Friday, November 18, 2011

Quick Takes - Shut up, nerd!

You want me to do what?

"Stargate" is a lovely tale about a nerd who uncovers the secret clues of an ancient Egyptian artifact that turns out to be a portal built by an alien to travel between locations in the universe (still with me?). So, obviously, I watched it the other night. I say obviously because I'm a nerd who enjoys ancient Egyptian culture almost as much as aliens who travel around the universe in giant pyramid ships. While I was wholeheartedly disappointed with the quality of the Blu Ray video (Clean the f%@#ing specks, people! We're in the future!), the movie was as good as ever. Considering that "Stargate" came out in the early '90s, it's aged remarkably well, but there was one scene in particular that drove me crazy. Crazy enough to do some math.

When Daniel Jackson, the super-linguist who solves the original stargate hieroglyphics in a few days -- after a team had floundered for two years to solve it prior to his arrival -- he and a crew of "hardcore" Marines head into the portal and are transported across the universe to find the sister stargate and, I guess, destroy it? The logic is a bit fuzzy, but whatever, we humans must stop at nothing to preserve our mediocre culture! The real intrigue begins when the crew lands on planet whatever and Jackson reveals that he can't actually get them back home through the second stargate because the tablet that would've shown the order of the return symbols wasn't there. Whoops! Guess he should've mentioned that on earth. Now, I'm not excusing Jackson from his actions, he obviously had a responsibility to the whole mission to let them know he needed the code tablet, but they could've sent multiple probes through the stargate to the other side to search for the it, and if they didn't find it in the sister stargate's location, they could've (and probably should've) aborted the mission. Everyone was too eager to go, so you can't really blame Jackson for being eager as well.

But when they get to the sister planet and find out that Jackson can't get them home, one of the Marines confronts Jackson and says something to the effect of, "What do you mean you can't get us home, nerd?! Just shut up and figure it out!" Jackson tries to reason with them to say there are "millions" of combinations that could lead to anywhere (I smell a TV series!), but without the right return tablet, they simply wouldn't get home ... so everyone should stop bitching and go search this sandy planet for the GD tablet. The disgust and disbelief from the Marines is palpable, and they obviously don't believe that Jackson can't just figure out the symbol combination. It was such a lovely allegory for the disdain most people have for rational logic, and it reminded me of everything from politics to religion to the education system, but it got me thinking ...

If the Marines were right, it should be relatively easy for Jackson to just "figure it out," and if Jackson was right, there would be so many combinations they could travel to nearly every corner of the universe before ever making it home. Let's say there are 50 symbols on a stargate (too lazy to look it up, sorry), and there are seven symbols that make up a portal sequence. To calculate the number of combinations, you use the formula 50^7. A quick input on my BFF site Wolfram Alpha spits out the correct number of possible combinations on a stargate:

718 billion, 250 million.

Sorry, Marines. Better start looking for the tablet.

  • Tim Tebow. Tim Tebow. Tim Tebow. There hasn't been a more interesting, and more divisive, story in the NFL that I can ever remember. I'm searching the old noodle, and nothing's coming up. The love and adoration being thrown Tebow's way by Broncos fans and casual fans is hilarious, and the disgust he's brewing in the minds of confounded statisticians is equally as enjoyable, but, in the end, results are all that matter. And Tim Tebow is 4-1 this year. Well, his team is 4-1 with him as a starter. And it's mostly been on the back of the defense and the running game, but you can't discredit, even statistically, what Tebow has done for an otherwise-shitty team. Yes, the elephant in the room is his completion percentage, which is an unbelievably-bad 47%, but he's running the ball extremely well for a "quarterback" and he's protecting the offense from turnovers. The Broncos offense has basically regressed to pre-1950s football, and, for some reason, it's working. Tim Tebow thinks it's god, and he thinks god has blessed the Denver Broncos with unselfish receivers, and he thinks god has given him a great support system (what normal people call "friends and family"), and he thinks god has done a great job believing in him, which seems a bit blasphemous if you look at the religious text (false idols anyone?). Isn't Tebow supposed to believe in god, and not the other way around? As my brother texted me last night, "I think Tebow may be the anti-christ."
  • If you're curious what an uncapped system can look like when its run amuck, look no further than the English Premier League. Manchester City reported losses today in the last fiscal year of £194.9m, the largest annual loss in EPL history. The team, recently owned by Sheikh Mansour of Abu Dhabi, has spent more than £460m on players in the last three years, and while the methodology is absurd, they're currently leading the league and will make a considerable amount of that money back were they to win. I mean, a football team is cool and everything, and the Sheikh can spend his money the way he wants to, but for $730m, I think I'd rather have a spaceship or something. One Joint Strike Fighter costs $125m. He could have a fleet of fighter jets at his disposal. Isn't that better than a football team?!
  • When the Houston Astros make the switch to the AL West in 2013, that will even the AL and NL at 15 teams apiece and will open the door for two additional wild card teams to make the playoffs. That means 10 of the 30 teams in the league will make the playoffs each year. Think about that, at the beginning of 2013, the Seattle Mariners will have a one-in-three chance of making the playoffs, and they still won't be able to do it.
  • A friend of mine went to Las Vegas last week and ended up on the same plane as NBA and Seattle Supersonics legend Gary Payton. The Glove! Not only was my friend on the same plane as Payton, but he was in the same aisle. So I asked my friend, excitedly, "Did you say something to him?!" He laughed and said he did, and said that he tapped him on the shoulder, his brain racing, trying to figure out what to say to a Seattle icon and every little kid's childhood basketball hero, and said, "Hey, I was watching Monday Night Football the other night and you were there too ..." Gary Payton responded, "Oh ... yeah." And that was it. That's all he came up with! Not, "Go Sonics!" or "You were a hero of mine growing up, just wanted to say thanks for all the great years you gave Seattle, let's hope we get a team back soon!" No. None of that. Just, "Hey, I was at a place one time and saw you." Pathetic. You should be ashamed of yourself.
  • Fifa president Sepp Blatter has apologized for offending anyone with his asinine comments about racism in international football this past week, but he says he will not resign. Because an insincere apology is worth far more than an awesome job.

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