Jessica Jones: Superhero Noir is powerful stuff

Jessica JonesJessica Jones, the new series on Netflix, is Marvel’s latest foray into the televised (well, streamed) world of superheroes.  And honestly, it’s different.  Although the main character has special powers, that’s really not what she, or the series, is about.

Jessica makes her living as a private investigator, struggles with personal failures, and seeks comfort in old and new friends.  But wait, she’s a superhero: Why not work at superheroing?  Because Jessica suffered a trauma at the hands of a madman who can control other people’s minds… and it was so bad that she gave up superheroing. Yeah, she’s not the paragon of virtue with the “never surrender” attitude of a Captain America; she’s just a girl trying to get along, and so broken by her past that she only wants to forget it ever existed.  So she does her job, drowning her memories in booze and keeping everyone at a distance with her smart mouth and cynical attitude.

This is noir detective drama.  And it’s seriously great stuff.  Continue reading

Safer, cheaper, more secure, less radioactive nuclear power? Yes, please.

thorium nuclear reactorAs we creep sprint closer and closer to our global warming tipping point, some countries are seeking viable alternatives to the dirty oil- or coal-fired power plants and oil-based engines that power our economy.

It’s gratifying and encouraging that so many countries are adopting alternative energy solutions like solar, wind and geothermal power plants, at industrial and single-home levels, and are making a significant impact on global warming.  But other countries and regions have decided that nuclear energy is the way to go.  And unfortunately, today’s heavy water-based, uranium-powered plant designs have a host of problems—mainly accident and radioactive waste risks—that make them highly undesirable to most of the population.

But what if I told you there was a better nuclear power plant design—one that was safer, cheaper, more secure, and even less radioactive than current nuclear plant designs—and that the technology was ready for use, right now?  Would you like that?

Sure you would. Continue reading

Star Trek is as out-of-date today as Buck Rogers was in 1980. (Take the hint.)

Star Trek: The Deadly Years

“The Deadly Year” must be 2017.

With all the talk about bringing back a Star Trek series for its 50th anniversary, I find myself regularly reminding people that—yo—Star Trek is 50 years old!  Why bring it back?

This might not be a big deal for your average franchise, in which it’s nothing to simply modernize the cast and setting, and carry on.  But Star Trek is science fiction, its universe based strongly on the popular attitudes about science, technology and the future as envisioned in the 1960s.  We’ve learned a lot about science and technology since then, which completely upends the universe envisioned by Star Trek.

Which makes Star Trek‘s impact on modern audiences the equivalent of Buck Rogers’ impact on the audiences of my age, back in 1980. Continue reading

Ecotopia: Solarpunk… before it was a thing

Ecotopia by Ernest Callenbach

The original paperback cover of Ecotopia, the design of which I still don’t get.

In recent years, the term “Solarpunk” has been batted around: A new kind of science fiction written around renewable, sustainable energy, embracing the natural world and an optimism for the future. Project Hieroglyph has recently used the term, leading some to believe it’s a relatively new thing. Others have pointed out novels written in the mid-90s that were purportedly the earliest Solarpunk novels.

Back when the first George Bush was assuming the White House, the Exxon Valdez was ruining the lives of countless Alaskan creatrures and William Shatner was busy hammering his nails into the coffin that was Star Trek V, I, myself, wrote a series of short stories called The Onuissance Cells.

But none of these examples were the first to the party. To see the original Solarpunk novel, you go straight to Ernest Callenbach’s Ecotopia. Continue reading

Mythbusters: That’s how you promote science

MythbustersA New York Times editorial, What We Owe the Mythbusters, does a great job of describing the incredible job the iconic show Mythbusters has done to further the interest of science in modern American society.

Americans have worried about the state of science literacy in our country since the days of Sputnik. Educators who want to improve our prospects in this field would do well to take a few pages from the “MythBusters” handbook.

At a time when interest in science in the U.S. was at an almost all-time low, hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, together with their many associates and occasional guests, showed their audience not only how science worked to solve problems and answer questions and myths… but how much fun it was to do it.  The show will end its run after 14 seasons, 2,950 separate experiments and an unmeasurable amount of enjoyment and lessons learned by its enthusiastic fans.

Read the editorial here.

Technophobia: The American disconnect

bad technlogyCarl Sagan once said: “We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.”  And only this can explain a Motherboard article that contends a third of Americans think technology will ruin their lives.

My initial thought, upon reading the headline of the article, was: Only a third?  Because, based on my personal experience, my observations of people and the popular media they consume, I’d think that figure was well over half of the American public. Continue reading

OMG… I can READ again.

readingNo, you don’t understand.  I can really read again.  For the last two years, I’ve been subsisting on magazines, television and movies, writing on my blog and reading a lot of Facebook, because I couldn’t pick up a novel.  But now, finally, I can open a novel and actually read it again.

Okay, fine, I don’t sound like I’m making sense.  Sooo… explanation follows… Continue reading

Self-driving cars: The FALSE dilemma

car flying off cliffAs soon as new technologies come along, the public immediately dials up their natural fear of all things technologic, and start imagining all the things that can go wrong.  This technophobic trend has naturally been extended to the concept of the self-driving car.  As soon as the possibility of self-driving cars entered the public consciousness, people started imagining assuming that those evil robot cars would make buggy, counterintuitive decisions in every case, causing the deaths of hordes of innocent citizens on a daily basis.  (Totally unlike, say, the hordes of innocent citizens killed by human drivers on a daily basis.)

The current trend along these lines is to place self-driving cars in “ethical” dilemmas, to illustrate their inherent danger to their human occupants and obstacles… this article is a standard version of this trend.

But just about every scenario imagined has been based on a false dilemma, a blatant exaggeration of possibilities that even a sixth grader should be able to see past. Continue reading