Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

We found the Higgs! Now what?

Saturday, November 10th, 2012

After a bit of a hiatus, Perimeter lectures are back. This month’s presenter was Melissa Franklin, Department Chair of Physics at Harvard. Franklin is a) an experimental physicist, and b) hilarious. Excellent combination for a public lecture.

Her talk was “Discovery of the Higgs Boson: Sweet Dream or Nightmare”, by which she meant Sweet Dream for experimentalists and possible Nightmare for theorists, though, as she quipped, they can come up with new theories in 4 or 5 days.

Although long enough in the States now to be relieved by the outcome of the most recent election (so say we all), she got in touch with her Canadian roots with a poppy and a hockey stick instead of a laser pointer. At one point she was gesturing with the hockey stick and carrying a wine glass, which, if you think about it, pretty much sums up Canadian physicists.

To the talk. Franklin said she didn’t really feel the Higgs field until she was walking home shortly after the big announcement in July that scientists were pretty sure they had it confirmed at the LHC. She suddenly was aware of it, and it’s been with her since. She has, by the way, been working on experimental science to find Higgs one way or another for 20-something years.

She was very good at bringing all of the science down to very pragmatic terms and analogies so that everyone could understand how they were able to find Higgs indirectly. In the end, it comes down to the fact that Higgs can couple with all kinds of particles and sub-particles. And, if it is not forbidden, it is compulsory (Feynmann). Meaning that every coupling that can happen, will happen. In the LHC, that means getting a big whack of protons creating enough data to break the Internet or run out of CDs. And because they can trace back the particles they see, they can find the Higgs (with slightly more math than that).

At the speeds they are travelling, it’s like the protons aren’t really protons when they crash, though, more like a stream of gluons, quarks and anti-quarks. What the scientists look for is a tiny bump at a certain wavelength. Let’s turn to the wineglass – if you make the wineglass “sing” by rubbing the rim, you are demonstrating a similar graph to what they look for in particles. In the case of the particles, it’s a bump that indicates mass and lifetime.

Two groups – one the French one (the “dark side”) and one Franklin’s team (ATLAS), saw the same bump in the same place and this is the Higgs mass they believe they have identified at around 125GeV.

Franklin got in several good jabs at the theorists in the house, though she did concede that both camps do a lot of drinking when they aren’t physics-ing.

As for what’s next, more experiments and working through what Higgs means to the Standard Model, supersymmetry and all those other small questions. LHC is shutting down for some tweaking and refurb soon which will allow them to throw things faster in their experiments.

Higgs may offer us insight into dark matter, and THAT would be a talk I’d like to see.

Interesting exchange during the question period, where a youngish woman asked Franklin what it was like to be the first tenured professor in Physics at Harvard. “Are you in Physics?” Franklin asked the questioner. “I’m at Perimeter,” she said. Franklin: “Then you know. The wonderful thing about people at Harvard is that they are all so sure of their own greatness that you’re not a threat. Each day, you just have to reset yourself”. Sad comment on the status of women in science today.

One final note: Greg Dick from Perimeter gave us an update on their recent survey about the public lectures. Apparently lots of people complained that if you aren’t available to get tickets between 9:00 and 9:03 on the Monday morning, you can’t get in. True, but what they’ve decided to do about it is run the “registration” for each lecture for 24 hours and then you are in a LOTTERY to get tickets. This is a classic example of listening to your customers (good) and then assuming you know what the solution is without asking them or exploring further. ALL LECTURES AREN’T EQUAL, GREG. What if there’s only 1 I really want to see, and now it’s up to your lottery as to whether or not I can go?

I thought the audience was going to storm the stage in outrage at this. We’ll see how long it lasts. We all have his personal email.

It’s not just the quiet

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Reading - passtime of a lot of introvertsJust finished reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. As an introvert reading a book about introverts, it’s a bit like the cats watching cats meme.

I found myself nodding at many parts. Others not so much – like the idea that introverts need a lot of time to make a decision, cuz no. Cain does a good job of blending research in neuroscience, psychology and field trips to find out more about how introverts have been perceived and welcomed (or not) in history, and makes sure to offer us up some “famous introverts” to soothe our need to be recognized (Bill Gates, Woz, Al Gore, Rosa Parks, Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt…).

Parks’ story is one she comes back to several times, as a woman of “quiet courage” – turns out she had a run-in with the same bus driver she dealt with on the famous day, and she backed off that time. However, she had been a long-standing worker in civil rights in her own way–she wasn’t a leader, but she was strong in her beliefs. On the day when she said “no”, she was tired and believed she should keep her seat. All the stuff that came afterward was primarily the work of the extroverts–like King.

I liked also that Cain twigged to the fact that in this cult of personality we call modern Americas, where we all “think different”, conformity is higher than ever – everything is about groupthink, groupwork and being “outgoing”, against study after study that shows working and thinking on one’s own actually results in more creativity, and more productive results.

In the business world, Cain cites several studies that put the idea that “brainstorming” works, and that open plan offices are conducive to better ideas and more productivity on their ass. Want to help people to be more productive, at least give them a mix of hidey-holes and places to interact. Open-plan workers have higher stress levels, higher turnover and lower productivity. Of course, the people who think all this stuff is good for business have come through what is now generations of kids who have been forced into group work for most of their school career, and who were ostracized and called out by teachers for being too quiet, or anti-social.

This was, in fact, what my entire “enrichment” education was in the 70′s and 80′s – if we weren’t brainstorming, we were assigned to teams to do some project. Never mind that I’m pretty sure the better part of the kids in enrichment were introverts, and looked on our time to do independent study as a “relief” from all of that forced interaction.

There’s some evidence that shows that introverts are physically more sensitive to stimulation – which makes sense. That baby who cries when there’s a loud noise or a fast-moving object? More likely to be introverted and not the excitable extrovert you might expect. The extrovert needs more stimulation to have the right levels of chemicals going in their brains.

There is such a thing as what I would call “situational extrovertism”–where introverts can be social, or direct, or charming even. But when we are done, we need to decompress. I have no problem speaking in front of large crowds, for example, but I need to do mental rehearsing beforehand, and I need several days afterward with no social engagements to “top up” my reserves.

Another good strategy for me is working at home – where I can control the amount of stimulation, and work through different projects as I choose to without interaction. Since a third to a half of the population is introverted, it’s yet another way that telecommuting can actually result in more productivity–except that it’s much more likely that the extroverts are running the show.

Cain offers up some ideas for how introverts and extroverts can get along, and why it’s a great combination when they work together–which I totally agree with. For me, having extroverts on my team and as my immediate boss is a way for me to exert influence without having to do all of the small talk myself, and I really hate small talk.

A good read if you aren’t aware of why Sally or Joe don’t want to go out every night like you do, or if you are Sally or Joe and you want to read about your tribe.


SKA isn’t just music anymore

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

Made it to another PI lecture last week. This one was Lisa Harvey-Smith from CSIRO (Commenwealth Science and Industrial Research Organization) who was here, presumably, celebrating Canada’s recent entry into the supporter’s ring for the Square Kilometer Array.

The whole project is a pretty interesting world cup of who’s gonna get the array. It’s a series of several types of radio receivers that comprise what will be the most sensitive radio telescope we’ve ever created. The idea is that they will be able to look “back” at the early universe and get a much better understanding of how things came to be, and maybe get a handle on just what the hell black energy and black matter really is. Essentially looking at the smooth universe from much earlier after the big bang and before it got all clumpy (if, indeed, that is how it happened).

Harvey-Smith was an engaging speaker who made liberal use of video and humour (to better effect, I thought, when she wasn’t discussing her primary research and the array – almost as if it’s too hard to be irreverent with the thing you most care about).

What’s more interesting is that every aspect of this project is pretty much open market competition, including the ultimate site for the array (thanks to @Melle for the link). It may be a defining moment for Africa if they get the bid. There’s some pretty mind-boggling innovation required, including how to cool facilities in a desert in a way that is environmentally sound, and get enough computing power together to process the equivalent of the Internet every day. But they’ve got the guy who has a copyright on wifi working on the project, so they may have a shot at it.

I came out of there with one essential question though: if the actual space needed is thousands of kilometers, why the hell is it the Square Kilometer Array?

Particle Spacetime

Friday, November 4th, 2011

PI lectures are back! This month’s presenter was Fay Dowker, a student of Stephen Hawking and she is pursuing studies in the idea that spacetime is fundamentally discrete, and that we can understand key functions through causal set theory.

Dowker is a very good lecturer – she built in repeated arguments that all led to the punchline – black holes are hot!

Causal set theory is within the field of quantam gravity. The premise is that within space time there are causal relationships between “particles” if you like. But Dowker started with the First Law of Thermodynamics and led us through some nice matching to get us to see that work Hawking did regarding black holes is basically the same damn thing. Black hole thermodynamics, natch.

Since physicists are all happy about unities, this is a neat turn of mathematics that allows us to see how black holes can have a temperature. Though “hot” actually means just a smidge above absolute zero. Think how particles are spontaneously formed and annihilate each other constantly in what we think of in “empty” space, only on the edge of a black hole, it’s possible that one particle of the pair escapes and the other is captured – essentially giving net new heat to the black hole.

What’s neat is that when I got home after the lecture, Brian Greene’s new Nova series was on, and it happens to have a pretty fantastic special effects budget. Lo and behold, he was standing in empty space with particle pairs zooming all around him, just like Dowker was describing.



It’s science!

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

Had the pleasure of attending some of the Stephen Hawking Center events at Perimeter Institute today. The new building is very Escheresque–up and down stairs and multiple hallways and little courtyards where you least expect them. Good thing they put in lifts; otherwise, Mr Hawking himself would have a hard time getting there.

We attended a public lecture by George Dyson, who, when faced with the spectre of his father, Freeman (awesome little  man), and his sister, Esther, buggered off to Vancouver at the age of 16 to build canoes. Of course, he came back into the fold as a science historian, especially of digital science.

Dyson presented a very accessible history of digital science at his lecture, enhanced with wonderfully human artifacts from his research, including logs from ENIAC  (computer error, not human!!; I give up!) and memos about people stealing sugar for their tea. He revealed the direct links between what was designed in the early days of computers and what we have today–we haven’t changed the blueprints, so to speak, we’ve just made things smaller and faster. And my geek-type friends appreciated that he focused on operations and the “how” we did it, not just the “thinking” about it.

Right after that, we did the tour, the Escher stairs, and so on. Lots of minimalism, and I think we agreed the only thing we didn’t like were some odd, scratchy-looking rug tiles in the common areas. The community outreach was very well done. Random Hawking videos in meeting rooms, facts  & figures on chalkboards, and “ask a physicist” opportunities in the sitting areas. You could even talk to the architects (and maybe ask them about the ugly rugs…)

We also got in for the Julie Payette presentation. She has a good sense of humour, and the videos & images she brought with her were pretty impressive. Some “day in the life” of living on the space station, and lots about what Earth looks like from space. The ones that stayed with me are spacewalkers stuck by the feet on the end of the Canadarm (you have to lock them in so they don’t wander off into the dark). And the “little blue planet” ones–which Julie used to deliver her main message: “Borders are imaginary and you can’t see them from space.”

When asked whether she worried about the risks of being an astronaut, she said she saw the lunar landing when she was young, and despite the fact that she was a girl, in Montreal, who couldn’t speak English, she knew she wanted to do that, and her parent didn’t laugh. They told her to start working on it.

I sat back and pondered once again what the dignitaries and visiting speakers must think when they come to Waterloo. What kind of freakish place is this? That thousands of people flock to a center for theoretical physics…

Book meme: sci-fi/fantasy

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Top NPR 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books

From the NPR annual reader survey. As per usual on these things, bold what you’ve read and italicize what read partially/did not finish. I didn’t do as well on this one as other lists, probably because some fantasy series get on my nerves…

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien

2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

3. Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert

5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin

6. 1984, by George Orwell

7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov

9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan

13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson

15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore

16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov

17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein

18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss

19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick

22. The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King

24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke

25. The Stand, by Stephen King

26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson

27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

28. Cat’s Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman

30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein

32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams

33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein

35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller

36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells

37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne

38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys

39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells

40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny

41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings

42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley

43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson

44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven

45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin

46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien

47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White

48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

49. Childhood’s End, by Arthur C. Clarke

50. Contact, by Carl Sagan

51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons

52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson

54. World War Z, by Max Brooks

55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle

56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman

57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett

58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson

59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold

60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett

61. The Mote In God’s Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind

63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke

65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson

66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist

67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks

68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard

69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb

70. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson

72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne

73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore

74. Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi

75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson

76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke

77. The Kushiel’s Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey

78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin

79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury

80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire

81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson

82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde

83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks

84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart

85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson

86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher

87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe

88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn

89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan

90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock

91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury

92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley

93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge

94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov

95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson

96. Lucifer’s Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville

99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony

100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

Just look for something interesting

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

I was totally jazzed to hear Freeman Dyson speak at the last Perimeter lecture of the season. But before we could get to the main event, they sideswiped us with a full half hour of speechifying from politicians and announcements on recent funding. The geeks were about to revolt by the time Glen Murray (Minister, Research and Innovation) took the stage. Tip: coming up to an election, if you want to win the vote, don’t go to geek central and give an evangelical speech whereby you equate the $50 mil from your government to a blessing from god, and make innovation sound like the catechism of technology.

Anyway, we survived it and Dyson was entirely enjoyable. At the age of 88, he took the liberty of doing whatever the hell he wants. So he put up a slide of luminaries for four different “cycles” he’s lived through – like nuclear, about which he has lots of opinions, and since he’s helped the government on projects that are SUPER ASS SECRET, especially to reduce the proliferation of nuclear weapons, he’s got some inside scoop.

One of the funniest stories he had was about how Hitler didn’t really understand about rockets, so he asked a rocket scientist for a million of ‘em during WWII, and the making thereof (a thousand of them) sufficiently diverted resources from the German war effort to help the good guys.

But what stayed with us was Dyson’s humility. The man has been there, on the scene, for a shitload of seminal moments in scientific history, and written some papers that changed scientific thinking. But when asked about his success, he says he’s a math guy, and he just went to find things that were interesting, and once in a while he does some math that helps solve something.

Oh, and the Dyson sphere, really the idea came from a novel called Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon, but Dyson says don’t bother reading that one. …It’s not very good:)

Mind candy

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

Yes, I may be a nerd, but it was with eager anticipation that I tackled James Gleick’s latest, The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood. As with Chaos, Gleick displays a mastery and a passion for the history of ideas while creating new connections himself. Thinkers great and small come to life, and he has a real knack for surfacing exactly the right quote or life detail in whatever thought he’s following.

Gleick starts (and ends) with Shannon – that odd man from Bell Labs whose information theory is one of the most important developments of thought in the 20th Century, and who starred in Chaos as well. Shannon was a practical man for all that. Whatsoever you understand about information, interference, bits and bobs, data, bits and bytes, or memes, Shannon had a hand in it. He was that badass.

There were so many moments where I smirked, paused, felt my neurons firing in a most pleasing manner. While it’s impossible to summarize, the book really makes it easy to see how fundamental information is at every level of understanding–mathematics, computers, language, genetics and even the basic units of the universe can be understood through this filter.

I started putting little pieces of paper whenever something struck me as interesting or entertaining, and ended up with quite a few. Here’s a selection:

  • Humans going from oral to writing cultures think differently. Literate and slightly literate people think differently, primarily because the slightly literate are without the facility to use symbolism or form symbolic relationships. There was a  study in the 1930′s where the slightly literate group couldn’t fathom geometric shapes–had no words for them. Given a circle, they think moon, literally. You can’t unthink writing. It changes you.
  • Alphabetizing stuff, like “dictionary” items and texts occurred in ancient Alexandria (250 BCE), but got lost along the way in favour of categories of function or some other topical system. Friar Johannes Balbus of Genoa was so sure alphabetic was HIS novel idea in the 13th Century, he felt the need to *really* explain it: “I will discuss amo before bibo because a is the first letter of amo and b is the first letter of bibo…”. Just so.
  • True story. The telegraph is directly responsible for weather forecasts. For the first time, information was receivable immediately, including simple weather reports for corn speculators (Nottingham, no rain but dull and cold). Weather started to be something that was connected across geography instead of a local surprise. Then in 1854, the English government set up a Meteorological Office manned by Admiral Robert FitzRoy (former captain of The Beagle) with lots of cool stuff like barometers and gave the same instruments to ports who telegraphed in their local readings. FitzRoy began to publish his “forecasts” in The Times by 1860. No one knows if he favoured plaid sport coats and loud ties.
  • wmietg (when may I expect the goods?): Alfred Vail would have loved the cell phone. The telegraph was cool, but using it could be expensive and it didn’t take long for enterprising reporters and business name to create meta-language (“encoding”) where full thoughts could be expressed with fewer letters. Vail offered up some suggestions that wouldn’t be out of place today if we primarily texted about stocks and our health, instead of kittehs and naughty proposals. Everything old is new again.
  • One of Shannon’s great insights has to do with circuits and Boolean logic (and you can find out about Boole and how he figured out the logic too). Connecting electricity to logic seemed a bit weird, but Shannon figured out that a relay passing electricity from one circuit to the next is not electricity–it’s a “fact” of whether that circuit is open or closed. And the state of each circuit may impact the state of the next circuit. Make a leap for yourself from there to binary descriptions of this flow, and you’re firmly in the digital age.
  • Shannon and Norbert Wiener (name of the day) were part of a sort of think tank in the 1940s that included the likes of Margaret Mead. One of the key concepts Shannon and Wiener discussed was what entropy measured. For Wiener, it was a measure of disorder and for Shannon it was a measure of uncertainty. What they came to realize was it was the same thing. Ingenious when applied to language–given a string of text, like a sentence, the more you can predict the next letter (based on your understanding of the language and likely words) the less information is conveyed with each subsequent letter. If you can guess the next letter with confidence, then it’s redundant. Hmmm, so if we are pleasantly surprised by a turn of phrase or a witticism, perhaps we are enjoying its entropy.
  • Alan Turing, of the Turing machine and the Turing test of intelligence, was arrested in 1952 for the crime of homosexuality and forced to submit to estrogen injections by the British Government. He took his own life in 1954.
  • Memes, a word coined by a very young Richard Dawkins, are more than funny videos on the Interwebs. Tracing how art or phraseology gets memed is fascinating – we understand “Survival of the fakest” because we can refer to “Survival of the fittest” and everything that it represents. The Mona Lisa or a painting of George Washington have a life of their own. We don’t know what the orignal people looked like, but we know what they look like now.

Plus, Gleick quotes heavily from Jorge Luis Borges, and that’s just A+ in my book.

Some quotable quotes:

  • “What lies at the heart of every living thing is not a fire, not warm breath, not a ‘spark of life’, it is information.” –Richard Dawkins
  • Regarding telephone operators in the 1880s: “The action of stretching her arms up above her head, and to the right and left of her, … turns thin and weedy girls into strong ones.” — Every Woman’s Encyclopedia (big strong woman who got paid same or less as a teenage boy, mind you)

This stuff doesn’t begin to give you all of the mind candy available in this book. I strongly recommend you read it for yourself.

In hindsight…

Monday, March 28th, 2011

Just read Armageddon Science: The Science of Mass Destruction by Brian Clegg. Lots of apocalypse pROn, as expected, including chemical warfare, nanobots, climate change, meteors and volcanoes. The good news is that Clegg does a pretty good job of revealing the odds in our favour. Important to note that this book was released in 2010.

Because in the chapter about natural disasters, he talks a bit about earthquakes and tsunamis:

Earthquakes can have a double impact on human beings. First there is direct damage, most often caused by falling buildings. But also an earthquake in the sea can cause a tusnami…

And in some earthquake-prone areas, like Japan, a huge amount of effort has been put into constructing buildings that can withstand high levels of seismic activity without collapsing and crushing those within.

Some countries have done what they can to minimize the impact of tsunamis. Japan, for example, has built special coastal walls…

Very weird to read in March, 2011.

I will hug them and kiss them and call them George

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Warning: spoilers if you haven’t seen these things.

I may be one of the last people to see WALL-E. Saw it just a few days ago and I loved it. He’s a cute little robot, and he sounds like ET, and he loves musicals, and all he wants is to hold someone’s hand – OMG! Those first 45 minutes when he’s wondering around the planet and before he meets Eva, I was enthralled. There’s something about machines that pursue their mission beyond expectations and become “human” that gets me every time.

Of course, the first movie that got me like that was Silent Running (1972). Honestly, when little Dewey is all alone in deep wide space, tending to the garden at the end, I balled. Balled!

There is a real-life analogue to this, too. The Mars Rovers. How long they continued, and survived against dust and lack of light and all kinds of challenges. WALL-E looked quite a bit like them as well – some conspiracy to make me teary-eyed, I’m sure.

It’s the perseverance that’s hits the heart strings. An anthropomorphic ideal that is a teary sniff away from the loyalty of a good pet, or the determination of a good friend.

I’m a sucker for awesome robots.


Dewey and his plants. Just watched again. Those are just allergies *sniff*.

And when the rovers were 5…