Solar sail sunk?

July 6th, 2003

Just as the Planetary Society, NASA and the ESA are planning to deploy spacecraft using a solar sail, physicist Thomas Gold has thrown a spanner in the works by suggesting that the laws of thermodynamics mean that a solar sail won't work.

There seem to be respectable arguments on either side of the issue, so the only way to resolve the issue is going to be to launch one and see. I hope Gold is wrong: I've loved the idea of solar sails ever since reading Arthur C Clarke's Sunjammer.

[Via Yet Another Weblog – see entry for 4 July 2003]

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The Mathematics of Hulk

July 6th, 2003

In The Mathematics of Hulk, Wil McCarthy tries to quantify exactly how strong Bruce Banner's alter ego really is:

Hulk is, to put it mildly, a strong fellow. Just how strong may remain a mystery; I suspect the answer will always be "exactly strong enough to meet the challenges of each new movie, comic book or TV episode." But we do know one extraordinary fact about Bruce Banner's viridian alter ego: his standing broad jump covers an incredible three miles, more than 1,200 times the human world record. At first glance, this would appear to make him 1,200 times stronger than an Olympic-grade human, but in fact there's a bit more to it than that.


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Howard Jones

July 6th, 2003

Howard Jones on gigging in reduced circumstances:

"In 1985 I filled out Madison Square Gardens. In 1987 I played to seven people in a hall in Switzerland. The least I could do was introduce myself to each of them individually."

I wonder if his pal Jed the mime still tours with him.

[Via The Rocking Vicar]

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Dino alert

July 6th, 2003

The DinoMite Days project plans to scatter dinosaurs all over Pittsburgh. Beware the Dinosurgeon! Keep an eye out for the deeply silly-looking Tea Rex!

Goofy as some of the designs are, this is a seriously cool idea. I'd love to see someone try this in Newcastle, with a dinosaur in the middle of the Bigg Market, or one guarding St James' Park.

[Via User Friendly Link of the Day]

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Why Girls Are Weird

July 5th, 2003

This month's Bookslut features a longish interview with Pamie about her first novel, Why Girls Are Weird.

My mom has not read the book yet. She said she wanted to wait until it was a real book, until she could go to the bookstore, buy it, and tell the guy that I wrote it. But when the excerpts were coming in, I had to proof them, and I told my mom I could fax them to her if she wanted to read the first two chapters. She was deciding whether or not to, and then I realized that probably she shouldn't, because if someone at work saw them, it looked a little like porn. I had to explain to her that the first chapter was really about this. I said it's about how the Barbies you gave me, I just did dirty things with them. She got really quiet and then said, "I guess everybody did that with Barbies." My mom: very straight and narrow, but even in the 60's, Barbie was a dirty whore.

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"Sadly, it seems that some people coming into this country have been ignoring our custom of leaving these beautiful birds alone."

July 5th, 2003

"The Queen's swans are being stolen in their hundreds by gangs of asylum-seekers who are cooking and eating them." As Ben Hammersley notes, this could just be the best Daily Mail story ever.

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July 5th, 2003

James Lileks is not entirely convinced by the Hulk:

I never liked the Hulk. Stupid, brutish, inarticulate, prone to destroying things when enraged — this is not a hero. This is a French politician's view of America. Granted, he had his tragic side; Bruce Banner always woke up half-naked with a tank shell embedded in his leg, shingle slivers in his fingernails, wondering what he'd done now. It's the sort of thing that would worry a man. Someday someone's going to follow me home, and I am going to be SO sued.

Even though the Hulk reverted back to Bruce Banner after a trademark rampage, it's not like he'd be hard to find. Follow the trail of destruction, the footprints, the squealing cars, squashed housepets and sundered shrubbery, right to the guy curled up and shuddering, smoke coming from his hair. Picture the scene: […]

[Via Bookslut]

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July 5th, 2003

Dead Kenny has an intriguing theory about the climax of this year's Big Brother.

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July 5th, 2003

You have to see this.

Wait for the Flash intro to load, click on the button that appears (don't worry that you don't understand the Japanese text) and watch what happens next. Move your mouse around. Click your mouse button occasionally. If you don't spend the next ten minutes playing with light and sound then you're not human.

Oh my, there are more of them. If I don't post again for a couple of weeks, you'll know why.

[Via MetaFilter]

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Arnie's Adversaries

July 4th, 2003

The Top Eleven Adversaries of Arnold includes some very eccentric choices.

How can a mere game show host defeat the Predator and the T-1000? In what bizarro version of Total Recall was Johnny Cab, the automated cab driver who appeared for about two minutes, scarier than the evil bastards played by Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside and Ronny Cox? On the other hand, it's good to see Bennett, the chief bad guy from Commando get some recognition.

For what it's worth, I think you have to put Robert Patrick's T-1000 at the top of this list, narrowly ahead of the Predator, which was only slightly more evil than the deadly duo of Joel Schumacher and Akiva Goldsman.

[Via Pop Culture Junk Mail – see entry for 1 July 2003]

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Barry White

July 4th, 2003

Barry White, owner of the sexiest singing voice in all creation, has died aged 58.

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Beware: cuteness overload

July 4th, 2003

More cuteness than the human mind can take: Seven ways to sleep.

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T3 might not suck?

July 3rd, 2003

Could it be that Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines won't entirely suck? Tim Doyle went into the screening room with low expectations and came out and wrote a rave review:

What Turned Me On

Fidelity to the material

Instead of doing an "Alien3" and trying to branch off into untried, experimental territory, the filmmakers have cranked the action to new, almost masturbatory heights. When the T-X drives a monstrous crane through downtown LA, taking out a street's worth of telephone poles and even the front of an entire warehouse, it took five minutes for the grin to leave my face. (It came back later in a moment of such stark, hilariously gratuitous violence, I thought Paul Verhoeven had seized the reins for a moment. You'll know it when you see it.)

Sounds promising.

[Via feeling listless]


Digital shoplifting

July 2nd, 2003

In the wake of the outbreak of paranoia about the use of phonecams I posted about a couple of weeks ago, we have more evidence that phonecams are a menace to society: Japanese bookstores are campaigning against a tidal wave of "digital shoplifting", as people browsing magazine racks send their friends pictures of a new dress or whatever from a fashion magazine and ask them what they think.

Now the spectre of intellectual property "theft" has been raised, I give it six to twelve months before someone suggests a levy on the cost of transmitting pictures from phones to compensate magazine publishers for lost sales.

[Via William Gibson]

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Katharine Hepburn

July 2nd, 2003

I know it's a couple of days late, but I want to point out a couple of glowing tributes to Katharine Hepburn published in the Guardian earlier this week. Film critic David Thomson provides a considered overview of the career and the life, whereas novelist Zadie Smith gives us the devoted fan's perspective.

Thomson sums it up best:

The mere wondering about who could take her place is enough to establish her rarity, and our final removal from the golden age of Hollywood. Golly, is she really gone?

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Bruce Almighty

July 2nd, 2003

I've just got back from seeing Jim Carrey playing God in Bruce Almighty: not exactly a revelatory experience. It wasn't terrible, but nor was it terribly good. Billed as Carrey's return to all-out comedy after his attempts at more dramatic roles failed to impress, Bruce Almighty reminded me of nothing more than one of Robin Williams' early 90s efforts: far too reliant on giving the star a chance to let rip with their familiar schtick, and with a horribly sickly core of sentiment to ensure a crowd-pleasing ending. Carrey mugs like crazy, Morgan Freeman is exactly as impressive as you'd expect a deity to be, and Jennifer Aniston does her best in a nothing role as Carrey's girlfriend, but the funniest moments – Post-ItTM note prayers, newsreading in tongues and an exceptionally well housetrained dog – don't depend upon him. The script doesn't help, being in two minds about whether it's a relationship drama with extra funny bits or a wild comedy with a couple of semi-serious subplots bolted on.

Humour is of course very subjective, so it's entirely possible that there are people out there who will find Bruce Almighty a real return to form for its star. (After all, the TV adverts remind us that the film had "Jim Carrey's biggest ever US opening weekend", though it's worth remembering that opening weekend figures are as much a product of hype as quality.) All I can say is that I found it nowhere near as funny as The Mask or Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, or even Liar, Liar.


Connery 'has worst film accent'

June 30th, 2003

Is Sir Sean Connery really the man with the worst film accent? It depends which you think is worse: being such a big star that you don't even try to adopt the accent of your character, as Connery does in just about every role he plays nowadays, or trying but missing by a mile as with runner-up Dick Van Dyke's woeful cockney accent in Mary Poppins.

I think Van Dyke would take the prize if it was my call.



June 30th, 2003

Oliver and Hugo have been dethroned: there's now officially a new cutest puppy in town.


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"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers"

June 30th, 2003

Steven Frazier planned to build and sell decoders allowing people to access premium satellite TV channels they hadn't paid for. Then the FBI caught him red-handed, before he could start supplying the 5,000 customers he'd lined up with their decoders.

As you'd expect, Frazier ended up in court. You'd probably not be utterly amazed to hear that, having been found guilty, Frazier was handed a five year jail sentence. What you might not expect is that Frazier was also ordered to pay restitution in the sum of US$180 million. Yes, that's right: One Hundred And Eighty Million Dollars!

I do hope a similar formula will be applied when the various Enron and Worldcom senior executives end up being sentenced.

[Via Techdirt]

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Famous First Words

June 30th, 2003

How many Famous First Words from books can you identify?

I managed 10 out of 13. Much better than I'd expected, especially since I somehow contrived to get number 3 wrong! I mean, how could I have failed to spot that author's … distinctive … style?

[Via dust from a distant sun]

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