SciFi Friday: All Star Trek Edition, With Musical Number

There are a number of rumors this week regarding casting and possible plot for the upcoming Star Trek movie. Zachary Quinto has also given a number of interviews which may contain some clues as to the direction Abrams intends to take with Star Trek. It wasn’t at all surprising to learn that this could be the first of a new series of movies. In response to one question, Quinto said “It is a multiple picture deal, yeah. If there end up being sequels, that remains to be seen. There’s more than one movie attached to this one.” Quinto also had some comments on how he will be portraying Spock:

The interesting thing is that you meet this character before you ever knew him on the television series and the other movies, so sort of what you know about him and then also an exploration of how he got to that point. All of the characters, not just Spock.

Other than for Quinto being cast as Spock, much of the casting has not yet been set. The Trek Movie Report says that Zoë Saldana has been offered the role of Uhura. Saldana appreared in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl but also played a Trekkie in The Terminal


There’s also news of another former Star Trek cast member appearing on television next season. John Billingsley, who played Phlox on Star Trek: Voyager and appeared in The Nine last season, will have a role on 24 next season.

Ain’t It Cool News has rumors on the plot of the upcoming Star Trek movie. Keep in mind that this rumor may or may not be valid, and even if accurate might not apply to the final movie. This idea does allow Abrams to work in both the young and older Spock, as well as get around potential continuity problems. Reportedly Romulans wind up in the past and decide to change the time line by killing a young James T. Kirk. The older Spock goes back in time to prevent this plot, however might wind up creating a different time line. Subsequent movies would take place in this new time line in which many things would be the same but there could be differences.

Unless Abrams has some remarkable ideas for this new time line (assuming there is even any truth to this) I’m not sure this is a good idea. There are plenty of stories which could still be told without violating the continuity of the original stories. Of course fans might have to give Abrams a little leeway and not worry about every trivial point.

Can the science of Star Trek come true? Slice of SciFi has had some recent stories suggesting possible situations in which this can occur. One technology might lead to a device comparable to the holodeck:

A technology dubbed “autostereoscopic light field display” makes the claim it is able to present interactive 3D graphics to multiple simultaneous viewers 360 degrees around the display.

The USC developers of the device — Andrew Jones, Ian McDowall, Hideshi Yamada, Mark Bolas and Paul Debevec — describe it this way in their abstract:

The display consists of a high-speed video projector, a spinning mirror covered by a holographic diffuser, and FPGA circuitry to decode specially rendered DVI video signals. The display uses a standard programmable graphics card to render over 5,000 images per second of interactive 3D graphics, projecting 360-degree views with 1.25 degree separation up to 20 updates per second.

We describe the system’s projection geometry and its calibration process, and we present a multiple-center-of-projection rendering technique for creating perspective-correct images from arbitrary viewpoints around the display. Our projection technique allows correct vertical perspective and parallax to be rendered for any height and distance when these parameters are known, and we demonstrate this effect with interactive raster graphics using a tracking system to measure the viewer’s height and distance. We further apply our projection technique to the display of photographed light fields with accurate horizontal and vertical parallax.

Another story reports on possible energy weapons which could be developed to use against insurgents in Iraq.

As I’m spending the weekend at the Grand Hotel Jazz Festival, I thought I should end this week’s edition of SciFi Friday with a musical number. Members of various casts of Star Trek do the Time Warp:


Poll Shows Connecticut Voters Support Secular Politics

While they are not be representative of voters nation wide, Connecticut voters are firm believers in secular politics regardless of their religious views according to a poll conducted by the Hartford Courant. The poll found that Connecticut voters felt there was too much influence of religion in politics compared to only 32% who approved of the current amount.

This view makes residents distinct from Americans across the country. In addition to the half of Constitution state residents who feel religion has too much influence on American politics, 32% say organized religion’s influence on politics is “about right,” and only 17% feel religion’s influence is not enough. In stark contrast to these views, Americans as a whole are evenly divided over the influence of religion. Only 32% feel religion has too much influence, 31% think it has too little influence, and 29% feel the balance is right, according to a Newsweek poll conducted earlier this year.

Connecticut voters oppose religious leaders becoming involved in electoral politics and public policy:

Consistent with the view that religion is too influential politically, Connecticut residents oppose political leaders becoming involved in both electoral politics and public policy. In the electoral realm, 70% of residents feel religious leaders should not encourage voters to support or oppose a particular candidate. Only 25% feel that religious leaders should do so.
The Courant / CSRA survey demonstrates that residents also oppose religious leaders trying to affect politicians’ policy positions. Two-thirds (66%) believe leaders should not try to influence politicians’ views on issues. Only 27% believe religious leaders should try to influence politicians’ issue positions.

Even the most religious residents of the Nutmeg state oppose religious leaders taking these political actions. Among those residents who say religion is “extremely important” in their lives, 64% oppose religious leaders urging support or opposition to candidates for office. When it comes to political issues, 51% of the most religious feel religious leaders should not try to influence politicians, while 42% believe they should…

Connecticut residents are also clear about keeping religion out of government policy. Sixty-eight percent feel that politicians should not rely on their own religious beliefs to make policy decisions. Only 26% of residents support politicians mixing personal religion and policy.

More broadly, Connecticut residents believe in a strict separation of church and state. Sixty-seven percent would rather see a “high degree of separation between church and state” while 27% believe the government should “protect America’s religious heritage.”

Americans United for Separation of Church and State discussed this poll and the reasons quoted the views of an Episcopal priest regarding the importance of differentiating between religious belief and public policy:

Episcopal priest Tom Ehrich explained in a recent Religion News Service column why fusing religious belief and public policy is dangerous.

“What we learned from Europe’s religious wars and from the more recent horror of the Taliban isn’t some historical footnote,” wrote Ehrich. “It’s the reason we keep religion out of political life.”

He continued, “Power corrupts everyone who holds it, but corruption and carnage increase exponentially when the religious hold political and cultural power. Religious zealots can’t handle the reins. They don’t know how to compromise. They don’t know how to admit error. They don’t know how to encourage freedom and the many unexpected places freedom will lead.”

This does not mean that people of faith should not participate in politics. They absolutely should, but they cannot depend on government to satisfy, in Ehrich’s words, their “yearning for a deeper faith, for beliefs that make sense of a confusing and dangerous world, for a sense of God as deeply engaged with us in seeking a just society.”

Ehrich wrote that everyone – from politicians to school children – must remember “American values are expressed in the Constitution, not in the Law of Moses or the Quran.

“If history teaches nothing else,” he concludes, “it teaches that religion makes a mess of government and society when it has too much power. There is no reason to think that today’s theocrats would behave any more admirably.”