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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Beam me up Scotty, I’ve got a couple of trillion years to spare

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…

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Why Yoda I didn’t recognise you from your sketches

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?

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2001: A Space Odyssey, but not a great film screenplay idea?

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?

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There’s nothing like Star Wars read in the original Shakespeare

Thursday, 11 July, 2013

Could you imagine how “Star Wars” would read if William Shakespeare had written it? Portland author Ian Doescher can. Here’s the Shakespearean version (PDF) of the film’s all too familiar opening scroll:

It is a period of civil war.
The spaceships of the rebels, striking swift
From base unseen, have gain’d a vict’ry o’er
The cruel Galactic Empire, now adrift.
Amidst the battle, rebel spies prevail’d
And stole the plans to a space station vast,
Whose pow’rful beams will later be unveil’d
And crush a planet: ’tis the DEATH STAR blast.
Pursu’d by agents sinister and cold,
Now Princess Leia to her home doth flee,
Deliv’ring plans and a new hope they hold:
Of bringing freedom to the galaxy.
In time so long ago begins our play,
In star-crossed galaxy far, far away.

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There’s no planet, or moon, by the name of Vulcan in this system

Wednesday, 10 July, 2013

A while back, two more moons were discovered orbiting dwarf planet Pluto (how a planetary body with several decent size satellites can be considered “dwarf” is beyond me, but I digress), giving the far flung member of the solar system a total, so far, of five moons.

Recently a poll was held to name these newly found companions, but the most popular choice, Vulcan, was rejected in favour of the second and third alternatives, Cerberus and Styx. As a name, Vulcan is apparently lacking in underworld connotations, or so we are told.

Fans of the “Star Trek” sci-fi TV and film series however will know Vulcan is the name of the planet Mr Spock hails from, so it seems to me the title is better left reserved for a Vulcan-like exoplanet, provided its host system is uninhabited that is, that we may one day find, rather than being applied to a moon.

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Here be the light at the end of Star Trek’s five year mission

Tuesday, 2 July, 2013

I’ve often wondered what might happen at the end, or the limit, of the original “Star Trek” screensaver, that sometimes goes by the name “Starfield”… at least you’d have spent a good twenty years zapping through the cosmos before you found yourself in this situation

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Somewhere out there Star Trek’s five year mission continues

Monday, 17 June, 2013

Star Trek Continues, as the name kind of suggests, is a fan made extension of the original 1960’s “Star Trek” sci-fi television series, that picks up where the TV show left off, three years into the illustrious five year mission.

Obviously the actors playing the original show’s well known characters differ, but its essence, I think you will find, remains very much intact.

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