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Science Fiction (sci-fi)
A genre of literature, TV and film sometimes trivialized by the arts and literary establishment.
Critics say science fiction characters are wooden, two-dimensional ‘cardboard cutouts’ rarely developed in the manner of, say, a Holden Caufield (J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye) or a Hagar Shipley (Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel).
Some sci-fi writers accept this criticism, saying the medium began as an exploration into the human imagination rather than as a commentary on the human condition.
By way of contrast, H. G. Wells, George Orwell and more recent authors like Frank Herbert (Dune), Ursula Le Guin (The Dispossessed), Kurt Vonnegut (Cat’s Cradle, Slaughterhouse Five) and filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s intense rendering of Arthur C. Clark’s 2001: A Space Odyssey have helped to change the face of sci-fi.
Indeed, William Shatner, who plays Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, says that a good science fiction story must be grounded in distinct human experiences.
Gonzo Bonzo adds:
If you’re looking for some good science fiction focused on characters, you’d better read some of the novels from Robert Silverberg. Dying Inside, which is about a telepath in an early 70’s NYC, who’s losing his power, or Man in a Maze talks about the first astronaut ever to meet alien lifeforms, who comes back being unable to hide his feeling and emotions to his fellow humans, and who chose to exile on giant maze. Book of Skulls is also a good example of human centered SciFi, with very complex and multi-dimensional characters.
In more recent efforts authors like Jeff Vandermeer, Vernor Vinge (with his wonderful Rainbows End), Paul J.McAuley, Iain M.Banks, China Miéville or Ian R.McLeod are good examples of what SciFi is these days. » Source
Regardless of condescension from those literati who think they know best, sci-fi finds itself in a unique position to explore unconventional ideas that the worldly wise regard as ludicrous and unworthy of attention.
An historical example of a truly great sci-fi visionary is Leonardo Da Vinci (1452–1519). Leonardo worked as a military engineer and inventor in Italy. He was venerated in France as a genius and some of his more imaginative sketches depicted flying machines, robots, a tank and submarines. But Da Vinci kept many of these innovative sketches secret, most likely to avoid ridicule.
While sci-fi may still encounter a similar kind of prejudice, the runaway success of J. J. Abrams’ Star Trek film indicates that the snobs out there may just be incredibly jealous. After all, who can distinguish other than for themselves what’s treasure and what’s trash?
» 2001: A Space Odyssey, Abyss, Alien Possession Theory (APT), Borg, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Asimov (Isaac), Cylons, Hal 9000, Lewis (C. S.), Lexx, Matrix (The), Occam’s Razor, Parallel Universes, Roberts (Jane), Star Trek, Star Wars, Tek War, Temporal Paradox, Virtual Reality
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Science [Latin scientia = knowledge]
Science has, at the very least, two meanings. The first meaning is most commonly held in the so-called hard sciences (the natural and physical sciences) and relates to the systematic observation of nature from which laws and theories are developed.
These laws and theories, according to most definitions, may be supported or disproved. This is made possible by the fact that, once published, scientific results become public. As public knowledge, new findings (and the theories derived from them) are subject to peer review and, when appropriate, replication.
The other meaning of science is far more vague, often cropping up in relation to the so-called soft social sciences.
Political science, sociology and psychoanalysis, for instance, rely on theories. But these theories often rest on selective, scant or downright questionable empirical research. And they tend to use correlational or multivariate instead of causal experimental designs.
Correlational studies merely tell us that, in certain circumstances, two variables of interest occur together in some degree of statistical probability, whereas multivariate designs look at any number of variables and attempt to determine their probability of occurring together.
Most agree that no definitive causality can be determined with either correlational or multivatiate analyses (although debates, as with most everything else in life, continue here). And some philosophers like David Hume critique the entire notion of causality.
Without getting too complicated, we could say that most reasonable thinkers would agree that correlational and multivariate studies in any branch of science do not adequately explain why things happen.
We often hear the word “link” when scientific results are reported in the media; for instance, “Scientists Find Link Between Dopamine and Obesity.” But, again, this link doesn’t tell us what causes what.
“It’s possible that obese people have fewer dopamine receptors because their brains are trying to compensate for having chronically high dopamine levels, which are triggered by chronic overeating,” says Wang. “However, it’s also possible that these people have low numbers of dopamine receptors to begin with, making them more vulnerable to addictive behaviors including compulsive food intake.” (Source: Scientists Find Link Between Dopamine and Obesity in Brookhaven National Laboratory, February 1, 2001 » http://www.bnl.gov/bnlweb/pubaf/pr/2001/bnlpr020101.htm).
Contemporary depth psychologists and those interested in integrating science, religion and spirituality suggest that a new form of science, beyond immediate physiological, behavioral, social or environmental factors, is needed to better account for the workings of the psyche in relation to the universe and God.
Critiques of science take three main forms: Theological, philosophical and sociological.
Theological critiques of science have two branches. On the one hand theologians warn against falling into the trap of adopting a false moral neutrality that they say some scientists advocate (e.g. with the scientific technologies related to abortion). The other branch relates to the theological claim that conventional science cannot account for nor predict revealed, infused or illuminated forms of knowledge. And some theologians regard theology, itself, as a science—in fact, the noblest type.
Philosophical critiques of science tend to question the initial assumptions upon which results and subsequent theories are based. The role of interpretation is also highlighted, as it relates to the problem of ‘built-in’ biases that influence observation, results and subsequent analysis—i.e. critics say the total problem, approach and solution are biased by the cognitive parameters of the investigator or investigative team.
Karl Popper says that scientific truth claims may only be disproved, never proved. Meanwhile Willard Quine says empiricism contains “two dogmas.” One dogma is the distinction often made between intellectual constructs and facts. The second dogma is reductionism; that is, the belief that naming and meaning are the same.
Sociological critiques of science don’t overlook philosophical issues but tend to focus on the role of social power in shaping, legitimizing and reproducing scientific truth-claims within the broader context of social norms.
Some writers, like Broad and Wade (Betrayers of the Truth, 1982), report actual cases where scientific credentials have been forged and results fabricated. And some cultural theorists, particularly postmoderns, see science as just another conceptual game or ‘fiction’ posing as truth.
The bottom line is that science is complicated, far more than we usually hear on the evening news. But the word “science” still has a strange power to sway the masses, a power arguably out of sync with the realities of its complexity. No wonder some say that the ideology of science has replaced religion as the largest single social brainwasher.
» Archaeology, Aristotle, Chakras, Emic-Etic, Fundamentalism, Galileo Galilei, Ideal types, Myth, Particle-Wave Duality, Phenomenology, Postmodernism, Poststructuralism, Saint-Simon (Comte Henri de), Scientism, Semiology
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In the ‘original’ (1978) and ‘reimagined’ (2003) versions of the science fiction film and TV program Battlestar Galactica, the Cylons are a mechanical race of beings created by mankind but which have turned on their creator.
In the reimagined TV series, the Cylons may look exactly like human beings. Not unlike the Hal 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Borg and The Matrix, Cylons symbolize the possibility of mankind becoming endangered by machines. And on the sociological level, Cylons could be taken to represent the very real issues of depersonalization, alienation and, as sociologist Max Weber put it, the bureaucratization and rationalization of human beings in contemporary society. Not only that. As the above poster suggests, Cylons could represent hostile spies in otherwise healthy societies.
The background story to the Cylons is pretty complicated. It’s actually quite amazing how thoroughly the Battlestar Galactica writers fleshed out – maybe not the best metaphor in this instance – their identity.¹
The word Cylon, itself, stems from an actual Athenian nobleman.
¹ Especially in the reimagined series: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cylon_%28reimagining%29
- [Books] Battlestar Galactica: The Cylon’s Secret (geeky-guide.com)
- WATCH THIS: “Battlestar Galactia: Blood & Chrome” (lezgetreal.com)
- BSG: Blood & Chrome (Ep. 9-10) (storiesbywilliams.com)
- ‘Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome’ Blu-ray Review: Prequel Mocks Pre-9/11 Mindset (breitbart.com)
- Roundtable Review: Battlestar Galactica, “The Long Patrol” (thiswastv.com)
- Intergalactic War-Porn: ‘Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome’ (Review) (popmatters.com)
- After Action Report: Battlestar Galactica RPG (blackcampbell.com)
- Luke Pasqualino and Ben Cotton Talk ‘Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome’ (advocate.com)
- Battlestar Galactica “Twelve Cylon Models Note” Original Backup BSG Prop (ephemera.typepad.com)
- Artificial Intelligence (unrealengine.com)
As one of the Maquis peoples, Chakotay is often sought for spiritual assistance, usually in the form of guided meditation based on Native American beliefs and practices, such as controlled dreaming.
The Maquis descend from a Native American tribe which, hoping to preserve its traditions, departed from Earth to settle on the planet Trebus. Chakotay was born on Trebus several hundred years later.
Chakotay, for the most part, plays a supportive, nurturing (yin type) role as confidant to the willful and strong (yang type) Captain Katherine Janeway. But once in a while he’ll challenge her command decisions if he believes he’s in the right, especially with regard to the Maquis crew members aboard the Enterprise.
This character dynamic between Chakotay and Janeway was interesting in the 90s (when the show first ran) because it inverted traditional sex role stereotypes. Sure, Cagney & Lacey were around in the 80s and The Bionic Woman in the 70s, but a “feminine” man standing behind a “masculine” woman was, perhaps, something of a first for big time TV.
- Representations of indigenous peoples in science-fiction (thegeekanthropologist.com)
- Star Trek London Recap: The Five Captains (wired.com)
- Times I Wanted to Straight Up Punch Captain Janeway (thebestofalexandra.wordpress.com)
- Why Don’t You Come Out to the Delta Quadrant Sometime and See Me? (thebestofalexandra.wordpress.com)
- Star Trek Week: How Voyager Got Me Through It All (wired.com)
- 5 Best Quotes from the Star Trek Captains Reunion (jeredhiggins.wordpress.com)
- People Are Pigs: ‘Eating Raoul’ (Review) (popmatters.com)
Carbon dating is a scientific method for trying to determine the age of organically based archaeological discoveries.
The process hinges on measuring the radioactive isotope (carbon-14) that is present in all terrestrial life. At death the isotope gradually decays. So the remaining amount in a given artifact can give us a picture about its age. More precisely, the ratio of remaining carbon-14 to stable, unchanging carbon (carbon-12) is used to try to determine a sample’s age.
I say “try” because the process is not as exact as some cheesy educational books or docudramas will tell us. The buzzword “carbon-dating” is often used to apparently prove scientific theories, but many laypersons are unaware of the high degree of controversy (and inaccuracy) surrounding this process. Like most, if not all, of science, there’s room for bias and interpretation. And this is hardly surprising because science is a human enterprise to begin with.
The idea of carbon dating has become so much a part of popular culture that it appears in science fiction and fantasy films like Prometheus,¹ where carbon samples are used to determine the age of alien substances discovered on a distant planet.
Related Posts » Archaeology
Image source (immediate right) and helpful article
- Core sample sends carbon clock farther back in time : Nature News & Comment (nature.com)
- New advancement for carbon dating found in Japanese lake (japandailypress.com)
- Carbon Dating Gets an Update (science.slashdot.org)
- The problems with Carbon-14 Dating (lambfollower.wordpress.com)
- Bosnia Pyramid Carbon Dated 25 Thousand Years Old (rclvideolibrary.com)
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- Dating of New Zealand Wreck Suggests Visitors Pre-Dated Cook (sott.net)
- The Most Important Records For Dating Old Objects Were Just Found In A Japanese Lake (businessinsider.com)
- Reconciling the Conflicts between Science and Religion (realintent.org)
In a compelling TNG episode, Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the U.S.S. Enterprise is captured and electronically tortured by a chief Cardassian. Picard finds underneath the tyrant’s powerful exterior a frightened, abused little boy with a massive inferiority complex.
The tyrant gives Picard a choice: If he agrees to say there are five floodlights beaming in his face when actually there are only four, his torture will stop. If he holds to the truth, his torture will continue. Fortunately, Picard is rescued by his crew before caving in and betraying the truth for the sake of comfort.
Toward the end of the episode, however, Picard admits to Counselor Troy that he was about to “say anything” to stop his electronically induced torture. And, perhaps most interesting, Picard adds that, after suffering intense and prolonged abuse, he really began to believe that he saw five lights instead of four.
This is a telling psychosocial comment about how perceptions can change with the oppressive influence of an evil power that’s not in a person’s best interests.
- Star Trek answer: Who is the most hated Star Trek character (wiki.answers.com)
- If protests are outlawed, let’s start calling the government Cardassians… (janespoliticalramblings.wordpress.com)
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Dreamtime refers to the Australian aboriginal belief that all animal and human life exists in a complex set of interrelations, ultimately connecting to primal ancestors existing in the Dreamtime, a place beyond or behind the apparent distinctions made in our daily lives.
Generally the idea of dreamtime forwards a threefold map of the
- Human World
- Physical World
- Sacred World
These three realms are said to be closely interconnected, with innumerable divisions and sub-divisions.
The idea of Dreamtime loosely corresponds to the notion of the Q-Continuum as found in the science fiction TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation. And some try to explain various types of mental illness through an inadequate biological filtering and coordinating of these three realms in everyday life.¹
¹ See for instance, The Metaphysical Origin of Attention Deficit Disorder by David Almeida. I should note that I haven’t posted this article at Earthpages.org because it seems a little too influenced by the author’s personal beliefs. Still, taken with that caveat, it does offer a perspective seldom found in contemporary psychiatry. Along these lines, the Swiss psychiatrist C. G. Jung once noted that the brain is like a radio receiver—i.e. limiting some ‘frequencies’ of reality while receiving others.
On the World Wide Web:
- Dreamtime is Over, So Why Are You Hitting the Snooze Button? (lamoniquehamilton.com)
- Qantas no dreamtime legend (ft.com)
- Baby Boomers Bamboozled: Social Security Fades Into a Dreamtime Haze (thedailybell.com)
Dracula is Irishman Bram Stoker’s novel about a blood-sucking vampire, Jonathan Harker, who lives in a Transylvanian castle.
Written in 1897, Dracula was the most successful of a number of tales about vampirism. Its creepy violence and, especially in the 1958 film, masked sexuality have been said to represent the repressed subconscious currents of Victorian England.
Cliff Burns adds:
I had to re-read the novel some years back because I was adapting a student stage production. Terrible book–totally lacking dramatic surges. A blandly composed series of letters and diary entries. I thought Stoker’s JEWEL OF THE SEVEN STARS (think I’ve got that title right, it’s been a few years) was a far superior effort. To my mind, the best “Dracula” onscreen was the one played by Jack Palance, working from a Richard Matheson script. 1973? That sounds about right. Hard to find but worth the effort…²
- Dracula: Chapter One (word2live.wordpress.com)
- Dracula’s Denture Cookies (neatorama.com)
- Final Submission – Fantasy And Science Fiction – Dracula By Bram Stoker (copywriterspro.wordpress.com)
- Alice, Dracula and Frankenstein (riotthill.wordpress.com)
- Dracula Was Irish Not Transylvanian, Says Genealogist Fiona Fitzsimons (eogn.com)
- Dracula by Bram Stoker (cer90cer.wordpress.com)
- Bram Stoker’s Dracula (catharinasheely.com)
- Any One Book: Dracula by Bram Stoker (anyonething.wordpress.com)
- A Short History of Vampire Movies – Part I the 1920′s (mrmovietimes.com)
An essentially slug-like Trill, Dax has lived several past lives in different humanoid hosts of both genders and currently resides in a female body.
Trill hosts voluntarily join with a symbiont, but once joined, both Trill and symbiont become biologically interdependent.¹
Dax is noteworthy in the Star Trek universe and in pop culture because s/he is inherently neither male nor female and openly bisexual in his/her current female form.
The Star Trek franchise has always championed human rights, addressing issues like racism, cultural imperialism, ageism and sexism, and the Jadzia Dax character seems to be Deep Space Nine’s way of challenging those who maintain that same-sex attractions are unnatural or ungodly.
¹ Trill – Xenobiology Database » http://www.geocities.com/Area51/nebula/4156/infirmary/xeno/trill.html
- DS9 Stories/News: Deep Space Nine’s “Rejoined” Analysis – The First Same-Sex Kiss/Relationship In Trek History (2) (rindastartrekds9.wordpress.com)
- DS9 Stories/News: The Trill of It All… (rindastartrekds9.wordpress.com)
- Terry Farrell Interview with StarTrek.com (mishscifimusings.wordpress.com)
- Rethinking the classic Star Trek intro (holykaw.alltop.com)
- DS9 Stories/News: Deep Space Nine Celebrity Guest Pictures (5) (rindastartrekds9.wordpress.com)
Commander Data is an android science officer played by actor Brent Spiner aboard the starship Enterprise in the science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Data’s character evolves during the course of the series. At first he’s mostly an amusing and capable robot, much like C3PO in the original Star Wars film. As the story cycle evolves, however, we see Data wondering who he is, what it’s like to have feelings, parents, children and if he would enjoy sex.
Through various tricks and turns Data eventually experiences human emotions and activities, to become a sort of mythic representative for the idea of AI rights, a theme followed up by the holographic doctor in Star Trek: Voyager.
This might seem fanciful today but as computer technology advances at warp speed, in the not-too-distant future ethical concerns about AI could be headline news. We see this possibility in the science-fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, which illustrates the potential dangers of an intelligent machine (the HAL 9000 computer) gone wrong.
- Why Star Trek’s Vision of the Future is Out of Date [Star Trek] (io9.com)
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