Archive for March, 2009

Battlestar Galactica Countdown

By Stephen Cass | March 17, 2009 1:20 pm

David Eick, Mary McDonnell, Edward James Olmos, Ron MooreThe Sci Fi channel became Syfy last night, with a network presentation to the press and advertisers that featured many of the channel’s new and recurring shows — and a screening of the series finale of Battlestar Galactica. Emblematic of BSG‘s traditional secrecy, Ron Moore led the screening audience through an oath not to reveal any spoilers about the last episode (backed up by NBC Universal reps making us sign little bits of paper to the same effect) so I can’t reveal anything about what to expect beyond a promise that it’s a wild ride that’s going to spark a lot of discussion. Check back with Science Not Fiction on Friday after the finale airs, and we’ll have excerpts from the Q&A that followed, featuring producers Moore and David Eick, as well leading cast members Mary McDonnell and Edward James Olmos, where we get some more answers about the deep background of the show. We’ll also have an interview with Kevin Grazier, BSG’s science advisor, about some of the science behind the rag tag fleet’s search for home.

If you can’t wait until Friday, come back tomorrow for coverage of tonight’s panel discussion at the United Nations, where the Battlestar crew will be joined by high level UN representatives to talk about the show’s take on human rights, terrorism, and reconciliation.

In other news, Eureka is still on track to return to our screens this summer, and the next season of Sanctuary is getting stuck into production this Monday. I’m also looking forward to Warehouse 13, which is set to premiere this summer and looks like a lot of fun.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: TV, Utter Nerd

Eleventh Hour: Funky Pheromones

By Eric Wolff | March 16, 2009 1:17 pm

Eleventh Hour LogoOh, Dr. Jacob Hood, how do you manage to be such an non-nerdy nerd? In the last episode of Eleventh Hour, Hood and FBI Agents Rachel  Young and Felix Lee are asked to investigate rage killings during New York Fashion Week. Hood has no idea who any of the super models are, but he is hip enough to know that they might drink appletinis. Actually, appletinis are so 2002. Maybe he is a big geek after all.

Anyway, the models in question had made the tactical blunder of wearing an expensive perfume that turned out to be laced with a cocktail of pheromones and neurotransmitters. Men gathered round the runway who smelled the perfume lost all control and assaulted the models. Seems that a side effect of this particular compound is that it incites violence. Oops!  But while animals definitely use chemical signals to communicate with other members of the heard, the role of pheromones in human behavior is far, far less well defined.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Biology, TV

Battlestar Galactica – 5 Skeptical Solutions for the Finale

By Sam Lowry | March 13, 2009 3:48 pm

Battlestar WomenOne of the best things about the final season of BSG has been that much of the annoying mysticism of previous seasons has now been explained by science.   I’ll admit it was convoluted TV show science, but at least it wasn’t people seeing ghosts or having divine inspirations.

The Chief being mysteriously pulled toward the Temple of Five?  Turns out he was one of the aforementioned five and had been there before (my apologies if that’s a spoiler for you, but really, catch up already).

BSG is best when it revolves around people and politics, as opposed to the god(s) and the lost tribes of whoever.  Desperate people, dirty spaceships and ragtag resistance movements?  Gripping and relevant TV.  President Roslin’s visions and imaginary shamans?  Not so much.

When I saw Galactica’s hull break open and the Six shoot into space, I was reminded of BSG science adviser Kevin Grazier explaining what happens when you fall out of a spaceship.  We’re hoping for a post from Kevin on the potential explanations for artificial gravity, but we appreciate that the show has a solid science adviser and appears to listen to him occasionally (no aliens, no time travel, real constellations).

With all that in mind here are non-supernatural solutions for my five favorite Battlestar mysteries (note that these are suggestions not spoilers): Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Robots, TV

Assignment Desk: You Ask, We Answer

By Eric Wolff | March 12, 2009 6:30 pm

Codex Futurius LogoSometimes there’s just more Sci Fi than the SciNoFi team can keep up with. It sounds crazy, I know, but it’s true – we live in a golden age of speculative fiction in a host of media. And more than likely, some of it brushes up close enough to real science to make you, our dear readers, wonder: “Can they do that?”  But then the laundry needs folding, or your boss actually wants you to get some work done, or there’s a critical game of Facebook Scrabble that needs playing, and you don’t get around to finding the answer.

We’re here to help. In the comments below, fire away with your science questions about any sci fi book, TV show, movie, radio play, comic, or whatever that you can think of, and we’ll set about answering as many as we can in upcoming posts as part of our Codex Futurius project.

Bear in mind, we yearn to answer science questions. We’re relatively useless for fielding pop entertainment rumors or speculating on why Starbuck keeps having weird visions. But the science of Sci Fi? Bring it on.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Codex Futurius, Utter Nerd
MORE ABOUT: Assignment desk

Codex Futurius: Creating Superheroes

By Stephen Cass | March 11, 2009 7:02 pm

Codex Futurius LogoGreetings from the flashing, buzzing, control room of Science Not Fiction! Today we kick off our Codex Futurius project, which will strive to answer the kinds of questions that we see keep coming up in science fiction books, shows, movies–and even the occasional musical. We’re phrased the questions in the way that a beleaguered author or scriptwriter might pose them, and today’s question is:

I want Superheroes in my story, all with amazing powers. I also want a good explanation for their origin: could genetic mutation or manipulation create a superhuman?

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Biotech, Codex Futurius, Genetics

Word from the Multiverse

By Eric Wolff | March 10, 2009 3:53 pm

SciNoFi sifts  the mass of SciFi news to find the bits worth knowing.

Battlestar Weirdness: For reasons more arcane than the Cylons’ plan, Universal is talking to Glen A. Larson about making a Battlestar Galactica movie–based on the original Battlestar series. What the heck? I loved the original series in my bespectacled youth, (we were really starved for space fights back then), but they couldn’t hold a blaster to the reimagined series. In other news, the actor playing Ellen Tigh and Battlestar creator Ron Moore will be making guest appearances on CSI. Don’t ask why.

Watchmen Watchmen Watchmen! Despite getting wrecked by most mainstream critics,  Watchmen cleaned up this weekend with a $55.7  million haul at the box office.  Anyone out there see it and think it’s awesome? I haven’t seen it yet, but my nerd network  seems to be rating it a solid  “meh.”

Smells like Teen Kirk: OK, I know this has made the rounds, but everyone needs to know that about the Star Trek themed colognes: “Pon Farr”, “Tiberius”, and—my personal favorite— “Red Shirt”. Because tomorrow may never come.  Also worth noting, Paramount put replicas of the models of the new Enterprise on display at the Arclight (a.k.a. best theater in the world ever) in Hollywood. Click through for images.

Fantastic art Spectrum announced the 16 winners of the best in 2008 fantasy art. This is not the usual fantasy dreck promulgated by Wizards of the Coast and well worth the click.

•  What’s on  TV : Last week Knight Rider sped off into the sunset for good, but  news isn’t all bad for sci fi fans. Heroes got picked up for one more season, and, perhaps more enticing, Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller is trying to generate momentum for a new Star Trek show, oriented back toward the original series. Also, Red Dwarf will make its return after 10 years with a two-parter expected to air over Easter in the UK.

Hat tips to I09, Sci Fi Wire, SFFMedia, and Neatorama.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Utter Nerd

Watchmen: Nuclear Holocaust Ain't What It Used to Be

By Melissa Lafsky | March 9, 2009 5:18 pm

Watchmen ApocalypseBy now, every sci-fi devotee and his grandmother has sounded off on Watchmen, Zack Snyder’s big-budget big-hoopla film version of the eponymous graphic novel. Love it or hate it (and most fans seemed to do one or the other) we can all admit that the movie remained faithful to the book, minus a few scenes and the absence of [spoiler alert] one giant alien squid.

We’ll leave the debates over the acting, direction, and overall adaptation to others (except to say that Jackie Earle Haley stole the show). But one aspect worthy of analysis is the story’s main conflict—the constant “looming” nuclear holocaust. Granted, we never actually see any evidence that the aforementioned holocaust is looming, save a few shots of Nixon upping Defcon levels—but we’ll address that later. When Alan Moore first published the book in 1986, the apocalypse on everyone’s mind was Cold War atomic bombs—which, as we’ve noted, no longer pack quite the same anxiety punch as, say, biological weapons. Today, gas masks and duct tape have replaced air raids and backyard shelters in the popular conscious, to the point where seeing mushroom clouds onscreen feels like you’re watching an ’80s homage.

Of course, none of this means that the nuclear threat is any smaller now than it was three decades ago: The danger of nuclear war is still present, and fear of missile attack still drives plenty of policy and military tech decisions worldwide. But, like Bird Flu, nukes seem to have a PR problem: Despite the fact that they could wipe us all out, the thought of them isn’t all that scary.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Apocalypse, Biowarfare, Comics, Movies

Eleventh Hour: VX Gas And How to Survive it

By Eric Wolff | March 6, 2009 9:51 pm

Eleventh Hour LogoTerrorism pops up all over science fiction, and last night’s episode of Eleventh Hour was no exception with terrorism featuring VX gas. The plot focused on a group of white converts to Islam (thank you, Hollywood, for reinforcing that stereotype. We’re all painfully aware of the dangers of lunatic jihadists, but let’s not become so fixated on that that we blind ourselves to the fact that as, say, Oklahama and Belfast demonstrated, terrorists can have sorts of religious faiths, including agnostic and Christian, while simultaneously tarring all Muslims with the same brush). The terrorists plan to take over a theater full of kids and hold them hostage. The weapon they intend to hold over their heads is VX nerve gas, more or less considered the deadliest chemical weapon in the world’s arsenals. It’s the same stuff Ed Harris was smuggling in The Rock, and one of the weapons Saddam Hussein used on the Kurds. VX gas is, by most experts’ account, the most deadly chemical weapon yet invented. It’s so potent that when the British invented it in 1952, the Americans were willing to trade away nuclear secrets to learn how to make it.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Biowarfare, Chemistry, TV
MORE ABOUT: Eleventh Hour, VX gas

Diamonds in the Sky: The Asteroid Menace

By Eric Wolff | March 5, 2009 6:29 pm

Very large asteroid impactImagine an asteroid, hurtling toward the Earth. A really big one, a kilometer across, weighing millions of tons. In fact, don’t even imagine, watch this video for a simulation. Bad news, right?  What to do? If time is really short, we may need to fire up the nuclear weapons in a desperate bid to either destroy the asteroid or alter its direction, but emphasis on the word desperate. It’s a long shot that it will help at all.

But hopefully we’ll have some more time than that, maybe on the order of 40 or 50 years. Then we can make plans. In How I saved the World, Valentin Ivanov’s short story from Diamonds in the Sky, a heroic team of astronauts are living on the surface of an asteroid called “The Hammer” and…painting it black.  Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Apocalypse, Astronomy

Diamonds In The Sky: Universal Alchemy

By Stephen Cass | March 3, 2009 6:00 pm

Cartoon of stellar nucleosynthesisContinuing on with our look at short stories of the Diamonds In The Sky online anthology, we turn to “The Freshman Hook Up” by Wil McCarthy (McCarthy wrote an article for the October 2008 issue of DISCOVER about the very real possibilities of the programmable matter that appears in many of his science fiction books).

The Freshman Hook Up is a wry take on the phenonmenon of stellar nucleosynthesis–a phenomenon to which we owe our existence. After the Big Bang, most of the ordinary matter in the universe formed into isotopes of hydrogen, helium and a smattering of lithium. Heavier elements—making up nearly all of the periodic table—simply did not exist. So how is it that we can stand on a planet mostly made of rock, and enjoy active biochemistries that rely on carbon, oxygen, nitrogen along with some other elements?

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Physics
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