Archive for August 2014

Defining Lucy   Leave a comment

What is it about the name Lucy that translates into a woman of exception?

My first exposure to anyone named Lucy appeared like this:


Thanks to “Peanuts” and Charles Schulz

Though depicted in cartoon form, Lucy was mean, authoritative and plain bossy.  Her combative side played against her profession as a therapist, although her rates were rather low to reflect the acidity of her plain-spoken advice.


Credit: “Peanuts” by Charles Schulz

Don’t be fooled by her placid expression – this girl ate boy’s psyches for lunch!

Somewhere along the line, well before the above Lucy’s time, another individual bearing the same name roamed the planet.  None of us were around to duck her left hook or receive any sort of constructive advice from her jaded mind.  This particular Lucy avoided verbal battles and stuck to those pertaining to self-preservation.


Credit: University of Minnesota at Duluth

Lucy’s daily life revolved around the basics: food, water and trying not to be eaten by hungrier life forms.  Her ambitions weren’t to solve ancient mysteries, yet she became one for moderns to discern.  Little did she realize she’d become a celebrity in scientific circles; the most she probably hoped for was to make it to the end of each day in one piece.  Still, I can imagine her fighting off both her kind and others who might interfere with her general happiness and well-being.  Take a look at that face: is that a smile or a taunting smirk?

This brings us to yet another Lucy:


Credit: “Lucy”, Universal Pictures

As you can see, this Lucy beautifully combines the self-preservation instincts as our ancient Lucy with the no-nonsense style of “Peanuts” Lucy.  As the unwilling recipient of a manufactured illicit drug from a notorious Asian drug god, Lucy finds herself evolving rapidly through the 100% capacity of her brain.  All sorts of neat things happen, both for good and ill, but she makes it plain that once she’s got this drug in her system, she’s driving the bus and she’s not waiting for anyone to get on.

My husband Andrew and I went to our local dodecaplex to see “Lucy” for ourselves the other night.  Eschewing overpriced greased popcorn, we scored prime seats and sat through the merciless chain of dull trivia slides, irritating adverts and banal animated rules and regs for the theatre.  As the lights grew dim, we were subjected to the endless onslaught of trailers, including the truly frightening one for “Fifty Shades of Awful” (one look at the male “romantic” lead leaves you questioning:  Him?  Really?  That’s the best casting could do?  Hint from a woman to guys: DON’T take your favorite lady to see this on Valentine’s Day when it opens.  Trust me.  Flowers and chocolate are a far better choice).

Just short of a revolt from the audience, the film finally started.  I’ve always like Scarlett Johansson and she seems to do well with sci-fi roles that have a bit of bite to them.  Though she started off a bit weak, her performance strengthened as the film went on.  What I didn’t like about the film was how it expected viewers to take a real leap of faith about how the plot unfolded, and just expected you to believe what was happening required little or no explanation.  Although that could be said for many sci-fi films, on the way home Andrew and I laughed about how aspects of the plot unfolded without regard to plausibility.  Still, we liked it a lot, it was entertaining and fun and I’d recommend it.

Besides, SJ’s Lucy gets to meet her ancient predecessor.  Shame there was no mention of Charles Schulz’s creation.






Where Is Everybody?   Leave a comment


The New York Times had an excellent article on the possibilities of life Out There.  You know, all that space that the universe occupies.  According to Carl Sagan, there was no reason not to expect life that was comparable to humans.  But if you asked the competition, evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr, we were it.  Sure, it was reasonable to expect primordial soup in other locales, with perhaps a few vegetables thrown in for variety, but Mayr was steadfast in his beliefs that the chances for humanlike life anywhere but here was slim to nil.

Naturally, there’s also that school of belief that attests to aliens living among us, including the abductees who’ve been tested and probed.  Those unexplained sightings of strange ships hovering over dark highways in remote locations – that can’t be fake, eh? There has to be something real  under Area 51, right?  After all, why do they protect it so fiercely?

If you ask me, I’d bet the rent on life existing outside our little blue dot.  Compare it to the lottery.  The higher the stakes, the more players become involved.  Eventually, a number’s picked and a winner is paraded before cameras as the newest bazillionaire.  On occasion, though, there’s more than one winner, and regularly three or four.  I’m no mathematician, but what are the chances that several people will bounce into the local gas station, drop $20.00 on gas and another $3.00 bucks for a few Powerball tickets and all come out winners?  It happens.  So why not expect life on other planets?

Carl Sagan maintained that sound waves generated from TV and radio drifted out among the stars would signal to intrepid space voyagers our existence.  That was detailed in Contact.  Those sound waves possess properties that cause them to stretch and grow as they wander further from their source.  By the time those waves are detected, what discernible information remains attached to these signals would be challenging to interpret.  But then again, the right exoplanetary scientist might find them an intriguing prospect: thin signals meaning what?  A project to research, to turn heads into another direction to discover their source?  Our planet, uncovered at last?

What’s to say there isn’t a planet with inhabitants who share the dreams of finding others, only to be told the possibilities are so incredibly remote it isn’t worth a bother?

Here’s how I see it:  out there, far from Earth, a soul ponders what bioforms rose and prospered elsewhere in the abyss of space.  Technologically advanced to send out space probes, this soul launches a machine capable of seeking clues, if not evidence.  Time passes, the soul dies, but other scientists take this soul’s place and keep on with the vigil.  Eventually, the machine wanders so far away from its home planet that even its trail of crumbs grows cold.  After a great deal of time, the machine is lost to memory and passes into legend, but the language on the foreign planet evolves to the point where even the legend transforms into a mystery and eventually forgotten.  Meanwhile, life on that planet succumbs to its own evolution as its inhabitants face other issues that seem more pressing or trivial, but interest in further explorations has shriveled as it’s become necessary to focus on the lack of rain, food, or a dwindling resource that is elemental to the stability of life on said planet.  Or, life for the other planet’s inhabitants is fulfilling, and therefore interest plummets because all needs are met and exceeded.  Curiosity fades as the inhabitants indulge in The Good Life and place high importance cultivating perpetual happiness.

On a peaceful September morning, blue skies except for drifting patches of cumulus clouds, a flash streaks across the sky.  Whatever caused it crashes into a suburb of a medium-sized city, resulting in a fair amount of damage to both the landscape and the object.  Upon cautious examination, its solid core leads Earth scientists to believe it’s not merely silicon.  Placed in the hands of a particularly observant scientist, a barely imperceptible vibration reveals a secret only a sensitive hand would notice.  “Hey,” says the Earth scientist, “I think we got something here…”

No alien spaceships, no apocalyptical force, only a simple device, badly damaged and time-worn, offers a clue to a glorious civilization similar to our own, whose own culture is seemingly lost to the wastelands of space and disbelieving souls.

Quick but Quotable Links!   Leave a comment


Hey There!

In addition to my regularly-scheduled blog entries (which, I admit, have been rather slim as of late…sorry!), I’m dishing up a delicious serving of quick but quotable links.  That is, once you take a look at what I’ve got here, you’ll be talking about them to your friends, family and blogosphere buds.

So without further ado, here they are:

1.  This comes via the website Cool Infographics, which offers a wide selection of ordinary data magically transformed into wonderful graphics detailing ideas, thoughts, facts and other items of note.  Randy Klum is the author of both the site and the book of the same name.  The link below details 50 years of visionary sci-fi computer interfaces, or, in other words, television shows and movies’ predictions for our digital futures, starting with “Lost in Space” and continuing onto the movie “Oblivion.”

2.  There’s a whole batch of brash storm chasers following tornadoes, or hurricane hunters that fly planes directly into the eye of a hurricane to see what’s going on inside.  I’ve witnessed tornadoes forming myself (not by choice) or totally nasty thunderstorms approaching while driving.  Now imagine yourself aboard the Cassini spacecraft and zipping around Saturn.  You’ve discovered a storm at its north pole unlike any other.  Click here and prepare to be amazed…

3.  Here’s a followup to the blog a wrote a few weeks ago regarding the zombie spaceship otherwise known as the International Sun-Earth Explorer-3, or ISEE-3.  Unfortunately, the hardworking citizen scientists were unable to steer the craft into a direction that would bring it closer to the moon.  However, I highly recommend that you not cheat yourselves out of this remarkable adventure and learn more about its extended mission and those that made it possible.  Visit its website here.

4.  The Martian Confederacy  by Paige Braddock and James McNamara is a relatively new online graphic novel.  It’s the year 3535 and three outlaws struggle to save Mars, once a former vacation destination.  Read it!

5.  Thinking about the perfect Christmas present?  You can’t go wrong with a genuine lightsaber!  Pick out the perfect one for your favorite Jedi knight right here.

That’s it for my quick short list!  Enjoy!




What’s In a Name?   Leave a comment

Kepler Mission Planets

Credit: JPL

(Click on the below link for a VERY COOL video!)

Used to be that naming planets was a fairly simple task.  The Ancients looked up towards the skies, observed that a handful of stars travelled across the sky (and, in fact, planet means “wanderer”) and gave them a suitable name that reflected what they saw.

For example, Mars, glowing red in the heavens, was named for the Roman god of war.  And it wasn’t just the Romans who considered this planet the embodiment of conflict and challenges, many cultures and their languages also saw fit to give it this distinction.  The Greeks called it Ares, Hindus call it Mangela, Hebrews call it Ma’adim, in Sanskrit it is known as Angaraka, and in Babylon one would notice the rising and setting of Nergal.  

With the advent of stronger telescopes, more planets within our solar system were discovered, though not bright enough to spot with the unaided eye (mostly – if you know where to look on an incredibly clear night in the middle of a very dark, dark field with absolutely no chance of any interfering light from any source, you might see Uranus, but that depends on other conditions, too).  I’ve seen Jupiter’s four bright moons, through a telescope but with my own eyes, too (but you have to cover up Jupiter with a magazine to see them; it’s much less of a challenge to spot them even with birding binoculars or a decent pair of opera glasses).

Nowadays, we have a problem of riches.  Thanks to the hard work of astronomers, astrophysicists and others trained to observe the telltale signs of wobble and movement, there are over a thousand planets at our disposal.  Sure, they’re ridiculously far away and chances are you’ll never see any of them though your backyard reflector.  But you might see the star they’re rotating, and imagine what kind of life lives upon these exoplanets, as they’re called.

Do you want to blow your mind?  The New York Times has an amazing interactive graphic that’ll keep you busy for hours.  I can’t even find the words to describe how amazing this chart is, but if you check it out, make sure you scroll down to the end.  I won’t give away what’s there, except you’ll gasp and say, “hmm!  The ones found are the result of NASA’s Kepler mission that have confirmed planets rotating around stars.  If you click on some of the graphics on the above link, up will come information about the planet and its sun.

Of course, it’s impossible to find appropriate names for this batch that seems to be growing daily.  That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been attempts.  The International Astronomical Union is sponsoring a contest for that very purpose.  Have any ideas?  Here’s your chance to honor a hitherto anonymous planet with a memorable, catchy handle, just as you would a baby.

Trouble is, what would the inhabitants of said world think?


Sham Sci-Fi   Leave a comment

Did anyone miss me?  I’ve been busy with a few things, but not too busy to put pause to my daily activities and make fun of the worst that the SyFy network has to offer.  And yes, I know I’m not the only one here who has commented on this very subject but…

Sharknado?  Sharknado II??

Okay.  It barely qualifies as anything, and I wouldn’t dignify it placing it in the same category as science fiction.

So here’s my question:  Why?

There’s sooooo many sci-fi writers out there, dedicating their precious hours to composing what will shape up to be terrific stories with – gasp – plots! and yet somehow, these same writers struggle to see the light of an editor’s desk.  How is it, then, that some crank hack manages to pull off not once, but TWICE a crappy story?

I speak with authority.  My husband and I watched the first entry quite a while back and we would have changed the channel, but we were watching that train wreck believing it to be a parody.  Sadly, we were mistaken.  Embarrassed to admit our mistake, we pledged to mentioned this incident only between ourselves.  The next day, Sharknado was all over the media, an unlikely success.  Not in the blockbuster vein, mind you, but in the gobsmacked, godawful disbelief category.  Viewers just like us shook their heads, wondering what subliminal force soaked our brains like dry sponges and wrung them dry.

Then, our worst fears took root:  if once wasn’t bad enough, SyFy figured they’d give a horrid idea a second go.  As if New York doesn’t have enough problems, let’s add tornadic sharks to its woes.  Fear not, though, because our hero comes armed with a chainsaw once more.

Now, this entry catches the attention of The New York Times.  They’re not bragging about it, natch.  Their review is rather nasty…but fun.  Needless to say, I skipped watching it, having busied myself with real goals and ambitions for my life.

Still, I was a tad curious.

So were the good folks at the Huffington Post.  My husband Andrew thoughtfully sent me a link to Sharknado 2.  The best part?  It’s two minutes long and cuts right to the chase.

Kind of reminds me what Robert Rodrigues would do if he had two minutes to trash a trailer.  Or film.  Check it out!

I promise my next post will return to my regularly scheduled programming.

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