Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Going Social

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  • Kracklite,

    Arsenic…

    A rather more cautious blogger suggests that, no, it’s not life on Titan or Enceladus (Cassini doesn’t really have the instruments to make any direct detection of life anyway), but the possibility of life using alternative chemistry having arisen on earth in the past. A significant paper here (pdf, a couple of megs). A “shadow” biosphere has been speculated about for some time, that is, a separate origin for life on earth to that all the creepy-growy stuff we see about us and these unknown microbes may be hiding away in obscure niches – undersea vents, underground etc…

    The potentially major significance is that if life can arise on the same planet more than once, using different chemistries, then the probability of life on other planets is much higher as it appears to be a more common, possibly inevitable phenomenon rather than a fluke. It would also mean that we have to rethink our search methods.

    Another possibility might be a reassessment of data from the Viking landers of the 70s, which are generally thought not to have found life, but for quite some time now that conclusion has been disputed as some of the results are very tantalising and are thought by some astrobiologists to have been too conservatively interpreted.

    Maybe not as exciting, but it still makes my ears get a bit pointy.

    Guess you had to be there.

    Well, that does fall outside the normal constraints.

    The Library of Babel • Since Nov 2007 • 975 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Parks, in reply to Matthew Littlewood,

    Good observations Matthew. I am planning to make some similar points to much of what you said when I review the movie. So for goodness sake don’t make any more posts on it, or I’ll have nothing new to add!

    …although the framing device (we start in a crowded bar and end in an empty office with a computer) was obvious, it felt earned

    Yeah. In the comments in this blog post on scriptwriter Ken Levine’s blog, someone criticises Sorkin for making stuff up, and uses as an example the opening scene, which he claims is entirely invented. To which I say: Well, duh. I think any astute film goer, familiar with the origins of Facebook or not, would view the opening and closing scenes as almost certainly a fabrication by the scripter to add to/support his themes. Related…

    I’m pretty sure the factual veracity of a good percentage of it is doubtful, but then again, they do acknowledge that in an offhand way- I think one of the lawyers says something along the lines that 85 percent of testimony is emotional exaggeration and the other 15 percent is perjury.

    I had the same thought about that exchange. It occurred to me that lawyer (a character Sorkin freely admits to inventing) was speaking a little for the process of making this kind of film – a disclaimer, almost.

    Fincher’s Zodiac, which despite the excellent performances and direction, felt oddly hollow and confused.

    I was impressed by Zodiac. I like this review by Nathan Lee in The Village Voice.

    Wellington • Since May 2007 • 1155 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Littlewood,

    Here’s a pretty interesting comparison between the film and “real life” (warning: SPOILER ALERT), for what it’s worth. To be honest, going by that comparison, it’s no more exaggerated than, say, Bonnie & Clyde , Dog Day Afternoon or All the President’s Men. I think the filmmakers used dramatic licence when necessary. And they were right to.

    Regarding Zodiac, something just didn’t feel right to me- it seemed to be an attempt to recreate the classic look and feel of those great New Hollywood films, but somehow feel oddly tentative in the process.

    Maybe it’s something to do with the cinematography: no matter how hard Fincher and co tried, they couldn’t quite capture that incredible, washed-out colour scheme that so many of them had (see: the three films I mentioned above). It truly was a great “look”, one that probably came about as much through design than choice.

    But we’re getting way off the subject now…

    Today, Tomorrow, Timaru • Since Jan 2007 • 443 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Parks,

    Thanks for that link.

    From it: "Mark feels that the book The Facebook Effect by David Kirkpatrick is more in line with the Facebook true story, ..."

    Ah... David Kirkpatrick was the person I was referring to earlier when I mentioned someone criticising Sorkin for "making stuff up". (Kirkpatrick used the example the opening scene.)

    Wellington • Since May 2007 • 1155 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Kracklite,

    Spot on the money.

    Although, it isn't that different a form of life - it's still carbon chemistry, but with As replacing P.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4459 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Murdoch's The Australian magazine gets all defensive about Twitter in the wake of suing an academic for tweeting a conference presentation by a journalist about the rag's editorial position on climate change. How dare those Greens supporters not repeat our party line through new media channels we can't control!

    Clearheaded readers would find it ridiculous to conclude that The Australian does not believe in climate change. Long before Kyoto, we were convinced by the evidence that the climate was changing and have argued consistently in favour of a market-based mechanism to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

    Unlike the Greens, however, we take a mainstream, techno-centric approach, which contends that the solution will require human ingenuity, informed by science, using the many tools available in a modern, industrial society. The Greens on the other hand take an eco-centric approach, asserting that the imminent and unavoidable catastrophe requires a radical reorganisation of our society and economy.

    ...

    The hothouse environment of Twitter has become a breeding ground for falsehoods that quickly become received wisdom with repeated telling. Twitter's broken promise was that it would widen debate by connecting citizens on this vast continent in all their glorious diversity. But tweeters, like the rest of us, gravitate towards like-minded souls, splitting the twitterverse into discrete affirmative conversations in which truth is the first casualty and conspiracy theories flourish. The assumption of some social networkers that libel laws do not apply to them may soon be tested in the courts unless an alternative settlement can be found to a dispute between the editor-in-chief of The Australian and a Canberra academic. The Australian welcomes fair criticism, and indeed is happy to publish it, but falsehoods should never be disguised as comment and cannot go uncorrected. If new media aspires to compete with traditional broadcasters and publishers, it must abide by the same civil codes .

    Ultimately, what is at stake, however, is not the reputation of The Australian. Unlike Twitter, our commercial model means we have to demand a daily investment of money as well as time from a cross-section of intelligent readers, an imperative that keeps us grounded in mainstream values.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16679 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Parks, in reply to Sacha,

    Murdoch’s The Australian magazine gets all defensive about Twitter in the wake of suing an academic for tweeting a conference presentation by a journalist about the rag’s editorial position on climate change. How dare those Greens supporters not repeat our party line through new media channels we can’t control!

    Syd Walker makes a number of good points, including:

    Legal action should be the last step in an unresolved grievance – not the first act of petulance. Right now, Mr Mitchell looks like a puffed-up tin-pot dictator throwing a tantrum.

    Yep.

    Also:

    The story was reported in the Australian online which repeated the alleged defamation. This led a few observers to speculate whether Mitchell plans to sue his own newspaper as well?!

    I wonder if he’ll be suing Crickey, who said: “And asked whether alarmist predictions about the effects of global warming had made her [Asa Wahlquist’s] job as a reporter at The Australian more difficult, she responded: "It doesn’t help, especially when you have an editor who is inclined to conspiracy theories.”

    Wellington • Since May 2007 • 1155 posts Report Reply

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