Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Do Aliens Aspire to Higher Education?

Sir Patrick Stewart stars (sort of) in this short film about aliens interesting in higher education, most notably The University of Huddersfield.

Tongue in cheek the whole way means it is just plain funny.

Thanks to IO9 for the original post

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wing It: A Short Student Animation Project

Here is a cute animated short that I found on the SF Signal Blog.

Here is some information on who and how the short was created:
  • This Short Film Animation Project has been created by students of The Animation School to gain vital work experience.
  • They study more about scripting, on-set production which includes post production where such skills as editing, sound recording, special effects creation and compositing are learned. Credits are at the end of this Animated Short Movie.

Wing It from The Animation School on Vimeo.

'Booster Gold' New Syfy Series?

Hey, comic book fans.... have you heard that the character Booster Gold is heading towards a meeting with the SyFy channel with a series in the offing.

Not really being up on the minor players in the DC universe I had to check who this Booster Gold was. The Booster Gold character is from the future and it seems he is known as "Booster" for his shameless self promotion. He uses his knowledge of future events to make himself into a "hero". Even when he becomes someone of real powers, it is difficult for other heroes to take his at all serious.

He was created in 1986 for DC Comics by Dan Jurgens.

Airlock Alpha writes:
  • There is no casting information available as of yet for the pilot, but it's unlikely that Eric Martsolf, who played Booster Gold on "Smallville," will make the move over. (pictured)

Russian Grunt Update

From the Daily Galaxy Blog:
  • The European Space Agency (ESA) announced that they will attempt to contact the stranded Russian Phobos-Grunt spacecraft that became stuck at a low-Earth orbit due to engine failure that followed its launch on November 9.....

One of the problems, according to the blog article is that:

  • The Russians could not decipher the information from the ESA’s Australian station

  • The telemetry showed that the radio equipment in Phobos was in operational and was exchanging information with the main flight computer and the on-board control system. Observations from Earth have indicated that the orbit of Phobos-Grunt had become more stable

Manfred Warhaut, ESA's Head of Mission Operations at the European Space Operations Center has said that "This could mean that the spacecraft's attitude, or orientation, is also now stable, which could help in regaining contact because we'd be able to predict where its two antennas are pointing,"

More on the ESA's attempt here

Image is of the purposed Phobos landing site of the Grunt probe

Monday, November 28, 2011

Steve Colbert Interviews astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Hey here is something neat for those of you that may be Neil DeGrasse Tyson fans. From the IO9 blog:
  • Back in 2010, an out-of-character Stephen Colbert sat down with astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson at Montclair Kimberly Academy to talk for 90 minutes about science, society and the universe.

Russian Failed Mars Mission Could Mean Charges?

Russia's failed Mars exploratory rover mission failure mean that scientists and engineers behind the Phobos-Grunt mission could face criminal prosecution - This directly from the country's president, Dmitry Medvedev.

Another highly visible failures consists of the botched Russian cargo shipment, intended for the International Space Station, that came crashing to Earth minutes after blastoff back in August.

According to IO9 punishment could take the form of either financial or, disciplinary or even criminal punishment.

It seems that Medvedev's comments were more directed toward Lavochkin, the company that built the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft.

More at the IO9 article site

Beam Me Up 289 Claude & the Henry Moores by Casey Wolf

really mixed bag of material on this week’s episode of Beam Me Up number 289.

Before I get too serious I offer Laura Shigihara singing Cube Land. You really have to check out the YouTube video for this song! Truly strange.

From the Blog this week – I review Necropolis by Michael Dempsey which is, for lack of a better description – an urban fantasy but with strong science fiction frameworks holding the story up and threaded through it all is a damn good detective murder / mystery!

Is it possible that scientists have discovered a particle that travels faster than the accepted universal limit of 186,282 miles per second, the speed of light. It would appear that they had measured neutrinos particles which test results show that they traveled around 3.75 miles per second faster than the velocity of light.

To the great sadness of anyone that has ever read anything penned by Anne McCaffrey – the creator of Pern and it’s wonderful dragons has gone between and our world is colder for it.

Plus I spend some time just wondering what to do or for that manner, what I should say about a truly different medical class x-ray. You can see it on the blog, but that is as far as I plan on taking it. other that huh? WTF!

And at the bottom DONT!!! I play Claude and the Henry Moores written and read by Casey Wolf this story for all the world tell the tale of a man who comes to love art and his expression is probably one of the most unusual I have ever read before. Now for you that love Casey’s work, she has three stories appearing in _Writers on the Wrong Side of the Road_, edited by Clayton Bye and Sassy Brit. That sounds like something worth exploring!
Url to the book:

That’s….OMG I keep hearing Buzz Lightyear commercials on the tv! That just isn’t right!

Once again… that’s about it this week. Enjoy!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Review: Necropolis by Michael Dempsey

Necropolis by Michael Dempsey
361 pp pb novel
Night Shade Books

Now here is a novel that is either easy or hard to classify depending on what type of venue you are most likely to place the book into.

Necropolis is easily an urban fantasy but with strong science fiction frameworks holding the story up and threaded through it all is a damn good detective murder / mystery!

Many novels might bandy about the phrase something for everyone, but let me tell you Michael Dempsey with Necropolis – delivers. Hard bitten x cop pressed into solving a missing person / murder. The murder mystery may well be his own.

X New York cop Paul Donner clearly remembers his murder along with that of his wife in a neighborhood bodega, while buying cigarettes. The weird thing is – he is not dead and it's fifty years since he “died”.

It would appear that during Donner's death, a terrorist organization released a bio weapon called Shift which brings, for the most part, the dead back to life....but to grow old? Nope, to grow young and finally disappear as undifferentiated cells. He is now the under of the underclass, no rights, no real work, only the worst living conditions. In this milieu Donner is once again a detective. A detective in a world that seems to have been drawn straight out of a Raymond Chandler detective novel.

But there are plusses. His side kick is Maggie an AI girl Friday who helps him in his quest to uncover who was responsible for not only destroying his world but just about everyone else's as well.

And it would appear that New York may have just been a warm up. In Donner's new world, everyone is suspect and no one is really who they appear to be. And that is barely half of the problem.

Yep, Michael Dempsey's Necropolis is a mind twisting trip into madness and it takes you along for the ride. The novel is graphic. Michael did his research that is clear. The body blows and the breaking bones are all but felt. The madness invoked throughout the tale is palpable. Plus the future / past venue is so dense you can almost feel it.

I consider Necropolis worth a look. Even though its a thick volume, you still have trouble putting it down. It is a very fast read indeed. You know the double cross is coming, you just don't know when. You know someone is playing fast and loose with loyalties and you just can not wait to find out who and when and most certainly the WHY?!!!

More info on Necropolis by Michael Dempsey

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Universal Speed Limit Broken?

186,282 miles per second isn't just a good's the law!

European physicists are saying that the universally accepted speed limit of the cosmos, the speed of a photo in vacuum, better known as the speed of light - may in fact not be the fastest speed possible. A European team of physicists have stated that they had measured neutrinos particles which test results show that they traveled around 3.75 miles per second faster than the velocity of light.

The neutrinos had been measured along a 454-mile trajectory between CERN labs in Switzerland and a laboratory in Italy. Under extreme peer pressure the scientists altered the experiment in a way to cancel out structures in the beam that could have affected the out come. This way the scientists could identify individual particles when they were fired and when they arrived at their destination. But once again the results were confirmed.

Of course the results still needed to pass peer review if for no other reason than the experiment appears to negate a speed that literally thousands of other scientists have tested and accept as the universal constant of speed meaning the speed of light.

Speed of light Wiki

Daily Galaxy Article

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Primordial Gas Clouds Identified - Left over Since the Time of the Big Bang

Astronomers from University of California, Santa Cruz and Saint Michael's College in Vermont, believe they have discovered two gas clouds that they describe as pristine relics unchanged since their formation only 2 billion years after the big bang itself.

What makes the structures even more unusual is their chemical makeup. The clouds are composed of gas that is of primordial composition. Gas as it was when produced during the first few minutes after the Big Bang.

Check it out at

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

RIP: Anne McCaffrey

There are times when no matter what you want to say, it just doesn't seem to be enough or even right. I can tell you that an image comes to mind of a distant weyr that is strangely quiet.

I read on Boing Boing that the creator of Pern and it's wonderful dragons, Anne McCaffrey has gone between.

From all of us here, condolences to Todd McCaffrey and the rest of Anne's family.

Here is the Wiki link

Military Tests Advanced Hypersonic Weapon

See what happens?! I thought when they said after the last hypersonic test that it was the last one...well you see, I was foolish enough to believe that it really was, so when I was told that there was a successful test, I was under the impression that they were talking about the last one you know, the HyperMach SonicStar which even though they lost contact, was deemed some sort of weird success. But no, this was not THAT hyper sonic but the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW)!

You see, as the article in "The Nation" says:
  • the AHW is a first-of-its-kind glide vehicle, designed to fly long range within the earth’s atmosphere at hypersonic speed.

oooooooooooooh I see the difference.....

  • The hypersonic flying missile travels five times the speed of sound and is rumoured to gain up to mach 20 speeds. More impressively, it can strike a target in any location on Earth in just 30 minutes.

The HyperMach SonicStar was traveling at a pedestrian 2 hours anywhere on the globe.... ANYWAY.... check these specs out:

  • The test flight was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii to the Reagan Test Site, US Army Kwajalein Atoll. It completed the apx. 2,500 mile journey in just 20 minutes.

The Nation article

Monday, November 21, 2011

To IN Finity.....and ....WTF!

ok ok, yes, that IS Buzz Lightyear and that is as far as I am going.

Now John posted this on fb and I see that it is from Gizmodo here

I really don't want to know the particulars because I suspect the nightmares might be damaging. But your more than welcome to research it on your own. Bon chance

Sunday, November 20, 2011

BMU #288 Erin Bassett and Ken Scholes

This week’s program goes by FAST! I start a new series, an Urban Fantasy piece called Clock Work penned and voiced in part by Erin Bassett. At the bottom of the hour is a strange tale of ultimate escapism called The Boy Who Could Bend and Fall from the very talented hand of Ken Scholes.

In between the two pieces I visit the Beam Me Up blog at

I review Thor on Blu-ray / DVD. Directed by Kenneth Branagh and starring Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, Tom Hiddleston as Loki and Anthony Hopkins as Odin. A bit of a mixed bag of a movie. Lots of the same ingredients that drives any movie, but in the end for all the flash, not much substance.

On the flip side is The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the year vol 5 edited by Jonathan Strahan. Published by Night Shade Books. A great collection of stories that some with recognize from the podcast and a ton of really good stories.

Back when the solar system was only 600 million years old the system looked and acted much much stranger than it does today. For instance it now appears that at this early stage in the formation of the solar system there may have been more than four giant planets initially, and some were ejected into inter-stellar space.

NASA was able to talk to the 35 year old Voyager 2 and give it commands that it carried out without pause. The new configuration will all Voyager to conserve power and continue to do science well into the next decade!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Star Trek: Phoenix - Cloak & Dagger pt1

Here is a quick synopsis of this Star Trek episode that can best be described as a labor of love. When we were first introduced to the Phoenix milieu in 2010 it was clear that there was something very special happening. Star Trek Phoenix is a fan produced new series that began on May 2, 2010. When I first heard fan made all I could think of was cheesy sets and corny dialog. Well let me dissuade you because the fans at Temporal Studios have produced a product that may not rival the big studios, but there is little doubt that they could rub shoulders in just about any crowd.

  • Star Trek: Phoenix is set in a time period of 42 years following the events in the motion picture "Star Trek: Nemesis and follows the original timeline created by Gene Roddenberry.
  • The pilot episode titled "Cloak & Dagger" takes place in 2422, one year into the maiden voyage of the Ascension Class Federation Starship USS Phoenix. Part I begins after a major attack on the vessel and the crew attempts to rescue an away team on the remote planet, Katrassii Prime. Little do they know, the rescue team will need saving from the secrets this perilous world possesses.

More can be found at their website HERE

The Luna Rover Manual?!

What's 221 pages of geekie reading nirvana? The Apollo Luna Rover Manual that's what! And now, what's even can down load it as a pdf! The pdf not only shows an exploded view of the remarkable battery driven vehicle, but also how to unload it from the LEM and unfold it and plug the sub assemblies together in order to a working ride.

The PDF can be downloaded as a single file or an eight part booklet, all from the NASA site here

The Rover was included as part of the last three Moon 15, 16 and 17. The vehicle was stowed in the decent module of the L.E.M. and each one was abandoned in place at the end of each mission.

Four rovers were built for the last 4 missions. Since the program was canceled before Apollo 18 flew, the final rover was used for spare parts.

Apollo 17's rover traveled a total of 22.30 miles, its' longest single trip was 12.50 miles. Total operating time was 4 hours and 26 minutes and traveled a maximum distance from the LM of 4.7 miles.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

30 Update: Soyuz Docks With ISS

At 11:11 Moscow time, 3 pm Eastern, the Soyuz capsule carrying one American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts docked with the international space station. This crew is scheduled to remain on the ISS for 150 days.

Below is the video of the Soyuz as it makes it's approach and docking maneuvers.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Space Based Power in a Decade?

This sound familiar? Power from orbiting space platforms, available in just a few years! Of course I remember reading about this type of tech in the 70s. Large solar arrays the size of football fields would convert the power generated to micro-wave beams that would be focused on ground stations on Earth where it would be converted back to direct or alternating current for distribution.

So what makes this program any different. This one calls for "giant solar arrays in orbit around the Earth" Oh wait, this one calls for the newest buzz word lasers, even though micro-waves uses less power. But wait! Now the arrays are upwards of 7 miles long, positions along the equator and they are back to considering micro-waves. All within a decade!

Realistically they are still saying that a more reasonable time frame is at least 30 years after covering up-front expense and a handy fleet of private launch vehicles that would be used to put them in place.

For my money it's all pie in the sky until the supply of coal, natural gas and a host of other cheaper products are available.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Expedition 30 Launches

With the Russian space effort taking a few knocks lately, it is good to see that Soyuz TMA-22 lifted from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

The Expedition 30 flight launched 04:15am on 11/14/11 carrying 1 American astronaut and 2 Russian cosmonauts. With the current ISS crew set to return to Earth on 21 November.

With the new crew now on it's way, fears that the ISS would be unmanned for 2012 due to repeated failures in the Soyuz crew capsule, have been allayed.

The Daily Galaxy

Monday, November 14, 2011

Voyager 2 Completes Switch to Backup Thrusters

In an effort to help control power consumption, controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory instructed the Voyager 2 space-craft to switch to it's backup thruster assembly.

The switch will now allow NASA to switch off fuel heaters to the primary thruster package. This will result in a substantial power saving for the 34-year-old spacecraft. This power reduction will lighten the load on Voyager 2's small nuclear power source which now only has to heat the backup thrusters fuel.

Even though the savings are small, it will allow Voyager 2 to operate for another decade. Also it should be noted that the backup thrusters have never been pressed into operation and are therefor completely new even though they are 35 years old.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Did the Solar System Have Many More Gas Giants Early In It's History?

Back when the solar system was only 600 million years old the system looked and acted much much stranger than it does today. For instance it now appears that at this early stage in the formation of the solar system there may have been more than four giant planets initially, and some were ejected into inter-stellar space. This conclusion is borne out by the fairly common occurrence of free floating planets that already exist in interstellar space.

From the Daily Galaxy article:

Dr. David Nesvorny of the Southwest Research Institute states that these conclusions:
  • come from the analysis of the trans-Neptunian population of small bodies known as the Kuiper Belt, and from the lunar cratering record.

However the problem that arises from this conclusion comes from the orbit of the gas giant Jupiter which would have imparted much more kinetic energy to the inner system possibly causing Mars or Venus to collide with Earth!

There is a solution it would seem. Computer simulations of Jupiter and the other gas giants during this period of great instability have shown that Jupiter did not stay in it's present orbit but "jumped" into orbits closer to the sun plus swapping orbits with Uranus or Neptune. One weird thing kept coming up when the simulations were run with the present plants in place. When Jupiter skipped in towards the sun, it would have destabilized Uranus or Neptune's orbit ejecting them from the solar system...since that DIDN'T happen then there must have been other planets of similar size and mass that were ejected. Since free floating planets have been observed, it isn't much of a stretch to consider our own system doing something similar.

Check out the Daily Galaxy article here

Review: The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the year vol 5 editor Jonathan Strahan

The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the year vol 5
editor Jonathan Strahan
533 p pb
publisher Night Shade Books (

I know my book reviews are often wonkie, but I review what I like, and I tell you why I liked it.
So with that in mind lets take a look at The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the year #5 Edited by Jonathan Strahan. Two reasons that drew me to this book published by Night Shade Books ( other than the fact that is WAS NSB which have their fingers on the pulse of what is popular, first and foremost was that it contains a goodly amount of top notch Science Fiction (and don’t get me wrong here, the fantasy is REALLY good as well) and editor Strahan. Jonathan unerringly ferrets out extraordinary fiction. No difference here either. 533 pages of literally something for everyone and more often than not, a LOT for the discerning fan. Thirty just plain excellent stories. Some fans will recognize here. Things by Peter Watts, excellently read by Clarkesworld magazine that I played in October which concerned the retelling of the John Campbell “Who Goes There” (movie version The Thing) from the view-point of the alien, JP Kelly’s excellent Plus or Minus. And when I say the fantasy is a notch above I am thinking of Neil Gaiman’s The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains which takes the unreal long view on revenge. How many remember Iteration by John Kessel (BMU episode 244) asking the question if you could make one change in your world, what would it be...and the next? Now, what if EVERYONE could......a great short story this one...yep. Robert Reed’s “Alone” - Imortality perhaps on something akin to a generation ship. Can there be something like loneliness? I make no bones about not really being a fan of alternative History, but who could not love Genevieve Valentine’s “The Zeppelin Conductors’ Society Annual Gentlemen’s Ball”? The great airships never died out and those that care for them become somewhat of a breed unto themselves...

And on and on. I like best of books, Strahan is an excellent editor and this made the book for me. I would highly recommend the read!

Review: Thor the Movie

Directed by Kenneth Branagh

Based on Thor by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby

Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Natalie Portman as Jane Foster
Tom Hiddleston as Loki
Anthony Hopkins as Odin
Stellan SkarsgÄrd as Erik Selvig
Kat Dennings as Darcy Lewis
Idris Elba as Heimdall

Now here is a bit of a mixed bag of a movie. Lots of the same ingredients that drives any movie, that of the family dynamic - Strong patriarchal presence, rebellious son both envious of his Father's influence and driven to prove himself an equal. A younger son driven to power mixed with either envy or hatred of either or both, is bent to play one against the other.

No matter if the tale is ancient or contemporary, the story wends its way to the son either cast out or proving his merit on quest. During this venture he invariably meets someone or the very quest itself forces him to rethink his values. Invariably the treachery is discovered, the older son must choose between duty / family and that of love /comfort - and so on. I am sure you have seen a plethora of this type of film and Thor is an excellent example of this ancient of all moral plays. Of course if this was all the film had to offer, the audience cross section would be very narrow indeed. But if you are Kenneth Branagh, every plot device is punctuated with large colorful fight scenes. Ice Giants, fire breathing robots, S.H.I.E.L.D. commandos.

Thor is nothing if not action packed, but it seems those packages are served up in easily comestible portions. Which is a bit annoying when the film takes off into a sub-plot that looks interesting, it’s all for naught when a few moments later the main plot reasserts itself. So not only is Thor based on a comic book, but is paced very much the same way. All is the pity because the film is richly appointed when it comes to graphics. the action is well choreographed, but if you were hoping to gain some insight into Norse Mythology or as a fan of the Marvel comic line hoping for a fan fix, I think you would be equally disappointed. But if you are not a big Thor fan or the mythology behind the characters, you will find the blu-ray / dvd version of Thor diverting. I think an 8 is fair. Some off just for really not going anywhere, and taking very little chances going that!

As for disk extra? Excellent comment track by the director that really gives you an idea on what Branagh had in mind and I was floored by the inclusion of so many out takes. Some very striking and beautiful scenes and action sequences that if we don’t see a directors cut for this film I would be shocked! 9.5 just because I get the impression that something is missing...but just can not remember what! so that gives us 8.75 which is a bit low, so take that with a grain.

BMU #287 Now On Line

Well rounded episode of Beam Me Up this week on episode 287. I lead of first with a new offering from Symphony of Science called Onward to the Edge, featuring excerpts from speeches made by Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Cox, and Carolyn Porco and set to some great music.

Our first fiction offering is a brand new story arc from Jason Kahn and Cyberstudios online. Jason once again takes us to New Arden and our favorite physic detective Jack Garrett. This arc is In Plain Sight and episode 1 is “On The Mend” As you might recall with the last story, A New Beginning, Jack managed to solve the case, but took an amazing amount of damage in doing so. On the Mend literally picks up where a new beginning ended. But far from being lauded for his crime solving, it would seem that New Arden has a short memory.

The last story of the afternoon is part 2 of Elliot Bangs excellent story “This Must Be the Place.
Last week we found the main character Loren Wells seems to have secrets to keep. Foremost of all is every time Andria sees him, he appears to be a different age and sometimes he knows her, but often he has no clue! In part 2 and the conclusion Andria uncovers what has got to be one of the strangest retirement plans ever!

From the Beam Me Up Blog:

Orion crew capsule is scheduled for a mission in 2014! NASA reports that the plan is to send the capsule through two orbits, ending up farther from Earth than any craft intended for human transport has been since 1973. Then, Orion will return for a splash-down in the Pacific.

According to BBC news online the Russian space agency reports that shortly after launch, the Phobos Grunt probe failed to fire its' mains to launch it towards Mars and is now stuck in an Earth orbit and that engineers have two weeks to correct the fault before the probe's batteries run out.

And something I thought I would never hear - In a paper which will be published this week in Nature, Professors Christian Knigge & Malcolm Coe from the University of Southampton worked with Philipp Podsiadlowski of Oxford University to reveal how they have discovered two distinct populations of neutron stars... Two?!!!! I can just handle how weird the universe is just having one type of these monsters!