Friday, July 8th, 2022

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London testing pedestrian first traffic signals

7/8/2022 6:44 am | | Tags: urban planning, traffic, city planning, civil engineering

Shinzo Abe Assassinated

7/8/2022 6:58 am | | Tags: japan, politics

New Proposal Bridges Gap Between Term Limits and Court Expansion, Charts New Course on Reform

Fix the Court today is releasing a new two-part statutory proposal that would end Supreme Court justices’ terms after 18 years and includes a “backup” provision on court expansion, so if the justices deem the term limits section unconstitutional, SCOTUS will automatically expand from nine to 13.

The proposal is based on what’s referred to as “backup law” or “contingent design” and hews closely to an idea discussed in a law review article and op-ed last year by legal scholar G. Michael Parsons.

“Rather than settling on one [court reform] plan,” Parsons writes, “Congress instead should use […] ‘backup law’ to layer its policy preferences from most politically desirable to most constitutionally secure. If the court holds the first preference unconstitutional, the second will automatically take its place.”

7/8/2022 7:31 am | | Tags: us politics, supreme court

My Thoughts on Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, Season 1

Spoilers: This will contain minor spoilers for the show, I believe none of them will ruin any of the show's story but your opinion may vary if you choose to watch.

I just finished watching the finale of Season 1 of Strange New Worlds and I am left feeling re-confirmed of something which I had realized midway through this first season: This is my favorite Star Trek show. It feels almost treasonous for me to admit this; having so deeply ingrained Patrick Stewart's Jean-Luc Picard as an embodiment of good and ethics during the afternoons watching The Next Generation in my formative years.

The premise of Strange New Worlds is clever. It plays on something that big Trek fans understand, but which can be invisible or glossed over for new fans. In The Original Series, the pilot episode featured a cast which looked markedly different from the cast they settled on for the series. Basically the only character from the Pilot which returned in the main series was Spock, who since went on to be one of the most recognizable characters in pop culture.

Strange New Worlds sets up with a premise that I had mistakenly believed was a spin on the en vogue "What If" format which we have seen in other shows and most recently in Marvel's playbook. I had thought this was meant to be what if Pike had fully captained the Enterprise instead of Kirk. My friends have since informed me that I misunderstood and that this show is instead meant to be a prequel to The Original Series, taking place ten years before.

In the show, Anson Mount reprises his role as Captain Pike, having initially played him as part of Star Trek: Discovery. He is one of the excellent members of the cast, but is far from the lone standout.

They carry forward a few key aspects of the crew from that early pilot episode: Spock is still here. Also Pike's "Number 1" is a woman, this time played by Rebecca Romijn. They expand the cast for much needed not-white-dude diversity. And they bring one other character from Kirk's cast in The Original Series: Nyota Uhura, though not in exactly the same role. She joins the crew as an ensign and is utilized in a quasi-mcguffin role as she works in various roles on the ship to learn how they function (and as a result, show her skills.)

I started watching the show initially out of casual interest, having found Discovery not quite to my taste I was hopeful for a new Trek to come to. And, at first, I wasn't sure what they were doing with this one.

There is a premise revealed in the early episodes that initially felt a bit too mystical but that they handled deftly through the season as the underlying plot device. They reveal that Captain Pike has seen a tragedy in his future, one where a number of others would be killed and he would badly injured. Its initial revelation is done almost in passing as a "here's my character quirk" but which, as the season goes on, moves more central.

The show delves into Star Trek lore and fleshes out a few things which have not been deeply known, often adding more body to things which could be seen purely as campy television from previous shows.

I truly am delighted by how much I loved the season. I haven't loved a Star Trek TV show like this in a long time. I enjoyed Lower Decks, but that is more as a sitcom than as a Star Trek show. I was disappointed and let down by Picard. Discovery wasn't my thing. So, being able to settle back into a Star Trek feels wonderful.

If you haven't checked out Strange New Worlds yet, please do, it is available on Paramount+. And for those of you loathe to commit to a new show without more coming, you can rest assured, they have already greenlit season 2. No word on release date, but I'm satisfied just knowing it's coming.

Edited - 1:47pm - Corrected a misunderstanding of mine in regards to the framing of the show and the details around Captain Pike's plot.

7/8/2022 8:19 am | | Tags: television, streaming, star trek

A Giant Battery of Sand

I delved into water batteries earlier this week, but now Finland is testing a new type of battery.

On the edge of a small town in Western Finland, a startup called Polar Night Energy worked with a local utility to pioneer something that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world: a giant sand battery. It’s what it sounds like: A tower filled with 100 tons of sand, designed to be super-heated with renewable electricity that then can store the heat for months, so power generated in the summer could later be used to heat homes in the winter.

7/8/2022 9:04 am | | Tags: electric, finland

I want to assure every cell carrier that exists. I would rather stop using a cellphone than have a cellphone which gives me ads on the lock screen. If Android wants to fully lose its marketshare, this seems like an excellent way to do it.

A good overview of Shinzo Abe's political career and impact

I knew him, but only from headlines. This was good background and history on his history.

7/8/2022 2:01 pm | | Tags: japan, world politics

Death on the Nile (2022)

My Rating: 3 out of 5 Belgian Mustaches

Been meaning to watch it and finally sat down with Katie and her mother. Overall it was fine, but it was nothing amazing.

7/8/2022 3:56 pm | | Tags: review, movie, mystery

Dolphins respond to unique whistles akin to names, here's how they choose their name

Unlike most animals, dolphins cannot use voices as their identifying feature because it becomes distorted at different depths. They instead invent a melody – a pattern of sound frequencies held for specific lengths of time – that they use to identify themselves for the rest of their lives. Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) can even imitate the whistles of their friends, calling out their names if they are lost. Additional information, such as reproductive status, can be conveyed by changing the volume of different parts of the whistle, not unlike how people emphasize certain words to add nuance.

By eavesdropping on six dolphin populations in the Mediterranean Sea, researchers at the University of Sassari in Italy revealed that differences in signature whistles were mostly determined by their habitat and population size, according to a study published in May in Scientific Reports. Sound travels differently in distinct environments, so dolphins create signature whistles that best suit their surroundings, according to the study authors.

7/8/2022 4:50 pm | | Tags: science, dolphins

Elon has notified Twitter that he is terminating the deal

Our long Twitter soap opera nightmare appears to be coming to an end.

Was this Musk getting cold feet after an emotional decision about buying the site? Or was it, perhaps, a calculated method for him to liquidate Tesla stock without causing a run?

7/8/2022 5:41 pm | | Tags: elon musk, twitter

Astronomy Is About to Get Way More Exciting Because of the James Webb Telescope

For astronomers, being here on the cusp of a bold new understanding of things is like trying to fall asleep the night before Christmas. (They’re certainly less stressed out than they were on the actual night before Christmas, in 2021, in the hours before Webb launched to space on December 25.)

Next week’s lineup includes an assortment of subjects that are meant to demonstrate Webb’s range as an all-purpose space telescope that can show us the universe in infrared, a wavelength invisible to our eyes.

7/8/2022 6:22 pm | | Tags: space, astronomy, science
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