Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Stem Cells to Brain Cells?!

Lets talk about weird cloning in the Dolly world....
Hell that didn't even make sense to me! So lets se if I can unravel it a bit.

Scientists at the Centre for Regenerative Medicine were able to make brain cells using stem cells from people suffering from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses. Why? To study the neurons and specifically to look at standard psychological medicines, such as lithium, to see how they affect these cells in the laboratory.

It seems that many of the drugs used to treat mental illness are well documented as to their effication but little is truly known as to how the drugs actually affects the brain cells of the patient.

The article goes on to say

  • Scientists also hope to work on multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and motor neuron disease.

Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson Speaks on MSNBC's Rock Center

Xnewsman sends in a facinating clip for MSNBC's Rock Center which recently hosted Neil DeGrasse Tyson and spoke in part of Gingrich's plan to place a colony on the Moon. I think it is telling that Neil's bullet points have been some of the same that I have expressed in the past. I love the quip about two spacefaring nations......see if you agree.......

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Beam Me Up episode 298 now online

Little bit shorter episode this week. I misjudged how long the articles would take, but 298 still runs 50 minutes!

I start with a Librivox read of M. Cumming’s No Pets Allowed. He couldn’t do any real job, so they gave him a job that didn’t require him to do anything....guarding the treasure, and since there were no dishonest people anymore, he couldn’t get into trouble. But he was so far away and nothing to do...so maybe a pet? As long as no one knew.......

At the close of the hour I play Turning Back the Clock by David Steffen. He was too late! Mary was dead. Their life together was over. There was nothing he could do....or was there? If he could only get to the rift........

Between the stories I go back to the BMU blog. This episode I recognize the crew loss of Apollo 1. Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee all lost their lives to fire brought about by a series of mistakes that proved fatal. But out of that was a little known tribute that you might not have heard about. The iconic voice of the 60s classic Lost in Space's robot has died. Dick Tufeld who's famous lines like "Danger, Will Robinson" and "That does not compute" died Jan. 22 he was 85. Asteroid 2012 BX34 makes an extremely close pass! Nasa rover Opportunity is once again gearing up for another mission. Space Adventures' Eric Anderson, says basically in the commercial below, you give him 150 million and he will send you to the Moon. What Is The Air Force Using the X-37B Space Plane For? Xnewsman sends in some Star Trek gold. Interviews from 1966 of Shatner and Nemoy! In an effort to conserve diminishing power, NASA controllers turned of the heater to the ultraviolet spectrometer instrument aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft.

and to make sure that I cover all the bases I head back and review the new x-men movie X-Men First Class.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Anyone feel like ducking Friday?  Why?  Well Wednesday astronomers got a bit of a nasty surprise.   Asteroid 2012 BX34  was spotted quite literally in our back door.  What's worse BX34 was going to get MUCH closer.  By Friday it was one fifth the distance to the Moon or 36,750 miles!  And yes sports fans, that is one of the closest approaches on record.  

In all fairness I ought to tell you the good news - BX34 will pass by, close, but a miss and it is small  - about 37 feet across.  Oh and it passed by at 10:30 est.  

Lost In Space's Robot Has Lost His Voice

Airlock Alpha reports that the iconic voice of the 60s classic Lost in Space's robot has died. Dick Tufeld who's famous lines like "Danger, Will Robinson" and "That does not compute"  died Jan. 22 he was 85.

Tufeld worked on many of producer Irwin Allen's productions such as Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and  The Time Tunnel though, as AA points out, his work often went uncredited.

Tufeld is survived by two sons, two daughters and six grandchildren.   His wife Adrienne died in 2004.   

Do You Know the Apollo 1 Joke that Became Unofficial NASA Policy?

After all these years, and my fascination with the Apollo Program, I did not know this fun little fact. As you know, 40 years ago today marks the date of the Apollo 1 tragedy. On this date, Apollo 1 crew members Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee all lost their lives to fire brought about by a series of mistakes that proved fatal.

But out of that tragic loss came a practical joke (I know it seems even today - hinting of ANY kind of 'joke' seems in extremely poor taste, but believe me it isn't) that also became unofficial NASA policy.

Of all the changes to future flights, from nitrogen mix atmosphere on takeoff, to quick egress and less flammable materials in the crafts comes a curious 3 word phrase of two syllable words - from the tech republic article:

  • Every Apollo astronaut knew the code phrases Navi, Dnoces, and Regor, which refer to the stars Gamma Cassiopeiae, Iota Ursa Majoris, and Gamma Velorum, respectively. This trio of stars was (and likely is) used for visual reference during spaceflight, and was a core component of Apollo mission training for inertial navigation procedures.
Now this is where the tongue gets firmly planted in cheek for Navi is Ivan spelled backwards, Gus Grissom’s middle name -  Now Dnoces, yes second, and now Regor - Regor is Roger Chaffee’s first name spelled backwards.

From a humble beginning comes a little known NASA Apollo tribute to the three who gave their lives in service to humanity.

Tech Republic article

Opportunity - Eight Years Into a 90 Day Mission.....

Nasa rover Opportunity is once again gearing up for another mission.  At the start of its' fifth Martian winter, Opportunity has gained a three year driving destination, Endeavour Crater, at which it arrived to,  in August of 2011. Endeavour is 14 miles in diameter, much larger than the Eagle crater where it started it career.  After exploring Victoria Crater, Opportunity's controllers set the rover's sights on Endeavour.

Of course the 21 miles traveled and Martian dust have not left Opportunity unscathed.   According to the Science Digest article:

  • Its solar panels have accumulated so much dust since Martian winds last cleaned them -- more than in previous winters -- the rover needs to stay on a sun-facing slope to have enough energy to keep active through the winter.
However unlike its' twin Spirit, which stopped communicating  in March 2010, Opportunity's six wheels are healthy enough to allow it to still maneuver.   

Read the complete Science Digest article here 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Space Tourism? Space Adventures Says Yes!

Space Adventures' Eric Anderson, says basically in the commercial below, you give him 150 million and he will send you to the Moon. Quite literally! Anderson's company has made a name for itself by flying rich customers to the ISS for upwards of 20 million is serious about the Moon adventure. They plan on using the work horse Russian Soyuz along with a modified Proton/habitat module to fly two paying customers plus a Russian Cosmonaut in a six day out and back flight similar to Apollo 13's flight path.

Check out the Boing Boing article here

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wow, Star Stuff in the Lab!

You read right, scientists at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, using the Linac Coherent Light Source - one of the most powerful X-Ray lasers on Earth have, as the article in Gizmodo writes:

  • (have) made matter that you can only find in the heart of stars and giant planets.
In a recent experiment, scientists:

  • fired the LCLS at a small cube of aluminum only 0.00039 inches on a side,  (creating)  a super-hot solid plasma burning at 3.6 million degrees Fahrenheit.

Solid plasma Doesn't that just blow your mind! And 3.6 million degrees is hotter that the surface of the sun!  As the article points out, it only lasted one trillionth of a second and 3.6 million degrees is still far below the 14 million degrees at the center of our own sun.  But they are saying that this experiment alone goes a long way towards understanding how a star works.  

full article here plus link to SLAC

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

3D inactive SpaceX Dragon Interior

This is cool! Check out this 3/d interactive view of the SpaceX Dragon module here  As the Boing Boing article points out:
SpaceX's Dragon will be the first private spacecraft to visit the International Space Station.
  • SpaceX's Dragon will be the first private spacecraft to visit the International Space Station.

What is The Air Force Using the X-37B Space Plane For?

Xnewsman sends in a piece from the Huffington Press concerning the highly secretive X-37B Space Plane that is being flown in low Earth orbit. The plane has been in space more than a year, which has raised suspicious speculation of everything from spying on the Chinese spacelab called Tiangong-1, to spy radar focusing on ground based installations. Check out the video....

Early Jim Henson Film from 1963

Found this on Gizmodo! What a riot. As the video Notes says in short:

  • Jim Henson made this film in 1963 for The Bell System. Specifically, it was made for an elite seminar given for business owners, on the then-brand-new topic — Data Communications. The seminar itself involved a lot of films and multimedia presentations, and took place in Chicago.
Click the article title to go to the youtube.com listing.

This is a WHAT?!

his great pic really brings home just how things have changed....Check out the pic.  Like the article asked - is it a:

  • A toaster? Farm equipment? Part of an engine? Wreckage from a destroyed tank?

Nope - amazingly it is a 4k memory module from an early computer.  Like the author said, since the pic is 600+ kbytes, if you wanted to carry this photo around it would take 172 more of these memory modules and a tractor trailer to transport the pic around. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Star Trek - Shatner and Nimoy 1966 Interviews

Xnewsman sends in some Star Trek gold. Interviews from 1966 of Shatner and Nemoy as the liner says:

  • at the very early stages of the original Star Trek TV show from 1966..

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Oh wow, check out this "short" from Aaron Sims called Archetype. They are calling it a no budget but I don't see how that equates. The short, drops you right in the middle of a conflict and brings you up to speed blazing fast for an honest thrill ride of what seems to be real and what may be real.

This is what the YouTube note on the short says:

  • RL7 is an eight-foot tall combat robot that goes on the run after malfunctioning with vivid memories of once being human. As its creators and the military close in, RL7 battles its way to uncovering the shocking truth behind its mysterious visions and past.
  • Directed by Aaron Sims starring Robert Joy (Land of the Dead, CSI:NY) and David Anders (Heros, 24).
  • Thanks for all the positive feedback everyone! This has been a labor of love on a budget of $0 and it makes it all worth while when we see other poeple responding to it. Thank you! - Aaron Sims

No Robots, a film about anti-machine prejudice

On Vimo via IO9 is this really nice little film dealing with prejudice of a different sort....or maybe not so different at all.

No Robots from YungHan Chang on Vimeo.

Beam Me Up episode 297 now online

Wow does it go fast in Beam Me Up episode 297!

I start off with a new Symphony of Science titled  The Greatest Show on Earth and I follow it up with another piece of music – When Will You Die?  from They Might be Giants.

Not slowing a bit I play episode three of Erin Bassett’s Clockwork.  This week, tensions begin to build higher as classes start in earnest and Ester once again finds that she is in the midst of the same group of antagonists. However the mysterious Holland seems to always be at the right place and right time to keep things from spiraling completely out of control. However he seems to know more about Ester than he is letting on!

Next up Ron Huber gives us a great review of Under the Moons of Mars: The new Adventures of Barsoom. Ron gives us a great review of the Simon and Shuster release due out 2/12/12.

And at the bottom of the hour I play the conclusion of Beautiful Dreamer by Edward McKeown.  In part 2 Sagawa is confident that her dream will pervail, and Taluma can not muster the confidence to dream her people’s future. But after aiding the human child Brittony to gain memories of her mother she may have gained more than just a grateful child but a powerful ally in the dream!

Friday, January 20, 2012

I am going to preface this recommendation to fans of Batman. I think it takes a special level of fan to be able to pull off a fan film and a whole other level to do one that doesn't sux. This fan made film is Batman: Death Wish and here is what the film notes say:

  • Batman, Robin and Nightwing investigate a mysterious assailant who is targeting the kingpins of Gotham's criminal underground. As more of the rogues gallery is ensnared, a disturbing revelation about the attacker's identity takes shape.
  • "Batman: Death Wish" is a Batman fan film directed by Matthew Hiscox (Army of Two: 40th Day, Blunt Trauma) and written by Jennifer Zhang
And honestly it doesn't suck.  But being a fan, you do tend to give a bit of leeway  but not much is needed.  It really was fun. 

US Erases Russian Grunt Radar Data After Accusations?!

Have you heard this one? A couple of days ago a friend told me that the Russians were blaming the US of blasting their Phobos Grunt probe with radar making it unable to get a fix on its' position and therefor crashing back into the Pacific ocean. I really thought it was the height of paranoia and an effort from those in control to cover their collective asses from the Russian government that said heads would roll for this mistake. So I just disregarded it as ranting when I heard about the radar connection. But then our government does something so patently suspicious you have to ask, what were they thinking? It seems, according to the Gizmodo article:

  • After Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin accused the United States of being the main suspect in rendering their Phobos-Grunt Mars spacecraft useless, the United States Strategic Command has mysteriously deleted all the spaceship's data from their Space Track database.
Really?  In plain sight?!!  Its not like Space Track is some super secret site:
  • Space Track is an unclassified but password-protected site. It tracks every object in orbit, publishing timely data about their position. The data is publicly available to more than 39,000 users in more than one hundred countries around the world.
Not exactly a place to pull a stunt that is clearly against Space Track policy.  

Cassini Photographs 1.5 Billion Square Mile Storm

Wow talk about some severely crappy weather....NASA's Cassini Spacecraft has documented a huge storm that developed 12 weeks earlier in Saturn's northern latitudes that:

  •  was the largest and most intense observed on Saturn by NASA’s Voyager or Cassini spacecraft

The storm covers an area of 1.5 billion square miles or eight times the surface area of the Earth!

Check out the daily galaxy article here

Daily Galaxy article

Ummm The Bark Side of the Force?

I can hazard a guess that after the super bowl just about everyone will have seen the whole version of this VW commercial. But for the meantime watch is hilarious take off on the Star Wars: Imperial March

NASA Shuts Down Heaters on Voyager 1 to Conserve Power

In an effort to conserve diminishing power, NASA controllers turned of the heater to the ultraviolet spectrometer instrument aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft. The temperature dropped to minus 110 degrees Fahrenheit which is the coldest temperature the instrument has ever experienced. The shut-down is an effort to make sure that the craft will be able to continue to collect and transmit data for another decade at the very least.

The ultraviolet spectrometer was designed to operate at temperatures as low as minus 31 degrees Fahrenheit but continues to operate at temperatures much lower than that.

This latest shut down was part of the shutdowns of heaters of the nearby infrared spectrometer. This detector has not worked since 1998.

Science Digest article

Thursday, January 19, 2012

US Backs EU's Space Conduct Code

I guess it should be no surprise that the US is one of the biggest holdout for recognizing any policy that would require some sort of sanity when it comes to controlling space trash. Well I guess someone in the upper echelons has become somewhat tired of crap falling out of the sky and potentially ruining their day because Dvice is reporting that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released a statement -

  • supporting the European Union's existing space code of conduct
The basic concern from the State Department seems to be that -

  • other countries keep track of all of their space junk 

It is clear that the US government is trying to distract everyone with their interest in a sane policy on space trash.  I think the phrase "irresponsible actors" is particularly ironic.  Mainly because the biggest and most prolific agency that has been leaving garbage in orbit for the last half century or so is, well, not to difficult to figure out that the U.S. is likely one of the most irresponsible actors out there.

Like the author of the original article said:

  • runs the numbers

It's clear that we have had a long standing policy of chuck it and forget it. Rather than be called on it, the government wants to spread the blame around some.   Now, that is not a bad idea, because it DOES get something going here.  Space is for everyone and I have been saying all along that by the time the general public has "low cost" access to Earth orbit, there will be nothing left but a big ole junk heap, while people planet side start ducking and covering again.   It's clear something has to happen soon or one of the greatest resources the Earth has will be useless.

Dvice article

Connie Willis is the 2011 Science Fiction Writers of America Grand Master

Boing Boing blog reports that:

  • Science Fiction Writers of America President John Scalzi writes, "The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has named Connie Willis, one of the most-awarded and beloved science fiction writers of her generation, as its 2011 recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award.
Click the article title to go to Cory Doctorow's thoughts on the award and most certainly about how Mz. Willis' writing had on him.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Symphony of Science - The Greatest Show on Earth

Here is the newest in the series of Symphony of Science music video. In this edition: A musical celebration of the wonders of biology, including evolution, natural selection, DNA, and more. Featuring David Attenborough, Richard Dawkins and Bill Nye. "The Greatest Show on Earth" is the 13th video in the Symphony of Science music videos series.

Review: Under the Moons of Mars(New Adventures on Barsoom)

Ron Huber sends in a review!

On February 7, 2,012, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers will release " Under the Moons of Mars(New Adventures on Barsoom)".

This collection of 14 short stories; each with its own original illustration, explores the parallel late19th century & early 20th century solar system created by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Edited by John Joseph Adams - co host of the podcast Geeks Guide to the Galaxy , - this 368 pager filters Burroughs' earthman hero John Carter, Martian princess Deja Thoris and the whole Barsoomian cast of characters, through the 21st century minds of writers Joe R Lansdale, David Barr Kirtley, Peter S. Beagle, Tobias Buckell, Robin Wasserman, Theodora Goss, Austin Grossman, L.E. Modesitt, Jr, Jenevieve Valentine, Garth Nix, Chris Claremont, SM Stirling, Catherynne N Valente and Jonathan Maberry,

Their works riff off of Burroughs' proto-steampunk tales of Barsoom, where a rainbow array of mostly ill-tempered beings live precariously on the ruins of their dying world of Barsoom (Mars to you who've not had the chance to read Burroughs yet).

Like Burroughs original tales, in these new stories Red Martians, Green, Yellow Black & White Martians busily shed each others blood, and either swear loyalty to earthman John Carter or plot his demise.

Editor Adams' fine selection of illustrators (one per story) are:
Gregory Manchess, Charles Vess, Jeremy Bastian, Chrissie Zully, Misako Rocks!, Joe Sutphin, Meinert Hansen, Tom Daly, Molly Crabapple, Mike Cavallaro, John Picacio, Jeff Carlisle, Michael Wm Kaluta and Daren Bader.


The Book is

Under the Moons of Mars: New Adventures on Barsoom,

edited by John Joseph Adams,

Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release date February 7, 2,012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Review: Xmen - First Class

Xmen - First Class


James McAvoy as Professor Charles Xavier
Michael Fassbender as Erik Lensherr / Magneto
Rose Byrne as Moira MacTaggert
Oliver Platt as Man In Black Suit
Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw
Jennifer Lawrence as Raven Darkholme / Mystique
January Jones as  Emma Frost / White Queen
Nicholas Hoult as Dr. Henry "Hank" McCoy / Beast
Zoƫ Kravitz as Angel Salvadore

Running time    132 minutes

First, I got a beef.  I rent most of the films I review and it is becoming clear that in some cost savings maneuver, rental disks are becoming much less feature rich.  I have found in the past several disk that had virtually no extras where as the purchased disk was anything but!  Even the DVD had more entertainment value than the rental disk.  I plan on writing Blockbuster a note and if you enjoy some value added to your disk view, write to your rental agency with a complaint...  I really don’t see it changing, but I know I will borrow disks to get the full viewing experience, I certainly am not going to BUY their butchered versions...nope.

ok...on to the review.

I don’t know what I expected from Xmen First Class, but it certainly was more than provided.  Don’t get me wrong, the movie is competently made, but it was like the whole soul was sucked out.

The premise is simple enough...during WWII the US and Germany began to suspect that there were people with extraordinary capabilities.  Sebastian Shaw played by  Kevin Bacon begins searching for a powerful mutant in Germany and finds Erik Lensherr who later would become Magneto.  The US though a CIA agency find Charles Xavier and the few mutants that Xavier has amassed.  

The main nemesis is Shaw who wants to wipe humanity from the globe Professor Xavier works with his group to hopefully stop Shaw.  The climax is during the Russian / Cuban Missile moment in history. Of course what went on “behind the scenes” was suppose to be the telling moment.     

I won’t give away the ending if you by chance haven’t seen it yet, but it is pretty badly telegraphed.   Truthfully that is my gripe for the whole film!  Even in the most powerful moments, the director never once asks you to suspend belief.  The parts were played well, but almost too low key!  It is as though you are watching a travelogue.  

The one really fun moment was Charles’ first meeting with Wolverine. But the whole scene could have been axed!

Overall?  It’s really not boring, but there is NOTHING NEW HERE and it just is not so much fun as the previous Xmen fare.   Overall without extras to pull it up...a 7  You got nothing better to do...watch the movie......

Friday, January 13, 2012

Shatner is Back on Broadway!

Dave Itzkoff writing for the New York times reports on a subject near and dear to all of us. William (James Kirk) Shatner at 80 is returning to a forum that he hasn't been involved in for over 50 years....playing on Broadway. Not just playing mind you but staring in a show called "Shatner's World: We Just Linve in it"

Shatner has not be on a Broadway stage since he played Paul Sevigne in the 1961 staging of “A Shot in the Dark” Now his one man show will begin performances some time in February 2012.

From the article:

  • (the show)  would be presented at the Music Box Theater, and will offer the actor’s take on his journey “from Shakespearean stage actor to internationally known icon and raconteur, known as much for his unique persona as for his expansive body of work on television and film,”
Performances are due to preview on 2/14 and open of 2/16 and will run in limited engagements until March 4.

Thanks to Xnewsman for the heads up!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Alien Life an Almost Certainty?

Astronomers are now estimating that there is a minimum of 100 Billion planets in our galaxy alone and a majority of these are earth sized.  Match that with a conservative 500 billion other galaxies in the Universe

Stephen Kane—at NASA's Exoplanet Science Institute at CalTech in Pasadena wrote in a recent study:

  • not only are planets common in the galaxy, but there are more small planets than large ones.
This means that even if an amazingly small percentage of these small planets could harbor life, by just the sheer amount of these planets means that life is all but a certainty.  

It almost comes down now to life vs intelligent life.  

Check out the great Gizmodo article here

Russian Grunt to Fall into the Ocean Sometime Between Saturday and Monday

In a recent Daily Galaxy blog article details the last few moments of the failed Russian Mars Phobos probe and its' projected impact in the Indian Ocean sometime between January 14 and January 16th.

The probe, which was launched on  Nov. 9, was to explore one of Mars’ two moons, Phobos, but became stranded after its  launch, still in Earth orbit, after it failed to respond to engineers in Russia and the European Space Agency, never igniting the stage that was to propel the spacecraft toward its target.

Phobos-Grunt weighs 14.6 tons, which includes 12 tons of highly toxic fuel,  all of which is projected to burn up before impacting the ocean.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Should the Moon Be Protected Like a National Park?

Now here is something I have really thought a lot about in the past: What steps should the US take to preserve it's Apollo sites on the Moon? There is a fascinating discussion in this Dvice blog article. Here is the way they posit the question:

  • the six Apollo landing sites with their landing stages and leftover equipment and astronaut footprints may be hallowed ground to NASA and the U.S., but other moon-bound visitors may not feel the same.
I mean I flinched even when Apollo astronauts cut stuff off the old Surveyor landers and that had only been there for less than what 2 years or so before they got there?  So you can understand that I start getting nervous when considering so old grey hair humpin around on 11's site picking up mementos to take home.....ewwwwwwwwww!

As it was pointed out:

  • Does it makes sense to be so sentimental when all we've taken is one small step toward the rest of the stars?

Via The New York Times

Blade anime!

What is happening on G4 Friday 13? Anime Blade that's what!

Check out the trailer.

Black Holes observed ejecting High Speed "Bullets" of Ionized Material

Science Daily blog reports some strange behavior from a group of black holes. Using a variety of satellites astronomers has identified the moment when a black hole in our galaxy launched super-fast knots of gas into space. And the speeds are truly phenomenal as well, approaching 25% C!  These packets seem to originate just outside the event horizon and seem to signal the start of a new accretion process.  

As the accretion events ramp up, infalling matter speeds up and heats up to a point where it begins to emit x-rays.   Physics shows that as this material crosses the event horizon, a portion is redirected to huge jets from each of the poles of the singularity.  This process is at times a bit untidy and instead of evenly flowing ionized particles, huge globules are ejected all at once at extremely high speeds.

The rest of this article is fascinating.  You can read it all here in the Science Daily blog

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Did a Hypernova Cause a Mass Extinction Event?

Now here is something interesting in an article I read on the IO9 blog. The article asks the question: Was an exploding star responsible for one of Earth's a mass extinctions" As attractive as it might be, there really is not a way to prove the supposition.

One event is question is particularly troubling: The Ordovician Extinction of 450 million years ago. Though not as famous as the K-T event which wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago:

  • the Ordovician was still plenty bad, driving more than 60% of all marine species extinct and since nearly all complex life still lived in the sea back then, that was particularly devastating

The really weird thing about the Ordovician event is that it was made up of two separate extinction events, the first was most likely caused by massive volcanic activity, but the second, a million years later: 
  • defies easy explanation, and the quest to explain this mystery has led a small group of scientists to put forward a radical hypothesis: it was all caused by a gamma-ray burst. Specifically, this burst must have come from a massive stellar explosion known as a hypernova - an explosion at least a hundred times more powerful than the average supernova - that happened about a thousand light-years away.

Physicist Wilfred Domainko  says that the gamma-ray burst most likely came from a globular cluster.  Now that would be convenient because one of the jobs of the Gaia Star-Mapper, a European Space Agency probe due to start work in 2013, will be among other things, plotting globular clusters with hopes of finding one that may have been close enough in the distant past to have caused the Ordovician extinction even.

This article is really fascinating as well as having links to other article.  You can read the complete article on IO9  HERE 

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Beam Me Up episode 295 now online

This week on episode 295 of Beam Me Up I start with Alexander Perls song Data Base just to get the blood pumping.  Then just to start a slow boil I rant a moment about an old Apollo 13 note book containing some of the calculations Jim Lovell used to bring his battered craft home.   Next a short from Earth Sky asking do meteors make noise when they enter the atmosphere, even Xnewsman says that yes they do and he has experienced it!  Fascinating!

Our first story is a strange tale of time travel and murder called the Lightening Gun by Antoinette Rydyr.  

From here we progress to the Beam Me Up Blog for a review of the blu-ray / dvd  of Captain America the First Avenger,  certainly not a terrible movie.  Next I see that ST:TNG is going to get an HD remastering that is truly stunning!  Look for the upgraded video later in 2012.    Did you hear that scientists have succeeded in hiding an object in both space AND time?  Could moons of gas giant planets that are in the habitable zone possibly harbor life?  There are several really big problems on sending people to the stars, I speak on what I think are the top 3 most important and difficult to overcome problems.  Finally what kind of gift do you get the Star Wars Fan just about Everything?  I think I may have found, if not the best choice, the most ….well....I will let you be the judge!

And finally for the last story of the night Transmutation from Harris Tobias

Friday, January 06, 2012

Sometimes NASA Can Be One Big Dick!

Hey, check this out! Jim Lovell, yep THAT Jim Lovell has some stuff left over from that flight. You know the one. The something in question is a single notebook page with a checklist on it plus some calculations that were used to save battery life among other things that were instrumental in saving ship and crew. Now after all these years NASA has never professed any interest in this page. So Mr. Lovell sells it. NOW NASA say no. WTF!? I love this line from the Gizmodo article:
  • The reality is that NASA has lost or destroyed countless data reels and documents from the Apollo years. Gone, forfuckingever!
Matter of fact NASA has a policy of systematic distruction of watches, gloves and different pieces of hardware!  They still can't find all of the Apollo 8 tapes and the ones they DO have they can't read anymore because they junked the players for those tapes!!!  The last Saturn 5 is laying where they dropped it rusting right into the ground!  So don't give me the bs line that they are worried about posterity, ain't gonna work.   So what line ARE they using?  NASA says there's "nothing to indicate" that the ownership of the page was transferred to Lovell.  How damn insulting is that?!!!  What Lovell is selling stolen notebook pages?!!!

 Mz Shafer, please get your head  out of your deep dark smelly and formulate a sane policy huh? 

ST:TNG Gets HD Makeover

Topless Robot reports that ST:TNG is getting a high definition remastering for its next release. Later this year ST:TNG will be available in outrageous color and HD. Before all you Trekkers'start foaming at the mouth with the prospect of waiting months for the release, CBS Home Entertainment plans on whetting you appetites, on Jan. 31 they plan releasing three episodes — "Encounter at Farpoint," season 3's "Sins of the Father," and season 5's "The Inner Light" — in Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Next Level on Blu-ray.

You got to see the difference, so here is a side by side example of just how stunning the re-edit really is. Check this video out.

click this link for a demo on youtube of the difference!


Experiment Succeeds in Hiding Object in Time

Wow, forget about just hiding under an invisibility cloak.
Yep old news! In an article in Nature: Scientists have successfully hidden an object in both space and time. That is right, that second word is time. Think about it....any thing put in this device, for a moment in time, does not exist. That send the creepy crawlies up the spine? Next question is how de do dat? Right? Ok, so, from the article:

  • The technique relies on what's known as a split-time lens to create a temporal hole. A beam of light is pushed through the lens, which speeds up the travel of the fast moving blue light, and slows down the comparatively sluggish red, leaving a gap in the middle — a gap ripe for exploitation. The light is recombined on the other side, and for a window of trillionths of a second, whatever goes on in that gap is undetectable.
Whatever is in the gap should react with the light right?  Nope....nada, nichts, nothing.  The light come out of the device as it went in, none the worst for wear,  so for a fraction of a second, our temporal traveler was just not there. 

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Exoplanet's Moons Might Be the Best Bet For Finding Life

Habitable moons....somehow the thought is attractive. I am reading an article on IO9 that makes a good argument for finding extra-solar forms of life be found on habitable moons. This is how the numbers stack up.  Scientist have presently discovered 716 exo-planets, the problem being that to contain life they must be positioned in the narrow "life" zone that supports liquid water and most of the discovered worlds are gas giants, in to close to their primary and therefor way too hot.  But there are over a hundred planets discover that ARE in the habitable zone. But in a cruel twist, most of these are also gas giants.

Scientists have started to speculate about the moons that may well circle these gas giants.  Since they too would be in the habitable zone they could be a very real possibility.   None of course have been discovered to this date, but that is hardly a surprise.  Just finding the planets themselves is a daunting procedure,  uncovering exo-moons is much more so.

Right now with the present detection capabilities of the most powerful telescopes and space based platforms can not detect a moon much  smaller than 1.3 times the size of Earth.  That is a very real area of concern.  Many of the moons we consider good candidates for life in our own solar system fall well below that mark.

Read the complete IO9 article that describes the difficulty of detecting these small worlds.  HERE

Another good reference article here in Centauri Dreams

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Sending Humanity to the Stars?

From an article in the Daily Galaxy , I was reading about a theme that runs through science fiction - sending humanity to the stars.  Of course once you let this cat out of the bag, you find that there are more questions than answers and all of them good.  But really there are the three most important and therefor the most troubling.  Where would you send humanity to first, exactly what would you send and the multi-pronged question how long would it take.

First to save space you can't send people.  DNA and self replicating robots would keep the payload fairly small.  But most of the job to build more machinery to grow and nurture the new life falls on robotics much more advanced than we have today.  So where would you send humanities's "ark"?   The Daily Galaxy article really drops back to basics in it's choice, to the target that was always the darling child destination when I was younger and that was Alpha Centauri our nearest stellar neighbor is only four light-years distant.  Alpha Centauri A is the same type of star as our Sun and may well have planets in the habitable zone.

But the "closeness" is relative.  With the present engine tech it would take our "seed ship" 80,000 years to arrive at the Centauri system.  Even with some of the promising technology for thrust such as the ion drive, it will still take a vast amount of time to move even to, for all intents and purposes, next door.

arrow in pic at top of page, shows the Centauri a system

read the complete Daily Galaxy article

The Thing Done in Two Minutes using Clay!

Lee Hard Castle of leehardcastle.com likes to make strange little 60 second films. Here, he stretches his legs some and creates an epic two minute version of John Carpenter's 1982 version of "The Thing" using of all things claymation characters from the hit children's animation Pingu. The end result is so surreal that you can't look away.

Lee Hardcastle.com

Honest to God Star Wars Toy!?

On the hunt for gifts that I can give to friends that are true Star Wars fans, an web search brought me this "gem"  so artfully name Star Wars Destroyed Alderaan Playset!

As you can see from the photo I found on-site that said play set is for all intents a box of not even rocks but what appears to be slag from a coke furnace!   I guess for the Star Wars fan that has everything - a bag of toasted coal!  yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaie!

Sorry I don't have a price list or for that matter anyone "really" selling it...lmao

NASA Debunks the 2012 Doomsday

Unless you have been in a coma for an extended period, you have heard about the interpretation of the end of the Mayan long count calendar, as a doomsday event prediction.

If this is your cup of tea...fine. I really don't want a heart to heart with a true believer on the coming apocalypse, but I thought it might be entertaining to look at some of the ways that have been put forth, that would bring about the end of times.

There is of course the rogue planet "Nibiru" or "Planet X". (from the msnbc article)

  • Self-proclaimed Nibiru expert Nancy Lieder, who says she is in contact with the aliens from Zeta Reticuli, first said Nibiru would cause widespread disaster in May 2003, only to change it to Dec. 21, 2012.
Astronomer Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object program say that Planet X is the darling child of pseudo-scientists "who don't seem bothered by a complete lack of evidence,".

You really have to like this one... because it really highlights how much common sense someone has to ignore to support their belief system.  Case in point is that any body capable of destroying Earth would have to be in the magnitude of the Mars sized impactor that created Earth's moon is a pretty difficult thing to hide this late in the game.  Something that big and that close would already be visible to the naked eye.  But what about something smaller, say the size of the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago?   "There are no known near-Earth objects in 2012 that present a credible risk to Earth," Yeomans said. "None, zero, zip, nada."

Or how about this cosmic alignment that is to take place December 21st? The sun will align with the center of the galaxy and Earth and this alignment will bring about radical change on Earth.  My problem is that doesn't this already happen twice a year anyway?

How about the poles flip flopping causing compasses to go haywire and magnetic sensitive animals would get lost and possibly die out.   This one is interesting because there is evidence that the magnetic poles have flopped in the past.  Fortunate for us, our over-sized moon helps support the Earth's poles from wild perturbations so that leave magnetic poles.  Their period of reversals is about 500,000 years, not between reversals but once the process begins...yep, extremely slllooooooooooooooooooooooow.   "... no evidence of a flip on Dec. 21, 2012" states astronomer Yeomans.  

Still in the face of evidence to the contrary, some are continuing to become more and more frantic about the coming world destruction.  Read the complete MSNBC article here for more.

China Still Aiming for a Manned Moon Mission

Here is a cool IO9 article concerning China's continuing plans and efforts to put a man on the Moon.

The Chinese report really hasn't said anything new.  Speculation has it that they are still looking at putting a man on the surface of the Moon by  2025.  Even talks this vague has some people speculating about the future of American space efforts.  I have to side with those concerns.  The USA has abdicated it's place as a manned power in space.  The corpse just doesn't know enough to lay down yet.  Harsh yes, but no less true.

Former NASA administrator Michael Griffin continues to be actively vocal about NASA's lack of foresight and enthusiasm for a manned presence.  Griffin  has gone on record saying that China's space efforts would "leave the United States in its wake;"

Griffin said  at NASA oversight committee meeting last September: (from the article)

  • In my opinion, China understands what it takes to be a great power...They are a near-peer competitor of ours and I would worry very much about the future of this nation if we were not — and if we were not seen by all — to be a world leader.
read the IO9 article here

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Review: Captain America - the First Avenger

Captain America - the First Avenger


Chris Evans as Steve Rogers - Tommy Lee Jones as Colonel Chester Phillips,
Hugo Weaving as Johann Schmidt - Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter
Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes - Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark
Neal McDonough as Dum Dum Dugan - Derek Luke as Gabe Jones
Stanley Tucci as Abraham Erskine - Kenneth Choi as Jim Morita
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury

Running time 124 minutes

I think that anyone who is even remotely familiar with Captain America knows the origins of shield toting action hero. So I shan’t spend too much time on the obvious.

During the height of WWII Steve Rogers desperately wants to enlist, however being ill most of his life, is classified 4f while his pal Bucky has already received his deployment papers. In desperation Steve accept the offer of a German scientist to test a serum to create what is hoped will be a super soldier.

Just as the experiment seems to have succeeded a saboteur blows up the lab and kills the scientist who created the serum. Rogers catches the saboteur but without a program to create more soldiers and since the formula was lost in the explosion, Rogers hopes of becoming a soldier is dashed.

Through various machinations he finds himself in the USO and finally in Europe and finally embroiled in a rescue and a final mission to save the world.

I know I have really trimmed this movie down to a bare minimum but so much is based on the surprise reveal that if you haven’t seen the movie yet, I would hate to ruin it. Needless to say we watch Captain America slow evolve into what we remember his as. Chris Evans really grabs hold of the Steve Rogers persona. You never doubt for a minute that he is the Captain. The action is often cartoonish or better comic-bookish, but doing it straight and not camping the action or the characterizations makes it so much easier to suspend belief. We have seen so many done just for the payday lately, Captain America is certainly a breath of fresh air.

Its the extras that have me baffled! I rented the blu-ray under the impression that everything would be better. Not true! I received the DVD version of the same movie and it was loaded up! Everything I would want in a disk. Director comments, shorts on making of the costume and others, while the blu-ray gave me bupkiss. Very disappointing but if you are just renting for the movie blu-ray is fine but if you want the works, consider dvd.

So counting the dvd and blu ray together the overall movie would get a solid 8, either way plenty watchable. Can’t speak to the 3d, but even without it’s fine.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Antipodean Issue 163 Now Online

The January 2012 issue of the Australian online flash fiction magazine issue 163 is now online and ready for your reading pleasure.   Ten excellent examples of the flash fiction art.  Enjoy!  

The Lightning Gun by Antoinette Rydyr

Bugsy! by Julie Wornan

What If by Christine Gladstone

Changes by Eleni Konstantine

Trathh by David Scholes

Another Day Another 1000 Students At Animal University by Shaun A. Saunders

When The Alphabet Vomits On A Birth Certificate by Jamie Richter

Wings by Sue Clennell
The Candidate by Des McNicholas
Shipwrecked by Mark Webb

Beam Me Up episode 294 now online

This week’s episode, 294, is the last for 2011, not that I do anything special, but I do try to fill the hour with entertainment and information.

First is a song from John Anealio from his new Season’s Greetings, called Winter’s Day, which seemed appropriate! 

Next is an short article from Earthsky with more information on the discovery of massive black holes. 

Afterwards we travel to the Beam Me Up Blog @ wrfrbeamEup.blogspot.com. First an article concerning a newly discovered galaxy that is only slightly younger than the universe itself and has some very interesting characteristics! Next the LHC has been successful in finding a new quantum state/particle called Bottomonium…..honest….. I found this funny short film for a flash mob gathering in Times square promoting the new Star Wars game The old Republic. A group of costumed players froze in the middle of an epic lightsaber battle with an interesting twist! And after being ultra top secret classified for 45 years the Hexagon project has finally been declassified. Hexagon proved to be an ultra secret spy satellite project that virtually no on had ever heard about!

Stories this week are KJ Kabza’s Get Happy. How do you define happiness or the meaning of anything when anything is possible and everyone is omnipotent.

And Raven by Susanna Willis a dark fantasy tale of guardian ravens, who protect the sleeper from all form of nocturnal evil – from the pages of the Australian flash fiction magazine Antipodean.