June 21, 2012

Spaceships and Exoplanets [part 3]

Since we're at it, let me refer you to this wonderful collection of vintage spaceship art to wrap up my previous posts on the impromptu series "Spaceships and Exoplanets". This collection of rare retro space art by Dark Roasted Blend certainly made me reflect on how far we've gone and how far we have to go. In the 1950's there were no known exoplanets at all. Now we have more than 700 hundred exoplanets catalogued. How did our new planetary discoveries impact how we think? How did it change our designs of spaceships? If you look closely at these vintage space artworks, what do you notice? Did anything change in the design of the spaceships as the pioneers envisioned them back then versus our modern day ship designs?
First of all, these vintage photos confirm the pattern that spaceships and planets go together on spaceship artworks, as I've noted in the first Spaceships and Exoplanets post. Another thing is that spaceship designs back then were symmetrical, while spaceship designs nowadays are 'becoming' non-symmetrical (take a look at ship designs in Eve-Online to grok what i mean). Spaceships are mostly designed for outer space so they do not need to be aerodynamic (duh!).
I could go one blabbing about spaceships but I would rather leave you thinking about the fact that more than 60 years after these imaginative art were envisioned, we still haven't landed an actual spaceship on another planet. A lot of work needs to be done to make our science fiction a real fact for future generations.

June 20, 2012

On Prometheus

Prometheus is an eye candy. The visuals and special effects are well done. The design of the space suits are unique and beautiful. The user interface to control gadgetries and machineries are good. And the star maps are marvelous. The photos shown are part of my favorite scenes in the movie.
Beautiful as its visuals may be, an eye candy is what Prometheus will ever be. It failed to live up to the hype. It will not be among the classic science fiction films such as Blade Runner, Solaris, The Matrix (1), Aliens, or The Fifth Element that one would watch (over and over again) for the sheer engagement of the mind, complemented with great visuals.
I thought the film was going to be smart, as projected by snazzy marketing tidbits such as Weyland's TED talk and great interactives. I felt cheated because when the film finally came out it had a lot of dumb moments. It had massive holes in the plot. The science was flawed in many instances, and the stupidity of all the characters distracted me throughout the movie. The promotional materials used to market the film seemed smarter than the actual film itself. Lastly, I am disappointed because it made scientists (astrobiologists and archaeologists) look like fools.
Although I am happy about the exoplanetary aspects of the film, it's just that Prometheus is hollow and is not inspiring at all. There's no enduring character to remember and no brilliant concept to keep.
But I do recognize the artistic aspect in the cinematography of the film. I am aware that one must not be taken in by all the fantastic visuals and one must look deeper into the analogies and metaphors expressed by the movie--that it tells of our endless yearning to search and know our beginning and our future. And yes I am also aware of the claim that there is a 'religious hidden message' in it. But whatever those messages were, or the metaphors therein, the film's attempt to express them utterly failed.
Besides, I do not agree with panspermia--it will not answer our quest for the origin of life, so the idea that we were created by those burly but lame 'Engineers' was a wrong premise to begin with. Sure, the film gets merit for ending with a question (of who created our creators), but perhaps the film-makers should have started with that instead, rather than making this one which turned out to be a spectacular scifi incarnation of Dumb and Dumber.

Spaceships and Exoplanets [part 2]

Well, well, well. Two nice visualizations have grazed the interwebz just days apart. And now it's my job to make sense of it all and share the wisdom. The idea could be a variation on my previous post about spaceships and exoplanets but it's still worth reiterating nevertheless.
The other day, the spaceships chart came out from supernova condensate. Today the Exoplanets rendered by xkcd exploded on the net.
Why, spaceships should have destinations, right? And that is exactly the reason why I bring them together in one post lest people fail to get the point.
Our species must expand to other planets! Let's build the spaceships and starships and worldships and go to Mars and beyond. You see, the destinations are real. These exoplanets are out there for real. Yet the means to go there isn't here just yet. That means we have plenty of things to catch up with.
I know it's hard, but it's ok. We just have to do something simple persistently, like send out extrasolar probes every year as our technology allows. This will keep the inspiration alive to keep the action going for centuries to come.
The Voyager1 probe is on the threshold of being interstellar so it is a perfect time to stress the point: Let's go 'exo' !

June 11, 2012

The Skroderider

I just felt compelled to share what I saw last saturday at the Bionic Garden: The Orchidarium named "Floriguay" by artist Mike Smith had a 'Big Dipper' setup solely for plants! Yes, for plants!!! A set of LED lights was used to simulate the constellation (and some fireflies) for the plants' enjoyment.
I think that the whole setup was fun and awesome. Imagine if plants can actually gaze up at the stars and see constellations. Wouldn't that be amazing? You know, somewhere at the back of my mind, on some other world there exists plant-like creatures that could really see and think.
It's a perfect timing that I've been reading Vernor Vinge's "Fire Upon the Deep" in which there are sentient plants called "Skroderiders" (one of them is aptly named Greenstalk). 
The Skroderiders often become lost in thought when they see spectacular landscapes which I imagine to be stars, constellations, and ringed star systems. They also are perched or riding on a contraption called 'skrodes' that enables them to move around (hence the term Skroderiders) but also contains other mechanisms that aid their memory, among other things. The skrodes were a gift to them by an advanced civilization.
So you can just imagine my delight when i saw the Floriguay, a wheeled frame outfitted with wires and tubes, a laptop, and LED lights and other contraptions. This is a Skroderider in the flesh! Or rather, a Skroderider on a skrode!