WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT THIS CONTROVERSY WITH STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI


ANOTHER DECEMBER, ANOTHER massive opening for a Star Wars movie—this time to the tune of $450 million worldwide. That alone isn’t really surprising; Star Warsfans tend to be the See It Opening Weekend type. What is surprising, though, is how divisive the film turned out to be. (Star Wars fans also tend to be the Argue About Changes to Their Fave Franchise type, too, apparently.)

What’s at issue? Largely, according to the reviews below the film’s Luke-warm 56 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, folks didn’t like that writer-director Rian Johnson’s chapter veered in deeper and darker directions than The Force Awakens and didn’t love what the movie did with Skywalker (and many of the characters in general).

We here at WIRED, though, are on board with Johnson’s version. But the dust-up does have us thinking. A lot. To work through our feelings, we assembled writers and editors Peter Rubin, Jason Tanz, Angela Watercutter, Brendan Nystedt, and Jordan McMahon to talk it out. Let’s get started. May the Force be with us, always.

(Spoiler alert: There will be spoilers here. You’ve been warned.)

Angela Watercutter: First off, I deeply enjoyed The Last Jedi. I’ve seen it twice already and am not ruling out seeing it again with childhood friends when I’m home at the holidays. I got earnestly choked up a couple different times. (Some of this was mourning Carrie Fisher/Leia Organa. When she and Laura Dern’s Vice Admiral Holdo were discussing the losses the Resistance had suffered? Full waterworks.) The lightsaber battle with Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) in Snoke’s throne room might end up being my new favorite lightsaber battle of all time. And there were just so many beautiful, wonderful shots and moments. When the whole movie went silent as Holdo destroyed the First Order’s ship? Who even does that? Rian Johnson does that.

Which is why I’m so surprised it’s turned out to be so divisive. I was prepared for it to upset a few fans mad at the inclusion of so many women and people of color, but this is something else. This is just folks thinking the filmmaking is bad. Which seems odd. Am I alone here? Is there anyone here who wants to take the side that it’s garbage? Or perhaps offer theories as to why people are insisting on dragging this movie?

Jason Tanz: I will take up that challenge, Angela—well, partly. I fully enjoyed the movie and expect to see it again. That said, I can’t say I left wanting… more. In fact, I wanted less. Less Dameron/Holdo drama. (I’m not a “What’s the plan?” stan.) Less Finn/Rose MacGuffin-chasing on Planet Baccarat. A little less Luke-Skywalker-scaling-a-hill. (Though I could have used a little more beast-milking, tbh.) There are movies—including some Star Wars movies!—that zip by. This was not one of them. And the endless series of climactic scenes had me grabbing my coat prematurely, only to sit back down after realizing that no, we still had 30 more minutes of lightsaber-rattling ahead of us. My response was certainly flavored by the fact that I caught the 11pm show (which previews pushed back a full half hour) and thus left the theater at TWO IN THE FREAKING AYEM. So, Angela, perhaps some people are dragging this movie because it dragged.

Now look, fans don’t necessarily come to Star Wars for efficient storytelling, which is why I still give this film a thumbs-up. The last hour was a cascade of pleasure—I particularly loved the crimson under-tundra in that climactic battle. But some of the film’s best moments were, in retrospect, head-scratchy. Rey’s Malkovich moment in the Dark Side was audio-visually arresting, but the metaphor didn’t fully track for me—why is her flirtation with evil illustrated by a domino rally of snaps and gasps? Likewise, the (BIGTIME SPOILERS FOR REAL) revelation that Luke was holo-apparating into his showdown with Kylo Ren was genuinely thrilling… but his death felt tacked on. We hadn’t seen Force-Pushing (or whatever we’re calling this) deplete anyone’s power before, so why should it kill him?

As I say, none of this bothered me, not really. I don’t come to Star Wars for narrative cohesion or metaphysical rigor. I come to be emotionally manipulated and visually overwhelmed, and boy howdy was I! By the standards of Star Wars (which are super-high standards), I thought Last Jedi more than accomplished what it set out to do. Are the haters wrong? Not exactly. They just wanted the wrong movie.

So, let’s ignore them and think about where this film rests in the canon. Where does it place in your ranking? Which film does it remind you most of? Which elements were you most excited to watch them remix?

Brendan Nystedt: I totally agree with Angela. This movie challenges our notion of what Star Wars is while also paying homage to all of its many facets. TLJ is far from perfect but when a big-budget two-and-a-half-hour, 200-million-dollar Christmas release can have an audience cheering for a guy stuck on a faraway island meditating at its climax, there’s something special going on. The collective gasp of the audience when Holdo jumps to lightspeed, slicing the First Order fleet to ribbons, as Angela already brought up, sends chills down my spine when I think about it.

This isn’t the comfort-food casserole that J.J. Abrams brought to the Star Wars potlatch with The Force Awakens—it’s challenging, flawed filmmaking with big ideas I think the franchise hasn’t had since the prequels. It’s a defter hand at work here (as much as I love and appreciate the work of George Lucas) but still.

I’ve seen this movie twice and I’ll be lining up more viewings to come. To answer one of Jason’s questions, I think that this film resembles no other single Star Warsfilm—there are shades of Hoth towards the end on Crait, and Snoke’s chambers resemble the Emperor’s Throne Room scene in Return of the Jedi, which itself was already nodded to at the beginning of Revenge of the Sith, and many of the gags this film reminded me of humorous asides throughout the saga (whether it’s R2-D2 lighting battle droids on fire in ROTS or the various critters in Jabba’s palace). Most of these callbacks are superficial, I feel, and Johnson takes every opportunity he gets to turn the audience’s expectations upside-down.

Another thing he turns upside-down is J.J.’s beloved Mystery Box. Rian gleefully throws out the annoying questions raised by TFA regarding the backgrounds of Snoke and Rey. Snoke’s dead and Rey’s a nobody.

Having thought about the backlash from the fans, I can only imagine that it’s something to do with the somewhat toxic relationship people have with criticism and the studio system. If a film’s too on-the-nose? You’re being pandered to! Get angry! Film isn’t what you expected? Rage against Rotten Tomatoes! There’s no pleasing some people either way. For what it’s worth, the fans I routinely interact with on Star Wars Twitter either respectfully had issues or absolutely loved this film for its character arcs, bold decisions, and emotional sensitivity.

I think if I had anything bad to say about the movie, it’d be that there are a lot of characters and I think not everyone gets what they deserved. Poor Phasma yet again gets relegated to metallic villain-of-the-week status, this time getting engulfed in flames after a showdown. At least her beef with Finn seems to have been concluded. Maz Kanata appears so briefly that you’d be forgiven for missing her entirely during a bathroom break.

I don’t rank Star Wars films any more, but I know for sure that I’ll be enjoying The Last Jedi for years to come, and I love the polarizing reaction. It’s going to be a long two years until Episode IX

Jordan McMahon: I’ve only seen The Last Jedi once so far, but I’m already anxious to see it again. Brendan’s absolutely right, this doesn’t feel like any other Star Wars movie. That can be polarizing, but Johnson’s willingness to toy with audience expectations at every turn paid off.

It’s been mentioned before, but Holdo’s jump to lightspeed was a standout scene for me. I’ve never experienced an entire theater go silent for that long, especially on opening weekend when some buster is always eager to crack a sub-par joke. It wasn’t just a spectacular shot, it was a nice payoff in a movie where it felt like the good guys were taking L’s at every turn.

I went in without reading too many reviews, and I was hopeful that we’d get some answers as to who Rey’s parents were, or find out more about Snoke. On that front, the criticisms make sense, but Johnson’s handling of those questions felt more rewarding than any other answer could have. By ditching those plotlines, we got one of the most spectacular lightsaber fights we’ve seen, backed by Ridley’s and Driver’s excellent performances. That’s sort of where I land. Johnson’s decisions aren’t always a home run, but by subverting our expectations he was able to bring some new concepts into the Star Wars universe that made it feel new and exciting.

I do wish we had gotten more time with Holdo, Maz Katana, and Captain Phasma, which we maybe could have gotten if the scenes Jason pointed out had been cut down, but I walked out of the theatre with a smile on my face. What more can you ask for in a Star Wars movie?

Peter Rubin: More time? You wanted to take more time? I love Rian Johnson’s movies, and I love Star Wars, but the last thing this movie needed was more time. Maybe we can work out a trade, though. We can add in more Holdo and Phasma, as long as we streamline the paper-thin parable that was Rose and Finn’s much-adieu-about-nothing digression, and relegate half the new creatures to the standalone movies, where they can work on their charisma and narrative function before slapsticking their way into a saga feature. (I say this as a fan who had an Ewok thermos as a third-grader: Porgs are bad.)

I liked The Last Jedi. I liked it a lot, even. But—and I recognize that this casts me as Darth Grumpious—it stirred nothing within me. Its thrilling moments weren’t dessert, but salvage. It felt unremittingly self-conscious; every tiny drunk casino-goer stuffing BB-8 with chips, every Hux-Kylo odd-couple bicker, every Thor-pool that Rey fell into on her journey to nowhere felt like another smoke-puff or mirror that I had to fight through to connect with the movie’s heart.

And that heart was there! Luke and Leia, both apart and together, kept a smile on my face whenever they were on screen; Rose, with her familial legacy and bone-deep Resistance, feels like a Rogue One infusion to the saga in the best way possible. Even the kids on Canto Bight—yes, even the kid who I thought was about to re-enact Turbo’s magical-sweeping sequence from Breakin’—gave me hope for the galaxy. I just wish the saga’s core quadrangle did the same. Thankfully, Johnson is the perfect writer-director to take the universe in new directions. All the Porgs in the galaxy can’t dim the glimmer of that brief Hardware Warseaster egg.

But rather than rehash the movie all over again, Angela, let me instead play the opportunist like DJ and ask you this: if we’ve got one movie left in this part of the saga cycle, what would you like to see J.J. Abrams do with Episode IX? (And for extra credit, what do you want to see Johnson do with his new trilogy?)

Watercutter: Well, I know what I don’t want Abrams to do, and that’s remake Return of the Jedi. Considering the arcs folks are on, that might be hard regardless, but as our colleague Brian Raftery pointed out in his review The Force Awakens often stuck too closely to the New Hope playbook and while that worked fine for a movie that was trying to reboot a whole franchise, I hope he doesn’t borrow too much from the past. I’d like to see him take some chances. I’m not saying it should end with the First Order ruling the galaxy (although that might actually be fun?), I just think he should really dig in on the half-dozen characters we’ve come to love over these last two movies—Rey, Kylo, Poe, Finn, Rose, BB-8—and focus there. Give them something to dig in on. Rey doesn’t have to go into another sphincter of evil and self-discovery, but letting these characters stay conflicted is a good place to start.

As for Johnson’s new trilogy, I hope he completely throws out the playbook and starts from scratch. Shoot me. I just feel like every fight we have about Star Wars now revolves around whether some new movie follows some rulebook that no one in the conversation wrote. It’s no wonder making these things ends up being so painfully difficult for directors—they’re trapped in carbonite from the second they sign their contract. If he’s clear from the start that this won’t be like other Star Wars movies, no one can say it wasn’t what they wanted. Start from scratch, Rian. Galaxies are big. Jason, would that make you happy or nah?

Tanz: I totally agree. Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to. That’s the only way to become what you’re meant to be. That’s what I say.

Oh, whoops, no it isn’t! That’s what Kylo Ren says, in the closest we get to a “No-Mr.-Bond-I-expect-you-to-die” soliloquy. Of course the fact that it’s the most malevolent character making this point, at the apex of his crumminess, suggests that Johnson doesn’t fully endorse this idea. But The Last Jedi is all about leaving the past behind—check the title of the goddamn movie, for crying out loud! When Yoda waves away Luke’s attachment to the sacred Jedi texts as “not exactly page-turners,” and then sets his library aflame, I could hear Johnson signaling to his fans that the coming films are about to get a lot less slavish in their doctrinal devotion.

As long as we’re overturning doctrine, I’d love to see Johnson complicate the simple morality that has defined these tales so far. In the Star Wars universe, you are a good guy or a bad guy. Some times you are a good guy who turns bad. Occasionally, you are a bad guy who flirts with turning good. But you are always either one or the other—never both simultaneously. I’d love to see future episodes work through a character who is neither all-good nor all-bad, but lets both sides coexist within them. That might be a stretch for Star Wars but not for Johnson, who helmed some of the best-loved episodes of Breaking Bad, a series all about a man whose light and dark sides are in constant conflict. He could be the perfect director to take Star Wars beyond the binary.

Brendan, what do you think? Where does the Force go from here?

Nystedt: Well, I think you nailed Rian’s intent with many moments in the film: this is where things change. I don’t think we’ll get grey Jedi, but Rian’s opened things up for further change in the future. That said, J.J. Abrams is returning to the galaxy and it could either work out brilliantly for a sweeping, energetic conclusion to the new trilogy…or it could end up giving us another somewhat safe film like The Force Awakens. Whatever happens, I’m hopeful that Kathleen Kennedy and the LFL Story Group stick to their guns, because the franchise needs to change in order to survive. Some core fans might kvetch, but it’s more valuable to the long-term health of Star Wars that new fans are brought into the fold.

As far as what’s actually next in the story, I know what I want at the bare minimum: I want a few years to elapse in the galaxy before the events of IX take place. I think one of the strengths of Star Wars is that, at least until the last two episodes, there’s time between chapters that let the storytellers take the next episode in surprising new directions. Advance the story, age up the characters, tell some side stories in the comics and novels, and surprise the audience.

I think it’s also high time that more legacy characters get sidelined further; R2-D2 and C-3PO both deserve a relaxing retirement. Perhaps Leia perishes in a battle offscreen, so we don’t have to suffer through a CGI’d Carrie Fisher. Angela gets it—our new heroes are Rose, BB-8, Rey, Finn, and Poe…long live the young leaders of the Resistance! They are the spark that will light the fire that will burn the First Order down and deserve to fully carry the next film.

And long live Rian Johnson! It’s a savvy move to keep this guy in the Lucasfilm fold for three more films. I can’t wait to see where he takes us next. What do you think TLJ means for the future of the franchise, Jordan?

McMahon: I think my hopes for the franchise can be wrapped up in TLJ’s final moments, with the boy on Canto Bight doing a Force grab of his broom. By the end of the movie, the Resistance isn’t left with much—their army’s taken a big hit, and they’re going to be facing a more reckless foe in Kylo Ren than they did in Snoke.

Brendan, you’re right that our heroes are Rose, BB-8, Rey, Finn, and Poe, but I think that last scene shows that they’ll need more than that for what’s coming. Obviously you can’t have a bunch of younglings facing off against the New Order’s army, so a time jump would be welcomed here. We’ve had two movies of Rey and Kylo’s internal conflicts, let’s wrap that up without dragging it on throughout the movie. If we see an older Rey training a new wave of Jedi, that opens some really interesting doors for the future of Star Wars.

Luke made it clear that the Jedi had a lot of problems. I’d like to see Rey struggle with tackling those problems before taking on a new generation of Force users, lest they repeat the mistakes of their ancestors. If Star Wars has shown us anything, it’s that this battle is ongoing. To avoid telling the same story over and over with a fresh coat of paint, they could open up the world to more characters like the boy on Canto Bight, because the battles they’re fighting affect more than just the main crew — I’d like to see more of those stories, both in the main franchise and in their side stories.

Peter, Porgs aside, how do you see them wrapping this all up nicely before going off into their next adventure?

Rubin: Honestly, my hope is that it doesn’t. A big part of me really wanted Rey to take Kylo’s hand when he offered a galaxy-leading partnership. TLJ gave the story group a huge opportunity for a more complex, layered psychology, and while it wasn’t (yet) to be, I’d still savor some fraught, uneasy power struggles in the universe.

Assuming we’ve only got one movie left with our young Resistance-stoking heroes, I suspect that Abrams will make sure they all get their place in the pantheon; my real hope is that Finn does it without spending 75 percent of the movie incapacitated. The question is, will the movie serve as an exclamation point, or a comma? Given the uncertainty of the Resistance in practical terms—the Canto Bight junior brigade has a decade before they’re ready to pull a Biggs and run off to enlist, leaving us the skeletal crew that made it off Crait—we’ll need some new characters either way. (Those Outer Rim allies got some ’splainin’ to do.)

I’m not enough of an Expanded-Universe person to even consider who might be imported to the saga a la Kylo, but I’d hope that with so many of our beloved non-human characters gone (rest in power, Ackbar!) Abrams stocks the story with some compelling, cogent new allies. And last on the list, as a popcorn-shoveling pulp-escapist of the highest order, I assume he’ll find a way to give General Hux the grand (moff) comeuppance he so desparately.

What I’m really waiting for, like it sounds so many of you are, is Johnson’s big-arc trilogy. After all, he set an interesting table for Abrams, even if J.J. does nothing but stacks them neatly back in the cabinet. With three movies to plan out, and with the ambition he’s already shown, I can see the universe’s new ruler plotting a course for some emotional territories both Lucas and Abram left uncharted.

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Physicists Say the Epic Hyperdrive Scene in ‘The Last Jedi’ Is Plausible


The quietly commanding Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern) may be the true hero of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. And physicists are here to back her up.

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In one of the most dramatic scenes from The Last Jedi — and possibly all of Star Wars — Vice Admiral Holdo rams the Resistance’s last remaining star cruiser through Supreme Leader Snoke’s flagship in a sacrifice that buys the fleeing members of The Resistance enough time to escape to the surface of Crait. Visually, the scene is breathtaking. But in terms of logistics, it might leave you wondering whether this feat is possible.

Don’t worry, though: We’re not here to give a Neil deGrasse Tyson-style “well, actually” debunk of this scene. Rather, we want to figure out whether Star Wars follows our rules of physics. And if it doesn’t then, well, what would it take?

the raddus
The Raddus, a Mon Calamari star cruiser, is much smaller than the Supremacy. But faster-than-light travel is a great equalizer.

Let’s start with some numbers.

The Raddus, a Mon Calamari star cruiser, is 11,280.74 feet (2.14 miles) long, 2,318.08 feet (0.44 miles) wide, and 1,514.84 feet (0.29 miles) tall. It’s a massive starship, but onscreen, you can see just how much smaller it is than the hulking Supremacy, which Wookieepedia, the ultimate source for Star Wars minutiae, says is 43,437.27 feet (8.22 miles) long, 37.6 miles wide, and 13,042 feet (2.47 miles) tall. Despite its comparably puny size, the immense energy generated by the Raddus’s forward momentum becomes a great equalizer in this showdown, and physics tells us it’s plausible that the smaller ship could cut through the First Order’s Star Dreadnought.

“If jumping to hyperspace is just super-quick acceleration where you instantaneously — or close to instantaneously — hit light speed, then what is depicted in the film would be approximately what would happen,” physics professor Patrick Johnson, the author of The Physics of Star Wars, tells Inverse.

supremacy star wars dreadmaught
The Supremacy, a First Order Mega-class Star Dreadnought, is bigger than a city.

As an example of this phenomenon, Johnson asks us to imagine something a little easier to picture: a car running into the side of an eighteen-wheeler truck.

“At a slow speed, it would dent it,” he says. “At a higher speed, [the truck] would really start to bow. And then if the car is going fast enough and is solid enough, it could cut right through it in the way that Snoke’s ship is cut along the path [the Raddus] went through.” It would take an awful lot of energy to get the starship going this fast, which Johnson has attempted to calculate for us.

Estimating the mass of the Raddus, assuming it’s 40 percent steel — or durasteel, more likely — and 60 percent air, Johnson tells us how much energy it would take to accelerate the ship. And since accelerating to the speed of light requires infinite energy, at least based on the way we understand jet propulsion, we’ll settle for a significant portion of light speed in this scenario.

“The force involved in accelerating the Raddus to just 90 percent of the speed of light would be ~6.8•10^21 Newtons,” says Johnson. This is a massive amount of energy, which increases with every tiny increment closer to light speed that the Raddus accelerates.

Once the ships collide, though, Newton’s third law says that the Supremacy exerts an equal and opposite force against the Raddus.

“The moment the Raddus started to make contact, it would experience an extra force going backward,” says Johnson. “Now presumably, that hyperdrive is exerting a force forward, pushing it forward, so there’s a thrust force and a resistance force from the Supremacy. I would guess, based off of the way that it is depicted, that the Raddus is essentially at light speed by the time it makes contact. At that point, there’s only slowing down: Laws of physics dictate that you can’t go faster than the speed of light.” Of course, he notes, the hyperdrive adds a little asterisk: Maybe you can go faster than the speed of light.

Regardless of what speed the Raddus is traveling at when it collides with the Supremacy, Johnson says all of the energy the smaller ship carries with it is spent in cutting through the Supremacy — and some smaller star destroyers — and in completely demolishing the Raddus.

star wars cockpit hyperspace
Part of judging whether Vice Admiral Holdo’s gambit is credible depends on how we define hyperspace.

Of course, this is all moot if hyperspace travel means the Raddus would have been in another dimension altogether — which some works in the Star Wars Expanded Universe (now “Legends”) seem to confirm. As Inverse has previously reported, hyperspace travel seems to incorporate some elements of string theory. But ships in the Star Wars universe still need to accelerate beyond light speed to enter hyperspace.

For our purposes, let’s assume the Raddus is traveling at or beyond the speed of light. Leia calls hyperdrive “lightspeed” in The Empire Strikes Back, so that’s good enough for us. With that in mind, it seems most likely that a starship accelerating into hyperspace is going at the speed of light but is also still present in the same physical dimension as everything else around it. And even if it’s not, it’s still in the same physical dimension as other space when it comes out of lightspeed.

We have evidence of this in Star Wars: A New Hope, in which Han Solo brings the Millennium Falcon out of hyperspace right in the middle of the field of debris that used to be Alderaan. Since the ship didn’t hit any of the rocks until it came out of hyperspace, this suggests that a ship is susceptible to colliding with objects in physical space once it decelerates out of hyperspace, which also suggests that a ship could still collide with something while it’s accelerating into hyperspace.

To put it simply, Holdo does on purpose what Han Solo did by accident.

“If that’s the way you go to hyperspace, it’s perfectly accurate,” says Johnson.

Jorge Ballester, on the other hand, is not totally sure that the Raddus is tall enough to make it all the way through the Supremacy. Ballester, physics department head at Emporia State University in Kansas, points out that the Raddus is about 1,500 feet tall, while the Supremacy is over 13,000 feet tall.

“The widest part of the Raddus is about one-sixth of the height of the Supremacy,” he tells Inverse. “So I don’t know how the Raddus could extend its interaction out far enough to slice through.” To put it another way, you probably couldn’t use a single pebble to split an entire boulder, since the force wouldn’t spread far enough above and below, even if the pebble had enough force to pass all the way from front to back. He also points out an issue that arises as a result of Newton’s third law.

“I don’t know why the Raddus wouldn’t be completely destroyed after penetrating one or two of its own length into the Supremacy,” says Ballester. “Presumably both sides use roughly similar materials and technologies to build their ships. Similarly, I would not expect a bullet made of wood to penetrate deeply into a wooden block because the bullet itself would be destroyed. The block might explode but I would not expect the wooden bullet to rip through making a narrow hole.”

bullet impact
Would the Raddus go through the Supremacy? Or simply explode after penetrating a couple ship lengths? It’s hard to say for sure.

These points certainly shed some doubt on whether this collison could go down the way it did in the film, if we’re judging based on our universe’s laws of physics.

Whether or not the Raddus could make it all the way through the Supremacy, it’s worth taking a second to consider the passage of time as it’s depicted in The Last Jedi. There’s a cinematic effect to slowing down the action right as the ships collide so the audience can experience the emotional weight of the moment.

Leia: “Don’t forge the secret plan. Drop out of hyperspace right on their faces. Got it? Nod sternly if you understand me.”

And while an observer in the Star Wars universe would see the events unfold at full speed, “from her perspective, time would actually slow down for her compared to everybody else because she is traveling super fast,” says Johnson.

So to sum up: Though there are some variables we simply can’t calculate, such as how ship shields interact in the event of a crash, Vice Admiral Holdo’s gambit to save her people is pretty plausible. And, damn, it looks so good.

US scientists launch world’s biggest solar geoengineering study.


Research programme will send aerosol injections into the earth’s upper atmosphere to study the risks and benefits of a future solar tech-fix for climate change

 The sun from space
Scientists say the planet could be covered with a solar shield for as little as $10bn a year. 

The $20m (£16m) Harvard University project will launch within weeks and aims to establish whether the technology can safely simulate the atmospheric cooling effects of a volcanic eruption, if a last ditch bid to halt climate change is one day needed.

Scientists hope to complete two small-scale dispersals of first water and then calcium carbonate particles by 2022. Future tests could involve seeding the sky with aluminium oxide – or even diamonds.

Janos Pasztor, Ban Ki-moon’s assistant climate chief at the UN who now leads ageoengineering governance initiative, said that the Harvard scientists would only disperse minimal amounts of compounds in their tests, under strict university controls.

“The real issue here is something much more challenging,” he said “What does moving experimentation from the lab into the atmosphere mean for the overall path towards eventual deployment?”

Geoengineering advocates stress that any attempt at a solar tech fix is years away and should be viewed as a compliment to – not a substitute for – aggressive emissions reductions action.

But the Harvard team, in a promotional video for the project, suggest a redirection of one percent of current climate mitigation funds to geoengineering research, and argue that the planet could be covered with a solar shield for as little as $10bn a year.

Kevin Trenberth, a lead author for the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change, said that despair at sluggish climate action, and the rise of Donald Trump were feeding the current tech trend.

“But solar geoengineering is not the answer,” he said. “Cutting incoming solar radiation affects the weather and hydrological cycle. It promotes drought. It destabilizes things and could cause wars. The side effects are many and our models are just not good enough to predict the outcomes”

Natural alterations to the earth’s radiation balance can be short-lasting, but terrifying. A 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption lowered global temperatures by 0.5C, while the Mount Tambora eruption in 1815 triggered Europe’s ‘year without a summer’, bringing crop failure, famine and disease.

A Met Office study in 2013 said that the dispersal of fine particles in the stratosphere could precipitate a calamitous drought across North Africa.

Frank Keutsch, the Harvard atmospheric sciences professor leading the experiment, said that the deployment of a solar geoengineering system was “a terrifying prospect” that he hoped would never have to be considered. “At the same time, we should never choose ignorance over knowledge in a situation like this,” he said.

“If you put heat into the stratosphere, it may change how much water gets transported from the troposphere to the stratosphere, and the question is how much are you [creating] a domino effect with all kinds of consequences? What we can do to quantify this is to start with lab studies and try to understand the relevant properties of these aerosols.”

Stratospheric controlled perturbation experiments (SCoPEX) are seen as “critical” to this process and the first is planned to spray water molecules into the stratosphere to create a 1km long and 100m wide icy plume, which can be studied by a manoeuvrable flight balloon.

If lab tests are positive, the experiment would then be replicated with a limestone compound which the researchers believe will neither absorb solar or terrestrial radiation, nor deplete the ozone layer.

Bill Gates and other foundations are substantially funding the project, and aerospace companies are thought to be taking a business interest in the technology’s potential.

The programmme’s launch will follow a major conference involving more than 100 scientists, which begins in Washington DC today.

Solar geoengineering’s journey from the fringes of climate science to its mainstream will be sealed at a prestigious Gordon research conference in July, featuring senior figures from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Oxford University.

Pasztor says that most scientific observers now see the window to a 1.5C warmed world as “practically gone” and notes that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations will continue rising for many decades after the planet has reached a ‘net zero emissions’ point planned for mid-late century.

But critics of solar radiation management approach this as a call to redouble mitigation efforts and guard against the elevation of a questionable Plan B.

“It is appropriate that we spend money on solar geoengineering research,” said Kevin Anderson, the deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. “But we also have to aim for 2C with climate mitigation and act as though geoengineering doesn’t work, because it probably won’t.”

Source:https://www.theguardian.com

‘The Matrix’ Reboot in the Works at Warner Bros


The 1999 sci-fi movie is coming back.
More Matrix? Bet on it.It’s still not clear what shape the project will take, but sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Warner Bros. is in the early stages of developing a relaunch of The Matrix, the iconic 1999 sci-fi movie that is considered one of the most original films in cinematic history, with Zak Penn in talks to write a treatment.Sources say there is potential interest in Michael B. Jordan to star, but much must be done before the project is ready to go.

At this point, the Wachowski siblings, who wrote and directed the original and its two sequels, are not involved and the nature of their potential engagement with a new version has not been determined. Certainly, Warners would want the two filmmakers to give at minimum a blessing to the nascent project. The studio had no comment.

Joel Silver, who produced the original trilogy, is said to have approached Warners about the idea of mining The Matrix for a potential new film. However, Silver sold his interest in all his movies to the studio in 2012 for about $30 million, according to sources. Warners is said to be leery of including him in any meaningful role, as he not only has a reputation for budget-control issues, but apparently has a strained relationship with the Wachowskis. The siblings hold much more meaning for fans than the producer. Silver’s reps did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Written and directed by the Wachowskis, the original movie sees humanity living in a simulated reality, unaware that humans are in pods in which their bodies are being harvested for energy. A computer programmer named Neo (Keanu Reeves) slowly becomes aware of this suppressed existence, eventually becoming humanity’s one true hope (Neo = One) to overthrow the oppressors. The pic also starred Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving.

The Matrix was released in a quiet period of the 1999 release calendar — March 31 — and Warner Bros. didn’t have outsized expectations for an action movie with obvious Manga and comic-book influences. But the story and ground-breaking special effects (including the slow-motion “bullet time” effect, which launched dozens of imitators in the years that followed) became the highest grossing R-rated film of 1999 in North America, and the fourth-highest grossing film of the year worldwide. It also won four Academy Awards.

Two sequels, Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, were not as well received, but Reeves’ deal for those films made him one of the richest actors in Hollywood.

While promoting John Wick: Chapter 2, Reeves said he would be open to returning for another installment of the franchise if the Wachowskis were involved. “They would have to write it and direct it. And then we’d see what the story is, but yeah, I dunno, that’d be weird, but why not?” he told Yahoo Movies. However, it is likely that Warners will look elsewhere to attract an A-list director and star.

While some at Warners consider the title among the studio’s sacrosanct properties, such as Casablanca, others see a need to redevelop it in an environment where studios are desperately looking for ways to monetize their libraries and branded IP is hard to come by.

The idea of adapting The Matrix as a television series was nixed in recent months. But Warner Bros. sees a model in what Disney and Lucasfilm have done with Star Wars, exploring the hidden corners of the universe with movies such as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story or the in-production young Han Solo film. Perhaps a young Morpheus movie could come out of the exploration, as an example.

Penn is a writer with deep roots in the geeky genres in which Matrix travels. He created the Syfy network’s super-powered show Alphas and has been involved in comic book movies ranging from the X-Men franchise to The Avengers.

The Arctic Is a Staggering 36 Degrees Hotter Than What It Should Be


In Brief
  • Temperatures in the Arctic are reaching 20 °C (36 °F) higher than normal above 80 degrees North Latitude.
  • Experts assert that the warmth is a result of a combination of record-low sea-ice and warm/moist air from lower latitudes being driven northward by a jet stream.

Arctic Warmth

Something strange is going on in the Arctic circle right now. Because it’s Polar Night, the region has been experiencing days with no sun. Common sense would dictate that a lack of sun would result in colder temperatures. However, this isn’t what’s happening.

According to Arctic watchers, the region is experiencing temperatures higher than usual, and the amount of sea ice covering the polar ocean is at a record low. Zack Labe, a PhD student at the University of California at Irvine who studies the Arctic, tweeted an image showing that temperatures in the Arctic are reaching 20 °C (36 °F) higher than normal above 80 degrees North Latitude.

The image in the tweet shows that temperatures were around -5 degrees Celsius instead of the typical -25 degrees Celsius.

Changing Seas and Winds

Experts are weighing in on the temperature spike.

Mark Serreze, from the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado found unusual temperatures in the sea. “There are some areas in the Arctic Ocean that are as much as 25 degrees Fahrenheit above average now.” This situation leads to less sea-ice forming this time of the year, as measured by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration which is just 6.39 million km(2.47 million mi2), 28.52 percent less than the 1981-2010 average.

Credit: NOAA

Jennifer Francis, an Arctic specialist at Rutgers University said in a statement for The Washington Post:

“The Arctic warmth is the result of a combination of record-low sea-ice extent for this time of year, probably very thin ice, and plenty of warm/moist air from lower latitudes being driven northward by a very wavy jet stream.”

Francis published a study in 2015 that shows how jet stream patterns are slowly shifting northward to the Arctic, leading to the warming of the region. “As emissions of greenhouse gases continue unabated, therefore, the continued amplification of Arctic warming should favor an increased occurrence of extreme events caused by prolonged weather conditions,” the paper states.

These record-low sea levels and temperature spikes will surely add to the mounting evidence for climate change. There’s no denying it anymore.

Inception ending: Christopher Nolan finally discusses the meaning behind that spinning top


 

inception.jpg

Christopher Nolan has discussed the controversial and ambiguous ending to his film Inception, which saw a spinning top rotating and wobbling a little before cutting to black.

Unsurprisingly, he didn’t just say “it was all a dream” and then drop the mic, but gave a more nuanced explanation of what it was intended to symbolise, during a speech made to a graduating Princeton University class.

He started off with a pre-amble about pragmatism:

“In the great tradition of these speeches, generally someone says something along the lines of ‘Chase your dreams,’ but I don’t want to tell you that because I don’t believe that. I want you to chase your reality.

“I feel that over time, we started to view reality as the poor cousin to our dreams, in a sense….I want to make the case to you that our dreams, our virtual realities, these abstractions that we enjoy and surround ourselves with – they are subsets of reality.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, he then went on to link this idea to the conclusion of Inception:

“The way the end of that film worked, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Cobb — he was off with his kids, he was in his own subjective reality. He didn’t really care anymore, and that makes a statement: perhaps, all levels of reality are valid. The camera moves over the spinning top just before it appears to be wobbling, it was cut to black.

“I skip out of the back of the theater before people catch me, and there’s a very, very strong reaction from the audience: usually a bit of a groan. The point is, objectively, it matters to the audience in absolute terms: even though when I’m watching, it’s fiction, a sort of virtual reality. But the question of whether that’s a  dream or whether it’s real is the question I’ve been asked most about any of the films I’ve made. It matters to people because that’s the point about reality. Reality matters.”

It’s an elegant and thought-provoking explanation, though perhaps not as clear cut as some would like.

Then again, they never are. Sopranos creator David Chase has been asked to explain his big cut-to-black ending repeatedly for a decade now, and rightly insists that its beauty lies in its ambiguity and lack of closure.

The Top 25 Best Cult Films Of All Time


https://www.amexessentials.com/greatest-cult-films/?_e_pi_=7%2CPAGE_ID10%2C5273786811

scientists just confirmed a key new source of greenhouse gases


Countries around the world are trying to get their greenhouse gas emissions under control — to see them inch down, percentage point by percentage point, from where they stood earlier in the century. If everybody gets on board, and shaves off enough of those percentage points, we just might be able to get on a trajectory to keep the world from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius above the temperature where it stood prior to industrialization.

But if a new study is correct, there’s a big problem: There might be more greenhouse gases going into the atmosphere than we thought. That would mean an even larger need to cut.

The new paper, slated to be published next week in BioScience, confirms a  significant volume of greenhouse gas emissions coming from a little-considered place: Man-made reservoirs, held behind some 1 million dams around the world and created for the purposes of electricity generation, irrigation, and other human needs. In the study, 10 authors from U.S., Canadian, Chinese, Brazilian, and Dutch universities and institutions have synthesized a considerable body of prior research on the subject to conclude that these reservoirs may be emitting just shy of a gigaton, or billion tons, of annual carbon dioxide equivalents. That would mean they contributed 1.3 percent of the global total.

Moreover, the emissions are largely in the form of methane, a greenhouse gas with a relatively short life in the atmosphere but a very strong short-term warming effect. Scientists are increasingly finding that although we have begun to curb some emissions of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas, we are still thwarted by methane, which comes from a diversity of sources that range from oil and gas operations to cows.

How greenhouse gas behaves in the atmosphere

Play Video0:43
This high-resolution animation shows carbon dioxide emitted from fires and megacities over a five day period in June 2006. The model is based on real emission data so that scientists can observe how the greenhouse gas behaves once it has been emitted. (Global Modeling and Assimilation Office, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center)

The new research concludes that methane accounted for 79 percent of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions from reservoirs, while the other two greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, accounted for 17 percent and 4 percent.

“There’s been kind of an explosion in research into efforts to estimate emissions from reservoirs,” said Bridget Deemer, the study’s first author and a researcher with Washington State University. “So we synthesized all known estimates from reservoirs globally, for hydropower and other functions, like flood control and irrigation.

“And we found that the estimates of methane emissions per area of reservoir are about 25 percent higher than previously thought, which we think is significant given the global boom in dam construction, which is currently underway,” she continued.

As Deemer’s words suggest, the study does not single out dams used to generate electricity — it focuses on all reservoirs, including those that are created for other purposes. It drew on studies on 267 reservoirs around the world, which together have a surface area of close to 30,000 square miles, to extrapolate global data.

Reservoirs are a classic instance of how major human alteration’s to the Earth’s landscape can have unexpected effects. Flooding large areas of Earth can set off new chemical processes as tiny microorganisms break down organic matter in the water, sometimes doing so in the absence of oxygen — a process that leads to methane as a byproduct. One reason this happens is that the flooded areas initially contain lots of organic life in the form of trees and grasses.

Meanwhile, as nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus flow into reservoirs from rivers — being poured in by human agriculture and waste streams — these can further drive algal growth in reservoirs, giving microorganisms even more material to break down. The study finds that for these reasons, reservoirs emit more methane than “natural lakes, ponds, rivers, or wetlands.”

“If oxygen is around, then methane gets converted back to CO2,” said John Harrison, another of the study’s authors, and also a researcher at Washington State. “If oxygen isn’t present, it can get emitted back to the atmosphere as methane.”And flooded areas, he said, are more likely to be depleted of oxygen. A similar process occurs in rice paddies, which are also a major source of methane emissions.

In fact, Harrison said that based on the new study, it appears that reservoir emissions and rice paddy emissions are of about the same magnitude on a global scale — but rice paddy emissions have been taken into account for some time. Reservoir emissions often have not.
‘There are inventory compilers in each country that are responsible for compiling information about greenhouse gases to the atmosphere,” Harrison explained. “The [United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] writes the guidance, the cookbook that’s supposed to be used by these inventory compilers, and that guidance currently includes reservoirs only as an appendix, not an official part of any nation’s inventory. But that is likely to change as those guidelines get revised over the next two years.”

The research, said Deemer, complicates the idea that hydropower is a carbon-neutral source of energy, although she stresses that the authors aren’t saying that they’re against using large bodies of water to generate energy through dams. Rather, they’re arguing that the greenhouse gas calculus has to be included in evaluating such projects.

This problem is not an entirely new one: A major 2000 study in BioScience raised this issue, and the International Hydropower Association on its website acknowledges that “While hydropower is a very low-carbon technology, it is known that some reservoirs in certain conditions can release quantities of methane, a greenhouse gas. Reservoirs can also, in other circumstances, act as carbon sinks.”
But what is new about the current study is its synthesis of a large number of studies since 2000, and the determination that these emissions add up to something that is big enough to be taken seriously as part of the global carbon budget. It also finds that while some reservoirs are indeed “sinks” for carbon dioxide or nitrous oxide — meaning, they take up more of these gases than they emit — that was not true for methane.

The authors acknowledge the study does not represent a full “life cycle analysis” of reservoirs, taking into account how much carbon was stored (or emitted from) lands prior to their being flooded, and also what happens after reservoirs are decommissioned. Nor does it attempt to weigh the methane emissions from reservoirs used to generate hydropower against the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that would presumably be created if that electricity was instead generated by burning coal or natural gas.
But it clearly suggests a need to take these emissions seriously, and conduct further research.

“We’re trying to provide policymakers and the public with a more complete picture of the consequences of damming a river,” said Harrison.

Why the Joker in The Dark Knight Was the Ultimate Villain


Even if you didn’t see Suicide Squad and somehow escaped the reviews of it and, like, also didn’t hear the horror stories about Jared Leto’s Joker, you’d already know that it would never have topped Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knightanyway. Not only is Ledger’s Joker an iconic performance, his character was also the most perfect antagonist there’s ever been for Batman (or maybe, for any superhero). Lessons from the Screenplay analyzes what an antagonist should be and shows how The Dark Knight’s Joker nails it perfectly.

Heath Ledger’s Joker is exceptionally good at attacking Batman’s weakness, rendering Batman’s strength and intimidation useless and using Batman’s moral code (that he can’t kill) against him (because Joker needs to be killed). The Joker also forces Batman to make choices to reveal his true character but also outsmarts him, like when Batman chose to save Rachel over Harvey Dent and ended up with Dent anyway.

But the most important thing that makes Joker the ultimate antagonist is that he and Batman want the same thing: Gotham. Batman wants to save it. The Joker wants it to be in chaos.

Watch the video discussion.URL:https://youtu.be/pFUKeD3FJm8

Colony collapse disorder is no longer the existential threat to honeybees you thought it was.


After years of uncertainty, honeybees appear poised to recover from collapse.

bee hive.

In the far corner of Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens, there is a depression, 5 feet deep and 70 feet in diameter, that is filled with more than 1,000 individual plants. There are sunflowers and oregano and geraniums—and bees. By the thousands. This sculpture, called Concave Room for Bees, is an earthen work of art designed to attract the insects by providing a rich and steady source of nutrition. Its creator, artist Meg Webster, hopes it will draw attention to the fact that bees are dying globally at an alarming rate.

Ask people on the street if they’re aware of this great bee die-off, and if they’re regular users of the internet, odds are they’ll say yes. When the Broncos won the Super Bowl in 2015, a bee-collapse meme was born thanks to a tweeted video of Eli Manning captioned “when ur brother wins the super bowl but then u remember that bees are dying globally at an alarming rate”

It may not be the Ice Bucket Challenge, but even minor environmental awareness is good, right? Actually, in this case, it may not be necessary. That’s because honeybee populations are not in decline. They haven’t been for a few years now. In fact, many experts believe that honeybees are not in any imminent danger of extinction.

So why do we think they are? Ten years ago, a man named Dave Hackenberg discovered that bees were disappearing. Not dying, just disappearing. Unlike previous plagues where whole colonies could be wiped out, leaving a pile of bee bodies on the floors of the hives, this new wave of affliction was rendering hives completely empty, with no bodies for pathologists to examine, leading some bloggers to dub the phenomenon “the bee rapture.

In the past decade, research has found that a new class of pesticides, neonicotinoids, increases the honeybees’ susceptibility to a specific parasite—the varroa mite (these mites have been around since the 1980s but weren’t known to cause any serious problems until the bees started disappearing). Alone, neither factor poses a species-level threat to honeybees, but the combination of the two led to the catastrophe that ultimately came to be known as colony collapse disorder.

The strange thing is that no one knows exactly how the interaction of bad pesticides and this parasite caused bee colonies to collapse. Some researchers have arguedthat the pesticides make the queen more susceptible to varroa mite, which kills her reproductive capabilities and causes other members of the hive to give up and depart for greener pastures, so to speak. Others think it’s that the neonicotinoids cause a disruption in the homing mechanisms of the honeybees that prevents them from navigating back home, though it’s unclear how the mites play a role. In both cases, the result is the same: an empty hive.

“CCD was a real problem, probably six or seven years ago,” says Jeff Pettis, an entomologist whose research played a major role in uncovering the causes of CCD. He adds that in the past three to five years, though, researchers in his field have as not seen much CCD and that globally honeybee populations are not in decline.

The reasons for this apparently miraculous departure from the fast-track toward extinction are not hard to understand, now that research has borne out the causes. First, both the U.S. and several European countries have passed regulations that restricts the use of pesticides and fungicides that are suspected to have played a role in CCD to begin with.

The second reason there’s no longer an immediate threat of extinction is that bees aren’t, say, giant pandas, an animal that is actually, seriously endangered. That is to say, bees can recover their population numbers reasonably quickly. Compared with the once-a-year ovulatory habits of pandas, queen honeybees regularly lay 1,500 eggs per day, and if the conditions call for it, can up that figure to as many as 2,000 eggs per day or more. Even if honeybee keepers report losing as much 30 to 45 percent of their bees in a single year, this doesn’t actually mean the honeybee population will decline by that much. The beekeepers’ response will be to simply leverage the queens’ enormous reproductive abilities, which will quickly recoup those losses.

So even though bees were disappearing in alarming ways and at alarming rates, their population never actually saw a significant decline. The number of honeybee colonies peaked in 1989, at 3.5 million colonies; in 2008, two years after CCD was first characterized, that number dipped to 2.4 million, the worst year for honeybee populations in recorded history. Since their lowest point, honeybee populations in the U.S. have climbed at a modest pace and now stand at 2.7 million colonies.

So if the bees are all right, why don’t we think they are? Why are we constantly lamenting their demise or building large-scale nature-based art in their honor? For one thing, the story of thousands of bees vanishing from the Earth was inherently more fascinating than, say, this one, which explains that reasonable and largely bureaucratic measurements helped stymie the decline.

The consequences a honeybee extinction would have held for human existence are severe. About one-third of all crops—including almost all fruits and nongrain vegetables—are pollinated by honeybees. “I would hate to live in a world without bees,” said Pettis, emphasizing the diversity in diet that the insects afford us. “We’d still have oatmeal, but we wouldn’t be able to have blueberries in our oatmeal.”

That would be too bad, but it almost certainly won’t come to pass. So the next time you’re watching your brother win the Super Bowl, you’ll need a better excuse for looking sour.