I had planned to post this yesterday, but my intention was derailed by the death of a beloved entertainer/gadfly/prognosticator...
On Monday night, I headed out to the beautiful Bell House in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn for movie night courtesy of the Secret Science Club.
The movie feature was Moon, a science-fiction film co-written and directed by Duncan Jones, the son of David Jones, who is best known to international rock fans as Dejvid Bovi. Moon, simply put, was magnificant- the best hard SF film I have seen in many years. While a low-budget film, the effects were perfectly adequate, and did not overshadow the excellent acting (Sam Rockwell carries the film in a largely-solo performance and Kevin Spacey does Douglas Rain proud as the voice of an Artificial Intelligence) and well-developed themes of the movie. The plot concerns a Helium-3 harvester working in isolation on the moon, who is coming to grips with the reality of his situation at the tail end of his 3-year contract. The film provides some interesting twists, as the audience is not sure if Sam's perception of events is accurate, or if he's suffering from hallucinations. While wholly original, the film does touch upon themes explored in other films (Alien dealt with a cast of working-class characters employed by an uncaring corporation, 2001: A Space Odyssey dealt with an AI administering a manned space mission), with which it can be favorably compared. The science-fiction is hard as a moon rock- there's nary a hint of faster-than-light travel or "mystical" energy fields. I recommend this film with no reservations- it's an essential watch for science-fiction fans, and an interesting watch for those indifferent to the genre (mystery fans in particular should enjoy the protagonist's investigation into his circumstances). To put it succinctly, the film is a shoestring-budget miracle. The film was so well-done that I may have to catch Source Code in the theaters. Here's the official trailer for Moon:
Before the film screening, there was a lecture by astronomer and selenologist Arlin Crotts of Columbia University. Professor Crotts, as you can imagine, lectured on the altar of the lupine lords. The moon is chemically different from the Earth- it is difficient in light and heavy elements, but has the same isotope ratio as Earth. The Giant Impact Theory has been proposed to explain the origin of the moon:
Recently, water was found on the moon. It is possible that water and other hydroxyls are produced by protons impacting the lunar surface. Abundant water on the moon would be useful in the production of rocket fuel, and the moon, having lower gravity than the Earth, would be a better launch site for rockets bound to other regions of the solar system, (and beyond, for all you Buzz Lightyear fans).
Regarding the Helium-3 mentioned in the movie, there is hope that it can be employed in fusion reactors. Lacking a magnetosphere, the moon would not deflect the solar wind, so Helium-3 would be more abundant there than on Earth (apparently a few kilograms of it are extant- kept treasured in physics labs).
The one fly in the ointment is that, as Professor Crotts joked, "Fusion is always twenty years in the future."
UPDATE: Added trailer for Moon- seriously, check this gem of a film out!
SECOND UPDATE: Speaking of the moon, I have to add this classic- unfortunately, the only change between now and then is that, alas, whitey is no longer on the moon: