Monday, April 1, 2013

Upon Watching "Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog"

As I've often said, I don't typically watch movies, because most movies are terrible.  Maybe half of this blog is dedicated to complaining about the stupidity of various movies.  If it's less than half, it's only because I haven't seen any even worth complaining about, not because they've become any less stupid.

I actually don't even own a TV.  Or, I own a TV, and it sits unused in my closet underneath a pile of spare mattresses.  I don't own a DVD player either, though I still have a VHS player.  Somewhere.  It just isn't worth my time, I guess?

Anyway, I say that only because when I come out enjoying a movie, it is something rare and incredible.

I recently watched Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog, which is available on Netflix.

My only complaint is that it ended too soon.

I actually have a hard time explaining my enjoyment of the film, as is typical for when I enjoy things.  I am not capable of being impressed by visuals or orchestral music or spectacle or anything really I can point to; I guess it's entertaining while it lasts, then quickly bores me after 30 minutes or whenever it ends.  But what movies like this do, is they plant this barb deep into my viscera, then tug and tug until my organs spill out.

Or something like that.

The movie is the kind of thing that tears my heart from my chest and shows it to me, and I am only delighted to learn that I even have such an organ.  It's been invisible so long and beating so low that I forgot where it was.

And it's silly because the movie is a silly musical about an evil mad scientist who falls in love with a girl he meets at a laundromat.  It's ridiculous and tragic at the same time.  Which is probably exactly why it enraptured me so.

The last scene is the hero/villain entering a room of supervillains including "Professor Normal", "Dead Bowie", "Fake Thomas Jefferson", and lead by "Bad Horse, the Thoroughbred of Sin", who is a literal horse -- while singing a disharmonious anthem of loss and grief and the death of the soul in response to tragedy, a song so appropriately and inappropriately titled "Everything You Ever".  The scene takes itself perfectly seriously while at the same time is openly, patently absurd; and all this absurdity and gravity is itself only a mask for the defeated, deflated, withered shell of Dr. Horrible that remains.

It's... I dunno.  It's an incredible movie.  It's the story of the tragic fall of Dr. Horrible, the hero/villain whose tragic flaw is simply being too kind.  It's melancholic and discordant, and yet gave me joy with the small hope that there is any merely human agency anywhere on this planet who might actually understand me.  Like someone read my xanga from high school and turned it into an unattributed musical sci-fi biography.  I imagine many, many loner, melancholic types will sympathize.

I recommend it - selfishly, perhaps - to anyone.  It's live-streaming on Netflix.  It's only 45 minutes.  Watch it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Width of Narnia

As is revealed in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the world of Narnia is a flat earth.  Characters can literally fall of the edge of the world.

I started wondering, at one point, how thick is that edge?

Characters from our world report no differences in the gravity (or whatever) on Narnia; they don't feel any greater or lesser weight walking around.  Arguably, if Narnia had a lower gravity, then the Pevensies might have had, at least, an easier time crossing through the snow.  And contrariwise, if Narnia had a much higher gravity, then the adventure would have mostly been about aching knee joints.

Further, when the Pevensies stay in Narnia as kings and queens, they eat the food there, and this does not make them sick.  The food they eat they report as tasting equivalent to earth food.  When they grow up, they marry dryads and naiads and other mythological things and have children.  Weird as this is, it all proves pretty much conclusively that Narnia is made of the same kind of "stuff" as Earth; this is important.

So we know three things.  We know Narnia has the same overall downward-pulling force as Earth's gravity, we know that Narnia is made of the same kind of stuff as Earth, and we know that Narnia is a flat earth with a literal edge that you could fall off.

This is enough to calculate, to a very good approximation, how thick Narnia is.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

No, I Don't Like BBC's Sherlock

I get asked this maybe once a week, on a good week.  On a bad week, more.  I think so far, every person that I know has asked me at least twice.  I think friends from middle school that I haven't spoken to for over a decade have called me -- looked up my number and called me -- to ask if I like BBC's Sherlock. Then they hung up and called again to ask a second time.

The answer is no, I don't like it.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Literature Review Process, or So I Understand It

I'm in the bookstore, and a book catches my eye.  More often than I'd like to admit, it's because it has a pretty cover illustration, or a very respectable binding.   Or maybe it was misplaced on the shelf by a previous browser, or maybe it had a special display rack for itself.

Anyway, somehow, by some means, I've got the book in my hand, and I want to know: should I bother reading this?

Of course, I can't trust the reviews on the back of the book.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Time Travel is Creepy

The other day, an idea dawned on me.  It took several hours before the full weight of it began to sink in.  It's an idea that has enjoyed constant employment by the human imagination, so much so that the terror of it has been weakened from banality.  When I was forced to take it out of fantasy books and in to reality, I wasn't so sure I liked it.

It occurred to me, that it might be possible to make a device that causes light to travel in closed causal curves.  As in, I could do some calculations and tell you how to make it and someone with a nanolab could build it in a year or so. This would allow communication with the future through radio waves; you broadcast them in to the machine and into the future, the future responds by broadcasting into the past.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Vectors are Not 1-Forms

So, I recently moved in to a new research area.  It's new to my advisor, too.  Actually, generally speaking, it's pretty new period, first appearing some ten years ago or less.  Anyway, this new field deals fairly heavily with Maxwell's Equations in curved spacetime, so to understand it we are needing to review differential geometry and general relativity, two fields which are not in the normal purview of my advisor's expertise.  I was asked to prepare a chalk-talk that would introduce the key concepts of differential geometry to them, and another talk to segue in to Maxwells Equations in curved spacetime.

Not like I'm an expert on differential geometry, but I've studied it some privately and as an undergraduate.

While studying for this, it dawned on me suddenly, like the storm clouds that pile higher and higher until the first bolt of lightning strikes the ground, that vectors and 1-forms are different.

Every thing I have ever read in physics equates them.  Or not really.  Everything I have ever read in physics doesn't even demonstrate that it understands why those two should occupy different semantic domains.

What the heck am I even talking about?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Nice Guy Schadenfreude Day!

The title is actually all I wanted to say :P