Friday, February 29, 2008

Planet Projected at Solar System's Edge

Shaun sends in an article that we have all suspected for sometime, that the solar system may contain a large cold body well outside the orbit of Pluto. On Discovery Channel online says that Japanese scientists report calculations using computer simulations seem to indicate the possibility that a yet unknown, planet-class celestial body, measuring 30 percent to 70 percent of the Earth's mass, exists in the outer edges of the solar system. "Planet X" would have an oblong elliptical solar orbit and circle the sun every thousand years, with an estimated orbital radius of approximately 15 to 26 billion kilometers.

Shaun comes to an interesting conclusion that I feel is worthy of some discussion. "I'd put my money on a brown-dwarf companion to our sun, orbiting far out, which may have its own planets."

I have often thought that there was indications that Sol had a companion. I have often read that the Solar System as a whole behaves, as a whole, as if Sol was part of a binary pair. These recent research results seem to prove it out to some degree. Comments?

Have You Heard Scifi's Wilhelm Scream?

Oh I bet you have! I am now ruined for life, but it was done in a most entertaining manner. It seems that movie sound mixers have been having some fun with us for YEARS. In what way you ask? Well for one, the Wilhelm Scream. And what is that you ask innocently? Well as IO9 online writes: You've probably heard the Wilhelm Scream dozens of times in different movies and television shows without realizing it, but it's one of those things that once you hear, you'll always be able to identify it afterwards. It's now become an in-joke amongst sound editors who try to insert it into their films whenever there's a perfect moment that just needs an over-the-top scream. It began as a Warner Bros. stock sound effect, but was revived and put to serious use by Star Wars sound designer Ben Burtt. Now the thing just won't die.

I was laughing so hard by the time this little film was over, ruined but entertained. Because, now, you will alway be able to spot the Wilhelm Scream anytime you hear it. And movies will never be the same again....for me. I love it!

Click here for the complete article

Robot warriors possible within 10 years says experts

Shaun Saunders sends in a piece from The Daily Mail online that suggest that far from being the realm of Science Fiction, the robot warrior could be a real possibility on the battlefield within ten years according to robotics experts. We are not talking about the present crop of remotely controlled machines. No, as the experts suggest, "Robot soldiers that can decide who to attack" and more to the point when to take action on an autonomous basis. How close are we now? Closer than you think. The article reports that "Over 4,000 robots are currently deployed on the ground in Iraq and by October 2006 unmanned aircraft had flown 400,000 flight hours". And that was over a year ago. The point being made : At the moment, humans can make the decision whether to attack or not but a recent policy shift in the U.S means that 'intelligent' autonomous attack robots .... that can make the decision to apply lethal force, when to apply it and who to apply it to are becoming a very real possibility. With the drop in cost of development and manufacture, these weapons need not be the sole territory of the military either.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

20 Science Fiction Novels that will change your life

From IO9:

Whether it's because they've altered the course of science fiction writing, or simply provide a genuinely alien perspective on ordinary life, these are novels that will rearrange how you think. Check out our list below.

Frankenstein (1818), by Mary Shelley

The Time Machine (1895), by H.G. Wells

At the Mountains of Madness (1931), by H.P. Lovecraft

I, Robot (1955), by Isaac Asimov

The Dispossessed (1974), by Ursula LeGuin

Kindred (1979), by Octavia Butler

Wizard (1979), by John Varley

Consider Phlebas (1987), by Iain M. Banks

He, She, and It (1991), by Marge Piercy

Sarah Canary (1991), by Karen Joy Fowler

A Fire Upon the Deep (1992), by Vernor Vinge

The Bohr Maker (1995), by Linda Nagata

The Sparrow (1996), by Mary Doria Russell

Cryptonomicon (2000), by Neal Stephenson

The Mount (2002), by Carol Emschwiller

Perdido Street Station (2002), by China Mieville

Pattern Recognition (2003), by William Gibson

Newton's Wake (2004), by Ken MacLeod

Glasshouse (2006), by Charles Stross

Click here for a synopsis of each book

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Nebula Finalists Announced

Finalists have been announced for this year's Nebula Awards, which recognize superior achievement in science fiction and fantasy writing. The award is presented annually by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Winners will be announced at the 2008 Nebula Awards Weekend, April 25-27, in Austin, Texas.

Novel: Ragamuffin by Tobias Buckell, The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon, The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman, The New Moon's Arms by Nalo Hopkinson, Odyssey by Jack McDevitt

Novella: "Awakening" by Judith Berman, "The Helper and His Hero" by Matthew Hughes, "Fountain of Age" by Nancy Kress, "Stars Seen Through Stone" by Lucius Shepard, "Kiosk" by Bruce Sterling, "Memorare" by Gene Wolfe

Novelette: "The Children's Crusade" by Robin Wayne Bailey; "Child, Maiden, Woman, Crone" by Terry Bramlett; "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" by Ted Chiang; "The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change" by Kij Johnson; "Safeguard" by Nancy Kress; "Pol Pot's Beautiful Daughter" by Geoff Ryman; "The Fiddler of Bayou Teche" by Delia Sherman

Short Story: "Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse" by Andy Duncan, "Always" by Karen Joy Fowler, "Titanium Mike Saves the Day" by David D. Levine, "The Story of Love" by Vera Nazarian, "Captive Girl" by Jennifer Pelland, "Pride" by Mary Turzillo

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Electronic tattoo display runs on blood

No question about it, Shaun Saunders loves to inform and shock all at the same time. Case in point, this juicy tidbit from

Jim Mielke's wireless display is a true merging of technology and body art. At the recent Greener Gadgets Design Competition, the engineer demonstrated a subcutaneously implanted touch-screen that operates as a cell phone display, with the potential for 3G video calls that are visible just underneath the skin.

If that isn't unusual enough, the unit has a most unusual power-supply.....blood.
The basis of the 2x4-inch "Digital Tattoo Interface" is a Bluetooth device made of thin, flexible silicon and silicone. It´s inserted through a small incision as a tightly rolled tube, and then it unfurls beneath the skin to align between skin and muscle. Through the same incision, two small tubes on the device are attached to an artery and a vein to allow the blood to flow to a coin-sized blood fuel cell that converts glucose and oxygen to electricity. After blood flows in from the artery to the fuel cell, it flows out again through the vein.

If you're like me your both fascinated and repelled at the same time.!
The tattoo display communicates wirelessly to other Bluetooth devices - both in the outside world and within the same body. Although the device is always on (as long as your blood´s flowing), the display can be turned off and on by pushing a small dot on the skin.


We are the BORG you will be assimilated. Resistance is futile. Thanks Shaun, I know I am going to have nightmares over this one!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Clothes That Clean Themselves

Hey, how often have we seen this science fiction device used? The most recent that I can recall is Benjamin Rosenbaum's story Start The Clock, which had one of the characters wiping their nose on the sleeve of a coat and the fabric "eating" the residue. I daresay that it is a fairly common and widely used device. One that might come to be sooner than we thought.

Researchers at Monash University, in Victoria, Australia, have found a way to coat fibers with titanium dioxide nanocrystals, which break down food and dirt in sunlight. (Researchers) coat the fibers with a thin, invisible layer of titanium dioxide nanoparticles. Titanium dioxide, which is used in sunscreens, toothpaste, and paint, is a strong photocatalyst: in the presence of ultraviolet light and water vapor, it forms hydroxyl radicals, which oxidize, or decompose, organic matter. However...these nanocrystals cannot decompose wool and are harmless to skin. Plus the nanocrystals do not change the look or feel of the fabric. Even more exciting is the finding that titanium dioxide can also destroy pathogens such as bacteria in the presence of sunlight by breaking down the cell walls of the microorganisms. This should make self-cleaning fabrics especially useful in hospitals and other medical settings.

More in Technology Review

photo American Chemical Society

Sunday, February 24, 2008

10 teams sign up to land rovers on the Moon

According to Dvice:

10 teams are fully registered to send their robotic space ships to the moon.

As you have read earlier, Google is sponsoring an X-Prize type of competition that will award the first team to land, remotely control and complete a series of specific activities, a rover type device on the Moon. The first team to do so will take home the lion share of 20 million dollars.

The Dvice article goes on to say:

(A) spider-like lunar rover (is) proposed by Team Italia ( pictured above), another team plans to send a toaster-sized ‘bot to the surface, with a cell phone-sized rover inside to take that 500-meter jaunt across the lunar surface. Meanwhile, a team from Carnegie Mellon vows to visit the landing site of Apollo 11.


Car that runs on AIR due in US showrooms by 2009

Anyone that is anywhere near on the ball knows that we are being feed a bill of goods by the producers of fuel products. Now why am I phrasing it just that way? Because I am not talking about just OIL. My argument covers the whole spectrum of products to power our vehicles, be they oil guzzlers, hybrids, gas of whatever kind.....whatever. My point is that we are being force fed that we HAVE to have some sort of gas or fluid running through the damn things. Electrics are a bit better, but ultimately they just move the emissions from your tailpipe to somewhere in the mid-west. I have seen some truly inventive alternate drive ideas, from liquids that change density when heated, torsion, flywheels but by far the most inventive is the car that runs on air. I have seen this engine on a couple of instances and its amazing. Compressed air is the only motive force. Here is some of the text from the article in Dvice:

Car maker Tata Motors announced the world’s first air-powered car last year for India, and now it’s going to be delivering a version to the U.S. starting in 2009 or early 2010. The company’s Zero Pollution Motors (ZPM) division says the $17,800 car will deliver jaw-dropping specs, such as a 1000-mile range on each fill-up of compressed air, a top speed of 96mph.

Now its not 100% free of of the "fuel" hurdle....anyone knows that if you compress a gas and then release it, you get an energy sink. To keep the tanks from freezing and to give the air more umph, the manufacture is using propane to keep the air warm. Even so, they are able to keep the "mileage" well over 100mpg. I really think we are breathing the fuel of tomorrow, air.


Adventure Books offering free e-books!

Bob over at Adventure Books, publishers extrodinaire (publishers of Escape Velocity Magazine) was telling me that Tor isn't the only one stepppin up offering quality e-books for free. So I asked for details and he sent me the information I crave..

Free Book Links:
There are no forms, questions, or baloney. We just decided to do the Cory Doctorow thing.
'Robinson Crusoe - Special Redux Edition' - The classic tale by Daniel Defoe, re-edited for modern readers. We did not 'modernize' the book, but only made it flow more smoothly with normal editing. Dialogue is now attributed, and some of the longer sections about God and Salvation were edited. Illustrations by N.C. Wyeth, from Defoe's First Edition of 1719.
'Say Goodbye to the Sun' - Sci-fi high adventure, originally written between 1978-82. It was lost for more than twenty years until a previously unknown copy turned up in the attic of a house in Seattle. Published in 2003 after a re-edit by Geoff Nelder of Great Britain. Some of the inventions and situations in the book have become reality. It's the story of a first manned mission to a planet beyond our solar system. Good and evil story, basically. Fully illustrated.
Link to 'Say Goodbye':

Thanks Bob, and you can click the links in the descriptions or click the pic or the article title to go to the Adventure Books site for more information.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Electron filmed for the first time

It is now possible to see a movie of an electron. This movie shows how an electron rides on a light wave after just having been pulled away from an atom. This is the first time an electron has ever been filmed. With the aid of newly developed technology for generating short pulses from intense laser light, which is needed in order to capture these rapid events, scientists have moreover succeeded in guiding the motion of the electron so that they can capture a collision between an electron and an atom on film. Scientists can now study how electrons behave when they collide and also hope to find out more about what happens with the rest of the atom when an inner electron leaves it, for instance how and when the other electrons fill in the gap that is created.


thanks to Shaun for submitting the artilce from

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Space "Smells"

Cory Doctorow's Boing Boing blog is always a fount of odd information. I guess thats why I have my reader pointed there so often. So, I saw this piece written by astronaut Don Petit who is expedition six ISS science officer. Don writing on a NASA blog, offered up some strange information. Space it seems, has a "smell".

Few people have experienced traveling into space. Even fewer have experienced the smell of space. It seems about as improbable as listening to sounds in space, yet space has a definite smell. I had the pleasure of operating the airlock for two of my crewmates while they went on several space walks. Each time, when I repressed the airlock, opened the hatch a peculiar odor tickled my olfactory senses. I noticed that this smell was on their suit, helmet, gloves, and tools. It was more pronounced on fabrics. The best description I can come up with is metallic. It reminded me arc welding torch repairing heavy equipment....welding fumes.

Weird huh? Click here for Mr. Petit's complete article

U.S. Hits Spy Satellite With Missile

CBS news reports that the US Navy's efforts to destroy a dead Pentagon spy satellite with a missile has proved a complete success. The missile launched from a Navy cruiser soared 130 miles above the Pacific and hit the satellite Wednesday, apparently achieveing the main aim of destroying an onboard tank of toxic fuel. Because the satellite was orbiting at a relatively low altitude at the time it was hit by the missile, debris will begin to re-enter the Earth's atmosphere immediately, nearly all of the debris will burn up on re-entry within 24-48 hours and the remaining debris should re-enter within 40 days, a Pentagon representative said.

complete story and videos on CBS

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Le programme du jour or I want a box, just like the box...

This week I have found a short video that is a bit of a departure. Not cute and certainly not light entertainment, I give you Le programme du jour or The Daily Program. This short movie is the work of two students of the ESMA: Samantha Duris and Loïc Tari and was released under the creative commons project. Set in a dystopian future, where everyone has a life booth that is literally that. You do virtually everything in this one little box. Inside there is another box that you enter where a screen tells you everything you need to know and everything to do. One of the most disquieting moments is when the main character B42-347 is informed that he will go meet someone new and the box chooses himself.

Scalzi's Old Man's War as a free download

Tor has made John Scalzi's Old Man's War e-book available for download for free as a promotion to introduce readers to Tor's new ebook site that will be starting up soon. Once your signed up you will receive a newsletter with a link to download the newest book available. The first book released was Mistborn, the first in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy.

Old Man's War is part of a series that was followed by The Last Colony that I review last February(read review here)

So click on the link or the book cover and go sign up. We can all use free books right?

or if your jonesing for the hard copy click here

Kyle XY or why I would rather watch SpongeBob

Have any of you seen this show called Kyle XY? The show centers around a boy named Kyle (Matt Dallas), who wakes up in the forest outside of Seattle, Washington with no memory of his life up until that point. The series follows Kyle as he tries to understand the mysteries of who he is or why he has no memory of being a child. Oh and it seems he has no belly button. Have you seen it? Then join me as we commiserate together....Excuse me but how did this show get into it's second season? It's TERRIBLE! Is it worse than the SF Channel's Flash? You know, it just might be. Why? Because these people are taking themselves seriously! I am convinced that everyone involved with Flash Gordon knows they are hold a turd and are just passing it from one person to the next to see who drops it first. But they are inhaling deeply at Kyle XY and trying to convince us that we are smelling roses. Can we say two dimensional characters? No one has to walk offstage, just turn sideways and disappear. Kyle? Better Pinocchio, for all the wooden acting I witnessed. I tried, I really did, but I could not get through a whole episode. Nope, giving this one a pass. But omg, ABC has renewed it for a third season! What am I missing? They will cancel a show about a guy jumping through time because no one is watching, supposedly, and make a multi-million dollar stinker about the SAME THING and call it great! COME ON!!!!! We lost some very innovative shows over since the start of the new season and they are keeping trash fiction on the air. Sorry, I am not bellying up to the mundane bar, I will watch Sponge Bob instead, at least they are honest about what they are doing and what they are offering. OK, done ranting.

Kyle XY airs on ABC Family network, Mondays 8:00 PM
SpongeBob Sqarepants on

A few thousand sf magazine covers!

Now this is a trip! Shaun Saunders sends me a link to a really innovative graphics interface. It's loaded with thousands of science fiction magazine cover grapics. You drag your mouse around and individual covers pop up. If you then click, a larger, more detailed graphic pops up. It is really fascinating to just click around in this interface. I saw covers that I used to have or have read and many that I hadn't and was just plain amazed at the level of art some of these covers contained.

Check it out!


oh and here is another link to the cover art done
by Frank R. Paul who did covers for Amazing, Science Wonder Stories and others

Frank R. Paul art covers

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Get the inside scoop on the Pentagon's Sat killer

As you have heard, the Pentagon has a dead satellite that is coming down. In an effort to insure that no parts of the dead spy satellite come down on populated areas, the Pentagon is going to try and hit it with a missile when the craft is low enough in orbit to insure that the debris does not become a hazard.

Shaun Saunders sends in this article and graphic if your interested in learning more.


Milkyway may be full of "alien" Earths

With the discovery of a "mini" solar system in the news (click here for previous article) Shaun Saunders sends in an article speculating on the concept that Earth-like planets in other systems may be very common.

Rocky planets like Earth could be found around most sunlike stars in our galaxy, new research suggests, further raising hopes that scientists will someday find E.T. or at least primitive life beyond our solar system. The finding is based on an analysis of dust around 309 stars with masses comparable to our sun. (Scientists) found "warm" dust, between minus 280 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (-173 to 27 degrees Celsius), orbiting at an estimated distance from their stars in the same range that Earth and Jupiter are found in our solar system. This allowed them to infer the presence of colliding larger rocky bodies, and to estimate that at least 20 percent and up to as many as 60 percent of the sunlike stars in our galaxy's disk could give rise to rocky planets like Earth.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Five Sci-Fi Scenarios That Will Come True

Shaun A. Saunders sends in this article from PCworld:

In the next 25 years, these technological advances, made famous in movies and on TV, will become reality. How accurate are our prognostications? Predicted technological advances may look great in the movies, but what about in your living room? Virtual think tank TechCast recently polled hundreds of futurists and technology analysts, and then calculated when emerging technologies are likely to be found in at least 30 percent of U.S. households or businesses. Here are its predictions for five familiar sci-fi scenarios.

Click here for the predictions:

Shaun also asked if you would add your predictions to the comments section. That should be interesting!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Video Peek Into Batman Gone Anime

I have never hidden the fact that I am and have been for a long time, an anime fan. So you can expect that I would love to get a hold of the newest Batman animation done in, no IS anime. Scripted by some of the best in DC comics, the animation will be done in true anime style by some of the best in that genre. Click here for some shorts of the movie that will come out this summer at the same time as "Dark Knight" hits the big screen. The interviews are a bit on the dry side but the clips are seriously cool.

Junkyard spaceships in Science Fiction

Over on IO9 I was reading an article about scrap/junkyard spacecraft that have appeared in Science Fiction in the past. Now this was fun enough in it own right. However they forgot FireFly which if you remember was junked out and bought on spec...but I am nit picking. I would read the article (click this story's title) but what really got me going was a movie that I had totally forgotten. It was a made for TV venture staring of all people Andy Griffith! I had totally driven Salvage out of my long term memory! But it was kind of fun to check out the trailer for it. Read the story over on IO9 and click on the shorts! Great fun!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Issue 117 of AntipodeanSF is up

This month we have a celebratory bumper selection of twenty fabulous flash SF stories:

"Field Dynamics" by Simon Petrie
"Do People Dream of Rescuing Ships?" by Paul Minty
"The Poisoning" by Chris Pavey
"Taku Kinu" by Bren MacDibble
"A Bumper Year" by Shaun A. Saunders
"Redemption Slot Machine" by David Conyers
"Winter Hair" by Jaimie Ringering
"The Bracelet" by Natalie JE Potts
"Spawnotrim!!!" by Brendan D Carson
"Bad News" by Paul Ryan
"Orbiter's Reward" by Greg Wickenhofer
"Avenue D: Prayer" by Peter M. Ball
"Wildlife" by Ashley Callender
"Turing Test" Matthew Nicholls
"Immortality" by Jenny Mounfield
"Star Light, Star Bright" By Stuart Gibbon
"Man In Grey" by David McVeigh
"Wake-Up Call" by Brenton Tomlinson
"Apostle Promotion" David Siegel Bernstein
"The First Heartbreak" by Charles Richard Laing

You'll also find our regular columns. In "E-Scapes" Sue Clennell rides on the back of an armoured bear with Lyra — with a little illumination from Philip Pullman's Northern Lights. Meanwhile, in "Vide", Nuke travels with Nathan Burrage on a journey into the "Order of the Brightening Dawn"

Friday, February 15, 2008

Teleportation and Wormholes: The Science of 'Jumper'

Shaun A. Saunders sends in this article from LiveScience: With the movie Jumper opening nationwide, comes an interest in teleportation and some of the interesting science behind the real thing.

The really fascinating aspect about teleportation is that it really exists in the real world..... well sorta. The fact is that physicists have teleported things over miles. It doesn't violate the laws of physics. There's a huge — or rather, very tiny — caveat, however. For now, it only works with a single photon. When scientists talk about teleportation, they don't typically mean teleporting matter from one place to another as in the new movie. Rather, teleportation involves capturing the essential information about something — its "quantum state" — to recreate it exactly someplace else.

Complete article here

Smaller Version of the Solar System Is Discovered

From the

Astronomers report that they had found a miniature version of our own solar system 5,000 light-years across the galaxy — the first planetary system that really looks like our own, with outer giant planets and room for smaller inner planets. In the newly discovered system, a planet about two-thirds of the mass of Jupiter and another about 90 percent of the mass of Saturn are orbiting a reddish star at about half the distances that Jupiter and Saturn circle our own Sun. The star is about half the mass of the Sun. Neither of the two giant planets is a likely abode for life as we know it. But warm rocky planets — suitable for life — could exist undetected in the inner parts of the system.

click here for complete article

Close encounters of the desktop kind!

I just saw this great short piece of animation over on Dvice's blog. As they put it:

You may never look at your cell phone the same way again after seeing this UFO landing on some innocent soul's desk. What a convincing special effect! Quick, look under your desk to see if any tiny aliens are crawling around down there. It's not only the realistic sounds that sell the visuals, but the camera movement and shifting focus makes it look like it was shot with a hand-held camcorder. Remarkable. - Watch more free videos

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Titan’s surface organics surpass oil reserves on Earth

Saturn’s orange moon Titan has hundreds of times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the known oil and natural gas reserves on Earth, according to new Cassini data. The hydrocarbons rain from the sky, collecting in vast deposits that form lakes and dunes. At a balmy minus 179º C , Titan is a far cry from Earth. Instead of water, liquid hydrocarbons in the form of methane and ethane are present on the moon's surface, and tholins probably make up its dunes. The term ‘tholins’ was coined by Carl Sagan in 1979 to describe the complex organic molecules at the heart of prebiotic chemistry.

Cartoon Network snags 'The Clone Wars'

Tim Goodman over at the SFGate blog has news about the new Clone Wars cartoon:

Lucasfilm has announced that Cartoon Network has landed the "Star Wars" animated series, "Star Wars: The Clone Wars."
George Lucas has created 30 episodes, each running 30 minutes. The show's first season will comprise 22 of the 30 episodes. And more are in production. The television series is scheduled for the fall, but there has been no official date set yet.

Is a personal helicopter in your future?

Now for something completely different. We have all seen the Japanese personal helicopter that has been making the rounds on the internet. Except no one has seen it fly. I can do one better. If your interested in personal aviation but don't see yourself straping on a jetpac for 20 seconds of flight time - here is the future of personal flight. Well if not the future, at least the damn thing flies! And it is certainly entertaining to boot!
Check it!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Gene Roddenberry's Secret Agent Saves Earth, Forty Years Later

Do you remember the Star Trek episode which had the Enterprise travel back in time to the Earth of the 60s. Kirk and crew discover that a mysterious person seems bent on sabotaging a certain rocket launch. The episode was a little on the strange side even for Trek. It seems the mystery man is in fact a time traveling alien and his cat his shape shifting partner. Their efforts are aimed at protecting earth by delaying the rockets launch. The strange back story to this episode is the fact that this show was supposed to be a "trailer" of sorts for a program that Gene Roddenbery wanted to produce. As intriguing as the concept was, nothing was ever to come of the idea. (sigh) This year, however, all that will change with the first issue of Assignment: Earth, a series based on Roddenberry's concept for the unmade TV show. Written and drawn by long-time Trek fan Byrne. The five part series, which advances the story one year with each new issue, launches in May.

Image from IDW Chief Chris Ryall's blog. Star Trek: Assignment Earth

Monday, February 11, 2008

RIP: Roy Scheider

Actor Roy died Sunday at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences hospital in Little Rock a hospital spokesman said. The hospital did not release his cause of death, but he had been diagnosed with myeloma in 2004 and subsequently underwent a bone marrow transplant.

Scheider was probably best known for his roles in Jaws and Blue Thunder had a varied career in science fiction films as well. He stared in 2010 which was a sequel to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and he had a recurring role in the tv program SeaQuest DSV

photo by Bob Riha, Jr.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

TOR giving away E-Books!

I was just reading on Slashdot that TOR books is launching a new e-book site.

"Tor Books is launching a new site and running a campaign in which they are giving away e-books until the site goes live. To get in on the deal, fill out the form at their site, and each week you will receive a newsletter containing links to download a new book. The first two books are Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson followed by Old Man's War by John Scalzi.

Can't beat free! I am already signed up!

Rollback now available in paperback

I just received a note from author Robert Sawyer who wanted us to know that his novel RollBack is now available in mass market paperback from TOR and can be purchased on Amazon.

I did a review of Sawyers Rollback a little bit ago. If your interested in reading that review, click here

Friday, February 08, 2008

Are birds older than dinosaurs? New evidence!

A new analysis by researchers at the University of Michigan, the University of Chicago, the Centre for Biodiversity Conservation Mexico and Central America, and Boston University offers the strongest molecular evidence yet for an ancient origin of modern birds, suggesting that they arose more than 100 million years ago, not 60 million years ago, as fossils suggest. The question is at the center of a "rocks versus clocks" debate between paleontologists, whose estimates are based on the fossil record, and scientists who use "molecular clock" methods to study evolutionary history. Fossil record contains physical remains of ancient organisms, hence the"rock" analogy. Molecular genetic data or the "clock" method relies on the observation that although mutations occur at random in the genome, when looked at over long stretches of time they occur (or "tick") at a fairly constant rate. However, the two approaches have yielded conflicting results. Both camps insist that the other's data is incomplete.

Click here for the complete article.

Finally: "a virtually unlimited energy source for propulsion"

New fuel-free submarines are doing test dives here on the water planet. Are there implications for exploring Saturn, Jupiter and other gas planets?

Like a sequel to Verne's 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, submarines that can travel thousands of miles without steam, internal combustion or nuclear power sources have been spotted, last year in Antarctic waters, and now tirelessly crisscrossing the Virgin Islands Basin off Saint Thomas.

Rising and falling through the ocean like whales, these robo-subs exploit the thermal variation of different strata of the water column. According to a recent Science Daily article, the new Autonomous Underwater Vehicle:

" draws its energy for propulsion from the differences in temperature--thermal stratification--between warm surface waters and colder, deeper layers of the ocean. The heat content of the ocean warms wax-filled tubes inside the engine. The expansion of the warming wax converts heat to mechanical energy, which is stored and used to push oil from a bladder inside the vehicle's hull to one outside, changing its buoyancy. Cooling of the wax at depth completes the cycle."..........

"Wings generate lift, while a vertical tail fin and rudder allow the vehicles to be steered horizontally. Gliding underwater vehicles trace a saw-tooth profile through the ocean's layers, surfacing periodically to fix their positions via the Global Positioning System and to communicate via Iridium satellite to a shore lab."

Now let's apply this propulsive thinking to exploring other worlds. While Rovers are in use for the solid surface worlds like Mars, may it be possible to develop a "Flipper" class of AUVs, suitably modified for the harsh environments, for use in exploring Saturn, Jupiter, and other liquid planets?
Images courtesy WHOI and Webb Research Corporation

Thursday, February 07, 2008

New supersonic airliner could fly 5 times the speed of sound

Flying at more than twice the speed of Concorde and five times the speed of sound, this hypersonic airliner is set to be the future of modern air travel. At these speeds the airliner's total flight time from Brussels to Australia could be as little as four hours and forty minutes. The ground-breaking aircraft - known as the A2 – is the work of British engineers at Reaction Engines Limited in Oxfordshire. The project, to develop the plane, is partly funded by the European Space Agency and the European Union. Of course, if built, the cost of a ticket on the A2 from Europe to Australia is estimated to be around £2,000 ($3907.00 USD)

NASA's Shuttle Atlantis Begins Mission to the Space Station

Space shuttle Atlantis and its seven-member crew lifted off at 2:45 p.m. EST on Thursday, Feb. 7 from NASA's Kennedy Space Center to begin the STS-122 mission to the International Space Station. During the 11-day flight, Commander Steve Frick and his six crewmates will install the European Space Agency's Columbus laboratory on the station. Columbus will expand the research facilities of the station and provide scientists around the world with the ability to conduct a variety of life, physical and materials science experiments. The mission will include three spacewalks, delivery of a new crew member to the station and the return of another astronaut after nearly four months aboard the complex.

Classic pulp magazine covers

I want to thank Shaun Saunders for reminding me of this compilation of classic magazine covers.
Up until a few years ago I had many of these magazines in my collection which grew beyond my ability to house it properly. Sadly I no longer haver them in my possession, but this article brings back many fond memories of reading far into the night with one of these at hand. Thanks Shaun.

Click article title for the link.

Super Mario World Explores Quantum Physics

ahuh...I hear you say...and Paul has finally become rubber room material. And to be quite frank, when I first watched this video I was confused as all get out. But then I got it...quantum multiple universes. Every action has an infinite amount of possibilities. Here, the explanation or better, the demonstration is taken in a funny and unusual direction. As the article states: What you're seeing ... is 134 playthroughs of Kaizo layered upon each other using a custom SNES emulator. - or every choice, having generated a "new universe". Weird and dare I say cute?

Firefly Novel from Steven Brust!

Hey, I just read over on the IO9 blog that writer Steven Brust, best known for his fantasy/scifi Dragaeran series, has done something that should warm all the fans of Josh Weadon's Firefly hearts. Brust has written a free ebook set in the Firefly universe. And by free I mean Creative Commons free. Down load it, copy it, distribute it, as long as it's NFP, knock yourself out! IO9 contributor Newitz writes that "Brust has done a great job capturing the humor and out-West action feel of the series."

Here is the link to the novel

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Actor Barry Morse RIP

Actor Barry Morse, who played a detective in 1960s TV series The Fugitive, but better known to Sci-Fi fans as Professor Victor Bergman in 1970s science fiction series Space 1999 has died, his son said Tuesday. He was 89.

For those of you that don't remember space 1999, the series took place on a wayward Luna which had been flung into deep space after an explosive mishap disrupted its' orbit. The series also stared husband and wife team Barbara Bain and Martin Laundau, earlier of Mission Impossible fame. Space 1999, played on many American TV station but was never picked up by the major networks. Mostly it played on independent stations but did make it onto many network affiliate stations who would preempt regular network programming to play the series.

Thanks to SF Signals for the post

Behind the Cybernetics with the Next Terminator Generation

Just in case you felt there was something missing in your knowledge of Terminator models and developments since the advent of Summer Glau on The Sarah Connor's Chronicles, the good folks over at IO9 has put together an exhaustive study of the big bad meanies. Some of the models and model descriptions never made it out of the cutting room, so be prepared to be informed!

Thane Heins' Perepiteia device

I will be the first to admit that I am not the brainiest person going, however I think I have a basic grasp of physics and conservation of energy as well as a working knowledge of thermodynamics. So when someones asks what happens when you put an electrical load on an engine or generator, I have to say that the load is 180 degrees in opposition so the net effect of the load is to slow the whole system down by a factor dependent on the work being done by the system and the load applied. That being said, take a look at Thane Heins' Perepiteia device. Quite simply it is an induction engine with a magnetic core inserted into it rotor. To this engine's rotor is coupled a ring of magnets and facing these magnets are inductor coils. In other words a generator. Anyone that understands basic electricity knows as you spin the engine the magnets will induce a current in the coils. If you hook up a light to the coils, which is a load, you will slow the system down because your causing resistance in the coils. Now the exercise here is, what happens when you put a maximum load on the coils or "shorting" them? This puts infinite resistance on the system from the motor's perspective so that to maintain the same level of "work" more power must be supplied to the engine.

Enter the Perepiteia and a major headache. Remember the only difference in this machine and a generator is that the Perepiteia has an inductive core in the rotor. When the device is started all the coils report voltage - as you would expect. Then when Heins shorts out the coils, instead of slowing down the system as you would expect - the motor speeds up. Heins explains that the coils load is back emf (electro motive force) which is inducted into the engine by way of the inductive core in the rotor, thus strengthening the motor's existing magnetic field.

Oh I hear the BS! and capacitive inductance! cat calls....but I watched the videos of this piece of
black magic in action, I can not see the trick. Check it out, I need an asprin.

Here is the Boing Boing article and a link to the videos of the device in action.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Giant Robots Attack Suburbia

As John over at Sci-Fi Scanner puts it....I prefer those old types of robots, stupidly clunking around and stealing our women when that strange human emotion called "love" somehow grips their servo-controlled heart. It's just hard not to love things so big and stupid.

Here is a short film by director Ryan Nagata who uses small wind up automata and a technique called force perspective. It's an old tried and true technique, but here it works ever so well.

Flash Gordon: From Ludicrous to Almost Good

Mark Wilson over at the Sci-fi fantasy blog on About writes that he feels that Sci-fi channel's Flash Gordon has improved since is totally asinine opener to as he puts it "almost good" and one of the most improved shows. He writes a good article and its well worth checking out.....but Mark....really..... believe me, it isn't the quality of the show that's coming up right now.....

No the crack head cronie crew doing scheduling at sci-fi need a lobotomy after Flash closes for we hope ever. The only reason the show might look almost good is the fact that no matter how horrible something is, humans have to capacity to adjust. Even getting hit in the head with a hammer 5 times, the sixth "ain't so bad". I treat Flash like aversion therapy, after a season of this middle of the road morase, I now have the ability to not run from the room screaming, wait, maybe that is NOT a good thing....

Click here for Mark's article

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Escape Velocity takes off.

ESCAPE VELOCITY Volume 1 Number 1
The Magazine of Science Fact and Fiction.
Published by Adventure Books of Seattle

Co-managing editors Geoff Nelder of Great Britain and Robert Blevins bringing together an excellent collection of 20 stories, 1 poem, 9 feature articles, and loads of photographs and drawings into a 9"x14" softcover volume. Only 4 typos in the whole 165 pages?

Let's take a brief look at these delicious offerings that Nelder and Blevins (their homelands curiously identified at different geographic scales: Blevins' "Seattle", Nelder's "Great Britain") present us in Escape Velocity. So briefly, however, that you, reader, gain but a passing but tantalizing scent of each story whisked past you.

Following the Table of Contents, which conveniently demarcates fiction and non fiction with different types, About the Magazine gives a quick resume of Escape Velocity, and its producer Adventure Books of Seattle, offers sincere thanks to nine people, organizations and websites, and lays out the copyrights of works in the magazine.

Then come the stories, fact and fiction:

Dear Father by A.W. Gifford painfully warns that disaster doubled is still disaster...Dangerous Observations by Alex S. Weinle gives a convincing argument against puking in Elf habitat, given the fickleness of the little people.

Maria Ayres' The Next Generation Space Telescope gives Hubble history from the eyes of a NASA accountant working at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. Ayres describes the next gen James Webb Telescope, a fresh set of techno-eyes for our our species to train upon the greater universe.

Ubiquitous by Geoff Nelder: When debt collection becomes highstakes digital punk art. Unsettling despite its ending.

This is followed by A Home for the Future in which Robert Blevins wecomes you to the 21st century, an era wherein mass decentralization may occur, abruptly or slowly, from climate shift to and shares ten ways to be part of the transition without abandoning the best fruits of human technology (bricks, I fear, don't make the cut). But even while enjoying the reviving planetery ecology that springs back replendent once freed of the foul excreta of petroleum combustion, organochlorines and other biocides that centralized civilization brought to all corners of the world, even then, keep a watch out for unthinkables!

Emoti-con-doms by Yvonne Eve Walus: If emotions lead to war and other excesses, are they diseases of the mind? Should their spread be prevented? First Class by Barbara Krasnoff predicts that when encountering the Aliens on their turf, you won't know what their likes and dislikes are, but they'll let you find out.

The Retrofreak , by Gideon Kane Cross, finds the past addictively prologue. Even in the future....Sentient by Michael Anderson follows, answering the question: if you can only clone one person - one hominid of the entire past of our planet - who must you pick?

Mars in Black and White. Photo essay collected by the staff of Adventure Books of Seattle. Groan, I thought; B&W pictures? Ah, but like deep sea videography, details of terrain and environment often emerge in black and white that are not apparent in color vid. Or stills. Seeing a partly cloudy day on Mars from the vantage point of the ground - Wow. Mars just came alive for me.

Bright Future by Vincent F.A. Golphin. When it comes to artificial intelligence, as the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám asks, “Who is the Potter... and who the Pot?”

Dive to Destruction by Paul A. Freeman. Ouroboros striking again, again. What price deification?

Heaven as Iron - Earth as Brass by Richard J. Goldstein predicts that even with a galactic civilization, when true believers clash; its always over the same old thing, and the results are, too.

Eight Likely and Unlikely Ways Life on Earth Could End. Pick your favorite Götterdämmerung. I'll take Door number 2, please.

Home in Time for Breakfast by Clyde Andrews. What if changing the past DOESN'T change the future? A tale of sibling rivalry. Then Human Transfer by Lawrence R. Dagstine, depicting a murderous Mall-citian future: when finally even the scientists fail, what then?

Losing the Cliches in Science Fiction — a report on the Jon Courtenay Grimwood mini-course by EV staff editor Geoff Nelder. A slip in time, saves nine. SF writin' for the compleat.. err...enthusiast. 10 smart steps to getting your outpourings noticed and published.

One Way Trip by Rick Novy, When all is said and done, it's finally a crashing bore of a universe, isn't it? Sometimes you just want to jump down a black hole. But what if you ARE the black hole?

Eddie French's Shooting Star is a touching "you CAN go home again" sort of story. It is followed by the very-well-carried off 19th century period piece, Scream Quietly, by Sheila Crosby, which peers into the future from a vantage point untainted by the fumes and cruel logics of the 20th century, yet destined to shape those tumultous years.

In Ten Things Someone Should Invent by 2020, ten rather modest futurist proposals are rolled out, but then, it's for 12 years from now. "Should invent" may not be strong enough language. We NEED these things, now!

Tenth Orbit by Gustavo Bondoni. An eerie look at our local universe from Another's perspective, judged by Another's values.

In Test of Wills by Matthew Spence, when wetware-turned-software seeks hardware, watch your back! Then Jaine Fen's poignant, plaintive The Prettiest Star makes one want to agree: no matter how battered, there's no place like home...This is followed by Suicide Mission, in which T.J. McIntyre takes one through a lightly futuristic sort of Walter Mitty prequel.

Apollo 11 Pictures You Probably Haven't Seen. Great shots courtesy of NASA! Neil Armstrong partying down. Buzz Aldrin classic shot, but without his gold on. The LEM and its surroundings. The "extreme close-up" of a lunar rock brought home to earth by Appollo 11 isn't THAT extremely close up, though.

Mother Tongue by Carmelo Rafala. A slice of life & death illustrating cruel cold humanifest destiny, one planet at a time. One is relieved by Magdalena Ball's poem Galactic Collision Ball's reaction to Hubble's image of the Eagle Nebula's Fairy Tower.

Film Review: 'Robinson Crusoe on Mars — Restored DVD version. In praise of Criterion Video's bangup job of restoring footage of this SF classic take-off of Daniel Defoe's 1719 novel. the DVD includes stills, and memorabilia of the original release including the movie trailer and an interview of the film's director Byron Haskin

Last, The Last Word in which editors Geoff Nelder and Robert Blevins hold forth on their raisons d'etre for publishing Escape Velocity. Helping fledgling talented SF (and S) writers both of both prose and poetry achieve...escape velocity!

A very few but still annoying typos, lads:
Home in Time for Breakfast has two : (pg 78) "I begins in my lab..." and (pg 85) "I don't suppose there's a chance of a re-trail" (shd be re-trial); Tenth Orbit has one on page 127 "...fling myself in direction of third orbit.." Missing a "the" before direction?; and Suicide Mission's Graiken Armada locked their "sights" at his ship not their "sites" on page 139.

Summed up, Escape Velocity is an excellent set of reads that make one optimistic over the future of the genre, and optimistic that writers within the science community will keep revealing more and more to speculate about, from quanti-cosm to macro-cosm, and all the glorious things between. Keep it up.

Kate Moss - Cyborg?

Found this on IO9 - really doesn't need much explanation.. But as one commenter on the photo wrote... 'A robot that runs on blow' Got to admit, it does explain a whole lot of weirdness!

click pic to enlarge...

Friday, February 01, 2008

Scientists discover way to reverse loss of memory

Wow, talk about a slam dunk! Shaun Saunders comes up with this fascinating and at the same time unsettling article from "The Independant" dealing with a startling breakthrough in how memory works.

Scientists performing experimental brain surgery on a man aged 50 have stumbled across a mechanism that could unlock how memory works. The accidental breakthrough came during an experiment originally intended to suppress the obese man's appetite, using the increasingly successful technique of deep-brain stimulation. Electrodes were pushed into the man's brain and stimulated with an electric current. Instead of losing appetite, the patient instead had an intense experience of déjà vu. He recalled, in intricate detail, a scene from 30 years earlier. More tests showed his ability to learn was dramatically improved when the current was switched on and his brain stimulated.

Now it seems like I remember reading about findings that parallel these findings. As I remember reading, something along this line was first observed by physicians on the battlefield during the revolutionary war. As far as I had read, this was mostly tied to long term memories. As I recall, those experiencing the "stimulation" (we are talking of course of gross battlefield injuries to the head which allowed direct manipulation of the gray matter, nuff said ok?) experience no pain and perfect and total recall of the memories. On thing that was never discussed was the ability to learn. Yes, this could have profound impact on how one remembers, but also how one learns as well!

As Shaun puts it - 'We can remember it for you wholesale' by Phillip K. Dick

click article title or here for complete story

Aurealis Winners Announced

The Aurealis Awards recognize the achievements of Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror writer. The folks over at SF Awards Watch have a complete list of this years award winners.

Here are the Science Fiction winners, click on article title for the complete list:

Best science fiction novel:
David Kowalski, The Company of the Dead - Pan Macmillan

Best science fiction short story:
Cat Sparks, “Hollywood Roadkill” - On Spec #69