Star Trek Ends with a Whimper

[Commentary] | [Spoilers]

I have always been a fan of Star Trek. The first three series are wonderful. Then came Voyager. The series premiere was promising and then the series quickly tanked. I skipped most of it but decided to check out the finale. Horrible.

Then there was Enterprise. Started out promising and then quickly tanked…until this season, when they brought in new writers and remembered that the series was related to Star Trek. The last four or five episodes were quite entertaining, including the second-to-last episode with its alien/human pathos and emotional ending.

Enterprise should have ended there. Instead, Rick Berman and Brannon Braga created something horrible to spit on everyone around them, including the fans.

SPOILERS AHEAD.

Problem 1 – The finale was not an Enterprise episode. It was a Next Generation episode.

Problem 2 – Same as number one, but instead of being a new Next Generation episode, it is filler for a season seven episode. Should Riker tell Picard about the cloaking experiment? Lets ask the Enterprise crew for advice!

Problem 3 – Riker and Troi do not look the same age at all! Nothing fit in!

Problem 4 – Data? Wow. That’s right, he use to be alive, before he was killed off (more horrible writing in Nemesis.) And as thanks we get a few lame jokes?

Problem 5 – Tucker dies. The brilliant engineer cannot come up with a different plan? And then, no one seems to be all that broken up about it. Oh, and for some reason it is important to know that after the death of their baby, T’Pol and Tucker dated for awhile, broke up, and now he is dead. WTF?

Anyway, I could go on and on but it just makes me more angry. Sure, the show was already horrible (until those last few episodes.) Sure writers can write whatever they please. But to piss on the fans in this way…I’m sure it comes out of anger that Berman and Braga had been demoted by Paramount, anger that the fans had turned away from their tripe long ago, anger that they were not getting the praise they use to get on Next Generation.

What a way to end such an incredible part of my life. It is funny…this is the year that both Star Trek and Star Wars come to an end. Maybe there will be future spin offs, but the core of both have come to an end. Both mean a lot to a lot of people, but I think it means something very special for those of us in our 30s, who were little kids when they were first exposed to both Star Trek and Star Wars, and now as adults get to watch them both end.

I really hope George Lucas treated Revenge of the Sith with more respect than Berman and Braga treated Star Trek.

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My Life – Planetary Exploration and Rapidly Accelerating Change

A little over a year ago after a few rough months I decided to start doing what I wanted to do, rather than helping other people with their own goals and dreams. I guess I just didn’t have the confidence before to strike out on my own. An acceptance letter from the University of Arizona (I had applied but didn’t expect to be accepted) provided the opportunity I needed to leave the old baggage behind and start a new life. At 31 I swallowed my fears (Am I too old? Is it too late? Can I do this on my own? Where am I going to get the money?) and moved to Tucson, Arizona.

My “freshman” year is now over. It was rough – I should have done a lot better – but taking control of my life and pursuing my own dreams has turned out to be the very best decision I have ever made. You see, I have always wanted to be a planetary scientist. Well, I am now a member of the operations team for the HiRISE camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), set to launch this August. HiRISE is a technological marvel which will allow resolution of objects on the surface of Mars as small as a meter across.

I did not expect to have a job like this until many years in the future, after I got through school. This new opportunity is a dream come true. There is no way I can put into words just how I excited I am. Everything that has happened in the past year is a direct result of my decision to pursue my own passions and maintain my own independence.

The HiRISE camera is certainly cutting edge, but new technology will make it obsolete very soon. Over on Marshal Brain’s “Robotic Nation Evidence” blog, he provides a link to information about a new robotic binocular vision technology from a company called Focus Robotics. This remarkable technology allows two robotic “eyes” to scan their environment at “[u]p to 60 frames per second of 752×480 depth information” (Focus Robotics, Processor Overview). This compares to current hazard avoidance technology used by the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity that can only scan at a few frames per second at much smaller resolutions.

This technology could enable rovers and orbiters that truly see their environment and respond to it in real time without waiting for instructions from human operators on the Earth. In fact, hazard avoidance is not the only skill this technology enables. Future probes will eventually take over all targeting tasks, currently hardcoded by programmers here on the Earth and uploaded to the probe as a set of rigid instructions through the Deep Space Network. When probes take on these targeting tasks, much of the operations work done here on the Earth will be eliminated.

Of course, such technology will eventually threaten my job, but I have never been one to pass up automation just to feel needed. There are many other ways I can participate in a planetary science mission. If automation means more rapid and comprehensive scientific results, and less repetitious and laborous work for me, then all the better. Instead of distant tools, future probes will become valuable members of science team in enviable frontline positions, returning breathtaking images of alien vistas throughout our solar system and beyond.

I am glad to finally be in a position to not only watch this incredible future unfold but actively participate in it. I challenge everyone to reconsider your current routine and take a chance on your own passions. You cannot do it without hard work and perhaps some luck, but the rewards are even better than you can imagine.

First Image of Exoplanet Confirmed

Last year astronomers working with the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile released an image of what appeared to be an exoplanet orbiting a brown dwarf. In January 2005 the Hubble Space Telescope was used to snap another image, providing initial confirmation that the two bodies were gravitationally related (previously reported on Frontier Channel.) Now, a little over a year later, the original astronomers have announced conclusive confirmation that they did in fact capture the first ever image of an exoplanet. The newest image was released yesterday by ESO.

The exoplanet, now named 2M1207b, is roughly 5 times larger than Jupiter and orbits its parent brown dwarf, 2M1207, at a distance about 55 times further out than the Earth orbits our own Sun. The finding brings to three the total number of sub-stellar sized objects that have now been photographed in the past two years. AB Pic b, orbiting a star called AB Pictoris and GQ Lup b/B, orbiting another star called GQ Lupi have also been listed as “first image” exoplanet candidates, but astronomers have not yet confirmed whether these objects are in fact exoplanets or much larger brown dwarfs.

These discoveries appear to indicate that the number of planets in our galaxy and beyond may be higher than expected, especially since it now appears planets can also form around brown dwarfs. As telescopes become more powerful, they will allow scientists to image more exoplanets, leading to the first images of Earth-sized planets orbiting other stars, perhaps in the next decade.

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