Just the Two of Us

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

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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

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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

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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

Atlantis Disney movie backdrop

Atlantis: the Silurian hypothesis, ancient language, and updating the drake equation

Myth and history

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. MarcĀ  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.

Links

Atlantis: iTunes | Amazon Prime Video
The Silurian Hypothesis: Would it be possible to detect an industrial civilization in the geological record?: arXiv.org

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Prospect: sleep rhythm, amputation, and meat-sack organic gemstones

Indie scifi

Impressive shoestring productions. Remembering Moon. Lived-in duct-tape science fiction.

Sleep cycles

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.

Space prospectin’

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 handling

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.

Links:

Prospect: iTiunes | Amazon | YouTube

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The Wandering Earth: altered goldilocks zones, Earth’s heat budget, and smuggling pickles in your pants

Life and death of a star

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.

Moving Earth

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.

Going deep

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.

Space station

Smuggling pickles in your pants into space. And maybe some vodka or cognac. “Who wants a warm pickle?”

Links

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

Q&A #4: Answering your questions and appreciating our friends

You folks asked us a bunch of questions. And we gave a bunch of answers!

I’ll leave the actual Questions and Answers to be listened to in the episode, but we did mention some resources etc which I’ll link below…

Past History coverage

To whet your appetite if you’re as excited as us about the possibility of Decipher History:

Podcasting advice

“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.

Episode image made using:
A Nice Cartoon Guy Filming A Live Marketing Video by Free Clip Art, CC-BY-SA 4.0
Fake Studio by Josh Hallett, CC-BY 2.0