Summer 2023 marks an important cultural milestone. That’s right, it has now been ten years since the release of SharkNado, which became a full-blown franchise with six movies, tens of millions in ad revenue and merchandise sales, real-world references in the floor of Congress, and near-universal awareness- all things that are otherwise unheard of for made-for-tv SyFy channel movies.
Me attending the tenth anniversary theaterical re-release, August 2023
“It’s been incredible gift to be able to share something this fun and silly with so many people over all this time,” Thunder Levin, the writer of the SharkNado franchise, told me in an interview. “It’s been extraordinary how many different people seem to have embraced it. I get to interact with fans who come from all walks of life, I even get to argue with shark scientists!”
SharkNado has always had it’s thumb on the pulse of pop culture
The Bad Shark Movies genre is rich and storied, but none of the others have had anywhere near the cultural impact or legacy of SharkNado. I’d like to try and explain what made the SharkNado movies special, and explore what that means for cinema, for sharks, and for me.
The day they arrived, atmospheric CO2 held steady at 1600 parts per million and the coin traded at #75,236,808.
The coin had surged in the years after the Majority War, when a single miner locked down enough processing power to strip the supply cap from the Core. The Battle for Hard Fork was the bloodiest day in the long history of cryptocurrency. But we won, and the minority nodes now burn endlessly, hashing memes in obscurity while we determined the financial future of the human race.
At least, that’s what I thought.
I awoke in a haze. Still a little drunk from the night before. Sweating in the heat of from the midnight sun. Greenland-3 was the largest mining campus in the Northern Hemisphere and we knew how to keep the evenings lively. Once again, my past self had betrayed my present by signing me up for first shift.
I crawled down the shaft into the main hub and checked my servers. Everything looked fine. A few GPUs were burned but we had plenty to spare. They were older and power hungry, anyway. The new batch would get us twice the hashes per joule.
I grabbed a few GPUs off the rack and climbed down into the bowels of the machine.
It was hot. Hotter than it should be for 15:15 Beijing time. Someone, somewhere, is having a very good day. I crawled through the server racks, scanning for the dead cards. They were clustered, in the back corner, on the same control board. Must’ve been a local surge.
As I swapped out the old cards, I felt someone behind me. I turned, expecting one of the techs from last shift on their way out.
As a provider of advice on how to do effective conservation, Southern Fried Science has previously looked to such as The Game of Thrones for inspiration. Today we look at another famous source of conservation tips: Alien (and Aliens)…
A single charismatic animal can be a great motivator for action.
Jones the cat
Scientists sometimes have self interests that can derail a project.
Science officer Ash
Just when you think everything is going ok a crisis hits…
If not for the people who believe that these movies are real and therefore decide to yell at marine biologists on twitter about it, I’d be all for this. Let’s be totally clear here- Carcharocles megalodon is extinct, and here’s how we know. Shark Week lied to you about it. Actresses from this movie asking about it are not experts. This movie is completely fictional. You can certainly watch it and enjoy it, but please don’t cite it as evidence that a 50 foot long whale-eating shark that used to live in shallow coastal waters near what are now populated areas is not extinct.
Anyway, here is a scene-by scene breakdown of what’s in the first trailer. From it, we can tell that this is an action-packed movie with a great cast that does not stick too closely to the books, and is also not particularly interested in scientific accuracy even with respect to issues unrelated to the “giant extinct animals are actually not extinct”central conceit.
I wrote this story a couple of years ago and have been trying to find a home for it ever since. As the issue of proprietary software’s relationship to agricultural technology is back in the news, I figure it’s time to stop shopping this short science fiction story around and put it in front of a real audience. For some real-world background reading, see:
It started with the tractor. Or, rather, it stopped with the tractor. John Willis climbed down from the cabin of his dead machine and removed the cowling. Everything looked fine. The diesel engine shined, its green accents still brilliant.
After years trading his skill with a wrench and a soldering iron for access to his neighbors’ equipment, he finally owned a tractor of his own. The latest model, too. Not ostentatious, but with just enough comforts to make up for the last ten years. The tractor was new, bought debt-free through the Farm Act and a decade of careful planning and backbreaking labor. Expensive, but built to last.
Except it didn’t last. For the third time in an hour, the engine seized, the wheels locked, the console went dead. Willis sighed. He had acres to till and he wasn’t in the mood to spend a day stripping the engine, hunting for some tiny defect. He could send it to the service yard, but he couldn’t afford to wait for an authorized repair. The quote alone would set him back a week.
He couldn’t afford another late planting. Not this year.
He started the tractor. It roared back to life, the engine purred but the console beeped and flashed with panic, a thousand different alarms. The manual, a massive, multi-gigabyte document, was sitting on his work computer, back in the barn. For whatever reason, he couldn’t get it to download to his field tablet. He put the tractor in gear and continued down the field.
Fifteen minutes later, the tractor was dead again.
Well, he thought to himself, at least there’s a rhythm to it. He limped down the rows in quarter-hour bursts.
We are currently in the Holocene epoch, and many of us have heard about calls to name the current era (from the industrial revolution) the Anthropocene (which dates back to at least the industrial revolution, if not before): a period when humans change the essential nature of the planet through their activities (primarily via the production of greenhouse gases).
But what comes after the Anthropocene? Some sort of Mad Max style wasteland perhaps?
Donna Haraway (2015) proposed that there will be a new epoch, the “Chthulucene” where refugees from environmental disaster (both human and non-human) will come together .
“I’m sorry,” the dean said as he rested his coffee mug on the heavy stack of CV’s littering his desk, “we just don’t have any demand for your class this semester. Maybe in the Spring.”
“What if I add another core credit? I could include a writing module. I could add a history component.”
The dean leaned forward. “You know I can’t do that, Doctor…”
“Dr. Thomas. It wouldn’t be fair to the students. We’re not going to pad out a class just so you can get paid. I’m sorry. It’s just not in the cards. Maybe next semester you can stir up some interest in Introduction to Genome Editing.”
“So what do I do now?”
“Well,” the dean paused, earnest and thoughtful, “if you want to keep your office, you’ll have to volunteer to TA one of the chemistry lab units. Otherwise, I’m afraid your campus access expires at midnight this Friday.”
When Neil deGrasse Tyson proposed his “Rationalia” thought experiment several months ago, I thought is was cute but misguided. Now that he’s doubled down on the concept, I can see exactly why it is such a naively flawed idea. Rationalia would be a disaster for conservation. This short science fiction story illustrates why.
“Oyez, oyez, oyez! This, the 107th session of the 16th Superior District Court, is hereby gavelled to order. Please be seated.”
Cope Johns remained standing. He surveyed the crowd, an odd assortment of bystanders, tourists, and his few supporters. Chief Justice Carlsson entered the hall, climbed onto his podium, and looked down on the assembled masses. Somewhere amid the crush of bodies, an elderly lawyer took his seat. All eyes turned to him. He timidly rose to his feet.
“Today we hear Dr. Cope Johns, on behalf of the Vaquita (Phocoena sinus), versus the Free Republic of Rationalia. Make note that, as evidence suggests that timeliness is required in this decision, we have elected to expedite deliberations. The court has been briefed extensively on this case and requires no additional background. Dr. Johns, your opening statement?”
Cope approached the stand. The bailiff placed his left hand on the near-field ID scanner, confirming his identity. Cope raised his right hand to nothing and swore under his breath.
“Thank you, your honor. The Vaquita is a tiny porpoise that has been on the verge of extinction for the better part of a century. Its only remaining habitat is in the Gulf of Reason, where the Free Republic of Rationalia intends to establish the Lost Lobos tidal energy farm. This farm will displace the Vaquita breeding grounds and will likely drive the species over the brink to extinction.”Read More
You asked for a map the clarify the journey of Calliope, the Salvager, and others as they sail, fly, and walk across Kraken Mare, Titan’s largest methane sea. Here, for your pleasure, is a map of the journey across Kraken Mare from A Crack in the Sky above Titan.
This Monday I launched A Crack in the Sky above Titan, a science fiction adventure framed around the seemingly simple question: What is it like to sail across the methane seas of Titan?
While Southern Fried Science is all about ocean science and conservation, we do make the occasional foray into space. From celestial navigation on Mars, do diving robots on Europa, to exploring other (fictional) worlds to learn something about our own, we haven’t shied away from the ‘other’ final frontier. So, in honor of A Crack in the Sky above Titan (available now on Amazon*) here is a selection of our favorite space nerdery from Southern Fried Science.
Our planet is an ocean, and it is almost entirely unexplored. OpenROV, and their new Trident underwater drone is one of many tools that will help change that by democratizing exploration, conservation, and ocean science. We are poised atop the crest of a wave that may change how humans interact with the ocean as profoundly as the invention of the aqualung.
Earth is not the only body in our solar system that hosts an ocean. As we (slowly) venture out into the stars, could OpenROV Trident dive in extraterrestrial seas?