Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The "Webcam" vs. the "Particle Beam"

Now here is something you don't see everyday (I'd say, it's something you don't ever 'want' to see)

I caught this on Make's blog about a test demonstrating the hell on electronics deep space can be.

A web camera is placed into a particle beam to show visually the affects of space radiation on electronics. This video shows the particles striking the camera along with streaks due to high angle impacts. In addition particles striking the audio circuit can be heard and the damage to the camera CCD is illustrated at the end of the video.This video was produced as an Education and Public Outreach product for the CRaTER Instrument (http://crater.bu.edu) that will fly on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Mission (http://lro.gsfc.nasa.gov/).

The Terminator : Timeless piece of history?

When Arnold uttered those now famous words, one wonders if he knew to what extent? Well the National Film Registry, for one, seems to think so. The Terminator is one of 25 other films, to be protect from deterioration that otherwise strikes nitrate and acetate-based films. Also on the list of films targeted for preservation: the original 1933 Invisible Man.

According to the BBC article:
  • The Library of Congress is working to digitize and preserve endangered film and audio files. It also acquires a copy for preservation in its own vaults.
  • The nation has lost about half of the films produced before 1950 and as much as 90% of those made before 1920.
  • The registry, established by the Library of Congress nearly 20 years ago, works with film studios that own the rights to the selected films to ensure original copies are kept safe.
  • Among the oldest films to join the list this year are the ground-breaking 1929 film Hallelujah, featuring an all-black cast, and 1910's White Fawn's Devotion directed by James Young Deer, the first documented American Indian movie director.

<- bbc article ->

Monday, December 29, 2008

Mars Rovers Near Five Years Of Science And Discovery

In these challenging economic times I think it would be good to point out the unforeseen excellent return the American taxpayer has had in the Martian Rovers project. When Spirit and Opportunity touched down in 2004, we were all told three months for each rover was the prime mission plan. Now closing in on the fifth year of the project, I think its safe to say that none predicted the team running the rovers at that time would still be operating both rovers in 2009. That's a 20 times return on the initial investment. Consider that in terms of your family car. Lets say auto makers could guarantee you 100 thousand miles of service without serious malfunctions. That would be a great buy and then to find out that you're still driving it at 2 million miles! Phenomenal!

According to NASA's web page:
  • The rovers have made important discoveries about wet and violent environments on ancient Mars. They also have returned a quarter-million images, driven more than 13 miles, climbed a mountain, descended into craters, struggled with sand traps and aging hardware, survived dust storms, and relayed more than 36 gigabytes of data via NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sweet vid of Ganymede eclipsed by Jupiter

Here is a sweet video - made from 540 stills taken by the Hubble Space Telescope over a two hour period - They were released just before Christmas, but they were actually shot in April 2007.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Top 10Weirdest Things in Space

Cathy sends in a neat list from the Discovery Channel. A list of the truly strange things going on in our universe and even in our own galaxy. From Hyper velocity stars to black holes...this list is a feast for the imagination. Here is the list:

10: Hyper-velocity Stars
9: Black Holes
8: Magnestars
7: Neutrinos
6: Dark Matter
5: Dark Energy
4: Planets
3: Gravity
2: Life
1: The Universe

Of course the list doesn't even start to cover some of the real brain twisting going on here.

Check out the artwork and detailed descriptions here

DIY: Genetic Engineering

Shaun Saunders sends in this article from physorg.com. It would seem that the next big thing to come out of a garage as Apple and HP had done in the past, is genetic engineering done by hobbyists out of their home made "kitchen" labs.

Take Meredith L. Patterson - for example. A computer programmer by day, she conducts experiments in the dining room of her San Francisco apartment. Patterson is among a new breed of techno rebels who want to put genetic engineering tools in the hands of anyone with a smart idea. Using homemade lab equipment and the wealth of scientific knowledge available online, these hobbyists are trying to create new life forms through genetic engineering - a field long dominated by Ph.D.s toiling in university and corporate laboratories.

Patterson is trying to develop genetically altered yogurt bacteria that will glow green to signal the presence of melamine, the chemical that turned Chinese-made baby formula and pet food deadly.

Critics of the movement worry that these amateurs could one day unleash an environmental or medical disaster. Defenders say the future Bill Gates of biotech could be developing a cure for cancer in the garage.

Jim Thomas of ETC Group, a biotechnology watchdog organization, warned that synthetic organisms in the hands of amateurs could escape and cause outbreaks of incurable diseases or unpredictable environmental damage. "Once you move to people working in their garage or other informal location, there's no safety process in place," he said.

Shaun said when he said "Now this IS pulp SF coming to life!" And I have to agree, it has some very exciting potential in the real world and most definitely the science fiction world.

But before anyone get hysterical here you have to understand that perishingly few "engineered organisms can survive outside their artificially created environment. Those that could are even harder to weaponize. The anthrax scare of our near past is a prime example. This is an organism that could live outside but the real problem was it was vastly more difficult to weaponize than to engineer.

The argument for terrorism is again either misdirection or ignorance. Why do I say that? Because the evidence is staring you right in the face. People with little or no formal education are able with home made equipment and a little reading can start studying and experimenting with the expenditures of a few tens of dollars. The jinn is already out of the bottle. And it's the weaponizing that is again the key here. Just like the truck driver that built a fully functional atom bomb from pictures and material he read. So if it is that easy, why are we not seeing atom bombs going off all over the place? Easy.... weaponized nuclear material. Vastly harder and expensive to produce. But why would I say this concern is misdirection....simple. Since 911 our government has spasticly concerned itself with border control and terrorist infiltration and what do we hear as of late? That we are so unprepared for a cyber attack that the United States could be brought to it's knees by a concerted effort. People, we have dived under the covers and covered our heads, but our asses are hanging out there.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Nanotech ain't living up to the hype!

Yep as IO9 puts it: Gray Goo Can't do all the things you say it can do. Science fiction authors give too much credit to nanotech, which hasn't achieved all that much in real life. But science fiction authors claim it can do everything, from destroying the world to turning you into a superhuman. Complains Santa Cruz SF writer Christopher Bradley:
  • Never before has a technology that's done so little gone so far in literature. We can basically do almost nothing useful with nanotechnology, but sci-fi writers dream up these magical scenarios where nanotechnology can do anything and everything. It can make people gods or destroy the world in a variety of gray goo scenarios.
Bradley's core observation and angst stems from the fact that there exists very little actual nano technology, but the very mention in a story and it adds weight and depth, which he says happens a lot in today's SF literature.

And that is what gave me pause in reading this article - my whole supposition rests on that very observation. A good author will see the science and technology of today and be able to extrapolate it into the future. Some authors have seen with amazing clarity! All I have to say is Arthur Clarke. Here is an author that envisioned geostationary orbits and telecommunications in an era where space travel was a pipe-dream and commercial utilization was pie in the sky. The reasoning was sound for arguing against Clarke's dream. Why spend fiendish amounts of money doing something that land lines, antennas and undersea cables was doing quite well. Today we think nothing of placing international phone calls by ourselves and we have come to expect television, phone and data served to us fast anywhere in the world from anywhere and we expect it instantly.

If someone can see possible tech from the nano research and extrapolate it....that to me is the heart of science fiction. Of course there are those authors that treat fringe tech as window dressing, not significantly adding to the work what so ever, then again it comes down to comfort ' expertise and expertise. An example here is Pern for one. Space travel, AI and advanced genetics are virtual window dressing in McCaffree's Dragon Riders...somebody has got to say so what here.... As her series progressed these elements were added to yes add some depth and believability but otherwise it means a world without Dragons....I am not ready for a world like that yet...you?

Ender's End Gets Rewritten

Hey O.S. Card Ender fans - just got a news flash from IO9!: Orson Scott Card has written another novel starring Ender Wiggin, telling what happened to the character after Ender's Game...

The new novel, Ender In Exile isn't just a sequel to Card's classic novel, according to the author:

Actually, Ender in Exile replaces the final chapter of Ender's Game. The story as it was told in EG was exactly right in its tone and speed. It was denouement, winding down the story and setting up Speaker for the Dead. In fact, it was for that chapter that I rewrote the short story "Ender's Game" in novel form in the first place—so I could show Ender's first personal contact with the hive queen. But that's all that the novel Ender's Game required. Since then, I've grown older and came to feel the need for a new story—the story of the soldiers who survive the war yet could never come home... I finally realized that I wanted to explore Ender's post-war story in far more detail than was possible or appropriate in that last chapter of Ender's Game.

<- more ->

Thursday, December 25, 2008

RIP: Eartha Kitt

Eartha Mae Kitt was an American actress, singer, and cabaret star. She was perhaps best known for her role as Catwoman in the 1960s TV series Batman. Kitt came to the role of Catwoman after actress Julie Newmar left the role. Eartha guest stared as Catwoman throughout the 1967 and 1968 seasons.

She died at 81 on Christmas day of complications from cancer

for more on Eartha Kitt, go to her wiki page < here >

Antipodean issue 127 now available

Ion the Editor of Antipodean magazine dropped a note to me saying:

By the time you receive this message AntipodeanSF Issue 127 will be
available for your enjoyment on the net. AntiSF appears at its new
home URL: , with redesigned interactive pages. Some
of the features of the site are as yet unfinished, so please bear with
us as we finalise the format, layout, and interactivity.

Don't forget, the URL for AntiSF has changed (although the old domain
will point to it for quite some time to come):

The one thing that hasn't changed is that AntiSF is devoted to
bringing you ten of the best flash SF stories from the antipodes and
podes. This month's crop of stories includes:

"Teamwork," By David McVeigh

My shoes were full of freezing mud, and the dog smelled of rotting
mattresses and sewerage.

"Saving The Planet,"By Richard Kerslake

The corner office was stifling. Pete Hayes leaned back from his
screen, stuffed his tie in his pocket and swore.

"Save The Last Dance," By Mark Farrugia

In my line of work I meet a lot of people — truth to tell it's one
of the things that attracted me to this job. Occasionally, I’m even
lucky enough to reacquaint myself with old friends…and lovers.

"In Development," By Mark Tremble

"Only one more day's walk, dad?" the boy asked.

"The Fire That Flows Downstream," By Marian Stone

They say the hottest part of a flame is bluish-green — the beryl of
aquamarine — like that of the waterfall on the planet Omel?,
constituting parts of fire, not H2O.

"When In Rome," By Shaun A. Saunders

“Please state the purpose of your visit,” said the man in the
grey suit.

"Cure," by Anna Potts

Sometimes a cure can be worse than the disease.

"Car For Sale," By KJ Hannah Greenberg

“Call 571-4329,” proclaimed the car’s placard. Henry and I
smiled. Two blocks earlier, a motorcycle’s sign had likewise
espoused vehicular virtue. It’s been cheaper, for a while, to post
than to print.

"The Hunt," By David Such

Plunk grinned. “How much do you think we'll make? A hundred grand?
I reckon at least a hundred grand. What do you reckon?”

"Guy Walks Into a Bar ... (Theme and Variations)," By Simon Petrie

… orders a jug and goes to sit at a table with his mates. They
order more drinks, and the evening draws on.

At the new AntiSF you'll also find our usual review columns, plus a
new system that allows you to rate each story. You'll need to register
if you want to use the rating system. Please note that the
subscription list is not linked with the ability to rate or leave
comments, and is managed via the usual mailing list software that can
be accessed using the "Subscription" link at the site. Once again,
please bear with me as we make some fine tuning and changes to the new

I hope you enjoy the new look AntipodeanSF.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

NASA Begins Outsourcing ISS Supply Missions

From Gizmodo: Following (some) successful launches NASA has given SpaceX and Orbital massive contracts to send supplies to the ISS. The contracts, for $1.6 billion and $1.9 billion, contract these two companies to deliver about 20 tons of cargo to the International Space Station. This
will serve as a temporary holdover during the period between NASA's Shuttle and Constellation programs, sending supplies from 2010 until 2016, at least.

As a little side comment, I hope I am not the only one that sees problems here. It's a situation that even under the most beneficial light makes the space agency look inept. You mean to tell me that when these ships where first conceptualized that no one saw a time when they would have to be retired and make allowances and provisions for such an inevitability? Now they are building hope onto a six year plan mind you that is based on a system that has yet to even prove itself viable!

Midseason 2008-2009 Show Return Dates

Seems like any show that you like is now in reruns or is on hiatus and you can't find out when ANY of them are returning....been there done that. Well - luckily Mark Wilson at the About: Sci-Fi fantasy blog has been doing the research and has posted a list of shows that are returning and when. Here is a partial list - go to the Sci-fi blog for a complete listing and updates as to where the shows left off.

Battlestar Galactica returns Jan. 16 on Sci Fi with the final ten episodes.
Doctor Who is filming a string of specials to be aired throughout 2009.
Eureka is returning to Sci Fi in the Spring for the remaining four episodes of season 3.
Heroes is slated to return to NBC on Feb. 2.
Knight Rider returns Dec. 31 on NBC.
Kyle XY returns to ABC Family on Jan. 12 with a new series of ten episodes.
Life on Mars returns to ABC on Wednesday, Jan. 28.
Reaper returns to The CW on Tuesdays starting March 17 for a 13-episode second season.
Sanctuary returns Jan. 2 on Sci Fi with a two-parter.
Smallville returns to The CW on Jan. 15.
Stargate Atlantis returns for its last two episodes ever on Jan. 2 on Sci Fi.
Supernatural returns Jan. 15 on The CW.
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles is slated to return Feb. 13 on Fox.

Monday, December 22, 2008

First Designer Baby to Be Born in UK

From a recent IO9 article: The first truly designer baby will be born in Britain. She's the offspring of a woman whose family had an incredibly high incidence of early breast cancer - all traceable back to a specific gene that causes a predisposition for the disease. Without intervention, her baby would have had a 50-80% chance of getting breast cancer.

Wishing to eradicate the suspect gene the woman had her fertilized embryo tested for the gene. She was able to pick the one who did not express the gene.

Of course the procedure is not 100%. There are many other genes that can cause breast cancer as well as environmental causes.

A short presentation on the trends in population & technological growth

Quite often extrapolating for a science fiction can take many forms. I know I have said many time that science fiction is the extrapolation of technology, however, often it's a lot more complicated than that. Statistics can often tell you a great deal about how things are working. Statistical analysis of the growth of anything, be it people or computational power and predicting those trends toward the future is a skill un to itself and can often inspire an author.

Here is a short presentation I found on Utube that looks at trends in population and technology. The future it paints is both fascinating and frightening. Check it out and see if it doesn't scream science fiction story to you.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Do you need protection from robots?

Top robotics expert Professor Noel Sharkey, of the University of Sheffield thinks so. He has called for international guidelines to be set for the ethical and safe application of robots. Sharkey believes that as the use of robots increases, decisions about their application will be left to the military, industry and busy parents instead of international legislative bodies. He is concerned because the amount of various helper robots is on the rise. Despite this no international legislation or policy guidelines currently exist.

This has science fiction written all over it, Asimov played with the idea in several stories. Sharkey, despite the crackpot feel to the idea, does make some points....Like who should make the decision to set controls?

<- Read more in Science Daily ->

Woolworths ban lightsabers

British supermarket chain Woolworths has restricted the sale of toy lightsabers to people over the age of 18, concerned that the toys could be mistaken for real weapons.

My question is pretty obvious...ummmm WHAT REAL WEAPON??? Tell me the last time you saw a weapon that emitted a 3 foot coherent light beam of such high intensity that it could cut through just about anything? If you are going to ban something that resembles a weapon shouldn't it at least be a REAL weapon?!

admirable, even governmental watchdog the Trading Standards Institute thinks it may be going a little bit too far:

Some companies are going the whole hog and are banning the sale of any weapon-style products to anyone under the age of 18, even if they are clearly toys like these. I think it’s a bit over the top in this instance, but it really is up to the individual companies and stores to set their own rules, they can sell what they want to who they want.

U.S. not ready for cyber attack

From Reuters: Government and industry officials report that the United States is unprepared for a major hostile attack against vital computer networks. This came after participating in a two-day "cyberwar" simulation. The game involved 230 representatives of government defense and security agencies, private companies and civil groups. It revealed flaws in leadership, planning, communications and other issues. Analysts report that there is no response or game plan. Further - There isn't really anybody in charge!

A successful attack could include failure of banking or national electrical systems. There is precedent for large scale cyber attacks. Officials cited attacks by Russia sympathizers on Estonia and Georgia as examples of modern cyber-warfare.

<- Reuters ->

Friday, December 19, 2008

Check out Scales by Anthony Williams

I just got a heads up from Quazar Dragon and SF Signals about a new ebook called Scales by Anthony Williams. To read the book you can download an ebook free or buy a paperback from the publishers or from Amazon.com by clicking Scales

From the book's site is a short synopses of the story....it does sound interesting

  • Englishman Matthew Johnson suffers massive burns in a mysterious explosion and fire at his home. Recovering after months in hospital, he is greatly changed: his skin and hair have been replaced by reptilian scales, and he has acquired an acute sensitivity to other people's nervous systems, plus the ability to affect them. After initially spending time using his new ability to cure patients of nervous diseases, he is drawn into the dangerous world of counter-terrorism with tragic results. On restarting his life, he discovers the startling truth about his transformation – which includes parallel worlds, non-human societies and a threat to the existence of human civilisation. Only he can avert disaster, but time is running out.

Did you know Mark Hamill did the voice of The Joker

Any of you fans of Batman the animated series? Yeah I know...bla bla bla kid stuff yada yada, but anyone that is fascinated with anime has got to at least check out some of the top notch animation that isn't strictly speaking anime. I let my love of the Saturday morning cartoons flow over into an adult interest in high end animation and variations like anime. With that is an interest in how others are honing their craft. I will watch the Disney offerings at times as well as some aimed straight at a childrens' market. Animators know that today's preteen and teen market is very savvy when it comes to cgi and animation in general and have taken most of what would be considered "cartoons" to incredible levels of sophistication.

So I had caught a few of the episodes of Batman animated series and was reasonably impressed with the quality of the animation as well as the voice over talent. You can clearly tell that the actors in today's animation are playing at a whole different level than was available in those early days. I was particularly impressed with the actors doing Batman and The Joker. The animated Joker had gone from cartoonish to truly maniacal. The voice grated enough to make your teeth ache and the laugh could at times, simply make you sweat. Then I was blown away to find out it was Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame ratcheting up the craziness. Here is a cut showing how Mark developed the trade-marked laugh as well as some pretty interesting behind the scene comments from other actors.

US Plans Army of Nuclear Waste Robots?!

According to an article in IO9: The federal government has plans to store nuclear waste at nearby Yucca Mountain. The federal government has submitted documents in court, explaining its plan to deal with the highly toxic nuclear waste. The plans apparently involve high-tech metal containers that haven't been invented yet, massive titanium shields that will be watertight to prevent corrosive water from getting at the waste containers, and a huge army of awesome robots that will go in 100 years from now and seal the place up.

Ummm geee what could go wrong with this idea?! Oh wait! We barely could carry out a 10 year plan set up by a dynamic president. That was forty years ago and now people forget if something has more than two years of time built into the framework. They began raiding the environmental superfund before the ink was even dry and we are going to depend on promises that a plan will stay on track with its' own funds for 100?!

I think representative Shelley Berkley says it best: At the end of 100 years they are going to send an army of robots — think ‘I, Robot’ — marching down underneath Yucca Mountain to install yet-to-be-invented titanium shields. It’s hard to fathom anyone suggesting it, let alone the secretary of energy.

<- more ->

REVIEW: Command Decision by Elizabeth Moon

Command Decision by Elizabeth Moon book four in the Vatta Wars series
Ballantine Books
hc 384 pp

I have always made it known that my favorite recreational reading category is science. I always go a bit further and say that, given the choice, I prefer hard science fiction. Something built on extrapolated science. As always in the very next breath, I break that rule by listing the type of science fiction that I often find myself moth fluttering towards. I really liked Dune, Dragon Riders and of late Elizabeth Moon's Vatta War series. I hear the "but waits' already. Because even to the neophyte, these are a clear cut representation of main line science fiction. But in my mind at least, these series are more of a space opera, bordering on fantasy. Now before you pass out from blowing a gasket, let me explain. These books are high on action and low on science. Most of the science is quasi at best and totally made up impossible for the most part. So what separates them from true fantasy? Well in each example, the milieu is set early on and then scrupulously adhered to. Whether it's huge lizards that can fly and communicate telepathically to FTL and faster than light communication with ansibles. They all work and fail within the rules the author sets. True fantasy will quite often make the rules up as they go.

So how does this apply to Moon's fourth in her Vatta series? Well honestly to put it, and the rest of the books in the series, solidly in the space opera class. Is that a bad thing? Not in my book no. Strong characters, epic battles, truly evil villains, as campy as it sounds, done right and you have a book that can not be put down. And that is the genius of Moon's Vatta Wars series and the fourth in the series Command Decision.

Kylara 'Ky' Vatta is back once again, bent on finding the villains responsible for killing her parents and destroying her home world. Towards this end she works toward building her own space fleet to take on the pirates and beat them at their own game. The sub plots themselves are worked out in more detail as well. Ky's cousin Stella tries to rebuild the family empire, the mysterious Rafael 'Rafe' Dunbarger uncovers a conspiracy that may explain how the Ansible network was so thoroughly destroyed and involving people that could destroy his father's company and ultimately his family itself.

Add in some thoroughly despicable people both pirate and station owners alike and you have an adventure laden novel and and worthy addition to the Vatta series. I am totally honest when I say that I can not wait to start reading the next book in the series.

I give this volume a must read for fans of the Vatta series that haven't picked up the fourth in the series. It's worth it.

Could the Earth once had multiple moons?

An article in the Daily Galaxy has a pretty interesting article that has science fiction story written all over it!

Did multiple moons once orbit Earth? The prevailing theory about the formation of the moon is called the giant impact hypothesis: the theory goes that a Mars-sized object, known as Theia, crashed in to the young Earth. What was left was Earth, and its moon. A new computer model suggests, however, that the Moon may not have been the only reminder of that big collision. The model also suggested that moonlets called Trojans may have been left behind in the collision. These Trojans could well have been caught in the Langrangian points and have persisted in that manner for for up to 100 million years.

The Langrangian points of course are gravity balanced areas in Earth orbit. Over time influences from the other planets would have shifted Earth's orbit ever so slightly, but this would have spelt doom for any moonlets being held in place. They could have been destroyed or pushed out into the solar system. Other models have suggested that much smaller moonlets only a few 10s of kilometers across could have lasted much longer, upwards of a billion years.

Robots have Sex lives? (nsfw)

What is it lately with the blogosphere? It seems that I have seen more references this week to robot weirdness than ever before. Cabin fever or what? Anyway, what we have here is more of a 'making of' a film made by Michael Sullivan. It's weird, unsettling and compellingly imagery. It really shows the loopholes in what society calls pornography, when you have for all intents, mangled Barbies and G.I. Joes, stop motion photographed into something that resembles the human condition, I .....guess. It's worth it to hear Sullivan speak about his views and how he managed to make a robot porno...

Big Dog beta? In Japan?

I don't care how many times I see this, I laugh like an idiot. First off, I thought the "Big Dog" robot was about the silliest thing ever and then came the Big Dog II which really played on that silliness. Well in keeping with sharing the silliness is a "demo" of Big Dog c in Japan. As Gizmodo puts it - It's so stupid it's funny. I agree

Thursday, December 18, 2008

RIP: Majel Barrett Roddenberry

The first lady of Star Trek has teleported away.

Majel Barrett Roddenberry, the most ubiquitous actor in Star Trek, died today at age 76. The wife of Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, she also provided the computer voices on every version of Trek. And she played three pivotal characters: Number One in the pilot, Nurse Chapel in the original series, and Lwaxana Troi in TNG and DS9. Majel recently completed reprising her role as the voice of the USS Enterprise for J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek film.

<- Trekmovie.com ->

Fembot! yeah!

Remember when I said that IO9 just loves the strange? Perfect example here. I saw this article that started with 'Alyson Hanningan Secretly Replaced With Robot!' With the pic at the right, you can understand that I was a bit interested...lol And of course we have all seen Summer in various levels of blown up, so this wasn't really much of a stretch.

As IO9 contributor Charlie Anders wrote: The starlets of tomorrow will emote in the depths of space and at the bottom of the ocean. That's because gynoids will replace all our favorite actresses! I've been mesmerized and alarmed, looking through a giant Flickr set of fembot art, mostly created in Photoshop. It's a weird mixture of the titillating and the disturbing.

Oh it's suitable for work, but there is that 'just got to look' fascination tied to this group. Of course Glau's pic is right up front, so that is a bit of a cheat, but some are quite good in a deviate kind of way. I got a couple of pages in before I had to quit....

There is a point here though....would ummm 'fembots' really ever take over? I really don't thinks so. Creating one is always going to be more expensive than the breathing thing and the advancements we have seen in CGI and scans, puts the digital actor well positioned to rule at least the low budget 'sci-fi'

<- IO9 ->

New Surveillance System Will Identify Suspicious People

Well if you find societies like those in 1984 or Brave New World unlikely and consider MallCity to be a fantasy, comes tech that makes them just that much more possible.

In an age when Bulletin boards are becoming smart and some systems can send audio information straight into your head and track you as you move is the incarnation that reminds one of Doctorow's 'Little Brother' or 'Scroogled' comes a surveillance system that ties them all together.

From Newswise: Engineers here are developing a computerized surveillance system that, when completed, will attempt to recognize whether a person on the street is acting suspiciously or appears to be lost. The ultimate goal is a networked system of “smart” video cameras that will let surveillance officers observe a wide area quickly and efficiently. Computers will carry much of the workload.

And you know you should be a wee bit suspicious when the very next statement from the researchers developing the tech is: The research isn't meant to gather specific information about individuals.

I ask you, when the very people that develop this ability are having thought like invasion of privacy and eroding of personal freedoms....just how much of Pandora's box has been opened.

I might be jumping to conclusions here and seeing evil when there isn't any, but I ask you to read the article and see what you think.

<- newswise ->

Thanks to Ron Huber for the article

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Volcanoes May Have Killed the Dinosaurs?!

For the last 30 years, the prevailing theory has been that an asteroid, around six miles across, hit the Yucatan peninsula 65 million years ago, throwing debris into the atmosphere, blocking the sun and chilling the planet to the point that nearly half of all species went extinct. Ah but here's the rub, recent discoveries can not tie a single extinction event to the Yucatan / Chicxulub event.

Evidence is accumulating that it wasn't an asteroid that did the beasts in, but volcanoes. Volcanic events lasting almost 10,000 years, laying down miles deep deposits and throwing more that 10 times the amount of more climate-changing emissions into the atmosphere than the asteroid impact. Also supporting the volcanic theory is fossil evidence from Texas and Mexico that most of the species extinctions coincided with the final pulse of eruptions, not with the asteroid impact, which may have occurred approximately 300,000 years earlier.

There is even evidence that dinosaurs lived in India (where the massive eruptions occurred) right up to the last phase of the volcanic event - but not afterward.

The argument against of course is that there is volcanism, there was volcanism and there always will be.... so volcanism alone is not in and of itself unique. However the asteroid impact was and therefor can not be dismissed out of hand.

<- read more in Wired ->

Battlestar Galactia webisodes available on Hulu

For those of you that are following the Battlestar Galactia reboot on Sci-Fi - you should know by now that there are webisodes now being released to keep our interest peeked for the return of the final season of BSG which if I recall is due to return in January of 09.

The webisodes are hosted on Sci-Fi and on Hulu (for some reason I could not get the Sci-fi's vids to play but had no trouble with hulu) I have listed the first two episodes below which are listed on site as The Face of the Enemy.

Webisode 1

Webisode 2

Dark Energy Is Ripping the Universe Apart

An article in IO9 throws fuel on the 'dark energy' fire. At a recent press conference NASA announced new measurements from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory confirm the existence of "dark energy" that is causing the universe to expand.

Ten years ago, it was discovered that the universe was expanding at an ever increasing rate. To explain this phenomenon astrophysicists proposed the action of a here to fore unknown and undiscovered force they called 'dark energy'. This force was so powerful that not only was it pulling the universe apart but eventually galaxies and eventually every molecule.

Remember Shaun's story 'Curtain Call' well this would be the effect many billions of years in the future when galaxies and eventually stars themselves are so far apart that for all intents there would be nothing to see in the night sky. Sobering thought that.

<- dark energy in IO9

To Boldly Crack What No Man Has .....oh I give up

Topless Robot shows us in graphic detail the worst ending of the five year mission. Yes, someone did go where no man should have....

Yes you are looking at the world's worst nut crackers...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo will take first flight soon

Thanks to Shaun Saunders for bringing this New-Scientist article to us:

Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo is set to take is maiden flight very soon. The flight will be the first of dozens planned for the high-altitude craft, which could become the first privately-owned vehicle to carry tourists on sub orbital flights that at their highest will have space tourists in free fall for several minutes. The high-altitude plane is designed to loft an eight-passenger craft called SpaceShipTwo to an altitude of 15 kilometres. There, the spaceship will detach from WhiteKnightTwo and fire a rocket to take passengers some 100 km above the Earth. the plane has passed engine and runway tests and taken small hops off the ground. Though White Knight two may look light weight, it is surprising to know its actual dimensions. The plane is comparable in size to Boeing's B-29 Superfortress, a heavy, long-range bomber that flew during World War II.

Though WhiteKnight/Spaceship Two have yet to finish a fairly rigorous schedule, The testing regime should still put the firm on track to take its first passengers to the edge of space as early as 2010.

Robot shortage sign?

In time for XMAS - Earth's new warm cloak

Newly discovered, that is.

A team of scientists led by Charles “Rick” Chappell, research professor of physics and director of the Dyer Observatory at Vanderbilt University says their analysis of the measurements of five different satellites reveals the existence of the "warm plasma cloak", a hitherto unknown region of the magnetosphere, that invisible shield of magnetic fields and electrically charged particles that surround and protect Earth from the solar wind.

Published this fall in the space physics section of the Journal of Geophysical Research, Chappell's research reveals a “natural cycle of energization” that accelerates the low-energy ions originating from Earth’s atmosphere up to the higher energy levels characteristic of the different regions in the magnetosphere. This brought the existence of the new region into focus.

So what is it? Says the Vanderbilt news release: "The warm plasma cloak is a tenuous region that starts on the night side of the planet and wraps around the dayside but then gradually fades away on the afternoon side. As a result, it only reaches about three-quarters of the way around the planet.

"It is fed by low-energy charged particles that are lifted into space over Earth’s poles, carried behind the Earth in its magnetic tail but then jerked around 180 degrees by a kink in the magnetic fields that boosts the particles back toward Earth in a region called the plasma sheet."

By the way it wraps around Terra, should it be called a warm toga or a warm lungi or heavens - a warm diaper? - instead of a warm cloak?

Image: Rick Chappell, Vanderbilt University

Some cameras and computers can't stand orbit!?

More to the point - micro gravity or free fall. This is something that I just never considered. You know, if it worked on Earth as a general rule, it should work in space. I mean we have been seeing electronics of all types doing their thing in space for decades now...so when I heard that some high end equipment gives it up even on something like the vomit comet let alone the real thing, I thought it was a joke. But then I read this article in Gizmodo about a guy plunking down $3,500 for a ticket on a Zero G vomit comet plane ride, taking his high end Sony SR1 along to film the ride and could not shoot frame one. Why? Well according to the article - it had nothing to do with the cameraman and everything to do with zero gravity (actually, microgravity). Because an object in microgravity is actually falling towards the Earth, the camera's hard drive drop-protection kept kicking in, rendering the expensive device useless. Seems like they took 15 tries to get some action and nada. The fix is like a DUH and NASA more than likely has already had this problem fixed, but the suggestion is to use flash supported devices.... Though I got to wonder about someone that goes all over the world just to film himself doing foolish dances and then spends 35 hundred to do it in zero G needs to maybe think about getting a life?

<- Gizmodo article ->

Woman receives breakthru cyborg arm

A bombing survivor has been fitted with a clip-on arm that fuses directly with her own skin and bone. Surgeons carried out the pioneering operation during which a titanium alloy rod was attached to a bone in her arm, which protrudes through her skin. The skin has healed naturally and formed a protective seal around it, allowing prostheses to be attached. The technique, called Itap, is based on reindeer antlers, which naturally grow through the skin without any problems with the added benefit of doing away with the need for cumbersome straps and sockets. It also avoids the infections and pressure sores previously associated with attempts to fuse metal with bone. Sensors, placed on what is left of the arm, allow her to grip objects with her artificial left arm by flexing muscles in her upper arm. The unit is much easier to control and also is much more sensitive, which allows her to grip eating implements and feed herself with the arm. The next addition will be an electrically powered elbow joint.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Universe may be recycled!

You have got to love IO9 for articles that just twist the top of your head to let the evil spirits out.

For those of you that are Poul Anderson fan and just ate up his novel Tau Zero, you're, like me, going to see Anderson's novel come to life in this recent OP9 article.

As theories of the Universe go, the most popular is the "big bang" theory of how things started. It's pretty well thought out and supported almost, excuse the pun, universally. Well along comes Martin Bojowald and his associates with a theory that closely resembles Anderson's cyclic Universe. Bojowald postulates that there is a possibility that our universe was created by the death of an earlier universe. How do ya like dem apples!

Martin Bojowald and Abhat Ashtekar began researching their theory of loop quantum cosmology (LQC), an approach to cosmology that combine’s Einstein’s theory of gravity with quantum mechanics.

From the IO9 article:
  • Bojowald's major realization was that unlike general relativity, the physics of LQC did not break down at the big bang. Cosmologists dread the singularity because at this point gravity becomes infinite, along with the temperature and density of the universe. As its equations cannot cope with such infinities, general relativity fails to describe what happens at the big bang. Bojowald's work showed how to avoid the hated singularity, albeit mathematically.
  • The researchers have found that when applying LQC, the universe does not revert back to a singularity as it contracts. Instead of seeing a big bang, the models indicate that the universe experienced a big bounce, with a predecessor universe contracting as it ended and then reemerging as our new, expanding universe. ....it could mean that our universe does not have a finite beginning and end but is, instead, part of a chain of universes that expand and then contract to give way to a brand new universe.
<- New Scientist article ->

Does Fox Hate Science Fiction?

I have strongly begun suspecting that the Fox network has no clue when it comes to science fiction. Now, don't get me wrong, I can be counted among the fans of the Sarah Connors Chronicles but a recent article by Brad Trechak for TV Squad drove it home that scheduling on Fox as a card shuffle. Because we fans and science fiction in general seems to be viewed as a niche, Fox seems to be compelled to "make room" for more main stream programming. As Brad puts it, The Sarah Connor Chronicles is being given the "Friday Night Death Slot" on Fox. For what? Shows like Glee, which is about a high school Glee Club (Oh I am not kidding here!) and Boldly Going Nowhere, which is a parody of science-fiction, not the real thing. (oh I am sharpening the stick as I type this because getting stuck in the eye with it has to be better that this crap.)

If you doubt my words, jump over to the TV Squad article < - HERE ->

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wana See What 10 Megajoules Worth of Damage Looks Like?

We have been hearing for quite some time now about the damage to the Large Hadron Collider when a malfunction during the initial startup phase brought further experiments to a screeching halt.

Here are some CERN's photos courtesy of Gizmodo, of the LHC's multi-million-dollar malf. They show the results of a single solder joint's failure on the world's most complex machine.

Aside from wrecking 53 of the Large Hadron's magnets, the incident released six tons of helium into the atmosphere.

CERN hope to get the Large Hadron Collider back into operation by June of next year. Two of the 53 replacement magnets have already been installed.

<- Gizmodo ->

Researchers now able to copy images in your brain to a computer

Viewing the brain while it does it's "thing" has become a fairly well understood science today. So much so that doctors and their ilk are able to "see" metal illness and disease. But "seeing" what the brain sees or imagines is a bit of a misnomer. Or has been up to this point. It would appear now that Japanese scientists have a device that can quite literally take images out of your brain and recreate them on a computer screen.

From IO9:
  • Using an fMRI brain scanner, researchers read electrical signals coming from people's brains while they thought about letters in the word "neuron." The research team led by Yukiyaso Kamitani at ATR Computational Neuroscience Labs has designed software that can process the output of the fMRI and search for signals associated with vision.
A strange twist on this process is that the team is not only able to extract images of what a subject has or is looking at, but images of the test items when the subject is not viewing them. This opens the door to viewing imaginary images or "dreams" at some point in the future.

<- Neuron via IO9 ->
<- Pink Tentacle article ->

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Meteor Strike May Have Sparked Life On Earth

I know, sounds like I am splitting hairs here because the argument has been postulated for some time that meteor and asteroid strikes on early Earth may have brought biological compounds or even life itself to Earth.

The difference here is much like the earlier work of University of Chicago chemist Stanley Miller who half a century ago showed that lightning strikes in a primordial atmosphere could produce amino acids — the protein-forming building blocks of life. However new research has determined that Earth's early atmosphere was drastically different than the one envisioned by Miller and instead a mix of ammonia and water, much like what composed Earth's early seas. Which brings us once again back to meteors.

Yoshihiro Furukawa of Tohoku University, who is studying this phenomenon wrote "Our study shows that biomolecules could be produced on early Earth by reactions among meteorites, water and atmosphere." Furukawa's experiments involve balls of iron and carbon shot into a stew of water and ammonia. Furukawa launched his pellets from a propellant gun at 4,500 miles per hour into a stainless steel container of water and ammonia. The impacts generated temperatures of 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The simulation produced compounds required to form the first cells. These compounds were fatty acids, amines and an amino acid called glycine. Fatty acids are a component of cell walls, and amines are a basic component of amino acid.

Furukawa's team plans to repeat their experiment in other ocean conditions. They are confident, they write, that meteor impacts explain explain the "bulk of organic molecules necessary for life's origins."

The conclusion that comes to mind though is that meteors need not have carried live or even the basic building blocks - but quite possibly just being in the right place at the right time may have been all that was needed to jump start life on Earth.

<- via Wired ->

Even needing repair, Hubble makes science history

A recent breakthrough using NASA's Hubble Telescope is an important step toward finding the chemical signatures of extraterrestrial life. Hubble has discovered carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of a planet orbiting another star. The planet in question, HD 189733b, is a Jupiter class gas giant that is too hot for life. However as the article in Science Daily suggests: ... the Hubble observations are a proof-of-concept demonstration that the basic chemistry for life can be measured on planets orbiting other stars. Organic compounds also can be a by-product of life processes, and their detection on an Earthlike planet someday may provide the first evidence of life beyond our planet.

The discovery of carbon dioxide is reason for a great deal of excitement because, under the right circumstances, it could have a connection to biological activity as it does on Earth and is significant for the long-term effort of characterizing planets to find out what they are made of and if they could be a possible host for life.

Lockheed Martin's MKV one very scary test bed

Check out this video from, Gizmodo, of Lockheed Martin's Multiple Kill Vehicle. L&M are calling it MKV but this makes Sky-net's HKVs look positively tame! This little nightmare could take out HKs while targeting several terminators of different chassis designs. This things is mean!

The The Lockheed Martin's Multiple Kill Vehicle will be the first anti-ballistic missile system designed to search and destroy multiple warheads and countermeasures using a single launcher. First, the MKV-L will fly to encounter the cloud of multiple warheads and decoys being deployed by the enemy missile. Then, instead of exploding, the MKV will maneuver through the threats launching several kill vehicles, each targeted at the different objects on the air, both real dangers and dummies set to deceive missile defenses. Multiple Kill Vehicle will be the first anti-ballistic missile system designed to search and destroy multiple warheads and countermeasures using a single launcher.

<- Gizmodo ->

Aurealis Awards

Science Fiction Award Watch is jumping on the award season with the nominees for the 2009 Aurealis Awards (for works published in 2008-ish) have been announced. Here are the Science fiction portion of the list:

Best Science Fiction Novel

K A Bedford, Time Machines Repaired While-U-Wait, Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing ( reviewed here on Beam Me Up )

Marianne de Pierres, Chaos Space, Book Two of the Sentients of Orion, Orbit

Simon Haynes, Hal Spacejock: No Free Lunch, Fremantle Press

Kim Westwood, The Daughters of Moab, HarperVoyager

Sean Williams, Earth Ascendant, Astropolis Book Two, Orbit

Best Science Fiction Short Story

Simon Brown, ‘The Empire’, Dreaming Again, HarperVoyager

Nathan Burrage, ‘Black and Bitter, Thanks’, The Workers’ Paradise, Ticonderoga Publications

Trent Jamieson, ‘Delivery’, Cosmos, #21

Margo Lanagan, ‘The Fifth Star in the Southern Cross’, Dreaming Again, HarperVoyager

Tansy Rayner Roberts, ‘Fleshy’, 2012, Twelfth Planet Press

<- Complete Aurealis Awards list ->

<- Science Fiction Award Watch complete article ->

Monday, December 08, 2008

Voight-Kampff moot - Deckart out of work - Future androids will be empatic

IO9 always comes up with the most interesting stuff! If you remember your Blade Runner lore, The robotic Replicants in Blade Runner were indistinguishable from humans except for their lack of empathy. Now researchers are creating virtual human analogs that can detect human emotions through non-verbal cues and develop appropriate responses. This could lead to artificial life forms who are not only intelligent, but empathic as well.

Why you might ask? It is becoming more and more common to interact with machines in everyday life. From leaving messages, to being connected to the proper agent or becoming more common to complete a sale or service call start to finish with a machine.

However researchers at Paris' Institute of Technology have found that people frequently lose interest in some systems because they don’t seem sufficiently human in their responses. To create programs that keep humans engaged, teams at the Paris Institute of Technology are developing a virtual human that will recognize and respond to human emotions. They are training them to detect emotional expressions via webcam, and studying how flesh and blood humans react to the virtual's responses. They are hoping that this will improve the way that humans interact with them.

<- IO9 article ->

Comment: Scientists say we should demand drugs to make us better!

Shaun's MallCity mentality crawls a bit closer with this story from ABC News. Dr. Saunders contents that the first steps into the ultra consumerism / corporate controlled society is to create a need in the consumer, then convince them that it is their right to have whatever piece of tech or product that is being foisted off on them. We have seen the beginnings with rfid chipping. First government employees, then those that can not say no, followed by self serving security benefits. Pretty soon you're a malcontent by not accepting a chip.

Well here goes another variation: recently that Several scientists contended in a provocative commentary Healthy people should have the right to boost their brains with pills, like those prescribed for hyperactive kids or memory-impaired older folks. College students are already demanding and taking illegal prescription stimulants like Ritalin to help them study, and the demand for such drugs is growing.

Oh it gets better: "We should welcome new methods of improving our brain function," and doing it with pills is no more morally objectionable than eating right or getting a good night's sleep, these experts wrote in an opinion piece published online recently by the journal Nature.

This isn't the 60s Tim Leary tune in drop out thinking. It's creating a need off a perceived benefit which if you're paranoid enough will have you labeled a malcontent or defective by not accepting that which clearly make you better. I don't know what bothers me more, someone deciding that this is just what we need or the consumer's walmart mentality that if it's there for sale, it's ok to buy.

<- here is the complete ABC online news article ->

Sunday, December 07, 2008

No Aliens For Alien 5?!! WTF?

From IO9: Sigourney Weaver has revealed that she and Ridley Scott have talked about teaming up to make Alien 5 - but are thinking about leaving the alien out of the movie altogether. Is that WTF or the work of genius?

Weaver told MTV's Movie Blog that she and Scott have discussed returning to the character of Ripley in a new movie: What we’re interested in is taking the character of Ripley and seeing what other science fiction story we can tell about someone who has lived several lives.
Knowing the 4 preceding films as we all do I and IO9 have to ask: "Other science fiction story"? As in, one that isn't the latest iteration of "Bad Ass Woman Fights Aliens, Rinse And Repeat"?

And as you are all now groaning with the idea, lets think a moment - After Alien and then maybe Aliens....did you really get much into Ripley fighting of the aliens in 3? In 4 we saw Weaver bring some real kick ass strength to Ripley. I mean really - the line "Who do I have to .... to get off this ship? " was both so different for Ripley and instantly made her someone you didn't want to screw around with. I mean my contention for the Alien movies is that for science fiction movies they make great monster movies. You know? And yes I know most science fiction movies are a monster waiting in the wings somewhere to destroy everyone. As scarey as this is, quite frankly it's not really good science fiction. So the thought of Ripley, who has become so very much more than what she was in the start, doing something else besides kicking monster butt has some ummm charm. I'm game.

<- MTV movies blog via IO9 ->

RIP: Forrest J. Ackerman

Forrest J Ackerman, the pioneering science fiction fan, editor and writer who coined the term "sci-fi," founded Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, passed on December 4, at 92, after a long illness. of heart failure at home at the legendary Ackermansion in Los Feliz in Los Angeles.

<- via boing boing ->

Friday, December 05, 2008

Zombie Phoenix

From Gizmodo:

NASA scientists have been trying to resurrect the Phoenix Mars Lander. Sadly, they gave up last week. Happily, there's still hope. If the Phoenix's hardware survives the extreme—150ยบ F of the Marian winter—NASA controllers will begin trying to revive it again in Spring. They will do so by issuing commands from the two Mars orbiters, and wishing that the probe would have enough strength to restart. Hopefully it will be successful.

<- aviation week ->

A totally unique redition of "I will survive"

yes I know... it's stupid and lame, but it made me laugh so it's worthy....

First superconducting transistor - now a reality

The holy grail for electronics in general and for computers in part has been a way to boost speed and efficiency while at the same time dealing with the heat that comes from ultra fast switching.

It has been well known for many years that certain materials brought near to the temperature of absolute zero drastically change their electrical properties. Many materials that do not even conduct electric current are able to do so and at no resistance, when chilled to near absolute zero.

Transformers and wires become ultra efficient when electrical connections and electronic forces no longer hold back current. However one component has eluded researchers for many years. The transistor.

Many devices use switches to control voltage and current. One of the most common switches and also one of the most efficient is the transistor. Much like a relay it can handle high current and is able to be controlled easily and fast. But the price of this speed is heat. The faster it is switched the hotter it will become. Cooling is only a stop-gap as transistors work much less efficiently when chilled below their operating range.

Now researchers at the University of Geneva in Switzerland have had success at building a crystalline structure that they can turn on and off at will at 3 tenths of a degree above absolute zero. The result is a superconducting version of the field effect transistor. Computer CPUs running these transistors would run significantly faster than the present gighertz speeds.

<- NewScientist tech ->

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Could Jupiter's Gravity End Life on Earth?

Reading in a recent Daily Galaxy article: Scientists are saying that the planet Mercury could possibly smash into our planet. Jacques Laskar of the Paris Observatory and Gregory Laughlin of the University of California, Santa Cruz reached the same unsettling conclusion using separate computer simulations of long-term planetary motion. Leading them both to conclude that the Solar System is not as stable as once thought.

Specifically, both teams found that Jupiter's gravity could eventually make Mercury's orbit so out of round that it overlaps with the path of Venus.

Their models show that Mercury would be forced into one of four unpleasant scenarios if its orbit were disturbed. Either Mercury will 1: crash into the Sun, 2: be ejected from the solar system altogether 3: crash into Venus or worst case Mercury will crash into Earth.

Such an impact would kill all life on our planet. Nothing would survive. By contrast, the asteroid that doomed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago was likely just 6 miles in diameter; Mercury is 3,032 miles across. The last time an object about that size hit the Earth, the resulting debris formed our Moon.

Even Mars might not be left out of the mix. Most simulations show Mars being pushed into a much colder and farther orbit or ejected as well.

The one saving grace to these scenarios is that the time frame for everything to fall into place in on the order of billions of years, making it more likely that Sol would go well off main sequence and become a red giant before Mercury becomes a problem.

<- more at Sky and Telescope ->

CNN drops space and science

TV Squad puts a sharp tongue spin on CNN's seemingly lack of interest in the sciences

  • Miles O'Brien looking for a job.
  • The reason? CNN has decided to get rid of their science/tech/environment/space division, because nothing ever happens in science, technology, the environment, or space. The network says that they're getting rid of the division because the "Planet in Peril" series already covers all of that stuff, and they'll just integrate the rest of the science coverage into their regular news. Translation: more cost-cutting in the news business.

I could see the writing on the wall many years ago when the networks stopped airing live coverage of the Apollo missions. And I ask ya, when is the last time you saw a shuttle launch live and for more than 5 minutes? Yeah, thought so

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Knight Rider now up on blocks?

Looks like I may have spoken a bit early on Knight Rider. According to SyFy Portal's Michael Hinman:

  • NBC released its mid-season schedule, and while there is a place for "Knight Rider," its episode order has been cut to just 17 episodes, and it appears the network is not apt to make many more, according to Entertainment Weekly's Michael Ausiello.

I based my comments last week on reports that NBC had given "Knight Rider" a full season order just a month ago and left it in the Wednesday slot while putting Monday night shows on hiatus, replacing them with a reality dancing show. But it would seem now that NBC is far less committed to the remake than previously thought.

One funny turn of events did take place durigh the shake up. Again from SyFy Portal

  • NBC tried something different in "Knight Rider's" time-slot last week by airing a variety show by Rosie O'Donnell but the ratings for that outing were even worse than what "Knight Rider" was generating, and that show survived just one episode.

Japanese brewer unveils Space Beer

From JapanToday.com

Japanese brewer Sapporo in association with Okayama University biologists, have invented Space Beer created with barley plants grown inside the International Space Station.

Sapporo Breweries has said that it will hold in January tastings of the world’s first beer made with barley..

The barley used in the new beer is a third-generation offshoot of the original plant stored for five months in a Russian laboratory in the station. The company has made only 100 liters of the new brew, named Sapporo Space Barley, which is not for sale. Sapporo says the beer is safe because it has tested microbes in it and did tests with lab animals and Sapporo employees, too. It also says that the space beer tastes just like regular beer.

Scientist research "body swap" illusion

Have you ever wondered about waking up in someone else's body? If you're like me you have read all kinds of stories on this subject - from brain transplants to robot bodies which most often go awry because the "human" part can not come to terms with not being in their "own" body. Or something weird like Heinlein's I will fear no Evil.

I first started hearing about an odd illusion when Swedish researches found that a subject could be "fooled" into believing that someone elses hand or an artificial hand was their own. This was done by concealing the subject's hand and displaying the false limb. The subjects hand was touched exactly at the same time as the fake hand was. The test subjects report feeling as though the false hand was in fact theirs.

In a more recent study. Cognitive neuroscientists at the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet have succeeded in making subjects perceive the bodies of mannequins and other people as their own.

In the first experiment, the head of a shop dummy was fitted with two cameras connected to two small screens placed in front of the subjects' eyes, so that they saw what the dummy "saw." When the dummy's camera eyes and a subject's head were directed downwards, the subject saw the dummy's body where he/she would normally have seen his/her own.

The illusion of body-swapping was created when the scientist touched the stomach of both with two sticks. The subject could then see that the mannequin's stomach was being touched while feeling (but not seeing) a similar sensation on his/her own stomach. As a result, the subject developed a powerful sensation that the mannequin's body was his/her own.

In another experiment, the camera was mounted onto another person's head. When this person and the subject turned towards each other to shake hands, the subject perceived the camera-wearer's body as his/her own.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

RIP: Author Richard K. Lyon

From SFScope online:

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America report the death of member Dr. Richard K. Lyon, on 21 November 2008. Born 22 December 1933, Lyon held a PhD in physical chemistry from Harvard, and held patents for chemical processes. As a science fiction writer, his first story appeared in Analog in 1973. He went on to write a trilogy with Andrew J. Offutt: Demon in the Mirror (1977), The Eye of Sarsis (1980), and Web of the Spider (1981). In 2007, his collection Tales from the Lyonheart was published by Wild Cat Books.

Lyon is survived by his wife and two sons.