Saturday, October 31, 2009

Issue 137 of AntipodeanSF is online!

Nuke, the editor writes to let us know that issue 137 of AntipodeanSF the online Australian flash fiction magazine is now online. Also the magazine is now available for your mobile phone, pda and other portable devices, not just the laptop or desktop! Which is great news! Here is this month's titles and excerpts.

Filling The Larder By Christopher Miles
  • Suddenly all the cupboards were bare. You watched them come in and take everything.There they were, in the blink of an eye, forming a trail across the freshly swept floorboards of the cottage you've agreed to mind for the summer. Into the pantry they marched. Packets of flour, tins of soup, jars of Vegemite, passed from one to the next, through the kitchen and out the door.

Flood At The Bentham Penitentiary By Wayne Marshall
  • Water licks at my ribcage, and the prison walls groan, but I'm not leaving — not until I lay eyes on him. Surely the water's reached the third level of his observation tower by now? Surely he'll have to make his escape soon? Still, no matter how hard I squint, I see no movement in his window. The blinds are shut tight, as usual.

Negotiation By Simon Petrie
  • "These are my demands," the voice rasped. It was a harsh voice, swarthy; the police communicator didn't do it any favours. "I want a working time machine, a large crate of MREs, no soy no gluten no nuts, and the complete works of Erich von Daniken, in Aramaic, on parchment. And I want it by midnight."

Pest Control By Andrew Girle
  • The advertisement read: We only use the latest in genetically-tailored aerosol pest control toxins with a no-residual guarantee... Haruz, the new owner, continued reading, scrolling through reams of technical information, then, on a hunch, ran a quick search on 'aerosol pest control'.

Puncture Wound By Sean Monaghan
  • Doc Michaels frowned. "Tell me again how this happened." He tapped Grant's helmet with his stylus and watched the bustling nanos. It's very simple," I said. Michaels was an idiot. I'd already told him twice between the airlock and the medroom. As if how made any difference to my dying friend. "A puncture."

Slipping Through The Cracks By Shaun A. Saunders
  • In the cavernous underground parking area of the sprawling Fabcola Home Shopping Centre, a police cruiser flashed its lights, blipped its siren and cut across a nondescript sedan, forcing it to pull over. "Good afternoon, sir," said the officer to the driver as he approached.

Chips By Natalie J.E. Potts
  • Cass stuffed another handful of hot chips into her mouth, adding to the pulverised load already swilling around in there. Her mouth looked like a front-loading washing machine full of fluffy, beige towels. "I didn't even know you had a deep-fryer," Petra said, her lips curled slightly in disgust.

Twenty Six By Gary Hill
  • Ed has been driving for days. Rain slumps on the windscreen like a drunken slut, slurring on the glass until the wipers shove it aside. Wet dog stink claws its way out of the sopping-wet carpet beneath his boots. He nudges the window open a crack and glances in the rearview mirror: darkness.

The Kiss By Houston Dunleavy
  • Oh, but he could kiss! He had just the right combination of strength and softness that made her stomach flip. And tonight, his kiss had meaning and purpose: he'd finally reached the part of her that wanted to give him her entire body and soul — then he pulled away.

Zero Point By Martin Livings
  • There are places mankind hasn't traveled yet, things never seen by human eyes. Luckily for them, they made us. To see in their place.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Batman Tries to give Gordon the slip

I just love these College Humor shorts. lol Thanks to SF Signal for the post.

Complete Metropolis to be seen first time in 80 years

According to this IO9 article, the original full length Metropolis by Fritz Lang will be shown for the first time in 8 decades at next year's Berlin Film Festival.

The original did not do well in it's first release and many people in the government at the time felt that the movie contained too much propaganda so almost 30 minutes were excised from the original film and was afraid lost. That was until the discovery of an uncut 16mm print last year that has since been restored.

The showing next year will be the first time that the film has been view uncut since 1927.

Space Elevator Race still hotly contested

NASA's "space elevator" competition is alive and well. Only three teams still are in competition for the 2 million dollar prize. Here is a short on one of the leading competitors that will have to make a half mile climb up a ribbon using nothing but external power.


Check out the IO9 article

Monday, October 26, 2009

What kinds of things keep physicists up at night

Shaun Saunders send me this article from NewScientist. Here is the premise:
  • at the Perimeter Institute, in Waterloo, Canada, a panel of physicists was asked: "What keeps you awake at night?"
Those the responses were varied as one would suspect, a pattern of sorts showed up along several lines of interest.
  • What is everything made of?
Ordinary matter, from atoms to galaxies are made of the same stuff. But that "stuff" only accounts for 4% of the total energy/mass of the universe. Physicists are very interested in "dark matter" - hypothetical matter that is undetectable by its emitted radiation, but whose presence can be inferred from gravitational effects on visible matter. And dark matter may account for upwards of 96% of the mass of the universe. Mix in the mind numbing concept of dark energy, which appears to be speeding up the expansion of the universe, and you start to understand what physicists may have stumbled onto, something that could explain the most inner workings of the universe.
  • What is the singularity?
From the article:
  • Conventional theory points back to an infinitely hot and dense state at the beginning of the universe, where the known laws of physics break down.
And that is exactly what is the most disturbing about the original singularity, that there is a point at which scientific theory can no longer explain or predict what the conditions were like in those first few fractions of a second before time and space began to expand at speeds approaching or surpassing that of light.
  • What is reality really?
One of the weirdest occurrences in quantum mechanics is the effect an observer has on an experiment or for that matter the universe as a whole. The ability of an observer to collapse the wave effect has been well documented, But even stranger is this from the article:
The NewScientist article is well worth the read, just the "something ain't quite right here" feeling you get when things aren't quite what you thought they were. There are several more really bent questions that are posited by the article that will certainly get you thinking.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Review: X-Men Origins Wolverine movie

X-Men Origins Wolverine

Directed by Gavin Hood

Starring Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Danny Huston,, Lynn Collins, Taylor Kitsch, Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Henney

Again, I am questioning renting DVDs let alone buying them....but I am getting ahead of myself

Let's see, X-Men Origins Wolverine is a prequel to the series of X-Men movies. The film attempts to answer all the outstanding questions about Logan's missing past.

Up to this point I would have sworn that he was not a mutant but a medical experiment gone bad. But I was wrong.

As we know Wolverine now, without the benefit of the origins movie, he has no memory, but a likelihood that he had a military past because of the dog tags he wears but don't have any record of. He is the survivor of an experiment to replace all his bones, which leads to some freakish abilities. Other than that Logan has no memory of his family or his past. Origins answers all of them and more, which I don't think is fair to get into if you haven't rented the dvd or wait for tv.

I will say the movie is action packed as you would expect from a Marvel vehicle. I really can't say that there is anything unusual or different about the movie. Honestly this could be a Highlander film for all that it's worth, but Logan is an enigma. We know he can not remember his past, so throughout the whole movie you're constantly holding the movie up to what you already against what he clearly remembers and does.

Only at the very near end do you get the tie-in and now Logan can not recall anything, but up until that moment you almost speculate that they must be rewriting Wolverine's history...nope it all works. Maybe that is what makes this move work as well as it did. First off, it IS an bit of an untidy ending, but you know where it's going now, so its ok. There is plenty of action yes, but every bit is Tempered by Logan's sensibilities. This makes him easier to identify with. Which puts it miles ahead of movies like the Fan 4 series.

I might recommend the movie, but what about the DVD
Picture and sound are excellent, no complaints there. But if you call trailers and a tobacco psa extra're golden, I don't. I am beginning to seriously consider that the studio are shunting all the good stuff onto the Blu-ray disks and leave the dvd renters hanging. And that is patently wrong! A lot of the older generation is making the move away from the defunct vhs and buying DVD players. If the studios are marketing the high end to the 20/30 somethings because of disposable cash, they are so wrong! The retirement age viewer has much more entertainment dollars, what they aren't is bleeding edge tech adopters. What they are not going to buy is a marginal product. I know many retirement age movie fans that are just now or will be migrating from VHS to DVD. For the movie marketing machine to totally drop the ball on a large consumer base is insane! lol

So people that have waited for the dvd...well I am going to suggest you just stream it from an online service because there is nothing here for value added in the DVD unless you are up for paying the long dollar I guess for some special release... I would give the movie an 8 but for value added 0 which as you can see gives a ridiculous average so I will just dock it 1 and call it a 7 which is unfortunate because the movie is better than 7 but I am not about to waste my money buying it...even renting it I feel a bit taken.... You decide.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Review: Astro Boy

Astro Boy (Thanks to Flagship Cinemas for sponsoring this review)

Nicolas Cage, Donald Sutherland, Charlize Theron, Eugene Levy, Kristen Bell, Freddie Highmore, Nathan Lane, Bill Nighy and if you watch closely you will see Samuel L. Jackson's name flash past. He isn't mentioned on the official site, but he is the voice of Zog

Directed by David Bowers

Those of us that remember tv in the 60s may well have grown up on Astro Boy. The quirky Japanese Anime classic. The series was originally Japanese with Japanese dialog. Later it was dubbed and shown as a Saturday morning part of children tv schedule. The plots never interested me, I just was mesmerize by the feet with rockets in them. (oh how I wanted that power! ) I got a chance to see some of these old cartoons a short while ago and was struck how oddball the plots were. I guess not much but dubbing went on.. all that big robot, megalomaniacs and such, seems just plain confusing by today's standards...But as a 6 year old..I sucked up every bit of that black and white goodness.

And so what does the 2009 big screen version have to offer? It might depend more on your age.
The new Astro is in full color, still has the oddly spiked hair and the same black jocky shorts!

We have WAY more back story with this offering. Astro is in reality a robot copy of a dead boy that was the son of Dr. Temma. The world of Astro Boy is a city floating above an Earth laid waste by unending consumerism, and that Earth is populated by urchins living off the waste of the city above. Astro escapes to the world below to escape being shut down and dismantled. Ultimately he is discovered and saves the day by destroying a robot powered by "negative" energy.

Despite the hype and the pg13 rating, this film is for children. Even if you are an anime fan (the animation by the way is far from the espected anime style...none evident, we are served up a very standard animation rendering which was a bit disappointing. ) you would be better served by taking along the youngsters (I know, there are those out there that are saying that it IS a kids movie, which I will agree to, but the marketing is aiming a bit higher) Don't get me wrong, its good animation, as good as anything we have seen in the past few years, but it's paired up with a pretty formularistic plot with all the trappings. Good and bad are black and white, the good guy is alteristic way past what you are lead to believe. This could have been a Disney or Pixar offering and no one would be the wiser.

So my conclusion? If you like animation and especially if you were a fan of the old Astro Boy and want to see a new treatment, give it a go but it might not hurt to see if any children want to see it as well.

Astro Boy official site

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Beautiful shot of Halley's Comet nucleus

The blog "The Daily Galaxy" posted this stunning picture from the ESA's Giotto spacecraft of the nucleus of Halley's Comet when it made a flyby in 1986.

For those of you that had a chance to see this year's Orionid meteor shower, you should know that those bright little bits are in fact the material from comet Halley from it's last pass through the Solar System. It's next appearance comes in 2061 as it makes it's 75 year round trip of Sol.

I can't help but be awed by the scope. Here we are steaming a round our local star which is speeding hellbent through our own local neighborhood and all this grandeur is pulled along for the ride! I know a lot of the mystique comes from being hardly smarter than a bag of hammers, but who can not squeeze out an "oh wow!" during the shower, knowing that we are plowing through the leavings from the creation of the solar system.

Anyone feeling small?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Star Wars: What's all the noise?

From a post on Topless Robot here is a ColledgeHumor short, which entails a re-edit of a classic Star Wars scene. I think I broke something laughing. Enjoy!

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Overman's Folly

Journeys in time must be exciting, you say? Oh, to have the complete and utter freedom to roam wherever, whenever one wishes. Yet we say that with freedom comes responsibility.
Time is only interesting once the shackles of perspective have been released, and an examiner can float freely. Only then does this most fluid of dimensions become a river of possibilities where a single century can be explored in depth whilst the next is skipped over completely. But time is linear to the human race – linear and elemental.

That is how it is supposed to be.

New, from Altered Dimensions Press - Science Fiction you can sink your teeth in to!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Impactor plume photographed!

Shaun Saunder sends in an article from Newscientist that show the first image, taken by the trailing spacecraft, of lunar material kicked up by the impact of NASA's LCROSS mission.

Initially it was hoped that the impactor would kick up a plum that could be seen by telescopes on Earth. No plume was visible to Earth based scopes or even Hubble. Ejecta from the impact would have had to rise better than a half mile above the surface for it to be visible but most of the material stayed well below that altitude. Luckily the LCROSS craft was flying right behind the imactor stage. As such the ejecta had only to rise half as high.

Of course there was some bad communication as well. From the article:
  • ...mission members said they expected the plume to reach no higher than about 10 km. But projectile experiments carried out on Earth weeks before the impact suggested the plume might reach far lower altitudes.
What possibly may not have been taken into account initially was that the impactor was hollow giving it a very of very low density. Therefor far less energy than expected was transfered to the site. A large portion of that energy was transferred back into the impactor , crumpling it. (as the article puts it, much like the crumple zones in today's cars)

Great wide angle shot!

Check this out! Earth AND Jupiter in the same shot! How they do that you might ask? It was snapped by the Mars Global Surveyor on May 22, 2003. And what's more, you have got to log onto the Dvice site here to check out the larger hi-rez version! Amazing photography!

Scientists create first ever black hole on Earth

Tim Sayell sends in this fascinating article from Discovery Channel online, documenting the first ever black hole created on Earth. No this isn't one of those gravitational monsters you see at the centers of galaxies like our Milky Way. This mini singularity "mimics" the curvature of space-time better known as the event horizon. No this micro black hole doesn't swallow planets and stars whole, but instead was designed with a much more modest diet, that of microwaves.

The hope is that this experimental device will help greatly improve the reliability of solar energy collectors. Now, I can see you asking how can a black hole do that? Well without getting to much into the science of the device (the article gives a great description of the physical makeup and how the device captures microwaves) it's easier just to say that the device is designed with a certain frequency of microwave radiation. Instead of bouncing the waves back as most objects do, the microwaves are absorbed by the central core. Since even black holes are bound by physical laws, something has to come out of the exchange. In this case, heat is generated.

According to the article
  • (This could) revolutionize future solar panel design, making the production of solar energy a lot more efficient than it is currently.
Read the article here for a description of the device and possible uses

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mysterious ribbon of energy surrounds the Solar System

At the edge of our solar system, between us and the rest of the galaxy mysterious bright band of surprising high-energy emissions. As Shaun Sauders puts it, when he sent me the article from, "the 'fence' around our local backyard".

This high energy area was discovered by the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft, launched in October 2008, while it was orbiting Earth. The IBEX was monitoring incoming neutral atoms that originate billions of miles away at the solar system's.

The truly remarkable results do not resemble any of the current theories or models of that region of "near" space. What scientists expected to see was a small, gradual variations at the interstellar boundary. However, IBEX is showed a very narrow ribbon that is two to three times brighter than anything else in the sky.

The energy ribbon lies at the very edge of the solar system's heliosphere, where the stream of charged particles from the sun finally fade to the cosmic background. It is in this area that the charged particles from the sun meet neutral atoms and exchange electrons which makes the charged particles also neutral. This transfer of energy causes a faint glow.

This interaction was first explored by the Voyager 1 spacecraft in 2004 when it first encountered the shock wave of the charged particle encountering the neutral atoms at the heliopause and again in 2007 with Voyager 2.

Read complete article

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Is the LHC's bad luck coming from the future?

Oh, here is a wonderfully weird piece submitted by Shaun Saunders that he found in the U.K. Telegraph.

It seems as the article states in the opening:
  • The much-delayed and maligned Large Hadron Collider has been hit by its most outlandish claim to date - it is being sabotaged by its own future.
HUH? Yep you read that right. Right out of sci-fi there is speculation that the run of bad luck is in fact sabotage. And not just normal sabotage, but sabotage from the future!

Are we talking about med taking wackos? Nope, it seems that a couple of well known physicists are claiming nature itself is stopping the troubled project from getting off the ground.

Their hypothesis is based on a weird particle called the Higgs Boson, thought to be the building block of life and one of the particles that it is hoped the LHC will discover.

Ok, so it is almost like the particle doesn't want to be discovered. But the scientists are making the supposition that the LHC DID make one in the future. However in creating the particle, it sends ripples down the space / time line back before the particle was discovered and stops the collider before it could make one.

Weird enough for you? Well, its not without president, read the complete article by clicking on the title.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Unreal Animatronics / Puppetry!

Skimming through Gizmodo I came across this youtube video that has got to be the best animatronics I have ever seen. You pick up on how some of its done, but for the most part these dinos are untethered self-contained animatronics that would and do put Disney to shame. I don't see how the hosts on stage keep from running for their lives when these things appeared. Yeah, it's that real!.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Review: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
359 pp HC
Published by Night Shade Books

Those readers who are familiar with Paolo's Hugo Nominated work "The Calorie Man" (which I truly suggest reading before Windup because it will make clear some of the otherwise cryptic references in the book) will instantly recognize the world of "The Windup Girl". The world of the Windup Girl is calorie starved. Plagues have decimated the worlds food supplies and petro-chemical are if not totally depleted are very scarce. In this world the "gene-ripper and calorie-men" are all that keep the world fed and supplied with energy but at great cost. Their power is held not by governments now but huge corporations that control grains for food and the various technologies to make energy. Power now is based around genetically engineered animals and mechanical devices storage devices much like batteries or engines but more in line with a watch's main spring than an internal combustion engine. The world's currency is now the calorie and the joule and the corporations guard them well. Wars are fought over control between different corporation for such control.

Into this mix we are introduced to "New People" or Windups. Genetically engineered from human and animal genes to be the perfect servant for areas where the native populations have declined seriously or the ultimate soldier. Toys for the ultra rich.

Emiko is the windup in our story. Abandoned in future Bangkok. Emiko is forced to hide amongst the very dregs of humanity used as a plaything by anyone that can manage the price set by her "patron".

In Windup Girl we are introduced to the various factions that are tasked with keeping Bangkok dry, fed and energized, plus fighting each other for control. Above it all are the mysterious corporations manipulating and spying for the ultimate prize.....plague free food stuffs that could bring untold wealth.

Paolo has done a great job of expanding on the earlier shorter works. His future Bangkok lives and breathes. You can feel the oppressive heat, smell the stench of animals kept in close quarters. The noise and the strangeness.

Mix in a healthy dose of political intrigue (which to be honest I usually run screaming from) and you have a book that you just can not put down. You feel Emiko's conflict. Her every fiber is designed to serve without question but she is tortured by the conflict to be more than a toy but to be someone in control and to have others like herself, a group to which she can belong. The mysterious Anderson who seems to be very much a dangerous company man but is totally undone by the likes of Emiko. Kanya who serves two masters to her undying shame and other equally realized characters. The milieu alone makes the books worthwhile, but to have real people woven into the tapestry is wonderful. Don't get me wrong, there are cardboard cut-outs, but they are there mostly to set the tone not be the focus.

If you found the Calorie Man or the collection Pump 6 as entertaining as I did then you will find The Windup Girl immensely entertaining.

Big Brother gets improved thru-wall visual surveillance tool.

10/11/2009 11:00 PM EDT Source: University of Utah 
According to newswise:  "University of Utah engineers showed that a wireless network of radio transmitters can track people moving behind solid walls.  See photo of the two researchers with sample  transmitters. The system could help police, firefighters and others nab intruders, and rescue hostages, fire victims and elderly people who fall in their homes. It also might help retail marketing and border control." Here's a rather uninspired video of it at work. These are portable, hence deployable at 'need'.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Physicists Measure Persistent Current

Ready to get your frontal lobes juggled? Let's check out Persistent Current. Let me set the stage here or the weirdness might blow a hole out the back of your skull. We all understand that tricky particle called an electron. We know that if you hook a battery up to a light, electrons flow in the circuit. If you remove the battery, electrons stop flowing, right?

Ummm nope - according to Physicists at Yale University. Ok to be fair, we really can't talk about lights, wires and batteries, (well maybe the wires...) and instead discuss the weirdness that happens in tiny rings of metal wire. What the Yale scientists have documented is a strange quantum mechanical effect that influences how electrons travel through metals.

Ok, lets revisit our light bulb and battery concoction. We understand that the current we know is flowing is electrons being pushed along the wire. The current is the electron's motion. So what do we consider the motion of electrons that constantly circle the nucleus of an atom? Is that not the very essence of electrical current? Atoms have electrons that are in constant motion and will continue in motion forever. Persistent Current.

No, this is not ZeroPoint , perpetual, or any other kind of untouched energy just waiting to be exploited.

from the Science Daily article:
  • is so faint and sensitive to its environment that physicists were unable to accurately measure it until now. It is not possible to measure the current with a traditional ammeter because it only flows within the tiny metal rings, which are about the same size as the wires used on computer chips.
Just attempting to measure it directly can disrupt it, but the current CAN be measured indirectly.
You can read more on this mind twisting current in this Science Daily article

Review: DVD - Rise of the Silver Surfer

Rise of the Silver Surfer
Directed by Tim Story
Ioan Gruffudd
Jessica Alba
Michael Chiklis
Chris Evans
Doug Jones (Doug's the body for the Surfer, even though he voiced it, Fishburn overdubbed)
Julian McMahon
Kerry Washington
Laurence Fishburne (ok this is a stretch...he did the surfers voice in final staring?)

Yep, I know, scraping the bottom of the barrel in some respects with this rental. But, a friend mentioned it so I gave it a look. For those of you that have not seen Fantastic Four - Rise of the Silver Surfer, all you have to do is look at the title and you have the complete plot...well most of it. Nothing new here. Rise is a by the numbers comic book super hero movie. Absolutely nothing new or chance taking with this film, formulaistic from the opening to the pre credits closing (My god, all in a line walking and talking, we are family, can't break up the team, all you needed was an awards ceremony and have them all turn to wave at the crowd....!) But I am getting ahead of my self.

Rise of the Silver Surfer again joins the Fan 4 as they encounter a mysterious silvered being punching 200 meter wide ever so deep craters in the Earth. Reed Richards discovers that this has taken place on other planets which all have died shortly after this mysterious surfer leaves the planet. They put in place a plan to capture the surfer with the aide of a resurrected Dr. Doom.

We find out that the Surfer is not the bringer of destruction but at the most a facilitator. Also Doom can't be trusted (no really?) and I am not giving anything away when I say that Earth is saved and disaster is averted in the very last seconds (I am not making this stuff up!) Doom may or may not be dead, Surfer most likely is not, and off they trot arm in arm to meet the wizard....well I made the last one up.

If you're a Fan 4 fan you will not be disappointed. The Fantastic Four manage to pull off a couple of surprises, but when your upstaged by a flying Car well...what can I say. Fans will enjoy the action and interaction. People that enjoy non stop action will get a kick out of some of the movie. But quite honestly I am surprised that I managed to catch this on DVD before it hit the late night, early Saturday morning cable viewing choice.

Ok on to the DVD
My copy was the pan/scan modified for this screen (tells ya that the square tv crew dont have long to wait) which limited the viewing enjoyment, but the sound is REALLY good. As far as extras? Well the directors commentary is very good. The viewer is really treated to an inside view of the workings the director, though he is a bit too pleased with himself for the special effects. Yeah we get it...CGI NEXT! The other commentary is equally insightful, but in a completely different way. It is clear listening to the second commentary that was by the screen writer and the producer, gave a clear impression of why some of the movie had an almost unfinished look and also tended towards formula movie making. It becomes almost painfully clear that there were many disagreements as to placement of certain scenes and an almost frantic last miniut push to finish the film that gave a strong impression that the crew making Rise of the Silver Surfer were a harmonious group. Mixed with oft not very well executed cgi effects (ie when Sue traps Reed between 2 force fields to make her point)the project was plagued with last minute rewrites and demands for new scenes or edits. The net effect was often poor execution, odd edits (they describe one scene in particular where a holograph was to be simulated and the supporting shots were already made. However the effect was so poorly executed that it was taken back out and a nonsense shot of a computer screne was added. The net effect is that it is clear that the actors, following cues, are looking and pointing to "something" and that something is NOT the computer!) But it's these little comments made about ugly editing and poor effects that offsets the director's blithely straight faced commentary which gives the dvd a value add enough to think about buying. Though one thing that did aggravate, there were several mentions of the deleted scenes reel which I could find no where on the disks. And for me, this is one of the things that entice me to buy a DVD, commentary and deleted scenes. So even the extras bat 500. I am inclined, if you haven't rented it yet, to pass on it and wait for the FX movie to pick it up. This is not a movie that I would watch more than once, so I question if the DVD would be worth the investment. If your an Action / adventure fan, yeah go for it. Otherwise there is nothing new here, very by the numbers movie. Makes a 6 in my book.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

When Something is so wrong it has to be right...

Ok, you have been reading this blog for long enough to know that sometimes I just can't help myself and when I get into this mood, well, weird stuff gets posted. Well today's post just pushed me past go. Sometime a video is so wrong that it comes out being right...well that just plain isn't the case here. This video is so wrong it goes well past good and I swear, attempts to set a new wrong baseline.

So what am I waxing on about? None other than the latest in the Outback "dirty" ads. Here we have a send up of a Billy Mays infomercial. Here is the "wrongest" infomercial that you are likely to see. Oh, and be sure to read the disclaimer text... Thanks to the tvsquad blog for this gem!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Does Russia Still Have an Active Doomsday Device?

Leave it to IO9 to dig up some really nightmarish scenarios. In this article, Charles Jane Anders writes that Russia built a "nuclear fail-safe strike-back device" in 1984.

Wired Senior Editor Nicholas Thompson recently wrote an article about this Soviet defensive weapon, known as Perimeter, but also frequently referred to as The Dead Hand. The system was reported to remain in a semi standby mode, but once activated, would look for evidence of a nuclear attack.

What makes this device particularly nightmarish is the evidence that it was never part of the "MAD" plan which through various sabre rattling by both side to assure each others certain destruction should an attack be launched. Perimeter was kept classified by the Russian government and secret even from Russia's own arms negotiators.

What's more, "Dead Hand" does not seem to be in any way shape or form, phased out. There is every indication that the machine is continuously being upgraded.

Here is the complete IO9 article
and the wired article can be read here [Wired]

Very scary and very interesting indeed.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

NASA discovers gigantic Saturn ring

Tim Sayhill sends in an article from Yahoo News that documents a startling discovery by the Spitzer Space Telescope. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced that the telescope has discovered the biggest but never-before-seen ring around the planet Saturn.

The ring is made up of a very thin amalgam of dust and ice crystals. Due to the size of the material that makes up the ring an the extremely thin distribution, the ring reflects very little visible light. However the Spitzer's infra-red telescope could detect the ring with ease.

The bulk of the ring material starts about 3.7 million miles from the planet and extends outward about another 7.4 million miles, making it one of Saturn's largest rings by a sizable margin.

NASA astronomers note that Saturn's moon Phoebe orbits within the ring and is believed to be the source of the material.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

New ION Engine Passes 200KW

In a NewScientist article sent in by Shaun Saunders we read about the world's most powerful ion engine developed by the Ad Astra Rocket Company of Webster, Texas. Astra has run their new engine at full power for the first time. In a recent test, the company's VX-200 engine powered to 201 kilowatts in a vacuum chamber, passing the 200-kilowatt mark for the first time.

One of the near future uses for this new engine would be to provide periodic boosts to the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS). a scaled up version ( in the 10 to 20 megawatts power range) could power astronauts to Mars in as little as 39 days vs the 6 months or longer it would take now.

One of the first order gains from these types of engines is their efficiency. Ion engines are about 25 times more efficient than conventional rocket engines. Though not strong enough to launch to orbit, the real savings would be realized when maneuvering in Earth orbit.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Abandoned Towers October update

It's October, and that means it's time for an update on Abandoned Towers magazine.

Starting this month off, we have a brand new story from Michael McGlasson called The MacDonegan Bear.It's a scottish folktale, written by Michael and here's a small piece of it:

And after all the terrible tales that grandfather had told him, Roddy knew in his heart that the bear, the mighty enemy of his Highland clan, had to be killed someday, a thought that filled him with great sadness and pain. But it had been many, many years, perhaps thirty or more, since the giant bear had lumbered from the Caledonian forest hungry for fresh meat from the bones of a MacDonegan.

One bright autumn day, when he had finished stirring and churning three oak barrels of delicious maple syrup, Roddy sat down on an old tree stump and gazed out upon the land before him. He saw the red of the rowan, the purple bloom of the heather and the gold of the aspen, all wonderful to behold. And far below in the glen, beautiful flowers were everywhere and the violet Rose of Sharon grew lovely in big bunches. And then Roddy smiled because he was happy to live in such a pretty place, but he was also sad because he had no friends, a lonely young laddie in the land of Glenfinnan, all alone on a tree stump with only his thoughts and his Scots heart a-thumping. But then something strange happened, for Roddy heard a small voice coming from somewhere below his knees. He looked down, but saw nothing. And then he felt three hard taps on his shoe -TAP-TAP-TAP- and when he looked down again . . . .

"Top of the day, laddie."

It was a Scottish Brownie, standing almost as tall as the spines of a Highland thistle. His clothes were in tatters, his face was smeared with dirt, and his hair was long and shaggy, just like the tail of a Shetland pony. His eyes were wild and they blinked a lot and in his hand was a walking stick with the bark still on it.

You can read the entire folktale by visiting Abandoned Towers, accessing the General Fiction section, and clicking on Michael McGlasson's name.

We also have a brand new, completely redeisgned site for you to explore. All the pages have been given a face lift and things have been organized a little better. New stuff is still listed under What's new, which is still availble from the home page, so you won't have to chance missing anything.

Along with all the cool stories and articles, we've got several fun features. We've put a children's activity page online. At the moment it's got a couple of mazes and a couple of how to draw items, but we expect to add more to it on a continuous basis. We've also got a household hints page. Unfortunately, it's empty at the moment so if you have any cool tips and tricks for making it easier to do stuff around the house, why not write 'em up and send 'em in?

Also online is a new Oddcube review and a new article by Eric S. Brown.

Rounding things out is a short story by Jelata Clegg called Soul Windows. Have you ever wanted to know what someone else was thinking? Here's a small excerpt:

"The eyes are windows to the soul." Blake's lips twitched in an ironic smile.
"Our philosopher." Talbot lifted his tiny cup of Turkish coffee in the air.
"Just what do you mean by that?" Jim asked, ignoring Talbot as he leaned farther over the tiny table.
Blake shifted his gaze to Jim, an older man studying the folly of youth.
Jim challenged him with his stare, daring him to answer, demanding treatment as an equal.
"Merely something I heard in the bazaar today." Blake turned his bland blue stare to the sinuous dancer weaving magic in the sultry night.
"Blake hears every last odd rumor spoken by the natives," Talbot said flippantly. "His real problem is he believes what they say. Been here too long, old chap." He pointed at Blake, who ignored him.
Jim shot him an annoyed look. "What if you truly could see into someone's soul? Would you?" Jim's intense gaze drew Blake's eyes back to the table.
"Lighten up, Jimmy boy." Talbot nudged the younger man with his elbow. "Have a drink." He poured more of the syrupy coffee into Jim's cup. "Heathens. No alcohol," he muttered with a sigh.
Blake ignored Talbot as he searched Jim's boyish face. "Would you want to see the darkness lurking in your own soul, or have it bared for another?"
"Nothing in my heart I'd be ashamed of." Jim thumped his chest with his fist.
"You're certain of that?"
Jim nodded, although a trickle of unease crept across his neck. It was as if Blake could almost read his mind, see his soul in the hot, heavily scented darkness.
"Load of toff, if you ask me, which neither of you chaps are doing." Talbot finished off his coffee and surged to his feet, his knees popping as he stood. "Sitting on the floor drinking that rubbish is for the birds. I'm off to beddy-bye."
Blake and Jim took little notice of Talbot's departure. The music throbbed around them, weaving a seductive spell, making magic possible in the deep violet night. The cloying smell of tropical blooms hung over the café. The dancer wove between tables, delicate scarves fluttering around her like the moths that swarmed the guttering candles.
"Not everyone hides evil, Blake. There are innocents in this world."
"Are there?" The ironic smile was back, Blake's blue eyes bland and unreadable.
"What of children?" Jim pushed, defensive now for reasons he did not wish to explore. "Or her?" He pointed at the dancer. Her face appeared young through the thin veil, the eyes wide and innocent as a doe's. "She can't be much older than my sister. What dark secrets lurk in her soul? I say none." Jim sat back, chin out in stubborn challenge.
"You would be surprised, I think," Blake said. "If you could look into her soul, would you take that chance?"
"It's all hypothetical, anyway. There is no way to look into someone's soul. Eyes are windows. Hogwash."
Blake merely smiled. One hand dipped into a pocket and produced a strangely worked pendant. It glittered slightly in the candle flame. Blake laid it on the table between them. "A charm from one of the wizards of the bazaar. It supposedly opens the windows of the eyes so that you can see into the soul."
"Rubbish," Jim said, but weakly, a protest of habit. "The wizards are all fakes."
"Then it won't hurt for you to try."
Jim reached out then hesitated. The music pulsed through him, drums beating and voices wailing. Like a heart beating secretly in the darkness, he thought. Strange things had happened since he forsook the boring security of life at home for the intrigue of foreign adventures. Blake had been here much longer. Blake was a believer in the strange. They often ribbed him about it in the barracks. But now, here, under the spell of music and perfumed flowers, in the flickering candlelight, suddenly it seemed not so much rubbish. Magic was suddenly possible and not at all friendly. Jim's hand hovered over the charm.
"Are you afraid?" Blake was gently mocking. "Maybe innocence is much more elusive than you think."
Jim grabbed up the charm, his hand clutching tightly to squeeze away doubt. "There are more innocents than you believe, Blake."
"Maybe, maybe not." Blake shook his head as if it didn't matter. "A word of caution. Once you have used the charm, you can never go back to who you were before."

Want to know more? Just visit Abandoned Towers Magazine, which you can find fairly easy by going to Google and searching on Abandoned Towers Magazine, and visit the General Fiction section. The author is Jaleta Clegg.

One last reminder, our next print issue goes on sale on Nov. 1 and it's packed with all sorts of cool things. But in case you haven't gotten your copy of previous issues, they're all still availble in print. Just go to the Abandoned Towers home page and click on the icon that says "click here to buy print issues" on it in large letters. That'll take you to a page full of virual previews and if you like what you see, just click the "Buy a printed copy" link underneath of the virtual prview and grab a copy for yourself.

Ripley's Power Loader Suit a Reality!

Check it out! Sci-fi tech meets the real world. What am I blabbin on about? Well remember that scene in Alien when Ripley climbs into the powerloader exoskeleton to do damage to the queen? Well science fiction has again influenced real world tech thanks to Japan's Activelink. Check out this video of the real deal in action!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Would an Earth without Humans recover?

Has anyone been watching the series on the Discovery Channel called, life after people? This fascinating program shows the short term repercussions on structures after all Humans have left. Here is an article about a possible cause and the long term effects.

Shaun Saunders sends us in a a new "word for the day" that just screams science fiction to me.

From the pages of New Scientist we read an article about chemist Paul Crutzen who has coined the word Anthropocene. Crutzen coined the word about 10 years ago when he formulated a startlingly new concept. The idea being that human activity is now affecting the Earth so profoundly that we are entering a new geological epoch.

Needless to say, this is far from a universally accepted theory, has yet to be accepted as a geological time period. At it's base is the assumption that in just a few centuries, the pressure humanity is placing on the ecology leads to ecological collapse and a mass extinction. Possible scenarios include a collapse of society, leaving just a few hundred thousand eking out a meager stone age existence.

Most of the argument is based on earlier carbon spikes in past geological periods. And of course mass extinctions are far from unique, however in most of the previous examples, the Earth was substantially different in areas like temperatures.

Read complete article in New Scientist

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Antipodean SF issue 136 is online

AntipodeanSF's editor Nuke writes to tell us that issue 136 of the "down under" flash fiction magazine is now online at

Here is a list of the stories and short descriptions for this month's issue

The Girl With The Golden Feet By William Ward
The boy didn't believe Elana when she said she could walk on water. She stared at him blankly, neither frustrated nor offended by his skepticism. She had come to expect it.

Caught In The Middle Of A Hungry Fire By Wes Parish
Anita sat at the table, staring at the off-cream kitchen wall with the peculiar concentration known only to those who have suffered great loss. It seemed to affect even her unborn baby, because at this time of evening, it would usually kick vigorously. The evening died without ceremony, into dark night, the off-cream wall fading into blackness.

Ashes By Shaun A. Saunders
"Once upon a time," the storyteller began, as he and his companion drank tea by a warming campfire, "there was a young country — hardly more than a handful of colonies — set up in a land far from the mother country. In the early days, the colonists had little in the way of gold or other rare metals to mint coins for trade.

Four Fathers By Mark McAuliffe
Tall and proud, the Four Fathers greet the dawn with the same stoic indifference that they had faced every new day for countless millennia. *** Raised in a time of prosperity and hope, carved into lofty mountain heights, they stood in effigy both as a reminder of a glorious past and the promise of a radiant future.

Feast By L.L. Hannett
Stop screaming. How many apples have you eaten in your life? How many plums? How many slices of watermelon? More than you can count, I'm sure. And if someone asked you to describe each one, to remember every mouthful you took, to feel something for all those juicy bites, you wouldn't be able to do it. Stop screaming.

The Book By Alan Baxter
Finding the book had changed Jerry's life. It was an ancient, weighty tome with heavy parchment pages, thick leather cover, and strange, hand-written words and pictures. Something had drawn him to look under the floorboards in the attic of the old house — a home that he had had no intention of buying, yet had felt compelled to inspect nonetheless. Jerry had experienced a profound thrill on discovering the book.

The New Roanoke By James Francis Keegan III
On holiday, kayaking planet Diablerie's, blood-clot rock formations, and we are some of the first people to visit the world. We signed the guest book on Talas 3, the first people in the new Holiday Inn — and the lobby, a fireplace pit with genetically modified snakes, Mohave rattlesnakes, their skin able to secrete an asbestos mucus; a substance to insulate them from fire.

Please Press Star By Fran LaPlaca
Hello. # Thank you for calling Aunt Patsy's Interstellar Import Pantry. You have reached the Customer Service Department.

Mistaken Identity By Chris Broadribb
Rod stared at the words floating in the air. 'Day Five. Tuesday 21 November 2006.' Day five of what? And what was he doing in 2006? The last he'd heard, he was supposed to be in Russia over a hundred years ago, living in poverty, his name something difficult abbreviated to 'Rodya'. "So what have we got?"

Miss Shen By RJ Astruc
"Hello ma'am," the official says, "I'm here to inform you that your invincibility has expired." Miss Shen opens the door another fraction of an inch and peers fearfully up at him. "I beg your pardon?"