Monday, October 30, 2006

Venus and the Moon

The Moon and distant Venus in crescent.

Hope you are all well, and the global warming isnt getting you down!


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Battlestar Galactica: Season 3 Ep 4: - Exodus part 2

So why do I feel the need to talk about a TV program?

Well the recent episode of BSG, Exodus part 2, is most certainly the best episode yet of this show. But perhaps, this was possibly the best hour of Sci-fi TV ever. Hell of a boast, no?

So why do I think I can say that? If is not something I have ever felt the need to say about any other show. I watch a lot of American dramas. I feel I know their style very well. From Star Trek, through Stargate, 24, Lost, The West Wing, ER, Desparate Housewives, Murder 1, Alias, Futurama, Angel, and the previous winner of greatest hour of TV ever Buffy the Vampire Slayer (season 6 finale, prove me wrong!!). I know good (!) American scripted drama well.

So what made this different? Well BSG is already gaining a huge following around the world. People who are getting into are getting blown away like few other shows before. They are fanatics about it (myself included). You should have seen Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creaters of South Park when they collected their prestigeous Peabody Award (BSG also won one for writing!). They used half their speach to lavish praise on BSG and how blown away they were.

Perhaps I am most blown away by the series because I had such low hopes for it when it began. I watched the original but was never a devote. When I heard they were remaking it, with human looking Cylons (who are all supermodel quality) and they changed two of the leads from men into women (Starbuck and Boomer) and two other leads were bein played by British pretty boy actors (putting on yank accents), I was seriously underwelmed! Too many US shows just fill the screen with beautiful people to hide a lame show (Mutant X anyone).

Well they shut me up! BSG (2004) is most deffinately a post 9/11 show. It is a show about Genocide. Perhaps that element was over looked or didnt mean as much in the 80's, but it packs a punch now. The orginal mini series in 2003 started with the 12 colonys (planets) being totally nuked in a suprise attack. Only 50,000 humans get off the planet and flee for their lives. The mini series cranked up the tension and people who were suspected Cylons were thrown out of airlocks. A ship that was late turning up was blown up becuse they couldnt be sure it was afe anymore. You really feel the desparation and hopeless in the first few episodes. BSG and its rag-tag fleet of civilian ships are blind running, searching for Earth (an old legend. Admiral Adama doesnt believe it exists and is only saying it to keep up hope in the fleet). They have Faster Than Light (FTL) technology where they can jump to another location. It is a quality special effect when they do this. Infact, all the SFX are fantastic and state of the art. This show looks GOOD. The acting and writing are top notch. The supermodel Cylon (Six) is both believable and a fantastic actress. The human cylons have gone mad. They believe totally that they have a God and what they are going is all his work. Six is particually bonkers. And they cant be killed. If they are, they download into a new copy of themselves. Turns out that this is sending them mad as they feel all the pain of dying and comeback again. Not that they think they are.

By the end of the second season they have found a new planet that is capable of supporting life, a bleak place they've called New Caprica. Half the population are sick of running and set up a makeshift town of tents and scrap huts. Then the Cylons find them. Season finale.

Season 3. It is Vichy France! There are collaborators, a secret police, torture cells, a resistance. They even had a suicide bomber! when a human who had lost his wife and child joins the human police (who all wear balaclavas to hide their identitys) and blows himself and 30 others up. Really dark stuff. Episode 4 is where all the stories from the collaboration get settled. Deaths and betrayals and come-upances. This episode has some serious drama. Then Galactica comes to rescue them!

It seems the creaters of BSG managed to find a new sci-fi effect that no-one has done before! Now if you think about it, you would have thought you had probably seen all the spceship effects that you could. With Trek, Star Wars and from everything from the Matrix onwards, we've seen it all? No.

They jump into the high atmosphere of the new planet, and just drops. They do this so they can launch their fighters "Well this is gonna be different!". The effect as Galactica just freefalls is breathtaking. And as it nearly hits the ground, it engages its FTL drive and jumps away just leaving the shockwave and heated air to hit the ground like a huracane. Never seen anything like it!

With that and the sister ship going out in a blaze of glory by taking 3 Basestars in a suicide run, it is the best effects in a TV show ever. With intense drama of the storys, this is the best hour of TV drama I have ever seen. Catch it, its a blast!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Monday, October 16, 2006

Mars from orbit

This is the view of the Victoria Crater on Mars, as taken by the MarsExpress Orbiter.

You can actually see the Mars Beagles tracks from space.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Starry Starry Night.

"This crowded star field towards the center of our Milky Way Galaxy turns out to be a great place to search for planets beyond our solar system. In fact, repeatedly imaging about 180,000 stars in the field over a one week period, the Hubble Space Telescope enabled astronomers to conduct the Sagittarius Window Eclipsing Extrasolar Planet Search (SWEEPS). Their search looked for brief, periodic dips in brightness caused as a large planet eclipses or transits its parent star. Since chances of seeing such an eclipse are slim, it was a definite advantage to examine as many stars as possible. In the end, SWEEPS astronomers found 16 candidate stars (green circles identify 11 in this cropped picture) that are likely closely orbited by large Jupiter-sized planets with periods of a few days or less. Large planets orbiting so close to their stars are termed hot Jupiters. Kepler, a future NASA mission, is intended to extend the transit technique to search for Earth-sized planets."

Its only a matter of time before we find ourselves a life supporting planet.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"We'll meet again. Dont know where, dont know when"

Ah, Stanley Kubrick knew his stuff.

Doctor Strangelove (Or How I Stopped Worrying About The Bomb) is one of my favourite movies. It is almost my favourite comedy of all time.

It contains three fantastic performances by Peter Sellars. It has some classic lines including the gem said by Peter Sellars as the US President to the Russian Ambassador and a general (played to perfection by George C Scott) who are currently fighting each other "No Fighting, gentlemen. This is the War Room!"

The final scene is a classic. A rogue bomber captained by Colonal Kong, played by the brilliant Slim Pickens (yes, really!) is going to bomb a Russian base. His radio is out and he doesnt know he has been recalled. The nuke is stuck in the bomb-bay. He sits straddling the bomb trying to release it when it suddenly releases with him still on it. And down he falls riding the bomb like a bucking bronco, waving his stetson going YeeHaw!!

And as the bomb explodes we get the lovley tones of Vera Lynn singing We'll meet again to the images of nukes going off. Classic!

Good ol' Glorious Leader. Obviously the world was too stable at the moment. Why not add a new nuclear arms race in Asia. Just what we all need.

Funny thing is, Nukes are quite pretty really.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Happy Valentines Day

Couldnt wait till February to post this.

The appropriatly named Heart Nebula.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Nebula and galaxies

A beautiful nebula.

And beautiful galaxys.

It's a nice universe out there.