Friday, December 28, 2007

A Joyous Stardance for the New Year!

Dear readers, I hope you had (or are having) a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Mirthful Yule, Joyous Kwanzaa, or other winter festival of choice!

I plan to get back to regular blogging after the turn of the new year, but I was inspired to post about the upcoming real-life Stardance. As the Stardance Movie website explains:
The Stardance Experience proposes that there is more to space travel than orbital mechanics, payloads and turbopumps, more stories to be told in the setting of space than “ray-guns and rocket ships.”

Loosely based on the Spider and Jeanne Robinson’s series of novels, Stardance (Dial Press 1979), Starseed (Ace Books 1991) and Starmind (Ace Books 1995). The story follows astronaut Treya Anderson, a full time maintenance worker on a space station orbiting earth in the not too distant future. Both a dancer and an engineer, she chose science and space over a career in dance, but now, circumstances and opportunity will combine to allow her to merge her two passions into transcendent art with cosmic consequences.
On Sunday, Vancouver dancer Kathleen McDonagh will lift off from Las Vegas in a modified 727, the so-called "vomit comet", to be filmed performing zero-gravity dance. For more information, check out the Stardance Experience blog, written by Jeanne and Spider and the movie's director, James Sposto. You can also listen to Spider Robinson read from the Stardance trilogy in his podcast.


Now while this is pretty cool, I'm sure you are wondering what this has to do with biology. While the original Stardance didn't have much of a biological bent, other than the adjustment of the human body to zero-G, the later books reveal that it is the destiny of the human race to evolve from Homo sapiens to Homo caelestis. From the end of Starmind (highlight to read - spoilers!):
Stardancer Shara Drummond announces to the people of Earth:
"I'm afraid your life is about to change forever. Your old life is over; a new one is about to begin. I know that will not be welcome news for many of you. No baby wants to be born; they all come out crying. But they stop. I'm afraid you have no more choice in the matter than a baby does: the contractions are beginning, and no power in the Solar System could stop them now.
[. . .]
"You know that the Fireflies seeded this planet with life. You know that much of what you are is written in your DNA. Some of you may know that large segments of th information encoded there appear to be gibberish, and do not express somatically -- the so-called junk DNA. These genetic 'instructions' are never carried out, because they lack the end-begin codes that would activate them.
"In just a few minutes, a kind of telepathic trigger signal will go out from Titan. There is no way to avoid or shield against it: it will be as unstoppable as a neutrino, and faster. Designed by the same beings who designed DNA in the first place, it will insert end-begin codes in certain introns -- and switch them on. Everywhere in the Solar System, the nature of human tissue will change, permanently.
"It will become transparent to gravitons. In plain language, it will become immune to gravity."
No, it's not realistic bioscience, but I find the idea of dancing among the stars a joyful notion.

Have a happy new year!

Update 1/1/08: Here's a bit of video from the flight (via Stardance Movie Blog):


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