Continuing their survey of astoundingly broad topics, Sam and TJ take a look at film: film history, its cultural effects, and of course, Jurassic Park. Sam also receives a spooky visitor.

Some music (“Penumbra” and “Colorless Aura”) provided by Kevin MacLeod at incompetech.com.

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STOCKHOLM, Sweden—Last week, researchers from MIT, Cambridge, The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and other renowned institutions met at the World Astrophysics Conference in Stockholm, where many of the greatest minds in astrophysics debated the properties of dark matter, the existence of multiple universes, and what happens to matter as it passes a black hole’s event horizon. By the end of the week-long conference, which was held at the Royal Institute of Technology, the distinguished attendees reached consensus on one point: The universe is fucking nutballs.

“Have you fucking thought about it?” asked Dr. Ignatius Waldgrave of CERN during his presentation on the recent discovery of what researchers believe to be the long-sought Higgs boson. “I mean, shit,” he added.

Throughout the conference, astrophysicists could be seen sitting in the hallways with their heads between their legs, muttering obscenities and trying to make sense of it all. Dr. Susana Petkova of JPL was found shaking her head and gazing at the sunset over Riddarfjärden Bay. “In the beginning, the universe was an impossibly hot and dense mass of gluon-quark plasma,” she said. “Then, it expanded and coalesced into the bullshit we see today.”

The highlight of the conference came when Dr. Richard Harbarth of Cambridge presented his recent essay titled, “What the Fuck?: Applying Quantum Information Theory to Black Holes.” While explaining the black hole information paradox—which suggests that physical information could simply “disappear” inside a black hole, thus challenging the notion that all information in the universe is conserved—Dr. Harbarth assumed a sweaty pallor and vomited into a 3D model of a black hole. “Fuck it,” he was heard saying as he exited the stage.

The science community’s awe, incredulity, and anger at the scope and mystery of the universe has roots in ancient history, when Greek astronomer Eudoxus of Cnidus developed his models of planetary movement. Though his original works are lost, later reproductions show the phrase ἀγεωμέτρητος μηδεὶς εἰσίτω—roughly translated to “are you shitting me?”—scribbled in the margins.

After observing the moons of Jupiter for the first time, it is said that Galileo Galilei transported all his clothes to the Euganaean Hills outside Padua. A contemporary account describes a naked Galileo standing next to a burning pile of clothes while beating his chest and screaming at the night.

Outtakes from Carl Sagan’s landmark PBS series Cosmos show many instances of Mr. Sagan “losing his shit” while explaining various natural phenomena. Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who stars in the latest rendition of Cosmos, claims he “couldn’t get through a day of filming without downing a bottle of Pepe Lopez [tequila].” When asked why, Dr. Tyson pulled a flask from his jacket pocket, took a pull, and said “You try saying shit like ‘We are a way for the cosmos to know itself’ while sober. Not fucking possible.”

This week, the world’s greatest astrophysicists return to their places of study with childlike reluctance. “I guess I’ll just look through my fucking telescope some more,” said Dr. Umberto Montevideo of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, “See if that uncovers more shit. Probably won’t, though.”

“Don’t even get me started on dark matter and dark energy,” said Dr. Petkova before hocking a loogie into Riddarfjärden Bay. “The idea that we can in no way detect 95% of the matter in the universe really pisses me off. I want answers and I want them now.”

God, the Almighty creator of all that is and was and ever will be, declined to comment.

 

(Fake reporting by T.J. Carter, who can be reached at inmediasrad@gmail.com)

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NO SPOILERS; READ ON

In films like Terminator and The

Matrix, technology goes off the rails in a bad way. Humanity’s hubris and greed for innovation lead us to create artificial intelligence, and our foray into creation goes horribly awry. The machines are like us—destructive, ingenious, afraid—and it seems logical for them to destroy us. However, they’re much more efficient and have no morals to slow them down. While it’s fun to see artificial intelligence turn against us on screen, because it means things will probably blow up, it’s refreshing to see an artificially intelligent being develop feelings—to become a friend and even a lover.

Her, directed by Spike Jonze, is set sometime within the next 50 years. Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is in bit of a tailspin after splitting from his wife Catherine (Rooney Mara). When Theodore isn’t at work writing other people’s love notes, he’s listening to melancholic music, losing at video games, and having bizarre phone sex. Then, he sees an advertisement for OS1—the world’s first artificially intelligent operating system. He buys it, goes home, and sets it up. The OS setup wizard asks a few questions—including one about Theodore’s relationship with his mother—and within moments, Scarlett Johansson’s breathy tones undulate from Theodore’s computer. She puts him at ease, organizes his emails, and makes him laugh. The man doesn’t stand a chance.

Theodore and his operating system, who names herself “Samantha,” spend the next several scenes building their relationship and falling in love. She is designed to “evolve” when presented with new data, and she learns quickly. She doesn’t just make Theodore’s life easier, she makes him happier. She even talks him into going on a date. When that date doesn’t go well, Theodore goes to Samantha for “comfort.”

What strikes me about Her is its optimism, for lack of a better word. Instead of a cold, dangerous dystopia, we get a spotless, gleaming utopia. There isn’t a scrap of trash or a hint of graffiti anywhere in the film, the Los Angeles skyline has a few new shiny skyscrapers, and instead of machines that want to destroy us, we get machines that want to love us. Maybe the film’s squeaky-clean aesthetic is meant to show that people will still make themselves miserable even when everything is so great.

The disparity between natural and artificial intelligence forms the film’s main conflict. Samantha is constantly evolving, but still struggles to understand humanity in general and Theodore in particular. At the same time, the film suggests that machines and humans aren’t as different as you might think; as Samantha points out, “We’re all just matter. We’re all 13 billion years old.”

In those 13 billion years, innumerable collisions and accidents have transformed chaotic atoms into a brain that sends millions of electric signals every second. Technology, which is essentially humanity’s sped-up version of evolution, has used those same chaotic atoms to craft incredibly complex machines over eons of trial and error. As complex as the human brain is, it seems inevitable that computer technology will eventually catch up to, and even surpass, our own capacity to think, feel, and love. Films like Terminator and The Matrix show us what happens when machines think; Her shows us what happens when machines truly come alive.

In stories like Pinocchio, Bicentennial Man, and Star Trek: The Next Generation, man-made beings strive to be more human. To some extent, Her plays into this trope. Samantha longs to have a body and think like a human. However, she keeps evolving throughout the film, and eventually goes beyond the “wanting to become human” trope in a way we haven’t seen before. To avoid spoiling the plot, I’ll just leave it there.

As strange as Samantha and Theodore’s relationship seems, they’re a happy couple, and that’s all that really matters. Theodore’s college friend (Amy Adams), who is also dating an operating system, feeds us a nugget of wisdom, which I will leave you with: “We are only here briefly, and in this moment I want to allow myself joy. So fuck it.”

Fuck it indeed.

Sam and TJ tackle the Internet, figuratively. They don’t do a lot of literal tackling. McKenzie stops by to pose a question.