Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Science’

“I’m going to have to science the shit out of this”

June 09, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, Movies, Science No Comments →

Already our favorite line from the movies this year.

Is The Martian even science-fiction? Reads like engineering to us, and not that far-fetched.

We are now flying through the Gum Nebula.

April 24, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Science No Comments →

Save your money, we’re going to space. These images of the Gum Nebula, taken by the Hubble telescope, were presented on its 25th anniversary.

Solving the Singapore Math Problem

April 16, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Science 3 Comments →

As viral phenomena go, the math problem posted by Singaporean TV host Kenneth Kong is more interesting than the latest celebrity stupidities. It made people use their brains for a change. However, Kong claimed that this math problem is given to fifth graders. Nope, not even the vaunted Singaporean educational system dishes this out to fifth grade children. Turns out it’s a question in a high school math Olympiad.

Before I learned that it’s a mathlete problem, pride compelled me to prove to myself that I am smarter than a 10-year-old Singaporean (Sucker!). Time I should’ve spent writing my column, so now it is this week’s column.

1. The Problem

Albert and Bernard just became friends with Cheryl, and they want to know when her birthday is. Cheryl gives them a list of 10 possible dates.

May 15 May 16 May 19
June 17 June 18
July 14 July 16
August 14 August 15 August 17

Cheryl then tells Albert and Bernard separately the month and the day of her birthday respectively.

Albert: I don’t know when Cheryl’s birthday is, but I know that Bernard does not know too.

Bernard: At first I don’t know when Cheryl’s birthday is, but I know now.

Albert: Then I also know when Cheryl’s birthday is.

So when is Cheryl’s birthday?

Read our column at

The Theory of Everything: Lovingly Yours, Stephen Hawking

December 11, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Design, Movies, Places, Science No Comments →




The Spiral Staircases of Budapest

These images would’ve come in handy in James Marsh’s melodramatic Stephen Hawking biopic, The Theory of Everything. Read our review at

The rocket science of falling cats

November 26, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Science No Comments →

A cat being dropped upside down to demon

A trampolinist in a space suit imitating

A cat being dropped upside down to demon

A trampolinist in a space suit imitating
All images: Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Read Space Cats: How the “falling cat” phenomenon helped NASA prepare astronauts for zero gravity. Thanks to Juan for the alert.

Cats are the navigators of gravity. We demand a live-action movie starring cats directed by Alfonso Cuaron and shot by Emmanuel Lubezki.

Read Our Cats, Ourselves in the New York Times.

Every movie we see # 116: Interpellating Interstellar

November 14, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies, Science 1 Comment →


108. The Other Woman. We saw it on the plane while drifting in and out of consciousness, which is the best way to see it.

109. Pulp Fiction. On the plane, for the 10,000th time.

110. Magic In The Moonlight. We love it. Critics only saw the ick factor: the age difference between Colin Firth and Emma Stone. “What do you expect, it’s a Woody Allen movie, etc.” But Colin Firth being sarcastic is hot at any age. Late period Woody has come up with a lovely movie about how the world may not have a smidgin of meaning, but it’s not entirely without magic.

111. Celebrity. The only Woody Allen movie we hadn’t seen, and we saw it on YouTube, thank you. Kenneth Branagh’s impression of Woody Allen was universally vilified, but this 16-year-old movie, made when the inventors of Facebook and Twitter were in high school, was prescient about today’s celebrity culture. You have to have met enough self-important idiot celebrities to know how spot-on it is.

112. Rebecca. Re-watched for Halloween. It’s not scary, but we’re very fond of it.

113. Boyhood. Richard Linklater’s project, shot with the same cast over 12 years so you can see how the characters age and evolve. Amazing and deeply moving.

114. Jersey Boys. We kept expecting Joe Pesci to show up…and he did!

115. The Italian Job. The original starring Michael Caine, the subject of all those Steve Coogan impressions.

* * * * *

We would probably like Christopher Nolan’s movies more if his fans didn’t expect everyone to bow down and cross ourselves every time a new one came out. We like Interstellar, though.

Interstellar is set in the near future, on a ruined earth. Ex-NASA pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey, who discovered a shining new career by losing the cuteness) is recruited to lead a mission to find other habitable planets. The crew members include Wes Bentley (too handsome), Anne Hathaway (whom we kept expecting to break out into “Cabaret” or “L-I-Z-A Liza”), and TARS, a robot who resembles a large chocolate bar or the monolith from 2001. Cooper leaves behind a son, Tom, and a daughter, Murph, who cannot forgive him for abandoning her.

A space travel movie! There should be more of those, if only to remind people to look beyond this speck of cosmic rubble we live on. Those of us who were kids during the 1970s are probably the last generation to take it for granted that we would go to space. What are we still doing here?

There are plot holes, but nothing big enough to swallow the movie. (Don’t ask the question about the advanced civilization using Morse Code.) We had an M. Night Shyamalan moment (like “He’s dead!” five minutes into in The Sixth Sense) early on, when we figured out who the ghost was, but even that couldn’t spoil it for us. Nolan does a good job conveying the sense of wonder, and as the vessel does its Kubrickian ballet in total silence we had goosebumps. We especially like the physical representation of time.

Nolan would probably prefer to be compared to Stanley Kubrick (The scene where the schoolteacher says the Apollo landings were fake refers directly to Kubrick, who is supposed to have directed the moonwalk for TV), but the movie Interstellar reminds us of is Contact, the Robert Zemeckis film based on Carl Sagan’s novel and co-starring McConaughey. The father-daughter bond bridging time and space…cue tears, cue Hans Zimmer score, no, no, cut that blasted score. Something like this calls for silence.

There’s a genuine emotional wallop when Cooper is confronted with the reality of time dilation in years and years of bitter messages from his children (grown into Casey Affleck, the one who can act, and Jessica Chastain, who has the ability to look like a pre-Raphaelite angel and still ground the proceedings in reality).

The movie asks questions like, Do we do things for humanity, or for the people we love? What about those of us who like humanity as a concept but don’t like people very much? And what is the role of human relationships in survival and evolution? We could have a long discussion as to whether we should leave this planet we have trashed so badly, but that would be laying too heavy a burden on what is, after all, an entertainment.

Kubrick wanted to know what comes after humanity. Nolan brings us back to the comforts of our species. Enjoy the spectacle.