Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Showing posts with label Star Trek. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Star Trek. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Anniversaries: The Last Voyage of the Space Shuttle Discovery

Video Source: William Shatner via Youtube.

It seems like yesterday, but on 9 March 2011, five years ago today, the first of three American space shuttles retired. Above, hear William Shatner's wake-up call to the crew of Discovery on 7 March 2011, while they were still in orbit, but soon to come home for the final time.

In 1990, the Discovery crew installed and later maintained the Hubble Space Telescope, which hugely expanded our view of the stars. Image Source: flickr.

Built in 1979, the spacecraft was named after four great ships from the European age of exploration: she took her name from HMS Discovery, commanded by Captain James Cook during his final voyage from 1776 to 1779; Henry Hudson's Discovery, used in 1610–1611 to explore Hudson's Bay and search for the Northwest Passage; the HMS Discovery of the 1875–1876 British Arctic Expedition to the North Pole; and RRS Discovery, which led the 1901–1904 "Discovery Expedition" to Antarctica.

Image Source: The Atlantic.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Names of the Prehuman World

Hypothetical image of earth during its earliest Precambrian Hadean eon. Image Source: pinterest.

Palaeontologists describe the prehuman world, a desolate and unrecognizable planet. Our beloved and enslaved earth had a secret, prehuman life. Not only did we not exist, but neither did our countries, continents or oceans. The territorial bases of humans and their nations and identities, geopolitics and religions, which we take so seriously now, were either primordial or absent. Modern humans are so self-involved that they forget that the planet once belonged to itself, a place we would find frightening, an antecessor that pre-existed everything our exploits might control.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Godspeed to the Stars, Mr. Nimoy

Image Source: Star Trek.

Leonard Nimoy (1931-2015), who played Mr. Spock on Star Trek, has died, aged 83. He played a half-alien, always relying on cold logic, but saved by his capacity for human empathy and emotion. Nimoy's final tweet, telling his followers to 'Live Long and Prosper' (Hat tip: The Verge):

Clip from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984). Video Source: Youtube.

Long Lovejoy and Little Dumbell. NASA's astronomy picture of the day, 27 February 2015. Image Source and © Rolando Ligustri (CARA Project, CAST) NASA APOD.

Caption for the above photograph: "Buffeted by the solar wind, Comet Lovejoy's crooked ion tail stretches over 3 degrees across this telescopic field of view, recorded on February 20. The starry background includes awesome bluish star Phi Persei below, and pretty planetary nebula M76 just above Lovejoy's long tail. Also known as the Little Dumbbell Nebula, after its brighter cousin M27 the Dumbbell Nebula, M76 is only a Full Moon's width away from the comet's greenish coma. Still shining in northern hemisphere skies, this Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2) is outbound from the inner solar system some 10 light-minutes or 190 million kilometers from Earth. But the Little Dumbbell actually lies over 3 thousand light-years away. Now sweeping steadily north toward the constellation Cassiopeia Comet Lovejoy is fading more slowly than predicted and is still a good target for small telescopes."

Monday, November 18, 2013

Plutonium at the Bay of Rainbows

The Bay of Rainbows (Sinus Iridum). Image Source: NASA via Space.com.

Next month, China will launch an unmanned lander mission to the moon, which, if successful, will be the first non-crash landing on the moon since Apollo 17's 1972-1973 manned mission and Russia's unmanned Luna missions from the mid-1970s. Although the International Space Station has contributed invaluably to our knowledge of how to live in outer space, there is a sense now (not least with mythical movies like Apollo 18 - see my posts on that film, here and here) America got sidetracked when she abandoned the moon. Of course that myopic view also excludes NASA's great accomplishments in the exploration of Mars over the past twenty years.
Apollo 17 mission insignia. Image Source: Wiki.

Nevertheless, it was an American flag that was first planted on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Apollo 17 was also the most recent, and sixth, manned mission to the moon. For all Russia's contributions, humans had walked on the moon, and the moon was American! For over a generation, that claim has rested on laurels which lay neglected and undisturbed.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

All Hallows' Eve Countdown: The Girl Who Survives

Image Source: Djano23 at deviantART via In the Mouth of Dorkness.

In Halloween II (1981), Donald Pleasence's psychiatrist character mumbles about the meaning of Hallowe'en. He says it really refers to the pagan Gaelic festival of Samhain, the start of the darker half of the year. This seasonal shift provides an elemental connection to the other world, to memory, death, and ancestors. The spiritual dimension is also an elaborate folkloric metaphor for access to the darker parts of ourselves. The screenplay combines Christian symbolism with these ideas:
Samhain, it means the loft of the dead. The end of summer. The festival of Satan. ... In order to please the gods, the druid priests held fire rituals. Prisoners of war, criminals, the insane, animals were burned alive. By observing the way they died the druids believed they could see elements of the future. 2000 years we've come no closer. Samhain is not spirits, it's not goblins, ghosts or witches. It's the unconscious mind. We're all afraid of the darkness inside ourselves.
Dr. Loomis says repeatedly that Michael Myers is not human; he is "pure evil." Michael is a violent supernatural force, an instinct to kill that never stops, which is why he can be shot repeatedly and not die. Of the first 1978 Halloween film, director John Carpenter said, "The movie's about the 'revenge of the repressed' and Jamie Lee has a connection with the killer because she's repressed too."

Horror films are morality plays. The horror stems from some transgression or violation through indulgence of the unspeakable. The story is about a collapse due to that degradation and the effort to correct the problem, to return to safety and security, to survive.

A collection of African horror stories on Wattpad offer typical examples. Swish, Swish! is a warning against laziness, vanity, selfishness, shortcuts around hard work, and hurting others to get ahead. Another, The Witch's Mist, is a grisly injunction against black magic and vampirism (here the literally cannibalistic form, not the soul-sucking variety). Cannibalism, the ultimate horror, is never far away, as the current lifestyle and tribal subculture of human-blood-drinking vampires show.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Interview: Thomas Haller Buchanan on the Millennial Humanist Renaissance

Acta non Verba by Robert McCall (1919-2010).

Today, I'm delighted to interview Thomas Haller Buchanan, blogger at The Pictorial Arts, which is an oasis of light and beauty on the Web. Thom is also a professional illustrator. Buchanan's focus on art and visual culture is now finding expression through a new online journal: The Pictorial Arts Journal. The journal makes its grand debut online today, here, and this interview supports its launch. 

An additional publication is found at the same site, Delineated Life, which is an online magazine celebrating one special artist and their work per issue. The first issue of Delineated Life celebrates the 100th birthday of Pogo creator Walt Kelly (1913–1973).

In this interview, I ask Thom some questions about his new publications and what they mean in terms of Millennial optimism. The debut issue of the The Pictorial Arts Journal describes a continuity of visual culture from the Renaissance through to the modern period, especially the Renaissance-era value of humanism. Thom's journals are dedicated to reviving a new form of humanism suitable to our times.

To read a definition of humanism to which Thom refers in the interview, see Professor Paul Kurtz's Humanist Manifesto 2000 (here).

Pictorial Arts Journal cover © Thomas Haller Buchanan.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Problem with Memory 7: Space Museums

"The collection of images included on EchoStar XVI may be easier for any extraterrestrial intelligences to find than the plaques and records flown on the Pioneer and Voyager missions." Image Source: Creative Time via Space Review.

Space, the final archive. Some may remember this post on the Voyager spacecraft time capsules. A commercial communications satellite, launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on 20 November 2012, continued the tradition and carried a collection of photographs and images of artwork designed to outlast humanity. Objects in geosynchronous orbit (aka the Clarke Belt, named for writer Arthur C. Clarke) could stay in space for over four billion years; the new satellite's payload is meant to survive for this duration, to offer a potential time capsule for alien intelligences to discover.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Passport to the Universe

Sci-fi Star Trek Vulcan starship with warp drive. Image Source: CBS / Star Trek via i09.

Next Stop: Alpha Centauri. In November 2012, i09 reported on a new research breakthrough from physicist Harold White that resolves our inability to travel faster than the speed of light. It builds on a finding from the mid-1990s and works around a problem discovered with warp drives at that time. It has NASA very interested. This method could see us travel to nearby star systems in a matter of weeks, making science fiction start travel a reality. I09 reports:
A few months ago, physicist Harold White stunned the aeronautics world when he announced that he and his team at NASA had begun work on the development of a faster-than-light warp drive. His proposed design, an ingenious re-imagining of an Alcubierre Drive, may eventually result in an engine that can transport a spacecraft to the nearest star in a matter of weeks — and all without violating Einstein's law of relativity. We contacted White at NASA and asked him to explain how this real life warp drive could actually work. ...

The idea came to White while he was considering a rather remarkable equation formulated by physicist Miguel Alcubierre. In his 1994 paper titled, "The Warp Drive: Hyper-Fast Travel Within General Relativity," Alcubierre suggested a mechanism by which space-time could be "warped" both in front of and behind a spacecraft.

Michio Kaku dubbed Alcubierre's notion a "passport to the universe." It takes advantage of a quirk in the cosmological code that allows for the expansion and contraction of space-time, and could allow for hyper-fast travel between interstellar destinations. Essentially, the empty space behind a starship would be made to expand rapidly, pushing the craft in a forward direction — passengers would perceive it as movement despite the complete lack of acceleration.

White speculates that such a drive could result in "speeds" that could take a spacecraft to Alpha Centauri in a mere two weeks — even though the system is 4.3 light-years away.

In terms of the engine's mechanics, a spheroid object would be placed between two regions of space-time (one expanding and one contracting). A "warp bubble" would then be generated that moves space-time around the object, effectively repositioning it — the end result being faster-than-light travel without the spheroid (or spacecraft) having to move with respect to its local frame of reference.

"Remember, nothing locally exceeds the speed of light, but space can expand and contract at any speed," White told io9. "However, space-time is really stiff, so to create the expansion and contraction effect in a useful manner in order for us to reach interstellar destinations in reasonable time periods would require a lot of energy."

And indeed, early assessments published in the ensuing scientific literature suggested horrific amounts of energy — basically equal to the mass-energy of the planet Jupiter (what is 1.9 × 1027 kilograms or 317 Earth masses). As a result, the idea was brushed aside as being far too impractical. Even though nature allowed for a warp drive, it looked like we would never be able to build one ourselves.

"However," said White, "based on the analysis I did the last 18 months, there may be hope." The key, says White, may be in altering the geometry of the warp drive itself.

... "My early results suggested I had discovered something that was in the math all along," he recalled. "I suddenly realized that if you made the thickness of the negative vacuum energy ring larger — like shifting from a belt shape to a donut shape — and oscillate the warp bubble, you can greatly reduce the energy required — perhaps making the idea plausible." White had adjusted the shape of Alcubierre's ring which surrounded the spheroid from something that was a flat halo to something that was thicker and curvier.

He presented the results of his Alcubierre Drive rethink a year later at the 100 Year Starship conference in Atlanta where he highlighted his new optimization approaches — a new design that could significantly reduce the amount of exotic matter required. And in fact, White says that the warp drive could be powered by a mass that's even less than that of the Voyager 1 spacecraft.

That's a significant change in calculations to say the least. The reduction in mass from a Jupiter-sized planet to an object that weighs a mere 1,600 pounds has completely reset White's sense of plausibility — and NASA's.
Other reports: here, here, here, here and here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Warp Speed's First Stop: Mars

Image Source: last.fm.

From the Shatner Files: below the jump is today's report that travel ten times the speed of light is almost past the point of pure hypothesis, prompting newscasters to clumsily share their lack of knowledge about Star Trek (Hat tip: Spaceports). Michio Kaku popped up to explain how NASA scientists' experiments to achieve warp speed will not break the laws of physics. Mars is only the first stop they have in mind:
Former astronaut and NASA head Charles Bolden says the agency wants to one day design a vehicle that goes faster than the speed of light. "One of these days, we want to get to warp speed," he told a group at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Tuesday. Bolden was discussing the future of American space exploration. "We want to go faster than the speed of light, and we don't want to stop at Mars."

"Some have claimed that we're adrift, that we have no clear human space missions. That could not be further from the truth," he said. "Those who perpetuate that myth are hurting the space program. We have a series of deep space missions planned."

Most imminently, NASA is designing the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle, which will be tested in 2014, with its first manned mission planned for 2021. That vehicle, he said, "will take us to asteroids, Mars, and probably back to the moon."
Hmm. The speed of light is 670 616 629 miles per hour. According to this chart which calculates time of travel at different speeds to the moon, Mars and Proxima Centauri, a speed ten times the speed of light would reduce the trip duration to the Red Planet to a few minutes. Incidentally, The Space Review has a good article this week which reviews some of the best sci-fi books depicting the terraforming of Mars.

Image Source: NASA via The Space Review.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Private Spaceflight Watch: SpaceX Launches New Space Era

History has been made in the past few minutes. The launch of the commercially-made SpaceX Falcon 9 with the unmanned Dragon Capsule was successful. You can see a live feed (at the time of this posting) at the bottom of my post, here. See the Youtube video of the launch below the jump.

Welcome to the new era of private space exploration. Kate Sherrod has already written a sonnet to commemorate history being made tonight, here. Tweets and blogs cheered SpaceX on: see Stepto's blog here. Wil Wheaton tweeted: "Dear Humanity: You can do amazing things when you work hard, and you work together. Love, Wil." This is what it means to live at the turn of the Millennium: poetry written and circulated worldwide, at the very moment history turns.

2464 Dream (2010) © Chris Reccardi. Image Source: Boing Boing.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Hawking's Party for Time Travellers

Is time travel possible? Image Source: Just 5 Minutes.

In his Discovery Channel series, Into the Universe, Stephen Hawking recently hypothesized that if time travel to the past is possible, then he could throw a party to welcome chrononauts from the future.  He would publicize the invitation, and wait.  Daily Galaxy provides a transcript of his comments on the result: "Let's imagine I'm throwing a party, a welcome reception for future time travellers. But there's a twist. I'm not letting anyone know about it until after the party has happened. I've drawn up an invitation giving the exact coordinates in time and space. I am hoping copies of it, in one form or another, will be around for many thousands of years."

Monday, June 14, 2010

Fountain of Youth 1: Why is Noir the Style of the Future and Immortality?

Blade Runner (1982).

Why are there so many films about the future that depend upon a resuscitation of film noir style? Neo-noir has been a revived favourite standard for thrillers from the 1980s to the 2000s, but why is science fiction a flourishing noir sub-genre? Is it just the huge impact of cyberpunk, related to the Tech Revolution? Perhaps science fiction from the 1950s to 1970s, like Philip K. Dick’s neo-gnostic and post-apocalyptic works fed readily into neo-noir styled films based on his work, like 1982’s Blade Runner? Or is there something about noir style specifically that speaks to how we think of the future and Blade Runner's concepts of mortality and conflicted humanity?