Monday 28 September 2015

A Random Sun Study

Quick! What's the closest star to Earth?

Interestingly, many people initially don't know. When I reveal the Sun to be the answer, they refuse to believe it - with the common response being that the Sun is a "sun", not a star. It's a fair enough misconception; after all, we associate stars with glistening dots on a beautiful night sky, not a huge gleaming light giving you a gorgeous tan on a sunny beach.

But yes, the Sun is of course a star, and there is no such thing as a "sun", at least in a scientific sense. However, the term is colloquially used to refer to similar stars within complex planetary systems; for example, Gliese 581. It's similar to the Moon in a way, which was named eons before Galileo discovered the first natural satellites orbiting Jupiter in 1610; the same time he discovered Saturn. As a result, humans believed the Moon was a unique celestial body that no planets had an equivalent of, hence why it has no fancy English name. The Sun and Moon do have Latin names that identify them a bit more poetically: Sol and Luna, respectively, and the Greek names of Helios and Selene, respectively.

As most people know, the Sun is friggin huge. And by huge, I mean around 900,000 miles in diameter; by comparison, Earth is just shy of 8000 miles, and Jupiter, the largest planet in the Solar System, still pails in comparison at nearly 89,000 miles. You thought your flight to Australia was long? A Boeing 747 would have to fly for 61 days straight to cover the Sun's diameter. Despite it's impressive luminosity that renders it brighter than most of stars within the Milky Way, the Sun is still minuscule compared to many of the ones that reside light years away from us - from the bright blue Sirius to the distant red hypergiant VY Canis Majoris.

As seen above, the Sun is like a spec of dust next to a space hopper when compared to UY Scuti.
However, VY Canis Majoris is not the largest discovered star; that accolade goes to UY Scuti, discovered around 1860. UY Scuti is around 1.5 billion miles in diameter; a distance a Boeing 747 would take 279 years to cover, so make sure you pack plenty of supplies in your hand luggage. The speed of light itself would take two hours to cross this enormous beast of a star; and even when the Sun becomes a red giant some four billion years from now (destroying Earth in the process), it will still only be 186 million miles across - nowhere near as huge. UY Scuti, however, is not the brightest star in the night sky. This is a fact many people know - the accolade goes to Sirius A, our aforementioned blue beast (and corresponding white dwarf, Sirius B), which is around 1.2 million miles in diameter and has a nighttime visual magnitude that is surpassed only by several planets (including Venus, Mars, and Jupiter), as well as the full Moon.

Humans have documented around 10 trillion galaxies in the entire universe. The Milky Way is home to around 100 billion stars, which means, assuming other galaxies were similar, the universe would house at least 100 octillion stars (100 with 29 zeros). The closest galaxy to us is Andromeda; and it would still take 2.5 million years to reach it when travelling at light speed. It's baffling to think about this, but when you truly assess how massive and neverending space is, 2.5 million light years is a pretty average distance. In terms of neighbouring stars, Proxima Centurai is the closest, residing just 4 light years from our own Sun. Despite being so close, it's small size (124,000 miles across) and weak magnitude make it invisible to the naked eye.

It may be 93 million miles away, but the Sun is still so bright that it illuminates our planet into an array of colours and allows life to evolve and prosper - basically because stars are huge chemical reactors, and one of the ways they exude all the energy inside them is through tremendously strong heat and light. The Sun does give off harmful radiation; however, Earth is able to block this out with it's ozone layer; a crucial element to the planet to maintain life. Staring at the Sun for prolonged amounts of time can cause temporary and permanent damage to the retina due to absorption of harmful UV light; this can trigger awful headaches and blurred vision, reveal the Sun's round, bright shape whenever you blink, and completely alter your perception of colours. Leering at the Sun for as little as two minutes can damage your eyes for the rest of your life; however, as we all know, it is such a painful experience that nobody could possibly last that long anyway. The Sun can only really be observed without harm to the eyes during certain periods of sunrise and sunset, and during hazy or cloudy atmospheric conditions.

But alas, that big ball of hot plasma and hydrogen and god knows what else is why you're alive today. Respect it. Love it. Bow before it.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday 22 September 2015

The Worst Disney Sequels

After the classic Disney animated hits overwhelm us with critical and commercial success (mostly anyway), there is always one downside - inevitable sequels. Why is this such a big deal? Well, most people know by now that the majority of Disney's animated sequels are lacklustre, direct to video poor mans versions of their predecessors - it's a trend that plagued many of their old efforts, putting the originals to shame. Without rambling on too much, let's have a look into what I believe is the worst of the bunch...

The Jungle Book 2 (2003)

Alongside the equally rubbish Return to Never Land (we'll get to that), The Jungle Book 2 is the rare Disney sequel that was actually released in cinemas instead of direct to video. The film hit theatres in February 2003, and with global earnings of $135 million on a $20 million budget, it sure did click with audiences. But, why?

At it's core, The Jungle Book 2 has no noble intentions - it's a lazy, boring, overly brief, and poorly paced rehash of the original, featuring sub par animation and the same basic plot concept of Shere Khan pursuing Mowgli, who reunites with his dear friend Baloo upon running away from the man village. Nothing is fresh or unique; and while Tony Jay does a great job with Shere Khan, John Goodman (fantastic an actor as he is) is just not an apt replacement for Phil Harris as Baloo. Nothing about this film is offensively bad, but it has little to no enjoyment factor simply because it feels like absolutely no effort went into it.

Return to Never Land (2002)

Return to Never Land was another Disney sequel released into cinemas back in 2002; officially budgeted at $20 million, it hauled a global total of $110 million and so this was worthwhile release without a doubt. But, as is true for Jungle Book 2, Return to Never Land is a bland rehash of it's predecessor, lacking imagination and creativity. Again, there's nothing really offensive here, but it's just such a dull experience that it's not worth your time, especially if you're a fan of the original. Along with a bland story and mediocre songs, we also have a host of unlikeable characters, notably obnoxious protagonist Jane, and and some horrible CGI imagery blended into the already cheap looking animation. The ending is surprisingly unique, but otherwise, all of this should return to Never Land and never come back.

The Return of Jafar (1994)

Return of Jafar is without a doubt one of Disney's worst efforts, with bland animation (for film standards anyway), weak voice acting, and a painfully dull plot. As the title suggests, the film features the return of the villain from the first film, Jafar, as his magic lamp is found by a thief named Abis Mal (harharhar geddit), who joins him on his plot to exact revenge on Aladdin. The most notable factor aside from the poor visuals is the replacement of Robin Williams as the Genie; after disagreements with the studio, he left the project, with Dan Castellaneta (famous for his work as Homer Simpson) hired as the replacement. Castellaneta is a talented man, and he really tries his best, but the poor writing and the high standards set by Williams hold him back from achieving the greatness he deserves. There's some catchy albeit forgettable songs, but otherwise, this is a brainless and cheesy affair that yields little to no enjoyment factor.

The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (2000)

What is it with Disney sequels and the word "return"? Whatever. The Little Mermaid is famous for kickstarting the Disney Renaissance era back in 1989, and so a sequel was inevitable, even if it is direct to video. The Little Mermaid II focuses on Ariel and Prince Eric's daughter Melody, who is kept away from the sea during her childhood after Morgana, the sister of Ursula from the first film, vows revenge on Ariel, King Triton, and their family. Melody doesn't give up easily, however; and in fact sneaks into the sea all the time when growing up and develops a strong attachment to it.

Whilst it attempts to disguise the fact that it's a lazy rehash, it fails miserably; instead of Ariel negotiating with the villain to become human, it's Melody negotiating with the villain to become a mermaid. The plot is overstuffed with contrivances, irritating characters (Tip and Dash can go die), and ends with a predictable, dull climax. Melody herself fares no better than the others as a protagonist, and overall, nothing about this film makes it a worthy successor to such a treasured Disney classic.

Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure (2001)


Scamp's Adventure is very similar to Little Mermaid II, with the protagonist being the son of Tramp and Lady, Scamp. Much like Melody, Scamp despises his generic life at home and seeks to enter a world his parents try to contain him from; in this case, the great outdoors, away from house rules and restrictions. He eventually befriends a group of strays lead by the arrogant Buster, and from there on, learns some valuable lessons about family and friendship. I don't have too much to say, because the meat of the film isn't truly terrible, but for me, Scamp just ruins it beyond measure; he's a whiny, arrogant, and unlikeable brat. Of course, his controversial views are that of a naive child and so this should be realistically developed throughout the film, but it just isn't - so the final result is an extremely, extremely unlikeable protagonist, which is never a good thing.

There exists a few decent sequels, including the Lion King ones and Aladdin and the King of Thieves, but for the most part, there's not much to enjoy.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Yet Another Birthday...

Today is a very special day - as it's not only the 125th anniversary of the late Colonel Sanders, but also my 21st birthday! Now, why is this so important? Well, it's not. But I've been so busy with work recently that I've not had much time to get out some blog posts outside of the standard movie reviews. So, as is tradition, it's time to give you this egotistical little post to celebrate yet another birthday.

What's that you see above? Why, the crest of Southampton FC of course! But why is it there? Well, everything on this birthday literally revolved around them - one of my gifts was a £70 Saints coat, made from a beautiful waterproof material and manufactured by the always brilliant Adidas. Other stuff included a retro Saints shirt that was worn during their 1976 FA Cup victory, and a complete replica of their current away kit, with my name and a fitting number pasted on the back. Check it out.

There's also a pair of earphones made by Veho, who are the current sponsors of the team, and while I'm still getting used to wearing much larger headphones in public, it's fair to say that the sound quality and outside noise reduction they offer makes it truly worthwhile. Finally, to seal the deal, I've got tickets to attend their next home game against Manchester United on September 20, which is gonna be one exciting watch.

Wait, what is this? Well, it's the new teaser poster for 2016's The Jungle Book, a live action revamp by Disney of their original 1967 animated classic. Though Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent left much to be desired when it came to live action Disney updates, this year's Cinderella nailed the traditional, charming tone that harkens back to the old days, and hopefully The Jungle Book will achieve the same thing. It's all star cast and, thus far, beautiful visual style make it easily one of my most anticipated films next year.

But why the hell am I rambling about this? This isn't my most anticipated films list...well, basically, I friggin love the artwork of this poster, most notably the gorgeous depiction of Bagheera himself, and so another gift was a large replica of it printed on silk fabric and framed to be hung on my wall. It's being shipped from China, so it won't be here for another three weeks or so. Keep an eye on my Twitter to see what it looks like in the end...

But yeah, that was probably the longest birthday blog post of all time. While I don't go for all the clubbing or drinking nonsense that other people embrace on their 18th or 21st outings, I certainly had a memorable time, and a fantastic lineup of gifts - which my guilt made me want to pay people back for - made it a fantastic time from beginning to end.

The only main issue is my phone deciding to give my technical grief on today of all days, but hey, technology is forever against you.

Thanks for reading!