Flying Cars Impractical

 Blader Runner car over LA

For anyone stuck in traffic having a flying car is the ultimate dream. It sounds like a good idea and looks so uber cool on film. Imagine zipping around the skies in a flying car like George Jetson or Doc Brown with his DeLorean in Back To The Future. You’re late for work, traffic has come to a halt on I-95 due to construction or some accident. But no problem! Shift your car to flight mode and off you go. Soar by all the rubberneckers and you make it in time to your meeting with minutes to spare.

Transition Production PrototypeThe problem with this concept is that flying cars are not practical, today. Yes, there are inventors fine tuning actual flying cars but they’re bound to be a novelty items at least for the near future. Actually, those so-called flying cars that are being tested now are really just mini-copters or airplanes with automobile features. They’re not hovercraft. Several companies that are testing practical flying cars include Terrafugia, Haynes Aero and Moller International. In fact, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has a multi-million dollar program with Terrafugia to build flying  military vehicles.

Terrafugia car

You would think that with all these recent developments and press releases that flying cars are just around the corner. The truth is that people have been building prototypes going back decades, but the cars built just weren’t practical. And neither are the ones being tested now.

Skyjams

Let’s look at the traffic scenario from above. OK , you’re stuck in traffic and switch your car over to flight mode to escape congestion. That would be fine if you’re the only one with a flying car. More likely, many drivers around you would have flying cars as well and have the same idea as you.  Before you know it, the traffic will be following you into the sky. Then there’s coordinating the air traffic with all the cars suddenly going up into the air. It would be a chaotic, logistical headache and will probably lead to more accidents.

DeLorean in sky traffic

As shown in Back To The Future, Part II, Doc Brown had to deal with traffic in the air when he flew the DeLorean time vehicle. In fact, there’s this one scene where he complains about congestion in the skyway. The film showed that when flying, the cars had to follow a certain path. A driver won’t have free reign and space to just go anywhere. Actually, any pilot will tell you that planes and helicopters have rigid flight paths that they must adhere to; any deviation has to be cleared with air traffic control. Flying cars will also have to follow strict flight paths; in effect a skyway will be created with these paths. So if flying cars were to take off in popularity, the traffic congestion won’t go away. It may turn out to be faster to stay on the ground! Of course, there are some futurists that may scoff at this hurdle with claims that flying cars operate three dimensionally instead of today’s ground vehicles that operate two dimensionally. In theory, they claim that traffic jams would not be a problem for a vehicle operating in a three-dimensional plane but reality will probably dictate otherwise.

Air & Road Compatible

Another issue is that there are many dials and features on a plane that a pilot has to contend with so it’s more complicated to operate than a car. Remember when they showed the dashboard and controls in that flying spinner car in Blade Runner? It looked very complex. Then there is making sure the cars meets both road and air standards.  What about safety features? Convertibles are definitely out, which makes that flying car chase sequence in Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones even more ludicrous. It’s one thing to have Obi-Wan Kenobi landing on Anakin Skywalker’s flying car unscathed or Anakin jumping out of it to get to the assassin’s vehicle; it can be explained that they used the Force to control their falls. But Anakin jumped out of a convertible, how safe would that vehicle be or practical without a helmet and mask? Just look at the old biplanes. The pilots in them had to wear helmets, goggles and warm clothing. All that wind up in the sky is cold and brutal, there isn’t any way anyone could operate an open-air flying car.

Star Wars flying car

What if something goes wrong? This won’t be like a normal car situation where the vehicle just stops working and you push it off to the side of the road. No, that thing is coming down. Perhaps an onboard computer will sound off an alarm if something is wrong with the car, forcing an emergency landing. But how trustworthy is that computer?

A look at the current prototypes will tell you that these things can’t easily fit into an average mall parking lot or garage. The flying features, i.e. the wings and propellers, have to be more compact to reduce the vehicles’ profile on the road. But how much can be reduced to operate safely in the air? All of this will add significantly to the price of the cars. Which means even if they came out tomorrow only the wealthy can afford them. Plus, what kind of fuel is to be used and its cost hasn’t been taken into account. Continue reading

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Fathers & Sons in Star Wars & Star Trek

Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader

the visitor

As we celebrate Father’s Day and take time to remember our fathers it’s easy to start thinking about the fathers seen in the two great sci-fi live-action franchises: Star Wars and Star Trek.

Paternal Wars

In pop culture Star Wars is more readily connected with fatherhood issues because of Darth Vader and his twin children Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa. Right now, Vader’s fatherhood is commemorated with cute merchandising that is everywhere, but seriously, Vader is a terrible father figure. Not too surprising since he is the galaxy’s most infamous villain who terrorized the Star Wars universe as Emperor Palpatine’s right hand man.

But his dastardly nature was cemented with the way he treated his children. In Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope he tortured his daughter for information, though he may not have known Leia was his daughter. On the other hand, this implies that his command of the Force was not as great as he thought or that Leia’s connection to the Force was strong enough to shield her identity from him.

Darth Vader and son

Now with Luke, Vader showed that for most of the Star Wars films, he was a terrible father. He knew who Luke was yet he was obsessed with trying to seduce his son to the dark side of the Force, going so far as to chop off Luke’s hand during their epic lightsaber duel in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Yet, Luke still wanted to save his father. In Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Luke felt a glimmer of Vader without helmetgoodness within Vader and he believed he could help redeem Vader. This was why he was hesitant to confront Vader, which he had to do in order to become a Jedi.  By the film’s end, Vader’s resolve weakened and his burgeoning love for son was enough to turn him away from the dark side. Darth Vader found some redemption when he killed the Emperor to save Luke’s life even though it ultimately cost him his own life. Whether or not this final act absolved him of his past crimes is open to debate, but clearly, his love for his son drove him to defeat the Emperor.

Father and son relationships didn’t end Han Solo and Kylo Renwith the sixth Star Wars film. In Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, we learn that Han Solo’s son, Ben, was actually Kylo Ren, a new follower of the dark side. In this situation, the father is much more sympathetic and our scorn is directed at the son. But we have to wonder what kind of father Han was to Ben. It couldn’t have been a great relationship; he implied during conversation that Ben had too much of Vader in him. But Han hoped he could save his son’s soul when the two finally reunited. Sadly, Ren’s actions at that point set him down a darker path.

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Top 50 Star Trek Episodes, Part 2: Episodes 11-30

 Star Trek collage wallpaper

As many reading this know, this year marks Star Trek’s 50th anniversary. It’s actually an event that will happen in less than three months from now as celebrations will most likely hit fever pitch among fans who delighted in the space-faring adventures of Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner), First Officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and the rest of the starship Enterprise crew. Continuing our countdown of the 50 best episodes from the original Star Trek series, we will start with the 30th best episode…

30. “Tomorrow is Yesterday” The starship Enterprise and its crew time travel to the 1960s and rescues a U.S. Air Force pilot (Roger Perry) who isn’t allowed to return home and report on what he has witnessed.

Tomorrow is Yesteday

29. “The Conscience of the King” Excellent scripted lines and stellar acting by Arnold Moss as a tortured former dictator turned Shakespearian actor highlights this episode.

Conscience of the King

28. “The Devil in the Dark” Captain James T. Kirk and Spock investigate killings at an underground mining facility by a monstrous rock-like creature. But there is more to the story…

Devil in the Dark

27. “Journey to Babel” The Enterprise transports diplomats to a peace conference; among the passengers are Spock’s estranged parents (Mark Sarek and Jane Wyatt). Complicating the occasion are the strained relations between Spock and his father and an onboard secret agent trying to wreck the conference.

Journey to Babel

26. “Assignment: Earth” In this backdoor pilot, Kirk and Spock time travel to Earth in the 1960s and meet the mysterious Gary Seven (Robert Lansing), a human sent by aliens to Earth to keep humanity from destroying itself. However, his mission is hampered by Kirk and Spock who suspect Seven is up to no good.

Gary Seven Assignment Earth

25. “The Empath” Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy (DeForest Kelley) are captured and tortured by callous aliens. During the ordeal they meet Gem (Kathryn Hays), a mute woman who has the power to heal others and is also under study by the aliens to see if her people are worthy of salvation. Helping make the episode so memorable were Hay’s magnificent and expressive performance and a beautiful score.

The Empath

24. “Amok Time” Spock must return to his home planet Vulcan and mate or else he will die. This episode was the first one to lift the veil on the enigmatic Vulcans and revealed much about their logic-based culture. The Vulcan travelogue and cultural exploration were punctuated by a nail-biting duel between Spock and his friend Kirk for the hand of Spock’s betrothed.

Amok Time duel

23. “The Enemy Within” A transporter malfunction splits Kirk into two halves. One meek and indecisive, the other lecherous and primal. This oft-used trope of the evil twin actually worked well because the script (by Richard Matheson) thoughtfully examined how dual aspects of Kirk’s personality, including his savage side, were essential to his survival and capability as a leader.

Kirk the Enemy Within

22. “Friday’s Child” On a planet with a primitive and brutal society Kirk, Spock and McCoy are embroiled in a tribal power struggle involving Klingons. After the head of local tribal leader is killed the trio must escort his pregnant wife (Julie Newmar) to safety while avoiding the leader’s successor and his men. Meanwhile, McCoy has to deal with an uncooperative patient and Spock, who is clueless around infants.

Friday's Child

21. TIE: “The Cage”/”The Menagerie, Part I &II” The very first Star Trek pilot “The Cage” about telepathic aliens imprisoning Captain Pike (Jeffrey Hunter), a previous Enterprise captain, was rejected by NBC, but the network allowed series creator Gene Roddenberry to produce a second pilot. However, footage from the original pilot was recycled into a classic two-part episode of the regular series as Spock undergoes a court martial for helping his former commanding officer.

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12 Monkeys Runs Wild In Its Second Season

season 2 12 monkeys

12 Monkeys on Syfy is one of those TV shows that sneaks up on you and before long you get hooked on it. By no means is it a perfect sci-fi program, but it hits all the right buttons to make it worth binging on. It’s inventive, rarely dull and has many captivating characters. In fact, it is safe to say that the characters and the stories are what make the show.

In its second season, 12 Monkeys continues the saga of James Cole (Aaron Stanford) who is a time traveler from a dsystopian 2044. In his time, mankind is nearly extinct because of a virus released by a cult called the Army of the 12 Monkeys in our present. During his travels he meets and falls for Dr. Cassie Railly (Amanda Schull) from our time. She, herself becomes a time traveler during the second season which is part of the inventive nature of 12 Monkeys. It is kind of ironic that for a show about time travel, it is always changing. That is a large reason why 12 Monkeys show feels fresh at least for now.

Cole and Railly at odds

Railly joining Cole in his temporal journeys wasn’t the only change. The entire killer virus plot early in the second season was de-emphasized. By the second episode, “Primary”, The Red ForestCole’s actions delay the virus’ release until 2019. This alters future history. The virus still decimates mankind but not as badly. It is also revealed that the cult was more interested with destroying time. They see time as an enemy that must be eradicated and cult members in the future send several people back in history to kill certain people they call Primaries and create paradoxes to destroy the linear nature of time and prevent death. Now the images of time unraveling are wildly trippy with time apparently having a quasi-sentient nature, at least to the cult members. Many scenes seem like 1980s music videos running amok, but in a good way, with scratched film, time-lapsed imagery and fields of red foliage.

12 Monkeys Cole time travels

That is quite a head spinner and a welcome surprise. Apparently the people behind the show must have realized that the virus angle could only go so far before it became tiresome. So this soft reboot worked to the show’s advantage. Of course, care must be taken not to go too far with this new layer or else it can get confusing and convoluted.

Now the icing on the cake that makes the viewing of 12 Monkeys so enjoyable are the character dynamics.  Last season Cole and Railly were on the verge of becoming a couple but that got curtailed this season when she was stranded in the future. When she returned to the present she became a hardened person and their relationship changed. Then there is a budding triangle between them and Ted Deacon (Todd Stashwick), a warlord in the future that became an anti-hero this season. Fortunately, it is very subtle but the tension is noticeable.

Cole and Ramse time travelers

Another relationship worth mentioning is the bromance between Cole and his buddy and José Ramse (Kirk Acevedo). They were at odds last season because Ramse found out he had a son and didn’t want to change time out of fear that his son would be erased and tried to stop Cole. But he couldn’t go through with completely thwarting Cole. It worked out in the end, his son didn’t disappear when history changed. It is a good thing because the two actors have some great chemistry together and Ramse is a very compelling and troubled character.

Speaking of troubled characters, let’s briefly mention Jennifer Goines (Emily Hampshire), who is mentally insane. Last season she was annoying but now is a comic highlight whenever she appears.

Emergence image 12 MonkeysThe only complaint is that 12 Monkeys doesn’t spend much time on certain subplots. In the episode “Emergence” Cole, Railly and Ramse meet an FBI agent (Jay Karnes) in the 1940s who realizes they are time travelers. He too quickly came to this conclusion but it was almost forgiven at the end of the episode when we saw his wonder and befuddlement when the trio blinked out of existence. Then there is Dr. Katarina Jones (Barbara Sukowa), who invented time travel. When time was altered, she kept her original timeline memories, but was unaware that in the new timeline she was romantically involved with Dr. Eckland (Michael Hogan), a fellow scientist. In the most recent episode “Meltdown” he made the ultimate sacrifice because he loved her even though she didn’t feel the same way. What could have been a bittersweet moment felt hollow because so little time was spent on this subplot.

Aside from those quibbles, 12 Monkeys is running wild with its premise, so let’s hope they can keep it up as it concludes its second season.

Waldermann Rivera