Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Dyson Sphere Is the Closest Thing to a Death Star in Reality

Concept art of a Dyson sphere in action. Photo via earthsky.org

Dimming stars are part and parcel of the celestial ebb and flow. But the distant star known only as KIC 8462852 brightens right after it dims, and at regular intervals at that.

Scientists have explained away such phenomenon as the handiwork of a planet-like solar power harvester called a Dyson sphere.

First theorized in the 1930s, a Dyson sphere is a megastructure designed by an advanced civilization to completely engulf a star, thus harvesting its energy and sating an entire populace's exquisite power needs. Think of it as a death star that eats stars: the Deathbringer to Stars if you may.

KIC 8462852 was acting pretty weird last month, its light curve dwindling by 3 percent in a matter of a day before reverting to its normal brightness. The star in question is 1,280 light years away from earth, so we may never confirm in this lifetime if a star-eater is at work in our neighborhood.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Where Is Themyscira from 'Wonder Woman' Located IRL? 7 Places to Put in Your Bucketlist Now

Concept art for Themyscira in Wonder Woman. Photo via Warner Bros.


An all-women island has long been the fantasy of lusty, if not sexist men for ages, so it is no trifling feat that "Wonder Woman" has been able to turn this trope on its head.

Themyscira is an island populated entirely by women alright, but these are not your bimbos and damsels in distress who pine to be rescued or come grovelling at the feet of the next knight on his steed. Hades, no.

So is Themyscira real? For reasons obvious to you and many others, a matriarchal paradise is, sadly, still a dream for victims of oppression in this patriarchal world.

But a girl can dream, eh? Here are places where you'll find the closest thing to Themyscira in this dimension:

Craco

Via Wallora

Patty Jenkins and crew shot many of the Themyscira scenes in the famed ruins of this little Italian commune. Founded in 540 BC, Craco grew to a sizable populace over the centuries until landslides, floods, and an earthquake forced the remaining inhabitants to completely abandon it in the 1980s. The ruins have since provided a backdrop to some Hollywood flicks, including "Quantum of Solace" and "The Passion of the Christ."

Andria
Via BjoernEisbaer

The arsenal where they keep the God-Killer was filmed in the medieval citadel Castel del Monte in the Apulia region of Italy, specifically on a hill in the commune of Andria.

Ravello
Via Max Pixel

Another Italian commune, Ravello, played host to the "Wonder Woman" cast and crew. Visitors to Villa Cimbrone in the Amalfi Coast would recognise its CGI-modified balcony as where Hippolyta gives thanks to the gods and shows the wondrous ocean views to a young Diana.

Marina di Camerota and Palinuro


Via NPVF

When it comes to Italian beaches, there's nothing like those along Tyrrhenian Sea to put you in wonderment. The beach-y scenes between the Amazons and the German soldiers took place in the towns of Marina di Camerota, near the tower of Zancale, and Palinuro.

Turkey

According to the comic books, Themyscira, or Amazonia as it was originally called, was sited in modern-day Turkey, specifically at where the Thermodon River empties into the Black Sea.

Greece

The Turkish iteration of Themyscira was ravaged thereafter by Ares and Heracles and eventually relocated to Paradise Island in the middle of the Aegean Sea.

Bermuda Triangle

ATLANTIS HAS NOTHING ON NEW THEMYSCIRA. The latter-day comic book depiction of the Amazonian paradise island floats around the globe

Planes mysteriously vanishing like Steve Trevor's is right up Bermuda Triangle's alley. The arbitrary area in the Atlantic Ocean has long been a hotspot for UFO activity and aircraft disappearances for years. Even DC Comics alluded to it, reimagining Themyscira as a floating island around the Triangle, specifically near the east coast of the United States. 

Ooh, baby, do you know what that's worth? Ooh, Elysian Fields is a place on earth.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Where Is the Abbey in 'The Masque of the Red Death'?

ILLIMITABLE DOMINION. Prince Prospero's castle, as seen on 'The Masque of the Red Death' (1964). Photo via Call Me The Red Telephone.

Reading Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death" today gives you a thrill not unlike from watching "28 Days Later." In this zeitgeist, you can't help but conjure images of survivors holing up in a castle while hordes of the undead storm the countryside. Think George Romero's jaded skyscraper in "Land of the Dead" or the complacent Alexandria in "The Walking Dead." It will be no surprise if "The Masque of the Red Death and Zombies" comes out soon.

Also, it pays to remember that it's not the Rage Virus that Edgar had in mind while writing this classic short story. Many in the literati agree that tuberculosis, or the tragic loss of Edgar's wife, mother, and other relatives to it, massively informed his writing. During the Industrial Revolution, tuberculosis had no cure yet. It would still be several decades before the Spanish Flu, but "consumption," as tuberculosis was known then, already made a good job of wiping out the Western populace.

Tuberculosis and the fictional Red Death have a lot in common. The former is characterized by the expectorating of blood, while the latter led to "profuse bleeding at the pores." Blood was either one's Avatar, indeed.

It was only a few months before the story's publication in 1842 when Edgar's wife Virginia began to show symptoms of TB. While she was playing piano, Virginia bled from the mouth and "ruptured a blood vessel," in Edgar's words.

Edgar Allan Poe hunted for houses around Philadelphia to help his wife Virginia recover from consumption. Their last Philadelphia house is now the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site. Via Midnightdreary

He and his wife would soon move around Philadelphia in search of better homes to flout the advance of the disease. It's easy to draw parallels between him at this point and Prince Prospero moving to a castellated abbey to escape the pestilence.

Mr. and Mrs. Poe ended up in a rented house in Spring Garden, Philadelphia. There, Virginia would play the piano and harp, diversions that would no doubt resonate with the doomed guests in the story.

Virginia succumbed to the disease in 1847, almost two years after the story was revised and re-titled from "The Mask of the Red Death" to "The Masque of the Red Death." She died in a humble home in The Bronx, now preserved as the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage.

Edgar and Virginia's last home together in Fordham, The Bronx. Via Zoirusha

New diseases have since sprouted to succeed the dangers of tuberculosis, and thankfully, pharmaceutical developments are keeping up. Art can beget suffering, yes, but no one wishes now it would come at the price Edgar or his wife paid.

P.S. There was a direct retelling of "The Masque of the Red Death" in cinemas, courtesy of Roger Corman in 1964. The namesake film was filmed on a sound stage at the Elstree Studios in Britain.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Where Is 'Dexter's Laboratory'?


Can you believe it has been 20 years since a ginger boy genius fused atoms in our hearts? Cartoon Network debuted its first fully animated original series in 1996 with "Dexter's Laboratory," about a boy who is as smart as he is diminutive. He's the OG child prodigy in cartoonlandia, paving the way for Phineas and Ferb, Jimmy Neutron, Johnny Test, and other smart-alecky permutations.

Dexter's Lab...on the surface.

According to canon, Dexter and his family live in a town called Genius Grove. In real-life America, that would be Santa Monica or somewhere in Silicon Valley. The median erudition in these places is off the charts; you could find a future Dexter or Mandark here.

Dexter might live in suburban America but you won't be able to place his accent stateside. While fan theories chalk up his peculiar speech to Asperger's syndrome, it's actually rooted in the Russian diaspora. Creator Genndy Tartakovsky and his family emigrated from Moscow to Ohio in the late 1970s.

Welcome to Silicon Valley, where cerebral minds hold court.

Genndy clearly took his fish-out-of-water experience to the bank. Dexter was actually modeled on his brainy big bro Alex, now a computer scientist. Growing up in a predominantly Russian neighborhood in Chicago, Genndy would pester Alex, engrossed in his science projects.

That's right. Dee Dee is Genndy in the real world.

Wherever Dexter's Laboratory is, behind someone's bookshelf in Illinois or under a nondescript house in California, our neurons are still firing up with fondness for this whiz kid decades later. Genndy has since moved on from Dexter to Dracula. Don't worry, as we've triangulated his digs too.

There's a sizable Russian neighborhood in Chicago's Ukrainian Village. Photo via Adam Jones

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