Archive for Star Trek

A Dose of Awesome: Spock and his Car!

This is awesome.

No, seriously. This is awesome.

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Getting Science from Science Fiction


Via Aaron Williams: Scientists have gone and created transparent aluminum. Or did they actually get it from a Scottish engineer who talked into his computer mouse?

Oxford scientists have created a transparent form of aluminium by bombarding the metal with the world’s most powerful soft X-ray laser. “Transparent aluminium” previously only existed in science fiction, featuring in the movie “Star Trek IV,” but the real material is an exotic new state of matter with implications for planetary science and nuclear fusion.

In the journal Nature Physics an international team, led by Oxford University scientists, report that a short pulse from the FLASH laser “knocked out” a core electron from every aluminium atom in a sample without disrupting the metal’s crystalline structure. This turned the aluminium nearly invisible to extreme ultraviolet radiation.

“What we have created is a completely new state of matter nobody has seen before,” said Professor Justin Wark of Oxford University’s Department of Physics, one of the authors of the paper. “Transparent aluminium is just the start. The physical properties of the matter we are creating are relevant to the conditions inside large planets, and we also hope that by studying it we can gain a greater understanding of what is going on during the creation of ‘miniature stars’ created by high-power laser implosions, which may one day allow the power of nuclear fusion to be harnessed here on Earth.”

The discovery was made possible with the development of a new source of radiation that is ten billion times brighter than any synchrotron in the world (such as the UK’s Diamond Light Source). The FLASH laser, based in Hamburg, Germany, produces extremely brief pulses of soft X-ray light, each of which is more powerful than the output of a power plant that provides electricity to a whole city.

What makes this story even neater is that, as cool as transparent aluminum may be, everything else about this experiment ended up being even cooler. New sources of radiation billions of times brighter than any synchotron on Earth? Pulses of X-rays more powerful than a power plant’s output? A step toward nuclear fusion? Gaining insight into the creation of stars? Holy guacamole, science is awesome!

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"I like this ship! It’s exciting!"


Star Trek

Yeah, it’s movie-review time again.

As you’ve already heard from every other reviewer in the universe, the new “Star Trek” movie is pretty spectacularly awesome. I’m not a big enough Trekkie to have made the first showing (I’ve got a severe allergy to people who show up for movies wearing costumes), but my brother and I took a break from installing insulation Sunday afternoon to hit the theater. I’d been taking the early reviews with a grain of salt — I remember how wildly enthusiastic the “Star Wars” fans were when “Phantom Menace” hit the big screen — but I got won over very fast.

No spoiler here — all the action here takes place in an alternate universe from the standard “Star Trek” continuity, which gives the filmmakers the opportunity to reboot classic “Star Trek” into something new for the 21st century. And even better, they gave the whole thing to a guy with no connection to previous “Star Trek” movies — J.J. Abrams, a dude who is best known for producing and directing action movies and wildly complicated TV shows. As a result, you get a movie that, while very respectful of classic Trek’s history and performances, doesn’t feel duty-bound to precisely replicate them, especially when audiences would rather enjoy some brawling, some stuntwork, some thrills, and some shocks.

I was expecting the least from Chris Pine, the guy who was picked to play the new version of James Kirk, but he ended up being the best surprise — he doesn’t try to channel William Shatner, but he does bring the essence of Kirk — the brash, cocky, womanizing bad boy — to the screen. Zachary Quinto as Spock, Karl Urban as Dr. McCoy, Anton Yelchin as Chekov, and especially Simon Pegg as the uncommonly funny Montgomery Scott are pretty much perfect, and everyone else is really close to perfect. Eric Bana’s genocidal Romulan Nero is an extraordinarily appealing character — party psycho, part charmer (I’m wildly in favor of his initial greeting to Captain Pike), and almost as good a villain as Ricardo Montalban’s Khan Noonien Singh or Christopher Plummer’s General Chang.

I’ve seen some complaints that it’s got too much action. I’d consider that a legitimate complaint if it was bad action or pointless action, but it’s not. It’s good action that serves the plot and doesn’t get in the way of character development. Yes, McCoy, Sulu, Scotty, and other characters don’t get as much screen time as Kirk, Spock, and Uhura — I certainly would’ve loved to see Pegg and Urban get some more time in front of the cameras. But this is an ensemble cast — there’s just no way to make sure all of them get equal time.

I think it’s a great movie, and a great way to reboot the series. I’m looking forward to the sequels.

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Gorey Sci-Fi

Y’all know who Edward Gorey is, right? Not really a cartoonist, but his gothic/Victorian illustrations have been amusing people for decades. If you watch “Mystery!” on PBS, he’s the guy who designed the opening and closing credits. If you’ve ever seen the morbidly hilarious Gashleycrumb Tinies, then you know his work. Many of you are probably more familiar with his works than you think — he has influenced dozens of other artists, illustrators, storytellers, and even filmmakers.

Anyway: Shaenon K. Garrity, creator of the Narbonic webcomic, stumbled upon an old article about Gorey, saw that he was, of all things, a “Star Trek” fan, and was inspired to create her version of how Gorey would’ve designed “The Trouble with Tribbles.”

This is the first panel:


Now go read the whole thing.

(Link via the Daily Illuminator)

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