The Best Last-Minute Geeky Gifts That You Can Get For Under $10 @ io9

The Best Last-Minute Geeky Gifts That You Can Get For Under $10

It's December 18? How did that happen? If the holidays got away from you this year — and you're feeling the pinch of the most wonderful … and freakin' expensive ... time of the year — we've got you covered in the last-minute affordable gift department. Here are the best last-minute gifts for under a ten-spot.

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A Planet In The Dreaded "Rotisserie" Alignment Could Still Support Life @ io9

A Planet In The Dreaded "Rotisserie" Alignment Could Still Support Life

One of the criteria for the habitability of exoplanets is their obliquity—the angle of the axis relative to the orbit around a star. Current thinking holds that the more extreme the tilt, the less likely the possibility of life. But MIT researchers suggest one notable exception: a world completely covered by water.

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The Clones Are Ready For War In First Teaser For Orphan Black Season 3 @ io9

Orphan Black's second season ended with an Earth-shattering revelation, and now it looks like all the clones are preparing themselves for the fallout. But one clone is conspicuously absent. Don't watch this unless you've already seen the second season finale.

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California Sees A Big Drop In Drought Severity @ io9

California Sees A Big Drop In Drought Severity

The latest data from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows California experienced a major, state-wide dip in drought severity this week, following record-setting rainfall – but the state still has a long way to go .

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10 Ways To Turn Your Real Life Experiences Into Science Fiction @ io9

10 Ways To Turn Your Real Life Experiences Into Science Fiction

Unless you've commanded a starship, fought off an alien invasion or survived a global disaster, your life experiences probably aren't too science-fictional. But still, the most powerful stories are often rooted in things that actually happened. Here are 10 tricks for turning your personal true stories into science fiction.

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OMNI Magazine December 1990: Special UFO Edition @ Omni Reboot

omni-mag-1990-2

The December 1990 Issue of OMNI Magazine investigates the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

If extraterrestrial intelligence is out there somewhere, OMNI magazine wanted to be the first to know in the December 1990 issue. The first messages from space will probably arrive in the form of radio waves, or an invading fleet of flying saucers hungry for a habitable world. Jill Tarter was a radio astronomer devoted to the search for life in the cosmos. The logic behind listening for radio signals works as follows. If radio technology is the entrance exam to be a galactic explorer, then other intelligent civilizations may have acquired the capability thousands, if not millions, of years ago. Is SETI the "archaeology of the future?" SETI is still listening, but there are no answers to solve the Fermi paradox just yet.
Pictorial: Field of Dreams?:

Mysterious circles etched in British farmlands may be messages from the stars or artifacts of nature. Not far from the mysterious ring of ancient megaliths at Stonehenge, a new phenomenon is sculpting circles in the cornfields of southern England. More than 400 times in the summer of 1990, an unseen agent blew across growing crops, creating circular patterns in the fields. If humans could only tap into the memories of plants perhaps some light would be shed on the mystery. The phenomenon always occurs at night, sometimes accompanied by a warbling sound and a moving orange light.

OMNI History: UFOs

What the government is not saying about UFOs:

Is the United States government hiding information about aliens and flying saucers? A group known as the UFO Working group gathers in the bowels of the Pentagon to discuss UFO incidents in secret. The 17-member group was unveiled by Howard Blum in his book Out There. A traditional view of the government and UFOs holds that a sinister plot has buried information deep beneath the military base in Roswell, New Mexico. However, Larry W. Bryant, of the office of Citizens Against UFO Secrecy (CAUS), believes the real conspiracy is that the government is hiding what they do not know. They should at least release data on how many auto accidents are caused by UFOs.

The Alien Almanac: 

The lexicon of UFO-ology has changed drastically since the 1950s, making terms like "little green men" and "flying saucer" obsolete. In the 1960s UFO stories, recorded by the notorious Project Blue Book, became legion around the world. Then in the 1970s sightings were reported based on the physicality of the phenomenon, with words like "nocturnal lights" and "daylight discs." UFO sightings in the 1990s needed proper terminology to accurately report the event. OMNI writer Dennis Stacy compiled a list of terms for the UFO advocates of the 1990s.

OMNI MAKES FIRST CONTACT

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Darwinian Evolution May Enable Computers To Learn: 

Danny Hillis, founder of Thinking Machines Corporation, says, "The dream is to evolve programs that solve problems we don't know how to solve but merely know how to state." Software that learns from its mistakes is the focus of technology known as heuristic, and forms the foundation for artificial intelligence. One of Hillis' computers simulated thousands of independent organisms created random mutations in the code. Only the fittest, most efficient mutations survived.

The post OMNI Magazine December 1990: Special UFO Edition appeared first on OMNI Reboot.

Deals On Sons of Anarchy, Game of Thrones, Cowboy Bebop, Cosmos @ io9

Deals On Sons of Anarchy, Game of Thrones, Cowboy Bebop, Cosmos

This awesome Sons of Anarchy boxed set is at its lowest price ever today, and those who grab it "will receive an emailed coupon code for a credit to complete the collection with Sons of Anarchy: Season 7". [Sons of Anarchy, $100]

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Alfred Hitchcock talks filmmaking in rare 90-minute interview filmed in 1976 @ Blastr

If you’ve ever wanted to crawl deep into the mind of one of the greatest filmmakers in history and stroll around for a while, then we’ve got you covered.

A rare interview with Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho, Rear Window), conducted four years before the legendary director’s death in 1980 has surfaced, showing off a full hour and a half of cinema awesomeness. Yeah, that’s right — an interview with one of the best directors ever that runs the typical length of many movies. Nice.

The wide-ranging interview finds Hitchcock responding to a smattering of serious and not-so-serious questions about his career, filmmaking style and directorial preferences. The interview was conducted to promote Hitchcock’s final film, Family Plot, which opened in 1976. It's a must-see for cinephiles, and it's made even more important by the fact that it came so late in the game and allows Hitchcock to reflect on his career.

Take advantage of some of that holiday-related free time and enjoy:

(Via Eyes on Cinema)

Real-life video shows what happens if you step in lava, and it's not what you'd expect @ Blastr

It’s not a common question, sure, but have you ever wondered what would happen if you stepped in molten lava? This, and honestly, it’s really kind of weird.

Some daredevils have posted a video clip filmed at the Kilauea volcano in the Hawaiian Islands, where lava emerges from a vent at temperatures as high as 2,192 degrees (Fahrenheit) and slowly flows down the side. The experiment: Document what happens when someone, literally, steps on lava.

It’s not at all what we would’ve really expected, and instead comes off like a flame-throwing foam than any type of real liquid material. Here’s the video description from the folks who shot it (and risked a foot):

This video shows how pressure applied to this dense material only causes a slight indentation. While this may not be surprising (it is liquid rock), I think that many people think of lava as more of a hot-watery-like substance. You would never fall into a lava lake the way you would a swimming pool, the molten rock is much more dense, so you would simply land on it, sink a little, and be burned.

OK. Weird, yeah, but not much more encouraging. Regardless of whether you’d sink a lot, or sink a little, that stuff still looks insanely hot. Check out the clip below and let us know what you think:

(Via Sploid)

How The Simpsons Changed the English Language @ io9

How The Simpsons Changed the English Language

Over at the Oxford Dictionaries blog, there's an essay by author and Indiana University at Bloomington professor Michael Adams that investigates how The Simpsons has helped shape the English language over the past 25 years.

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New to Tolkien? Get a 4-minute video crash course in Middle-earth mythology @ Blastr

This week marks the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, quite possibly the last J.R.R. Tolkien-based movie we'll see for a very long time, so nerds everywhere have Middle-earth on the brain. Thanks to The Hobbit trilogy and its predecessor, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, millions of new fans have flocked to Tolkien's world and fallen totally in love with Hobbits, Elves, and Wizards, whether they've read the books or not. But what if you want to go deeper than the events of those films and the books they're based on? What if you want to know where all the beings walking around Middle-earth came from in the first place?

Tolkien wrote thousands upon thousands of pages explaining the complex mythology of Middle-earth, including who created each of the races in the world, why evil exists, and what exactly wizards like Gandalf are. Unfortunately, if you're not a devoted and/or seasoned fan of Tolkien's particularly writing style, those texts can be a bit difficult to dig into, and you may find yourself reading them several times before it all really clicks together. There's no substitute for going to the source, of course, but if you want to understand the basic mythological framework on which The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit hang, YouTube user and internet explainer CGP Grey has to come to the rescue. 

In a new video released this week, Grey gives you a basic understanding of Middle-earth mythology in about four minutes, beginning with why the wizards aren't just guys with beards and spells, and continuing on through how each race came to be, where Sauron came from, and why Gandalf could go toe-to-toe with a Balrog. If you're new to this stuff, it's an effective primer, but even if you're a longtime Tolkien fan, it's a nice referesher.

Check out the video below:

(Via CGP Grey)

Author Keller Easterling Is Here To Take Questions On Extrastatecraft @ io9

Author Keller Easterling Is Here To Take Questions On Extrastatecraft

How does the infrastructure of our cities shape how we can live in them? Keller Easterling, architect and author of Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space is here to answer questions about global cities and the architecture and infrastructure that support them.

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The Winning Images From National Geographic's 2014 Photo Contest @ io9

The Winning Images From National Geographic's 2014 Photo Contest

After poring over 9,200 entries, a panel of judges at National Geographic has chosen the cream of the crop. Here are 15 astounding photographs deemed to be the year's best.

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Archaeologist Finds Artifacts Possibly Linked To Kings David And Solomon @ io9

Archaeologist Finds Artifacts Possibly Linked To Kings David And Solomon

Many scholars dismiss David and Solomon as mythical figures, arguing that kingdoms didn't exist in the region during the early Iron Age, when the events in the Bible supposedly took place. By a new discovery in southern Israel suggests there was more political complexity in the 10th century BC than previously thought.

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How Does 'Male Sympathetic Pregnancy' Work? @ io9

How Does 'Male Sympathetic Pregnancy' Work?

Couvade Syndrome is the name given to the conglomerate of pregnancy symptoms experienced by men when their partners are pregnant. The human mind is a powerful thing, but can a man's brain really convince his body that it's pregnant? And how does the pregnancy end?

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Cronenberg's The Fly returns with a sequel comic-book series next year @ Blastr

David Cronenberg's The Fly is a rare film, not just a masterpiece of sci-fi-infused body horror, but a remake with a reputation that actually surpasses that of the original film. Nearly 30 years after its arrival, it remains a classic of its genre, and its disturbing visuals still chill new viewers year after year. The film got a sequel in 1989, and for years we've been hearing rumblings of either another sequel or a remake, neither of which has come to pass. Now IDW Publishing is changing that ... in comic form.

Next spring the publisher will release The Fly: Outbreak, a five-issue miniseries and sequel to Cronenberg's film from writer Brandon Seifert (Hellraiser) and artist menton3 (Silent Hill). The series will follow the "almost-human son" of the scientist whose teleporting mishap turned him into a horrific human/fly hybrid (called Seth Brundle in the film, but IDW's press release doesn't name the character, so we're not either) as he searches for a cure to the genetic mutations passed down by his father. Something goes wrong, though, and what started as a cure turns into an outbreak that could transform anyone exposed to it into a monster.

"To be totally honest, The Fly is one of the most disturbing things I've ever seen!" Seifert said. "It was really resonant for its time. And in the last 20 years or so, with all the advances in Genetically Modified Organisms, the film has taken on a lot of meaning it didn't originally have. It's really exciting to explore those elements in this miniseries — and great to have an amazing, super-distinctive artist like menton3 on the visuals!"

As we noted before, The Fly already got a sequel in the form of 1989's The Fly II, which also dealt with Seth Brundle's son trying to find a cure for his condition. It's not clear whether Seifert and menton3 are just ignoring that film or incorporating it at this point, but either way Outbreak looks to take the transformative horror of The Fly to new heights, and we can't wait to read it.

The Fly: Outbreak debuts in March 2015.

Here's the title and cast for the Ghostbusters 3 that could have been @ Blastr

<div id="file-172086" class="file file-image file-image-jpeg"> <div class="content"> <img src="http://www.blastr.com/sites/blastr/files/styles/media_thumbnail/public/ghostbusters-3-logo.jpg?itok=3kag9FdJ" width="100" height="100" alt="" title="" /> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal">And the Sony leaks news keep on coming, this time concerning Ivan Reitman's <em>Ghostbusters 3</em>.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Only a year ago, Ivan Reitman, who was still attached to helm the eagerly anticipated <em>Ghostbusters</em> sequel, sent an email to Sony that revealed the title of the new movie, as well as several names of actors he wanted for his film.&nbsp;<span style="line-height: 1.538em;">This email was -- of course -- sent to Amy Pascal, containing the second draft of the movie (which was written by </span><em style="line-height: 1.538em;">Men in Black 3</em><span style="line-height: 1.538em;"> scribe Etan Cohen), as well as notes on the potential cast.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"></p><p class="MsoNormal">At the time, there were no talks yet of an all-female <em>Ghostbusters,</em>&nbsp;and Reitman (who had directed <em>Ghostbusters</em> in 1985 and <em>Ghostbusters II</em> in 1989) was still attached to produce and direct the film. There’s not many details about the plot, but the movie would have seen the return of original cast members Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson, who would have handed the franchise over to a new generation.<o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal">Sadly, Harold Ramis died in February of this year and Reitman left the project, citing both the beloved actor's death as well as Bill Murray’s lack of interest in the movie as the impetus behind him dropping the whole thing. Then the rest fell apart faster than you could say "Ghostbusters," before news finally came a few months back that Sony was finally going ahead with&nbsp;<em>Ghostbusters 3</em>, but that it would get the reboot treatment with a female cast and Paul Feig as the movie's director.<o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal">So, what was the proposed title for Ivan Reitman’s third <em>Ghostbusters</em> flick? It was <em>Ghostbusters: Alive Again</em>. Not an awesome title, but not a bad one, either. Sort of a play on the fact that the team’s back together again 25 years later, and that they bust dead people for a living.<o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal">Now, the brief character descriptions below are not taken from Ivan Reitman's email but are from a character breakdown reported back in April by <a href="http://www.thewrap.com/ghostbusters-3-dream-casting-whats-the-deal/">The Wrap's Jeff Sneider</a>. What’s important about it is that the descriptions match the characters that <em>were</em> listed in Reitman's email and so give us a tiny glimpse into what could have been.<o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal"><strong>Chris:</strong> He was to be the son of Bill Murray's character Peter Venkman. Reitman was apparently considering Adam Pally (<em>The Mindy Project</em>), Charlie Day (<em>Pacific Rim</em>) and Jesse Eisenberg (<em>Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice</em>) for the role. Reitman told Pascal: “I have met with all three, and frankly this is the piece of casting I'm the most unsure about.”<o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal"><strong>Jeremy:</strong> This character was described as “the leader of the younger generation of Ghostbusters.” Reitman had only Jonah Hill (<em>21 Jump Street</em>) in mind for the part, and said he was to meet with the actor soon to give him the script to read.<o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal"><strong>Anna:</strong>&nbsp;A doctor and the lead female character, Reitman apparently met with two actresses for the role. They are Brie Larson (<em>The Gambler</em>) and Catwoman herself, Anne Hathaway (<em>The Dark Knight Rises</em>). He said both Larson and Hathaway "expressed a strong desire to do it."<o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal"><strong>Dean:</strong> The inevitable comic relief, Dean would have been an older man (whatever that means). Reitman had Zach Galifianakis (<em>The Hangover</em>) in mind for the role and was set to meet him.<o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal"><strong>Ashley:</strong>&nbsp;Was a minor role and nothing is known about her besides the fact that Reitman met with Australian comedian Rebel Wilson (<em>Pitch Perfect</em>) and that she wanted to do it.<o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal"><strong>Joni and Jon:</strong> Ivan Reitman had in mind Aubrey Plaza and Aziz Ansari from <em>Parks and Recreations</em> for those two characters. Nothing else is known about them.<o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal">Now, on to the pièce de résistance: Who was to be the movie’s villain.<o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal"><strong>Gniewko</strong> (this is the name on Reitman’s list) or <strong>Eniewko</strong> (if we look at the casting agency’s breakdown): He was to be the movie’s Big Bad, and Ivan Reitman had his mind set on Sacha Baron Cohen, of <em>Borat</em> fame, but he apparently never approached the actor. Amy Pascal, on the other hand, had someone else entirely in mind for the dastardly role: Will Ferrell. But Reitman didn’t think Ferrell would be “effective” in the role. He may have been quite right about that one, depending on what the role demanded besides being that of the VILLAIN.</p><p class="MsoNormal">So what do you guys think? Any of the actors listed above you would have liked to see in Ivan Reitman's dead-as-a-doornail <em>Ghostbuster 3</em>? And what do you think of the title?<o:p></o:p></p><p class="MsoNormal">(via <a href="http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/nailbiter111/news/?a=112489">Comic Book Movie</a>)<o:p></o:p></p>

Image of the Day: Humongous live-action Attack on Titan poster @ Blastr

Here's a colossal new poster for next summer's live-action Attack on Titan blockbuster, revealed at an extensive Tokyo art exhibit celebrating the manga sensation.   While the gigantic flesh-eating Titans in the comics and anime series stand about 200 feet tall, the movie version will debut a super-tall Titan towering over 400 feet, even dwarfing Godzilla's stature in Gareth Edwards' monster flick.  

This vivid poster, with its The World Is Cruel tagline, accurately depicts the scale of a demonic creature so lofty and gives you a taste of the madness to come when Attack on Titan rampages into theaters in summer of 2015.  Are you prepared for the invasion?

(Via io9)

What Invention Do You Most Hope To See Within Your Lifetime? @ io9

What Invention Do You Most Hope To See Within Your Lifetime?

We've already seen some incredible technical advances roll out in our own not-too-distant pasts and we look to be on the cusp of quite a few more. But let's face it: The pace of research can be slow, while our lives are really pretty short. So what invention rollout do you still most hope to be around for?

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Deadspin South Dakota High School Wrestler Names, Ranked | Gizmodo This North Korean Guy Has the Wor @ io9

A Quadriplegic Woman Used Her Mind To Move This Robotic Limb In '10D' @ io9

A Quadriplegic Woman Used Her Mind To Move This Robotic Limb In '10D'

For the first time ever, a quadriplegic woman has used her thoughts to move a robotic hand across 10 degrees of freedom. The remarkable system allowed her to pick up a variety of objects, including skinny tubes and oddly shaped rocks.

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Bloomberg News asked foreign policy analysts, military experts and economists to identify the possib @ io9

Bloomberg News asked foreign policy analysts, military experts and economists to identify the possible worst-case scenarios in 2015. Potential future crises include armed conflict in the South China Sea, the collapse of Nigeria and political upheaval in Saudi Arabia prompted by the death of 90-year-old King Abdullah.

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This Bleeding Edge Iron Man Figure Looks Awesome @ io9

This Bleeding Edge Iron Man Figure Looks Awesome

The worst thing about Toy Soul 2014 happening this weekend is all the amazing figures that I can't buy, because they're literally 6 thousand miles away from me. Like this fancy new edition of Sentinel's already lovely Bleeding Edge Iron Man!

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Steven Moffat Says 2 Major Characters Could Still Return To Doctor Who @ io9

Steven Moffat Says 2 Major Characters Could Still Return To Doctor Who

Joss Whedon hints at some hinky stuff in store for Hawkeye and the Hulk in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Peter Jackson feels like he could always return to Middle Earth, if given the chance. And Jeremy Irons explains why he took the role of Alfred in Batman v. Superman. Spoilers now!

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​The Most Miserable Princess Ever: Sisi, Empress Elisabeth of Austria @ io9

​The Most Miserable Princess Ever: Sisi, Empress Elisabeth of Austria

Earlier this month, fashion's fanciest gathered in Salzburg for the annual Chanel Métiers d'Art collection. The runway show, meant to showcase the brand's couture bona fides, was held in a palace, featured Alpine-inspired looks and models looped around a centerpiece laden with fruits and sweets. To launch the festivities, Karl Lagerfeld made a short film imagining Pharrell Williams and Cara Delevingne as a pair of glamorous Austrian royals.

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Video Games Make Surprisingly Beautiful Pulp Novels @ io9

Video Games Make Surprisingly Beautiful Pulp Novels

From artist Ástor Alexander come these video game-inspired pulp covers: Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid. My favorite is the Mario one, mostly because I imagine that it's a series, and every book ends with Mario heading to another castle.

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How the Ancient Romans Made Better Concrete Than We Do Now @ io9

How the Ancient Romans Made Better Concrete Than We Do Now

If you've ever wondered why the ancient structures of Rome have endured for millennia, when our own modern concrete is susceptible to cracks and crumbles, well, now you have your answer. Researchers recreated the Roman recipe and discovered that the formation of a certain kind of crystal in the concrete is the reason for the durability.

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New Concept Art Shows the Dark Beauty of the Marvel Universe @ io9

New Concept Art Shows the Dark Beauty of the Marvel Universe

From concept artist Andrew Kim we have new looks into the concept art of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Thor: The Dark World, and Guardians of the Galaxy. It turns out that Peter Quill had his pick of weird rat creatures to use as a microphone.

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The M. Night Shyamalan Version of Christmas Has the Best Twist Ever @ io9

Fourgrounds Film has imagined Christmas Day through the lens of a bunch of directors, including Alfred Hitchcock, Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, Alfred Hitchcock, and Michael Bay. But, for our money, their M. Night Shyamalan twist is the best of the bunch. (Twin Peaks Christmas ran a close second.)

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A talk with Ascension‘s Al Sapienza, part 2 – spoiler version @ Sci-Fi Storm

In our earlier article where we talked with Al Sapienza, who plays Councilman Rose on Ascension, I mentioned that I couldn’t tell you everything that was said, as we had both seen the first night of the show already and the “big reveal” at the end. What follows is the remaining part of that conversation. So if you HAVEN’T SEEN the first night yet, bookmark this article and come back after you have seen it. I REALLY don’t want to spoil it for you.

Really. I mean that. Do not read another word until you’ve seen it.

Still here? OK…if you’ve seen it, you probably know how much I wanted to talk about it with SOMEONE…I wanted to have a “It’s made of people!” moment. But that probably would have made me persona-non-grata with my friends at Syfy, and no bowling next year. :(

I had realized before watching that the possibility of that twist existed. After talking about the show with the cast, I started to see the show as a social experiment in a sense – take 600 souls, lock them up with no outside contact, and see how they evolve independently. Will the evolve at all? I thought it would be an interesting way to explore the concept on TV – like some of the reality series that have recently aired, but in a fictional format. The space setting was just icing.

I didn’t realize how right I was. More right, apparently. I thought of the twist the more I thought about it, but didn’t want to believe it at some level. So I was still floored at the very end. My fourteen year old daughter, watching it live, started to realize it just before the end, and she was just as floored.

So, while talking to Al I mentioned the idea of the social experiment, the discussion turned right to the whole concept.

Al: At the end of that show, did you realize that they weren’t in space?

Doc: Yes! I was going in thinking, reading about the concept about the show, and there could be this cop out, but we were given the description, and the presentations, and watching the show…even still, in the back of my mind there could be this thing, and it still surprised the hell out of me when it came up. Especially the way they did it.

Al: It surprised the hell out of me too. I didn’t know until the second day of filming. They didn’t release that in the script that they sent to all agents and managers – they didn’t have the ending. So I got hired really fast. I was supposed to do that show “NCIS: New Orleans“, I was up for that, and they give me this script, I read it, I get hired the next day – I didn’t even audition, and I was on a plane the next day. So I’m thinking how fantastic this is, this space thing – I don’t even know the second element of this whole story which is equally as fantastic. So I’m filming the whole first day, lunch the second day Tricia Helfer popped over and says, “You don’t know, do you?” I’m like, “What are you talking about?” “You don’t know!”, and I’m like, “WHAT?” She said, “We’re not in space!” I said, “What the?!? What are you talking about?” So I learned on the second day on set that this was a social experiment, on Earth…I was really blown away. I was blown away to begin with, but now…the possibilities are endless. They’re endless!

Doc: I mentioned the social experiment thing, and I’m thinking, Wow, this IS a social experiment…

Al: Totally! It’s exactly how people would react to long term space travel. That’s what they are doing.

Doc: And to such an extreme, as opposed to some things that they’ve really done, they’re like, “We’ll take people, and we’ll take several generations to see what happens…”

Al: Well, that’s what it would take. Light travels at what, 186,000 miles per second? The closest star is I think 12 light years away? [Doc: 4, actually :)] Realistically, unless we can get in to some sort of wormhole, or figure out how to travel the speed of light which ain’t gonna happen for a long long long long time if at all, then it’s going to take 50 generations before a craft would get near a planet that is inhabitable, you know what I mean? It’s an interesting concept. It’s a really interesting concept. You would want to observe this on Earth for as long as you can before you send that spacecraft out there so you can do these things in advance because out there they’ll just die. There’s no lifeboats. This whole thing is fascinating.

Doc: For the whole experiment to work no one can know.

Al: Exactly. I hope the public loves it as much as I do.

Doc: It’s interesting because they bill it as “Syfy’s return to space” and they throw that in there and it’s like “WHAM! Wait a second, they were lying to us!”

Al: The only thing is, on that ship, it’s the exact same thing. We really do believe were in space. But we’re not going to be encountering any aliens, we’re not going to be encountering real meteors, so it gives us – the story will go so far with the ship, but the Earth story, and the relationship between the Earthlings and the people on the ship, and the people on the ship have no idea they have any relationship with Earthlings, and never will for this experiment to work, that’s what will be incredibly fascinating. And unique – you see every space situation between Star Trek and Deep Space Nine, and Battlestar Galactica – you’ve seen all that. This is going to be different.

And different it is. I’m watching the final hour right now…and HOLY CRAP…

Watch Sean Connery Explain Cryo-Sleep To The Most Obnoxious Kid Ever @ io9

Sean Connery brings a certain resigned, sad dignity to his performance as a broken man on the frontier in 1981's Outland. Except in this scene, where he has to talk to his son, the most annoying kid we've seen in ages, and explain the concept of cryogenic suspension.

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Nip/Tuck‘s Julian McMahon and Shutter‘s Daisy Betts join Childhood’s End @ Sci-Fi Storm

Syfy and Universal Cable Productions today announced that Golden Globe nominee Julian McMahon (Nip/Tuck, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer) will portray Rupert Boyce, an enigmatic American entrepreneur, in the upcoming six-hour miniseries Childhood’s End.

Adapted for the screen for the first time ever from Arthur C. Clarke’s beloved and influential novel, Childhood’s End will premiere on Syfy in 2015.

Syfy and Universal Cable Productions also announced that Daisy Betts (Shutter) has been cast as Ellie, an arts graduate engaged to marry Ricky Stormgren (Mike Vogel), the most influential human in the world.

McMahon and Betts join Emmy Award nominee Charles Dance/Karellen (Game of Thrones) and Mike Vogel/Rick Stormgren (Bates Motel), along with Ashley Zukerman/Jake Greggson (Manhattan), Osy Ikhile/Milo (Clap!) and Yael Stone/Peretta Jones (Orange is the New Black).

Hailed as a revolutionary work of science fiction since its publishing in 1953, Childhood’s End follows the peaceful invasion of Earth by the mysterious Overlords, whose arrival begins decades of apparent utopia under indirect alien rule, at the cost of human identity and culture which may ultimately threaten the very survival of mankind.

Childhood’s End will be filmed in Australia.

Akiva Goldsman (Lone Survivor, A Beautiful Mind, I Am Legend), Mike De Luca (Captain Philips, Moneyball, The Social Network) and Alissa Phillips (Moneyball, Mob City) are executive producers. Childhood’s End will be adapted by Matthew Graham (creator of BBC’s Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes). Universal Cable Productions will be the studio.

The miniseries will be directed by Nick Hurran, who received an Emmy Award nomination for Sherlock and a Hugo Award nomination for Doctor Who.

This may seem out of left field, but Arctic ground squirrels (of all things) could play a greater ro @ io9

This may seem out of left field, but Arctic ground squirrels (of all things) could play a greater role in climate change than was previously thought. The BBC reports scientists have found the animals are hastening the release of greenhouse gases from the Arctic permafrost – a vast, frozen repository of carbon.

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Idaho State To Offer Bigfoot-Inspired Course @ io9

Idaho State To Offer Bigfoot-Inspired Course

Though the chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences at Idaho State University is careful to note, "It is not a course on Bigfoot. It is a course on anthropology," ISU will nevertheless be offering an experimental class titled "The Relict Hominoid Inquiry." Which is kinda a course on Bigfoot. Sorta.

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The Most Terrible Revelation In Last Night's Person Of Interest @ io9

The Most Terrible Revelation In Last Night's Person Of Interest

This season of Person of Interest has been one long philosophical tale about the dangers and benefits of all-power artificial intelligence — but last night's episode made the whole discussion alarmingly concrete. But that wasn't the most startling moment in last night's episode. Spoilers ahead...

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After The War Ended, Engineering Drones Were Repurposed As Dogwalkers @ io9

After The War Ended, Engineering Drones Were Repurposed As Dogwalkers

Their deft fingers—which once crafted circuit boards for autonomous airships—were perfect not only for handling the animals, but also for bagging their poop with minimal mess.

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JK Rowling Confirms 'Of Course' There Were LGBT Students At Hogwarts @ io9

JK Rowling Confirms 'Of Course' There Were LGBT Students At Hogwarts

In a tweet response that really should surprise no one, Harry Potter author JK Rowling has officially confirmed that yes, there were indeed lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students at Hogwarts. In fact, the only group she didn't imagine existing at the wizarding academy were Wiccans. Sorry, neopagans!

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Jurassic World Image Shows Chris Pratt And His Best Friend—A Raptor @ io9

Jurassic World Image Shows Chris Pratt And His Best Friend—A Raptor

Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow just tweeted out this image of two best friends being best friends forever. Truly, this movie will kill me.

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The Lord Of The Rings' Mythology Explained In Just Four Minutes @ io9

If you haven't dived into the pages of The Silmarillion, there's a whole cosmology of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth that you may not know. This short video outlines the basics, explaining as much about the universe's divine and angelic beings as you can learn in four minutes.

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Lucasfilm's Star Wars Holiday Card Is Simply Adorable @ io9

Every year, we look forward to the Star Wars-themed holiday greeting from LucasFilm. And this year's animated short film did not disappoint. R2 making paper snowflakes, be still my little fan heart.

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All The Scenes That Could Have Been Cut From The Hobbit Trilogy @ io9

All The Scenes That Could Have Been Cut From The Hobbit Trilogy 

The Hobbit trilogy has thrown Tolkien-fans a rather rare problem: way too much screentime for some of their most beloved characters. So, what could have been cut to make the movie a little smaller and a whole lot better? So, so much.

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A Tube Map To Assist Time Travelers In Medieval London @ io9

The official Transport For London website offers multiple variations of the iconic Tube map to assist virtually any traveler. The bicyclist map, the step-free map, the avoiding stairs map, and the all-important toilet map. Now, finally, there's a Tube map for anyone commuting during the Middle Ages.

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Rocky Wood Scholarship @ Locus Online

The Horror Writers Association has announced the formation of the Rocky Wood Memorial Scholarship, in honor of their president, who died earlier this month. The scholarship was proposed by HWA treasurer Leslie Klinger and will focus on non-fiction writers. Klinger will oversee implementation of the prize.

The HWA also announced that vice president Lisa Morton will take over as president to finish out the rest of Wood’s term. Nancy Holder will step in as vice president.

For details, see the HWA’s press release. 

The Most Commonly Used Words In Billboard Pop Song Titles, By Decade @ io9

The Most Commonly Used Words In Billboard Pop Song Titles, By Decade

Over at Prooffreader, data nerd extraordinaire David Taylor has charted the most-used words from pop song titles by decade, from 1890 (which, who even knew Billboard rankings have existed since the 19th Century?) to present. The most common words from the 2010s? "Hell," "Yeah," "We," "Fuck," and "Die." Sounds about right.

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Cosplay We Love: Stunning Silver Surfer body paint @ Blastr

Believe it or not, this is a photo of an actual person beneath layers of bright body paint, creating an uncanny illusion of the Silver Surfer rendered in 2D.   Photographer and makeup effects artist Cris Alex used PPI Skin Illustrator to design the makeup, then applied it to the model and photographed him in strong light to give the Sky-Rider of the Spaceways a cool vintage feel.  

The Silent Sentinel's regal pose was inspired by Ron Lim's artwork for Silver Surfer Volume 3 #20 from February of 1989, and we think the striking result is pretty impressive.  Have a look ...

(Via Geek Tyrant)

To shatter the illusion, check out these behind-the-scenes images from Alex's studio ...

Earth 2: World's End #11: It will take a Miracle to stop Darkseid @ Blastr

Every Wednesday, we speak with author Daniel H. Wilson for a detailed recap of Earth 2: World’s End, the weekly DC Comics title he’s spearheading about an alternate earth devastated by its prolonged war with Apokolips. In this Blastr exclusive, we explore the issue with Wilson on the day it hits stands and offer a sneak peek at what readers can look for in future installments.

After accidentally freeing Darkseid in the last issue -- while trying to kill him (oops!) -- Mister Miracle has a knock-down, drag-out fight with his dad. Except Miracle is the one who receives most of the knocking down. But while "Father's Day" shows the Big Bad of Apokolips returning to his throne, and reveals Barda was in league with him the entire time, the issue set entirely on the god planet is largely dedicated to the loyalties of Miracle and Fury. Following some insight from the always-slippery Terry Sloan, the pair choose a side between the humans of Earth-2 and the New Gods. 

The first thing I thought when I was reading this issue was, “C’mon Barda!” She’s been playing us all along.

Yeah, she threw them under the bus for the big man. But couldn’t you tell? I like Fury as a character, with her backstory. She is pulled in two directions, and has a lot in common with Miracle. When you think of Steppenwolf and Wonder Woman, she has light and dark. Barda, from the beginning, you can tell the darkness of Apokolips runs a little thicker in her veins. 

By the way, my favorite part there is when Holt and Sandman are hanging on for dear life, and Holt asks, “What can we do?” And Sandman says, basically jack sh-t, these are gods. We can get out of the way.

Then the humans are pretty much out of the story for this issue. Then we have a back and forth with Miracle and Darkseid. Could those Boom Spheres hurt Darkseid?

Oh, they could. He is actually in danger, but he manages to force the spheres to touch each other, which destroys them (if they can eat anything, it can eat each other as well). This is the kind of a moment where it’s a force of will. Who is going to take control of the Boom Spheres? Miracle thinks Darkseid will take them away, but he does something more clever.

There is an interesting point Darkseid makes, which is that Miracle was born a god, but he wasn’t. He made himself into a god. That self-made man thing is an important point, and speaks volumes about Darkseid. He was able to achieve that much, starting from nothing. That’s the difference between them. 

In what seems like a very un-Darkseid thing to do, he extends his hand to Miracle. Is this a sincere gesture from him? Does he want his son by his side?

It is. That is absolutely sincere. He never pulls punches, so when he’s fighting Miracle, he’s trying to kill him. Miracle survives, and that’s the moment Darkseid sees he’s a worthy ally. But he says he’ll extend it once, and you’ll say yes or die. It is one of my favorite lines. I like this idea: “Fight alongside me or I will sharpen myself against you.” That is a compliment, the idea that Darkseid could have upped his game by fighting and defeating Miracle, but having to work at it. 

Then why doesn’t he follow through? The next time we see Miracle, he is still alive in this torture chamber.

As you see later, Darkseid is not completely able to do anything he wants. He has certain peace treaties to respect. It is not explicitly stated, but you could imagine there are agreements with New Genesis and potential value in keeping him alive. 

And Fury says she’ll align herself with Darkseid, and joins the Court of Apokolips after Barda betrays her.

Barda was elevated to Doyenne of the Furies as a result of freeing Darkseid, but then gets defeated. And Fury is elevated to her position. She is given a similar decision of join me or die, and she acquiesces. 

Was Fury always planning on duping Darkseid, or was she convinced to switch sides by Sloan?

She was duping Darkseid the whole time and was planning on saving Miracle no matter what. She was doing what she needed to do to survive for the moment. Sloan gives her this information, and you realize he is an oily snake but is doing everything he can to save his own world -- and save Earth-2. Even though he is a snake and his goals aren’t aligned with the people of Earth-2, he has some kind of humanity. He reaches out to Fury to give them the answer they’re looking for to the question “Who should we fight for?” And we see Miracle realize in that last scene, there are no gods he wants to fight for. 

And this Sloan, wherever he’s from, has a treaty with Apokolips and New Genesis to sacrifice Earth-2 as food to save his own world -- wherever that is?

They’ve all agreed they’ll sacrifice this universe to Darkseid. That’s what really sickens Miracle. And remember, we don’t know where Sloan is from or how powerful he is. We know one of these universes belongs to him, and Darkseid wanted to take Sloan’s version of Earth, but he found a way to shift everything so they went to the next Earth. It is nothing personal, but Sloan is now here and sees what he’s done, so he’s trying to do what he can to help the people of Earth-2. Saving the people of his Earth are still his first priority. He is a bad guy with a silver lining of humanity.

Why would Sloan show his hand to Miracle like this? Might not Miracle tell others that Sloan has been playing everyone?

What Sloan is showing is that this is bigger than him. He is facilitating communication between the most powerful entities in the universe, and is showing Miracle there are no good guys. If you go to wherever the hell Sloan is from, he’s probably the biggest hero that ever lived! He would be the hero of that universe. He is showing to Miracle how epic and momentous this situation is.

Wait, what happened to the guy in the throne on Apokolips, the personification of the planet?

That’s a good question. I guess we don’t really address that. He was always thought of as being part of the throne. He is drawn as a total character, but he was drawn back into Apokolips. He was a physical manifestation of the planet so now he’s gone back into. In the original stuff I wrote, I had an idea we’d see him grow out of the throne, and we’d see him appear, but that kind of never happened. At some point he became the character we saw.

Maybe he is off on his own adventures now …

Yeah, there’s a page missing of Darkseid punting him off the throne!

I don’t know if there is time for love in this saga, but are we seeing a budding romance between Miracle and Fury?

You know, that looks like it could be where it’s going, but we’ll have to see how that plays out. I think they’re perfect for each other! That’s my personal opinion.

In my opinion the final page is really great and epic feeling, but what’s your favorite part of this issue?

Definitely my favorite image is that last image. It is a heroic pose, everything is aligning, and you realize humankind has two new powerful allies.

It balances out that earlier Darkseid pose where he stood above everything. That was his big villain pose, and this is the big hero pose. This image feels straight out of an old Flash Gordon serial …

Yeah, the old Star Wars posters! I like the classic hero pose. It gives me the tingles, the goosebumps. The villain pose is fun; there’s always a heap of good guys dead in a pile. That fills you with anxiety, which motivates you to read. But the hero pose fills you with hope. You look forward to a lot of ass-kicking. 

Ascension conclusion preview and cast interviews @ Sci-Fi Storm

Ascension concludes tonight at 9/8c on Syfy, so here is a little preview, along with interviews with Tricia Helfer, Gil Bellows and Andrea Roth!



Everything we know about Kirkman's mysterious Walking Dead spinoff series @ Blastr

It’s been more than a year since we heard AMC was developing a spinoff series for undead hit The Walking Dead, and now we finally have some details about the mystery project.

The world of The Walking Dead is a big one, though for five seasons the action has been largely relegated to Atlanta and some surrounding towns in Georgia. That hyper-focus is a big part of what makes the series so good (see: Jericho season two for a case of going too big too fast), but it has left fans wondering what’s going on in the rest of the world.

Now we’ll finally get a chance to find out. The crew behind the series are putting the companion show together, which’ll dig into a whole new corner of the Dead-verse. Though the series hasn’t actually gotten a season pickup yet (it’s currently in the pilot phase), it’s considered a virtual lock, considering that the mothership series often beats network shows in the TV ratings race.

From the setting to main characters, here is everything we know about the currently untitled Walking Dead companion series (codenamed Cobalt):

These Ornate Ancient Locks Are Perfect For Guarding Your Treasure Room @ io9

These Ornate Ancient Locks Are Perfect For Guarding Your Treasure Room

Sometimes you can't just trust a regular lock to keep your inner sanctum protected. And that's when you need one of these beautiful locks from hundreds of years ago. Back in the Renaissance, people knew how to lock things down in style. Here are the most stunningly ornate antique locks.

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Check out which genre films were just selected for the National Film Registry @ Blastr

The Library of Congress just added another 25 films to its registry, and a few genre classics are on the list.

Each year, the National Film Registry selects a new crop of films to be preserved in the Library of Congress. The terms of selection for the registry are simple: The film must be at least 10 years old and must be deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically" significant. That opens the selection process up to almost any important film, ranging from forgotten silent movie landmarks to modern classics and even shorts. This year marks the 25th anniversary of National Film Registry selection, and over the years plenty of important sci-fi, fantasy and horror films have made their way into the archive, including Star WarsThe MatrixThe War of the Worlds (1953), Planet of the ApesDracula and Night of the Living Dead. Now more genre films are making their way into the Registry.

The Registry announced its list of 2014 inductees this week, which includes comedy classics like The Big Lebowski and western classics like Rio Bravo, but horror and fantasy are also represented. Rosemary's Baby, the 1968 psychological horror film from writer and director Roman Polanski, will enter the registry this year, as will the 1953 horror film House of Wax, starring genre legend Vincent Price. On the fantasy side of things, the registry selected Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the 1971 adaptation of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder as the mad candymaker Willy Wonka. Also of genre note is the 1986 short film Luxo Jr., an early computer-animated effort from Pixar Animation Studios in which two lamps come to life and play with a rubber ball. The lamp has since become a key component of Pixar's logo. 

To view the full list of 2014 National Film Registry inductees, which also includes Saving Private Ryan and Ferris Bueller's Day Off, head HERE. To see a list of every film in the registry to date, head HERE.

(via The Playlist)

Whedon digs into how everyone is 'damaged by power' in Avengers: Age of Ultron @ Blastr

Joss Whedon has been wanting to make an Ultron movie since the moment he got the initial gig to direct The Avengers — so, what does he have to say about the upcoming sequel he always dreamed of making?

Whedon did a roundtable interview as part of an Avengers: Age of Ultron set visit, and the embargo has finally lifted and /Film has pages upon pages of Whedon-y goodness. We’ve pulled a lot of the good bits below, but we highly recommend you check out the full interview. It’s loaded with geeky fun.

First up, Whedon talked about introducing new characters and the overarching theme of the film, explaining how Elizabeth Olson’s Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch really embodies the entire concept of the story. Considering this is the man who brought us such damaged heroines as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it’s no surprise he cracks wise at the connection:

“Well, you know, ‘strong but damaged by power’ describes every person in this movie. It may, in fact, describe what the movie is about. You know, the more power that we have, the less human we are. [Wanda’s] damage pre-dates her power, and these kids they’ve had a rough history. Is she in an idiom with which I am comfortable? Why, yes sir, she is. [LAUGHS]… [T]hat was a concern for Marvel for a long time (introducing Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch organically), but a lot of the working out of the story was how do we get these things to connect. I’m not going to explain that, but it’s very important to me that they do feel like part of the same story, and part of the same universe. And they’re all… All their origins are all tied up in each other…

Before I took the first job, I said, well, I don’t know if I’m right for this or if I want it or you want me, but in the second one, the villain has to be Ultron, and he has to create the Vision, and then, that has to be Bettany. It took me three years before I could tell Paul that I’d had that conversation, but after that, I stopped. I was like, that would be cool if you have Ultron, and you have Vision and Paul played him… And Scarlet Witch and Pietro, definitely. They’re from my era, they’re very different, their powers are different, it’s not all punching, it gives a different palettes and we can do more interesting things. It’s fun; those things were all absolutes.”

There’s also the matter of balancing all these characters and dealing with how they’ve changed in their own subsequent standalone films in the time since The Avengers (except for the Hulk), respecting those developments and still trying to make a film that’s accessible to new viewers:

"Well, I wasn’t the one who said don’t make a Hulk film or anything like that. It was, Kevin said to me, we think right now it’s good to have somebody who could only be in the Avengers. Everybody loves Mark. He’s phenomenal. But the fact that there hasn’t been a Hulk [movie] since that Hulk, it doesn’t suck. My job is hard enough, you know. Cap’s had a movie, Thor’s had a movie. Everyone’s gone through big changes, Iron Man had a movie, and so I have to juggle everybody’s perception of that while still making a movie that you can see having not seen any except the first Avengers, or not even that."

Last but not least, the reason for all the excitement in the first place — Ultron. Considering it's one of his favorite comic villains, and they have the scarily talented (and just generally scary) James Spader in the title role, Whedon had a lot to say. He positively gushed about Spader’s performance as the evil robot baddie, and it’s interesting to hear how they shot the film to ensure Ultron was disconnected from humanity (a theme we've already gleaned from the debut trailer):

“Well, Ultron feels a certain distance from humanity, and the day Spader got here we put on the mocap pajamas, a giant thing with red dots on it for his eye line, giant pack, and a helmet with two cameras in his face with lights to record his performance, he then did a scene with Scarlet. But not look him in the eye because she was looking up in his eye line, and nor could he see her because he had two lights shining in his face, and he had his glasses on.

Therefore, he has a certain distance from humanity, too. And god bless him, he was wonderful. And very game. He has been the whole time. Very interested in the mechanics, to find the humanity. He and I share a genuine love of this version of Ultron, and he has an innate eccentricity in delivery that is everything that I had hoped Ultron would be…

You know, for me, there’s always a point where I’m writing where [I go], you know, they’re right! The Avengers sucked! Got to do something about that. We got to take care of these guys. Hopefully, you will come out of this, if not agreeing with him, [at least] getting him, and getting his pain, which leads to a lot of damage, and some humor, and how’s he different. I mean, villains are different from each other. The important thing for me is he’s not this external thing. He’s not Independence Day. I’m not criticizing that movie, but I’m saying that it’s not like we spent some time on the alien going, oh, I hate that Will Smith! Punched me right in the face! The first day there! When he’s in his scenes, you want to feel like he will never understand that he’s not the hero.”

Yeah, we know that’s a lot to digest. But the more we hear, the more excited we are to actually see this film. If it’s geeking Whedon out, you know it should be up to snuff. 

Avengers: Age of Ultron opens May 1, 2015.

(Via /Film)

Lunar Mission One hits crowdfunding goal, heading into next phase of development @ Blastr

We’re in the private space race’s infancy, and it looks like we can officially add another player to the mix.

The U.K.-based Lunar Mission One has been working to raise approximately $750,000 via crowdfunding to help get a proposed moon mission off the ground. Well, believe it or not, they’ve actually done it. The mission has surpassed its fundraising goal and is now taking the next step toward becoming reality. Score one for public support of space exploration!

The mission goal is to send an unmanned lander to the unexplored south pole of the Moon to drill 20-100 meters into the surface — which is deeper than any previous mission — to study what’s in the 4.5-billion-year-old lunar rock. Obviously, that could hold all kinds of cool secrets about the universe, and this’ll be the first time we’ve explored that area or reached that depth.

As for the crowdfunding, that’s where the next part of the project comes in. Along with the lunar lander and drill, the mission will also send along a time capsule from Earth, filled with things such as digital videos, music and even DNA to be deposited on the moon for posterity. As you’ve probably figured out, the backers get to pick what makes the trip.

To help make the late push toward hitting the funding goal, acclaimed scientist Stephen Hawking threw his support behind the project and offered up some words of encouragement once it was officially funded:

“Today they have achieved what are the first steps towards a lasting legacy for space exploration. Lunar Mission One is bringing space exploration to the people, and I have no doubt that young people and adults alike will be inspired by the ambition and passion of all those involved in the project.”

We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on this project, and we can’t wait to hear which milestone they hit next. 

(Via Popular Science)

Watch Sir Ian McKellen School Cookie Monster On Self-Control @ io9

Watch Sir Ian McKellen School Cookie Monster On Self-Control

"Say there was ... a golden ring. And you really, really wanted this golden ring. It was like your precious."

Read more...

Year of the Robot, Part 1: How Go-Bots, Transformers, Voltron, and Mighty Orbots conquered the world @ Blastr

Thirty years ago, a tidal wave that changed the world of science fiction forever swept over American television. Transformers, Mighty Orbots, and Voltron all debuted on U.S. airwaves in September of 1984. Challenge of the Go-Bots followed in October. All four of these shows involved giant robots, originally hailed from Asia, and captivated kids the world over.

What was behind this all-out assault of Japanese mechanical men? Why did Transformers succeed while the rest faded into various levels of cultural obscurity? We talk to some of the most important minds behind all four shows and get the inside story on the year of the cartoon robots in a three-part series. We kick things off today with a look at the origins of the phenomenon - come back tomorrow and Friday to finish the story.

Toy Boys

As Japan became a manufacturing powerhouse in the early 1980s, their toy lines began to draw American attention. Large companies like Bandai and Takara saw there was money to be made in licensing products abroad, and American firms were impressed by the mechanical ingenuity and sense of style they demonstrated.

Hassenfeld Brothers (the firm we now know as Hasbro) had been working with Japanese firm Takara since 1969, when they exported the G.I. Joe line to Japan. The toys created as a result of that collaboration evolved over time into the Diaclone and Microman lines and, in the early '80s, Japanese kids started to go nuts over Diaclone figures that could be, by following a set of instructions, changed into the shapes of cars, planes, and other mundane objects.

When the news hit that Hasbro was gearing up to push heavily behind these Japanese toys in America, competitor Tonka (at the time best known for its die-cast metal construction vehicles) partnered with Japanese firms Bandai and Tomy to bring over some of their own robots, most notably the Machine Robo series. These toys were die-cast vehicles similar to the already-successful Matchbox line, only they could be manipulated to change into robot forms. Interestingly enough, many of the Machine Robo models were inspired by ideas submitted by ordinary Japanese children.

Go-Bots were first to market, and quickly became a sensation. Because Tonka had some 300 different toy molds to choose from, they were able to saturate the market with a number of different robots quickly. At a price of just $3 for a figure, they were a popular stocking stuffer, and Hasbro missed the vital 1983 Christmas season with Transformers, but by 1984 had moved into competition, with the larger, more complex Takara toys proving to be big sellers.

Voltron also had tie-in toys, which were produced by Japanese toy firm Popy. Made of diecast metal, they were quite expensive, but featured incredible detailing. American toy manufacturer Panosh Place also created their own line of action figures of the show's human characters.

Mattel was announced as the master licensor for Mighty Orbots toys, and even produced marketing materials for their combining robot, which was modeled after Bandai's GodMars DX. But in between the production of the materials and the 1985 Toy Fair, Mattel pulled out. The reasons why will come later in this series when we deal with some thorny legal issues.

To recoup the investment on these toys, it was key that they be put in front of as many little consumer eyeballs as possible. And big changes in the media landscape during the Reagan administration made it possible.

Show Me The Money

For decades, the FCC kept a close eye on the amount of advertising and promotional content that was aired alongside shows for children. Strict regulations ensured that shows could not be paired with advertisements for products featured in the shows. But when Ronald Reagan took office in 1980, he ushered in a phase of free-market capitalism that changed children's TV forever.

Reagan appointed Mark Fowler as commissioner of the FCC in 1981 and Fowler immediately began dismantling those pesky regulations one at a time. When it came to children's cartoons, they could now be directly based on toy lines and other consumer products. This kicked off a wave of cartoons starting with Fred Wolf Films' Strawberry Shortcake specials and reached a fever pitch with He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

That series of action figures and playsets, released by Mattel in 1982, came accompanied by an animated series made by Filmation and released to syndication. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was the beneficiary of many of Fowler's regulatory changes – the level of violence was higher than previous shows, with the muscular hero allowed to punch and throw his foes (although still not use his sword). And, most importantly, the characters from the show all had their own action figures so kids could act out the storylines at home.

These long-form commercials were a powerful lesson in cross-media synergy: They sold massive amounts of toys and pulled in big ratings for networks. This coincided with a boom in the number of television networks, as small independent stations started opening up in markets across the country. These stations had no obligation to air any network programming, so they were free to schedule whatever they could pay for that would glue eyeballs to the tube. And cartoons – especially action-packed ones – fit the bill.

Far East Movement

Starting in the early 1980s, American animation companies started to realize that they could save money by outsourcing work to Asian countries, most notably Japan and Korea. All four of the shows in 1984's wave of giant robots had roots in Japan.

Mighty Orbots was, surprisingly, the first of the four series to premiere, debuting on September 8th. Unlike the other shows, which were syndicated from station to station, Orbots was aired on Saturday mornings on ABC, and had a brief season of just 13 episodes. The show was created by American producer Fred Silverman (the man who made Scooby-Doo a smash hit) and Japanese director Osamu Dezaki, and it stood out for the incredible animation quality and solid plotting.

Voltron was the only show that used existing Japanese footage as a base, from Japanese series Beast King GoLion. The original show was quite a bit darker – five space pilots return to Earth to find it devastated by thermonuclear war, then discover five robotic lions that combine into a mighty warrior. World Events Productions bought the U.S. rights to the show and re-edited, then paid Japanese firm Toei to produce a new pilot that introduced the American status quo. It debuted in syndication on September 10th.

On September 17th, Transformers premiered on U.S. TV in syndication with a three-part miniseries called "More Than Meets The Eye," animated by Toei. Hasbro was so taken with the miniseries while it was still in production that they funded a first season of thirteen episodes, which premiered later in the month. The strong sales of Transformers toys had convinced them that the franchise had legs. The premise of Transformers was simple – two warring armies of robots crash-landed on Earth, where they took the form of ordinary vehicles and other objects to remain undetected. The heroic Autobots, led by tractor-trailer Optimus Prime, battled the ravaging Decepticons and their leader Megatron, who could shift his body into an eerily realistic Walther P38 pistol. The first season offered an unusually complex storyline with heavy connections between episodes.

Challenge Of The Go-Bots was the last series to premiere. The Go-Bots toys had hit store shelves at the end of 1983, before Hasbro had their own Transformers toys for sale, but Tonka didn't seal a deal with animation studio Hanna-Barbera until '84. A five-part miniseries that introduced the world of the Go-Bots premiered on October 29th in syndication, and the full series didn't take a bow until September of 1985. The basic premise was near-identical to Transformers – robots who can change forms come to Earth to continue a never-ending battle – but there was no continuity between episodes, instead preferring "done in one" storylines.

Character Work

When Hasbro brought Transformers over to the United States, they capitalized on a lesson learned from He-Man and G.I. Joe – without a storyline, action figures are just lumps of plastic. When the G.I. Joe figure line launched in 1982, Hasbro teamed with Marvel Comics to develop the individual characters and their world, as communicated through the "file cards" on the back of the packaging. This approach was such a success that they renewed the partnership in 1984 with Transformers.

Marvel's editor-in-chief, Jim Shooter, came up with the basic concept of two groups of warriors, the Autobots and the Decepticons, who come to Earth and adapt to their surroundings by transforming. Unfortunately for him, the character names and descriptions that Shooter and writer Denny O'Neil came up with got rejected by Hasbro. He then gave the project to Marvel staffer Bob Budiansky, who had most recently been the penciler on the cancelled Ghost Rider series. He says "Facing an imminent deadline, Shooter scoured the Marvel editorial offices looking for someone who could write at least basic English. The first few Marvel editors Shooter approached, all with more writing experience than me, wanted nothing to do with Transformers. I was probably Shooter's third or fourth choice." Budiansky, using nothing but images of the toys, came up with nearly all of the new character names and personalities over one weekend.

One interesting tidbit from this time is that Hasbro had initially rejected the name "Megatron" for the leader of the Decepticons, complaining that it sounded "too scary." Budiansky managed to convince them that was the whole point, and the name went forward. Much of what we consider the "personality" of the iconic Transformers characters came from his pen.

Dynamic Duo

There was still an obstacle in the path of Transformers' domination. Although FCC rules had been significantly loosened, it was still forbidden to air advertisements for the toys that the cartoon was about during the cartoon. But Hasbro had an ace in the hole in the form of Sunbow Animation.

Sunbow was not only the studio producing the Transformers animated series;  they also had G.I. Joe, which had made its debut with a pair of miniseries in 1983 before going to full series in September of 1985. Much of the actual work was farmed out to Japanese studios like Toei, but Sunbow was responsible for getting the shows into the U.S. syndicated market.

Joe Strike, an animator for Sunbow at the time, let me in on how it worked. "Sunbow produced both the Transformers and G.I. Joe series, and when they brought them to TV stations for syndication, they offered a deal nobody else could. If stations bought G.I. Joe, Hasbro would buy ads for Transformers toys to air during it. And if they bought Transformers, Hasbro would buy G.I. Joe ads." Channel owners obviously loved having chunks of programming paid for with ads – and ads that promoted other properties on the network – so it was in their best interest to get both shows for syndication.

None of the other shows could boast that kind of synergy, and the obvious superiority of the Transformers cartoon (and toys) made it the market leader. But the real battle was yet to come.

Tomorrow: Voltron arrives, the cartoon robot boom really gets going, and the first contenders start to fall.

Smooth-On Special Effects Are In Every CGI Film @ Omni Reboot

sfx-feat

Nearly every CGI film contains polymer from the special effects company Smooth-On.

Films are not just CGI and green screens. There are numerous artists who work diligently to create mind-boggling and realistic effects that engage the senses. Smooth-On is one of the most famous companies creating polymer products in the special effects industry. Almost every film that has employed special effects in the last two decades can trace its roots back to Smooth-On. From Star Wars to Alien, there is a touch of their polymer in almost every CGI film. They have not just pervaded the special effects industry but the sexual wellness industry as well. Their silicon is featured in almost every teledildonic device [NSFW] created.
The full range of polymer based special effects were on display at Walker-Stalker Con. A lifelike bust of Predator would have chased roaming fans away had they any brains left to realize the monster in front of them. While Krytonite was safely enclosed in a jar and radiated outwards. Had Superman been at the convention he would have been rendered impotent immediately. The level of detail and meticulous attention could not be missed by any of the onlookers creeping throughout the aisles of the convention.

Sci-Fi Addicts Crave: Green Screens

Special effects has come a long way since the early days of Hollywood movies and explosive television shows. Many experts in the industry can trace their roots back to the man who invented the magic, John Dykstra. He helped pioneer Battlestar Galactica as the most expensive television show at the time of its production. Each episode had a budget that exceeded one million dollars. The budget shows. For the time, Dykstra created a dazzling array of special effects that were unrivaled in the industry.

CREATE MOVIE MAGIC

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Epic space battles and amazing, realistic aliens would not have been possible without the work of Dykstra, and his work inspired companies with talented individuals like Smooth-On. CGI can only render so much detail, and continues to pale in comparison to the dexterous fingers of talented and passionate members of the FX industry.

OMNI History: Space Battles

One can trace space battles back to classical times, and to the "future war" novels of the nineteenth century. An interplanetary, or more often an interstellar or intergalactic war, has become a staple plot device in space operas. Creating special effects that capture the epic scale of space warfare is a daunting task. Talented artists such as John Dykstra had to use creative methods to replicate space and immerse audiences in galactic warfare. Dykstra oversaw the development of the Dykstraflex motion-controlled camera, which enabled many of groundbreaking effects in Star Wars to be produced. Without pioneers in the field of special effects stellar films such as Interstellar and Avatar would have been impossible.
Visit Smooth-On's website and learn about special effects here

The post Smooth-On Special Effects Are In Every CGI Film appeared first on OMNI Reboot.

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