Asimov’s laws as a storytelling device and what you get when you alter the formula. “Humans are the true robots.”
The difference between “automata” and “robots.” Ancient Greek, Arab, and medieval church automata. Automata and robots making humans realize we need to explain what makes us special. Realizing that, on the whole, we probably aren’t really. Cartesian dualism as a stop-gap measure. Moral progress. Appreciating that we stopped seeing other animals as automatons and vivisecting them.
NASA getting into the automata game for difficult environments. The Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments. Mixing electronic and (mostly) mechanical components for robustness against horrible, deadly, no good, very bad atmospheres. Sending data back home from limited electronic or even completely mechanical systems.
Various phenomena caused by disturbances in the sun. The Carrington Event. Imagining the losses in the trillions from a Carrington-strength event in the modern day. Civilizational collapse with worldwide disturbance/destruction of telecommunications infrastructure.
Realizing that several billion humans on Earth is actually like a real real lot of people. Very many. So many that even a 97% reduction leaves millions. Oy.
Defining deserts by rainfall. Defining desertification by a land’s inability to hold water.
Automata by In Our Time: BBC
Ghost in the Machine by Radio Lab: WNYC
Best Star Trek movies. Liking things because they are familiar. The odd-even Star Trek movie rule. Mathematical proofs. Dismissing the reboots.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The problem with burning nearly the entire written history of a people. Deciphering scant ancient texts. The remaining resources: art, stelae. Mayan hieroglyphic writing.
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.
The factors that may have contributed to the Mayan collapse. Plaster and mortar production. Deforestation for fuel.
The possibility for cultural confusion in the film. Aztec and Maya sacrificial practices.
The Case Study of Apocalypto by Richard D Hansen: ResearchGate
Apocalypto by History Buffs: YouTube
Appreciating GRRM. And appreciating him double and triple as the show goes on.
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.”
Game of Fuckin’ Thrones by Anamanaguchi: YouTube
Nightflyers (SciFi!) & Other Stories by GRRM: iTunes | Amazon
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.