Archive for the ‘Space’ Category

Video on the History of and Evidence for the Aurora Steal Plane

January 24, 2023

Here’s a very short video on the American SR-92 Aurora stealth plane from the Future Machine Tech channel on YouTube. This suggests that Aurora was developed as a black project by the American air force in the 1980s as a replacement for the SR-91 Blackbird spy plane. During the ’90s there were sightings of mysterious UFOs dubbed ‘black triangles’ because of their shape and colour. The Aurora fits this description exactly, and many of the sightings of such UAPs may be of this mysterious, but definitely not extraterrestrial, aircraft. The video mentions a tracking image of it flying across the Pacific on its way to America, probably to touch down at the very top secret research base at Groom Lake, Area 51. The aircraft leaves a very distinctive contrail, which has ben described as ‘doughnuts on a rope’ and may have been tracked flying over Belgium according to an article back in the 90s in the defunct UFO Magazine. I’m putting this video up because I and some of the great commenters on this blog have an interest in UFOs, although we differ in our views of the phenomenon. Some UFO sightings are almost certainly of top secret military aircraft. Others are hoaxes, some of which may be perpetrated by the intelligence agencies for their own purposes, one of which may be the deliberate destabilisation and discrediting of UFO research groups and investigators. Some, as suggested by French-American astronomer and computer scientist Jacques Vallee and the late journalist of the paranormal, John Keel, may be paranormal in origin, beings from other dimensions. Others may be real alien spacecraft. People over here have also had sightings of the Black Triangles, and so it’s quite possible that they’ve quite a glimpse of this classified plane.

Modified Version of Einstein’s Relativity Would Allow Faster Than Light Travel

January 3, 2023

I came across a really interesting piece of science news yesterday. Scientists at the universities of Warsaw and Singapore have proposed a modification of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, which would permit objects to travel faster than the speed of light. They propose that this would be possible in a universe that was pretty much the opposite of ours with the number of space and time dimensions. Our universe has three dimensions of space and one of time, although it has been suggested that we may also have extra dimensions of space as well, but which are currently rolled up smaller than atoms. The universe the scientists modelled had only one dimension of space and three of time. Objects in this universe could travel faster than the speed of light, but these objects would still experience the speed of light as an unbreakable barrier from their point of view. The reports say that it’s unknown at the moment how this theory could be tested and observed, but they’re working on it.

This is very interesting, but I don’t know what help it is for the scientists and engineers who are seriously interested in FTL travel and warp drives, because as far as I and everybody else is aware at the moment, we don’t live in such a universe. This would only become relevant to us if somehow it was proved that we did, or a way could be found of entering and exiting such a universe similar to the hyperspace theory of FTL travel. Hyperspace is a dimension in which spacecraft can exceed the speed of light. The idea is that a spaceship enters hyperspace at the beginning of its journey to the stars, and comes out of it at the end. Unfortunately, no-one knows how to enter such a dimension. Furthermore, work a few years ago said that in hyperspace, although it would allow FTL travel from the point of view of our universe, for reasons that unfortunately I’ve forgotten the speed of light would remain as a barrier there, so in effect it would still forbid exceeding the speed of light. This new theory suggests that there are universes in which the speed of light would not be a barrier, but there’s still the problem of getting to them and utilising them.

As for extra dimensions of time, I did wonder what our world would be like if there were extra, hidden time dimensions. Would this explain the folktales in which a person travels to fairyland only to find years or centuries have passed since they left when they return?

1970s Dr Who Goes Disco

December 31, 2022

This comes from J.B. Anderton’s channel on YouTube. Yesterday I posted another of his videos in which he presented a disco version of the theme and titles for Star Trek: The Next Generation. He does the same to Tom Baker era Dr Who in this little video. He uses the titles for episode 2 of the story, ‘The Horns of Nimon’, but the video itself consists of clips from nearly right across the Baker era. ‘The Horns of Nimon’ is a suitably seasonal story. It’s a Science Fictional retelling of the ancient Greek myth of the minotaur and is about the Doctor and Romana investigating why a planet’s children are being sent into a labyrinth, where they are preyed upon by aliens with the heads of bulls. It was intended to be a Christmas pantomime before that season ended with the serious story, ‘Shada’. ‘Shada’, scripted by Douglas Adams of Hitchhiker fame, never got made thanks to a strike. The series ended with ‘The Horns of Nimon’, which was widely regarded as the worst Dr Who episode until overtaken by such classics as ‘The Twin Dilemma’, the opening story of Colin Baker’s Dr Who, and which I regard as one of the contributing factors to his Doctor’s unpopularity – unfair in my opinion – and his eventual sacking. I’ve got ‘The Horns of Nimon’ on DVD, and watching it again, I don’t think it’s at all bad. It’s not great, but it’s not terrible, as everyone thought. Perhaps we were just spoiled for great Dr Who stories in those days, and it only seemed bad in comparison. ‘Shada’ has been extensively written about and I think there are DVDs reconstructing the story with the available footage, some of which was used in ‘The Five Doctors’ to explain why Baker’s Doctor wasn’t in it. I think the script may also have been published and possibly Big Finish, which specialises in new Who stories featuring classic Doctors, may have performed it on CD. Anyway, here’s the video for you to enjoy. I suppose I should also run a quiz for Whovians asking them to identify the individual episodes and stories from which the clips are taken.

A Happy Star Trek Christmas

December 31, 2022

Okay, it’s New Year’s Eve and the Christmas season is nearly at an end. I thought I’d post this jolly Christmas video up before it’s all over and those who still have jobs go back to work. It was posted by ‘Why, Mr Spock’ on his YouTube channel, and shows various festival scenes from the original Star Trek series while Paul McCartney sings ‘Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time’. I suppose I could also run a quiz for Trekkers asking them to identity the individual episodes from which these clips are taken. Enjoy!

A Disco Version of Star Trek: TNG’s Opening Credits

December 30, 2022

This is for all the fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation, who enjoy a good laugh as well. It was posted on YouTube by JB Anderton, and it’s very well done. It reminds me of the style of the theme music for the 80s TV version of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century – orchestral, but with disco elements. Although here it’s more disco with orchestral elements. But despite it being very good, there’s still part of me that can hear Arnold Rimmer say, ‘What? You mean you don’t like ‘Wagner Goes Funk’?’

A 19th Century Proto-Feminist SF Novel

December 30, 2022

Brian Aldiss argues in his history of Science Fiction, The Trillion Year Spree, that Mary Shelley is the founder of modern SF, because she based Frankenstein on real science as it was then known in the early 19th century. Nevertheless, there were other women writing works of Science Fiction both before and after Shelley. One 18th century story has four men visiting the Moon, which is a female society ruled by a queen. The queen of the Moon gets fed up with the four and sends them back to Earth, because she’s repulsed by their drinking, swearing and smell. Later in the 19th century there was the feminist utopia of Gilman’s Herland, which imagined a women-only society in the Amazon which enjoyed high technology such as electric cars. One of the early SF stories mentioned in Mike Ashley’s Yesterday’s Tomorrows is The Mummy, published anonymously in 1827 but written by Jane Webb, who was then 19. The book intrigued the horticulturalist John Loudon that he sought out its author, marrying her three years later in 1830.

The book is set in 2126, and forecasts such inventions as weather control, steam-driven robot lawyers and surgeons, and a postal service that sends letters via steam cannon. Many of these new inventions are by the queen, who, along with the ladies at her court, wears trousers. This sounds like the kind of roughly Victorian era SF that would provide much inspiration and material for a steam punk novel. Over in America a steam man featured in one of the magazine stories published slightly later, The Steam Man of the Prairie, while Harry Harrison includes a steam driven robot in one of his Stainless Steel Rat tales. I like the idea of steam-driven robot. It appeals to me as both an artistic and technological project, but as the world cuts down on fossil fuels to combat climate change, I very much doubt if one will ever be built.

Many of the SF stories discussed in Ashley’s book seem fun and thought-provoking, even if they are dated to a greater or lesser extent. It would be great to know if some of them are archived on the internet somewhere so they can still be read and enjoyed without scouring the country for original, published editions sold at exorbitant prices.

India Planning Crewed Space Mission for 2024

December 29, 2022

I found this fascinating snippet on the community page of the Interesting Engineering channel on YouTube. Apparently India is planning to launch is first crewed space mission, Gaganyaan, in 2024.

The piece states

‘India’s Minister for Science and Technology told the Parliament last week that India’s first human space flight mission has been scheduled for the last quarter of 2024. Dubbed Gaganyaan, the project aims to demonstrate human spaceflight capacity by launching a three-member crew to an orbit of nearly 250 miles for three days. India’s space program is still in its early stages but has been making global headlines in recent years after ISRO’s launch vehicle launched a record-breaking 104 satellites in one go a few years ago. More recently, a private space tech company test-fired the world’s first 3D-printed rocket engine, which has a turnaround of just four days.’

See: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEuiOszNd6msGgqsD0f9YAQ/community?lb=Ugkx50qKuCa8oewPJKBstHZR5bOOfNhDlI5i

This is obvious great news for India and human spaceflight, and shows just how far India has progressed as a modern, industrial and technological power.

Mel Blanc Sketch and Loony Tunes Characters’ Songs

December 28, 2022

Good morning. I hope you’re having a great Christmas, or at least as good a Christmas as we can expect from a government determined to push more people into poverty for big corporate profits. Yesterday I did a sketch of Mel Blanc, the man who did the voices for Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Yosemite Sam, Woody Woodpecker and the other crazy characters of the Warner Brothers cartoons. I always preferred them to Disney. They were funnier, but they were less sentimental and had more of an edge to them. Blanc also provided the voice for Twiki, Buck Rogers’ little robot friend in the 1980s series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, but considering the low critical regard for that series, perhaps it’s best not mentioned. Blanc also released a record of him singing songs as the Warner Brothers’ characters talking about themselves. These are on the Mel Blanc – Topic channel on YouTube. Here are a few that appealed to me: ‘I’m Glad That I’m Bugs Bunny’, ‘Daffy Duck’s Rhapsody’, ‘Yosemite Sam’ and ‘I Taut I Taw A Puddy Tat’. According to the 80s children’s TV show about the Warner Brothers’ Cartoons, Film Fun, presented by Derek Griffiths, Blanc based Daffy Duck’s voice on that of one of the producers, Leon Schlesinger. He was down with the others trying out different voices for the Duck, all of which were turned down as not being quite right. He got fed up of this and so did Schlesinger’s voice. At that point Schlesinger walked in, said, ‘That’s it. That’s the one we want’, and then asked whose it was. I think Blanc must have replied that it was one he just made up. Anyway, the voice stuck, so when you are listening to Daffy Duck, you hearing the voice, or the parody of the voice, of one of Warner Brothers’ producers. Enjoy!

Blanc in the photos sports a pencil moustache, which makes him look a bit like Clarke Gable, though I’m not sure it comes out in the sketch. And the strange object he’s holding is meant to be carrot, I think, just in case anybody’s wondering.

Here are the songs.

‘I’m Glad That I’m Bugs Bunny’

‘Daffy Duck’s Rhapsody’

‘Yosemite Sam’

‘I Taut I Taw A Puddy Tat’

In one of their Christmas shows in the 1970s, Morecambe and Wise did a sketch, ‘Real Life’ cartoons, of them as the Warner Brothers characters. When it came to Tweetie and Sylvester, Tweetie was Ernie while Eric played the cat. I was only a young child at the time, but it was so hilarious I fell out of the chair laughing. Which shows not only how funny the Warner Brothers’ characters were, but also how Eric and Ernie were giants of British comedy. It says something about their immense talent that their shows are still being repeated. There was even one of their Christmas shows screened the other day, complete with its guest appearances from Flora Robson and the nice Mr. Preview.

Blanc died many years ago. Apparently his tombstone at the Hollywood cemetery has on it a Star of David – evidently he was Jewish – and the slogan at the end of the cartoons: ‘That’s all folks’. A great talent, whose voices and characters continue to bring joy and laughter even after all these years.

Did Irish Scientist J.D. Bernal Invent Star Trek’s Borg Back in the ’30s

December 27, 2022

Here’s another question about writers inventing or predicting later scientific concepts. In my last such post, I wondered whether Poul Anderson had predicted James Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis back in 1952 in a story about alien plants growing on an asteroid, which had become symbiotically linked so they acted as a superorganism. This time the writer. who predicted later SF trends, is J.D. Bernal, a scientist from Ireland, who was also a Communist. In the 1930s Bernal wrote a pamphlet, The World, The Flesh and The Devil, discussing future trends in technology, the colonisation of space and human evolution. Although it’s something like 90 years, it’s still immensely influential and many of its predictions are scientifically plausible. It’s one of only two scientific works included in Mike Ashley history of British SF in 100 stories. This notes that, among other inventions, it suggested that people would live on the inside of spherical space colonies containing up to 10,000 people. These have been named Bernal spheres after Bernal. He also proposed space elevators carrying spacecraft to orbit, which have since become associated with Arthur C. Clarke through his book The Fountains of Paradise. Clarke said on reading Bernal’s book that he was amazed how many of the ideas he thought were his were actually Bernal’s, though the idea of space elevators was actually first invented by a Russian.

Bernal also suggested that humanity would merge with machines, and so predicted cyborgs, although he doesn’t use that term for them. This was invented by NASA scientists in the ’60s. He also suggests that robots could be networked together and linked to a human operator to form a kind of hive mind, although he doesn’t call it that either. Hm. Cyborgs linked together so that they form a collective intelligence? That sounds very much like the Borg, one of the villains from Star Trek. These are a race of cyborgs, who have done exactly that, crushing all individuality in the process. They consider themselves superior to all other races, whom they forcibly assimilate, uttering the chilling words: ‘We are Borg. Resistance is futile. Your biological and technological distinctiveness is at end. You will service us.’ It struck me that the Borg is partly a metaphor for Communism, its extreme levelling and the reduction of the individual under its mass society to drones, apart from the more obvious fear of an alien threat coming to destroy and enslave us. I don’t know whether the writers of Star Trek ever read Bernal’s book. I doubt it, and it seems to me that they created them independently. But Bernal does seem to have got there first with the concept of a group of robots or cyborgs with a single, collective mind.

The Borg, Star Trek’s cyborg villains. From Michael Westmore and Joe Nazzaro, Starlog Presents The Official Magazine Star Trek The Next Generation Makeup FX Journal (New York: Starlog 1992).

Have A Happy Cthulhu Christmas

December 27, 2022

This is for all the fans of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. I found this piece of funny art on the net sometime ago and, as a fan of Lovecraft myself, really enjoyed it. I hope you do too, and may ‘orrible, squamous things from beyond not trouble your sleep tonight.