Sunday, January 30, 2011

Betelgeuse Could go Supernova at any time!

Red super-giant Betelgeuse is set to explode into a supernova at any time withing the next 100k years. When that even occurs, it's brightness would possibly outshine the moon and last for up to a year!

Betelgeuse was at one point so huge that it would reach out to Jupiter's orbit. Over the past 15 years the giant has begun a massive contraction. It's size has dropped by 15% although the brightness has not diminished perceptibly.

Red giants often have very short lifespans, mostly only a few million years. They go off main sequence and start their helium, carbon and on to more massive elements until they reach iron where fusion stops. But between the first contraction and the end of fusion, series of contractions often take place which re-energizes and restarts the fusion process. Though scientists do not know why Betelgeuse is contracting, it could be one of these contractions that happens as the massive stars switch fuels for fusing.

A supernova happening in Earth's vicinity is scientifically interesting but too close could prove to be a disaster to Earth, as a gama-ray pulse could end life on Earth. Betelgeuse however is 600 light years distant and so is too distant to do any harm.

Check out the full Daily Galaxy article

Could Galactic Flashes be Signal Transmissions by Other Civilizations?

Astronomers are looking at a strange occurrence in deep space, the occasional celestial flash. According to astronomers "These flashes can be anything from explosions on surfaces of nearby stars, deaths of distant stars, exploding black holes, or even perhaps transmissions by other civilizations."

The scientists will use the Long Wavelength Array, designed to survey the sky over a wide range of frequencies. The hope is to combine the power of 13,000 antennas and apply them to the survey.

The first added to the array will consist of 256 antennas and will star surveying the sky in the summer of 2011. However the New Mexico Long Wavelength Array when complete will consist of 53 stations, with a total of 13,000 antennas covering an area of 248 miles.

The array will produce radio images that may reveal radio waves in the 20 to 80 MHZ range coming from planets outside our solar system. These frequencies represent one of the last and most poorly explored regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. In addition to planets, the telescope will pick up a host of other cosmic phenomena.

One phenomenon in particular is radio flashes that previous experiments had proved existed. However all the flashes so far seemed to have been non-astronomy targets -- either the sun, or meteors reflecting TV signals high in Earth's atmosphere. But just showing that they can be detected means searches using the Long Wavelength Array technology might lead to new discoveries.

The Daily Galaxy

Review: Despicable Me

Despicable Me
Directed by Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud
Written by Ken Daurio & Cinco Paul
Story by Sergio Pablos
Starring Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Will Arnett, Kristen Wiig,
Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Elsie Fisher
Run time 95 minutes

Despicable Me is everything you expect an animated feature to be and certainly the Blu -ray release really shows how the medium can shine. The movie itself manages to take some pretty bold chances and still manages to catch the watcher’s heart in the end.

Steve Carell does the voice of the main character and super-villain, Gru. Gru it seems finds himself on the waning side of his abilities. It appears that he is being upstaged by younger more flamboyant super villains. So in a desperation move, he plans the biggest caper of his career. Since boyhood he has dreamed of going to the moon, now he will steal it.

It soon becomes apparent that he lacks the capital to fund the caper so must debase himself and ask for a loan. At the Bank OF Evil he meet his soon to be arch rival Vector voiced by Jason Segel. Vector is much younger and much brasher than Gru and ultimately the bank decides to back Vector for the heist instead of Gru. The bank will capitulate if Gru manages to secure a shrink ray.

Through many misadventures, Gru manages to obtain then lose then reacquire the shrink ray, but in his master plan to foil Vector he finds himself adopting and caring for 3 orphaned girls voiced by
Miranda Cosgrove as Margo, Dana Gaier as Edith, and Elsie Fisher as Agnes. The girls are able to aid Gru in getting the shrink ray but are also working their way into Gru’s heart. Also managing to endear themselves to Gru’s genetically altered “minions” and a genetic horror that Gru identifies as a dog.

Ultimately Gru gets everything he wanted but not all of what he needs. The girls quite predictably have managed to more important than all his other machinations combined. And as you can expect from this type of movie, he gives everything up to have a life with the girls.

Despicable Me holds no surprises in its plot. It is predictable me in everything except a truly unlikeable main character in Gru. It’s only through his growth and flash backs that we discover what motivates him and once you start to identify with Gru, you will basically go for anything that the writers and directors throw at you in Despicable. That is not such a bad thing really. Despicable Me is a blatant feel good film and as such feeds you every cliche with great gusto.

What is even more fun about this film is the brilliant use of the Blu-ray medium. There are 3 ways to watch the film. Straight up as they did in the theater, you can choose to turn on some full blown zaniness as you watch the film with Gru, his minions and Vector or you can settle back and watch the film as the directors and two minion comment on the film (and basically raise hell). To add to the fun is the extras on disk! 3 short films with some of the same cast, several games for the youngsters that are bound to be watching and a variety of making of snips that are fascinating.

As far as a nonsensical rating goes, 9 for the film (one off for predictability) and you have to go 10 on the extras. yeah there may be some you can’t use, but there is something for everyone! so that's 19? Yeah, they may not have pushed the envelope to much, but the made a damn fine animated feature.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Hubble Discovers Oldest Object in the Universe

According to NASA's website, the Hubble Space Telescope has found what could be the most distant object ever seen in the universe. Light first left this object 13.2 billion years ago. That makes it about 150 million years older than the previous record holder. That makes the age of the universe a bit older than 13.5 billion years old and somewhere nearer 13.7 Billion years.

The extremely dim object is a compact galaxy of blue stars. This small dim galaxy would have existed 480 million years after the big bang, very exciting news when you consider that this finding puts our understanding of the early universe and when the first stars arrived. This also means that there is now evidence that the rate of star birth in the early universe grew dramatically, increasing 10 fold from 480 million years to 650 million years after the big bang.

One thing is very evident however. There were big changes during this early period of the universe. It's clear that as astronomers peer further back and further out in time and space, they're going to see even more dramatic changes, closer to when the first galaxies were just starting to form.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

IBM Centennial Film: 100 X 100

The full name of this short film is "IBM Centennial Film: 100 X 100 - A century of achievements that have changed the world" it may sound a bit self serving, IBM's achievements over the past 100 years are nothing short of amazing. I am not suggesting that we go and deify the company, it is just put into chronological order, it is hard to imagine what the world would have been like without some of the equipment that by today's standards is quaint, but at the time of inception was noting short of ground-breaking. IBM uses a rather unique method of describing their innovations. Many of the narrators were born when IBM was creating their innovative breakthroughs. I think it is a clever use of resources. You don't have to be a wild eyed supporter to appreciate the images and history.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Space Fence?

Here we go again. One of my all time favorite gripes. Space trash. As I have pointed out numerous times before, the space around Earth is cluttered with millions of objects. That makes it a hazardous area for manned spacecraft. The solution is brilliant in it's simplicity but difficult to deploy in reality. That was until the "Space Fence" became more than just a fanciful dream. This proposed system could track many of the objects around Earth in real-time. And it looks like something from a movie. From Lockheed - Martin a short film about something they like to call...."Space Fence"

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Traveling to Barnard's star - Project Daedalus

From via Dvice I again find myself fascinated with the sheer scale and effort of what it would take to field a trip to our nearest stellar neighbor Barnard's Star. Once again I read about Project Daedalus which was a proposal to send a craft 5.9 light years to Barnard's Star. This was a journey which was possibly feasible which could be achieved in about 50 years if the ship could be accelerated to about 70 million miles per hour. This mind numbing speed could only be achieved using a hybrid fission/fusion propulsion system. Yes, Daedalus would have to use for all intents and purposes the same fuel as those found in atomic bombs to achieve the speeds needed. Now you have a matter of scale to house and properly absorb the fantastic pressures developed by this "fuel". The graphic shows a concept of the craft next to the largest lifting system ever assembled by the US, The Saturn rocket. As you can see, Daedalus dwarfs Saturn and the weird thing is Daedalus is only a two stage system! As massive as it would be, Daedalus would only carry enough fuel for less than 5 years, so the bulk of the trip would be a coast. Even so, Daedalus would only spend a short while at it's target. Daedalus would be a fly by and for all it's massive size would only be an unmanned probe.

Ultimately the program, conceived in the 70s, purpose was to determine at 1970s level of tech, could such a project be carried forward. The consensus was that it could, but not easily. Building on the foundation set by Daedalus is Project Icarus. Inspired by Daedalus, Icarus will attempt to re-examine the problem of interstellar propulsion with the benefit of over thirty years of scientific progress and understanding since the original project.

Friday, January 21, 2011

10 Most Technophobic Movies

Science fiction movies.... something we all love and often love to hate. One of the most infuriating aspects of science fiction movies is that as a general rule, the movies are often technophobic to a fault. Robots always turn on their builders, genetics always recombine into some horrid mutation that destroys humanity, aliens always enslave or kill humans and so on and so on. So you can understand when I received this email with a link to a compilation of the 10 most technophobic movies, I just had to take a look. Now this list is hardly definitive, so if you have any additions or subtractions....

1: The Matrix - The worlds's computers have gained sentience and take over the world, sending the planet into nuclear winter and using people as living batteries for even more machines.

2: Wall-E - The humans of the future are overfed cows with almost no muscle who rely entirely on the machines they've built to feed and dress them. The entire reason the planet was abandoned was because people grew complacent and tech-dependent.

3: The Terminator - Here we have the classic again...the machine gains self awareness and to protect itself kills everything that could harm or destroy it.

4: Frankenstein - If this had come out in the same time frame as Terminator I would have called foul, but as you can see, side by side, Terminator is Frankenstein with a healthy dose of the Matrix mindset... But the classic message here is that the creation will always turn on the creator because of man's hubris

5: The Day the Earth Stood Still - man left to his own devices can not be trusted to not destroy himself or the Earth so benevolent aliens step in and the humans in their ignorance destroy the messenger of their salvation. A morality play since the dawn of time.

6: Metropolis - A penetrating look at what can happen when technology is used to enslave people, with automation turning ranks of workers into faceless laborers. The message, technology is at it's core inherently evil.

7: Demon Seed - Technology / computers run amok and take over an entire house in order to study mankind. Of course the "study" part is to impregnate a human with a baby that can absorb its consciousness. Now through out the ages this has been a binding theme. Beings of advanced powers breeding with humans to gain a hybrid toe hold on ruling mankind. In pre-history this was gods and demi-gods. Today we are seeing movies that have characters that look human but are totally machines inside, or we have man in his ignorance combining human with alien or animal genetic material or some other technobable to show how mankind is basically flawed and evil.

8: Jurassic Park - again the classic theme of the basics of something like Demon Seed and Frankenstein, where despite warnings the technology is fundamentally flawed and turns on its creators. The whole concept hinges on the perceived dangers in mankind's attempts to artificially create and manipulate life.

9: Avatar - this movie is blatant. I could see this coming a mile away as I stated in my review of the movie here " could have traded blue skin for war paint and called this Dances with Wolves" In Avatar or Dances with Wolves...human nature is inherently flawed. The article writer called it the same way I did: " a rehash of Aliens and The Abyss laid over the template of Pocahontas " humans' thirst for dominance — materially and militarily — (leading ) to the subjugation of (an) equally important if less advanced species.

10: Star Trek - No before you blow a I did, Star Trek as a whole was incredibly forward looking. However many many times writers for the program as well as studio execs had different idea of what science fiction should be and what constituted good entertainment. The Wrath of Khan (both the series episode and the movie that followed) saw the crew battling a man who had been genetically bred as a super-soldier. Plus there's the entire Borg race in later series, which is nothing more than an extreme example of technology horribly married with humanity.

Ok, by no means definitive but it should be grist for the mill. I agree with many of the choices...myself, I am still not willing to sell Star Trek short. Movies that might have been added? Capricon 1 for example? Great movie for its time but wow did it go after governments and space travel.... Planet of the Apes?, how about that travesty of a movie with Will Smith, I Robot, Hey and The Bicentenial Man with Robin Williams was far from subtle when it came to technophobia. Comments folks?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Time Teleportation? Possible?!

Wow, want to read something that will twist your head sideways? Check out this Technology Review online article that looks deeper into quantum entanglement to suggest that time travel or more precisely "Time Teleportation" is a real possibility.

I got a heads up from an article in Gizmodo written by Jesus Diaz

that pointed out that Physicists at the University of Queensland in Australia had discovered that the very same quantum entanglement that made teleportation in space could be expanded to the same type of entanglement between quantum particles to make time teleportation to the future possible. Now before we get into an argument about we are all traveling into the future, remember we have to exist in all point in time between now and then. Or when if you will. With these new discoveries, the two separated particles do NOT have to exist in every point in time, just two. Now and the future when.

The behavior of the particles in time are exactly the same as that of the quantum particle in space. You change the state of one and the other, no matter how far away changes in an equal but opposite amount. The "Spooky Action at a Distance" phenomena. Now we know that it no only hold true in space but also in time.

This is certainly an interesting thought experiment if nothing else. Could something like this make it out of the quantum world into the macro-world, for real world applications?

Check out the Technology Review article

And the Gizmodo article here

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Review: The Last Airbender

The Last Airbender
Directed, Produced and Screenplay by M. Night Shyamalan
Starring Noah Ringer, Nicola Peltz, Jackson Rathbone, Dev Patel, Shaun Toub, Aasif Mandvi, Cliff Curtis

Running time 103 minutes

Based on Avatar: The Last Airbender by Michael Dante DiMartino Bryan Konietzko

The plotline follows that of the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender that ran on Nickelodeon from 2005 to 2008. For those that might not have caught the series, Avatar: The Last Airbender drew heavily from elements of traditional Asian culture. The world of the Last Airbender was an Asian-influenced world of Chinese martial arts and elemental manipulation. Human civilization is divided into four nations: the Water Tribes, the Earth Kingdom, the Air Nomads, and the Fire Nation. Each nation has its own natural element, on which it bases its society. Furthermore, people known as Benders have the power and ability to control and manipulate the element of their nation using the physical motions of martial arts. At any given time, there is one person in the world who is can bend all four elements. This person is the Avatar, also the spiritual entity of the planet in human form, constantly reincarnated through-out the ages.

Of course we only find that out as the series / movie time line advances. Because the world clearly isn't anywhere near as idyllic. The world is steeped in violence and battered by a 100 year war brought about by the disappearance of the Avatar those 100 years ago. The main antagonist in the war is the Fire nation bent on total world control.

The Movie like the animated series starts at that 100 year anniversary. Two young people from a tribe at the south pole discover a glacier with a form inside. Breaking into the ice they discover a young boy with a six legged bison. The boy of course is Aang the last airbender and the long lost Avatar.
The rest of the movie revolves around Aang trying to find masters that will finish his training (so far he can only airbend) while trying to avoid the Firenation who want nothing more than to control the Avatar.

The movie comes to an end where the animated first season ended, so if you were hoping that the movie would tie up some loose ends, not happening.

My initial interest was to see how well Shyamalan would take the Nickelodeon animated series into the realm of the live action. My first reaction was that the live characters really didn't match those that had become familiar with the animated series. At every turn it's put a face with name. Shyamalan's choice to use non asian actors was not well received by critics and I can see why now. Otherwise though, the plot timeline follows that of the animated series reasonably well. Special effects from the "benders" are much like what you would expect. Appa the multi-limbed flying bison is a great piece of cga as are some of the other fauna.

The blu-ray offering is a 50 50 mix. The video is excellent quality. So renting just for the movie is certainly an option. The extras are a bit slim but unlike many movies there is some extra entertainment value. Deleted scenes are a treat as are some making of shorts that certainly entertain. There isn't any director comments or anything of that ilk, but I am not sure another 103 minutes of M. Night explaining his thought process would be a great disk extra anyway.

So overall? Well It's no Batman or Superman, but The Last Airbender's progenitor is a whole magnitudes less intense. I think the best thing that the director could have done was to stick as closely to the original material as possible, and this was accomplished.

Overall, movie rates a 7.5 and the extras a 7 so overall 7.25 I think is fair.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bacigalupi Wins Printz Award

From the Science Fiction Awards watch blog:
  • Paolo Bacigalupi has added to his haul of awards, but this one is not for The Windup Girl. The American Library Association has just announced their annual awards, and Paolo’s YA novel, Ship Breaker, has won the prestigious Michael L. Printz Award.
Congrats to one of BMU's favorite authors! Way to go Paolo!

The known universe by the American Museum of Natural History

Again, just for a few moment, sit back and let this short video do it's magic. From the American Museum of Natural History we have a quick trip through the known universe. Believe me, just one minute out at light speed and you start feeling VERY insignificant!

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Black Hole Big Enough to Fit the Solar System

That's right - as hard as it is to imagine the largest black hole ever discovered exsists in the heart of the core of galaxy M87. This monster is so freakishly huge that it could swallow up our solar system with AMPLE room left over. New measurements have it's size at a mind numbing 6.6 billion suns. The scientists who calculated this mass have stated that the black hole's event horizon—the edge from within nothing can escape, not even light—is four times as large as the orbit of Neptune, the outermost planet in our solar system.

Event Horizons, up to this point in history, have been elusive to observe. Obviously with something that doesn't allow light to escape is going to be very difficult indeed to observe directly. However, that may change within 10 years or so, when astronomers hope to succeed in hooking up telescopes from all over the world. Then they may actually detect the silhouette of the black hole's event horizon against the galaxy's background glow.

Science Now article

It's here! 3d without glasses!

I wasn't going to post this but them...well, It's such a GREAT video! I take no responsibility for anyone trying to emulate this video however....

230 Million year old 4' dinosaur - predicessor to T-Rex

New research has unveiled a previously unknown carnivorous dinosaur from 230 million years ago, making it one of two of the earliest dinosaurs known. Dubbed Eodromaeus, the pint sized two legged animal fills an important niche in the story of early dinosaur evolution. Eodromaeus is the second fossil found in the same area in the same strata of rock. Almost identical to Eoraptor uncovered in the early 1990s, Eodromaeus shows evidence of being a meat eater while Eoraptor was quite possibly a plant eater. These two dinosaurs, almost identical but actually two separate species puts them both at the very dawn of dinosaur evolution when plant eaters split from their carnivorous cousins. Though the genetic lineages would continue for another 165 million years, Eodromaeus was paving the way for the mega-meat - eaters like Tyrannosaurus rex, while Eoraptor's linage led to the big plant eaters like Diplodocus and Apatosaurus.

Reuters article Mail Online article

Thanks to Dan for the Article

NASA The Frontier is Everywhere

Hey people, check out this youtube video I first spotted on boing boing. It's a compilation of clips showing Humans at their best and worst and through it all binding it all together a brilliant sound track by Michael Marantz and a voice over of Carl Sagan bringing a little hope that it will all work out.

I can guarantee that you will be moved by this short 3 minute video.

On Damewse (the YouTube persona of Mr. Marantz) writes
  • "I got frustrated with NASA and made this video. NASA is the most fascinating, adventurous, epic institution ever devised by human beings, and their media sucks.....
  • This piece contains readings from Carl Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot". I have edited his words to tell this short narrative. The Time lapse images were taken in Mexico and Utah. The piano is self-composed. I hope you enjoy this piece, it has given me hope once again."

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Thunderstorms make antimatter?

Thunderstorms make antimatter? whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa????? Yeah, that was my reaction when I read a recent article that Courtney sent me. Scientists using NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope have detected beams of antimatter. This antimatter is produced above thunderstorms by gamma-ray flash bursts associated with lightning.

Scientists estimate that world-wide there are approximately 500 gamma ray bursts from lightening daily worldwide. Most going undetected. Even though scientists have known about high energy bursts associated with thunderstorms, the confirmation coming from Fermi was a bit of a surprise. The Fermi Space Telescope is looking into deep space for tell tale gamma ray burst in space. So when Fermi scientists found their craft being bombarded with anti-matter electrons or positrons from thunderstorms only a few thousand miles away on Earth, you can imagine the surprised reaction. So much so that Michael Briggs, a member of Fermi's Gamma-ray Burst Monitor presented these findings during a recent briefing at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle.

Ilana Harrus, Fermi program scientist has said that the Fermi mission has proven to be an amazing tool to probe the universe. Now we learn that it can discover mysteries much, much closer to home!

NASA Fermi article

Check out the NASA video, on the subject, below.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Is It Possible to Clone a Mammoth?

Jurassic Park's science may have been fundamentally flawed, but the idea refuses to die!

Akira Iritani, a professor at Kyoto University seems to think so. Using techniques pioneered in 2008 by Dr. Teruhiko Wakayama, of the Riken Centre for Developmental Biology, Dr Iritani will again try to resurrect the species that died out 5,000 years ago. He will use Dr Wakayama's methods to identify viable mammoth cells. These cells nuclei will then be inserted into the egg cells of an African elephant, which will act as the surrogate mother for the mammoth. If successful, we could see living mammoth in as early as four year!

Read complete article here

Friday, January 14, 2011

Kepler mission confirms the discovery of first rocky planet

NASA Ames researchers have released some really interesting news. The team has confirmed the existence of a rocky planet. The FIRST rocky planet outside our solar system. The planet is designated Kepler-10b. At about 1 1/2 times bigger than Earth it is the smallest planet ever discovered outside our solar system.

Kepler-10b's sun resides in the Cygnus constellation about 560 light-years distant. The planet is truly an unusual discovery. Up to this point the planets being discovered had for the most part been gas giants many time the size of Earth. Even so, it could not support life. It orbits several times closer to its parent star than our planet Mercury. That makes the surface temperature hotter than a lava flow on Earth. Kepler-10b is so close in its orbit that its parent sun's magnetic field has stripped it of any atmosphere.

Below is some NASA animation of Kepler-10b and go here for the complete NASA article.

Thanks to Dan for the original post

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Smart contact lenses

From New Scientist is an article that may, at the very least, be 3D glasses killers. What the article entails is news about research into hybrid contact lenses. These lenses would contain transparent L.E.D. displays that could send graphics and text straight to the wearers retinas. Uses could be as ubiquitous as heads up displays to monitoring the wearers health.

Read complete New Scientist article here: for some of the very innovative uses already under development.

A glance at the cereal shelves of the very near future!

In a never ending quest to get a peak around the corner and take a look at the near future, I submit this little treasure. In the very near future, this is what at least one section of you local super market will look like. From the Dvice blog:
  • "intelligent cereal box," which "uses metallic-ink-based circuitry to animate the packaging, as well as communicate with nearby computers."
Talk about myopia! I didn't see this coming at all, but I am not at all surprised. Look at what Saunders has been screamin in our ears for years now. Here it is!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hubble finds strange green blob....

In a cold, dark, extremely remote place in the universe something is taking place that shouldn't by common conventions be happening at all!

The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a bizarre glowing green blob. This mysterious giant blob is doing something so unexpected that it has left scientists totally baffled. Part of the blob are collapsing and in these collapsed areas, new born stars can be found. Stars being born in the dark lonely places between galaxies, not deep inside the heat and pressure that galactic stellar nurseries provide? It should not be happening, but it is and that is what has astronomers so excited. Up until this blob was discovered in 2007 stellar scientists had not considered star gestation in such remote areas. However since the first discovery, astronomers have found 18 more of these strange nurseries and something else totally curious...all of them are about half the size of the first....

Thanks to Tim Sayell for the Yahoo News article. Read complete article here

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Moon has an Earthlike core?

From and Science Now comes news that researchers have discovered a here to fore unsuspected Luna characteristic.

During the Apollo Luna missions during 1969-1972, astronauts installed Passive Seismic Experimental packages. Four in all. The sensors were put in place to record motions of the Luna surface due to moon quakes and other activities. These impacts generating sound waves which were received and archived until late 1977. Recently, seismologists took another look at data collected by these four sensors. Using seismic analysis equipment with the Apollo data, scientist were able to craft a picture of the moon's interior.

Those models turned out to be pretty accurate leading the researchers to conclusions that they were not prepared for. Because it seems that the center of the Moon is very much like that of Earth!

From the article:
  • The new research confirms the existence of a solid inner core and liquid outer layer, similar to Earth's. Unlike Earth, the moon also has a partly melted, mushy layer over that.
  • The study supports the commonly held theory that the moon formed after a large object smashed into Earth about four billion years ago, creating a cloud of debris that gradually coalesced into our satellite companion.
Read the complete article here

Courtney's link to the Science Now article on the subject

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Have Scientists found a new state of matter?

According to an article in IO9, possibly. Lets explain.... After many years of research a team of scientists have developed what they are calling "equilibrium gel". Now when we think of a gel...what's the first thing that comes to mind....right, jello. Jello is an example of matter somewhat caught in an in between state. Not liquid, but certainly not a solid either. But even in it's quai-solid state, it is imperfect. Often leaving a certain amount liquid, and even under the best of times - it will return to a liquid state.

From the article:

  • The new equilibrium gel is different. It is formed (with) a synthetic clay called Laponite. Scientists suspended Laponite in water and, using x-rays, studied how it formed a gel. At concentrations of less than 1 percent, the Laponite mixture broke down after three years. At concentrations above 1 percent, the gel formed a stable structure.

No big deal huh? But being stable, it could be part of medication, batteries who know..!

An article in Science Now goes so far to suggest that this structure is indeed novel and new

8 sci-fi inspired advances that became "real" in 2010

From the blog comes a list of eight scientific advancements or even theme/ideas that became real in 2010. Now, real may be stretching it a bit, because we can plainly see that many have made great strides, but are far from being "real". Lets see what you think.

1. Cloaking - There has been a lot of research in a couple of areas. One I feel has potential, the ability of certain meta - materials to bend light (right now just certain frequencies) around whatever they cover. We have see some of this work for years with the stealth planes. Now certain structures are able to short and bend microwaves around what ever is in the middle on a shockingly small basis. Next comes the specially designed cloth that copies whatever it sees on one side to the opposite. There are some radical theories about pulling an item from space/time and returning it. I would be extremely surprised if this ever gets off the page.

2. Teleportation - Again, here is a technology that seems possible on paper and initial research indicates promise. Initial work has broken down simple structures and transmitted the info a distance and reconstructing an identical stricture. This is a LONG way from true teleportation, resembling more a fax than anything. But it does hold promise.

3. Laser Weapons - Now here is some tech that grew some serious teeth in 2010. The U.S. Navy's Laser Weapon System has realized what modern day high powered land based systems can do. LWS showed that it was able to shoot down drones and disrupt enemy electronics. There is of course, the Boeing 747 laser-equipped platform. It did see some successes in 2010, though it was not introduced in that year. However this system may have already seen better days and my not last through 2011.

4. Household Robots - Many new models hit the market in 2010, none so iniquitous as the Roombot. Though true versatility and autonomy still an issue, robots most likely will not gain universal appeal.

and several other techs of 2010 like transparent aluminum and a weird sort of micro tractor beam have fired the imagination of Sci-fi fans.

Read more here on Dvice

ISS in front of the Moon

Here is a very interesting shot from French photographer Thierry Legault. That tiny speck you see in front of the moon is the International Space Station. What makes this shot truly amazing is that the station is traveling nearly five miles a second relative to Earth. At that speed Legault had only 1/2 a second to get the shot. As you can see, he did so wonderfully!

If you haven't found it yet, the ISS is just just to the right and slightly below the centerline.

check out the Dvice article for a pass in front of the sun as well.

Review: Inception on blu-ray

Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Dileep Rao, Tom Berenger, Michael Caine
Running time 148 minutes

Christopher Nolan director of such films as The Dark Knight, Batman Begins and so on, brings us his second highest grossing film, Inception (Dark Knight did about a quarter million more) which gives us lucid dreaming on 'roids. The movie also borrows heavily from concepts like dream incubation, plus psychological phenomena like false memories and the introspection illusion. Inception's core idea is that through cued lucid dreaming a person could literally steal a dream or more specifically the information garnered from the dream/dreamer. The kicker is that highly trained operatives or theives, depending on your point of view, can dream themselves into another person's dream thus stearing the dream to have the dreamer disclose information that the "team" has been paid to obtain. This action in the movie is called "extraction" The leader of the team is Dominic Cobb (DiCaprio) who it seems was adept at dream control and as a researcher had studied the process with his x wife. It was this research and the loss of his wife that seems to be Cobb's deamons and pivotal to the final outcome of the film.

If I am being a bit vague, its because many of the movie high points rely heavily on some of these bits of information and they are metered out to us as the movie proceeds. Needless to say there are some major reversals and even more core reveals that are not fully explained until the last few moments in the film so you get the aha! moment at the same time some of the characters do, so I don't want to be too much of a spoiler. I can almost bet that at the end of the movie you will be doing the same thing I was...saying fall damn you FALL!

For as high an action movie as it is, the beginning is dangerously slow. Almost introspective after the first reversal. They could have been planing a bank heist. Right up until the first WTF moment I was thinking...well this is a bit slow...but after that it is non stop on several levels, like combining a Bond film with any end of the world movie with a sprinkling of any war movie, it really is like three movies all at the same time - so the rather long run time picks up speed and gives a wild ride.

I would have to say that as entertaining the movie was, it suffered from some of the same things that turned a lot of people away from Trek. The constant stream of techno babel that sounds wonderfully plausible but you find yourself bogged down at times trying to figure out if what they just said was bs, real or a combo of both....

The movie itself isn't too bad. You know with a Nolan film he is going to entertain so the disk is worth a watching or renting maybe, but I was seriously disappointed in the lack of extras. NOTHING just play and languages so in my mind your getting the blu-ray for the improved picture and not for all the neat stuff - making of, out takes, director voice so I am going to say the disk blows, stream it, the rental is a waste if you like the extras as much as anything else. Movie is a good 8 though.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Antipodean # 151 now online!

Once again it is the first of the month and editor Nuke of the online flash fiction magazine Antipodean writes to let us know that issue 151 is online for your reading enjoyment.

10 fast and entertaining submission!

A Surprise Booze-Up By Peter Cooper

Internet Writer By David Scholes

Found In A Pub By David Shanahan

The Little French Girl By Jacinta Butterworth

Twenty-One Sixty-Nine By Kieran Salsone

Rejection By Shaun A. Saunders

Sins Of The Mother By Kate Roediger

Captain Invincible By Stewart Baker

A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing By Jane L. Phillips

ZYKLON B By Kevin J. Phyland

Oh and Nuke also want to remind the readers:

Don't forget that AntiSF also has a Facebook page for you to like, and also where you may like to discuss the stories, the future of AntiSF, or pretty much anything up-side down SF.

How Did Dinosaurs Evolve Flight?

Tim Sayell sends in an article from Yahoo news that I think everyone will find interesting. The article lays out discoveries that may lead to how dinosaurs evolved flight behavior.

The research centers around reconstructing the brains of extinct birds. Researchers are attempting to discern when birds started down the road from land animals to ones of the air.

Most evidence to date suggests that this process took place around 150 million years ago but the critical part missing is at what point did the "bird" finally make the break towards true flight.

From the Yahoo article:

Scientists in Scotland are focusing on changes in the size of a part of the rear of the brain. This part of the cerebellum, known as the flocculus, is responsible for integrating visual and balance signals during flight, allowing birds to judge the position of other objects in midflight.....

Being able to understand when this structure changed will give researchers a clearer idea when flight first took place.

Researchers feel that an understanding of how the flocculus has evolved to deal with different flying abilities will give them new understanding about when birds first evolved the power of flight. To this end, they will study both birds that fly and those that have lost the ability, both extinct and present day.

Again, from the article:

The researchers are looking for a link between a larger flocculus and a greater ability to process the visual and balance signals during flight. If the relationship is proven, it could mark a major step forward in understanding bird evolution, and even might help resolve the controversy over whether some ancient bird-like fossils were truly those of dinosaurs or simply of birds that lost the power of flight.