Monday, October 27, 2008


Just in time for Halloween: Test Pattern and its commenters serve up some of the scariest movie lines.

So much goes into a good fright flick. To me, it's all about the suggestion. Your own mind can always create a scarier monster than anything the special effects department can dream up with latex. Movies that create a sense of true dread, that set up a scenario where you can feel the fear without being overwhelmed by monsters and gore, will win me every time.

I feel that one of the most overlooked elements of a great horror movie is the dialogue. Dramas and comedies are expected to have eloquent or snappy dialogue, but horror-movie lines often get lost in the avalanche of fake blood. Yet a great horror-movie line can chill you to the bone and stay with you for months. It can also break your heart.

Here are my favorite scary movie lines, from Aliens:
Newt: My mommy always said there were no monsters - no real ones - but there are.
Ripley: Yes, there are, aren't there?
Newt: Why do they tell little kids that?
Ripley: Most of the time it's true.

Still creeps me out, even twenty years later.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Doomed moon

One of Mars's moons is destined for disaster. Drink it in, while you have the chance.

Image courtesy of NASA. From the original caption:

This moon is doomed. Mars, named for the Roman god of war, has two tiny moons--Phobos and Deimos--whose names are derived from the Greek for fear and panic. These Martian moons may well be captured asteroids originating in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter or perhaps from even more distant reaches of the solar system.

The larger moon, Phobos, is a cratered, asteroid-like object in this stunning color image from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. Phobos orbits so close to Mars that gravitational tidal forces are dragging it down. In 100 million years or so, Phobos likely will be shattered by stress caused by the relentless tidal forces, the debris forming a decaying ring around Mars.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Answering the quiz

So, what is welder Romero working on?

It's a rocket.

Here's the caption to the photo, which can be found in NASA's image galleries.

A welder at NASA's Glenn Research Center (GRC) grinds welds on an Ares I-X rocket segment being readied for shipment to Kennedy Space Center. Ares I is part of the next generation of launch vehicles that will return humans to the moon and later take them to Mars and other destinations. Ares I is an in-line, two-stage rocket configuration topped by the Orion crew vehicle and its launch abort system. In addition to the vehicle's primary mission -- carrying crews of four to six astronauts to Earth orbit -- Ares I may also use its 25-ton payload capacity to deliver resources and supplies to the International Space Station, or to 'park' payloads in orbit for retrieval by other spacecraft bound for the moon or other destinations.

The Ares I-X is scheduled for a test launch in 2009. GRC is designing and manufacturing several components of the test rocket, including the upper stage mass simulator and the service module and spacecraft adapter simulators.

Image Credit: NASA/Marvin Smith

Good work for the betterment of mankind.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Calling B.S. on a comic book character

I know -- it's a comic book character I'm about to bring up.

By their very nature, comic book characters defy conventions, timelines, physics, metaphysics, religions, common sense, and willing suspensions of disbelief. So I should just relax when I note an inconsistency in a comic book and move on. Right?

But this time I couldn't.

I was reading a Marvel comic book to my son, one in which the Avengers come across the Marvel version of Hercules. There's a misunderstanding of epic proportions because Hercules only understands Greek (helpfully translated by the editor), and the demigod ends up fighting the Hulk for a while before Captain America -- who understands a little Greek from the time he spent in the country during World War II -- convinces him that he needs to team up with the Avengers to stop a giant, rampaging Cerberus. An understanding is born, and the three-headed monster is defeated.

No problem there. Standard Marvel fare. But what bothered me just a touch was the language Hercules used. Rendered in [bracketed English] so you can tell it's a translation of Greek, the language was presented in mock heroic tones with Hercules speaking of great feasts and feats of strength and general pleasure in good fights. And what caught my eye was a mild oath uttered by the ancient Grecian.

It was zounds.

I remembered from my studies of medieval and Renaissance literature that zounds is an abbreviation of "God's wounds," an exclamation used to express suprise or anger. It was used in that sense by Hercules in the Marvel comic book, but "God's wounds" is an allusion to the wounds suffered by Jesus Christ during the crucifixion. It's an oath born out of Christianity, and one that would be familiar in Christendom, but hardly in ancient Greece. Even if Hercules were real.

I know, I know -- it's a comic book. I should relax. Actually I am pretty laid back about it. It really doesn't bother me that much, but it did give me a good prompt for a blog post.

What's next? Thor screaming "Gadzooks"?

Quizzing you

Quick quiz, what is the welder named Romero working on?

Hint: It has to do with a theme of this blog.