athelind: (WARNING: TV Tropes)
Your Obedient Serpent quite enjoyed Ant-Man, particularly since it suggests that the hot mess that was Avengers: Age of Ultron is an outlier and not a harbinger that the grand experiment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has finally followed Mr. Fonzarelli's motorcycle over the infamous elasmobranch. However, I must agree with Mr. Taylor's assessement that the core conceit that the Ant-Man technology changes SIZE but not MASS was handled with a distracting inconsistency.

I will note, for the moment, that said inconsistency was handled pretty much exactly as it is in the comic books.

DC's Alternate Company Equivalent, The Atom, possesses full control over both his size AND his density -- and, of course, this was spelled out in dialogue, editorial footnotes, or both, in every single one of Dr. Palmer's Silver Age adventures. However, Dr. Pym, Ms. Van Dyne, and their assorted successors have never explicitly been granted anything but size control -- and usually, they are portrayed as no stronger than their insect associates at those scales.

A possible explanation of the Tiny/Heavy Paradox that plagues the movie occurred to me this morning. It's nonsense sci-fi technobabble, but no more than any other instance of Comic Book Physics, but it's sci-fi technobabble of impeccable pedigree.

Edward Elmer Smith, PhD, known to fans and friends alike as "Doc", was the author of the seminal Lensman saga, scribed back in the 1930s and 1940s. Lensman was the trope codifier for pretty much the entire genre of Space Opera, including Star Trek, Star Wars, and everything else of that nature, and had no small impact on another comic book franchise that didn't involve tiny people at all other than the occasional superintelligent alien virus.

A key piece of fictional science and technology in the Lensman saga is the conceit that later developments of relativistic theory divorced inertial mass from gravitational mass; in the epic, of course, this allowed for the faster-than-light velocities needed for star-spanning adventure.

I find myself wondering if this might prove the key to bringing some level of consistency to what the movie portrays: when Ant-Man is just standing, gravity only affects him as if he were the size and mass of an ant. When he falls, or hurtles into something, or socks someone in the jaw like a proper superhero, he has the momentum and kinetic energy of an 80-kilogram man, concentrated in the volume and surface area of one a mere centimeter tall.

(This works better if we discard the movie's explanation that the Pym Particle "reduces the distance between atoms" and return to the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe's assertion that the mass of the shrunken person or object is "shunted into another dimension".)

It suggests that subtle variations in angle and trajectory could produce a wide range of "effective" mass and momentum. As just one example, he can match velocities with his formic steed because the ratio of his surface area to his gravitational mass allows him to control his descent, but if he jumps off, tucks in, and minimizes his surface area, he can hit that hapless mook with all the force of a full-grown man dropping a meter onto his back. (Ow.)

It's no less nonsense, but it might be the hand-wave that "fixes" the movie; I would have to watch it again with Bergenholm Physics in mind to see if it really does mesh with all the delightful, preposterous things we see on the screen except for that damned keychain.


athelind: (WARNING: TV Tropes)
Recently, I've had several conversations with different people about franchise fiction, why it becomes popular, and why so many franchises develop followings and fandoms far out of proportion to their literary merit (at least as perceived by the arbiters of such intangibles).

Since it's been a while since this (or any other) topic has come up in this venue, let's review (and rename, and renumber) Snark's Athelind's Laws of Fanfic Transformative Works:

  1. Athelind's First Law of Transformative Works:

    • A sufficiently established franchise is indistinguishable from fanfic.

      • Corollary: Star Trek novels exist because Paramount realized they weren't getting a cut of the fanzine market (see TV Tropes: Running the Asylum).

  2. Athelind's Second Law of Transformative Works:

    • The popularity of franchise fiction rests not only in the stories that are told, but in the stories that could be told in the franchise's setting. The more fertile the ground for exploration, extrapolation and personal interpretation, the more enthusiastic and enduring the fandom.


Analysis:

Phineas & Ferb is a very good show, at least as good as My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.  Both shows are smart, snappy, extol virtues of creativity, cooperation, diversity and enthusiasm without being pandering or insulting, and are packed full of Parental Bonus humor.  They have fluid, slick animation and simple, crisp, geometric character design (P&F's creative team have gone on record as saying that the distinctive designs of the cast were intended to make them easy for young fans to draw).

And yet, while Phineas & Ferb has a following, it doesn't have a fandom with the same level of ... devotion ... as the Bronies.*  I will note that it also doesn't really have a premise that lends itself gracefully to fan-made characters;  a neighborhood full of eccentric grade-schoolers with a penchant for Mad Science is entertaining to watch, but adding one more quirky personality to that particular mix isn't something that excites the imagination.  Sure, it would be a blast to be nine years old and live on the same block as the Flynn-Fletchers, but nobody fantasizes about being Elmyra to Pinkie and the Brain.**

This supports the Second Law: Given two shows of approximately equal quality, I submit that the factor that makes one attract a hard-core fandom is how readily one can inject one's self or one's own creations into its milieu.

Harry Potter, My Little Pony, Star Trek, superhero comics ... They're all setting with a "sandbox" quality to them.  They have or imply Loads and Loads of Characters, and lend themselves to letting you be one of those thousands.

People write Monk fanfics, but they don't drop personal alter-egos or original characters into the Monk milieu unless they're Mary Suing. I love Babylon 5, but it has a finite story arc all centered around a particular cadre of Important People. People don't make their own imaginary Earthforce vessels like they do Federation starships.

I think the two purest distillations of "Milieus You Can Become A Part Of" are Furry Fandom, which has actually dispensed with ANY central narrative or setting and revolves primarily around the fandom's own self-created personae more than any particular commercial work ... and superhero comics, where the entire process has long been a matter of dropping a creator's own ideas and alter-egos into the larger setting.


* It's hard to think of many fandoms as devout as the Bronies.  Not even the Beatles, and they were more popular than ... well, they were pretty popular.
** Almost nobody.


athelind: (Warning: Memetic Hazard)


From the Glossary of A Miracle of Science:

Science Related Memetic Disorder:
Science Related Memetic Disorder (SRMD) is a memetic disease which susceptible persons can both catch and transmit. SRMD appears to be a naturally-occurring memetic disorder which spreads via fringe science books and half-baked online rantings. A susceptible person - usually an engineer or scientist whose theories have been snubbed by his professional peers - who reads one of these rants can catch SRMD. Once a person has been infected with the SRMD meme complex, he or she will begin to constuct a scientific theory and will go to any length to prove it and to show everyone who disregarded his work that his theory is correct. Persons infected with SRMD, who are colloquially called "mad scientists," will often engage in illegal or hazardous actions to further their goals.

Signs that your loved one has an SRMD infection are: manic laughter, a desire to build a secret lab, hoarding of radioactive materials, sleep deprivation, building armies of oozing zombies in the bathroom, and dry mouth.



athelind: (Eye - VK)
There's been a bit of a kerfluffle about a recent study about students who fell for a hoax website about the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus.

Frankly, the article linked above is a shoddy piece of science journalism. As [livejournal.com profile] eggshellhammer pointed out, it doesn't link to the original study. Even worse, in Your Obedient Serpent's eyes: it didn't specify the age level of the students. That's an important factor: a study about the critical thinking ability of kindergarten students has entirely different implications than the same study about a group of college undergraduates.

That in itself is an indication of a failure of critical thinking ability in would-be science journalists.

As it transpires, this study involved seventh-graders. The conclusion can thus be summarized as, "wow, you can con a 12-year-old into believing some crazy shit", which is hardly earth-shattering news. I'd say three-quarters of the contents of snopes.com is stuff that was repeated as gospel truth on the Bicentennial schoolyards of my twelfth year.

(I find the datum that students ignore search engines in favor of randomlytypinginaname.com to be much more startling, personally. Seriously, WTF?)

The other study mentioned in the University of Connecticut article suggests that this, in large measure, just reflects a need for improved emphasis on Internet search and access skills, and not some Terrible Crisis in Education. That's how the researchers seem to interpret it; the DANGER WILL ROBINSON! reactions were mostly imposed by the secondary sources. For my part, I was intrigued and, on some level, amused at the revelation that students who had difficulties with traditional literacy showed superior online reading facilities.

As for the details of the first study ... I'm going to be generous and completely ignore the implications of drawing broad conclusions from a sample group of twenty-five students in a single class. Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that this specific class is representative of the entire population of students in Connecticut. Let's take a look at two of the sited conclusions:

• All but one of the 25 rated the site as "very credible" ...

Let us, just for a moment, step out of the role of of the Know-It-All Grown-Up Who Knows This Site Is Patently Absurd Because There's No Such Thing. Let us remember that those reading this journal are likely to have at least five more years of formal education than the subjects of this study.

Yes, http://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus/ is "very credible".

"Credible" doesn't mean "true" or "accurate". It means "able to be believed", or "capable of persuading". The website has a professional presentation and a serious, convincing tone. The only obvious joke on the main page (aside from a deadpan link to sasquatch) is a reference to the organization "Greenpeas". The FAQ gets increasingly flippant and absurdist, but they avoid an overtly humorous tone for the main body.

Given that aquarium octopuses are well-known for getting out of their tanks and taking walks, and that there is at least one species of land-dwelling, arboreal hermit crabs, the idea of a "tree octopus" is just plausible enough to someone who knows just how weird and wacky life on Earth can get.

In science, "credibility" also means "reproducibility", and in this context, that extends to being able to find other corroborating sources.

This leads us to the second conclusion I want to examine:

• Most struggled when asked to produce proof - or even clues - that the web site was false ...

Hey, it's an exercise for the class! Let's check our own research and critical thinking abilities, shall we?

I'm curious to see what proofs (or even clues!) the folks reading this can come up with, above and beyond the flippant tone of the FAQ that I mentioned above. The Sasquatch link leads to an equally-deadpan page, of course.

Needless to say, "I just know there's no such thing" isn't a valid "proof"; in fact, it doesn't even rate as a "clue".

Answers will be graded!


Thanks ... and apologies ... to [livejournal.com profile] pseudomanitou for drawing my attention to this study and the reactions which followed. Please don't think I'm being an asshole for deconstructing this.
Update: [livejournal.com profile] eggshellhammer contacted the original author and scored a link to the original document. Yes, the sample group was larger than 25.
athelind: (Sci Fi)

Plastic Antibodies Effective In Living Animals!



Natural antibodies are proteins that are shaped to wrap around the molecules of a dangerous substance. The body has to be exposed to the substance to learn how to make them, and the immune system responses involved in the process can contribute to the trauma. Thing like antivenom serums are currently made by injecting a large animal like a horse with the toxin, and then filtering their blood for the antibodies—these natural antibodies can sometimes induce reactions of their own.

This technique creates synthetic antibodies out of plastic, simply by molding the polymer around the molecules.

This is insanely brilliant, and could open huge doors in medical treatments.

It's also one of those Amazing Advances of the Future that slipped by most SF writers.

In a space opera setting, since these are biologically neutral, you could actually have antitoxins that would work on almost any species! Call Sector General!

I can so easily see a Plastic Antibody Synthesis rig as part of the onboard medical systems of KLDR-4077, or a transhuman/posthuman character like Charlotte; it seems especially well-suited to her "rebuilt to survive in a toxic world" theme.


Regular readers will note that I've added another new "column" to my Subject Headers: "Here's Your Effing Jetpack." Yes, it's the 21st Century, and no, we don't have all the wonderful Jetsons technology they promised us—but we have so much tech that hardly anyone did foresee. And we take most of it for granted, including the ones that make this post possible. There are enough net-tech sites out there that I won't bother making note of the latest Cupertino Tchotchke, but if something weird, wonderful, and off the wall strikes my eye—well, Here's Your Effing Jetpack.
athelind: (Dragon Conspiracy)
Conspiracy rants are often amusing.

Conspiracy rants that cite Mage: the Ascension as factual material are Comedy Gold.


athelind: (soylent)

Federal Judge Rules Against Patents On Human Genes



Your Obedient Serpent applauds this rare triumph of common sense over corporate interests. Patenting a naturally-occurring human genetic sequence is like patenting the gall bladder or the pancreas.

I could also frame an argument based on the Thirteenth Amendment: if someone else claims legal authority over part of your body, and asserts that only they can profit from it, that strikes me as a form of "involuntary servitude".

This might be a convoluted logic, but no more so than the arguments in favor of human gene patents.

Note that the peculiar nature of the patent claim asserts the sole rights to create tests for the genes in question, this means that Myriad Genetics sought to claim authority over that part of your genetic code that would contain the sequence, whether or not it actually does.

So, congratulations, everyone. Judge Sweet has declared that you're not owned.

At least, not by that corporation.


athelind: (fascism)
In response to yet another BoingBoing article about TASER Abuse, I offered the following comment:

Please remember that "TASER" is a registered trademark of TASER International.

The continuous and increasing use of "taser" as a generic term risks trademark dilution and the commensurate devaluation of TASER International's business interests.

I would like to submit the more descriptive and accurate term, "AGONY GUN", as an acceptable substitute.


As a Star Trek fan, I did, of course, consider "Agonizer" as my suggested alternative, but I thought "Agony Gun" carried more of the desired semantic connotations.

Other Rejected Terms:

  1. Pain Lance
  2. Neurolash
  3. Electric Scourge
  4. Torment Pistol
  5. Convulsionator
  6. Spasmotron


Feel free to provide more suggestions in the comments.


athelind: (Eye of the Sky God)
Posted for future reference:

The Key to Quantum Gravity May Lie in the Æther.




Expect the TIMECUBE crazies and the anti-science types who think that the Big Bang is part of "Darwinism" to jump all over this, shrieking, "See? Einstein was wrong!" and insulting the intelligence of everyone who doesn't immediately see that this proves their own particular brand of blather.
athelind: (Eye of the Sky God)
Posted for future reference:

The Key to Quantum Gravity May Lie in the Æther.




Expect the TIMECUBE crazies and the anti-science types who think that the Big Bang is part of "Darwinism" to jump all over this, shrieking, "See? Einstein was wrong!" and insulting the intelligence of everyone who doesn't immediately see that this proves their own particular brand of blather.
athelind: (coyote drives)
[Error: unknown template qotd]

At the moment, my Dream Car is the Aptera:




Every time I post a link to the Aptera, though, I get a lot of people whining about how impractical it would be in the snow, and that sort of thing. So, if money is truly no object, it would be sharing my garage with this cinematic classic ...



Yes, it still exists, it's been restored, and it's out there.

And if you make fun of my Aptera, I will take my Landmaster, run over your silly little SUV, and drive through your HOUSE.


athelind: (Default)
[Error: unknown template qotd]

At the moment, my Dream Car is the Aptera:




Every time I post a link to the Aptera, though, I get a lot of people whining about how impractical it would be in the snow, and that sort of thing. So, if money is truly no object, it would be sharing my garage with this cinematic classic ...



Yes, it still exists, it's been restored, and it's out there.

And if you make fun of my Aptera, I will take my Landmaster, run over your silly little SUV, and drive through your HOUSE.


athelind: (Magnum Opus)
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/12/roadtown-linear-city.php

http://www.archive.org/details/roadtown00chamgoog

A linear city, built over and around a train line or other transportation conduit.

Interesting for practical potential; moreso as a setting or artifact in the kind of steampunky science-fantasy setting I want to write about.


athelind: (Default)
http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/12/roadtown-linear-city.php

http://www.archive.org/details/roadtown00chamgoog

A linear city, built over and around a train line or other transportation conduit.

Interesting for practical potential; moreso as a setting or artifact in the kind of steampunky science-fantasy setting I want to write about.


athelind: (coyote laughs)

Yet Another Power Failure Knocks Out The Large Hadron Collider!



This makes me a little nervous; I'd joked earlier that the last few LHC glitches coincided with the escalating assaults on my late, lamented Grape.

I have a NEW car now, dagnabbit!


athelind: (Default)

Yet Another Power Failure Knocks Out The Large Hadron Collider!



This makes me a little nervous; I'd joked earlier that the last few LHC glitches coincided with the escalating assaults on my late, lamented Grape.

I have a NEW car now, dagnabbit!


athelind: (Eye of Agammotto)
Several years ago, I discovered a company that was making industrial diamonds out of cremated human remains, to serve as memorials.

I then posted a discussion about the necromantic implications thereof.

In the intervening years, it seems that multiple companies have cropped up to perform the same service -- for pets.

As far as I can tell, while there are several Dead Puppy Jewelers out there, the original company doesn't yet have any competition for Soylent Gems. I suspect that most jurisdictions have substantially more rigorous (and more expensive) licensing regulations for disposing of human remains than for animal remains.

Edit: It seems that LifeGems® will now make a diamond from a lock of hair, as well, so you don't have to wait until the actual cessation of biological activity to have your Permanent Necromantic Conduit. They're making gems from the hair of Ludwig von Beethoven and from the charred hair recovered from Michael Jackson's ill-fated Pepsi commercial.

Think about that last. I mean, that's not just crystallizing the remains of an individual who was the focus of a lot of psychic energy, positive and negative, over the years; it's crystallizing the remains of one of the most painful moments of terror in his life. I've got the perfect setting for that gemstone.


I've made similar gems an integral part of the magic system in my Magnum Opus Fantasy Epic, which I really need to sit down and start writing.
For the record, if I'm ever in a situation where I have a limb amputated or an organ removed, I am TOTALLY gonna have it turned into a diamond.

athelind: (Default)
Several years ago, I discovered a company that was making industrial diamonds out of cremated human remains, to serve as memorials.

I then posted a discussion about the necromantic implications thereof.

In the intervening years, it seems that multiple companies have cropped up to perform the same service -- for pets.

As far as I can tell, while there are several Dead Puppy Jewelers out there, the original company doesn't yet have any competition for Soylent Gems. I suspect that most jurisdictions have substantially more rigorous (and more expensive) licensing regulations for disposing of human remains than for animal remains.

Edit: It seems that LifeGems® will now make a diamond from a lock of hair, as well, so you don't have to wait until the actual cessation of biological activity to have your Permanent Necromantic Conduit. They're making gems from the hair of Ludwig von Beethoven and from the charred hair recovered from Michael Jackson's ill-fated Pepsi commercial.

Think about that last. I mean, that's not just crystallizing the remains of an individual who was the focus of a lot of psychic energy, positive and negative, over the years; it's crystallizing the remains of one of the most painful moments of terror in his life. I've got the perfect setting for that gemstone.


I've made similar gems an integral part of the magic system in my Magnum Opus Fantasy Epic, which I really need to sit down and start writing.
For the record, if I'm ever in a situation where I have a limb amputated or an organ removed, I am TOTALLY gonna have it turned into a diamond.

athelind: (big ideas)
Mostly for my own reference:


Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design




While Dr. Akin is an aerospace engineer, most if not all of these Laws apply to systems design in general.

[livejournal.com profile] normanrafferty should take particular note of the following:


14. (Edison's Law) "Better" is the enemy of "good".



Snagged from [livejournal.com profile] theweaselking, whom I forgot to credit when I first posted this.

.
athelind: (Default)
Mostly for my own reference:


Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design




While Dr. Akin is an aerospace engineer, most if not all of these Laws apply to systems design in general.

[livejournal.com profile] normanrafferty should take particular note of the following:


14. (Edison's Law) "Better" is the enemy of "good".



Snagged from [livejournal.com profile] theweaselking, whom I forgot to credit when I first posted this.

.
athelind: (explore)
[Error: unknown template qotd]

Oh, this one's easy; it's already part of my Lottery List.

I'd either set up science scholarships, or dump it all into one fusion project or another.

Probably not the Atmospheric Vortex Engine, though.

November 2016

S M T W T F S
  12345
6 78 9101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930   

Tags

Page generated Jul. 21st, 2017 08:30 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios