I survived!

In case anyone was worried, yes, I did survive the strongest recorded earthquake in Maryland history.

In which I criticize xkcd

As much as I like xkcd, I can’t let Monday’s comic stand without comment:

Dilution

That’s not how homeopathy works.

Wait, let me rephrase that. That’s not how homeopathy claims to work.

According to the principles of homeopathy, the cure for any condition can be created by finding a substance that induces the same symptoms of the condition, and then diluting it to an extreme degree. Hahnemann “discovered” this by observing that if a healthy person ingested cinchona bark (which had been used to treat malaria), they suffered symptoms similar to malaria. He therefore took this one data point and concluded that “like cures like” is a universal principle. Furthermore, since diluting something harmful reduces its harmful effects, it therefore eliminated the harmful effects of the compound without reducing the supposed curative properties.

Why do homeopaths know this, especially given that homeopathic treatments consistently fail scientific tests? Ask them, and they’ll accuse you of just being a shill for big pharma.

Now you see the problem in the aforehotlinked xkcd comic. If homeopathy were true, heavily diluted semen wouldn’t get you pregnant; it would be birth control. Or maybe induce an abortion.

Also: you might think that the 30X dilution means “diluting by a factor of 30″. That’s not how homeopathic notation works. The “X” doesn’t mean “times”, it means “factors of 10″. A 30X homeopathic dilution of something is made by diluting it by a factor of 10-to-1, thirty times in a row. Or, in other words, diluting it by a factor of 1030 = 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000-to-1.

A 30X dilution of semen certainly won’t get you pregnant. According to Wikipedia, an undiluted dose of human semen contains roughly 4×107 spermatozoa. After a 30X dilution, the sperm count drops to 4×10-23, or 0.00000000000000000000004 spermatozoa. Since you can’t have fractional spermatozoa, your 30X dilution leaves you with nothing but water. It definitely won’t get you pregnant. Or keep you from getting pregnant. It’s freaking water.

Another way of looking at it is this. Also according to Wikipedia, the original volume of that semen is 2 mL. A 30X dilution would add enough water to increase the volume to 2×1030 mL = 2×1027 L. That’s a lot. That’s roughly 4.8×1014 cubic miles. The Pacific Ocean “only” has 1.5×108 cubic miles of water in it.

And 30X is fairly modest as far as homeopathic dilutions go. You can find homeopathic “treatments” on the market that are diluted at 200C. Since the C stands for 100, this is the same as 400X. That’s one-followed-by-400-zeros-to-one!

In summary: homeopathy is completely ridiculous, but not in the way that xkcd claims it is.

A remake that is (not) terrible

A little while ago I complained about the abominable remake of The Prisoner. As further evidence of how that review was not just a case of “they changed it, now it sucks“, I present you with this:

Unit-03
It’s time to play inappropriate music and chew bubblegum. And Unit-03 is all out of bubblegum.

Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance improves on the original.

You may recall that my assessment of the first Evangelion remake movie is that it stuck far too close to the first several episodes of the original series, to the point of often being nearly shot-by-shot identical save for the increased budget. A nice visual upgrade, sure, but compressing six episodes’ worth of material into a movie left the plot feeling rushed and the overall effort seeming rather unnecessary.

Evangelion 2.0 instead retells the other twenty episodes of the original series. It manages this by streamlining plot and character development and excising filler wherever possible. The core of the original’s storyline is still there, but it’s been extensively reworked, and mostly for the better.

Unit-00 wielding a missile against the Tenth Angel
For Unit-00, anything can be a melee weapon.

The clearest example of that is the fight scene with the Tenth Angel. Instead of just being an upgraded version of the corresponding scene in episode 19, it also incorporates quite a bit of the fight scene against the Sixteenth Angel in episode 23 of the series, particularly the so-called director’s cut version of that episode. (And the movie does it much better than the episode did; I always thought the shorter, non-director’s-cut version of that fight more effectively conveyed the emotional impact of <spoiler>Unit-00′s destruction and Rei’s death</spoiler>. But I digress.)

And while I’m whipping out the spoiler tags, I might as well add that the fight also has a big surprise for those familiar with the original series, who surely aren’t expecting the fight to include <spoiler>the beginning of Third Impact</spoiler>

The characters, particularly the three main pilots, have been toned down from the series. Shinji isn’t as mopey and angsty and manages to actually take decisive action a bit more. Rei is still mysterious but less aloof; we even see her try to get Shinji and his father together, which isn’t completely out of left field given that she’s <spoiler>a clone of Shinji’s dead mother</spoiler>. Given how Shinji and Rei have a closer relationship in the movie, it’ll be interesting to see what happens this time around when he eventually learns Rei’s backstory.

Asuka's doll... thing...
This is several kinds of wrong.

Judging from the Internet, toning down Asuka’s whole set of issues is a much more contentious topic, but if you ask me, the “resolution” we see of them in the movie is superficial and won’t last. (Or perhaps she doesn’t know certain details of her own past yet?) I mean, she carries around a doll or puppet of herself. Now if you haven’t seen the series before, that might merely seem a little odd, but believe me, once you learn where it came from, that’s seriously messed up.

No, my biggest complaint about how Asuka is treated in the movie is not her character development or (<sarcasm>horrors!</sarcasm>) her changed last name, but the repeated gratuitous fanservice shots of her. I’m willing to accept giving her her own version of Shinji’s toothpicks scene, but pretty much everything besides that is way too blatant and unnecessary. Sure, some of it was in the original series too, but not to the same degree, and even there it also served to torment Shinji. Here, it’s clearly just to titillate the viewer. (And no, hanging a lampshade on her test plug suit doesn’t make up for it.)

Mari
I just destroyed Unit-05; better make myself scarce for the next 45 minutes of screen time.

I can only assume that if new character Mari had gotten more screen time, she would’ve been subjected to similar treatment. (She certainly seemed to enjoy her redesigned plug suit….) It’s hinted that there’s more going on with her than we see, but then most of what we do see of her is her effectively filling in for Asuka after Asuka gets written out a little after the halfway mark.

And while I’m complaining about things, I might as well point out that the soundtrack dissonance used during Unit 03′s fight scene just doesn’t work for me. Using Komm, Süßer Tod during End of Evangelion worked, as does the scene with the Tenth Angel around the end of Evangelion 2.0, but this definitely does not. Maybe it’s just me, though.

But really, that’s about the extent of my complaints about this movie. This is what a remake should be: true to the spirit of the original, but not afraid to take liberties with the source material. Approachable to newcomers (assuming they’ve seen Evangelion 1.0, naturally), yet enough that’s new to keep those familiar with the original engaged. In all honestly, I have no idea what’s going to happen in the first few minutes of Evangelion 3.0, let alone the remainder of the remake. And most importantly, I’m looking forward to see what they come up with.

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Fun with lax input parsing

This is what happens when your handwriting recognition engine insists on interpreting anything the user scribbles with the stylus as an integer. (Warning: do not use this video as a study guide for arithmetic.)

This is what happens when you’re too lenient when your function for fuzzy matching on strings is a little too fuzzy. (Warning: some NSFW language.)

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