Posts from 19th April 2006

Apr 06

Revise The Death Toll

Do You SeePost a comment • 299 views

One of the problems of long running series is a tendency to repeat itself. And it is a tendency inherent in the plot munching behemoth that is 24. Now into its fifth series it is running out of major terrorist threats to inflict upon Los Angeles: having blown up Nuclear Power stations, nuclear bombs, killed at least one President, set off a lethal virus in a hotel and killed Jack’s wife (in order of series importance). But the biggest problem in 24 is making the threat credible, whilst giving the good guys a hard fought for victory.

This is seen in series two in particular, where a nuclear is primed to go off in LA. Rather than finding and disarming the bomb, the series decided to detonate it, albeit in a desert somewhere in Arizona – hence killing a few campers at best. The hotel virus had a significant death toll, but its containment meant the death toll was considerably lower than the estimated figure. Hence a victory!

Which brings us to season five, and an attempt to not spoil something. Suffice to say there are twenty deadly devices, and the estimated death toll is currently standing at 400,000. Three devices have now been let off: actual death toll is bobbling about the thirty. Does it undermine the seriousness? Not really. But then who takes it seriously anyway. But in designing the weapon, the program also designs its own flaw.

It is not a program about big death tolls anyway. Like anything else, killing off the beloved characters is where it puts us through the wringer. And with discarding two in the first episode, season five looked to be the most nihilistic yet. But even 24 plays by its own rules – and heoric, sad deaths are set apart from the run of the mill. How? By removing the pips at the end of the show. In memory only a couple of characters have earned this (George Mason most notably I believe). But episode 12 of season five was a real choker…

King Ludd

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 258 views

Ah, Luddite: such a useful phrase, so divorced from its origins. Writing the previous piece I found myself using Luddite again with only a sketchy knowledge of its real meaning. Part of me sensed that the anti-technological or technophobia aspect did not completely sit with memories of mill wrecking. Mill wrecking strikes me as an attack against capital rather than strictly technology – as this rallying call suggests.

The guilty may fear, but no vengeance he aims
At the honest man’s life or Estate
His wrath is entirely confined to wide frames
And to those that old prices abate

So: Neil Ludd (did he really exist) aka King Ludd and his Ites:

And as a bonus Thomas Pynchon on why it might be OK to be a Luddite. Interesting because it was written in 1984, in anticipation of some sort of anti-computer Luddism.

Super Efficient, But Super Complex

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 216 views

Lighting to be revolutionised by organic light-emitting-diodes. Not only will these new lights be flat and heatless, thus able to place on almost anything, but the light will be “more natural” and potentially 100% energy efficient. Sounds great eh?

Except I don’t like it when simple things become too complex. Its the Luddite in me, albeit the Luddite with a couple of science A-Levels. Said qualifications allow me to have a pretty good understanding of how stuff works. In a world where people can’t (and don’t have to) know how to wire plugs, I not only know how to wire one, I know how to create a fuse and work out what’s wrong with the transformer. It allows me to fix stuff, which in my job I often have to do.

Okay, lightbulbs are usually not fixable. But I know exactly how they work. Resistance, leads to heating of wire, leads to glowing bright. Equally I know how record players work. I could, if need be, build one pretty much from scratch. These so called organic-light-emmitting-diodes therefore make me feel uncomfortable, just because not only do I not know how they work, but even if I did I am not sure what that knowledge would give me. Make science simple stupid.