Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Captain's Log: Captain Kirk at the Oscars, Meteor Meets Siberia

The talk of Trekdom has to be Captain Kirk visiting the 2013 Oscar ceremony from the 23rd century.  William Shatner's dialogue with host Seth McFarland opened the event.  He was there to warn McFarland that his first numbers were going to earn him terrible reviews.  He used newspaper headlines to prove it, somewhat reminiscent of how Spock used newspaper stories as evidence about Edith Keeler  in "City on the Edge of Forever."  

The responses on Trek Movie ran the gamut from joy to embarrassment.  Many noticed that even given the new JJA movies, William Shatner is still the real Captain Kirk.  One post pointed out that the Oscars' huge international audience (upwards of a billion) meant more people may have seen Shatner as Captain Kirk on that night than ever before, perhaps in total.  I'd say, surely never as many at one time as the Oscar telecast.  But in total, maybe not as many.  In the 90s it was estimated that Shatner as Kirk was known to a quarter of the planet's population, and that's several billion.

Still, if you needed evidence of Star Trek's enduring hold on the planetary imagination, this might suggest it.

In other possible Edith Keeler news, political scientist, movie buff and Trekkie Jonathan Bernstein blogged about a 1933 movie called Men Must Fight, and suggested that the leading female character--a pacifist--might be the inspiration for Keeler.

Meanwhile on Earth, a huge meteorite streaked through the sky of Siberia, and caused a sonic bomb that did considerable damage.  There was a flurry of excitement afterwards for a few days, with people wondering how endangered the planet is from such impacts, or what the relationship was to the asteroid that was passing close by at the time (scientists so far say none.)  

This also inspired several sites to reminisce about asteroid doomsday movies.  Here at The Credits, scientists describe their favorites (while the Bruce Willis Armageddon was more popular, its 1998 rival Deep Impact was more scientifically accurate.)  Meanwhile, the New York Times interviewed science fiction writers (including Star Trek Into Darkness co-writer and producer Damon Lindelof) on yarns the meteor impact might inspire.

Stephen Baxter suggested that the most prophetic of such tales was H.G. Wells' "The Star," in which Earth watches a wandering star come closer and closer without any means to prevent it.  We're probably closer to that situation he said than the wish fulfillment of Armageddon.

The biggest impact on me was seeing a CNN interview with Lawrence Krauss, physicist and author of The Physics of Star Trek among many other popular science books.  Krauss explained how the damage in Russia was caused by the sonic boom.  But the CNN reporter had no idea what he was talking about.  Apparently the idea that sound could create physical force was a new concept to him.  People can make fun of the obsessions of Trek fans with techno-babble and geeky points of science.  That seems infinitely preferable to the blithe ignorance that is going to be unnecessarily shocked by, for instance, global warming causing bigger snow storms.

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