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La La Land

This is a beautiful film about love and dreams, and how the two impact each other.

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Jackie

There are two movies in "Jackie." One of these movies is just OK. The other is exceptional. The first one keeps undermining the second.

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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The Thinking Molecules of Titan: Ending by Berk Torun

Editor's note: This is a continuation of a story Roger was working on when he passed away. This ending is one of many we received. To read Roger's beginning to the story, from the end of which each entry picks up the thread, go here. Illustration by Krishna Bala Shenoi. This is one of four endings we're posting this week. Vote on this week's endings here.

Berk Torun writes:

"You must be insulting Mozart," said Alex. "The guy put a lot of effort into his works. I am sure that is just random noise."

Regan was mad at Alex but didn't react very harshly. "At least you could comment after listening," said Regan.

"Do you know how many failed attempts Mozart had before?" said Claire addressing Alex. Unlike Regan, Claire was really calm and in fact a bit chirpy. "Do you know how many times scientists revise their thesis before concluding it? Do you know how many times engineers redesign prototypes? Simplicity evolves into complexity over time, over a long time period to be more precise. Life is also a more complex structure than being lifeless. If the simple structure can't do that, it disappears like the failed prototypes, first drafts."

Mason sipped beer. Alex was confused. "I understand the thing with theses, prototypes etc., but why the heck would particles or molecules do such a thing?"

Claire grinned. "Beings tend to become more stable over time," she said. "Just like the reactions in chemistry. Chemicals don't have brains or any kind of nervous system but they have a tendency towards more stability. And you are no different. You would prefer to keep your physical and mental health, right? I am sure you don't want to die and dissolve into a chaotic cloud of molecules. So think of the molecules. They have a greater defense against the environment in your body. You can run, defend yourself or I don't know... build a house for protection, right?" She sipped beer from her bottle. "That is why your body exists. That is why there are complex living beings," she said smilingly.

"Wow," shouted Elliot. "Did you smoke pot?" Only Elliot and Alex laughed. Regan seemed enlightened and excited, of course. "To me it makes perfect sense," added Regan. "It is some sort of theory of everything."

Claire grinned. "Well, actually it is a very simple idea because everything in the universe obeys one unchanging truth. I can't know in detail everything that exists in the universe but I guess that is the proper way to interpret things. I have been thinking about that for a long time. Even human relations can be explained by that."

"How?" Alex was stunned.

"Why do people get married for instance? They get married because marriage is a more stable social structure than being single. You have a sworn and loyal sex partner who cares for you for the rest of your life. Cooperation," said Claire. Everybody laughed.

"Then why do some people prefer to stay single? You know the 'friends with benefits' thing…" replied Alex.

Before Claire answered, Regan interrupted Alex. "I guess if you think sharing a room with someone will make you crazy and rot to death then you would probably stay single," said Regan. "Did anybody read 'Selfish Gene'?" said Mason. Regan, Elliot and Claire raised their hands. "Richard Dawkins's book?" said Elliot. "It explained why men might cheat on their wives. To make more children and replicate their genes more… They can impregnate many women but women can't get impregnated by different men at the same time," said Mason.

"Hey people, this talk is great but can we get back to this Titan thing?" said Regan. Everyone except Regan sipped their beer. "So it is plausible to assume there are primitive organisms over there?"

"I think we should continue reading the signals for a while. It might be a better idea to wait for them to finish their music. What you are reading might still be, in my opinion, a seismic activity as well." said Mason. "How long will we wait?" said Regan. "A billion years?"

Claire, Mason, Elliot laughed. "Just wait for a while if their music becomes better or consult a geologist. Then you can contact Prof. Dyson," said Mason. He comforted Regan with his hands over her shoulder. Elliot raised his beer bottle. "To the thinking molecules of Titan then…" he said. Everybody raised their bottles, with Alex being not really in the mood. "And to their Mozart-esque masterpiece."

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