Thursday, March 30, 2006

Space Walk - A video by Josh Thomas



While searching through YouTube and discovering the Aliens video, I also found this video by Josh Thomas, featuring his music.

No pulse rifles. No xenomorphs. Just images of the cosmos and music.

This video makes me think back to when I would go stargazing on cold winter nights, looking through the telescope at the distant rings of Saturn, or the bright stripes of Jupiter.

Special thanks to Josh Thomas for his video.

Jill Carroll is free

American journalist Jill Carroll is free, after being held hostage in Iraq since January.

I was hoping for some good news to counter all the gloom and doom I have been reading lately.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

LET'S ROCK with Aliens!

I have been busy lately, so I have not been blogging as much as I would like to, but something has been on my mind that I wanted to blog about.

This summer it will be over 20 years since the movie Aliens was released.

I plan to write a special blog entry about the impact of James Cameron's masterpiece of slime, guns, and long, sharp, pointy teeth. That will be coming later.

For now...check out this music video featuring rapid-fire scenes from Aliens and the techno-version of O Fortuna.

I love these YouTube clips!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

A lost space age is found


Rachel from Babayaga has sent me this photo of space age wallpaper in an old house, with an amazing backstory.

It's the scanned photograph of the vintage 'space' wallpaper I told you about. One summer while hiking, I found this wallpaper adorning the walls of a child's bedroom in an old abandoned house in a secluded region of this province. The entire area has never had access to electricity and this house had never been wired for power or phone service (and still hand a hand-pumped water well). Can you imagine the life of the children who had this wallpaper on their walls and no doubt grew up reading novels and comic books by candlelight (or oil lamps etc)? This 'futuristic' vision must have seemed far away and completely inaccessible to them. These were kids who probably had to travel to "town" to see the first moon landing on a television set in a local store.

My thanks to Rachel for the picture and words.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Secret space plane? Hold on there a minute!

The Space Review has a skeptical take on the Blackstar story from Aviation Week & Space Technology.

Reports of top secret aircraft have surfaced before, such as a story about an atomic powered Soviet bomber in the late 1950s. Some of the stories seemed convincing, but lost credibility under scrutiny.

Does the Blackstar story hold up? Read the story and make up your own mind.

Like before, the picture above is of the XB-70A, which I found on the NASA Image eXchange(NIX)....NOT the secret plane.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Mars rover loses a wheel, but keeps on going

Spirit, one of the two Mars Rovers, has lost function in a wheel. Despite this problem, the rover will still keep rolling along.

The two mars rovers were expected to function for only 90 days. Today, the mission is on its second year.

If only we could expect this sort of performance out of cars.

I found the location of Spirit on Google Mars, which features a nifty page showing spacecraft landing sites.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Michael Wolf and Architecture of Density

I recently discovered the photography of Michael Wolf and his exhibit Architecture of Density, focusing on the urban landscape and culture of Hong Kong.

To me, these images are like peering over the edge a high-rise balcony that has no guardrail. The view is amazing, but you get kind of nervous realizing how small a single person is in comparison to the walls looming above and below you.

In other photo exhibits, Wolf documents the people who live in this landscape, such as this woman in a toy factory and this painter.

My thanks to Michael Wolf for allowing me to share his extraordinary images.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Dark energy, dark matter, black holes and stretched light

New Scientist.com features an article on how dark energy, dark matter, and black holes may all be related. If this new idea holds true, what we think of as a black hole will be changed forever.

Black holes were once thought to be a star that collapsed on itself, becoming so dense that their gravity pulled in everything, including light. Nothing could escape.

That sounds simple enough, but the black hole theory is filled with strange possiblities. One of these theories was how light would become so enlongated by the pull of gravity that it might leave a "ghost" image...lingering at the black hole's edge forever.

This new dark energy theory could solve some of these problems, but it helps if you are aware of what dark energy is, and you know it has nothing to do with "The Force" from Star Wars.

The most mind-bending concept in the article is that our whole universe might be a giant dark energy star. How such a star would come into being...who knows?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Saturn's moon Enceladus - My God...It's full of water!

Water is jetting out of Enceladus, one of Saturn's many moons.

The Cassini-Huygens probe detected plumes of water escaping into space, an indication there may be liquid reservoirs hidden below the surface.

What has scientists all excited are not images of Enceladus spewing water out like a lawn sprinkler, but the possiblity that conditions might be right for life to exist in such an enviroment.

This might be a great time to read Arthur C. Clarke's 2010: Odyssey Two again, which features the discovery of life forms sloshing around on Europa, an icy moon of Jupiter.

The surface of Enceldaus the moon is geologically active, pulled and torn by the gravity of Saturn.

The Enceldaus from Greek Mythology was a legendary giant, buried under the Earth by the goddess Athena. Eruptions from Greece's Mount Etna were supposed to be his breath.

On Earth and in space, it is a rough time for Enceladus.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Blackstar - The secret spaceplane gets grounded?

Aviation Week is reporting that a secret spaceplane program known as Blackstar, after being in operation since the 1990s, may have been grounded due to budget cuts.

Please note: the photo above is NOT the secret plane. The plane above is the XB-70 which may be similar in appearance to the secret plane. The other aircraft in the photo is an X-15. I found this picture in the NASA Image eXchange(NIX).

If you want a better look at the XB-70, check out the movies in this NASA archive.

According to the story, the capablities of the Blackstar are still unconfirmed, but it may have been used to release a smaller spacecraft to perform missions such as intelligence gathering or even satellite launches.

Now I have a question.

If this spaceplane program exists and has been shut down, what is going to happen to all the hardware? Are they going to just mothball it?

Maybe they could sell it to Sir Richard Branson, paint some corporate logos on the side of it, and then put it to use as a spaceplane for the rich and adventurous. If it is a proven working system, then it should be ready to go. All that would have to be worked out is a price for a ticket.

That is...if the aircraft exists in the first place.

Shhhhhhh!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Fearful Cinema - Be afraid, be very afraid...of the movies!

Newsweek magazine features an article on the fearful tone of films this Oscar season.

Syriana and Good Night and Good Luck both feature George Clooney and echo the tradition of films like Fail Safe and Dr. Strangelove: films that reflected the Cold War fears of the 1960s.

The article focuses on Clooney, the reasons that motivated him to be in such controversial films, and why these two films reflect the fearful nature of our current time.

My question is, when have the movies NOT been fearful?

Even during the supposed happy days of the 1950s, cinema unleashed paranoid science fiction, from Invasion of the Body Snatchers to Invaders From Mars, as thinly veiled attempts to tap the paranoia of the Cold War.

Today we think of these films as drive-in classics from the era of poodle skirts and cars with tailfins, but they share that time with backyard bomb shelters and the Hollywood blacklist.

Audiences then and today can laugh these films off as cheesy science fiction, but the helplessness of a boy who sees trusted adults turned into glassy-eyed martian servants, or a man shrieking "YOU'RE NEXT!" in the middle of street can still make people feel a slight shudder.

In my memories of the 1980s (a decade now filtered through VH1 specials as nothing but Rubik's cubes, John Hughes films, and spiky-haired pop stars), there were many sleepless nights brought on by nuclear war movies like The Day After, and the much meaner and grittier Threads. The fear of nuclear war seems quaint today when compared to many of our current troubles, yet the threat still hovers over us.

Could the current trend of political and "fearful" movies be connected to moviemakers' desire to attract more adult ticket buyers? There could be more at work here than George Clooney or particular political point of view.

It could be just business sense at work: the realization that movies need to serve a purpose other than being a celluloid fun house.

Back in the 1970s, movie makers aimed for the youth market with like Star Wars and Jaws. That continued through to the 1980s with films like E.T. and Batman. The kids were the ones to aim for because they bought tickets...and they also bought lunch boxes and action figures.

Now the kids have Playstations, webcomics, and MySpace. If I were a teen today, why would I want to pay ten bucks to sit still for two hours in the dark when I can blow stuff up, chat with friends in my own cyberspace clubhouse, or watch DVDs on my parents' plasma screen home theater?

Cinema used to be the place to see amazing images and action that blocky video games could not deliver. Pac-Man was no match for 70mm Dolby Stereo.

Now video games have the action and splendor of blockbuster movies, which a commentator for Wired expressed while reviewing Star Wars: Empire At War.

The demands of the action film audience are higher than ever. Back in the 1970s, the slimy creature from Alien was scary. People have thicker skins now. After watching gross-out reality shows and seeing disasters both man-made and natural on video, it is a more daunting task to shake us up. The trailer for yet another rapid-fire action film, hurling flaming car parts at the camera, now provokes eye-rolls and jeers from cinema audiences the same way an untended ringing cell phone does.

Yet some moviemakers are looking to polish up the old thrill ride, taking on the challenge of jaded audiences.

Take a look at the trailer for Posideon. What reason exists to remake The Posideon Adventure? Wolfgang Petersen is directing, and the CGI and stunt artists have more tricks in their bag, but it is still the same Irwin Allen movie at heart.

Movies like this can be fun, but we know that this is just two hours of highly-paid actors running around expensive sets, with the danger to be green-screened in behind them later. We can walk away from them afterwards and focus on getting dinner. A film like Syriana tends to linger in your mind for a while, like the after image of a flash bulb on a retina.

After thirty years of special effects, epilespy-inducing editing, and thundering music...perhaps we are ready to start watching movies about serious topics again.

The old movie formulas are showing their age. Moviegoers can spot the plot twists minutes after the lights dim, or even finish the characters' sentences of cliched dialogue.

Perhaps moviemakers can focus on our brains instead of trying tweak our already overstimulated nerve endings?

I am not scared of that.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Space Mountain in Paris and the Disney/Pixar Blog


I found this video on YouTube of Space Mountain at Disneyland Paris. Be careful while watching...it is short but can make you motion sick if you are sensitive to such things. The sound is the best part. Listen to that thing rev up and then roar to full speed. This is not a kiddie roller coaster. NASA astronauts who have taken a ride say that the acceleration feels pretty close to a real rocket launch. Effrayant!

The Disneyland Paris Space Mountain is different than the American versions in Orlando and Anaheim. The ride takes its inspriation from Jules Verne and From the Earth to the Moon (De la terre à la lune), with rocket cars from the age of steam power rather than atomic power.

The ride begins when you are "fired" out of a giant cannon: the same way the rocket capsule is launched in Verne's book. From there you roll and twist and hang on for dear life.

Right outside the gilded towers of Space Mountain, the Jules Verne inspired submarine for Les Mystères du Nautilus lurks in a lagoon.

You can read more about Disneyland Paris on the Re-Imagineering blog written by Disney and Pixar employees.

Since Pixar was bought by Disney, there has been speculation what the impact will be on both companies. This blog is where employees from both companies share photos, ideas, complaints, and hopes for the Disney theme parks. Reading the thoughts of such creative people is a treat, with rare photos and artwork as a bonus.

While I am at it...here's the outside of the Space Mountain in Paris.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Best UFO Pictures

The Best UFO Pictures is a site with, you guessed it, UFO pictures.

Someone posted the link in the comments to the entry I made about UFO sightings in my hometown.

If you believe in UFOs or not, there are plenty of pictures here to provoke debate.

In addtition to the UFO photos, there is a section where you can post pictures of yourself wearing a tinfoil hat. However, I think this picture would be more at home on Cute Overload instead.

I wish I could thank the comment poster for the link, but they have no blog and no Email address.

Thank you Manufacturing Consent, whoever you are.