For Farscape fans in Chicagoland and the Great Lakes area.

Archive for the 'Technology' Category

Life On Mars

June 08th, 2011 | Category: Farscape Ha Ha,slightly Farscape,Technology

Imaginative Farscape fans live in a nexus of the real, the surreal, and the hyper-real. Just about anything becomes grist for the concatenation mill. For example, the news that NASA’s Mars rover, Opportunity, which has roamed the surface of Mars since 2004, has reached the 30 Kilometer mark (18.5 miles, or about 3 metras), made this earthbound human ponder life on Mars.

Imagine spending the last 7 years roaming the surface of Mars.

“Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids

In fact it’s cold as hell

And there’s no one there to raise them if you did…

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Mahna Mahna

January 08th, 2011 | Category: Great Lakes Area,Science,slightly Farscape,Technology

I couldn’t think of a better way to chase away the mid-winter blues than by visiting the Jim Henson’ Fantastic World exhibit at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, which runs for the entire month of January.

Both are fine institutions guaranteed to provide loads of family fun.

Check out this article for more fun things to do this winter in Chcago.

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Farscape: More Fi than Sci

February 27th, 2010 | Category: dramatic criticism,Farscape,scifi,Technology

I occasionally run into people who complain about Farscape and how its science isn’t “real”. This always stumps me because I think that of all the scifi shows I’ve seen on television, Farscape seems to me to be the most realistic. When I ask people what they mean by that since nothing in a scifi show is “real”, they point to one of the Star Trek iterations, or the Stargate shows, as an example of shows that make the science more “real”. By that, what they really seem to mean is that because these shows have a lot of expository dialog (long-winded speeches) where people explain the science (or pseudo-science) behind all the scifi gizmos in the show, then to them it seems more real.

It is true that Farscape rarely explains the technology you see in the episodes. Most of the technical gizmos that the audience sees are merely used as part of the action in a scene. In an early first season episode, Throne For a Loss, there’s a scene down on a planet where Aeryn puts on a set of weird looking oculars. Afterwards Crichton also puts them on. We see his reaction to the sudden magnification. Then we see what he’s looking at through the oculars. Throughout this scene no one stood around explaining that this gizmo is an “ocular”, and then explained how it works. Aeryn does not say, “Here, Crichton, put these on and you’ll see everything more clearly.” and Crichton does not say “Wow, Aeryn, these are just like the binoculars we use where I come from, only more convenient.” We are left to infer that for ourselves. More importantly, these little interactions with the weird looking oculars are not central to the scene, which is about figuring out how to rescue Rygel from his kidnappers.

In the Farscape world technology and the way it makes life easier is taken for granted. This is exactly the way we handle technology in our world. When we plug our microwaves and hair dryers into a wall outlet, we expect them to turn on and operate. Even if we knew that electricity was generated with a steam turbine and then transmitted through copper and aluminum wires, and even if we knew how an airdryer or microwave harnessed that electricity to do our cooking or dry our hair, we wouldn’t really think about all those things as we were using those devices. Real life doesn’t work that way.

In our world we put itty-bitty lenses in our eyes to improve our vision, use devices as small as a candy-bar to talk across vast distances, and capture the sound of huge orchestras on shiny little disks. Most people have no idea how this stuff gets done, and yet it all just works.

In the Farscape world, little parasitic microbes can translate sounds into brain-waves so that everyone understand each other’s speech, chakan oil can be used for deadly fire power in hand guns without that irritating recoil, and DRDs zoom around cleaning things up and fixing them. Here, too, nobody spends any time explaining how these things work — not even to the “slow” human, John Crichton. Farscape expects the “slow” human (and us) to figure it out for ourselves, but even if we don’t, the action isn’t interrupted by taking time to explain things that really don’t matter to the story.

Of course, part of Farscape’s charm — for me, anyway — is that although not a single moment in any episode is wasted on useless technobabble, I can while away my idle time when I’m waiting in line, or trying to fall asleep, or sitting in a boring meeting at work, pondering how technology in the Uncharted Territories works. Gosh, if during starburst Leviathans disassemble in one place and reassemble in another place, isn’t that a lot like the transporter in Star Trek? And if that’s how starburst works, then that might explain why neither Moya nor Pilot ever seem to know exactly where they are after starburst. How do you suppose translater microbes translate songs? And man, wouldn’t it be NEAT to have my own DRD! It could do the dishes for me, make the bed, have dinner waiting when I got home maybe, and vacuum the carpet. Oh wait, they already have robots that can vacuum. Well, maybe I CAN make myself a DRD if I just put my mind to it.
To say that Farscape is more “fi” than “sci” is to say that in Farscape, the story is more important than the technology. And really, isn’t that also true about the story of our own lives?

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John Crichton, Astronaut

July 25th, 2009 | Category: Farscape,Technology

As a Farscape fan, a scifi fan, and a child of the sixties with an interest in scientific stuff, it would be remiss of me not to note the 40th anniversary of the moon landing.  In Farscape, not only was Commander Crichton an astronaut, but his father, Jack Crichton, also was one, and had participated in the Apollo missions.  Well, fictitiously, of course.  Nonetheless, Farscape began with a space exploration mission, and the series’ last episode had John Crichton returning to the moon for a poignant moment that reminded us (well, me, anyway) of how far we’ve drifted from our lofty national goals.

Commentators on this 40th anniversary of the moonwalk range from late night talk show hosts (Jon Stewart and Craig Ferguson) to newspaper columnists and editorials (here and here) to various bloggers (here and here).  You can also get some pretty cool merchandise commemorating this event (like an Omega Speedmaster Watch, or the Fisher Space Pen) although simply buying a jar of Tang will also accomplish the same thing, and at a vastly lower cost. 

In searching for stuff on the internet related to the Apollo moon landing, I found the original CBS broadcast clips, restored NASA footage, and coolest of all, Pink Floyd jamming to the moon landing footage on the BBC (with music that has never been released).  And here’s a nice .gif image that shows the US Flag NOT waving on the moon.

You can relive the mission at WeChoseTheMoon.org, which provides a fascinating "you are there" look at the entire event, courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum. 

I don’t have anything profound to add to all the commentary other than to observe that we, the American people, sent a man to the moon, while simultaneously engaged in an effort to build The Great Society and fighting a war in southeast Asia.  We may not have achieved all of our goals, but we certainly aimed high.  Our national values and goals seem to have shrunk considerably since then.

In the daily hurly-burly of life as we know it on earth, it was seeing Farscape on TV that reminded me how exciting it had been to see our engagement in space exploration.

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Hard Copy

July 12th, 2009 | Category: scifi,Technology

Remember in Star Trek how if anyone in the crew wanted something, they would speak to the computer, and then a cupboard door would open and the part would be magically there?  Usually this happened with food, but still, whatever they wanted the only had to say the word and it would appear.  There was even a term for it: replicator.

Well, from Switched.com comes a story about an article in Popular Mechanics where Jay Leno makes a replacement car part from a PRINTER.  Yes, a printer is used to MAKE SOMETHING in THREE DIMENSIONS.  This is just awesome!

And make sure you watch the cool video, too.

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