Tuesday, April 10, 2018

50th Anniversary: Classic Science-Fiction Film "2001: A Space Odyssey"

Image of a futuristic space hotel in Earth orbit, from the 1968 classic, science-fiction motion picture
"2001: A Space Odyssey." In this concept, the space hotel would rotate to create artificial gravity
equivalent to the gravity people experience on Earth.
(Image Source: Pinterest.com)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Today (April 10) marks the 50th anniversary of the general release of the classic science-fiction motion picture, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Produced and directed by veteran American film director Stanley Kubrick, and written by Mr. Kubrick and English science-fiction writer and futurist Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey is now considered one of the most influential films of all time.

However, 2001: A Space Odyssey is not an-action adventure film like the Star Trek or Star Wars series of films (and of course, in the case of Star Trek, also several television series). 2001: A Space Odyssey is a highly philosophical drama about the-then (1968) future of crewed space flight, as well as a look at evolution, from the very beginning of human-kind to a possible future evolution of humans.

Dialogue is minimized in 2001: A Space Odyssey. And, instead of an original musical score as with other major theatrical productions, this motion picture is particularly notable for the innovative use of classical music from commercial sources.

The motion picture begins four million years in the past in an African desert, when a dark monolith appears to human ancestors. Apparently this monolith, from an alien civilization, helps spur mankind's evolution.

In 1999, astronauts find a similar monolith on the Moon. Once discovered, the lunar monolith starts transmitting a strong radio signal aimed at Jupiter. Apparently, this is a signal to the makers of the monolith that humans have found the lunar monolith, allowing the monolith makers to infer a certain level of evolution by Earthlings.

A year and a-half later in 2001, five U.S. astronauts are launched on Discovery 1 (three of the astronauts in cryogenic suspension) on a mission to Jupiter. This is a classified government mission, where the purpose of the mission is unknown to the astronauts; the mission purpose is only encoded into the spacecraft's computer system.

A much-discussed issue today, the future of artificial intelligence was first brought to the general public's attention in 2001: A Space Odyssey. As part of the American space mission to the Jupiter system on the spacecraft Discovery 1, most of the spacecraft systems are controlled by the new artificial intelligence (AI) computer HAL 9000. The name HAL stands for Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer.

After the film's release, several people quickly realized that the letters HAL were only a one-letter shift (ahead) from the letters used for the abbreviation of a well-known computer company, IBM. Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the IBM Company all state that this was just a coincidence.

In 2001: A Space Odyssey, “HAL” seems to have a soft-spoken personality while interacting with the astronauts. However, the two astronauts piloting Discovery 1 notice computer errors, later confirmed by Mission Control. What is considered a perfect AI, “foolproof and incapable of error," kills all but one of the five astronauts, claiming the astronauts' attempt to disable the computer system would jeopardize the mission! The one remaining astronaut, after nearly dying himself, does finally succeed in disabling HAL.

After disabling HAL, the remaining astronaut, from a pre-recorded video message, learns of the monolith on the Moon, which has aimed a strong radio transmission towards Jupiter; the mission of Discovery 1 is to investigate why the radio signal is aimed at Jupiter. When the spaceship arrives in orbit of Jupiter, the one astronaut uses an EVA (extra-vehicular activity) pod to investigate another monolith in orbit of Jupiter, which apparently is receiving the special radio signal from the Moon.

At this point, the astronaut encounters many bizarre phenomena. The movie ends with the astronaut being transformed into a “star child,” orbiting the Earth. Apparently, this denotes the future of evolution for Earthlings.

2001: A Space Odyssey was lauded for, what appeared as, a scientifically accurate depiction of what the near-future may look like. As a futurist and science writer, in addition to being a science-fiction author, Arthur C. Clarke made sure the future in 2001 looked scientifically plausible.

One example is the appearance of a space hotel, in Earth orbit, near the beginning of the movie. Today, Bigelow Aerospace is working on expandable space modules that could be used for space stations, and a possible future hotel in space.

What makes the space hotel appear scientifically accurate is the fact that this satellite would use rotation to provide a centrifugal force. Hence the people in such a hotel would feel what is equivalent to the gravity we feel on Earth. The Discovery 1 spacecraft going to Jupiter, and the Aries Trans-Lunar Shuttle, also used rotation to simulate Earth-type gravity.

At the space hotel, a scientist telephoned his daughter on Earth, using a video pay telephone. This predicted the type of video-phone service we have today, with services such as Skype. However, video-phone service did have its beginnings in the mid-1960s, from research at Bell Laboratories. But, due to the high cost of the service at that time, Picture-Phone service was not commercially successful.

AT&T first displayed Picture-Phone service [black-and-white, real-time picture (not slow-scan)] to the general public in 1964, via a transcontinental connection between Disneyland in Anaheim, California and the World's Fair in New York City (the author of this blog-post, Glenn A. Walsh, used the Picture-Phone at the New York World's Fair in June of 1965). Picture-Phone booths were also set-up in New York's Grand Central Terminal, Washington, and Chicago in 1964.

The first general, commercial Picture-Phone service started in Pittsburgh on 1970 June 30. Picture-Phones (38) were leased by eight Pittsburgh corporations including Alcoa and Westinghouse, and by NBC's news / talk radio station, WJAS-AM 1320 (which had helped inaugurate the Pittsburgh service). Two public demonstration, Picture-Phone booths were set-up along the western wall of the Mezzanine of the original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science (Pittsburgh's science and technology museum from 1939 to 1991), as a part of Buhl's Bell Telephone Exhibit.

At the stroke of midnight on 2000 January 1, many people mistakenly celebrated the beginning of a new millennium. However, due to the fact that when our current calendar was established it never included a year zero, the new millennium actually did not begin until 2001 January 1. Hence, this is the reason the title, 2001: A Space Odyssey, used the year 2001 rather than the year 2000.

The 1968 April release of the film was in a 70-millimeter format. In several motion picture theaters, particularly theaters in the larger cities (including the Warner Theater in Downtown Pittsburgh), the film was shown in “Cinerama.” Cinerama was an early version of a wide-screen motion picture format, first demonstrated on Broadway in New York City on 1952 September 30. Cinerama was seen as a way for the motion picture industry to compete with the-then new technology known as television.

Today, many people may be familiar with the wide-screen format known as “Omnimax” or “Imax Dome.” Also using a 70-millimeter film format, Omnimax theaters are often found as part of a museum or science center complex (in Pittsburgh, The Carnegie Science Center's long-time Rangos Omnimax Theater was recently up-graded to a large, digital, flat-screen theater).

While today (April 10), marks the 50th anniversary of the general release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the world premiere of the film occurred on 1968 April 2 at the Uptown Theater in Washington DC. On 1968 April 4, the film opened in the Warner Cinerama Theatre in Hollywood and in Loew's Capitol Theater in New York City. Just before the general release on 1968 April 10, Mr. Kubrick deleted 19 minutes of footage from the film. The international release of the film occurred the next day, 1968 April 11.

Internet Links to Additional Information ---

2001: A Space Odyssey:
Link 1 >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2001%3A_A_Space_Odyssey_(film)
Link 2 >>> http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062622/plotsummary?ref_=tt_stry_pl

Centrifugal Force: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centrifugal_force

Cinerama Motion Pictures: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinerama

Omnimax Motion Pictures: Link >>> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IMAX#Dome_and_OMNIMAX

Related Blog Post ---

"50th Anniversary: 'Star Trek'." 2016 September 6.

Link >>> http://spacewatchtower.blogspot.com/2016/09/50th-anniversary-star-trek.html

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting foFr SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
             2018 April 10.

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Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director, Friends of the Zeiss: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/fotz/ >
& SpaceWatchtower Editor / Author: < http://buhlplanetarium2.tripod.com/weblog/spacewatchtower/gaw/ >
Electronic Mail - < gawalsh@planetarium.cc >
Astronomy Links: < http://buhlplanetarium.tripod.com/#astrolinks >
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South Hills Backyard Astronomers Blog: < http://shbastronomers.blogspot.com/ >
Barnestormin Blog: Writing, Essays, Pgh. News, etc.: < http://www.barnestormin.blogspot.com/ >
Author of History Web Sites on the Internet --
* Buhl Planetarium, Pittsburgh:
  < http://www.planetarium.cc >
* Adler Planetarium, Chicago:
  < http://adlerplanetarium.tripod.com >
* Astronomer, Educator, Optician John A. Brashear:
  < http://johnbrashear.tripod.com >
* Andrew Carnegie & Carnegie Libraries:
  < http://www.andrewcarnegie.cc >
* Civil War Museum of Andrew Carnegie Free Library:
  < http://garespypost.tripod.com >
Duquesne Incline cable-car railway, Pittsburgh:
  < http://inclinedplane.tripod.com >
* Public Transit:
  < http://andrewcarnegie2.tripod.com/transit >


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