Gate Geek

I hate when this happens. You've been warned.

This weekend I caught a showing of Stargate on cable. It's one of my all time favorite movies and despite the regurgitated syndication of television shows it remains a solid science fantasy movie. Even after 15 (yup) years it still holds up a well produced film.

But there's a plot hole I never saw until just now.

For those who haven't seen it (and seriously, how can you be using a computer, the internet or breathing if you haven't) the story revolves around an unearthed piece of ancient technology that opens travel between star systems. A scientist and a group of soldiers take the first ride to a planet on the other side of the galaxy where they find a civilization much like ancient Egypt. It turns out, Ra - the sun god - was an alien. (Later in the television shows he is shown to be of a race called the Ancients. How droll.) This alien used the uncivilized humans to create an empire for himself, essentially creating civilization on Earth. This proves the scientist's theory that the pyramids were created by aliens.

Ra's slaves revolted and he fled, but he created (or planted) a stargate on Earth and then kidnapped a few thousand humans. On this new planet, Ra outlawed reading and writing to avoid another revolt, but when the scientist and soldiers show up, the slaves revolt again and this time Ra isn't able to run.

It's a neat story, but there's a problem with the technology.

The gate contains 39 symbols or chevrons. It spins around on a free wheel and uses 7 locking mechanisms to hold selected symbols in place. Once you put in the seven correct symbols, the gate opens and you can walk through it to the new location. The way it's described in the movie is problematic in that the scientist says you need seven points to plot a course through space; six for a destination and one for the starting point. There was a cover stone with six symbols on it, but the original team couldn't figure it out until the scientist came in and figured out that the symbols are all star clusters - constellations. The seventh symbol, the point of origin, was a representation of Earth.

Ok, it kind of makes sense if you're watching and aren't thinking about it too much. But I did start thinking and here's my problem.

First: Now I could be wrong on this, but I thought you only needed three "points" to plot a point in space. The intersection of the lines drawn from an X a Y and a Z intersect to give you a point. On a plane this is triangulation, so I'm assuming someone smarter than me looked up how to go about doing this in 3 dimensions. But this leads to my second problem.

You have to use spatial coordinates to plot anything. If I was using the methodology from the movie, I'd have to know six distinct coordinates, which are usually of an X, Y, and Z variety. So that's 18 numbers already, but where am I measuring FROM? On Earth we coordinate using established longitude and latitude lines, and we only need two numbers. But in space are we measuring from Earth? The Sun? The center of the universe? There's a great article on how the TARDIS from Doctor Who moves through space (and time) but I won't get into it here. Needless to say, it's starting to get dodgy because without a frame of reference, even the six points I need to use to find another point are in question. So what do I use? What happened here is whoever wrote and finalized the script wanted to use symbols. It allowed an ancient language expert to join a military venture. So the symbols were tied to star clusters and with out suspension of disbelief, we were baited and switched over the facts that coordinates equal star clusters equal symbols. Symbol one is Orion which is x28, y105 and z254.

Point the third: Even if the coordinate you used was a single star IN that constellation, that star moves. Gates (for the most part) are on planets that move around a star that move within a galaxy that hurtles through the universe. So let's assume you've rationalized the coordinates being a star cluster and that each on is represented by the cluster's dominate star, it would be like plotting a point in your backyard using moths; it'll never be the same. This led me to believe that the symbols are not coordinates at all, but an address. It seems more likely that you could use a group of symbols to find almost a postal location. The gate is there and has a dialing or mailing code so you use other gates to find it. My house doesn't move in relation to other houses in the eyes of the postal service, so sending it to 123 Main St. Austin, TX, 78701 USA will always get it to the right place, no matter how fast you and I plunge through the cosmos. So, we can equate the 7 symbols to and address. That's easier right?

Not so fast, Dr. Jackson. Here is my final point and the one that can't really be resolved. In order to travel to another place, I'm giving you six symbols, based on my location, to represent where I'm going AS WELL AS a seventh symbol representing where I am. Let me say that again using the mailing address analogy. I'm going to mail a package from Austin to Dallas. In order to know where to drive, I need an address. The address is a street number, street name, zip code, city, state, country. Six symbols, right? The seventh is my point of origin. The package is GOING to Dallas, it doesn't need to know my current location to get there, so it's 7th symbol will be "mailbox." Ok, so using the Stargate method of travel, I'd tell my package where to go by addressing it based off things only I can see from Austin (star constellations only I can see from Earth.) If I looked north toward Dallas, I'd see a couple clouds, a building, maybe a few cars. So I'd address my package, "To: Big cloud, little cloud, bank, Chevy, overpass, jogger. From: Me."

That's what Stargate is doing.

It's telling us this gate can open a wormhole to another place by giving it directions to ourselves. The star constellations only make sense if you're on Earth, if you're using them as an address and not coordinates. If you're using coordinates, it only works if you account for drift and a known center of the universe. In short, it doesn't work either way.

Not to mention the fact that if you're using the number of symbols on the wheel as a method of "dialing" a location, you'd be trying forever to figure something out. I used an online permutation calculator so I can't claim my alegebra is right, but of 39 symbols, using 6 as a subset (assuming 1 never changes as a point of origin) you have 137,231,006,679 possible destinations. They explored that in the show and alluded to the idea that there are gates almost everywhere in the universe, but at this point I think they're method for dialing is flawed.

See what happens when I get an itch on my brain like that? You were warned.


Dollhouse et al

Well folks, here it is. The long and ill awaited Joss Whedon product that most fans have given a deathclock like countdown until its demise. The pilot episode was rewritten, parts were re-shot, it was given a Friday time slot and its cast has some of the hardest names to pronounce. In the end, will the show be able to stand on its own amidst the sometimes unwarranted negative press and move toward a stable and regular offering for Fox?

Not based on this first episode.

Read the rest of this review and others as well as news and commentary at Television Zombies dot com.

Also, there's a call in episode coming up. Leave any tv-related questions you can think of at 1-888-204-9591. It's a free voicemail, so it's like leaving an anonymous comment on a web site.


The Kids

DI Painting Day
Originally uploaded by Cheryl Rollman.
So much has gone on lately that I've lost focus as to the nature of this blog: The kids.

I think because the life I live seems crazy, almost reality show like, and the one constant seems to be my kids. Their lives and the changes in their lives seem a normal contrast to the weirdness that pervades life in our house each day. Between people moving in, people dating, people visiting and friendships being made, it's easy to overlook these two little wonders. I think the last time I even mentioned them was back in August at the start of the school year.

Little Miss Austin has become a girl. She's not a tomboy or a toddler or a tween yet, she's a little girl. She likes shows with girls in them, plays video games with cooking and butterflies and loves to wear pink. Her go to accessory is a hair band and she talks about her boyfriend who's not really her boyfriend. As much as I want her to watch Star Wars and play with Lego, she'd rather dress up as a fairy princess and pretend to own a story selling ceramic nicknacks. She loves jumping on the trampoline and collecting shells.

LMA is hitting a growth spurt too. Her knees hurt in the morning and it reminds me of when I was that age how coming down the stairs was a painful exercise. She's still small for her age and when her Destination Imagination group has their meetings, you can see that she's still so small compared to her classmates. But her hair is long and her eyes are big and she does quite well in school. Her latest report card was all A's and she had pulled a few of those grades up with a little hard work and some help from the adults.

G-man is just a card. He usually runs around the house in PJs and squeals a lot at every little thing that catches his eye. He's a happy child but more and more he's picking up habits from his moody big sister. When told he can't have ANOTHER piece of cheese or a bowl of cereal 20 minutes after that bowl of oatmeal, the tears shoot out of his eyes, he cries like he's been kicked and then he runs upstairs - just like his sister. But for the most part he giggles and wants attention and just loves on you like a rambunctious koala.

He's also quite fond of computer games and has taken to them rather quickly. He knows how to play most children site games and as long as we know what he's doing, he's fine to play on his own. We don't let them play all day and after a certain time all TV and games go off, but I'd rather he play some games than watch TV.

Both children play with my Lego as well and it's wonderful to see what they make and how it relates to their personalities. LMA likes to build town things; houses, buildings, small cars, etc. G-man likes to build things with wings and guns and as many people crammed on as possible. They always defy physics too and I think they're sparklingly creative.

Both are adapting well to all the changes in our house. They are well loved, well played with and well cared for. I'm not there as much as I'd like but with three parents, they get a lot of coverage. I know they'd love to go out to eat more and go to more movies and go to themed play area eateries and that's something I feel bad about denying them mainly because of how the economy has hit everyone. We try to make up for it by doing other things like fishing and going to the parks and playgrounds and playing games at home when we can. Ms. A has her hands full with all the DI meetings, but I know the kids love having people over.

We're quite lucky that we're in the neighborhood we're in now. There are a lot of people we know and a lot of them have kids. When we move (if we move) we want to stay in the place we are because the kids, despite all we've thrown at them, seem to be adapting just fine. They are great kids and I could not imagine what would make them better or make me love them more than I already do. With all their kid hang ups and tantrums and other youthful foibles, they are perfect.


Courage Campaign

This breaks my heart, that it's come to this.

"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

I know we're all different and we all have different beliefs. I can't make anyone feel something different than what they do. It's not my job to change your faith, alter your moral polarity or convince you one way or the other. But come on, this is turning into qualifying human beings based on a biological trait and that is called bigotry and hate. The only reason I can understand how strongly people are against it is because of how strongly I feel for it. Neither are laden with reason. And thus, can they be given laws?