Alita Battle Angel movie backdrop

Alita Battle Angel: cybernetic cyborgs, photorealistic cg, and sports plus immortality

Alita

“The movie with the cyborgs and the kicking and the punching.” There are two kinds of film: people in a room talking and people in a room kicking and punching. Robert Rodriguez lands firmly within only one of these groups. Accidentally fitting Alita into the Robocop universe. Shooting and punching people in their robo-bits.

Cyborgs

Robots arms everywhere. But maybe not just for show? Cyborg arms as the cyborg future cliche. Replacing your limbs proactively for fun and profit. Replacing all of your joints, but not just with hinges. Defining “cyborg” more precisely in consideration of the definition of “cybernetics.”

Cybernetics is a transdisciplinary[1] approach for exploring regulatory systems—their structures, constraints, and possibilities.

Wikipedia

“Real” cyborgs

We are already cyborgs, we just don’t ourselves enough credit. Cyborgification as performance. Designing a new hearing aid to help us talk to bats.Imagining all the ways in which implanted and attached technologies would help improve the human experience. And what do we get? Always super-strong robot arms. Realizing you would need the whole-system upgrade to support the forces exerted upon/by your super-arm.

Doing it right

Don’t be a cyborg bicep bro. Taking the short route to functional cyborg limbs by using existing neuromuscular wiring. The difficulty of inventing new appendages or body formats.

Photorealistic CG humans

Wow dude this was actually pretty great. Sidestepping the uncanny valley slightly by going with anime eyes. Aperture and catching more light. Legolas with dinner-plate eyeballs. Neoteny.

Nonsensical murder sports

Future cybersports: more violent spectacle, less athleticism. Sports and functional immortality.

Reign of fire dragon attacking London movie backdrop

Reign of Fire: types of dragons, animals that hibernate, and the Purkinje effect

‘Murrica

Jacked Christian Bale, Scottish Gerard Butler, and brash American hero Matthew McConaughey. Fighting a dragon with an axe. Appreciating the brash American caricature.

Dragons

Dragon VFX. Drawing the line from here to Game of Thrones. Animals that use a spray attack (or defense). Skunks, ants, horned lizard, snakes, even bombardier beetles and their boiling butt juices. Dragon classification (vs wyverns, etc).

Fire etc

Actual napalm is a hell of a thing. Remember the Anarchist’s Cookbook and how innacurate and unsafe everything was. Practical fire FX in the movie and how well it holds up. Hundreds of gallons of propane per dragon blast. Burninating all the food on a planet.

“Hibernation”

Hibernation vs other states. Dormancy Torpor. Estivation. Endotherm and ectotherm dormancy. Classical and modern ideas of what counts as “hibernation.” EXTREEEEEEME dormancies. Water bears/tardigrades.

Eyesight

Vision difficulties at twilight. The Purkinje effect. Shifting spectral sensitivities based on brightness. Progression through photopic, mesopic, and scotopic vision. Appreciating the idiosyncratic nature of our vision and understanding why emulating what we see is so difficult with a camera lens.

Twilight, my only weakness. How did you know?

-A Dragon

Castles

Buying up castles in the Romanian countryside. Castles come in different sizes but no matter how you measure that’s a really big dragon.

Battlestar Galactica last supper cast backdrop

Battlestar Galactica: curse words linguistics, formal code verification, and robo Jesus

Review

Battlestar was so good! The importance of Ronald D Moore’s work on Deep Space Nine. The genesis of the “gritty” scifi drama juxtaposed against Star Trek’s utopia. Judging the best scifi captains: Adama? Picard?

Frak!

The difficulties with “frak.” “Fraking” vs “fracking.” Changes of spelling. Designing the curse words of scifi futures. Appreciating Nick Farmer‘s “Belter.” The nature of “swear words.” Comparing the sounds of made-up brand names to test linguistic form/function clustering.

Anti-AI security

Computers are good at computers. Fully securing your “hello world” program. Code testing and integration. Formal verification to mathematically guarantee computer code, and the incredible expense thereof.

Robo Jesus

Creatures coming into sapience in a world with the scientific method and body of knowledge and still turning to “God.”

Links:

Diaspora, The Free BSG Space-Sim based on Freespace 2: Hard-Light.net
Caprica: iTunes | Amazon

Black Mirror Season 5: dishwashers, sex stuff, and brain image reconstruction

Striking Vipers

Human sexuality

The bright and exciting future of who does what with whom and how. Polar bears. How we might have handles this VR technology as teenagers.

Colbert is the bear

Gaming

Nostalgia for days-long gaming binges with Doritos and Easy Cheese. Ubiquitous full-spectrum VR experience. Neural mapping. Popular physics plugins , game engines, and the possibility that McCallister and Striking Vipers etc run on the same software.

Bodily bacteria

Dirt subscription boxes. Maintaining your skin microbiome. Showring? Soap vs detergent. Probiotic yogurt: “one for me, one for the undercarriage.”

Dishwashers

Knife-down safety is actually important(!). Dish detergents and plate dirtiness. Clever dirtiness-measurement technologies.

Smithereens

Driver Rating

“2 stars, car was clean”

Rachel, Jack, and Ashley Too

Virtual performance

Virtualizing irl performers. Pepper’s Ghost. Lifelike real-time rendering technology. Real-time raytracing. Motion capture cost and complexity drops.

Brains etc

Machine learning vocal production. FMRI vs EEG vs whatever awesome thing they have in Black Mirror. Deep image reconstruction from human brain activity.

Links

Black Mirror Season 5: Netflix
Head Like a Hole by Devo: YouTube
Human brain mapping and brain decoding by Jack Gallant: YouTube
Deep image reconstruction from human brain activity: PLOS

300: professional soldiers, the Spartan Mirage, and expert poking w/ Josh Effengee

Featuring guest co-host
Josh from LSG Media headshotJosh from LSG Media

This film

Zach Snyder’s strengths in creating comic book panels on film. Slo-mo blood spatter. Abs and glistening man-meat.

Western civilization

Ancient Greece and “western civilization.” The birth of “democracy” in nearby Athens. Juxtaposing your historical culture with the “other.” Like George Washington crossing the Delaware but with way less man-meat. And 100% less codpieces.

Sparta

The dawn on the Spartan state. The nature of the Helot slave class. “Land-bonded” slavery vs chattel. Ancient Greek and Spartan combat methods. Heavy infantry. Training by doing crunches all.day.long. Ancient combat analogues with early UFC.

The Persian Invasions

Greece as a poor backwater on the edge of the Persian Empire. The Ionian Revolt, The Battle of Marathon, The Battle of Thermopylae, Battle of Plataea.

Professional soldiering

The incredible change that was the development of the professional standing army. Modern soldiers and modern combat compared and contrasted with ancient. Dying gloriously. Army sizes at Thermopylae as recorded closer to the time vs modern estimates.

Modern understanding of Sparta

Ancient sources and the lack of writing from the actual place and time. “The Spartan Mirage,” and the crafting of the Spartan image. Any training as a unit is better than none.

Phalanx

The universality of shield walls and spear hedges, aka the “spiky steamroller.” Strategically busting out in individual slow motion. Spear-length evolution. Learning whether “dragoons” are at all related to dragons.

Links:

Josh’s shows on LSG Media: The X-Files Podcast (always) | Science Fiction Film Podcast (sometimes)
300: iTunes | Amazon
Hardcore History – King of Kings, by Dan Carlin: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield: iTunes | Amazon

Automata: desertification, solar storms, and messing with Asimov

Robot laws

Asimov’s laws as a storytelling device and what you get when you alter the formula. “Humans are the true robots.”

Automata

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.

Modern automata

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.

Solar storms

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.

World population

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.

Desertification

Defining deserts by rainfall. Defining desertification by a land’s inability to hold water.

Links:

Automata by In Our Time: BBC
Ghost in the Machine by Radio Lab: WNYC

Star Trek IV – The Journey Home: whale margarine, transparent aluminum, and time travel

Star Trek

Best Star Trek movies. Liking things because they are familiar. The odd-even Star Trek movie rule. Mathematical proofs. Dismissing the reboots.

Cosmic horror

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.

Time travel

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.

Whales

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.

Links

A bunch of Wikipedia articles: Whaling | Whale Oil | Margarine
Moby Dick by Herman Melville: iTunes | Amazon

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