A Personal Hero and a New Top Show

Hailing from the Big Apple, where Dom currently resides, Neil DeGrasse Tyson is one of the most well-known scientists of our time. One of my personal heroes after learning about him through my degree in chemistry, holding a Bachelor of Arts degree in physics from Harvard University, a Master of Arts degree in astronomy from the University of Texas at Austin, and an MPhil (Master of Philosophy) and a PhD in astrophysics from Columbia University, Tyson is a champion for science communication. He is the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space and a research associate for astrophysics at the Museum of Natural History, both in NYC (Dom I’m looking right in your direction right now) and constantly appears on The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, and Real Time with Bill Maher, advocating science education and knowledge. On top of these, Tyson hosted the NOVA ScienceNow on PBS from 2006 to 2011, and currently hosts one of my new favorite TV shows, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey on FOX, a continuation of Tyson own personal hero Carl Sagan’s 1980’s show Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.

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Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, produced by none other than Seth McFarlane of Family Guy and Ted, premiered on FOX on March 9th, and I was instantly hooked. Seeing the previews and knowing that Neil DeGrasse Tyson would be hosting it already had me very interested, but that first episode sealed my Sunday night plans from 8 to 9 PM for the next few months. Starting with the episode “Standing Up in the Milky Way” Cosmos immediately shows the aspect that I love most about it: the production value and the way the information is presented. Tyson uses the “Ship of the Imagination” to explore our world and universe’s history. Telling the stories of scientists, some famous, others undeservedly much less well-known, along with animations, Cosmos caters to the general population very well. Using this, it makes the information much more appealing than a lecture in a classroom!

Topics covered by Cosmos include:

  1. Condensing our universe’s history into a single calendar year – using the Big Bang as the first second of January 1st and present day as midnight of December 31st, did you know that our whole written history would be the last second of the last minute on December 31st?
  2. Artificial selection, selective breeding, natural selection, and extinction – one of the more controversial episodes, Tyson explains things such as evolution and mutation on a molecular and DNA level, five great extinction events the Earth has seen, the possibility of life on other planets, and the “Tree of Life”.
  3. Pattern recognition in early civilizations – the fact that our distant ancestors, THOUSANDS of years ago, were able to use the stars, the seasons, and primitive astrology to explain the happenings around them is amazing to think in my opinion!
  4. Those less well-known scientists I mentioned that shaped our world – people like Jan Oort, who discovered comets and the Oort cloud, Edmond Halley who collaborated with the great Isaac Newton to put the laws of physics in mathematical terms, Ibn al-Haytham whose ideas on light and optics in the 11th century, led to the invention of the telescope, Joseph von Fraunhofer whose work led to the discovery of the composition of stars and other planets using astronomical spectroscopy, Clair Patterson who was the lead investigator of lead occurrence on the earth and its effect on humans, and the team of ladies including Annie Jump Cannon, Henrietta Swan Leavitt, and Cecilia Payne whose work led to the classification of the stars, the means to measure the distance from a star to the Earth using spectra which was used to identify other galaxies, and the determination of the composition and temperature of the stars. Tyson begs the question in one episode “why do we know the personal lives of celebrities and athlete’s, but have no idea who Jan Oort is?” Powerful question.
  5. Black holes – the discovery of black holes by X-rays, and the postulations about the warping of spacetime and time dilation inside a black hole, as they are so dense and massive that even light cannot escape their gravitational force!
  6. The Electric Boy – an entire episode dedicated to the life of Michael Faraday! Faraday is the ultimate overcoming adversity story. Coming from absolutely nothing, and told his whole childhood he wasn’t smart and wouldn’t succeed, Faraday went on to harness electromagnetic power to create the first electric motor and electrical generator. Faraday also discovered the connection between light, magnetism, and electricity called the Faraday Effect (obviously!) which also led to the discovery of the Earth’s magnetic field. Faraday was a bonafide boss!

Cosmos has two episodes remaining, and it’s saving the best for last! It’s never too late to start watching and I one million percent recommend watching the next episode that airs on June 1st, taking Memorial Day weekend off, and it’s a doozey. According to the preview at the end of the last episode, Tyson will delve into the ultra-controversial issue of global warming, an issue that he has a very strong view on. Tyson, along with Bill Nye, constantly appears on TV opposite people claiming global warming isn’t a pressing issue, attempting to educate us all on the imminent issue at hand. This will be a can’t miss episode that I implore everyone to check out! I promise you won’t be disappointed. Cheers!

Live long and prosper everyone!- Neil DeGrasse Tyson (probably)

Live long and prosper everyone!- Neil DeGrasse Tyson (probably)

The King Is Back!

At long last, the king has returned! Months of anticipation are finally over, he’s here! No not Elvis. Not Jesus. Not even talking about Burger King. I’m talking about the greatest monster that has ever graced the movie screen. For some, this Japanese icon was downright scary and terrorizing. Others know him as just this giant lizard with colossal strength and sheer size that makes you tremble. To me, this perfect combination of controlled rage and radiant (very punny) charisma made for a childhood hero I could always look up to. Look up to Godzilla? Sure!

My childhood was founded on WWE wrestling, candy, football games galore, & any and all food I could get my hands on. To say I used to look like baby Godzilla wouldn’t be very far from the truth! Godzilla was always a constant for my brother and I, it bonded us. Whether it was in English, Japanese with English subtitles, or Japanese and zero subtitles. Godzilla spoke one language we both understood: mayhem!

We would watch for hours upon hours of these gripping films. My brother and I watched every title at least twice. We had the toys, posters, t-shirts, and even had some lines memorized! To say we are passionate about these movies would be a drastic understatement. I mean I have this tattoo to represent all of this! I can explain the rest for another day.

Zilla Ink

All month long all I could think about was this movie. It only adds to the excitement or fuel to the fire, when across the street from where I work is a giant Godzilla banner on the side of a building. A Godzilla poster on a phone booth by that building. A banner one the side of another building nearby, and a massive display in Times Square. I mean if this wasn’t the ultimate tease, I don’t know what is! New York somehow found out I was a big fan and pin pointed my location. Genius!

 

I was ready and had the right mindset but so many questions I couldn’t shake. Was it going to be good? What does Godzilla look like? What if it didn’t meet expectations? Do I  have enough popcorn for this?!

I did attend the movie premiere and here are some thoughts I had about it:

Things I liked

  • The film speaks very clearly to the destruction that mankind wills itself upon nature, exactly like the first Godzilla film.
  • His atomic fire was incredible. I had goosebumps the size of Mount Everest when his spines lit up. Not to mention it was the perfect shade of blue
  • It paid a homage to the past great Godzilla films with the structure and flow. It was exciting to see that preserved.
  • Godzilla looked great in his debut back to the big screen

 

Things I would Change

  • Develop the main characters more. The protagonist left me with no impression, compassion, and virtually no remembrance. Not a memorable/gripping character.
  • Just an eensy weensy little more ‘Zilla please! Also dive more into his background.
  • Get the big man a personal trainer. He looked bulky which is fine, but maybe a low carb diet before filming wouldn’t hurt.

 

Overall this was a killer production and was well done to restore credibility and respectability. Specifically speaking to the American involvement in the Godzilla franchise. This was an exciting film for me personally and one I will see again shortly. I would like to see the main characters developed more and less pan from monster battles to military on the ground action. Also, lets be honest, he could shed a few pounds. I read this was a complaint from the Japanese audience but only noticed it when he swam back into the Pacific Ocean near the end of the film.

With all that said, this Godzilla design was phenomenal, from teeth down to the tail. The detail was exceptional! Expect excitement to build from his rise from destruction, which only leaves the window open to you guessed it, a sequel! With injecting new enemies like MUTO into this movie will this leave the opportunity for a foe from the past to reemerge?

This monster never ceases to amaze me. From a child to a grown man, my passion for this 55,000 ton beast will never subside. Forever, he will be the king of the monsters.
GOJIRA!!!

 

From The Mountains To Manhattan


Picture this. You’re lying on a couch, waiting for the phone call that will directly change your future. Hopes and dreams lie in the balance. Life is on pause, feeling like suspended animation. Whether you move forward or remain stagnant all lies on this moment.  Then with a blink of an eye *POOF* you’re taking a train into the heart of one of the world’s biggest cities. A massive array of skyscrapers and bridges like none other. For some this is daily life, but for a kid from Salt Lake, this changes everything.

Fast forward to today, nearing my 8th month in New York City and it has been a whirlwind.  It’s no wonder this place was recently slotted at #2 on Forbes’ America’s Most Stressful Cities. I would describe my time here as challenging, advancing, emotional, certainly stressful, and definitely helpful. Moving 2,000 miles across the country has been eye-opening to say the least!

The opportunity to live in this city at a young age would have been foolish to pass up. To accept the opportunity to challenge myself in every aspect of my life is truly something I am grateful for. With challenges comes triumph, one great lesson learned from living in this city.

The question I get asked the most from friends and family is “what is New York like?” Well…I have a few answers. Here are some observations that quickly grabbed my attention.

  • New York is fast, fast, fast: Whether it’s cars, people, events, or the work week. Time flies here and if you can’t keep up you’ll get lost before you know it. So much is going on and so much is happening, the days feel like a blur. Out west, things move at a much slower pace.
  • People don’t smile. Throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping it sticks is the saying best used in this situation. You can throw many smiles around while walking down the street but your chances of getting a reaction are slim to none. Cheesy grins on the subway? Fuhgettaboutit! Most people here are all about business, just getting from point A to point B with no BS in between.
  • Public transportation? Yes please! In Salt Lake, I don’t know too many people that take public transportation. Here, it’s a way of life. Driving a car in this city is comparable to taking on Xerxes’ army in the Battle of Thermopylae in the movie 300. The outcome is not good! I’m too scared to even try. I would rather eat a bowl of chocolate mints combined with coconut, two enemy foods I despise the most.  Instead, there are a zillion subway stops that take you all over the city. Need to get home after a late night on the town? Stumble to the subway. Terrified that a snow leopard happened to escape the Central Park Zoo? Sprint to the subway. Need a ride after filling your stomach to max capacity at Dinosaur Barbecue? Roll your way over to the subway.
  • Culture check: This city is truly one of the most diverse in the world. In comparison to Salt Lake which happens to be well recognized as….not. A complete 180 of where I grew up and went to college. There have been countless times where i’ve been on a subway and not heard a single word of english spoken. Thinking of saying the phrase “you’re in America, speak the language”? Yeah…that won’t fly here. Other times I’ll walk in a restaurant and have absolutely no clue what’s on the menu. Trust me, Bún bò Huế, is one of the tastiest dishes i’ve ever eaten. Restaurants, music, and events of all cultures can be seen and heard. The “melting pot” of American culture is stirred here.

Now don’t get me wrong, this place is no utopia by any means. There is plenty of cigarette smoke in the air to give you a buzz. The term formerly known as “personal space” goes out the window. EVERYTHING IS SO EXPENSIVE! I still get lost from time to time and it’s very easy to do so. The dreaded POLAR VORTEX you saw all over your TV’s this winter was easily the worst winter storm I’ve ever experienced. No snowstorm in Park City, UT or Denver could rival this villainous combination of snow and wind. Every day you see something new that catches your eye, it could be both good or bad.

With all that combined, it’s given me an incredible 8 months thus far. Though my heart will always be loyal to the West, this loud, chaotic, busy city has certainly grown on me.

Photo op: At Madison Square Garden following a Utah Jazz loss to the NY Knicks. Pictured here with Isaiah Wright, a good friend of mine from Salt Lake.