Summer 2009 in Colorado; Summit of Mt. Chiquita 13,069 ft.

My name is Greg Hayes and this year will mark my 15th year teaching science. I've taught ten years in KY and have just finished four in OH. Most of my teaching experience has been in teaching physics and astronomy. When I'm not teaching, I enjoy being outdoors. Mountain climbing and hiking are two of my favorite outdoor activities.

Informative Video on Mountain Climbing:

Clever Video on Using the Powers of Ten to Illustrate the Sizes of Things in the Universe:

My school web page is included below.



MOVIE: Red Planet, 2000external image slide0017_image011.jpg
PROBE: Functions of Living Things (pg. 147)

Red Planet
Red Planet crafts itself as satisfying hard science-fiction. There’s a lovely throwaway gag with the problems of urinating in lower gravity that shows just how much the film has done its scientific homework. The Australian Outback and Jordanian locations make Mars look hauntingly desolate. One can certainly make a few quibbles about the film’s science – the sparse dispersion of algae and even a twenty-five year period would not be enough to create oxygen on the surface and even if it did the thinness of the atmosphere and Mars’s distance from the sun would result in conditions akin to being in the Antarctic on a bad day rather than something the astronauts can comfortably stroll about in. But it looks impressive and there are a number of dramatically enthralling sequences such as Carrie-Ann Moss’s attempts to open an airlock to defuse a fire and her climactic rescue of Val Kilmer.

The biggest problem with Red Planet is the ending. The script is frustratingly vague as to how the bugs got there. It is evolutionarily impossible for even single-celled, let alone complex, organisms to evolve within a thirty-year timeframe. And this is something a hard-science rooted film such as this should surely have known. Instead the film sidesteps any real explanation in favour of a woolly-headed spirituality. Terence Stamp has been written in in a brief part whose sole purpose is to explain the need for religious belief and argue that there are some things that lie beyond science. At the end when it comes to explaining the bug’s origins, the film merely shrugs its shoulders and avoids any explanation by saying “God moves in mysterious ways.” Here both Mission to Mars and Red Planet have a certain conceptual failing. Both do an exceptional job in depicting a realistic Mars and a believable scientifically-extrapolated expedition there but both seem to want to find more than a desolate world there and resort to visions of a beneficent warm fuzzy greater universe, one where life is not merely evolved but part of a greater purpose.


TELEVISION SHOW: Star Trek TNG Episode 135 "The Quality of Life"
PROBE: Is it Living? (pg. 123)

Star Trek TNG
Sure, technology can make life easier, but when it advances too quickly it can be fraught with peril, or raise questions people aren't ready to answer. For years, Dr. Farallon (Ellen Bry) has been working on an orbiting particle fountain capable of large-scale planetary mining. Even though it isn't quite finished and tested yet, Geordi and the Enterprise have been sent to determine whether or not it is a more efficient method of mining than the more traditional means. Along with this large-scale invention, Dr. Farallon has also invented helper robots, which she calls "exocomps." A fan of Data's positronic brain, she has given her exocomps artificial intelligence. Turns out she may have given these exocomps a little too much intelligence, because they start acting in ways that look suspiciously like sentient self-preservation. When Geordi and Picard get trapped on the particle fountain as it's about to blow up, Data refuses to sacrifice a potential life form in favor of two proven life forms, even though they are the most important members of the Enterprise. Some excellent ideas are touched on here, but they're not taken to the extremes (particularly the ability to mass-produce a life form), but the action scenes are well executed. --Andy Spletzer