BAN #225: Horizontal rule, Logan’s updated Run

8 June 2020   Issue #225

[Spiral Galaxy M81 image credit: Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona]

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About this newsletter

Ooo, meta

Substack.com (this newsletter’s host) has been running a series of tutorials and Q&As about writing and promoting newsletters, and I’ve been watching them to keep an eye on ways to improve the BAN. I’ll be playing with some ideas coming up soon, but as I was brainstorming I tried to think of ways of making it more visually interesting.

One small change you may have noticed is that newsletter sections used to be separated by a horizontal line, but I’ve replaced it with a very long and thin image of a galaxy: specifically NGC 4565.

I wanted to use an image as a separator, but making a long thin star field wasn’t working (it was either too crowded or looked odd at the aspect ratio I needed). That’s when I decided to look for edge-on galaxies, since they already have the right proportions. There are several good ones, and NGC 4565 was one I knew right away would work.

It’s a spiral galaxy, meaning it has a wide, flat disk of stars, but we see it at almost exactly edge-on, so it looks like the flat disk it is. This image was taken by astrophotographer Ken Crawford, and the full field version is a beauty:

[NGC 4565. Credit: Ken Crawford

Dust clouds tend to be very near the midplane of spirals, as you can see here; the dust splits the disk of the galaxy right across the center. The central bulge is obvious, too. The ends of the disk are warped, too, which is common in disk galaxies. The Milky Way’s is warped the same way, as is Andromeda’s! This can happen from collisions or near passes by other galaxies; the gravitational interaction sets up a wave that flares the ends of the disk like a vinyl LP left in the Sun. [Note: The image showing the Milky Way’s warp in the article linked above is actually using NGC 4565 as a stand-in!]

NGC 4565 is about 30 million light years away toward the constellation of Coma Berenices, and is part of a small galaxy group called Coma I.

So there! Not only are the articles of this newsletter educational, but so are the bones of its structure themselves! I do enjoy giving y’all extra bonus science when I can. Enjoy.

Personal Stuff

Yeah, but not too personal

I was futzing around doing something over the weekend, and for some reason started thinking about the movie “Logan’s Run”*. If you’ve never heard of it — you young whippersnappers you <shakes fist> — it’s a dystopian scifi movie that came out in 1976. It takes place centuries from now, and people live in a domed city doing nothing but enjoying themselves in a hedonistic lifestyle. It’s run by a computer, and the catch is no one is allowed to live past 30, enforced by the computer… but they’ve been told and they truly believe they’ll be renewed, reborn.

The computer, however, senses there’s a problem in paradise, and sends Logan 5 out to find out what. I won’t spoil any more of it.

I remember seeing it in the theater, and I’m pretty sure it was the first movie I went back to see multiple times (if you’re young enough, that might sound weird, but movies would stay in the theaters for weeks or months, and it was common to go back to see ones you really liked).

I was pretty young, and some of it influenced me pretty heavily (oh, Jenny Agutter… you may know her as one of the Council members from “The Avengers” and “Winter Soldier”, but to me she will always be Jessica 6). I was talking with a friend a few months ago about older movies ripe for updating and remaking, and we both agreed “Logan’s Run” is a no-brainer. It’s been in development for years, but I don’t know what the current status of it is.

I can’t watch it with him, obviously now, so I decided on a whim to watch it (it’s on Amazon if you like). A lot of it holds up, actually very well, including a lot of the themes. The production and acting, though… well, it was 1976. Forgive them.

One thing that leapt out at me was in this utopian paradise of young, beautiful people… they’re all white. I mean, all of them. No black folks, no Asians, no Latinx. Just white people (some speak in an American accent and some British, which is a little weird given the circumstances).

[A scene from “Logans’ Run”. Can you spot the black person? (Hint: No you can’t.) Credit: Warner Brothers.]

When I was 12 or whatever that didn’t faze me. Hell, it never would’ve occurred to me otherwise. I lived in suburban Washington DC and nearly everyone in my area was white, with very few exceptions. I was extremely isolated from any sort of diversity, and that was just the way the world was. I wrote about this recently; I lived in quite the bubble, privilege if you want, and if there was a future where people did and got whatever they wanted in a domed city then of course it was all white people.

It took a long time to pop that particular bubble around me, and I think I’m outside it now. I’m still adjusting to it, but I like it. The view is better, and it’s a much bigger and more interesting world out here.

If there’s any analogy here to the movie’s plot, well, watch it and see. You’ll find it.

But I still do think this movie could be redone, and redone well. It need not be the gritty reboot style which is still popular, but it does need to show the contrast between hedonism and actually living life, and the value of age and wisdom versus youth and beauty. And if they made it now, I can even easily picture a role for Michael York in it, too.

Oh, spoilers for that. If you haven’t seen it, then never you mind (but if you do the role will be obvious). But no matter what, if someone who has a grasp of the issues and a keen social awareness were to tackle this remake, then I will be first in line at the theater to see it (assuming theaters will still exist in this actual dystopian present in which we currently live).

* Ah, as I wrote this I remembered why I was thinking of this movie! I was listening to some classical music today (I think it was Prokoviev’s 7th symphony, which I hadn’t heard before) and there was a chord progression that reminded me of the movie’s soundtrack, the eerie, melancholy trumpets as the camera pans over the domed city both at the beginning and end of the movie. I can’t believe that stuck with me for all these years. Wow. Another reason I love listening to soundtracks.

Blog Jam

What I’ve recently written on the blog, ICYMI

[The shadow of Jupiter’s moon Io on its cloud tops. From Monday’s post. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill]

Monday 1 June, 2020: What would a solar eclipse look like on Jupiter? But with more volcanoes?

Tuesday 2 June, 2020: Got lithium? Thank a long-gone explodey white dwarf

Wednesday 3 June, 2020: [No post due to the social unrest in the country]

Thursday 4 June, 2020: Is the alien chunk 'Oumuamua actually a hydrogen iceberg?

Friday 5 June, 2020: No, we’re not in any danger from an asteroid passing Earth Saturday night

Et alia

You can email me at thebadastronomer@gmail.com (though replies can take a while), and all my social media outlets are gathered together at about.me. Also, if you don’t already, please subscribe to this newsletter! And feel free to tell a friend or nine, too. Thanks!