Snapshots 93 Million Miles from Earth

Here are 4 developments of interest to fans:

(1) Emma Thompson plays author P.L. Travers, creator of Mary Poppins, and Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney in Saving Mr. Banks, forthcoming in 2014. The movie is based on the (apparently) difficult 14-year negotiations required to bring Poppins to the screen. According to The Hollywood Reporter :

A three-pack-a-day smoker, Disney died of lung cancer in 1966 and Hanks said he would chain smoke his way through the movie, but that’s about as close as the production will get to any controversy or conjecture surrounding the iconic animator.

When asked if he would be a “warts and all” portrayal, Hanks responded, “He wasn’t a warty guy. There was the labor issues that were in the forties and stuff like that. But by and large, no.”

Warty or not, Travers tried to keep Disney from infecting her work with what she considered his worst traits as a moviemaker. A 2005 New Yorker article recounts:

But after Disney’s years of fawning attention, Travers arrived in California expecting to be deferred to completely. Moreover, she was not as awed by Disney’s achievements as others were. Young Richard Sherman may have considered Walt Disney “the greatest storyteller—maybe the greatest man of the twentieth century,” but Pamela Travers had discussed her poetry with William Butler Yeats and shared a masthead with T. S. Eliot. She thought that “Steamboat Willie” was a fine entertainment for youngsters, but she considered most of the Disney oeuvre manipulative and false. In her mind, he traded in sentimentality and cynicism, two qualities she despised.

She ended up despising the Mary Poppins movie, too.

(2) Blowing things up on Mars, yeah! Or as Discover Magazine cleverly put it — Now you will feel the firepower of a fully armed and operational Mars rover.

Many objects like gas clouds and stars emit light naturally. We just have to observe them and pick out the signatures of the different chemicals in them.

For a Martian rock, though, we need to dump some energy into it to excite those substances. And that’s why Curiosity has a laser on board. It can zap a rock with a short, intense pulse of laser light, and the rock will respond by glowing. A spectrometer – a camera that can separate light into individual colors – then observes the glow, and scientists back home can see what the rock’s made of. It’s like DNA-typing or fingerprinting the rock, but from 150 million kilometers away.

Reports are the laser worked perfectly, blasting away at the rock with 30 one-megaWatt pulses (lasting 5 nanoseconds each!) in a span of about 10 seconds.

(3) “Nerdgassing” is still in the lexicon at Bad Astronomy. Could the SH.I.E.L.D.’s Helicarrier really fly

SPOILERS: yes, kinda, but at grave cost to the planet below it.

It turns out that just to power the thing would take about a trillion Watts – enough to supply electricity to a billion homes. That might prove detrimental to the environment. Worse, the air blasted downward from the fans would have to be moving supersonically to support the tremendous weight of the Helicarrier, so it would pulverize anything near where it was landing.

And before I get accused of nerdgassing about the movie, note well that what I bet most people would think is the craziest thing about the Helicarrier – its ability to cloak – actually strikes me as being possible…

(4) Fans are still busy revising the Guinness Book of World Records. A London Star Trek convention set a new record for the largest gathering of people dressed as characters from the series – their 1,083 costumed Trekkies edged the old record of 1,040 set in Las Vegas two months ago.

Outlandish costumes were ubiquitous at the event, which saw Britain’s first Klingon wedding on Friday. Swedish couple Jossie Sockertopp and Sonnie Gustavsson tied the knot in full Klingon attire and exchanged vows in the fictional and guttural-sounding language of the Star Trek characters.

[Thanks for these links goes out to David Klaus and Sam Long.]

3 thoughts on “Snapshots 93 Million Miles from Earth

  1. 1) The impression I have of P.L. Travers is that, like Disney, had elevated ideas about her own work, and didn’t realize the Mary Poppins books were themselves, “fine entertainment for youngsters,” but not exactly “The Wastland.”

    2) Yes, but very little explosions. Imagine some Martian cat noticing the little red dot and chasing it around. Hope it keeps its paws out of the way or Curiosity just *might* kill the cat as well as detect the odour of singed fur.

    3) The same question might have been asked of the Marine Corp.’s Osprey STOL aircraft. It took 15 years to develop and may not be entirely operational yet. It cost over $10,000,000,000 for a handful of test-beds and killed a number of crews before it was given a green light to kill more than one platoon of marines who had the bad luck to be aboard for training. Why did the Marines want it when it did very little more than helicopters they already had? The official reason was that it had a higher forward velocity than a chopper. I wonder if the real reason wasn’t that some moron hadn’t thought it was cool when he saw similar claptrap in Marvel comics.

    I’m pretty sure there was a gathering of people painted as Smurfs that was much larger than that. I may have saved the picture, but I’ll be damned if I’ll count all the Smurfs.

  2. An Osprey-like vehicle is used regularly by Section 9 in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, so that’s more likely than Marvel Comics, where I cannot remember there being a tilt-rotor aircraft (although the Fantastic Four early on had a Pogo plane based on the Navy’s Convair XFY-1 “Pogo” and the Air Force’s Ryan X-13 Vertijet in a special vertical launcher in one corner of the Baxter Building).

  3. I found the photo of the World’s Largest Gathering of Smurf Fans in one of my folders. I still won’t count them, but did post the photo on my FaceBook page. If you have the stomach to see it, here’s the URL:

Comments are closed.