Tag Archives: Robots

Freaky Friday: SciGirls

by Richard

One of the most pernicious lies ever fostered on little dudes and dudettes is that girls can’t do science or math. And if you’re a little dudette who likes science or math, you must be some kind of weirdy.

No, no, no, no, a thousand times no.

My niece, Boo, is fantastic at both science and math and one of the coolest little dudettes I’ve ever met. And I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen girls soar over me and into the top of the class in science or math. Of course, that might be saying more about my lack of prowess, but I’m going to think it goes with my premise. And, finally, there’s my wife, known to many as She Who Must See There, who is an amazing obstetrician/gynecologist.

So, there’s that little lie blown out of the firmament. The problem being, though, is how do we break the lie’s hold on the little dudettes who need to hear it the most?

One answer might be for them to see a new show on PBS called SciGirls. Produced under the PBS “Kids Go!” supervision, SciGirls is a look at girls aged 9-12, real girls doing real science.

Each episode, we ge to see young girls engaging in realistic science, from wading into dirty ponds to research how to increase the turtle population of a nearby pond, to building robots. These are the kinds of things every little dudette needs to see.

While I can’t seem to find any listing for the show here in Charlotte, please check into the website. It’s got lots of great projects as well as a sort of pen-pal page. Get your little dudette to witness the glory and fun and wonder of science. And then step back. Creating monsters is the least of your concerns.

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Dude Review: Planet 51

by Richard

You know, there’s something I really, really love about animated movies meant for the young (or young at mind [or, you know, feeble-minded]). Things are just so very much simpler.

Take, for example, Planet 51, the new Sony animated movie, starring Dwayne Johnson and Justin Long. Johnson voices Chuck, the American astronaut character while Long voices Lem, a (well, to us) alien. Chuck is stranded on the strange planet, the inhabitants of which are (while green and be-antennaed) suffering through a 1950’s amazingly like our own. Full of monster movies and a paranoid fear of the other. Most of them are suffering from this. As well as some overwhelming surrender instincts to authority.

You might not get the joke initially, but Lem, just by his name, is an attempt at funny. See, when the Apollo space craft series began landing on the moon, there were a number of sections. One section stayed in orbit and provided the trip back home. Another section landed on the moon and was originally called the Lunar Excursion Module, pronounced LEM. Yeah, a bit obscure, but at least it was an attempt.

So, here’s the simplicity bit. See, learning a human language is hard enough, but it’s something at least familiar. Something meant to be pronounced by a human mouth using human lungs. An alien language now, that’s something all together different. It might take decades, centuries to decipher an alien language, not to mention the difficulty in having a human speak it.

Here’s where the filmmakers did something so mindboggling it’s almost brilliant. They didn’t want to spend the movie having the astronaut learn a language until he was older and gray. They just had the aliens and the humans speak the same language, English, with no explanation whatsoever. One alien says the astronaut is speaking his language and Chuck accuses the alien of speaking his language. That’s it. Move along. There’s nothing to see here. Let’s get on with the hijinks. I mean, robots aren’t going to piddle oil on their own.

While a passable movie for adults, my youngest little dude really liked this flick. Speed Racer didn’t move around at all during the entire flick. Not bad, then, for him.

Most of the humor consists of watching aliens do things humans do, seeing human attitudes adopted by aliens and watching robots piddle oil when they’re scared. Just about perfect for a fifth-grader.

I’m going to give this movie three (3) dudes out of five. Not bad, but nothing I’d sweat if I missed it in the theater.

Before we

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Iron Man

Honestly? think there are people in Japan who are deliberately trying to mess with my head. And not in a good way. It seems there’s a company there named Cyberdyne, Inc. that’s building a robotic exo-skeleton. That’s very close to robots and we all know about Cyberdyne and robots, right? Seriously? Cyberdyne designed the Skynet computer system that brings about Judgement Day in the Terminator movie franchise.

Yeah, truth really is stranger than fiction. Or at least much, much scarier.

So the fictional Cyberdyne makes Skynet, which goes rogue, which then causes nuclear armageddon, which leads to a war of extermination against the remaining humans, which leads to the Governator going back in time to kill the mother of the leader of the resistance before that leader can even be born. “Ah’ll be bock” and all that. Which leads to another Governator coming back in time to save the leader of the resistance as a young teenager (Hasta la vista, baybee), which leads to a really bad movie, which leads to the reboot of the franchise with Batman playing the part of the leader of the resistence. (See, not so complicated.) So, yeah, call me more than a little freaked out. It’s like they know the feelings behind the name and are doing it to mess with, well, me.

The (so far) not-so-fictional Cyberdyne, however, seems more interested in copying Iron Man than in copying the Terminator. They’ve built a slick-looking white exo-skeleton that representatives say will actually increase human speed, strength and endurance, while also, possibly, filling in for missing limbs. Here’s a look at it.

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A prototype of the exoskeleton suit is designed for the small in stature, standing five feet, three inches (1.6 meters) tall. The suit weighs 50.7 pounds (23 kilograms) and is powered by a 100-volt AC battery (that lasts up to five hours, depending upon how much energy the suit exerts).

Sure, this all sounds well and good, but it’s still made by an evil corporation that’s destined to end the world in nuclear fire and unleash killer robots on us all. Maybe not such a good thing. I have to go now as the microwave is starting to make some rather unsettling demands.

— Richard, who’s toaster is making some very suspicious noises.

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