Monday, October 23, 2017

Woot!

So, one of the things about Doctor Who that has been annoying me more and more as the years go on:

The lack of south Asian representation.

People from the Indian sub-continent form the largest ethnic minority in the UK at 4.2 percent per the last census (2.3% Indian and 1.9% Pakistani, so this may be a low ball as they seem to have forgotten about Bangladesh). This is compared to 3% African descent (counting Caribbean blacks).

Doctor Who is over sixty years old.

It says something, and not a good thing, that in over sixty years the show has not had a single major character of Indian or Pakistani descent. (And very few bit parts, for that matter).

And it's finally changed.

Meet Mandip Gill


The only thing we know about her character is the first name: Jasmin. Gill herself has only played one significant extended role - Phoebe Jackson in a soap opera called Hollyoaks. Essentially, the only option for Asian British actors is: Be in a soap opera or go to Bollywood. It's been this bad for a long time. I found a clip of her and she's at least as solid as Pearl Mackie.

But finally Desi kids watching Doctor Who will get to see a Companion who looks like them... No pressure, Mandip.

...except, there's more.

Chibnall has apparently decided that he likes the idea of a more crowded TARDIS. It's not like there isn't plenty of space. Gill will be joined by:

Bradley Walsh


He's playing "Graham" - and will be the oldest companion we've seen in a good while (Nardole is older, but doesn't look it). More of an Ian type, maybe? I've not seen this guy act, but I've seen him as...a quiz show host. Which is why I thought the rumor was wrong - he seemed to be busy, but apparently he's been a fan longer than I've been alive. Which is a frighteningly long time.

AND

Tosin Cole as "Ryan"


Lt Bastian in The Force Awakens, btw.

So, Chibnall decided to settle the argument as to whether the new Doctor should have a male companion or a female one...pretty much the way I would have.

The only information about the three new characters we have so far is their first names.

Oh, wait, and there's more, in a major Doctor Who infodump. Sharon D. Clarke will be joining the series in "a returning role."



A returning role? So, not a new character? The obvious (and thus probably wrong) conclusion to jump to is that that might be...the new face of the Master.

The bad news? We won't see them until fall 2018, and the series will be shorter - one 60-minute episode and only nine 50-minute episodes (a net loss of 30 minutes of air time. I suspect the delay and the time cut are related - it's a lot of work taking over something like this and Chibnall might not have got as much put together as he hoped).

Friday, October 20, 2017

Feeding Wildlife...

...might be a bad idea. Because, apparently, the British fondness for attracting birds with feeders is actually causing evolution. Specifically, British great tits (which aren't very "great" at 4.9-5.5 in long unless you compare them with other tits) have a longer beak than those in the Netherlands, where people aren't as inclined to feed them.

Maybe it has to do with bird feeder design? (They're still adorable, though).

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Uh oh...

...here come our AI masters.

AlphaGo Zero has taught itself to play Go (An Asian game more complex in its iterations than chess) - from scratch - and well enough to beat its predecessor 100 games in a row. Humans already have no chance.

No, this isn't really our AI masters - AIs have proved to be better at these kinds of games than mere humans before - but it's still...interesting. And perhaps slightly unnerving.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Mapping the universe

Google Maps has left Earth - using NASA images they've added half the solar system, or so it seems. Including Pluto.

Might be a useful tool if you're writing in-system science fiction. (I know I've written with Google Earth on the other half of my screen before...it's insanely useful).

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

We live in a golden age...

...of astronomy that is.

Things might not be great here on Earth, but we're doing everything from getting close-ups of Pluto to reading gravitational waves to discovering that exoplanets are more common than, well, not.

We've actually observed dark matter.

We've discovered gold is made when stars collide.

And we still have yet to work out what the is going on with Tabby's Star.

What next? I don't know, but when I get depressed all I have to do is pull up some of these discoveries and remember that no matter how much we might mess up...we all look at the same stars.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Blade Runner 2049 (Spoilers)

I have to admit - I was offended by the existence of this movie - and the cast list. The last thing we needed was a Blade Runner sequel. Especially one that appeared to answer "Are you a replicant?"

Well, they dealt with that with a very small retcon...

...and created a movie that, well, I've already said. If you liked the original, watch it. If you didn't, don't. Villeneuve (Arrival) was an excellent choice to direct. It had pacing issues - the same pacing issues as the original, so I was okay with it. Ana de Armas was particularly brilliant as Joi.

The thing I liked the most was they didn't try to "fix" it. Instead of trying to say the Blade Runner future is our future, they just went for being consistent with the original and had fun with it - ads for Atari and Pan Am, for example. They went for full retro futurism - and I loved it.

Did it have issues?

Absolutely.

There is no excuse in 2017 for the line "No two humans have identical DNA" - twins, anyone? (An easy fix - the two identical DNA signatures were showing up for a boy and a girl, so they obviously weren't identical twins unless one of them was trans, which...wouldn't be in their birth records).

I personally could have done without the creepy hooker-AI threesome which was apparently supposed to be sexy and just came over as kinda...yeah. Just creepy.

Another thought I had wouldn't have worked with the storyline they were going for, with questions about parenthood and identity (which led, sadly, to my brain screaming "I am your father, Luke" right as two characters had a moment. If it hadn't been Harrison Ford, I would have been fine), the strong undertones of race in the story would have been far more powerful if "K" had been black. John Boyega might have been a good choice, or Michael B. Jordan. They had to match him to Ford and Sean Young, though, so it wasn't workable. But it would have made this not just another "Conventionally attractive white guy deals with pseudo-racism" movie, which I know black fans are somewhat tired of. That said, they did weave in issues of race and issues we might have to deal with.

Which brings us to the question.

Blade Runner asks "Are you a replicant?"

Blade Runner 2049 answers "You are human."

The answer to the question in the end is "It shouldn't matter."

Because we're all human.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Yellowstone

Decided to do a full post because the hysteria is back.

1. We are not "overdue" for an eruption of the Yellowstone super volcano.

2. The discovery that magma changes preceding an eruption may be in "less than a human lifespan" is actually a good thing! It doesn't mean it will erupt within our lifespans. It means that when it does we'll get a few decades warning, and we can come up with an action plan now so if it does blow in the next few centuries...

3. Oh, and it's not likely to blow in the next few centuries either. More likely the next few millennia, if we're unlucky.

4. Even if it does erupt, it won't destroy all life on Earth. It would be bad, particularly for parts of the midwest, but it is not a world-ending event, it won't cause a mass extinction (we're doing good on that on our own) and it probably won't even end human civilization. Certainly it won't destroy our species.

So, please, stop.

Even if you secretly want it to, Yellowstone is not destroying the world in the next decade.