Tag Archives: Aliens

Ridley Scott Lied to Me (Ask a Guy in an Unrelated Field)

Every now and then science comes up in the news. Since none of us at The Cool Ship are scientists, we turn to the one science-y person we know – Colleen’s husband, Mike Padgen. Mike is proud to be The Cool Ship’s resident non-expert and our Guy in an Unrelated Field.

So you finally got around to watching Prometheus when your wife was out of town. What did you think of it?

It was fine. I enjoyed a lot of it. It was well made, but the whole time I kept thinking, “When is this guy going to show up?”

Georgio from tumblr

Really, Ridley Scott? Image courtesy of Tumblr.

The Ancient Aliens guy?

Yeah. It’s just such a silly show – “Why would these people have done this? How could this happen? Must’ve been aliens!” To make a serious movie using those ideas, it’s just boring to me. The possible answers to how life can come from non-life and, for that matter, what distinguishes life from non-life, are so much more fascinating than anything conclusions we could possibly draw by saying, “Must’ve been aliens!”

So then, if Ridley Scott is lying to us and it wasn’t aliens, how did life on Earth come about?

Well, it’s important to preface the rest of what I’m going to say with the fact that we will never know exactly how it happened on Earth. What we can know (even if they’re not fully understood as of yet) are plausible mechanisms by which the conditions on Earth 3.8 billion years ago (or so) would yield simple, self replicating life forms.

Life on Earth started 3.8 billion years ago?

Well, there’s no exact date, but it seems to have started soon after the Earth cooled enough to have liquid water on it, which happened when the Earth was only a few hundred million years old. Interestingly, the fact that life came about fairly quickly on Earth lends credence to the idea that life is common throughout the universe, even though we have no direct evidence of that.

So how could non-life become life?

The primordial soup, approximated in the famous Miller-Urey experiment, is not exactly right. One missing piece in that hypothesis is the lack of thermodynamic push – there is nothing pushing the ingredients in the soup to sustainably react with each other. Instead, it is thought that life originated in hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the sea, which provide both reactive hydrogen and a state of thermal disequilibrium that can drive the formation of complex molecules. The porous rocks in these vents contain small compartments that allow the organic molecules to accumulate, allowing further reactions to occur.

Since all life on this planet uses DNA to store genetic information, it is thought that the last universal common ancestor must have also had DNA. However, the very first self replicators could not have used DNA due to a chicken-and-egg type problem. The proteins that duplicate DNA are also encoded by that DNA. There is no selective pressure that would ensure that the genes responsible for duplication are maintained. It has therefore been posited that the initial life forms on this planet used RNA, which is able to catalyze its own duplication.

But where did the RNA come from?

where did the lighter fluid come from

Come to think of it, where did the lighter fluid come from too?

Several organic molecules, including precursors of amino acids and sugar, can be formed in space and have been found on asteroids and meteors. The period before life arose, the Earth was bombarded with asteroids, so these interstellar organic molecules were delivered from space.

So it was aliens!

No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. These organic molecules form spontaneously in space, and with the right conditions on earth, can be organized into nucleic acids and proteins and all the other stuff life needs to exist. There is no infinite regression required.

Sounds like it was aliens.

Ugh.

Georgio from tumblr

Called it.

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Dishonesty, Gamer Culture, and Preorders.

No! Bad gamer! Stop!

No! Bad gamer! Stop!

Videogame publishers and developers have made me pretty angry lately. We’re reaching a point where videogame makers can lie, but gamers will still throw money at them. So, yes, gamers are making me angry, too (Of course, as a guy that used to work at a major videogame retailer, that doesn’t really surprise me.)

The recent Aliens: Colonial Marines “scandal” really got me thinking about dishonesty within the industry. If you don’t know, Gearbox Software released a game in the Alien universe.

It was not great.

It was unpolished, buggy, and the enemies contained the AI that the enemies from the original Doom would find laughable. However, it was often advertised with this killer-looking “gameplay” demo WHICH LOOKED AMAZING. Turns out, that was a fantasy. A fiction. A lie.

And why would they lie? Preorders. Videogame companies LOVE preorders. When I worked at [major game retailer], I was constantly told to be getting preorders. We had preorder goals. Preorder contests. On EVERY transaction, we were told to inquire about preorders. Preorders are the bread, butter, and jam of the games industry. Game retailers love them because they can gauge interest in a videogame. Publishers love them because they basically already have a sale.

So, Gearbox, for all intents and purposes, whether it meant to or not, lied to the gamers. It showed off a product that was shiny and beautiful, but when the game was bought, was ugly and tarnished. I’d go so far as to say broken.

Fights broke out among Internet message boards and social networks because people were complaining about the bad game. Some gamers took it as a personal affront that people would think that a broken game was broken. We’ve come to this weird place in space/time where we seem to have forgotten that screwing consumers over isn’t okay. People were willing to give Gearbox a pass because of Borderlands.

That’s ridiculous! Gearbox lied. And whether they made a great game is irrelevant to the fact that they basically swindled money from people.

They want your money. They will fool you for it.

They want your money. They will fool you for it.

I’m conflicted right now. I love videogames, but I don’t really feel a need to support the game retailers or publishers. You know, there’s a meme that flies around that states “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!” Maybe instead, we should do our best to ignore hype and be smart consumers. Wait until reviews come out; make publishers and developers prove to you that they deserve your money.

It is with this said that I’m done preordering games. I feel a little guilty about it, too. I have buddies that manage game stores, and I know that they depend on preorders. This isn’t their fault. However, it’s time to start ignoring hype, especially if we’re getting lied to.

Take Bungie’s Destiny that was officially announced this week. I love Bungie; I’m a Halo fan through and through. Bungie has done nothing but right by me.

But, guess what? I’m not preordering the game.

They showed no gameplay, and after so many were burned by Aliens: Colonial Marines, how could I straight up trust videogame companies so completely? I can’t. And I won’t. I’ll wait for Destiny reviews. I’ll wait for word-of-mouth to get around before I decide to buy. If I have preorders (I honestly can’t remember. How dumb a consumer am I?), I’m probably going to go cancel them.

So my advice? As Fox Mulder learned: Trust no one. This especially applies to people who are trying to sell you something. Don’t worry about preordering things like Call of Duty or Halo or Destiny.  If you’re going to preorder a thing, make sure it’s something obscure that the game store isn’t going to get a bunch of. Hey! That way you can support smaller guys. (Just make sure you get a bunch of info before you pick up the preorder.)

Let’s be smart consumers. Let’s stop getting burned.

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Space Colonization Begins With You! If You Dare…

I recently stumbled upon an article from Wired.com thanks to a link posted by Pee-wee Herman on his Facebook page (yes, I follow him) about a group from the Netherlands planning on colonizing Mars in the not-so-distant future. The group, Mars One, is a non-profit organization with the goal of sending “astronauts” to Mars to prepare it for habitation. Whether or not this whole venture will pan out remains to be seen, but I think the idea is both exciting and insane.

Could Pee-wee Herman be headed for a Star Trek?

Could Pee-wee Herman be headed for a Star Trek?

I’ll explain:

It’s exciting for me because I have always been a science fiction geek and have always wanted to be an astronaut. The thought of travels through space, whether it be to the moon or another planet or another galaxy, has always fascinated me; I have always wanted to make the trek– not for the notoriety that would come with it but for the actual experience.

Just the thought of being one of the first people to set foot on a new planet or discover a new form of life is exhilarating!

Watching the Earth fade off into the distance as I zoom through the stars has been a dream of mine since childhood. So, it’s no surprise that when I read about Mars One, my first thought was “Where do I sign up?”

I’ll admit that was the younger sci-fi geek in me.

The older, more cynical scifi geek in me offered a different view on things. Yes, it’s exciting to think about such an adventure becoming a reality, but it’s also incredibly insane and frightening to think about what could come of such an endeavor.

Don't forget to get a shine job on your eyes.

Don’t forget to get a shine job on your eyes.

There is certainly a chance that things may be all fine and dandy when the planetary colonizers make it to Mars. They may be able to make it completely livable and start moving in more willing participants ASAP. Before we know it, a good majority of us will be claiming to be Martians instead of Earthlings.

On the other hand, this could be a completely horrific idea. I’ve seen enough sci-fi movies (Mission to Mars, Red Planet, Pitch Black, Prometheus, etc.) to know that this could all end in tragedy. Vicious, murderous tragedy that will only end up in a government cover up, which will more than likely be followed by an alien invasion. Once they’ve had a taste for blood, they’ll want more. This will all culminate in a large scale intergalactic war, which I honestly don’t think we’re ready for.

There’s also the chance that we’ll colonize it, and the current unsuspecting inhabitants will be enslaved or slaughtered…because that’s what we do.

I mean, the Japanese might be ready with giant robots or something, but the United States of America and every other country are trailing behind in intergalatic defense as far as I’m concerned.

WE NEED GIANT ROBOTS!

I’m getting off topic.

independence-day

I’m hopeful and skeptical of the whole situation. But for some reason, I say we should go for it no matter the outcome may be. I think while Mars One is preparing for space travel and colonization, we should be building giant robots for the oncoming alien assault. Huge freakin’ robots, armed to the teeth with rockets and lasers and such. And other defenses that will be ready to blow any unfriendlies out of the sky at first glance. If you’ve seen Independence Day, you’ll understand why.

So, if you’re feeling brave, ballsy, or just completely insane, here’s the application requirements. From what I’ve read, they’ll be taking applications soon, so prepare yourself!

I may sign up just for the heck of it, but I know nothing will ever come of it. I’m gonna be one of the people still on Earth, building a survival shelter and arming myself to fight off our possible alien overlords.

JOIN THE REBELLION!

Oh, but if this whole planet colonization thing works out, I’m going on the expedition to here. Gallifrey, baby. Gallifrey.

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What 2013 Has to Offer on the Big Screen

I thought I’d take a moment this week to briefly look at what’s hitting the box office this year and give a quick prediction on the outcome of each.

  1. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters – January 25th. Premise: Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) play the fairy tale brother and sister who are all grown up and have become professional witch hunters. Prediction: Van Helsing meets Brothers Grimm, which means a lot of action with an intriguing story but hopefully with more Grimm and less Helsing.
  2. John Dies at the End – January 25th. Premise: You take a drug, it sends you through time and space, you might come back normal, or you might come back as something else. Something otherworldly. Now the world is in danger of a sinister invasion and it’s up to two college dropouts to save it. Prediction: Dude, Where’s My Car? meets Buckaroo Banzai but with Paul Giamatti for added effect. Definitely worth a viewing, high or not.
  3. A Good Day to Die Hard – February 15th. Premise: John McClane (Bruce Willis) and his son travel to Russia to fight Russians and stop a nuclear weapons heist. Prediction: I think it might be getting to the point where it might be a good idea for John to die. Hard.
  4. Warm Bodies – February 1st. Premise: A zombie becomes human again through the power of love, other zombies follow suit. Possible hilarity, horror, and action ensues. Prediction: I think someone might be trying to “Twilight-ize” zombies. Let’s hope not.
  5. Oz: The Great and Powerful – March 8th. Premise: A prequel to The Wizard of Oz telling the story of how Oz (James Franco) becomes the Wizard. And it’s directed by Sam Raimi. Win win. Predictions: I think this film will be fantastic and be the magical wonder that Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland failed to be.
  6. G.I. Joe: Retaliation – March 29th. Premise: All but a few Joes are killed off by Cobra. Now it’s up to the remaining Joes (The Rock, Channing Tatum, some other people), including the original Joe (Bruce Willis) to, for lack of a better word, retaliate. Prediction: Hopefully this film will offer some retribution for the let down that was G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra.
  7. Evil Dead – April 12th. Premise: A remake of the original with a female lead (Jane Levy) in place of Bruce Campbell’s Ash. It’s also promising less humor and schtick and more blood and gore. Sounds promising. Predictions: Hardcore fans will be difficult to convince, but from what I’ve seen so far of this flick, they’ll be won over. It looks wicked.
  8. Iron Man 3 – May 3rd. Premise: Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) returns to take on his greatest foe yet, The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley). From the looks of things, this might be the Dark Knight Rises of the Iron Man series. Ya know, a very powerful foe shows up, strips him of everything, and then Tony must find the hero in himself to defeat his enemy. This also begins Marvel’s Phase II. Prediction: Probably won’t be the best of the three films but I’m sure it’ll outdo Iron Man 2. And make Marvel a lot of money.
  9. Star Trek Into Darkness – May 17th. Premise: Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), and the rest of the Enterprise crew return to take on a most deadly foe, possibly Kahn, played by Benedict Cumberbatch. Prediction: This film will be epic, just like the first, and seeing Benedict as a bad guy is going to be sweet. This is a can’t miss flick.
  10. Now You See Me – June 7th. Premise: A film about bank-robbing illusionists, directed by Louis Leterrier and scored by The Chemical Brothers. Enough said. Prediction: I have a feeling this is going to be one of those twist-and-turns, mind-f*ck types of film. But with bank-robbing illusionists.
  11. Much Ado About Nothing – June 7th. Premise: Joss Whedon adapted this classic Shakespearean tale while making The Avengers. He cast it with people from Firefly, Buffy, Angel, and The Avengers. He made it because of his insecurities with taking on a huge project like The Avengers. It’s Joss Whedon’s take on Shakespeare….do I really need to say anything else? Prediction: I love Joss Whedon. I love Shakespeare. Without even seeing it, I love this film.
  12. Man of Steel – June 14th. Premise: Zack Snyder directs, Christopher Nolan produces, and a bunch of great actors star in what is sure to be the best Superman film ever. And a film that will hopefully restart the series and lead into a Justice League film. Prediction: The more I see of this, the more I believe that this film will be one of the greatest comic book films of all time. But I’ve been wrong before.
  13. World War Z – June 21st. Premise: Brad Pitt stars in this adaptation of Max Brooks’ bestselling novel about a U.N. employee trying to stop a worldwide zombie outbreak. Prediction: I’m pretty much done with the whole zombie genre, and I haven’t read the book, so I’ll probably wait until this comes out on Blu-ray.
  14. Pacific Rim – July 12th. Premise: Guillermo del Toro writes and directs this film about giant robots fighting to save the world from giant alien monsters. Prediction: I was sold at Guillermo del Toro. The rest is just icing on the cake.
  15. wolverine_jackman_660The Wolverine – July 26th. Premise: Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) travels to Japan to train with samurais and take on a powerful new foe, The Silver Samurai. Prediction: This has to be better than Wolverine Origins. If not, I give up on Hugh Jackman. And Wolverine.
  16. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters – August 16th. Premise: Part 2 of the series finds Percy (Logan Lerman) and his friends searching for the mythical Golden Fleece. Prediction: I enjoyed the first film, so I may go see this one. I’m hoping this film will fill some of the void that Harry Potter left, but I doubt it.
  17. Riddick – September 6th. Premise: Vin Diesel returns to his most badass character to take on new alien predators, new mercs, and an old foe. Prediction: I will watch this film because I love the others. I will hope this film is the last in the series because I don’t want this series to be run into the ground like Diesel’s other popular series, Fast and Furious.
  18. Cloudy 2: Revenge of the Leftovers – September 27th. Premise: Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) discovers that the machine he’s created is still creating food-animal hybrids and wreaking havoc. Now it’s up to him to stop it once and for all. Prediction: If you don’t like the first film, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, you have no soul. No but seriously, the first film was hilarious and great for the whole family. This one will be too. I can’t wait.
  19. Oldboy – October 11th. Premise: Spike Lee’s remake of the ultraviolent Korean cult classic about a man (Josh Brolin) who has five days to figure out why he was imprisoned for 15 years without explanation. Prediction: Of all the films on the list, this is one I’m looking forward to the most. I love the original, and I cannot wait for this remake.
  20. The World’s End – October 25th. Premise: Edgar Wright directs a film about five friends who reunite in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from 20 years earlier unwittingly become humankind’s only hope for survival. Prediction: This is the final film in Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s “blood and ice cream” trilogy, so I hope it’ll be pretty damn good. I have a feeling it will be.
  21. Ender’s Game – November 1st. Premise: Based on the novel by Orson Scott Card, 70 years after a horrific alien war, an unusually gifted child is sent to an advanced military school in space to prepare for a future invasion. Prediction: Die-hard scifi fans will go ape over this film and then probably rip it apart. That’s how it works. I want to read the book before I watch it.
  22. Thor: The Dark World – November 8th. Premise: Thor (Chris Hemsworth) battles an ancient race of Dark Elves led by the vengeful Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) who threatens to plunge the universe back into darkness. Prediction: Part two of Marvel’s Phase II looks to be another epic win with the addition of Doctor Who number nine as a baddie. Get ready to nerd out, kids.
  23. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – December 13th. Premise: The journey continues for the Dwarves, Bilbo (Martin Freeman), and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) as they seek to retrieve their gold from the dragon, Smaug (voice by Benedict Cumberbatch). Prediction: Do I really need to predict anything for this? People will flock and empty their wallets for this film. We all know what’s going to happen.
  24. Anchorman: The Legend Continues – December 20th. Premise: The Channel 4 News Team returns for more crazy on-set adventures. Predictions: Probably won’t be a hilarious as the first but I’m sure it will be freakin’ hilarious! And filled with many great one-liners that will be quoted for years to come.

I know I’ve missed a few films here and there, but I don’t really care. I think the list is long enough as it is now. It doesn’t need any more.

What films are you looking forward to this year?

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Cultures Of A United Federation Of Planets

A couple weeks ago someone asked me if it was possible to create a real United Federation Of Planets (UFP) a la Star Trek. Holding a couple degrees in sociology, I am not at all qualified to answer this question. A lot of research really ought to be done. And not just social research. You should probably get like a biologist and a linguist or NASA. At the very least, Bill Nye should be in the room.

But all that’s tedious and who wants to read a 300 page report on the intricacies of xenolinguistics in speculative alien species? Eff that noise. I’m just gonna tell you if it’s possible or not based on my limited understanding of social structures and what I’ve learned from science fiction. Suit up.

So first we need to define exactly what a UFP is. In Star Trek, it’s a conglomeration of alien planets that agree on a single set of principles to be governed by; rules about how sentient cultures should treat, be treated, and treat their people. In addition, these are rules of alliance not unlike NATO. You attack one of us, you attack all of us.

Oh, and they all pool resources, have economies without money, and share a single military.

You see, back in the day the United Federation Of Planets was an allegorical United States. A perfect 1960s United States without poverty, sickness, or money where people are driven by the pure desire to explore and learn. A United States that stood in the face of an allegorical communist threat.

So basically a UFP is a space United States with a federal government located at a capital (Earth) and member states made up of planets or small conglomerations of planets.

So begins my list of things we need to get this bitch off the ground.

Cultural Compatibility

We would need a lot of cultural similarities to have the kind of UFP we’ve described. Humans take for granted that across all cultures there are some universal constants. For example, not matter what society you look at, sex/gender dynamics exist. We as individuals tend to seek other individuals to have children and build families with. These families are varied in ways we don’t often see (see: polyandry), but they are still families.

There is no reason to assume aliens have dichotomous gender structures. Maybe 5 genders. Maybe 1. Maybe they procreate by sharing a bathroom. Maybe only a single group of them were ever created and they just live forever.

Something else we come across is religion. Most cultures have religion or several religions in them. Many are based around human ideas of nature. Who’s to say aliens would have any religion at all. Or think about life and the universe the way we generally do. They may not even see the world (literally) the same way we do. Or see at all. Things like sight have a very big impact on our worldview.

My point is that all the aliens in Star Trek are basically humans. Yeah, they have different colored skin, deep voices, and putty on their noses, but they are still basically us. There is an episode of Star Trek that even explains that all sapient life in the universe was seeded by a progenitor species exploring the area. So basically everyone is human, give or take a couple million years.

And they still fight all the time! Klingons. Romulans. Borg. The Dominion. Other actual humans! But instead of referencing Star Trek, we could just look at the history of the U.S. It’s been around 200 years and change and hasn’t seen more than 15 years without a major war; one of which was a CIVIL WAR. Oh, and we killed almost every Native American on the continent.

The best example of what I’m getting at may be Halo. Basically, the Covenant bump into us and they figure we are the unholy menace described in their religion. No conversation. Just them jumping from one planet to the next killing every human they see and glassing anything we’ve ever touched. Not like it was the first time in human history a group of people were ascribed with a religious demarcation and punished for it.

Actually, we used to do it all the time. And again, we are all humans.

The aliens we meet, if they are out there, will probably not be like us. Those differences will make or break any potential UFP, and that might actually be a good thing. God forbid they turn out to be like us; we’d have to fight it out on principle alone.

Next week I’m going to talk about the second item on my list: Interests

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