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Quote for the Week

We don’t have to save the world. The world is big enough to look after itself. What we have to be concerned about is whether or not the world we live in will be capable of sustaining us in it.

–Douglas Adams, speech at The University of California, videoed by UCTV (May 2001); courtesy of Wikiquote.

Quote for the Week

If the Universe came to an end every time there was some uncertainty about what had happened in it, it would never have got beyond the first picosecond. And many of course don’t. It’s like a human body, you see. A few cuts and bruises here and there don’t hurt it. Not even major surgery if it’s done properly. Paradoxes are just the scar tissue. Time and space heal themselves up around them and people simply remember a version of events which makes as much sense as they require it to make.

–Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency; courtesy of Wikiquote.

Aliens, Robots, and Perpetual Motion

About three years ago I read an SF (science fiction) novel in which one of the protagonists suspects that the other is either an alien or a robot (or perhaps a bit of both, and thus in effect a cyborg, though that term was never used).  I enjoyed the novel, actually, but I noticed a trope that I’ve encountered before in SF.  The first tip-off about the possibly non-human nature of the second protagonist is when she is observed not breathing.  In a sequel novel, it is made explicit that the second protagonist is indeed a technologically-augmented alien (and thus, as noted, a cyborg) and that she does not need to breathe, eat, or sleep, although she chooses to do all three in order to blend in to human society, and also because she’s developed a liking for those actions.  Additionally, I should point out, she doesn’t need to go the bathroom, either.  Yes, the second novel went there….  I still liked it, though, which may say something about me.

Robots (and their variant, androids) don’t need to breathe, eat, or sleep, either, though some can eat.  It is made explicit in Star Trek:  The Next Generation that Data, the resident android, is capable of eating and drinking, though he doesn’t need to.  In fact, one humorous vignette in the first TNG movie, Generations, is this:

In the process of testing out his emotion chip, Data drinks the liquor that Guinan offers him.  He hates it, and orders another–but the point is that he is indeed capable of drinking it in the first place.

Another thing about robots is that they are immortal and seem never to need repair or recharging.  In the TNG two-part episode “Time’s Arrow”, the crew find Data’s head in an archeological dig in a cave in San Francisco.  It has apparently been there since the 19th Century–thus nearly half a millennium.  Later in the show, Data’s head is blown off, and his body is recovered.  His “future” head is reattached, and it works perfectly, while his “past” head is left in San Francisco, to be found in the 24th Century.

Similarly, in the Stephen Spielberg movie A. I. Artificial Intelligence, the boy android David spends two thousand years underwater, awaiting the granting of his wish by the Blue Fairy (you’ll have to see the movie if you want an explanation of the plot point!), until the future Mecha (sapient robots that have replaced the now-extinct human race) rescue him and restore him to the surface.  He is after two millennia fully functional.  In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, Marvin the Paranoid Android is functional after 576,000,003,579 years (he counted!) in the radio series, and “thirty-seven times older than the Universe itself” in So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, though there it is noted that he has had ongoing repairs.

So what am I getting at with all this?  Read on!

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Quote for the Week

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A learning experience is one of those things that say, “You know that thing you just did? Don’t do that.”

—Douglas Adams, Interview in The Daily Nexus (5 April 2000), reprinted in The Salmon of Doubt; courtesy of Wikiquote

Buffy, the Bible, and Not My Business

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Update:  A Facebook friend has reported that I misremembered the Hitchhiker’s guide, writing “Not My Problem” field for “Somebody Else’s Problem” field.  Due corrections have been made!  I have left the title intact, though, for the sake of the alliteration….

In the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as fans well know, the setting is the fictional Southern California city of Sunnydale.  Sunnydale just happens to be located on top of the literal gates of Hell–the Hellmouth, as it’s called in the show.  Because of this, Sunnydale is chock full of vampires, demons, and monsters of various sorts.  The ongoing joke in the series is that everyone in the city is completely oblivious to all of this, attributing supernatural events, murders, and general mayhem to anything but their real causes.  The explanation given by Giles, Buffy’s Watcher, is that most people subconsciously block out anything that conflicts with their picture of ordinary reality.  They literally can’t see the weirdness.

In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy (consisting actually of five volumes by Douglas Adams and one by Eoin Colfer), there is mention made (in Life, the Universe, and Everything, I believe) of the SEP field.  It is explained that invisibility is extremely difficult to produce.  Therefore, if someone wants to hide something (in the novel, an invading spaceship), it’s easier to use the Somebody Else’s Problem–SEP–field.  Humans have a natural propensity not to want to get involved with anything that is “somebody else’s problem”.  The SEP field amplifies this natural tendency, so that while the object to be hidden is perfectly visible and in the open, no one actually notices it.

My contention is that most people who read the Bible are much like the people of Sunnydale; or to change similes, they read the Bible as if under the influence of an SEP field.

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Quote for the Week

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A learning experience is one of those things that say, “You know that thing you just did? Don’t do that.”

–Douglas Adams, Interview in The Daily Nexus (5 April 2000), reprinted in The Salmon of Doubt; courtesy of Wikiquote.