Reading: The Death Star’s Physics, Celebrating Studio Ghibli, Doctor Who Philosophy, Nick Cave’s “20,000 Days” & More

Also: The necessity of deceptive technology, ethical clicking, Reddit’s moral dilemma, Ghost in the Shell, and why Dungeons & Dragons still matters.
Death Star

So, just how, exactly, could the Death Star destroy the planet of Alderaan in a few seconds? “[A]ll it would take, if you want to destroy an (Earth-like) planet like Alderaan, is a little over a trillion tonnes of metallic antihydrogen, and to transport it down to the planet’s surface. Once it hits the planet’s surface, it should have no trouble clearing a path down near the core, where the densities are highest.”

When watching Hayao Miyazaki’s movies, it’s easy to focus on the beautiful visuals, but Jason Williamson encourages you to also pay close close attention to Joe Hisaishi’s music: “While his film scores rely on leitmotifs, as most soundtracks do, he isn’t weary of straying away from them and changing rhythms and timings to approach scenes in discernibly different ways, managing to mesh both the sentimental with the eccentric. His works ground the films’ historical and geographic influences, the bustling old late 19th-century houses come complete with matching waltzes and accordions, the futuristic apocalyptic backdrops, likewise with synths, and even the rural, fantasy landscapes are given appropriate grandeur with waves of strings.”

Spirited Away - Hayao Miyazaki

From Christ and Pop Culture comes this awesome tribute to the power of Studio Ghibli’s movies: “The world is a strange place. I never needed wardrobes or nine and three-quartered platforms to see it; it only took my parents, hell-bent on becoming missionaries, to drag me kicking and screaming aboard an Asia-bound plane at the age of seven. The best adventures are rarely those we choose for ourselves: they choose us. It is the same in fantasy. For me, the strange and poignant films of Studio Ghibli have been a source of comfort and rare insight over the years, often echoing my own experience with their own deep, wordless aesthetic.”

Also on Christ and Pop Culture, my comrade E. Stephen Burnett writes about the philosophical underpinnings of Doctor Who’s new season: “Behind each of series eight’s first three episodes — even the choppy, lackluster “Deep Breath” — seems to lie probing questions about not only the very identity of the Doctor himself but the whole concept of Doctor Who.”

20,000 Days

With a new pseudo-documentary coming out about his life and career, Nick Cave discusses filming the movie, writer’s block, and the power of music: “The actual meaning is not that important — it’s the emotional resonance of something. When I sit down and write a song, I’m not trying to write something that people can learn from. Songs don’t impart wisdom or information, but we get a sense of awe when we’re in the presence of a good song that you don’t find anywhere else.”

We want technology to empower us, but sometimes we require that our computers and other devices to deceive us: “Coinstar kiosks, the coin-counting machines stationed in Walmart and other stores, are rumored to take longer than necessary to tally change because designers learned that customers find a too-quick tally disconcerting. Another example: robotic systems designed to help people overcome their own perceived limits. Researchers have experimented with rehabilitation robots that under-report the force a patient exerts, to help her move past a sense of learned weakness and recover from injury faster.” Via

Clicking on a mouse

Want to make the Web a better place? Then maybe you should follow Charlie Huenemann’s “ethical clicking” advice: “[O]nce we begin seeing our clicks as tiny votes, we begin to think about what sort of sustenance we are channeling into our own minds, and what sort of diet we are recommending to our neighbors.” Via

The recent nude celebrity photo hacks have exposed a moral dilemma for Reddit, where many of these photos were distributed: “While linking to illegal material (as opposed to hosting it) does not make Reddit culpable in the eyes of the courts, it should not expunge them from the fact that criminals can and do regularly use its services to promote illicit material. Despite complaints, subreddits dedicated to misogyny, bestiality, and racism (to name a few) still exist.”

Ghost in the Shell

Noel Murray reviews the recently reissued Ghost in the Shell: “One of the big reasons Ghost In The Shell became the most popular anime feature internationally since Akira (the film that first introduced many audiences to mature Japanese animation) is that it gets into its viewers’ heads, by musing out loud about what defines a living entity.”

Kevin Ohannessian explains why the new Dungeons & Dragons edition matters, especially in a world dominated by video games: “Even decades later, after thousands of computer and console role-playing games, the endless possibilities of tabletop D&D provides unique experiences. There are intricate puzzles with incredible freedom in their solutions. There are interactions with non-player characters that can end in a million ways; a videogame may provide only two or three choices. Mass Effect and other modern RPGs may have 3 or 5 pre-determined endings; a D&D campaign could have an ending completely customized to the players’ actions, intentions, and desires.”

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