03 October 2013


Sliders: The Mindgame Court

There may just be a TV-within-your-TV in every single Sliders episode. Why has Marshall McLuhan not called me yet???

Today I write about my favourite Season 1 episode, hands down. It has the best story, in the sense of completeness, fantasy, plausibility, complexity, and emotional impact. And my favourite part of it is Mindgame . . .

Want to play? It's simple! =D

First, the captains of both teams each take a buzzer. Then the referee says something like, "One hundred scientists surveyed, top three answers are on the board: name a feature of relativity." The captain who buzzes first gets to answer, and if his answer is the most popular one, he gets the ball for his team.

Who can guess what the top answer was?

In the event that his answer doesn't top the board, the other captain is given a crack at the question so he can "steal" the ball. (You know, Family Fortunes was always one of my favourite game shows.)

Once it is clear which team has possession of the ball, another question is read--one which must be answered with a list. Only the player holding the ball is allowed to speak, and he must do so without getting tagged by the players on the other team. If he is at risk of being tagged, he can pass the ball to a teammate who will finish the answer for him.

QUICK! You have the ball and defense is closing in! How many more can you name?
(I can do three: Brachiosaurus, Diplodocus and Supersaurus)

When the answer has been completed, whoever is holding the ball can slam it down on one of the court's thirty-six squares to claim it for his team. And then the other team gets a chance with the ball.

It is indeed a "mind game" . . . but inasmuch as there is no actual problem solving going on, it is about as mentally demanding as Trivial Pursuit. (Not that I'm complaining. That's the only board game I do well at.)

Pass it to ME! I can finish and I'M OPEN!!!

But there's no denying that the game is physically rigorous--and I can imagine that even in this world, where famous physicists have the sort of celebrity status our world awards to athletes, there are some of them who see Mindgame the way some of us see our own professional sports. That is, all Roman excess and no Greek values.

Then again, perhaps the appeal is in the strategy. It's not just about collecting the most number of squares on the court, but about collecting the squares that will let you take the other team's squares and keep your own squares safe.

If you block a line of the other team's squares by claiming the squares on both ends, then your team can take all the inner squares. But of course, you have to do this before the clock runs out on your turn!

Mindgame is reason enough for me to want to slide into this world every Saturday. (Well, every Saturday after my German lessons.) I could never play on a professional or even collegiate level, of course, but I'm sure I'd acquit myself decently in a game of pickup Mindgame at a community court.

I just hope it's okay to name a crater honouring an author instead of a scientist . . .

If I play often enough, I may even take some of the star athletes seriously. Which finally brings me to the character twist. You see, in our world, we don't have the best opinion of professional athletes. We tend to think that people who make millions by being bigger, faster and stronger than the competition, though only in the bubble of some field or court, are inferior to those who must fall back on intellectual skills (like, you know, bookkeeping) in order to make an average living. And we've all probably said something like, "In an ideal world, _____ would make more money than entertainers," at one point in the past. This world accepts the challenge.

Quinn's Quadruple
(Yes, I'm still counting)

So what happens when you take two Physics geniuses and make them really big stars? So I don't give away any (more) spoilers, let's just say that no profession is immune to the corruption that comes from celebrity status and the lure of money. (But we could have learned this from our own history . . .)

It can be sobering to think that the main reason you're not a huge jerk is that your circumstances have kept you in line. (Your conscience? What's that?) We all like to think we're more moral than this, but do we really know?

Your Turn to Slide: If your profession or specialty had celebrity status in another world, how big a star would you be?

Nota Bene: Only after I published the last Sliders post did I realise that I had, just like the Fox broadcasting company before me, put the Season 1 episodes in the wrong order. So the last post has been archived as "Episode 9", while this one shall be archived as "Episode 8".


Shaz said...

Slide to a world where mediocrity is celebrated and I would be a superstar! I can do many things adequately, but alas! I excel at absolutely nothing.

cyurkanin said...

On the planet of the llamas, I WOULD BE KIIIIIIIINNG!!! ;)

Angie Tusa said...

Today I learned that Family Feud is called Family Fortunes in Britain. :) Now that's an interesting conversion, to think what it says about each culture.

Living in New Orleans, seeing people treat Drew Brees like the sweetest, most wonderful man ever who is just so gosh darn perfect, I have to disagree that people automatically look down on sports celebrities. I feel that way, but American football is just so important to most people around here that the star of the team automatically becomes their hero.

As far as your question, while I am good at my job, I doubt I would rank high enough for celebrity status. I think you've got to be a little more devoted to moving up in the world to get that far, and I doubt this job would be considered part of the major leagues. :)

Enbrethiliel said...


Shaz -- LOL! It's a funny answer anyway. =)

Christopher -- Dare I ask what happened in the llama pen earlier this week? =P

Angie -- Good point. I guess I didn't realise how much I was favouring the "braniac" perspective on athletes. ;-P But I can see how easy it is to project all the virtues of the community onto a single "golden boy," and why athletes, often the picture of health and fitness, would seem especially golden. (I think the "golden girl" equivalent is the beauty queen, though she has fallen out of favour in recent years. Would you say that Miss America acts as a similar symbol?)

Anyway, it's true that ambition is as important a factor in achieving star status as talent is. I like to think that I'd achieve at least "cult" notoriety in my own field (Hahahaha . . .), but I'm also not that committed to being on top for the sake of being on top.

Angie Tusa said...

I think you are right about Miss America's status declining somewhat, though she may still be the closest we have, unless you maybe count female tennis stars.

Belfry Bat said...

Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction?

Poor Poincaré... it's reported he felt rather scooped by Einstein's paper on the Electromagnetic force...

How big a star would I be?

I might be a brown dwarf. I make some noise, but no serious publications, yet.

Enbrethiliel said...


I have absolutely no idea what you're saying and have started to believe that you're using my combox to leave coded messages for your spy friends.

It also occurs to me that in a world where your specialty is especially celebrated, you might not be exactly where you are now. A firm may have snapped you up several years ago and you wouldn't have time for publications because you'd be working on projects.

Belfry Bat said...

Ehem, then.

Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction? (But I guess this wasn't on the board, in the show-in-the-show. stupid fictional physicists... )

Poor Poincaré... [...]

love the girls said...

Even outside of sports, specialization is prized, and in turn paid well for.

A surgeon who outside of the surgery can only golf, is well paid are respected because of his one prized skill.

In comparison, Shaz brings up the well rounded person as if its a failing, when it should be most prized of all.

Similarly, colleges used to educate men to be well rounded, where as today virtually all education is nothing more than trade schools where it be car mechanics or heart surgery.

This shift in college education reflects the change in society from prizing total formation, to a prizing possessions and other material goods that are more proficiently produced and obtained by the specialist.

love the girls said...

Am I glad I exist in simple euclidean space because I simply can't abide contradictions.

Enbrethiliel said...


That's a great point, LTG! It's important to learn a trade, but also important to be well rounded. I can't help but remember how astounded I was to read in the Little House books that Pa Ingalls could kill a panther with a single shot (which never missed) and build an entire house and all its furniture from scratch and play the violin--and seemingly do all of these things quite well! These days, we divide all those activities up among professionals. Don't get me started on all the stuff Ma could do, too!

On the other hand, I also recall a comment by James Gleick in his biography of physicist Richard Feynman. He said that MIT was both the best school and the worst school for someone like Feynman. It was the best school because it let his studies be so specialised that he could focus on what he did best and not have to worry about anything peripheral to it. It was the worst school for the same reason.

But back to you now! In a world where architects are idolised beyond Howard Roark's craziest dreams, how many people would be asking for your autograph on the street? ;-)

love the girls said...

Miss E.

I'm glad Howard Roark is only a fictional character, because he is without doubt the worst architect possibly imagined.

Not that some have not approached him in absurdity, such as Eisenman whose houses are simply beyond silly in concept. To wit his house vi with its master bedroom split in two including the bed because it was required to conform to the architecture. In other words, human life is demanded to conform to Eisenman's program. Unbelievable. The man is not an architect but a fool soaking other fools while making absurd pretenses at perfecting the art.

House vi master bedroom http://tinyurl.com/qckydc4

As for people asking for my autograph, I suppose the numbers would be the same read my blog.

The art of being sought after is the art of marketing, an art I shun in preference to solitude of my family life.

Enbrethiliel said...


That bedroom reminds me of 1950s movies. LOL! I wouldn't want to live in a house where I couldn't move the furniture around.

My own marketing problem is that I can easily make myself a hot commodity but lack the stamina (or just the desire) to keep the illusion going for very long. Then people get disappointed. =( Much better to be self-deprecating at the beginning, though that's another sort of marketing problem!

Sheila said...

I'm like Shaz -- I'm not superlative at anything. I chose to do things this way, because I prefer it, but I wouldn't say it's exactly a better choice. For us as a society to excel at anything, to make great inventions or send anyone to the moon, we have to allow some people to specialize.

My dad used to say that the ideal person has "triangular" knowledge: a broad base where you know a little about everything, and a narrow apex where you know lots about one special thing. If you only specialize and know nothing but your specialty, you'll have a hard time applying any of your wonderful skill and knowledge.

However, if everyone specializes and no one is a generalist, we become interdependent to a degree with which I'm not really comfortable. I don't know how to make many of the things I need and use, and that bothers me. The fact is that I could never make a cellphone, no one person could. To have a cellphone at all, we need to specialize. But if all the cellphone towers went out and the cars stopped driving, I'd like to think I wouldn't just drop dead.

I think sometimes that we ought to teach survival skills in school, and have a test where we drive teens out into the wilderness and just leave 'em. Kids who need to be rescued can't graduate. I'm sure our society would benefit.

Enbrethiliel said...


I think it was Milton Friedman who said that no one person on earth knows how to make a pencil. As simple as it is, it already requires a high degree of specialisation.

I'm not nearly as self-reliant as you are, so the main thing that has been bothering me lately is my family's reliance on commercial toiletries. Right now, I'm experimenting with a "shampoo" recipe which calls for coconut milk and aloe vera gel. If it works out, I'll be really happy, because I already know how to make my own coconut milk and it's pretty easy to harvest aloe vera (if you can grow it, that is--LOL!)--and I won't be at the mercy of the shampoo specialists again! (As an aside, I get why laptops and even pencils must be specialised, but bath products? I think we've taken things too far there.)

As for schools, even the most watered-down "survival" skills are no longer properly taught. When I think of my own high school's Home Economics programme, I weep a little.

Sheila said...

Free-market theorists love "I, Pencil" (the essay you mean, though I can't remember if Friedman wrote it or someone else) but I got annoyed when it implied that we'd never be able to write a single word without the free market. HELLO? Quill pens on calfskin? Charcoal on birchbark? Chalk on a slate -- two common ROCKS which require no artistry to use at all? Stick in the dirt? Come on, pencils are nice, but there are many writing utensils people can, and have, and do make all by themselves.

Here is the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYO3tOqDISE My husband watched it with his eyes shining. I got stabby. Ah well.

Hm, coconut milk and aloe vera! Interesting .... how's it work? I'm thinking of getting some kind of soap-producing plant. I heard pokeberry roots have soap in them, and they grow all over the place here, so maybe that will work.

Enbrethiliel said...


While I'm very happy about the free market's making things like pencils possible, I'm personally bothered by how little I can produce on my own. What would make me stabby is a similar video implying that we'd never have clean hair if it weren't for the shampoo industry. ;-)

The video reminded me of this Sesame Street video which I've always loved:

How Crayons Are Made

There's less of an agenda in that one, though. =) So the real foil to I, Pencil may be another Sesame Street video, which was also very memorable for me:

A Stool for Me

Notice that they do everything themselves? =D

Hmmmm . . . You may have just inspired a new post, Sheila!