Archive for the 'TV' Category

It's "Happy Rabbit!"

A Brief History of Bugs Bunny

1940: Director Tex Avery becomes the real father of Bugs Bunny with “A Wild Hare”. Bugs is changed from a Daffyesque lunatic to a streetsmart wiseass. “We decided he was going to be a smart alec rabbit, but casual about it,” Avery recalled. “His opening linewas ‘What’s up, Doc? …It floored ‘em! …Here’s a guy with a gun in his face! …They expected the rabbit to scream, or anything but make a casual remark… It got such a laugh that we said, ‘Let’s use that every chance we get.’ It became a series of ‘What’s up, Docs?’ That set his entire character, He was always in command, in the face of all types of dangers.”

Restore Truthiness, Enhance Teachiness

Any of you who watch The Colbert Report might have seen a snippet last week, in which Colbert mentioned a reddit-led push to have him hold a “Restore Truthiness” rally, as a rebuttal to Glenn Beck’s recent trip to the Lincoln Memorial. Well, since online petitions are easy, they are trying to show sincerity by putting their money where there mouth is, via a cause that is supported by several of us in the physics/science blogging community..

See, anyone can join a reddit or Facebook group or sign a petition. It takes, like, one minute and doesn’t demonstrate much effort. So the rally movement has been looking for ways to show that they’re serious, that they’re willing to lift a finger to make this happen. And an idea has just been hatched: pony up some cash to one of Stephen’s favorite charities.
Stephen Colbert is a board member of a non-profit called DonorsChoose.org. It’s a place where schoolteachers can make a request for the supplies they need and aren’t getting. As the name suggests, donors get to choose which specific teacher they want to support (lazy donors can just let the charity decide). If “Restore Truthiness” can raise a large sum of money, it will be a fantastic show of strength. And even if it fails as a publicity stunt, it’ll still make a difference in our world.

Restoring Truthiness Giving Page

(More than 2,000 donors and $80,000 raised as of writing this. Wow.)

Update: 3300 donors, and over $135k at ~1730 EDT, obliterating their goal of $101,010 by 10/10/10. In a day. Holy crap.

Update II: Colbert responds

I almost had a pregnant when I saw what you had done at DonorsChoose.org for classrooms around the country. I am humbled and honored (a rare combination for me), and find myself wishing there was a Look of Approval.

Faith Somewhat Restored

New Survey Reveals Why Jon Stewart is the Biggest Long Term Threat to Fox News

The newest Pew Research Center’s survey of where and how people get their news has been released, and while Fox News is still polling the oldest viewership, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart are pulling the youngest. As Stewart educates his young viewers in the ways of FNC on a nightly basis, it is clear that he is the biggest long term media threat to Fox News.

Politics and the Star Trek Effect

There are a couple of episodes of Star Trek that I can recall having some fundamental physics failures, which would lead one to believe that in the Star Trek universe, one cannot do an integral over time. The episodes that come to mind (and it’s been a while, so I may have some details wrong) are The Paradise Syndrome from ToS, and Déjà Q fom TNG. In both episodes, the Enterprise needs to transfer some energy and momentum to an object, and in each episode, they go for the Big Effort™ and lose.

In The Paradise Syndrome, Spock tries to deflect a large asteroid and fails to budge it, so he goes for broke and zaps it so hard he burns out a whole bunch of circuitry — the sci-fi equivalent of overexerting one’s self and pulling a muscle — and can subsequently only match the speed of the asteroid. It’s after this that we learn that the asteroid is two months away from the planet; a force exerted continuously for two months would transfer half a million times more momentum than their ten-second attempt, so they could have even tried a smaller force for that duration and deflected the asteroid. But that makes for boring TV. (And they could have increased their speed my throwing junk out of the rear shuttle bay, with bonus points if the projectile hit the asteroid, since the collision would slow it down. This would have been slightly more exciting than two months of pushing, but still not very much excitement) Similarly, the attempts to restore a moon’s orbit is made in fits and starts in Déjà Q, though in the plot there is at least an excuse for interruptions to their attempts, from some attacking Calamarains, but that’s after they gave up a few times. Forces cause accelerations and change momentum of an object. With the exception of the static frictional force on a surface, these don’t turn on and off only when a threshold is reached*.

\(p = int F dt\)

For a constant force this is just p = Ft. Linear in force, but also linear in time.

What’s the connection to politics? The US government seems to approach solutions to problems like the Star Trek folks do. Wait until the problem is a crisis and then try and exert a huge force to correct it, when a much gentler push would have sufficed if you had simply started earlier. We have been seeing this with Social Security for decades now — we know the system is going to go broke, and yet nothing is being done to fix it. Had we started when I first started paying into the system, the adjustments could have been relatively small. But like the transfer of momentum, the longer we wait, the force needed to achieve the desired result gets larger. The occasional nudge does only a little; it needs to be sustained.

Similarly for global warming. Our government hems and haws and does very little to actually address the problem. Even those politicians who are still doubtful (or whose palms are being greased so that they act doubtful) should be able to recognize that there is value in weaning our country from foreign energy sources, and that the kind of technology adoption involved takes decades to realize.

Of course, getting them to do something would be asking them to do their job, and we can’t have that, can we? Star Trek ignored physics because slow-and-steady makes for little drama, and TV, like sex, is all about having a climactic ending. Our elected officials have no such excuse. They are distracted by the manufactured controversy du jour, and are more concerned with not upsetting their benefactors and voter base than doing the business that’s in the best long-term interest of the country.

*which really isn’t how the frictional force behaves, but it’s a reasonable first-order approximation for its highly nonlinear behavior

They're Animated? That's Unpossible!

The voices behind The Simpsons

You Might Remember Me

The IMDB-ish resumé of Troy McClure

Because 'What is a Snuffleupagus' is Too Intractable a Question

What, If Anything, Is Big Bird?

Sean Carroll Gets the Colbert Bump

He was on the other night, but you can travel through time (or not) and see the video: The Colbert Report and Sean’s post on the experience

The First Amendment does not Cover Burping

Bart’s Blackboard

Archive of Bart Simpson’s Blackboard Writings

This Has Gone Horribly Wrong

Brian Cox on The Colbert report

You’re saying sensible things. This has gone horribly wrong!

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