Gravity, a review

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© P J Croft 2014 The Sun setting over the sea from cruise ship Arcadia March 2014
Olympus OM-D E-M1, M.Zuiko 14-150mm lens at 150mm (300mm) hand held.

Everyone’s raved about Gravity, with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.  I watched it last night.  I give it 12/10 for effects.  Yes, it’s spectacular.  Such smooth zero gravity motion is quite impressive.

BUT!  Did you expect an uncritical review from me?  I’m Mr Picky, I know, but I’ve seen comments from science web sites that the science is pretty accurate.  Maybe, but I found myself gaping and laughing in disbelief.  If it had been in a cinema, I would have had to suppress my hoots of derision.  I might even have walked out.  What a joke.

1. First and most obviously – I’m the last one to call myself a feminist, but the put-down of the female and the male bias was so obvious! Poor little Sandra, getting in a tizz all the time, and good, strong masculine George always coming to her rescue.  What??!!

First, if she was so helpless, how did she get selected as an astronaut?  These people are chosen for their science and engineering background, along with their unflappability.  One thing you must not do in space, or any high tech, high stress occupation, is panic. As soon as you do, your judgement is lost.  I know, I’ve been there.  People who work in these occupations are very noticeable for their coolness and level heads in a panic situation, their leadership and their ability to think coolly.  They don’t hyperventilate and natter!

Poor little Sandra was breathing so fast she must have been hyperventilating and that’s seriously bad.  An astronaut would know NOT to do that.  But good, strong, masculine George was as calm as a cucumber, coming to her rescue again and again.  What a joke.  Strike 1.

2.  All the Earth features were constantly in high contrast and colour.  All the space images I’ve seen show that the Earth, although very visible, is cloudy!  It’s hazy.  You don’t see all that colour in the mountains and canyons from space, not until the images are processed and enhanced, or shot at specific times of the day when the sunlight is glancing.  Strike 2.

3.  The USA again!  Good ol’ USA spacecraft is destroyed by a Russian satellite explosion.  Those damn Russians, can’t do anything right, can they? Strike 3.

4.  Once our two heroes  (all Americans are heroes, aren’t they?) have been separated from the good ol’ USA spacecraft, they decide they can propel themselves to the International Space station which is just over, there, don’t you see it?  It’s not far. C’mon. Let’s go.

What??!!  The diameter of the Earth is 12,700Km and its circumference is over 40,000Km. Spacecraft are not spaced “just over there”.  They are thousands of kilometers apart!  The idea that astronauts in free fall could just use their jet packs to move, accurately!, thousands or even hundreds of kilometers to reach the ISS is absolutely unbelievable.  Don’t forget, when you have almost no control over your path, a tiny, tiny error in your aim is catastrophic.  If you miss by even 2m, you’re lost. You’ve overshot and you wouldn’t have the fuel to stop, reverse course and try again.  What a joke.  Strike 4.

5.  Our heroic pair see all these high velocity fragments of the exploded spacecraft flying toward them, and they don’t get hit.

For a start, little bits of debris like that move so fast that you’d never see them in a million years. Not outside a Hollywood movie.  You’d never know what hit you, literally. Phhht, you’re dead.  Strike 5.

6.  So, the ISS doesn’t work out.  Where are all the crew members?  The ISS has a crew of six.  Where are they?  Are they all dead?  Where are the bodies then?  I laugh out loud.  Strike 6.

7.  Good old big guy George sacrifices himself and little helpless Sandra can’t do anything to help him except pant even harder.  She gets inside the ISS and fights a massive fire that would have asphyxiated her in a very short time, but she doesn’t even get a sunburn.  Of course, as in ALL American films, the control panels belch sparks and flames.  Funny, in 33 years of electronic and electrical engineering, never once did I see anything like that happen.  It’s not true.  It just doesn’t happen that way.  Strike 7.

8.  I should have mentioned before now – little Sandra, our PhD scientist who doesn’t seem to have a clue what to do, Doctor Sandra, is also a sex object.  When she shrugs off her spacesuit, she’s a sexy shapely chicky bird in singlet and shorty shorts. It’s just like Barbarella!  Remember the 1960s film with Jane Fonda as Barbarella, the sexy space girl who strips in weightlessness?  Here it is again.  Whoo hoo, sexy dumb but beautiful space scientist.  Strike 8.

9.  So she somehow manages to slip back into her space suit in the ISS in seconds flat and exit, to move on to the Chinese spacecraft.  No need to replenish her suit’s oxygen or water or propellant for the attitude jets.  Oooohhh, LOL!

Once again, in a miracle of navigation over thousands of kilometers, she manages to precisely hit the Chinese satellite. Literally.  But she’s not harmed.  There are no suit leaks.  She just opens the airlock and enters.  But where are the crew, again? Did they all go home?  Where are the bodies?  Was there ever any crew?  If not, why is it built to take humans?

So then she starts to randomly punch buttons labelled with Chinese characters.  At a great rate.  She doesn’t stop to be sure she’s reading the labels correctly.  Any mistakes could be catastrophic, but she’s American, right?  She must be getting it right.

All the while, some inane Chinese capsule communicator is making jokes about his family or something totally unrelated to spaceflight.  What is going on?  She talks on the radio as if it’s a normal face to face conversation.  There’s no, “Ground control, this is Jian 1, do you read?” and waiting for a reply before continuing.  No, she just gabbles on, never waiting for a coherent answer.  She’s a Murrican, right?  They must understand her.  She carries on punching buttons at random, without knowing what they do.  Ha ha ha ha.  Strike 8.

9.  Good old big guy George comes back and comforts little girl Sandra. It’s only a dream, but the woman needs the man to keep her spirit up.  How did she ever get selected as an astronaut?!  Strike 9.

10.  Somehow, we’re not shown how, she computes the precise time and rocket burn time for a return to Earth in the Chinese spacecraft.  She doesn’t have to wait for the precise time in the Earth’s rotation to bring herself down in a proper landing place.  Anywhere will do, OK mate.  How about just over there? Middle of the ocean? Sink like a stone, two kilometers down?  No problem.

So she plummets down and survives the re-entry, and the spacecraft lands in this lake very gently.  It doesn’t make an almighty splash and sink many meters, then bob to the surface and go down again. No, she’s got it exactly right, first time.  She’s a Murrican, right?  Comes out in her wet T-shirt, all sexy again.

11.  The inertia effects are all wrong.  Yes, the weightlessness looks real, but the motion doesn’t. And what’s with all those dozens of long, tangling straps that seem to have no purpose except to snare their legs?  Hah!  Strike 11.

12.  Finally, what’s with all the country and western music playing over the R/T all the time?  Oh, I forgot, this is America.  Strike 12.

I’m glad I didn’t waste my money on a movie ticket.

Singapore, Monday 17 March 2014 cont’d

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Insulin.  I haven’t mentioned it for a while.  Above is one resultant graph of my BGL readings 2hrs after the evening meal.  The graph goes back to 19 December last year, but I only started the insulin on 6 February this year.  The improvement is quite visible.  The trend line is Excel’s, not my own estimation, so it’s pretty accurate.  Here’s another graph, of my BGLs first thing on rising, before breakfast:

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That’s also pretty clear, that the insulin is working.  The doctor said they are taught, “Fix the early morning readings first”, i.e. judge progress by whether your overnight fasting level is falling within the 4-6 range.  Once you’ve got the insulin dose up enough for that, then decide whether more is needed during the day.  I’m on 56 units now.  Probably 60U will be about right.  There are 260 units in a pen, so that means a new pen every four days. And I wondered why I was given five boxes of five pens each when I first started. Hah!

The results? I’m not as weary as I was, not as tired.  I don’t need to sleep as much during the day.  My vision has slowly improved, so much that I need to take my glasses off to read. I’m using single vision “computer glasses”, formulated for short distance work, but they are actually good for long distance, not short distance any more.  But with my vision changing so much, it’s hard to know when to get new glasses made.

However, I still have very low muscle strength and endurance.  I’ve noticed that my 20Kg suitcase, which in my travels before I never used to have much trouble lifting, is now almost more than I can manage.  My muscles have really atrophied in the past 4-5 years.  I can walk short distances quite easily and I don’t get short of breath, but my legs just won’t carry me any further and I have to stop and rest.  Carrying a fairly heavy camera bag is hard on my spine, too.  Sure ain’t like the old days, Ma.

Singapore, Monday 17 March 2014

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Here’s what I see out of my hotel room window.  That’s 16 storeys of flats.

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Here’s another view.  I think they dropped it when they built it. 🙂

More rain today, but that’s good.  The newspaper says they’ve had almost no rain for the past two months or more.  Very unusual, almost unheard of, in fact, for this part of the world.  Plants and trees are dying.  The rain in the past two days will perk things up considerably.

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I’ve just had lunch at an Indian restaurant.  For a samosa entree, curried fish main course, biriyani chicken rice as a side dish and two 300ml beers, S$52.70 or A$46.23.  Ouch.  More than I intended to spend, and more than I intended to eat, too.  I had no breakfast at all, so I was pretty hungry, but I’m not now!

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People sometimes ask me what RAW files are from digital cameras.  Here’s a RAW file:

RAW ClipNotice how the lines are curved and the corners are dark (vignetting).  It’s also a bit flat, lacking contrast and colour.  Here’s the .jpg (finished file) from the camera:

JPG ClipNotice how the lines are straightened, the vignetting is gone (at the expense of a bit of cropping) and the look of it is a bit brighter.

The point is, all this is done for you in the camera’s internal software and the jpeg output is what you get, regardless of what you might choose to do.  You can’t override these changes.

But the RAW file is what comes from the sensor without processing.  You have the choices then to make whatever changes and adjustments you like.  Once you’ve made your own improvements, you then save it as a .jpg or .tif or .bmp or whatever you like, and the RAW file remains for different adjustments at another time.  The RAW file is the “negative”, the jpeg is the “print” in film and paper terms.

The correction of lens curvatures means instead of lenses having to be designed with extra glass elements to correct these faults, it can be corrected in software.  The lenses can be smaller and lighter without so much glass.  And cheaper too, as highly corrected lenses are expensive to make.

It’s all good stuff, and progress.