Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Haeundae": Korean disaster epic shows what a mega-tsunami would be like

The Korean disaster movie “Haeundae”, directed by Je-gyun Yun, (website) really does lay on the line what could happen to a major coastal city (the Haeundae section of Busan) if a really big tsunami (100 meters or more) hit after an undersea earthquake or avalanche (it’s the latter that would really do this.) In the film’s final forty minutes, the tsunami hits with a one-two punch; we see it knocking over high rise buildings (just as in the movie “Deep Impact”) but then a lot of them are standing still; the final panoramic shot in this 2.35:1 film does show the damage that could be done. The bridge rescue sequences (and the bit about the freighter colliding with it and piling up into it – something like that happened in Katrina) are great. There is plenty of “women and children first” and self-sacrifice (a guy jumps off the chopper rope to drown to let everyone else get saved).

The movie opens with the 2004 Indonesian tsunami, and much of the first two thirds is punctuated with geologist Kim Hwi (Joon-Hoong Park) making dire predictions of what could happen to Busan. But he also gets involved in a domestic subplot that rather resembles the complexity of “Babel”, but seems superfluous – except that at one point he brings up the trendy subject of eminent domain.

The film comes from CJ-Entertainment and “JK” (a company with a train for a trademark). I rather expected this film to become an ambitious “roadside attraction.”

Attribution link for Wikimedia picture of tsunami evacuation route

Ironically, on the same day that I saw this film, a deadly tsunami did hit the Somoans in the Pacific. More details will be forthcoming soon.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Australian dust storm caught on fantastic amateur video, simulating Mars

Look at Phil Sandberg’s film "Sydney Harbour Covered by Dust Storm" during the dust storm in eastern Australia a couple days ago.

The film shows how dust changes the tint in actual digital video processing.

This is what Mars might look like if it were terraformed, water was reintroduced, and cities could be built on it – in the summer only.

JonesUK has a video actually called “The Day I Woke Up on Mars

Note the experimentation with colors and the Club Bondi, apparently a bar.

According to Kate Schneider of News AU, a second dust storm is on the way, story here.

The winds blow from the SW, from South Australia. In the US this would be a dry “cold front” (not very cold) in the spring (as N and S are reversed). Doug Hill of Washington Station WJLA would have fun explaining this to high school students on that station’s field trips to schools.

Hill has said that a dust storm from Africa (the Sahara -- more like a sandstorm) is blowing into the Atlantic and breaking up potential hurricanes this season.

Try looking up Sydney, Australia on weather.com.

Sorry, this event won’t bring on the “Waltzing Matilda” of the Nevil Shute novel and film “On the Beach”.

If you want to look at a video purporting to prove that Rover Spirit actually found buildings from a previous civilization on Mars, check this video ("Mars: NASA Found Buildings") link (no embed offered). To me, it looks like a History Channel movie about Area 51 (or an exhibit in Las Vegas). The best representation of Mars in Hollywood may be John Carpenter's "Ghost of Mars" with the train and central city. But Scientific American, in some drawings of hypothesized alien plant life on smaller planets around M stars, actually depicted an earth concrete building in one still (April 2008). Out there, other places may be more like home than expect.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"10 Ways to Destroy the Earth": The Universe, History Channel

On Tuesday, Sept. 22, the History Channel’s “The Universe” series presented “10 Ways to Destroy the Earth”. The program started with the “reassuring” idea that an asteroid hit could not destroy the Earth, but a collision with Venus could cause both planets to disintegrate and recombine as a larger, desert planet, probably resembling others within 100 or so light years of our solar system. A collision with a Mars-sized body accounts for our Moon.

“What if the Earth’s orbit disintegrated a little bit a year and they just weren’t telling us?”

That’s a good scenario for sci-fi. The Earth would become like Venus and eventually get extruded into the Sun. The other scenario, where the Earth gradually recedes, might allow humans to build a civilization underground, off of geothermal energy, and have a world like Europa (or maybe even Titan underground or even Triton).

Some of the scenarios toward the end are interesting. If the Hadron collider makes a mini black hole, they tell us it will evaporate, like ice subliming in the sun when the temperature is below freezing. A black hole the size of a marble could consume the earth from within, much like a well-known scene from the new Star Trek. In my sci-fi novel, I imagine that “ viral proteins can accommodate certain radioactive atoms that produce micro black holes that allow the information imprints of other personalities to be imported” in order that personalities get consolidated by a “soul contraction” at the end of time.

The film imagines some bizarre ideas, such as introduction of anti-matter, or like the possibility that gravity suddenly splits into two forces, or that somehow the Earth is “infected” by strangelets, that turns the entire planet into a strangelet goo, very much like a prion infection of the brain. Or possibly parallel universes collide, resulting in annihilation and a new big bang, which is an “inflation” of space-time which can exceed the speed of light.

Earlier this evening the History Channel presented “Big Blasts”, which start with the asteroid that destroyed the dinosaurs and ends with the Big Bang.

Attribution link for NASA picture of surface of Europa.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

NatGeo explores asteroid explosion over Sahara producing glass deposits; would produce Armageddon today

On Sunday September 20, National Geographic aired an important one-hour documentary on the asteroid impact issue, called “Ancient Asteroid,” with link here. The film is written by Richard Reisz.

The Sahara Desert has been a “sand ocean” for only a few thousand years. But about thirty million years ago something happened in the area to cause an enormous amount of green-yellow glass to form over an area a few hundred miles SW of Cairo.

Most natural glass is volcanic in origin, but the scientific evidence, developed by physicist Mike Boslough, indicates that a partially broken or loosened asteroid exploded above the area, sending an enormous plume a hundred kilometers into the atmosphere and heating the ground to thousands of degrees.

The same kinds of event may explain the Tunguska Explosion in Siberia in 1908, but it was smaller. The film shows simulations of Tunguska, and computer animated simulations of this Sahara explosion.

A similar glass surface about 600 yards wide was formed by the Trinity atomic bomb blast in New Mexico in July 1945, but it was much smaller even than Tunguska.

Even a Tunguska-sized asteroid over a major city could kill millions without warning, and such impacts may occur about once a century somewhere on the planet.

The idea of hitting an asteroid with nuclear weapons (as in the 1998 movie “Armageddon”) to break it into pieces might just cause an even bigger high-altitude blast.

The film also covers the Shoemaker-Levy Comet collision with Jupiter in 1994, NASA link here.

A glass deposit seems to exist in far northern California, north of Mount Shasta; I visited it in 1975.

Attribution link for Wikipedia/NASA photo of Africa. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Africa_satellite_orthographic.jpg .

Monday, September 07, 2009

History Channel: "Doomsday 2012: The End of Days", from "Decoding the Past" series

On Saturday, Sept. 4, the History Channel aired the one hour “Doomsday 2012: The End of Days” as part of its “Decoding the Past” series, show url link here.

A central theme of the report was the “Web-Bot Project” (a typical description is here http://urbansurvival.com/simplebots.htm ) which makes automated robotic scans of the Internet to predict the future. The Project allegedly predicted 9/11, the anthrax attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and the great Northeast power failure in August 2003.

The central thesis seems to be that around Dec. 21, 2012, the Earth and solar system will be lined up in a certain configuration relative to the Black Hole in the center of the Milky Way, and a “pole shift” may occur suddenly, bringing about a cataclysm. Such an idea undergirds Allen Eckert’s 1970s novel “The HAB Theory.”

There are many predictions of apocalypse at the end of 2012, mostly based on the idea of cycles of history. The best known is the Mayan prediction, but there are others, such as the Hopi Indian “4th World” tradition that predicted that the world would be encircled with a “Web” (the WWW); English author Richard Head (late 1600’s) invention of “Mother Shipton” and her predictions; Merlin, and the Chinese I Ching. The Mayans apparently predicted the arrival of the Spaniards on the exact date in 1519.

"End of Days" was a Universal Picture at the end of 1999, directed by Peter Hyams, with Arnold Schwarzenegger as an atheist ex-cop trying to keep the devil's bride from bearing a kid.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Weather Channel shows dangers of "sudden" flash floods in tropical storm Erin

On Sunday Sept. 6, the Weather Channel broadcast a particularly interest “Storm Stories” episode, about Tropical Storm Erin in 2007.

In the countryside slightly east of San Antonio (still flat, before the Hill Country), a man tried to drive home, and ten inches of rain flooded an entire flat area so quickly that his car was lifted up, and he had to climb to a tree to be rescued, which itself was difficult. His wife watched the rescue at home on live local television.

Farther north, in Oklahoma, the tropical storm intensified as it interacted with a cold front. This is unusual for a TS over land, but it wound up with 80 mph winds over land, dumping about six inches of rain in some areas in two areas.

One small farm owner south of Oklahoma City went out to his pond, and somehow became ensnared in a “tin horn” drainage device. For half of the show he described his being caught and almost drowned, and then expelled from it by the torrent of water, rather like the “whale” expelling Jonah.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Youtube features some timelapse amateur videos of LA wildfires

The Los Angeles Basic wildfires, just like tornadoes, invite a lot of amateur filmmaking. This may be the largest fire in the area ever. (I remember driving through some burned areas in December 1978.) And this time homeowners look across valleys and wonder if the flames really can reach them, or if they will be put in the position of “Lot’s wife.”

But for someone who contemplates moving into the LA basin for job or career reasons (still possible for me some day, whatever the economy now), the wildfire threat seems as potentially destructive as earthquakes, or as hurricanes in the Gulf region.

Here is a time lapse video of the La Canada Flint Ridge Station Fire, by WTK Johnson. The film shows people in rapid motion moving across the "lakeview terrace" to check on the danger, day and night, 24 hour time lapse. Sometimes the wind picks up and it looks scary.

“Willow City Video” has an impressive two-minute video of the start of the Station Fire from the Angeles Ridge here.

There are other time-lapse videos, and at least one from downtown Los Angeles, on YouTube.

The latest media reports indicate an arson investigation. But even accidental carelessness in wilderness areas of this arid region with underbrush can pose enormous danger. It’s better of one does not smoke at all, for example. Carelessness wheb camping can be tragic.

Even so, it seems that most California wildfires are caused by dry thunderstorms or lightning, not intentionally by man. The Huffington Post has an article from June 23, 2008, "800 California Wildfires Caused By Lightning Strikes", with link here. Dry Santa Ana winds make them worse. In remote areas, lightning fires are a natural occurrence, necessary to stimulate some vegetation that waits for fire every four or five decades.

It's surprising that building codes are not even stricter about clearing out dry brush near new housing developments, to build firebreaks. Here is a State of California reference on the codes.

A Weather Channel program Sunday (Sept 6) mentioned steps that homeowners should take, such as removing juniper trees near a house.

Wildfires, even in the Southeast (as near Myrtre Beach SC) have been an increasing problem since the late 1980s, with global warming. In 1988 there were severe fires in the Yellowstone area.

Wikimedia attribution link for public domain picture of a wildfire in California in 2008.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

PBS Nova "Science Now" airs danger of Midwestern earthquakes (New Madrid Fault)

Today, Sept. 1, PBS NOVA “Science Now” had a fifteen minute short “Earthquakes in the Midwest”, with link here. Try the “find the fault” application!

The report briefly described the three earthquakes near New Madrid, MO around 1811, before any large cities were built. There seems to exist a subduction “dimple” that never became a full-fledged plate boundary under the Mississippi River area. The show presented downtown Memphis and St. Louis, both of which could have tremendous damage if there were to occur a large quake in the area. The Memphis area has about 200 silent quakes a year.

The scientists went caving, in very muddy conditions, to look at evidence of past earthquakes, which seem to occur every 500 years or so. We may be safe for a while.

Attribution link for Wikimedia picture of Memphis monorail.

NatGeo looks at conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11

9-11: Science and Conspiracy” on National Geographic, airing on August 31, 2009, examined the “conspiracy theories” about 9/11 proposed by “truthers” who claim, among other things, that the Twin Towers were imploded by controlled demolitions.

The movie shows some experiments in the desert with test buildings, to show how jet fuel heat softens (without having to melt) steel, enough to weaken support trusses and to cause a pancaking of a skyscraper. The film also simulates, with 3-D “Pixar-style” animation (this specific material developed at Purdue University), the actual plane impacts and subsequent softening and collapse. The NatGeo link for the film is here.

The film then examines the theory of “rogue planes” on 9-11. It then goes into conspiracy theories for other tragedies, including Pearl Harbor and JFK.

A conspiracy theory is a romantic idea, to make sense out of something else that is intolerable. A theory is like a novelist’s though, an exercise in make-believe, in fantasy.

Randy Thomas narrates the film.

A related DVD coming soon is “Loose Change: 9/11: An American Coup” (also called "Loose Change: Final Cut"), from a very youthful Dylan Avery (releasing Sept. 22, 2009), who appears in the NatGeo film=2 0frequently.

Visit the NatGeo label on the TV blogs too.