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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Science finds God! George Carlin still looking.


Only one of three scientists believe in God versus 94 % of the rest of us says a 2009 Pew survey. That however, may be changing. Albert Einstein said, "The more I study science, the more I believe in God." So maybe most of the scientific non-believers haven't studied long enough yet.

Follow this logic: That same year, Carl Sagan told us that there are two vital criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star and a planet the right distance from that star. There are, give or take a few, an octillion (1 followed by 24 zeros) of those planets in our universe.

As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan imagined and our parameters for life grew and grew until it was logical to presume there may be only a few thousand potential live-bearing planets out there.

As more was discovered, that number came down that maybe there were only a few hundred of such planets.

Then, more knowledge of the parameters of existence lead to a realization that maybe there were no othees capable of life.

Astrophysicists now know that gravity, electromagnetic force and 'strong' and 'weak' nuclear forces necessary for life were formed in the first one millionth of a second after the big bang and they are vital. Alter any single value by even the tiniest fraction--say one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000--and there would be no earth...  no us and maybe no universe.

Multiply that, says one scientist theorizing, and the odds against our universe existing at all are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all "just happened" defies common sense, even for a scientist.

Fred Hoyle, the  astronomer who coined the term "big bang," said that his atheism was "greatly shaken" at these developments and "a common sense interpretation of facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics as well as with chemistry and biology. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question."

"The appearance of design is overwhelming," said theoretical physicist Paul Davies. Oxford professor Dr. John Lennox said "the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator... gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here."

Earlier scientists of great discoveries; Copernicus, Sir Francis Bacon, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, Rene Descartes, Blaise Pascal and Sir Francis Bacon to name a few, believed our universe could only be the work of God long before anything else was known. (Joke alert: Copernicus, it was said came by his knowledge early when, as a difficult child, his mother scolded, "Young man, when are you going to come to terms with the fact that the world does not revolve around you.") 


"NYA, NYA,NYA NYA, NYA! I TOLD YOU SO
Author T.C. Boyle (The Harder They Come) was asked in a New York Times Book Review article, "What book hasn't been written that you'd like to read?"
 
He said: "The one in which the author explains the universe in detail, with diagrams and full-color photos of creatures inhabiting all those other planets. This would, of course, include a photo shoot with God and lavish pics of the celestial pad itself."

I'd like to read that book too... but then I'd ask God to take a 'selfie' with me. Knowing my luck, Moses would probably
photo-bomb us.

Monday, March 16, 2015

What do Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams and comedian Steve Martin have in common?








What do Ted Williams and Steve Martin have in common? It's more bizarre than you might think... but tantalizingly possible.

In 1999, Martin starred in The Man With Two Brains, a very funny move about a world-famous neurosurgeon who fell in love with a living human brain in a lab jar (voiced by the ever-talented Sissy Spacek) and finds himself in the middle of murders committed by the elevator killer.

Ted Williams--the greatest hitter baseball ever knew-- died in 2002 and, after some contention as to his final wishes, his head was severed and "put into biostasis (frozen cryogenically) ... to be together in the future even if it is our only chance."

Frankenstein's Monster
Add one more story that gives the whole thing believability. This was actually done way back in 1818 when a doctor completed a brain transplant into a cadaver and HE LIVED!

Oh, that was fiction? You mean Dr. Frankenstein wasn't real?

Martin's movie was a comedy, Williams' story a tragedy and Dr. Frankenstein's, a comedy (The Gene Wilder version) but all now have a basis in factual possibility, according to Italian neurosurgeon Sergio Canavero.

The Doctor plans to stitch a 'fresh' brain to a body of a very recent deceased by their spinal cords, hooking the rest of the blood vessels, airways, etc. to regenerate cells in the central nervous system. Canavero likens those million of sharply severed neurons to spaghetti. "Italians adore spaghetti, I love spaghetti and spaghetti is what is called for here," he says with conviction.

There is more detail but ethically, I will not print it here lest you be tempted to try it at home. However, where seems to be some credibility to it all (it has shown promise in mice), though not much believability that it will work. And of course, there are always the details... ethics and stuff like that.

Another caution, the Doctor advises, "Once the connections are made, you don't want the wrong connections getting created." I'm guessing he is referring to feet backward and other small details. 

"He's insane. You can't put a head on somebody else!" says another noted neurosurgeon... but didn't they call the Wright brothers crazy? And how about sliced bread? Somebody had to think of that.

Dr. Canavero points to possible breakthroughs in spinal cord injury treatment as early as 2017 and, as strange as this all seems, I'm all for hope of that.

Who is admired more than someone with a good head on his/her shoulders?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

MOVIOLA


I know, I know... yesterday I promised to tell you what Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams and comedian Steve Martin have in common... but I lied. Well, not really. I just wanted to insert this post on old movies because it fit. The answer to this riddle is next, just after these selected short subjects.

Moviola is fictional story I wrote seven years ago about the making of the 1915 romance, Moon over Miami starring the soon to be famous Vivian St. Claire, a real 'looker.' Movie making back then was a gritty black-and-white art that stole its way into the imaginations of the world. It was made with grand imagination, before such things as computer effects--or even computers, and without sound which is good because Vivian's high pitched voice never would have made the cut. It was what it was and it was beloved.


Ladies and Gentlemen,
MOVIOLA!

As the sun slowly set over the placid blue ocean ending another perfect day in paradise…
Rip. KRRRASH! Zzzip.
Dust rose from the ripple-cut cardboard ‘ocean’ as the copper-colored metal ‘sun’ crashed ingloriously into ‘the sea’ and rolled off-stage.
“Cut! Cut! CUT! damn-it! Where the hell is Corky?”
“Here, boss.  Here I am.”
“What the hell are you doing to me Corky? First the beach scenery falls on Vivian. Then this. If we loose our star, there is no moving picture and we go broke. You tryin’ to put us out of business? Some right-hand guy you turned out to be, you washed up old has-been.”
Josh, always the entrepreneur, founded RockScissorsPaper Studio in 1914, right after he was dumbfounded by that French ‘moving picture,’ seven years ago. He knew then that moving pictures would be the next best thing since the stereograph. And Josh was almost never wrong.  “If a guy in America today hasn’t been broke four times in his life, he will never amount to nothin,” he told his backers.
”Sorry boss. That’s why we needed new rope.”
“You know we can’t afford an extra penny. Now, if you are any good at all, fix that damn thing before it kills somebody. We gotta finish this scene or we don’t go home tonight.”
“Washed up old has-been. That’s what he called me,” said Corky, talking only to himself as he walked through the dark and rainy night to his trolley stop. “I slave for that guy… save his ass time and again. If it wasn’t for me, there never would be a RockScissorsPaper Studio.”
He smiled as he remembered the first time Josh brought ‘the money’ to have a look-see at the new studio. “Hell, it was a garage…a dirty, dingy garage with three lights and one camera. So I made a big sign and hung it on the empty building down the block. Those yokels never knew the difference.”
He laughed out loud as he remembered that first movie… Pauline and the Big Bad Wolf. “Vivian was just a young kid I found on the street. Boy, was she a ‘looker.’
“Hey kid! Wanna be in movin’ pictures?”
“Yeah! Sure mister. What is movin’ pictures?”
“I had to find a wolf costume. OK, so it was a gorilla suit. When I was done with it, it was a wolf costume. And I had to wear it ‘caus no one else would. It must have been 120 degrees in that thing. But Josh liked it. God. That first movie… seems like so long ago.”
The next day at the studio didn’t go much better. Corky, do this! Corky, do that! Where is that beach ball and sun umbrella Corky? Help Vivian into her costume. Shut that shade! Get a ladder over here! Can’t you do anything right?
“Shut up!” Corky exploded. “Shut your mouth up you pompous stuffed walrus. You sit in that chair and act like you are God. I’m tired of it. I’m tired of you!”
The set became quiet as a graveyard at midnight. Everyone looked at Josh and Corky. Josh couldn’t believe his ears.
“Well, Corky. If you can’t take it, then maybe you aren’t as tough as I thought you were. We have a movie to make here and we have to be done by Friday. Are you going to shut your big, fat trap and get to work, or are your going to get the hell out?
Corky, stunned at the turn of events, stood for almost a minute without answering, then turned and stormed out the door.
The bright sun hit him like an epiphany.
“What the hell did I just do? Josh and me, we been together now for almost eight years. The big jackass can’t do it without me. He doesn’t know how to make the moon rise, find a canoe, get a street sign or create a saloon from nothin’. Only I can do that.
“But I’m not goin’ back. I can’t go back.”
The movie did not go well. You can’t make “Moon over Miami” if you have no moon. You can’t row a canoe if you have no paddle. You can’t have no parking unless you have a ‘No Parking’ sign.
“Where the hell is Corky,” screamed Josh as he slammed his clipboard to the floor. Where is that stupid son-of-a-bitch when I need him.”
“You fired him, boss,” he was reminded. “You kicked him out.”
“Oh yeah. Good riddance. That little weasel thinks he owns RockScissorsPaper. He don’t! I do!”
“Want me to go find him boss?”
“No. Absolutely not! I never want to see that guy again. Nobody quits on Josh DeMille.”
That night, Vivian paid Corky a visit. “Remember when you first saw me, Corky,” she reminded him. “You told me I would be a star. You told me that I would make us all rich. Remember?
“Yeah,” he said with a reminiscing smile. “I Remember.”
“Well, you knew that wasn’t true. You knew that unless we had Josh with his connections and you with your moxie, we couldn’t do it. We can’t do it alone, Corky. We need you. Josh needs you.”
“Can’t do it Vivian. When you tell a guy he’s a washed-up old has-been, you cut him in two. I won’t be half-a-man and go crawling back. If Mr. Big Shot wants me, then let him come and ask.”
“Ooooh! You are just two stubborn jackasses who couldn’t find their way back to the stable if someone didn’t lead them by the nose.” Frustrated and angry, Vivian slammed the door behind her as she left.
Somehow, Josh and crew finished “Moon over Miami” without Corky. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t good, but it was done. In the early days, sometimes that was enough.
It was part curiosity, part jealousy that took Corky to the Hollywood Theatre first showing that next week. He ached to be a part of the festivities. This was the best time in all moving picture-making and he was on the outside looking in.
Josh saw Corky across the street. Looking away as he lifted his chin in the air, Josh entered the theatre.
Hurt, Corky turned to leave, with one last glance back at what used to be his world. And, as God is witness, it’s the only way anyone would have seen that small escape of smoke from one of the side windows. His nose quickly confirmed his worse fear.
“FIRE! The Hollywood is on fire!”
He bolted across the street and pushed the theatre door hard, shattering its glass. He yelled to the astonished monkey-suited doorman, standing with mouth agape.
“FIRE! FIRE! HAVE SOMEONE CALL THE FIRE STATION LICKETY-SPLIT AND GET EVERYONE OUT OF HERE!” Corky then disappeared into the building.
Fortunately, the fire was detected before it was wide-spread and everyone was safely on the street in front of the theatre, screaming, shrieking, crying, and talking wildly as the first pumper wagon was pulled ‘round the corner by two hard-breathing horses.
Hours later, the fire was controlled but the building was gone. And Josh, sitting on the curb in his tuxedo, now ash-covered and torn, looked like a refugee from the Great War… a man who had lost everything.
“Vivian. Oh Vivian. It’s gone. The film is gone.” His authoritative voice was reduced to a resigned whisper. “All of our money was in that film. Its success was the key to our next movie. That fire not only burned down the Hollywood Theatre, it burned down RockScissorsPaper just as surely.”
“Josh,” she comforted,  “It can’t be that bad.”
 “We’re done, Viv. That film was our bankroll.”
“Oh, Josh…”
“Mr. DeMille!” the doorman hollered as he approached. “Mr. DeMille. One of the firemen gave me this before they left. Said he found it on the seat of the fire wagon.”
“Oh my God. OH MY GOD! Vivian. Look at this…it’s the film. I can’t believe it. How did it get there?
“The fireman didn’t know, Mr. DeMille. It was just there.”
The headline in the next morning’s Pacific Sun told the story. “Hollywood Theatre Burns to the Ground: All 150 moving picture fans watching “Moon over Miami” are safe.”
The following day, the paper interviewed Josh DeMille:
”Miraculously, the only copy of the film was rescued. We are sure the doorman, modest as he is, saved it from the flames. It will continue to be shown across town at the Hippodrome starting tonight.”
When Corky read that, he threw the paper down in disgust and stared at his now-cold cup of coffee. “If that jerk don’t know who saved his bacon, I sure as hell won’t tell him.”
As his anger was about to turn to tears, he was startled by a knock on the door... and a ‘not too welcome’ voice.
“Corky… Corky… ” Josh pleaded from outside. “Please forgive me, my friend. Fate has given me another chance.”
“Another chance, DeMille?” questioned Corky skeptically as he now faced Josh. “Another chance to be a rich man?”
“No. No. No. Another chance to save a friendship! Will you please come back and be my partner? I need you. I have always needed you.”
Later, as DeMille told Vivian, she patted his shoulder and smiled approvingly.
“But why didn’t you tell him you now know that he rescued the film?”
“I will… someday. I just didn’t want him to think I was asking forgiveness because he did one thing and I owed him something. I wanted him to truthfully know that I was wrong.  I took him for granted. It was because he did so many things…and always has.  And because I owed myself something. His friendship.
“You see, Viv, I can go broke four times and still end up a rich man… because it’s only money. But if I loose one true friend, my chance for being truly rich is forever diminished…by one true friend.”

Monday, March 9, 2015

Old time movies: The Reel Thing

Buster Keaton did his own stunts

There's something special about Turner Classic Movies television channel, TCM. It's where you can see so many old and near current (classic and otherwise) movies 24/7 for free. Pay attention insomniacs.

And if that's not good enough, you have a front row seat to watch how movies used to be made. The older films have an integrity to the art that newer technology often enhances and sometimes makes surreal. As one TV critic put it, "The people in them did what they were filmed doing. When the side of the house falls on Buster Keaton and he stands, miraculously, in the empty square of its missing window, the side of the house actually fell on him. (It is said that some people left the set that day because they could not bear to watch.)"

Jackie Chan
Many actors actually did their own stunts, sometimes taking their lives in their hands... like Buster Keaton. And if you want to see the incredible Jackie Chan doing all he does in his movies, take a look at his top 10 and be amazed. (TIP: It really is worth the 5 minutes.) You gotta love this guy.

But back to TCM. The monthly lineup always features some real gems... everything from The Music Man (1962) to Gone With the Wind (1939) and Casablanca (1940). You can watch Fiddler on the Roof (1971) and The Artist (2011). You can catch Lord of the Rings (2001, 2002 and 2003) in succession. You can see Laurel and Hardy and Wonderful World of Tupperware if that's your thing. And of course, lots, lots more to suit many tastes. How can you beat that?

Check out the TCM line-up this month and take advantage of your DVD.

My next post has more to say about TCM movies and ties nicely to a very controversial subject I can have some fun with. (Hint: What do Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams and Comedian Steve Martin have in common?) If you guess it, you either Marilyn Vos Savant or Albert Einstein... wait, he's dead. So male or female, you are Marilyn Vos Savant.

EUREKA! I HAVE FOUND IT: Today I learned how to time-shift and it was amazing. I purposely didn't set any of my car clocks ahead one hour. so when I got into the car, I actually went back in time! Yes, I was very careful not to alter anything that would change my life in present time, but I definitely became one hour younger. If I do this enough times a day, I will never have to shave again!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

PART II: AN ELEVATOR TO GOD (ok, to space because we don't actually know where heaven is located) IN OUR LIFETIME! (Not yours though baby boomers)





SciFi author Arthur C. Clakre wrote about it in his 1979 novel The Fountains of Paradise and it WAS science fiction then... but not any more. There are scientists who think it can be done--and it could be a reality in this century, possibly as early as 2050.

Now that's pretty impressive!

Spoiler alert: much of the technical language is not understood by mere mortals. It is included to impress you so you think I do.)

"It's a phenomenal enabling technology that would open up our Solar System to humankind," says Peter Swan, President of the International Space Elevator Consortium. "I think the first ones will be robotic, and then 10-15 years after that, we'll have six to eight elevators that are safe enough to carry people."

The concept is simple. First, you would need a landing station that, let's say, would be the equivalent of floor 12,000,003 (avoiding the 13th floor, of course). That landing station, maybe called God's Little Acre, would be a satellite or space-debris platform in geosynchronous orbit with the earth--a floating anchor, so to speak--and there are lots of possibilities out there.

Earth station would best be about 600 miles west of the Galapagos Islands because of the rarity of hurricanes, tornadoes and typhoons in that area, say those smarter than me.

Then you need a very strong cable--which doesn't yet exist--running between the two. There are now several concepts that would produce a cable with sufficient strength. One is a diamond-like nanothread material. Another is a cable made of carbon nanotubes with a tensile strength of 63 gigapascal--about 13 times stronger than the toughest steel. And that cable would need to be about 60,000 miles long. (Remember, up AND back with a counterweight and/or maglev technology similarly as used on high-speed trains.)

Oh, and we'd have to dig up an extra $100 BILLION or so.

Now here's the kicker... IT IS POSSIBLE, say many involved with the knowledge and desire to do it. But how does one go from concept to reality?

The reason we would do this? It would be incredibly less costly to send stuff to space... and from this platform, the universe would open to us as never before. 

Elon Musk, one of the most fascinating people of today, has offered his say. He is the genius behind SpaceX which develops and launches space vehicles, CEO and chief product architect of Tesla Motors. He is also the founder of SpaceX and a co-founder of PayPal and Tesla Motors. He has also envisioned a conceptual high-speed transportation system known as the Hyperloop.

With Hyperloop, Musk envisions 'shooting' people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in a metal tube in just 35 minutes. How's that for a starter? But regarding the space elevator, he says it would be easier to "have a bridge from LA to Tokyo." So what does he know?

Interestingly, as bizarre as this seems, remember that the Wright brothers' first flight was in 1903. Who then would have visualized humans would land on the moon just 66 years later--less than a lifetime!

As Groucho Marx said, "Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana."