Saturday, 6 August 2016

Popcorn Night: Suicide Squad--A Superhero movie...from the Dark Side

After a curious archaeologist wanders into a secret, skull-filled cavern and breaks what seems to be an old artifact, the spirit of a witch named Enchantress enters her body and she ends up being a host to the unwelcome guest. Once this happens, the witch becomes mobile inside of her, seizing her thoughts and actions. The problem escalates when the witch plans to build a machine that would wipe humans from planet earth.  

But instead of sending an armed task force to deal with the situation, the US Army assigns a sergeant along with five newly-recruited, and formerly imprisoned, supervillains to do the job: Deadshot (a notorious hitman, played by Will Smith,) Harley Quinn (a former therapist at a psychiatric ward, played by Margot Robbie, who fell in love with one of her patients and helped as an accomplice in a murder he orchestrated,)  Griggs (a bank robber/jewelry thief, played by Ike Barinholtz,) Diablo (a fire-shooting human being, played by Jay Hernandez, who is a former serial killer charged with murdering his own wife and children,) and Killer Croc (a crocodile-man hybrid, played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, which gained a reputation for slaughtering his victims in a crocodile-like fashion.) Together, they are tasked with saving the world in a high-risk, thrill-seeking chase in exchange for minor rewards (e.g. a shortened prison sentence.)

When walking in to see this movie, I had no idea what to expect. I vaguely knew that Suicide Squad was a DC comic book series, so I thought it would attempt to rival Marvel’s Avengers. But after watching it from start to finish, I must say--I was pleasantly surprised. It bore some resemblance to a superhero movie, except for the characters which were disturbingly twisted and psychotic (hence the name.) The most appealing part of Suicide Squad is that all the main characters have superpowers which aren’t necessarily special (when compared to, say, Fantastic 4’s The Thing or Iron Man) but they still manage to use their limited abilities to accomplish the task at hand and do so in a way that makes sense.  This serves to prove a very important point: That movie heroes are made great not by their powers, but by how they use them. Although in this instance, the heroes were replaced with vicious psychopaths being put to good use. Will Smith’s acting was also exceptional, as he managed to shed his normally goofy Fresh Prince of Bel Air persona and accurately represent a father who lives with the guilt of disappointing his daughter.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Suicide Squad, because it was a typical superhero movie....minus the superheroes, superweapons and crusaders for justice. It seems like a more realistic version of a superhero movie, because the characters succeeded at their goals ultimately by using wit over fancy gadgetry and manipulation.  Perhaps this is why the film managed to smash box office records in August.

Monday, 31 August 2015

A Better Scoop: Scientists reportedly developing melt-resistant Ice Cream protein which helps it remain frozen for longer

File:Strawberry ice cream cone (5076899310).jpg
Photo By TheCulinaryGeek from Chicago, USA (Strawberry Ice Cream Cone  Uploaded by Mindmatrix) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

With temperatures still hovering around or above thirty degrees Celsius in most parts of North America, it's pretty clear that ice cream still has a limited window of time to shine through before it is carted away for the year. From classic and savory flavors such as chocolate and vanilla to oddities like chocolate chip cookie dough and heavenly hash, there seems to be a flavour to be had for every sweet tooth and dairy lover alike.  However, there's one thing that many hate during ice cream season, which is the almost instant melting of the product when exposed to the scorching heat of a Western afternoon. However, thanks to modern science, that problem may soon be a struggle of the past, and could help to save may from the dreaded sticky fingers caused by the separation of cream and ice.

According to claims made by a group of Scottish-based scientists from the universities of Edinburgh and Dundee, a new protein (BSiA) has been discovered which could help to reduce the speed at which ice cream loses its form. They even claim that the product occurs naturally in many places, such as friendly bacteria, therefore making it possible to produce both sustainably and naturally without the need for any genetic modification. Cait McPhee, the leader of this project, said she is ecstatic about improving the overall quality of ice cream "for both consumers and manufacturers,"  and is looking past the cone at helping to improve many foods, such as mayonnaise and chocolate, with this new discovery.

But how does it work? Well, the answer is actually quite simple. Like glue, the protein helps to bond the ice crystals with the sugar, milk and fat products found in the dessert. This prevents the ice from evaporating rapidly and therefore lets it stay solidified for longer, plus it ensures that both key components are evenly blended, giving it a smoother and more improved texture. McPhee also added that, because the protein helps to bond the two together in an even fashion, less fat would be needed in ice cream mixtures to stop the melting and could therefore help cut down on its caloric content. However, the best part is that the protein should not alter the product in any way, meaning that it will remain firmer, fresher and less caloric while leaving connoisseurs with the taste they have come to know and love. 

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Popcorn Night: San Andreas

It is universally known that all earthquakes are terrible, no matter how prepared one is. The horrid thought of man-made civilization perishing away from brutal and uncontrollable forces can send a chill down anyone’s spine as they foreshadow the amount of destruction to be had. And that’s what this latest flick tries to illustrate in all of its Hollywood glory.

What happened:

After a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck the Hoover Dam in Colorado, earthquake researcher and California Institute of Technology Professor Lawrence Hayes was left traumatized. Just before his eyes, cars were instantly pushed around like Hot Wheels, and the concrete divider which separated the dam’s bodies of water began to crumble as if it were made of drywall. Shocked by the outcome, Hayes promptly flew back to California and furthered his research of seismic activity along the Southern United States, only to be met with horror while being interviewed about the Colorado incident. Just moments after beginning, one student from the lab bolted towards him and interrupted the question period, saying in a hasty manner that a series of massive earthquakes would hit any city or landmark lying on the San Andreas Fault. Hayes rejected the idea at first, but was later told that all monitoring equipment in that region was properly calibrated and therefore free from error. Not believing what he was told, he grabbed the tablet with the collected data from the hands of his student, looking over the bizarre readings and even blinking twice to make sure that he wasn't hallucinating. Residents living near that area were later hit with an earthquake which was catastrophically gigantic, and stood amidst crumbling buildings and screams while forcefully crossing their fingers and hoping for survival. Meanwhile, main character and Los Angeles Fire Department rescue pilot Ray (played by Dwayne Johnson) loses sight of his ex-wife Emma and daughter Blake (both of which are located in San Francisco) and must scour the disheveled city in order to rescue them from peril. However, this proves to be a struggle as the entire city is ensued in chaos, unsure of what to do and where to go next. Matters are only made worse as a series of earthquakes follow, leading to a tsunami and the splitting of California into two parts.

The good and the bad:
While it may not have been the first film centered around forces of nature stirring metropolitan regions in the United States, San Andreas had an amazing story in which a torn family relationship is ironically mended together following one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit America in approximately two hundred years. Johnson was also a perfect fit to play the role as main character given his timid personality and muscular build, therefore making him the perfect silver screen father and firefighter. Even the setting of the movie was excellent as it thickened the story line, showing that no city (popular or not) is ever safe from destruction, and that in the end, nothing materialized can ever have a value which is even remotely comparable to human life.

However, despite the movie’s good story line, there were some scenes in which the computer animations gave an unrealistic feel to the film. For example, when Ray crash-landed his helicopter into the front of a store window after it succumbed to engine failure, the chopper was barely damaged despite the forceful impact which it fell victim to. Another incident similar to this one could be seen near the end of the movie when Ray rides a Ski Doo and has a close encounter with the rotating fins of a large shipping vessel. But instead of severely damaging anything, the shipping vessel simply rips the roof off of the Ski Doo, leaving Ray and Emma completely unscathed despite them being inches away from danger. Although it is understandable that scenes such as this need to be included in the film to make it ripe with suspense and action, the filmmakers still could have improved on the level of drama which was used.

 Summing it up:

San Andreas is a film that won’t disappoint anyone looking for a Hollywood-esque storyline, though it was overly dramatic in some cases. Regardless, it was extremely enjoyable to watch (despite the technical difficulties which interrupted the movie playback at my local cinema,) and won’t disappoint any Dwayne Johnson fan or Hollywood blockbuster aficionado.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Why Most Barns are Red

Photo released under CC0 on Wikimedia Commons

Chances are that most of the barns which you see are identical in colour to the image above. But why?

It’s a warm summer evening in the middle of nowhere, and the sun sets on a vast area of greenery. You drive along an uneven gravel road as the tires of your car grind against every pebble, breathing in the freshly minted air of the countryside with your eyes shut and the windows of your car rolled down. Whiff after whiff, the smell of uncontaminated oxygen makes its way into your lungs, and every worry you have just seems to oxidize away into a crispy, inferior powder. Then, a moo is heard. And a loud whinny is let out. After that, there is a loud clucking coming from somewhere. Moments later, the sound of an electric shaver is heard. But worst of all, a pungent smell hits your nose, leaving it incapacitated and irritated with aggression. As you open your eyes, you probably see a farmhouse which is red. But as you reflect on the red institution, you probably notice that most barns are red in colour. But why? The answer to this question has to do with only three things: cost, problem solving and tradition.

As most people know, the cost of paint stems from the cost of the pigments which are used to manufacture it. So obviously, the cost of paint made from <purple snail mucus> would be far greater than, say, the cost of paint which was made from <dying stars> or charcoal. But on farms, farmers did not have access to exotic snot or decommissioned twinklers. Instead, they used rust (also known as iron oxide) in order to form a pigment, presumably because it could be scraped off of farm equipment which fell victim to oxidization and perished away. After obtaining the paint, they would use oil as a medium, and create a basic form of paint which could coat their farms and repel water at the same time. The mixture was later perfected by including linseed oil, which was able to keep the coating nice and smooth, while preventing it from flaking off. And since iron oxide acted like an antifungal agent, this Vaseline-like substance had the ability to provide protection against nightmarish mold growth, which had the unwanted potential to kill farm animals if it multiplied far too quickly and erupted in growth. This coating would also last for a very long time, meaning that farmers did not have to waste time by reapplying it to wood and could instead focus on other tasks which they had.

But the only reason for ‘barn red’ still being popular is due to only one thing: tradition. As time passed on, many coatings were developed to protect wood from spoilage, but red paint was still very cheap and plentiful, which made it popular amongst farmers of a newer generation. And even today, there are lots of farms, new and old, all of which glow proudly with the incandescent fire of antimicrobial protection.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

George R. R. Martin Still Uses DOS And WordStar 4.0 To Write Game Of Thrones Novels


When most writers choose to write a novel, poem, short story or blog post, they usually go to their internet-enabled PCs and open up Microsoft Word (a program which, according to Wikipedia, “is the most widely used word processing software according to a user tracking system built into the software, which is not built into LibreOffice, AbiWord, KWord, and LyX.” And with many useful features like AutoCorrect and spell checking, it isn’t hard to see how the currently cloud-enabled word processor gets its notability. However, for some writers (like Game of Thrones author George R. R. Martin,) old school programs are better than the ones we use today.


In an interview with Conan on his television show Team Coco, Martin tells Conan that he uses MS-DOS (which, in case you didn’t know, came before Windows,) and a currently defunct word processor called WordStar 4.0 (a.k.a the predecessor to Corel’s slowly abandoned WordPerfect suite.) He then explains that he has another, more modern PC which he uses to check e-Mails and browse the web on, while his sidelined and offline DOS PC is strictly used for writing the bestselling novels which he is famous for.  When he was asked why he uses such defunct tools, he simply said that he was happy with what he had and that DOS isn’t as vulnerable as Windows or Linux (he also appreciated that the program "does what [he wants] it to do.") In addition to a virus-free environment, George states that AutoCorrect was simply too annoying to bear (and I know exactly how he feels about that.)


In reality, it’s a pretty good idea to have that type of setup, as most PCs today are vulnerable to potent viruses such as CryptoLocker lurking around on the internet today. Plus, there are no annoyances, like a dancing paper clip or automatic random bulleting, meaning that you could be more productive in front of a computer instead of fiddling with settings. What I would like to know, however, is why he doesn’t use a program like Notepad or WordPad, but instead uses WordStar 4.0 on a computer which has no USB ports.

Did Thomas Edison Really Invent The Lightbulb?

*The photo above is in the public domain, if you want to use it*
In today's era of smartphones, virtual reality glasses and smartwatches,  the lightbulb can be considered a primitive device to most. Merely a tungsten filament wrapped around two pieces of carbon rod (not to mention the vacuum sealed glass dome which prevents it from oxidization,) its simplicity makes it an invention which most people overlook. However, did Thomas Edison really invent it?


How Lightbulbs Work

When power is fed through its metal bottom, the incandescent bulb's filament emits a yellowish (or white,) glow. This is achieved by vacuum sealing the light-emitting components in a glass dome which prevents the filament from coming into contact with oxygen. Once the vacuum seal wears off, the tungsten wire oxidizes and burns out completely.


Enlighten Me

Around 1801, Sir Humphrey Davy (a British electrician,) connected two platinum rods together using a piece of wire. The result? A bright yellowish glow which could illuminate an entire room. Although innovative, Davy's invention was quickly criticized as it required a large battery and platinum, making it unsuitable for mass production. However, he opened up new doors which didn't exist in the past.


The Carbon Craze

After hearing about Davy's idea, many investors crossed their fingers and hoped that inventors could come up with a practical bulb that could be used in a home or office space. So, with motivation to spare, work began on a cheaper source of electrical light. With knowledge that some items heat up when electricity is passed through them, Sir Joseph Swan—an English chemist--based his designs off of that principle, and ended up with a filament that was largely based on carbon paper and platinum (therefore producing a cheaper lightbulb.) And, with the help of Frederick DeMoleyens (which vacuum-sealed the components to protect them from oxidization,) the bulb was patented by J.W Starr and secured for future use.


There was, however, one major flaw with its design. The reasoning behind this was that the carbon filament fell apart after a few electric charges were passed through it. Therefore, the bulb was—no pun intended—screwed.


Edison Enlightens the Idea


After hearing about the lightbulb, Edison saw a great fortune which came from its perfection. Therefore, when he was able to do so, Edison recruited a Princeton University student named Francis Moore in order to help with the bulb's design. It was after Edison recruited Moore, however, that lots of bright ideas came to him.


What Francis noticed was that, if a material had low resistance, it would produce less light and crumble in front of somebody's eyes when electricity was passed through it. Then, after experimenting with many various metals and vacuum strengths, Edison finally came up with a viable, cheaper version of the lightbulb which could be mass produced. With a bamboo and carbon inspired filament, he had done it.


So, Did He Invent The Lightbulb?


If you read about any of the things above, then you should know that the answer to this is one simple, two lettered word-NO. Although he did fine tune the bulb in order to make it a decent source of alternative light, he didn’t really do anything else. However, if you read the story, it’s undoubtedly fascinating to think that, hundreds of years ago, people could have come up with a modern day source of electrical light which is widely used today.








Sunday, 27 April 2014

How Did the Google Logo Get It's Colours?

No matter where you go on the internet, the possibilities of you running into the Google logo are quite high. With a worldwide Alexa rank of one (meaning most visited on a daily basis,) and a whopping two trillion searches which were made in 2013, the silicon valley search giant's power is astonishing to the average person who uses it as an everyday tool. But how did the search giant choose it's colours and pick it's logo design?



The Heydays

In 1997, project BackRub (a.k.a project Google,) was given a go-ahead by Stanford University (a university which also provided a domain and hosting for the once miniscule search giant.) However, in little to no time, project BackRub was renamed and project Google was born. So, with little time to buy, it's first logo was hurriedly put together with an unknown program. However, after more time was found, Google's co-founder Sergey Brin designed a logo in GIMP in order to make the webpage look less horrid.


A New Overhaul

After getting serious about the Google logo, Page and Brin were introduced to a graphic design teacher named Ruth Kedar. "I was teaching design at Stanford University in 1999" he recalled fondly "when I was introduced to Larry Page and Sergei Brin by a mutual friend at Stanford. They were looking at designers to design their logo and website and I was asked to present them with some preliminary design ideas. They liked my approach and design style and I was hired to design both." So, with motivation under his belt, Kedar experimented with multiple logo designs, most of which failed.


After trying to experiment with multiple designs, Kedar settled on the Catull typeface as it was a mix between Sans-Serif and Times New Roman (two fonts which, according to Ruth, were popular for very different reasons.) When asked about the vivid, cheery colours of the logo, he said that they were chosen for the reason of "mimicking child's play." And so, the Google logo was born.


Despite it's plain story, it's still fascinating to learn about Google's humble beginnings. Plus, if you take into consideration the innovation needed in order to create a search engine, the everyday tool which most people take for granted soon becomes bigger and better than even before.