Tuesday, June 27, 2017

"Destination: Titan": BBC film of a Kent University's team and the Cassini-Huygens landing on the largest moon of Saturn in 2005

Destination: Titan” is a 2016 BBC TV film (58 minutes), giving a chronicle of the work of a team of British scientists at Kent University from about 1990 all the way to the time of the Cassini launch, journey to Saturn, and release of the Huygens spacecraft to the surface.

The film starts off with the UK’s early reaction to the Soviet space program, including Sputnik, leading to the building of aerospace teams in the 1970s. The Berlin Wall falls, and then a team from Kent joins the European Space Agency in designing and building the Huygens probe.  They almost lose the contract one time around 1992 when the device breaks

The film spans so much time that you can see the aging of the scientists.

The suspenseful conclusion of the film, following a mathematical adjustment for synching meaning Huygens is released later, shows the best images of Titan’s surface, ever seen in media.  This ought to be reworked for an Imax movie.  It rather looks like a California desert through orange smog.

Wikipedia attribution link for NASA Titan surface images, p.d.

Monday, June 26, 2017

"Kumu Hina": a transgender woman teachers a male troupe in Hawaii

On Monday, June 26m 2017, PBS Independent Lens presented “Kumu Hina” (“A Place in the Middle”),, by Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson.

The film starts with an animated summary of the tradition among native Hawaiians of a special place for transgender feature, which Christian missionaries tried to destroy in the 19th Century (the time of Michener’s book). Then the film presents the biography of male-to-female transgender dance troupe teacher Hina Wong-Kalu, who emerges from a troubled childhood to be happily married to a woman.

She mentors another transgender child in the troupe, Ho’oanai. She says the most important moral priority in life is to "love a person for who they are."

The troupe contains a variety of men, including natives and European white cis males.

The PBS link for the film is here. It has played in many festivals, including Frameline.

The film was cut from 72 minutes to 56 to fit into a one-hour format.

Picture: By Hawaii Land Cover Analysis project, NOAA Coastal Services Center - Image and its description., Public Domain

Friday, June 23, 2017

"How Would We Respond to an Alien Invasion?"

How Would We Respond to an Alien Invasion?” from Strange Mysteries.goes like this, with some amount of prescience.

The video gives a dark future for us at first:  conscription and the imposition of martial law, under world government. Everything might go on a wartime footing, like before WWII.  The film even has a map showing which countries have conscription now. But the aliens might be here to do us good.

There is a bonus (paywall):
"“What Happens when we Find Alien Life?"
Another video
Could Human Beings Be Living on Other Planets Right Now?” (link)  looks at panspermia and examines the theories of Conway Morris, who predicts most intelligent beings capable of a modern civilization might look like us – maybe more limbs.   Convergent evolution has produced the eye many times.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

"Lawrence of Arabia", 1962 classic about the formation of Saudi Arabia

Remember “Lawrence of Arabia” by David Lean (1962, Columbia)?  The director’s cut is one of the longest films ever made (at 228 minutes).

The film is a spectacular biography of T. E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole), a British military officer who helped united Arab tribes in face of the Turks after World War I.  Omar Sharif plays Sherif Ali, instrumental in leading the revolt.  What seems odd now is that this film would be regard a classic.  But since 1973 (with the Arab oil embargo), the role of Saudi Arabia in the world has become controversial, especially with respect to 9/11.

I only vaguely remember seeing the film the first time in college, but I saw it again at the Uptown Theater in Washington DC in 1989, when my boss from work (at the time Lewin ICF) showed up.  That theater has an unusually curved wide screen for presentation of 70 mm.

Much of the film was shot in Spain.

Maurice Jarre's music was stereotyped but stirring in its own time.
I can remember random comments that the protagonist was homosexual because he felt stimulated by riding on  camel’s back.  That was the perception of the time.

Berthold Werner picture of location in Seville, Spain, CCSA 3.0, Wikipedia.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

"The Towering Inferno": disaster movie comes to mind after disasters in London, Dubai

The recent tragic fire of a public housing tower. the Grenfell, in London, built in 1974, has raised questions about the fire safety of high rise living, link. The cause seems to have been electrical, and it appears there was no sprinkler system.

There was also a fire in the UAE near Dubai in March 2016 also gets similar attention, story.

So I recall the 1974 20th Century Fox disaster movie, “The Towering Inferno”, by John Guillermin. At 165 minutes, it wasn’t long for the disaster movies of the day. The fire breaks out on the opening night of a new skyscraper building in San Francisco as a party goes on.

Richard Chamberlain plays the bad guy landlord, who gets what he deserves, while Steve McQueen, Paul Newman and William Holden star.

Modern highrises are generally safer places to live than old houses, if you rule out possible acts like 9/11.

Here's a story about the "Leaning Tower of San Francisco".

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Grenfell Tower after fire, completely gutted, by Natalie Oxford, under CCSA 4.0.

Update: June 27

Other highrises built for low-income people have been evacuated so that fire-vulnerable cladding can be replaced.  This does not happen in the US. AP story

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"How Far Away Is Fusion? Unlocking the Power of the Sun"

Fraser Cain has a short film “How Far Away Is Fusion? Unlocking the Power of the Sun”.

Cain explains how hydrogen fusion into helium inside the Sun releases energy, and goes through various reactor designs in the world, starting with tokamak, intending to produce a reactor that produces more energy than what it required to heat and start it.

These start with the “tokamak reactor”.  The film goes through several designs, in China and then Germany, before showing the ITER experimental reactor being built in France, which may produce energy in experimental mode by 2021.

I don’t know how Taylor Wilson’s reactor (Jan. 24) fits into this scheme.

Wikipedia attribution link for ITER by Kent Ziller.

Another documentary 26 minutes is "Fusion Power: How It Works" by Aerospace Documentary.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

AOPS with Deven Ware: how to prepare for "free response" math questions on AP, finals

I’ll count his as a “short film” today just once.  Here’s a video from “The Art of Problem Solving”, where Deven Ware solves an advanced geometry problem.   I think these videos were made at UCLA; Jack Andraka (Stanford) shared some of them on Twitter about a year ago.

Math teachers, here’s an idea for your final exam this year.  I don’t sub for you in the public schools any longer, but my thoughts are still with teachers.
Students, watch the AOPS videos to prepare for finals, or for free-response questions on AP tests.