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Science Fiction

The Metal Men

comic book cover
When I was growing up reading comic books, I keenly remember the Metal Men. The DC comic was created by writer Robert Kanigher, penciller Ross Andru, and inker Mike Esposito and featured genius scientist Will Magnus and his six artificially intelligent androids.

metal men intro
The team leader was Gold, the muscle was Iron. There was hot-tempered Mercury, dim-witted Lead (he was dense, get it?), insecure Tin (the tin cry, science is so damn funny), and, the sole female in the team, lustrous Platinum. Platinum was in love with Dr. Magnus and thought she was a real woman (creepy, considering Dr. Magnus created her like that). Besides having personalities that matched their namesake elements, each android had abilities that also matched their names. For example, Iron was strong and Lead could shield against radiation. Mercury, being a liquid at room temperature, could pass through small openings. Gold, Platinum, and Tin were malleable and ductile.

Dr. Magnus flustered
To my delight, each one of their adventures was like a little chemistry lesson. Like when they battled with the sinister Gas Gang!

comic book cover
I remember the major thing that really irked me about the Metal Men was the choice of symbols on their chests. Instead of using the symbols found on the periodic table of elements, which are, ahem, the official symbols determined by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, the symbols that were chosen instead are alchemical symbols. And even then, only four of the six symbols are correct:

  • Gold, okay (☉ is the symbol for the Sun)
  • Mercury, okay (☿ is the symbol for, uh, Mercury)
  • Iron, okay (♂ is for Mars)
  • Tin, okay (♃ is for Jupiter)
  • Lead, not okay (♄ is for Saturn, not L)
  • Platinum, not okay (☽☉, not P)

The first five metals are associated with those seven classical “planets” that were visible to the naked eye, with only silver and copper not chosen for some reason. I am guessing that the letters L and P were used for Lead and Platinum, respectively, because they were much easier to draw and, in the case of Platinum, wouldn’t be confused with the symbol for Gold. Anyway, Platinum did not display her symbol on her curvaceous chest. I can only imagine how the use of ☽☉ would have worked out if she did.

If they had used the IUPAC symbols found on the periodic table, the symbols would have been:

  • Gold (Au, from the Latin aurum)
  • Mercury (Hg, from the Latin hydrargyrus or “water silver”)
  • Iron (Fe, from the Latin ferrum)
  • Tin (Sn, Latin stannum)
  • Lead (Pb, Latin plumbum)
  • Platinum (Pt, Spanish platina or “little silver”)

Happy Towel Day 2016!

Today is Towel Day. Happy Towel Day!

The Galactic Hitchhikers have tallied the contest votes and have declared a winner!

You sass that hoopy Lisa Orozco? Our very own Lisa has been chosen to represent Earth as our new and shiny Towel Day Ambassador! Lisa will be assisted by Stefan Gemzell, representing Sweden and Norway, and Andrew Pithie, representing the UK and the Commonwealth.

Congratulations, you froods! Don’t Panic!

As Douglas Adams reminds us in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

My Guide To The Doctors

I made this for my wife

I made this tongue-in-cheek guide for my wife’s amusement.

When I was a new fan of the British science fiction television show Doctor Who, I had a lot of trouble keeping straight all of the incarnations of the Doctor. This was because the Doctor had the annoying habit of regenerating into a different actor every so often as the series progressed over the course of 50 years. So I started giving each one of the incarnations a nickname just for my own personal use.

My conversations with my wife, Tamara, who is far more knowledgeable about all things Whovian than me, would then go something like this:

“Doesn’t the First Doctor look like Franz Liszt?”
“You mean William Hartnell?”
“I guess so. Which doctor is “Patches”?”
“What?”
“You know, the one that dresses like Patches the Clown.”
“You mean the Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker? And he does not!”

Eventually, like most things that I do in our marriage, her exasperation turned into amusement:

“So “Celery Man’s” daughter actually married “Lord Business” in real life?”
“Ha. Yes, the daughter of Peter Davison, who played the Fifth Doctor, married David Tennant, who played the Tenth Doctor. Her name is Georgia Moffett. You need to write this stuff down.”

She has been bugging me to make an image guide listing all of my nicknames for her Doctor Who Fans Unite fan club, so here it is. Feel free to copy it and share it. My fan-made guide is under a Creative Commons by-nc-sa 3.0 license, so feel free to copy, modify, and share it so long as you give credit and it’s not for commercial gain. After all, I do not own the images and I am using them for fun as a fan.

Whether you are a fan of the older series or of the new, check out the Doctor Who Fans Unite meetup if you want to be a part of a local group who love the Doctor in all of his various forms.

50th Anniversary Of Doctor Who

doctor who 50th

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the British science fiction television show Doctor Who.

The show was first broadcast on BBC1 at 5:16 PM GMT on Saturday, November 23, 1963. The show ran for 26 seasons on BBC1 until it was suspended in 1989. In 1996, a single television movie was broadcast on the Fox Network. In 2005, Doctor Who finally returned and is currently being broadcast once more on BBC television as a direct continuation of the 1963–1989 series and the 1996 television movie. This makes it the longest running science fiction televison series.

The BBC is celebrating the 50th anniversary by broadcasting simultaneously in 94 countries The Day Of The Doctor, a special episode written by Steven Moffat.

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Whether you are a fan of the older series or of the new, check out Doctor Who Fans Unite if you want to be a part of a local group who love the Doctor in all of his various forms.

tardis

While you are at it, download and build your very own paper TARDIS and join in on the celebration!

Physics Of Superheroes

James Kakalios is a distinguished professor in the school of physics and astronomy at the University of Minnesota. He created a freshman seminar course that combined his love for physics with his love for comic books and called it, appropriately enough, Everything I Know About Science I Learned from Reading Comic Books.

Because of its popularity with his students, he was inspired to write The Physics of Superheroes. It is a book for the general reader that covers all of the basic concepts in a first-year college physics course in an often humorous fashion and uses comic book superheroes as examples. Among other things, Kakalios uses basic physical principles to show that the Flash must be surrounded by a pocket of air when he runs that enables him to breathe and that gravity must have been 15 times greater on Krypton than it is on Earth. Kakalios refers to Iron Man, Spider-Man, Ant-Man, and the X-Men, among others, to cover concepts such as thermodynamics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, and string theory.

He says that he has been reading comic books longer than he has been studying physics.