Star Trek: Discovery – first trailer

Here’s our first look –

OK, I understand the idea behind the visual redesign. It’s 2017, not 1967. And the showrunners opted for Prime universe rather than Kelvin to preserve creative independence from whatever the movie franchise is doing. They do, however, want to appeal to the audience that the new movies in the Kelvinverse have recruited. Therefore: lens flares and Apple Stores.


But really, hairless Klingons? With a H.R. Geiger armor aesthetic?

It’s not like we haven’t seen the 60’s aesthetic embraced by modern television. Deep Space Nine went there and did it brilliantly – they arguably made the TOS USS Enterprise look even more gorgeous than any of her successors, and they didn’t change anything about her at all – just lighting and texture. Enterprise itself managed to authentically portray a pre-Kirk technology chic that had a more industrial feel, which was utterly believable as the ancestor to the softened look of the Kirk era. I do not accept that the Kelvinization of the Prime timeline was necessary to modernize the production. After all, the aesthetic of The Expanse and Dark Matter is thoroughly modern but doesn’t have the same Kelvin fascination with chrome and glass. Not that I want any Trek to go the grunge-fi look, but I do at least want Trek to honor it’s own identity. This feels like a rejection – purely a Han shot first decision.

Unless directly contradicted on screen, I think that my own headcanon about First Contact creating Enterprise can be amended here to argue that Discovery is in a Beta timeline. The Prime timeline was TOS/TNH/VOY/DS9, but the events of First Contact created the Beta timeline, and the Kelvinverse is an alternate reality branching from the Beta timeline.

Some may dismiss all this timeline canon angst as pointless, but since time travel and timelines are literally a backbone plot of the Star Trek universe, this is a legitimate area of fan analysis.

Related – great discussion threads at /r/DaystromInstitute that disagree with my headcanon First Contact created the alternate (Beta) timeline and a discussion of whether Enterprise is in Prime or not.

the hype about Hyperloop

Elon Musk comes to town
Elon Musk comes to town

This article makes an important point about the Hyperloop:

America has the means to reduce traffic and connect people to where they want to go in less time — but solving these problems entails politically difficult choices to shift travel away from cars and highways. Any high-tech solution that promises a shortcut around these thorny problems is probably too good to be true.

I can’t help but see an echo of the wishful thinking surrounding the EMDrive in the Hyperloop marketing campaign. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong.

Here’s the original white paper PDF from Elon Musk, and here’s a rather detailed critique by mathematician and transit analyst Alon Levy. Anyone who takes Hyperloop seriously should read both.

2017 Hugo discussion


Mark has his thoughts on the 2017 Hugo nominees up – and as usual, they are detailed 🙂

My own much briefer take: the Rabids are not very relevant. Ms. Marvel being nominated again is more important than ever given the nonsense going on – about diversity in comics, and using comics for political messaging, Ms. Marvel is basically the rebuttal and antidote.

I enjoyed The Obelisk Gate, and haven’t read Three Body Problem yet so can’t speak to Death’s End. Since I am going crazy over the Expanse (both in TV format as well as devouring the novels), I am excited to see it in the new Best Series category. And Rogue One just wins for me for the Vader sequence alone.

the coming implosion of biomedical & health science research

The state of health science in the US today is not weak, but it is under threat. The main problems: 1. p-value hacking. 2. commoditization of adjunct and postdoc labor. 3. disincentives of null value results or replication. All of these things threaten the foundations of the increasingly unsustaiunable edifice that is modern health science, and all of them derive in one way or another from the same root problem: the only source of objective funding, untainted by corporate interests, is the NIH. In essence, health science is a zero-sum game.

This is why the Trump Administration preliminary budget proposal is ominous: it specifies an unprecedented 18% cut to the NIH budget.

As the image above illustrates, grant applications have grown almost twice as competitive over the years as NIH funding stayed constant. An 18% cut in this context is like an amputation.

There is only one possible outcome of this: labs will shrink. Health science research is going to be dramatically curtailed. Maybe there are benefits, in the long run, to this – but in the short run it will only worsen – severely – the problems that health science research currently faces. The question is, how resilient is the health science establishment? We are going to find out.

Even though I left academia, I will be marching for science on Earth Day.

Related: great article at The Atlantic that points out how private funding is a drop in the bucket compared to government support. In my opinion, public science funding is as critical and as irreplaceable as national defense.