Tagged: Neil deGrasse Tyson

Mindy Newell: For The Love Of Spock And Stingrays


“…More importantly, the personal touch provokes some bracing moments that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. It’s one thing to have Neil DeGrasse Tyson or various NASA technicians talk about how they were inspired by Spock – or even to have Trek-loving actors like Jim Parsons and Jason Alexander say that they sympathize with stories of Nimoy staying mostly in character when his show wasn’t shooting. But only Adam Nimoy could comment knowledgeably about what it was like to have a drunken argument with Leonard Nimoy and then walk out into a world where images of Mr. Spock were impossible to avoid. The best scenes in For The Love Of Spock are the most conventional, featuring famous folk praising a pop culture legend. But the scenes that most linger in the mind are more like the one where the director confesses his complicated feelings about his father to another Spock, Zachary Quinto. It’s moving to know that even Nimoy’s son is as in thrall to an icon as the rest of us.” – Noel Murray, AV Club.com

“Leonard Nimoy was an artist who defined a timeless character.”Andy Webster, New York Times

“The 1963 Corvette received a major restyling, new mechanics and a new name: ‘Stingray.’ Zora Arkus-Duntov convinced the brass at GM to include independent rear suspension on the ’63 because he convinced them he could sell 30,000 cars if they had it. The passenger compartment was still kept far to the rear of the car to allow the engine/transmission to sit behind the centerline of the front wheels. This allowed for a better weight ratio (47/53) that improved handling. The ’63 Corvette included new twin headlights that are hidden behind an electrically operated cover. This added to the aerodynamics of the car when the headlights were not in use. The fastback coupe was also new; it included a fixed roof with a large back window that was split down the center with a body-colored bar. (This bar was very controversial and was removed in 1964, making the ’63 very unique.) The car now had recessed non-functional hood lovers. Front fender louvers and ribbed rocker panels replaced the coves on the earlier models. The coupe also has lovers at the back of the side windows. The dash has circular gauges with black faces and the earlier models have storage space under the seats. Air conditioning, power brakes, and power-assisted steering were now available options.• Total 1963 Corvette Stingrays Built: 21,513 • Convertibles: 10, 919 • Coupes: 10, 594” – www.vettefacts.com

So, whass up, people? Sorry I wasn’t here last week, but a big thanks to Editor Mike (Gold) for the very funny piece he posted in my absence. Only laugh I had about Thanksgiving this year – nope, Turkey Day was not fun.

And what did I do the rest of the weekend, besides recover from my intestinal woes? Which really didn’t end until Monday morning, when I woke up “bright-eyed and busy-tailed” and really bummed out over what could have been a great four-day holiday from work?

Well, for one thing, I watched For the Love of Spock on Amazon Prime. A documentary originally intended to celebrate the much beloved Vulcan as part of Star Trek’s 50th anniversary celebration, Adam Nimoy – son of Leonard, originator of the idea, and director of many acclaimed television shows including Star Trek: The Next Generation, Ally McBeal, Gilmore Girls, and NYPD Blue – expanded the project into a love sonnet to his father and his long, successful careers as an actor, and later, a photographer. In order to do both the film and his father justice, Adam sought crowdfunding in June 2015 in order to raise enough money to meet the licensing fees needed to use clips, stills, and archival footage from Paramount Pictures and CBS. The month-long campaign on Kickstarter grabbed attention, and by the end of the month (June 2015), Adam had raised $662,640 from 9,439 lovers of Spock and Leonard from around the world.

Was it worth it? Are you kidding? Im-not-so-ho, it’s worth every cent. It’s just a totally wonderful movie, with interviews from William Shatner, Nichelle Nichols, Simon Pegg, J.J. Abrams, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, and many others, including Leonard’s brother, sister-in-law, his daughter and grandchildren. Adam himself pulls no punches, talking about the raucous and rough relationship he had with his father until, in adulthood, the two men found their way back to family and love. (Adam directed his father in the remake of the classic episode, I, Robot on the revived Outer Limits, which ran from 1995 to 2002 on Showtime, SyFy – God, how I hate that spelling! – and in syndication.)

Seriously, people, devote a little more than an hour and watch this!

Hmm, what else?

corvette-mustangI read Mike Gold’s column about Patton Oswalt with interest, being a fan of The Goldbergs (Wednesday, ABC) and knowing that Mr. Oswalt narrates the show, playing the writer and creator Adam Goldberg as he tells the story of his family. I then clicked on the link within Mike’s column to take me to Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee and Jerry’s cup of joe with Patton – and you’re right, Mike, Mr. Oswalt’s Death of Superman is an absolutely fabulous idea!!! So much better than Doomsday – though after rewatching that monstrosity on HBO last week, part of my face-in-the-toilet Thanksgiving weekend (as if I wasn’t suffering enough) I do have to say that the best part of the movie, the only part that got me hooked and made me forget my woes were those last minutes as Wonder Woman fought the creature. Oh, right, Superman and Batman were there, too.

Anyway, then I started browsing CICGC, ‘cause I haven’t been on the site for a while, and watched Jerry have coffee with Barak Obama at the White House. Jerry calls him “the coolest President ever!,” and you know what? Just to see Barak behind the wheel of Jerry’s 1963 Corvette Stingray – the coolest car ever!!! – well, “I’m hip, bro.”

Can you even imagine President – God, how I shiver as I type this – Donald J. Trump behind the wheel of the coolest car ever!!!

Yeah, I can’t either.


Dennis O’Neil: I Think, Therefore I Yam What I Yam

Descarte Matrix

So, you think you exist, do you?

Okay, you probably do, but not in the way you’ve always believed you do. (And let’s be wary of that word “always.” Might be a slippery one, that “always.”) Way back when, in the seventeenth century, a brainy guy, a philosopher and mathematician named René Descartes put cogito ergo sum” into the world’s head. A lot of you know that René’s observation means, in the usual English translation, “I think therefore I am.”

What he was trying to do, our René, was find Truth with a capital T – some fact that could not be doubted, no matter what, no matter who. He asked us to imagine that there exists an evil demon who has created a vastly elaborate illusion. We’re just a brain, or something akin to brains, floating in demon porridge or maybe suspended from a demon ceiling and everything else is a part of demon’s foolery. It just ain’t. But someone other than the demon must be on the receiving end of the demonic sniggery, or else the sniggery itself couldn’t exist. That someone is me.

popeye the matrixI can’t be sure about you. How do I know that you’re there?

Our movie-going friends may have already noticed something familiar here. Yeah, that flick – The Matrix, written and directed by siblings named Wachowski and released in 1999. Same idea: bad machines have humans in some kind of suspended animation, and the humans don’t know it because they’re being caused to hallucinate a fully populated and developed Earth.

This is a bit like what I do/did for a living. Sketch out characters who don’t exist except as brain blops and jerrybuild an imaginary world for them to inhabit, then present the fruits of this labor to others. Usually, for me, that involved writing comic book scripts.

And you? Well, for purposes of this discussion we’ll assume that you do exist, though how and in what form and why we won’t stipulate.

Here we nod to philosopher Nick Bostrum who, in 2003, offered the theory that the universe is a computer simulation. Some people believed him – Elon Musk and Neil deGrasse Tyson among them. It’s been estimated that there’s approximately a 20 percent chance that Bostrum’s wacky theory reflects reality, albeit a reality we can’t comprehend and might not recognize if we found ourselves plunked down in the middle of it.

As for that reality’s inhabitants… who can guess? I’m wondering if they, covertly, interact with us and if they hear what we say and see what we do. And if such is the case, how do we know that they aren’t inhuman doppelgangers able to coexist in the same space that we occupy? And hey, you doppled others, what’s your deal? What are you up to, anyway? Playing a game with a gamepiece that’s me? Running an experiment? Doing something my brain is not configured to understand, or even to perceive?

Waiting for me to make a mistake? Well, that shouldn’t take long, but if you control me, wouldn’t the mistake be yours?

I could get to like this game.

Dennis O’Neil: Science Says You’re Wrong If You Believe…


Now I know that some of you are huge – huge! – science fans while others… well, you might prefer to get your science from old Julius Schwartz comic books. (Remember those old filler features that Julie ran? “Science Says You’re Wrong If You Believe…) You guys – you Juliers – can consider your class dismissed until next week. You others?

Let us consider Pluto. No, not the Roman god of the underworld, or Disney’s canine, and certainly not Popeye’s archenemy – that was Bluto-with-a-B. We mean the planet. Pluto-the-planet has been much in the news this past week because we put a spacecraft within about 7000 miles of the planet’s surface which, in astronomical terms, is the back yard, and it sent back a lot of data and will continue downloading information for months. So, at the end of the process, we’ll know a lot about Pluto and maybe have some of the Big Questions answered, stuff like why/how are planets and solar systems formed and what the heck are we doing here, anyway.

Oh, and you fussers out there – I know that poor Pluto is no longer considered a full-blown planet. A few years back the people whose job it is to do things like decide on the classification of astral bodies, folks like Neil deGrasse Tyson, decided Pluto was too small to qualify as a planet and so they renamed it a dwarf planet and dwarf-schmarf, say I. The naming business is all arbitrary anyway. The universe doesn’t classify. We do. As human activities go, this one is pretty harmless and if you want to use the “dwarf” label, be my guest. But I’ll stick to calling that orb at the edge of our solar system a plain old “planet,” thank you very much.

Did I mention that I’m fond of (planet) Pluto? A decade ago I made it a character – well, an object, really – in a novel. I’m not sure why. I guess I thought my plot needed something at the far reaches of the solar system and Pluto, 4.67 billion-with-a-B miles away, certainly qualifies.

I got all the information I needed about it from a book I can recommend Don’t Know Much About The Universe, by Kenneth C. Davis. It’ll also tell you about the other planets and the sun and like that. Readable and informative.

Why bother to do this (very minor) bit of research? Maybe it’s my journalism background or maybe I just need a good laxative, but I think we writers, even we fiction writers, have an obligation to society not to spread misinformation. That’s the politicians’ job. If you’re equipping your hero with a Whoseatronic Ray Blaster, you can make it be or do whatever you like. You’ve just made it up, after all. But if you use something that’s real, be accurate. There’s already enough bad info out there.

And by the way…Science Says You’re Wrong If You Believe That Pluto Is that damn dog.


Martha Thomases: What – Me Nerdy?

English is a living language, which means that the words evolve through usage. It’s the kind of thing that drives grammar nerds crazy, such as when a person uses the word “literally” to mean “figuratively,” e.g. “I literally could not be any hungrier,” when you’ve only missed one meal.

What drives this grammar nerd crazy is the vulgarization of the word, “nerd.”

I don’t mean that ner” is a vulgar word. Rather, I mean it no longer means what it used to be. In my day (by which I mean, all that is real and true forevermore), a nerd was someone who was socially awkward, maybe a little OCD, and with obsessive interests in matters seen as trivial by more well-adjusted members of society. There were comic book nerds and science fiction nerds, but also AV nerds and theater nerds and band nerds.

“Nerd” was the word the cool kids used to put down their social inferiors. Therefore, by definition, a “cool nerd” is an oxymoron.

Because of this, I remain amazed every day by the popularity of so-called “nerd culture,” such as the blockbuster movies based on science fiction and fantasy books and comics. I’m not used to a world where everyone knows who Tony Stark is.

And now, perhaps as a sign of the Apocalypse, we have people calling out nerds as bullies who exploit their position at the top of the social ladder.

I’m not going to refute the politics of this piece (which is done fairly well here, although, as a nerd myself, I have some disagreements). I’ve already been kicked off this site once for talking about politics too much.

The author, Charles Cooke, confuses many things, including what kind of people are actually nerds. Al Gore… really? Al Gore is a lot of things, but he is not socially awkward. Neither is Neil Degrasse Tyson. Both men can hold their own in an interview, without notes, without a teleprompter. Cooke also confuses knowledge for opinion – although, as Stephen Colbert has taught us, “reality has a liberal bias.”

In fact, nerds are not all progressives. They are no more likely to base their political opinions on facts alone (as opposed to emotion) than anybody else. I remember one of my first arguments at the Marvel office in the 1980s, when several people said they would vote for Reagan instead of Mondale. I would describe the candidates stands on the issues, and that didn’t matter. They wouldn’t vote for a “wimp.”

I also am amused to see comments on message boards about Marvel and DC (and, to a lesser extent, Dark Horse) “forcing” writers to take political positions in stories, such as introducing an Hispanic Spider-Man. Marvel and DC have enough trouble getting the books written, drawn and printed on time. They want to get the talent that is most reliable and most sought after by fans. Politics is way, way down on the list.

I like to see science and math and history and economics valued in our culture. I enjoy having the opportunities to research the things that interest me, which is easier when having interests is considered to be cool. I like seeing scientists and comic book fans as television heroes … although the depictions are not necessarily any more real than those of TV cops, lawyers or doctors.

We could have worse heroes than scientists. If it’s good enough for Bruce Banner and Barry Allen, it’s good enough for me.


John Ostrander: Equal Time is Not Equally True

CosmosMy pal Bob Greenberger did a nice review this week of the TV show Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson; the TV series is now out on BluRay. I was particularly struck by two facts about the show when it first aired. 1) It was shown on two TV networks, National Geographic and Fox. Nat Geo doesn’t surprise me, but Fox? 2) It was exec produced by Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy, American Dad, Ted, and A Million Ways to Die in the West (which several million people, including myself, have opted out of seeing). I’ll be honest; I’m not a fan of MacFarlane. His humor doesn’t work for me. However, I have a ton of respect for his getting Cosmos on the air. He used his considerable clout to make it happen, and that’s a service to us all.

For those who bypassed the series, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is the sequel to Carl Sagan’s noted and much respected PBS series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, from 35 years ago. Both series have sought to explore and explain concepts of science in ways that are comprehensible to those of us who struggled with algebra in high school. (I’m raising my hand here; I squeaked out of algebra, failed horribly at chemistry and math is Greek to me).

Both shows had charismatic and brilliant hosts – the early version with Dr. Sagan and the recent one with Dr. DeGrasse Tyson, who has to be the foremost communicator of science for our time. An astrophysicist, he is the Frederick P. Rose Director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space and a research associate in the department of astrophysics at the American Museum “The goal is to convey why science matters to the person, to our society, to us as shepherds of this planet. It involves presenting science in ways that connect to you, so ‘Cosmos’ can influence you not only intellectually but emotionally, with a celebration of wonder and awe,” Tyson says about the series, according to USA Today.

In both versions of Cosmos, there was a basic desire to entertain, to make the show visually stunning, to make it accessible. Tyson said that it’s goal “is not that you become a scientist. It’s that at the end of the series, you will embrace science and recognize its role in who and what you are.” It used animation in a graphic novel style and hired noted composer Alan Silvestri to do the music. It was popular culture in the best sense and use of that concept.

The series wasn’t afraid to ruffle feathers. It talked about evolution, it talked about climate change, it talked about the science of both of these and of other things, it gave the scientific dating of the earth and the Universe. The Creationists, predictably, were not amused.

Danny Faulkner of Answers In Genesis voiced his complaints about Cosmos and how the 13-episode series has described scientific theories such as evolution, but has failed to shed light on dissenting creationist viewpoints. AiG maintained that God is the Creator, who “was the only eyewitness to the time of origins and that He has given us the truth about how He created everything in His Word. He is the one that created the natural laws that govern the physical world and make science possible.”

Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey, if the first segment is any indication, will attempt to package unconditional blind faith in evolution as scientific literacy in an effort to create interest in science,” wrote Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell on the AiG blog.

Creationism tries to explain the Bible in a scientific or quasi-scientific way but it insists on the existence of God, specifically the Judao-Christian God, as a prerequisite. Its proponents want it taught in schools as a viable alternative to the theory of evolution and the creationists are upset with how Cosmos presents evolution and some want equal time to explain their view, preferably on Cosmos itself. Opposing views should get equal time, right? That’s only fair, after all.

Except it isn’t.

Tyson, in an interview on CNN, said “You don’t talk about the spherical earth with NASA and then say let’s give equal time to the flat-earthers.” Kate Mulgrew, the former Capt. Janeway of Star Trek: Voyager, was the narrator on a documentary that tried to promote the theory that sun did, if fact, revolve around the Earth. Should she have a voice on Cosmos as well?

Creationism is not equal to the scientific method. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the scientific method as “a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.” Boiled down – observation, theory, experiment and test to ratify the theory, repeat the experiment to verify the results. Confirm or change the hypotheses.

Creationism doesn’t do that. It starts from a specific conclusion – that the Bible is factually true and God exists – and draws its theories from that. That’s not science. That’s belief. Dr. Mitchell’s assertion of a “blind faith” in evolution is simply wrong; science doesn’t ask for blind faith. It accepts as true what can be proven from observation and experiment. That is why it remains a “theory” even after it has been universally accepted. If you can prove something wrong, science can and will accept that, if sometimes a little belatedly. (Cosmos itself illustrated that.) Science acknowledges that a theory can be mistaken; creationism does not.

I continue to have problems with those who insist that the Bible is a history or a science book or an infallible source of information. It’s not meant to be taken literally. It is full of myth and poetry and metaphor and in that lies its power. It isn’t meant to stand up to the same rigors by which science holds itself. My former pastor, Phillip Wilson, used to say there is a difference between the road map and the road. The former is not the same as the latter but it may be able to guide you. If we understand that Genesis is a metaphor and evolution is a description, then perhaps the two can live together. The Bible can have truths in it without needing to be literally true.

Science and religion have the same origin – gazing at the stars and the world around us and asking, “Why? How did this come to be? How did we come to be here?” Religion has come up with answers and has stopped questioning; it has dogma and that’s where questions go to die. Science continues to question even after it has a reasonable answer.

As for having creationists have equal time on Cosmos – maybe Neil deGrasse Tyson might consider it. Right after he’s given equal time on the 700 Club.

I mean, that would be fair, right?