Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hyperion: Revisited with Keats in mind.

So I asked my English teacher about Keats. He had me read two poems. "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" and "Ode to a Grecian Urn". We went through the latter stanza by stanza and he taught me a great deal about the Romantics, and Keat's philosophy in particular. It's all about finding perfect moments in art/nature and then the sad realization that artistic ecstasies do not last forever. In response, his poems end sadly even though there are high points of emotion in the middle.

In response to Hyperion. I see Keat's attributes in conjunction with the Destruction of Old Earth and humanities severing from their origins. The Bard's story in particular, how he was in a writing fury only to lose it all once he realized the Shrike was his muse. Many of the pilgrims have perfect moments in their stories but have lost them. They want to restore order by meeting the Shrike.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I found my book

I was asked during the beginning of school what is my favorite SF book. I replied at the time, "I don't know I haven't read enough of the cannon yet."

I can now safely answer, among all the wonderful SF I have read, many of which I respect and admire, Hyperion by Dan Simmons strikes at the chords of my literate soul.

It is a a novel that brings all my SF reading skills and literary understanding into one massive, festive hall. I sit on the edge of my bench, consuming red meat off the bone as a Dan Simmons plays the bard and weaves me a verbal epic.

In fact, I'll start my talk on Hyperion's own bard, Martin Silenus. He is one of the greatest characters I have ever read. His humor, attention to detail and witticism continued to make me laugh.

Here is the opening quote to his Cantos tale.

"In the beginning was the Word. Then came the fucking word processor. Then came the thought processor. Then came the death of literature. And so it goes."

It summarizes all I love about Hyperion, the first sentence speaks to the essence of literature. The second is a joke. The though processor is the science fiction speaking, then a prediction about humanity. Sum up the final sentence with a reference to Slaughter House 5. All magnificent.

There is humor in sending your son on a slow space trip to get the interest on his existence to accumulate enough to pay off family debts. Not to mention his slave years speaking only 9 profane words and still calling himself a poet. His gaudiness and ample swearing is a characteristic rarely seen in non-cyberpunk SF.

I won't go into each tale but I do love the idea of basically writing each story in one style of SF. As I said before, Hyperion really is a cantos, to all of SF and even literature in general. The Shakespeare, the mention of Gibson, the fact that ecologist John Muir sparked a zealous Tree-worshipping religion all are wonderful components that add to the setting and themes. (I also remember a stray Dune reference, "Once years ago in school, I saw a time-lapse holo showing the decomposition of a kangaroo mouse." (77). Totally a Muad'dib ref)

My favorite part is that the ending half of the book doesn't dwindle. Now I know that having the pilgrims enter the valley finally while singing "We're off to see the wizard" is not a technical ending, what I mean is that Simmons focuses all the stories to the very fabric of the SF setting he created.

I've seen many authors fail to get their world to resonate with the final revelations. Examples being that Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner, and Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson lost the magic of their setting and ended the book on revelations that didn't matter (i.e. pheromones in an African culture and humanity's language was actually a virus). Instead, Hyperion gets to the core of humanity, progress or stagnation.

I summarize this with the Consul's quote

"Suffice it to say that I believe the Ousters have done what Web humanity has not in the past millennia: evolve. While we live in our derivative cultures, pale reflections of Old Earth life, the Ousters have explored new dimensions of aesthetics and ethics and biosciences and art and all the things that must change and grow to reflect the human soul.
Barbarians, we call them, while all the while we timidly cling to our Web like Visigoths crouching inthe ruins of Rome's faded glory and proclaim ourselves civilized." page 468.

Civilization and evolution, that is what humanity is all about. That and the infinite mysteries of the universe, symbolized by the labyrinths that dot nine (if i remember correctly) world of Web Space. Oh yeah, and death. That may be the kingpin in this entire existence of ours. And we all know that the Shrike, the only real demon, will keep that problem a perpetual mystery.

Below are two interesting articles I've copied for my interest as well as your own.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Begin the Countdown!

Ok, so to have a running blog post, I'm counting down the top 10 aliens of science fiction throughout any media. Be aware, there are many SF TV shows I don't watch, Dr. Who coming to mind, so I probably won't represent that aspect fairly. Regardless, blogs by definitions are opinions. Here's what I like.

Space Invaders

These are the pixelated beginnings for video game SF. Parents of the late 70's didn't care if their kids were killing aliens at the local arcade. This idea is an extremely basic reason for the rise of so many non-human enemies in video games. Who cares about killing extra terrestrials that want to destroy our precious earth?

What strikes me about the Space Invaders is that they were the first instance of a zerg rush, granted humans weren't controlling them. The one-man laser cannon could easily kill a single alien with its rectangular beam but the shear number of little guys was the real problem. In addition, we have an instance of aliens getting progressively dangerous as time passes, a timeless attribute found among the galaxy's residents.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Food Chain

I'm not one to quote Family Guy in nearly any setting but.
"Damn Nature! you scary!". I say this in context of seeing a red tailed hawk fly over my friends and I as we were walking to the bus stop/our cars. It had a recently caught squirrel in its talons. The tail was the weirdest part, it was fluttering in the wind as the bird soared over. You would never think of the aerodynamics of the tail of a dead squirrel...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Zany Picture

I adore such SF internet art. A man lands on a planet in his pod. Meets massive, spindly quadrupeds. They remind me of the Eldrazi. And the planet's surface is a pale white wasteland.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

My Philosophy Essay uses Star Wars

That's right, here it is.

E.F. Schumacher, a modern world economist, believes in the map of life. It is an instrument that can identify any object or idea you will encounter in your life. Each human’s map should have a safe, reliable path through any of life’s difficult problems, so the theory goes. But if the map itself is incorrect, then there is no way to safely move forward. In A Guide for the Perplexed, Schumacher wants to help modern day humans fix their maps to include a vertical dimension including landmarks and symbols outside of the field of science that our current maps lack. Once attained, then we can safely and accurately trek the countryside of life.

I noticed two distinct writing styles in Schumacher’s Guide: chapters of elaborate definitions regarding ontology and epistemology, and chapters when his economist creativity shines in the “Adaequatio” sections and “Two Types of Problems”. In the latter, he connects historic philosophies and metaphors with current human issues as easily as he may analyze the productivity of a corporation. In this dichotomy, Schumacher offers brick and mortar to readers such as myself in order for us to build a foundation and begin ascension into his well-defined vertical level. His overarching goal flows from Saint Thomas Aquinas’ belief that “The slenderest knowledge that may be obtained of the highest things is more desirable than the most certain knowledge obtained of lesser things.” (Schumacher 3). He is an engineer and I accept many of his blueprints for living my life to the maximum human potential.


My first instinct is to apply Schumacher’s ideas to the ever-important idea of entities greater than humans. I must tangle with the perfect being before I consider the human being. Schumacher’s talks about powers each that ontological level has. Plants, (m + x) have no sense of time, but many animals (m + x + y) have memories and learn from past mistakes. Humans (m + x + y + z) can anticipate future actions and events with some clarity. There is also the level of interaction with the world that matures from stimulus to instinct, and finally the z attribute of will, “that is the power to move and act even when there is no physical compulsion, no physical stimulus, and no motivating force actually present.” (Schumacher 28). To add another level, I extend Schumacher’s equation: m + x + y + z + Ω = god.

The Ω level is an absolute awareness, not just in the self, but also in the immensity of universe. The entity sees all instances of time simultaneously, removing all unknowns. Most importantly, “The progression from physical cause to stimulus to motivate to will would then be completed by a perfection of will capable of overriding all causative forces which operate at the four Levels of Being known to us.” (Schumacher 29). A god acts as he wants never as he needs. Note— I am hesitant to capitalize “god” because multiplicity of such beings are just as possible as a singular God entity.

Among my three years of high school, I have considered myself a young student of science. I enjoyed my biology, chemistry, and physics classes as well as participated in scientific research the past two summers. To maximize my senior year, I doubled up on science taking both AP Biology and AP Physics. Observing the current world over the past summer, science does seem to be the overwhelming force; any other belief system seems to be harassed endlessly as backward progression of man’s intellect. Schumacher anticipates my thoughts as part of the group of people

“who recognize the value and necessity of a “science of understanding” [yet] cannot resist the hypnotic power of the allegedly scientific picture presented to them and lose the courage as well as the inclination to consult, and profit from, the “wisdom tradition of mankind.” (Schumacher 56).

The feeling of forced hypnotism is an extremely descriptive concept, one I now sense during my daily life in the scientific community.

My case study is my relation to biology and grappling with definitions of life. My biology book tells me that life is a system of molecules that regulate themselves, create new copies of themselves, and change with each generation to better live in the environment. The book explains that organisms we see, from petals on a flower to a flying hawk, exist as emergent properties of molecular scale interactions (Campbell et. al). When Emergent property theories dominate biology, it simplifies life to a series of random chemical reactions that a cell stacks in its favor to remain functioning.

Schumacher gives me a different statement to observe life with his discussion of ontology, or chain of being consisting of: m, x, y, and z — mentioned above. His distinction is that the levels are ontological discontinuities or the difference in each successive step is absolutely distinct and harbors unique attributes different from lower levels (Schumacher). This ontological explanation is a throwback to vitalism, or the idea that there are unexplained forces that cause life to exist. Schumacher supports his idea; “There is nothing in the laws, concepts, and formulae of physics and chemistry to explain or even to describe such powers.” (Schumacher 16), yet I find that the vital “x-factor” is a massive proposition to accept in my mind. How can I accept a force I don’t see to have an affect on life I do see? On the other hand, to absolutely accept the biological emergent property explanation, there are unimaginably large series of probability statistics that obscure the “random formation and maintenance of life” argument.

The greatest problem that appears when I try support one of the above conclusions is their answers require a role reversal. The biologic randomness answer means that I indirectly have faith (which I define as supporting an idea with the will power derived from my z factor without other empirical evidence) in the universal laws of probability. I find this cop-out upsetting because of the power probability steals from the Ω-factor being(s). Albert Einstein sparks my unrest with his quote “I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not throw dice.” ("Albert Einstein"). Why should a being with the Ω-factor, whose will is the single most powerful force among all the ontological interactions, accept that actions in the universe occur without their conscious decision to do so? If Ω-factor beings have absolute will, they would not allow forces of probability to replace their absolute decision-making.

So now I try to accept Schumacher’s ideas of distinct levels of being. I know there are invisible forces, like radio waves and magnetic attraction, that science accepts. What about those that science does not accept? Just because we do not have the proper “eye” to see the unknown forces that affect the ontological levels does not automatically mean they do not exist (Schumacher). I find it is arrogant to assume that my species, spawned on one small planet in the outskirts of one galaxy must have all the organs to see all the forces in the galaxy. This extension means that the forces behind the ontological levels could exist without direct empirical evidence.

But I must stop. The above paragraph is logical, but that aspect, itself, means I have failed Schumacher’s original point. I am trying to use logic to explain phenomena even though he says, “life is bigger than logic.” (Schumacher 123). I cannot use logic to support his idea. Nor can I have faith in probability to support the scientific analysis of life. I am in paradox, but I feel comfort in Simone Weil’s statement that,

“a human being succeeds in making an effort of attention with the sole idea of increasing his grasp of truth, he acquires a greater aptitude for grasping it, even if his effort produces no visible fruit.” (Weil 107).

Wait, there are still other ways of thinking! I partially borrow this new idea from the concept of the Jedi philosophy in Star Wars. Obi-Wan Kenobi, an old Jedi Master inspired my thoughts, "The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together." (Lucas). This quote, applied to the Schumacher’s ontology implies that there is no energy that creates the levels of x but rather the x level creates its own energy. I find such a concept similar to the Quaker belief that, as a human, means I automatically have a sacred inner light. A concrete bunker with no plants has a different energy from a pasture; the feeling comes from the plant’s life itself. Furthermore, standing in an empty cathedral is different from standing there during a full Easter mass. Each entity in the ontological levels greater than m produces energy that human beings can sense.

Science and philosophy will continue to battle in my mind. I respect the understanding science gives me; its reasons for many of life’s events. I also agree with Schumacher’s hesitance to deluge the human mind with science. If I cannot side with their differences, I’ll accept what they agree on, life. I draw my conclusion from another source of science fiction. "If you need something to worship, then worship life - all life, every last crawling bit of it! We're all in this beauty together!" (Herbert)


"Albert Einstein." Wikiquote. Web. 17 Oct. 2010. .

Campbell, N. A., & Reece, J. B., & Urry, L.A., & Cain, M.L. & Wasserman, S.A. & Minorsky, P.V. et al. (2008). AP Edition Biology, Eighth Edition. San Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings.

Herbert, Frank. Quote from Paul Atreus, the Muad’Dib. Dune Messiah.

Lucas, George. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Quote and more

"Skywalker. Skywalker. And why do you come to walk my sky, with the sword of a Jedi knight? ... I remember another Skywalker."

What a wonderful quote. I found it on io9's article about 10 thing you didn't know about episode 5. One of the Yoda precursors was named Minsch Yoda, and he says this epic line. Come to think about it, names are quite powerful in Star Wars. Particularly the original trilogy. Of course names like Obi wan, or Ki Addi Mundi have little symbolic/literary value. But "Skywalker" and "Solo" among a few others can be consider important as allusions to the character's style and potential.

I was thinking about ice, because in AP physics, ice means frictionless in all the book problems. Why is ice frictionless? Well friction is the temporary bonds formed between two surfaces. Ice must be frictionless because water molecules are polar. In a solid form, all the polar molecules bond with each other to form complex crystals. If they're bonded together, they cannot be bonding with other objects.
How's that for some applied chemistry?

Edit: I just talked with a physics/chemistry teachers. He explained my water-friction idea differently. Friction is more about the microscopic abrasion going on between unsmooth surfaces. Ice is merely smoother than other surfaces. (Although, we could then lead to see it's smoothness as a property of a compact crystalized form...)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Halo: Reach reference

SF video games can't go wrong with some Star Wars themes hidden away. We cannot forget the hideously cheesy ion cannon in Starcraft 1's Terran finale ripped right out of Hoth's cold, frozen ground.

I present my theories on Reach's opening level, Winter Contingency. The architecture of the relay station circled below seems awfully familiar.
SF video games can't go wrong with some Star Wars themes hidden away. We cannot forget the hideously cheesy ion cannon in Starcraft 1's Terran finale ripped right out of Hoth's cold, frozen ground.

I present my theories on Reach's opening level, Winter Contingency. The architecture of the relay station circled below seems awfully familiar.!Winter_Contingency.JPG


Its a bit more than coincidence huh? I also must mention the role reversal seen in the later half of the level. Kat is frantically trying to close the door to the station while Leia/R2D2/Han were trying to open the doors.
What other SF references lurk about the campaign?
Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, October 10, 2010

THX 1138

Just watched this dystopian sf and my friend pointed out how it perfectly melds with Socrates' Cave Allegory. In the beginning we see THX in the factory, lined up with other human beings all looking the same way. They are building robots (or androids), mere shadows of humans. They don't seem to care that they have such dangerous work. We quickly learn they use sedatives to keep their minds honed on the delicate mechanical labors. Once LUH gets the idea to stop taking the drugs, reality begins to take over, as does true emotion. This sparks desire to escape. We are then imprisoned in the white light limbo, a false escape. The sterile light is not the Truth. And yet THX does not have all the answers, it takes the insight of another to show us the next step. (And there is some humor to missing the blinking black spot in a world of white).

After various chase scenes we follow our hero to the brink of the city to where the monkeys live. (I forget their official name but they were primitive apes for sure). There is a sense of humanity degrading, a possibility that the entire escape was futile, perhaps the city is the only existence possible. Until we overload our preset criminal containment budget and climb the last cement tube. Behold, the True Light.

And now a word from our sponsors.

"You are a true believer. Blessings of the state, blessings of the masses. Thou art a subject of the divine. Created in the image of man, by the masses, for the masses.
Let us be thankful we have an occupation to fill. Work hard; increase production, prevent accidents, and be happy.
[or] Let us be thankful we have commerce. Buy more. Buy more now. Buy more and be happy." — OMM 0000

Friday, October 8, 2010

Exciting SF in the movie sphere

Yeah, so fantasy is the rage now, marked by the landmark Harry Potter movie series. But I've learned
about this interesting movie

and the wikipedia site

Admittedly, the trailer has a bit too much ironic humor with all the various vehicles getting destroyed once it seems they are safe. And yet I'm a sucker for interesting aliens. They seem to be cybernetic creatures, tentacled and layered with tendril components. Oh yeah, and they like the color blue.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The humor in it all

So I was in BC Calculus the other day and the teacher gave us a lecture on applying derivatives to answer problems with related rates of change. Once we completed the mathematical equation our teacher pointed out to us an extended application of one of the ratios. The way it was written implied that as the boat hit the dock, it would be going at an infinite speed. The entire class found this hilarious. The teacher used this as an example to show how mathematical models can sometimes fail to explain real life examples.

In other news, my english teacher plans to have us write an essay on the Aristotelian components of a movie of our choice. Right now I'm considering either Star Wars episode 3, 5, or perhaps 2001: a space odyssey.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


My AP Biology teacher reminded me of this video we saw freshman year. I consider it the Pixar of the scientific community. It shows the molecular reactions in a graceful and majestic video stream. The complexity of life will forever astound me whenever I watch this. A cell is a living city.