Arrival – A review

Science Fiction has always been my favourite genre ever since I discovered series like Doctor Who, Blake’s Seven, and Space: 1999 and was sealed when I first saw Star Wars.

I didn’t manage to see Arrival when it first came out last year, but finally managed to watch it this weekend.

I didn’t have high hopes as I’d heard mixed reviews, but found it to be far better than I’d expected and a seriously intriguing film.

The trailer really doesn’t give anything away. Yes, there are huge egg shaped space ships. Yes, there are creepy aliens behind a smokey screen. Yes, there is an attempt to communicate with them and a tension as the world superpowers become terrified the aliens are trying to turn them against each other.

But it’s what the trailer leaves out that makes this movie compelling.

The story is ultimately about language and the question of how do you solve the problem of learning a new language when you’ve no basis for understanding. But there is another aspect to the story that I won’t discuss as the revelation is part of what makes the movie work so well on a human level and also as one of the great science fiction movies.

I spent two years learning the Tajik language when I lived in Tajikistan. On one level, everyone can learn a language – it’s almost automatic that we pick things up just by being in the presence of different words. On another, we can accelerate that process as we choose to put more time in, to research new concepts, to experiment with different ways of learning.

I’ve absorbed so much Sci-Fi over the years that the concept of learning an alien language could seem overdone, but Arrival brings a beauty and intelligence to the process.

I found Arrival to be thrilling, intelligent and heart-breaking. I highly recommend it.

Available on DVD and Blu-Ray now.

Planetary Modelling

I’ve been fascinated by the possibilities offered by different types of worlds ever since I was young. Two of my favourite novels in my early teens were Orbitsville and Ringworld. The first a story that used the discovery of a giant sphere orbitting a star at earth orbit, the second a giant ring, also at earth orbit.

Both novels imagined that an advanced race had effectively mashed up all the planetary resources in a star system and turned them into a more efficient living space.

And often I would turn to my bible and find that planetary modelling was a concept at least some 4,000 years old…

The bible opens with not just planetary, but universe modelling. I used to enjoy playing with lego, but this was a whole different level of creative play! The detail however, either is deliberately confusing, or we’ve lost the meaning. For example, there are several theories about the meaning of Genesis 1 verses 6 and 7. Here’s the passage if you’re not familiar:

“And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.” KJV

For a long time I’ve believed the theory this is referring to a water barrier circling the original version of our planet – Earth 1.0. Whether that water barrier was free flowing water, ice or ice crystals or even water vapour, I don’t know – but water in some form that protected our planet from harmful solar radiation while allowing sufficient light energy through that most of the earth had a tropical climate. This theory seems more likely to me simply because the rest of the data we have supports it – if there was less harmful solar radiation, perhaps people would naturally live longer lives as described later in Genesis. If the whole earth had a tropical climate, it would explain why we find evidence supporting that around the globe.

Another theory is that the firmament was the earth’s crust and that large quantities of water were below the crust. I’ve never been all that keen on this theory, but personal preference just isn’t enough to bury it. Perhaps both of these theories are true to a certain extent. Some major planetary remodelling is recorded in Genesis 7, certainly, if even half of the water recorded in the flood was from underground and that exploded upwards, it would explain a substantial part of the geological record.

I would love to be able to run some simulations, to find out how we ended up with Earth 2.0 and what the first model actually looked like. Some day, maybe I’ll have time and the resources to do it. Until then, here are a couple of links that I found interesting on the subject:

Computer Modeling of a Vapor Canopy

Does science prove Noah’s flood?