Master of Blastr

By Phil Plait | July 20, 2010 11:00 am

blastr_logoI am pleased to announce that I will be writing a periodic column for Blastr, the new incarnation of SciFIWire, the SyFy Channel’s web news portal*!

I’ve had an informal relationship with SyFy for a while. The panel I moderate at Comic Con every year has Jaime Paglia from the SyFy show "Eureka" on it, and they’ve been nice enough to let me sneak in attend the SyFy/Entertainment Weekly party every year so I can ogle celebrities and pretend I’m cool for an evening.

But it’s now official: I’ll be writing a monthly column on the science of science fiction for Blastr, and the inaugural column is now up: Predators, and being abducted by one. I pontificate about the likelihood of being snatched from your bed and plopped down on a gaming preserve planet. You probably already know the answer (50/50, of course, since it will either happen or it won’t), but getting to that answer is the real fun.

I enjoyed writing the article, and I hope you like reading it. In the future I’ll write about the science of TV shows, comic books, or whatever else the folks at Blastr and I come up with. So set your bookmarks, update your feedreader, and put a little reality into your make-believe. It makes it even more fun.

* Apparently, some people don’t like the misspelled name and have been leaving complaints on the Blastr intro page. I guess these same folks won’t use Flickr or Google, either.

MORE ABOUT: Blastr, Predators

Comments (42)

  1. Congratulations. I read the comments over there and you have stirred up lots of people – which is always good!
    Have fun in San Diego.

  2. Vernon Balbert

    Actually, the problem with SyFy’s renaming has nothing to do with silly spelling, it’s that the network has been moving away from what was originally some pretty nifty stuff, instead of the pap-filled movies and programming they now have. (Come on, while professional wrestling is fiction, it’s not SCIENCE fiction which is what the network was supposed to be about.) I’m a fan of bad movies, but the stuff they’ve been putting out has been total dreck and I know I’m not alone in these feelings. (Have you seen Ghost Hunters? It’s not debunking anything, it’s not promoting itself as fiction, it’s pure pseudoscience presented as documentary.)

    That said, I’ll take a look over at what you’re doing there because I haven’t been getting my fill of Phil. :)

  3. Mastr of Blastr


    Apparently, some people don’t like the misspelled name and have been leaving complaints on the Blastr intro page. I guess these same folks won’t use Flickr or Google, either.

    Well, ever since eBay (along with all the eThis and eThat sites) came along, there’s been a shortage of “e”‘s.

    It won’t be long before Apple causes an “i” shortage.

  4. There seem to be some spelling mistakes. Shouldn’t they have described you as astronomr, lecturr, and authr?

  5. I pontificate about the likelihood of being snatched from your bed and plopped down on a gaming preserve planet. You probably already know the answer (50/50, of course, since it will either happen or it won’t), but getting to that answer is the real fun.

    Sure, but if the aliens snatch two children from a family, and you find out that at least one is a girl, what are the odds that the other child is also a girl? What if the girl’s name is Emma?


  6. Phil, as much as I love your blog and all your skeptical writings, I miss your movie reviews and debunkings from your old blog. I’m glad you’re going to tackle SciFi again.

  7. jrpowell

    Sorry I was distracted by the Sharktopus trailer. Could you put your stuff in a book or something? 😉

  8. Brian Schlosser

    “SyFy” can never be forgiven for canceling MST3k.

  9. magetoo

    Ken B: Excellent explanation of the shortage of e’s recently, it made it all clear to me. Why doesn’t the mainstream media tell us things like this?

    I admit to being a hypocrite that doesn’t like the name but thinks “Flickr” is fine. Guess it’s moved from being eye-catching to eyeroll-inducing now that everyone is doing it. (I suppose the next obligatory step must be to snag the “” domain and use it for URL shortening. is so last year…)

  10. Kaptain K

    Vernon Balbert hit the thumb right in the nail!

    SYFY has become a self-referrenced feedback loop (i.e. “They bought that piece of garbage, lets file the serial numbers off, change a few charactors, and maybe the location and run it by them again.”)

    Take Ghost Hunters example. “Wow, that’s a hit! Quick, let’s crank our Ghost Hunters International (same plot, bigger travel budgets) and Ghost hunters Academy, where we pretend to train new ghost hinters”.

  11. BJN

    Is BLASTR pirate speak? Blast, arrrrrr!

    Welcome to NBC. I hope you take on Ghost Hunters, Mary Knows Best, and SyFy’s excreble pantheon of Grade F movies like “Goblin”, “Sharktopus”, “Dinocroc vs. Supergator”, and “Stonehenge Apocalypse”. Lotsa fodder for skeptical discussion and the merits of merging bad acting with cheap CGI effects.

  12. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    50/50, of course, since it will either happen or it won’t

    Or it could be 0 probability, if no one comes up with the idea.

    Or perhaps 33 %, adding to the previous two “happen stances” as it were? Hmm, this happen ability stuff is harder than it looks! I’m not sure I’m too happen with it.

  13. Vaccination Dalek

    I approve of this. I think just having something on SyFy’s webspace that involves the actual science (or more importantly, the complete lack there of) relating to most of their shows and movies. I’m all for entertainment, but its nice to have a few real facts around in case people are curious.
    Eureka is especially in need of this, since it throws out a lot of stuff which uses some real terminology from quantum mechanics or biology or what not in their stuff, though not always correctly. I’d be nice to have that stuff right there in case people are curious, rather than wander off into the Web and discover Deepak Choprak instead.

  14. Jamey

    I for one am glad that they changed their name to siffy. It was getting very embarrassing to explain that there wasn’t much more SciFi on the SciFi channel than there was on any other channel. The website also seems to have taken on a shallowness that wasn’t there once upon a time.

    Oh, well.

  15. Michelle

    Congratulations! Looking forward to reading your columns there!

  16. Guysmiley777

    So can you get the See Fee channel to stop airing wrasslin’ and Ghost Spelunkers?

  17. Ogling celebrities is easy. Writing a superb science blog is hard.

    At least I imagine it is. Hope you’re enjoying your summer, Mr. Plait, and good luck with the new column.

  18. Could you please, please, please do some BSG stuff…? It’s the only sci fi that matters

  19. loon

    This is good new, for the Sci Fi Channels gadget website, now could you kick them into monitoring their comments, there’s spam in them there fields

  20. Allen

    Hey, see if you can get SyFy to bring back Firefly. I think there would be no arguments here for such an abuse of power and influence.

  21. kevbo

    You wrote a column?

  22. jcm

    But SyFy also makes shows about ghosts!

  23. Chris

    When are you going to review Avatar???

  24. pjb

    ahhh, Master Blaster. That brings back fond NES memories.

  25. Scottynuke

    As others have already said, I can only hope Phil opens up a can of skeptic whoop-ass on “Ghost Hunters” and all the pseudo-scientific crap SciFi (sorry, just can’t play along with their “kinder, gentler” renaming) feels is acceptable entertainment.

    And beyond that, I hope Phil’s new blog survives his first attempt to do so.

    Blog long and prosper, Phil! :-)

  26. AliCali

    @ 8 Brian Schlosser

    “‘SyFy’ can never be forgiven for canceling MST3k.”

    SciFi (or whatever) picked up MST3k after the evil scientist left (Dr. Forrester), taking Crow’s original voice with him. It wasn’t nearly as good after that.

  27. locke

    Wow, you’re going to be one very busy guy, since most of the bad science in SF seems to originate from the SyFy channel (not to mention psuedoscience like Ghost Hunters). I’ll be the first to wager that they have a policy that you can’t comment negatively on their own products! (I’d be happy to be wrong about that, but I’m not optimistic).

  28. froonium

    Cancellation/ Reinstatement form

    1. “SyFy” can never be forgiven for canceling _____________ . (show goes here)
    2. Can you get them to bring back ____________ ? (show goes here)
    3. Can you get them to quit showing the crappy ___________? (show goes here)

    Please give additional support for why said show should be canceled/reinstated and how you think Phil can seriously help this effort come to pass. Otherwise, just wish him luck in his new endeavor.

    In closing – good luck with your new blog!

  29. Psychos

    Well then, shouldn’t you be writing for SyFyWyre? :)

    I have to agree with some of the previous comments; it’s not the name change that annoys me nearly as much as that there’s, well, not any groundbreaking Sci-Fi going on on SyFy these days (or in the past couple years.) Just a couple new shows, re-runs, and stupyd stuyff lyke wrestlyng that’s not very sci-fi. And more and more of a trend to completely non sci-fi programming. My friends and I just call it “Siffy” these days. :)

    But best of luck to you, Mr. PhylPlayt. I’m glad to see they’re bringing actual scyentysts lyke you (sorry, couldn’t resist!) onboard!

    As for Flickr and Google? Well, Flickr seems to be doing its thing and hosting images just fine; personally I prefer to host my own, but it’s a great platform for many people. And Google may not directly serve me up extremely large numbers that are properly spelled, but it does serve me up wonderful search results. But, again, it’s not the spelling. It’s the content. Obviously there are market forces at work such that SyFy has to air what they do (I’m *sure* there are some high-up folks there who’d love to have much more real sci-fi and general science-y stuff.) So while some of us may rant a bit, it is better as it is than a channel that can’t survive the market and just goes out of business taking what decent sci-fi it DOES have along with it.

  30. Nigel Depledge

    The real problem with the change from SciFi to SyFy is this:

    “Syph” (pronounced “siff”) is an abbreviation of syphilis. Thus, one can form “syphy” / “syphie” (pronounced “siffy”) as an adjective meaning syphilitic. Since “SyFy” has no closer parallel in English from which to derive a different pronunciation, its most likely form in people’s heads is “siffy”.

    You see? 😉

    A secondary reason has something to do with trying to distance itself from the extant image of science fiction, but I’m a bit fuzzy on the details there…

  31. Nigel Depledge

    The BA said:

    I think we should go out and see. It’s the only way to be sure.

    No, no, no, no, no!

    The only way to be sure is to take off and nuke the entire site from orbit.

  32. Ray

    I would suggest that there is another argument to be made about the Predators taking people for hunting. If we assume that other civilizations exist AND that they have the ability to effectively travel interstellar distances, WHY would they take people for hunting?

  33. John Paradox

    When Syfy changed their name, and their ‘tagline’ (Imagine Greater), I immediately pulled up my ‘photoshop’ program and created this:


  34. locke

    @Lab Lemming (assuming you’ll accept answers from any random astro type)
    I haven’t seen that paper yet, but I’m initially skeptical UNLESS the stars were in at least single lined spectroscopic binary systems, as otherwise estimates of an individual star’s mass (absent astroseismology data, which I’m sure they don’t have) is very model dependent.

  35. Andrew

    BA, what do you mean to impugn Google in that list of weird spellings. That’s a perfectly cromulant word for a company. Add Flickr in there instead, and you’re golden.

  36. ggremlin

    I do not expect this to end well. I hope you got the cash up front; no deposit, no return.

  37. I’m just tooting my own horn, and Phil does a far better job of explaining this than I ever could, but it feels good to know such an awesome astronomer (and fellow Doctor Who fan!) agrees with me on this.

    The chances of not only a civilization with space travel but one who has then traveled to visit us is SO much smaller than the chances of just another intelligent species with a civilization, and even smaller than the chances of just another intelligent species who are, say, hunter-gatherers.

    Consider a species even 1000 times more intelligent than we are who has been around much, much longer. Assuming that they are intelligent enough, they still need so many things to be able to invent space travel: complicated speech, organized and motivated citizens and leaders (well, at least citizens), the necessary materials and fuels, and, the one we don’t think about as much, appropriate limbs and something similar to an opposable thumb, combining to create a grasping system. Or, of course, some form of psychokinesis or other method of making something as intricate as a space travel system.

    I’d say the chances of other species, probably far more advanced than we are mentally, is pretty high. At least, that is, the chances that they ever existed. You then have to consider whether they exist now and whether they have the qualities I mentioned, not to mention tons of others I didn’t mention or can’t think of myself. There could be super-intelligent gasses and fish out there (see dolphins) that couldn’t ever create even a city, much less a spacecraft.

    And, you can consider the example from Hitchhiker’s Guide, where there could be tons of species who live on parts of the universe where they see nothing in the sky and therefore they never even consider traveling into space.

    Those, in my opinion, blow Drake’s equation out of the water.

  38. Melora

    I am so in love with “Eureka”! I dare say it’s my favorite on-the-air TV show (R.I.P. “Law & Order”). Also, I didn’t realize SciFi shows “Ghost Hunters”, but I suppose it’s understandable why a channel with “fiction” in the name would air it.

  39. Hubbub

    Sounds like you’re up to some sacred cow-tipping over there.

    “Impressively ignorant. Bravo!”
    “”I prefer to stick with what we know” Just think if the Wright brothers had thought this way. Hey Wilbur, lets stick with bikes, this flight stuff is nonsense!”
    “The author assumes that just because we can’t cross interstellar space with our current technology, it can’t be done. Not only is that a silly assumption, it’s bad science.”

  40. Master of Blastr

    Hopefully the predators allow big blasters (guns and ammo) like in the movie so that the prey can go out in style — and none of those sick medical probes such as those in abduction testimonials :)

  41. Hey There. First of all nice site. Thanks for making this public. I love telekinesis.


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