Archive for the ‘science’ Category

Wonder Woman! Woot!

April 13, 2009 Leave a comment

So, on a lark, P pointed me to the Wonder Woman DVD at Blockbuster last week, and we watchd the movie today, simply because we wanted the next one in quickly. I speak for both of us when I say we LOVED, LOVED the movie.

And P is impressed by Keri Russell too – but I found her interviewing (here, go to ‘NEWS’) kind of hesitant. It’s the same irritating “oh, I know I did something that could be construed as feminist/strong, but – hahaha – hey dont hold it against me! I didn’t really *giggle* mean it, y’know!“. What’s with all these women?

On the contrary, the interview with Virginia Madsen (same location: here, go to ‘NEWS’) reads like a yummy bowl of the most wholesome wholemilk chocolate ice-cream ever. See what she has to say:

QUESTION: Did you prepare for voicing the Queen of the Amazons in any special way?

VIRGINIA MADSEN: Well, I prepared this morning by writing several edicts for my son (laughs). Honestly, I love when I get to play these characters that are bigger than life. There are roles in animation that I never get to do in real life and it appeals to my ego as an actor to play the Queen of Everything (laughs) Hey, I’m honest. I admit it.

VIRGINIA MADSEN: This is a blockbuster voice cast – any thoughts on your co-stars?

VIRGINIA MADSEN: Actually, Marg Helgenberger and I were waitresses in the same restaurant in Evanston, Illinois. I’m happy to say that that restaurant has since been torn down. But Marg made it out first. We both had an audition for ABC soaps different soaps, but we auditioned at the same time, and she got the part and went off to New York. Three years later, I went to L.A. So she was kind of an inspiration to me. And it makes sense that we will both be in Wonder Woman together, because we ARE Wonder Women (laughs).

QUESTION: Is there a comic book role that your inner geek covets?

VIRGINIA MADSEN: Sadly, I really want to be Batman … and I just never will be (laughs). That’s the cross I bear. When I was growing up, the really, really cool super heroes were all male so I wanted to be them. I really didn’t like Batgirl. I was like, ‘No, if I’m not gonna be Batman, I’m not gonna play.’ Maybe they could write an evil female super villain who takes over Batman, and nobody knows. Then I could live my dream (laughs). I think that’s a good idea.

[all bolding mine, all symbols and punctuation mine]

I think that’s a great idea too, Madsen! And kudos for not settling for a side girl role. May “they” write greater and better women roles for women like you to play and for people like us to watch and fall in love with.

This movie may not yet pass the Ultimate Heroine Test, but we at least have one (B) of three qualifications met:

A movie with a strong leading woman character:

A) Whose sex life the audience is not made aware of, either its details or the fact of its existence.
B) Who is not, or has not, and will not be sexually assaulted during the narrative.
C) Who does not have a makeover.

And this is my live blog of the movie [Spoilers possibly ahead – but you’ll first need to make sense out of my notes, har har har]:
W.O.W. the origin story is simply F.A.N.T.A.S.T.I.C. I’m drooling at the richness of all this. It’ll take me DAYS of reading Bullfinch to unpack all of this.

why did the GUY pilot have to go onto the island? I was hoping for the black woman ‘rook’. But yay for pilots! (After doing my first stall and my first landing and my first take off today, I feel like I’m already Amelia Earhart! :-))

ummm.. with all this discussion of what to do about the stupid pilot and the outside world – even THIS movie would fail the Bedchel test!!!

wolf whistles, ‘hot chick’ – why do the Amazons allow that? And is it really something to be brushed off?

ok, I get the silly stars and stripes – but why did Diana have to wear a bikini? Thats not even remotely like what the Amazonians were/are all wearing.

And why’s PErsephone the betrayer? Because women cannot be trusted, as always? Not good.

I liked how Diana’s mom said, because men are untrustworthy….

Great move on the Etta scene, where this colleague of Steves pretends to not be able to find her pen. But it’s WONDER WOMAN being independant – so its eas to externalize.

Aha. WW actually explains the patriarchy. 🙂 Awesome stuff.

Again, is ‘hot chick’ really something to be brushed off?

WW is a great role model too – she teaches small girls to defend themselves. Poor little girl, she doesnt know that even if she’s a zillion times better at the sword fight than the boys they wont let her play or win. Ask Hillary Clinton.


This stupid pilot just sexualizes everything – every fight she wins. Is he trying to do a James Bond? And it’s a-okay – is he giving the audience permission to do so as well?

The street fight – wow. Simply awesome. Ten thousand leagues above the morass of the Watchmen street fight.

She pokes Deimos in the eye with a red stiletto. Umm, cute, but cliched. Anyway.

if only it was TWO girls fighting in the greek underworld, not Steve and Diana!

Is Ares is going to kill persephone? The sacrifice is like Voldemort’s attempt in the Goblet of Fire?
and Ares brought the statues to life – like in the Mummy. Which one thought of it first? Oh, maybe it was the Chinese a thousand years ago, with their Terra-cotta army….

So a simple stupid PILOT saves Wonder Woman from the talons of the eagle? AAARRGGGHHHH.This is Wybie all over again. I CANT WATCH!!!

she gives it back in the Ospedal. His first duty was not to save her, bt do her bidding. Men…………

At the footsteps of the Whitehouse, the battle begins.

Again Steve rescues her? Oh no, that was an arrow shot by *drumroll* THE AAAMAZOOONS!!!! YAY!

Oh, Ares can make Inferi…and like the Pirates in the Caribeean, they cant be killed. Every loss is doubled on the Amazonian side! Sister kills sister. Oh no. Oh no!

Ah, the inferi shake off their control with quick thinking by Artemis and Alexa. Oh good, so book knowledge is sometimes important too. Who were all those people criticizing WW for being yet another comic that glorifies violence – there’s a bone for ya!

Steve saves Atlantis….I kinda don’t mind at this point really. Wonder why :-).

Persephone ruins it for me by saying ‘we may be warriors, but we are women too – we need families and children’. What, and men don’t? It’s a false dichotomy, lady.

PERFECT – WW beat Ares with SCIENCE!! Though the fact that electricity is conducted in water should be basic…it’s surprising how less often media and fiction shows even this basic level of science. So TRIPLE YAY!

P: And she beats him fair and square. No black magic or sudden ‘out’s….

“I can lift cars, Steve – I can lift car door handles!” 🙂 oh, but she needs to apologize and keep his ego – and societal norms – in place? w.t.f.

Call if you’re going to be late, he says. Har har har .

Hey, when’s the next WW movie coming out?


Why I look to the future

March 22, 2009 2 comments

When I ask ‘where would you want to go if you had a time machine’, more people choose some place/time in the past than in the future. Usually, these are times of great mystery (e.g. when dinosaurs became extinct), times of great culture (e.g. the Maurya or mid-Mughal dynasties in India), or times of great rulers (e.g. Cleopatra or Elizabeth I).

I would’ve been one of those people (with more imaginative choices, of course :-)) until 2006. Because that year, I got a severe, and misdiagnosed, case of tuberculosis. And I wouldn’t’ve survived it but for modern medicine, invented/discovered barely one hundred years ago.

Of course, death by TB would’ve put me in some seriously exalted company*, the likes of which I likely wouldn’t get access to now in my ‘survivor’ state, but hey, I’ll take this option. As it was, I recovered from the physical health issues and the multiple surgeries, but as I was warned, I went through a long, long convalescence including depression and dependence.

So, on this World Tuberculosis Day, I’d like to celebrate the scientists who discovered the drugs and the treatment, the doctors who save lives every day, the social workers and policy-drafters who went after TB with a vengance, the public health professionals who implement these rules, and the many, many medical professionals who treated me, and to P who ‘saved me in every way a person can be saved’: Thank you.

And to those in the US, congratulations on this: “The latest national surveillance data show that tuberculosis (TB) rates reached an all-time low in the United States in 2008.”.

But we still have a long, long way to go, because TB may soon become a bigger problem than HIV. I have no option but to look to the future, and hope for the best.


* Apparently including: King Tutankhamen, Robert Louis Stevenson, Emily Bronte, Eleanor Roosevelt, Vivien Leigh….

Categories: diary, health, science

History changes with the future

February 18, 2009 Leave a comment

How the lack of written, documented history affects everyone: an extreme example here

“All of the pillars of the big bang will disappear. The Hubble expansion is
going to disappear. Because the galaxies we use as tracers
of the Hubble expansion will disappear. There’ll be nothing to trace the
expansion. You might say, well, look, we have the cosmic microwave background
radiation. Too bad. Because it goes away. When the universe is 50 times its
present age, the cosmic microwave background will not be able to permeate our
galaxy. So even if observers were smart enough to measure things much weaker
than we can measure today, it wouldn’t be there to measure.

“The scientific picture of the universe a hundred years ago was that it was
static and eternal in which we live in an island universe, our galaxy surrounded
by empty space. And that’s the picture we’ve changed radically due to all of our
observations. And I want to point out the far future is going to bring a return
to exactly that picture. Observers in the far future will use the best science
they can come up with to determine the nature of the universe and they will come
up with exactly the wrong answer.”

Sometimes you don’t even need a journalist to change history, eh.

Categories: science

Observer effect

October 21, 2008 Leave a comment

The (one of many) problems with the Ayn Rand philosophy essentially boil down to the same thing I was trying to say to my uncle in Boston two years ago at Thanksgiving about America’s greatness.

An individual’s skill at their chosen income generating tasks is independent of the skill of making money. Yes? Tons of examples, of course, of poor geniuses, artists, scientists, innovators, through the ages.

The fundamental premise of Randian capitalism is that all skill is valued in $, and should be valued in $, as a common denomination of exchange. Which is all very fine, and it is an elegant solution to the centuries old problem of productivity benchmarks and economic drivers. But what about people who have great skill at their chosen income – e.g. painting – but do NOT know how to market themselves? We can leave it to the market to decide, yes, but that only works if there is full information symmetry, etc. etc. As a marketing person I KNOW that there are levers that you should and can pull to command a higher price for the same product. If Picasso is unaware of these levers, does he deserve to be a pauper?

And similarly, is America great because the nation has been at the forefront of productivity, or is it at the forefront of productivity because it’s a great marketing nation? Are not most of America’s productivity gains over the last two centuries due to a single-minded focus on productivity? If yes, then is some nation that is more focused on, say, culture (France?), or happiness (Bhutan?) a failure because it does not measure up to your measure?

Corollary: Is Obama a great manager, enough to President, because he has managed his campaign for President ‘so well’? That’s what he said when he compared the size of his campaign to the size of Sarah Palin’s Wasilla.

“Well, my understanding is that Governor Palins town of Wasilla has, I think, 50
employees [she was also a Governor, and the state of Alaska has 19,000 employees, but why let facts get in your way…]. We’ve got 2500 in this campaign. I think their budget is maybe $12 million a year. You know, we have a budget of about three times that just for the month. So I think that our ability to manage large systems and to execute I think has been made clear over the last couple of years”, Obama said.

John McCains spokesman called the suggestion laughable. For Barack Obama to argue that he’s experienced enough to be president because he’s running for president is desperate circular logic and is laughable.

Anyway, so if Ayn Rand’s philosphy is great as a first step, aka classic capitalism, it’s probably time for a quantum capitalism, taking into account the observer effect, and iterate. The drafter of the Observer Effect in macroeconomics is likely our generation’s Keynes and more. Who’s up?

Categories: science

The old debate on globalization

April 17, 2006 2 comments

So now that science magazines are also focusing on non-natural sciences, it can only be for the good of all. Or not?

Scientific American’s April print issue’s economic feature by Pranab Bardhan is a thought article on globalization and whether it really helps or hurts the world’s poor. Often it veers more towards drawing room discussion than a scientific reasoning with clear assumptions & conclusions, and the central conclusion (answer: both. Globalization alone doesn’t do much evil or good by itself, it’s other factors that tilt the balance) is fitting of the typical fence-sitting economist.

But I love the anecdotes. Did you know that “between 1981 and 2001 the percentage of rural people living on less than $1 a day decreased from 79 to 27 percent in China”. That’s one stark drop – I’m going to look to find something that has this translated into cost of living/purchasing power terms to see how it actually changed standard of living. And also in terms of average vs. median income to see how many people this actually benefited or harmed.

The corresponding figures for India are 63 to 42 percent. And this is even before the whole liberalization process started (India shining!), as Bardhan goes on to explain.

And this:

One of the few, published in 2003 by Gunnar Eskeland of the World Bank and Ann Harrison of the University of California, Berkeley, considered Mexico, Morocco, Venezuela and Ivory Coast. It found very little evidence that companies chose to invest in these countries to shirk pollution-abatement costs in rich countries; the single most important factor in determining the amount of investment was the size of the local market. Within a given industry, foreign plants tended to
pollute less than their local peers.

Isn’t it surprising that the single biggest factor in companies’ choice of destination is size of local market? I would’ve thought that in this age, the comparative advantage logic would ensure that local investment was dictated by relative cost of production/delivery from that location vs. other locations.

Seriously, size of local market? Delivery costs (of goods & services incl. marketing services, etc.) are hardly that overwhelming, what with cheap communication & shipping. The only possible logic is that (a) local access & presence is important to effectively sell market the goods/services (which I would contest. Look at Procter & Gamble!), or (b) huge barriers to intra-country trade (ditto. They manufacture shampoo for all of Asia in Bangkok). Of course, option (c) is that people in these companies haven’t done their analysis right!

Categories: economics, food, journalism, science