Monday, December 21, 2009

Sci Fi Science : Videos : Science Channel

Think that the warp drive that allows the Enterprise to travel across the galaxy is impossible?  According to this video, maybe not.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Avatar: Making the Movie : Videos : Discovery News


“I See You” (Theme from Avatar) by Leona Lewis in HD Video by Trailer Park - MySpace Video

Avatar doesn't just look like a sci-fi movie, it looks like the covers of sci-fi novels and the worlds described therein.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Avatar: A Review

I'll just start by saying, "What a mind-blowing movie!"  James Cameron, who also directed the first two Terminator movies, Aliens, The Abyss, True Lies, and Titanic has managed to, again, deliver eye-popping visuals in Avatar.  But these go far beyond what he has done in his previous films.  For this movie he waited 14 years, since Titanic, for technology to advance far enough to create what he saw in his mind.  What he saw were floating mountains, raw, untouched wilderness, skyscraper-high trees, and the camera looking down from dizzying heights, and in 3-D, too.  He used the 3-D to envelope the audience in the story, not to shock or scare them.  He also used special effects in place of make-up on the actors who played the aliens in the movie.  The technology used allowed Cameron to precisely map the body movements and facial expressions of each actor, so that each character seems far more real and natural than a character created by a computer-generated image would have previously. 
But, special effects isn't all there is to the movie.  Not by a long shot.  The story concerns a paraplegic former marine who represents a corporation that wants to exploit the planet Pandora for its mineral resources.  But the indigenous population, called the Na'Vi stands in its way and the company won't let it. The marine, named Jake, has his mind joined to an avatar, a being made the form of a Na'vi, so that he may gather intelligence on them in preparation for an attack on the Na'Vi village.  But, as he spends more time with the Na'Vi, in the body of a Na'Vi, and falling in love with a female Na'Vi assigned by her tribe to teach him their way, which gradually adopts, he begins to question his orders and starts to see himself as part of the Na'Vi people.
The heart of the movie is not the special effects, but the love story, and the subtle theme of relationship with the environment.
Word is this maybe the first of a trilogy.  I await the next with baited breath.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A Tough Nut to Crack

Belief that everything is caused: the doctrine or belief that everything, including every human act, is caused by something and that there is no real free will.

Determinism and free will. Or is it determinism versus free will? It seems that they are both completely opposed to each other and yet, both equally real. As nuts to crack go, this one makes the doctrine of the Trinity look easy.
The first suggests that our choices, therefore our fates, are predetermined by prior circumstances beyond our control. The second suggests, per common understanding, that some of our choices are within our control. They are mutually conflicting interpretations of reality.
I will start by boiling the argument down to its essentials. The essential question is not whether our choices are predetermined by circumstances, but whether events in general are determined by prior events. What is the relationship between cause-and-effect and randomness? Or between predetermined events and events happening by chance?
One answer to that question would be that there is no relationship between them. Either nothing happens by chance or everything that happens, happens completely at random. Another way of phrasing that answer is that there would be complete order, or utter chaos.
By chaos, I mean that no event, no physical entity would have any effect on any other event or entity, that the only law of nature is that there are no laws. The qualities of this state would be chance & action, by which I mean that all particles could move or do anything, with total unpredictability. This is self-evidently false. Chaos does not rule nature. If it did, that would mean that each particle in the universe has no interaction with any other particle. If two cars on a street were on a collision course with each other, they would pass through each other without affecting each other in the slightest. In fact, the two cars, the street, the city, and the planet they reside on would not exist, because none of the individual atomic and sub-atomic particles that they’re made of would be influenced by the properties of other particles, the things that bind particles together and allow larger objects to exist. In fact, if you take the notion of chaos to the absolute extreme, perhaps the universe itself could not exist, because there would be nothing that could cause it to exist.
By order, I mean that all events, all things would by predetermined by prior events. Here, the only meaningful law is that nothing in nature can do anything. The defining characteristics of this state are stillness and predictability. Particles cannot move or act on each other in any way, because they would disturb other particles, disturbing the overall order of nature. That makes every aspect of nature completely predictable, because you can always say that “nothing will happen.” The two cars on the street would not hit each other because they would not be moving, and since the particles they’re made of cannot act in any way, they could not bind themselves together in the first place. In fact, if no part of nature could do anything at all, it’s reasonable to say that the universe could not exist at all, for existence is an action. And the universe could not exist, for there might be nothing capable of causing existence.
The only conclusion to reach is that if these two notions are untrue, then nature must be governed through a more complex relationship between chance and predictability and between action and stillness.

As far as I know, everything moves. All the time. From an electron flying around the nucleus of an atom to a planet moving around a star to a galaxy speeding through the cosmos. Even if you are standing still, you’re standing on the surface of a planet that is moving, so you are moving, too.
But yet, as I recall, Einstein said that all motion, or lack thereof, is relative. So that would mean, that though you’re standing on the surface of a moving planet, you could still be motionless compared to the person standing beside you. All motion is dependent upon a point of view. But, if I’m not mistaken, Einstein also says that both points of view are equally valid. Now, this indicates that motion and non-motion, or action and stillness, have some sort of complex relationship. But how are both points of view equally valid?
Quantum physics is the physics of the very small, atoms and sub-atomic particles. One of its basic tenets is that these particles are, to a large degree, unpredictable in their behavior. Quantum theory is one of the best proven theories in all of science. But scientists have yet to be able to fully reconcile quantum theory with relativity, which describes the physics of the very large, from the size of a large molecule to the largest galaxies. It is also one of the best proven theories in all of science. Though I am very far from an expert, I believe relativity theory indicates that these large objects are, to a large degree, quite predictable in their behavior. So, on the one hand, large objects are predictable, but the small objects they’re made of are unpredictable. Though they seem mutually contradictory, both theories are equally true. Could they, as with action and stillness, both be true relative to each point of view? As with action and stillness, a complex relationship between predictability and chance is indicated, but how is still a mystery.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Is Complexity Actually Simplicity Itself?

Try to imagine infinity. Now, try to imagine infinity plus one. Now, as you may have guessed, infinity plus one equals infinity. That’s because the infinite encompasses all that there is and being able to add one to it would mean that it’s not all that is, but that it’s finite. And if you can’t add something to infinity, then you can’t subtract something from it.

Finite = limited
Infinite = limitless

Therefore, any object that is infinite would, by its very nature, be undivided and it’s contents would be unseparated. Any object that is at all complex must have at least two parts. An infinite object, because it is undivided from itself or anything else, has only one part. Therefore, it would be the simplest object in existence.
Nonetheless, I have hunch that complex objects can be infinite and that, in fact, infinite simplicity and infinite complexity are one and the same.

Now, let us see if I’m right.
From an Encarta article on Rube Goldberg:

“’The Inventions of Professor Lucifer Gorgonzola Butts’ was extremely popular for its depiction of outlandish and intricate mechanical devices that were designed to accomplish absurdly simple purposes.”

From an Encarta article on comics:

Goldberg’s work featured wildly complex and ingenious contraptions rigged to fulfill what were often trivial purposes, such as turning on a light. The phrase “a Rube Goldberg device” has become a part of the American lexicon, referring to anything that is unnecessarily intricate or complex.”

Is it possible that the entire universe, and whatever lies beyond it, is just a gigantic Rube Goldberg machine?

After all, according to mainstream science, for which naturalistic philosophy is a foundation, nature not only has a trivial purpose, it has no purpose at all.

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there's the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause—there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th'oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of dispriz'd love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th'unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovere'd country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.

Hamlet Act 3, scene 1, 55–87

Eternal Hope

What prevents any of us from hoping in God?
Earlier last month, I had a conversation with my neighbor, a man who’s been severely handicapped from birth. If you were to see his apartment, you’d see models of tanks on his bookshelves, videotapes about WWII, and, most notably, a Marine Corps-themed clock on one wall which plays the Marine Corps Hymn at the top of every hour, and a giant red Marine Corps flag on another wall. For most of his adult life, my friend has desperately desired to be a Marine. He has about three years, probably, before his age disqualifies him from eligibility for enlistment. He had pinned all his hopes on becoming a Marine and now he’s beginning to realize that that won’t happen for him.
I asked him what gave him hope now, what gave him the strength to go on? He spoke of a woman who worked at the gym where he worked out, who he was very much “head-over-heels” for. He said that the hope that they would be together one day gave him the strength he needed to go on. He said this even though recently the woman told him that she regarded him only as a friend and nothing more.
He lives a very limited existence. He spends most of his day either in his apartment, watching his antenna TV, or working out at the gym. He has two or three friends. He has family, though they’re not very close, except for his two younger brothers who, themselves, have served in the Marines.
So, if it becomes clear that this woman he is smitten with will never feel the same way about him, what life raft will he cling to next? He is always hopeful that he can find a cure for at least some aspect of his disease. But, what if he doesn’t? His disease is a progressive one, slowly eroding his ability to care for himself as the years and decades pass. He could lose his sight and his hearing. He could completely lose the use of his arms and legs, and the ability of even holding himself upright in his wheelchair. To top it off, he may die at no older than 65 years of age. That’s about another 30 or so years for him, which is a lot of time. But, these days 65 years is relatively young.
My point is this: my friend has already had his dream of becoming a Marine pass by. If the woman he loves rejects him and the cure he needs never comes, then where will he turn to for help?
Where there’s life, there’s hope, and where there’s no hope, there’s no life. For my friend to have to be periodically in search of a new source of hope to keep him alive is very shaky ground to stand on. This will be so, as long as these new sources of hope are transient ones. Is there a source of hope that will never fail? Not in this universe. In this universe, all things have a beginning and an end. Ultimately, everything and everyone fails.
If there is any other lasting source of hope, it must lie beyond space and time, for only in such a place could something exist that would never, ever fail. And something that is never-ending is also, by definition, never-failing. The Bible says that God is this something, or Someone, which exists beyond the universe.
Though what I’ve written above makes logical sense to me, I’ve never been truly willing to trust God with my life. I have had the feeling that God cannot or will not save me, that I’ve already been consigned to Hell. I did ask Jesus to save me, but I am worried that my life in the 20 years since then has not brought forth the fruit indicative of saving faith.
Why do I despair? Why can’t I hope in God? But, if I despair, then what keeps me hanging on desperately, white-knuckling my way through life? What keeps anyone hanging on?

Notes on “HOPE”:
Phone call, 10/05/08
When asked what gave her the strength to live through each day, Mom said, “That’s what we’re here to do.” To survive.
She added that she thought we were given “gifts and time” to use to our best ability.
I said that when I asked myself that question, the first answer that came to mind was, “Fear of death.” I continued, “I suppose that’s a kind of hope.” I’m choosing what I know over what I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to happen to me after I die. The dictionary says hope has to do with expectations. I choose life because I don’t know what to expect with death—Heaven or Hell?
But other people, I think, may put their hope in death, so to speak, expecting that it will be better than the lives they’re living.

If ‘hope’ can be defined as ‘desire accompanied by expectation,’ then ‘despair’ is best defined as, ‘dread accompanied by expectation.’
1. Feel extremely frightened: to feel extremely frightened or worried about something that may happen in the future. 2. Be reluctant: to be reluctant or frightened to do something because it is unpleasant, upsetting, or annoying.
n (plural dreads)
1. Terror: a feeling of great fear or terror, especially at the thought of experiencing or encountering something unpleasant. 2. Source of dread: something that is dreaded. 3. Awe: a feeling of awe and reverence (archaic).
Encarta ® World English Dictionary © & (P) 1998-2004 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

My therapist suggested today that the beauty in the world can be a source of hope.

A Few Good Words to Know...
“Faith,” “Hope,” “Despair,” and “Dread”

The meanings of the word “faith”...
As a noun: 1. Belief without evidence. 2. Confidence; trust. 3. Belief in God, the Bible, etc. 4. A specific religion. 5. Anything given adherence or credence, e.g., a man’s political faith. 6. Allegiance; faithfulness.
Here’s another definition . . .
“Faith has both an active and a passive sense in the Bible. The former meaning relates to one’s loyalty to a person or fidelity to a promise; the latter, confidence in the word or assurance of another. Faith is not merely what a person believes, i.e., accurate doctrine or creed, but also and more importantly, that the object of his faith is valid.”
The meanings of the word “hope”...
As a verb: 1. to desire with expectation of fulfillment. 2. To wish, to want.
3. To have desire or expectation, e.g., “to hope for the best.”
As a noun: 1. Desire accompanied by expectation. 2. The reason or cause of such desire. 3. The thing hoped for. 4. A person or thing about which one can be hopeful.
The meanings of the word “despair”...
As a noun: 1. Feeling of hopelessness: a profound feeling that there is no hope. 2. Cause of hopelessness: somebody or something that makes somebody feel hopeless or exasperated, i.e., He was the despair of his soccer coach. vi (past de•spaired, past participle de•spaired, present participle de•spair•ing, 3rd person present singular de•spairs)
lose hope: to feel that there is no hope.
[13th century. Via Old French from Latin desperare , literally “to stop hoping,” from sperare “to hope,” from spes “hope.”]
And a related word: “dread”...
As a verb: 1. To feel extremely frightened or worried about something that may happen in the future. 2. To be reluctant or frightened to do something because it is unpleasant, upsetting, or annoying.
As a noun: 1. A feeling of great fear or terror, especially at the thought of experiencing or encountering something unpleasant. 2. A feeling of awe and reverence.