Archive for August, 2008

Battlestar Movie Update From The Horse's Mouth

By Stephen Cass | August 29, 2008 6:05 pm

AdamaWe’ve mentioned the upcoming Battlestar Galactica movie before, which will follow events in the human’s home system during the timeline of the main television series and it’s interstellar exodus. The script is being penned by Buffy veteran Jane Espenson, who has given us a (spoiler free) peek behind the curtain by writing on her blog about the process of getting the script down to size during preproduction.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: TV

Neal Stephenson Returns!

By Stephen Cass | August 28, 2008 6:44 pm

Cover of Neal Stephenson’s AnathemSci Fi Wire has an interview with Neal Stephenson, author of The Diamond Age (one of the best nanotech novels ever), Snow Crash (one of the best cyberpunk novels ever) among others. Stephenson has a new book coming out next month titled Anathem. Stephenson talks about the inspiration for Anathem, and why he’s decided to include an introduction for readers who don’t normally read science fiction that people who do regularly read science fiction are advised to skip.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Books

Eureka: Putting the Crypt in Cryptobiosis

By Stephen Cass | August 27, 2008 5:08 pm

Screen capture from Euraka Season Three, Episode FiveThe curse of a mummy’s tomb lay over Eureka in last night’s episode. (Spoilers below!)

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Biology, TV

Eureka and Special Relativity: If Carter Can Do It, So Can You!

By Stephen Cass | August 26, 2008 3:45 pm

Screen capture from Euraka Season Three, Episode FourAs chance would have it, the night after writing this post about the equations shown in science fiction, an episode of Eureka aired in which Sheriff Carter was faced with the pictured board full of equations.

Carter, not the most technical of men, had to learn the equations in order to have chance at stopping a runaway time-loop. The equations looked familiar, so I checked in with Kevin Grazier, Eureka‘s science advisor, a JPL researcher, and a panelist on DISCOVER’s “Science Behind Science Fiction” Panel at this year’s Comic-Con. It turns out that Kevin actually wrote the equations, borrowed from a real class he gives that touches on the theories of special and general relativity. The equations refer to how time behaves in Einstein’s relativity theory, in particular, the phenomenon of time dilation. The neat part is that pretty much anybody who finished high school can master the math and science behind special relativity’s prediction of time dilation (as the title of this post says, if Carter can do it, so can you!).

Time dilation occurs noticeably when a object is moving close to the speed of light: imagine a spacecraft shooting by the Earth. From the point of view of someone standing on Earth, time dilation means that time is running slowly onboard the spacecraft. A second on the spaceship could be equal to an hour on Earth. (Time dilation has been experimentally verified using subatomic particles and particle accelerators, but the principle is the same.) The key is this one part of the board, which I’ve highlighted.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mathematics, TV
MORE ABOUT: Eureka, Relativity

Money (and Energy) for Nothing

By Stephen Cass | August 25, 2008 12:30 pm

Zero Point ModuleOn the TV series Stargate Atlantis, the current installment from the Stargate franchise, a device small enough to be held in your hands provides the energy for an entire city. Called a Zero Point Module, the device glows with golden light and produces an almost unlimited supply of clean energy. But it seems that the ZPM is an unrealistic little gizmo because it somehow creates energy from… well, nothing, and therefore, the thing belongs in a prop room shelved somewhere between the Flux Capacitor and the One Ring. But what if it was real?

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Energy

Stargate is Dead: Long Live Stargate

By Stephen Cass | August 22, 2008 3:34 pm

Stargate: Atlantis promotional artOne of Science Not Fiction’s favorite shows, Stargate Atlantis has been cancelled — the currently showing 5th season will be the last. But the Stargate franchise lives on — the SciFi channel has ordered a new series called Stargate Universe that will be more space-based than the 5-season Atlantis and its forerunner, the 10-Season Stargate SG-1. Atlantis fans can also look forward to at least one movie that continues the storylines of that show, much as SG-1 has done.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: TV

Across the Uncanny Valley At Last?

By Stephen Cass | August 21, 2008 4:10 pm

Screenshot of computer generated actress EmilyVia Technovelgy, The Times Online has a report on a company called Image Metrics which has developed an animation technique that promises the most lifelike computer generated humans ever–good enough to finally get over the uncanny valley, which is responsible for that creepy feeling you get when you see an artificial face that is almost, but not quite, totally realistic.

The demo reel is pretty impressive–this is a creation whose eyes are full of life, not the gateways into zombie hell typical of many previous attempts at creating photorealistic images of humans. Still, the artificial Emily is a digital duplicate of a real actress (Emily O’Brien, shown at 1:30 in the reel) used for the image capture that drives the performance. What I actually find more impressive, if slightly less polished, is the demo on Image Metrics homepage that shows a synthetic character with a different face than the performer’s. It’s only a matter of time before someone puts together a prime time hit that, like The Simpsons, features no on screen real-life performances, but, unlike The Simpsons, has a cast of characters that wouldn’t be out of place on the Oscar red carpet.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Animation

Eureka: The Ultimate Clock

By Stephen Cass | August 20, 2008 7:01 pm

Screen capture from Euraka Season Three, Episode FourLast night’s episode of Eureka was terrific, easily one of the show’s best, with some amazing performances from the cast. If you haven’t seen the episode, or you haven’t yet watched Eureka at all, get over to the Sci Fi channel’s website and and catch it. The plot revolved around problems with the flow of time—and where you have time, you have clocks.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Time Travel, TV
MORE ABOUT: atomic clock, Eureka, NIST

Equation Answers

By Stephen Cass | August 20, 2008 5:29 pm

Scientific Equation 1Okay, here we go! Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mathematics
MORE ABOUT: Equations

Propmasters Beware: It's Actual Equation Time!

By Stephen Cass | August 19, 2008 4:55 pm

Screenshot from Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along-BlogWe’ve all watched the scene. Maybe it’s the scientist character trying to provide a huge dollop of exposition to the rest of the team, maybe it’s in a montage as the cast grope towards the breakthrough that will drive Act II.

Whatever it is, it features a blackboard / whiteboard / cave wall covered in equations that supposedly relate to the situation at hand. Some shows—such as Numb3rs—really try to match what’s on the board to the plot. Others just pick science equations at random, or delegate a junior props guy to scribble a grab-bag of greek letters and math symbols on the board. But can people really tell the difference? What follows are some equations (and hints) that relate to classic science-fiction scenarios — see if you can identify them. Answers and explanations tomorrow.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Mathematics
MORE ABOUT: Equations, Numb3rs, props
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