Posted by Mark Oshiro

In the twentieth episode of the third season of Enterprise, everything continues to be a mess. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Trigger Warning: For discussion of addiction, grief, and death.

You know, it took Enterprise a while to settle into something that felt more unique. It must have been hard to live in the shadow of so many series when writing Enterprise, but the Xindi arc is where this show has been hitting its stride. While there are elements here that remind me of Voyager (being “stranded” somewhere very far from Earth) and Deep Space Nine (the more subversive elements of this show that break with Trek tradition), this is now its own thing.

Let’s talk about it!

Proof

I do love how so many plotlines and details from this season are brought out to Degra and the Primate Captain (I still can’t remember his name or if it’s even been said at this point) as “proof” that Archer’s story is true. He’s up against something just as insidious as doubt here because it’s incredibly hard to change someone’s mind. But on top of that, he’s got to prove that his theory about the sphere builders is what’s actually happening. Throughout “The Forgotten,” Degra is much more amenable to Archer’s theory. (So I didn’t think it was unrealistic for the Xindi primate to point out that Degra might be influenced by his guilt over building the weapon. TOO REAL). Yet the writers don’t make this an easy thing for Archer, and I appreciate that. Rick Worthy’s character has a lot of questions. He won’t accept anything at face value. And while the evidence Archer has suggest a story, none of this confirms it, at least not as much as the primate wants. Plus, Archer will soon have to convince a whole council, not just two people! His evidence needs to be airtight!

So is it enough? It’s compelling, at least to the point that Degra and the primate are willing to destroy a reptilian ship to prevent them from telling the council about their rendezvous with Archer. That’s a significant step forward, isn’t it? It felt like a sign of their confidence in Archer, BUT I’M STILL WORRIED.

Fallout

My concern with T’Pol’s plotline is that she’d go through her withdrawal off-screen and then we’d only get vague references to it in future episodes. So yes, I’m quite pleased that the show appears to be willing to openly talk about what all of this means for her character. Addiction doesn’t just magically go away, so there’s a chance she could relapse. But even if she never does, her usage of Trellium-D damaged her neural pathways to the point that she can’t suppress all of her emotions. Just in terms of originality, this felt refreshing. It’s not a temporary affliction, which we have seen for Vulcan characters in the past. This might be something that is addressed for the remainder of the show! So… please? IT’S REALLY INTERESTING AND I LOVE GETTING TO SEE JOLENE BLALOCK PORTRAY T’POL IN SO MANY NEW WAYS.

The Forgotten

HA HA I’M FINE just kidding i am not

Look, y’all should know by now that I’m super into explorations of grief and loss. I AM A SAD GAY, IT IS BUILT INTO MY DNA. I’m so pleased with what this episode did with Tucker, especially since it all hinged on the death of a member of the crew who we had never met before this. Given the nature of this show, it’s expected that people show up once and never again. (Like Seth McFarlane??? What the hell.) Yet the writers found a way to introduce Ensign Taylor, kill her off off-screen, and then tie Tucker’s grief into his unresolved sense of grief over his sister. WHICH IS A FEAT!

But it’s the way that this episode ties its theme to this notion of the “forgotten” that felt most interesting to me. Tucker was far, far away when his sister died, and since she was vaporized by the Xindi weapon, he’s denied the sense of closure that might come from a body. At the same time, she was one death of over seven million, and it’s difficult to conceptualize that amount. Inevitably, people will become forgotten unless there’s someone to remember who they are. That doesn’t necessarily apply to Tucker, of course, since his sister’s death has been a huge influence on his arc in season 3. Yet so much has happened in the months since Elizabeth’s death, and I got the sense that Tucker felt guilty about that. Had he forgotten about her? Had her death become just a factor in motivating him each day and nothing more? Was he respecting her memory, or had she just slipped into the background?

So when Ensign Taylor dies, it’s easy for Tucker’s mind to make that association. She was someone who lost her life and left potential behind. That’s the greatest tragedy of all. Like Elizabeth, she didn’t get to have a “full” life. She didn’t get to do everything she wanted. Taylor could have played a bigger part in Engineering. Which isn’t to suggest that she didn’t do anything prior to this. I would consider anyone aboard the Enterprise to be accomplished just by default. But Tucker’s unresolved issues around his sister are only exacerbated by the tragedy of Taylor, so he lashes out. AND IT’S SO HEARTBREAKING. Connor Trinneer is so good in this episode, y’all!

Anyway, this end-of-the-season arc continues to fuck me up. Bring it on.

The video for “The Forgotten” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

My YA contemporary debut, ANGER IS A GIFT, is now available for pre-order! If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all announcements regarding my books, sign up for my newsletter! DO IT.

Describing Visual Resources Toolkit for Accessibility in Arts & Humanities Publications

https://describingvisualresources.org/

The Univ of Michigan has prepared an excellent tool kit for anyone creating text descriptions of visual material. This isn't only relevant to blind or visually impaired users. Folks with narrow bandwidth often turn off image loading so that they can navigate the web in under four days. Adblocking software can also eat your images without warning.

The resource is also notable for how it's structured. They provide entry paths for different users. They reuse the same info in many orders, which increases the chance of matching the user's needs.

For the first time, I understood the differences between "alt" text and "longdesc"! They also make the c dial point that you can't design for today's technology.

Posted by Mark Oshiro

In the tenth episode of the second season of Person of Interest, Reese makes a mistake. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Person of Interest.

Holy shit, how does this show keep doing this to me??? I have to repeat myself because Person of Interest did it again: they twisted the definitions of “perpetrator” and “victim.” They escalated a story to the point where it would fit as the twist at the end of a season, not RIGHT HERE.

How. HOW.

So, lots happened here, and it’s all within a story about revenge and exploitation. As I said at the end of the video for “Shadow Box,” this case works so well for Reese’s downfall. It wouldn’t have made as much sense in another story! And LORD, what a case. A woman who appears to have a squeaky-clean life suddenly moves out of her apartment, closes her bank accounts, steals from a temp job, and makes friends with an ex-marine who, according to her last boss, might be a bad influence on her. Once Reese and Finch discover that she stole blueprints and explosives, it seems obvious: she’s the perpetrator. She is committing an act of domestic terrorism, but why?

Except there’s the exception: if the Machine had determined that she was about to commit a terrorist act, wouldn’t it have reported this to the government, not filtered it out as an irrelevant number? From here, the writers twist the story deeper and deeper into the truly fucked up conspiracy that stole money from disabled and down-on-their-luck veterans. It’s seriously SO EVIL, and the worst part is that I get the sense that the show’s writers didn’t even have to make this up. I am certain this is something that really happened, given how willing people are in our world to take advantage of those who are in dire need of help.

It’s this aspect of the case that attracts Reese, but it’s also what influences him to help them break into a bank. Reese LITERALLY CHOOSES TO ROB A BANK TO HELP THESE PEOPLE. It’s not that Reese and Finch haven’t broken the law before; they do it multiple times PER EPISODE. The difference here is that Reese doesn’t ask Finch to come up with a way to subvert the crime that had been planned. Against the advice Finch gives him (more on that in a bit), he just goes for it. It’s a stunning sequence because it feels so unlike anything Reese has done. Oh, sure, we’ve seen him get too close to a case before, but watching him throw common sense to the wind in order to help these people was THRILLING.

Of course, that’s because the other main plot in this episode converges with this one at the worst possible time. I’m so happy with Carter’s role in “Shadow Box,” both because it hints at the possibilities for future story lines (Carter in the FBI!!!) and because it puts her in such a challenging position. While her personal life with Beecher is going well (SORT OF, HELP ME), she gets a stunning offer: take a temporary assignment with the FBI to assist Donnelly in catching The Man in the Suit. Oh god, THE SHEER POSSIBILITIES OF THIS. For her character, it’s a chance at advancement, though it unfortunately means she might have to leave NYC. In terms of the story, though, Finch and Reese could have someone on the inside of a much larger organization.

Of course, this is just a hint of what might come. The focus of Carter’s temporary advancement, however, is more on the terrifying cat-and-mouse game that comes to a shocking end. AN END. IN THE TENTH EPISODE. See, I kept thinking that at the last minute, Reese would get away. That he’d escape Donnelly again, but he and Finch would have to communicate through a new method in future episodes, since the FBI had figured out how Finch had escaped detection. But now I know why there was that adorable scene in the middle of the episode, where Reese told Finch he felt happy. That line made the ending so much more emotional for me. While I definitely don’t think this is the end for Reese, the final five minutes of “Shadow Box” were still unreal to experience. Reese got caught. HE GOT ARRESTED. Granted, he was arrested with three other men in suits, and Carter lied to protect him, but still. This isn’t good at all. IT’S VERY BAD. And I can’t see what the show does with it!

The same goes for Beecher. I’m a little disappointed that he’s actually Quinn’s godson and working for HR in some capacity. Does he actually like Carter, or was he asked to get close to her in order to keep her in check? MY HEART HURTS, OKAY.

The video for “Shadow Box” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

My YA contemporary debut, ANGER IS A GIFT, is now available for pre-order! If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all announcements regarding my books, sign up for my newsletter! DO IT.

([syndicated profile] badastronomy_feed Sep. 25th, 2017 07:48 pm)

Posted by Phil Plait

Over a thousand light years from Earth, there is a decidedly odd planet. It orbits the star WASP-12 — named so because it was the 12th star found to have a planet by the Wide Angle Search for Planets consortium. The star is somewhat more massive and hotter than our own Sun, and the planet is called WASP-12b, as is the convention.

This is no planet like we have in our own solar system. The closest analogue would be Jupiter; WASP-12b is about 40% more massive. But a funny thing was discovered immediately upon its discovery: It’s much larger than Jupiter, almost twice its diameter. That is very peculiar. When planets get to be around the mass of Jupiter, an odd quirk of physics called degeneracy kicks in, which changes how the material inside the planet behaves under pressure. When you add mass to such a planet, it actually gets smaller, not larger.

So, why is WASP-12b more massive than Jupiter, and larger? Because it’s hot. Really hot. It orbits its star a mere 3 million kilometers above its surface, far closer even than Mercury orbits or Sun! Its proximity means the planet is broiled by the star, and may have a temperature of 2300° Celsius (almost 4200° F) at its cloud tops. That heat puffs up the outer atmosphere, making the planet larger than you’d expect for its mass.

And now, astronomers have discovered something else that’s bizarre about the planet: It’s dark. Like really unusually so. Most planets reflect quite a bit of light that falls on them from their star; for example, Earth is about 40% reflective (in astronomer lingo this is what we’d call an albedo of 0.4). However, new observations of WASP-12b show it reflects a mere 6% of the light that hits it (an albedo of 0.06), roughly the same albedo as asphalt. And that’s an upper limit! It might even be darker.

This was discovered in a clever set of observations using the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) — a camera on board the Hubble Space Telescope that can break light up into separate colors and analyze it. In a sense, it spreads the light out like a rainbow, but a rainbow with hundreds or thousands of colors. By examining the resulting spectrum, we can learn a lot about the object giving off that light.

WASP-12b lends itself well to this type of camera. That’s because, due to a favorable geometry, we see it orbiting its star edge-on from Earth. That means, once every orbit, it passes directly in front of its star, blocking a fraction of the light. But that also means that, half an orbit later, it passes directly behind its star. Most of the time during its orbit, we see the light from the planet and the star together, but, for that short time while it’s eclipsed, we see only the light from the star.

The star is bright enough that seeing the dip in light when the planet blocks it isn’t too hard. But the planet is faint — literally a billion or so times fainter — so seeing the light from the system drop when the planet is in eclipse is extremely difficult. However, STIS is quite an amazing machine, and is capable of making this observation*.

The observations were made right before, during, and after an eclipse. Right as the planet slips behind the star, the light should drop, and then it should come back up when the eclipse is over. And what they found was...nothing. As in, the amount of light they saw in every color was fairly steady, when it should have dropped a bit. The only explanation is that the planet is absorbing nearly all the star’s light that falls on it, reflecting almost none. It’s dark.

spectrum of WASP-12b

 

This plot shows how deep the eclipse was (vertical axis, measured in parts per million) versus color (horizontal; 300 nanometers is blue and 550 is yellow). The observations are very flat and nearly 0 within the uncertainty bars, meaning essentially no light was reflected by the planet. The grey line would be what’s expected for a planet with haze, and the blue line for one without clouds. The red line is for a planet simply glowing under its own heat. Credit:...

That’s interesting right away. A couple of previous observations made of the planet indicated that it might not have any clouds in it (not water clouds like on Earth — at those temperatures, water gets ripped apart into its individual hydrogen and oxygen atoms — but some other material that can condense in the upper atmosphere), or it might have an atmosphere of aluminum oxide haze. However, either of these two cases would show a change not only in brightness during the eclipse, but also a change in color (for example, clouds in the planet’s atmosphere would reflect more blue light, so the spectrum would show a bigger drop in blue light than red if the clouds were there). Yet neither of those two models fits the STIS spectra. Instead, it’s more likely WASP-12b has an atmosphere of hydrogen and helium. Those gasses absorb all the light coming from the star, which is why it’s so dark.

Another interesting thing: The planet orbits so close to its star that it should be tidally locked to it; that is, spin once for every time it orbits (this happens naturally over time when any object closely orbits another, like our own Moon). That means one side always faces the star, and the other faces away. When it’s about to be eclipsed, we only see the day side of the planet (it’s on the other side of the star from us, so we see it fully illuminated) where it’s very hot. But temperatures on the night side may be much lower, by as much as 1000°C. That means different chemistry can occur there, and there may yet be water vapor and other materials that can condense to form clouds. We just don’t see them in this observation because they’re on the other side of the planet.

What an odd place.

 

And there’s yet one more thing. The press release for this news says the planet is “pitch black”, which is fair enough. But by that they mean the planet is dark, non-reflective. This doesn’t refer to the actual color of the planet, just the brightness! My friend Kiki Sanford (who runs the wonderful This Week in Science podcast) asked me about this, and makes a good point: At 2300° C, the planet should actually glow under its own heat.

She’s right. Anything above a temperature of absolute zero emits light, and the warmer it is, the higher energy the light is. At WASP-12b’s temperature, it should peak in the infrared, just outside what our eyes can see. But that’s just where it would emit the most light; it still should emit some light in visible colors. It does, but not much. The STIS spectra are consistent with it being very slightly red, which is what I’d expect for such an object, but they’re not conclusive.

Still, that’s a funny thing to think about: It’s emitting its own light, faintly, but at the same time, it’s so absorbent it reflects almost none from the star. If it had a reflectivity like Earth it would look far brighter due to reflected starlight than from its own internal heat.

So, if you were floating next to it, would you see it? Almost certainly yes. Unless it reflects absolutely no light at all, it’s so close to the star that a lot of light is falling on it, so even if the albedo is, say, 0.01 (and it’s hard to see how anything could be that dark), it would still reflect enough light to see.

So, “pitch black” is an accurate term, but a little misleading. It’s not black, per se. It’s reddish, but it’s dark.

Hmmm. “Dark planet” is actually a rather more foreboding term, isn’t it? I like it better. It’s cooler (though not literally).

And it’s weird. The only other exoplanet we’ve been able to observe via reflected light is HD189733b (which, like WASP-12b, is a hot near-Jupiter-mass planet), but it’s far cooler and tends to reflect light better in the blue. This means its atmosphere must be very different than WASP-12b’s.

We’ve observed two planets like these in this way, and they’re very different. That’s exciting: It means that “hot Jupiters” are diverse, and that, in turn, means that every one we observe will tell us something important. Studying exoplanets in this way is a very new science; we’ve only just started here. I can’t wait to see what else we’ll discover!

* If I sound like I’m bragging, why, yes, I am: I was on the team that built STIS and I helped calibrate before and after launch. Despite that, it works very well.  

UPDATE (Sep. 26, 2017 at 18:30 UTC): Exoplanet astronomer Dave Kipping alerted me that as it happens, a darker exoplanet is known: TrES-2b. And he should know: He's the lead author on the paper about it!

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Artwork depicting WASP-12b orbiting its star. NASA, ESA, and G. Bacon (STScI)

Posted by Mark Oshiro

In the ninth through eleventh chapters of The Science of Discworld, the wizards experiment with their newly-formed universe. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.

For splits like this one, I think it’s best for me to address the text in two sections. ONWARDS.

Discworld

I make fun of the wizards a lot, and it certainly seems dangerous to allow these weirdos to toy with their own universe. Indeed, as soon as The Project was opened up to all of Unseen University, chaos reigned. Seriously, the students started playing a game with all the balls of mass that they’d created. Which… first of all, bravo, that actually sounds like a lot of fun. There was a iPhone game I used to play years ago (that I think stopped getting updates) that involved something similar, in that you had to shoot these bubbles that would grow until they touched another bubble, and each new one would curve based on the gravitational pull of those already there. IT WAS REALLY GREAT, I IMAGINE THIS FELT THE SAME.

So my point is that while I still think the wizards are ridiculous, their curiosity simply manifested as this game. And that’s still fucking cool! It’s rooted in a desire to learn the mechanics of this universe and the “laws” that govern it. Does heat matter? What about the composition of the moons, planets, satellites, and other celestial bodies? Does that affect the speed or willingness of these balls of mass to collide with one another? That’s learning! That counts! It reminds me of all the teachers I had who used more hands-on methods of teaching. Not only did they engage with the students better, but I remember those lessons way more than the analytical stuff or times when I just had to memorize and regurgitate.

The wizards might be fools in their own way, but they’re trying to learn. And I respect that! Obviously, Ponder seems to be the sole person in the bunch who’s trying to do more than just crash things together, but that doesn’t mean he’s the only one learning. That being said: oh gods, please don’t give a whole universe to the wizards. DON’T DO IT.

Despite that this other thing I wanted to commented on has Roundworld implications, it was in a Discworld chapter, so I’m sticking it here. LET ME DISCUSS THIS:

Ponder Stibbons was an atheist. Most wizards were. This was because UU had some quite powerful standing spells against occult interference, and knowing that you’re immune from lightning bolts does wonders for an independent mind. Because the gods, of course, existed. Ponder wouldn’t even attempt to deny it. He just didn’t believe in them.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was a lot more vocal about my atheism when I first gave up on God and gods. My late teens and early twenties were my time to be aggravating and annoying, y’all, and I was so sure of myself. It is also, of course, when I held some of the WORST opinions. In hindsight, I understand why that happened. It was a reaction to the suppression of my sense of self in my teenage years. I was free, and by gods, I was going to be a loudmouth. I still am, to some extent, but I have learned that tact also exists.

But something stuck with me from those days when I’d write or speak about being an atheist a lot more than I do. I’m specifically reminded of how I would argue about God and Christianity in a forum I helped run, and while I can’t imagine ever doing something like that these days, it was something I needed then. It helped me refine arguments, empathize with other people, and learn the value of difference in ways I had not considered. There was a person in this forum who argued things with long, sprawling missives that were passionate and caring, and they were often who I had the most rewarding conversations with. At one point, they noted that for an atheist, I sure seemed to be willing to talk about the Christian God as if he existed.

And I had simply never thought of it that way. Much of my atheism was a reaction to the God I’d been raised with, sure. That wasn’t a mystery. But what if my atheism wasn’t a denial of the existence of God, but a rebellion? Did that make it intellectually dishonest? Was I not really an atheism?

I admit that this doesn’t really plague me these days. I live my life as if the world is godless, as if there is nothing for me after I die, and it works out for me. But if God was real, then I certainly have a bone to pick with him and the world that he created. It doesn’t change my day-to-day at all.

Roundworld

It’s weird how all the shit I’ve been watching over on Mark Watches has numbed me to the concept of faster-than-light travel. With Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica under my belt (mostly!), I’ve gotten used to the possibility that one day, humans will be able to travel at ridiculous speeds. Admittedly, that’s a strange thought to have when my only real exposure to these ideas was through one year-long physics class and two fictional television shows. But now I wonder: why don’t we see more of the effects described here? You know, where time slows down passes relative to the speed of the object? Shouldn’t that be happening more on Star Trek than it does?

Okay, look, it’s already weird for me to be bringing this up because THAT SHOW ISN’T REAL, and while there is a lot of cool science in that sprawling series, it’s not exactly the benchmark of scientific progress. Still, it’s fun to think about. Do Starfleet officers return from deep space missions younger than those they left behind? Is that something they have to warn cadets about? Is there a whole therapy system in place to deal with the mental ramifications of aging slower than all your contemporaries? Is their a hierarchy based on those officers who have traveled at different warp speeds? Like, if you’ve gone warp 9, you’re cooler/more messed up than someone who’s only gotten to warp 4?

THESE ARE THE THINGS I THINK ABOUT.

Mark Links Stuff

My YA contemporary debut, ANGER IS A GIFT, is now available for pre-order! If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all announcements regarding my books, sign up for my newsletter! DO IT.

conuly: (Default)
([personal profile] conuly Oct. 1st, 2017 08:14 pm)
Insufficiently "Fanfare to the Common Man" for my tastes, and I don't like the intro video either.

(And I have Thoughts. For a society so obsessed with the Prime Directive, Federation humans are equally obsessed with the idea that secretly, all species would be better off as humans. Here it is AGAIN in this ep. Nevermind that being raised by Vulcans is a strange plot contrivance, isn't it enough that she's content and functional, without having to ditch who she is to be "more human" by some arbitrarily emotional reckoning? Is this universal Trek belief a clever dig at Americans, or do Trek writers really agree with this? Eddington was right - they're worse than the Borg! They assimilate people, and they don't even realize it. This would be an interesting angle to take. They already have the seeds planted with the Klingons. They're not going to go that route, though.)

Ah well. In other news, J was thrilled with his bag. Also, I am sick. *sneeze*

Oh! And when I came home today from walking the dogs, there was a cardboard cat carrier and a small box of cat food on my porch. This is all a bit inexplicable, and I'm wondering if maybe somebody intended to leave a cat there? If so, kitty escaped. Just as well - I'm full up on formerly stray animals.

****************


Poison Frogs Make Surprisingly Attentive Adoptive Parents

Fish have complex personalities, research shows

Indian Designers Built A Genius Air Conditioner That Works Without Electricity, And It Can Save Lives (Well, "invented" is a stretch, evaporative coolers already exist, but it looks nifty.)

'Cowgirls of Color' break barriers to compete in typically white, male rodeo

Quiet energy revolution underway in Japan as dozens of towns go off the grid

You Need to Try Coffee Lemonade

The Women Miners in Pants Who Shocked Victorian Britain

A Failed 1930s American Town, Lost in Time in the Amazon Rainforest

The EU Suppressed a 300-Page Study That Found Piracy Doesn’t Harm Sales

Group Therapy Is Saving Lives in Chicago

Catalans are not alone. Across the world, people yearn to govern themselves

Iraqi Kurdistan referendum: High turnout in independence vote

Reluctant champion: How Nadia Murad has become the international face of Yazidi suffering – and resilience

The History of Sears Predicts Nearly Everything Amazon Is Doing

Artificial Colors Are Back in Trix Because Nobody Liked Natural Ingredients

Revenge of the Super Lice (Apparently, in Europe it's mostly synthetic oil treatments, not pesticides. I'll keep an eye out for the day that's approved over here.)

Anatomy of a Propaganda Campaign

The family of strangers who fled Boko Haram

Every year, millions try to navigate US courts without a lawyer

How Conservatives Learned to Love Free Lawyers for the Poor

The Brazenness of Trump's White House Staff Using Private Email

Still Fighting at Standing Rock

Trump’s wall could cause the extinction of the American jaguar

Trump Is Helping Airlines Get Away With Breaking People’s Wheelchairs

Silent killer: Sweltering planet braces for deadly heat shocks
ladyofleithian: (Default)
([personal profile] ladyofleithian Sep. 25th, 2017 05:17 pm)
Title: Ren-Children

Summary: After the kidnapping of a Force Sensitive Poe Dameron, Ben is sent to Jakku for his safety. Years later, their paths collide and shape the future of the galaxy.

Prompt: Altered Past

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Author's Notes: No, I don't know how this got into some food-centric content. I am so sorry.

Fic under cut. )
conuly: (Default)
([personal profile] conuly Sep. 30th, 2017 07:19 pm)
but given the advanced state of their tech, am I wrong in pegging this as a third universe? Okay, that's my official head-canon. Something, something, temporal cold war - THIRD UNIVERSE! (So does each new parallel universe also have its own twin mirror universe?)

Also: Why do all futuristic jails in all universes everywhere have force fields with no physical backup? That seems like a major design flaw.

Also also: Why are all the Klingons bald? Strange fashion choice, or genetic disease?
case: (Default)
([personal profile] case posting in [community profile] fandomsecrets Sep. 25th, 2017 06:35 pm)

⌈ Secret Post #3918 ⌋

Warning: Some secrets are NOT worksafe and may contain SPOILERS.

01.


More! )


Notes:

Secrets Left to Post: 02 pages, 29 secrets from Secret Submission Post #561.
Secrets Not Posted: [ 0 - broken links ], [ 0 - not!secrets ], [ 0 - not!fandom ], [ 0 - too big ], [ 0 - repeat ].
Current Secret Submissions Post: here.
Suggestions, comments, and concerns should go here.
OUT OF MY FANDOM.

What the hell sort of Star Trek have they even been watching all this time?

Posted by Mark Oshiro

In the nineteenth episode of the third season of Enterprise, Archer and T’Pol make surprising choices. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Trigger Warning: For talk of addiction

Well, that was one of the most fucked up episodes of Star Trek.

No Choice

At this point, Archer has one thing working in his favor: doubt. “Damage” tracks the complicated path these characters take once that doubt is introduced. Again, I’m glad that we get to see things from the perspective of the Xindi council because it’s a needed element of the story. Archer had an effect on them; they’re openly questioning what they were told. AND IN THIS CASE THAT IS LITERAL! We actually get to see the member of the sphere-building race as they OPENLY LIE TO THE XINDI. Yet there still a crucial element missing here, and I think Degra’s going to focus on it. Archer has attempted to prove his point, while the spherebuilder just told them about this possible future.

So, while that’s falling apart, Archer and his crew have to deal with the ramifications of the attempt to take out the Xindi weapon. Y’all, this arc is A LOT. The last episode was violent and disturbing and Archer’s plan didn’t really work at all, at least not until he changed it from the destruction of the weapon to what Daniels had suggested. Even then, what does he get? The aquatics, the arborals, and the primates free Archer and give him the coordinates to a meeting that will take place in three days. It’s certainly a step in the right direction, but “Damage” doesn’t really deal with that. This is an episode about the logistics, and in this case, the Enterprise was really messed up. Fourteen crew members died! Entire parts of the ship are decompressed. The warp coil was destroyed, and most of the weapons are down. This is all depicted with a number of haunting images that show how the Enterprise has LITERAL holes in its hull. There are scenes where the ship hums with the sound of the crew rushing to repair as much as they can as quickly as they can.

What does this all lead to? A choice. See, I call bullshit on that trope-y response that Archer gives to the captain of the ship he steals from. He always had a choice. Oh, the options he had were shitty as hell, and I wouldn’t deny that. But saying that you “don’t have a choice” is a distancing act. It makes it sound like someone or something else forced you to do one thing, as if that was your only option. Is Archer tormented over this decision? Sure! To an extent, it’s depicted on the screen. He has crossed a line that starship captains are never supposed to. He does so methodically, involving the crew and his senior officers in this decision, despite their protestations, despite their reservations. It should be noted that aside from T’Pol, Archer doesn’t really receive that much push back. Instead, these characters are visibly uncomfortable while obeying the orders they were given.

Y’all, they stranded those people in the Expanse for THREE YEARS. That’s the price those people paid!!! What Archer offers them in compensation is TERRIBLE. It’s not even remotely a comparable price! Three years is an incredible length of time to strand someone, and yet Archer does it because of the Xindi weapon. He does it because he needs that warp coil. The ends justify the means. He’ll theoretically be able to save all of Earth, so by comparison, stranding people for three years is nothing.

But he sure had a choice about the matter.

Trellium-D

Wow, I didn’t pick up on a single clue toward T’Pol’s addiction. I can’t even think of a moment where it was hinted at, except… well, I guess the show does need to be clear about one thing. Was her pursuit of Tucker meant to be a part of this experimentation? Look, as someone who dealt with addiction a long time ago, I know how addiction can influence you and make you do WEIRD SHIT. You justify all kinds of weird behavior. In my case, I took extreme steps to hide my alcoholism from everyone, so much so that I bet if you asked people I went to high school with, they’d all say that I never drank at all. NOT TRUE. But there was so much shame and fear and stigma all swirled together in my head, and I just… I just hid it all? It’s one of those things that hindsight can’t even seem to explain. I just did it.

So is that what’s happening to T’Pol? Are her feelings real, and how much did her addiction play into her attraction to Tucker? That’s such a weird question, I KNOW. Phlox makes reference to it, and it’s both cruel and necessary. “Damage” doesn’t untangle anything here, but instead shows us T’Pol in withdrawal and the ramifications of that. Which is fine as an introduction, but I’m eager to see if there will be more addressed in these coming episodes. I do need more from this story, not just because it’s incomplete, but because T’Pol deserves it. If she’s truly interested in exploring her emotions, is there a way for her to do that without an addiction to Trellium-D? How long will she be in withdrawal? Will she tell Tucker? I HAVE QUESTIONS.

The video for “Damage” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

My YA contemporary debut, ANGER IS A GIFT, is now available for pre-order! If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all announcements regarding my books, sign up for my newsletter! DO IT.

([syndicated profile] kindertrauma_feed Sep. 25th, 2017 04:36 pm)

Posted by unkle lancifer

If your first thought after seeing the recent hit IT was “Gee, I wish that evil clown savagely mutilated more people” then DAMIEN LEONE’s TERRIFIER may be right up your blood strewn alley. The killer clown in this movie truly isn’t playing around. In fact, I think I might have even been offended by a particular obscenity he orchestrated but luckily I don’t mind being offended too much. It’s kind of thrilling to take the less safe path with horror on occasion and to find yourself worrying that the film will push its violence across the border of your comfort zone. There are no subtle chills or elaborate backstories in TERRIFIER, this is a stripped down, back to the basics stalk and slash, heavy on the slash. Old school gorehounds willing to overlook the absence of good taste (or even much of a plot) for a down and dirty haunted attraction type crawl, chock full of sometimes alarmingly convincing practical make–up effects should be particularly satisfied. It doesn’t exactly break new ground but it certainly seethes with genuine menace. Sweetening the pot further, TERRIFIER takes place on Halloween night and even though it’s not able to muster the autumnal ambience of your average HALLOWEEN sequel, I’d still recommend it as premium party viewing for folks looking to celebrate OCT 31st.

TERRIFIER’s formidable killer “Art” may look familiar to some as he has ravaged through LEONE’s earlier anthology ALL HALLOWS EVE (2013), both in a segment and the wrap around tale. LEONE not only wrote and directed TERRIFIER but also supplied the impressive make-up effects, which may explain why they are exhibited with such gruesome reverence and twisted glee. I have to say this clown is pretty darn nightmarish. His silent sneer and uncanny movements rather remind me of “the gentlemen” in the classic BUFFY episode “Hush” and I have to tip my tiny hat to DAVID HOWARD THORTON for his wickedly ghoulish performance, I also rather enjoyed the film’s lead JENNA KANELL (THE BYE BYE MAN) because she looks like STACEY NELKIN in HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH but talks like MIRA SORVINO in ROMY AND MICHELE’S HIGH SCHOOL REUNION. She’s put through the wringer in this movie and she’s easy to root for but I should warn you that this isn’t the type of movie that cares about heroic redemption and untapped powers within. If it has any message it is that you should trust your instincts rather than your friends when you surmise the clown waving at you is a murderous maniac.

If you live in Philadelphia, TERRIFIER will be playing on Thursday, September 28th at 9:30PM as part of PUFF (THE PHILADELPHIA UNNAMED FILM FESTIVAL) at the one and only Drake Building (more details HERE). Seeing this untamed horror movie with a screaming and squirming audience is sure to be an excellent way to kick off your Halloween season. I know you might be thinking that you’ve been killer clowned to death this year but in the words of one Dr. Loomis, “You don’t know what death is!” (P.S. I’m also hearing very strong word of mouth about TRAGEDY GIRLS, which is being described as MEAN GIRLS meets SCREAM and will be playing on Friday, September 29th at 7PM and will incorporate a prom theme party with shots for anyone over 21- and that means me – be there or be square!).

Posted by Mark Oshiro

In the ninth episode of the second season of Person of Interest, the team helps a desperate man with his family issue, while Fusco gets in WAY too deep. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Person of Interest.

It is (unsurprisingly) hard to find fiction in the United States that sympathizes with immigrants who aren’t white. And that distinction is important: American media loves a good immigrant story, but only if that person is an “acceptable” type of immigrant. How could you possible measure that sort of thing? It seems absurd in the face of it, as it is something that is impossible to quantify. And yet, my government does it all the time. The news media corporations do it every day. Citizens do it, too. We measure the worth of a person based on what they can give us. What labor can we get from them? What specialized skills? How can we exploit them so that we can pay these people as little as possible in order to raise profit margins for the rich and privileged? How can we keep them desperate so that they’re caught in cycles of debt?

Thus, you get a lot of bootstraps myths spread through the popular culture, all telling you that if you do the right things in the most respectable manner, you’ll be able to capture the American Dream. What fascinates me about “C.O.D.” is that it never bothers to go through any of these motions. Instead, this is a story about how the American Dream failed Fermin Ordoñez. He more or less states it when talking to Reese: he was promised fame and money if he defected from Cuba and played in the Major Leagues. But what happens when he cannot materially contribute in the way that is expected of him? He’s dropped into the chaos of American life, without his wife and son, and he’s left with absolutely no way to get home or bring his family over to New York. What’s so heartbreaking about this episode is that he still tries. He spends years driving a cab all over New York City, and he saves up money the entire time, all so he can bring his family over. It is the boostrap theory writ large, and it still doesn’t work. The man who brought Fermin over doubles his price at the last minute, then makes a bullshit excuse about market values and worth, and in that moment, even he sees immigration as a means to gather wealth. They’re not people anymore; they’re a commodity.

I don’t expect these details… pretty much ever? And I certainly didn’t expect an hour of this show to be devoted to validating Fermin’s struggle and then helping him reunite with his family. His entire story is framed as one deserving of sympathy and care. At no point do Reese or Finch criticize him for how he got to the US or for making the decision to leave his wife and son behind. They understand why he’s done this, and they actively work towards protecting his life. And then, CARTER DOES THE BEST THING. Technically, what they do for Fermin is illegal, and this show rewards Fermin with his family. LIKE… IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL. It’s so pure. And it shows that there’s a moral core to Person of Interest that has nothing to do with whether something is legal or legal, but whether it’s right.

And smack in the middle of this is Fusco, who is still struggling with making the right choice. His decision to distance himself from Reese, Finch, and Carter is not working out well for him, but he tries to resist Simmons and HR. That attempt – which is his refusal to turn over the last surviving mob boss to Elias – lasts a whole sixty seconds because SIMMONS IS THE PERPETUAL WORST. Y’all, can he please be shot or blown up? He is such an unabashed villain, and the way he constantly tries to ruin Fusco as a bargaining tool is AWFUL. At the same time: Fusco needs to tell Reese and Finch what’s happening. They could help him, and it’s frustrating to see him try to duck out of being in HR without any real plan. He’s never going to be able to just leave, you know?

Ugh, this was a great episode. I CAN’T WAIT FOR MORE.

The video for “C.O.D.” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

My YA contemporary debut, ANGER IS A GIFT, is now available for pre-order! If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all announcements regarding my books, sign up for my newsletter! DO IT.

Posted by Phil Plait

If I ask you to close your eyes and picture an asteroid, you’ll probably think of a gray, battered, vaguely spherical object with lots of craters.

If I ask you now to picture a comet, you’ll probably think of a bright fuzzy thing with a long, diffuse tail.

However, nature cares not for your arbitrary distinction between cosmic objects! Sometimes, we find things that straddle the line between two different categories. And oh, my, does 300163 (2006 VW139) push every boundary we have for such things.

This object was discovered in 2006 by Spacewatch, a program dedicated to finding small objects in the solar system. It orbits the Sun between Mars and Jupiter, in what’s called the main asteroid belt. The orbit was determined to be fairly elliptical, which is unusual for an asteroid but not too shocking.

The orbit of the weird binary asteroid/comet 2006 VW139, also called 288P. Its position is shown for Nov. 6, 2016, when it was at perihelion, closest to the Sun. Credit: NASA/JPL

The orbit of the weird binary asteroid/comet 2006 VW139, also called 288P. Its position is shown for Nov. 6, 2016, when it was at perihelion, closest to the Sun. Credit: NASA/JPL

 

Then things got weird. In 2011, observations using Pan-STARRS revealed VW139 was surrounded by a halo of dust, and had trails of dust streaming out away from it. Sometimes asteroids get these haloes if they suffer a collision with another asteroid and material gets blown out. But observations over the course of a month showed no change in the halo’s brightness — you’d expect stuff blasted out by a collision to expand and fade over a few days. This meant the object was continuously producing dust, blowing it off the surface.

That makes it more like a comet: While asteroids are nearly all rock and/or metal, comets are rock and various ices (like frozen water, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide). So it was then reclassified as a main belt comet and given the second name of P/2006 VW139 (as well as, confusingly, 288P, which is how most press releases refer to it, but from here on out I’ll just call VW139).

But now the plot has thickened again. Observations using the Hubble Space Telescope in late 2016 (when the object was closest both to Earth and the Sun) revealed yet another surprise: VW139 is binary!

 

Instead of being a single object, it’s actually two large chunks orbiting each other. Even with Hubble, these were tough observations, and it’s hard to constrain the physical characteristics of the two chunks and their mutual orbit around each other. But it’s likely each chunk is on the order of a kilometer or so across. Models of their motion can’t pin down the orbital period, but the model solutions tend to fall into three different groups of 103, 135, and 175 days (meaning one of these is likely the correct period, but it’s not clear which one).

The orbit of the two chunks around each other is likely highly elliptical, meaning it’s not even close to being a circle. Ellipses are in part defined their semi-major axes, the distance from the center of the orbit to the most distant part. For VW139, this distance is likely to be between 70 and 140 kilometers, which is yet another oddity.

Why? Well, we’ve discovered lots of binary asteroids, but in most cases, the two components are very different sizes, and the orbits are much smaller compared to the size of the objects (that is, the two bodies orbit pretty tightly) and not nearly so elliptical. The mutual orbit of the chunks in VW139 is a hundred or so times the size of the chunks themselves, which is very wide.

Images of the comet P/2006 VW139 using Hubble show it to be a binary pair of objects.Credit: NASA, ESA, and J. Agarwal (Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research)

Images of the comet P/2006 VW139 using Hubble show it to be a binary pair of objects.Credit: NASA, ESA, and J. Agarwal (Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research)

 

So, what is this thing, and how did it form? Well, a big clue is that it seems to be most active when it’s closer to the Sun in its orbit. That is a strong indicator that it has water ice in it, and as it warms up that turns directly into a gas (this is called sublimation). Using physical models of how the dust reflects light, astronomers think that this first releases pieces of rock the size of gravel, but over time, finer-grained material lifts off as well. Eventually, as VW139 moves away from the Sun, the activity drops, and some of the dust settles back down, to be released the next time the comet warms up (it has an orbit about 2.6 years long).

Interestingly, surface ice on an object like this cannot exist for long at this distance from the Sun, certainly not for billions of years. So it’s likely that some relatively recent event — perhaps just a few thousand years ago — split a large object in two, forming the binary. It may have been a collision, but another possibility is that the single object got spun up by outside forces (sunlight can actually do this via a process called the YORP effect) and the centrifugal force broke it apart. Either way, freshly revealed ice would then sublimate and blow outward, and this can contribute to separating the two chunks into their current wide spacing.

I do so love stories like this. When I was a kid, asteroids were asteroids and comets were comets. Then x`we started seeing objects on that border between them, dead comets that look like asteroids and asteroids that blew off material like comets. It was hard to accept at first, but now we see that there is an even finer degree of resolution in this spectrum, likely with objects all along the line between the two ends. Nature was telling us not to be so rigid in our beliefs, engendering a wider view by scientists, a willingness to accept that not everything in life is either one thing or the other.

I find that transformative, and wonderful. It makes life so much more diverse and interesting!

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Images of the comet P/2006 VW139 using Hubble show it to be a binary pair of objects.Credit: NASA, ESA, and J. Agarwal (Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research)

Posted by Mark Oshiro

In the third and final part of “Not On My Patch,” the wizards fight to save Halloween. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards

Gods, do I ever love Halloween.

Throughout the Young Wizards books, I don’t think Diane Duane has ever had her characters face an antagonist or a threat that felt traditional. Even if the Lone Power represents the manifestation of Evil or Wrongness within the universe, It still doesn’t quite match up to what you’d expect from a fantasy series, certainly not one with “wizards” in the title. Thus far, we’ve had books dealing with:

  • Sentient vehicles
  • Undersea wizards
  • Mobiles
  • Ancient Irish forces from a “sideways” time
  • Cancer
  • The Lone One’s attack on an autistic kid
  • ALIEN WORLDS EVOLVING
  • The Pullulus???
  • THE FIRST MARTIANS

And so on. The point I’m trying to make is that there isn’t much in these books that feels traditional to fantasy. Or even science fiction, for that matter! It’s what has made this such a rewarding experience. I’ve never read anything like Young Wizards. This is not a set-up to say that I’m disappointed because “Not On My Patch” deals with a more common fantasy/horror trope, but rather to CELEBRATE it. It’s so cool that Duane found a way to make zombies a reality within this series. Of course, it’s with a Young Wizards twist, so let’s all scream about this:

Yangshi needed living creatures’ life force to survive, and they got it by prolonged physical contact, during which they sought to bight or wound the victim. If one of them had time to get so much as a tooth into you, that would be the end of it all. Might be quick, Nita thought or might take a long time.

But let the wound be as little as a snakebite, or as big as a whole leg pulled off, it wouldn’t matter. Every sentient thing came equipped with an invisible barrier layer that kept its soul bound inside its physical structure. The yangshi’s bite would open up a wound in the boundary layer that couldn’t be healed and would only tear wider with time. Inevitably the soul would leak out, and when the body no longer contained the threshold amount of soulstuff necessary to sustain the body/soul matrix, the spirit would go and the body would die.

This might feel like an understatement, but that’s probably the most cruel thing in this whole universe, and it is exactly the sort of thing that the Lone One would create. Not just create, mind you, but set upon the world on the night of Halloween, when humanity’s beliefs are that much closer to reality. On a world that still doesn’t know of wizardry, stuff like this is a million times worse, isn’t it? How would non-wizards even be able to fight something like this, you know?

So it’s up to our resident young wizards to take these zombies on, and LO AND BEHOLD, THERE IS A CATCH: They cannot be torn into any sort of piece, because that piece, even if broken off from the original, forms an entirely new zombie. It is a totally evil conceit, but this complication allows Nita to think of something that is the polar opposite. Intent and belief plays a huge part in the mechanics of wizardry, and I assume that’s why Duane uses the word “intent” in numerous ways throughout the spell constructions in Young Wizards. That is precisely what Nita taps into, using Jackie the pumpkin’s glorious intent to be the biggest pumpkin, full of the most sun, to vaporize all the zombies at once. The sequence is absurd and over-the-top, but it should be. It wouldn’t work otherwise, especially because this is the best moment in the whole story:

To Jackie she said silently, Are you absolutely sure you’re up for this?

Up for this? I was grown for this!

HELP ME, EMOTIONS FOR A SENTIENT PUMPKIN. Actually, I lied, this might be the best part:

Thank you, Jackie said, for picking me.

And it faded gently away into the dark, and was gone.

Nothing like fiction to make you want to cry over a pumpkin, y’all. Not just that, but KIT AND NITA BEING CUTE. Oh my god, they’re really dating! It’s canon! HOW ARE WE SO LUCKY.

Mark Links Stuff

My YA contemporary debut, ANGER IS A GIFT, is now available for pre-order! If you’d like to stay up-to-date on all announcements regarding my books, sign up for my newsletter! DO IT.

conuly: (Default)
([personal profile] conuly Sep. 29th, 2017 08:09 pm)
Carefully cut out the superman logo. Carefully started sewing. Realized I'd carelessly put it wrong side up (that is, the side with the ink). Ripped out the stitches, flipped it - d'oh! Silly me, I should've flipped it when I drew it!

Well, it's done now. Thankfully, I expected errors and bought a lot of extra felt.

The funny thing is that all his classmates, their families just drew on the bags with Sharpies. His mom asked me to do it due to lack of time, but I can't draw! I even had somebody else do the stencils for me! So now it looks like I put in way more effort than anybody else (despite the fact that I can see all the errors glaring out at me), but really, I just can't draw. Cutting and sewing is a LOT easier for me.
case: (Default)
([personal profile] case posting in [community profile] fandomsecrets Sep. 24th, 2017 03:43 pm)

⌈ Secret Post #3917 ⌋

Warning: Some secrets are NOT worksafe and may contain SPOILERS.

01.


More! )


Notes:

Secrets Left to Post: 02 pages, 36 secrets from Secret Submission Post #561.
Secrets Not Posted: [ 0 - broken links ], [ 0 - not!secrets ], [ 0 - not!fandom ], [ 0 - too big ], [ 0 - repeat ].
Current Secret Submissions Post: here.
Suggestions, comments, and concerns should go here.
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