Wednesday, December 12, 2012

PWR Fall Webby Winner: MinutePhysics and Education

Bao Le

PWR Fall Webby Runner-up: Revisiting the Hollywood classics

Phyllis Dietrichson: And you don't really care if we see each other or not.
Walter Neff: Shut up, baby.

Billy Wilder’s 1944 film Double Indemnity is considered by many as the original film noir, the picture that established the genre for so many to follow. It is preserved in the U.S. National Film Registry and is named among the American Film Institute’s 100 best American films. Images from the film are iconic, imitations are rampant, and it is a bonafide cult classic.
Yet when screened for contemporary audiences, it is met in many instances with laughter.
This is a common fate of the classics with modern moviegoers. Today’s audiences often describe old, iconic movies derisively-- campy, cheesy, hammy. In a film criticism or film-buffs-talking-classics context, these films are treated with respect and admiration for setting paradigms. But when people actually sit down to watch, audiences just can’t take the “I’m crazy about you, baby” lines and motif cigars of grandaddy films like Double Indemnity seriously.

 Popular children’s cartoon The Fairly
 OddParents spoofed film noir in an episode
          This is especially a problem with film noir, as it is one of the most popular genres from the Golden Age of Hollywood, so its characteristic elements-- the femme fatale, the blonde wigs, the cigars, the backlit settings-- are rife in the history of cinema. Their frequency across multiple decades of classic films makes these aspects cliché, simply out of the immense popularity of the film noir genre. Coupled with the fact that noir is one of the most obviously parodied genres in contemporary entertainment, ranging from cartoon to sketch comedy platforms, the genre is nearly impossible for the modern viewer to take seriously in its own right. The original, intended earnestness with which Double Indemnity’s leading man and lady clutch each other and plan the murder of her husband is often lost, as today’s audiences come to it after being inundated with parodies. When the remake is played for laughs, how can the pioneer employ these same cinematic tools to effect suspense and palpable tension? 
The inability of the modern viewer to truly lose himself in the film is a great loss, because this is a film to be admired. It is officially noted as one of the nation’s best for good reason, after all. Of all his award-winning works, unparalleled Hollywood legend Billy Wilder said Double Indemnity was his favorite project. It tells the story of insurance man Walter Neff, who teams with gorgeous housewife Phyllis Dietrichson to murder her husband. They scheme, using his industry knowledge to portray the death as an especially unlikely accident and to, under the titular double indemnity clause, get rich from the death insurance payout. Neff’s motives are the emblematic classics of Hollywood: he wants the money and the girl, and to get them he’s willing to kill. 
The clichéd sexiness of smoking, taken to an
absurd level for laughs.
          As the film unfolds, it literally establishes the genre of film noir. All of the key ingredients that will be remade, adapted, and twisted for the next three decades in all earnestness (and the subsequent three decades in satire) are introduced for the first time ever on the silver screen. The character premises reveal themselves dramatically-- Barbara Stanwyck’s Phyllis is a serial killer, a cold-blooded femme fatale who has killed previous husbands and has now manipulated Fred MacMurray’s handsome Walter into helping her dispose of her current one. The classic film noir themes make their grand entrance: the equation of sex and murder, the idea that everyone is corrupt. In the end Walter can’t get away with the plot. As he says in the voiceover technique that will come to define the genre, “Yes, I killed him. I killed him for money - and a woman - and I didn't get the money and I didn't get the woman. Pretty, isn't it?”
          The witty banter and clever dialogue, the cinematic skill, the suspenseful score-- all of these aspects make the film an objective masterpiece. Double Indemnity defined the film noir genre for the prodigious number of movies to follow in its footsteps. Because it came first, it created the canon, requiring subsequent films to provide a twist on the characteristics of genre to make themselves interesting. However, people now view it last-- and its lack of twist on the very genre conceits it created makes Double Indemnity seem campy. 
          It can be understandably difficult for the modern viewer to appreciate the original noir, but he should try to rise to the challenge and not give in to any apparent cheap laughs. After all, the works we now think of when we think of “good movies” owe everything to the classics of their genres; this includes the modern mystery or film noir’s debt to Double Indemnity. Out of respect for Billy Wilder and other original cinematic artists, we need to be aware of the cultural divide between our time and theirs and do our best to bridge it. We must remember that our Hollywood wouldn’t be our Hollywood without the ingenuity of its forefathers and their murderous femme fatales. 

- Kelsey Dayton

City Girls for a New Generation

Girls is a witty, dirty, refreshingly raw new comedy from HBO. At 26, Lena Dunham, writer, director, executive producer, and creator of the show, leads the cast as Hannah Horvath, the show's barely likeable and unrelentingly relatable heroine. Centered on four young women as they struggle with issues of life and love in Brooklyn, the show has been subject to comparisons to Sex and the City since promos for the series first began airing. The shows have shared a network, if not a borough, and during its six-season run between 1998 and 2006, Sex and the City became a relationship anthem for millions of women of a certain age. But Girls is not Sex and the City. And while Hannah's first season claim, "I think I may be the voice of my generation" reflects the reaction that viewers of a certain demographic have had to the show, Dunham's creation trades its potential for more universal appeal in order to play out the truth of a smaller group of young people. The show ditches cute conclusions on friendships, careers, and love in favor of a jaded and, to some, distasteful portrayal of today's post-college reality.

What is it about Girls that has made it so alienating to our mothers, the same women who tuned in weekly for Carrie and the girls? For one, HBO has picked up the raunch across the board. Between Entourage and Game of Thrones alone, the number of bare breasts and sex acts of all kinds being depicted on the network has been climbing. Sure, we saw Samantha getting down and dirty again and again on Sex and the City, and things got weird even for Charlotte from time to time. The difference in Girls is that we see graphic, sometimes mysoginistic and borderline abusive sexual behavior, and the girl-to-girl, problem-solving dialogue dynamic we saw between the Manhattan-based girls is absent. Girls isn't necessarily condoning or promoting what's happening onscreen, but it is accepting that it happens, without much commentary. As viewers, we're not learning lessons, we're just watching. And many of us are relating.

Creator Lena Dunham
The fictional lives of the girls (and boys) of Girls ring true for every college student or recent grad viewer I've encountered. And yet the classic comparisons Sex and the City prompted (As one Girls character says of another in the first episode, "You know, you're funny because you're definitely a Carrie, with like, some Samantha aspects, and Charlotte hair.") don't quite apply here. None of us really want to be any of the girls on Girls. The women of Sex and the City were complex and made mistakes, of course, a fact to which the series owes its enduring success. But as the first season of Girls concluded, the realistically flawed and selfish main characters were not much closer to redemption. They are in the same destructive relationships, or ending them painfully, hurting each other in the process, and broke to boot. We're seeing a grittier world on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge. Maybe that's because Dunham has lived the stories she's playing out. It's a show created, as some have noted, "for us, by us," rather than for all women, by a successful male TV vet going on forty, as was the case with Sex and the City's Darren Star. Surprisingly, Dunham's show seems to have more male viewership than Star's ever did, presumably because it's telling the tale of our twenties, one that's relatable across genders, if not across generations.
That's not to say none of our parents are tuning in to watch Girls. They certainly are -- but they're more likely to mistake the dark comedy as a portrayal of a few misfits, while those of us navigating life and love alongside Hannah and her friends can recognize our own truth when we see it, grit and all.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bungie and Activision limiting creativity in video games?

Recently a slew of "new"big name video games have been released. Among these are the popular Halo 4 and Call of Duty Black Ops 2. Both of these games are similar first person shooter games that are wildly popular amongst teenage and adult men and the release of these new sequels is always highly anticipated. The predecessors to the new titles (Black Ops 1 and Halo 3) are among the top 5 best selling video games for Xbox (which Halo is exclusive to) and Playstation and they are some of the most successful franchise games, up there with titles like Super Mario and Pokemon.

These two video games are similar to each other, but their similarity to themselves is what has drawn attention to their creators. What changes from the first Call of Duty or Halo to the next? And what happens to the next in the series to distinguish it from the earlier versions? Sure there is better interface graphics and user response within the game, but these aspects are technological feats that get updated every time a new game is released thanks to the constantly improving electronics and game consoles. I believe that nothing actually changes from title to title of these franchise games, and this is what publishers of these video games are purposely doing.

Activision and Bungie are the video game publishers responsible for the releases of Halo and Call of Duty, respectively, and they focus on putting up a product that pleases the costumer. This seems like the right way to produce video games, but the problem lies in the static nature of their releases. The first in each franchise was well accepted by video gamers, so well accepted, in fact, that Activision and Bungie were compelled to make more and more titles of the series. These publishers know that their audience already exists, and they aren't willing to take chances with losing revenue by introducing new aspects of the games that could possibly displease their target audience. Because these publishers believe this, the unique aspects from game to game in the franchises is very limited. This is unfortunate for new video game developers with exciting, new ideas because their ideas will get shot down for, say, the next in a successful series: Halo 5. The next time you consider buying a new video game, rather than looking at the n-th continuation of a series, look for new games with more interesting stories or game play for a different and most likely entertaining experience.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Women in the "Bro" Show

    Entourage. Beloved by most "bros", the hit HBO series serves as a model for many bromances around the country. Audiences devoutly follow the story of Vincent Chase as he gradually achieves fame, fortune, and success. His three best friends - "Turtle", Eric, and of course his brother Johnny "Drama" Chase - stand by him and enjoy the fruits of his innate talent. We as viewers quickly come to adore the group, and although most of us cannot relate to their luxurious lives, we can connect with their friendships. After watching only a few episodes, I personally felt as though I had known the characters and been part of the group for years due to Entourage writers' talented ability to depict what long-lasting male friendships look like.
    In addition to the pure entertainment value the show inherently provides, Entourage also gives an intriguing view of women. Even after re-watching all eight seasons of the show, I still cannot definitively say how the show deals with women.
  Many women are portrayed as being bimbos who are to be treated with little respect. Movie-star Vince Chase is known for his sexual escapades with random women, whom he rarely stays in contact with after their encounter. The show is also ridden with appearances of attractive women that barely speak, but are instead "eye-candy" to the shows main characters.
     As well as having a plethora of attractive but ultimately insignificant women, Entourage also has a few female characters that are extremely dependent on their male counterparts. The best example of this is Mrs. Gold, wife of big-time agent Ari Gold. From the beginning, Mrs. Gold is depicted as being a "trophy wife" to Ari Gold, and in many instances is viewed by Ari as a menial aspect in his daily routine. Although we the audience often sympathize with her, we are also guilty of overlooking Mrs. Gold. This is not necessarily our fault; the writers never even bother to tell us her first name.
   From the bimbos to the weak female characters,
Entourage does give off a negative portrayal of women. However, we still can't discredit the few strong women in the show. There are a plenty of influential women in Entourage. Examples include Miller-Gold agency co-founder Barbara Miller, major studio head Dana Gordon, and the hilariously vulgar publicist Shauna Roberts. These women routinely put men in their place, and furthermore are in control of the career trajectory of Vince. They can be harsh and intimidating, and countless men in Entourage are forced to follow their orders.
      This dichotomy in the show is confusing. Are women strong or weak in Entourage? Are they complex or dull? The show doesn't provide a firm answer, and maybe this is comment on the nature of Hollywood in the real world. Perhaps the entertainment industry is not as equal as many imagine.
     Despite the speculation on the power of women in Entourage and Hollywood at large, some things seem to be relatively clear. Even though they may not be heavily involved in the lives of Vince and his best friends, women are vital to the success of popularity of the "bro" show.

 -Paton Moody


Friday, December 7, 2012

Homeland: a phenomenon or failing trend?

Thanks to a recommendation from my parents, I recently started to watch the Showtime's new series, Homeland. The show is currently in its second season but has already won Emmy's and Golden Globe Awards. Rumor has it that it's also Obama's favorite show, and there's an obvious reason why it's so popular.

It's addicting.

I was immediately hooked. No later than five minutes into the first episode. I think that I, like the rest of America, was intrigued by its sheer intensity and incredible suspense. Crudely, the plot line is one in which an American soldier, Brody, was captured by the head of al-Qaeda. He was tortured and manipulated for eight years before he was rescued and brought back to the United States, where he became a hero. Because of his courage and national fame, he takes seat in federal office and works for the CIA. Unfortunately, the CIA is suffering from leaked information, and there certainly is a double-agent in its midst. 

The show sets itself up to be quite the thriller. There is no doubt about that. Unfortunately, I found that I started losing that "hooked" feeling, even before the first season was over. At first, I had no idea why. The show has action, drama, suspense, a great story line, and good actors. What was the reason that I was losing interest?

It took me a long time to figure it out. But finally, while talking about the show with my dad, I realized what the problem was. He asked me, "who's your favorite character?" I went through the obvious options: the main, female protagonist, the head of the CIA, the Vice President, Brody, Brody's family members... And soon realized that I did not have a favorite character. Every character seemed to have a very annoying quality. I didn't like that the protagonist always failed to listen to her superiors, that the head of the CIA is always brute and aggressive, that the Vice President is pompous, that Brody is too damaged from his time in the Middle East to understand, and that Brody's family doesn't support their husband/father.

There is not a single main character that I like in the show. 

And that is the reason why, although I do admit that I still watch every Sunday night, my enthusiasm for the show has wained. Don't get me wrong--- the show is just as exciting and suspenseful as ever. However, without a main character that I like, it is hard for me to have any person, or storyline, to root for. A lot of the time, since I don't have a character to root for, I don't have a preference as to what happens during an action scene. I don't care if a person escapes or gets captured. I don't care if a person is fired or promoted. I simply don't have a favorite character, or any character for that matter, to root for.

My large realization showed me why it is so important that characters in television shows, books, movies, be relatable. I think that a character should either be liked or hated. I think in order for a viewer to be dedicated to a production, there must be at least one single character that is clearly worth rooting for or against. Without that, the viewer loses interest in what happens, ultimately losing emotion and interest in a show that has potential to be undeniably addicting.

--Eileen Mariano
December 7, 2012

The Awesomeness of Barney Stinson

Barney Stinson is undoubtedly the most awesome character on TV. Played by Neil Patrick Harris on the hit show How I Met Your Mother, this womanizing, suit-wearing, story-telling, character can do it all. 

But why is this character so awesome? What does the audience love so much about him? His ridiculous “true” stories? His mysterious life?  His never ending skill set? His crafty schemes to get women? Or his constant happiness? I believe that all of these factors among others play important roles in making Barney Stinson the exciting, well received, “high functioning sociopath” that has captured the hearts of America.

Barney has many catch phrases associated with him that add awesomeness to his character. One of these: “True story” follows absurd, nonsensical, stories that somehow relate to picking up women or being a bro or doing something incredible in order to impress his friends. This is one of my favorite stories: Barney’s interpretation of Jesus’ Resurrection.

“Jesus waited three days to come back to life. It was perfect! If he had only waited one day, a lot of people wouldn't have even heard he died. They'd be all, "Hey Jesus, what up?" and Jesus would probably be like, "What up? I died yesterday!" and they'd be all, "Uh, you look pretty alive to me, dude..." and then Jesus would have to explain how he was resurrected, and how it was a miracle, and the dude'd be like "Uhh okay, whatever you say, bro..." And he's not gonna come back on a Saturday. Everybody's busy, doing chores, workin' the loom, trimmin' the beard, NO. He waited the perfect number of days, three. Plus it's Sunday, so everyone's in church already, and they're all in there like "Oh no, Jesus is dead", and then BAM! He bursts in the back door, runnin' up the aisle, everyone's totally psyched, and FYI, that's when he invented the high five. That's why we wait three days to call a woman, because that's how long Jesus wants us to wait.... True story.”

Who needs to tell actual history when changing history makes the story so much cooler and applicable to picking up women? That’s the Barney way. So ludicrous, yet so funny, and America naturally falls in love.

The effects of these stories are accentuated by Barney’s appearance. He always, always, always wears suits. As a few episodes have shown, Barney used to be a hippy, who enlisted in the peace corp and had a long term relationship. Then when a man in a suit took his woman from him, he “suited up” and the Barney we know today was born. These suits represent a very serious front for a very lighthearted man. Even though he does work at a huge suit-wearing corporation, what he does there has not been revealed in 8 seasons of the show.Who would want to know? It spoils the fun. We do not want to know that Barney actually has a serious job.

Two of his self-perceived greatest accomplishments are creating the BroBible and the Playbook. This playbook represents a strategy book for lying to women to get them in bed. These random, yet brilliant yet stupid strategies highlight Barney’s social life. Here is a clip with some of my favorites:

Barney is on a whole new level of absurdness. But these schemes and constant ridiculousness makes him, in my opinion, the most awesome character on TV today.

-Alex Rosay

The Reemergence of Kanye’s Passion: Kanye West’s “White Dress” for Wu Tang Clan frontrunner RZA’s new movie “The Man With The Iron Fists”

People always ask me, “Do you like Kanye West?” I simply respond, “He’s my favorite. He’s always releasing awesome new music, yet I liked him even more when he first started rapping.”
I remember having a conversation with my older brother about Kanye’s newest collaboration album, Cruel Summer. My critique on Kanye’s particular style is that it just wasn’t the same as it used to be since his last solo album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Kanye’s style on Cruel Summer sounds forced. On his hit single, “Mercy,” when the background music drops and the synthesizers pick up, Kanye attempts to rap to this beat. His style is choppy, rapping only on the quarter notes. He has no flow here, and, personally, I don’t find it appealing or even motivating. I don’t feel the same passion as his earlier single, “Through the Wire,” where Kanye rapped the song while still having his jaw wired after a car crash.
My disappointments with Kanye’s latest music ventures disappeared when my brother sent me the link to Kanye’s newest song, “White Dress.” Right when Kanye started moving his lips, I knew this was going to be reminiscent of his earlier music. There is a hint of sincerity in his voice, and when the drums pick up a minute or two into the song, Kanye’s true passion emerged. Kanye’s lyrics do not sounds as if they forcing their way out of his mouth, but they sounds as if they are falling off a waterfall, flowing smoothly into the listener’s ears. Then on, Kanye does not stop rapping until the end of the song, paralleling his style from “Through the Wire.”
In my opinion, the choppy, very articulated style of rapping does not work for Kanye. It may work for some artists, but I feel Kanye should stray away from this style. Personally, I think the choppy style is a lesser grade form of rapping because it shows the rapper either cannot rap to a certain beat or the rapper simply has no flow. I can say that listening to Kanye’s passion in “White Dress” put a smile on my face.

-Harry Simon

College Students in Washington Protest Against Marijuana Law

SEATTLE- Crowds of angry college students protesting under Seattle’s Space Needle early Thursday morning with nary a police officer in sight bespoke the new reality: Washington state is the first in the nation to legalize marijuana possession for recreational use.

Hundreds of sober SU undergraduate students gathered at Seattle Center for a New Year’s Eve-style countdown to 12 a.m., when the legalization measure passed by voters last month took effect. When the clock struck, defeated moans and boo’s erupted in unison.

“This blows” David Shaw, a junior at Seattle University, told the reporter crossly, “I can just buy a joint legally now! What’s the point anymore?!”

Shaw is among many Washington college students who were disappointed to see the passing of this law. The new law allows anyone 21 or older to possess 1 ounce (28.5 grams) or less of pot for personal recreational use, which would disenfranchise most college students from obtaining drugs illicitly.

“It was never about the pot.” Stephanie Johnson, Class of 2013, took a last puff of her joint at 11:59 p.m., “I only smoked this stuff because it was illegal… to stand up to the man. I never actually wanted legalization [of marijuana], now I have nothing to be angry about!”

College demonstrators in Seattle find themselves bored out of their mind after a law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.
 Johnson, upon the stroke of midnight, stomped out her joint and handed a small plastic bag of marijuana to the reporter, stating that she will have no reason to get high anymore.

Experts suggest that the implementation of the law will have detrimental effects on the marijuana industry, though it’s still early to accurately measure the impact this law will have on the overall economy.

Gov. Christine Gregoire still has yet to respond to the demonstrations on Thursday.

Colorado is scheduled to enact a similar law on January 5; thousands of college students there are already voluntarily forced to stop smoking in protest. 

Guanlin Chen

*The above news is strictly for the amusement of the reader, any attempt to take me seriously will be made fun of.

In Defense of Gilmore Girls

I started watching Gilmore Girls last year.  Yes, I hopped on the Gilmore train a little late, seeing as the show ended five years ago.  To be totally honest, I thought I was going to hate it.  I do not consider myself girly at all, I am not a romantic, and I was pretty sure I was past the whole ‘high school girl wanting to go to Harvard but ends up at Yale’ phase (replace gender and college names as needed, and this applies to just about everyone).  But a friend of mine talked about the show often enough, and it was only fair I gave the first episode a shot.  I was immediately hooked. 

It didn’t matter that I had nothing in common with Rory Gilmore or anyone else on the show.  For some inexplicable reason, I loved Gilmore Girls.  I laughed with the characters and experienced their ups and downs.  Before the end of the first season, I felt like I personally knew every resident of Stars Hollow, Connecticut.  I couldn’t stop watching the show – all I had to do was press the “Next Episode” button. 

Yet while I was 100% positive I loved Gilmore Girls, I kept my newfound favorite TV show a secret.  Yes, I told my friend who introduced me to it, I watched the show with my roommate, and occasionally made a few Gilmore Girls references to some of my close friends.  But I couldn’t bring myself to tell my parents, who knew me as the girl who refused to watch any show but 30 Rock and Jeopardy.  I could just hear my dad laughing, “You? Gilmore Girls? I never thought I’d hear those two things in the same sentence.” 

But why is Gilmore Girls looked down upon so severely? Can it really be equated with Gossip Girl and 90210? 
Gilmore Girls is, in my opinion, incredibly well written.  It is witty.  It makes references to movies, books, and music from all time periods and all genres.  I am sure that I have not picked up the majority of these references; this is what makes it possible for fans to re-watch episodes (don’t worry, I haven’t gotten to that point in life… yet…). 

Aside from the obvious examples, in which Rory discusses the ‘disappearance’ of Ernest Hemingway’s manuscripts or reads Pushkin on a park bench, there are others that I believe push Gilmore Girls into the category of ‘good’ TV.  In one of my classes this quarter, Introduction to Comparative Politics, we read chapters from a book by Barrington Moore, Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy.  Moore’s book, a historical comparison of political development, is a staple of Political Science.  It is certainly no light read.  Furthermore, if I had not taken the class, it is possible that I never would have read the book, let alone heard of it.  So, you can probably understand my surprise when I saw Rory reading the monster of a book in a Yale dining hall.  I was even more shocked when a friend approached her, named the book, and joked about her “light reading.”  He then proceeded to invite her to the birthday party of a very wealthy friend of his.  He informed her that the party would be Quentin Tarantino-themed. 

Gilmore Girls is not all classic literature and intellectual exchanges, however.  There are still adventures and heartbreaks and cliffhangers just like any other popular TV show.  Rory’s best friend, Lane, balances out the bookworm with the audiophile, listing bands and album names like there’s no tomorrow, from Sonny and Cher to Fleetwood Mac. 

I would not expect such references in Pretty Little Liars (or any other show on The CW or Bravo, quite frankly).    So why is Gilmore Girls criticized so harshly?

I have told my parents about my discovery of Gilmore Girls.  Yes, I did get the same reaction I predicted earlier. But just today, I received a text from my mom telling me about the Bracebridge Dinner in Yosemite.  What was different about this text was that she also added, “There is a Gilmore Girls episode about it!”  My parents are finally coming around to the show (well, my mom is…).

I do not expect everyone to love Gilmore Girls.  However, I believe that the show deserves much more respect than it gets in the realm of television.  No matter how long ago the episodes were produced, viewers can watch them over and over again without losing interest.  The literary, film, and musical references are endless and relatable to all.  And above all, the show captures the genuine quirkiness of life, told through the lives of the Gilmore girls.

-Adriana Baird

Thursday, December 6, 2012

iAm Beautiful: Does Form over Function... Function?

They’re thin. They’re beautiful. A passing glance is not enough. You do a double-take. Your jaw drops. And just like that, you’re hooked.

Despite being just 1.8cm thin, the MacBook Pro with Retina Display features an ultra-high resolution display and the most powerful processors to date while maintaining excellent battery life.

The striking aesthetics of Apple’s products are designed (no pun intended) to make you want them if only for their appealing looks. But aside from being able to market their products as the thinnest, lightest and arguably most visually appealing, does it makes sense for Apple put so much time, effort, and thought into using crystalized diamonds to cut the highly polished chamfered edges of the iPhone 5 and iPad mini? Or employing fans with asymmetrically-positioned blades in the MacBook Pros? Or even using advanced friction stir welding to make the welded seams in the iMacs virtually imperceptible?


The cooling fans with asymmetrically-positioned blades in the MacBook Pro with Retina Display are testaments to just how much attention Apple pays to the smallest and most easily overlooked details of a product. By spacing the fan blades asymmetrically, the cooling fans run much quieter. 

Apple is often criticized for prioritizing form over function, but this is precisely what enables the Cupertino-based company’s many innovations (or “thinnovations” as Apple boasts in their MacBook Air marketing). They’ve shown that engineering products around design is what truly pushes the boundaries of what’s possible. When they set out to develop an ultraportable computer, they left behind legacy technologies such as hard drives and CD drives. They left only the absolute essentials and pushed the limits of engineering with the slim form factor they were going for. However, their innovations don’t just benefit the direct consumers of Apple products; rather, they push the entire industry forward.

The iconic MacBook Air epitomizes Apple's obsession with design and thinness.

After the MacBook Air was introduced, PC manufacturers scrambled to put out their own ultraportables. Crafting ultraportables was, of course, a drastic change from the “function over form” design thinking embodied by other PC manufacturers who were used to creating thick, bulky, and generally dull-looking products that had every port and feature imaginable, whether or not a majority of users would even use them. The same happened in 2010 with the introduction of the iPad, a product many initially scoffed at but that now sells more units than all notebooks sold by all PC manufacturers combined. Currently tablets are offered by several other manufacturers at much lower price points and with distinct features that set them apart from each other. Either way, it’s a win for consumers who have power with so many choices.

The Samsung Series 9 is one of several PCs available that compete directly with - and show significant design influence from - Apple's MacBook Air.

By obsessing over thinness, lightness, and minuteness, consumers can now enjoy lightweight products that are not so burdensome in a backpack and that last longer due to more advanced and space-efficient battery technologies. Ultra-thin displays with ultra-high resolutions such as those currently found in the iPhone 5 will soon make their way to other consumer products. Even if they can’t afford an iPad or a MacBook Pro, consumers can enjoy products that compete directly with comparable Apple products, and for a fraction of the cost. Apple’s constant desire to make their products thinner, lighter and smaller eventually trickles down to benefit the entire consumer market.

The iPhone 5 (top) measures just 7.6mm thin, while the Samsung Galaxy S III (bottom) comes in at 8.6mm. Modern smartphones are able to fit a lot more features and capabilities than phones from just a few years ago - and they are able to do so in very thin frames.

So whether you love or hate Apple or their products, the next time you use your cell phone, tablet, or computer, take some time to notice the small tidbits of Apple inspiration.