Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Scifi info

I enjoyed The Dresden Files on SciFi (the science fiction channel) this year. It wasn't perfect, by any means. I found the tendency for Harry Dresden, the main character, to get into fights by the end of the second act to be too formulaic. Still, the story about a modern day wizard detective (based on the novels of the same name) was interesting. It was also filmed in Toronto, which brought a smile to my homesick lips.

It's been cancelled. Figures.

In the spring SciFi ran the show Painkiller Jane, a stupid title for a show about a near invulnerable woman working for a shadowy government agency (a cheap ripoff of Nikita, which itself was based on the French move La Femme Nikita). The show was about as stupid as its title, at least that's the feeling I had from watching the premiere episode. It's been cancelled, too. Good, because it didn't deserve to stick around after they cancelled Dresden.

This summer SciFi premiered an updated version of Flash Gordon, based loosely around the film that came out in 1980. It even used the same theme song by rock group Queen. It had potential. I saw the first episode. So did a lot of people, as it had the strongest ratings of any new SciFi show this year, suggesting it would be around for a while.

It was awful. The acting was horrid, the writing was about as bad as the acting. It looked like it was filmed by a high school film arts class.

Fortunately, it's been cancelled, too, and much quicker than the other two shows. This is good, because it didn't deserve to stick around after they cancelled Painkiller Jane. Yeah, it was that bad.

I learned some new stuff about Battlestar Galactica. If you only remember Battlestar Galactica from the campy show from the 70s and 80s (I actually paid to see the pilot in the theatres), you've been missing something good. It started as a miniseries based on the show but much darker and a lot better produced. Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell are the most well known actors in a very good cast.

The series is set in another part of the galaxy, where the people worship the Greek gods. They have legends of a lost tribe that settled on a far away planet called Earth. The humans built sentient machines, called the Cylons. The Cylons rebelled, destroying most of humanity with nuclear weapons. The survivors escaped in a hodge podge (known, officially, as a "rag tag") fleet of ships, including an aging battleship/carrier known as a "battlestar". The fleet is looking for a new home, and the ultimate destination is Earth.

Anyway, the season ended this spring with a cliffhanger. The new season wasn't supposed to start until early 2008. That's not quite the case, now. They are playing a telemovie, called "Razor", in November. Then the season will run in the new year. They're splitting the season in half, with a cliffhanger separating the two halves. The big question is the length of time between the first half and the second half. Jamie Bamber, who plays Lee "Apollo" Adama, said that the gap between the two halves will be long, perhaps as much as 10 months! Recently rumours have surfaced that it might be as short as a month.

Where did I get all this neat information? Syfy Portal.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Jessica Alba's attractiveness not good science

About a week ago, a "science" article was released in various newspapers "proving" that "actress" Jessica Alba is attractive for scientific reasons. The article implies that researchers measured her hip to waist ratio and found a number that gives her the best wiggle when she walks. This, they said, is why she's attractive.

Here's an example of the article:

This "study" was released as a mixture of science and entertainment. As it turns out, there's not a spec of science in the story. It's a bogus survey produced by Veet, a hair removal company.

Ben Goldacre writes a column for The Guardian newspaper in Britain titled Bad Science. Goldacre reports on stories reported in the media as true when they are actually, well, bad science.

In the case of the Jessica Alba story, Goldacre actually received an e-mail from Veet. According to the e-mail, they already knew what they wanted the survey to say. They asked:

We are conducting a survey into the celebrity top 10 sexiest walks for my client Veet (hair removal cream) and we would like to back up our survey with an equation from an expert to work out which celebrity has the sexiest walk, with theory behind it. We would like help from a doctor of psychology or someone similar who can come up with equations to back up our findings, as we feel that having an expert comment and an equation will give the story more weight.

In a follow-up e-mail they admitted:

We haven't conducted the survey yet but we know what results we want to achieve. We want Beyonce to come out on top followed by other celebrities with curvy legs such as J-Lo and Kylie and celebrities like Kate Moss and Amy Winehouse to be at the bottom eg - skinny and pale unshapely legs are not as sexy..

The story said that the study came from Cambridge. Well, sort of. They went to Cambridge University and got a mathematician to analyze the data. There is no hard data in this survey at all. In other words, it's completely bogus.

Here's Ben Goldacre's column: