It’s Time to Kick Ass and Chew Bubblegum

December 20th, 2007

…And I’m all out of ass. Go watch the Duke Nukem Forever trailer. Do it right now!

http://kotaku.com/335793/duke-nukem-forever-teaser-trailer

If the game ever comes out it won’t be the best game ever, and it won’t be worth the 10 year wait, but I have a feeling it’s gonna be a complete riot to play. One of the comments on Kotaku says it best:

Who cares if its not the best looking game around, or doesn’t have feature X or feature Y. Its fucking Duke Nukem.

Amen.

Trivia of the day: did you know that – unlike many think – the line “it’s time to kick ass and chew bubblegum, and I’m all out of gum” is not from Army of Darkness…and that it isn’t an exact quote? The correct line is “I have come here to kick ass and chew bubblegum, and I’m all out of gum”, and it’s from the movie They Live. Go watch that one as well.



Spandex Force v0.2

December 11th, 2007

The game formerly known as Truth, Justice and Spandex is now known as…Spandex Force! No need to tell me that you preferred the old name – I agree completely. But there’s not a single feasible way to find a domain for that name! Truthjusticeandspandex.com? Don’t be ridiculous. Justiceandspandex.com? Nooo. Spandexjustice.com? Dude, it’s starting to sound like a strange fetish site. So, spandexforce.com it is. Which incidentally also sounds strangely like a fetish site.

Game Info
Spandex Force is a unique puzzle/adventure/RPG game that lets you create your own hero to clean up the crime-infested town of Vigilance Valley. Follow your hero’s quest to rid Vigilance Valley of vicious villains such as the Blizzard Wizard, the inept riddler Countess Conundrum, and the mysterious Professor Aphasia.

Screenshots
Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot

Download
http://www.spandexforce.com/files/SpandexForceDemo.exe

Notes

  • The art could be improved. I’ll see what can be done about it; at the very least I’ll need a new city screen. Suggestions for an appropriate artist I can contact are welcome!
  • It’s not fully balanced yet. Feel free to suggest improvements!
  • Peter: I haven’t included any sheep just yet, but the eagle from Sheeplings randomly appears on the city screen. ;)
  • And Anders, I’ll see what I can do about losing progress indicators… I need to get the art sorted out first, though! :/

Thanks in advance for any comments.



Blog Readability Test

December 6th, 2007

Have you finished high school? If not, chances are you won’t be able to read this blog.

High School

Yes, it’s yet another ridiculous online test. I’m a sucker for these, and I can’t help myself whenever there’s a nice button saying “test yourself;” this time I didn’t have to fill in anything other than my blog’s URL, though. Here you can see a speculation that the algorithm is a variant of the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Formula, and given the little I know of Flesch-Kincaid (NOTHING!) I’m inclined to agree. It’s your usual run-of-the-mill combination of sentence length and syllables and whatnot to generate an estimated lowest necessary level of education to understand the text; apparently I’m lucid enough for all post high school people.

“High school? Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? I thought this was a blog about technical issues for nerds and geeks and weirdos, but even wee high schoolers can read it!”

Well… I was a bit miffed at first until I tested a number of other sites:

  • www.penny-arcade.com – Elementary School
  • www.abc.com – Elementary School
  • www.crankygeeks.com – Junior High
  • www.tomshardware.com – Junior High
  • www.gamespot.com – Junior High
  • www.imdb.com – Junior High
  • www.xkcd.com – Junior High
  • www.gameproducer.net – Junior High
  • anders-ivarsson.blogspot.com – Junior High

(Did you know that my Indian name is Can’t be Arsed to Make Proper Links?)

Of course, I also found a bunch of sites that also got the High School grade. I can honestly say that some of these surprised me. Quite a bit.

  • www.gamefaqs.com
  • www.gamasutra.com
  • www.gamedev.net
  • www.tigsource.com
  • www.slashdot.org
  • www.engadget.com

GameFAQs? What the hell? Anyway, in my search I did find a couple of sites that received a rating above High School. They’re hard to find, but here are two:

  • www.microsoft.com
  • www.gamepolitics.com

Can you find any others?



The Dangers of a Little Knowledge

December 3rd, 2007

This weekend I saw a 2006 movie called The Black Hole. It stars no one I have ever heard of, the acting was appalling, and it had one of the worst storylines I have ever had the misfortune to endure. The IMDB rating is 3.1, but despite all my negative comments I think they’re a little bit harsh on the poor flick: it was entertaining after all!

First, let’s go through some basic physics. A black hole is a point in space where the gravitational field is so dense that nothing can escape it. Not even electromagnetic radiation such as light. So far so good – the movie described black holes pretty well, and even fit in a nice comment about why they’re called black holes. (Hint: see the previous sentence.) But then things got worse. Let’s see if I can offer a brief synopsis of the movie.

An experiment in a particle accelerator in St. Louis results in the unfortunate creation of a microscopic black hole. From this black hole, an energy-eating creature emerges and starts to gobble up all our precious electricity. Meanwhile, the black hole starts to consume first the research facility, and then most of the city. For no apparent reason the President decides that a nuclear strike will make things better, despite what an expert on black holes says. Aforementioned expert presents his theory that the energy creature is connected to the black hole, and that if the creature is sent back through the hole, both of them will disappear. After some difficulty this is exactly what’s done…and all ends well.

Oookay. Now… Let’s see where to begin.

The movie mentions that in 1999 scientists foolishly disregarded the possibility of a black hole’s creation. This refers to the disaster scenarios presented before building the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, in which they summarize the threat with the following comment:

We conclude that there are no credible mechanisms for catastrophic scenarios at RHIC

Those foolish scientists! Don’t they see the dangers of microscopic black holes, prophecied by the movie?! Well, no. As far as I know, black holes aren’t stable while they’re small; it’s speculated that they leak Hawking radiation, and if the black hole is smaller than, say, a great mountain chances are it will evaporate with time.

Then we have the small detail of the energy creature emerging from the black hole. Dude. The movie’s plot would be completely acceptable if it just contained the black hole! It would have been a more decent disaster movie, and it wouldn’t have flaunted its ignorance like it does now. Why not leave it at a black hole? Why invent an energy creature that shouldn’t be able to travel through black holes (since…well…nothing escapes)? And why invent some story about closing the hole by shoving the creature back through it. What the hell? If we accept the idea that the creature consists of some Mystical Energy(TM) that’s unknown to us, and that the presence of that energy can neutralize the gravity field of a black hole, then why in the lower blazes didn’t the black hole get neutralized when the creature passed through the first time? I could have accepted some strange speculation about Mystical Energy, and how the creation of a black hole results in the creation of this Mystical Energy Creature and it’s gravity-neutralizing effects…but the scientist in the movie mentions how the creature travels through black holes to new parts of time and space in order to eat more energy.

(But of course, if we start to accept Mystical Energy creatures, we must start to accept other strange possibilities. Like, maybe they can be Mystically Positive or Mystically Negative, and when they’re positive they can generate black holes, and when they’re negative they close them. The act of travelling through the hole would then cause the Mystical Energy creature to switch polarity. So… Let’s just disregard the whole Mystical Energy idea completely.)

Watching The Black Hole is a little surreal. It not only contains (*cough*) questionable science, but the acting, the script, and the rest of the movie makes just as little sense. Why would anyone suggest deploying nuclear weapons against a black hole? What would they hope to achieve? I would assume that even a little kid knows what a black hole is – not to mention the President of the USA and his generals!

Still, despite all its bad points, the movie was strangely amusing and entertaining. And it does bring up some interesting things: the script writers were familiar with the debate about the RHIC, and when they designed a creature they chose an energy being…which is the only reasonable choice, since all matter would have gotten torn apart by the gravity of the black hole. Sure, energy can’t escape either, but given the choice between “look, a warrior serpent emerged intact from the black hole” and “look, a weird energy life form emerged” I choose the latter. Still, it would have been nice if the script writers had chosen a subject closer at hand. This is the dangers of possessing just a little knowledge: if you don’t know anything about a subject you probably wouldn’t take the task upon you, but if you have a little knowledge you arrogantly believe that you know enough to get the work done.

(Disclaimer: I’m a programmer, not a physicist. Nothing said above is guaranteed to contain a shred of truth. I hope the irony is quite visible for everyone.)



Induction – Cooking and Recharging

November 27th, 2007

I’m often disappointed by technology. The year is 2007 and there are no cyborgs, no anti-gravity devices, no colonization of the Moon, no food pills and no household robots worth mentioning. But one thing does give me hope for the future: technologies involving induction! This has to be the coolest thing ever.

Induction itself is quite simple: it’s a law that describes the connection between the strength of a magnetic field, a conductor (such as a piece of metal), the conductor’s movement speed, and the resulting voltage in the conductor. Essentially, voltage and magnetic fields are connected…and one can be used to generate the other. I assume that everyone’s familiar with the electromagnet and how electricity can generate a magnetic field, but the cool thing about induction is that the reverse is also possible.

One application that’s come up recently is recharging batteries through induction; it’s been all over the news lately, how (induction-prepared) cell phone batteries can be recharged by simply placing the phone on a special pad, and it’s been rumored that Apple will use induction for certain products. And here’s a Taiwanese patent for a device that can recharge normal batteries through induction. But there’s more to induction than this!

One thing I had never heard about until today was induction cooking. It’s really quite clever: a magnetic field interacts with a conductor (a cooking pan or somesuch), and because there’s electrical resistance in the conductor the current is converted to heat. No need to transfer the heat through a coil or by heating with gas – the cooking pan itself is heated from the magnetic field! Cleaner, faster, and more efficient. Also less dangerous, since you won’t be able to burn your hand on the stove anymore. Is there no downside to this at all?! No, not really. But try telling that to the uncouth masses.

“A great big magnetic field in my kitchen?! No way! Who knows what it’ll do to me!”

It’ll make your life better, that’s what. Here’s a summary of test results concerning the dangers of radiation involved with inductive cooking. See anything there along the lines of “will cause dangerous mutations and spleen ruptures”? Nope, nothing at all. (Though to be honest, cancer is always a possibility. But then, just about everything can cause cancer.)

I think most people suffer from a belief that electromagnetic radiation is something strange and weird and sciency. It’s not. It’s pretty dull and common, in fact. I leave you with a quote from Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics’ review of The Core:

[...] humanity is doomed and will end in a few months. The cause? Deadly microwave radiation will cook us since we’ll no longer be shielded by the Earth’s magnetic force field or what Keyes refers to as “Earth’s electro-magnetic energy field”.

Keyes proceeds to demonstrate the effects of losing the magnetic field by lighting the aerosol from a can of hair spray and flaming a peach representing Earth. He makes his explanation simplistic since he’s talking to military brass who can’t grasp complexity, even though they lead one of the most complex and high tech organizations in the world.

Not only does Keyes not know the difference between forces and energy but he apparently believes that electromagnetic radiation such as microwaves can be deflected by a magnetic field. Here’s a quick experiment, try using a magnet to deflect the electromagnetic (EM) radiation emitted by a flashlight. The EM radiation is a beam of visible light and, although we hate to spoil the experiment, nothing will happen.