Friday, May 30, 2008

Defective A short animation

Ranl Naamal has created quite a unique short animation called Defective. It's very funny and draws you in easily. There is one minor mistake that isn't really all that obvious but it's worth watching the whole thing for a laugh and see if you can pick it up.

A Shadow in Summer Tor's newest free E-Book

Tor's current free e-book is A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham.

here is a really good review by Aaron Hughes

If you haven't as yet (and if you haven't what is wrong with your head?!!!) signed up for the introductory free ebook notification, go to and fill out the app. No cost, just FREE E-BOOKS!!!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

RIP: Alexander Courage, 'Star Trek' Theme Writer

From the SYFY Portal, Michael Hinman writes:
Alexander Courage, the man behind the theme to the original "Star Trek" has died at 88. He passed away May 15, according to Film Music Society. By the time he was asked to write the theme to "Star Trek" he already had more than 30 composing credits, and the fanfare from his theme would earn him credit in a number of later Star Trek films, including those that involved the crew of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." Courage would end his association with Star Trek when Roddenberry wrote lyrics to his theme reportedly as a way for him to collect on half the royalties Courage would receive for writing the song. The lyrics would never be used in the series or later movies, and Courage was said to have felt he had been cheated by Roddenberry.

Click here for a documentary on Courage's career

The Mars Phoenix lander brought Science Fiction audio to Mars

Sometimes I am bit slow to the mark. Here is an example. I was looking at pics from the Phoenix lander and saw what appeared to be a CD on the deck of the robot. Never gave it much thought until I was reading Jesse's SFFAudio blog and found that the disk is full of audio from Earth. Here is a partial listing:

Carl Sagan audio

Arthur C. Clarke audio

War of the Worlds The 1938 radio drama.

Wells and Welles - A 1940 non-fiction radio piece in which H.G. Wells and Orson Welles met to discuss War of the Worlds.

The Viking Landings : Jon Lomberg’s report on the Viking landing on Mars, July 20, 1976. Includes live recordings from mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, and interviews with science fiction writers and actors.

By the way, the DVD is made of a silica glass (instead of regular plastic) so as to withstand long-term exposure on the Martian surface. Now all those Martians will need is a DVD player.

Thanks Jesse!

Monkey uses brain power to feed itself

This video from NewScientist on cybernetic devices is interesting but creepy none the less. The film documents test with monkeys that allowed them to feed themselves with robotic arms controlled completely with brainwaves.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Jupiter Grows Third Red Spot

Shaun sends in a fascinating article from Foxnews concerning curious weather manifestations on Jupiter. Its' well known Red Spot has had a smaller companion that was first observed in 2006.
The Little Red Spot, as it was named, shows both size and speed in threatening to knock the former champion off its perch, with Junior's maximum winds reaching 384 mph.

Now Little Red has been joined by a "smaller" companion. What is even more curious is the newer storms are not quite what they seem.

Thermal heat images showed that the Little Red Spot may already match the Great Red Spot for size, although the latter still appears almost twice as large on the surface of Jupiter's atmosphere when examined in visible light. Little Red Spot appears to be part of an interacting system that is actually larger than the Great Red Spot. The Little Red Spot has steadily gained strength even as the Big Red Spot shrinks. Astronomers remain mystified by the angry red color of the storms. The Little Red Spot only changed color in late 2005 after it formed from earlier mergers of three smaller storms. The newest third red spot began as an oval white storm.

Some have speculated that the increase in activity indicates that Jupiter is experiencing a warming trend and the additional energy may be causing more and more violent storms.

AI Robotics hoax claims robot is ‘Perfect Woman’

I just started hearing about this, but what is out there is very strange indeed. What is truly strange though is that given a decade or so and this "hoax" is likely to be reality. The gist is that AI Robotics has produced a prototype female companion and is rushing it into production with a start up in June. As Dvice puts it:

...the “Perfect Woman” publicity stunt is in full swing, claiming a planned release of its first model on June 11. Said to be able to go shopping, clean up the house, cook dinner, give you a massage and understand you, this “perfect” woman is allegedly the product of two robotics students at Kobe University in Japan. According to the hype accompanying the launch, the blonde, brunette and redhead robots use “a technology called RKS, ‘Recognition Krax System,’ which allows for vocal, tactile and visual recognition.” They can even “satisfy your desires in the bedroom.”

Perfectly creepy is my take. Deliberate or not, the "robot's" expression is of someone numbly aware that they are in the middle of some Machiavellian nightmare. Check out the "promo"

Steve Austin is The 26 Million Dollar Man

Nope, not a misprint! Today in the TVSquad blog, even the venerable Steve Austin has been bit by the inflation bug. Now, tongue firmly in cheek, they examine what inflationary costs would do to our present SMDM. This is according to, using tools from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they were able to put estimates not only the inflation adjusted costs but the actual cost in today's world. The six million dollars that it cost to make the former astronaut stronger and faster in 1974 would actually be an inflation-adjusted $26 million dollars today. Factor in the actual cost of the bionic parts, more than $100 million, and Steve would probably be stronger, not faster. I can see at these prices, Steve would be phased out for some Predator drones...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Dr. Kaku explains the many worlds theory

Do you remember the story I read last summer from Paul Melko called The Walls of the Universe? Basically it dealt with the many worlds theory. I love quantum physics, but it never ceases to amaze me that even the simplest explanations rapidly disintegrate into chaos! I think Dr. Kaku's speculation on why there are no time paradoxes is really very good, I just know that a lot of peole are going to say HUH? lol Anyway, give it a play. It really is very good.

click here for the video!

How to Win the Google Lunar X Prize and Beat NASA to the Moon

The year is 2012. A quarter-million miles from Earth, a small spacecraft is nearing the surface of the moon. When the unmanned craft touches down in a cloud of rocket-blown dust, it becomes the first man-made object to arrive intact on the lunar surface in 32 years. But the logo on the side of the spacecraft doesn't belong to NASA or any other government space agency. Instead the spacecraft reveal a familiar multicolored corporate logo: Google's.

David Noland writing for Popular Mechanics in the June 2008 issue weaves a scenario reminiscent of biblical David and Goliath, where the common man could conceivably take on corporate and governmental giants to be the first private person to land a craft on another world. Click the article title to go to the Popular Mechanic's article

Illustration is PM’s vision of a lunar lander on arrival. (Illustration by Jeremy Cook)

Spreading life to the this a good thing?

Earth based life to the far corners of the galaxy and possibly the universe beyond.

In a vast, cold universe we aren't just "Keepers of the Sacred Flame" of life, we are the bloody flame!

Casey takes issue with calling Earth life a contamination in a quote that I find pretty damn appropriate: One problem with this viewpoint is that it talks about the spread of Terran life as 'contamination', which is like describing painting as 'contaminating' a pristine canvas.

It certainly is worth reading and sitting a moment and thinking about. Agree or not, you have to admit that Kazan makes a compelling argument.

Baen's entire Webscriptions catalog available for free... in low Earth orbit

Hey, here is another reason to get off your backside and become an astronaut! According to SFScope: Baen Books is now offering its entire Webscriptions catalog of e-books free to the astronauts living aboard the International Space Station. Baen's Webscriptions have more than 600 of the publisher's books available as downloadable e-books in a variety of unencrypted e-book formats. Baen Publisher Toni Weisskopf offered to make the complete Webscription library available to ISS personnel, free of charge, including both of Baen's on-line magazines, The Grantville Gazette and Jim Baen's Universe, and NASA promptly accepted.

"It's very satisfying to know that ISS crewmembers will be able to get our books easily and without fuss," Weisskopf said. "They're the ones who are truly creating a future for humankind in space."

Monday, May 26, 2008

ASTOUNDING STORY an article by Fredrick Pohl

Nelson sends over this great piece from AmericanHeritage Magazine that was first published in 1989 written by the great Fredrick Pohl. The blurb is itself astoundingly exciting which tells you something about the article. Here is the blurb, click the article title or the permalink for the complete article.

A leading science-fiction writer traces the course of sci-fi in America from its beginnings when a few kids met in a drugstore to its present state as a powerful, worldwide literary movement

Phoenix Lander arrives and is healthy!

The Mars Phoenix Lander parachutes down to Mars on Sunday, in this image captured by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. As you can see in the B&W image from the MRO the lander is clearly visible below the parachute as it nears the surface. The next photo This is one of the first images captured by the Phoenix lander, showing the vast plains of the northern polar region of Mars. Peter Smith, of the University of Arizona at Tucson and principal investigator for the Phoenix mission noted that the ground looks like the "active surface of the Arctic regions of Earth." Cracks in the soil show that surface is "active" because no dust or sand has filled in the cracks. over the next few days, the lander's 7.7-foot robotic arm is scheduled to begin functioning. The robotic arm is set to collect the first soil samples in about a week. The lander is expected to function for about 90 days with energy generated by the solar panels.

Sol may not be "unusual" for supporting life.

Shaun Saunders send in an article from New Scientist Space which pours a bit of water on the theory that our sun is in some way an optimal star for supporting life on its planets.

There's nothing special about the Sun that makes it more likely than other stars to host life, a new study shows. The finding adds weight to the idea that alien life should be common throughout the universe. Some previous studies of the Sun's vital statistics have concluded that it is unusual among stars, for instance, by having a higher mass than average. Such atypical properties might somehow help explain why the Sun seems to be unique, as far as we know, in having an inhabited planet. But the earlier studies only looked at a small number of solar features, such as its mass and iron content. (Scientists have) now analyzed 11 features of the Sun that might affect its ability to have habitable planets. They included its mass, age, rotation speed and orbital distance from the centre of the Milky Way. The Sun did stand out in two ways: it is more massive than 95% of nearby stars and its orbit around the center of our galaxy is more circular than those of 93% of nearby stars. But when all 11 properties were taken on board, the Sun looked very ordinary. (Scientists) conclude that there are probably no special attributes that a star requires to have a habitable planet, other than the obvious one – the planet must be within the star's habitable "goldilocks" zone, orbiting at a distance where the temperature is not too hot for life, nor too cold, but just right.

(Image: SOHO-EIT Consortium/ESA/NASA)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Plastic Bags, a thing of the past?

Shaun Saunders sends in an article from that has possible science fiction written all over it.

Daniel Burd, a student at Waterloo Collegiate Institute, a public high school in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, speculated on how to rid the Earth of plastic bags. Humans produce 500 billion a year worldwide and they take up to 1,000 years to decompose. Burd speculated that microbes must be behind the decomposition and set up experiments to isolate the culprit. After many experiments, Burd was not only able to isolated the microbe in question but concentrate them to such a degree that a plastic bag might take as little as six weeks to be broken down into simple compounds consisting of water and tiny levels of carbon dioxide. The truly amazing things is that Daniel used ordinary household chemicals, yeast and tap water to create a solution that would encourage microbe growth. Which should make replicating his methods on larger scales extremely easy. Industrial application should be easy, said Burd. "All you need is a fermenter . . . your growth medium, your microbes and your plastic bags."

Friday, May 23, 2008

Hello... This neutrino message is for you!

Wired Science blog makes a good point for how advanced alien cultures might communicate with us. Many of the choices we now are exploring and investigating for have some major draw backs. The worst of which is that they all are susceptible to attenuation due to noise of one type or another. Enter the mysterious neutrino.

From the Wired online blog:

First detected in 1953, neutrinos pass easily through most matter making it possible for your signal to pass through the Milky Way without being blocked by stars and interstellar dust. They are also not subject to the "noise" of optical and radio waves traveling alongside them through space. Aliens with access to abundant power (one neutrino production technique requires 3% the output of our sun, another is within range of earthly thermonuclear power plants) could send pulsed and directional neutrino messages to us. Luckily we are building elaborate neutrino detectors already (they must be very large and built deep underground or water to shielded from cosmic rays and other background radiation). The United States is building a neutrino detector called IceCube in Antarctica to detect naturally occurring neutrinos for scientific research. If they were to detect neutrinos at 6.3 petaelectron-volts (PeV) it could be a tell-tale sign of an artificially constructed signal, since there is no known natural process that would create neutrinos of that energy level. Researchers on earth however have identified two ways that such neutrinos could be created in the lab. Maybe we will soon be smart enough to be able to hear from more advanced civilizations.

Check out "Looking for ET's neutrino beam" at physicsworld online magazine for an in depth article on detecting and generating pulsed neutrinos

Ridley Scott does Crichton's Andromeda Strain

Director Ridley Scott takes on a project that might well be considered one of the mainstays of science fiction. Michael Cricton's Andromeda Strain. Not the book mind you but the Robert Wise adaption of the Michael Crichton bestselling science fiction novel that first aired in 1971. I remember reading the book and upon seeing the movie I was greatly impressed on how faithful Wise was to the novel. (the only major change was a gender switch for one of the scientists) Though many might have thought the movie a bit flat, I considered it one on my best movie experiences right up there with 2001 and Blade Runner. So, no matter how much I might be impressed with Scott's science fiction celluloid, I have to say, I have some reservations on the upcoming Memorial Day 2 part miniseries on A&E network. Especially when I hear that there will be "additions" to the plot line. As Mark Wilson over at the Sci-fi / Fantasy Blog puts it ...great liberties have been taken with Crichton's story in order to provide more drama and excitement. ...the 2008 version adds wormholes, eco-terrorists, and additional mutations for the virus that cause aggressive birds and uncontrollable nuclear missiles.

Oh well...we shall have to wait for Monday night to see..

A cast of highly recognizable names was assembled, including Benjamin Bratt, Rick Schroder (24), Eric McCormack, Daniel Dae Kim (Lost), Andre Braugher, Magda Apanowicz (Kyle XY), Colin Lawrence (Battlestar Galactica), and Panou (Flash Gordon).

It should also be noted that the Sci-Fi channel announced that IT was doing the project last year and it would seem passed on the project...and I am sitting here thinking..yeah, for wrasslin

The Andromeda Strain, airing Monday and Tuesday, 5/26 and 5/27, at 9 p.m. ET on A&E.

Resurrecting the Extinct Tasmanian Tiger

From BBC news via IO9 comes this piece of Jurassic Parkian weirdness. It would seem that there are plans afoot to restore the extinct Australian marsupial, the Tasmanian Tiger, and reintroduce it to its' native original habitat.

Australian scientists extracted genetic material from a 100-year-old museum specimen, and put it into a mouse embryo to study how it worked.

This experiment suggests the marsupial's DNA and therefor the animal itself may not be lost. The Tasmanian tiger was hunted to extinction in the wild in the early 1900s. The last known specimen died in captivity in 1936, but several museums around the world still hold tissue samples preserved in alcohol.

Full details of the Australian study are published in the open-access journal PLoS One.

RIP Robert Asprin (1946-2008)

On May 22, 2008, Bob Asprin passed away quietly in his home in New Orleans, LA. He had been in good spirits and working on several new projects, and was set to be the Guest of Honor at a major science fiction convention that very weekend. He is survived by his mother, his sister, his daughter and his son, and his cat, Princess, not to mention countless friends and fans and numerous legendary fictional characters.

From the site

Robert (Lynn) Asprin was born in 1946. While he's written some stand alone novels such as Cold Cash War, Tambu and The Bug Wars and also the Duncan and Mallory Illustrated stories, Bob is best known for his series fantasy, such as the Myth Adventures of Aahz and Skeeve, the Phule’s Company novels, and, more recently, the Time Scout novels written with Linda Evans. He also edited the groundbreaking Thieves’ World anthology series with Lynn Abbey. His most recent collaborations include License Invoked (set in the French Quarter of New Orleans where he now lives) and several new Myth Adventures novels, all written with Jody Lynn Nye

Touch of Evil - Tor Book's newest free Ebook

Tor's current free e-book is Touch of Evil by C.T. Adams and Cathy Clamp. As always, if your interested in this free ebook or would like to be notified of newer upcoming offerings, you can log to and fill out the online form.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Countdown to Phoenix landing with Canadian weather station

The Maple Leaf Alights on Mars - Phoenix Lander on the Red Planet

Sunday, May 25, 2008 The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) is hosting a media gathering at its space base in Saint Hubert, Quebec to celebrate the arrival of the Phoenix Lander on Mars. En Francais

The party in St Hubert starts at 7:30 pm EDT with a presentation and talk by Steve MacLean, CSA Chief Astronaut. Thanks to the live feed from Mission Control at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Arizona, participants in the CSA event will join millions worldwide watching the landing of this tough little scrapper of a lander.

Once grounded. Phoenix will deploy a Canadian weather station to record the daily weather of the Martian northern plains; its temperature, wind and barometric pressure and more .

Following the landing event, St Hubert attendees will view Mars from CSA's observatory. Information on the Phoenix Mission is available on the CSA Web site at Image courtesy University of the West of England

Tim Burton's Frankenweenie

This is Tim Burton's first film. It's about a dog that is resurrected a la Frankenstein. It was released by Disney (Disney!) and features Shelly Duvall and Daniel Stern. And of course, that lovable dog, Frankenweenie. It is currently available as an extra on the The Nightmare Before Christmas DVD. Thanks to SFSignals for the find!

Ahhh the best line...."I guess we can't punish Victor for bringing Sparky back from the dead...."

part 1

part 2

part 3

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Takei Announces Wedding

In Mark Wilson's Guide to Sci-Fi / Fantasy I read that Star Trek / Heroes star George Takei announced he's getting married to his companion of 21 years, Brad Altman, now that California's Supreme Court has ruled than banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional in that state. Takei made the announcement on his blog saying in his announcement - "Now, we can have the dignity, as well as all the responsibilities, of marriage." Takei publicly revealed he was gay in October 2005, though his homosexuality was an open secret for decades before that. I would like to go on record with Mark in saying congratulations, George and Brad. Publicly declaring your love is something everyone should be able to do.

Selectively turn off parts of your Brain

Here is an errie and a bit scary demonstration using strong magnetic fields to selectively disable areas of the brain. They call it therapeutic I can see a somewhat darker use.

What's more idiotic than wrestling on Sci-fi?

Give up? How about a movie remake of Flash Gordon! Oh no, this is not speculation! It would seem that the movie bigwigs at Sony don't watch the Sci Fi Channel and the rather crappy demise of Flash's current incarnation and are planning a big screen adaptation! The potential new movie version already has a producer and director attached. Don't get too optimistic, though, Breck Eisner who wants to be the man behind the camera on this latest version. I hear no writer has been tied to the project yet however....the smart move would be to run away fast, but....
I swear I am not making this stuff up, check out IO9s story
and the article over on Variety

Life on Earth might actually be Martian — or Europan, or Titanese!

Even IO9 does it straight every now and again. Here is an interesting article that has possible science fiction written all over it.

New research suggests microbes can survive an asteroid impact big enough so send them into space, making panspermia a real possibility. Previous experiments have shown that microbes can survive in the punishing cold of space.

But Could microbes survive the crushing force and extreme heat of an asteroid impact?

Astrobiologists at the Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Germany developed a series of tests designed to simulate these pressures on the selected organisms. By smashing the life-containing rocks between metal plates, the researchers were able to determine which organisms are capable of surviving different pressures caused by asteroid impacts and ejection into space. Ultimately, they discovered that a wide range of organisms would be capable of surviving impacts on Mars or Earth.

Astrobiology magazine article

Researchers say we can all see into the future

From Sci-fi's Dvice blog comes an interesting notion that is bound to send you screaming if you think about it too hard. Consider this:

It takes a tenth of a second for visual information to get from your eyes to your brain, so everyone has the ability to predict what’s going to happen a tenth of a second into the future. That’s what you’re actually seeing, is that prediction. If you weren’t, everything would look like it was recorded a tenth of a second ago.

So we litterally have to predict what is going to happen 10 seconds into the future and make ourselves believe that what we are really doing is seeing everything in real time. The really interesting thing here that Dvice points out is that:

This explains how lots of magic tricks are done. In his research paper, Mark Changizi mentioned 50 types of visual illusions that work because your brain is attempting to predict what will happen 1/10th of a second into the future.

click article title for Dvice article or here for the complete Impact Lab's story

Nanotechnology cancer risk found

The LA Times reports some disturbing news of health risks associated with nano-tech.

Certain types of carbon nanotubes -- microscopic graphite cylinders used in a small but growing number of Space Age applications -- could pose a cancer risk similar to that of asbestos if inhaled. Researchers found that mice injected with nanotubes quickly developed the same biological damage associated with early exposure to asbestos fibers, a known carcinogen. The nanotubes posed the greatest danger to workers who could inhale the dust-like particles during manufacturing. In finished products, the nanotubes are embedded in other material and thus pose less risk to consumers. Precautions (are) now in place in many factories, usually requiring workers to wear respirators.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Starfish by Peter Watts, Tor's newest free ebook.

Tor's current free book is Starfish by Peter Watts. and I can not give this a strong enough recommendation. I have read this novel as well as many other woks of Watts and I have always found his fiction extremely entertaining. I have read his shorter works on the podcast (Niche, Ambassador etc. ) that you might want to look up. Go get this one, you will not be disappointed!
Fyi if you didn't already know, Starfish is part of Watt's "Rifters" universe as was the story Niche that I read in episode 61 - 63 and also available in the archives.

If you have not yet signed up for the notification Tor sends out when new books are available to to to sign up or get the newest entry in Tor's series of introductory free ebooks.

Trailer for Joss Whedon's Dollhouse!

Wow, I found a really good trailer for Joss Whedon's new show Dollhouse due to hit the Fox network in January 09.

Here's a revised version of the trailer which explains the show's concept much more clearly and features a lot more ass-whuppin'. Plus, parachuting and assassining. The show's central conceit — that these "Actives" are blank slates who can be programmed to have any skillset or emotion

Monday, May 19, 2008

X-ray and gamma-ray laser guns - coming soon.

A US researcher has discovered a way to generate X-ray and gamma-ray laser light without needing large energy input to begin with.

Since Einstein theorized laser light in 1917, it has been a given that it is impossible to generate laser light in the X-ray or gamma-ray range of the electromagnetic spectrum, due to the enormous energy required to to excite atoms to such high states.

"We do not have good sources of X-ray and gamma rays," said Kishor Kapale, an assistant professor of physics at Western Illinois University. Kapale's research, "Lasing Without Inversion: Counterintuitive Population Dynamics in the Transient Regime," published in the prestigious Physical Review Letters.

Kapale's study, however, demonstrates a novel method to manipulate the atoms in the sample so that even a small number of naturally existing high-energy atoms can cause laser light generation via lasing. In the process, an initially more populated ground (lowest energy) state becomes more populated with time. "This will allow the generation of X-ray and gamma-ray laser light without needing large energy input to begin with. " Kapale said.

What does one do with all those cheap xrays and gamma rays? Space opera afficionados will instantly see the possibility of a ray-projecting phaser-style sidearm, tuneable from nearly imperceptible discomfort to blasting-down-Godzilla strength, while more pacific futurists may visualize precise control of the behavior of quantum systems leading to progress in the important upcoming area of information processing known as quantum information (ansible and teleporter fans take note). Image source Stanford Linear Accelerator Center

Darwin Award candidate!

Lord knows I love boing boing, and here is a good example. Here was the headline:

Spitting contest participant dies

ahhh yes - funny enough in its own right - but it gets oh so much funnier. Here we go........

A 29-year-old Swis man died in a spitting match with a friend. Apparently, the two pals were up late at a hotel when they decided to see who could spit the greatest distance off the balcony. One of the men took a running start and, but lost his balance and plummeted to the street below.

So, I nominate this brain trust for a posthumous Darwin.

Frog Design: Reskins Reality

Hey anime fans - any fans of Dennou Coil? In this anime series, children at least, wear glasses that allow them to interact in the real and cyber realities at the same time. Their whole environment, while wearing the glasses, is changed in subtle as well as drastic ways. Often hiding or augmenting unpleasant areas or adding elements that only exist in the digital realm. Its very futuristic and if Frog Design has its way, something that could happen. They envision a device to be worn that would provide a virtual layer that could be used to “re-skin” the troubling outside world. A boundary between the wearer and the world... Frog suggest a "mask" of sorts, Within the mask, smells, sounds, even air quality would be imitated to create a full sensory experience. The facial expressions of those wearing the device would be detected and projected onto personal avatars visible to others also living behind the shield of the mask.

oh what a brave new world -

"What if?" the Sci-Fi Channel became mundane?

Nelson sends in an article from that waffles a bit on the present leadership and the programming of the Sci-Fi network. TIM ARANGO might not go so far as to call the present person at Sci-fi's helm schizophrenic, but does go a long way towards admitting that Sci-fi's Dave Howe may have something less than a clear idea of what science fiction really is. Scii-Fi is now in the hands of Dave Howe, who was promoted to president of Sci Fi from general manager in January. To give you an idea of where he wants to take the network, he has been quoted saying, “It’s not just aliens, spaceships and the future,” “It’s about asking that simple question, ‘What if?’ ”

OMG What if? no....its more of WTF! Where does wrasslin come in according to that scenario?
It's clear that they are trying very hard to expand their market by taloring the product to women. In marketing materials for “Battlestar Galactica,” for example, there are no spaceships, and the story lines try to create more of a balance between action and emotion. Which if you look at that trend, you see that very well may be what happend to BSG in the second season. They may have gained a market share in gender but managed to confuse and alienate fans from the first season.

This quote pretty much sums up my feelings on the present course for the Sci-fi channel: Generally speaking, the feeling within the science fiction community is that a lot of the shows on the Sci Fi Channel are watered-down versions of the real thing,” said Michael Capobianco, the president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Thank you Michael...wonder if they will listen...

click title for complete NYT article.

photo by Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Space radiation may cause prolonged cellular damage to astronauts

With major implications for long-duration space travel, a study from the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University Medical Center demonstrates that the high-energy radiation found in space may lead to premature aging and prolonged oxidative stress in cells. The findings suggest that astronauts may be at increased risk of colon cancer due to exposure to the high linear energy transfer (LET) radiation found in space.

“Radiation exposure, either intentional or accidental, is inevitable during our lifetimes,” says Kamal Datta, M.D., assistant professor at Lombardi and the study’s lead author. “But with plans for a mission to Mars, we need to understand more about the nature of radiation in space. There is currently no conclusive information for estimating the risk that astronauts may experience.” Full release

Speed Racer - Just Too Gay?

Wow, everyone is bustin on Speed Racer! Not to be left out, IO9 lands some heavy body blows on the CGI blingtastica event. Speed Racer is an English adaptation of the Japanese anime Mach GoGoGo which centered on automobile racing. The big screen version has played it straight according to the original series, but many now speculate if that was the only in the whole process that was! Why is Speed bombing so bad? Analysts have speculated that Speed Racer's problem might have been caused by a boring and confusing plot, or early negative reviews. But IO9 might know the real reason. Speed Racer is freaking people out because it's just too gay.

Here are a couple of high points from the article:

Most of the colors in Speed Racer are sparkly pastels, What is this, Queer Eye for the action hero?

Monkeys are gay.

Several bad guys are giant hairy men dressed in furs and Viking helmets Some of them might even have been centerfolds in Bear magazine.

Speed loves his mother and is super-nice to his girlfriend. Obviously a homo! A true straight dude would be like Iron Man, obsessing over his dead dad and abusing every woman in his life.

And the rant goes on...Click for the complete rant on IO9

'Witchblade' Movie In The Works

First off I guess we should determine if Witchblade is in fact science fiction or fantasy. For those of you not in the know Witchblade is a Top Cow comic book series and later a TNT series. First consider...the hero has a weapon (in this case a magic sword) that when used by a person with abilities can turn into a gaunlet of armor with all sorts of features....Hey, could be Iron Man or Batman for that matter. But it would seem Witchblade is powered by magic and the holder fights demons...ok, fantasy. I have to admit to that I watched the original series and thought it had some real potential. The original show staring Yancy Butler is the story of a New York detective named Sara "Pez" Pezzini and her personal search for justice using the Witchblade -- an ancient, intelligent, living gauntlet so powerful it can battle Earth's darkest evil forces. She may fight crime during the day, but the legend of the Witchblade proves to powerful and soon she finds herself fighting evil on a whole new level. Though fans of the Yancy Butler version shouldn't get too excited, even though the movie will follow the same basic plotline, it won't have much in common with the TNT 2001 series. Several production companies have joined forces for the project which will take place in Australia. No casting has yet been announced.
click title for complete Syfy Portal article

Five science fiction movies that get the science right

Shaun Saunders sends in an article from NewScientist online science magazine that takes a pretty unflinching look at how the science fiction movie portrays good science. As they put it: all too often Hollywood's use of science involves shocking blunders: including spaceships making whooshing noises in Star Wars to the journey to the centre of the Earth in The Core. In the article they picked out five sci-fi films that go against the grain, and contain some accurate, plausible science. What a twist huh? For example:

In 2001: A Space Odyssey extremely realistic space travel was portrayed.
In Alien the creature's life cycle has analogs in Earth biology.

And other excellent examples. Click story title for the complete article or here for more.

F&SF Magazine offering discounts to bloggers

I recently received an offer to review the newest copy of Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine. In the messages I later received were links that would provide readers of Beam Me Up a pretty attractive discount on subscriptions to the mag. I have always enjoyed F&SF. The magazine always has contained consistently high quality fiction so a discounted subscription is always something ov value for me at least. They provided me with subscription links to use both regular credit cards and pay pal - that's pretty damn progressive min my mind! If your interested, check out the links.

Here are links to the offer:

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

How to Survive a Zombie Apocalypse

Wired online has a very tongue in cheek article from their "how to wiki" that will give you in depth instructions on how you should prepare and how to survive the onslaught of the zombie hordes! According to the article, Your earthquake preparedness kit is well-stocked, but are you ready for a zombie apocalypse? Make sure you have what it takes to repel an undead army should one appear on your doorstep. Follow our guide and submit your own tips on Wired's How-To Wiki

IS Barack Obama Anti Space?

A recent IO9 article brings up a disturbing point concerning candidate Obama's attitude on space exploration. He has gone on record saying "[U.S. Space Agency] NASA is no longer associated with inspiration." He's proposing cutting NASA's budget, saing he'll take money away from NASA's Constellation program, which focuses on flights to the Moon and Mars, in order to fund early-education programs for kids under 5. Now, education is a must, however when you take away their future, is that not a high price to pay? "I grew up on Star Trek," Obama said. "I believe in the final frontier." But Obama said he does not agree with the way the space program is now being run and thinks funding should be trimmed.

IO9 has links to interviews with Obama, Clinton and McCain focusing on their view on space exploration. Click here for More

New Show Ideas on Fox Tv - Virtuality

It seems Fox is taking an interest in Ron Moore's new astronauts-in-virtual-reality-show Virtuality. Virtuality takes place aboard the Phaeton, which just so happens to be Earth's first starship. The Phaeton is on a ten-year journey exploring the outer cosmos. In order to help the crew cope with this long mission a virtual reality is installed. Of course something goes wrong. The two-hour pilot was written by Battlestar Gallactica's Ron Moore and Michael Taylor. As the folks over at IO9 point out, we all hope that Fox sees the error of their ways as far as killing new SF shows. So often we have see really excellent programs (Firefly) canceled in their infancy. Look for this and other programs to start on Fox next spring.

Review: Jemma 7729 Phoebe Wray

Jemma 7729
Phoebe Wray
219 pages trade
Edge 15.95

See if you recognize this theme - young protagonist, approaching a time of life when a life changing choice must be made or must comply with a society rule that will drastically change or end their life. The hero, living in a closed society, domed most of the time, does not comply and escapes. Meets a grizzled time worn parent figure that teaches them the ropes and eventually the hero grows and returns to the city to free those left behind and possibly change society. What does that sound like? Logans Run? The World Inside? Yep, been done many times before. So what makes Wray think that she can do it better? Well maybe that is the problem. I had many instances when I felt that I really could not continue reading this novel. Its starts with an unpleasant beating Wray meted out to a 7 year old female. Other sections I felt really needed to be tightened up or rewritten. It may be that Wray is uncomfortable still with the novel format, many sections were just plain difficult to read. Then again, as young adult fiction? That might well be another story. The less complex characters often are better received by that age group. The plot is often if not clumsy then overly simplistic. So in that I would recommend it to a younger audience.

Go to Edge publishing for more info and purchase

Friday, May 09, 2008

Air Force's Scare-Mongering Space Ad - Fear Mongering at its Best!

When I first saw this commercial, I burst out laughing. I really thought it was a joke. You see this satellite in low earth orbit thats suppose to be a GPS or communication bird and the orbit barely looks high enough to even be that of the ISS and in comes a rocket on a clearly balistic trajectory!??? Excuse me? But it seems the AirForce is serious but more serious about generating fear and praying on those that do not understand clearly the dynamics of the systems they use daily. The goal, clearly is to not keep you better informed. And the funny thing is who is running the commercial gleefully? The Sci-Fi channel...It played while I was doing this article during Dr. Who of all

Wired is taking on the armed forces media with it's latest foray into propaganda. At question is the air-force's commercial, about the perils of an attack in space, which does more than stretch the truth, it violates quite a few laws of physics. The commercial says:

"What if your cell phone calls, your television, your GPS system, even your bank transactions, could be taken out with a single missile?" the military ad asks. "They can."

Well, No, they can't. Not unless there's some new missile out there that can strike dozens and dozens of targets, spread out over thousands and thousands of miles. As the article points out "Communication, television and navigational systems are handled by different arrays of satellites." And each set of satellites is thousands of miles from the other. At least ten thousand miles, for example, separates the arrays of communications and GPS satellites. Systems like the GPS satellites are in fixed or stationary obits called MEO or medium Earth orbit which are 12 thousand miles above the earth's surface. Still others are in fixed or stationary obits called geo-stationary which are twice that far out. There's no missile that can hit two targets that far away from one other. (In fact, there's no anti-satellite missile, taking off from Earth, that can even reach GEO or MEO. Even the much vanted Chineese satellite killer reached only 540 miles. But should such a missle someday be invented that could reach and kill a high flying satellite no system depends on just one bird let alone several systems. Even today, satellites fail or are rotated out of service. Very few people even notice when this happens because of the redundancy of the system. And for what it is worth many systems like banking use terrestrial fiberoptics as backup, so that even if the complete satellite system went down, the could continue to operate.

It is clear that the Air Force is preying on the lack of public understanding of the threat (and space in general) in an attempt to convince voters that space is important too and only the US Air Force can protect America in space.....

Here is the Air Forces peice if you haven't seen it yet

Wired's article

Tor's newest ebook is Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott

Tor Books current free book is Spirit Gate by Kate Elliott (web site Those of you that have already signed up for the free ebook email should have or be getting a notice shortly. However if you have not yet take advantage of Tor's offer of complete electronic version of top quality fiction should go to and sign up to be notified each time a new book is released. No commitment and no cost. Tor is simple getting everyone familiar with the new web service that they will be rolling out shortly that will offer, amongst other services, low cost e-books.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

RIP: Morgan Sparks, transistor inventor

From Boing Boing: Sandia National Laboratories reports the death of former Sandia Labs Director Morgan Sparks. He's best known as the Bell Labs researcher who invented the first practical transistor. Without transistors, one cannot begin to imagine personal computers, cell phones, DVD players and the many other electronic devices we rely on daily. He was 91.

read more here

(Previous to the vastly smaller transistor, the only device that could perform the same basic operations were the vacuum tube. Tubes were much larger, hotter and required much more power to operate. The first digital computer was based on the vacuum tube. It had a paltry 4 kilobytes of memory, not megabytes but a thousand times less. It filled almost one whole floor of a high rise at a speed that would be considered glacial by today's standards. pac)

Earth may once have had multiple moons!

Now here is an article that has science fiction written all over it. In a recent NewScientist - scientists postulate that the ancient catastrophe that gave birth to the Moon may have produced additional satellites that lingered in Earth's skies for tens of millions of years. These "moonlets" may have once occupied the regions just ahead and just behind Earth's orbit where Luna's gravity and Earth's are canceled out. These areas are called Lagrangian points. Scientists think the Moon was created when Earth was struck by a Mars-sized object some 4.5 billion years ago. The giant impact that likely led to the formation of the Moon launched a lot of material into Earth orbit, and some could well have been caught in the Lagrangian points. Once captured, the smaller moonlets likely remained in their orbits for up to 100 million years, gradually drifting away as they were pulled by gravity from the other planets.

Click here for complete article

Monday, May 05, 2008

Studying exploding stars has its challenges. In particular Type Ia supernovas, where temperatures reach billions of degrees. But someone's got to do it, so Robert Fisher and Cal Jordan at the University of Chicago’s Center for Astrophysical Thermonuclear Flashes have organized a team of scientists who will

"expend 22 million computational hours during the next year on one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers, simulating an event that takes less than five seconds"

That according to a release just out from the University of Chicago News Office.

Imagine...such resources are necessary in our primitive 21st century to engage in what for us seems extreme exploration; but the University of Chicago, a U's U, is hosting and footing a lot of the bill.

Doubtless with some DARPA bucks. For from time to time a nationstate must contemplate the utility of its personal store of mini-nova makers. GreenWarriors may even want to explore whether there might be some way to capture all the useful energy emitted from even a tactical nuclear release, let alone theater- class devices. How many cities could be illuminated by the capture of the energies emitted across the sonic and radio spectra by a single standard-issue atomic fusion or fission? Is it possible to measure? Maybe the su;pernova guys will have an answer. Investors will surely want to know.

The God Shiva would be proud. Oppenheimer of the Los Alamos bomb team boasted to the trident-bearing entity "Now I am become death, destroyer of worlds."

Maybe now it's time to amend it by adding "provider of consumer power at competitive prices."

(NASA/CXC/Rutgers/J.Warren & J.Hughes et al.)

Antipodean SF's April-May 2008 Issue

Antipodean SF has posted its April-May 2008 issue, #119 (although the March-April issue was #117). The magazine's focus is Australian science/speculative fiction, and they publish mostly short-short stories.

The current issue has several book reviews, an editorial, and fiction. This issue, the fiction includes:

"Tristesse" by David Such
"Saint" by Rachael Ryan
"Eye-Pod" by Tavis Potts
"A Child's Justice" by Francis Conaty
"Dreaming the Futures to Be" by Shaun A. Saunders
"Something New Under the Sun" by Hannah Steenbock
"A New Arrival" by Alan Delaney
"Bad Manners by João Ventura
"The Bowl of Stew" by Leslie Blake
"Finite Horror, Infinite Hope" by Luke Kepreotis

Thanks to SFScope for the heads up

Chicxulub Impact May Have "Burned" Carbon In Earth's Crust

It's well documented that the Chicxulub impact happened about 65 million years ago. From this impact, it has been determined that material from this impact that laid down a thin layer of iridium -- an element more likely to be found in Solar System asteroids than in the Earth's crust. What isn't well know or for that matter all that well understood is a layer just above the iridium that consists of carbon. And carbon of an unusual structure. Each granule of carbon is a sphere called a cenospheres. What makes these carbon globes unusual is that it is well known that they only are formed when carbon is subjected to intense burning tempratures, such as thoses in power plants etc. Carbon cenospheres are a classic indicator of industrial activity. The first appearance of the carbon cenospheres defines the onset of the industrial revolution. Since there is little chance that there were power plants burning coal 65 million years ago, these cenospheres have proved to be a bit of a mystery. Now scientists from the U.S., U.K., Italy, and New Zealand have released a study that suggests that the Chicxulub impact was so powerful that it pulverized and liquified the carbon in the Earth's crust, subjecting it to such pressure and tempratures that it formed structures identical to those formed by modern day buring of coal.

Read complete article here in Science Daily online

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Man regrows finger with miracle powder!

We hear every day of miracle drugs found in the jungles of the Amazon, or the relative merits of ancient herbal remedies from China, however one does not usually expect to find the answer to regeneration of lost limbs in a hobby store in a strip mall. Lee Spievak it seems is a testimony for just such an amazing cure. Spievak lost most of a finger recently while working on a model airplane. An accident in where the plane's propeller removed everything past the last knuckle of his middle finger. The lost section was never found, so Lee resigned himself to not having a complete digit. Today though, you wouldn't know it. Mr Spievak shows off his finger, and it's all there, tissue, nerves, nail, skin, even his finger print. How? Well that's the truly remarkable part. It wasn't a transplant. Mr Spievak re-grew his finger tip. He used a powder - provided by his brother Alan - who was working in the field of regenerative medicine. "The second time I put it on I already could see growth. Each day it was up further. Finally it closed up and was a finger" says Spievak. "It took about four weeks before it was sealed." Now he says he has "complete feeling, complete movement." The powder comes from the University of Pittsburgh, and is composed of all things, Pig's Bladders. As odd as that sounds, there are clinical trials to back up the claim that this material can do the impossible and regrow missing parts of the body...
Click here to read the complete article

Click here for video of Lee Spievak's remarkable recovery

Time Travel- A Possibility or Just the Stuff of Science Fiction?

Michael Watson over at Scifirama has taken up an interest in time travel. He has written an in-depth and thoughtful article examining the question of the whether time travel could be something we will be seeing anytime in the near future.

He prefaces the article with:

It’s been written about in hundreds of books, the subject of fantasy for everyone at one time or another, and the government has actually devoted research at one time or another on the subject. Beginning with H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, the concept of time travel has been one of the main staples of science fiction. So is it really possible to travel in time?

Its a well written piece and well worth checking out. Click here to read Michael's
Time Travel- A Possibility or Just the Stuff of Science Fiction?

Friday, May 02, 2008

Your Piece of Immortality - Your Name on the Moon!

SFScope blog posted an article describing how the common man can grab his own little piece of immortality. How you might ask? Why, by placing your name on the moon itself! It seems, NASA is inviting the public to 'join the lunar exploration journey with an opportunity to send their names to the Moon aboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, spacecraft. ' By logging to the "Send Your Name to the Moon" web site - you will see simple instructions that enables everyone to participate in the lunar adventure and place their names in orbit around the Moon for years to come. Participants can submit their information at this link, print a certificate, and have their name entered into a database. The database will be placed on a microchip that will be integrated onto the spacecraft. The deadline for submitting names is 27 June 2008. So maybe not quite ON the moon, its damn close and still really cool. Your's truly has already signed up.

The Ultimate Projector!!!

A DVD projector to end all projectors. This geeky gadget has everything and in a package that just screams "I must have one!" The B-9 robots can't hold a candle to this homage to Star Trek

I give you the R2-D2 projector!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Boomerangs DO work in space - it would seem!

JAXA has finally gotten around to releasing video of astronaut Takao Doi’s successful space boomerang toss conducted inside the International Space Station’s Harmony Module in March.

I first heard about this on Pink Tentacle's blog and posted a blurb about it (here) and it would seem that despite what you might think.... the lowly boomerang works just fine in a micro G environment. Watch the video below

NASA can now predict a neutron star explosion

Using observations from NASA’s Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE), an international team of astronomers has discovered a timing mechanism that allows them to predict exactly when a superdense star will unleash incredibly powerful explosions. The bursts occur on a neutron star (the remnants of a collapsed super nova) which is often part of a binary pair. Hydrogen and helium gas from a companion star spirals onto the neutron star, slowly accumulating on its surface until it heats up to a critical temperature. Suddenly, the hydrogen and helium begin to fuse uncontrollably into heavier elements, igniting a thermonuclear flame that quickly spreads around the entire star. The resulting explosion appears as a bright flash of X-rays - releasing more energy in just 10 to 100 seconds than our Sun radiates in an entire week. Up until now, there has been no way to predict when the next explosion is likely to occur. The key to the discover lies in observations from the RXTE satellite, which can make extremely accurate timing measurements of x-ray emissions from neutron stars as they fuse gasses syphoned off their companion star. On the surface of the neutron star, these gasses fuse at very predictable periods. However as the the bursts of x-rays (which are given off each time hydrogen and helium atoms fuse into heavier elements ) slow down - scientist now know that an explosion is immanent.

The search for the kill switch is on.

Are chip makers building electronic trapdoors in key military hardware? The Pentagon wants to know. Or, does it actually want to know how? Combine the use of embedded chips in livestock, pets and human beings for everything from IDs to pacemakers, with a penal system that is overcrowded at the best of times.

What easier than to simply activate the kill switch as needed, remotely or at an official execution? Saves all the muss and fuss of burdensomely expensive of court costs and ever skyrocketing prison budgets.

Repent! it and weep:

Newswise: The Hunt for the Kill Switch - The U.S. Department of Defense wants to know if chip makers are building remotely accessible kill switches into high-end microprocessors.

These days, the U.S. military consumes only about 1 percent of the world's integrated circuits, and off-shoring has begun to raise some alarms about the safety of the chips in the military's most mission-critical electronics.

Recognizing an enormous vulnerability, the DOD recently launched an extremely ambitious program to verify the integrity of the electronics that will underpin future additions to its arsenal.

In December, the DOD's advanced-research wing released details about a three-year initiative it calls the Trust in Integrated Circuits program. The findings from the program could give the military--and defense contractors who make sensitive microelectronics like the weapons systems for the F-35--a guaranteed method of determining whether their chips have been compromised with a kill switch.

But how exactly would you kill an integrated switch, and for what purpose? In "The Hunt for the Kill Switch," IEEE Spectrum's Sally Adee reports on the methods that could kill a chip, the possible consequences, and the methods being devised to verify the Pentagon's most important microchips.