Quotulatiousness

April 28, 2017

What is a parallel universe? | Doctor Who Special | James May Q&A | Head Squeeze

Filed under: Science, Space — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 22 Nov 2013

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the very first episode of Doctor Who James has a very special video on what exactly a parallel universe is!

Some physicists believe that in a parallel universe all of our mistakes have been corrected. Rather than taking a take away for one in a cold miserable flat, we are, in a parallel universe, living with our one true love having the best life ever. Outside our own universe, the theory goes, that there are an infinite number of other universes.

However maybe we don’t have to travel beyond our universe to find a parallel. The Schrodinger’s Cat paradox basically is that a cat in a box with a device that can kill at random exists in both alive and dead states. More info on Schrodinger’s Cat here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/google/google-doodle/10237347/Schrodingers-Cat-explained.html

Thanks to Alyssa Ann for her portrait of Jeremy Clarkson: http://alyssamenold.com/

April 24, 2017

A new anti-censorship tool – Slitheen

Filed under: Cancon, Liberty, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

The Register‘s Thomas Claburn on a new tool being developed in Canada to aid internet users in countries with hard censorship access material their governments don’t want them to see:

Computer boffins in Canada are working on anti-censorship software called Slitheen that disguises disallowed web content as government-sanctioned pablum. They intend for it to be used in countries where network connections get scrutinized for forbidden thought.

Slitheen – named after Doctor Who aliens capable of mimicking humans to avoid detection – could thus make reading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights look like a lengthy refresher course in North Korean juche ideology or a politically acceptable celebration of cats.

In a presentation last October, Cecylia Bocovich, a University of Waterloo PhD student developing the technology in conjunction with computer science professor Ian Goldberg, said that governments in countries such as China, Iran, and Pakistan have used a variety of techniques to censor internet access, including filtering by IP address, filtering by hostname, protocol-specific throttling, URL keyword filtering, active probing, and application layer deep packet inspection.

In an email to The Register, Goldberg said the software is based on the concept of decoy routing.

“The basic idea behind decoy routing is that the (censored) user’s computer makes an Internet connection to some non-censored (‘overt’) site, such as a site with cute cat videos,” said Goldberg. “However, it embeds a hidden cryptographic tag in its connection, which only a particular Internet router somewhere on the path between the user and the cute cat site can see. That router, seeing the tag, then redirects the traffic to a censored (‘covert’) site, say Wikipedia.”

As Bocovich and Goldberg explain in a paper [PDF] they co-authored, these tags make the web session’s master TLS secret available to a cooperating ISP. This allows the ISP to conduct what amounts to a friendly man-in-the-middle attack by having a network relay it controls open a proxy connection to the censored website.

May 18, 2015

Doctor Who Theme – PLAYER PIANO

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 21 Apr 2015

Composer/Pianist Sonya Belousova and Director Tom Grey celebrate over 50 years of Doctor Who by paying tribute to its iconic theme.

February 15, 2015

They call it “Great” Britain, after all

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Humour — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Great-Britain

H/T to Think Defence for the image.

Let’s make no mistake, Great Britain is great, the clue is in the name after all.

Anyone who thinks otherwise is obviously uneducated, or French.

And not only that …

Without Great Britain the world would be a poorer place in every regard.

Lets just remind ourselves why…

We gave the world democracy, common law, the Bailey Bridge, tanks, gravity, the worlds most common second language, Led Zeppelin, fair play, queuing, the backhoe loader, metal bridges, modern economics, the industrial revolution and Hollywood villains.

The Beatles, Morris Dancing, penicillin, HP sauce, Top Gear, the World Wide Web (your welcome), One Direction, Carry On and Simon Cowell.

Tea drinking, chicken tikka masala, Shakespeare, Winston Churchill, battered Mars Bars, the BBC, the mini (car, roundabout and skirt), the Spice Girls, Darwin, football, Marmite, rugby, cricket, golf, tennis, ping pong, pubs, tea, sharp suits, Spitfires and the fact there are homosexuals, lesbians and transsexuals in the armed forces and no one gives two shits.

With our friends and allies stood against the Nazis, invented the railway, sarcasm, MRI scanners, the screw propellor and a proper breakfast, been on the right side of the Napoleonic, First, Second and Cold War and gave the world steam power, the Mexeflote, Wallace and Gromit, roast beef dinners, the Dyson, Doctor Who, television, telephones, text messaging, GMT, electric motors, lawn movers, spotted dick, sewage systems, the thermos flask, the jet engine, carbon fibre, the flushing toilet and polyester (just for the RAF), pencils, radar and the Bank of France (ha ha ha).

February 8, 2015

Refuting the “Golden Age of Television” meme

Filed under: History, Humour, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

A few years back, Livejournal user Squid314 took issue with the idea that we’re somehow enjoying a great era of TV programming lately:

As I mentioned in my last entry, I’ve been watching Babylon 5 lately. It’s not a perfect show, but it has one big advantage: it’s consistent and believable.

Contrast this with Doctor Who. Doctor Who is fun to watch, but if you think about it for more than two seconds you notice it’s full of plot holes and contradictions. Things that cause time travel paradoxes that threaten to destroy the universe one episode go without a hitch the next. And the TARDIS, the sonic screwdriver, and the Doctor’s biology gain completely different powers no one’s ever alluded to depending on the situation. The aliens are hysterically unlikely, often without motives or believable science, the characters will do any old insane thing when it makes the plot slightly more interesting, and everything has either a self-destruct button or an easily findable secret weakness that it takes no efforts to defend against.

[…]

So Doctor Who is not a complete loss. But then there are some shows that go completely beyond the pale of enjoyability, until they become nothing more than overwritten collections of tropes impossible to watch without groaning.

I think the worst offender here is the History Channel and all their programs on the so-called “World War II”.

Let’s start with the bad guys. Battalions of stormtroopers dressed in all black, check. Secret police, check. Determination to brutally kill everyone who doesn’t look like them, check. Leader with a tiny villain mustache and a tendency to go into apopleptic rage when he doesn’t get his way, check. All this from a country that was ordinary, believable, and dare I say it sometimes even sympathetic in previous seasons.

I wouldn’t even mind the lack of originality if they weren’t so heavy-handed about it. Apparently we’re supposed to believe that in the middle of the war the Germans attacked their allies the Russians, starting an unwinnable conflict on two fronts, just to show how sneaky and untrustworthy they could be? And that they diverted all their resources to use in making ever bigger and scarier death camps, even in the middle of a huge war? Real people just aren’t that evil. And that’s not even counting the part where as soon as the plot requires it, they instantly forget about all the racism nonsense and become best buddies with the definitely non-Aryan Japanese.

Not that the good guys are much better. Their leader, Churchill, appeared in a grand total of one episode before, where he was a bumbling general who suffered an embarrassing defeat to the Ottomans of all people in the Battle of Gallipoli. Now, all of a sudden, he’s not only Prime Minister, he’s not only a brilliant military commander, he’s not only the greatest orator of the twentieth century who can convince the British to keep going against all odds, he’s also a natural wit who is able to pull out hilarious one-liners practically on demand. I know he’s supposed to be the hero, but it’s not realistic unless you keep the guy at least vaguely human.

[…]

…and then, in the entire rest of the show, over five or six different big wars, they never use the superweapon again. Seriously. They have this whole thing about a war in Vietnam that lasts decades and kills tens of thousands of people, and they never wonder if maybe they should consider using the frickin’ unstoppable mystical superweapon that they won the last war with. At this point, you’re starting to wonder if any of the show’s writers have even watched the episodes the other writers made.

I’m not even going to get into the whole subplot about breaking a secret code (cleverly named “Enigma”, because the writers couldn’t spend more than two seconds thinking up a name for an enigmatic code), the giant superintelligent computer called Colossus (despite this being years before the transistor was even invented), the Soviet strongman whose name means “Man of Steel” in Russian (seriously, between calling the strongman “Man of Steel” and the Frenchman “de Gaulle”, whoever came up with the names for this thing ought to be shot).

So yeah. Stay away from the History Channel. Unlike most of the other networks, they don’t even try to make their stuff believable.

December 30, 2014

How did so many episodes of Doctor Who go missing?

Filed under: Britain, History, Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

At Samizdata, Patrick Crozier explains how the cost of a new technology and the union work rules of the 1960s led to so many great (and not-so-great) British TV shows being lost to posterity:

Something like two fifths of the Doctor Who episodes produced before 1970 are “missing” from the BBC archive. Although it is now 20 years since I found out about it, I still find it difficult to believe that such an act of cultural vandalism was allowed to take place. But it was.

So why are so many missing? In Wiped! Richard Molesworth describes the whole sorry tale in exhaustive (and some times exhausting) detail. It begins with Doctor Whos being recorded on videotape. In the 1960s videotape was a new technology and as such, expensive. Broadcasters were understandably keen to re-use the tapes whenever they could.

Another factor in this was the deal that the BBC had made with the actors’ union Equity. Younger readers may be unfamiliar with this but in the 1960s and 1970s unions were extraordinarily powerful. The deal between Equity and the BBC meant that an episode could only be repeated for two years and after that only with Equity’s specific permission. So, you’d have a situation where after 2 years you would have videotapes that effectively could not be broadcast and an engineering department banging on the door demanding they be allowed to wipe them. As a consequence every single inch of 1960s Doctor Who was wiped. It was far from alone. Episodes of Top of the Pops, the Likely Lads, Not only but also…, Z-Cars, Til death us do part and many others met a similar fate.

In the interests of fairness I should point out that when it came to wiping TV programmes the BBC was far from the only offender. There is almost nothing left of the first season of the Avengers for instance. Or Sexton Blake. About half of the highly-rated Callan (played by Edward Woodward) is also missing. However, all the Saints and Danger Mans are still with us. Meanwhile, my understanding is that most American TV, even from the 1950s still exists.

And compounding the problem … even when the BBC wanted to get rid of old episodes of TV shows, they still held the copyrights:

One thing that particularly sticks in my craw is the fact that even after the BBC did everything in its power to destroy these episodes it still has copyright to them. This has some very peculiar effects as I shall explain.

As I said, many episodes no longer exist as films or tapes. But all the audios exist (recorded off-air by fans), as do the scripts and a large number of photographs, otherwise known as “tele-snaps”. Over the years a cottage industry has grown up assembling these disparate elements into what are known as “reconstructions”. Now, they’re not very good and they are really only for the dedicated fan – people like me in other words – but right now they are the best we’ve got. Sadly, these too are affected by BBC copyright. For many years they were only available on videotape and on a non-profit basis. The producers were wary of annoying the BBC. And then one day someone (quite reasonably you’d think) decided to start putting them up on YouTube. Oh dear, the BBC really didn’t like that. Not only did they force YouTube to take a whole load of them down but seem to have closed down the reconstruction business temporarily if not permanently. Bastards.

November 6, 2013

“…the only real Doctor was William Hartnell”

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:33

In the Telegraph, Tim Stanley discusses the original Doctor Who:

Everybody has a favourite Doctor, but the only real Doctor was William Hartnell. No one else came close to matching his authority and scariness. He was genuinely alien.

Hartnell the man was born in poverty to a single mother in 1908. His career took off in the 1940s, playing hard men and soldiers in cop shows and sitcoms. He was spotted by producer Verity Lambert playing a rugby talent scout in This Sporting Life and offered a part in a new sci-fi show called Doctor Who in 1963. Bill was reluctant at first to work on a mere kids programme — but it turned out to be rather more special than that.

The genius of that early series was that it was pitched perfectly between children and adults; it’s a testament to how much more “adult” children were treated back then. The real focus of the plot were two teachers, Ian and Barbara, who follow a precocious pupil home and find that she’s living in a police box. The police box turns out to be a time ship (rather roomier on the inside than out) and her “grandfather” — the Doctor — is less than thrilled to meet them. In fact, he’s so furious that he shuts the doors, presses a button and kidnaps them. Compare that with present-day Who where the Doctor only ever meets young women with regional accents who he instantly wants to bed but can’t because — I don’t know — he’s impotent or something. Everything about 60s Who was way more mature and sinister.

To be honest, Hartnell’s stories can be tough to re-watch. Each serial ran for upwards of 12 episodes a time, some of the scripts were plodding (I challenge you to sit through The Space Museum without slipping into a coma) and the effects shockingly poor. The Web Planet featured a cast of gay butterflies on strings, dancing ants and grubs on rollers that occasionally crashed into the camera. Bill sometimes let the side down by fluffing his lines (When invited to climb a hill: “My dear, I’m not a mountain goat and I prefer walking to any day.” Awkward pause. “And I hate climbing”). There are moments when he looks lost and helpless before the cameras, the line on the tip of his tongue but he can’t remember if it’s “Daleks” or “cabbages”.

October 12, 2013

Not quite as I remember it (from hiding behind the settee in the living room)

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Published on 10 Oct 2013

Trailer for the newly-recovered and remastered Patrick Troughton Doctor Who episode The Enemy of the World. Unseen in the UK for 45 years, and formerly considered missing, The Enemy of the World sees Troughton play the dual-role of the Doctor and also Salamander – the “saviour of the world”. Or is he… Also starring Frazer Hines as Jamie and Deborah Watling as Victoria.

October 6, 2013

Nostalgic Doctor Who fans rejoice

Filed under: Africa, Britain, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:01

According to a report in the Mirror, over 100 lost Doctor Who episodes have turned up in the most unlikely spot:

A group of dedicated Doctor Who fans tracked down at least 100 long-lost episodes of the show gathering dust more than 3,000 miles away in Ethiopia.

It was feared the BBC ­programmes from the 1960s — featuring the first two doctors William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton — had vanished for all time after the Beeb flogged off a load of old footage.

But after months of ­detective work the tapes have been unearthed at the Ethiopian Radio and Television Agency.

A television insider said: “It is a triumph and fans ­everywhere will be thrilled.

“This is a really big deal for the BBC and is set to make them millions from the sale of the DVDs.”

H/T to Tabatha Southey for the link.

March 27, 2013

A collaboration that should have happened

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:48

I missed this when it was posted last week:

Paul McCartney has revealed how he once asked electronic music pioneer Delia Derbyshire — creator of the Doctor Who theme music — to remake one of the Beatles’ most famous songs, Yesterday.

The former Beatle said that as a fan of experimental music he wanted the BBC Radiophonic Workshop composer to create a different version of the song.

[. . .]

Derbyshire is hailed as one of the most important figures in the history of electronic music in the UK. As part of the Radiophonic Workshop — the avant-garde wing of the BBC’s sound effects department — she created the distinctive signature tune for new TV series Doctor Who in 1963, using musique concrète techniques and sine- and square-wave oscillators to realise Ron Grainer’s score.

Derbyshire stopped making music in the 1970s, only rekindling her interest after working with Pete Kember (once of the group Spaceman 3) shortly before her death in 2001 at the age of 64.

Yesterday originally appeared on the Beatles’ 1965 album Help!. It is one of the most covered songs in the history of popular music, with more than 2,200 versions thought to exist.

May 9, 2011

Gadgets from science fiction

Filed under: Media, Technology — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:55

Caleb Cox rounds up ten geeky gadgets from science fiction shows and movies that he thinks we’d all like to have:

Tomorrow is always round the corner in the world of tech, and gadgets that started life in the imaginations of mad folk are starting to become a possibility.

Tools that give us superpowers may seem impossible, but ultramobile computing is a reality these days, with commonplace kit that seems more capable than devices Gene Roddenberry dreamt up.

As we’ve already looked at fantasy blades you wished you owned, it’s about time we talked-up the fantasy tech, after all, we are Reg Hardware. So here’s ten of our favourite gadgets from popular culture that may or may not be the tech of the future.

Let us know if there’s anything you think we’ve missed and give us your views on its commercial prospects in the comments section at the end.

His choices are:

  • Cloaking device — Predator
  • Holodeck — Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • Hologram communication — Star Wars
  • Orgasmatron — The Sleeper
  • Peril Sensitive Sunglasses — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • Personality glasses — Joe 90
  • Sonic Screwdriver — Doctor Who
  • Timebooth — Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
  • Telepathic Lens — The Lensman series
  • Teleportation belt — The Tomorrow People

January 6, 2011

Even Time Lords could get confused by this matchup

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:18

I can’t improve on The Register‘s take:

Doctor Who the 10th, David Tennant, is planning to get hitched to his fictional daughter Georgia Moffett, who also happens to be the real daughter of his fictional fifth incarnation.

Moffet is the real-life fruit of former Time Lord Peter Davison’s loins, and played Who offspring Jenny in 2008’s The Doctor’s Daughter. Davison and his future son-in-law Tennant appeared together in 2007’s Children in Need Doctor Who special Time Crash, well after Ms Moffet really existed, but before she was spawned as her soon-to-be husband’s television child.

Paradoxically, this means that Davison and Tennant came together as both individuals and the same person, while one was the father of the future daughter of the other.

December 10, 2010

The people behind the original Doctor Who

Filed under: Britain, History, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:08

A photo set on the BBC Archive shows some of the folks who made the original Doctor Who series:

Also from BBC Archives, the Radio Times review of the first episode:

Also of interest, the original notes on creating a BBC science fiction series.

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