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.
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.
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.
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.
Getting past the nonsense. The reasonable idea that civilizations have in fact existed and then fallen, without notice by modern study. Rocking Like a Hurricane in the B.C. era.
Human history irl
Humanity circa 10,000 years ago. The beginnings of civilization. Early agriculture. Making beer and eventually bread. How not to make bread by putting beer in the oven. More Rocking Like a Hurricane. Just invent pants, beer, and bread and you’re off to a really solid start. “Why are pants, different than shirts?”
The Silurian Hypothesis
The Silurian Hypothesis. Imagining the difference in civilizational detectibility over hundreds of thousands or millions of years. Thinking like ze dolphin. Plastic permanence. Climate impacts written into geology. Radiological evidence.
Proto Indo European
The “Atlantean” conlang. Marc Okrand and Klingon. Language before language was written down. How we figure out anything about a language from 6500 years ago that is no longer spoken and was never written down.
Circadian rhythms. Setting our clocks by light exposure. Light exposure and activity levels. Wearing your sunglasses at night. Different varieties of blindness and sleep rhythms. Retinal sensitivity to light.
Alien meat-testicle gems. Personal testicular security systems. Organic gemstones. Pearl production. How attractive our kidney stones might be to alien speculators. “Real” utility vs perceived value.
Wound sealing. Stopping bleeding in an emergency with caulking foam. Packing a wound full of tiny tampons. Failed experiments in would sealing with: beads, marbles, beans, etc. Amputation history. Ancient Greek amputation practices and efficiency records in the Napoleonic and American Civil Wars.
This was the best worst thing we’ve ever seen. I’m sorry. You’re welcome?
Leaving whole rocket stages to just kinda be in orbit and hit stuff. Talking in space by providing your own atmosphere thanks to your incredible, super lung capacity. Also, how that doesn’t work and Superman needs to be a close talker and hold conversations by vibrating his mouth directly on someone else’s spacesuit helmet.
Superman bodily materials
The hair that can hold at least a half ton. How does Superman cut his hair? Introducing weird gnarly alternate Superman with really long hair and uncut fingernails. Donating Superman’s bits to materials science. Making things out of hair. Totally realistic space elevator musings. Superman as a launch platform. Dissecting the Man of Steel for fun and profit. Using Superman for “free energy” (Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal).
Superman’s built-in orbital mechanics skills. The tiny bit of nothing that would be all of 1987’s nuclear world arsenal against the power of the sun. The relative tiny-ness of the only nuclear weapons ever used in war. Proposals for nuclear de-proliferation. Going Dr Manhattan on the problem.
A bunch of stuff oh god this movie was silly
Nuclear Man’s totally fab nails. The golden crotch-trim on his super suit. Plugging a volcano. Superman’s “brick vision.” Slowing things down, because the moon has “less gravity.” It’s obvious, really. The actual disasters that await us if Superman pushed the Moon away.
A hundred years to uninhabitability is a little bit quicker than we thought. Timelines here to red dwarf and all the unpleasantness in between.
Probing your star
The surprising difficulty of actually reaching the sun. The Parker Solar Probe. Taking a close peek at the corona and the young solar wind. Close as in millions of miles.
Shifting circumstellar habitability zones. Moving the planet out nearer Jupiter as our sun expands. Throwing moderation to the wind and ditching the solar system. Tidal forces.
Planetary travel in deep space
Relativistic impact vulnerability. Appreciating Earth’s protected position within the heliosphere, blocked from impactors by two gas giants and its own moon.
Earth’s new home
Traveling across deep space with no sun. If you dig deep enough, mayyyyyyybe Kelvin’s “secular cooling” would keep everybody warm for the trip. Signing up for some eye shine. The three-body problem.
Living underground. Shielding from the radiation and frigid cold of deep space with kilometers and kilometers of Earth. Learning to eat lots of algae, crickets, and fungus. Taking advantage of geothermal energy at depth. Dealing with Earthquakes while being under some of them. The safety of tunnels.
Smuggling pickles in your pants into space. And maybe some vodka or cognac. “Who wants a warm pickle?”
The Wandering Earth by Liu Cixin: Amazon
The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin: iTunes | Amazon
The AMAZING Design of the Parker Solar Probe by Smarter Every Day: YouTube
“Just make stuff!” But then for technical details for other Linux podcasters, my dotfiles (application configurations) are shared openly on Github. Files and scripts relevant specifically to our podcasting are probably all mentioned here.
Free software and licenses
Creative Commons and free software and making the world better by helping more people make their stuff.
The oft-overlooked actual difficulties of space settlement. Not technology and logistics, but like, how hard it will likely be for the humans doing the job at first. And second. And then for a while after, too.
Plants in spaaaaaaaace
Growing fresh food in space habitats. Poop-potatoes. Wide-spectrum LEDs. Self-contained hydroponics/aeroponics.
People in spaaaaaaaaace. Dealing with microgravity. Bro, do you even lift in space? Eyeball un-squishing. Figuring out how to burp. Fluid-pooling and major injury.
Turning people into jelly. Differing human sensitivity to sustained g-forces in different directions. The wonderful engineering concept of the ship with omnidirectional seating that reconfigures on-the-fly for optimal g-resistance (The Razorback).
High-speed space impact
Turning into jelly and then having your jelly explode your ship, because physics. Relativistic baseballs. Long-haul space-racing and how to be your own butt-wiping pit crew.
Kinetic weapon diplomacy
Nuclear non-proliferation treaties in space. Orbital kinetic weapons and cloaked nuke-ships playing the role of the submarine as deterrent.
Interstellar highway program
Minimum viable star system bootstrap answering machine. The Fermi paradox. The odds that most of the signs of alien civilization that we might discover would be past.
The Universe Today Ultimate Guide to Viewing The Cosmos: Everything You Need to Know to Become an Amateur Astronomer by David Dickinson & Fraser Cain: Amazon
The Expanse Season 3: Prime Video
Guide to Space by Fraser Cain: YouTube
Ahhhhnold! Your average Joe, working construction just like any other regular guy who is a giant bodybuilding monster-person. We really missed this in our coverage of Total Recall 2012.
Memory “insertion” and memory “deletion” or “blocking” in mouse studies. The great distance from where we are now to trivial memory “vacations” a la Recall. Semantic memory, autobiographical memory, and muscle memory.
Ideal tracking-implantation locations. The incredible utility of the anus for tracker storage, weighed against the small time window.
Building Martian settlements with as much radiation exposure as possible: glass! glass everywhere! Radiation exposure on the Martian surface. Burying your dead on Mars: a tasteful resource-wasting mausoleum indoors, a giant pile of bleached-out mummies outside the door, or arrange them in awesome poses?
Natural resources in space. Calculating mining cost vs cost to get it where it will be useful. Mining and transporting Helium-3 for fusion energy. Harvesting oxygen from frozen water and getting rocket fuel as a bonus. NASA’s Moxie and inventing trees for spaaaaace. Making your Martian habitat smell like a dirty fish tank, for science.
Well, we don’t normally do this sorta thing, but oh man this was so good! What the film is about, how it is about, and why it was so special. Appreciating those who do the best work of making history relatable (coughDan Carlin cough).
Film degradation. Scratching, exposure, shrinkage, physical tearing. The crapshoot that is video frame rates in early 20th century film footage. Crank cameras and gearing and compressed-air constant-framerate cameras. Correcting for all of this and the challenge of bringing it all up to a standard 24 fps.
Film is an illusion
The optical illusion that we perceive as movement on a screen. Persistence of vision. Video framerates and the “refresh rate” of the human eye. Motion interpolation as an offense against art and all things good. Tom Cruise fighting the good fight. Motion interpolation as a really neato technology which is actually really cool when not on by default on new televisions. Motion interpolation in VR or video games.
Historian types and objections to the “enhancements” introduced by the filmmakers. Art vs education and the importance of relatability. Modernizing history. Colorization. 3d-ification. Finding it hard to complain about digital enhancement and remastering which leaves the original materials untouched.
They Shall Not Grow Screenings (Jan/Feb 2019): Fathom Events
They Shall Not Grow Old (Digital pre-order): YouTube | iTunes
“YOU WON’T BELIEVE YOUR EYES!” by Smarter Every Day: YouTube
Compounding acceleration in the relative vacuum of space. Incredible efficiencies versus chemical rockets, and the very low force produced making it only appropriate once spaceborn. The differing problems solved by chemical rockets and ion drives. The benefit of ion drive once out of Earth’s gravity well and going far away. Earth’s tectonic plates, slowly building up to escape velocity. That beautiful blue glow. “Ionic wind” aircraft in-atmosphere: a completely silent aircraft motor with no moving parts!
Landing in spaaaaace
Methods of landing on Mars: Aeroshells, parachutes, rockets, and balloons. Past examples. Different bodies in space and their particular atmospheric densities, atmospheric conditions, and gravitational acceleration.
Nuclear power solutions
Nuclear power vs solar cells. People’s presumption of full-on nuclear reactors rather than the smaller and less-efficient radioisotope thermoelectric generators like on Curiosity. Wondering why we don’t use tiny nuclear robots to blow the dust off of the solar robots. NASA, call us for more great ideas.
Martian dust storms. The low density and force of Martian dust storms, contrary to popular depictions. The visual impressiveness of huge Martian dust storms from space relative to actual effect. The (low) density of the Martian atmosphere and its make-up. How 60mph dust storms are are actually not that powerful: with low gravitational acceleration, static charge, it is very very easy it is to keep dust particles aloft.
Orbital centricity words
The revelation that “geocentric” and “geostationary” apply very specifically to only Earth and there are other words particular to the other major bodies in our solar system. All of the other centricity classifications, including Arecentric for Mars as in the film (though they don’t use it).
Hypoxia and inability to give detailed instructions to your AI on how to disperse the spirit of humanity into the universe.
2036 Origin Unkown: Netflix | Amazon | iTunes
Why You Should Put YOUR MASK On First (My Brain Without Oxygen) by Smarter Every Day: YouTube
How Do Ion Engines Work? The Most Efficient Propulsion System Out There by Fraser Cain: YouTube