Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Morph Ball & Subspace

I have a theory about how Samus’s Morph Ball works. First of all, I don’t think she actually rolls around inside a metal sphere – that would be crazy. I think the Morph Ball exists completely separately from Samus’s armor and is stored in some parallel plane of existence. When you activate it, Samus switches places with it and observes it from “subspace”, or whatever. So in the Prime games, when you are in Morph Ball mode, the game is still in first-person view; you’re seeing what Samus sees as she steers the ball around. And of course, because the Morph Ball shares whatever shielding protects Samus’s normal armor, damage to one damages the other.
Now about how she steers while doing repeated somersault jumps… I don’t have an answer for that.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Laser Rooms and Password Screens

I’m a big fan of lasers. They look cool, they do cool stuff, and the word even sounds cool. (Did you know it’s an acronym?) Maybe that’s why it kind of bugs me when they are misused in supposedly-realistic fiction. Like in movies and TV shows, where there’s a room full of lasers protecting a room or a vault or something. Here are my complaints about that:

  1. Lasers are light beams, so you can’t see them unless they hit something. If you could, you’d see sunlight coming out of the air, and you couldn’t see anything at all because of the glare. So unless there’s dust in the room, if you can see the lasers in one of those laser rooms, you already know that the movie or TV show has screwed up. (And if you can see dust without the intruders putting it there, that’s fake too – why would you want the lasers to be visible if you’re the one they’re protecting?)
  2. There’s always a path through them, for someone athletic enough. Why? Given the number of lasers in these rooms, you could easily just make a dense grid, instead of spreading them out across a wide area, creating person-sized gaps.
  3. When they move, that looks like added security, but it’s also totally fake. Laser sensors work because a sensor in the wall is continuously picking up the laser light. When you step in the way, the signal stops, and the alarm goes off. If the laser is moving around the room, you’d have to have the sensor moving around the room too, which you couldn’t do (and which is clearly not happening in shows that do this).
  4. When the lasers cut stuff, that also feels a little off. Of course lasers can cut things, but it would take a lot of power to have them on, and of course the “sensor” on the other end would have to be absorbing the laser energy somehow. It would be a lot more efficient to have the lasers just be sensors, and then have guns mounted in the wall that fire when the sensor goes off.
  5. In movies and TV, these elaborate security devices never, ever work. Have you ever seen a laser room in a show that the person trying to break in didn’t get past? I didn’t think so.

Speaking of things that never work, I just remembered something else that always happens in fiction that bugs me so much that I added it to the title: People logging on to other people’s computers. I’m not talking about someone’s house, where there’s no password at all. I’m talking about folks guessing a one-word password, or just glancing over at the screen of some employee who has been lured away from his or her desk. No self-respecting corporation lets its employees leave computers unlocked or pick passwords that are a single word from a dictionary. Sure, you could probably crack most people’s passwords with brute force software (that is, guessing thousands of times in quick succession). But a human guessing words? Not a chance. But it happens all the time in even the most “serious” tech-fiction.

There. I’ve said it. I feel better now.

Monday, June 4, 2012

“Pro” Singers in Congregations

We do a lot of singing in church. Abilities range widely, and of course that’s not an issue at all. I figure the main value from hymns is the message behind them, plus the sense of unity that comes from singing them together. And it invites the Spirit.

There’s one thing that bugs me though. It’s when someone feels like they’re so talented at singing that they need to belt the hymn out so loudly that you can’t focus on anything but them, and – this is the worst part – when they add that operatic pitch-fluxuating “flair” to their voice. I’m sure works fine on a stage, when the audience is supposed to be listening to one person (or a group singing in a predetermined harmony). But when you throw that kind of thing in with a hundred other voices, it just sounds bad. I’m sure the people who do this aren’t consciously trying to draw attention; they probably just think they need to put their “best” into it because after all it’s sort of a prayer. But come on, “best” doesn’t always mean “most elaborate.” I learned this in eighth grade choir – when you’re singing in a group, your goal is to blend in with the group so that no one notices your individual voice. You just hit the note and call it good.

So let the reader beware, lest you inadvertently drive the folks around you crazy next time you’re sitting in church. Thank you.