The Rover (2014)


The Rover got mentioned a couple of times on Broken Forum. It doesn’t have terribly good reviews but Guy Pearce appearing in it plus it being a post-apocalypse movie was enough to get me interested. The opening text states that it is set 10 years after the collapse of civilization in Australia but doesn’t explain the nature of the event. Online summaries claim that it’s an economic collapse, but that doesn’t seem to explain the low population that is evident. That’s just one of the many things about its world-building and writing that feels clunky.

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Recent Interesting Science Articles (February 2015)

Looks like the world of science doesn’t really stop for the Chinese New Year since we have about as much science news as usual.

  • Let’s start with a correction. Back in March 2014, the BICEP2 research team reported the discovery of primordial gravitational waves. My entry for that month duly linked to one such report. Since then a consensus has been reached that the finding was wrong as updated maps of interstellar dust do not support the original observation. Here is one article from The Economist which talks about it. As the publication notes, getting it wrong is embarrassing but being able to own up to mistakes is science’s great strength.
  • The next article is from Nature and covers what is called unconscious thought advantage, the notion that the unconscious mind is better than the conscious mind at solving at least some types of cognitive tasks. In what is the most rigorous study yet of the phenomenon, a Dutch team ran experiments that involved test subjects performing tasks like choosing the best car or apartments out of a sample based a list of desirable characteristics and distracting some of them to make conscious decision-making difficult. They also ran a meta-analysis of all known previous such studies. Both results suggest that the phenomenon does not exist and that there is no cognitive advantage in unconscious thought.
  • As an endless number of funny cat pictures on the Internet can prove, cats just love boxes. This Wired article goes into some of the reasons why this is so. I think the behavioral reasons aren’t much of a surprise. Cats just instinctively like to hide. What is more interesting to me is that the temperature range that cats are most comfortable with is about 6 degrees Celsius warmer than the comfort zone for humans, so boxes just provide extra insulation in addition to just being plain comfortable for them.
  • The next one isn’t a science article. It’s a report on an extensive survey of Americans on their attitudes towards science. To me, what is especially illuminating are areas where the opinion of the general public diverges wildly from that of scientists. For example, only 37% of the public think that eating genetically modified food is safe but 88% of scientists do. Similarly only 45% of the public favor the building of nuclear power stations but 65% of scientists do. I think it’s worth reading the whole thing through as it covers everything from opinions about the quality of education, the importance of science, science funding and the public’s generally not very good grasp of what scientists believe.
  • Finally the last one isn’t science article but I like to end things with an extended feature. It’s about an ingenious scheme in which the Columbian army encoded secret messages in Morse code and transmitted it as part of a specially written pop song to hostages held by the FARC. The plan was created by an advertising executive who had personal reasons for opposing the drug trade in the country.

Airplane! (1980)


Over the years I’ve watched and enjoyed many of the most popular parody comedies including the Naked Gun series and the Hot Shots movies but I’ve never watched Airplane!. What these shows have in common is the creative team of Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker. Airplane! was the first and, judging by how it often pops up near the top of lists of the best comedies of all time, the best of these parodies.

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Boyhood (2014)


Ever since I heard about this project, I’ve been waiting for it with a great deal of anticipation. Both my wife and myself are huge fans of the Before Sunrise trilogy and filming a story of a boy growing up over a span of twelve years intuitively feels like such a natural extension of that work that Richard Linklater is sure to excel at. The ambition alone of following the same cast, including child actors, across such an extended span of time impressed me greatly.

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Black Mirror


The latest television series we’ve been watching has been this groundbreaking science-fiction series from the UK. Like Sherlock, it isn’t a series in the normal sense. There are only two seasons so far and each season has only three episodes each, with the first season originally airing all the way back in 2011. Plus there is a extra long Christmas special that just aired on the Christmas of 2014. So there isn’t much of it and it took them a long time to produce the content.

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The unexamined life is a life not worth living