Friday, July 25, 2008

Hadrian: Empire and Conflict

The British Museum just opened yesterday a new exhibit called Hadrian: Empire and Conflict. I wish I was in England to see it. Here is a description from the site:

This special exhibition explores the life, love and legacy of Rome’s most enigmatic emperor, Hadrian (reigned AD 117–138). Ruling an empire that comprised much of Europe, northern Africa and the Middle East, Hadrian was a capable and, at times, ruthless military leader. He realigned borders and quashed revolt, stabilising a territory critically overstretched by his predecessor, Trajan.

Hadrian had a great passion for architecture and Greek culture. His extensive building programme included the Pantheon in Rome, his villa in Tivoli and the city of Antinoopolis, which he founded and named after his male lover Antinous. This unprecedented exhibition provides fresh insight into the sharp contradictions of Hadrian’s character and challenges faced during his reign. Objects from 28 museums worldwide and finds from recent excavations are shown together for the first time to reassess his legacy, which remains strikingly relevant today.

There is a ton of good Hadrian material at Explore more about Hadrian online. And of course, you can always shop online.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ten Scientifically Scientific Innaccurate Movies?

Yahoo has a nice article up titled Top 10 Scientifically Inaccurate Movies. The article notes:

If movies were completely scientifically accurate, they'd probably be as interesting as a Physics 101 lecture. In real life, there are no explosions in space, gas usually doesn't explode from a lit cigarette, and Bruce Willis/Jackie Chan/Will Smith would most likely be in a coma after getting kicked in the head. Some movies, though, put science front and center in the story and more often than not the science proves to be head-slappingly bad. Here are some of the worst offenders.

I don't watch science fiction for scientific accuracy. It is fantasy and I am OK with that. Further, sometimes gas does explode from lit cigarettes, warriors survive kicks to the head, and sound may not be heard in space but it might be in the combating ships if they have programs running which allow pilots to hear explosions as sounds to aid them in combat. Further, knowledge of science has changed a lot in the last several thousand years. Some of these inaccurate movies may appear visionary a thousand years hence.

A few of the listed movies:

* Armageddon - "But perhaps the biggest problem is that the plot itself -- splitting a Texas-sized rock in two with a single nuke -- has a Texas-sized hole in it. We don't have a nuclear bomb anywhere near powerful enough to do the job." Well, not yet anyway that the government is admitting about...

* Independence Day - "That mammoth mothership hovering over the earth in geostationary orbit would be doing more than just freaking out the world's population. Because of its close proximity and mass -- 1/4th that of the moon, according to the film -- the flying saucer's gravitational pull would cause massive tidal waves, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes." If the aliens flew across the galaxy to attack Earth, could they not have an anti-gravity field to counter this?

* Starship Troopers - "Could a band of cave-dwelling, preverbal giant insects really have the sophisticated mathematics and technology to hurl a rock millions of miles through space to crash into Earth? Plus, 70% of the planet's surface is covered in water, so they only had a 3 out of 10 chance at even hitting solid ground, let alone a major city like Buenos Aires." The author of this list missed the plot entirely. The alien "bugs" are specialized. At the top are hive minds which are intelligent, understand technology, and are capable of waging interstellar war. They know how to target rocks at cities. Read the original novel for more details.

* The Matrix - "But in reality, our supposed robot overlords are a bit dim. Humans are a remarkably inefficient energy source. Instead of turning the human race into Duracells, the machines would probably get more energy just setting those goopy people pods on fire." Quantum physics anyone? Science is showing that sometimes events are dictated by whether they are observed or not. As strange as that sounds, it is true. Maybe the machines need a biological mind to do the observing which then releases the energy? This movie is about Buddhism and not science anyway.

* Outbreak - "A monkey threatens a small town with a virus that kills everybody in less time than your average DMV visit, and only Dustin Hoffman can stop it. The trouble with a disease that virulent is it kills the host too fast to spread." Obviously, the threat from a virus like this is that it evolves. Further, random genetic reasons allow some victims to survive a longer time which allows for the spread of the disease. A virus can evolve quickly and allow a slightly less virulent version to pass along in just a few days.

Oh well. Please make good movies that lack scientific accuracy. I like them.