Well, we’re back from the 2010 Comic-Con. It didn’t take long, since the convention was, quite literally, right around the corner.
And it was great! We had an impressive turnout for the Saturday panel; “The Science of Science Fiction,” which easily had significantly higher attendance than any of the other panels Saturday or Sunday. We only regret that there wasn’t more time!
We got off to a worrisome start – next year we’ll remember extension cords and get the projector and computer squared away long before the last minute.
But begin we did. Local writer and editor Tom Head started off after a mad-science introductory by Yours Truly. Tom drove home the point that any extraterrestrial life out there would be highly unlikely to look anything like us, and the only reason that such things haunted the Sci-Fi circuit was because, well – you need a guy in a suit, and you need that rubber-suited actor to have something that audiences can relate to. The character of a hive-minded insect might be fascinating, but it’s quite difficult to relate to.
Tom also presented me with a copy of this issue of Skeptic Magazine, as his collection of Carl Sagan interviews was the one featured on the cover. If we’d had more time, Tom could have gotten into the joys of working with so much Sagan material, but, alas, we had only a single hour – much to the dismay of the audience.
Even with the small amount of time, Tom got to expose those in attendance to the heady speculative work of real exobiology, and how it could sync up with the demands of fiction without losing an edge.
Since a full 3/5 of the panel seemed to be avid Star Trek fans, I felt a bit out of place with my own bit; a few minutes on The Ewok Apocalypse. While this was the first time in my life to ever have to A: Do a powerpoint presentation and B: talk about physics in front of a crowd, and C: Talk about the death of millions of Ewoks, reports from the crowd were favorable.
(I got to work this picture into my first powerpoint presentation. Thank you very much, internet.)
Then Millsaps College own Dr. Patrick Hopkins gave us a little information on teleportation. Even with his limited timeframe, he was able to quickly run down the ideas and misconceptions behind Star Trek style teleportation – even including the infamous “Heisenberg Compensator.” Though, of course, he was not able to really explain the device; even the series’ “inventor” of the device, Michael Okuda once said, when asked how the HC worked “very well, thank you.”
So I guess we couldn’t expect much more – but Hopkins did fill in the assembly on how the infamous “quantum teleportation” could have been more accurately called “replication,” but for the vagaries of science reporting and funding cycles.
This happens more than you'd think.
He then explained the problems and psychological unease most people would have with replication-teleportation – and right before the entire science enchillada wrapped itself around a sticky core of Star Trek, MSU physics instructor Josh Winter came in with a nice presentation on the malapropriation of science by 2012 Apocalypse Promotion.
(Also, SMBC has been known to explain the quantum replication-teleportation conundrum this way.)
Josh had an excellent presentation prepared – plenty of references to some silly science movies like 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, and The Core (the mere mention of which can still cause a room to chuckle and groan, apparently).
Josh reassured us that there was no reason for the Earth to explode on 2012, he laid out the mechanics behind the Equinox and Solstice, pointed out the ridiculous nature of “galactic alignments” by showing us that the sun is aligned between us and the galactic center every solstice, and should we be so unfortunate to have some shooting cosmic death-rays coming from the galactic center then, how lucky we’d be! The sun would be in the way! He also informed the unwary that we’re going to be safely within the galactic plane in 2012, so not to worry. The man was the exact opposite of reading Death From the Skies, is what I’m saying.
Josh gave us a brief rundown on the magnetic poles – how we know they migrate, and more – but before we could really settle into his entertaining lecture, the panel-mistress was giving us sterner and sterner looks.
We’ll have to get more time next year – or maybe host an event that’s not tied to the smooth operation of dozens of comic book shops.
Unfortunately, Scott Crawford didn’t get a chance to break out the really speculative science with the ideas behind a workable warp drive (available in the year 4000), but we can always hope for next year. The JSS members and the Comic-Con Crowd are a great match.
I’d like to thank the speakers in public (once again) and thank the JSS member who paid for their tickets.
The Sunday meeting wasn’t quite as exciting; nor well-attended, but we managed to amuse some people with our Science Quiz (10 questions, 11 points available) – perfect score could have gotten you the aforementioned issue of Skeptic Magazine, but one knowledgeable man by the name of Mark from Flowood won himself a one year subscription by getting 8 out of 11.
Just so you all know, the gram measures mass, not weight. More people got that one wrong than any other.
And we’re going to do a meeting this month – maybe not even one in a bar. We’ll see, soon enough.