Tipping Point

A few days ago (May the Fourth) was Star Wars Day, as I wrote about a couple of years ago.

Star Wars Day is an annual event. Today, however, sees a once-in-the-lifetime-of-the-universe event… the Star Wars Tipping Point.

This was defined (or at least brought to my attention) in an instalment of the wonderful XKCD webcomic back at the end of January (hopefully still available here) and is the point after which the release of The Phantom Menace (i.e. part one of the Star Wars saga and the first film in the prequel trilogy) is closer to the release of Return of the Jedi (part six and the final film of the original trilogy) than to the present day.

I haven’t actually verified the exact dates (which, I assume, are based on the screenings of the world premieres) but the years certainly seem to fit – RotJ came out in 1983 and tPM in 1999 (respectively 32 and 16 years ago).

Incidentally, Return of the Jedi was the second Star Wars film that I saw during its original run at the cinema and the first one I remember fairly clearly – I was too young to catch Star Wars itself (later retitled A New Hope), as I was only a year or so old when it came out, and I have vague memories of seeing The Empire Strikes Back in the cinema.  By the time of RoTJ I’d seen the first film several times on TV as it used to be a staple of British Christmas television.

Actually, after Return of the Jedi there was quite a long gap (until Judge Dredd came out, apparently in 1995) when I didn’t go to the cinema at all.  I then caught the rerelease of the entire (remastered) original trilogy when they where shown at the cinema in the year or two leading up to the Phantom Menace, and I saw the whole prequel trilogy at the cinema as they came out (mostly within a few days of the local premiere, I think).

When the new trilogy (episodes 7 – 9) come out over the next few years, I fully intend to watch them at the cinema too.  Episode 7 (The Force Awakens) is due out this December, though I may not get a chance to see it until early next year.  I’m not sure when episode 9 is due out, though I’d guess it should be around 2019.  I suppose the next big Star Wars Tipping Point will be when the time between releases of the first and last films (which will be roughly 42 years) is less than the time from the last one to the present moment (i.e. it will be sometime around 2061).

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On The Fine Art of Compromise

This year I have celebrated (and blogged about) both Pi Day and Tau Day.

If you read slightly between the lines of my Tau Day post, you may have correctly got the impression that, in principle, I’m in favour of the idea of  τ, which is the  same as 2π (i.e. the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its radius), as the more fundamental constant (mainly because it gets rid of the factor 2 in quite a few formulas and therefore renders them a little bit more concise and beautiful) but, because I tend to be (or at least think of myself as) quite pragmatic (or maybe it’s because I’m a pessimist), I don’t see any great likelihood of τ replacing π in general usage anytime soon (and, looking on the bright side, at least π gives us the opportunity to make jokes about pumpkins).

With all that in mind, it’s perhaps not surprising that I particularly enjoyed today’s installment of the xkcd comic.

Of course, pau isn’t a Greek letter.  According to my favourite fount-of-much-knowledge, however, it is an alternative name for bao (aka baozi), a type of Chinese steamed bun which, co-incidentally cropped up in an episode of Firefly (just to link this into yet another recent post on my blog).  Therefore, if we were to adopt the compromise solution of pau instead of pi or tau, we could celebrate by eating bao (and perhaps watching Firefly, or at least the episode “Our Mrs Reynolds”).  It’s an unfortunate linguistic coincidence that the word bao sounds very much like the Welsh word baw, meaning mud and often used as a euphemism for certain other similarly coloured but somewhat less pleasant substances, as in the phrase baw ci (“ci” being Welsh for “dog”).

There is apparently also an Indian bread, from Goa, called pau, and a Hawaiian feather skirt called a pāʻū.   These could also make an appearance in a celebration of Pau Day.