CICLOPS: Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for OPerationS

Sector 6

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Enceladus Rev 121 Flyby Raw Preview
11-23-2009  02:39:45

Oh how unimaginably beautiful.

What a delight, to get to see such detail in the geyser plumes in 3 & 4. Imagine being on the surface in the predawn hours, looking in the sky where the jets first climb into the sunlight. Maybe they glitter or glow as ejected material sublimates at that point, forming instant clouds.

At Last ... 'Star Trek' Opens!
05-12-2009  15:18:02

I've been following this discussion about scientific accuracy re: Titan & Saturn in Star Trek, and had a few thoughts:

(1) Poetic license plays a role in all art, including cinema. In 2001: A Space Odyssey, there's a scene in Jovian orbit where the four Galilean moons of Jupiter align with the monolith; that alignment could not have occurred in 2001. Does knowing that have any impact on the visual power of the scene?

(2) It's a minor miracle that a Hollywood director sought out the advice of an actual scientist! That doesn't always happen, as any M.D. can tell you. There is no TV show or movie that hasn't had bogus medicine in at least one episode. This movie is no exception; any M.D. could point out an instance in ST where a known drug is given to a patient and produces an effect that just doesn't happen. One TV show even referred to dihydrogen oxide as a drug - that's an odd way of saying water. In every ST, there's an episode where a few wounded people are brought into the sick bay, laid on tables with open wounds, and nobody even removes the patients' torn uniforms or cleans their wounds. My wife is an M.D., and she will never sign up for the Starfleet HMO plan.

(3) It's a Major Miracle that we live in a time where a director can ask the question: "Among all the planets and moons of our solar system, where would be a good place to hide a starship?" Think back to 1966, when ST premiered on TV. Even if he had wanted to, no director could have even asked this question; nobody knew then what we know now about the other planets and their moons. In the last 40 years, we've sent probes to every major body, and examples of every type of minor body, in our solar system.

(4) If we didn't have scientific nits to pick, what would we do for entertainment? It might be fun to have a game to see who can come up with a better reason why Titan would be a good place to hide a starship, or a game of "Where would YOU hide a starship in our solar system"?

(5) Hopefully, the extended version on DVD will include an extra feature wherein the Saturn scene is discussed by one or more planetary scientists. Anyone want to start a campaign to make it so? Dr. Porco, has there been any talk about including a scientific talk about Saturn by you on the DVD? Is that a bug you could plant in someone's ear? After all, one of the previous ST movies had a long - and fascinating - lecture by a linguist about how the Klingon language is structured. And one of the Futurama boxed sets has a feature about breaking the codes of the alien languages that appear in the background shots.
05-11-2009  00:49:00

We just saw Star Trek.
Short review: we should've brought helmets along because it blew our minds!
Long review:
To use an analogy: imagine an old song you love and listen to all the time, and you hear that some new singer is going to re-record it. Usually, the new recording is a disappointment - but sometimes, it's a revelation. For example, I used to think that Bob Dylan was the only person who could sing "All Along The Watchtower" - until I heard Jimi Hendrix's version. As good as Dylan made it sound, well, somehow Hendrix just played it better.
It was the same old Star Trek we've known and loved for so long - but they played it better.
You recognize the characters, to be sure. But they're even more real than they were 35 years ago, like an old negative that's been enhanced digitally. Finally, Uhura has a lot more to say than 'Hailing frequencies are open'. Sulu's fencing skills aren't just a gimmicky hobby, he wields that sword like Obi-Wan on his best day. Scotty doesn't just pull the levers on the transporter, he helped improve the technology. Bones was crafty like a fox before he met Kirk (he's the one that comes up with the plan to sneak cadet Kirk onboard); it may be that he taught Kirk how to bend the rules, rather than the other way around.
You recognize the ship, but, like a lot in the film, everything old is new again: the Enterprise never looked better. You get to see how Kirk could fall in love with her at first sight, and you even get to see the moment he does.
You see the shoot-outs and fist-fights you expect in an adventure movie, but, like the original ST, they usually are the least exciting types of conflicts. The inner conflicts (logic vs. emotion, self-pity vs. boldness), and the intraship conflicts (Kirk Vs. Spock vs. Bones), are where the real action is.
You understand Spock's decision to enter the Academy, as one word - "disadvantage" - makes you see why he makes the choice he does. As soon as that word is spoken, it's the decision you want him to make.
You understand what drives Kirk more than you ever did. Born on a battlefield, drowning in a bottle, one word - "challenge" - helps him make his choice. The recurring motif of him holding onto the edge of a precipice, and climbing his way out of it, shows the essence of his struggle and his persistence of his character.
You see Spock and Kirk as twin sons of separate mothers. Both lose a parent in a terrorist's attack; both struggle to be someone they are not. Neither becomes the person they want or expect to be, but they are each forced to recognize and confront that which has kept them from becoming a better person.
And you are reminded that time is a bit fluid: the future is whatever we choose to make it, both individually and as a species. Destiny is a future to be made, not a pre-ordained fate to follow. That said, it felt like a punch to the gut when Spock said "I find myself to be a member of an endangered species." That may seem to be our destiny as well, but it doesn't have to be our fate. We can still climb out of the precipice we find ourselves on the edge of. It will not be easy, but ST rekindles the hope that we can survive, and gives us a glimpse at the wonder that awaits us if we boldly choose to do so.
* * *
So we loved the movie, but we also experienced a bit of the ST phenomena afterwards. My wife's parents, who dislike Sci-Fi in general and ST in particular, loved the movie. They couldn't stop raving about it when we talked to them, I think they enjoyed it even more than we did! It was the first good family moment we've had since just before the election, when we had some really bad moments discussing politics. I think ST shows the future we all want, even if we disagree on how to get there and what our chances are. At least I have that hope again.
* * *
We do have a question that you, as an insider, might be able to answer. That admiral's beagle that Scotty "lost" - was its name Porthos and was the admiral named Archer? We hoped so - we never liked ST:Enterprise and its little dog too.
* * *
We loved seeing the Enterprise rising out of Titan's atmosphere with Saturn's grand rings in the background (the backdrop was an actual Cassinin image, wasn't it?). We had hoped that when the prequel TV series ST:Enterprise would start with the exploration of our solar system. Even if humans had gone to some of the closer planets (Mars, Venus) before warp drive was invented, all of the known planets would have become immediately accessible with the advent of warp drive and radiation shielding. We now know enough about our solar system to tell realistic stories on the majority of the worlds within, but there is still a lot of mystery and wonder he in our own backyard.