Rough Book

random musings of just another computer nerd

Tag: sci-fi

Sci-Fi Fever Dreams

Yesterday when I finally fell asleep, I was running a fever of 102.5 (it broke last night and I feel much better today – I think I’m over whatever I got). I then had a dream I was in a TV show – something like Stranger Things. At least that’s how it started out. Something weird was going on at some house where there was a hole to a parallel dimension and a team of investigators had shown up to check it out. I was part of this team. For whatever reason I had a sweet pair of polarized sunglasses with me. Don’t know where I got them from, but they looked really cool and they most definitely didn’t belong in the 80’s. Everyone kept talking about how cool my shades were and I agreed; they were cool.

We were looking at the lawn where there was a burn mark due to the paranormal occurrences at this house, when I noticed that I would see a strange pattern on the lawn only when I wore the shades. No one else could see it. I lent my sunglasses to the other investigators and then they could see the pattern too. When they wondered why, I said “Well, my glasses are from 2016” (as if that would explain everything). They laughed because it was only 1986. I think at that point I realized that I had somehow time-traveled to 1986 and ended up as part of this team. Anyway, I then realized that the pattern I was seeing on the lawn was basically a series of gears; kind of like what you would see in a clock. Furthermore, the gears were moving. That’s when I realized that what I was looking at was time itself! The glasses helped me view the entire dimension of time using this metaphor. But not just view it…

I decided to say “Go back 10 seconds” while wearing the glasses, and I went back 10 seconds in time! So apparently that was how I had arrived in 1986, but I had forgotten that critical piece of information. I don’t recall what else I did with my new-found power but I vaguely remember time-traveling to 1991 and ending up in my old house in Darsait, Muscat as my younger self. So it appeared that the glasses had a sort of Quantum Leap-esque power too. Unfortunately at this point I either woke up or the dream transitioned into something else because I don’t remember what happened next.

The Sun’s not going to blow up

In any science fiction story I’ve read (or science fiction movie or TV show that I’ve seen) that talks about death of the Sun. I’ve always heard references to Earth’s sun “going nova”. I’ve read about this even in Asimov’s stories. In most cases, they’re talking about a supernova. But here’s the thing. The Sun is not going to blow up. Even if the writers were talking about an actual nova, they’re still wrong. Here’s why:

Our Sun is a yellow dwarf star (more precisely known as a G-type main-sequence star), and doesn’t have enough mass to undergo a supernova explosion (type IIa). You need a star that’s at least nine times the Sun’s mass for a supernova explosion. If we’re simply looking at a nova (type Ia), then the Sun doesn’t have a companion to draw matter from when it turns into a white dwarf. So no matter which way you look at it, the Sun is not going to blow up. It’s just going to be really, big and red and will eat the Earth. Unless the Earth moves outward due to the Sun losing mass. Finally the Sun with eject its outer layers and turn into a white dwarf. See? No blowing up. I don’t know why some science fiction authors still talk about the Sun “going nova”. Maybe it’s because it sounds more dramatic.

If anyone has read a science fiction story (or seen a science fiction movie or TV show) that talked about the death of the Sun/Earth and did so realistically, then let me know.

Star Trek XI

Star Trek 2009

Yesterday, I saw Star Trek. I’ve been waiting for this movie ever since I heard it was being made. I had pretty high hopes for it and felt that the franchise needed redemption after the steaming pile of crap that was Nemesis (what an ignominious exit for the TNG crew). That being said, I was also a little cautious because although the morons responsible for Nemesis (Rick Berman and Brannon Braga) had no part in this, I was afraid that Abrams might dilute the “Trekkiness” of the franchise. Regardless, I was more than a little excited when I was finally able to get to see the movie. So here’s my review. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, don’t read ahead because there will be spoilers.
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The Battlestar Galactica Series Finale was Frakking Awesome, ok?

I know the finale was broadcast last weekend, but I didn’t get to see it until a few days ago. If you haven’t seen it yet (or if you haven’t seen the series at all and are planning to start), don’t read any further because there are spoilers!

The re-imagined Battlestar Galactica earned itself a place in my list of “All-time favorite Sci-Fi shows” (alongside Star Trek: TNG, Star Trek: DS9, Stargate SG-1, X-Files, and Doctor Who (2004)) pretty much after the first season. During its run it was arguably “the best show on television”. Although the series faltered a tiny bit during the 3rd season, I have never seen such a well-written show with fully-fleshed out characters, a gripping story line, complex existential, religious, militaristic, and moral themes, and gritty, exciting action. The success and superior quality of the show is further supported by the fact that it attracted an audience that traditionally doesn’t watch Sci-Fi. In fact, many of my friends who don’t usually watch Sci-Fi (to the extent that some of them actually dislike it) instantly liked the show despite its obvious Sci-Fi underpinnings. The themes of the show were especially valid in a post-9/11 world. Here is a (by no means comprehensive) list of issues that the series tried to address:

  • The effectiveness of armed insurgency or suicide bombing
  • Personal safety (or the illusion thereof) at the expense of personal freedom
  • Civilian versus Military rule
  • The importance of wearing the uniform, military service, and upholding the oath you swear when you sign up (an aspect that particularly appealed to me)
  • Divine intervention, divine providence, fate, and destiny
  • An examination of the human condition in the direst of circumstances (when the survival of humanity is at stake)
  • An attempt to answer the question of what it means to be Human

The series had a message that was so pertinent and so valid, that the cast was invited to a summit at the UN. To quote Robert Orr, the Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning, “You’ve got people thinking about issues that we try and get people thinking about every day.”

Ok, now that I’ve done more than enough gushing about the show, let me go onto the finale. I know that this subject has already been beaten to death since the finale aired, but I want to put in my two cents. The finale was frakking awesome ok? A lot of people are complaining that the finale didn’t address every single question that they had, and that there are some loose ends. Some of them are even complaining that the finale was a little too long, and even that the enter finale was a cop-out resolved by deus ex machina. Ok, they’re entitled to their opinion… but really? Yes, there were some deus ex machina moments (like Starbuck realizing that the opening strains to Watchtower were actually FTL co-ordinates to our Earth) that require a leap of faith. But that’s the point. I mean, what explanation were you expecting for Head Six and Head Baltar? Are they angels or demons? Schizophrenic hallucinations? No one really knows, and that’s fine. The point is that there we don’t know everything and that there isn’t an answer for everything.

You could make the argument that the writers had too grandiose of a vision, and that they had too many plot points, leading to some that were apparently unresolved. But again, it’s a matter of opinion, and it is quite subjective. For example, consider Kara Thrace. What is she? An angel? I don’t know, and I’m fine with that. She was apparently born with a destiny and with a task to perform. From the series you can tell that all her life she has been searching for a purpose. Her entire life has been an existential crisis and a search for relevance and validation. This search is finally realized when she finally leads Humanity to a permanent home.

The weakest part, arguably, of the finale was after they find our Earth. The surviving population is apparently content to leave behind all their advanced technology and start a pastoral life on Earth. This didn’t completely sit well with me. I found it a little hard to believe. One could argue that the human population on the ships haven’t really been leading a good life for the past four years. They have essentially been refugees the whole time. I guess you could argue that wouldn’t want any reminders of those difficult four years and would want to start completely anew. But I still have a hard time believing that the entire population would agree to that. In fact, when it became obvious that they had arrived on a pre-historic (150,000 years ago to be exact) Earth, I imagined that the population would probably split into two camps: one hanging on the the advanced technology, and another abandoning it completely. There would presumably be no contact between the two, and the technological group, to minimize their impact on Earth’s indigenous population would perhaps retreat to an island that subsequently gets destroyed by a natural disaster. It seems like a neater conclusion to the story. But this wasn’t the case, and even still, I don’t think it ruins the overall message of the finale or the series.

Then you have the final few minutes where we find out that the colonials landed on an Earth 150,000 years in our past. Though the finale could have ended with the scene where Admiral Adama sits on the hill beside President Laura Roslyn’s grave, talking to her while looking at the sunset, I think the final sequence presents a clearer message about the cyclical nature of human history, and about death and rebirth. I also liked how they pointed out Hera’s significance to Humanity and Cylons in the end, when it is revealed that she is Mitochondrial Eve. Finally, I also liked the conversation between Head Six and Head Baltar at the end where they compare our current civilization to the past human civilizations on old Earth, Kobol, and the Twelve Colonies (playing into the whole “cylical nature of history”/”death-rebirth” concept) but also note that there is always a chance that humanity won’t chose a self-destructive path again. I know that some people found the ending montage of the robots to be a little cheesy, but I think it was pertinent in the sense that humanity has always advanced faster in technology than in social maturity (Lee Adama talks about the same thing during the finale) and that we really need to be careful. With that, the series finally ended on a cautionary, though optimistic note.

Well, that’s my two cents on the series finale. If I had to condense that into two words, I’d say it like I said before: Frakking Awesome!

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