Archive for the 'Movies' Category



(I can’t embed vimeo but this is better in a larger format anyway)

Online for a limited time as part of Vimeo’s presentation of TIFF Short Cuts!

Forced to care for her catatonic lover Malcolm after a secret quantum experiment goes awry, Erin is determined to uncover the cause of his condition — even at the risk of her own life. This riveting contemporary science-fiction story, from one of the writers of Orphan Black, bridges alternate dimensions as it explores how far a person will go for someone they love.

I liked it; I was expecting a particular plot twist based on pop-sci representations of entanglement. I won’t tell you if that’s what happens.

The More Things Change…

The Conspiracy Theorist Who Duped The World’s Biggest Physicists

But questions lingered. Did the filmmakers truly believe the Earth was the center of the universe? Who were these people, anyway?

Creationists have done this sort of thing. Why not geocentrists?

Not Sticking the Landing

Physics Fail in Record-Setting Car Jump Attempt

Everything seems to be fine for the first two thirds of the flight. But then the sound of the engine dies and the car starts to rock forward. Those two things are intimately connected.

This is something I noticed in the animated movie The Incredibles, where they got this part right, despite all of the suspension of disbelief required elsewhere in the movie: when the van drops free of the rocket, Mr. Incredible stomps on the gas and the van tilts back, which is at least qualitatively what you’d expect.

License to Killjoy

Did James Bond Want His Martinis ‘Shaken, Not Stirred’ Because Of An Alcohol-Induced Tremor?

James Bond’s famous catchphrase “shaken, not stirred” may have stemmed from his inability to stir his drinks due to an alcohol-induced tremor affecting his hands, researchers reveal in a new, tongue-in-cheek medical report.

Such a tremor would be likely in a spy who drank more than four times the recommended limit of alcohol throughout his missions, they said, writing in a special Christmas issue of the BMJ — a lighthearted edition of the medical journal that includes real research.

As the HuffPo notes, this is not serious (though this has gotten a lot of play and not all articles make this observation), but I’m going to be a killjoy anyway and apply Betteridge’s Law: the answer is no.

It’s not because of the silliness of applying medical analysis to a frikkin’ fictional character, or that the fictional data is anecdotal in nature, or even that the fictional empirical evidence says no, because Bond was a crack shot with his pistol. It’s because Bond was ordering the drinks, not mixing them himself. A tremor is moot.

But there’s more to this. One version I read (and unfortunately I can’t find the link to the specific article, but several versions are out there) included a description that a properly mixed martini would be stirred, and with a thin wooden spoon, rather than a metal one which would raise the temperature of the drink. This is baloney, but probably a case of right answer, wrong reason. The reasoning is wrong, because the drink is mixed with ice, so the final temperature is going to be the same — probably the temperature of the ice cubes.

I say probably because this is most likely not the case like where you have a pure water/ice mixture, which stays at 0 ºC because of the phase change going on. In the drink you will have a mixture or alcohol and water, and the freezing point will be lower. For a 50/50 mix, the freezing point will be -32 ºC, and the ice is probably warmer than that — freezers don’t generally get that cold. (dissolving things in water lowers the freezing point, and this is a colligative property, meaning it depends on how much stuff you have dissolved. It’s why putting salt on ice tends to melt it if you’re near 0 ºC: there’s always a little water, and when the salt dissolves the solution freezes at a lower temperature, which allows the ice to melt)

If the final temperature is independent of the spoon type, then what’s right about this? The metal spoon will absorb more energy from the solution, so while the final temperature is unaffected, this will tend to melt more of the ice, and that will water down the drink. From a thermodynamic standpoint that is more likely why you want to use a wooden spoon. Some years ago there was an episode of the West Wing where the president was complaining about “shaken, not stirred” in the context that shaking makes the ice chip, and small chips won’t get strained out when you pour the drink, which also has the effect of watering the drink down.

All of this reminds me that my parents used to complain about “shaken, not stirred” when we’d see these movies on TV. My dad was a bartender at one point, and the complaint (from both) was that shaking would bruise the alcohol. I knew enough science to know that this could not be literally true, but I never got an explanation of what “bruising” really was; I assumed that it was a euphemism for something undesirable and left it at that. Now that the internet exists, I can find something calling itself the martini FAQ and see that this is a matter of aeration.

Another addendum to this is that the link I can’t find had in it a link to some martini information, in which it was claimed that a dry martini had a lot of dry vermouth in it, but claimed that recently this had changed to mean very little (or no) vermouth. Well, that doesn’t jibe with the bartender joke I know where someone asks for a dry martini and the bartender asks how dry they want it. To which the customer responds, “Just whisper ‘vermouth’ over the glass.” That joke is probably older than I am, so no vermouth = dry is not a recent trend.

Spoiler Alert

Does the Dog Die?

Do you turn off Old Yeller before the end so you can pretend that he lived a long and happy life? Did a cute pet on a movie poster make you think it would be a fun comedy but it turned out to be a pet-with-a-terminal-illness tearjerker instead? Are you unable to enjoy the human body count in a horror movie because you’re wondering whether the dog’s going to kick the bucket? Have you ever Googled “Does the [dog/cat/horse/Klingon targ] die in [movie title]?”

I imagine this is useful if you are trying to avoid tears and wailing in young ‘uns.

Funny thing is that there are movies where concern for an animal’s well-being is far from the main focus, and might be considered a little strange, like The Godfather. Or there’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which has a happy face because Indiana the dog is OK, but acknowledges that rats are torched and birds collide with a plane.

Coordinate Transformation, Fred Astaire Edition

Dancing on the Ceiling

The room in the video actually rotates as a unit, and all of the furniture is nailed to the walls and ceiling. Also, the camera remains attached to the rotating room, making it appear as though the dancers are defying gravity.

Famed Broadway dancer Fred Astaire popularized this method in a dancing routine from the 1951 movie “Royal Wedding.”

You Keep Using That Word…

Something I ran across last week was the so-called periodic elements of star wars ep. IV, V, and VI

It’s very pretty, and a lot of effort obviously went into the graphic presentation of it. However, that’s apparently where the effort stopped. What’s wrong with it?

It’s not periodic.

The periodic table has such power because of the similarity of properties and the trends one can identify — it was gaps in the layout that helped identify some of the elements. Those properties are completely missing on this table — any you might glean have got to be there purely by accident.

A truly periodic table might, for example, put all the Jedi into a column. All the droids into another. The pilot identifiers (Red/Gold/Rogue), too — they shouldn’t be in a row.

There are other tables out there like this — where the creators seemingly mistake “periodic” for “collection” or something like that. It is a table, and if you happen to have around a hundred names or so to put on it, you might think it would be clever to geek it up in this way. But when you actually want to represent it as or call it a periodic table, what you’ve shown is you weren’t paying attention in chemistry class.

An Unfortunate Coincidence

I read Joe Hanson’s post The Evolution of Tyrannosaurus rex this morening (i.e. yesterday, relative to this appearing) about the correction of the posture of Mr. T as depicted in various media over the years.

[T]he tail-dragger myth persisted, and in 1988’s The Land Before Time (which, let’s face it, is where most of us first formed our images of dinosaurs) Sharptooth was frustratingly upright

I remember thinking that I’m not going to face it, because it’s quite possible our first glimpse of dinos, including an upright T. rex, was (as it was for me) in a movie was as a stop-action clip made possible by the wizardry of Ray Harryhausen.

And, later in the day, it was announce that Ray had passed.

So here’s a video, which includes an upright, posturically-incorrect, rexie, along with similarly-depicted Allosaurs, Ceratosaurs and Sceraptosaurs.

[A] compliation of every Ray Harryhausen animated creature in feature films, presented in chronological order.

Read the complete creature list at

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

Yoda has Tenure

Rate My Jedi Master

Funny, it is.

Bring Me the Passengers, I Want Them Alive!

Star Destroyer made from Cardboard. Just in case a full-scale Millennium Falcon is beyond your capabilities.

[T]he major benefit of using cardboard is that my little guy can lift up such a massive ship and play with it. Also, I used material that was all destined to be recycled or thrown out, and with the exception of white spray paint and styro-foam craft balls, I had everything on hand to make it. So, the basic structure is heavy corrugated cardboard, lighter cardboard for the detailing on the conning tower and ‘sandwich filler’ greeblies, a packing tube for the engine nozzles (sawed into three pieces), cereal box cardboard for lighter details, duct duct tape, masking tape, and a lot of carpenter glue. All told, it took about three days (including one very late night to do the detailing), and I now have templates worked out for the overall structure. It has an internal support structure (one center piece running down the middle with ‘ribs’ about every 5″), and the overall length is shy of three feet. As far as making ships of this scale, it was a relatively quick build-up and a great weekend project.

Templates not included in the link, unfortunately.

Next Page »