Friday, December 31, 2010

Ultraviolet Image of the Sun

From the blog, this photo from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The article explains that the purplish aura we see is in fact high-arcing loops of 3.6-million-degree plasma that link sunspots and other magnetic areas on the surface. (the white lines are added by a computer to better illustrates the structures across the surface of the Sun.)

From the Wikipedia article on the Solar Dynamics Observatory
  • SDO's goal is to understand the Sun's influence on Earth and near-Earth space by studying the solar atmosphere in many wavelengths simultaneously. SDO will investigate how the Sun's magnetic field is generated and structured, how this stored magnetic energy is converted and released into the heliosphere and geospace in the form of solar wind,
All that aside, it's a damn cool pic!

Discover via Dvice

Thursday, December 30, 2010


As many are likely to point out, science fiction futures depict radical change. Here is a short from BC2010 pointing out that the execution might change and maybe even the venue, but even so, the content remains the same. The main character in the film performs a time honored service. Even though the venue is taken to the fantastic, the service provided is virtually unchanged. It took me almost half way through the short, before I realized who he was and what the service truly entailed. In the end, it is wonderfully nostalgic. Enjoy!

MODERN TIMES from BC2010 on Vimeo.

D.O.P: Richard Mountney

Lighting and Camera assistants:

Simon Mountney, Tom Mountney and Robin Mair

Film Excerpts and Music used under a strictly non-profit basis.

Review Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi

Pump Six and Other Stories by Paolo Bacigalupi
Night Shade Books 239 pp/trade paper back 10 stories

I know the first publication of this collection was out in 2008 but this is the paperback from Night Shade Books released in 2010. First off, near as I can tell, there is no difference from the hard cover printing.

Second, I don't think I need to spend a whole lot of time telling the Beam Me Up audience that Paolo is a really good writer and his stories wildly inventive and entertaining. Pump Six follows on in the tracks of the Windup Girl and many of the stories (the rest paying homage) play in the same venue as Windup. A world flooded by global warming and energy starved as petroleum fuels are no longer used while food scources become contaminated with corporate entities becoming "calorie" barons developing resistant food sources to feed and power the world's economy.

I first became aware of Bacigalupi's world with "The Calorie Man" where engines became super strong main-springs, gas stations became "winders" and the economy based on the "calorie". Paolo puts you right into this in between world of mutated animals that generate the power (all the way up to engineered elephants capable of huge amounts of power on few calories) the smell, noise and people lived for me. (if you like the Calorie Man and haven't read The Windup Girl, you really should. ) Then I ran across The People of Sand & Slag which was even more gene modified to a point that I question whether the humans are even that anymore....human. A world so horribly destroyed that it took me a while to reconcile the fact that both stories were from the same author. In the People.... the whole world seems to be a strip mine. When I read the story I wanted so badly to do it on Beam Me Up and Paolo was very gracious. I started reading it on episode 139 and finished reading it on episode 140 & 141. He managed to hammer the world into a cesspool of oil spills and toxic sludge and warped the humanity out of the main characters but somehow still made them human.

Soon after I found "the Yellow Card Man". Many of the "Calorie" stories are placed in an Asian influence land. With Thailand and Malaysia bringing a strong influence. The water influence, nonstop humanity. The feel of the marketplace with food, people and a mishmash of languages will set the stage. When Bacigalupi mixes in a refugee element and then doses it with the calorie and you get something recognizable and at the same time alien. Yellow Card Man lets you travel with someone that is hopelessly trapped in the margins of this world, destined to never be a player.

Then when you think you have a fix on what Paolo is all about with Pump Six, he skins in "the Fluted Girl, is so far removed from the constant press of humanity that Yellow Card Man or Calorie Man seem a distant if other world memory. I don't want to do a spoiler on Fluted Girl, other than to say that it is painfully evident that genetic manipulation is not far away, but so utterly different in scope.

And then one wonders where a story like "Softer" came from. A totally twisted ride into madness that wonders what lies behind the calm exterior of Mr. Bacigalupi.

Praising his writing talents at this point are redundant. Pump Six and other Stories on it's own merits is certainly worthy of a read. As an addition to the Bacigalupi library, well it's a must.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jónsi's Sticks & Stones

How To Train Your Dragon has received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song. DreamWorks Animation have cut together a music video from some of the most memorable scenes from the movie for Jónsi's track "Sticks and Stones."
FILM blog via IO9

A Nuclear Aircraft?!

Hey, does anyone remember that at one point in the very early 60s, the US almost had a long range nuclear bomber?! Oh yeah we did! The XB-70 Valkyrie.

Why you sanely ask? Well in the early 60s, the USA's nuclear deterrent was based around the aging B-52 fleet.

The Pentagon was looking for the eventual replacement, to the B- 52. They wanted a bomber that could cruise at ultra-high altitude, carry nuclear bombs, and stay aloft for extended periods. It also needed to escape intercepting fighters, to it had to be fast as well. Jet engines of the day just couldn't produce the power that would be needed to fly high, fast and carry heavy payloads. As such early research turned to a nuclear reactor to power the plane. Crazy as it sounds, research in the 50s had already flown functioning reactors in test planes. Not to power the plane mind you, but the reactors were fueled and running during many test flights.

Design finally settled on the XB-70 Valkyrie (not a complete pipe dream if you look at it. The Valkyrie it seemed strongly influenced the SR-70 & B-1b planes)

The Valkyrie's days were numbered right from the start however. Cost over-runs and technical problems soon brought the XB-70 project to a grinding halt. Also, long range ICBMs were proving themselves very reliable at putting multiple warheads on target, plus other advancements in missile tech made it impossible to fly high enough or fast enough to avoid being shot down.

In the end only 2 XB-70s were ever built and neither was fitted with a reactor. One crashed during a test flight collision with a chase plane and the final Valkyrie resides at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Ohio.

Read the excellent article here on the IO9 blog Wikipedia on the xb-70

Moving Motel Rooms?

Åndalsnes, a small Norwegian city, is everything you would imagine. Idyllic, picturesque, a virtual gateway to the flora, fauna and geography of the area, one has come to suspect of these small villages. But it's the suggestion by a leading architectural firm hired to spruce up the town's tourist appeal that has turned my science fiction imagination on.

No I am not talking about futuristic space ports or hosting robot fighting leagues. But a way to attract new people and promote the natural beauty of the area using what is at hand. The architectural firm Jagnefält Milton Architecture has suggested a rolling hotel. Quite literally or more precisely mobile rooms that would travel along the existing rail road tracks. Guests would tour the fjords and mountains while sitting in their rooms.

From the Inhabitat article
  • ....individual portable boxy rooms of various heights and widths that roll through the magnificent countryside to take in the views. The ... accommodations consist of small sleeping quarters that open directly to the out-of-doors, allowing tourist to directly experience the natural settings....
via IO9

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Could Huge Caves be our First Home on Mars?

Remember those mysterious dark spots that were photographed on the surface of Mars? Well from a recent article in Dvice - Photographs taken by the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows what these dark areas really are, or more specifically what is IN them. Some high resolution images were taken of the dark areas and allowed to over-expose to bring out detail in the dark areas. What showed up were huge pits (in this case a football field span.) were the remains of an empty lava chamber with a collapsed ceiling. These pits might turn out to be the perfect thing for living accommodations once explorers/colonists arrive on Mars.

From the Dvice article:
  • One possible way to turn a pit crater into an insta-base might be to stretch a big sheet of plastic wrap over the top at ground level to seal it off, and then fill the inside with air. The air pressure inside would help hold the plastic roof up, and you'd end up with a big sunny open area, which could be good for growing food. Individual rooms could be dug out of the walls of the pit to provide more space and better radiation protection...

Monday, December 27, 2010

Voyage to a New Solar System Forming

From comes this fascinating short produced by Small Mammal a creative studio that produces original short films and branded content about science and technology.

Voyage to a new solar system forming from Small Mammal on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Review: Batman Under the Red Hood

Batman Under the Red Hood
Directed by Brandon Vietti
Bruce Greenwood as Bruce Wayne / Batman
Neil Patrick Harris as Dick Grayson / Nightwing
Jensen Ackles as Jason Todd / Red Hood (adult)
John DiMaggio as The Joker
Jason Isaacs as Ra's al Ghul
Wade Williams Roman Sionis / Black Mask

First and foremost a fan movie. Even more so if you are a Batman animation fan. The animation is not "How to train your dragon" level, but it's whole magnitudes above standard animation fare to date. The plot line is well thought out and integrates perfectly into the Batman universe. No surprises, just solid entertainment.

As far as cast goes, they all are competent and up to the task. Bruce Greenwood (who was Christopher Pike in Star Trek) does Batman's voice. He will also reprise the part in the Cartoon Network's Young Justice series. Neil Patrick Harris does Nightwing and Jensen Ackles does Red Hood. Ackles now appears as Dean Winchester on the CW television series Supernatural.

Not sure why they did a blu-ray for this offering. The animation certainly doesn't warrant it. There are absolutely NO extras, so the space is not the issue.

My suggestion here is, if you're a Batman animation or comic fan, then this is for you. People who don't follow the Batman franchise may pick up some pointers, but that's about it. If the Blu-ray cost more to rent or buy, I can't say that I would opt in that direction.

Disk value 0
Movie value 6
Overall it's a 6

2010's greatest peer-reviewed papers (as measured in comic potential).

Oh I have got to thank Boing Boing for pointing out this gem. Here is a link to the top 10 most popular posts of the year. Funny research, news articles what have you. The are weird oh so very weird, strange and wildly funny. I won't post them all here. If you want to see the complete list, click the article title for the link. Here are some of my favs, from the list.

A study was taken up to ascertain if punk rockers personalities might stem from their spiky hair style of course the study found out that hair style didn't change a thing....punks were punks, rockers or otherwise.....

Contraceptive efficacy of polyester was the subject of a study at the Faculty of Medicine at Cairo University in Egypt. A physician at the facility examined 14 32-47 year old male volunteers wearing a polyester scrotal sling day and night for 12 months to determine if polyester fabrics can act as a contraceptive in men. The sling was only changed when it became dirty. Efficacy of the sling was demonstrated as none of the subject's partners became pregnant during the study, however an unforeseen reaction did take place. The polyester in the sling developed a static electric charge. Greater electrostatic potentials during the day than at night was measured (326-395 volt/sq. cm. vs. 142-188 volt/sq. cm.; p.01). This was a result of the friction between the scrotum and the polyester sling.

Three words nasal leech infestation

An unusual story of a unmarried woman with acute cancerophobia, (umm probably not a word huh? lol) presented herself at a local clinic after palpating a hard lump in her, to put it delicately, reproductive tract. The woman was asked a series of questions related to symptoms common to reproductive cancers. She exhibited none. Examination did exhibit a large, hard, smooth lump filed the vagina. On removal it was found to be a globular circumscribed object, possessing no capsule, and on section was seen to have a laminated structure. was an onion. Far from being happy when told the cure the patient was quite angry.
From the article:
It appeared that her male consort and herself had indulged very freely in alcohol on the previous evening and that he had departed sometime during the night leaving her in a deep sleep on the bed. The removal of the onion from a bunch of its fellows hanging on the back of the door, and its subsequent insertion, had been his parting gesture of affection.”

Oh and there is more, and much more on the NCBI ROFL site

What or who is NCBI ROFL?
We’re two PhD students in Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley. Back in March of aught-nine, we started a little blog called “NCBI ROFL” in which we posted real scientific articles with funny subjects from the PubMed database (which is housed by the National Center for Biotechnology information, aka NCBI).

"My Blackbetrty Isn't Working"

Here we have two very funny gents, Ronnie Corbett and Harry Enfield, of the BBC's The One Ronnie. Thanks to Boing Boing for theorigial post

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

When Science Fiction Pushes the Boundaries of Science

By contributing writer: Beatrice Owen.

There are times when you read science fiction books or watch movies that are born out of the imagination of their creators and wonder if there could be a smidgen of reality in the fantasy world they spin. I guess sci-fi works as a genre and draws fans and fanatics alike because people are fascinated by the possibility of technology and the magic it can weave. So how great would it be if it were possible to make fact out of fiction? History has taught us that this has happened before, so there’s every reason to believe it could happen again.

Take the Harry Potter series – call it magic or science fiction, whatever the name, you must admit that JK Rowling threw a spell on the entire world with her creative thinking and innovative style of writing. Now it looks as if at least one part of the book could become reality; no, it’s not Hogwarts or even magic flying brooms, it’s Harry’s (in)famous invisibility cloak, the one that was left to him by his dad and passed on to him by Albus Dumbledore. You would think invisibility is outside the realms of modern science, no matter how advanced it is, but research at the Imperial College of London has demonstrated otherwise.

Metamaterials, whose properties vary in both time and space, are a new class of materials which can be artificially engineered to distort light and sound waves. Using the properties of light and deflecting certain parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, researchers have proved that images can be altered or made to look as if they have disappeared. While the actual mechanics of this technique is beyond the grasp of the average layperson, let’s just say that this is exactly the principle that the invisibility cloak works on – the object is there, yet it seems to have disappeared when the cloak is thrown on.

While the modern day invisibility cloak is just theoretical at this stage, there’s no telling what will happen as time passes and technology becomes more advanced, because the idea is definitely not a mirage, and it’s definitely going to be worked on until it becomes a reality. For now however, even though scientists have to first work on metamaterials before they can think of making an invisibility cloak out of one, we can rest assured that as long as science fiction is alive and kicking, it will continue to push the boundaries of science.

contributed by Beatrice Owen. Mz Owen writes on the topic of bachelors of science . She welcomes your comments at her email id: owen1.beatrice(@)gmail(.)com.

Cloak of invisibility in Winipedia

Monday, December 20, 2010

60s Gift Ideas from Remington & Boing Boing

Ok, I know it ain't science fiction....well if you take it literally it could be... but you know...its Christmas, this is a great Christmas suggestion.

Star Trek Christmas Humor from Foxtrot

Thanks to Boing Boing for this nerdy piece of geekie humor! Make sure you check the graphic

"The Earth Has Been Destroyed" by Monochrom featuring Marek

You thought you heard "Popcorn" every way possible? Nope!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Santa Monica Bay UFOs give you wings!

Earlier this months, residents of Santa Monica Bay were startled when, in the dark, two brightly lit UFOs appeared and maneuvered overhead. Some residents filmed the craft, posting them on Utube, starting a firestorm of other residents who also witnessed the event.

All this came to the attention of Jon DeVore and Sean MacCormac of the crack Red Bull Air Force skydiving team. From the Daily Galaxy blog:
  • on Dec. 1 and Dec. 8 around 5:30 p.m. the two man team decided to jump out of an airplane with night flares. The demonstrations (took place) over Santa Monica ..... landing on the beach near the Jonathan Club on Pacific Coast Highway. "As soon as I saw the videos on the news I busted up laughing,"(Jon) DeVore wrote on, which also includes footage of one of the jumps. "It was us jumping with our night flares."
You can't make this stuff up! lol

What Makes You Tick to play on Pseudopod

Writer David Steffen send in a note with some really good news. He writes:
  • I've just received the acceptance letter for a new sale, a reprint of my horror flash story "What Makes You Tick" to Pseudopod.
  • When the story comes out, it will be a free audio download, in mp3 format, from their site. I'll send out a link when it's available.
Thanks for the note David and we loo forward to the reading.

If the story sounds a bit familiar, it first played on episode 206 in April of this year (2010) along with AK Sykora's Coming of the Abaries. It's a devious piece of flash that manages to throw a couple of curves at the end. Steffen manages to bring a truly alien lifeform to fruition and make it both knowable and unknowable at the same time. It's worth waiting to see Pseudopod's treatment.

Thanks for the note David

Friday, December 17, 2010

2001: Seventeen Missing Minutes?

  • In a Kansas salt mine, deep underground, there exists a repository of national significance. Part of this repository contains original reels of classic and contemporary films. One of these films is Stanley Kubrick's 2001. However when film historian Douglas Trumbull gained access to the film archives he found more than just the original cut but seventeen here-to-fore unseen minutes of the movie.

According to the Boing Boing article:
  • The film originally premiered at 160 minutes. After the premiere, director 'Stanley Kubrick' removed about 19 minutes' worth of scenes and made a few changes:
  • Some shots from the "Dawn of Man" sequence were removed and a new scene was inserted where an ape pauses with the bone it is about to use as a tool. The new scene was a low-angle shot of the monolith, done in order to portray and clarify the connection between the man-ape using the tool and the monolith.
  • Some shots of Frank Poole jogging in the centrifuge were removed.
  • An entire sequence of several shots in which Dave Bowman searches for the replacement antenna part in storage was removed.
  • A scene where HAL severs radio communication between the "Discovery" and Poole's pod before killing him was removed. This scene explains a line that stayed in the film in which Bowman addresses HAL on the subject.
  • Some shots of Poole's space walk before he is killed were removed.
IMOB article on various versions IO9 article on lost footage

Are Orbital Sciences Corp's Mini-shuttles Viable Alternative

Dvice blog has an article describing Orbital Sciences Corporation's proposal to NASA's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program. OSC's project involves a lifting body concept much like NASA's Shuttle but barely a fourth of the size. This design is a dramatic departure from other purposed systems which lean heavily on the booster / capsule systems to deliver cargo and crew to the ISS.

From the Dvice article:
  • ...the unnamed space plane has no engines like the shuttles, and it can only carry a crew of four. Like the shuttles, it would ride into orbit on a rocket stack - an enhanced Atlas V. It would dock with the ISS via a hatch in the rear, and after departing the ISS it would glide to a runway landing...
However the number one contender for the CCDev is Space X who has already demonstrated that their Dragon / Falcon 9 system is operational by launching and recovering the Dragon capsule intact. Space X ambitiously plans to dock with the ISS some time in 2011 putting it well ahead of the competition.

Review: Brave New Worlds edited by John Joseph Adams

Brave New Worlds
Edited by John J. Adams
Night Shade Books pb 470p

As the title suggests, we have stories in the vein of Brave New World. Dystopian Utopias who have mutated beyond the original intent to something more and far far less.

The collection is a goodly mix of classic fiction and contemporary.

In the classics department stories like the Lottery by Shirley Jackson or The ones who walk away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin, to contemporary selections such as Red Card by S.L. Gilbow which is disturbing look at what can best be described as the ultimate in wish fulfillment and an oddly twisted lottery does to society. Or the very disturbing Evidence of Love in a Case of Abandonment by M. Rickert.

Some of the other classic titles are Repent, Harlequin, said the Ticktockman by Harlan Ellison, The Minority Report by Philip K. Dick, to name a few.
Other contemporary writers like Cory Doctorow, Tobias S. Buckell, Paolo Bacigalupi, give you an idea of the depth of this story collection. 33 disquieting and disturbing tales.

Very much worth taking a look at. If you have enjoyed dystopian novels like Brave New World, 1984, then this collection is tailor made for you!

Nightshade Books site for this book.

Challenger's Last Rollout

Hey tell me that this is not a haunting picture. Show is the shuttle Challenger slowly working its' way towards pad 39-B and history. As we all know, on January 28, 1986, the spacecraft disintegrated 73 seconds after lift-off.

As history, this picture speaks volumes. But now I see Challenger forever rolling through the mist to 39b

SYFY cancels SGU?! OH COME ON!

After SYFY yanked Caprica, I guess we shouldn't be surprised at any idiocy that comes out of corporate, but pulling the last of the Star Gate franchise, Stargate Universe seems almost like programming has had a break with reality!

For SGU fans:
  • According to Deadline, the remaining episodes in the show's second season will air in the spring
The 'Stargate' franchise has been on TV since 1997 but SGU lasted only 2 seasons starting in 2009.

Take heart though....I hear that there is a news smack down cummin fo da wrasslin fanns .... now where did I hide that razor....?

Complete TV Squad article

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Proof that Panspermia Happened?

From the pages of yahoo news, Tim Sayell sends in an intriguing article.

In a meteorite discovered in the Sudan, scientists have found something that by all rights should not exist. Scientists have discovered amino acids, the very building blocks of life. Finding them on a meteorite seems to indicate that, far from an isolated occurrence, building amino acids and possibly the proteins that are built from these simple structures, are likely much more common and much easier to synthesize in space.

According to the Yahoo article:
  • (previously) scientists found amino acids in samples of Comet Wild 2, and in various carbon-rich meteorites. Finding amino acids in these objects supports the theory that the origin of life got a boost from space.
Read the complete fascinating Yahoo article here

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chernobyl A Possible Tourist Attraction?!!!

In the quest for constant excellence (ahhhh back from the emergency room....I swallowed my tongue on that one) I have asked Tim Sayell to be my director of tourism. As we all know, Tim is good at ferreting out unusual articles, he should be equally so in this new venue.

In keeping with his new station, Tim informs me that there is indeed still places to go and things to see, even for the most jaded tourist. If you have not finalized your 2011 calendar yet, let us propose a very unusual destination for the very discriminating taste. Break out your has/mat rad suit (formal if you please) because in 2011 the Ukraine board of Tourism is opening reactor number 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant Yes the very same reactor that on April 26, 1986, spewing radiation over a large swath of northern Europe and once had a 30 mile radiation exclusion zone!

Prospective tourists are informed that "There are things to see there if one follows the official route and doesn't stray away from the group,"

Space is limited, make your reservations (and update your will and insurance) as soon as possible. FCFS

All joking aside the Yahoo News article can be found here

A Bionic Leg: Treatment for Stroke Victims

Commonly held medical wisdom concerning stroke victims is that once the patient has reached the one year anniversary of their event, very little if any, further progress is obtainable. It seems however that a start up in Sunnyvale CA believes differently.

Tibion has developed a battery-powered robotic, exoskeleton to aid patients in walking. The "Bionic" leg is not a full time device though. Tibion believes that if a patients who wear the device for 15 minutes at a time, over a three times a week period will make significant improvements, even after a protracted period of little or no therapy.

Wearing the Tibion leg promotes neuroplasticity (the brain's ability to rewire itself to repair damage) by providing feedback to the brain, this triggers the brain to lay down new pathways around the damaged areas.

Read the complete article on how the device works at San Francisco Xconomy

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Saturn's Rings : Did Saturn Eat one of its' Moons?

Tim Sayell sends in a Yahho News article that really puts a new spin on the formation of Saturn's complex ring system. A new theory on the formation of the Saturn ring system is published in the latest issue of Nature. It seems that researchers have uncovered evidence that a disk of hydrogen gas once surrounded Saturn. This long lost gas ring seems to be evidence that there was once one more moon orbiting Saturn that at present. Some 4.5 billion years ago, this mystery moon was pulled down to its' distruction by Saturn. As the moon spiraled in, Saturn stripped off outer layers of ices that now make up the rings. This really puts present theories in question that the rings formed by moons coliding and breaking up. But with a large gas ring in place there is every possibility that there may have been many more larger close in moons around Saturn. The gas would eventually slow the moons and force them out of orbit.

Read the rest of the facinating article here

'Inceptión' Starring Dora the Explorer

I know this is a bit dated, but after watching Inception last night, this struck me as wildly funny! It's 'Inceptión' Starring Dora the Explorer

Saturday, December 11, 2010

How would marooned astronauts be rescued

Any fan of science fiction space or maybe the marooned in space genre of movie has seen this situation used more than once: An astronaut working outside a ship or something akin to it, for some reason becomes separated from the craft which all but assures that they will die an agonizing death through aphixia or loss of suit pressure. Every movie I had seen where someone had drifted even just a short distance was considered lost, no way to retreive them.

Well in a recent Gizmodo blog entry, this need not be a foregone conclusion and it seems that NASA has some pretty interesting contingency plan.

Of course we all know any EVA includes a teather. I just think we have never considered how strong the unit is. An astronauts teather is braided steel, which has a tensile strength of 1,100 pounds. Not something that is bound to fail under normal conditions. However if the unthinkable should happen and someone's teather failed then NASA's backup plan is a S.A.F.E.R. Yeah, I never heard if it either. It's a "Simplified Aid for Extra-vehicular activity Rescue," According to the article it's:
  • a backpack with built-in nitrogen-jet small joystick to propel (the astronaut) back to the station.
There are a few really out there options but as Michael Curie, a spokesman for NASA's space operations puts it: "we are really happy with the tether-and-Safer approach."

So I would think that one of science fiction's old saws has been made moot by advancements in suit technology. Safer sounds so much like an off shot of something like what was experimented with in earlier projects like Gemini.

Read the complete Gizmodo article here

Friday, December 10, 2010

Lego Antikythera Mechanism

Now talk about facinating... Mix whimsey with real practical science and you get something like this post I first came across on Dvice. It is a fully functional Antikythera device rendered in Legos. In my mind you could not have picked a better medium for demonstrating this marvelously complex mechanism. The blocky nature of the hardware lends itself well to a modular design that shines in this video as they demonstrate what has to be described as the oldest known mechanical computer.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

WTF! Thermonuclear Space Shots?

Since the earliest days of printed and even cinematic science fiction, the thought of gaining access to the heavenly bodies often included in it's arsenal of launch systems, a very large bore cannon. Who among us has not seen, at least partially, men in top hats and tails entering what can only be described as the mother of all artillery shells. Said conveyance is then thrust into the bore (oh yes, I am very aware of what I am typing) of an equally large cannon by a bevy of 20s bathing beauties, to be fired, with rather gruesome effects into the right eye of the man in the moon. (I saw the sequence for the first time as a child only to be horrified as the yokey mess poured from the mutilated eye around our intrepid travelers cannon shell.)

Ahh the good ole days. Romantic or otherwise, ballistic space travel using a cannon or otherwise proved to be impractical in so many ways. So you can well understand my reaction when looking through various news articles, I found myself instead traveling the on-ramp of the magical mushroom mystery motorcade.

This is the article on the Next Big Future site via Dvice blog -Sea Based Launch Option for the Nuclear space launch cannon.

Nope I am not crazy and even Dvice thinks it's only "mostly" crazy. Even Joseph Friedlander, father to this brain child, admits the inspiration came from Vern's gun.

And to prove what comes next is not something I netted from a fever dream, here is an article excerpt:
  • Dig a kilometer deep shaft, at the bottom build a giant cannon shell. Finally, after all is in readiness, pump reaction mass through an access shaft under the (shell) into a prepared chamber and place a thermonuclear explosive device in the midst of the reaction mass.
Surprisingly there are some who don't like this method, something about a smoking, kilometers deep, radioactive hole the launch would leave behind. (I would almost guess that each launch is a one off. Just from the fracturing of the bedrock alone....) And the not so crazy part? Well cost.
Each launch could be 1000 tons plus and with all the cost factored in the cost per pound would be around $100! I wonder if they factored in cleanup? I mean, someone has to back-fill that hole right?

This has got Slim Pickens written all over it huh?

Check out the articles on Dvice & Next Big Future

Dvice article
Nuclear space launch article on Next Big Future

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

SpaceX successful Falcon9 / Dragon Launch

SpaceX experienced a brilliantly successful launch of it's Falcon 9 launch vehicle, delivering a Dragon, reusable space capsule into orbit.

Here is a description of the Dragon capsule, from SpaceX's site
Dragon is a free-flying, reusable spacecraft ... developed by SpaceX .... the Dragon spacecraft is made up of a pressurized capsule and unpressurized trunk used for Earth to LEO transport of pressurized cargo, unpressurized cargo, and/or crew members.

The Dragon was delivered to orbit and according to the SpaceX site

(Dragon re-enters and) Lands on Target in the Pacific Ocean, 500 miles Off of the Coast of Southern California

This also means that SpaceX became the first commercial company in history to re-enter a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Review: Eureka Seven Good Night, Sleep Tight Young Lovers - Blu-ray

Eureka Seven Good Night, Sleep Tight Young Lovers
Director: Tomoki Kyoda
Kaori Nazuka as Eureka
Yuko Sanpei as Renton

Fans of the Eureka Seven anime series might be a bit confused with this release. To give you an idea of how it great the divergence is from the anime series it might be best to list the synopse from
  • Renton, son of scientists, and Eureka, a girl who can't live under the sun, are raised together when very young and become very attached to each other. One day, Eureka is taken away. Powerless at the time, Renton vows to rescue her. He enters the military and is soon assigned to the Independent Youths Unit 303 of the First Mobile Forces thanks to his exceptional performance alongside his Nirvash, a bio-mechanical armor/control system. Unknown to Renton, there is a plot to extinguish the alien invasion that is currently happening. It involves not only him, but Eureka too.

You could almost call this release a reboot. The writer and director will even admit that this movie bears only a superficial resemblance to the original anime series. Many of the character that appeared in the original series are included in the movie however most are radically different the movie. It is safe to say that as a general rule the story line and characters are a story unto themselves.

Here is Bandai Entertainment's synopses
This is another version of the story of Renton and Eureka. For almost half a century, mankind has battled a mysterious organism from space called “EIZO.” In 2054, there is a young soldier on board the fighter aircraft commanded by Holland, GEKKO, of the renegade group GEKKOSTATE, who is battling EIZO. The young soldier’s name is Renton. He boards Nirvash and heads for the battlefield. He has only one dream: to rescue his childhood friend, Eureka, who was kidnapped eight years ago and return to his hometown. Fate, however, brings tribulations to test the young love between Renton and Eureka --mission and emotion, truth and lie, past and future, life and death, reality and dream and even Holland – the entire world stand in the way of the two as the final battle with EIZO approaches…

That being said, the movie is certainly worth a look. If you enjoyed the look and feel of the original series you will find many of the same elements here. But that really should not be a deciding factor. The decision should be, if you never saw Eureka Seven would this movie be worth seeing and would it stand on it own merit? The answer is an emphatic yes.

Eureka Seven Good Night, Sleep Tight Young Lovers takes the whole arc from start to finish in two hours which is what one twelveth of the tv series. Not saying that speed is the key here, but the story line is every bit as complex so my hat is off for the screenwriter.

The Blu-ray version is not half bad. The graphics and audio are great. The extras are a bit lite, but the "making of" featurette is fun just for the differences in Japanese vs American production companies.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Cassini flyby of Saturn's Moon Hyperion

Recently, the Cassini orbiter did a specacular flyby of Saturn's moon Hyperion. Now this is a weird moon. Watch the chaotic rotation the moon experiences during the film. Check out the surface topology! Something odd was going on when this potato shaped moon was formed.

IO9 article

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Comedic post apocalyptic education film

Here is a very funny, if somewhat twisted fake post apocalyptic survival guide. The seriously tongue in cheek film covers everything from post-apocalyptic fashion to unique uses for surplus human skulls. Titled "Ducked and Covered: A Survival Guide to the Post Apocalypse" the film, according to the IO9 article:
  • ...won the Audience Award – Best Animated film at The Maelstrom International Film Fest 2010 and has been part of the official selection of The Williamsburg International Film Festival, New Filmmakers NY 2010, Cinequest 20 Film Festival in San Jose, CA and the upcoming Doomsday Film Festival in Brooklyn, NY.

Ducked and Covered: A Survival Guide to the Post Apocalypse from Nathaniel Lindsay on Vimeo.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Does the Nemesis Companion Exsist?

Nemesis - A small dark companion star to Sol, orbiting the outer reaches of the solar system, sending comets hurtling from the dark reaches of the Ort cloud towards the inner planets of the Solar System. Some of which strike Earth, said to be the cause of mass extintions throughout history. Unfortunatly for Nemesis, it's exsistance falls apart because it could not have a stable enough orbit to account for the regularity of the extintion events.

However, since a disproportionatly large amount of comets originate from the Oort Cloud, University of Louisiana astrophysicists suspect that a large object may indeed be lurking deep in the outer reaches of the Solar System.

From the IO9 article:
  • A planet anywhere from one to four times the mass of Jupiter could be responsible for the gravitational influence that would create this imbalance. .... the probability that this effect is purely a statistical fluke is extremely small, which suggests there's something strange going on out there in the outer Oort.
Even though the object would be Jupiter class in size and mass, its' shere distance from the sun (in an order of 30,000 times farther away than Earth) would make it extremely difficult to discover.

Wiki reference IO9 article

AntipodeanSF Issue 150 is now online

Just got a note saying that the newest issue of AntipodeanSF, the Australian online flash fiction magazine, is online with issue 150. Great selection of fiction this month.

Here's what's available this month.

  • Waiting By Raymond Gates
  • Us Part By Benjamin Hayes
  • The Solar Accumulator Satellite By Kerry Tynan Fraser
  • Small Robots By Benjamin Harkin
  • Wish You Were Here By David Shanahan
  • A Letter For My Son By Shaun A. Saunders
  • Skin Deep By Kate Murphy
  • What Price...? By Gregor MacNamara
  • The Perfect Gift By Lynda R. Young
  • Muses By Kevin J. Phyland

Thursday, December 02, 2010

How Tron Should "Really" Look!

I thought I would break a rib laughing when I came across this cartoon in Gizmodo from Virtual Shackles Everything about the new Tron movie is certainly great eye candy, but as this graphic shows....maybe the game interface is a bit off. An update might be in order to bring the movie more inline with popular online games today. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Could This Be Where Some of the Universe's Missing Mass is?

Oh and the first person that calls the show Saturday and says...what? You reach into your back pocket?!" gets hung up on! lol Ok, here is what I am basing this question on. Astronomers used to think that elliptical galaxies contained around a trillion stars each. But looking at new data, they believe that these types of galaxies actually contain five trillion to ten trillion stars, and that by itself means the universe would have three times as many stars as we'd previously believed.

The new data come from technological advancements in detecting much dimmer stars or red dwarfs. Up until recently, red dwarf stars have been extremely difficult to detect because they are extremely dim in nature. Now that astronomers can detect the red dwarfs it turns out red dwarfs are way more common than was previously believed. Elliptical galaxies contain around 20 times as many of them as our own galaxy and could turn out to make up 80 percent of all stars in the universe. This could mean there's less "dark matter" than previously thought, since these red dwarfs could account for a lot of the universe's missing mass.

IO9 red dwarf article Wiki Red Dwarf article
Thanks to Dan for bringing the article to my attention

Computer That Thinks Like a Person?

Are you familiar with the Turing Test? The Turing The Turing is measure of artificial intelligence. It is arrived at if a human can have a conversation with a machine and not know they are talking to a machine. If so the computer or more to the point, it's programming is thought to be as 'intelligent' as a human. In most cases however the programs simply mimic how a person reacts and is easily caught when asked to perform outside it's program parameters.

Now there is a program called "CLARION", a program that performs the same way human subjects does in cognitive tests. It provides results that are not so much what we think, as earlier programs did, but how we think. And that is a huge difference.

When programmed, Clarion was not filled with pat human responses but a set of rules instead that were modeled on how human subjects went about solving a problem.

From the IO9 article on how the results were formulated:
  • When humans were asked to discuss their thoughts about the problem prior to giving a solution, they answered correctly 35.6 percent of the time. When they were assigned another task, interrupting their work on the problem before going back to thinking about it, they answered correctly 45.8 percent of the time.
This is what happened when Clarion was put to the same conditions:
  • When CLARION solved problems under similar conditions, the results uncannily mirrored those of human subjects. Five thousand runs of the program returned a correct result 35.3 percent of the time when the scientists imposed conditions similar to a human 'discussing' their work, and 45.3 percent of a time when it was interrupted to work on another task.
Does this mean that the program is thinking just like a person? Well, not really, but it does show some of the possibilities and what we can expect from expert systems in the future.

Wiki Turing Test article complete IO9 article Wiki article on Cognitive Architecture

RIP Irvin Kershner - Empire Strikes Back director

Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner has passed away at 87, according to a Yahoo News article sent in by Nelson. Kershner died Saturday at home following a 3 1/2-year battle with lung cancer.

Some of Kershner's other notable movie credits are: "Never Say Never Again, "A Fine Madness", "The Flim-Flam Man", "Loving", "The Eyes of Laura Mars", "Raid on Entebbe" which earned him an Emmy nomination for direction and Robocop 2 among many others.

Check out the complete Yahoo News article here