Podcast

Species movie backdrop

Species: alien bio-containment, the Arecibo message, and Von Neumann trolls

Species

Wow there some really good movies in 1995! Geiger alien designs. Not “Alien,” but “alien.” This time, with nipples.

Ptosis

Forrest Whitaker. Chris’s history of eyelid laziness variability. Being either a dolphin or a flamingo. Eye farts?

The Arecibo Message

The limited utility of sending messages to aliens 25,000 light years away. The Arecibo Message sent in 1974 toward the M13 globular cluster. A cluster containiner millions of stars. 1679 bits: not a lot of bits!

Bio-executable Von Neumann machines

Von Neumann trolls. Self-assembling bootstrapping biological systems. What if DNA is very common across life in the universe?

Containment

How to combine biological containment and prisoner containment. Lots of “fire” buttons. Biocontainment protocols. Integrating what we’ve learned from prison-escape movies. Considering the Magneto-vault.

Cocoons

Vulvic wall-pods. What the hell even is up with cocoons anyway? Cocoons are basically alien material already. The “soup method” of metamorphosis.

Fat-bergs

Links

We redid our Patreon tiers! Check it out!: Patreon

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Terminator 3 Rise of the Machines: hacking cars and supercomputing Skynet FLOPS w/ Joe Ruppel

Meta

James Cameron blank checks and record-breaking budgets and payouts.

Arnold

Getting re-jacked to your original shape at 56 years old. Screening your movie at Saddam’s palace.

Terminators

The broadness of the term “nanotechnology.” Upgrading your liquid-metal nanotechss32 robots.

Data Collection

Placing this movie in the data collection timeline: after the dawn of big data digital government spying, but before smartphones when we willingly began to give up all the data. But there’s a Terminator movie for that too!

Hacking cars

Direct linkages in car systems. Driving by-wire. Hacking automobile computer systems. Wired hacking and modern wireless car hacks.

Technology progression

Finally, a Terminator in the age of the ubiquitous cell phone! Still not smartphones yet, but it’s a start! Hydrogen fuel cell failure modes and the danger of tiny hydrogen bombs. MRI dangers.

Skynet

AI escape scenarios. Supercomputing at “60 teraFLOPS” and wth is a “teraFLOPS” anyway? Computing power  measurement and FLOP precisions. Recognizing the actual utility of supercomputers only becoms apparent with very paralellizable tasks.

Links

Decipher SciFi: Decipher Media
Hackers Remotely Kill a Jeep on a Highway by WIRED: YouTube

The Last Samurai Tom Cruise movie backdrop

On Decipher History: The Last Samurai w/ Isaac Meyer

A small taste of our new episode of Decipher History to remind you to subscribe to the new show. This week featuring our new friend Isaac Meyer from The History of Japan Podcast!

New episode: The Last Samurai: Bushido, European influence, and howizters w/ Isaac Meyer

Subscribe!: Decipher History

Colossus the Forbin Project movie backdrop

Roundtable: Colossus The Forbin Project w/ Chris Noessel, Damien Williams, and Jonathon Korman

At the table:

Jonathan Korman: Twitter
Chris Noessel: Twitter | Sci-fi Interfaces
Damien Williams: Twitter | A Future Worth Thinking About

Weirdly prescient and quietly influential

AI portrayal in film. Recognizing 2001: A Space Odyssey. Command and control. Unintended consequences. Personal movie connections and impact decades before Bostrom’s Superintelligence. Game of Thrones??? 70s scifi cynicism.

Benevolent AI dictator

The Cold War and looming climate catastrophe. What are Colossus’ goals? What goals does it think it has?

AI Portrayal

Period conceptions of computing as centralized and institutional. Computing in the era of the first moon landing. The “big board.” Computer scientists a la Mad Men. Colossus as a Golem story. How to take over the world with no subterfuge or tact. Gendering AI.

Realism

Portrayal of telecommunications literally before the invention of networking. Packet switching was first implemented after the novel was written and only just before the film! Computer communication syntax. Computing language. Computer interfaces and code checking.

Getting weird

The books get weird. And weirder! How sometimes books are accidentally way better than their author is capable of.

Paperclip maximization

Colossus as utilitarian “peace maximizer.” Showing the monkeys the gun to get your point across.

Links

Works by Madeline Ashby: Amazon
Person of Interest: Amazon | iTunes | Netflix

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Terminator 2: advanced puppetry, Skynet, and liquid nitrogen handling w/ Joe Ruppel

People

Love and appreciation for the humans involved. James Cameron is amazing. Arnold, always our favorite. Linda Hamilton playing one of the most iconic characters in film. Robert Patrick doing the robot. James Cameron doing everything himself.

VFX

VFX and CG and the high shot counts for the time. The expense of CG and the appropriate use thereof. Budgets. Incredible animatronix! The value of high-quality practical FX from the 90s and how they hold up.

Ict hot stuntaz

Motorcycle jumping. Harley’s Fat Boy. Jumping into helicopters.

Technology

The Terminator series as a window into our concerns over technology in different decades. Computing miniaturization. Quantum stuff. Read-only Terminator modes, IRQ switching, and ro cassettes.

Terminators

Terminator models and designs. Possible Billy Idol T-1000, or Kyle Reese-bots. T-1000 shiny grey goo nanite flow robot.

Liquid Nitrogen

Pork chop sandwiches! Inert gas asphyxiation. Steam barriers, sugar work, and dipping your hand into hot lead.

Links:

T2 Stunt Trailer by Peter Kent: YouTube
The Forgotten Art of Blockbuster Cinema by Mike Hill: YouTube

Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse: particle colliders, art, and magnetic monopolies w/ Adrian Falcone

Featuring guest co-host
Adrian Falcone
Adrian Falcone (@AdrianBFalcone), internet nerd

Colliders

Particle collider scales. Increasing energies. Finding the Higgs Boson. Different ways of smashing things. Straight colliders, ring colliders, and rings so large they kinda seem straight at a certain scale. Adrian’s new area of expertise. “Natural experiments” in particle physics. Imagining future colliders and subsequent discoveries. Confirmation of supersymmetry. Probing the edges of the standard model.

Collider danger

Stragelets and black holes and other things that won’t happen. Anatoli Burgorski taking a load in the eye. Magnetic monopoles and winning “Magnetic Monopoly.”

Magnetic monpoles

Art!

OMG the art. Chromatic aberration. Offset printing errors. Smearing vs motion blur. Animating on “twos” or “threes” and the use of fluidity as a storytelling tool.

Spider-ones

Favorite Spiderman movie?

Links:

Exhalation by Ted Chiang: iTunes | Amazon

 

Arnold Terminator bad guy movie backdrop

The Terminator: bootstrapping, machine uprising, and time traveling meatballs w/ Joe Ruppel

People

James Cameron’s first film! And Arnold is amazing! The possibility of casting O.J. Simpson as the T-100. Harlan Ellison lawsuit.

Robots

The thawing of the AI winter of the 70s. Robots finally showing up in our lives and in the workplace. Terminator bootstrapping. Robotics and machine learning.

Skynet

The possibility of AI becoming “self-aware” or “conscious” and whether we even know what those things really mean. Big data feeding skynet.

Terminators

Jacked-up and oiled beefcake “infiltration” models. Franco Columbu. Robotic Ahhhhhnold blending in. The “rule of cool.” Feeding and maintaining a terminator’s “living tissue.”

Persistence of information

The persistence of human knowledge after the nuclear apocalypse. The fragility of magnetic storage media. Storing your data under a mountain. The weakness of encryption over time.

Time travel

How to not sound crazy when telling people in the past that you’re from *the future*. Meatball time travel. Using the “living tissue” time travel rule to transport large weapons into the past. Stuffing a whale or elephant. Realizing that maybe (probably), no one (not even SkyNet) has the slightest clue what they are doing with the time travel.

Links:

Harlan Ellison and the Terminator: YouTube

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Lockout: plagiarism, space shuttle design, and how to skydive… from space!

Plagiarism

John Carpenter, this movie, and Escape from New York plagiarism. Metal Gear Solid also as an Escape ripoff. Running popular media through a “Hideo Kojima filter” to see what comes out.

Space Shuttles

Side-mounting your spacecraft. Flying  a brick. Deorbiting and landing in the space shuttle’s “orbiter.” Wiggle-worm descent. Having only one chance because all of your fuel was spent getting out of orbit. Returning to shuttle-like designs with mag-lev mountain-ramps.

Inert gas asphyxiation

Nitrogen! Biologically inactive gas asphyxia vs potentially-toxic: CO2, CO, etc. Hypoxia.

Falling out of space

The slim odds of hitting the ISS when accidentally de-orbiting. Space is… small? Understanding what “orbit” really means. HALO/HAHO jumping, Baumgartner’s Stratos jump, and the incredible difficulty of jumping out of orbit ffs. Copyrighting all of the “totally radical” stunts.

Breaking the sound barrier

The difference in the “speed of sound” at different atmospheric densities. Terminal velocity at high altitudes. Air is more “sticky” than you might expect. Why didn’t Felix Baumgartner “burn up” on reentry?

Orbital decay

“Jumping down” from a space station and how that is not sufficient for deorbiting. Megaconstellations and space junk.

Links:

How to Land the Space Shuttle… from Space by Bret Copeland: YouTube
Escape From New York: Decipher SciFi

Rocky IV backdrop, Rocky being held up in triumph by his cornermen while wrapped in an American flag

Rocky IV: sports science, brain injury, and horsepower punches

Forces

Height and reach advantage and impossible momentary punching force. Punching with horsepower vs just straight up hitting people with horses.

‘Murrica

James Brown and showboat Apollo. The Khaleesi naming scheme.

Sports Science

The rising tide of money in sports. The “big bang of body types.” Steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.

Brain Injury

The particular badness of boxing for brain damage. The possible safety increase in taking off the gloves in MMA. Just about any sports injury is better than brain damage. The brain compared to Jello. The extra danger of rotational brain injury. Cumulative microconcussions.

Robots!

Surprisingly not a cynicalproduct placement.

Ryan Gosling First Man space launch backdrop

First Man: moon rocks, moon lasers, and the edge of space

One Small Step

Worrying the minimum amount about your speech. The difficulty of quoting noisy radio transmissions.

Because it is haaaahd

Recognizing the small temporal distance from the first powered flight to the first moon landing. The cutting edge of the early space program. Test piloting. Gemini.

The edge of space

Defining the edge of space. The “Karman Line”: transition from atmospheric lift to orbital velocity. Complications and redefinition of where “space” begins. Geopolitics, ruining everything since forever.

The “right stuff”

Badass engineer pilots. Moving fast and breaking things. Selection testing. Giving prospective astronauts ice-water wet willies. The importance of simulation in the early space program and the difficulty of simulating things we haven’t actually ever done or seen up close.How hard it really is to stay conscious under high-g stress.

Moon landing

Monocular depth cues. Light and shadow, unfamiliar objects, and depth perception. Equatorial noon on the equinox when stuff looks creepy: Lahaina Noon.

Lunar Laser Ranging Experiment

Retroreflectors and really really powerful lasers. Tiny photonic returns: 1 out of every 10¹⁷ photons shot at the moon mirror make it back for our detection. Multi-mile laser beams. Confirming relativity ftw.

ROCKS

… from the moon! And some regolith to boot. Vacuum transport for moon samples and how we work with them on Earth’s surface without contaminating. The difficulty of maintaining a a very strong vacuum vs nonreactive gasses. Detecting the provenance of proposed moon rocks. NASA’s moon-rock cataloguing system.

Moon-landing video

Viewership numbers. NASA’s custom video encoding and the incredibly analog conversion methods employed to bring it to television.

What if

What if it didn’t work out? The Nixon speach made ready just in case. “In Event of Moon Disaster.”

What now

Why we have no rockets now to match the power of the Saturn V. Loss of engine-production expertise. Looking at near-future Moon and Mars missions.

Links:

Where does NASA keep the Moon Rocks? by Smarter Every Day: YouTube
Apollo Television by Bill Wood: NASA