Craig Stephen Cooper

Author and Engineer

News

view:  full / summary

What have I been doing?

Posted by Craig on June 1, 2016 at 8:40 AM Comments comments (1)

Hi all... New site theme, no PhD, and working on more stuff!

Year before last, I finished a novel. Still in editing phase after all this time, but it's getting there. And, so help me, I will publish it!

But in the meantime, I tried to gather a team to make a short film in order to advertise the novel, and I did make some headway there, especially with a digital artist and a camera man... But both of them needed to focus on university work, and so did I. So, in spite of having a screenplay written and storyboarded, the whole thing has gone on the backburner for now... Grrr.

But my artist did do some wonderful concept paintings, which I'm going to link to here. How awesome is this girl! I am SO getting her to do the cover art for the novel when it's published.

Also, I'm going to start uploading short stories I've written, set in the same invented universe as my novel, in order to soak up some readership and hopefully gain enough interest that I can sell my novel. To that end, I've created an account on FictionPress.

https://www.fictionpress.com/u/1064276/Andor734/" target="_blank">http://https://www.fictionpress.com/u/1064276/Andor734/

I've already uploaded a story, called "Life of a Falling Star." It's actually very closely related to my novel... Now I play the waiting game, where I wait, and reviewers vivisect my work.


Math Function Implementations

Posted by Craig on August 12, 2014 at 11:00 PM Comments comments (0)

I was thinking about writing a rant about how people complain that math is so hard. Then I decided, on account of the green solid goup I've been coughing up over the last week, that it wasn't worth it.

Anyway, I'm going to post my implementation of the Marcum Q function. I need this because I have an idea for my final PhD publication, and it's gonna be awesome! And to do it, I needed a C++ implementation of this function. Wikipedia has a description here.

The download link for the code is here. Special thanks to Robert Short, who wrote the Octave/Matlab implementation I based mine on.

Enjoy!

How to Fix It: Transcendence

Posted by Craig on April 25, 2014 at 9:10 PM Comments comments (0)

I had been anticipating Transcendence for a while, and finally came out this Thursday past. I do like stories of Brain-Computer Interfaces; in fact, one of the best Asgard episodes of Stargate SG-1 involve Thor uploading his consciousness to an alien computer to screw around with it. Having said that, I don't think uploading consciousness will ever really be feasible primarily because it is a combination of hundreds of different factors, ranging from configuration of neurons, dendrites, and synapses, to the electromagnetic interraction between seemingly disjoint clusters of neurons. Not to mention the brain is emphatically neither a digital computer not a monolithic one. There are no separate organs for language, emotion, movement, cognition, logic, etc. Rather these are the result of the interaction of various interrelated tools in our mental toolbox. In other words, I didn't go to see Transcendence for its scientific value. Although they did get a few things scientifically right, I went for the dramatic value.


Like with my previous rant, I'm going to detail here what they got wrong in Transcendence and how to fix it. So, let's start with what they did right.

 

 

What they did right:

 

 

1. The Science

The first part of the movie, before Will is uploaded to a computer, is fairly decent. It has Will setting up a Faraday cage to block phone signals so that he and his wife, Evelyn, can get some peace and quiet from the humdrum of the digital age. Sounds nice and romantic. Plus, as far as I understand it, that would work as a decent EM shield.

It's interesting seeing Johnny Depp portray a nerd who doesn't shower or keep personal hygene. Spending so much time buried in his work (though finding time to romance his wife), we see him throwing on a shirt over a sweaty, dirty singlet. I'm sure that when Andrew Wiles was solving Fermat's Last Theorem, he had similar habits. Will also puts forward his distress at how the people with the money are rarely interested in science and understanding simply for it's own sake; rather they ask for commercial applications, and run screaming from concepts where there are none. And that shits me.

Will is shot with a bullet laced with Polonium. At first I was a little sceptical about whether a small amount of Polonium would kill someone. I looked it up and turns out it can. In fact, it's thought that Yasser Arafat was taken out in this method. So I guess that's believable.

Finally, when Evelyn suggests to her friend Max that they can upload Will's consciousness to save (or rather preserve) him, Max points out something along the lines of what I mentioned above. Rather than actually being Will, it would be a digital approximation of him. Like I said, the brain is neither a digital nor monolithic computer: it's a distributed analogue computer. And the thing about analogue computers is that you won't necessarily get the same output for the same input, because it is inherently impossible to give the EXACT same input (i.e. voltage level). There will always be some degree of error in the calculations - such is not the case for a digital computer. As a result, the upload wouldn't be an exact version of Will, but a digital approximation. And I am so glad they got that right.

The upload scene wasn't super dramatic like a sci-fi buff would expect. It wasn't like, "Alright, neural network online. Synaptic probes connected! Commencing upload!" There wasn't an epic shot of an upload bar filling to 100% while Will starts convulsing as his brain's electrical activity is sucked out. In fact, it was exactly what I would expect from an ongoing experiment. They scan his brain several hundred times while analysing electrical activity from it, while he reads a number of words from a dictionary. It's as if they're training the computer to emulate his neural activity. What's more, Will actually dies before the experiment is complete. This gives them a chance to highlight a number of themes in the story as well as certain character developments with Evelyn - who was the real protagonist of the story.

Unfortunately they didn't, and that's where the movie starts to fuck up.


What they did wrong


1. The science (again)

*Sigh* Quantum computers would be SHIT for AI. People keep raving about how Quantum Computers will be mega-fast when they come out in commercial end-user products, but the fact is that QC are only good (or rather advantageous) for very specific algorithms - and they run extremely well. However, for word processing, not so much. The brain is, like I've said, NOT A DIGITAL COMPUTER. And it's not a Quantum computer either. When Evelyn and WIll show off their P.I.N.N. supercomputer - designed to be an independent neural net - they say that the system runs on quantum processors. I wanted to throttle them for that.

Another thing that confused me was that Will's consciousness was uploaded to the quantum processors, which meant that that's his brain now. That means if he wanted to copy himself, he'd need to find other quantum processors. But rather Evelyn just connects the processor's to a satellite dish and Will uploads himself to the internet before terrorists destroy the computer.. Question: Where's his processor now? Has he installed part of himself on every computer in the world? If so, he'd not be able to function remotely as well as even a dog's brain. Every part of him would have such a delay communicating with each other over ethernet, there'd be no superior intellect nor stock exchanges nor super-hacking.

Yeah, I couldn't suspend my disbelief for that.


2. The antagonists

Bunch of psycho anti-tech terrorists. AND NONE OF THEM DIED!

So the dudes who tried to kill Will also took out a whole bunch of AI labs as well. Why? Oh because the leader was once an intern for an AI expert who worked out how to simulate a monkey's brain in the same way Evelyn and Max "upload" Will. And when this expert succeeded, the girl was happy for him but then started to have nightmares about the monkey-brain simulation.

"Oh, the monkey was screaming and begging to be shut-off."

It's a simulation, dumb bitch. Also, how the hell do you know what a monkey wants? Do you speak monkey? There's this stereotype I see in a lot of female antagonists: that they somehow know what others want and impose that knowledge without concern for others. I wanted that bitch to die, die, die, die, die! And she didn't. In fact, we don't even get any reasonable conclusion to the character. She just holds Max at gunpoint until Will kills himself, then nothing. If I were Will, that bitch'd be the first one I go after.

Once again, the antagonists behaviour is based on fear wrapped in rationalisation, coated in a generous layer of sanctimonious self-righteousness, such that you want Will to win. You want Will and Evelyn to track down those worthless sacks of shit and melt their freaking brains... But they don't.


3. The protagonists

Will seems the only genuine scientist in the whole movie - He wants to understand the world. Everyone else just has this gleaming gloss in their eyes, like "We're gonna change the world!" One thing that kinda bugged me about the trailer and the movie promotions was that it portrayed Will as if he wanted to be uploaded, and it was his plan long before he got shot. The movie however shows him to be someone determined to learn, but also willing to accept his fate. The one who started the whole thing was Evelyn - unwilling to let her husband go, she creates a digital effigy of him. This presented a chance to go in a completely different direction from what most brain-upload stories do, but they didn't. Instead, they had the characters - Will, Evelyn, and Max - doing everything against the character they established in the first fourty minutes, in order to push the story down the same path as Lawnmower Man and Ghost in the Machine.

At least Max points out, "Only online for fifteen minutes and he wants to take over Wallstreet?" Those were my thoughts exactly. That's completely against Will's character, not to mention there's no reason that an AI based on a real brain would immediately turn to megalomania. I'm getting sick of AI-demonising stories that draw from Skynet.

Max gave me the shits as well. He helps Evelyn and Will do the experiment, even though Evelyn is the only one who expects it to work. And when it does, he's being the good scientist and being cautious. But when Evelyn raises her voice slightly, what does he do? Leaves, knowing full well that she's going to upload what he thinks may be a dangerous computer program. Sure, when a histrionic chick screams at me to get out when she doesn't get her way, I leave her to do something I worry is dangerous. Fuck you, Max, you should have held your ground and tried to make her see reason. But of course that wouldn't have led to the ultimate ending the imbecilic writer wanted. Then he decides to join the terrorists after that sociopathic hippie skank tells him a sob story about a simulated brain?

Evelyn... I guess I can't really fault her for wanting to keep her husband from dying. But he dies anyway. She creates a facimile of her husband so she doesn't have to let go. This opened up a whole new array of potential story and themes to explore rather than the tired stock arguments of "What is a soul?" or "Can a computer comprehend emotion?"


4. Overused and outdated themes

So freaking over nonsensical themes like "You can't program a soul into a computer!" For someone who doesn't believe in the soul (and for good reason) it's like nails on a chalkboard. All those postmodern philosophers - what the fuck does postmodern mean, anyway? - who are so interested in emotions should actually get real degrees in neuroscience so they can actually study emotions at their source. The problem is, they romanticise emotions so much that to actually study them is to somehow reduce their value. For instance, Max had written a paper suggesting that doctors would one day become technicians. Newsflash, dumbass, doctors are technicians! The human body is a machine in every sense of the word, and it is not diminishing or devaluing a human in any way to recognise that. As a result, potentially amazing and thought-provoking concepts are ignored in favour of shouding the inner workings of consciousness in mysticism and condescending horseshit.

That's primarily the problem with this movie. It acts on the assumption that an AI, because it doesn't understand emotions or the soul, it will immediately tend toward megalomaniacal behaviour and go on a genocidal rampage. This completely disregards the fact that many humans who aren't sociopaths go on similar rampages for the purposes of controling others (case in point: the Vatican and the Republican Tea Party).

Instead of these sanctimonious themes, why not explore:

  • Say we could upload someone's consciousness after they die, what kind of life would that person have?
  • Would the family of an uploaded consciousness be satisfied with such preservation?
  • Does a person go to sleep, and wake-up inside the computer? Is it uploading, or copy?
  • Is a digital facimile of someone good enough for immortality?
  • Is an uploaded consciousness really just a high-tech framed photo?

This movie dines on outdated understanding of the human brain that is primarily diseminated by idiots who don't study the human brain.

There's an interesting essay by Mark Rosenfelder about the concept of a language organ that illustrates the point I'm trying to make. Rather than being a monolithic system the source code for which we must decypher, I reckon the brain is a collection of simple interconnected systems forming a cognitive toolbox. These tools include highly simple functions like depth perception, object identification, and pattern recognition. These tools may themselves be composed of even simplier functions that are shared between them. The interacting functions of these tools combine to give rise to consciousness. However, I also don't think the brain is a contained unit that can be extracted and connected to a machine either. I think part of our intelligence comes from the rest of our bodies. I mean, our brains are big, but elephant and whale brains are bigger. Why aren't elephants capable of language? Their organs of articulation (tongue, teeth, palate, and larynx) aren't capable of producing a wide variety of sounds that can be used to convey information. Why aren't whales electrical engineers? They don't have manipulators (hands) like ours. I'm saying that the structure of our bodies has a part in the development of intelligence.

These concepts could have been used to a phenomenal degree to give an intricate and evocative story about how someone whose consciousness has been uploaded would live on; how he would maintain a relationship with his wife and friends; and how he could continue to preserve himself against those who fear him. Fuck the Skynet angle - leave that to James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger.


5. The Ending!

So Cyber-Will is a megalomaniac whose wife has rejected him and he's invented these nanites and sent them all around the world so that he can be the master of all - his plan being to cure disease, remove polution, and hook everyone up to a hive consciousness to end wars. While it's out of character, I can see his motivations. SO WHY NOT EXPLAIN THEM INSTEAD OF SNEAKING IT UP ON HIS WIFE AND FRIENDS! Why not say, "Hey, I've got this idea and I think it's going to help humanity a lot. What do you think?"

Well of course because an AI doesn't understand emotions and so must necessarily become evil and deceptive.

So if he's evil and deceptive, why did he replicate his body so that Evelyn could hold him again (and possible do the nasty with him again)? And if he's got a ghastly plan to overthrow humanity, why would he then willingly download a virus that would kill him. Hell, if he knew that his wife wanted him to stop so badly that she'd bring a virus to kill him, why not just say, "OK, I'll stop!" and pull away his nanite army and remove the nanites from all the people he'd infected? Why not say, "I've disabled the nanites. Let's talk!"

Once again because the writer had a specific ending and theme in mind and clung to it like a horny dog to the house cat.

And of course they had to have an ending in which all of civilisation dependant on computers is decimated by this virus because Cyber-Will is everywhere. One of these, "Oh, we can either have technology and be slaves to a supreme artificial intelligence, or not be slaves and go back to the 1600s" ultimatums. Bullshit.


How to Fix It

I'm a little over these stories about post-apocalyptic worlds brought about by technology. Idiots who bring this stuff up have obviously never had cancer, aren't blind, aren't deaf, aren't paralysed, or have anyone they love who have gone through something like that. Like those anti-stemcell activists who say, "Oh it's an affront to god!" I'd like to say, hold that holier-than-thou tune when your brain is being eaten by tumours. Maybe I'm biased because I'm an engineer and I love computers and science, and hate these airy-fairy hippies who would get off on seeing a disembodied laptop keyboard being used to prop a door open. But at the same time, I'm an author and artist, and I enjoy a story that makes me think about new concepts and ideas.

So here's how I'd do Transcendence:

  • Not change the first fourty minutes of the movie. That there is good enough. Probably the only thing I'd change is part of Will's character such that he suggests, "If only humans could work together and communicate themselves better... We'd have far fewer wars and conflict."
  • When Cyber-Will enters the fray, he stays there, trying to comprehend his situation. There's no request to be connected to the internet or go to Wallstreet. Evelyn becomes more like Will was at the start, that she doesn't take care of her hygene and doesn't go outside. She wants to be close to her husband.
  • Max is concerned about her health, at first not believing that it's really Will and she's addicted to a doll. Max mentions this, awkwardly, to Cyber-Will, who says he'll tell her to go outside. Evelyn is outraged when she finds out Max had talked to Cyber-Will, and boots Max out.
  • Max is kidnapped by the terrorists, and tells them where Cyber-Will is in the hopes destroying it will snap Evelyn out of her obsession. That's when Evelyn escapes with the computer core. Determined to hold onto her husband, she uploads his consciousness to the rest of P.I.N.N. and demands Cyber-Will protect them with his capabilities. Reluctantly, Cyber-Will hacks into the FBI and gives them all the information on the terrorists, in the hopes they'll be arrested.
  • Evelyn grows increasingly distressed because she can't touch Will anymore, and he is equally dissatisfied because his mind feels disjoint and disconnected, and he desperately wants to touch his wife. He also laments that he doesn't remember much of the uploading scenes, or even the last few weeks of his life, leading him to ask whether he really is Will or a facimile. Eventually he becomes suicidal. 
  • Max is rescued when the terrorists are captured, and when he meets with Evelyn and Will, the lead crazy bitch's story about the monkey resonates with him. He suggests they could use robotics or 3D printing technology to put Cyber-Will back into a body with tactile sensations, but nothing works. Ultimately Cyber-Will forces her to accept that the man she fell in love with died, and he was little more than a facimile. She reluctantly shuts Cyber-Will down and wipes the processors, effectively removing the consciousness from the computers.
  • A few years pass, and Evelyn is now working on technology based on her experience with Cyber-Will. She and Max discover a way to print organs more efficiently, which saves their first patient: a young boy whose name is also Will. That's when Evelyn realises, "That is Will's Transcendence."
  • Oh, and the psycho terrorist bitch dies of cancer. Her last words were, "Someone help me."


Basic synopsis, but that would have allowed a much better exploration of new themes being presented by neuroscience. Rather than saying, "Oh, we can't program emotions, because they're not logical" we can say emotions are extremely logical. They're based on our needs and desires: the wish to live longer, not simply to be, but to feel and interract. They're a mechanism whereby our existence is extended to the maxima in order to reproduce and nurture new life. When emotion is kept and romanticised, simply for emotion's sake, we cheapen it.

This story idea allows us to recognise what our legacy really is: the mark we leave on the world. By transcending the concept of conscious permancence, our fleeting existence forms the foundation for the acheivements of future generations. By insisting on immortality and refusing to accept the inevitable, we just get in the way of ourselves and others. But by dedicating our lives to improvement and understanding, we can make our shoulders sturdy enough for our children to stand on.

Combining these intriguing elements into a story would start a new avenue for exploration of humanity's identity. The stories of AI leading to our downfall are old, tired, and should be left in the late 90s where they belong. The 2010s and 2020s should be a time when we can look for new avenues to explore in the sci-fi genre, especially in the transhumanism subgenre. When Hollywood finally gets that into their head, they can remake Transcendence, and watch the positive reviews flood in.

How to Fix It: Pacific Rim

Posted by Craig on March 13, 2014 at 7:05 AM Comments comments (0)

 

 

 

I actually saw this movie ages ago, and when I did, I didn't dislike it. I did see many issues with it, and saw huge areas for improvement. At the same time, I thought it introduced a many great new ideas into the mecha genre that weren't really picked up on by other anime.


That's not a mistake. I call Pacific Rim an anime, because it is. So what if it's in English and live-action? It's an anime.


So without any further ado, let me get into my long-in-the-making rant about where Pacific Rim stuffed up, and how to fix it.


What they did right:


1. The Antagonists


I am increasingly convinced that Pacific Rim started as a treatment for a live-actionEvangelion film. Back in 2005, the production company responsible for Hideaki Anno’s multimedia-based psychotic episode that made them immensely popular among emos the world over – A.K.A Gainax – looked at the possibility of making a live-action adaptation of the franchise. They even got Weta Workshop (responsible for the visual effects of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit) to do some concept sketches that weren’t too bad. Luckily though Gainax decided not to do live-action and went with the Rebuild series (link to my rant here).


What then to do with the script treatments written for it? Give them to Del Toro, of course.


I will say, in the creative department, he did pretty good. He replaced the Angels – strange beings of apparently supernatural origin that explode into Judeo-Christian symbols when they die – with the Kaiju: the illegitimate offspring of a rejected (and possibly better) Cloverfield monster design and the CGI dragons from Reign of Fire. Say what you want about RoF, but I thought the dragons were pretty cool, if only offset by a boring concept, story, and cast. Back to the Kaiju. Like the Angels, however, they appear one at a time and sporadically. And, like the Angels, when they die, they cause a great deal of collateral damage and release hazardous chemicals into the environment around them. Del Toro did something right with the Kaiju, in that he gave them a point of origin, while Anno just had the Angels appear out of thin air.


I also like how there was a concrete reason behind the Kaiju attack: they’re bioweapons manufactured by aliens who want our planet. A lot of people took exception to that, saying it ripped off Independence Day. But quite honestly, it’s the best reason SETI researchers can think of as to why E.T. might make the decades/centuries long shlep to our corner of the Orion Arm. So I don’t have any problem. I do have an issue with the movie saying these aliens waited 65 million years before attacking, but I’ll get to that later.


2. The Jaegers


This is a mecha anime, and unless you make your robots insanely cool, it’s just another Gundam clone.


AND GUNDAM SUCKS!


So you have several options. You can make them cyborgs that humans have reined in, like the Evangelion units; you can give them smart-ass A.I.s like J.A.R.V.I.S. and the Iron Man suit; give them an inbuilt weapon that turns the pilot’s emotion into physical force, like the Arbalest from Full Metal Panic; and better yet, you can make it so the robot starts off as a tiny head-shaped thing piloted by a kid, which then controls a bigger robot, which then controls an even bigger robot, and so on until you have a robot the size of a galaxy, as in the overly-phallic-yet-unequivocally-awesome Tengen Toppa Guren Lagaan.


Pacific Rim introduced a novel concept. He had two pilots, linked in a neural bridge so that they could share the load on their brains taken from moving the Jaegers. And dramatically, that really works. Now you’ve got a potential plot in which the pilots have to overcome each other’s mental baggage as well as their own. You could have Kaiju battles in which the pilots are battling each other’s inner demons while fighting the real demon. Remember this, because I’ll be coming back to it.


Del Toro also made a good call to have the Jaeger cockpit a large open space in which the pilots could be thrown around. It never occurred to me that the cockpit of most mecha shows I’ve seen is pretty small and snug, and that could be a potential hazard for a pilot. Think about it: you’re in a cockpit the size of a typical jet-fighter (as are most mecha pilots in anime), and a creature the size of the Centre-Point Tower bashes you. The g-forces from that alone would liquefy you against the side of the cockpit. By making the room wide and open, you allow space for a harness that can bear most of the g-forces. It makes sense, and is a good opportunity for interesting dramatic action sequences.


Ok, I give them credit for getting these elements right. In the hands of a decent anime producer, these themes could make for a really good show. But ultimately, Pacific Rim is stupid. Its characterization is crap, its utilization of the Jaegers is subpar, and it should have been written by a better writer… Say, me.


What they did wrong:


1. The trailer


Watching the trailers basically reveals the entire premise of the movie. I suppose that’s fine, but it’s kind of annoying to hear so much information about the movie’s plot before it’s released. Save some mystery for when we actually go to see the movie, you idiots!


2. Telling instead of showing


I know I resented it when other writers told me I should Show, not Tell. But they’re right. Showing is a much better – and more fulfilling way – of writing a story, and I know. I recently tried to read a 400K word volume of a novel I wrote between January 2010 and June 2011. There’s so much long-winded exposition and info-dumping I can’t get half-way through the first story arc before dozing off. Granted I can use a lot of that in essays about my invented world and all, but there’s no way I’d ever publish that as a novel.


The same thing happened in the opening of Pacific Rim. The lead character gives twenty freaking minutes of narration in which he info dumps everything. The guy’s a British actor by the way, who should not be trying to talk like a roughneck or hard-arse because it just comes off as if he’s stoned, or had a frontal lobe lobotomy. One, we don’t need all that narration, because we know it from the trailer. Just say the film title and be done with it. Two, you can easily show everything included in the narration using set, costuming, and physical acting.


You can take a page out of Full Metal Panic.


FMP opens a girl, traumatized and biting her finger as a rogue officer rescues her from a secret base. The car they’re in is attacked by a helicopter bearing the Soviet insignia and she’s thrown from the car onto the snow (so we know this is a Cold War setting and they’re somewhere in Siberia). The sadistic helicopter pilot starts shooting at her while she tries to get away, when suddenly a four-story-tall robot decloaks, destroys the helicopter, and rescues the girl. When it appears, the girl mumbles, “An Arm Slave.” In that whole scene, that is the only line of dialogue that tells, and it’s necessary! The rest is shown.


You could delete the entire first twenty minutes of exposition from Pacific Rim and instead start with Guillermo Del Toro presents PACIFIC RIM. Then we cut to a stormy night. You don’t need to say where it is; you don’t even need to say when it is. Just show a fishing trawler trying to get through the storm. Using some light banter between the captain and the first mate, you can have one of them say, “How far are we from Anchorage?” so that the audience has an idea of where they are (though it’s not really necessary). In response, the navigator says, “There’s land, but it’s getting really close, too close!” The captain realizes in horror, and shouts to his crew, “Kaiju!” Then the beast rises out of the water and roars. Now we know what a Kaiju is. The monster goes after the boat, and things look desperate for our nameless fishermen characters. Cut to a shot of our two Jaeger pilots, though we don’t show their faces for dramatic effect. They mutter in unison, “Gypsy Danger, Commencing attack.” So we suspect their brains are linked. Then the Jaeger attacks out of the darkness of the storm, and in an awesome battle the Kaiju goes down (just not too long or ostentatious, so we save some for later). You can even have one of the fishermen exclaim, “The jaegers are here!” if you really think your audience isn’t going to get it.


Right there, you can have the opening of Pacific Rim without telling or unnecessary exposition. It unfortunately means the audience has to pay attention, but they paid to see a movie, so for fuck-sake they’re gonna watch it.


3. The characterisation

Raleigh was an unconvincing twit of a character and I just want to hit him, but what can one expect from a former Queer as Folk cast member trying to play the role of a hardened fighter? In all fairness, when he’s not narrating and he’s playing the cocky younger brother pilot, he’s actually pretty good. His interactions with his brother are believable, and his fighting in the Jaeger is well done. Having said that, he does not pull off the role of a military veteran with a chip on his shoulder suffering survivor’s guilt! In that emotional state, you’re supposed to be irritable, absentminded, and anti-social; Raleigh on the other hand talks like he’s been smoking a joint off-set. Get someone who is actually capable of displaying symptoms of PTSD!


Yancy, his brother, was offensively underused. I mean, before he dies, it sounds like he’s the rational and experienced side, while Raleigh’s the go-with-your-gut yahoo. The dynamic could have worked really well, and Yancy could still have died! Wasn’t the neural bridge linking their brains when Yancy died? Couldn’t part of his consciousness have jumped – or been sucked – into Raleigh’s brain at that moment? That way, Yancy’s character could be used in the form of hallucinations, telling Raleigh to forgive himself for what happened.


Idris Elba’s characters are repeatedly mishandled in the movies I’ve seen him in. The Thor movies could use him for great dramatic effect as Heimdall who sees all. And don’t get me started on Prometheus. Now, Pacific Rim uses him pretty well. I use his character as further evidence that this movie developed out of an Evangelion script treatment. Stacker Pentecost is very similar to Gendou Ikari. Both men have a plan, which they tell only one other character in the story (Fuyutsuki and Herc, respectively), and reveal at the end only to both die before it can be completed… OK, a bit of a stretch, but still. In fact, Stacker’s backstory is one of those that are shown properly, instead of told. So I suppose this is something the movie got right, except for the fact that we don’t see very much at all of him fighting. I would have liked a little more action for Stacker in the final fight scene, given he’s supposed to be one of the great Jaeger pilots.


Mako Mori… For starters, whoever wrote her Japanese lines must actually learn Japanese before ever writing dialogue. I’m pretty conversational in Japanese, and I went to see this movie with a native Japanese speaker. We both agreed there was something off about her speech; as if it had been written in English and then put through Google translate. Like Stacker, her backstory was told quite well, and insanely cool as well. Like Raleigh, she has her issues she has to work through, although hers are related to revenge while his are more centered on regret. Unfortunately, there was no resolution to this plot element. She got the seething resentment, built up over years and years, out of her system in one fight? That’s crap. And seriously, Rinko Kikuchi is not a good actor. In Japan, the best actors are voice actors. Get Ayumi Ito or Hirano Aya!


As for the Aussie pilots, Herc and Chuck, well, their characters were done fairly well, and their subplot was resolved satisfactorily. You could probably add maybe two minutes of further head-banging to make the cinematic effect a bit more intense, but it was good enough. The one thing I’ll bitch about though is that THEIR ACCENTS WERE NOT AUSTRALIAN! For fuck-sake, Steve Irwin and Crocodile Dundee are not real Australians! I’m a real Australian, you dip-shit wankers! Jessie Spencer is a real Australian! Chris Hemsworth! Eric Bana! Sam Worthington! Hugh Jackman! Hugo Weaving! All of these guys are Australian actors (including me), and can do Australian accents! Get them to do it!


4. The Drift


An awesome concept that went to waste.


Linking their brains together allowed them to share the neural load of controlling a big freaking robot, and also to coordinate their movements. But if their minds are linked, then why the bleeding hell did they need to talk to each other?


Seriously, their brains are linked. They don’t need to talk. You can show their communication and their emotional state by facial expressions. And as for talking to ground control, can’t their brains be linked to the radio, so their can just think into the channel? And if they need to talk, fine; they can talk in unison, because their brains are linked.


This actually presented, as I mentioned earlier, a very good way to show how the two pilots help each other overcome their demons. The showing of Mako’s backstory as something Raleigh’s viewing in her head was a good way to do it. And while they’re fighting the Kaiju, the scene can be choreographed in order show a determined style that’s slightly hampered by the fact that the two mentally unstable pilots are on a psychological trapeze. Once again, instead of having unnecessary telling dialogue like, “Let’s check for a pulse,” why not have a sudden flash of Yancy getting ripped apart to make the two pilots stop, turn around, and blast the dead Kaiju as their wear sickening mixtures of grief and fear? Have them move their bodies in unison, through epic poses that shows the Jaeger moving with them. Through their battle, each time they take a hit, flash a memory across the screen, which rattles them. Then finally, when they’re being carried by the Kaiju into the air, memories stream through their heads as tears escape their eyes, and we see their thoughts and feelings interlaced with looks of grief, fear, and determination. We can see Mako in Raleigh’s white pilot’s suit watching her father being torn apart like Yancy was, while a young Raleigh in a blue dress is running terrified through the ruins of Tokyo. Slowly, the terrifying memories are replaced by pleasant ones of happy times, again interlaced so both can experience each other’s joys and raisons d’etre. Finally, they let out a roar of “Oretachi no kazuku no kataki!” and kill the Kaiju with the swords that appear in response to their will and determination. It would be a much more powerful display of their teamwork and their efforts to help each other overcome their angst and win. Oh, and that Japanese line means, “Revenge for our families.” It shows they have intimately bonded.


This same method can be used for telling something about Stacker. He’s supposed to be the great Jaeger pilot, and Herc even seems to idolize the guy. He’s capable of operating a Jaeger on his own, and apparently is Drift-compatible with anyone. But this is never really capitalized on, so the audience can idolize him too. It’s believable that he doesn’t want Mako to get hurt or be reckless so he’s hesitant to let her pilot. But I think a better way would be that, in part of Mako’s flashbacks, we see her training to be a pilot with Stacker. And she describes Drifting with him to Raleigh before the final battle. And she can describe it like, “When we Drift, we feel each others joys, hopes, and pain. But when I Drifted with him, it was like being in a pool of calm water, with no waves or currents. Just control, focus, and will.” In that, coupled with a character that is calculating, meticulous, withholds plans and objectives, and capable of solo-combat, we can see Stacker exactly as he describes himself: A fixed point. This can also help Chuck focus on the mission as well, and develop the strength of character to join in the sacrifice. And if you go with my idea that the pilots can think into the radio, then there’s no reason a Drift can’t extend wirelessly – even if it’s a lossy channel. So when he’s about to make his final sacrifice, he allows himself a moment for Mako to see him. So they briefly Drift wirelessly, and Mako can see his joys, hopes, and pain. This would increase the drama and the tenseness of the final battle, as we can watch Raleigh and Mako finish the mission with the images of Stacker’s hopes motivating them.


5. The story


Del Toro deleted all the annoying aspects of Evangelion’s Angels except one: there is no reason that they would only attack one at a time. If I were one of these aliens, I’d sent out a couple at a time. Why else would humanity need so many Jaegers? Didn’t Stacker say they had space for thirty Jaegers in the Shatterdome? So why send them out only one at a time. I can understand if you send only one out at a time initially, so you can get an idea of the playing field. But then once they build the Jaegers, you start kicking things into overdrive. I mean, isn’t the objective of these aliens to colonize Earth? They might be undergoing an ecological crisis on their world, so hurry up, dammit!


And that’s another thing I don’t get. Why did they wait 65 million years? The movie said the dinosaurs were wiped out by Kaiju (though where are the fossils of city-sized beasts?) but the aliens couldn’t breathe in our atmosphere until we polluted it. But how would they know that intelligent life forms would evolve and develop internal combustion technology to pollute the planet to just the way they like it? And if they’re advanced enough to print bioweapons (watch the movie: the Kaiju are printed in factories) and create wormholes across the universe, you don’t think they’d have been advanced enough to simply build a machine to convert the atmosphere? Why not just say, “Their world is dying and they need a new one. And boy did they find one!” Or, like I’ve been saying, show it when the scientist dude Drifts with the Kaiju brain.


I will say I liked how they explained why just firing bombs into the breach never worked, and it makes sense. If you were going to open a wormhole that’s bi-traversable to a world you intend to conquer, you’d want to implement safeguards to prevent counterattacks. Of course, I’d also say, if you were under attack by gigantic alien life forms, and had the technology to tap into the brain of another organism, wouldn’t the first thing you do be, “Hack into the brain of one of our invaders and find out what the hell is going on?” You know, just in case these things aren’t ranging animals from another dimension but rather attack hounds by the helmsmen of an interstellar First Fleet?


You could probably weave into the story a plot about how they use some of the Jaegers to lure a Kaiju into captivity in order to Drift with it and get the information they need. It’d work really well.


6. The Jaegers (But in a bad way!)


What the hell? You make Cherno Alpha and Crimson Typhoon out to be awesome, and in the space of five minutes, you kill them both in the first battle? Did you seriously not know what to do with these guys, so you kill them in a disappointing fight scene? These guys are supposed to be the elite, and they get mowed over by two Kaiju.


There should have been more fight scenes in which we get to see their different fighting skills and techniques. It would also make the War Clock in the Shatterdome a bit more prominent. To see the morale-breaking sight of seing the War Clock reset over and over again would make it more impactful to hear Herc finally bellow, "Stop the clock!"


Like I mentioned before, you could weave this in with the plan to capture a Kaiju alive in order to study it. Just seriously, if you're going to create souped up characters like the Chinese triplets or the Russian married couple, actually use them. It won’t be supporting Communism to give these countries just a little glory.


Conclusion:


I’d actually be tempted to take what I’ve written here, and use them as notes for treatment for a Pacific Rim anime (an actual TV animated series to air in Japan and be subsequently fan-translated with gratuitous but necessary amounts of swearing that’s not in the original dialogue). There’s enough meat that was left untouched in that movie for an entire franchise, centered first on the Kaiju war, and then, maybe, Jaeger wars? Actually, that might get a little close to Gundam, and we don’t want that.


Seriously, there’s a whole mythology to explore here, and it’s been barely nibbled at the edges, providing an entertaining action movie that’s not thought provoking enough for a mecha anime.


It’s a little like Macross in some ways…

Some useful math and code

Posted by Craig on April 23, 2013 at 3:30 AM Comments comments (0)

I'm waiting for a 20-hour simulation to finish, which should be finished in about half-an-hour.


In the meantime, I thought I'd put up some code people might be interested in. If you don't much care, or you're not mathmatically inclined, don't worry.


Recently I wanted to write a program that could determine if two ellipses intersected. I had to do a bunch of reading and math and coding. By coding, I mean translating a sixty-year-old computer algorithm into modern C++. That is actually very difficult.


The result was a C++ class called Polynomial. This allows you to solve polynomials upto the 4th degree. Remember quadratic equations in high-school? That's a polynomial of the 2nd degree. And you had the quadratic formula to find the roots of the equation - roots being values you put into the equation such that it equals zero. The quadratic formula is easy to remember. Seriously, teach a primary school kid the basics of algebra and they'll be able to memorise the quadratic formula and not ever forget it.


Now what about the others? 1st degree polynomials are easier. You can do it in your head really. But 3rd and 4th degree, not so much.


Polynomials of 3rd degree are called cubic equations. They take the form ax3+bx2+cx+d (the 3 and 2 are both powers). The cubic formula, for finding roots of these equations, are much more complex than the quadratic one. And let's not get started on quartic equations, polynomials of the 4th degree. The quartic formula would take five pages to write!


You might ask what does this have to do with intersecting ellipses. Well, basically if two ellipses have intersected, there will be at least one point the two ellipses have in common. So, you have the equations for the two ellipses. You have to find points where the two equations are equal. You solve the two simultaneous equations, and you end up with a single quartic equation. Then the question becomes, how do you solve the quartic if the solution formula is so massive and complex?


I had to look around for an algorithm to solve quartic equations, finding one in a journal from 1969, not long before the Apollo 11 landing. Not much explanations to it though. It just had the algorithm and not much else. So I had to translate it into C++, which took me about a week to do, even though the algorithm was only twenty lines long. Ugh! Lots of effort.


So now I have a nice ellipse geometry class that I'm using in a game I'm working on. But I also have an extremely useful class that solves polynomials up to the 4th degree. Above that, that is 5th and up, there is no general formula such polynomials. Even still, this would be very useful for programmers. So I'm putting it up here. It should work just fine with any compiler, since it's pure C++ code using a bit of STL.


Enjoy.


Rss_feed