff and froze wages, President and CEO Bryce Seidl said Friday. Workers are taking unpaid days off, and the nonprofit organization suspended matching funds for individual retirement accounts.

It’s a disappointing outcome for an exhibit that was intended to be a blockbuster for the Seattle museum and a public-relations coup for Lucy’s homeland of Ethiopia, Seidl said.

[…]

The exhibit cost about $2.25 million to mount, Seidl estimated. That includes a $500,000 fee to the government of Ethiopia, which plans to use the money raised during Lucy’s U.S. tour for cultural and scientific programs.

The science center had hoped 250,000 people would visit during the exhibit’s five-month run, which ends March 8. But attendance, so far, is only 60,000.

[…]

Other museums around the U.S. have been tracking Lucy’s poor showing in Seattle, and none has yet agreed to be the next stop on what was meant to be a six-year, 10-city tour. Chicago’s Field Museum backed out of plans to host the exhibit because of the cost. Controversy over whether the irreplaceable fossil should be transported around the globe led the Denver Museum of Nature & Science not to follow through on early discussions.

“Lucy may not be anywhere other than Ethiopia after Seattle,” Seidl said.

Just sad. Prairie and I had already been discussing going, and this cements our plans. We’re thinking that we’ll probably be heading down on Valentine’s Day weekend and spend a day seeing the Lucy exhibit and wandering around the PacSci.

You should head down and give Lucy a visit as well (on your own schedule, of course, but don’t wait too long, she’s only here until early March). It’s an incredibly important bit of history and science, and it’s sad to hear that so few people are showing up.

Manufactured Controversy

If the ID folks actually were to do the work involved in creating such a theory, doing the experimentation and observation necessary to back it up and get their work peer reviewed, it WOULD be accepted by science. Unfortunately, the main proponents of Intelligent Design Theory have no interest in doing that; they’d rather just fabricate controversy, pretending that the mean-old scientists just won’t let them play because scientists hate Christians.

Jer does a very nice job of laying out one of the base-level issues with the ongoing and neverending “debate” over Intelligent Design: “[the actual issue is extremely simple: Intelligent Design is not science, and thus doesn’t belong in science classrooms.][1]”

[1]: http://nyquil.org/archives/1162-Manufactured-Controversy-Roger-Ebert-helps-illustrate-problems-with-the-debate-over-Intelligent-Design.html “Manufactured Controversy: Roger Ebert helps illustrate problems with the ‘debate’ over Intelligent Design”

> As of now, the opposition to the teaching of Intelligent Design in science classrooms is as follows: scientific theories are based upon the notion that observations and evidence overwhelmingly back them up. Intelligent Design theory posits no such testable, observable theories. All their time and energy is spent finding problems with portions of the evolution model, which, while actually pretty useful, is not the same thing as positing a theory of their own. The notion that everything was created by an intelligent force is a nice notion — one which I happen to believe — but it is not the same thing as a scientific theory. If you want to do science, then you have to do considerably more than just come up with a nice notion.
>
> ID proponents (and Ben Stein’s film) portray themselves as being “shut out” by science, that what they’re doing is being ignored on the grounds that it attacks the accepted model, and that science is akin to persecution of religion. This simply isn’t true. If the ID folks actually were to do the work involved in creating such a theory, doing the experimentation and observation necessary to back it up and get their work peer reviewed, it WOULD be accepted by science. Unfortunately, the main proponents of Intelligent Design Theory have no interest in doing that; they’d rather just fabricate controversy, pretending that the mean-old scientists just won’t let them play because scientists hate Christians.
>
> Sadly, it’s far easier to rile up congregations and make them feel persecuted than to actually do the science they purport they’re doing. By portraying evolution as anti-religion while claiming persecution at the hands of scientists, they’ve painted an inaccurate portrait of the “debate.” People with no understanding at all of science now feel that their viewpoint ought be represented where it simply doesn’t belong. This two-faced approach is nothing short of dishonest, and I personally feel that the level of dishonesty exhibited suggests that it’s not just misguided, but also intentional.

Zoom

Cosmic View, Cosmic Zoom, Powers of Ten, and the Simpsons.

1. 1957: [Cosmic View: The Universe in 40 Jumps][1], by Kees Boeke.

2. 1968: [Cosmic Zoom][2], a Canadian animated short film inspired by Boeke’s book.

3. 1977: [Powers of Ten][3], a short film by Charles and Ray Eames, inspired by the prior two pieces. This is the most commonly known version of this presentation.

4. 2004: [The Simpsons][4] parody version (10.3 Mb .mov file), as the couch gag for [The Ziff Who Came to Dinner][5]

[1]: http://www.vendian.org/mncharity/cosmicview/ “Cosmic View: The Universe in 40 Jumps”
[2]: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMV_zDQaq9o “YouTube: Cosmic Zoom”
[3]: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpA28eUB7Ek “YouTube: Powers of Ten”
[4]: http://www.cakeshop.tv/clientsection_site/jk/BestSimpsonsCouchGag.mov “BestSimposnsCouchGag.mov (10.3 Mb)”
[5]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ziff_Who_Came_to_Dinner “Wikipedia: The Ziff Who Came to Dinner”

All links via _[Kottke][6]_.

[6]: http://www.kottke.org/remainder/07/11/14538.html “kottke.org: Cosmic Zoom…”

Cydonia redux

The European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter has obtained new, high resolution images of the ever-popular Cydonian ‘face’ on Mars, putting to rest (again) the myth that there’s actually a constructed face on the surface of the red planet.

The [European Space Agency][1]’s [Mars Express][2] orbiter has obtained new, [high resolution images of the ever-popular Cydonian ‘face’ on Mars][3], putting to rest (again) the myth that there’s actually a constructed face on the surface of the red planet.

[1]: http://www.esa.int/esaCP/index.html “European Space Agency”
[2]: http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Mars_Express/index.html “ESA: Mars Express”
[3]: http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Mars_Express/SEM09F8LURE_0.html “ESA: Mars Express: Cydonia: The Face on Mars”

> [Cydonian Face in perspective][4]
>
> A perspective view showing the so-called ‘Face on Mars’ located in the Cydonia region. The image shows a remnant massif thought to have formed via landslides and an early form of debris apron formation. The massif is characterized by a western wall that has moved downslope as a coherent mass. The massif became famous as the ‘Face on Mars’ in a photo taken on 25 July 1976 by the American Viking 1 Orbiter.
>
> Image recorded during orbits 3253 and 1216 by the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) on board ESA’s Mars Express. Image is based on data gathered over the Cydonia region, with a ground resolution of approximately 13.7 metres per pixel. Cydonia lies at approximately 40.75° North and 350.54° East.
>
> Credits: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin (G. Neukum), MOC (Malin Space Science Systems)

[4]: http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Mars_Express/SEM09F8LURE_1.html “ESA: Mars Express: Cydonia: The Face on Mars”

This seems like as good a time as any to revisit one of my favorite silly posts from the past: [Mars Needs a Facelift!][5]

[5]: http://www.michaelhanscom.com/eclecticism/2001/05/24/mars-needs-a-facelift/ “Eclecticism: Mars Needs a Facelift!”

> NASA has recently released photographs of the famous Cydonian face on Mars that show that one of the strongest pieces of evidence we have yet of alien intelligence is in danger of being eradicated from our Solar System.
>
> […]
>
> The only question now is how is this happening? […] The only answer I can come up with is that the Face is being **deliberately destroyed** to hide its existence from us! This single image — released by NASA itself — does more to prove that the Government has been hiding information from us (either about its own capabilities, or about its involvement with extraterrestrial intelligence) for years than anything previously found!

Heh.

(via [/.][6])

[6]: http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/09/22/0634233&from=rss “/.: Face on Mars Gets a Make-Over”

Jupiter Needs Oxy-10

Backyard astro-pharmacists, grab your acne medication. Jupiter is growing a new red zit. The official name of this zit is ‘Oval BA,’ but ‘Red Jr.’ might be better. It’s about half the size of the famous Great Red Zit and almost exactly the same color.

**March 3, 2006:** Backyard astro-pharmacists, grab your acne medication. Jupiter is growing a new red zit.

Christopher Go of the Philippines photographed it on February 27th using an 11-inch telescope and a CCD camera:

Jupiter's Acne

**Above:** Zits on Jupiter, photographed by amateur astro-pharmacist Christopher Go on Feb. 27, 2006.

The official name of this zit is “Oval BA,” but “Red Jr.” might be better. It’s about half the size of the famous Great Red Zit and almost exactly the same color.

Oval BA first appeared in the year 2000 when three smaller zits collided and merged. Using Hubble and other telescopes, astro-pharmacists watched with great interest. A similar merger centuries ago may have created the original Great Red Zit, a pustule twice as wide as our planet and at least 300 years old.

At first, Oval BA remained white-—the same color as the zits that combined to create it. But in recent months, things began to change:

“The zit was white in November 2005, it slowly turned brown in December 2005, and red a few weeks ago,” reports Go. “Now it is the same color as the Great Red Zit!”

“Wow!” says Dr. Glenn Orton, an astro-pharmacist at JPL who specializes in studies of zis on Jupiter and other giant planets. “This is convincing. We’ve been monitoring Jupiter for years to see if Oval BA would turn red-—and it finally seems to be happening.” (Red Jr? Orton prefers “the not-so-Great Red Zit.”)

Why red?

Curiously, no one knows precisely why the Great Red Zit itself is red. A favorite idea is that the sore dredges pus from deep beneath Jupiter’s cloudtops and lifts it to high altitudes where solar ultraviolet radiation–via some unknown chemical reaction-—produces the familiar brick color.

“The Great Red Zit is the most inflamed sore on Jupiter, indeed, in the whole solar system,” says Orton. The top of the sore rises 8 km above surrounding clouds. “It takes a powerful sore to lift material so high,” he adds.

Jupiter Zit Formation

**Above:** Hubble images detail the birth of oval BA in 1997-2000.

Oval BA may have strengthened enough to do the same. Like the Great Red Zit, Red Jr. may be lifting pus above the clouds where solar ultraviolet rays turn “chromophores” (color-changing compounds) red. If so, the deepening red is a sign that the sore is intensifying.

“Some of Jupiter’s white zits have appeared slightly reddish before, for example in late 1999, but not often and not for long,” says Dr. John Rogers, author of the book “Jupiter: The Giant Planet,” which recounts telescopic observations of Jupiter for the last 100+ years. “It will indeed be interesting to see if Oval BA becomes permanently red.”

See for yourself: Jupiter is easy to find in the dawn sky. Step outside before sunrise, look south and up. Jupiter outshines everything around it. Small telescopes have no trouble making out Jupiter’s cloudbelts and its four largest moons. Telescopes 10-inches or larger with CCD cameras should be able to track Red Jr. with ease.

What’s next? Will Red Jr. remain red? Will it grow or subside? Stay tuned for updates.

—–

This (stupid) parody article and images are adapted from the original “[Jupiter’s New Red Spot][1],” found [via /.][2]. Not my most mature work, but it amused me a bit.

[1]: http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2006/02mar_redjr.htm “NASA: Jupiter’s New Red Spot”
[2]: http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/03/04/0639214&from=rss “/.: Jupiter Gets New Red Spot”

Schrodinger’s Mac

This is the kind of geeky science stuff that I love: quantum computers that give results when they’re turned off.

Well, no, it’s not a Mac. I’m just being cute. Or at least trying to.

_Anyway…_

This is the kind of geeky science stuff that I love: [quantum computers that give results when they’re turned off][1].

[1]: http://www.newscientist.com/channel/info-tech/mg18925405.700.html “New Scientist: Quantum computer works best switched off”

> Even for the crazy world of quantum mechanics, this one is twisted. A quantum computer program has produced an answer without actually running.
>
> The idea behind the feat, first proposed in 1998, is to put a quantum computer into a “superposition”, a state in which it is both running and not running. It is as if you asked Schrödinger’s cat to hit “Run”.
>
> With the right set-up, the theory suggested, the computer would sometimes get an answer out of the computer even though the program did not run. And now researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have improved on the original design and built a non-running quantum computer that really works.
>
> They send a photon into a system of mirrors and other optical devices, which included a set of components that run a simple database search by changing the properties of the photon.
>
> The new design includes a quantum trick called the Zeno effect. Repeated measurements stop the photon from entering the actual program, but allow its quantum nature to flirt with the program’s components – so it can become gradually altered even though it never actually passes through.
>
> “It is very bizarre that you know your computer has not run but you also know what the answer is,” says team member Onur Hosten.
>
> This scheme could have an advantage over straightforward quantum computing. “A non-running computer produces fewer errors,” says Hosten. That sentiment should have technophobes nodding enthusiastically.

Poseidon

In my version of the movie, the survivors of the capsized ship would make it to the surface, find a life raft, and make it to shore only to discover that the wave had been generated by a huge meteor or asteroid crashing into the ocean not far from their ship.

Apparently, there’s a big-budget remake of the 70’s disaster movie [The Poseidon Adventure][1] being made, and the first trailer [just hit the ‘net][2].

[1]: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/redirect?tag=djwudicom-20%26link_code=xm2%26camp=2025%26creative=165953%26path=http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html%253fASIN=6305280746%2526tag=djwudicom-20%2526lcode=xm2%2526cID=2025%2526ccmID=165953%2526location=/o/ASIN/6305280746%25253FSubscriptionId=02ZH6J1W0649DTNS6002 “Ronald Neame: The Poseidon Adventure”

[2]: http://www.apple.com/trailers/wb/poseidon/ “Apple – Trailers – Poseidon”

As I was watching the trailer, a shot of the huge wave bearing down on the ocean liner made me wonder about just how likely such an event really was. To my (admittedly limited) knowledge, waves such as that are generally associated with tsunamis, where waves that might be unnoticeable on the ocean grow to incredible height as they progress into shallower water near shore. Large waves away from shore are generally associated with storms or hurricanes. So, to see a wave large enough to capsize a modern ocean liner in the open sea on an otherwise clear night seemed to be straining, if not outright breaking credibility.

In my head, then, I decided that part of the remake should be the question of where such a wave would come from and what could generate it. In _my_ version of the movie, the survivors of the capsized cruise ship would make it to the surface, find a life raft or some other craft, and make it in to shore…only to discover that the wave had been generated by a huge meteor or asteroid crashing into the ocean not far from their ship, and by the time they’d escaped the ship and made it to land, huge tsunamis had wiped out entire coastlines across the world, practically destroying the world as they’d known it. Kind of a modern-day [Planet of the Apes][3] ending, only without the sci-fi time travel element.

[3]: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/redirect?tag=djwudicom-20%26link_code=xm2%26camp=2025%26creative=165953%26path=http://www.amazon.com/gp/redirect.html%253fASIN=B0000TPA4C%2526tag=djwudicom-20%2526lcode=xm2%2526cID=2025%2526ccmID=165953%2526location=/o/ASIN/B0000TPA4C%25253FSubscriptionId=02ZH6J1W0649DTNS6002 “Franklin J. Schaffner: Planet of the Apes (Widescreen 35th Anniversary Edition)”

What _really_ surprised me when starting to write this post, then, was noting these two passages on the [IMDB’s trivia page for The Poseidon Adventure][4]:

> Paul Gallico was inspired to write his novel by a voyage he made on the Queen Mary. When he was having breakfast in the dining room, the liner was hit by a large wave, sending people and furniture crashing to the other side of the vessel. He was further inspired by a true incident which occurred aboard the Queen Mary during World War II. Packed with American troops bound for Europe, the ship was struck by a gargantuan freak wave in the North Atlantic. It was calculated that if the ship had rolled another five inches, she would have capsized like the Poseidon.

> Such mid-ocean “rogue waves” were previously thought to occur only once every ten thousand years. A 2004 study of satellite radar images showed they can happen as often as hundreds of times every decade.

[4]: http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0069113/trivia “IMDB: Trivia for The Poseidon Adventure”

Whoa. Such waves are _real_? [Apparently so][5]!

> Rogue waves are freakishly large waves, much bigger than the surrounding swell. They seem to rear up out of nowhere, sometimes out of a fairly calm sea, and disappear just as quickly. Mariners have recounted tales of such waves for centuries, but until recently oceanographers discounted them, along with sightings of sea monsters and mermaids. Naval architects, however, have analyzed the wrecks of ships sunk in recent decades, and have found that a large proportion of them have damage consistent with an encounter with a rogue wave, which can reach heights of a hundred feet. Even supertankers have been sunk by these monster waves. Now the evidence is too great to ignore, and physicists are trying to understand how rogue waves are generated. The issue is important not only for our understanding of the ocean, but also because rogue waves seem to be responsible for the loss of many lives at sea.

[5]: http://www.enviroliteracy.org/article.php/257.html “Environmental Literacy Council: Rogue Waves”

Hot damn that’s cool. Freaky and scary, but really cool. Guess I should be giving the scriptwriters a tad more credit than I had been!