Archive for the ‘Space’ Category

Trailer for Remake of TV Series ‘Fresh Prince of Bel Air’

January 15, 2022

I found this trailer for a remake of the 90s comedy series, ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ on Will Smith’s channel on YouTube. Smith’s a great actor, who’s been in some great movies – Independence Day; I, Robot; and I Am Legend to name just three. But I think it was The Fresh Prince of Bel Air that launched his career. I never really watched it, but I caught the odd bits and pieces of various episodes while waiting for Star Trek to come on. Star Trek: The Next Generation and then Star Trek: Deep Space 9 used to be broadcast on BBC 2 on Wednesday, with the Fresh Prince just before it. From what I remember, the basis plot of Fresh Prince was that Will Smith was a bit of a tearaway from the ghetto, who kept getting into trouble. This wasn’t anything serious, just cheeky pranks. His family therefore sent him to live with his rich relatives in their mansion in Bel Air to straighten him out. The tone was generally light, and Smith had a naturally cheeky charm.

This, however, seems to be rather darker. It’s got cinematic production values, but the basic plot seems to be that the central character was in a fracas on the basketball court with a violent criminal, who has vowed to kill him. Hence he’s sent to live with his rich relatives to get him out of danger. There’s obviously a culture clash between his rough upbringing and the highly rarefied world of the superrich he now moves in. I think there’s also a comment on racial politics, as the characters amazed when I rich White lad gives him a Black ghetto greeting. The remake’s clearly had a very large budget and wants to explore some deep issues, and the lad cast for the Will Smith role certainly looks the part. I just don’t know if it should be darker and whether the concern with contemporary political issues will overshadow the comedy.

A few years ago there was an attempt to the 1980s werewolf comedy, Teen Wolf, into a TV series. This was originally a film starring Michael J. Fox as a teenager, who was afflicted with lycanthropy, It ran in his family. There’s a scene in which his father informs him while shaving that there an inherited problem condition in the family while Fox is shaving in the bathroom. When he opens the door, his father is there in full werewolf form. But the werewolf metamorphosis proved to be a benefit, as it helps him to lead his school basketball team to victory. It was a light, funny film. But when they planned to revive it, they decided they were going to make it darker. I don’t think it ever got made. I think there is a real problem when TV companies take old movies and TV series and try to make them darker for a modern audience. With all the economic pressure and the Covid lockdown make life tough for people, I think there’s a demand instead for more positive, cheerful stuff as well as grim dramas about serial killers.

And I hope that this remake preserves all the real comedy that made the original such a long-lasting hit.

UFO Music from the East Runton Surf Dudes

January 15, 2022

Here’s a bit of fun to amuse you before I start posting about the serious stuff. The East Runton Surf Dudes are a Norfolk band, specialising in Surfer music, as their name states. They’ve also produced covers of some of the theme tunes of some of the cult TV series of the 60s and 70s, like Dangerman, starring Patrick McGoohan. This little instrumental piece is called ‘Out of Limits’, and from the title and UFO images on the video it looks like a tribute to the classic TV SF anthology show, The Outer Limits. The opening bars, however, with the repetition of two notes actually sound more like the music to the other anthology show, The Twilight Zone.

Independent: Venus Could Have Completely Alien Lifeforms in Cloud Layer

December 21, 2021

The Independent has published a piece by Adam Smith reporting that scientists at Cardiff University, MIT and Cambridge University have modelled a series of chemical reactions based on a ammonia, which would neutralise sulfuric acid droplets. Venus has a lethal atmosphere of mostly carbon dioxide, where it rains sulfuric acid, and an atmospheric pressure and temperature much higher than Earth. Probes sent to the planet have lasted only a few minutes after landing because of the immensely harsh conditions. However, as the article states, ammonia has also been detected in its atmosphere, that might indicate that it has life. The article states that this would be ‘unlike anything we’ve seen’, which sounds like there could be large creatures moving around in the planet’s cloud layer. Unfortunately, as the article goes on to say, if life exists it’s going to be microbes, but microbes of a very different biochemistry. The article begins:

‘Researchers believe that there could be potential lifeforms producing ammonia in the clouds of Venus that are “very unlike anything we’ve seen”.

The colourless gas, a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen, could be indicative of chemical reactions that would make the planet – 47.34 million kilometres from Earth – more habitable to alien life.

On our planet, ammonia is a common left-over waste from aquatic organisms. Its presence in Venus’ upper atmosphere has been puzzling astronomers since the 1970s – with scientists believing that it should not be produced by any known force on the world.

Venus itself is so hot that it is inconceivable to have life forms, and if there is life in the clouds it is likely to be microbes like Earth bacteria – albeit with a chemical composition unlike that we have seen on our planet, or even neighbouring planets like Mars.

This is because life on Mars is more likely to be similar to that on Earth and so scientists have a greater idea of what to expect. Venus, in contrast, is unlike any other planet in the solar system.

In a new study, researchers from Cardiff University, MIT and Cambridge University modelled a set of chemical processes to show that – if ammonia is indeed present – it would set off a cascade of chemical reactions that would neutralize surrounding droplets of sulfuric acid.’

See: https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/techandscience/alien-lifeforms-unlike-anything-we-ve-seen-could-be-hiding-in-the-clouds-of-venus-scientists-suggest/ar-AAS04dh?ocid=msedgdhp&pc=U531

This is interesting, and Venus certainly has the organic chemistry necessary for life, and I think the temperature and pressure in the cloud layer is roughly suitable. But I’m pessimistic about there being life on Venus. We haven’t found it elsewhere in the solar system yet, although it could be preserved in refugia deep in the rocks and artesian wells on Mars or in the subterranean oceans believed to be under Jupiter’s moon Europa. But I’m not confident of its existence there, either. We were disappointed when the Mariner probe got to Mars in the 1960s, and found that instead of being roughly like Earth, it was more like the Moon. Before then, astronomers had observed seasonal changes of colour on the planet, and suggested it was due to changes in vegetation, possibly mosses and lichens. And then, of course, there was speculation about Martian canals in the 19th and early 20th centuries. There may yet be life in the solar system. I hope so, but I’m not confident. And the only way to find out is to go there. Until then, we’ll have to wait and see, whatever planet it’s on it.

Denis Villeneuve to Film ‘Rendezvous with Rama’

December 17, 2021

Exciting film news for fans of Arthur C. Clarke. Denis Villeneuve, the director of the latest Dune movie, as well as the flicks Arrival and Blade Runner 2049, is apparently set to film a version of Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama. This is about a group of astronauts exploring a mysterious alien space habitat that has entered the solar system. Morgan Freeman is set to produce it along with Robert Johnson and Ender Kossoff. Villeneuve is filming it for Alcon Entertainment, the company he worked with on his films The Prisoner and the Blade Runner sequel. In addition to this project, Villeneuve is also set to direct the second part of his Dune movie, as well as episodes of a TV series about the Bene Gesserit sisterhood, which he is also set to produce. Johnson and Kossoff said that Rendezvous with Rama was a very intelligent work, which raises many questions and is perfect for our time and was fitted to Villeneuve’s sensibilities and his passion for science fiction. There have been off and on plans to film Rama since Freeman acquired the rights in the early 2000s, and at one time David Fincher was set to direct before he moved on to other projects. Despite the pandemic, Dune is doing very well globally and is approaching taking $400 million around the world. And this week, Villeneuve himself won three awards, including Best Film Drama and Best Director.

Here’s the report from Savage Entertainment.

There are a number of short films of Rendezvous with Rama on YouTube, which give a taste of what the book and the space artefact it describes are like. Here’s one from the Vancouver Film School.

It’ll be interesting to see how Hollywood handles Rendezvous with Rama, as it is very much a movie of exploration rather than action or combat. The human explorers don’t meet the aliens who built the habitat, although they do encounter the robots and other machines left behind to maintain it. The book’s a favourite among Arthur C. Clarke fans, and I think it’s because of the detailed, scientifically credible description of what such an alien space habitat would be like.

Daniel Estrem Plays ‘Journey of the Sorcerer’ on the Lute

December 13, 2021

I found this fascinating performance of Bernie Leadon’s epic piece on danbluedeer’s channel on YouTube. The ‘Journey of the Sorcerer’ is possibly best known as the signature tune to Douglas Adams’ classic The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. One of the things I most enjoyed about the original radio series and then the double-album LP was the sound world created through the music, including the titles. This really did seem to take you away from Earth and out across vast gulfs of space and time across the Galaxy. The piece was originally composed for banjo, I think, before being arranged and performed in time by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Estrem’s performance on the baroque lute, while different, also has the quality of evoking remote, exotic realms elsewhere in the universe. At least to my ears.

Fabio Pacucci on the Science of Space Elevators

December 11, 2021

This short video comes from the TedEd channel on YouTube, presumably connected to the TED talks in which leading intellectuals and academics explain their ideas. In this case, its about space elevators. These are long cables that would carry materials and passengers up to Earth orbit. The idea was first proposed by Russian space pioneer, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, in 1895, after the deaf school teacher saw the tallest building in the world at the time. If one could be built, it would massively reduce the costs of transporting people and material to orbit. These would be taken aloft in special capsules called ‘Climbers’, which would have to be shielded against radiation to protect human passengers. At the moment, it costs SpaceX $7,600 per kilo. It’s estimated that space elevators, their immense power needs supplied either by solar energy or nuclear power, could reduce this by 95 per cent. The problem is that that at the moment there is no material strong enough to support such a building. It has been suggested that carbon monofilaments and nanotubes could provide the solution, but only tiny amounts of these have been manufactured at the moment. There is also the problem that the gravitational stresses and hence the thickness of the cable would vary with height. One solution to this problem would be to extend the cable to counterweight, either a satellite or captured asteroid in geostationary orbit 36,000 km above the Earth. The problem of keeping the tether rigid would be solved by using centrifugal force from the Earth’s spin. The station back on Terra would be best situated at the equator, and possibly a ship at sea. This would allow it mobility to avoid storms and terrible weather. It is immensely difficult to build such an elevator on Earth, but they could be built on the Moon and Mars using current technology and materials. But they’d be far more of an advantage built here on Earth. Another problem is that if the cable was cut, the effects as it fell to Earth would be catastrophic. Despite the difficulties of construction, there are companies in China and Japan planning to build them by 2050.

The idea of the space elevator has been around for some time. Arthur C. Clarke thought for a while that he had invented the idea in his book about the building of such a tower in his adopted home of Sri Lanka in his 1970s novel, The Fountains of Paradise. This lasted until he looked the idea up in the scientific literature, and found it went all the back to the Russians. It would truly be a giant leap in space exploitation and colonisation if we could build a space elevator, but I think building one by 2050 is extremely optimistic. Way back in the 1990s or the early part of this century I remember an American firm announcing they were going to develop the idea. Unfortunately one of the problems at the time is that, according to the techniques being proposed, the station back on Earth would have to be anchored by an entire mountain range. So, not really possible and that was the end anyone heard of the idea.

It’s great that research into space elevators is continuing, but I think it will be a long time before they become reality, whether built by Americans, Chinese, Japanese or whoever.

Trek Culture on the Discovery of Nano-Scale Warp Bubbles

December 10, 2021

Some fascinating and optimistic news for peeps looking for real warp drives a la Star Trek. Trek Culture is a Star Trek fan site, but in this video host Sean Ferrick talks about a possible scientific breakthrough for the development of a real warp drive. Dr. Harold G. ‘Sonny’ White, a scientist at the Limitless Space Institute, observed the formation of a real warp bubble while researching Casimir cavitation. The warp bubble was on the nanoscale, so very, very small indeed. Nevertheless, his paper has been passed by peer review, and Dr. White hopes to follow this up with an experiment with a microscopically small sphere of a few micromillimeters which produce a similarly small cylindrical warp bubble around it.

Real scientific interest in warp drives began with the 1994 paper by the Mexican physicist Dr Marcel Alcubierre, but this was also widely discounted because it would have needed an extreme amount of energy plus a very exotic form of matter. If I remember correctly, the exotic matter involved may be one in which the force of gravity repulses rather than attracts. Since then scientists have been working to refine his theories. One recent physicist has suggested that it may be possible to create a warp field using a mass ten times the size of Jupiter, which is many times smaller than the masses needed to create such a bubble in Alcubierre’s original calculations. It’s still far beyond any practical application or construction, at least with present technology, but there are hopes that further work will cut the masses needed down still further until warp drives hopefully become possible. I think the Casimir force is a force that squeezes the vacuum energy – the virtual particles zipping into and out of existence at the level of the cosmic foam – out of any empty space at the nano level when two plates are set up sufficiently near each other. Years ago in the 1990s one of the British science programmes reported that it would be possible to use the effect to create a metre-sized wormhole. The drawback was that the plates used would have to be the size of Jupiter. It looks like White was researching similar effects when he discovered the formation of a real warp bubble.

While this is very optimistic, Ferrick stresses that it will be a very long time before we see the creation of a real warp drive. This is so far off that it’s Science Fiction. This is correct. There are problems scaling this such effects up from the nano to the macro scale. Wormholes are believe to form and disappear constantly at the level of the cosmic foam at the smallest level of reality. One method of FTL travel that has been proposed is to create such a wormhole and then enlarge it. However, wormholes are unstable, and so its mouth would have to be kept open with the gravity-repulsing exotic matter. I don’t think anyone know how to make it, nor do I think scientists know how you could realistically enlarge such as wormhole so that it becomes a practical method of interstellar travel. Nevertheless, Ferrick states that a line has been crossed, albeit a microscopically small one, towards making warp drives like those in Star Trek a reality.

This is fascinating news, and even if the creation of a real warp drive is decades off, I hope this will lead to their creation. As Captain Picard used to say in Star Trek: The Next Generation, ‘Number One, make it so!’

And just to remind everyone what has helped to inspire many people’s dreams of space exploration, here’s the titles of the original series:

Mind you, I think if they ever create a real warp drive and test it in space, it’ll be hit by a solar flare, opening up a wormhole that will cast the spaceship and its astronaut into a far distant corner of the universe. He’ll be taken on board a living spaceship, full of escaped prisoners, and pursued by an insane military general, while just trying to find a way home.

Sorry. Wrong series – that’s Farscape.

Star Trek has helped to inspire millions not just with its vision of humanity expanding out among the stars to explore strange new worlds, and find new life forms and new civilisations, but also through its idealistic view of future society. It’s a world where racism and sexism have been banished, there is no starvation or want, and people work to better themselves, not because they need to. The late, great comedian Bill Hicks also looked forward to a similar human future. He used to end his gigs with ‘the Vision’, in which he pointed out that the if the world spent what it does on guns and armaments on peaceful activities, we could solve world hunger. Not one person would starve. And we could colonise space, in peace, forever.

Amen to that. RIP Gene Roddenberry and Bill Hicks – great visionaries and entertainers.

Spinlaunch Plans on Throwing Satellites into Orbit

December 6, 2021

This video from the YouTube channel Interesting Engineering describes the plans for a very remarkable satellite launch system developed by Spinlaunch, a company I really don’t know anything about. It seems from this video that they’ve built a 157 metre vertically inclined centrifuge as a precursor for one they hope to build, which will be three times larger and used as a satellite launch system. Instead of sending satellites conventionally into space with rockets, the Spinlaunch system will throw them into space instead. The full size system will also use rockets, although they will only fire at an altitude of 61 km above the Earth to place 200 kilo satellites in orbit. The video looks forward to the new system being more sustainable and ecologically friendly than conventional launch systems.

It’s an interesting concept, and the idea of throwing vessels into space I think goes right back to Robert Goddard, the founder of American rocketry. From childhood Goddard wanted to send people to Mars, hence his determination to develop the technology to get people into space. Before settling on rockets, Goddard apparently thought about devices to throw ships into space. And there are indeed a number of problems with using rockets as launch systems. Space and Futurism YouTuber Isaac Arthur, in his video about spaceports, points out that currently launch sites have to be sited well away from any cities because of the sheer noise and power of the rockets. It’s possible that the Spinlaunch system may be able to solve this problem if such centrifuges are quieter than rocket engines. Glancing down the internet entries for similar videos, it seems that not everyone is impressed with the company’s claims. Atheist science vlogger and anti-feminist Thunderfoot has put up a video which suggests that he’s busted their claims. Other space vloggers, like Scott Manley, seem much more impressed with them, and the blurb for the video states that it’s been successfully tested. I honestly don’t know if the idea will work in practice, but it’ll be interesting to see if it ever takes off (pun intended).

Mr H Reviews on Guillermo del Toro’s Plans to Make Lovecraft Miniseries for Netflix

December 3, 2021

If this goes ahead, it’s going to be great news for Horror fans and especially aficionados of the great American Horror writer, H.P. Lovecraft. In this video posted on YouTube, Mr H talks about an interview on one of the film sites with director Guillermo del Toro in which he states that he is currently rewriting a script he wrote for a film version of Lovecraft’s novella ‘At the Mountains of Madness’. Del Toro is a massive fan of Lovecraft, who is a huge influence on his movies. He has been hoping to make a film of Lovecraft’s classic story for ages. He wrote a script 15 years ago for a film version which would have starred Tom Cruise and been produced by James Cameron. However, it failed to get off the ground because of the massive costs involved. After the failure of the project, del Toro turned to making other movies like Pacific Rim, which shows a certain similarity in the confrontation of humanity with raging monsters. The script, however, is available to read on the net. Mr H here mentions that he’s also a great fan of Lovecraft, and has turned several of his stories into audiobooks, which can be heard on his channel on YouTube. These were not necessarily easy to make, because of the archaic style in vogue at the time.

‘At the Mountains of Madness’ is about a group of Antarctic explorers, who uncover alien creatures from a civilisation that arose millions of years before humanity. In the novella the humans follow the aliens as they head back to the remains of their civilisation, uncovering its history before finding that it has fallen, overthrown by the shoggoths, genetically engineered servants of the aliens. Del Toro states that the film version was his attempt to make a blockbuster. He now believes he can cut it down to make it smaller and weirder. There are only four set pieces he wishes to retain from the original script, and he intends to change the ending to make it darker. He’s therefore planning to turn it into a miniseries for Netflix. Mr. H is very optimistic about this, as it should mean that del Toro will have less studio interference and an access to a distributor as well as a studio. He believes that del Toro’s reworking of the script shows real commitment to getting the project off the ground. And he makes the point that Lovecraft’s cosmic horror doesn’t need big effects. Much of it can be portrayed with a character going mad with fear at something he sees off camera. On the downside, it has to be said that many of his commenters are not optimistic about the miniseries’ quality if it comes from Netflix. It also means that it will be on a streaming service, rather than the cinema, which may make it difficult for people to watch.

French Practical Joker Masquerades as UFO Alien to Troll TV Channel

December 2, 2021

Boris Johnson seems to go out of his way to antagonise our former EU partners. Priti Patel was disinvited to a meeting about the Channel migrants crisis after Bozo leaked his reply to them to the press before formally informing his French counterparts. He’s got form for this kind of assinine behaviour. It seems to me that it’s part of a deliberate strategy: do something to upset the French or the EU, claim to the press that it’s all their fault and this why is why Brexit is a good thing. And then, when Boris is actually defeated or outwitted by the EU or the French, start lying and spinning it as some kind of great victory. And stirring up patriotic outrage against supposed slights or aggression from foreigners is one of the oldest tricks in the political playbook. Regimes start a foreign affairs crisis to distract their people from domestic issues when the pressures there start getting too great. Franco used to do it with Gibraltar. But why would our great and universally admired leader be afraid of criticism over domestic issues? Well, it might have something to do with his inept handling of the Covid pandemic, the immense corruption and cronyism in the Tory party, the further privatisation of the NHS and cuts to benefits. Also, people are worried about their safety following the assassination of David Amess and the fortunately failed suicide bombing of Liverpool Women’s Hospital. Quite apart from the fact that Priti Patel is coming under fire from the right for not stopping the migrants from crossing the Channel, and from the left for her increasingly Fascistic attitude to such migrants. Brexit is damaging the economy, nobody’s running to be Britain’s trading partners, and the deals with America and New Zealand throw British farmers under the bus. So Bozo needs a distraction so that he can blame evil foreigners. Or he could just be monumentally inept. That’s also a strong possibility.

So here’s something rather more positive from across the Channel. Remi Gaillard appears to a French prankster of the same type as the late Jeremy Beadle of Beadle’s About, and the team from Game for a Laugh. In this video he dresses up as an Grey alien and poses, complete with a little UFO, to get a reaction from the French public. Some of them react in fear, some are perplexed, especially when he appears at a rural crossroads pulling a cow – presumably a reference to cattle mutilation. And some are well up to him. Despite his attempt to escape, the local fire brigade capture him and throw him in the back of his fire engine. He and his team explain at the end that they did to troll a TV channel, because they believe anything. So they faked UFO appearances in the sky using drones before setting up the alien appearances. He gleefully states that it worked. It’s funny, but obviously not if you’re one of the people being pranked, which is always the problem with this kind of practical joking. But it is also interesting to see how the mythology of Area 51 and Greys has penetrated French ufology as well as that of Britain and America. Mind you, Game for a Laugh did something similar back in the 1980s when they faked an alien landing on some poor woman’s front lawn.

This is all very childish and shouldn’t be encouraged, but it is funny, and that’s what we also need in these depressing times.

*****

I’ve also written the following books, which are available from Lulu.

The Global Campaign, Volume 1

Price: £12.00

Available at The Global Campaign Volume 1 (lulu.com)

The Global Campaign Volume 2

Price: £12.00

Available at Global Campaign Vol 2 (lulu.com)

For a Worker’s Chamber

Price: £4.50

Available at For A Worker’s Chamber (lulu.com)

Privatisation: Killing the NHS

Price: £5.25

Available at Privatisation: Killing the NHS (lulu.com)

Crimes of Empire

Price: £10.00

Available at Crimes of Empire (lulu.com)