Adam Frank:

For all the power of modern science, we are masters of only one of these forces: electromagnetism. Laptops, smartphones, wirelessly connected thermostats, Google Glass — all our high-tech miracles exist because we’ve learned to control the electromagnetic force at the subtlest of levels. We routinely nudge electrons around circuits with the precision of an atomic watchmaker and coerce light to do our bidding with the barest of whispers. When it comes to electromagnetism, we have powers that are almost godlike.

With the other three, we’re not even close. Consider nuclear power plants. Yes, they rely on our remarkable knowledge of the strong and weak nuclear forces. But when all is said and done they simply use the heat generated by splitting atomic nuclei to boil water, which then spins turbines, which then generate electricity. That’s not so different from a 19th-century steam engine. Compared with the precision of an electron microscope (or even a grocery-store laser scanner), our handling of nuclear forces is still at the level of slamming rocks together.

The same is true of gravity. Obviously, we can make a plane fly by forcing air to flow over a wing, which generates the pressure to lift it off the ground. But the interaction of those air molecules is a result of electromagnetic forces. And the fuel we use to power planes (and blow rockets off the planet) is a result of our understanding of chemistry, which again is a matter of electromagnetism.

It is sort of crazy that our mastery only extends to one of the four forces. Bring on anti-gravity already!

Two interesting nuggets from this week’s box office report by Andrew Stewart — first:

So far, “Gravity” has amassed a stellar $170.6 million domestically, of which Imax has contributed more than 22%, with $38 million. Premium formats, particularly Imax, have become a major selling point for “Gravity,” lifting its playability.

A great film, hugely cinematic in scope shown on IMAX is like gasoline on a fire when it comes to making money. Hollywood will not only recognize this, they’ll go overboard and everything will be on IMAX next summer. Naturally, they’ll forget the key “great film” and “hugely cinematic in scope” elements and many films won’t do well in the format.


Fox’s “The Woverine” is the latest film to get the coveted B.O. boost from China, bowing there with $13.6 million and bringing the film’s total international tally to nearly $260 million. Globally, “Wolverine” has cumed more than $390 million.

The Wolverine, while a massive improvement over the first Wolverine film, wasn’t a huge success in the U.S. (certainly not when compared to the other X-Men films). And yet, it’s doing twice as well overseas as it is in the U.S., which means we’ll definitely get another one. The U.S. continues to matter less and less when it comes to the box office.

Caitlin Roper speaking to Alfonso Cuarón on the hardships of making Gravity:

Cuarón: We animated for two, maybe two and a half years before we started shooting the actors. Then we shot the film—and then the poor animators had to start from scratch because they had to base their final animations on what was shot. Someone suggested we just call Gravity animation, but I don’t think we can because there’s a fair amount of live action. And it was really hard work for the animators. After all, you learn how to draw based on two main elements: horizons and weight.

Roper: And you had neither!

Cuarón: Exactly.


I will confess that the first time I saw “Gravity,” I found its talkiness annoying. Not just Ms. Bullock’s perky-anxious soliloquizing, but also Mr. Clooney’s gruff, regular-guy wisecracking. Doesn’t Stone say her favorite thing about space is the silence?

But a second viewing changed my mind a bit. It’s not that the dialogue improved — it will not be anyone’s favorite part of the movie — but rather that its relation to that silence became clearer. Stone and Kowalski jabber on, to themselves and each other and to Houston “in the blind,” partly to keep the terror of their situation at bay, to fight the overwhelming sense of how tiny and insignificant they are in the cosmos.

Looking back on it now (and having only seen it once), I completely agree. Such a great film to see in theaters — particularly on IMAX. And yes, one of the better uses of 3D I’ve seen. 



Gravity - Trailer

Alfonso Cuarón’s first feature since 2006. I think it looks great, but like, there’s no way either of these two are going to survive right? This is the guy who directed Children of Men… the ending wasn’t exactly happy, and he’s not known for keeping characters alive.

Intense. But how on Earth is this going to be a full, feature-length film?

Castaway in space? Who plays Wilson?