Science Fiction

A Foundation of Determinism

Paul Krugman recently did a Five Books interview with The Browser, talking about his five favorite books. The books are: Asimov’s Foundation series, Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, two books by Lord Keynes, and a book of essays by economist James Tobin, one of Krugman’s old teachers. Of Foundation he says:

This is a very unusual set of novels from Isaac Asimov, but a classic. It’s not about gadgets. Although it’s supposed to be about a galactic civilisation, the technology is virtually invisible and it’s not about space battles or anything like that. The story is about these people, psychohistorians, who are mathematical social scientists and have a theory about how society works. The theory tells them that the galactic empire is failing, and they then use that knowledge to save civilisation. It’s a great image. I was probably 16 when I read it and I thought, “I want to be one of those guys!” Unfortunately we don’t have anything like that and economics is the closest I could get.

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Elisabeth Sladen (1948-2011)

Quite possibly the most famous and well-liked Dr Who companion.

From The DailyMail Online:

Tributes have been pouring in for Doctor Who actress Elisabeth Sladen who died yesterday following a battle with cancer aged 63.

Leading them was former Doctor Who writer Russell T Davies, who brought her back to Doctor Who, and said it was ‘an honour to have worked with her’.

Speaking this morning, he said: ‘It’s devastating, it’s no age at all is it? All of us who worked on Doctor Who and Sarah Jane are just reeling at the moment.

‘It’s so sad. It was a joy to know the woman and an honour to have worked with her, I loved her.’

Liverpool-born Sladen played the Doctor’s assistant Sarah Jane Smith, first alongside Jon Pertwee in 1973, and stayed on with Tom Baker, the fourth Doctor, until 1976.

She returned as the character for a spin-off series K9 and Company in 1981 and Davies, 47, brought Sladen back into the Doctor Who fold in 2006 when she starred in an episode alongside the then Doctor, David Tennant.

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Sladen is the second high-profile actor who starred in Dr Who to have passed away this year – Nicholas Courtney (aka ‘The Brigadier’) died on February 23rd.

Requiescat in Pace, Sarah Jane Smith

Who’s Your Doctor?

Alrighty then – time for a little diversion.

April 23 2011 – Dr Who Season Six starts. Here’s the trailer:

Season Six trailer

I’ve been a fan since 1982, when I first discovered the Doctor one Saturday night, channel-changing (no “surfing” then as we didn’t have a remote) and landing on the local PBS station. Just fun brain-candy sci-fi that didn’t take itself all that seriously.

Nowadays the production values are great, the special effects cooler, the locations and sets go way beyond your run-of-the-mill gravel quarry, and the story lines and season arcs are, for the most part, superb. I have found that plenty of the “reboot” fans were fans of the Original Series – and there are quite a few who discovered the series the same way I did, way back when: channel surfing and discovering this enigmatic time-traveling mysterious Time Lord known only as the Doctor.

Talk to any seasoned fan, such as myself, and they’ll tell you right off who their favorite actor was to have played the Doctor, and will volunteer which one ranks last on their list. For most, it’s either Jon Pertwee (#3) or Tom Baker (#4) as the favorites (mine is Tom Baker), with Colin Baker (#6) settling at the bottom. And everyone has their most favorite episodes, along with their least liked one.

I know that quite a few Catholic bloggers and readers are Dr Who fans as well. So let’s do an impromptu unscientific survey. Of all the Doctor’s you’re familiar with, which episodes of each were your most favorite, and least favorite? Let’s limit the discussion to the first 7 incarnations (forget about that dismal Fox movie from 1996 that featured Paul McGann as #8). You don’t have to give a reason if you don’t want to.  Perhaps at a later date we’ll look at the Reboot Doctors, but for now, let’s stick with the Original Series. Continue reading

Death Comes For The Brigadier

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A sad day for Dr. Who fans everywhere.  Nicholas Courtney, who brilliantly portrayed the Brigadier in over 100 Dr. Who episodes, has died at age 81 of cancer:

Nicholas Courtney (born William Nicholas Stone Courtney on 16th December 1929) played first Colonel and then Brigadier Alistair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart, beginning in “The Web of Fear” and finally in “Battlefield”. He reprised the role for the fan video “Downtime” (later adapted into one of the Virgin Missing Adventures), and for several audio dramas for the BBC and Big Finish Productions.

He was born in Cairo, Egypt, the son of a British diplomat and educated in France, Kenya and Egypt. He served his National Service in the British Army, leaving after 18 months as a private, not wanting to pursue a military career. He next joined the Webber Douglas drama school, and after two years began doing repertory theatre in Northampton, and from there moved to London.

His first appearance in Doctor Who was in the 1965 serial The Daleks’ Master Plan, where he played Space Security Agent Bret Vyon opposite William Hartnell as the Doctor. The director Douglas Camfield liked Courtney’s performance, and when Camfield was assigned the 1968 serial The Web of Fear, he cast Courtney as Captain Knight. However, David Langton, who was to play the character of Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart, gave up the role to work elsewhere, so Camfield recast Captain Knight and gave the Colonel’s part to Courtney instead.

Lethbridge-Stewart reappeared later that year in The Invasion, promoted to Brigadier and in charge of the British contingent of UNIT, an organization that protected the Earth from alien invasion. It was in that recurring role that he became most famous, appearing semi-regularly from 1970 to 1975. Courtney made return appearances in the series in 1983 and his last Doctor Who television appearance was in 1989 (in the serial Battlefield). Continue reading

The True Star of the Fringe

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My credentials as Chief Geek of this blog need refreshing.  The smartest, and best written, science fiction show currently on the air is The Fringe.    The show relates the adventures of a team working for the FBI that explore fringe events involving advanced science, extra-terrestrial aliens and other paranormal events.  It is a much better written and funnier X-files.  The team consists of two FBI agents, a mad scientist, the mad scientist’s son and a cow. John Noble does a superb job as mad scientist Walter Bishop as indicated in the above video where he engages in an inflora experiment on the friendliest of fruits.  Go here for some of the best of Walter clips. Continue reading

Junk Science Part II

A follow up to my initial post here on what is becoming known as Climategate.  Now news comes from New Zealand about massaging of data by global warming proponents.

The New Zealand Government’s chief climate advisory unit NIWA is under fire for allegedly massaging raw climate data to show a global warming trend that wasn’t there.

The scandal breaks as fears grow worldwide that corruption of climate science is not confined to just Britain’s CRU climate research centre.

In New Zealand’s case, the figures published on NIWA’s [the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric research] website suggest a strong warming trend in New Zealand over the past century.

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Movie Review: District 9

MrsDarwin and I grabbed a rare chance to take an evening out last night and went to see District 9, a science fiction movie that came out a couple weeks ago. Contrary to stereotype, it was actually MrsDarwin who had latched onto this as the movie to see, and I’m glad she did as it was one of the more enjoyable SciFi flicks that I’ve seen in a while. (Movie Trailer here.)

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Krugman's Foundation

This Newsweek article about Nobel Prize-winning economist and NY Times columnist Paul Krugman contained an interesting biographical detail:

Krugman says he found himself in the science fiction of Isaac Asimov, especially the “Foundation” series—”It was nerds saving civilization, quants who had a theory of society, people writing equations on a blackboard, saying, ‘See, unless you follow this formula, the empire will fail and be followed by a thousand years of barbarism’.”

His Yale was “not George Bush’s Yale,” he says—no boola-boola, no frats or secret societies, rather “drinking coffee in the Economics Department lounge.” Social science, he says, offered the promise of what he dreamed of in science fiction—”the beauty of pushing a button to solve problems. Sometimes there really are simple solutions: you really can have a grand idea.”

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