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Editing Episode 8 – This Ain’t No Technological Breakdown…

…oh no, this is the road to hell
Road to Hell (Chris Rea)

Now that I come to think about it, the lyrics of Chris Rea’s maudlin masterpiece are a fairly accurate description of an AST recording session at the best of times.

And I’m underneath the streetlights, but the light of joy I know
Scared beyond belief way down in the shadows

But recording of Episode 8 was hellish in ways that went way beyond the usual Producer Dan grumbling…

And the perverted fear of violence chokes the smile on every face
Common sense is ringing out the bells

The...science? of time travel

Time travel. Time travel. Science blog, time travel. Okay. Right. Let’s do this thing.

We can’t do time travel. Time is a strange thing which is hard to get a handle on, and the best definition I have come across of it is John Wheeler’s, who said “Time is what prevents everything from happening at once”. And it only points one way.

So that’s that.

Hmm?

You want more than that?

Oh alright then, let’s talk about a weird idea. It’s not time travel like we here at AST depict, but it’s…well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

We kind of won an award sort of!

Woohoo! We were nominated by One Crafty Minx, who is in no way favouring us for any reason at all. As soon as we found out we cracked open the champagne Coca Cola supermarket own-brand cola.

“The Liebster Award is an award set up to bring recognition to and increase viewership for blogs with fewer than 200 followers.”

Yes, we have less than 200 followers. One day this will be a cascading success of epic proportions. One day.

Editing Episode 7 - Environmentally Sound Effects

A green bin with a pun on the the word 'bin'

Action Dan and Science Brian help out by recycling jokes.

In these days of climate change, peak oil, fracking and Jeremy Clarkson, it behoves us all to do our bit for the environment. And what better way to help make a greener tomorrow than with a little recycling? So, as you listen to Episode 7 of Action Science Theatre, don’t sit there thinking, “I’m sure that sound has been in the past three episodes.” Instead, rejoice in the knowledge that, by recycling sound effects, we at Action Science Theatre are contributing to greener podcasting.

 

Computer Magic

Image via CERN

Computer Magic at the LHC (Image via CERN)

At the Large Hadron Collider, two protons are accelerated to a fantastic speed and then smashed into each other. This piece of sub-atomic vandalism is not just for kicks. Scientists there are looking for the Higgs Boson, a particle that, if found, could help explain why some things are heavier than others. It looks like they might have found one last July, too.

Now these collisions are watched by all sorts of detectors. And each collision creates about 1Mb of data (if you had the first minute of a classic song stored as an mp3, that would be about 1Mb, to give you an idea). Which doesn’t sound like much! Except, and here’s where things get tricky, there are millions of collisions a second. Even if you’re reading this blog post on a high-end computer, your hard-drive would fill up within 30 seconds. And the LHC operates throughout the year, and will for years to come. Too much data is generated for anyone to possibly store, never mind sift through.

So when they designed the LHC they had a huge problem to solve – just how do you store and process that much information?

Editing Episode 6 - Things that don’t sound like things really sound. Like

Hmm… need to work on my titles.

Anyway, as I discussed in an earlier blog, much of my time in editing Action Science Theatre is spent trying to find or create sound effects that sound as close as possible to the real thing. Sometimes, however, the reverse is true; what you want isn’t anything like the real thing, because the real thing is too nondescript, or simply inaudible. This is where stereotypical auditory cues come in, allowing the creation of what Vincent McInerney* calls ‘mindvisible images’ – instant visualisation of what is meant to be happening. While McInerney is talking about writing rather than sound effects, similar principles apply.

Epigengle all the way...

Santa on a horse

It’s Santa on a… I’m going to guess horse?

Most people these days are familiar with the idea of DNA – our genetic code. The big list inside us that enumerates – to a greater or lesser extent – everything about us. Eye colour. Height. Diseases or conditions we might fall foul of. How many limbs we have. Where our organs go. Naughty or nice. It’s what separates us from bananas, or monkeys, or trees. We pass this DNA down the generations, and this list is not something we can do anything about. The slow march of evolution takes hundreds of generations to make a change. I am stuck with my DNA, and so are you.

Except, what if we could just… ignore parts of this list? Just turn off this bit of DNA, or that bit? And then pass it on to our kids, a change in one generation…

Well, turns out that we can.

Mr Twinkle's Story

I’m not sure I can ever convey the wonderfulness of sugar. My greatest pleasures have come from a square lump being dropped into my case by the generous Dr Korb. Many question Korb’s methods, some even call him mad, but I have always found him an excellent companion during our time together. True, we cannot connect on a truly intellectual level, but I find us kindred spirits both looking for answers in a barren land that is not of our making.

Antman

One of my pastimes is reading comics. This is a favourite.

I also like leaves. Crunchy and green, what’s not to like right?

Editing Episode 5 - The Ant: an Introduction

As my regular reader will know, I spend a lot of time in these blogs ranting about the ludicrous sound effects that Science Brian expects me to produce. Anyone who has listened to Episode 5, then, will expect this blog to be no different. Except that… when I first read the script for Solvay-nt Abuse – and saw that I needed to create a giant ant that rumbled, rattled its cage, smashed through the bars, roared, bit a scientist’s arm off, and then proceeded to crash its way through an explicitly marble-floored hotel – I passed straight through ‘ranting’ and emerged on the far side with a sort of cheery determination. Believe me, I was as surprised as you are.

Solvay and the Catastrophe

Solvay Conference 1911

The 1911 Solvay conference attendees.
With an addition by our own Action Dan

1911 was an interesting time to be a physicist. At that time, as best as anyone could figure out, the foundations of our understanding of physics seemed to be cracking. Small, annoying little differences between what classical physics predicted and what actually happened began to get bigger and bigger, and could never be explained away. These little threads were unravelling the whole tapestry of physics that had been built up since Newton.

So maybe interesting isn’t a strong enough word.