Archive for October, 2008

Eleventh Hour: Medicine's Tough Choices

By Eric Wolff | October 31, 2008 7:22 pm

Screenshot from Eleventh HourI can hardly imagine the challenges of having a low-functioning, developmentally delayed child. Last night’s episode of the Eleventh Hour tackles the difficult choices a parent with such a developmentally delayed child faces, and the hope and despair these parents experience.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Biology

Knight Rider: The self-driving car

By Eric Wolff | October 30, 2008 4:11 pm

Screenshot from Knight RiderI almost laughed out loud at the start of last night’s episode of Knight Rider. Mike Traceur sat in KITT’s driver’s seat, reading a dossier, and watching football as he cruised down some scenic highway—and why not, when he’s got a car that can drive itself. Which is when it hit me: I’ve been writing about Knight Rider for weeks without looking into where we are on the whole self-driving car thing! I mean, a car that drives itself has to come before a talking car in the pantheon of useful technology, right?

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cars, TV

Darwin TV

By Stephen Cass | October 29, 2008 6:34 pm

Promotional Image for SanctuaryWe’re a few weeks into the fall season, when new shows are either picked up for a full season — or join the ranks of the cancelled. So which shows are a franchise-in-waiting and which shows have had their brief lives snuffed out? Sci Fi Wire has the complete list, but here at SNF, we’re glad to see Sanctuary has done well, and Eleventh Hour appears to be pulling its weight.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Uncategorized

Science Fiction's Bet on Epsilon Eridani Pays Off

By Stephen Cass | October 28, 2008 6:55 pm

Screenshot from Babylon 5As noted over on 80 Beats, scientists using the Spitzer space telescope have found strong evidence that Epsilon Eridani has a solar system not unlike our own, with rocky planets orbiting in the inner solar system and gas giants orbiting further out.

Science fiction writers must have breathed a collective sigh of relief, as Epsilon Eridani has been used in countless novels, short stories, TV shows, and movies as the location of more-or-less Earth like planets. Nothing dates a science fiction story like the cold hand of reality, such as when Mars was revealed to be a cratered desert with not a canal in sight, or when the clouds of Venus were shown to be concealing a lethal landscape of shattered rock, rather than lush jungle swamps.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Movies, Space, Space Flight, TV

Watchmen Trailer Deconstructed

By Stephen Cass | October 27, 2008 6:32 pm

The folks over at Television Without Pity write snarky recaps of television shows that range from pop-phenom American Idol to critical darling Mad Men; the recaps are often more fun than the actual program (for whatever reason, they have had difficulty putting science fiction shows into the mix, with some famously unreadable reviews of Doctor Who for example, but their Eureka recappers are pretty good.) In the video above, they do nice job of dissecting the trailer for the much-anticipated Watchman movie, adapted from the influential graphic novel of the same name.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Comics, Movies

Eleventh Hour: Advanced pest control and the trouble with GMOs

By Eric Wolff | October 24, 2008 5:30 pm

Screenshot from Eleventh Hour, Episode 1×03Network shows aren’t exactly known for their subtlety, but the Eleventh Hour last night managed to navigate the complicated issues surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMO’s), taking potshots at biotech firms, big agribusiness, and folks who fetishize food labeled “natural” in equal measure.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Biotech

Knight Rider: Data Mining

By Eric Wolff | October 23, 2008 2:23 pm

Screenshot from Knight RiderMaybe it was the success of The Matrix, or maybe it was the age of the Internet that did it, but in the last 10 years, it’s no longer flying cars or fast-talking robots that symbolize the world of the future. No, these days it’s the ability to almost touch piles of data that has become the sine qua non of quality futuristic imaginings.  Case in point, Minority Report. The high point of that film (for me, anyway) had to be when Tom Cruise dons his info gloves and commences a magnificent danse du data, shuffling through the visions of the precogs accompanied by the strains of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony. Down here in small screen land, Knight Rider‘s writers make data manipulation a staple of the show.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: TV

Space Elevator Still At Ground Floor

By Stephen Cass | October 21, 2008 5:31 pm

Space ElevatorMy colleague Eliza Strickland over on 80 Beats has a post about researchers who want to build a new world of out of buckypaper, a superstrong material that has applications ranging from an airplane construction material to lightweight display screens.

There’s some online buzz wondering if this material would be strong enough to make the space elevator a reality. If you haven’t heard the term, a space elevator is a cable or ribbon that extends about 100,000 km into space from an anchor point on the equator. Glorified elevators car shuffle cargo and people in and out of orbit, eliminating all that mucking about with dangerous rockets and with the ability to move payloads for a minute fraction of the cost of current boosters. A space elevator could make a lot of big space projects — like orbiting solar power plants — suddenly very doable. The idea was first thought of over a century ago, and most notably popularized by Arthur C. Clarke’s 1979 novel The Fountains of Paradise. In recent years, interest was renewed with a new (and much more practical) elevator design pioneered by Brad Edwards .

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Uncategorized

Sanctuary gets ROVing

By Stephen Cass | October 20, 2008 5:50 pm

Screenshot from Sanctuary, episode 1×04On Friday’s episode of Sanctuary, Magnus and her team were faced with tracking down a thief with the ability to squeeze into the narrowest of spaces. Suspicious of a pipe that may have been used to make a getaway, our intrepid heroes break out a ROV — remotely operated vehicle — to peer where they can not.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Robots, TV

Is Jupiter on Armageddon's side?

By Stephen Cass | October 17, 2008 11:28 pm

Screenshot from ArmageddonThe most excellent Kevin Grazier stopped by DISCOVER’s offices today — turns out that apart from being the science advisor to Battlestar Galactica and Eureka, he actually has a day job! Kevin works on the Cassini mission at JPL (hence a work-related trip out east.) Kevin also has been doing some interesting research that could upset the conventional wisdom regarding the role of Jupiter in the history of the solar system.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Apocalypse
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