March 27, 2006

Scary vs. gross [Open Thread]

Posted by Arcane Gazebo at March 27, 2006 10:20 AM

It's spring break, but I don't have any vacation plans. I do have some travel lined up later on this spring: I bought my tickets for Coachella so I'll be seeing some of you there next month.

The Hills Have Eyes: This movie was so bad I'm just going to leave V for Vendetta on the sidebar. Normally I like horror flicks, but this one seemed unclear on the concept. Specifically, the film confuses "scary" with "gross", and so we get a lot of gore and ugly mutants but not a lot of suspense. Instead of being frightening the experience was merely unpleasant, and it wasn't even the most disgusting thing I'd seen all week (David Bowie's eyeball hanging out of its socket being the clear winner there). The protagonists are dumb even by horror movie standards—Roger Ebert writes pretty much his entire review on how dumb they are—and some of them are sufficiently annoying that I was rooting for the mutants within ten minutes or so. Some critics have suggested that the movie is an allegory for the Iraq war. Such a film would have been much more interesting; in reality the movie drags out a few political stereotypes but doesn't sign on to an agenda or pursue anything as sophisticated as an allegory.

Charles Stross:Iron Sunrise: Here's the problem with "hard sci-fi": sometimes the author knows just enough physics to get it wrong. For example: this novel's faster-than-light communication scheme involving EPR-style entangled qubits. Now, I'm one of the few readers of this book who actually has a pair of entangled1 qubits in his2 basement. But any competent physicist should know that information can't be transferred this way—you just get correlated random numbers. (You can make a one-time pad this way for quantum cryptography, and indeed this has been done.)

All this shows is that I'm a big nerd. Once I stopping thinking very hard about the physics in the book, it turned into a fun pulp novel, with spies, assassins, conspiracies, and Nazi villains (or near enough). Once the plot really got going I was hooked, and it was an excellent way to pass the time while I was stuck in the airport last weekend. One non-science complaint I had was that the plot twists were all telegraphed in advance, so there weren't any big surprises. However, the characters were well-written and just reading about their interactions was fun.

1It's actually debatable whether they are entangled (I suspect they are) but they are definitely coupled. More on this in an upcoming post.
2Actually, UC Berkeley's basement.

Arab Strap: The Last Romance: I felt like I am not nearly bitter enough to appreciate this album properly. And this is supposed to be one of Arab Strap's more uplifting records! Well, the tone does get happier as the CD plays, culminating in the nearly-triumphant "There Is No Ending". (The US version of the album has two bonus tracks, but that one is clearly the end of the album.) Overall this is a decent album with a few excellent tracks: the first song and the aforementioned last song; another one I like is "Don't Ask Me To Dance". For the most part I like the darker music, which probably means I should check out their other records which are supposed to be along the same lines. (This purchase finally prompted me to find out that the Belle & Sebastian album The Boy With The Arab Strap was named after this band, and not the other way around.)

Tags: Books, Movies, Music, Open Thread, Physics, Quantum Information

But any competent physicist should know that information can't be transferred this way—you just get correlated random numbers. (You can make a one-time pad this way for quantum cryptography, and indeed this has been done.)

I'm actually OK with this. I figure there's an implied hand-wave in there that in the future, they've figured out the quantum emasurement problem in a way that lets you control which outcome you get when you make the measurements, and thus makes it a means for sending information.

I mean, even without that, you need to accept FTL travel and godlike transcended AI's, so what's a little thing like fiddling with quantum measurement, in the grand scheme of things...?

Posted by: Chad Orzel | March 27, 2006 11:53 AM

Your post provides me with my "absurd claim" since I couldn't think of one and therefore missed commenting there.

I insist on believing you're not a big nerd, your protestation to the contrary notwithstanding.

Posted by: JSpur | March 27, 2006 12:00 PM

That comment was directed at AG, not Chad.

And I suppose it was more an assertion you made than a protestation. Mine is more in the nature of a protestation. My absurd claim that is.

There. All better now. Back to work.

Posted by: JSpur | March 27, 2006 12:04 PM

Gazebo: Clearly, you need to go see Thank You For Smoking.

By the way, I've been listening to and really enjoying the entire Celtic Woman (yes, that's the name of the group---and it's supposed to be singular even though there are several of them) album this morning during the talks I've been skipping from the math-phys workshop. Sadly, their upcoming Pasadena concert conflicts directly with Coachella. I'll have to catch them another time, bececause hanging out with friends at Coachella is just too good to pass up.

What else... PRE finally gave me the referee reports on the revised version of a manuscript 5 months after we gave it to them. (They kept having referees say they'll review it and then become awol, and meanwhile we had to wait and wait and wait. According to rumors, they became drummers in a band and were never heard from again.) Thankfully, the two new people really liked the paper, so it looks like we're in (though not officially yet) after we make some more changes.

Of course, I am still sweating it out with the job thing. No bad news yet, but today basically starts the timetable of when they said they'd get back to me.

Posted by: Mason | March 27, 2006 1:20 PM

Chad: I'm not sure why the EPR thing bugs me. I've always thought it's really elegant the way it preserves causality, so maybe I just don't like seeing that broken from an aesthetic perspective. (Of course causality-violation was a major issue in the novel, although for some reason the Eschaton had no problem with the causality-violation implied by the everyday FTL travel/communication.)

JSpur: Yes, I think that qualifies.

Mason: That's probably the movie I should have seen Friday night.

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | March 27, 2006 1:55 PM

I'll ditto Mason--Thank You For Smoking was a delightful movie. Oh, and look forward to seeing you at Coachella. Reminds me that I still need to buy tickets.

FWIW, I think the lineup has adjusted slightly since I first sent you the link--some bands got moved between days, and they added Madonna to the list too. I know how you like to sing, "Like a Virgin" in the shower.

I suppose UC Berkeley's basement is effectively your basement, especially if you spend enough time in lab that you effectively "live" there. Meanwhile, the closest I come to entanglement is a bad hair day, and then Mason has me beat soundly. :P

Oh, and I guess I've sort of fallen off the edge of the world lately, in case anyone's been wondering why I've been making less noise than usual (here, elsewhere, IRL even...). I'll explain at some point.

Posted by: Lemming | March 28, 2006 1:54 PM

Lemming: For falsetto 80's pop shower karaoke, I much prefer "Like A Prayer".

Regarding the Coachella lineup, I saw today that Cat Power has confirmed her appearance there (after canceling a bunch of earlier shows).

Posted by: Arcane Gazebo | March 28, 2006 2:57 PM

Lemming: Were you thinking that Gazebo sings the Madonna rendition of "Like a Virgin" or a rendition more like that in Moulin Rouge

Also, my hair is not entangled---it's statistically self-similar. Get your concepts correct!

Posted by: Mason | March 28, 2006 11:29 PM
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