2012 Doomsday Scenarios: Month Eleven

earth

Ever since the first atom bomb was detonated people became aware of our capacity to bring about our own extinction. One of the big fears spawning from the splitting of the atom was the likelihood of scientific accidents bringing about our downfall. Being that we’re so prone to making mistakes, it’s easy to worry that such destructive power has fallen on our clumsy hands.

Doomsday Scenario No. 2: Accidents Happen

The idea of a loaded gun given to a child is an apt metaphor of this doomsday scenario. Many people feel that we as a species are developing way too fast in terms of science and technology before we’re ready to truly understand the implications of new discoveries. By that concern, they point to our recent history with nuclear power.

Nuclear Fears

One of humanity’s deepest fears is that of an accidental nuclear weapons exchange. While it’s true the world powers that possess nuclear weapons have stringent safeguards there are the nagging doubt about their reliability. Back in the 1990s after the Cold War ended it became notoriously easy to acquire nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union. The thought of such WMDs in the wrong hands is horrifying. But there is the possibility of failed safeguards. This was seen in the film and book Fail-Safe where U.S. bombers are mistakenly sent to bomb the Soviet Union. Despite all efforts, Moscow is destroyed and to avert World War III, the U.S. president arranges to restore the balance by having New York City nuked. A similar situation happened in the Stanley Kubrick film Dr. Strangelove but to a more comedic effect. Accidental nuclear war has also been the subjects of many songs like Nena’s “99 Luftballons” (“99 Red Balloons”) or Men At Work’s “It’s A Mistake”. But what is deeply chilling is that many times military personnel and governments almost used nuclear weapons by mistake. One such incident happened in the mid 1990s when a rocket test launched in Europe was mistaken by Russia to be a nuclear first strike against them and Russian leader Boris Yeltsin was urged by his military to launch a nuclear counter-attack.

chernobylThen there are the problems with nuclear fission used as an energy source. For the most part, nuclear power plants are safe but the idea of a meltdown and the environmental impact is enough to keep most people leery about them. There was the Three Mile Island incident which thankfully ended well, but on the other hand we’ve had a nuclear meltdown in Chernobyl and most recently there was the Fukushima disaster in Japan. With Chernobyl that disaster left that city abandoned and uninhabitable to this day, while the impact of the Fukushima meltdown is still ongoing with an untold number of people having been exposed to deadly radiation.

Tomorrow’s Experiments

In the world of science fiction, wondrous discoveries and promising experiments often turn into worldwide disasters. In the film The Quiet Earth, a scientist working for a company worked on a global energy grid. What happens next is that the experiment makes all the people, except for the scientist and two other persons, disappear without a trace. At the end of The Quiet Earth, the scientist tries to undo the effect of his experiment but the result leaves him stranded in another reality by himself.

quiet earth

In Kurt Vonnegut’s book Cat’s Cradle, there is an artificial substance called ice-nine which is a type of water that is solid at room temperature. By the novel’s end, ice-nine is accidently released into the ocean which turns practically all the water in the world into solid ice and nearly all life on the planet ends a few days later.

Some scientific experiments and discoveries aren’t as world devastating as those found in The Quiet Earth and Cat’s Cradle, but they come close. In the book FlashForward, an experiment at CERN (European Organization For Nuclear Research) regarding Higgs boson particles unleashes a side effect wherein the entire world population briefly loses consciousness and experiences a few moments of the future. In the TV show based on the book, CERN isn’t responsible for the blackouts but rather a consortium of sinister scientists.

Then there are the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park. In the books and films, dinosaurs are brought back to life through cloning and chaos erupts. The humans are unable to control the dinosaurs in the upcoming Jurassic Park theme park, and this results with the unhindered dinosaurs driving out humans from the park. In the sequel book The Lost World and the film Jurassic Park III dinosaurs are multiplying and beginning to move past their island boundaries. This was dramatically shown at the end of Jurassic Park III when several pteranodons are shown flying out of their island. If dinosaurs were to invade other territories, they would decimate local flora and threaten humanity. Basically our world could turn into a monster film where humanity is at war with giant creatures.

Scientific WMDs

Sometimes the plot lines in these tales has it that the military is secretly testing new weapons or devices with unexpected results. The urban legend about the Philadelphia Experiment details how supposedly during World War II the U.S. Navy performed an experiment onboard the U.S.S. Eldridge to render it invisible but harmed the sailors onboard. A film based on the incident also called The Philadelphia Experiment took the premise a step further and the experiment threatened the Earth when it created a vortex.

The military is also responsible for the catastrophes that ravage the world in the movie The Core. It turns out that after testing a seismic weapon by the U.S. military, the Earth’s core stops rotating, which begins to collapse the protective electromagnetic field  surrounding the world. As the heroes in The Core journey to the Earth’s center to explode nukes that will restart the core’s rotation (!), electromagnetic storms raze the world and structures like the Golden Gate Bridge and the Roman Coliseum are destroyed.

the core 2

This fear about the military experimenting with secret weapons and technology is influenced by their secretive nature and the fact that so little is known about them. Take the H.A.A.R.P. (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) project for example. Reportedly, its purpose is to study the ionosphere for applications in advanced communications and surveillance. A lot of conspiracy theorists are convinced that H.A.A.R.P. is being used to create natural disasters like superstorms and earthquakes. Some even claim that it was used a week before the recent U.S. presidential election to create Superstorm Sandy so that the president had an opportunity to appear presidential and win the election. H.A.A.R.P. has also been used in fiction like The X-Files and in several Marvel comics.

Mini Holes and Goo

Some worry that uncontrolled or careless science experiments could lead to the decimation of food, water and oil supplies (in the case of water, this was presented in Cat’s Cradle). But two dominant concerns have arisen about consequential scientific research.

grey gooIn addition to Jurassic Park, author Michael Crichton also penned a book called Prey which was also about technology run amok. In Prey’s case, it was nanotechnology which worries many scientists. Nanobots are recognized as the next step in medical technology. Tiny self-multiplying robots that are invisible to the naked eye can be injected into patients to treat them for cancers and other ailments more effectively than with conventional methods. The same nanotechnology also has other applications but all of this is in the research phase.

One drawback with nanobots is that people may lose control over the self-replicating machines. This would result in out-of-control and rapid propagation. The nanobots will then consume all matter to self-multiply which results in the grey goo phenomenon. In that case unhindered, runaway nanobots will turn everything on Earth into shapeless masses. Grey goo has also covered in other novels like Wil McCarthy’s Bloom and Greg Bear’s The Forge Of God.

Another developing concern has to do with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, which is the world’s largest particle accelerator. Many fear that the Collider can create mini black holes in the Earth as it collides protons together at near light speeds. Once the miniature black holes are created, they will grow and consume the Earth. However, this hasn’t happened and probably won’t. Scientists believe that any micro black holes will dissipate and actually these proton collisions take place naturally in our atmosphere and we’re still here.

 black hole 2

These micro black holes have plagued several science fiction stories and books like the novel Earth by David Brin is about an artificially created black hole that burrows itself in the planet’s interior which threatens the Earth. Other examples include Larry Niven’s The Hole Man and The Borderland Of Sol, Dan Simmons’ books Ilium and Olympos, and Martin Caidin’s Star Bright.

cern

It was also feared that the Collider would also create strangelets or strange matter. This subatomic matter is largely theoretical but if they were to be formed they would tear holes on our planet. The novel Impact by Douglas Preston has an alien machine that creates strangelets and the TV special End Day featured a scenario where a created strangelet destroyed the Earth.

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Breakdowns & Aftermath On The Walking Dead, Parts I & II

 

Part I:

“This place..is not what they say it is..”

-Michonne to Andrea

In the pre-credits scene of episode five of The Walking Dead, “Say the Word”, Milton (Dallas Roberts) hands Andrea (Laurie Holden) a cold drink at an outdoor town festival; Michonne (Danai Gurira) watches from afar, suspicious. Andrea presses the tight-lipped Milton for details of the evening’s festivities, to no avail. We cut to the Governor (David Morrissey) in his den, combing his daughter’s hair, her face unseen. As the brush rips into her scalp, she suddenly turns hostile; turning around, she is revealed to be a walker. Frustrated, the Governor forces a bag over her head to restrain her, softly declaring his love for his little girl.

Post-credits, the survivors are gathered in the cell block yard, as Maggie (Lauren Cohan) holds Lori’s (Sarah Wayne Callies) crying newborn baby girl. Hershel (Scott Wilson) pronounces the baby healthy, but in desperate need of formula. Carl (Chandler Riggs) holds his newborn sister and considers names for the baby girl; suggesting those of the dead survivors, he even offers that of his mother Lori. Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) – glassy-eyed and unresponsive – suddenly grabs an axe and runs back into the cell block…

Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Maggie go on a supply run for the newborn; entering an abandoned nursery school, they find formula, bottles, and other provisions. Meanwhile, inside the cell block, Rick goes on vengeful rampage, mutilating all walkers in his path. Later, after a curt reply to soft-spoken Axel (Lew Temple) and Oscar (Vincent Ward), Glenn (Steven Yeun) reveals to Hershel his wish that they should have killed all the prisoners “on sight”.

In the Woodbury town center, while a smiling Governor, glass in hand, gathers the residents and raises a toast to the sacrifices and hard work that built the town, Michonne enters his office and snoops around. Fetching her katana, she finds an odd notebook full of names, but leaves before being caught. In an industrial area nearby, Michonne finds a cage full of walkers. She breaks the lock and empties the cage. Like Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, she smirks as she rips them to pieces, but is caught by the Governor’s men. Questioned privately by the Governor, she is uncooperative, and after holding her katana to the Governor’s throat, leaves calmly.

That afternoon, Milton and Merle (Michael Rooker) drive to a nearby location, and using a net, pull walkers from an underground pit. The Governor’s crew hold down the walkers as Merle removes their teeth. At the town party that evening, Michonne reveals her dark suspicions about Woodbury to Andrea. Describing the townspeople as prisoners unable to leave, she sets out. Andrea, staying put, is approached by the Governor, who invites her for a drink; they walk away, hand-in-hand.

In the inner cell block, Glenn locates a silent Rick, who pushes him away.  Prowling the dark, eerie cell block, Rick locates a butchered mess, who he surmises to be the remains of his deceased wife Lori. Seeing a bloated, well-fed walker nearby (presumably from eating you-know-who) he attacks and savagely kills it with his hunting knife…

As the Governor escorts Andrea to Woodbury’s evening festivities, a barbaric twist on old-time, bare-knuckle brawling: Merle and two of the Governor’s other muscled thugs duke it out in an arena, while chained (though toothless) walkers lunge at them from the side. Although the crowd cheers, Lori balks at the spectacle; the Governor waves it off, assuring her that it’s harmless.

The next day, Daryl lays a flower on an unmarked grave – Carol’s? (Melissa McBride) – while Rick remains in the cell block, still in shock. As the newborn’s crying reverberates through his head, he picks up a nearby ringing phone, answering “Hello?”

“Say the Word” was an overall exciting and well-paced episode, jump-cutting like an MTV video between the different storylines. With less of the usual fighting-their-way-through-hordes-of-walkers shtick, the highlight of this The Walking Dead episode is the slow and methodical unfolding of the Governor’s story. Seeing his sad, pitiful relationship with his walker daughter, we now understand why he and Milton are so fascinated with walkers’ behavior and memories. Michonne, on the other hand, remains an enigma, but in our first glimpse of what she can do when the odds seem to be against her, she is an impressive fighter. Somewhere between a manga heroine and a Pam Grier-style blaxploitation mama – with a touch of Snake Plissken – Michonne treats killing walkers as child’s play; in fact, she even seems to enjoy it. But questions arise. Where will she go, now that she has left Woodbury? What was that notebook? What will happen to Andrea? Will she develop a true romance with the Governor, or seek to leave? Was that Carol’s grave? If not, where is Carol (there was no mention of her)? Will Axel and Oscar prove their worth and link up with the survivors? Who called on the prison phone? What will happen to Rick?

A note to readers: At this point in the season we are so used to walkers popping out from every nook and cranny that even Daryl and Maggie’s supply run kept us on the edge of our seats. This time, all they encountered was an opossum. Also,I’ve felt for a while that the show has certain Western-style undertones (Rick is a sheriff; Daryl has a crossbow and a motorcycle, akin to a Native American with a bow and arrow on a horse, etc.). Case in point – note Daryl’s poncho, a tribute to Eastwood’s man-with-no-name from the famed Dollars trilogy. Continue reading

New Battlestar Web Show Has Blood & Guts

The new web-based show Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome was actually a two-hour pilot commissioned by the Syfy channel for a possible TV series. Sadly, the network decided not to greenlight the show and one has to wonder why because this pilot truly captures the feel of the late Battlestar Galactica.

Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome is a prequel to the remake ofBattlestar Galactica but a sequel of sorts to Caprica. It takes place during the oft-mentioned Cylon War that was fought between humanity and the cybernetic Cylons that they created in the Caprica show.

The main character is a young William “Husker” Adama (Luke Pasqualino), an idealistic, eager rookie pilot who is out to win the ten-year war against the Cylons. Seeing Adama as a hotshot, brash pilot is a startling contrast to the grizzled commander we’ve seen in the Battlestar Galactica remake. This presentation is very novel. We’ve could’ve been given a similar Adama who while still young would have many of the older Adama’s traits. But the character is refreshingly shown as being an idealist who by the time he’s commander of the Galactica has grown weary.

After a brief intro that shows various colonial cities across the Twelve Colonies under Cylon attack, Adama is shown excelling at a simulator viper fighter program. Later he’s assigned to the Battlestar Galactica; at this time, the ship isn’t an aging relic but considered one of the best ships in the colonial fleet. Expecting to be given a top-of-the line viper, Adama is disappointed that instead he’s tasked to pilot a rundown, workhorse raptor ship with cynical co-pilot Coker Fasjovik (Ben Cotton). It’s from Coker that we see the older Adama’s characteristics; bitter and disgruntled about the year, Coker is a short-timer who just wants to coast through his remaining few weeks left of service. Naturally, we get a strong feeling that he won’t live long enough to complete his tour but Coker is a likeable character nonetheless. And of course, the two butt heads over their natural differences. Still they have a mutual, grudging admiration for each other.

They are given a mission to transport Dr. Beka Kelly (Lili Bordan), formerly a Graystone Industries employee, who has vital information about the Cylons, to a rendezvous point with a colonial ship. Upon arriving, they discover the ship has  been destroyed by Cylons. After destroying some Cylon raiders (styled after the old raiders seen in the original show), they proceed to a set of coordinates and encounter a fleet of supposedly lost and destroyed colonial ships. Once they drop off Kelly, Adama volunteers himself and Coker to transport Kelly to her objective; to meet up with a contingent of marines on a frozen moon deep in Cylon territory.

Blood & Chrome is an exciting and thrilling joy to watch that is engaging and well produced. Each ten-minute segment ends in a nail-biting cliffhanger that leaves one wanting to find out what happens next. True, there are many of the standard war plot devices and characters (the routine mission that goes wildly wrong, grizzled vets, gung ho recruits, etc.) in this web show but they work well. The presentation has a gritty feel that feels exactly like the remake.  It also has some nods to Caprica and serves as a solid bridge between the two shows. The special effects and production design are simply superb and top notch.. This isn’t a cheap, digital knock-off. It looks just like it could fit in as a companion piece to the remake. It’s truly amazing considering that Blood & Chrome was actually filmed using digital sets.

Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome is so good that one doesn’t mind watching this on a computer or mobile device as opposed to the comfort of a couch and TV. But for those that can wait for traditional viewing methods, the pilot will air complete on Syfy in February and be released on DVD, Blu-ray and download in the same month. Hopefully the reaction to this pilot will be strong enough for the commissioning of at least more web episodes or maybe even a series.

Waldermann Rivera

Spider-Man’s Greatest Moments, Part III

As Marvel celebrates the 50th anniversary or birthday of their greatest superhero Spider-Man, here are some more elements that has best defined everyone’s favorite web-slinging hero. These aspects and many others are the reason why Spider-Man continues to captivate many fans.

A Doubtful Everyman What makes Spider-Man such an endearing hero is the fact that he isn’t the most powerful superhero. He isn’t even the smartest. He gets by with his pluck and determination and sometimes by knowing when to retreat and come back to fight another day.

While he is quite a powerhouse when he puts his mind to it, often he fights more powerful foes or the villains just happen to gain the upper hand. This usually led to bouts of severe doubt. This happened very early in his career in The Amazing Spider-Man # 3, which was the first appearance of his arch nemesis Doctor Octopus. Early in the issue, Spidey easily captured some robbers and he mused to himself that his crimefighting career was too easy. Little did he know that a few pages later he would get a major thumping when he first fought Doctor Octopus. He was so humiliated by his defeat that he considered hanging up his costume until a high school lecture by the Human Torch about not giving up, inspired his alter ego Peter Parker to get back into the fight and eventually defeat Doctor Octopus.

There was another moment when he had to prepare to fight Doctor Octopus in Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man # 78. Most of that issue dealt with Spidey coming to grips that he might not survive the oncoming battle with Doc Ock and was mentally preparing for the ordeal. It was notable because in that issue, Peter took time to say goodbye in his own way to his loved ones. Of course, readers knew that he would come out the winner but he didn’t and his fears and doubts made him very relatable to readers.

Often Peter winds up berating himself over his choices and the consequences from them. He blames himself for his Uncle Ben’s death, for causing his Aunt May so much stress over his disappearances, and so on. The sad thing is that many times Spidey is correct in blaming himself. One of the more boneheaded things to happen to him is that he failed to graduate college (The Amazing Spider-Man # 185) because he didn’t have the required credits and didn’t notice this due to his superhero activities.

When it comes to his anguish nothing could top the aftermath of his girlfriend Gwen Stacy’s death in The Amazing Spider-Man # 121. In that infamous issue, the Green Goblin kidnapped Gwen to lure Spider-Man to the George Washington Bridge. At one point, the Green Goblin tossed her off the bridge and Spidey snagged her with his webbing. As he pulled her back up, he was congratulating himself on having saved his girlfriend. But what he didn’t realize was that his action actually snapped her neck and killed her. The issues that followed illustrated his rage and grief and to this day, he’s has been shown to be still haunted by her death as would any one of us.

Supporting Cast Unlike many superheroes Spider-Man has been blessed with an excellent supporting cast. Starting with his Aunt May, always on the verge of death until recent writers realized that plot point was used once too often. She first came off as an overbearing mother type, but over time, May Parker learned to let go of Peter and became supportive of him. May had an intriguing development where she learned of her nephew’s secret identity following a brutal battle he had with Morlun (The Amazing Spider-Man # 35, Volume II). However, her knowledge of Peter’s secret identity was undone by the infamous “One More Day” storyline that rebooted the Spider-Man universe.

The most glaring casualty of the reboot was the dissolution of Peter’s marriage to Mary Jane Watson. Aside from Gwen Stacy, Mary Jane is Peter’s greatest love and ever since her first full introduction (The Amazing Spider-Man # 42) she rocked his world and won over many readers with her flash and verve. Mary Jane was there to pick up the pieces after Gwen died. Her most shocking revelation came at the end of The Amazing Spider-Man # 257 when she admitted to Peter that she always knew he was Spider-Man. This knowledge was a barrier to their on-again-off again relationship, but they eventually married. Naturally, his Spider-Man activities conflicted with his domestic life to the point that she left him at one point (The Amazing Spider-Man Annual 2001), though they later reconciled. Foolishly, TPTB at Marvel Comics decreed that Spider-Man couldn’t be married because they felt the marriage plot line was stale. Hence the “One More Day” story where Spider-Man made a deal with Mephisto to save his Aunt May at the cost of his marriage. But even though they aren’t married in the new timeline, it was shown in recent issues that they still have feelings for each other, so it may not be over. Continue reading

The Future Of Star Wars

With the purchase of the Star Wars franchise and Lucasfilm by The Walt Disney Company, there has been much speculation as to what will happen now with the franchise. Here are some ideas that I have as to what will happen and what should happen.

The Movies: The most obvious thing that will happen now is a new trilogy of films starting in 2015 (Episodes VII, VIII and IX). it will be a new story line created by George Lucas and written by Michael Arndt. Some fans wanted the Thrawn trilogy of books (written by Timothy Zahn) to be made into films but it seems the new Star Wars movies will be about the Skywalker clan taking place long after Return Of The Jedi. Lucas has said in the past that any sequels would be about this and it seems this will come to pass as it should. On a side note, the trio of stars from the original trilogy Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher have recently stated that they would be interested in appearing in the new films. If that will happen or if they will even reprise their famous roles remains to be seen. One interesting idea I heard about years ago after Revenge Of The Sith was released was a movie that takes place hundreds of years before A New Hope with a young Yoda at the center. It would be nice for Disney to make this happen after the new trilogy is done.

TV Shows: The popular Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series is in its fifth season. A sixth season is in the works, and will air on the Disney XD channel instead of the Cartoon Network. Hopefully the long-delayed, live-action show will get a green light with Disney’s backing and dollars. Something else I would like to see is another CGI animated series like The Clone Wars, but one that takes place during the original trilogy, perhaps between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. It could detail the Galactic Civil War and seems to be a ripe area for interesting Star Wars stories.

Video Games: The bounty hunter-themed game Star Wars 1313 will be released next year as planned for the PS3 and Xbox 360. As to what future games Lucasarts should tackle, many fans keep waiting for Star Wars: Battlefront 3 which has not been made yet. Maybe under new ownership this game will finally see the light of day. One series I would love to see revived is Rogue Squadron. The last game in that series was Rogue Squadron III for the Nintendo Gamecube in 2003. Flying Star Wars starfighters in scenes from the movies was thrilling and definitely should be revisited.

Disney Parks: Right now the recently updated Star Tours is in Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando FL and Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. I would not be surprised to see more rides and experiences like this one expanding to more of Disney’s parks (aside from the updated Star Tours premiering next year in Tokyo Disneyland). Why not use the same ride system in Soarin’ where riders are elevated over a huge film and recreate the attack on the Death Star? Perhaps even a whole section of a park can be devoted to Star Wars. This is something I would like to see happen. Or even an entire Star Wars-themed park, with each section named after the different planets of the saga. Instead of Main Street USA, how about Coruscant Central? Having lunch at the Mos Eisley Cantina, or visiting the Jedi Temple all seem like really neat experiences and would absolutely be a big hit with tourists and fans.

Regardless of what happens, having Star Wars under the Disney umbrella does present  several new opportunities for the franchise. Hopefully whoever makes the decisions will do right by Star Wars and not dilute the brand or over saturate it. Either way, this is a very interesting and exciting time for Star Wars fans.

C.S. Link