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.
James Gunn appreciation (ps Super was really really good!). Guardians introducing a new level of comedy into the MCU.
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.
Character growth. Going over Cap, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, etc. Observing how these characters have grown over time.
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.
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).
“Smelly handshakes.” Mammary pheromone response in human infants. Getting used to stinky things. Tales of accidental moth pheromone pranks.
Surprising evolutionary directions in the absence of humanity. Even a thousand years later, baboons still don’t appreciate getting hit with rocks.
The dangers of low atmospheric oxygen. Using the top of Everest as marker for O2 danger. Climbing Everest in shorts.
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
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.
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.
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)_/¯
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.
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.
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.
Aquaman as a sign of possibility the of interesting things going forward in the DC Extended Universe. Sexy Jason Mamoa. Underwater Superman.
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.
Underwater echolocation. Communication by sound. The possibility of cetacean languages. Torpedo-shaped body plans and efficient insulation. Breathing fluids (but not sea water!).
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.
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