Archive for July, 2010

A brief hiatus

As you may be aware Australia will be either Standing Up or Moving Forward on 21 August. I’m busy trying to ensure we can take Real Action so there’s unlikely to be many posts from me until after the election. In the meantime I’ll leave you with this little video.

Albert Einstein – How I See the World

Today on Discovery Enterprise we present a documentary from the highly acclaimed PBS series American Masters concerning the twentieth century’s greatest theoretical physicists – Albert Einstein.

Albert Einstein is considered one of the greatest scientific thinkers of all time. His theories on the nature of time and space profoundly affected the human conception of the physical world and set the foundations for many of the scientific advances of the twentieth century. As a thinker on the human condition, politics, and all issues of the day, he was as well-respected as anyone in his time.

Born in Ulm, Germany in 1879, Einstein was brought up in Munich. His parents were of Jewish German ancestry, and his father ran an electrical equipment plant. He did not speak fluently until after he was nine and was considered slow. Though his grades were fair in high school, he was eventually expelled for his rebellious nature. Always an individual, he traveled around before re-enrolling and completing school in his new home in Zurich, Switzerland.

After graduating from high school, Einstein enrolled in the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, where he studied the works of classical physicists. By 1900 he graduated with a teaching degree and three years later married his college sweetheart, Mileva Maric. Unable to find a teaching job he tutored high school students until beginning work at the Swiss Patent Office. His job at the patent office allowed much time for independent work and it was during these seven years that he made his most important discoveries.

By 1905 Einstein had brought together much of the works of contemporary physicists with his own thoughts on a number of topics including the nature of light, the existence of molecules, and a theory concerning time, mass, and physical absolutes. The “Theory of Relativity” proposed a revolutionary conception of the physical world, suggesting that time, mass, and length were not fixed absolutes, but dependent on the motion of the observer. Two years later he presented his equation E=MC2 (Energy equals mass times the speed of light squared). With this early work Einstein unhinged the assumptions of the absolute within the physical world and set the course for the scientific investigations of the century.

Though the Theory of Relativity was to be his most famous, his other work that year was equally important. With his publication of the article, “On the Movement of Small Particles Suspended in a Stationary Liquid Demanded by the Molecular-Kinetic Theory of Heat,” he abandoned Newton’s theory that light was made of particles, in exchange for one that presented light as being made of particles and waves. It was for this work with light that he was eventually awarded the Nobel Prize (1929) for physics.

Not immediately recognized for the important thinker he was, Einstein moved through a number of teaching jobs before being offered a research position at the University of Berlin in 1914. Soon after his move to Berlin, Einstein was divorced by his wife and married his cousin Elsa. During the 1920s Einstein’s fame grew and he spent much of this time traveling throughout the world with Chaim Weizmann, the future president of Israel, promoting the cause of Zionism. By the early 1930s the growing threat of Nazi fascism had made it impossible for Einstein to continue working in Germany, and he moved to Princeton, New Jersey. There, while teaching at Princeton University, he continued to elucidate his theory of relativity and work on new theories that brought together our understanding of other physical phenomenon.

It was from Princeton, in 1939, that Einstein signed a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt discussing the possibilities of creating an atomic bomb. Though Einstein was never directly involved in the creation of the bomb, it was his earlier theories that had paved the way for its possibility. After its eventual use on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Einstein became a constant and vocal activist for peace—spending much of the rest of his life speaking and writing on the subject. By the time of his death in 1955, Einstein was considered by many not only the most important scientist of his time, but the smartest man alive. It is impossible to understand how different the events of the last hundred years might have been without the work of Albert Einstein.
Copyright PBS

American Masters: Albert Einstein – How I See the World

Weekend Science Fiction Line-up: Dark Skies

Frank Bach (J. T. Walsh) shows John Loengard (Eric Close) alien technology

Today on Discovery Enterprise we present the first in a series of weekend Science Fiction features. We begin our focus on a television series that had the potential to be the greatest government UFO conspiracy theory based television dramas of all time – Dark Skies, soon to be released on DVD in the United States and the United Kingdom.

This series had the potential to exceed even the X-files in popularity. Yet it was cancelled after just one season.

Much of what follows comes from an article posted on Wikipedia concerning the series an accompanying episode guide.

Dark Skies aired during the 1996-1997 season for 18 episodes, plus a two-hour pilot episode. The success of The X-Files on Fox proved there was an audience for genre shows, resulting in NBC commissioning this proposed competitor following a pitch from producers Bryce Zabel and Brent Friedman. The series debuted September 21, 1996 on NBC, and was later rerun by the Sci-Fi Channel. Its tagline was, “History as we know it is a lie.”

The history of the twentieth century, according to the series, as we know it is a lie.

Aliens have been among us since the late 1940s, but a government cover-up has protected the public from such knowledge. As the series progresses, we follow John Loengard and Kim Sayers through the 1960s as they attempt to foil the plots of the alien Hive. The Hive is an alien race that planned to invade Earth through a manipulation of historical events and famous figures, including most notably the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In addition, the pair must stay one step ahead of a covert government agency that has mixed motives, the infamous – Majestic 12.

The show featured a number of real-life 1960’s personalities in the plot, such as The Beatles, Robert Kennedy, Jim Morrison, Carl Sagan and J. Edgar Hoover.

Although the last episode produced provides some form of closure for the series, the show’s creators had originally hoped to create five seasons, as indicated by the show’s “Bible” or major planning document. According to Zabel and Friedman’s original plan, the pilot and first season (given the overall title “Official Denial”) would cover the period from 1962 to 1969, the second season (“Progenitor”) 1970 to 1976, the third season (“Cloak of Fear”) 1977 to 1986, the fourth season (“New World Order”) would cover 1987 to 1999, and the fifth and final season (“Stroke of Midnight”) would break from the decade-spanning format to encompass the apocalyptic final conflict against the invaders, taking place from 2000 to 2001.

The Hive

The series depicts The Hive as an alien species who are covertly invading Earth. They are a parasitic race of small multi-legged spider-like beings that can take control of host bodies, by attaching themselves to the brain. They do this by entering through orifices on the head, commonly the mouth, though they are also shown to enter by squeezing through the nose and ears, with great discomfort to the host. Due to the way they attach themselves to the brain’s ganglion regions, the series’ protagonists dub the creatures “Ganglions”.

Various stages from Alpha to Delta occur which show varying degrees of the infection.

Initial symptoms of take-over include drastic mood swings, behavioural abnormalities, and nervous breakdowns, as the parasite adjusts to taking control of the person’s mind. Past medical records of a nervous breakdown are a tell-tale sign that someone may have been taken over. The Gamma and Delta stages are where the Hive organism takes total control over the host which becomes nothing more than a shell for the invading organism.

Not all humans make acceptable hosts for the Ganglions. Due to certain genetic factors, a minority of humans are incompatible with the Ganglions’ biology: these have been dubbed “Throwbacks”. There are several cases where a group of people were abducted and taken over by Ganglion parasites, but a Throwback in the group wasn’t infected and simply returned (often because it would be too conspicuous to kill them). Captured Ganglion parasites have been injected with the blood of Throwbacks, causing them to die in agony. The Hive is running various experiments to try to either eliminate Throwbacks or develop more humans who are easier to control, such as growing cloned human babies in cows.
Some time ago, the Ganglions invaded an advanced alien race, dubbed the “Greys”: the typical depiction of a Roswell Grey Alien. The Greys were a race not unlike humans though they possessed technology making them capable of interstellar travel. The Ganglion parasites invaded them in much the same way that they’re trying to invade Earth now, and by the time they realized what was happening it was too late. Thus the “Grey aliens” seen abducting humans are really just as much a slave race or “shells” for the Ganglions as the infected humans are.

The Hive’s language, Thhtmaa, was developed by Reed College linguistics professor Matt Pearson.

When the Ganglions were evolving, apparently before they took over other animals as hosts, they did have a natural predator: slug-like creatures called “buzz worms”. They have actually brought samples of the buzz worms along with them with their ships, using them as a particularly gruesome means of executing their own kind.

View an exciting preview of the entire series before purchasing the soon to be released DVD set which is sure to be a major collector’s item in years to come.

Author’s Note: Dark Skies is an unfinished saga which offers great potential in reviving this series through the efforts of fans world wide via the media of fan fiction and motion picture. You, dear readers can make that happen.

Dark Skies Intro – UFO Sci-Fi TV Show

Carl Sagan character in Dark Skies

Carl Sagan’s Cosmos Blues for a Red Planet

Today on Discovery Enterprise we present the fifth episode of Carl Sagan’s highly acclaimed PBS documentary series – Cosmos: Blues for a Red Planet.

Is there life on Mars? Dr. Sagan takes viewers on a tour of the red planet first through the eyes of science fiction authors, and then through the unblinking eyes of two Viking spacecrafts that sent thousands of pictures of the stunning Martian landscape back to Earth in 1976. Though based on older Mars missions, Sagan’s analysis still holds true.

This episode of Cosmos also follows the career of a young boy, Robert Hutchings Goddard, who was inspired by H. G. Wells’ “The Way of the Worlds”, to one day blaze a trail to the red planet.

Carl Sagan devoted an entire chapter regarding Goddard entitled “Via Cherry Tree, to Mars” in Broca’s Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science published in 1979.

Carl Sagan’s COSMOS – Blues for a Red Planet

The Apollo Space Suit

This fabulous photograph shows Neil Armstrong’s face through his space suit visor as he walks across the lunar surface. The image was captured in video footage by the movie camera mounted on the Eagle lunar lander. The image was retrieved by Spacecraft Films, an Ohio-based specialist in historical space footage, and was included in the newly published book, Voices from the Moon, by author Andrew Chaikin. Copyright NASA and Andrew Chaikin.

Today on Discovery Enterprise we present the fifth and penultimate episode of the highly acclaimed documentary series Moon Machines.

The fifth installment of Moon Machines focuses on the teams that created the remarkable Apollo pressure suit.

Moon Machines is a Science Channel documentary miniseries of six episodes documenting the engineering challenges of the Apollo Program to land a man on the Moon. It covers everything from the iconic Saturn V to the Command Module, the Lunar Module, the Space Suits, the Guidance and Control Computer, and the Lunar Rover. It was created by the team who made In the “Shadow of the Moon” in association with NASA to commemorate the agency’s fiftieth anniversary in 2008.

Copyright Science Channel

Moon Machines – The Space Suit

Waging Weather Warfare

Imagine an age where nations wage war with weapons that can harness the destructive forces of Mother Nature. Imagine having the power to use tornados, hurricanes and the deadliest weather as weapons of war.

Today on Discovery Enterprise we present another episode of the highly acclaimed series “That’s Impossible” – Weather Warfare narrated by Jonathan Frakes.

In this instalment of That’s Impossible will investigate reports that weather weapons are in development and reveal the technology that, in the future could turn hurricanes, earthquakes, even tsunamis into some of the most powerful and plausibly deniable weapons of mass destruction the world has ever seen.

That’s Impossible – Weather Warfare

The Quest to find the Higgs Boson: What are We Really Made of?

Today on Discovery Enterprise we join host Morgan Freeman in a quest that will take us into the very heart of matter to understand the basic building blocks of our material existence.

It is a quest that will also take us in search of the elusive Higgs boson, the particle thought to be the mediator of mass. Experimental detection of the Higgs boson would help explain the origin of mass in the universe. The Higgs boson would explain the difference between the massless photon, which mediates electromagnetism, and the massive W and Z bosons, which mediate the weak force. If the Higgs boson exists, it is an integral and omnipresent component of the material world. Which is why, some physicists have referred to the Higgs boson as “The God particle”. While this title may have captured the imagination of journalists and general public alike and aroused interest in the work being carried out at CERN and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), many scientists dislike it because, they feel, that it overstates the importance of the particle. In a recent renaming competition, a jury of physicists chose the name “the champagne bottle boson” as the best popular name.

Our understanding of the universe and the nature of reality itself has drastically changed over the last 100 years, and it’s on the verge of another seismic shift. In a 17-mile-long tunnel buried 570 feet beneath the Franco-Swiss border, the world’s largest and most powerful atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider, is powering up. Its goal is nothing less than recreating the first instants of creation, when the universe was unimaginably hot and long-extinct forms of matter sizzled and cooled into stars, planets, and ultimately, us. These incredibly small and exotic particles hold the keys to the greatest mysteries of the universe. What we find could validate our long-held theories about how the world works and what we are made of. Or, all of our notions about the essence of what is real will fall apart.

Copyright Science Channel

Through The Wormhole – What are We Really Made of?