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Movies

Blade Runner 2 Script Done, Harrison Ford Says "the Best Ever" 297

Posted by timothy
from the you're-in-a-desert-walking-along-in-the-sand dept.
BarbaraHudson (3785311) writes "It's been more than 30 years, but finally the script for Blade Runner 2 is done. Original interview with Ridley Scott on MTV. Links for those who don't want to watch the interview. If you're worried that the upcoming Blade Runner sequel won't measure up to the 1982 sci-fi cult classic, rest assured. Harrison Ford apparently thinks the script is "the best thing (he's) ever read." Although Scott is debating whether or not he'll direct the sequel, it looks like Ford will most certainly be reprising his role as Rick Deckard."
Sci-Fi

Overly Familiar Sci-Fi 368

Posted by Soulskill
from the in-a-world-where-pants-are-optional dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Science fiction author Charlie Stross has a thoughtful post about an awkward aspect of the genre: too often, books set in the distant future seem far too familiar to us. Our culture evolves quickly — even going back 100 years would be a difficult transition to get used to. But when we're immersed in a culture 500 years ahead of us, everything's pretty much the same, but with spaceships. He says, "You can make an argument for writing SF in this mode in that it allows the lazy reader to ignore the enculturation issue and dive straight into the adventure yarn for which the SFnal trappings are just a brightly-colored wrapper. But I still find it really weird to read a far-future SF story that doesn't deliver a massive sense of cultural estrangement, because in the context of our own history, we are aliens." Some authors put more effort into this than others, but Stross points out that most just use it as a backdrop to tell a particular story. He concludes, "if you're not doing it to the cultural norms as well as the setting and technology, you're doing it wrong."
Movies

Physicist Kip Thorne On the Physics of "Interstellar" 289

Posted by timothy
from the it's-a-movie-get-through-it dept.
A review of Interstellar at Scientific American that was not entirely flattering of the film's scientific aspects caught the eye of Cal Tech physicist Kip Thorne, who served as a consultant on the movie, and has actually written a book on the physics depicted. He and SciAm writer Lee Billings ended up having a conversation about how the film deals with time travel, black holes, and more. A slice: I think the laws of physics very probably forbid warp drives and traversable wormholes. The research that has gone on over the past 25 years trying to determine whether its possible all point in negative directions, but it’s not a firmly closed door. So there are two issues here. One is that the laws of physics probably forbid it, but, gee, if they don’t, it would be great to have! The other is that the technology required to make a warp drive or a traversable wormhole is so far, far, far beyond the technology needed for a laser sail or a nuclear-pulse rocket that I would not be in favor of putting any significant resources into trying to develop it. Now, you may have small amounts of money—tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars—spent on this, but nothing is wrong with that. Peer-review, at least in the United States and in Europe, is too strong for there to be any danger of millions or billions of dollars being spent on these things. The technology required for wormholes is so far removed from our current and plausible near-future capabilities that to throw lots of money at it would almost certainly be a total boondoggle.
Sci-Fi

Battlestar Galactica Creator Glen A. Larson Dead At 77 186

Posted by timothy
from the free-to-roam-the-galaxy-etc. dept.
schwit1 writes Glen A. Larson, the wildly successful television writer-producer whose enviable track record includes 'Six Million Dollar Man', Quincy M.E., Magnum, P.I., Battlestar Galactica, Knight Rider and The Fall Guy, has died. He was 77. From the article: Battlestar Galactica lasted just one season on ABC from 1978-79, yet the show had an astronomical impact. Starring Lorne Greene and Richard Hatch as leaders of a homeless fleet wandering through space, featuring special effects supervised by Star Wars’ John Dykstra and influenced by Larson’s Mormon beliefs, Battlestar premiered as a top 10 show and finished the year in the top 25. But it was axed after 24 episodes because, Larson said, each episode cost “well over” $1 million.
Sci-Fi

HBO Developing Asimov's Foundation Series As TV Show 242

Posted by Soulskill
from the to-succeed,-planning-alone-is-insufficient dept.
wired_parrot writes: Jonathan Nolan, writer of Interstellar and The Dark Knight, and producer of the TV show "Person of Interest," is teaming up with HBO to bring to screen a new series based on Isaac Asimov's Foundation series of books. This would be the first adaptation of the Hugo-award-winning series of novels to the screen.
Sci-Fi

Michelle Sleeper Creates 'Gaming, Comics, and Pop Culture Based Props' 35

Posted by Roblimo
from the add-one-part-3-d-printing-to-three-parts-imagination-and-you're-good-to-go dept.
If you go to a sci-fi or gaming convention you'll see people in exotic "character" costumes, often holding exotic props, with some of the most popular being futuristic firearm mockups of one sort or another. Who makes all these cool fannish items? A whole bunch of artists and artisans, including Michelle Sleeper (who says she got tired of jokes about her name many years ago). She's not only one of these artisans, but is also a committed 3-D printer user, since 3-D printing is how she forms a high percentage of her props (with the word "props" being used here in the theatrical rather than the nautical sense). To keep up with what Michelle is making, you should check her blog. One of her most interesting posts, titled Atlanta Mini Maker Faire: On missing deadlines, failure, and triage, is about preparing for the event where Timothy Lord met and interviewed Michelle.

Even if gamer gatherings and SF conventions aren't your thing, the interview (along with the links above) gives a nice glimpse into the life of an independent artisan who uses technology to create a lot of her art. (Alternate Video Link)
Books

Interviews: Ask Warren Ellis a Question 58

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-ahead-and-ask dept.
samzenpus writes "Warren Ellis is an acclaimed British author of comics, novels, and television who is well known for his sociocultural commentary. The movies Red and Iron Man 3 are based on his graphic novels. In addition to numerous other comic titles, he started a personal favorite, Transmetropolitan. Ellis has written for Vice, Wired UK, and Reuters on technological and cultural matters, and is co-writing a video project called Wastelanders with Joss Whedon. Warren has agreed to give us some of his time to answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post."
Books

Rhode Island Comic Con Oversold, Overcrowded 126

Posted by timothy
from the so-says-the-fire-marshall dept.
New submitter RobertJ1729 writes The Rhode Island Comic Con (RICC) is in the middle of a complete meltdown as hundreds are turned away at the door or denied reentry due to the event organizers selling far more tickets than the venue can accomodate. The Providence Journal reports that "According to Providence Fire Chief David Soscia, too many people were being let in at a time and the organizers were not correctly counting them. That led to over-congested areas in the building which has a maximum capacity of 17,000 people." Meanwhile the Rhode Island Comic Con Facebook page is being flooded with comments from angry attendees describing chaos both inside and out of the convention center. RICC initially posted, "Hello RICC fans! WE ARE NOT OVERSOLD!," and promised to honor tomorrow tickets sold for today. That post generated several hundred angry comments before eventually being deleted (though it survives in part on RICC's twitter feed). Commenters are alleging that RICC is deleting negative Facebook comments. Users are tweeting at #ricomicconfail2014 to vent their frustration.
AI

Elon Musk Warns Against Unleashing Artificial Intelligence "Demon" 583

Posted by samzenpus
from the protect-ya-neck dept.
An anonymous reader writes Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla and founder of SpaceX, said that artificial intelligence is probably the biggest threat to humans. "I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it's probably that. So we need to be very careful with artificial intelligence." he said. "I'm increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don't do something very foolish. With artificial intelligence we're summoning the demon. You know those stories where there's the guy with the pentagram, and the holy water, and he's like — Yeah, he's sure he can control the demon? Doesn't work out."
Star Wars Prequels

Jedi-ism Becomes a Serious Religion 268

Posted by Soulskill
from the still-no-match-for-a-good-blaster dept.
An anonymous reader writes: 390,127 Brits declared their religion as Jediism in their last census — many as a joke, but some are quite serious, the BBC reports. Cambridge University Divinity Faculty researcher Beth Singler estimates at least 2,000 of them are "genuine," around the same number as the Church of Scientology. The U.K. Church of Jediism has 200,000 members worldwide. Their belief system has expanded well beyond the Star Wars universe to include tenets from Taoism, Buddhism, Catholicism and Samurai. Former priest, psychotherapist and writer Mark Vernon finds real power in the Jedi story: "The reason it's so powerful and universal is that we have to find ourselves. It's by losing ourselves and identifying with something greater like the Jedi myth that we find a fuller life."
Editorial

Isaac Asimov: How Do People Get New Ideas? 150

Posted by Soulskill
from the picked-from-the-new-idea-tree dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Arthur Obermayer, a friend of the Isaac Asimov, writes that he recently rediscovered an unpublished essay by Asimov written in 1959 while cleaning out some old files. Obermayer says it is "as broadly relevant today as when he wrote it. It describes not only the creative process and the nature of creative people but also the kind of environment that promotes creativity." Here's an excerpt from Asimov's essay, which is well worth reading in its entirety:

"A person willing to fly in the face of reason, authority, and common sense must be a person of considerable self-assurance. Since he occurs only rarely, he must seem eccentric (in at least that respect) to the rest of us. A person eccentric in one respect is often eccentric in others. Probably more inhibiting than anything else is a feeling of responsibility. The great ideas of the ages have come from people who weren't paid to have great ideas, but were paid to be teachers or patent clerks or petty officials, or were not paid at all. The great ideas came as side issues."
Programming

Doctor Who To Teach Kids To Code 164

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-goes-ding-when-there's-stuff dept.
DCFC writes: The BBC is releasing a game to help 8- to 11-year-old kids get into coding. Based on Doctor Who, it alternates between a standard platform game and programming puzzles that introduce the ideas of sequence, loops, if..then, variables and a touch of event-driven programming. Kids will get to program a Dalek to make him more powerful. (Apparently the BBC thinks upgrading psychopathic, racist death machines is a good idea!)
Sci-Fi

The Physics of Space Battles 470

Posted by samzenpus
from the dodging-the-laser dept.
An anonymous reader writes PBS' It's OK to be Smart made this interesting video showing us what is and isn't physically realistic or possible in the space battles we've watched on TV and the movies. From the article: "You're probably aware that most sci-fi space battles aren't realistic. The original Star Wars' Death Star scene was based on a World War II movie, for example. But have you wondered what it would really be like to duke it out in the void? PBS is more than happy to explain in its latest It's Okay To Be Smart video. As you'll see below, Newtonian physics would dictate battles that are more like Asteroids than the latest summer blockbuster. You'd need to thrust every time you wanted to change direction, and projectiles would trump lasers (which can't focus at long distances); you wouldn't hear any sound, either."
ISS

Expedition 42 ISS Crew Embraces Douglas Adams 39

Posted by Soulskill
from the then,-after-a-second-or-so,-nothing-continued-to-happen dept.
SchrodingerZ writes: In November of this year, the 42nd Expedition to the International Space Station will launch, and the crew has decided to embrace their infamous number. NASA has released an image of the crew mimicking the movie poster for The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, a film released in 2005, based on a book with the same name by Douglas Adams. Commander Butch Wilmore stands in the center as protagonist Arthur Dent, flight engineer Elena Serova as hitchhiker Ford Prefect, flight engineer Alexander Samokutyayev as antagonist Humma Kavula, astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti as Trillian, and flight engineers Terry Virts and Anton Shkaplerov as two-headed galactic president Zaphod Beeblebrox. The robotic "Robonaut 2" also stands in the picture as Marvin the depressed android. Cristoforetti, ecstatic to be part of this mission stated, "Enjoy, don't panic and always know where your towel is!" Wilmore, Serova and Samokutyayev blasted off September 25th for Expedition 41, the rest of Expedition 42 will launch November 23rd.
Sci-Fi

Sci-fi Predictions, True and False (Video 2) 27

Posted by Soulskill
from the time-keeps-on-slipping-into-the-future dept.
You might want to go back to Video 1 before watching this one (or reading the transcript). This video is the second part of our recording of a panel discussion at the recent science fiction convention in Detroit. Panelists include writer and forensic science expert Jen Haeger; professor and generally fascinating guy Brian Gray; and expert in Aeronautical Management and 20-year veteran of the Air Force Douglas Johnson. In this video, they continue running down a list of science fiction predictions, both successful and unsuccessful, and evaluating how realistic or far-fetched each now seems. (Alternate Video Link)
Sci-Fi

Sci-fi Predictions, True and False (Video 1) 139

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-mention-of-the-singularity dept.
Science fiction is the domain of predicting future technology. But we rarely stop to account for which predictions come true, which don't, and which are fulfilled in... unexpected ways. A panel at the recent science fiction convention in Detroit explored this subject in depth, from Star Trek's communicators to nanotech and cloning. Panelists include writer and forensic science expert Jen Haeger; professor and generally fascinating guy Brian Gray; and expert in Aeronautical Management and 20-year veteran of the Air Force Douglas Johnson. In this video, they run down a list of science fiction predictions, both successful and unsuccessful, and evaluate how realistic or far-fetched each now seems.
Television

Interviews: David Saltzberg Answers Your Questions About The Big Bang Theory 106

Posted by samzenpus
from the here-they-are dept.
As the science consultant for The Big Bang Theory for the past seven seasons, Dr. David Saltzberg makes sure the show gets its science right. A few weeks ago, you had the chance to ask him about his work on the show and his personal scientific endeavors. Below you'll find his answers to those questions.
Robotics

Developing the First Law of Robotics 165

Posted by Soulskill
from the thou-shalt-not-kill-all-humans dept.
wabrandsma sends this article from New Scientist: In an experiment, Alan Winfield and his colleagues programmed a robot to prevent other automatons – acting as proxies for humans – from falling into a hole. This is a simplified version of Isaac Asimov's fictional First Law of Robotics – a robot must not allow a human being to come to harm. At first, the robot was successful in its task. As a human proxy moved towards the hole, the robot rushed in to push it out of the path of danger. But when the team added a second human proxy rolling toward the hole at the same time, the robot was forced to choose. Sometimes, it managed to save one human while letting the other perish; a few times it even managed to save both. But in 14 out of 33 trials, the robot wasted so much time fretting over its decision that both humans fell into the hole. Winfield describes his robot as an "ethical zombie" that has no choice but to behave as it does. Though it may save others according to a programmed code of conduct, it doesn't understand the reasoning behind its actions.
Sci-Fi

Sci-Fi Authors and Scientists Predict an Optimistic Future 191

Posted by Soulskill
from the roddenberry-approved dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A few years ago, author Neal Stephenson argued that sci-fi had forgotten how to inspire people to do great things. Indeed, much of recent science fiction has been pessimistic and skeptical, focusing on all the ways our inventions could go wrong, and how hostile the universe is to humankind. Now, a group of scientists, engineers, and authors (including Stephenson himself) is trying to change that. Arizona State University recently launched Project Hieroglyph, a hub for ideas that will influence science fiction to be more optimistic and accurate, and to focus on the great things humanity is capable of doing.

For example, in the development of a short story, Stephenson wanted to know if it's possible to build a tower that's 20 kilometers tall. Keith Hjelmsad, an expert in structural stability and computational mechanics, wrote a detailed response about the challenge involved in building such a tower. Other authors are contributing questions as well, and researchers are chiming in with fascinating, science-based replies. Roboticist Srikanth Saripalli makes this interesting point: "If the government has to decide what to fund and what not to fund, they are going to get their ideas and decisions mostly from science fiction rather than what's being published in technical papers."

"In the face of entropy and nothingness, you kind of have to pretend it's not there if you want to keep writing good code." -- Karl Lehenbauer

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