Archive for July, 2009

Stargate: Universe trailer

Posted in Science Fiction with tags , on July, 2009 by melendwyr

No, not the parody trailer with younger versions of the SG-1 cast. Nor the other, earlier trailer. A later version.

Questions: why are they kidnapping a geek? And why would a stargate connection take them a billion lightyears from Earth? Even a very old Ancient ship would have to be traveling for quite a while to go that far, and would be unlikely to be reached by a valid Stargate connection. Hell, you need eight symbols just to go out of the galaxy – the chances of stumbling onto the right combination by accident are miniscule.

Also: who the Hell names a military base “Icarus”? That’s bad juju right there. Naming has power, and calling yourself after the mythological character whose tragic overreaching caused his death attracts all kinds of undesirable destiny. Tempting fate is a NOT good idea.

Even More Stargate

Posted in Doom, Science Fiction on July, 2009 by melendwyr


Stargate: Atlantis failed because there was no overarching plan for the series, and one way or another the same old stories were used as filler. Pretty much the same reasons the most recent versions of Star Trek failed, actually.

Exactly who is responsible and who is to blame – writers, directors, executives, or the network – isn’t really important. What is important is that the basic premise of the new Stargate: Universe series seems to have been cribbed from Star Trek: Voyager.

I’m confident that there isn’t truly copying involved. There are only so many basic premises you can work with, after all. But it’s not an auspicious new beginning.

Look, eventually I wasn’t willing to watch Atlantis even to kill time, and for free. There was no long-term structure to the show, no consistent antagonists (and the ones that were there were fairly silly), and they messed up the mythology of the show quite badly. Many of the characters were never properly used, and the ones who were used well were used too much and too often.

I’m not hopeful that the SyFy network (long, tedious story there) can raise another Stargate series out of the ashes. I’ll probably watch the pilot, though.

Ghost Brigades and The Last Colony

Posted in Politics and Society, Reviews, Science Fiction with tags on July, 2009 by melendwyr

Well, I finished the next book in the series and am rapidly approaching the end of the last one.

Well, Scalzi improved on some of the flaws in the first novel. The series is set in even more of a dystopia than I’d thought. Details will be refrained from as to avoid spoilers, but the overall scenario isn’t what it was presented as being. It’s still fairly implausible, but given that this section of the galaxy seems to be ruled by a Shadow-equivalent, possibly explicable within the bounds of the tale.

It’s not at all clear to me that a species that evolved from social insects and structures its society according to the expected principles would care much about threats to offspring. The point was necessary in terms of what Scalzi was setting up, but I don’t think it’s plausible on its own.

He Hates Your Politics

Posted in Politics and Society, Things You Should Read with tags , , , , on July, 2009 by melendwyr

Re: Scalzi’s Post: Pretty much what I entitled this post.

I don’t know what’s more amusing: that the descriptions of the three political orientations of America are so snarky, or that they’re so accurate.

Steve Sailer’s Insight

Posted in Politics and Society, Science!, Things You Should Read with tags , , , on July, 2009 by melendwyr

See his post Pilots and g-Force.

It’s pleasant to see this insight stated so succinctly, given how rarely it’s recognized. Even in textbooks.

Remember: if a test hasn’t been applied to a sufficiently-large, randomly-selected population representative of the population at large, it’s a bad idea to draw conclusions about the general population from it.

How correlated are g and task-specific skills? It’s hard to say, for precisely the reason Sailer recognizes.

Old Man’s War

Posted in Science Fiction, Things You Should Read with tags , on July, 2009 by melendwyr

Old Man’s War is Scalzi’s first published fiction novel, and it shows. It’s certainly enjoyable – it reads like the offspring of Cory Doctorow and Robert Heinlein – but it’s rather flawed.

It doesn’t help that it is most similar to my least favorite work of Heinlein’s: Starship Troopers. Very effective at making people never want to be associated with armed forces or warfare in any way. I suspect it would have the opposite effect on some people, in the same way that Heinlein’s did, but those people are beyond help anyway.


One fairly trivial problem is that Perry was diagnosed with testicular cancer during his physical exam. Given that he was seventy-five years old, that’s moderately unlikely. Testicular cancer is usually a young man’s disease, with 90% of cases occurring before the age of fifty-four and the majority before the thirties. It’s certainly not impossible to develop it in relative old age, but it’s sufficiently implausible that it brought me out of the story. It’s by far the most unlikely thing to have happened by that point in the novel, and it begins with a seventy-five-year-old man joining the army. In space.

A more serious one is that it simply doesn’t make sense that Earth survived long enough to produce a technological civilization in a universe filled with hostile, colonizing intelligences, many of which have a taste for our biochemistry and sufficient technology to make harvesting our flesh worthwhile resource-wise. (They certainly could grow flesh in vats, just as we can farm fish in tanks. Wild-caught food is still available, and is a status symbol for humans. Why should it be otherwise for aliens?)

I much prefer galactic civilization in The Android’s Dream (many interstellar civilizations, most of which have no interest in Earth) to that in Old Man’s War (many interstellar civilizations engaged in an endless war over living space and resources). Sadly, it seems mot of Scalzi’s work has been set in the OMW-verse. Oh well.

I’m not particularly fond of the ideological stances implicit in the work; they’re very common, though, so it’s not as if they’re surprising.

Geoffrey Explains It All

Posted in Science!, Things You Should Read with tags , , on July, 2009 by melendwyr

See here for the best explanation of the solar system classification I’ve ever come across.

Long story short: it’s all pimps and hos. It’s all so clear now.

At First Sight

Posted in GIGO, Science!, Things You Should Read with tags , , , , on July, 2009 by melendwyr

The obligatory Invader Zim reference:

[Pizza Delivery Man]: “Here’s the pizza you ordered.”
[GIR]: “Thank you!” (becomes weepy) “I… love you.”

So I go to John Scalzi’s blog to check it out. I quickly come across the post entitled Ice, Ice Baby, which includes but is not limited to the following:

However, where the International Astronomical Union went all screwy was in deciding to name Pluto, and objects of its icy ilk as a “dwarf planet.” Yes, it’s small. But you know what, sooner or later it’s inevitable that we’re going to find a “dwarf planet” out there in the Kuiper Belt that’s larger than Mercury, which is not a “dwarf planet.” And then the IAU is just gonna look dumb.

What they should have done is this: Simply say there are different categories of planets. There are rocky (terrestrial) planets, which in our system are Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. There are gaseous (jovian) planets, which in our system are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. And then there are icy (plutonian) planets, which in our system are Pluto and Eris and very likely whole damn bunch of other ones out there past Neptune. And then, having admitted that there is this indeed this third (non-dwarf) category of planet, the IAU could admit this: Hey, there are in fact so many damn icy planets out there that it doesn’t make sense for the average person to try to learn them all, so let’s just stick to the rock and gas planets as the ones they need to know, and appoint Pluto as the token icy planet representative that the kids learn about in school.

I think I’m in love.

The Android’s Dream

Posted in Reviews, Science Fiction, Things You Should Read with tags , , on July, 2009 by melendwyr

I opened the book, and my eyes stopped dead in their tracks.

Dirk Moeller didn’t know if he could fart his way into a major diplomatic incident. But he was ready to find out.

So begins the first paragraph of John Scalzi’s brilliant, hilarious, and horrifyingly plausible novel of a near-future human society. An extraordinary tale – it’s as though Philip K. Dick collaborated with Machiavelli, and this book of political intrigue, comparative religion, bioengineering, and the fate of the Evolved Sheep was the result. The comedy is played so straight that some pages need a disbelieving second read before they sink in; the element of parody is inserted so deftly that it’s clear only in hindsight, as the banality of society’s absurdity masks it.

Absolutely worthy of the literary works it references. Find it. Read it. You won’t regret it.

Terminological Surprises

Posted in Science! with tags , on July, 2009 by melendwyr

Interesting… it seems the Rashomon Effect is a technical term in psychology. I’d never come across it previously.