Monday, August 21, 2017

"MILO Meets James Damore" turns out to be a real feature movie

MILO Meets James Damore, Author of the Google Memo” turns out to be a nice 62-minute interview film. I am reminded of "My Dinner with Andre".  

Milo does most of the talking.  Damore’s answers tend to be brief.  Both have an appealing physical presence for the interview, which I believe was shot in a New York City hotel.

Very early Milo talks about punditry and his own role as a provocateur.  Some people give their opinions for a living. That is what I am trying to do in retirement (or, as in a baseball game, “in relief”). 

Toward the end, Milo asks if tech companies (starting by kicking off Daily Stormer) are going to “snitch” on politically incorrect pundits and try to drive them off.  Milo says that that now speakers have to “pay their dues to the social justice industry.” 

The interview explains how Damore’s “manifesto” was stripped of some of its references before its circulation on the web, to make it appear more prejudiced (when it is not).

Milo also said that Google search results are biased deliberately toward diversity when presenting people, rather than by mere notability (as Wikipedia defines the idea).

Milo also explored the idea that Trump won the election because the “elitist” Left kept trying to drag everyone into its own bubble.  He noted that many Republican voters live in rural areas and are less interested in tech and live the way we did before the Internet. 

The tone of the remarks in the interview tended to resemble those of my third “Do Ask Do Tell” book, especially the “Epilogue” of the non-fiction part.  I tend to see the right to be heard in terms of individualized karma, not in terms of (an oppressed) group membership.

Where will Danore go to work?  Wikileaks?  Breitbart?  Will Milo be invited back to Breitbart now that Bannon has returned? 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

"Washington Fiddles While a Debt Ceiling Crisis Looms": video consists mostly of charts -- but Sept. 29, 2017 can be doomsday

Washington Fiddles While a Debt-Ceiling Crisis Looms”, posted by Manec074 in mid-July 2017, warns about the current looming deadline on Congress’s raising the debt ceiling, by Friday, September 29, 2017.

To say the least, the Trump Administration is completely distracted.  Steve Mnuchin, the current Treasury secretary, has been pressured to resign by his Yale crowd over Trump’s recent insensitivity on race.  Mnuchin has argued that Congress should get this done without a partisan poltical fight or bickering.
There is another rambling video by Alice Lake that goes into this, but tangentially.  Interesting here is the discussion of housing costs in San Francisco, where workers pay $1900 a month to live in communal bunk-bed housing, almost like in China.  

Friday, August 18, 2017

"Did Political Correctness Cause Fascism in the US?" looks at "Kill All Normies" and "Capitalist Realism"

“Did Political Correctness Cause Fascism in the US?” by Zero Books, challenges a view that Angela Nagle’s “Kill All Normies” makes such a claim.  It does get into the idea that modernity leaves a lot of young men behind as individuals, so some will try to look to authoritarian structures to give meaning and make everybody play.

The short film presents a clip from “West Side Story” and then presents the arguments from Mark Fisher’s “Capitalist Realism”.  Finally, it talks about realism in turns of the two sides of a spinning coin as a whole, rather like the thimble in “Inception”. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"Titan: Possibility of Life" and it may be vaguely like earthly jellyfish

Titan: Possibility of Life” is an engaging 2017 documentary (43 minutes) by Aerospace Engineering.

The film shows the internal structure of Titan which, like Europa, has am underwater ocean. But the now famous thick atmosphere, with a surface of lakes and mountains that can erupt with ammonia water, is explained by violence in the Solar System about 4 billion years as outer planet orbits expanded, throwing a lot of objects into the atmosphere of Titan (as well as Earth).

The chemistry of the atmosphere is explained, as an organic chemistry lesson.  A post-doc fellow proposes how protein chains could develop and organize themselves into a helix similar to DNA.  
Then a proposal for metabolism is suggested, where energy is released by hydrogen reacting with acetylene. Indeed, there are studies suggest this chemistry might enclose a cellular structure.  One scientist suggests that life forms on Titan might be like large sheets of paper with little suckers to get food from the environment, maybe analogous a little bit to jellyfish on Earth (not exactly “Free Fish).

The film presents a lake of host asphalt in Trinidad that may 

NASA picture of Titan's structure, Wikipedia link

Saturday, August 12, 2017

"Unbelievably Strange Planets in Space" include Titan

Unbelievably Strange Planets in Space” by Ridddle, starts out by exploring some very hot planets, including a couple where it rains glass, and where winds are many multiples of the speed of sound. 

It explores some hot Jupiters, and planets with multiple suns, and a planet around a blue giant, before it suddenly switches gears and looks at the practice of “BARE” air surfing, and then imagines moving to Titan.

In a reducing atmosphere, acetylene would be the fuel of choice, and cities or space stations might float in the thick atmosphere because of low gravity (1/7 of Earth).  But it also proposes a rail transit system.

Actually, it might be possible to building floating cities around Venus, because 30 miles altitude the temperatures are Earth-like.  Get over surface-ism.

Wikipedia link for NASA p.d. chart of Kepler exoplanets. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

"Mysterious Activity on Saturn's Moon Titan": group claims military-style building spotted on surface

SecureTeam10 presents "Mysterious Activity on Saturn’s Moon Titan" (10 min)

The film shows a small isthmus in Titan’s second largest methane lake, which disappears and reappears.

Later (at 7:36) the film shows what looks like man-made military buildings, square shaped, on one of the plains near a lake, claiming aliens built them, and then it shows images of cylindrical UFO’s called “RingMakers” around Saturn.

Astronomers have found vinyl cyanide on Titan, which is capable of making cell membranes, as explained here in Popular Mechanics.

Russians claim to have made an artificial cell which can self-replicate with this kind of membrane and various other methyl compounds (like crystal meth) without water.

The video mentions the film “Oblivion” (4/23/2013) as where Earthlings fled to.

Wikipedia attribution link for Titan-Earth Polar Clouds, p.d., NASA 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

"Is VidAngel Legal?" I think this does belong in DC Shorts

"Is VidAngel Legal?" is indeed an interesting meta-short film "about" legal skullduggery in Hollywood.

Here is the company's own version of the legal fight with Hollywood.

The narrative involves a "secret" contract in Hollywood to block all user filtering, which was apparently discovered by North Korea's Sony Pictures hack;  there followed Congress's "Family Movie Act" which tried to make the service (for parents to filter objectionable content from movies) legal.

See also my "filering Internet content" blog for coordinated post (see Blogger profile). It's conceivable that VidAngel's legal issues could become relevant in the fight against Section 230 motivated by the Backpage controversy.  

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

"Where Your Cat Goes May Blow Your Mind" from NatGeo, from North Carolina

Where Your Cat Goes May Blow Your Mind”, from National Geographic, is a short film documenting a cat-tracking project in North Carolina among cat owners who allow cats to roam.

The idea is to assess the effect of the cats on wildlife.

When owners went away for one weekend, the cat navigated toward a house he used to live in a mile away, and returned when the owners returned. 

Monday, August 07, 2017

"Jack Andraka: The Hidden Innovator" talks about bullying and then science and nanobots

Jack Andraka gives a talk in September 2015, “Jack Andraka: The Hidden Innovator” for Wired for Wonder.

In the early part of the video he addresses anti-nerd and ant-gay bullying (the latter may follow the former) in middle school. 

He presents many illustrations from his progress toward his pancreatic cancer test, which won a big science fair award in Pittsburgh in 2013 when he was 16. 

Toward the end he presents ideas, which he works on at Stanford where he now enters his junior year, toward using naontechnology to deliver anti-cancer drugs or to even detect early cancers.  One can imagine, from the illustrations, his getting together with Reid Ewing and making an animated film using manga or Danganronpa characters interacting with nanobots inside the human body 

By LPS.1 - Own work, CC0, wiki link

Sunday, August 06, 2017

"Could the God Particle Wipe Out the Universe?" That is, the Higgs Boson

Jack Daniel asks “Could the God Particle Wipe Out the Universe?” in another Strange Mysteries video.

The video concerns the Higgs, Boson, an elementary particle which is theoretically capable of causing “vacuum decay” which spreads through the Universe at the speed of light. It would cause existence to fail. But since space expands faster than the speed of light, it might never reach us even if it formed.
The videos is in SM’s usual 4-part format.  (See earlier film March 21, 2014 about Higgs.) 

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Ashton Kutcher addresses Congress on sex trafficking (video from C-SPAN)

For the first “movie” this month (major reviews are now on Wordpress), I’ll embed 15 minutes of  (actor, film producer)  Ashton Kutcher’s passionate testimony about sex trafficking before Congress early this year.

Kutcher ties sex trafficking to unintended consequences of other policies, especially reluctance to provide more help to refugees.  He also says that 70% of those in prison and 80% of those on death rom have been in the US foster care system.

He also attributes sex trafficking crime to a sense of marginalization and purposelessness in a competitive society.  He mentions the Dark Web, but does not directly mention regular websites, hosting providers, downstream liability and Section 230.  I have a posting on my main “BillBoushka” blog today (see the Profile) about a new Senate bill that reduces Section 230 with respect to trafficking and the controversies associated with Backpage.

Mr. Kutcher had the Thorn Digital Defenders of Children project in Los Angeles. 

Kutcher (“@aplusk” on Twitter) coined the phrase “Real men don’t buy girls”.
In 2012, Kutcher tweeted an invitation to his followers to a party in the Hollywood Hills the week I was there staying on the 405.  I didn’t try to go.  

I'm struck again with wondering why the presidency attracts someone like Trump, but not Kutcher (now 39), who is so obviously fit for office.  Public office is attracting the wrong people. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

"If Titan Were a Moon of Earth", and the same for Europa; remember how "2010" ends with a leprous Jupiter blowing up

If Titan Were a Moon of Earth”  is a nice little short film (4 min) by Dreksler, imagining what would happen to Titan (the largest moon of Saturn) were moved to an orbit similar to our own Moon.  It might become habitable, after the hydrocarbons evaporated and the ice melted. 

The only thing is that Titan is a pretty interesting place where it is (or "as is", as realtors say).  It does have a subsurface ocean under the ice (like Europa), which could give it another place for life, in addition to its hyrdrocarbon-lakes surface.  Maybe good for some pretty interesting alien politics.
There are similar hypothetical videos by this publishers, including “If Europa Became a Moon of Earth” here. Remember that Arthur C. Clarke's  (MGM, director Peter Hyams) "2010: The Year We Make Contact"  (1984) imagines Jupiter becoming part of a binary star and Europa becoming a habitable planet to be left alone. (We're seven years late already.)

Friday, July 28, 2017

"What Happens When You Die?" on Strange Mysteries

Here’s a “Strange Mysteries”, “What Happens When You Die?” with Nathan, a little longer than most of them at 14 minutes.

The segments (five of them, as with all films in the series) talk in some detail about other concepts related to the end of life and what happens to your consciousness.  These include microtubules, the substance DMT manufactured in your pineal area that seems to connect to other realities (it’s illegal as a substance).  There is also the “life review”. 

The film does have a lot of attractive graphics and images of attractive people. (See related film May 15.) 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

"Yale Students Sign 'Petition' to Repeal the First Amendment" (Fox short)

From Fox News, a short film “Yale Students Sign ‘Petition’ to Repeal the First Amendment”. 

This short film was embedded in a (conservative) Intellectual Takeout article reporting that early half of all Republicans want to repeal freedom of the press, and that many people want to close down media outlets that report fake news.

The ignorance of much of the American public, especially Trump’s base, about the First Amendment, is rather shocking.  So is the desire to be protected from offense by “safe spaces”. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

"Shalom Italia": three brothers revisit a cave in Tuscany where they hid out during the Holocaust

Shalom Italia”, directed by Tamar Tal, one hour, aired on PBS POV on Monday July 24, 2017.  The official site is here.

The film shows three Italian Jewish brothers, now in their 80s, who revisit an area in Tuscany containing a cave where they hid during the Holocaust.

They stop at a rural home for dinner and recount memories before finding the actual remains of the cave.

They note living on one or two sardines a day, and developed allergies to it. Family members would go into a village and sell silver pieces to buy them food which was snuck up to the cave.  This was a story of survival.

At the very end, the brothers go back to a desert area in Israel, maybe near the Dead Sea.

Wikipedia attribution link for Tuscany landscape by Norbert Nagel, CCSA 3.0.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

"In the Mind of Plants": can plants "think" and do they have some level of deliberative consciousness?

In the Mind of Plants” (2016) is a 50-minute documentary by French documentarian Jacques Mitsch, narrated by  Sharon Mann.

The film starts with die die-off of certain herbivores in northeastern South Africa, when they consume the leaves of a certain bush that has developed unusually high concentrations of tannic acid, which compromises the digestive systems of the animals.

The film looks at how vines of the pea plant (or wild grape) finds surfaces to warp vines around, but growing stems at a fractally lower rate on the concave side.

BIt also looks at how some carnivorous plants work (indeed, “Plants Behaving Badly” from PBS). 
Finally, the documentary looks at how the cells of the root tip of most seeded plants have certain chemical messengers resembling those of animals’ central nervous systems, which may explain how plants root themselves.  It could also help explain how some small wild cherry trees near a house are hard to eliminate just by cutting them off.

The film shows botany conference in the mountains in Solvakia.
The YouTube copy had 20 extra minutes at the end with some repeated material from the documentary. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"Why the Ocean Is Getting Louder", especially for marine mammals

Today, Ezra Klein of Vox Media posted a link to a 10 minute short documentary film by young reporter Dallas Taylor. “Why the Ocean Is Getting Louder”, link .

Taylor says this is his first time scuba diving ever, but gives an impressive “Al Gore-like” presentation of the inconvenient truths about the science of ocean sounds and how they can affect animals, most of all marine mammals like whales and dolphins.

Searching for fossil fuels creates some of the loudest blasts.  There were studies of ocean health after 9/11 when flights stopped and other activity in the North Atlantic stopped. Trump’s increase in offshore drilling was mentioned.

Picture: Crisfield, MD (mine, recent)

Monday, July 17, 2017

"Proxima B: Our First Step Beyond": fascinating short about what may be our closest habitable planet (not counting Mars, Europa, Titan)

Proxima B: Our First Step Beyond” is a fascinating 23-minute documentary by Parallaxity presents the only recently known possibility that we have a habitable planet, somewhat larger than Earth, circling Proxima B, the closest star.

Proxima B is a red dwarf, connected distantly in a multiple system with Alpha Centauri, a binary system of 2 sun-like stars, but right now Proxima B is slightly closer (at 4.2 light years).

Any planet is likely to be tidally locked.   If in an elliptical orbit, it could have night and days each about 11 “days” long or it may have one side always facing its sub if in circular orbit, with a habitable “twilight zone”.  It would need a strong magnetic field to resist the red dwarf’s coronal mass ejections, but it is possible that convection in its core could give the planet such.  The greatest danger might be runaway greenhouse effect if there were too much carbon dioxide or hydrocarbons.
Plants would probably absorb all light and look black.

There is a Russia businessman, comparable in wealth to Elon Mush, who claims he can fund a light sail spaceship to reach the planet in 20 years.

Much more about the planet should be known from a new European telescope in about five years.  But the video gives hope that the planet could be habitable.

Since the Sun will become unstable in 600 million years and kick us out, a planet around a small M Star would be stable for hundreds of billions.  In his film series Prometheus, directly Ridley Scott has suggested that aliens could colonize M-star planets as a stepping stone to galactic conquest. 
The film shows a “rama” colony as an intermediate step.
If a “Clark Kent” as in the Smallville series really exists, could he come from Proxima B (as Krypton)?  Would he have the full legal rights of a human?

Picture:  hypothetical highway and city in a “micronation” on this new world. 

Second picture: ESO, CCSA 4.0, link

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"The Most Dangerous Town on the Internet": actually, it's several towns

Helo films, along with Grey and Norton Symantec and director Daniel Junge present British journalist Heyden Prowse globetrotting to explore “The Most Dangerous Town on the Internet: Where Cybercrime Goes to Hide”, a 21-minute short film.

The word “dangerous” of course is also the title of a book by another British journalist, Milo Yiannopoulos, and here Prowse dominates the film with his own Milo-like cis-male charisma, as he explores data cellars set up to be impenetrable.

He starts out in Sealand, the micronation in the North Sea near Scotland, and moves on to the Netherlands, Sweden, Malaysia, and Singapore, exploring data centers that are unusually nuke-proof, EMP-proof by Faraday cage shields, and also unbreachable.  These places are indeed popular with cybercriminals on the Dark Web, but also by governments.

One issue is that cybercriminals route their transactions through several countries so it is difficult to stop them.

Toward the end of the film some specific clients, like Wikileaks and Anonymous get mentioned.  The misuse of the Internet for terrorist recruiting by ISIS is briefly explored, and the question as to whether a host should be held morally or legally responsible comes up.  That is what the Section 230 debate in the U.S, is all about.
Second picture: My own little micronation.  Baby play? 

Saturday, July 08, 2017

"Alone: 180 Days on Lake Baikal"

Alone: 180 Days on Lake Baikal” by Sylvain Tesson (with Florice Tran, co-director) in a series by Teletravel, is a 51-minute documentary where Sylvain lives alone on the shares of Russia’s Lake Bailak (the largest freshwater lake in the World) like a hermit from a Thoreau book.

As the film begins he drives from Irkutsk, 300 miles, including across a frozen lake, in February, with temperatures as low as -20 F.  He reads books, writes by hand, analyzes chess positions, splits wood and lights coal fires.  Is this “doomsday prepper” stuff?

In March, as about the time the ice starts to thaw, he makes a 30 mile journey by sled to visit a couple in another cabin, a wildlife biologist and his wife.

Spring comes, the days grow long, and he enjoys frying “free fish” by the Lake.  He also has two dogs.

In late July, he rows across the lake to his car and returns.

Wikipedia attribution link for Baikal picture under CCSA 2.0 ,

Sunday, July 02, 2017

"Transgender, at War and in Love": NY Times short about transgender USAF personnel at Kandahar

Transgender, at War and in Love”, directed by Fioma Dawson. Is a very important 2015 short film (13 minutes) sponsored by the New York Times op-ed desk.

The film maintains that 15,500 transgender troops serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.

The film focuses particularly on the story of Logan, serving in the US Air Force in Kandahar, female-to-male trans.  His first sergeant has his back and allows him to wear male Blues.   He looks male, and is shown giving himself a hormone shot in the thigh.  (Why the tattoo on the upper surface of the forearm?)

The film also shows Daila, male to female, who has a much harder time.

As of late June, 2017, the Pentagon wants to delay allowing openly transgender people to enlist in the Armed Forces (see LGBT blog July 1, 2017).

The film also interviews Logan’s parents.

By US Army - Department of Defense - Photo link Also available at isafmedia (Flickr), Public Domain, Link

Update: July 27.  We're reeling from Trump's Twitter announcement of a ban on transgender personnel (see GLBT blog today). 

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.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Jack Andraka's nanobots, and another short film

I thought I would pass along another short film, embedded in a medical article, about the work of Jack Andraka  “Young Inventor Achieves Childhood Dream at the INTEL ISEF”

The article discusses Jack’s interest in using biosensors and nanobots for early disease detection in everyone.  There was even a comic-book-like image of Jack in a space suit on Twitter, calling him “Nano Man” (like in “Fantastic Voyage”).

Recently AOL had some sponsored content claiming that nanobots would be the biggest technological invention ever, even surpassing the Internet. And no, Al Gore didn’t invent them.

I had mentioned an earlier short film about Jack by Morgan Spurlock here April 28. 2010.

A world where people are constantly monitored prophylactically demands a lot more social support for people so they can have down time when problems are found without losing their places.  “Caught early??”

Here’s a recent video of Jack being interviewed in Dubai.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

"Secret Life of Crows": the most intelligent of all birds have human-like social structures and ability make and use tools and pass on knowledge

Secret Life of Crows”, directed by Susan Fleming, a PBS Documentary on the AM Channel, 55 minutes, is a fascinating documentary on the intelligence of crows.

The film is shot around Seattle, New Zealand and Japan. In Seattle, biologists tag four young crows.  Only one survives six months.  But that crow demonstrates he has been taught by his parents to recognize a mask of a “bad” person.

Crows have family units and extended families and seem to pass on detailed knowledge to offspring.  Crows also teach each other in a flock who is an enemy and who is a friend. They are a kind of biological social media.    Only chimpanzees, elephants, and dolphins (including orcas) can pass along as much information socially (besides man).

The film makes the point that ominivores (animals who eat everything) have more need for brain power, which may be one reason the crow evolved a relatively large and complex brain.

The film showed the crows making tools with other tools.  They can learn to drop walnuts from the right height and watch traffic lights.

On the day of Hurricane Sandy, before the strongest winds came through, a particular crow drove me back inside the garage twice, as if to warn me of the storm.  The crow, whom I call Timo, still seems to recognize me.  I have been chosen by a wild animal out of his own free will.  He may learn to respond to his name.  Yet I don’t have to take care of him.  He can fly without going through the TSA.  He thinks he has a better life than I do.

Crows have different sounds and “words” among family members than in the flock as a whole. They have different warnings for different enemies, and cats can sometimes kill them.

I once had an experience with a mockingbird who always recognized me.  There is also a red fox in the area who acts like he remembers me.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

"If You Think We Are Not Alone in the Universe": short film with many first-kind encounters

If You Think We Are Not Alone in the Universe” by the God Particle, is a 16-minute 2016 short film that shows a lot of “close encounters of the first kind” footages, of unusual lights reported to be UFO’s.

One of the sequences seems to be the lights over Phoenix in 1997.  Other sequences are over Florida and England (2015).  In one sequence over a beach, lights appear in pairs and triplets.

The film invokes the usual probabilistic argument for extraterrestrial life.

Strange Mysteries offers “What If You Downloaded Someone Else’s Memories?”  This is an idea implicit in my “Angel’s Brother” manuscript.  The general answer is that the other person’s memories tend to become more like your own fantasies.  Not good enough.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

"The Secret Life of Cats"

The Secret Life of Cats” from Superb Documentaries, by Allison Argo, is a 52-minute documentary, 4;3 aspect, showing how cats domesticated themselves and looking at the problem of proliferating feral cats killing off mammals and birds at various places around the world.  

The film explains how the cat domesticated himself, and then explains how people’s dumping unwanted kittens only raises the birth rate.  Feral cats can survive by hunting birds and small mammals.  People are amazed how they snatch birds feeding. The film also traced the life if pet cats in several homes.  In northern Virginia, a cat has a curfew.  In Adelaide, Australia, an owner has built a contained play space that allows the cat to roam without threatening birds.

There is a sequence where aborigines on the Australian outback hunt cats, who have in turn killed many of their game animals.  There is a long electric cat fence being built in the outback  (remember the 2002 film "Rabbit-Proof Fence" by Phillip Noyce). 

Cats that have bonded to their owners will return to their homes, through cat doors, and can find homes from long distances.  When I lived in a garden apartment in Dallas, I was “adopted” by a stray who recognized the sound of my car when I drove home and could remember where my apartment was and claw the door to be let in.  Yes, he would bring birds.  He would sometimes lie on the bed before I went to bed and want to knead.  He definitely recognized me as an individual (a biped who wears clothes and 7 times his size) the way a dog would and knew who he was.  

Picture: Princess, a family cat who found us in 1965.  

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

"Octopus: Most Intelligent Animal on Earth": stunning problem solving ability

Octopus:  Most Intelligent Animal on Earth” is a documentary from Germany in the AMChannel series on YouTube about animal capabilities. The German title (the film is narrated in English) is “Master of the Deep”.

The film shows progressive experiments, in Italy and California, to test the ability of the octopus to solve problems getting food, learn and remember mazes, and learn from comrades.  The life span is very short , about 4 years, and the female starves herself to death after laying her eggs as she incubates them.

There is some evidence that the octopus can accumulate knowledge from peers, although they are not taught by their mothers.  Octopuses can also move on land between bodies of water for short periods of time.

The octopus has a central brain, and then each arm has a sub-brain (although humans and mammals have something comparable with the automatic nervous system and reflexes – the octopus nervous system is still decentralized).  It sounds plausible that the octopus has a structure comparable to a vertebrate pineal gland, supposedly responsible for sentience.

The film shows the “learning” in the skin’s chromatophores – comparable to growing tattoos, or shedding and immediately replacing hair.

Cephalopods went their own way about 600 million years ago when vertebrates develop. They present the idea of convergent evolution.  Consciousness has more than one way to develop or be mapped onto different kinds of nervous systems.  The octopus is thought to have about the intelligence of a dog or cat, and will learn to recognize humans, understanding we are sentient like them even if our bodies are very different.

Theoretically, because the octopus can move on land, it could evolve into a civilizing animal – but it would need to develop a “family” structure to raise and train the young.  Maybe alien planets do have civilizations developed from invertebrates like these.

Atlantic story on octopuses.

New York Times story.

Wikipedia attribution link for Octopus solving problem, by Kabel, CCSA 3.0

Saturday, May 27, 2017

"Galleon Andalucia": the ship built for a movie about 16th Century Spanish explorers

The exhibit of El Galeon (now in Alexandria VA for Memorial Day weekend) accompanies the development of a new film “Galleon” (there is one “L” in Spanish).  This is apparently a film (“Galleon”, from Bleecker Street) about the 16th century Spanish explorer ship which was reconstructed in St. Augustine, FL.

Mark Moorer, screenwriter, presents the ship in this video. I wonder what it would be like to be hired to write this kind of script.

The exhibit in Alexandria showed a 20-minute short film (from “NOA”)  on the construction of the replica ship, mostly with basic carpentry skills and tools, called “Galleon Andalucia”.  The film was shown in the lowest level f the ship.  You learn how rope is made from the sisal plant.

There was also drone video of the ship, taken from across the Potomac over Fort Washington, MD.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"Gatlinburg Reopens After Wildfires": Transplant from the North tours Gatlinburg the morning it reopens in an impressive short film

“Yankee in the South” gives us a 25-minute short film where the filmmaker walks through downtown Gatlinburg TN around 7 AM as it reopens to the public on December 9. 2016 after the great wildfire in the Smokies Nov. 28-29.  The film is titled simply “Gatlinburg Reopens After Wildfires 12/9/2016”.

 Most of the town appears to be intact. The author shows many shops.  There are attractions like Ripley’s Moving Theater.  There is a pancake house.  Some businesses are still closed because of smoke. At the end, he shows houses at the edge of town burnt to the ground, but the Mystery House was saved by hosing water constantly.

There is mention of the “Tennessee state anthem” as he passes the Gatlinburg hotel.

The film seems to be HD and has a curved effect sometimes, like a GoPro camera imparts.

The fire had spread from the Chimney Tops 2 along US 441 (Wiki ) which I last drove myself in July 2013.  I visited the town with my parents as a boy in the 1950s.

Two juveniles were charged with arson for dropping lit matches near the mountain.  But the fires would not have spread were it not for extreme drought, which could be related to climate change.  Tennessee law does not allow for release of their names or much information before conviction, news story.  But any blame for the juveniles would be mitigated by the slow response of authorities to the fire in the first couple of days when it was still small.

Update:  June 30

Prosecutors have dropped charged against the teens.  They do not have enough evidence that the teens really caused the entire fire, given weather conditions and extreme drought.

Wikipedia picture of Chimney Tops TN N of US 441, PD . 

Monday, May 22, 2017

"They Call Us Monsters": juveniles charged as adults for violent crimes learn screenwriting in a California prison

On Monday, May 22, 2017, PBS aired “They Call Us Monsters”, directed by Ben Lear, a documentary about the growing trend to try juveniles with violent offenses as adults.
The film starts with a depiction of a juvenile case in 1976, and moves to the 1990s when Newt Gingrich says that if you commit an adult crime, you’re an adult.

Then it moves to a high security facility in a desert area in California where an English and screenwriting teacher, Gabe, himself about 30, comes to the jail and shows them how to write a 10-minute screenplay which he will fund and shoot for a festival.  These are all kids facing life sentences for murder.

Gabe starts by creating hooks, by asking the kids to write down five fears.

Gradually, scenes from the developing screenplay mix with real videotape of the teens being arrested.

The cases for some of the kids, especially Jarad, progress in court. Curiously, the subject of tattoos, in conjunction with gangs, comes up. 

Then the documentary moves to state legislatures where the debate gets into the area of the teen brain, as immature and not able to see around corners, as Dr. Phil has explained.  But “evil” is possible, and it’s clear that parenting (and many other factors) cause some teen boys to develop “moral” maturity much earlier in life than others. There is a tremendous variation in the rate of brain maturity achievement. Some specialists say that too much screen time or lack of social interaction in the real world will delay brain growth.

One of the legislators weighs recognizing the victims against the biological immaturity of the teen perpetrators.

In the final scene, Jarad (a teen father) is sentenced to 160 years to life. 
The official site is here

PBS followed with a short film "Facing Life" by Dan Birman, depicting a convict named Cyntoia, a model prisoner, now 28, with 39 years more to serve. The film says there is "no endgame".  I thought the feature could have mentioned chess in prison. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Google announces technology to analyze gender (and probably race) bias in Hollywood films

Google has a strange article today on the use of technology in detecting “gender bias” in films.

The system analyzes action and spoken time of different characters in a film to see how much prominence various characters are given.  It could be used for other markers, like race.

There has been some attention in Hollywood to racism (and sexism) in casting.

My own take is that this concern makes sense in highly commercial and obvious mass-market films. For example, this could include films based on comic books, science fiction franchises (the article mentions “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”), or animated features, especially those for children.  “Boss Baby” comes to mind (I haven’t bothered to see it, though it make the only children’s animated film showing vomiting in the previews, as if to be directed by Roman Polanski).

The concern would not be appropriate in literary adaptations, or in independent films that explore personality with respect to specific gender and/or race matters (such as a film that explores a characters own preferences or fetishes).  Likewise, in independent film, many things just will be race or gender dependent.

Still, I could imagine someone making a movie about a transgender “closer” relief pitcher in Major League Baseball.  That will probably become reality some day.

You could wonder, furthermore, if a film like “Judas Kiss” would work the same way if one of the three major characters (Danny – two actors, Shane, or Chris) was black.  The movie would work in a heterosexual world – that idea has been tried.

No question, “The Great Wall” should have cast oriental leads, because the story is set in China.

Monday, May 15, 2017

"Is Death Like Being Asleep?"; I joined "Patreon" for Strange Mysteries

Is Death Like Being Asleep?” is another Strange Mysteries video that caught my attention.

The 10-minute short makes the point that in most deaths, after the heart and lungs stop working and so do all other organs, the brain cells can function for about 10 minutes.

The person may experience a “Core”,a dark nothingness, or some dream like material. Furthermore the brain secrets a chemical that makes time seem to slow-down  In a space-time sense, the person’s life-track make take on a certain kind of cosmic permanence.

Perhaps fragments of his “life review” persist forever with others through some kind of quantum entanglement with others in his family group, as a “ghost”.

An earlier part of the video explains the natural states of normal sleep by comparison, including REM sleep.

I joined “Patreon”, a video community, for $2 a month, which allows the viewer to see bonus videos and to submit videos in a certain thematic format appropriate for the YouTube channel, which says it has had trouble because some of its material is not “advertiser friendly”. I watched “What Happens If You Can’t Die” as a bonus.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

"4 Rights We Will Lose in Future" from Strange Mysteries

4 Rights WE  Will Lose in Future” from Strange Mysteries (a series) starts out by preaching that we should be grateful for living in a modern, free country, a privilege proportionally few people have had throughout history.

But we have willingly surrendered our privacy already (not just to Facebook), to the extent that the idea of “consenting adults in private” would no longer work as a legal argument (Ii depended on this so much on my first DADT book in 1997 on gays in the military).  We’ve given up on equality already, especially in genetics, which insurance companies are likely to want to read as “pre-existing conditions”.  We give up our rights to receive and even post information as Trump dismantles network neutrality – this film seems to think that the big telecom companies will block publishers who don’t pay them off. (We'll lose "The Right to YouTube" as a corollary.) And we’ll give up the right to drive to Uber’s driverless cars, to avoid human error.  Will there be “positive car control” like “positive train control”

There is a collateral film that enumerates four rights we will gain, for another time.  But are these all part of "Our Fundamental Rights" (my 1998 booklet)?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

"How Would You Envision a Space Colony?"

How Would You Envision a Space Colony?”, short film from National Geographic with Rick Tumlinson,  It’s in the “FreeThink” series called “A New Space Age”.

It’s inspired by Gerard K. O’Neil’s  book“The High Frontier”.
Tumlinson compares today's kids to those living in the 1500s about the time that the explorers went across the Atlantic looking for the New World.

Tunlinson has kids and young adults designing a Rama-like space colony, even with artificial gravity, that he thinks people could be living on in twenty years. He says people will go to live on these colonies, the Moon, or Mars, or maybe further (like near Europa or Titan?)

One girl used Minecraft do design a 3-D hologram of her conceived habitat. 

Monday, May 08, 2017

"The Prison in Twelve Landscapes": documentary on communities surrounding incarceration turns attention to Black Lives Matter

Monday, May 8, 2017, PBS Independent Lens showed a reduced version of Brett Story’s “The Prison in Twelve Landscapes”.  The PBS site is here.   The production company is Of Ratface.  The official site is here  and the film was produced with Canadian resources, and aired in a few festivals like Doxa.

This was billed as a film about the effect of incarceration on surrounding communities, but it turns out to be bigger.  It is a stunning indictment of the hidden racism festering during Obama’s presidency, glossed over by political correctness.

The opening section shows a man, himself a former inmate, in the Bronx packing food and sundries for prisoners in upstate New York, explaining the arbitrary rules for what prisoners are allowed.

The next section shows firefighters in Marin County, CA fighting a wildfire.  Some firefighters are volunteers from a local inmate program but relatively few will become firefighters on release.

The next section showed how prison had replaced coal mining for an eastern Kentucky community, as a source of jobs. One man considered mountaintop removal as a boon, as a flat land is at a premium in Appalachia; an airfield and prison had been built on an area that had been leveled by 200 feet. There was an interesting rail viaduct that I don’t recall seeing even though I have driven in the area.

The next location was Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village in New York City, about six blocks from where I used to live in the 1970s (in the Cast Iron Building).  An elderly black man was teaching a girl chess.  Many spend games were shown. The man explained how chess is an important past time in prison and some inmates get very good at the game.  I don’t recall that United States Chess Federation has discussed this publicly, even though I have been a life member since 1965 (USCF used to be in the antique district across the street from the Cast Iron Building).  The Marshall Chess Club is nearby in Chelsea.

The film then moved to the locations of the protests.  It covered started out with a St. Louis County judge explaining that the media is not allowed to film at trials, showing a lack of transparency. Then the film dissects how the many little jurisdictions use harassment of African Americans to intimidate them into paying fines.  One woman went to "garbage jail" protesting a fine for leaving a trash can open.  (I’ve never heard of such a thing.)  Another black girl was arrested for no ID when she wasn’t even driving the car. The film shows the location on Canfield Ave in Ferguson where Michael Brown was shot by Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014.  Despite the prevalence of the Democratic party in the county, the government is said to be quite racist.  This section of the film presented an outrage with which I was not familiar.

The film then shifts to Baltimore, showing the demonstrations after Freddie Gray in Sandtown, with the CVS store that as torched but is now re-opened.  (A former gay bar, the Hippo, became another CVS store in Baltimore on Charles St. in the Mt. Vernon area.)  Familiar faces (from the gay community) appeared in the film, since I have been to many events in the area, being in te DC area myself.

Then the film shifts to 34th and 7th Ave in New York to deal with shoplifting.

Finally, the shortened film showed a prison (I think in upstate New York) with a Bach French Suite playing on a harpsichord, an ironic effect.

What a film!  It makes a good pairing with "Whose Streets?" soon coming from Magnolia Pictures.

Wikipedia attribution link for Loaves of Bread picture of Ferguson MO protests, Aug. 14, 2014.

Monday, May 01, 2017

"National Bird": three whistleblowers deal with the aftermath of a US drone strike in Afghanistan that killed civilians

President Barack Obama’s military strategy relied heavily on the use of overseas drones, operates from secret but comfortable military silos within the United States.  It would be reasonable to expect this to continue under Donald Trump (and Mattis), even if Trump doesn’t trust computers.

The documentary “National Bird”, directed by Sonia Kennebeck, from FilmRise (for theaters) was shown on PBS Independent Lens Monday, May 1, 2017.  The film was slightly compressed from the original 92 minutes, and I see that it showed at the AMC Hoffman in late 2016 in the DC area.

The film tells the stories of three US Air Force drone operators who wound up becoming whistleblowers. Most of the overseas activity in the film involves a drone strike in Afghanistan that resulted in many civilian deaths and maimings in February 2010.  The film shows graphic shots of men with stubs for legs after above-the-knee amputations.  A New York Times account of the incident is here.

The most chilling and upsetting narrative (among the three: Lisa, Heather, and Daniel), is that of Daniel, who had worked at the NSA,  who returned home to get a sudden knock on the door and an FBI raid, taking out all the contents of his apartment.  He waits the possibility of indictment for espionage charges that could lead to decades in prison.  His NYC apartment looks goofy, with a banner that attacks capitalism, and his own appearance is a curious mixture of slender wholesomeness and body art.  His cat dearly loves him and is beyond comprehending what could be wrong in her “pride” of humans.   Daniel says he naturally had come under suspicion because he was politically active in public.  His attorney apparently is Jesselyn Radack, who has also represented Edward Snowden.

The filmmaker was somewhat constrained by the National Espionage Act of 2017 in what it could show.

The official site for PBS is here.

The Wikipedia article for the Afghanistan War Documents Leak is here.

Wikipedia attribution link for family park in Kabul, p.d.