Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryArts & Culture

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Still life with old-fashioned lamp, magic witch books, tarot cards and old papers. Mystic background with ritual esoteric objects, occult, fortune telling and halloween concept

Firefly Episode 5: So River Is Now a Witch? Part 2

Simon and River are captured because a town on the planet lacks a doctor. But then things take an occult turn…

As I mentioned in the first part of this review of Episode 5, we stumble through a series of contrivances to get Simon and River kidnapped. Mal and his crew continue to make baffling choices. They decide to leave Simon and River behind. Mal essentially says that they were stupid enough to get themselves caught, so they are on their own. This is baffling because Mal’s driving force is worry about his crew, and he’s long since made it clear that he considers Simon and River to be part of his crew. Because he was the one who had told them to take a hike, one would think that he’d feel some sort of responsibility for their predicament. But he…

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Old Burned Church

Religion Journalism After God Is Declared Dead

Writer and editor Ed Simon examines and makes a case for the New Religion Journalism, offering us help with praying to a dead god

Ed Simon is one of the editors of a recent anthology, The God Beat: What Journalism Says about Faith and Why It Matters (2021). According to the publisher, Broadleaf Books (an imprint of 1517 Media, formerly Augsburg Fortress), the book highlights “personal, subjective, voice-driven New Religion Journalism” by young writers “characterized by their brash, innovative, daring, and stylistically sophisticated writing and an unprecedented willingness to detail their own interaction with faith (or their lack thereof).” Simon offers his own thoughts on religion, sympathetic to that perspective, in a recent article at Aeon: He starts with reflections on the view that mid-nineteenth-century British poet Matthew Arnold (1822–1888) expressed in his poem “Dover Beach,” that religious faith was receding in his world:…

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Abstract planets and space background

Future Technologies — Zoom! … or Doom?

Astrophysicist Adam Frank sees a new role for us as galaxy gods as exhilarating but others aren’t so sure

Astrophysicist Adam Frank asks us to consider where we are on the Kardashev Scale for evaluating civilizations in the galaxy — or, at least, evaluating our own progress: Originally proposed in 1964 by Nikolai Kardashev (1932–2019) and later modified in 1973 by Carl Sagan (1934–1996), the scale measures a civilization’s technological advances from 1 to 3 (or maybe 5) by how much energy it can call upon to do things. Currently, we are not even a Type 1 on that scale and Frank offers some thoughts on that, asking, in particular, whether such advances are universal in the galaxy anyway: The classification scheme Kardashev used was not based on social systems of ethics because these are things that we can…

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Cattle in pen

Firefly Episode 5: Brawls That Don’t Make Sense, Part 1

In this episode, after the cattle are unloaded, characters act in an uncharacteristic way in order to create a plot crisis

The vast quantities of cow dung left on the ship after a shipment of cows was dropped off is a telling omen for how this episode unfolds. We do get some much-needed exposition in the form of hints and flashbacks regarding the Shepherd and River Tam’s past but, apart from that, Episode 5 is by far the worst. While the first four episodes had some weak moments, they’ve been funny and enjoyable. Episode 5 dives into the incoherent. We open with the cows from the previous episode being unloaded from the ship and herded into a corral. Mal (Captain Malcolm Reynolds) and his crew work the herd like real cowboys which is enjoyable, but as they’re working, Simon Tam begins…

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Science and research of the universe, spiral galaxy and physical formulas, concept of knowledge and education

Why a Science Fiction View of the Universe Makes Sense

Our universe is very difficult to understand, as a theoretical cosmologist explains

Theoretical cosmologist Katie Mack, author of The End of Everything: (Astrophysically Speaking) (2020) lists, in an essay based on her book, a number of facts about our universe that make it hard for us to even fathom it. Even astronomers, she says, have a hard time: Here in the Solar System, space and time are both more or less well-behaved, but when you have to deal with the cosmos as a whole, you have to factor in the fact that it refuses to sit still for its fitting… If you look at a galaxy far, far away, not only do you have to factor in that the image you’re looking at is old, you have to account for the fact…

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Fencer  with fencing sword. Fencers duel concept.

Firefly Episode 4: Mal Ends Up in a Swordfight Amid Outer Planets

It all starts when ship’s engineer Kaylee decides she wants to dress like a Southern belle…

In Episode 4 we open with the crew returning to the planet Persephone where the series began. While in the Market, Kaylee, the ship’s engineer, finds a dress that she particularly likes and Mal, who is growing impatient because he’s carrying something heavy, says there’s no way she could use such a dress because she’d look silly working on the ship in such a thing. Of course, this infuriates everyone, and they all leave in a huff. Now, what’s interesting about this scene is the world-building. The show really commits to the whole Western genre because the dresses remind one of the southern belle’s style or even something out of the Victorian Era — vintage garments that high society might…

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Art director checking the photos on a monitor

How the Digital Age Is Transforming the Entertainment World

Principally by creating many new opportunities that, as Ari Emanuel puts it, are Not Showing at a Theater Near You

Philosopher of technology George Gilder interviews Ari Emanuel, CEO of entertainment and media agency Endeavor Group Holdings, Inc., about the new decentralized media landscape powered by dramatic advances in technology. Endeavor, which was founded in 1898 and has 6500 employees, represents “talent across entertainment, sports, and fashion, such as actors, directors, writers, athletes, models, musicians, and other artists in various mediums comprising film, television, art, books, and live events.” (Yahoo Finance) A partial transcript of the talk Emanuel gave at COSM 2021 (November 10, 1:00 pm), on navigating the new media landscape, follows: George Gilder: What did you see in the early nineties that led you to leave your comfortable position and then move out and create a new force…

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Alien Planet with Moons

Recent Science Papers Support Science Fiction Premises

There isn’t a crystal clear boundary; both science and science fiction achievements require imagination

Good science fiction should start with science fact. But, of course, science is a dynamic enterprise that includes many current mysteries and uncertainties so there is plenty of room to develop an imaginative theme while exploring the edges. Here are five edges that a reader or writer may want to explore: ➤ It might indeed be possible to go through a wormholes to a distant galaxy, according to a recent paper. A wormhole, first envisioned by Einstein and Rosen in 1935, “is a special solution to the equations describing Einstein’s theory of general relativity that connects two distant points in space or time via a tunnel.” (LiveScience) It has long been considered at best hypothetical and at worst impossible but…

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Laser Cannon Incapacitates Enemy Satellite In Space

Firefly Episode 3: Should Some People Be Left To Die?

After the space crew rescues the survivor of a pirate attack, Captain Mal faces off against The Shepherd on whether God can save even that man.

Episode 3 begins with a friendly game of basketball… or something like it. Simon, a doctor who has joined the Firefly crew, notes that there appear to be no rules to the game as he watches from the balcony. The game is interrupted by a “proximity alert” and the crew discovers a wrecked ship floating in space. The captain decides to check it out and they quickly discover that the ship has been attacked by the infamous Reavers. We’d seen their ship once in episode one, and we’d heard some ominous descriptions of what they do to their prisoners: “If they take the ship, they’ll rape us to death, eat our flesh, and sew our skins into their clothing. And,…

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ecosystem terrarium with small plants

Philosopher: We Can’t Prove That We Aren’t Living in a Simulation

David Chalmers looks at the issues, step by step, in an excerpt from his new book, Reality+, and rules out proving that it is false

Philosopher David Chalmers, best known for the phrase “Hard Problem of consciousness” and the philosopher’s zombie thought experiment. tells us that we can’t actually prove that we are not living in a simulation: “You might think we have definitive evidence we’re not in a simulation. That’s impossible.” The idea that we live in a simulation is basic to The Matrix films. People use the expressions red-pilled and blue-pilled every day now. The idea also underlies one of the explanations offered for why we don’t see extraterrestrials; according to the Planetarium Hypothesis, we are living in their “planetarium.” It’s not just films and ET lore. Elon Musk has claimed to take seriously that we are aliens’ sims. So does Neil deGrasse Tyson (“Neil…

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Concept of asteroid mining in space for rare raw materials

Firefly Episode 2: When Captain Mal Gets a Pang of Conscience…

In the 2002 series, he decides to return stolen goods when he learns of the plight of those from whom they are stolen — with fearsome consequences

Last time, we discussed the first episode of the 2002 Firefly series because Disney is thinking about ruining it with another season. In case you were wondering, this review contains spoilers. In Episode 2, we find Captain Malcolm getting to know his passengers. The doctor’s sister River is suffering flashbacks from her time in the “labs.” Despite being a doctor, her brother Simon has no idea what’s wrong her. She keeps repeating the phrase, “Hands are blue, two by two.” After a bar brawl, the crew lands a job. It’s an old-fashioned train heist. Malcolm and Zoe, his partner in crime, land on the train and steal the goods by latching them to their ship and lifting them into the…

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Terraforming

Firefly: Can Science Fiction Reimagined As The Wild West Work?

I strongly recommend the original 2002–2003 series for its careful development of the culture that grows up around world-building (terraforming)

I recently read an article in Screen Rant which claimed that Disney+ was planning a Firefly series remake. A trailer for the original: Five hundred years in the future, a renegade crew aboard a small spacecraft tries to survive as they travel the unknown parts of the galaxy and evade warring factions as well as authority agents out to get them. (2002-2003) When I heard this rumor, I felt like Darth Vader screaming No! into the void and wanting to choke something. Since Disney+ has a reputation for producing films which are nothing short of family-friendly abominations, it isn’t surprising that the fandom mobbed Twitter, demanding that the Mouse stay away from their beloved sci-fi franchise. So far, there has…

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alien

Physicist: Why Extraterrestrials Couldn’t Look Much Like Us

Except in films. They follow the same natural laws but conditions differ on each planet

Physicist Marcelo Gleiser, author of The Island of Knowledge (2014), points out that the fact that there are trillions and trillions of worlds in our universe does not mean that anything we imagine can somehow exist: While the laws of physics and chemistry allow for similar processes to unfold across the Universe, they also act to limit what is possible or viable. Even if science doesn’t allow us to completely rule out what cannot exist, we can use the laws of physics and chemistry to infer what might. Marcelo Gleiser, “What is life like elsewhere in the Universe?” at Big Think (December 22, 2021) There is limit to diversity. While it may be possible for life to be based on…

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Logging. Aerial drone view of deforestation environmental problem.

Aliens as Both Angels — and Bugs? Superior But Sociopathic?

A look at the puzzling 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) - environment doom replaces the Cold War

Last week I reviewed the 1951 classic The Day the Earth Stood Still. Before watching the original, I had decided to watch the 2008 remake. I now regret my decision. Let’s talk about the 2008 movie featuring Keanu Reeves. The 2008 movie opens with essentially the same beats as the original. The spaceship lands, but it is not metal; it’s a bizarre space orb, made of different kinds of luminescent biological material. This change gives the aliens an ethereal quality. They are entities that have reached demi-god status. The writers even go to the trouble of showing the ship hovering over a cathedral, illuminating the building. The movie is practically screaming, “They’re Angels! Get it!” The alien, Klaatu, steps out…

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mars

Remember When Mars Was Going To Land?

Today, now that we can reach Mars, we hope for mere fossils of bacteria

Sadly, the Mars meteorite, favored in recent years, has showed no evidence of life Whether there has ever been life on Mars is a different question from what the specifically meteorite shows (we would need to search the whole planet to be sure about life). But here is some recent disappointing news about the meteorite: Organic molecules found in a meteorite that hurtled to Earth from Mars were synthesized during interactions between water and rocks that occurred on the Red Planet about 4 billion years ago, according to new analysis led by Carnegie’s Andrew Steele and published by Science. The meteorite, called Allan Hills (ALH) 84001, was discovered in the Antarctic in 1984 and is considered one of the oldest…

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Aggressiver Schwarzer Roboter

Sci-Fi Saturday Special: The Journey of the Nauts

The astronaut discovers a planet run by robots that think humans are lying if we say there is no Creator because, after all, we created them

(A short story by Jonathan Witt) Let’s see. How to start? As I surfaced from cryo, I was reminded of the old Christmas poem. “A cold coming we had of it,” one of the Magi begins, and I was thinking, the fellow doesn’t know the meaning of cold. Try halfway to absolute zero across seventeen light years of interstellar space. Granted, the cryo made the journey feel like an overnighter, but don’t imagine some trillionaire spa sleepover. Imagine yourself liquored up on bad moonshine, stuffed in a sack full of dry ice, knocked unconscious, tumbled about for an hour, quick-thawed, flushed of blue antifreeze, pumped full of dehydrated/rehydrated blood, and then shocked awake. That’s the cold coming we had of…

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Shaved male nape and a lot of usb cables connected to it. Concept of dependence in thinking and information

Enforce the Law With No Bias? Use Robots! Oops, Wait…

The 2008 remake of the 1951 film, The Day the Earth Stood Still, explores the concept

Since we’ve been reviewing the Matrix movies, I thought I would review another sci-fi film starring Keanu Reeves, The Day the Earth Stood Still, (2008) which was a remake of a film of the same name that came out in 1951. However, as I was watching this train wreck, even by remake standards, I thought I ought to watch the original for a little extra context. What I saw compelled me to write this review. Here’s a trailer for the original, which gives some sense of the period: Now the new version: The movie opens with a spaceship landing and the alien, Klaatu, and his robot, Gort, stepping out of the ship. Klaatu is shot and Gort destroys a few…

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Red Pill Blue Pill concept. The right choice the concept of the movie matrix. The choice of tablets

Matrix Resurrections: What Does Existence Outside of Time Mean?

Call me a sentimental child, but I liked watching Neo and Trinity fly off into the sunset. I liked watching them fly in the same way those random birds kept flying in a circle. Did it make sense?

For all the latest Matrix movie’s faults The Matrix: Resurrections it tried to play with an interesting concept, the difference between linear speed and time. In the previous two reviews, we discussed Trinity becoming the One, the merit behind the writer’s decision, and one of the fatal flaws within the Matrix series as whole, which is technology being used as an ambiguous magic system rather than a system with clearly defined rules. This time we’ll discuss the movie’s villain, the The Analyst. I vacillated about this character, unable to make up my mind about whether or not the Analyst was a worthy addition to the series. To be honest, I’m still not sure, but I’m leaning toward yes because of…

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Modern cyber woman with matrix eye

The Matrix Resurrections: Technology as a Soft Magic System

Stakes and believability are connected, especially when it comes to science fiction. Last time, we discussed the most controversial element of the The Matrix: Resurrections , as well as the meta narrative Lana Wachowski set out to establish at the beginning of the film. Now, the Matrix Resurrections is much better than The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and The Matrix Revolutions (2003) because it, at least, brings the original trilogy full circle. That being said, there are loads of problems, and many of them are issues I’ve already discussed in reviews of the earlier films First, we have the pacing issue. Wachowski says too much too fast. This time, we’re not getting conflicting narratives that are confusing the plot but rather…

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Movie at cinema concept. 3D glasses with red and blue lenses with soft colored shadow on dark background.

The Matrix Resurrections: The Studio Is Making Us Do This!

Mark Zuckerberg, eat your heart out. If there is one word to describe this movie, that word is Meta.

Let’s address the most contentious issue first. This movie isn’t great, but it’s not The Last Jedi bad. Matrix fans aren’t going to be storming the gates in protest, because their beloved characters were assassinated for “the message.” It’s true that Neo is nerfed so that Trinity can take his place. This is annoying because, as I’ve said before, nobody wants to see a Dragon Ball Z spectacle featuring Neo’s powers just so the poor sap could die in obscurity because nothing he did mattered anyway. They didn’t do this, and that is to the writer’s credit. If there was anybody who deserved a deus ex machina sent by the Social Justice Warriors from on high, it was Trinity. Her…