About Christopher Peterson

http://www.chrispeterson.info

Geek, dad, maker of things on the internet

Posts by Christopher Peterson:

Star Trek IV – The Journey Home: whale margarine, transparent aluminum, and time travel

Star Trek

Best Star Trek movies. Liking things because they are familiar. The odd-even Star Trek movie rule. Mathematical proofs. Dismissing the reboots.

Cosmic horror

Giant cylinders and plumbuses. Finding out you are as an ant in the universe. Spreading across space and building giant robot suits to fight the larger incomprehensible creatures.

Time travel

Using time travel to solve problems despite the consequences. Time travel anachronism stories. Bad time-travel sales pitches. The Mooreeffoc Effect. Would you go to the future? Only going forward because medicine in the past is always so bad. Time travel vaccinations.

Whales

The possibility of cetacean “language.” “Save the whales” in the 80s. Whale oil being supplanted by kerosene as industrial fuel. Stinky whale candles. The Napoleonic origins of margarine and the economics of fuel and margarine. Industrialized whaling. “Factory ships.” Realizing we are running out of whales. Continued industrial whaling, namely by Japan and some of the Nordic countries.

Links

A bunch of Wikipedia articles: Whaling | Whale Oil | Margarine
Moby Dick by Herman Melville: iTunes | Amazon

Apocalyptomovie backdrop mayan man in front of stepped pyramid

Apocalypto: sacrificial practices, temples, and Mayan writing and math

Criticisms and controversy

So yeah, Mel Gibson is bad. But then the movies are… really good? Trying to get past his framing. The tug of war between historical accuracy and entertainment. Anthropological criticism.

Deciphering history

The problem with burning nearly the entire written history of a people. Deciphering scant ancient texts. The remaining resources: art, stelae. Mayan hieroglyphic writing.

Periods

The Maya pre-classic, classic, and post-cassic periods. The scale of the height of Mayan civilization. The abruptness of its fall. The period in which the film takes place and the ways in which it is not actually entirely apparent. Classic-period pyramids in the post-classic era.

Science and math

The mixing of astronomy and astrology in the Mayan tracking of the heavenly bodies for religious purposes. The Mayan written mathematical system. “Inventing” zero. Extensive calendaring and that whole 2012 kerfuffle.

Civilizational decline

The factors that may have contributed to the Mayan collapse. Plaster and mortar production. Deforestation for fuel.

Aztec/Maya

The possibility for cultural confusion in the film. Aztec and Maya sacrificial practices.

Links

The Case Study of Apocalypto by Richard D Hansen: ResearchGate
Apocalypto by History Buffs: YouTube

Game of Thrones backdrop - Ned Stark on the iron throne, leaning on a sword

Game of Thrones: medieval weaponry, variable winters, and final-season anxiety

The books

Appreciating GRRM. And appreciating him double and triple as the show goes on.

The setting

The middle ages. The “dark ages” and how much is that a misnomer? Magic and dragons stagnating technological progress. Volcanoes beat dragons in rock-paper-scissors. Air force exclusivity. Ancient artillery. Ballistae and Scorpions and the peak of human weaponry until the weaponization of gunpowder.

Winter is coming

Figuring out ways to make the seasons less predictable. Unsatisfying suggestions in axial precession and funny orbits. The possibility of the interplay of biology with climatological processes.

Disappointment and Predictons

Trying to understand, as we reach the conclusion, why the show feels so unsatisfying now. Why every turn of events feels so unearned. Predicting who will get the throne as of “The Last of the Starks.”

Links

Game of Fuckin’ Thrones by Anamanaguchi: YouTube
Nightflyers (SciFi!) & Other Stories by GRRM: iTunes | Amazon

q&a #5 word cloud backdrop

Questions & Addenda #5: fermenting your pee, cute aggression, and centricities

We got so much feedback over time from supporter Jeremy that we’re dedicating a whole Questions & Addenda episode to covering them. Just like that one time.

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi [episode page]

Guerilla space warfare. The Star Wars Geneva Convention. Chinese gun powder weaponization. Resources and impoetus in the development of killing technologies.

Ready Player One [episode page]

Speed-of-light internet latency. EVE online strategies for fun and profit. “Sharding” as first-named in Ultima as a technical and storytelling solution.

Wall-E [episode page]

Wasting potable water. Saltwater pipe corrosion. Graywater toilets. Fermenting your pee and eating rotten shark that smells like pee.

Upgrade [episode page]

Automation in combat. “Cute aggression.” The “call of the void,” and the fear of the call of the void.

Doom [episode page]

Could you really spoil Doom, though? Navigating by the ecliptic in space. Playing Descent.

The Predator [episode page]

Savantism before the invention and eventual ubiquity of writing.

2036 Origin Unknown [episode page]

The wonder of centricities and the Greek pantheon. Using the wrong words for things. ASCII vs Unicode.

Links

The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz: Amazon

Media sources

(CC-BY) Heavy Metal Riff by tgfcoder: FreeSound
(CC-BY) Retro Robot Thinking Sound by orginaljun: FreeSound

Avengers Endgame character collage backdrop

Avengers Endgame: Appreciating the enormity of the MCU

A review

Spoiler alert: we liked this movie

Phase 1

Appreciating the establishment of the characters of Iron Man and Captain America. That grenade scene. Joss Whedon writing and directing teams of characters learning to work together. Realizing the first movie in the MCU came out in 2008. Realizing just how long ago 2008 was.

Phase 2

James Gunn appreciation (ps Super was really really good!). Guardians introducing a new level of comedy into the MCU.

Phase 3

Guardians dad feels. Our favorite MCU movies. Appreciating Spiderverse even though it doesn’t count.

Money and The Mouse

The huge money-making power of this franchise. A review of budgets and revenue in the MCU. Feeling conflicted about enjoying these otherwise-impossible projects while Disney slowly buys up the entirety of western media.

Time travel quantum gobbledlygook

Time travel. Single-timeline time travel vs branching-timelines. The classic scientific “Loki-Hypercube paradox.” Timeline diagram for Avengers: Endgame. Avoiding the Novikov self-consistency principle for paradox avoidance. The “Deutsch proposition.” Robbing Peter in one timeline to pay Paul in another. Playing the time travel genie to wish for more wishes.

Characters

Character growth. Going over Cap, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, etc. Observing how these characters have grown over time.

Links

MCU on Decipher SciFi: Guardians 1 | Guardians 2 | Avengers Infinity War
Avengers: Endgame timeline diagram: imgur
Marvel movie budgets and box office revenue: Reddit
“The Limitations of the Marvel Cinematic Universe” by Patrick Willems: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

After Earth Will Smith Jaden Smith backdrop image

After Earth: pheromones, murder-birds, and language evolution

This movie

Not well reviewed. Will Smith’s “painful failure.” The real twist is the lack of explanation for things. Jaden Smith wisdom.

Accent and language

The future “language” in the film. The difference between accent and dialect. how languages change over time, by example. Trying to understand original spoken Shakespeare and generally succeeding. Trying to understand original spoken Beowulf and completely failing. The mutual intelligibility of Old Norse and Old English.

Creatures

Surprise! There are aliens and they want to kill us. Engineered animal-weapons (the “Ursa”). Improving the Ursa design: giving guns to blind animals for fun and profit. Komodo dragon-mode leeches. Evolving from parasite to hunter. The combat techniques of butt-spiking murderbirds (shrikes).

Phereomones

“Smelly handshakes.” Mammary pheromone response in human infants. Getting used to stinky things. Tales of accidental moth pheromone pranks.

Quarantine earth

Surprising evolutionary directions in the absence of humanity. Even a thousand years later, baboons still don’t appreciate getting hit with rocks.

Atmosphere

The dangers of low atmospheric oxygen. Using the top of Everest as marker for O2 danger. Climbing Everest in shorts.

Links

In Our Time – Pheromones: BBC
“Butchering Bird” (the shrike): YouTube
Eddie Izzard “Babies on spikes” bit without any context: YouTube
Lion scent-marking with non-scientific audio: YouTube

Back to the Future Part II movie backdrop

Back to the Future Part II: time travel options, retro futurism, and hip thrust combat w/ Daniel Barker

Likenesses

The legal precedent set by Crispin Glover’s lawsuit against the production; folks are more careful these days as a result. “Grandma Tarkin.”

"Grandma Tarkin" Star Wars satire speech-to-text meme

Rick & Morty

Rick & Morty’s original short lampooning Doc & Marty.

The future

The fun, friendly future where the alleyways are safer than the streets. Worrying about your future children and feeling disgusted by your teenage self. Pelvic thrusting fight technique.

Daniel James Barker with embarrassing scene kid hair

DJB back in the embarrassing teenage days

Time travel technique

Buying The almanac. Varieties of time travel: mutable, immutable, and branching. The way BTTF mixes these options at its leisure. The butterfly effect. Coping with the scale of possibilities. Strategic infanticide and Godwin’s Law.

Spacetime travel

Taking into account frames of reference. Appearing suddenly in near-vacuum if you don’t properly calibrate your time machine to also account for space travel. The importance of accurate time measurement e.g. Doctor Who The Movie. Destroying “the universe” but only the local area as causality here could not affect far away galaxies due to expansion. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Rational Optimism

Dan’s message welcoming Marty McFly to the future. Recognizing the overarching improvements in the wellbeing of humanity in the face of the negative newscycle.

Future things!

Bricking your self-lacing shoes. Keeping your shoes from joining a botnet. Self-smoking shirts. The periodic nature of futurism where “the future” always looks basically like now but with neato accessories. Hoverboard hoaxes and disappointments.

Links

Uncertainty Principle the Podcast: Soundcloud | The “Marty” Episode
VFXcool: Back to the Future Trilogy by Captain Disillusion: Part 1 | Part 2

Them! 1954 movie backdrop

Them!: nuclear optimism, amateur myrmecology, and Wilhelm-screaming w/ Joe Ruppel

Featuring guest co-host
Joe Ruppel Photo
Joe Ruppel, history nerd

Rise of the nuclear monsters

The era of nuclear nervousness and the nuclear monsters in cinema. “Take an object, and biggify it.” Nuclear power in the 1950s. The possibility of “unmetered” energy. White Sands, gypsum, and the Trinity test.

Nuclear optimism

The nuclear success hit list and the optimism of the early 50s. Recognizing downsides. Converting hydrogen into helium, but like really violently. Eclipses, occlusion, and we didn’t realize it at the time but Joe was right to use “occultation.” Las Vegas atomic bomb parties.

Nuclear fallout

The fallout from southern Nevada testing traveling directly as far as northeast Utah. The bitter, metallic taste of nuclear fallout. When Kodak accidentally discovered a-bomb testing.

A sense of scale

The scale of nuclear weapons since the first atom bombs. Considering the time when “duck and cover” made sense. Using NUKEMAP for a sense of scale.

Ants

Issues with upscaling. Myrmecology. Antennae and wayfinding. Evolutoniary history and their waspy ancestors. Ants as superorganism. Formic acid attack spray.

Links:

Them!: iTunes | Amazon Prime Video | YouTube
NUKEMAP: NuclearSecrecy.com
Decipher SciFi nuclear hot takes: WarGames | Superman IV

Aquaman Jason Mamoa backdrop

Aquaman: cetaceans, riding sea animals, and the bends

DCEU

Aquaman as a sign of possibility the of interesting things going forward in the DC Extended Universe. Sexy Jason Mamoa. Underwater Superman.

Atlantis

Unlimited power when everyone else thought the world was flat. Appreciating the innovation that was realizing the Earth was mostly spherical. Ancient Greek steam turbans. Eating raw fish and seaweed. the origins of sushi. The careful application of lava for removing parasites.

Sea mammals

Underwater echolocation. Communication by sound. The possibility of cetacean languages. Torpedo-shaped body plans and efficient insulation. Breathing fluids (but not sea water!).

Deep diving

Decompression sickness. Why you really don’t want bubbles in your fluids. The differing breath-holding techniques of whales at different depths. Whales that get decompression sickness.

Domesticating sea animals

The list of traits that make for good domesticatiion: “Friendly, feedable, fecund, and family-friendly” and how hard it might be to find the full set of traits in the ocean. The ultimate futility of trying to domesticate sharks.

Links:

Aquaman: iTunes | Amazon Prime Video | YouTube
Zebra vs Horses: Animal Domestication by CGP Grey: YouTube

The Matrix 1999 movie backdrop

The Matrix: green phosphors, neuroplasticity, and rejecting utopia w/ Adrian Falcone

Featuring guest co-host
adrian falcone headshotAdrian Falcone

This movie is awesome

It is! And also we’re old. But honestly this is still unironically the best thing. The legacy of the Matrix. Falling back in love with the Wachowskis. Addressing the sequels.

Cyberpunk

The Matrix as cyberpunk. Comparing against other touchstones. Philip K Dick. William Gibson’s review from the time.

When I began to write NEUROMANCER, there was no “cyberpunk”. THE MATRIX is arguably the ultimate “cyberpunk” artifact. Or will be, if the sequels don’t blow. I hope they don’t, and somehow have a hunch they won’t, but I’m glad I’m not the one who has to worry about it.

-William Gibson lol

Old school computing

Damn kids and their pixels. CRT displays and low/high persistence phosphorus and how we wound up irl with the bright glowing green text aesthetic that informed The Matrix. Eye fatigue back in the day. Computer-touchers. Staring at people at work for fun and profit. The Solarized color schemes.

The Matrix

Taking the red pill. How easy it actually really is to explain what The Matrix is. Neo is a giant, slimy baby. The inefficiencies of using humans as batteries when you have fusion power. Grass, tastes bad.

Benevolent AI Dictators

But WHAT IF The Matrix actually has humanity’s best interests in mind? The possibility that they really tried to give us our utopia.

Virtual worlds

Plasticity and your brain’s willingness to accept new input schemes. Designing The Matrix with a “failsafe” so the humans are unadapted to their physical bodies irl. Acquired synaesthesia. Supernumerary limbs and phallic cartwheels. Upside down goggles and adaptation to a new “up.” Permanence in sensory adaptations.

Hacking The Matrix

Bendable physics. The difficulty with bending or breaking the rules of computing hardware.

Links:

The Matrix: iTunes | Amazon Prime Video | YouTube
The Pizza Matrix (it’s terrible): YouTube
The Animatrix: iTunes | Amazon Prime Video | YouTube
The Backwards Brain Bicycle by Smarter Every Day: YouTube