Monday, November 30, 2009

What if the world was like Heaven

I suppose the obsession with superhero stories these days is because the world is so stressful and problems seem so overwhelming that people dream about larger than life characters that can swoop in and save us all. I read Spidey and Thor when I was a kid because when you're a kid your immediate world is so overwhelming that dreaming heroes that understand and take charge is a parental kind of thing.

But, as adults do we really want to admit that our obsession in movies and TV with superhero, military hero, vigilante hero worship is really telling us that we're longing for mommy and daddy to swoop in and save us from the big bad world? All the adults in these stories are power hungry jackboots or buffoon 'yes men' who put obstacles in the hero's way. Unless, of course, it's a gorgeous blonde hiding behind black rims, a nuclear physicist in a D cup and compassionate lover of all things good. Is that how we really see society - through the eyes of a teenage male who is too young to even understand what he sees?

I wonder what we would make of it if one day we all woke up, our petty grievances resolved, our childhood problems washed away, bigotry and greed vanquished to irrelevance, leaving us with a clean conscience, positive attitude, and truly adult perspective on the world.

Who would save us then? I get the willies just thinking about it!

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Quantum Quack

Last month a bird with a baguette flew into the LHC collider at CERN wreaking minor havoc and confusion. Sounds to me like the time is ripe for a new genre in monster movies.

Ever since Oppenheimer and the boys donned dark glasses in Nevada to watch the mushroom release of radiation into the Earth's unsuspecting atmosphere, SF stories have been dripping with radioactive mutants from giant insects and lizards to incredibly shrinking men that leave us with the lesson that nature is not to be tampered with so frivolously.

Well, enter the light speed particle travelling at 18 TeV. Imagine what could happen during the crucial collision period where Higgs meets boson and a new dimension of the universe is about to unfold. Picture this: A poor baby duck has been separated from his mother where they were nesting unbeknownst in the collider ring. She's caught in the beam. Doctor Planckmann presses the booster button just as the red digital countdown clock hits 000.0.

The moment, a bizarre culmination of hazardous forces where Uncertainty begats Dark Energy Force begats Johnston and Masters and zippo --- the duck gets goosed into a higher energy dimension where it exists and doesn't exist. Where time and space are meaningless in our short sighted optical view, where even the low beaked thoughts of a baby duck can alter the reality of our universe.

Ah, the possibilities. Welcome to a new and exciting era in SF monsters -- Godzilla: the Quantum Lizard.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

countdown to stupid

If life was like the movies, in order to capture all the bombers in the world, Homeland Security would only need to track the sale of large digital timers that beep a red countdown to zero before the blast goes off. There could only be a couple of reliable companies for this product so the feds only need follow their sales and our problems with terrorism are over.

In movies, SF, thrillers, and mysteries are all guilty of overusing this corny and really outdated device. "The explosives are ready, Bob, but I haven't finished designing the oversized timer." Give us a break. Even bombs strapped to chests have these stupid clocks on them like a bomber has to let their victims know how many seconds they have left.

Here's a SF twist. What if we all wore digital countdown devices wired to our quantum biorhythms that told us when we are going to die? Imagine it starting at 90 years and beeping it's way along. You start smoking and it drops a couple of years. Cancer? Suddenly you have 5 years. Go into chemo, it adds another three.

You're walking home and it drops to 10 minutes. Realizing you're 10 minutes from home, you imagine a killer is waiting there. You cell 911 and tell the cops to meet you there. On your way there, you get hit by a bus and die on the way to the hospital on the 10 minute mark.

Would it convince us to live healthier lives? Not likely. No more than the disconnect Americans seem to have between gun violence to guns.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Schrodinger's Car

Another idea for space travel propulsion would be employing the all too oft repeated entanglement paradox of Schrodinger's cat. If we imagine the paradox not only suggesting we don't know the state of the cat in the box, we can apply it to the state of our entanglement particle engine as long as we don't look under the hood.

As long as we leave the hood down we'll never know whether the engine is broken or working and can merrily continue on our way. Alas, that's how many of us treat the monster under the hood of our all too 20th century engines.