Friday, 29 November, 2013
While we may not be able to carry it off with quite the same… panache, it is nonetheless possible to emulate time lord Dr Who with varying degrees of success. Sure, travel through time and interstellar space are still a tad difficult, but with a little… spin it may even be possible to compensate for that.
It’s rare for anyone to enter the Tardis for the first time without uttering some variation of the above phrase. From the outside, the Doctor’s time machine appears to be a wooden Police telephone box, similar to those seen in 1960s London. But on the inside… it is vast. Perhaps infinite. Surely it’s not possible to squeeze an infinite space inside a small blue box? Well, it sort of is, with a little help from a virtual reality headset. Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology in Austria have created a simulator that generates endless rooms and corridors. The device tricks users into walking around a much smaller space in the real world by making them turn before they hit a wall.
Dr Who, humour, science, science fiction
Friday, 29 November, 2013
I’ve seen a fair few “Star Trek” episodes and movies, but cannot recall seeing any of the crew shopping, dining out, or in situations where they are required to fork out money for goods and services. The exception may be when they’ve time travelled into the past, but no transactions appear to take place in the twenty-third century or beyond.
As Captain Kirk tells us during “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” though, they don’t use money in their time. If that’s the case, what might a… non-monetary “Star Trek” world look like, if we were part of it? In a word, idealistic would sum it up. Apparently everyone has, or is provided with, everything that they need:
In Star Trek, most economic value is created by essentially free goods. That is the simple explanation as to why we don’t see money exchanged. That is the point of free. But more to the point, one has to think about how much is free in terms of allocations. Researchers on happiness like Justin Wolfers, in my reading, seem to indicate that once we have about $100 million in wealth (based on today’s goods), that is about as happy as people can get. Marginal utility is effectively zero in wealth beyond that point. In Star Trek, at least the closer you get to Sector 001 (or the Solar System), everyone has what, in today’s terms, would be $100 million or more in wealth. The free goods that are provided from housing to technology to services and to Earth and Earth orbit transportation are what would $100 millionaires can get today. They may be the very same humans who are motivated by wealth acquisition as we have today but the economic problem of “not enough to go around” has been solved up to the level of a saturation point.
economics, science fiction, star-trek
Monday, 18 November, 2013
With open auditions being held for roles in the next Star Wars film, due for release in late 2015, we might be hearing a whole lot more about the production of a film, any film, than usual.
Especially if the majority of the hopefuls trying out for the cast go online, in whatever way, to tell the rest of us about it:
Freezing, I get my new friends to hold my place in the queue while I grab a hot chocolate. In the cafe across the road, a girl stares at her phone. She’s waiting for her boyfriend to join her at the audition. “He’s worried where this new trilogy will sit within the universe, because it might go against a lot of the stuff in the books.” For the next 20 minutes she regales me with how the TV shows and novellas suggest what a new movie might be about. I smile and nod.
film production, science fiction, Star-Wars
Monday, 11 November, 2013
Two fans of long running British sci-fi show, Dr Who, Ben Tippett and Dave Tsang, who also happen to be physicists, have devised an explanation, that is relatively easy to understand, of the physics of the TARDIS, the machine the doctor uses to travel through time:
But it is possible, at least in theory, to make a more Doctor-y TARDIS by cutting up spacetime geometries and sewing them back together in non-circle shapes using the maths outlined in this paper. “The technique is really powerful,” noted Tippett, “because you can use the simple paper-pencil solutions, and glue them together to get a kind of simplified model of a more complicated system.” And that new Frankstein-spacetime will still work under the general relativity.
physics, science fiction, time travel
Monday, 28 October, 2013
In bringing 2001: A Space Odyssey to the screen, director Stanley Kubrick, and co-screenwriter Arthur C. Clarke, struggled to devise a credible looking species of extraterrestrials, to feature in the film:
What is important right now is the fact that the revelation of the physical appearance of the aliens in the book is one of the most shocking in sci-fi history: they turn on to look like the traditional human folk images of demons – large bipeds with leathery wings, horns and tails. Maybe Kubrick was amused by this shocking revelation and the effect that it may have had on the audience?
I think “2001” might have been a completely different film, likely far inferior, had they have not gone the way they eventually did, in this regard.
2001: A Space Odyssey, films, movies, science fiction, Stanley Kubrick
Wednesday, 4 September, 2013
In a 1964 article for the New York Times, late science, and science fiction writer, Isaac Asimov makes his calls on what those attending the 2014 World’s Fair, or Expo, might expect to see. But, yes, spoiler… there will be no World’s Fair next year – there was one last year – the next is scheduled to take place in 2015, in Milan.
Robots will neither be common nor very good in 2014, but they will be in existence. The I.B.M. exhibit at the present fair has no robots but it is dedicated to computers, which are shown in all their amazing complexity, notably in the task of translating Russian into English. If machines are that smart today, what may not be in the works 50 years hence? It will be such computers, much miniaturized, that will serve as the “brains” of robots. In fact, the I.B.M. building at the 2014 World’s Fair may have, as one of its prime exhibits, a robot housemaid – large, clumsy, slow – moving but capable of general picking-up, arranging, cleaning and manipulation of various appliances.
Isaac Asimov, science fiction, technology, trends
Wednesday, 21 August, 2013
Those who like to think they’re somehow part of the “Star Wars” universe can find out what planet they are on in that far, far, away galaxy, based on current weather conditions whatever their current location is on Earth.
Despite it being winter where I am, officially at least, I was told I am on Tatooine the other day… hmm, yes, almost correct, almost.
humour, movies, science fiction, Star-Wars, weather
Monday, 12 August, 2013
Dr McCoy, of “Star Trek” fame, had little regard for the widely used teleporting technology of the day, even though he frequently used it as a means of moving from one point to another.
As it happens though, his disdain for having his “atoms scattered back and forth across space” was somewhat justified… teleporting, or beaming, isn’t exactly the fastest way of getting about:
At a basic level, the transferable data of a human would be represented by the DNA pairs that make up genomes (which contain the entirety of an organism’s hereditary information) in each cell. The total data for each human cell was calculated as approximately 1010 bits (b), and one cell contains enough information to replicate any other type of cell in the body. Mentally rebuilding a person is not so simple. The full information of the traveller’s brain is required, which brings the total information content up to around 2.6 x 1042 b. After the students calculated the basic data of the human being, they were then able to calculate both the time and power required to teleport the human from Earth to the chosen point in space. It was found that the time to complete a fully successful human teleportation from Earth to space was questionable. In fact, assuming the bandwidth used is 29.5 to 30 GHz, the students discovered that the data transfer would require up to 4.85×1015years.
4.85×1015years equates to 350,000 times the present age of the universe, being about 14 billion years. Clearly these time delays were edited out of the versions of “Star Trek” that we saw…
humour, science, science fiction, travel
Thursday, 8 August, 2013
Is it just me, or are there other people who are likewise outright relieved that certain well known fictional characters, such as say Chewbacca and Yoda, from “Star Wars”, Buzz Lightyear from the “Toy Story” films, and Shrek, ended up looking quite different when compared to their original, or earlier, concept images?
design, illustration, movies, science fiction
Friday, 2 August, 2013
2001: A Space Odyssey is a film that somehow shouldn’t work at all, yet succeeds at every level. Well, I think so at least. In this longer write-up, James Maynard Gelinas takes a closer look at the many aspects of Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 work that bring the story, such that it may be, together.
For unlike typical character and plot driven narrative, its structure is that of an odyssey portraying the span of millennia. There is no central protagonist in conflict with an antagonist to root for. The few depicted characters seem disconnected from one another, and their dialog is often irrelevant to expository action. Its pacing is slug slow, with excessive montage shots that while visually beautiful don’t move plot points forward. If classical music seems an odd score choice itself, several pieces selected are often disturbingly postmodern, evoking not a soothing softness of the musical genre but chaotic and disquieting emotions. Finally, the final sequence, rather than a climax and resolution to some character driven conflict, seemingly comes from nowhere leaving more questions than answers. In almost every way this film should have failed. But it didn’t. Instead, it’s considered a great masterpiece. Why?
2001: A Space Odyssey, film, movies, science fiction