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July 17, 2013


I had an SF anthology with "The Cold Equations" when I was growing up; it's a disturbing story, but I always had trouble with the premise. Zero margin for error as SOP for space travel seems like a recipe for lots of dead space travelers.

I am looking forward to "Europa Report" hitting the theaters in a couple weeks, Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy on Slate has given it a favorable review.

"Open Water"...IN SPACE!

I wish they didn't have sound. Maybe it is supposed to be transmitted by conduction and the trailer doesn't do the film justice, but I have a feeling that they just couldn't give up having that the explosions and such for the movie

Newton probably had more in common with Blake than Blake might have realized (though I don't know how much Blake would or could have known about Newton). Keynes famously called Newton "the last of the magicians".

keynes on Newton

Priest: "I had an SF anthology with "The Cold Equations" when I was growing up; it's a disturbing story, but I always had trouble with the premise. Zero margin for error as SOP for space travel seems like a recipe for lots of dead space travelers."

Well, it would sum up the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs (and presumably the Soviet programs of the era). It was a stupid set-up, like a contrived philosophy problem, or the old 'ticking time bomb' scenario.

Question - where I live, one theater had Pacific Rim on only two screens (one regular, 3x daily, one 3D, 2x daily). To my mind, that's not how a big-screen summer action film opens, unless the theater chain has decided to kill it on opening day. From what I've gathered, those matters would be negotiated long in advance.

How did it open where you all live?


At the 24-screen place we usually go in NJ (aka "The Googleplex"), they have it:

Imax 3D, 5x a day
regular 3D, 5x
2D, 7x
So that's at least 4 screens, 17 shows per weekday.

The other big movies this week:

Despicable Me 2, 3D 6x; 2D 13x

Grown Ups 2, 2D 14X

The Imax shows probably mean that Pacific Rim was that theater's profit-leader for the week. Also, fewer low-priced kids than Despicable Me 2.

Thanks; the place I was talking about has 16 screens. Usually the blockbuster of the week would have probably 20x daily showings.

Here's the trailer, but be warned

That's nothing. Check this out:


These guys get killed on their job at amazing rates. Think about that the next time you whip out your cell phone.

The Cold Equations is one of the most debated short stories in the SF canon. If Google hadn't totally broken DejaNews, you could spend days poring over the various back and forth debates on Usenet stretching back to its earliest days.

Nitpicking the premise or particulars of the story completely misses the point. The story was written as a reaction to many similar stories where the smart guy hero figures stuff out and saves the pretty girl. In this story, there's nothing to figure out. The math can't be fooled with and the pretty girl dies.

The first time I read this story as a young teen sometime in the late 70's, early 80's, I was gobsmacked by the ending. I was reading a lot of 50's era stuff at that time and so was in somewhat the same mind set as someone who happened upon the tale in their August 1954 copy of Astounding.

As for Gravity, watching that trailer in 3D was the best thing about my Pacific Rim movie experience, and I quite liked Pacific Rim. I may have to go see the film alone because my beloved told me in no uncertain terms that there was no effin' way she's going to see it.

I saw it not as a horror movie, but as a historical costume drama.

My problem with The Cold Equations is I couldn't believe that they couldn't fiid one hundred pounds of stuff to pitch to compensate for the weight of the girl. Didn't he have a chair, a mattress, the divider doors between one part of the ship and another...? It's been years since I read the story, so I don't remember the details well. I pictured something like a Star Trek interior, only designed for one person.

I know the author was making a point, but I was a girl myself when i read he story and I know I would have been scrounging that interior for stuff to pitch. And i don't think the two characters even discussed trying to save the girl that way.

Hey, one cannot jettison government property just for the life of a stowaway. The fuel limits are there for a reason, you know.

Godwin covers that. The ship they're on is an emergency transport. It's a minimally-equipped craft. There's no extra stuff hanging around that you could chuck out the airlock.

I mean, yeah, you could nitpick the story all the hell if you wanted to. How was she able to slip on to the ship? They don't do a weight check or check for stowaways before they launch? Moreover, why would a minimal craft like that even have an airlock?

But, like I said, to do that is to completely miss the point. The whole reason for the story to exist is the outcome. Beyond that, actually, even including that, it's a pretty poor work of fiction, even by 1954 standards.

Here's the story, if anyone wants to read it.


As I said, it's not very good. It really could be half as long and make the same point. Although, when you're being paid by the word, there's some incentive for verbosity.

A better story with the same type of premise was Arthur C. Clarke's "Breaking Strain." An accident leaves an interplanetary spacecraft with only enough oxygen for one crewmember to get to the destination alive. There are two guys on board. Which one will it be? What ensues is a psychological drama.

The Apollo 13 accident was strikingly close to this scenario in real life, but I've heard it argued that they couldn't, in fact, have finessed that one by killing a crewmember, even had they not been able to find a better way.

Stanislaw Lem's radioplay 'Moon Night' has the same premise (seemingly only enough oxygen for one person) with two men in a base on the dark side of the moon. But the aim of the story is a different one. Both men know that all they do will end up on an audiotape (no viedo)that cannot be tempered with. They know that one of them must die for the other to live but neither is willing. Attempts to 'draw lots' in a way that show up on the tape (thus exonerating the winner form the chatge of murder) fail. In the end the noises indicate that they kill each other before the computer can finally finish its canned voice message (that has been interrupted repeatedly previously) that they can both survive when they electrolyse part of the drinking water and avoid all unnecessary activity that would increase the oxygen consumption.
So, here the setting is primarily about the psychology of the participants that have to deal with the fact of the 'listener' that limits their options but could at least potentially be fooled (How can I murder my colleague in a way that makes it look* like self-defense?).

*or precisely not 'look' because there is audio not video

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