Animations, Mars Curiosity, Alien Life (November 30, '21 3TTN)

The Dragon Prince, Arcane review, Mars Curiosity Rover, & Assembly theory for classifying life.

Animations, Mars Curiosity, Alien Life (November 30, '21 3TTN)
Photo by Richard Horvath / Unsplash

Happy Tuesday fellow Frivolous,

I hope you all had a restful Thanksgiving, for those of you that do observe it.

Holiday season tends to involve rewatching some old shows together in our household and this year we started The Dragon Prince again.  This came out on Netflix in 2018 and what started out as a show that our son watched, the adults were hooked by episode three and it became a family show.  The worldbuilding, the characters, and the art are thoughtfully and beautifully built.  It centers around 2 human children and their elfin friend who strive to prevent an impending war between their kingdoms.  There's plenty of political intrigue, unpredictable action, and (my favorite) secondary characters that are well rounded and drive sub-plots and themes.

Three seasons are already out with the show having the next four already greenlit.  This is a perfect winter-evening show and I highly recommend it for older young kids (8+, I think) and adults.  The folks behind the show have a bunch of other media in the works as well, including a board game, a video game, and additional stories set in the same universe.  Check it out at the link above.


Arcane : League of Legends (Netflix)

I've never played League of Legends, so the fact that this is a show that came from a game was a surprise to me.  Contrary to The Dragon Prince, this is not for kids.  It's a brutal show about a hard world in which actions almost never have the intended consequences.  But this makes for delicious story-telling.  The series oscillates between the "Undercity" and sisters Vi and Powder, and Piltover - the Haves to the Undercity's Have-Nots - and its pairing of Viktor and Jayce.  All these lives are connected through the thread of a magic either lost or thought too dangerous.  Now, the pursuit of this power  pits strong forces in both cities against each other.

The pacing of this story and the depth of characters is fantastic and drew me in easily.  What instantly hooked me first was the art, though.  This is damn fine art.  The steampunk world is beautifully rendered, and the creators use the painterly look so well.  The layering of 2D over 3D is especially effective when we enter Jinx's mental state; a style pretty common in graphic novels, but stands out in animation.

I could go on, but I'll end on relationships.  The show marvelously weaves the characters motivations and their relationships together which drive the plot.  Things aren't happening to the characters, as much as the characters make things happen, and all of those actions are driven by the quality of their lives with those around them.

Well worth the watch; one of a few shows that I fully enjoyed from the start.


Mars Curiosity Rover: An Inside Account from Curiosity's Chief Engineer, by Rob Manning, William L Simon, et. al.

This was published a several years ago, but caught my attention because of something rather humdrum: project management.  But this is PM at a different level and with incredibly high stakes around science and engineering that wasn't fully proven at the time.  I'm not expecting to understand too much of the technical information included, but so far, the authors have done a great job of keeping this understandable for us lay people.


Searching for alien life

There are so many ways to search for life, each arising from different assumptions of what constitutes life as well as how advanced we believe alien civilization (if it even progressed to that level) is compared to our own.  Recently, there was some hubbub around the presence of phosphine in the clouds  of Venus, which on Earth is made by microorganisms.

All this points to the need for a framework into which we can place data and evaluate (a) whether it meets the definition of life and (b)  how confident we are that it's truly alien life and not contaminated samples.  Enter assembly theory which decomposes signatures of life into two categories: complexity and abundance.  The threshold for life is considered to be chemical signatures which are both high in complexity and high in abundance.  This isn't perfect, as the article and authors point out (since phosphine is still low complexity and pretty abundant AND created biologically), but it provides the start of a framework which,, to date has been elusive.

Nerdy stuff, but it tickles my brain, and it's in line with one of my recommended Kickstarter projects - European Astrobiology Institute's "Life Beyond Us" project.


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As always thanks for reading and hit me up with what caught your eye, what you'd like to see mentioned.