Thursday, December 31, 2009

Battlestar Rhapsody

Hey I found this on SF Signals blog. Pretty much speaks for itself, but it is pretty frakin funny.

Be kind to your local viruses -You don't want them mad at you!

Now here is something that is really whacked!!!

Ron Huber asks me in a recent email:
  • Ever wonder how far the viruses on our planet would stretch if they were lined up end-to-end?
I am thinking, well there are plenty, so I would not be surprised at say maybe all the way across the country.... ahhhhhhhhhhh nope, off by a little bit

He continues:
  • Answer: 100 times the diameter of our galaxy!

ok there goes the neighborhood!

What's more he sources his facts!!!! Check it out! Source: an article in Nature magazine

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Russians considering rocket to move asteroid off course!

Recently, in a move that has left other space capable countries a bit bemused, Russia is considering sending a space-craft to the Apophis asteroid in hopes of changing its' course and preventing a collision with Earth, a collision that NASA has deemed highly unlikely.

Apophis is an 885-foot asteroid that was first discovered in 2004. Astronomers at one point thought the chances of hitting Earth on one of its' flybys as low as 1 in 37, however the lowest estimate of a collision is now set at 1 in 45,000 for the 2036 pass. What is a bit disconcerting about the 2036 estimate is that it was once 1 in 250,000, so the chances are much higher in 2036 even though they are still stacked well against the asteroid striking Earth even then.

The head of Russia's space agency, Anatoly Perminov disagrees with NASSA's assessment saying, that he heard from a scientist that Apophis is getting closer and may hit the planet.

From the article:
  • Perminov wouldn't disclose any details of the project, saying they still need to be worked out. But he said the mission wouldn't require any nuclear explosions.

New Horizons spacecraft sets new milestone

From Wired is a report on the status of the New Horizons probe. The craft is now closer to Pluto than it is to Earth, plus it reached that historic point in less than four years.

New Horizons is the fastest space-craft ever built. At present it is traveling at 31,000 miles an hour and is located about 1.527 billion miles from Earth.

From the article:
  • The spacecraft will be the first to flyby Pluto and on to the other objects lurking in the Kuiper Belt at the edge of the solar system.
New Horizons is not an orbiter. It will do a flyby of Pluto on July 14, 2015. In the nine day period as the probe approaches, flies by and continues on, it is planned to acquire almost 5 gigabytes of data that will take months to transmit back to Earth. Due to the extreme distances it takes a signal over four hours to reach Earth from Pluto.

read complete Wired article here

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

10 Scientific Achievement We Are Waiting For

Here is a post sent in by Xnewsman from the Listverse blog. They are calling it the "top" ten scientific achievements that we are waiting for. Top 10 might be arguable but the list itself pretty much covers advancements I would like to see.

Here is the high points on the list, but really, go check out the article, it will get you thinking.
  • 10: DNA computer - Just one milligram of DNA is capable of holding all the printed material in the world.
  • 9: Permanent Moon Base - NASA currently has plans to have one constructed by 2024. The ESA also has plans to construct a moon base by 2025. Japan and India also each have plans to have a base by 2030.
  • 8: Head Transplant - need I say anymore? (can't say this would be high on my list! pac)
  • 7: Clean Energy - 85% of all energy comes from fossil fuels. Current methods of clean energy include wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, hydro-power, nuclear, bio-fuel.
  • 6: Cure for Cancer - one of the deadliest diseases of the modern era - currently over seven million deaths per year can be attributed to various forms of the disease.
  • 5: Manned Mission to Mars - NASA currently has plans to have a man on Mars sometime in the 2030s, while the ESA plans to do so also around the same time frame. Russia has plans to launch a manned Mars mission by 2020.
  • 4: Space Elevator - Because of its' vast size, a very strong material needs to be developed. At present, one made from carbon nanotubes is a strong possibility, however methods still need to be developed that will make it possible to make the material in large quantities.
  • 3: The Theory of Everything - joining the four fundamental forces: electromagnetic, weak nuclear, strong nuclear, and gravity into one unified theory.
  • 2: Nanomedicine - Nanotechnology has the potential in medicine to treat cancer, perform ultra delicate surgeries, to repair damaged tissues, or to hunt down and destroy certain cells.
  • 1: Journey to the center of the Earth - Currently the deepest man-made hole is less than 0.2% as deep as it needs to be. The deepest hole drilled by man on Earth is located on the Kola Peninsula. currently is "only" 7 miles (12.262 km) deep. That's 40,230 feet.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Chris Davies wins UK's Countdown

Now here is something you just have to appreciate! It seems Colin Davies son has been doing quite well for himself in other venues. And who better to bring us up to speed is Colin himself in a recent note to me:
  • My son Chris (the one who composed and played the Pestworld theme) has been taking part in a TV quiz show called Countdown, which is hugely popular in the UK. It's a game of math skill and word knowledge on Channel 4.
  • The news is that Chris won the current series on 18th December and became champion. The win carries quite a lot of status and has attracted the interest of our local and one national paper.
  • Although the show is available online from C4, it is blocked in the US. However a number of clips are available on youtube at:
  • and the whole final can be seen at:
Congrats Chris and excellent news Colin...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Review: Terminator Salvation

Terminator Salvation
Director McG
John Connor (Christian Bale)
Marcus (Sam Worthington)
rated pg13 116 minutes

This is the fourth movie in the Terminator series. This time we have a very radical departure for the Terminator franchise. This time we move into the future and meet the adult John Connor as organized military resistance to Skynet is failing and it becomes clear to John that he must make a push to organize and guide what is left of human resistance to the machines.

Curiously the movie doesn't start with Connor in the future, but the mysterious Marcus in present day, who is scheduled for some unknown reason for lethal injection - donates his body for medical research. Marcus wakes up to a world in chaos. In his efforts to discover what happened, saves and befriends not Connor but a teenage Kyle Reese.

After Reese is captured by Skynet, Marcus befriends a downed resistance pilot in hopes of finding Connor and aid in rescuing Reese. For those that may not have seen the movie, I am not going to give away some crucial elements in the movie. Needless to say there are more plot twists than a murder mystery.

The first thing I can pleasantly say about the film is that it is the best movie in the series since the first. With the first Terminator, we were always guessing and never quite sure what was really going on. Reese was great for clearing up some problems, but often causing more questions to arise than he cleared up. The follow on movies played it very safe and really didn't introduce anything new. Sure a new terminator here or there but it was still bad old Skynet sending back bad ole Terminators to get Sarah or later John. Now we are treated to a whole new piece of the Skynet/Terminator time-line. Terminator fans will really find this fascinating.

So, how is Salvation as a movie? Well considering the whole franchise is pure action / drama, Salvation holds the course rock steady. But it takes a few chances brings a whole new time-line segment and comes really close to ensemble acting. So for me that was a pleasant departure. Yeah the ending was like telegraphed 3 movies ago, but at least you are not groaning "not another one!?"

Don't get me wrong, its a fan movie and doesn't even pretend to try and stand on its own merit, but the box office showed that no one should have worried...but if you have never seen a Terminator movie (really? were you in a coma?) go watch the first movie...the others are a waste (if for no other reason than you are trying to figure out whats going on...) and you will already know all you need to.

Not even going to bother rating the DVD...I rented the WS version and it should be the ONLY you view, blue ray or regular because the action is non stop corner to corner. The movie is worth watching and dvd worth renting just for the action and with the DVD that's all you get. Do I have any bitches? Surely! Like someone smack the editor please! One of my favorite character actors, Michael Ironside (not the first time he worked with Arnold in a sci-fi flick) had virtually no on screen time. You could say that about Arnold, but that was all CGI. Editing in the beginning at least was chaotic, but seemed to relax in the second half. Oh you could nit pic I suppose, but it really is a pretty well made film.

Overall I would give it an 8 just because it really is not a stand alone film and NO special features. But if your a Terminator fan This is a worthy rental.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Review: Cryptic by Jack McDevitt

Cryptic by Jack McDevitt
Subterranean Press trade 592 pages HC 450 pages

Career spanning collection of 38 short stories, with a forward by Robert J. Sawyer.

Sorry for getting this review out a bit late, however when I started reading Cryptic I knew that nothing but reading the complete volume would do it justice. I know I could have reviewed it just on the merits of the stories I had already used, but how pleasant to find out that those few were hardly a good cross section of the talent between the covers.

Fans of Beam Me Up podcast will be very familiar with portions of this book. Mr. McDevitt had been a great supporter of the audio venue of science fiction so we had the great good luck to read a few of the stories that would later find their way into this excellent book. One of the first stories I read of Jack's was the beautiful and emotionally charged story, Promises to Keep. As with many ofMcDevitt's works, they are written straight from the heart and honed to a fine edge. Promises to Keep is an excellent example to start from. The characters live and breathe for you and writing in the first person, you can not help but become emotionally invested and at the end the sacrifice is enough to leave you stunned. Easily one of the best stories in the book. But hardly the only one.

Another story was Reports from the Rear. Jack's version of wag the dog but you can practically taste the despair! Short fast read belies just how powerful this story is.

Tyger was the first time I had read a story about pocket universes and their ilk. Oh I had read articles on the theory but it was so convoluted that I could not see how someone could write an easily understandable piece. Jack did it with easy and makes it such a personal heart wrenching tale. I really enjoyed reading this one on the podcast. The imagery was so easy to transport into an audio format plus the sense of hopelessness and loss....powerful stuff.

Henry James, This one's for You was a real interesting departure. So unlike the other stories. maybe because the scope is smaller and more personal. Instead of whole universes, or deepness of space, it's one man's acute sense of loss when his own loss is his one true love is brought low, but a most common of means. But where the other stories were bleak and you could almost wear the despair - Henry James is black humor at it's most subtle and then finally laugh out loud but at a totally inappropriate time. And maybe it isn't really funny, but you find yourself in total agreement with the main character and his motivation.

So, those are the stories that appeared on Beam Me Up but I can assure you are not the only stories in Cryptic that are worthy. The balance of the stories are every bit as good and in most cases better than the ones I read for the podcast. It's stories like Ellie a quiet lonely tale, where one is left watching one man deal with a situation that at first blush seems so totally unfair but where honor wins, but mostly it'sMcDevitt's apt handling of the human condition that really makes this an inspired story.

It's the story chosen to close the book that is the most telling. "Time Travelers Never Die" is a truly masterful time travel story. Wonderfully convoluted and quite literally spread across the ages. The real difference with McDevitt's time travel can be explained in one sentence. He never breaks his own time travel rules. Many authors play fast and loose but Jack will say, you know how that comes out that is why you can't go back and change what you just changed. But then he builds one of the biggest paradoxes I have seen and how the main characters react, handle the problem and some of the events that happen along the way are just brilliant.

All in all, this is a book worthy of anyone's library and more-so if you are a Jack McDevitt fan.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

50 Great Movies Every Science Geek Needs to See

Amber Johnson sends in a post on the Online Degree Programs blog, with an interesting theme. Not just the top 50 science fiction films, but a broader list of movies that would appeal to the science geek in all of us.

From the article:
  • The fifty films ... whether documentaries or pure flights of fancy, delve into the often complex issues surrounding scientific discovery, exploration and alteration, educating as they entertain.
Coooooooool! Check it out...movies like
just to name a few of the listed (and ummm ahhhh some of my all time favs)

But its not just science fiction
  • Life Story Watson and Crick’s journey to unraveling DNA
  • A Beautiful Mind brilliant mathematician John Nash struggle with mental illness

and so many more. I love just browsing through the titles....there is a curious lack of some that I feel would have made a great addition to the list:

to name two and that is a conversation I would really like to start. Look through the complete list. Be honest, just because a movie entertained you doesn't make it a great movie. I saw both Transformers and all the Terminator movies...I wouldn't put them on the list however. The two that I did add were a couple of movies that I found extraordinarily upsetting and moving, but not high on action or special effects but movies that you find yourself saying....please...make it stop.

So suggestions for additions? Subtractions?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Astronauts & Spacecraft captured by Amateur Astronomer

Shaun Saunders sends in a link to Wired which documents a site with absolutely amazing space photography. The site is called Telescopic Spaceflight Images and was produced and is hosted by Ralf Vandebergh.

Ralf writes on the web page about the images:
  • Images are obtained by the use of a 25cm (0.25m) Newtonian reflecting telescope. Tracking is accomplished fully manually using a second smaller scope at low magnification. The best results occur mostly at times when lighting angle, viewing angle, distance and other factors for viewing the objects were favorable. But, as the site's author puts it, often it was surprise and happenstance obtaining quality shots.

Whatever the case, I love the results!

Wired article

Friday, December 11, 2009

JP Kelly wins award

From the Science Fiction Awards Watch blog I read:
  • James Patrick Kelly’s collection, The Wreck of the Godspeed, has won the Outstanding Book of Fiction award for 2009, given by the New Hampshire Writers’ Project.

Congrats JP!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mars' Methane Levels may Prove That Life Still Thrives on the Red Planet!

As in the earlier article ( many scientists are of the opinion that life on the red planet may have very likely have existed at some point in the past.

Now according to a new article in Physorg online sent in by Shaun Saunders, there is compelling evidence to suggest life still flourishes beneath the surface. The article centers around the levels of Methane on Mars. Many scientists believed that the levels were being maintained through meteor impacts. But recent research shows that the amount of impacts is not sufficient to maintain methane at its current level. Methane is very short lived. In Mars' harsh environment, it is broken down in just a few hundred years. But instead of dissipating, the gas is being replenished and the levels are being maintained higher than can be supplied by meteor impacts.

From the article:
  • This leaves only two plausible theories..... Either there are microorganisms... that are producing methane gas ... or methane is being produced as a by-product of reactions between and water.
Read complete article

Hey....wanna buy a lem?

Hey, check out what 89 large gets ya! Oh yeah, it IS a model. So why does a model cost 89000? It's a 1 to 1 model of the Apollo era Luna Excursion Module all 20.9 feet of it! Available from it comes with or without a complete interior oh and no you can't rent it! lol.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Mars Rock May Indeed Contain Signs of Early Life on the Red Planet!

Remember the Mars rock that was discovered in 1996 that was thought to contain signs of fossilized life? Controversy as to the veracity of the findings put the rock quite literally on the back shelf.

According to an article in the Short Sharp Science blog sent in by Shaun Saunders, the original argument against the rock containing fossilized life was that the chemical deposition could have been brought about by heat and pressure over time. Good news though! According to the article:
The article is a bit of a slow read but the gist is that McKay makes a compelling argument for life. Very very exciting!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Probability Angels sequel due out in Spring 2010

Joseph Devon writes:
  • First and foremost, fans of of my last book, Probability Angels, will be happy to know that there is a sequel in the works which should hopefully be released next Spring. There will be more info as that date approaches.
Here is my review of Devon's Probability Angels in Feb. 2009 ***review***

Check out Joseph Devon's web site here

Paper Batteries a very real possibility

Consider this: Paper cell-phones or paper lap-top computers. Electronic paper that doesn't require any batteries or solar cells. Or batteries a mere fraction the weight and size of current technology, but still able to produce enough power to meet the needs of an electric vehicle but have far greater range.

Scientists at Stanford University in California report that regular paper could easily be turned into a super battery.

From the Yahoo news article sent in by Tim Sayill (click link for complete story)
  • ...they have successfully turned paper coated with ink made of silver and carbon nanomaterials into a "paper battery" that holds promise for new types of lightweight, high-performance energy storage.

Monday, December 07, 2009

First Commercial Spacecraft Another Step Closer

Tim Sayell sends in this article from Yahoo News concerning Branson's Virgin Galactic - SpaceshipTwo.

Since Branson won the $10 million Ansari X Prize, we have been getting tantalizing hints as to what Branson and aviation designer Burt Rutan plan for commercial spaceflight.

Virgin unveiled White Knight Two a little over a year ago but only mockups and the shell of SpaceshipTwo has been seen. Now the first public appearance of the commercial passenger spacecraft has been held.

Virgin says that testing of SpaceshipTwo will begin next year with flights to the crafts maximum altitude sometime in 2011.

The first passengers of course will be the families of Branson and Rutan.

For more information - read the complete article here

***update*** here is a series of photos from Boing Boing that are exclusive! Very cool!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

DVD Review: G I Joe

GI Joe

The premise of this movie is that there are secret military organizations and then there is an ultra secret outfit call GI Joe.

Being top top secret -- Joes have access to the coolest hardware and weapons. And since they are so secret, they fight the most ruthless ulta evil villains on the planet.

That is pretty much the movie - two regular field operatives from NATO are thrust into conflict between ultra villains of COBRA and the GI Joes. Cobra is bent on destroying the world's infrastructure by spreading nano-tech that eats any metal. Joes, employing equally cool tech is set on finding and destroying cobra's super secret lair.

So that is the basics for the movie...lets look at the dvd

First despite what the writer and director would have you believe, GI Joe is a film for Joe fans. I count it as science fiction loosely because of the tech and that it is supposed to be set in the "not too distant future". But marketing this movie as a film for the general audience is plain disingenuous. Even in the director's commentaries after they had gone to great pains to try and convince us that its a movie for everyone they go into great detail how this or that would upset the joe fans or this was different or that was. Not being a Joe fan, I couldn't call them on any of that, so who were those comments aimed at? Yep, Joe fans.

Then like the complaints from the fantastic four directors complaining about bad cgi, they bust on their own CGI
Now, first off, there are some damn good action sequences. Plus the tech is techie goodness, but the end effect is ehhhhhhhhhhh. It is a by the numbers action flick dealt to the lowest common denominator right down to that abysmal everyone in a line walking and talking. And what is the director most proud of? Writing the movie on the fly and shooting it all in 82 days! They are proud of making a bad movie!!! And they brag about it! And then complain when some of the movie is junk!!! Is someone really going to hire these geniuses to make a part 2? I mean really, why bother to tell us that it SHOULD had taken the best part of 2 years to write and maybe EIGHT months to shoot properly and brag about how to do it in 82. This is truly one of those times when I wish I had not listened to the special commentary.

So, overall, GI Joe is pretty mindless action written and shot on the fly, mostly green screen cgi. No matter what they say, its a movie for Joe fans. Non fans might get wowed by the action sequences but the plot is so comic book that it will leave the general audience cold. The only dvd special extra is the director's comments that will leave you stunned as to the level of bad movie making and proud of the fact.

Now I will suspect that I will get the well how many Hollywood movies have you made...and I say don't bother. If you are convinced that this is a great movie, we don't have anything to talk about and second I don't have to be a structural engineer to know that eventually the Leaning tower of Pisa is going to fall over some day.

I would give this a 5, for making a good FAN movie

Friday, December 04, 2009

Happy in Paraguay: ST-TNG voice over....

Ok, first off this short contains some some fairly strong language. Nuff said.

Now I think we have all, in a weak moment, supplied somewhat colorful, ummm alternative dialogue. hosted this funny and demented if masterful voice over. The words match the lip movement, but it has to be one of the most warped version of elephant foot I have ever seen!

Attack of the Show

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Man controls Robot Hand with his mind

Tim Sayell sends in an article from Yahoo news that concerns advancements being made in the field of interfacing the human nervous system with robotic hardware.

In an experiment, that set a record for the longest time electrodes had remained connected to a human nervous system, 26-year-old Pierpaolo Petruzziello, for a month, learned to control a robotic arm with thoughts alone, achieving a here-to-fore unheard of accuracy of 95%.

Electrodes were implanted in Petruzziello's stump that not only picked up control signals, but also feedback / sensation inputs, which Petruzziello stated made it much easier to imagine the arm as his own, connected to his body.

From the Article:
  • During the month he had the electrodes connected, he learned to wiggle the robotic fingers independently, make a fist, grab objects and make other movements.
Read more here

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Short Film "The Passenger" by Chris Jones

I can safely say that there are damn few things, at this stage of my life, that make me laugh out loud. And for a film to do that inside of 5 minutes is just a wee bit short of an event. So trust me when I say, you are going to find this short film, from the fertile mind of Chris Jones, "The Passenger", most likely one of the funniest shorts you have seen this year - maybe ever. I want to thank the blog SF Signal for bringing this to my attention.