Science Fiction Brewed Fresh Daily

Drilling in Alien Ice

Some of the most interesting places in the solar system are hidden under sheets of ice. The polar caps of Mars, Saturn’s moon Enceladus and Jupiter’s moon Europa will require drilling of some kind to explore thoroughly.

The technology used for drilling in places like Greenland is heavy and complex, which rules it out for loading onto a probe and deploying remotely. Fortunately, a new drilling method is promising to be much less cumbersome.

The Cryobot probe was recently tested in Antarctica. It’s a “thermal drill,” which combines blades and heaters in the tip. This gives it much more flexibility in dealing with the unknown composition of alien ice sheets.

The site has more.

Posted in News, Space August 29th, 2008 by Chip
Comments Off on Drilling in Alien Ice

Anne Francis Stars in…

Promo Photo…well, you know the rest.*

The Monster Memories blog has posted skillions of promotional photos, lobby cards, and other images from Forbidden Planet.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

I particularly like the “wardrobe test” photos. That last one makes Anne look like she’s sanitized for your protection.

*BTW – Did you know they’re planning a remake? :::whimper:::

Posted in Movies & TV August 28th, 2008 by Chip
1 comment

“Futurism” Print

FuturismDave Malki (who does Wondermark) created this handsome “Futurism” poster, suitable for any dorm room or fallout shelter.

It’s the tag line that really makes me giggle:



(I like this T-shirt, too.)

Posted in Ephemera August 27th, 2008 by Chip
Comments Off on “Futurism” Print

MMORPG on Mars

WaterfallVirtual-world builder Avatar Reality is working on a Second Life-esque environment set on a Terraformed Mars in the year 2177 AD. The product is targeted at a more adult market, and their emphasis is on realism.

“It’s somewhat futuristic, somewhat environmental,” said Chen. “We won’t have gasoline on Blue Mars. Things will be solar-powered or hydrogen-powered. The look of the environment is sci-fi, in the year 2177. It’s totally alien to what we know. We give creative freedom to developers like us to create cities that blend the familiar and the futuristic.”

A beta is due later this year. Who knows? Maybe playing on a virtual Mars will convince more people to fund a colony on the real one.

Link (via Website at the End of the Universe)

Posted in Computers & Internet August 26th, 2008 by Chip
Comments Off on MMORPG on Mars

“Watch the Original” Day

The Crotchety Old Fan has a heartfelt rant about the Day the Earth Stood Still remake.

The viewing public has a right to be exposed to the original before they see the remake; they have a right to judge the two side by side – BEFORE the computer-generated dazzle has a chance to influence them. They have a right to view these films in their historical order, to be free from hype and marketing blitz before they are asked to choose which one they prefer.

By way of exposing the younger generation to the original, he has declared December 10th, 2008 to be THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL TO WATCH THE ORIGINAL MOVIE DAY day. He’s set up a resource page which links to an online copy of the full movie, and is adjuring us all to pledge that we will convince at least one other person to watch the original before the remake escapes is released.

He also links to this io9 post (titled, engagingly, “The Day the Earth Stood Still Remake Is Pure Sucky Evil”), whose last paragraph summarizes what I think we’re all feeling:

Apparently this remake is happening because 2008 director Scott Derrickson admires the work of 1951 director Robert Wise. Hey, Scott, you know what would be a good way to pay your respects to Wise’s work? Tell people to watch his movie, and then stay the fuck away from it.

Preach it, brother.

Posted in Movies & TV August 25th, 2008 by Chip
Comments Off on “Watch the Original” Day

Blowing Right Past the Uncanny Valley

Image Metrics is a company devoted to creating extremely realistic facial animations for video games and movies. They’re pretty good at it.

In the video below, the actress’ face is entirely computer-generated until the 1:30 mark. It could be argued that the animated face looks a little stiff compared to the real thing, but it looks more like she’s had a recent botox injection than anything else.

This technology will not only make video games more realistic, it could be used to put a friendlier face on human/computer interactions. Dealing with an automated system seems much less impersonal when it’s smiling at you.

There’s another demo video on the Image Metrics home page, displaying a wider range of facial expressions. I found the animation pretty believable until she grinned. Then it kind of creeped me out.

(via The Presurfer)

Posted in Computers & Internet August 22nd, 2008 by Chip
Comments Off on Blowing Right Past the Uncanny Valley

Bleed All You Want, We’ll Make More

Researchers at US firm Advanced Cell Technology claim to have created a large number of red blood cells from human embryonic stem cells. They say that they can generate 10 to 100 billion red blood cells from a single six-well plate of stem cells. Using a cell line with an O- type would mean that the “universal donor” blood could be given to anyone.

The report was pre-published ahead of print in the online journal Blood (which may be the best name for a journal, ever).

This would be a huge boon to medicine. There’s been some work done with artificial blood, but it simply doesn’t work as well as the real stuff. (I’m a regular blood donor and I would dearly love to stop being stuck with big needles every few months in the name of civic responsibility.) If they can produce blood cells in quantity, it might open up new lines of research for creating things like liver cells, too.


(Incidentally, until blood is rolling off the assembly line you might want to donate too. Call 1-800-GIVE-LIFE in the US or contact your local branch of the Red Cross to set up an appointment.)

Posted in News, Science August 21st, 2008 by Chip
Comments Off on Bleed All You Want, We’ll Make More

Opening Sentences

io9 has a nice discussion of opening lines that really grab your attention.

“They set a slamhound on Turner’s trail in New Delhi, slotted it to his pheromones and the color of his hair.” — Count Zero by William Gibson. Okay, come on. This is just so fun. It’s got the wacky jargon: “slamhound,” “slotted,” and the idea that it can be tied to random things like hair color and pheromones. And it’s crackling with energy!

This is a theme we’ve explored in chat from time to time. How important is the opening sentence? Have you ever decided to buy a book on the strength of its first line?

Several of the post’s comments cite other arresting openers, most without noting which book they’re from. It’s kind of fun to play “guess the book.”

Posted in Books & Authors August 20th, 2008 by Chip
Comments Off on Opening Sentences

ET Phone an Anger Management Class

Seth Shostak of the SETI program is tired of ad hominem attacks on himself and other scientists by UFO “true believers.” He warns that his response may be a bit heated, but it’s actually a thoughtful and measured rebuttal to the idea that skeptics are automatically evil.

I, too, was attacked, generally along the lines that, since I don’t investigate UFO reports, I’m not qualified to opine on whether I find them convincing or not. Well, that’s bunk. And it’s certainly not how science works. I don’t need to be an astronomer specializing in black hole research, nor do it myself, to gauge whether someone’s claim that they’ve found one of these collapsed objects in the center of some galaxy or other is credible. I can do that based on the methodology, the reported data, and (to be brutally frank) the reputation of the investigator and their professional affiliation. The burden of proof in science is on the person making the claim. And if the only way the investigator can convince others is by insisting that their audience shift careers and start doing their work, then something’s gravely amiss.

His arguments work equally well for other types of True Belief too (I’m looking at you, Creationists).

Link (via Strange Attractor)

Posted in Science, Space August 19th, 2008 by Chip
Comments Off on ET Phone an Anger Management Class

Happy Birthday to Us

The O*W*C blog turned two yesterday! Why, I remember when it was just a little cluster of electrons, and now it’s all grown up. :::sniff:::

Now’s your chance to lay some feedback on us. What do you like about the blog? What could we improve? Are there topics you’d like to see us focus on? Just want to say hi? Whatever it is, leave us a comment!

Posted in News August 18th, 2008 by Chip
1 comment