Thursday, October 8, 2015

Eight versions of Arthurian legends I've seen

Sword in the Stone (1963)
Based on the first book of T.H.White's tetralogy, which was the best version of King Arthur in the twentieth century, in my opinion. Everything good in this version comes from the source material.

Camelot (1967)
Based on later parts of the same book! My favorite moments are when Lancelot brings back to life the knight he has accidentally killed, and when Arthur lays dying and says “Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment, that was known as Camelot.” That brings tears to my eyes.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
A hilarious if really uneven spoof. More quotable lines than any other movie. Probably too quoted. The truth is, in some ways this is closer to Mallory than most versions, in the way it seems to wander all over the place fighting and not going anywhere with the plot.

Excalibur (1981)
Fantasy movies in the 1980s were really hard to do right. The desire was there but without CG, it was really difficult to do believable magic. This is probably the truest to Mallory, and its devotion to mythology makes it seem strange. I like the super-heavy jousting plate they all wear all the time, though of course it's historically far too late.

First Knight (1995)
I adore the scenery, acting, and costumes in this version. I could watch Sean Connery, Julia Ormond, and Richard Gere all day. The plot is totally ruined and the characters are all wrong as they try to make it more Hollywood, though.

Merlin (1998 miniseries)
What a mess. The depiction of the villains was so badly done I still get the shivers thinking about it. Acting all in front of green screens, and changing the ending to make it happy. It had a few moments but was overall a failure.

King Arthur (2004)
This was an attempt to dramatize a plausible historical interpretation of Arthur as a post-Roman warlord struggling to keep civilization alive. It features Keira Knightly as a warrior Celt version of Guinevere. Good riding into battle scenes. Christians in the film are horrible people, just because Hollywood.

Merlin (BBC One)
I might have liked this better when I was younger, but I just don't like TV that much, so I only watched a few episodes. It's too modern in attitude. It seemed kind of like a Jocks vs Geeks high school series set in the middle ages. But I might not have given it enough credit.

Eight versions of Robin Hood I've seen

These are listed in temporal order.

Robin Hood (1938) Stars Errol Flynn. The climactic swordfight scene stands out as very exciting and well choreographed.

Robin Hood (Disney animated): This movie was made on the cheap, and it shows. For some reason Baloo and Hiss from The Jungle Book are just dressed up for this. For the sake of humor, they used some very American comic actors mixed with others doing straight British accents, which just comes across as weird. If you speed up the oodalolly song it turns into the hamster dance song. There are some interesting connections to the French sequence of tales about Reynard the Fox.

Robin and Marian (1976): Sean Connery and Aubrey Hepburn at the end of Robin's life. It's slow and moody, but the acting is really well done, and it doesn't just replay the same old material. It's a movie about love and getting old. Neil Gaiman references it in Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves: The visuals (sets, costumes, cinematography) and soundtrack are probably the best of any version, if you don't care about accuracy to the time period. The acting is terrible. It adds in a witch and an attempted rape for no good reason.

Robin Hood (1991): Completely overshadowed by Prince of Thieves, this made-for-TV version is one of my favorites. It's more historically accurate, for one thing. It stars Uma Thurman as Marian, features longbows, and ends with peace with the Saxons, which is historically the way Britain went. There's no Sheriff or Prince John. Let me know if you find a blu-ray version.

Robin Hood: Men in Tights: Like all Mel Brooks movies, unbelievably stupid. "Ay, Blinken! Did you just say Abe Lincoln?"

Robin Hood (BBC One series): pretty forgettable, but if you want a British miniseries about Robin Hood, this one is decent. The characters seem like modern people.

Robin Hood (2010): Russel Crowe is the main selling point for this movie. It's actually a Robin Hood prequel, though it isn't advertised that way, which makes it feel badly paced.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


Here is a diagram of what imagery we can expect in the next two weeks from the New Horizons Pluto probe:

And if you want to see the new images as they come in, the best place to go is here:

Pluto has very bright and dark regions on it. Does it have a giant mountain range running all the way around the equator? Giant impact basins? We will know soon.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

evil, evil, evil, evil dogs

Things that are the same in high dimensions

I have a set of high-dimensional vectors. These vectors are distributed as a gaussian surrounding zero in all the dimensions. I choose two of those vectors, perform an operation on them, and search for the nearest neighbors among the set using Euclidean distance. The following operations all tend to return the same neighbors:

The sum
The average
n * the sum, where n is large enough (something like 0.25 to infinity)
The vector product (I think that's what it's called)
The element-wise maximum
The element-wise minimum
The sum of the element-wise sign function (e > 0 : +1, e < 0 : -1)

All of these basically give me something that is approximately a 50/50 mixture of the elements of the two vectors. Each of the elements of the result vector will resemble an element of one of the two input vectors. The multiplier n can be as large as you like because after a certain point, it's just saying "whatever is furthest out along that direction."

If you think of a simpler version of the same situation, it is easier to see what is happening.  Let all the coefficients be +1 or 0, still distributed as a half-gaussian. Then you can think of the values that happen to be +1 as "words" which "define" the vector. The result of any of the above operations will give you a definition that includes words from the definitions of both the inputs, and no others.

I think I could prove this mathematically, but maybe someone knows of a proof already I could use as a reference?

Friday, April 10, 2015

New planet candidates

The following three planets look like really good possibilities for life. In general, with a radius larger than Earth, one hopes for a temperature lower than Earth's, expecting a thicker atmophere. All three have suns that are close to the same temperature as our own, but the first two are smaller than our sun (.8 x) and the third is larger (1.2 x).
None of these have been announced on the news because they like to wait for confirmation.

These are different from earlier reports because they are orbiting yellow stars, like the sun, rather than orange or red stars (which are smaller and cooler).

Year in Earth days
Radius in Earths
Temperature relative to Earth's
KOI 7016.01
35 C lower
KOI 7235.01
18 C lower
KOI 7179.01
17 C higher

EDIT: On July 23, NASA announced that KOI7016.01 was confirmed. It's new name is Kepler 452-b. As of that date it was the most Earthlike planet found so far. The new radius is 1.6 and the new estimated temperature is higher than Earth.