Why Study Humanities? What I Tell Engineering Freshmen

Science writer Jon Horgan writes: We live in a world increasingly dominated by science. And that’s fine. I became a science writer because I think science is the most exciting, dynamic, consequential part of human culture, and I wanted to be a part of that. Also, I have two college-age kids, and I’d be thrilled if they pursued careers in science, engineering or medicine. I certainly want them to learn as much science and math as they can, because those skills can help you get a great job. But it is precisely because science is so powerful that we need the humanities now…

Dax (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 1, Episode 7) Jadzia Dax faces the legal consequences of Curzon Dax’s actions

Rewatching ST:DS9 Dax is apprehended for the allegedly criminal actions of a previous host. Bashir is unsuccessfully trying to escort Dax to her quarters when he witnesses people attaching her. Instead of calling for backup, he tries to be a hero and gets knocked out. The station manages to catch the baddies’ getaway ship, and we learn Klaestron Four has a warrant to arrest Curzon Dax for treason and murder. The humanoid Curzon is dead, but the sentient slug Dax lives on inside the willing new host Jadzia. But Jadzia Dax, for reasons she won’t explain, declines Sisko’s offer to…

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Homeward (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 7, Episode 13) Worf’s foster brother interferes with a primitive, dying culture

Rewatching ST:TNG The Enterprise-D answers a distress call from Worf’s foster brother, a civilian observing a primitive civilization on a planet with an atmosphere that’s spontaneously dissipating because reasons. The dissipation is also creating a plot contrivance field that periodically jams key systems so that we can watch characters react to dramatic in-person discoveries of details we would otherwise learn through a scanner readout on the bridge. When the planet surface became uninhabitable, brother Nikolai moved a village of Boraalans into a cave (again with the caves!), and set up a technobabble field to protect them from the bad Space…

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Rightful Heir (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 6, Episode 23) Worf’s quest for the return of a fabled Klingon threatens the Klingon Empire’s status quo

Rewatching ST:TNG Worf is uncharacteristically late for a shift because he was distracted by a ritual to invoke the fabled warrior Kahless. He tells Picard that since meeting the young Klingons who grew up with no knowledge of their heritage (s6e16&17 “Birthright“), he has felt “empty,” and feels the need to test his faith. Picard is simultaneously strict and empathetic, calling Worf’s actions “Inexcusable… and understandable.” He grants him a leave and tells him not to come back until he’s ready to perform his duties properly. In a shrine on the holy planet Boreth, Worf joins a group of Klingons…

Starship Mine (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 6, Episode 18) Picard out-thinks thieves raiding an evacuated Enterprise-D

Rewatching ST:TNG Picard plays cat-and-mouse with thugs when the Enterprise is evacuated for routine maintenance. During a long tracking shot, Picard bumps into senior staff members who just happen to be standing in the corridor with administrative problems for him to solve. In the turbolift, Data tries out his new “small talk during awkward moments” subroutine, and Picard recommends he meet Commander Hutchinson at this afternoon’s reception on Arkaria Base. On his way off the ship, Picard pauses to take in the empty bridge, as the local work crew arrives to set up equipment.  At the reception, Data observes the…

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Ship in a Bottle (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 6, Episode 12) Barclay’s holodeck hack brings a mastermind back, that’s a-foul play

Rewatching ST:TNG Data and LaForge are enjoying a Sherlock Holmes holoprogram when LaForge notices an NPC glitch. Because they have more important things to do, they call Barclay, who inadvertently activates the sentient Moriarty simulation (from s2e3, “Elementary, Dear Data“). Picard is shocked to learn that Moriarty has experienced consciousness while stored in the computer databank. Moriarty becomes convinced Picard lied to him about asking Starfleet to work on a method to let Moriarty exist off the holodeck. Moriarty shows a stunned Picard, Data and Barclay that he can leave the holodeck and walk out into the corridor without disappearing.…

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Chain of Command, Parts 1 & 2 (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 6, Episodes 10 & 11) When Picard’s reassigned, the new captain’s a grind (there are four lights)

Rewatching ST:TNG Picard is relieved of command and assigned to a special ops mission, as the Cardassians provoke a war with the Federation. The new CO arrives with plans to reorganize every department. Jellico is very hands-on, giving Riker specific details for reworking the shift rotations, and crawling trough the Jeffries tubes with LaForge. He cheerfully shows Troi pictures drawn by his son, but he’s bluntly not interested in listening to anyone else’s input. Instead of actually showing Picard’s team surreptitiously making their way to an illegal Cardassian weapons lab, we get a budget-friendly scene in a bar where the…

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The Inner Light (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 5, Episode 25) When a probe-zapped Picard lives lives snuffed by a star, that’s a-plot twist

Rewatching ST:TNG When a space probe zaps Picard unconscious, he wakes up in a civilian house, where a woman calls him “Kamin,” and says he has been feverish for days.  Out exploring, Picard happens upon a tree planting ceremony. The leader is Kamin’s friend Batai, who answers Picard’s questions with concern. When Picard returns to the house, a relieved Eline feeds him and listens, baffled, to his questions. As far as she is concerned, he is Kamin the iron weaver, they have been married for three years, and he is not a very good flute player. As she tries to…

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The Next Phase (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 5, Episode 24) Ghost Ro Meets Ghost LaForge

Rewatching ST:TNG A transporter accident causes LaForge and Ro to wander the Enterprise-D like ghosts. The teaser begins in medias res, with the Enterprise responding to a Romulan distress call. While prepping to beam over, Ro snarks at Riker under her breath, but backs down when challenged. The Romulans, who seem almost overwhelmed by the disaster, readily agree to send an important part back to the Enterprise “for replication.” That’s when a Bad Thing happens. Ro, LaForge and the piece of equipment they had with them never re-matieralize. The remaining Federation team and the Romulans work together to eject the…

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I, Borg (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 5, Episode 23) Adolescent Borg Bonds with LaForge

Rewatching ST:TNG When a landing party encounters a badly injured Borg drone, Picard is perfectly willing to let “it” die, but Crusher has other ideas. The Borg, a cyborg race that assimilates whole civilizations and builds a hive mind via cybernetic implants, are a terrifying sci-fi enemy; the music, the costumes and the iconic greeble-bedecked Borg ships pound away at our primal fears. On my first watch, I was totally on-board with Picard when he asks LaForge to infect this drone with an “invasive programming sequence” that will spread and disable the entire Borg collective. To do so, LaForge will…

Thornton Wilder’s Optimistic Catastrophe: “The Skin of Our Teeth”

From a review of a 2017 production in Brooklyn. “The Skin of Our Teeth” first opened in New Haven, at the Shubert Theatre, in 1942. It was directed by Elia Kazan, and starred Tallulah Bankhead, Fredric March, Florence Eldridge, and a very young Montgomery Clift; Variety wrote that the play “bewilders, bemuses, and befuddles, as it amuses.” When it moved to Broadway, to the Plymouth Theatre, it was met with mainly favorable reviews. Brooks Atkinson, in the Times, called it “one of the friskiest and liveliest plays written in a long time,” and Alexander Woollcott said it “was the nearest…

Shatner’s live, extemporaneous post-touchdown monologue on mortality was better than Kirk’s death scene

After returning to Earth in Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin private spacecraft, Shatner is delivering an extemporaneous monologue about viewing Mother Earth and reflecting on death. “I hope I never recover from this,” he says, of the emotions he experienced. Much better than Kirk’s death scene in Star Trek: Generations. Someone (I was listening, not watching… I think it was Bezos) says “Beautiful,” and Shatner thinks he’s commenting about the view from space, but the comment was referring to Shatner’s words. And I have to teach.

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Conundrum (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 5, Episode 14) You Get Amnesia! And YOU Get Amnesia! EVERYONE Gets Amnesia!!!

Rewatching ST:TNG The Enterprise-D crew finds itself the victim of an amnesia scenario devised by desperate, shadowy figures known as “TV script writers,” who actually give Riker a line complaining about the feeble infodump that shows up in the denouement. Plot necessity provides this week’s baddies with the power to erase all the personal memories of everyone on the ship (including the android Data), and also the ability to erase computer records of all personal logs, and anything else that could possibly contextualize the military mission the Enterprise seems to be carrying out. The same baddies also insert a false…

I studied philosophy and engineering at university: Here’s my verdict on ‘job relevant’ education

She double-majored in engineering and philosophy. Fifteen years later, which degree is more relevant to her success? She says that even with an engineering degree, she was criticized for not knowing specific skills that she never actually used (such as drafting by hand) or that she learned quickly on the job (such as the specific CAD software her company used). And after 15 years, most of those specific job-ready skills are out of date and useless. When I introduce students to a software package, my goal is not to make them “job-ready” experts with that tool; instead, I encourage them…

Am I being rude or is my autism not being understood and accommodated for?

A valuable thread that explains many of the differences that make autistic people seem “rude” to neurotypicals (who are more comfortable with unspoken rules, fuzzy categories & eye contact, and who get annoyed by unfiltered honesty, stimming & requests for clarification). Am I being rude or is my autism not being understood and accommodated for? – a thread. /1 — Emily♡ (@ItsEmilyKaty) July 31, 2021  

The insect apocalypse: ‘Our world will grind to a halt without them’

It is 50 years since I first collected those caterpillars in the school playground, and every year that has passed there have been slightly fewer butterflies, fewer bumblebees – fewer of almost all the myriad little beasts that make the world go round. These fascinating and beautiful creatures are disappearing, ant by ant, bee by bee, day by day. Estimates vary and are imprecise, but it seems likely that insects have declined in abundance by 75% or more since I was five years old. The scientific evidence for this grows stronger every year, as studies are published describing the collapse of monarch…