We like the new “Star Trek” movies better than the old ones

Tuesday, 8 April, 2014

Ranking the so far twelve “Star Trek” movies by their IMDb rating, reveals fans of the sci-fi franchise have a clear preference for the two “re-booted”, or most recent features, as inspired by the original TV series.

It’s interesting to see the first “Trek” film, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, that was met with – to put it mildly – a mixed reception, appears to have almost the best box office take of the lot. I think that has much to do with its nostalgic appeal at the time of its 1979 release.

I wonder how the upcoming “Star Wars” films will fare, compared to the earlier installments of the saga, in this regard?

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There’s no ocean, but there’s oceans of water below our feet

Wednesday, 19 March, 2014

A certain nineteenth century French novelist may have been onto something after he wrote of a vast ocean that lay below the Earth’s surface, in a certain book published in 1878.

While there is no actual ocean somewhere deep under our feet, at least as far as we know, it seems a large proportion of rocks residing in a transition zone between the upper and lower layers of Earth’s mantle, contain molecules of water. All up, there may be as much water here as there is in Earth’s oceans.

What is it that they say… today’s, or a past century’s, science fiction is tomorrow’s science fact?

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Behind the scenes “Star Wars” photos as taken by Chewbacca

Monday, 13 January, 2014

Star Wars, behind the scenes, photo by Peter Mayhew

British actor Peter Mayhew, who hails from none other than Barnes in south-west London, and is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Chewbacca in the “Star Wars” films, last week uploaded a stack of photos taken during filming of the sci-fi saga, to his Twitter account.

If you’re only finding out about this now, what can I say, the news is bound to make a “Star Wars” fan’s Monday morning.

Via io9.

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How to become a time lord like Dr Who

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.

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The economics of the “Star Trek” universe, it’s a free for all

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.

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Just how spoiler free will the production of “Star Wars 7” really be?

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.

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The physics of Dr Who’s TARDIS… explained

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.

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How do you depict extraterrestrials when you’ve not met any?

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.

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When it comes to predictions even Isaac Asimov can get it wrong

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.

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Sunshine and endless cloudless skies… this must be Tatooine

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.

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