s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: April 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tribond Tuesday


Friday, April 23, 2010

Of maidens and matrons

Oddly enough, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about whether I want to keep my maiden name. I say “oddly,” because I don’t have any current prospects for doing anything else, so I’m not exactly sure where this unexpected concern is coming from. (Well, aside from my general proclivity for worrying about things that aren’t a current issue and possibly never will be.)

Anyway, if I had to put my finger on it, I’d say that it’s been on my mind for a few reasons. One reason is that a friend of mine recently got married and has been torn about whether to keep her maiden name. Another reason is that I turned 30 last year, so I feel like I’ve had this name for a while, now, and I’m not going to go trading it in without a good reason. The last reason, silly as it may seem, has to do with authority control and the fact that publishing under two different names (or even different forms of a name) is a bad idea. (This last one isn’t really a big deal, though, because you don’t have to publish under your legal name, so if I write an article now and then write another article after I legally change my name, I’d probably still publish the second one under my maiden name, regardless.)

The weird thing is, if I married a guy named John Smith*, for example, I don’t think I’d mind at all being called [Katya] Smith or Mrs. Smith or Sister Smith. I’ve acquired enough nicknames over the years that I don’t really care what people call me in terms of everyday encounters, but I want to know I’m still the same person, deep down, and apparently my current last name is a big part of my identity.
*I was going to go with
“John Doe,” but then I realized that I associate that with dead people, thanks to watching too many police procedurals. So Im opting for being Pocahontas, instead.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tribond Tuesday

An overnight flight
A preorbital hematoma

Thursday, April 15, 2010

ST:TNG: The Borg

By special request, we interrupt our leisurely description of the crew of the NCC 1701-D (or Enterprise-D) to instead skip ahead and explain the Borg.

In the second season of TNG (the episode “Q Who?,” to be precise), Captain Picard boasts to an omnipotent being named Q that his crew is ready to face whatever challenges await them in exploring the galaxy. This annoys Q, so he transports the ship to a distant, uncharted region of space where the crew meets an alien race known as the Borg.

The Borg are cyborgs with pale skin and black or gray cybernetic appendages which they use as specialized tools that give them abilities beyond their organic bodies. They have a hive mind, so they don’t care about individuality or diplomacy; all they want is to assimilate any humanoid life form they come across. (Pretty much all they ever say is “We are Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.” And they all chant it in unison.)

An isolated Borg is stronger and smarter than an individual human, because of their cyborg implants. As a hive, the Borg can harness their group intelligence to make decisions instantly and easily outmaneuver their opponents. Basically, the crew of the Enterprise is completely outmatched.

Near the end of the episode, Picard admits to Q that he was wrong and his crew is no match for these alien creatures. Q reappears and graciously moves the Enterprise back to where they originally were, although not before a number of (minor) crew members lose their lives in the Borg attack, plus the Borg have now been made aware of the existence of the Federation, so it is assumed that they will be actively searching for them so they can be assimilated.

The next time the Borg appear is in a 2-part cliffhanger episode in at the end of season 3 / beginning of season 4 of TNG. This time, they kidnap Captain Picard and turn him into a Borg so that he can be a sort of intermediary between the Borg and the Federation. (He got better.) While he was a Borg, he was called Locutus, because the Borg apparently have a thing for quasi-Latinified names (Jean-Luc -> Locutus).

The Borg reappear many more times in the Star Trek franchise, in both TV episodes and movies, but I think this is all the background needed to understand what’s currently going on with the 100 Hour Board.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

ST:TNG: The Crew (part 1)

Captain Jean-Luc Picard

Captain Picard is almost diametrically opposed in personality from Captain Kirk. Where Kirk is an impulsive lover and fighter, Picard is a cultured philosopher.

Picard's responsibilities as captain are also markedly different from Kirk's because the writers decided that it was actually pretty stupid for the captain of the ship to be regularly endangering himself by always leading away teams on potentially hostile planets, so by the time TNG takes place, it's Star Fleet policy for the ship's first officer to lead away teams, while the captain stays behind on the ship. (Now I wonder which came first: The desire to have a more philosophical captain, with the change in Star Fleet policy as justification or the reasonable update in Star Fleet policy, which in turn led the writers to make the captain more philosophical?)

As his name would suggest, Captain Picard is supposed to be of French ancestry. However, the producers ended up casting English actor Patrick Stewart (and veteran of the Royal Shakespearean Company) in the role and the writers didn't really do much to make him seem French. (I think he said "merde," occasionally, and there were references to his family owning a vineyard, and maybe his brother had a French accent?)

Commander William T. Riker

Commander Riker is the first officer of the Enterprise. As such, he has inherited Captain Kirk's job of leading away teams, as well as a lot of Kirk's "girl in every port" personality. (However, having captain Kirk fall in love with you is often a death sentence, whereas Riker's affections seem to be less lethal.)

Anyway, Riker was intended to be the main (male) sex symbol of the show, but it turned out that the female viewership actually preferred Picard. (Let's see, a powerful Star Fleet captain who's also a cultured gentleman vs. an impulsive pretty boy who never seems to live up to his supposedly impressive reputation? No contest.*)

Lieutenant Commander Data

Every incarnation of Star Trek has one regular crew member who's really different from everyone else. The original series included crew members who were black, white, Asian, Russian, American, Scottish and . . . Vulcan. Star Trek: The Next Generation included crew members who were human, Klingon, (half) Beta-Zoid and . . . android.

Data is the creation of the brilliant cyberneticist Noonien Soong. He's not a mass-produced model; on the contrary, he's the only one of his kind (or almost). He is mathematically brilliant, but he lacks emotion and consequently has trouble understanding human nature.

As a character, Data is useful because he can drive the plot of an episode in a number of different ways. On a good day, he can provide comic relief as he tries to grasp social subtleties. On a bad day, his malfunctioning "positronic net" (= android brain) can provide a story conflict. (I wouldn't call Data a loose cannon, by any stretch, but there are a surprising number of plots that are driven by something going wrong with him. Or the holodeck. And then there's that episode where something goes wrong with both Data and the holodeck. Good times.) And on a really bad day, he can single-handedly save everyone with his special android powers.

Stay tuned for our next installment, where we discuss three more members of the crew (probably Troi, Worf, and Crusher).
*This is, incidentally, also the problem with the film First Knight. I don't know any woman who would pick Richard Gere's Lancelot over Sean Connery's Arthur.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Tribond Tuesday

Geoffrey Chaucer
Charles Darwin
William Lamb (Lord Melbourne)

Monday, April 05, 2010

Cat. & Reference: Will the real C. H. Smith please stand up?

One of the things I have to do when I'm cataloging something new is check to see if the author's name appears on a big list of names maintained by the Library of Congress.*

For instance, the other day I came across a little pamphlet about the 1st Maine Cavalry written in 1885 by someone named C.H. Smith, which meant that I needed to try and find said Smith in said Big List of Names.† The difficulty with this is that names in the Big List can be in a different form from how they're found "in the wild," so to speak. I'd probably find Mr. Smith listed under his full first name or first and middle name, but I didn't know what those are, and "Smith" doesn't exactly narrow it down.

However, I did have a couple of pieces of information to help me on my quest: I knew that Mr. Smith was still alive in 1885 when he wrote down his recollections, and I knew that he was probably born no later than 1845, or he wouldn't have been old enough to fight in the Civil War. Names on the Big List (of Names) often include birth and death dates, so these two dates would help me track down the elusive Mr. Smith.

The first thing I did was check out all of the people entered in the Big List as "Smith, C. H." (My Mr. Smith was probably entered under a longer version of his name, but it was a place to start.)

There were seven people named "Smith, C. H." (or some variation of it) in the Big List. Five were too young, and the other two didn't seem to have any connection to the Civil War or Maine. (One had been an engraver in New York and the other one had been a publisher in Boston.)

Since I'd had no luck with people entered as "C. H. Smith," I decided to see if I could find out more about the 1st Maine Cavalry.

Googling "1st Maine Cavalry" led me to the Wikipedia page about the regiment. It didn't include any names of regiment members in the article, but it did include a link at the bottom to a website for a 1st Maine Cavalry reenactment organization. (Say what you will about the quality of Wikipedia articles, I generally find the "External Links" quite useful.)

When I got to the website of the reenactment organization, I clicked on the "history" link and was rewarded with the information that one Colonel Charles H. Smith had been awarded a Medal of Honor in 1895. Happy with this small victory, I returned to the Big Lists of Names.

This time there were over 40 matches for "Smith, Charles H." but I ruled most of them out pretty easily until I got to number 33, "Smith, Charles Henry, 1827-1902." According to his record, he was born in Hollis, Maine, which looked promising, but I wanted more confirmation before declaring him a match. His record said he was also the subject of the book "Horse Soldiers in Blue," so I looked that book up on WorldCat to see if I could learn more about it. Sure enough, when I found the book, it turned out to be about the 1st Maine Cavalry. Success!

*It's called "authority control" and there's more to it than this, but I'm assuming most of you don't really want a lecture on the topic.

†There is, of course, a more technical name for what I'm calling the Big List of Names, but apparently I'm trying to dumb things down for you all, today. Or maybe I think that avoiding technical jargon will help me connect better with the youth. (Those crazy kids, with their FaceSpace. Do they still like rap music?)