Luck of the Irish! First-ever dinosaur remains unearthed on the Emerald Isle @ Syfy Wire

Ireland is known as the traditional home of gold-seeking leprechauns, Guinness beer, and the Blarney Stone, but until this year the country sadly had no dinosaur bones to call its very own.

Now Irish paleontologists have excavated the fossilized bones of a pair of Jurassic-era dinosaur species in County Antrim in Northern Ireland, which represent the first official dinosaur specimens ever documented on the Emerald Isle and also some of the rarest remains ever unearthed in Western Europe. 

Details of the thrilling find presented in a study conducted by the universities of Portsmouth and Queen's in Belfast were published earlier this month in the online journal, Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association.

“This is a hugely significant discovery,” said Dr. Mike Simms, a curator and paleontologist in the Department of Natural Sciences at National Museums Northern Ireland. “The great rarity of such fossils here is because most of Ireland’s rocks are the wrong age for dinosaurs, either too old or too young, making it nearly impossible to confirm dinosaurs existed on these shores.”

Scelidosaurus Credit: John Sibbick

The two specimens were located by the late Roger Byrne, a schoolteacher and amateur fossil collector, who passed along the fossils as part of a collection to the Ulster Museum in Belfast, Ireland.

“The fossils that Roger Byrne found were perhaps swept out to sea, alive or dead, sinking to the Jurassic seabed where they were buried and fossilized,” Dr. Simms explained.

While at first scientists believed both remains came from the same creature, Dr. Simms and his team were excited to learn that that they originated from two totally different dinosaurs. One is a section of femur bone for a four-legged herbivore called Scelidosaurus. The other fossil is a portion of the tibia belonging to a two-legged carnivore with some similarities to Sarcosaurus.

Dr. Simms with Sarcosaurus tibia on the left and Scelidosaurus femur on the right. Credit: National Museums Northern Ireland

“Analyzing the shape and internal structure of the bones, we realized that they belonged to two very different animals,” said Dr. Robert Smyth, a paleontologist in the School of the Environment, Geography and Geological Sciences at the University of Portsmouth.

“One is very dense and robust, typical of an armored plant-eater," he noted. "The other is slender, with thin bone walls and characteristics found only in fast-moving two-legged predatory dinosaurs called theropods. Despite being fragmentary, these fossils provide valuable insight on a very important period in dinosaur evolution, about 200 million years ago. It’s at this time that dinosaurs really start to dominate the world’s terrestrial ecosystems.”


According to Professor David Martill a fellow colleague also at the School of the Environment, Geography and Geological Sciences, it's entirely possible that Scelidosaurus liked to roam primeval Earth close to the seashore.

Scelidosaurus keeps on turning up in marine strata, and I am beginning to think that it may have been a coastal animal, perhaps even eating seaweed like marine iguanas do today,” he added.

NASA heats up its new solar simulator for sun-powered interstellar excursions @ Syfy Wire

Tapping into the nuclear fires of the Sun has always been foremost on the minds of astrophysicists as Mankind attempts to venture outside the comfy confines of our solar system someday.

Now rocket scientists at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory are taking this sci-fi notion into a new dimension by exploring new technology for a solar-powered spacecraft that might be capable of boosting us beyond our cosmic neighborhood and into the void of interstellar space.

By building a "solar simulator" under laboratory conditions using a retrofitted shipping container embedded with thousands of LED lights, the university believes solar propulsion might have a future as a viable means of motion.

“It’s really easy for someone to dismiss the idea and say, ‘On the back of an envelope, it looks great, but if you actually build it, you're never going to get those theoretical numbers,’” Applied Physics Laboratory materials scientist Jason Benkoski told Wired. "What this is showing is that solar thermal propulsion is not just a fantasy.”

Credit: NASA

The heliopause is the distant border where the Sun’s influence as a heat source diminishes to nothing. It's that theoretical line where the Sun's solar wind is halted by the interstellar medium, where this wind is rendered incapable of pushing back against the stellar winds of surrounding stars. Located some 11 billion miles from Earth, only the spacecrafts Voyager 1 and 2 have ever entered that remote domain and that journey has taken nearly fifty years.

Partnering with scientists at the Applied Physics Laboratory, NASA is searching for other methods to increase probe speeds for missions stepping into that unexplored frontier and they insist it can be accomplished by the year 2030. Currently, the APL team is conceiving of a probe that would travel three times farther than the heliopause, out to a distance of 50 billion miles, in half the time as Voyager.

In a solar propulsion system, instead of burning combustible fuel sources, the spacecraft could blast into the great beyond with a solar thermal engine that absorbs hydrogen from the Sun, heats it to an extreme temperature, then blasts it out a nozzle to produce thrust.

“From a physics standpoint, it’s hard for me to imagine anything that’s going to beat solar thermal propulsion in terms of efficiency,” says Benkoski. “But can you keep it from exploding?”

Credit: NASA

There's another small catch in that this solar thermal rocket needs to get up close and personal with the Sun to gather the required speed of between 30,000 and 200,000 mph without melting like a snow cone in summertime.

Materials that can hold up against such a furnace and also remain capable of channeling hydrogen are few and far between, but Benkoski believes that 3D printing metal might be the ticket to creating an indestructible heat shield. These next-generation coatings would keep the interstellar probe cool while it was being roasted.

A gravity assisting move called an Oberth maneuver is what's required to use the Sun's intense gravity to slingshot a solar powered spacecraft around our star and multiply the effects of the probe's engines, and that means getting nearer to its thermonuclear fires.

On APL's theoretical mission, the probe would have to endure two-and-a-half hours in temperatures near 4,500 degrees Fahrenheit at one million miles from the Sun as it executes its Oberth maneuver, which is toasty enough to melt the current Parker Solar Probe’s shield.

Credit: NASA

Benkoski and his team demonstrated the first prototype engine with a channeled tile inside the converted shipping container, blazing with the light of nearly two dozen Suns, and generated thrust using sunlight to heat helium as it filtered through embedded ducts in a protective shield.

While many obstacles remain before actual orbital tests are conducted, it's a major step in advancing the theory.

“I thought I came up with this great idea independently, but people were talking about it in 1956,” notes Benkoski. “Additive manufacturing is a key component of this, and we couldn’t do that 20 years ago. Now I can 3D-print metal in the lab.”

Utah’s metal desert monolith mysteriously vanishes...maybe to the stars @ Syfy Wire

Almost as soon as it manifested in the stark remote Utah desert, the gleaming metal monolith that inspired comparisons to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and other far-out sci-fi tales has disappeared — and the official line is that know one knows how...or why.

The shining structure was first spotted from above on Nov. 25, when a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter spied something unnaturally reflective and bling-y, down in a red rock canyon somewhere in the southeastern corner of the state. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management in Utah wouldn’t pinpoint the structure’s exact location for the public, citing safety concerns due to the monolith’s far-flung and desolate installation.

That was less than a week ago, and now — as if called home by a disembodied cosmic voice — the sleek slab has vanished. BLM acknowledged on Saturday that the “illegally installed structure” had indeed been removed “by an unknown party,” and that BLM itself was not involved in the monolith’s disappearance — since it was located on private property.


“We do not investigate crimes involving private property which are handled by the local sheriff’s office,” BLM said in a tweet revealing the bewitchingly beveled block’s disappearance. “The structure has received international and national attention and we received reports that a person or group removed it on the evening of Nov. 27.”

Not long after its discovery, the slab set intrepid internet sleuths to work on discerning its precise location, with a gang of dedicated Reddit detectives narrowing down its purported coordinates to a site south of Dead Horse Point State Park — an area favored by location scouts for sci-fi productions like Disney’s John Carter and HBO’s Westworld. One hiker managed to document his inquisitive pilgrimage to the site before the monolith vanished, indicating (as shown in the video above) that its non-magnetic properties suggest aluminum construction, pieced together as three riveted panels.

For now, questions still linger about the astronomically alluring artifact, and unless someone (or some…thing) makes contact with the rest of the world and sheds new light on the monolith, its exact nature and purpose still remain a mystery. Maybe for us mere Earthlings that’s a good thing. After all, we’re not sure that the obelisk enlightenment in 2001: A Space Odyssey left its primate (or human) witnesses in the happiest of places.


The Mandalorian Has Removed 'Jeans Guy,' And I'm Disappointed @ io9

Mistakes are a beautiful part of film and television production. Let ‘em be. They’re great.


How to unwrap a mummy without ever touching it @ Syfy Wire

Mummification was supposed to be the dawn of a new life after death. After a body was embalmed and laid to rest in a tomb, the ancient Egyptians expected it to stay there for all eternity. That didn’t always happen.

Mummies are constantly surfacing from the sands of Egypt, but a new combination of tech is now able to virtually “unwrap” them and see what is under those wrappings without destroying anything. This is a level up from just X-rays (which have been used for years). Paired with CT scanning, X-ray diffraction tech has revealed the body of what scientists realized was a misunderstood mummy. In X-ray diffraction, rays narrower than a human hair pass through openings between the wrappings and illuminate what lies beneath. Using this method has revealed something they would have never imagined—the 1,900-year-old mummy was actually a 5-year-old girl.

“Coupling CT and position-resolved X-ray diffraction, therefore, offers considerable promise for non-invasive studies of mummies,” said Stuart Stock, who led a study recently published in Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

HPM4 is a mummy from the Roman era that was excavated by famed Egyptologist Flinders Petrie sometime between 1910 and 1911 in Hawara, Egypt. Portrait mummies were common during this time. The portrait over the mummy’s face shows a hairstyle that dates it anywhere from 150 to 200 AD. This isn’t the first time HPM4 is being studied; radiography had previously determined that the skeleton was intact and complete, and also that it did not belong to an adult. Previous research also showed radiodense objects (which are too dense for X-ray waves to pass through) which were thought to be amulets. Magical amulets, written spells and shabti, or miniature models of servants that were supposed to cater to the deceased in the afterlife, were often tucked into mummy wrappings by the embalmers.

However, there were still mysteries between the wrappings. How old was this person at the time of death? What was the cause of death? Was the skeleton male or female? What were the radiodense objects between the wrappings? The mummy was first CT-scanned to create a 3D guide to the mummy. This is important for directing extremely thin X-rays into the right areas, but only running the X-ray diffraction process would show how effective the guide generated by those CT scans would be. How many small objects, such as amulets, would be identified by diffraction was also something that would only be revealed by this virtual “unwrapping”.

So what did the team observe that hadn't been seen in nearly two thousand years?

“The CT data showed human remains of a 5-year-old child, consistent with the female (but not the age) depicted on the portrait. Physical trauma was not evident in the skeleton,” Stock said.

There was also a calcite scarab that had been placed in the abdominal incision of the mummy, a common practice since scarabs were thought to be symbols of rebirth. It was also expensive. This girl was also assumed to be from a wealthy family, though she was not a royal. You needed serious gold for mummification and an amulet like that.

Mummy unwrapping parties used to be a thing. During the Victorian era, party guests used to gather around a surgeon’s table, where they would watch the spectacle of linen being unwrapped until the desiccated body was exposed. Victorians were so into Egyptomania and macabre oddities that they had no problem watching someone unwrap a corpse that was thousands of years old. Nobody cared much about the ethical issues surrounding a body that had been prepared for a journey to the underworld and supposed to stay in its tomb for all eternity. Handling the bodies was not much of a concern, either, which is why so much scientific evidence has been forever lost.

CT scans and X-rays are non-invasive and also unlikely to inflict damage on delicate mummies and artifacts. There was no visible damage to HPM4 after diffraction mapping. Damage on the molecular level still remains a concern for future DNA extraction. If there were any adverse effects on the mummy's DNA, they still need to be determined, but it is unlikely any genes were affected because limited doses of X-rays were used to illuminate what was inside.

Now that mummies can be examined with no risk of damage or disrespect to the dead, who knows how will speak to us through modern technology.

Disney Plus Has Updated Black Panther's Opening Credits With a Sweet Tribute to Chadwick Boseman @ io9

On the occasion of the late Chadwick Boseman’s birthday, Disney Plus has made a minor change to commemorate the actor.


The fam faces off a new kind of Dalek in trailer for Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks @ Syfy Wire

Prepare for maximum extermination. The BBC has dropped the new trailer for the upcoming Doctor Who holiday special, Revolution of the Daleks, and has finally stopped being coy about its air date: New Year's Day. 

Graham, Ryan and Yaz must stop a scheme to destroy the world involving a newly-designed old enemy, a Dalek. And wouldn't you know it? Chris Noth's Trump-inspired Jack Robertson (from the Season 11 episode "Arachnids in the UK") is returning to help the Daleks' evil scheme (whether he's an unwitting dupe of the genocidal aliens or fully aware of or indifferent to the havok he's about to wreak remains to be seen). To make matters works, the fam is going to have to save the world without the help of The Doctor, as she's locked up in space prison. Fortunately, they will have Captain Jack Harkness to lend a hand, who, for an immortal being, sure needs a lot of praise. 

Check it out below. 

Obviously the fam and Captain Jack have their work cut out for them when they don't have The Doctor to help them with this seemingly impossible task. But as Jack says: "Being with the Doctor, you don't get to choose when it stops, whether you leave her or she leaves you."

Or, as Graham puts it: "The Doc would really want us to keep an eye on the planet, right?" 

And while that might not seem possible, Ryan is quick to point out the obvious: "If we don't help, the human race is going down." 

Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks airs on BBC and BBC America on New Year’s Day 2021.

David Prowse made Darth Vader the undisputed lord of the evil stride @ Syfy Wire

When Darth Vader made his iconic entrance in the very first Star Wars film, he certainly made an impression. The black armor and helmet were striking, and there was also that signature breathing. We didn’t hear his voice in this first moment, but we did see how he moved. He immediately sucked up any and all status that there was to suck up.

The breathing and the look are essential, but without the man within the suit, Darth Vader would not have had that impressive, most impressive, physical stature. Thankfully for everyone, David Prowse, who has passed away at the age of 85, was the man in the suit. 

A British actor and body-builder, Prowse played the role in all three films in the original Star Wars trilogy. His voice was never intended to be used for the final cut— no slight to him, but when you see and hear dailies in various documentaries, it’s clear why creator George Lucas always intended to dub someone else in, much to the dismay of Prowse. James Earl Jones ended up famously giving voice to the man who was once Anakin Skywalker, and when he was finally unmasked, Sebastian Shaw swapped in to be the actor whose face you saw. 

In the finished films, you never see Prowse’s face, and you never hear his voice. His presence, however, is always felt. Jones is naturally a huge part of Vader’s power, as is the look and the breath. The way he moves, and his imposing demeanor, however, are just as essential. Without Prowse, Vader would not have worked. 

One of my favorite elements of Darth Vader is all Prowse, really— his effortless, evil stride. 

Vader doesn’t run. He struts. He has a confident, long-legged walk, and this alone usually has the rebels running in fear. This is very clearly depicted in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, when Vader personally leads the Imperial troopers through Echo Base. 

The troopers are running and jumping around because they are vulnerable. They can be taken down. Vader can’t be taken down, and he knows this full well. He strides into Echo Base, his cape billowing behind him (propelled by Vader’s own grandiosity), and he only has one thing on his mind. He’s there for Luke Skywalker, and he’ll tear the place apart if he needs to. 

Vader doesn’t lead from the back of the army. He’s the biggest, baddest, most untouchable force that the Imperials have, and pretty much nothing the Rebels can throw at him will make any difference. Vader knows this. He doesn’t need to run, he only needs to stride with purpose. If he ran, he wouldn’t be as much of a threat. If he is striding up to you? You’re probably dead. 

This may feel like an easy thing for an actor to do, but it isn’t. Behind all of that armor, under that helmet, David Prowse was milking that confident strut for all it was worth. Just as he should have. At this point (while shooting the second film) he knew that his voice would not be heard, so he almost doubled down on making Vader’s physicality as great as it could possibly be. Empire is Vader’s movie. Thanks to Prowse, he glides through it like an evil ice-dancer. 

His walk, his turns, and his body language are easily overlooked when far sexier things like Jones’ voice are in play. It’s easy to forget about the man in the suit, especially when many of the film's actual creators didn’t pay much attention to him. The iconic line of, “No, I am your father” was never said on set by Prowse. He didn’t know anything about it. Lucas told Mark Hamill to ignore the words that Prowse spoke in the scene, and he secretly let Hamill know what he should really react to. Prowse said something different on the day, and maybe three people knew the truth, which would be dubbed in later. 

Despite not knowing, Prowse makes a gesture here that if taken away, would make the scene incomplete. As we hear Jones’ say “…rule the galaxy as father and son…”, Vader reaches out a hand to Luke. He does it quickly, and forcefully, and it is loaded with power and longing. Prowse was utterly committed to this moment. After Luke decides to fall down the shaft, Vader's arm instantly drops. These choices (and the way they are edited together) help so very, very much to make the scene as good as it is. 

James Earl Jones deserves all the credit in the world for, well, everything he does. That said, Vader was a team effort. Jones himself would be the first one to tell you that. Prowse was the point person on that team. No other villain is able to evoke such terror simply by striding towards you. As I’ve said, the stride tells you that he’s not afraid of you. You’re not gonna harm him in any way, you’re just gonna die. He is an unstoppable force of wicked nature and no villain in any movie has ever topped him in this department. 

It works the other way, too. At the end of Empire, Luke and his friends escape. For the entire movie, Vader has been choking people to death who fail him. It should be noted, that Prowse’s force-choke gestures are small, nuanced, and like the rest of Vader, instantly iconic. 

Does he choke Admiral Piett after the Millennium Falcon escapes? He doesn’t. Something in him has changed. He turns, his cape swirls around him, and he strides off of the bridge. He says nothing, but the way he stalks off in this moment speaks volumes. He’ll never be the same again. 

Within the story, Anakin Skywalker was always hidden inside of Darth Vader. In the real world, David Prowse was the one inside the suit. Without his commitment, Vader would have been a lesser villain. 

Prowse gave it everything he had, and Darth Vader was able to confidently strut past all other film baddies to become the most iconic and memorable villain of all time. The imposing stride of David Prowse will live forever. 

Our Human Heroes Fight a Dalek Apocalypse in the Full Trailer for the Doctor Who New Year's Special @ io9

It’s here: your first full look at the upcoming Doctor Who holiday special, “Revolution of the Daleks.” It’s going to be a big one.


WIRE Buzz: Marvel tweaks Black Panther opening to honor Boseman; Dalek re-design; Utopia canceled @ Syfy Wire

Today would have been Chadwick Boseman's 44th birthday. To celebrate the late actor, Marvel Studios updated its opening introduction for the version of 2018's Black Panther that can currently be streamed on Disney+. The film's official Twitter account shared the new opening along with the caption "Long live the king," a reference to Boseman's short, yet iconic, onscreen tenure as Wakanda's King T'Challa in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Former Disney CEO Bob Iger teased the update Saturday when he wrote: "To all fans of #BlackPanther: watch the film on #DisneyPlus late tonight, for a special tribute to someone that was and will always be near and dear to our hearts."

Watch below:

Boseman passed away in late August after a four-year battle with colon cancer, which he was able to keep a secret from the public.

“He was our T’Challa, our Black Panther, and our dear friend. Each time he stepped on set, he radiated charisma and joy, and each time he appeared on screen, he created something truly indelible," Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige said in a statement to Variety shortly after the news of Boseman's death was announced to the public. "He embodied a lot of amazing people in his work, and nobody was better at bringing great men to life. He was as smart and kind and powerful and strong as any person he portrayed. Now he takes his place alongside them as an icon for the ages. The Marvel Studios family deeply mourns his loss, and we are grieving tonight with his family.”

Marvel is still moving forward with the Black Panther sequel, which plans to shoot in July 2021. It's unclear how the second film will address the absence of T'Challa, altough MCU producer Victoria Alonso has said that the project won't revive Boseman with a digital double.

Fans have theorized that the heroic mantle of Black Panther will pass on to the character's sister, Shuri (played by Letitia Wright). Ryan Coogler is returning to write and direct the follow-up, currently slated for a theatrical release on May 6, 2022.

EX-TER-MIN-ATE! The Christmas season is finally upon us, which means the Daleks are one step (or however you measure their movements) closer to re-joining the brilliant world of Doctor Who in the show's upcoming holiday special. Titled "Revolution of the Daleks," the episode (written by showrunner Chris Chibnall) was able to wrap production before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all live-action projects back in late March.

Thanks to the Radio Times, we now have our first look at the titular antagonists, who have a brand-new redesign that channels the ominous black and silver color scheme of Star Wars' Darth Vader. "This new special is the Daleks taking on the universe," cast member Bradley Walsh ("Graham O'Brien") told the outlet. “For Whovians and the show, it’s massive.”

“To be honest, they always seemed like Christmassy imagery to me — appropriate for this time of year!" added Jodie Whittaker, who plays the Thirteenth Doctor.

Take a look below:

“You can keep updating them, but the brilliant design endures,” Chibnall said.

“Even if you don’t know much about Doctor Who, everyone knows the Daleks,” said executive producer Matt Strevens.

Directed by Lee Haven Jones, "Revolution of the Daleks," which features the return of John Barrowman's Captain Jack, has yet to announce a premiere date. That said, it is expected to debut in late 2020/early 2021.

In a year defined by an actual pandemic, it seems like audiences weren't too impressed with what they saw in Amazon's pandemic-centric series, Utopia. Per Variety, the company is pulling the plug on the show after just one season. Based on the British series of the same name, the American adaptation — currently holding a 51% on Rotten Tomatoes — was developed by best-selling Gone Girl and Sharp Objects writer, Gillian Flynn.

"My idea was to not only Americanize it — and deal with things that are specifically resonant to Americans in a lot of ways — but to also make it gritty and dirty and nasty in a very realistic way,” she said during Comic-Con@Home over the summer. “Whereas [the British version's writer, Dennis Kelly] took his cue from the graphic novels themselves, I took my cue more from the ’70s paranoia thrillers that I love. [The ones] that came out after Watergate, that came out in that era where no one trusted anyone."

Utopia (Credit: Amazon Prime Video)

John Cusack (2012), Saha Lane (Hellboy), Rainn Wilson (The Meg), and Jessica Rothe (Happy Death Day) were all a part of the project's ensemble cast. The series' title refers to a cult comic book that actually predicts threats against humanity within its pages.

Dave Prowse, the Actor Beneath Darth Vader's Armor, Has Died at 85 @ io9

Dave Prowse, born in 1935 in Bristol, was an actor and bodybuilder best known for his role as Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, a role he played on screen while James Earl Jones dubbed over his voice. Now, the actor has passed away. He was 85 years old.


Save $600 on an 82" Samsung 4K TV and Worry About How It'll Fit in Your Entertainment Center Later @ io9

Thanksgiving box office: The Croods: A New Age hunts and gathers $14 million; sets new pandemic-era record @ Syfy Wire

DreamWorks Animation's Stone Age sequel, The Croods: A New Age, rocked (get it?) the Thanksgiving holiday weekend with a domestic box office haul of $14.22 million after it debuted in theaters this past Wednesday, Variety has confirmed. Overseas, A New Age netted $20.8 million for a worldwide haul of $35 million. China accounted for $19.2 million of foreign sales.

It's actually a pretty decent haul, especially when you consider the fact that key theatrical markets continue to remain closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With cases rises around the country, even more locations were forced to close their doors, so $14 million is nothing to shake a caveman's club at. Of course, it's nothing close to usual Thanksgiving returns; in regular times, the extended holiday is a prime window for ticket sales.

"This level of business is a far cry from typical Thanksgiving weekend releases, but success and failure in the middle of a pandemic should be viewed in relative terms,” Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Box Office Pro, told Variety.

With $9.71 million of its domestic gross brought in over the usual three-day weekend, the movie has set a pandemic-era box office record, unseating Tenet's $9.35 million debut when U.S. theaters first opened in late August/early September.

"I hope everybody gets to see this movie, whether it’s in the theater or at home. However they can see it because like I mentioned, we’ve really tried to infuse joy and laughter into this movie and I think it’s something we could use today," the film's director, Joel Crawford, recently said during a Zoom interview with SYFY WIRE.

Written by Kevin and Dan Hageman and Paul Fisher and Bob Logan, A New Age features an all-star voice cast of Emma Stone, Nicolas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, Peter Dinklage, Leslie Man, Kelly Marie Tran, Catherine Keener, Clark Duke, and Cloris Leachman. After the events of the first movie, the Croods are no longer frightened cave people, but intrepid adventurers of the prehistoric world in which they live. The Croods find themselves locked in an evolutionary conflict when they meet the Bettermans, a family of more advanced hominids.

“For this film to outperform expectations in a less-than-half operational market indicates that moviegoers, especially families, miss the big screen experience and are seeking it out where safe and possible to do so,” added Robbins. “The industry still has a challenging road ahead through winter. But Croods’ debut is a preliminary sign of the resilience cinemas can show in the long run.”

The Croods was the only picture to cross $1 million this weekend. Elsewhere, Universal and Blumhouse's Freaky nabbed second place with $770,000. To date, the body swapping horror-comedy has made $7 million domestically and almost $11 million globally. Focus Features and Amblin Partners' techno-horror flick Come Play made $387,000, boosting its at-home cache to $8.7 million. Worldwide, its total sales stand at $10.6 million.

(DreamWorks Animation and SYFY WIRE are both owned by NBCUniversal)

'May the Force be with you': Hollywood mourns the loss of Star Wars actor David Prowse @ Syfy Wire

Another Star Wars veteran, David Prowse, was returned to the Force this weekend at the age of 85. The British actor and body-builder was famous for physically playing the role of Darth Vader in the original trilogy (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi). While James Earl Jones provided the speaking voice for the iconic Sith Lord, it was Prowse's movements that really brought the menacing villain to life.

"We all have celebrated the brilliance of James Earl Jones' vocal performance as Vader — and rightfully so — but we must never forget the physical swag Mr. Prowse brought to the role," Community and MCU alum Yvette Nicole Brown wrote on Twitter.

Brown was one of the numerous celebrities to mourn Prowse's passing. He was also memorialized by other Star Wars icons like Mark Hamill ("Luke Skywalker"), Anthony Daniels ("C-3PO"), Carl Weathers ("Greef Karga"), and Rosario Dawson (live-action "Ahsoka Tano"). Elijah Wood, who voiced the character of Jace Rucklin in Star Wars Resistance, kept his tribute simple and to the point: "May the Force be with you."

"I'm very happy to have been a major part of the Star Wars trilogy," Prowse said in 2016. "I think it's done wonders for me. It's enabled me to travel all around the world, doing these sci-fi conventions. To play the part of Vader, who is now regarded as the ultimate screen villain, is a lovely accolade."

As Brian McNoldy, a Senior Research Associate at the University of Miami, points out, all three actors in the "I recognized your foul stench" scene from A New Hope (Prowse, Carrie Fisher, and Peter Cushing) are sadly no longer with us.

Presto! Illusionist Uri Geller lifts 20-year ban on Pokemon's Kadabra trading cards @ Syfy Wire

Uri Geller, an Israeli illusionist and psychic, has ended a feud with The Pokémon Company after two decades. The multi-national corporation, which is partly owned by Nintendo, will once again be able to print trading cards featuring Kadabra, a psychic Pocket Monster that is depicted holding a spoon bent by telekinetic means — the famous calling card of Geller's act.

In 2000, the entertainer took Nintendo to Los Angeles federal court by claiming that the company turned him "into an evil, occult Pokémon character" by infringing upon his professional identity. Geller's lawsuit asserted that Kadabra's design (particularly the lines on its belly) was evocative of the lightning emblem used by the German SS during World War II.

"I want to tell the world before the start of the holiday season that I have nothing whatsoever to do with these violent characters," Geller, who sought nearly $80 million in damages, said at the time. As a result of the litigation, no more Kadabra cards were produced. But now, the utensil-bending beast can make a triumphant return...just like magic!

"I am truly sorry for what I did 20 years ago. Kids and grownups I am releasing the ban. It’s now all up to #Nintendo to bring my #kadabra #pokemon card back," Geller, 73, wrote on Twitter. Saturday.  "It will probably be one of the rarest cards now! Much energy and love to all!"

Speaking with TheGamer over email, Geller revealed that he receives a "tremendous volume of emails" from fans "begging" him to let Nintendo revive the character on its cards. He agreed and sent a letter to Nintendo, officially retracting the ban. The message was reportedly received by two of the company's "representatives." 

The evolved form of Abra, Kadabra evolves into Alakazam, a Pokémon that wields not one, but two spoons. Geller's influence on the creation of Kadabra is more evident in Japan, where the creature is named "Yungerer," a monicker based on the illusionist's name. Indeed, all the Japanese names for the three evolutionary stages are based on famous individuals associated with magic and the paranormal. In America, the names reflect the three exclamatory words that come to mind when most of us envision displays of wizardry and illusion.

During a 2008 interviewMasamitsu Hidaka (a director and storyboard artist for Pokémon anime) confirmed that the case was still ongoing and probably wouldn't be resolved "anytime soon." He explained that they "put Kadabra aside for now.”

Prior to 2003, Wizards of the Coast (owner of Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering) was in charge of printing and selling English language Pokémon cards in the U.S. That responsibility was eventually shifted over to The Pokémon Company, but Wizards ended up suing Nintendo over purported theft of trade secrets. The two parties settled their differences out of court in December 2003.

Bureau’s Breakroom’s Television Table – Week beginning 2020 November 29 @ Bureau 42

If the delay is the new seasons have you depressed, take heart in the fact that between Discovery and Mandalorian we are getting some of the best examples of the two biggest franchises in our genre.  This week, Discovery travels to Books homeworld, and Mando continues to reel back from learning that The Child has a name.  His Dark Materials has our kids quest to retrieve their golden compass.  The Good Doctor struggles with teaching.  If you are still looking for animation the Ducks have Scrooge and Santa Claus team up, and the Daleks continue their game of cat and mouse in the universe of 90’s level CGI.

[All synopses (and titles) from below the cut, except when there really aren’t any. (If a show’s synopsis is a spoiler to you, do not click Continue reading →)]

His Dark Materials – S02E04 – Tower of the Angels – Will and Lyra make a plan, unaware of the dangers or the cost involved.

DuckTales – S03E18 – How Santa Stole Christmas! – Scrooge teams up with his archrival, Santa Claus, to save Christmas, while Webby discovers the true history behind their infamous feud.

The Good Doctor – S04E05- Fault – Shaun questions his decision to give the new residents autonomy when an intern’s misdiagnosis has dire consequences. A patient has a ruptured cyst affecting key functions of her brain. Morgan and Park bond over failed relationships.

Star Trek: Discovery – S03E08 – The Sanctuary – Osyraa attacks Book’s home planet and the Discovery travels there to help. Stamets and Adira investigate The Burn.

Daleks! – S01E04 – Episode 4 – [No Description Given]

The Mandalorian – S02E06 – Chapter 14 – [No Description]

David Prowse, R.I.P. @ Bureau 42

David Browse, the bodybuilder-turned-actor most famous for being the physical presence of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars films, died November 28 at the age of 85.

Although most famous as the body of Darth Vader (James Earl Jones did the voice), Prowse often cited his favorite role as the Green Cross Code Man in a series of UK road safety features. His long career often involved him with SF and Fantasy. He trained Christopher Reeve, getting the actor into shape for Superman, played Frankenstein’s Monster (or, “Creature,” as Hammer Studios preferred) more than once– including a comic cameo in the 1967 James Bond spoof take on Casino Royale— and appeared in episodes of Doctor Who and Space 1999. He also appeared briefly in the 1981 BBC-TV adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as Hotblack Desiato’s bodyguard.

May the force be with him.

Weekly New Releases – Dec. 1, 2020 @ Bureau 42

Ajin: The OAD Collection
Angels of Death
Comments Anime series about a teenage girl who is locked in the overly large basement of a building of almost supernatural size, who joins forces with a murderer wielding a scythe in order to find their way out of the building together.
Baby Driver
Bad Boys for Life
Beverly Hills Cop
Comments The first theatrically released Marvel Comics adaptation to make a profit. (It was the third release, after Howard the Duck in 1986 and a Captain America movie serial from the 1940s.)
Bugs Bunny 80th Anniversary Collection
Coming to America
Continental Divide
Crash (Criterion Collection)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
D.C. Cab
Dark/Web Special Edition
Do Not Reply
Double Decker! Doug & Kirill
Comments Re-release of the science fiction police series from the creators of Tiger & Bunny
Dr. Stone
Dune Drifter
Comments A direct to video sci-fi film, which was undoubtedly timed to come out when Denis Villenueve’s Dune was originally intended to hit theatres. I’m sure the very prominent use of the word Dune in the title is pure coincidence.
Equalizer / Equalizer 2
Gerard Butler Collection
Comments Includes Angel Has Fallen, Hunter Killer, Law Abiding Citizen, Vanishing, and Gods of Egypt.
Golden Child
Green Eggs and Ham
Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventure Collection
Comments The description says this includes four movies, but I swear there are only three of them…
Jumanji 3 Pack
Comments Includes the 1995 original and the two new films.
Leon: The Professional
Lord of the Rings
Comments Blaine: Return of the King won the Best Picture Oscar, so it’ll be the subject of a podcast on March 28, 2026.
Made in Italy
Mission: Impossible: The Original TV Series
NOVA: Human Nature
Outburst Dreamer Boys
Comments Anime series about a girl who after changing high schools, ends up falling in with a bunch of boys who are, to use the Japanese term, suffering from chūnibyō (adolescent delusions of grandeur).
Panic – aka Bakterion
Perry Mason (2020)
Pineapple Express
Rising Hawk: Battle for the Carpathians
Sound! Euphonium: the Movie – May the Melody Reach You
Comments Recap film adapting season 2 of Sound Euphonium.
Sound! Euphonium: the Movie – Welcome to the Kaitauji High School Concert Band
Comments Recap film adapting season 1 of Sound Euphonium.
Spider-Man: Far From Home
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Top Gun
Trading Places
Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll
Comments This is a spinoff film to the Netflix anime series from Kyoto Animation. This is the final project of several of the victims of the Kyoto Animation arson attack.
Walker Texas Ranger
Zombieland: Double Tap

Finally, the picks of the week. Alex says, “Of all of Peter Jackson’s Tolkein adaptations, the adaptations of the Lord of the Rings novels likely will hold up the best with the transition to 4K, due to the heavy use of practical effects augmented with digital effects – so if you got a 4K player, pick up these.” Blaine says, “The Lord of the Rings and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse are both must-own titles, so 4K owners should pick those up at some point or another if you don’t have them already. If you don’t have a 4K system, the Bugs Bunny set is the only title that stands out to me.”

Appointment in Tomorrow (X Minus One #70) @ Bureau 42

Original airdate: November 7, 1956

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Author: Blaine Dowler

David Prowse, original Darth Vader actor in Star Wars, dies at 85 @ Syfy Wire

David Prowse, the British actor and body-builder who brought Darth Vader to life in the original Star Wars trilogy and beyond, has passed away at the age of 85 early Saturday morning. His death was confirmed by his personal management agency, Bowington Management, on Twitter.

"It's with great regret and heart-wrenching sadness for us and million of fans around the world, to announce that our client DAVE PROWSE M.B.E. has passed away at the age of 85," the agency wrote.

While the 6'6'' actor spent the majority of his career wearing the iconic mask, Star Wars fans know that the name "David Prowse" is synonymous with the Sith Lord, Darth Vader. While the character was famously voiced by James Earl Jones, it was the looming dramatic figure of Prowse that brought Vader to life on the screen. Prowse gave Darth Vader an ominous presence in the films that will never be forgotten.

Born in Bristol, England in July of 1935, Prowse was raised by his mother and suffered from joint issues as a kid due to the fact that he was growing so fast. "They tried to put braces on me to correct it," he said during an interview in 2016. "Before they finally figured out when I was 15 that there was nothing wrong with me. Got into swimming and body building to strengthen and ended up weightlifting competitions. I started entering weightlifting competitions and even won the British heavyweight weightlifting title."

Prowse's impressive height and build made him perfect for the role of the imposing half-man, half-robot antagonist of George Lucas' original Star Wars trilogy. However, Lucas originally gave him the choice between playing Vader or Chewbacca. Prowse chose Vader and the role of Chewie went to the late Peter Mayhew. Prowse then provided the physical performance for the trilogy's iconic villain, who was later over-dubbed by Jones.

"I did the voice all the way through the movies and I kept on saying to Lucas, 'What are we going to do about the voice? Everything I'm saying is coming from inside the mask and it's obviously no good for re-production,'" the actor recalled in 2016. "He said, 'Don't worry, we'll go into the same studios and re-record all your dialogue properly.' ... What happened was, they got to the end of the movie, [went] back to America immediately, because the films were all shot in England. When they were in America, they suddenly realized that I hadn't done the over-dubbing. Then, of course, it was too expensive to get me to fly out to Hollywood to do an hour's work. So they started looking around and got James Earl Jones, who was a lovely character and a great guy ... But I still think I could've done equally as well, given the right opportunity."

Prowse was memorialized on Twitter by Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill, who wrote: "So sad to hear David Prowse has passed. He was a kind man and much more than Darth Vader. Actor-Husband-Father-Member of the Order of the British Empire-3 time British Weightlifting Champion & Safety Icon the Green Cross Code Man. He loved his fans as much as they loved him. #RIP."

In 2009, Prowse, who was 73 at the time, announced that he was battling cancer. He later went into remission that same year. The story of his life was chronicled in the actor's 2011 memoir Straight From The Force's Mouth and Toni Bestard and Marcos Cabotá's 2015 documentary I Am Your Father.

Prowse was allegedly banned from any Lucasfilm events in the early 2010s after "annoying" George Lucas. "The only thing I've been told is I've burnt too many bridges between Lucasfilm and myself," Prowse's website said at the time. "Sincere apologies to all my fans who were hoping to meet with me — I shall miss you too." According to a Den of Geek article from 2018, Lucas was none too pleased with Prowse's participation in Alexandre O. Philippe's 2010 documentary, The People Versus George Lucas. Even before that, however, the actor was supposedly on the outs with Lucas after spoiling Empire's "I am your father" twist two years before the sequel was released in theaters.

Prowse is survived by his wife of 57 years, Norma E. Scammell, and three children.

There Are Now Stories Everywhere, Even on Spotify @ io9

It’s almost as if the little glowing story circles are following us everywhere. They’re on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Twitter and now, even on Spotify.


U.S. Army banks on developing mindreading tech for future field soldiers @ Syfy Wire

With technology advancing at light-speed these days, the U.S. Army is getting in on the sci-fi action by funding a far-out project to promote neuroscience research with their sights set on creating a mindreading system for soldiers to communicate with each other on the battlefield.

Think it's far-fetched? Not so fast. In an attempt to decipher the hidden language behind various brain signals in the human mind, our military is determined to explore the promise of this experimental project and its potential applications for futuristic warfare.

To jump-start the process, the Army Research Office (ARO) has pledged $6.25 million toward this telepathic endeavor over the next five years to try and shatter perceptions of the reality of a true cyborg infantryman.

According to C4ISRNET, this technology might take two decades to develop but the initiative is being taken very seriously. Currently, ARO neuroscientists announced that they have learned to decode and parse these brain-produced neural signals that orchestrate behavior from the remainder of the organ's output. Singling them out is not exactly true mindreading, but it's a vital breakthrough in sorting out the meaning and purpose of individual messages to allow computers to help interpret them.

Credit: Getty Images

“Here we’re not only measuring signals, but we’re interpreting them,” ARO program manager Hamid Krim explained. “You can read anything you want; doesn’t mean that you understand it. The next step after that is to be able to understand it. The next step after that is to break it down into words so that ... you can synthesize in a sense, like you learn your vocabulary and your alphabet, then you are able to compose.

"At the end of the day, that is the original intent mainly: to have the computer actually being in a full duplex communication mode with the brain.”

By employing a special algorithm and complex mathematics, ARO researchers were able to label which brain signals worked for directing motion, or behavior-relevant signals, and then separate those signals from the other behavior-irrelevant messages.

Ultimately, scientists would hope for a system in which computers can deliver feedback to soldiers' brains based on their thoughts for corrective measures in life-threatening or dangerous situations. Stress, anxiety, and fatigue signals emitted by the brain are not always immediately recognized, and a battle-ready, human-machine interface might do wonders for effective tactical encounters.  

Credit:  Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

Silent communication between field soldiers would be the next logical step in developing this military mindreading system.  

"In a theater, you can have two people talking to each other without ... even whispering a word," Krim added. "So you and I are out there in the theater and we have to ... talk about something that we’re confronting. I basically talked to my computer — your computer can be in your pocket, it can be your mobile phone or whatever — and that computer talks to ... your teammate’s computer. And then his or her computer is going to talk to your teammate.”

In their extended testing regimen, researchers focused on the brain signals from a monkey repeatedly reaching for a ball to collect and compare sample brain signals. The technology is still in its infancy but it's a blossoming field that could bear telepathic fruit in the coming decades.

Uri Geller Says Nintendo Can Print Kadabra On Pokémon Cards Again @ io9

Spoon-bending magician Uri Geller gave Nintendo permission to use the character Kadabra on Pokémon cards today, after a 2o year legal dispute in which Geller claimed the Pokémon’s Japanese name and image were too close to his own.


It's Time to Watch This Video Essay and Have Serious Thoughts About Gritty Superheroes @ io9

Gritty superheroes. Are we for them? Are we against them? Patrick H. Willems, one of the best video essayists on YouTube, is mostly just confused.


Here's the Story Behind Travis Scott's Rad Tenet Ending Theme @ io9

A theme you probably haven’t heard yet, because the movie has only released in theaters, which, uhh, hm. We’ve talked about that. Let’s just chat about the music today.


Alex Garland's Next Project Is a Low-Budget Horror Film Set in the United Kingdom @ io9

Sound familiar?


I Won't Miss Fortnite's Marvel Season @ io9

Fortnite’s Marvel-themed season comes to an end next week, with super villain Galactus finally arriving on the island on Tuesday afternoon. Dataminers are finding lots of references to past season events, Epic has put out some streaming rules suggesting there’ll be copyrighted music, and we really have no idea what…


This prehistoric shark looked like a deranged Rick Sanchez, but its teeth were the real nightmare @ Syfy Wire

When Rick can’t get his Szechuan sauce (or his way), you know how terrifying he gets—but he’s not the only creature to ever have enormous eyeballs and a mouth full of sharp teeth.

Ferromirum oukherbouchi looks like it swam straight out of Rick and Morty. It could pass as another thing for Rick to morph into besides Pickle Rick, but unlike the animated mad scientist, this extinct shark actually existed. This newly discovered species had disproportionately huge eyes that were frightening enough, but that wasn’t even the real killer. Its jaws were something like a warped chainsaw that rotated inward when it closed its mouth and outward when it opened it. It was also constantly growing new teeth. Rick hasn’t yet figured out a formula to give himself that superpower.

Extant sharks that stalk through the seas today are constantly replacing their old teeth with new teeth. F. oukherbouchi hoarded all its teeth, with new sharp ones growing next to the older and more worn ones, so it could sink as many as possible into its next unsuspecting meal. Newer and sharper teeth pointed inwards and were not visible with a closed mouth, but stood upright when the lower jaw rotated in a particularly strange way. When F. oukherbouchi clamped its jaws down on prey, both jaws rotated all its teeth outward to keep dinner from moving. This lethal arrangement of teeth made it easier for the shark to snap up something when it was hungry. Prey would meet a grim end.

An international team of paleontologists who studied its 370-million-year-old remains are still in awe, and not just because shark skeletons, which are made of cartilage, don’t hold up nearly as well as bone, which fossilizes. Nothing like this has been seen in any living fish.


“The jaw articulation is specialized and drives mandibular rotation outward when the mouth opens, and inward upon closure,” said paleontologist Linda Frey, who recently co-authored a study published in Communications Biology. “The resultant eversion and inversion of the lower dentition presents a greater number of teeth to prey through the bite-cycle.”

CT scans revealed parts of the Devonian shark’s jaw that were then reconstructed by Frey’s team and then 3D-printed. The 3D model gave them the opportunity to try out the jaw and see just how it caught and trapped prey (no fish were harmed in the testing of this model). Humans have a lower jaw with both sides fused together in the middle. Because the jaws of F. ourkherbouchi did not show this fusion, this told the researchers that the terror fish could drop both halves of their lower jaw downward while rotating them outwards automatically. Besides being able to knife prey more effectively with its teeth, the inward rotation of the shark’s lower jaw would shove prey deeper into its mouth.

As if F. oukherbouchi wasn’t already nightmarish enough, its rotating jaw made it capable of suction feeding. When its jaws opened and the lower jaw pushed outward, sea water gushed into its mouth, and slamming its mouth shut would cause an intense pull that made it almost impossible for prey to escape.

So why did such a ferocious predator end up going extinct? Other species that have been previously studied displayed similar jaw characteristics to F. oukherbouchi, but this was the first among such specimens that was studied in 3D to understand the variance in species that shared the same waters. The constant replacement of teeth that made F. oukherbouchi such an effective killing machine would eventually fall out of use. Sharks would slow down and grow their teeth back less often. While F. oukherbouchi’s jaw is thought to have ruled the oceans during the Paleozoic Era, especially the Devonian period, sharks would go on to evolve even weirder jaws.

“It would be interesting to learn how the distribution of this process, and specialized jaw hinge, correlates with the evolution of the classic, tooth-whorl dominated, shark dentition,” Frey said.

Maybe Pickle Rick will evolve into Extinct Killer Shark Rick someday.

Utopia Has Been Cancelled After One Season at Amazon @ io9

The original British version of Utopia, Gillian Flynn’s conspiracy theory thriller, had a two-season run. Amazon’s adaptation/remake isn’t getting the same luck.


RIP, Disney Infinity, And Thank You @ io9

Disney Infinity was, in 2013 at least, trying to be the biggest thing in both games and toys. Yet only three years after launching, in 2016 it was gone, its servers closed down, its playsets discounted then removed from stores entirely.


Go Big or Go Home: Save $300 on a 75" 4K Smart TV @ io9

TCL 75" 4K TV | $500 | Best Buy


1940 – “Gone With The Wind” @ Bureau 42

Trey and Blaine are joined by Paul Spataro, host of Is It Jaws? for a crossover episode that appears in both podcast feeds this weekend.

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Author: 99 Years 100 Films

Amateur astronomer narrows down the culprit star of SETI's famous 1977 Wow! signal @ Syfy Wire

An astronomical mystery dating back to the year when director Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind was released might be one giant leap closer to being solved.

Back on August 15, 1977, SETI scientists listening in on the Big Ear radiotelescope at Ohio State University recorded an intense 72-second-long signal that was never repeated and emanated from some unknown source somewhere in our Milky Way galaxy. 

The powerful cry from the direction of the Sagittarius Constellation is still believed today to be one of the most credible alien technosignatures ever captured in the entire history of the SETI organization. It was aptly named after an exclamatory note written in the official data sheet print-out by the on-duty astronomer Jerry Ehman.


Big Ear Radio Observatory and North American Astrophysical Observatory

According to Astronomy Magazine, amateur astronomer Alberto Caballero has just diligently tracked the signal's origin back to a candidate star that closely resembles our own Sun in a momentous find that could finally crack the heavenly mystery wide open.

Three years ago, St. Petersburg College astronomer Antonio Paris claimed to have discovered the origin point of the WOW! Signal, theorizing that it was caused by a then-uncatalogued comet now named 266P/Christensen. However, most astronomers disagreed with the findings, including Ehman himself.

Now, using detailed 3D star maps created by data obtained from the European Space Agency's Gaia space observatory, Caballero has pieced together what he believes is a likely origin point of the famous WOW! message from deep outer space. By hunting for Sun-like stars amid the thousands that have already been spotted and identified by Gaia in this same corner of the sky, one strong candidate sticks out amid the multitudes.

“The only potential Sun-like star in all the WOW! Signal region appears to be 2MASS 19281982-2640123,” says Caballero.

Credit: PanSTARRS/DR1

2MASS exists squarely in the constellation of Sagittarius some 1,800 light-years away and is a dead ringer for our Sun with basically identical stats when comparing temperature, radius, and luminosity. An exoplanet orbiting this twin star may or may not be the home of the WOW! Signal, as there are numerous other solar suspects still too dim to detect.

Searching for worlds transiting 2MASS is the next step in probing this 43-year-old puzzler, but future mapping data from Gaia and similar mapping missions might provide an even more precise estimate of the culprit that blasted out that rare 72-second signal. Wow!

Is this how Transformers began? MIT scientists roll out new micro-unit building blocks @ Syfy Wire

Transformable sentient machines seen in the Transformers franchise are still a long ways off, but there must have been one pivotal moment when a key piece of technology was developed to act as a cornerstone for future development in that fictional world. This might be one of those inventions! 

Scientists at MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms have designed an assortment of miniature polymer building blocks that demonstrate a number of highly unique mechanical properties, like the power to exhibit twisting motions when squeezed. Subunits could be combined and assembled by robotic equipment into an infinite variety of structures with integrated functionality, including cars, huge industrial parts, or specialized robots that can be repeatedly reassembled into different forms.

Credit: Benjamin Jenett, CBA

In findings published this week in the journal Science Advances, researchers created four different types of these mechanical metamaterial subunits, dubbed voxels, and named after their 3-D variation on 2-D image pixels.

Each specialized voxel model displays properties unseen in traditional natural materials, and employed in combinations, can be directed to produce devices which react to environmental stimuli. Such usages could include aircraft wings or turbine blades that are sensitive to air pressure changes or wind velocity by altering their overall shape.

Credit: Dr. Benjamin Jenett, CBA/MIT

Acting like intricate LEGO building bricks, voxels are made from flat-frame pieces of injection-molded polymers, and then manufactured into three-dimensional shapes that can be combined into larger structures, providing a lightweight yet rigid framework when joined together. Besides the standard rigid unit, there are three other voxel iterations: rigid (grey), compliant (purple), auxetic (orange), and chiral (blue). Each one offers many unusual properties scientists were quick to note.

A cube of auxetic voxels bulge inwards at the sides when compressed instead of bulging outward. The sides of compliant voxels don't alter their shape at all when squeezed, which is an extreme rarity in materials science. Chiral voxels respond to axial compression or pulling with a strange twisting motion, another bizarre property almost never seen.

Credit: Dr. Benjamin Jenett, CBA/MIT

"Each type of material property we're showing has previously been its own field," says paper co-author Professor Neil Gershenfeld. "People would write papers on just that one property. This is the first thing that shows all of them in one single system. We can span a wide range of material properties that before now have been considered very specialized. 

"The point is that you don't have to pick one property. You can make, for example, robots that bend in one direction and are stiff in another direction and move only in certain ways. And so, the big change over our earlier work is this ability to span multiple mechanical material properties, that before now have been considered in isolation. Think about all the rigid parts and moving parts in cars and robots and boats and planes. And we can span all of that with this one system."

Credit: Dr. Benjamin Jenett, MIT

According to lead study co-author, MIT doctoral graduate Dr. Benjamin Jenett, one notable benefit of the metamaterials system is that a complex structure composed of just one type of voxel acts exactly the same way as a single subunit. 

"These parts are low-cost, easily produced, and very fast to assemble, and you get this range of properties all in one system," he explains. "They're all compatible with each other, so there's all these different types of exotic properties, but they all play well with each other in the same scalable, inexpensive system. We were able to demonstrate that the joints effectively disappear when you assemble the parts together. It behaves as a continuum, monolithic material."

 Credit: Dr. Benjamin Jenett, MIT

Building blades for wind turbines at an operating site is a particularly desirable application of these variable voxels, which would eliminate the transportation element when the giant blades are shipped to their installations. Also, the environmental issue of turbine blade disposal might also be addressed due to blades being capable of disassembly back into the component voxels which could be recycled into other products and parts. 

"Now we have this low-cost, scalable system, so we can design whatever we want to," Jenett adds. "We can do quadrupeds, we can do swimming robots, we can do flying robots. That flexibility is one of the key benefits of the system."

The Cutest, Weirdest Toy of the Week Is a Spider-Drone From the Unopened Avengers Disney Park @ io9

Welcome back to Toy Aisle, io9's regular round of the coolest merchandise on the internet lately! This week, Disney’s inability to open its Marvel-themed park isn’t stopping it from selling expensive merchandise from said park, Hot Toys continues to plumb The Mandalorian’s depths for all they’re worth, and more. Check…


io9 Investigates: Will Wearing a Giant Baby Yoda Onesie Improve Your Mandalorian Viewing Experience? @ io9

The Mandalorian is already some pretty solid Star War. But what if we could improve on it by looking like an absolute idiot while watching? I, io9's resident idiot, decided to find out.


The 10 Best Deals of November 27, 2020 @ io9

Load Up Your Tablet With a Ton of New Graphic Novels From Comixology's Black Friday Sale @ io9

Not the blooper you're looking for! The Mandalorian digitally removes "Jeans Guy" @ Syfy Wire

It's been one week since eagle-eyed viewers discovered an unexpected blooper on The Mandalorian, as a regular-clothed member of the crew was spotted in the background of one of the scenes of the hit Disney+ TV series. 

However, despite "Jeans Guy" quickly becoming a bit of an Internet sensation, the production gaffe — which even appeared in production stills for the series — has since been digitally removed from the episode by the streamer and Lucasfilm. 

The mistake had previously occurred during the fourth episode of Season 2, titled "Chapter 2: The Seige," in a scene that sees the trio of Cara Dune (Gina Carano), Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) and the Mandalorian himself (Pedro Pascal) get into a shootout with a pair of scientists who are trying to delete some incriminating data from the mainframe of an Imperial outpost on Nevarro. It's since been compared to the infamous Starbucks coffee cup gaffe on the final season of HBO's Game of Thrones, in which a lone drink in a signature container from the global coffee chain managed to find its way into the final cut of the episode. 

But that's not the only thing that caught the attention of fans last episode as this season continues to unfold with one big reveal after another. Before viewers ever discovered the real name of Baby Yoda the Child this week — and were treated to an appearance from a long-awaited Star Wars fan favorite — they'd already been graced with the presence of fellow Mandalorian Bo-Katan Kryze, as Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica) reprised the role she originated in Star Wars: The Clone Wars with her character now making the jump to live-action. Not to mention the particularly scene-stealing cable-knit threads of a Mon Calamari dock worker! 

Episodes 1-5 of The Mandalorian's second season are now streaming on Disney+, with new episodes flying onto the streaming platform on Fridays. 



Baby Yoda has a name and The Mandalorian has a new quest [Jabba the Pod 4.5] @ Syfy Wire

We knew that Chapter 13 of The Mandalorian would be a big one in terms of Star Wars canon... we just didn't think it would be as big as it was.

The long-expected return of Ahsoka Tano, now played by Rosario Dawson, did in fact happen. With her on the scene, Mando and Baby Yoda got a ton of information about what in the kriff is going on. Ahsoka let Mando (and the audience) know that the kid is not a clone, a copy, or anything like that. He was raised in the Jedi Temple, and he was hidden away long ago.

He also has a name, and Ahsoka tells Mando what it is. Dave "Chosen One" Filoni wrote and directed this chapter, and there turned out to be even bigger surprises in store than Baby's real name and Ahsoka's return. It was insane and we're gonna have to watch it at least a hundred more times.

Out heroes over on Jabba the Pod are trying to pick themselves up off of the floor and deal with all of this. Join Caitlin, Matt, and Brian as they discuss this new chapter, and go through all of the other big Star Wars news of the week. FILONI!!


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This Video Essay Breaks Down Why Pacific Rim's Costumes Are So Damn Good @ io9

Pacific Rim is pulpy, schlocky sci-fi at its best: utterly earnest, sincere in its emotionality, and, of course, cool-ass giant robots and giant monsters smacking each other in the face. But for a movie that is so in your face, one of its most clever and understated visual cues is in its thematically discordant…


Star Trek Discovery Review: “Unification III” @ Bureau 42

Discovery visits Star Trek‘s most famous alien world as they try to solve the mystery of the Burn.

Title: “Unification, Part 3”
Directed by Jon Dudkowski
Written by Kirsten Beyer

Sonequa Martin-Green as Michael Burnham
Doug Jones as Captain Saru
Anthony Rapp as Paul Stamets
Mary Wiseman as Sylvia Tilly
Wilson Cruz as Dr. Hugh Culber
Sonja Sohn as Dr. Gabrielle Burnham
Emily Coutts as Keyla Detmer
David Ajala as Cleveland Booker
Rachael Ancheril as Cmdr. Nhan
Sara Mitch as Lt. Nilsson
Oyin Oladejoas Lt. Joann Owosekun
Patrick Kwok-Choon as Lt. Gen Rhys
Oded Fehr as Admiral Charles Vance
Tara Rosling as T’Rina
Oliver Becker as N’Raj
Stephanie Belding as Shira
Emmanuel Kabongo as V’Kir
Leonard Nimoy (archival footage) as Spock


Vulcan, now know as N’var1, has become the homeworld of the reunified Vulcan and Romulan peoples2. They’ve also left the Federation. Can Spock’s adoptive sister convince them to share critical information, which recent developments now show in a new light?

High Point:

Once we arrive at Ni’Var, we have an interesting, decidedly Star Trek episode that does justice to the conceit that we’re watching Part Three of a much-loved two-part NextGen episodes. It also connects itself to elements established in TOS and the recent Picard series.

Trek‘s alien have always served, at least in part, as metaphors for aspects of humanity, and this episode continues the exploration of what Vulcans and Romulans (and a certain famous half-Vulcan) have always represented.

Low Point:

I’ll sidestep the issue of just how far this ep pushes the Burnhamphasis. I do find it, however, amusing to imagine someone who was turned off by Discovery‘s first season, perhaps even fell into the “them dang SJWs have ruined mah Trek!” camp, deciding, after the more recent response online, to tune in this week and give it one more try. Then they see the first ten minutes of this episode.

But that really isn’t a weak point. Star Trek has always made its characters central to galaxy-affecting, history-making stories. I have a beef instead with the decision to make Ensign Tilly second-in-command. Seriously? Look, the character has grown on me, but there is no way that promotion makes any sense. In light of her recent contributions, I would have bumped her up a rank, sure. That is overdue. She’s absolutely not ready yet, however, to be XO. Furthermore, her response and her awkward discussion with Stamets underscores that she’s not ready to be XO. Like Burnham’s decision to go rogue last week rather than make a request that would likely have been approved, her premature promotion has more to do with creating drama around principal characters than having a Starfleet officer make sensible decisions.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6

Effects: 6/6

Acting: 5/6 The cast continues to give strong performances overall. Guest-star Tara Rosling (a veteran of, among other things, The Expanse) gives a studied performance as T’Rina.

Production: 6/6

Story: 5/6

Emotional Response: 5/6

Overall: 5/6 This episode nicely unifies several eras of Star Trek.

In total, “Unification III” receives 35/42

Lingering Questions

1. After sunset, does Ni’var turn into Wo’lf?
2. What happened to the Remans?

21 Great Sci-Fi Christmas Ornaments From Hallmark @ io9

Is it really Christmas if you don’t have a little sci-fi on your tree? Hallmark would say no.


Utah Monolith: Mystery Solved? @ Bureau 42

If you’ve been following the non-political news this last week, you know that members of the Utah Department of Public Safety, while counting Bighorn sheep, discovered a monolith in the Utah desert. It is, of course, an object strangely familiar to SF fans….

We also know from Google Earth images that it was placed between mid-2015 and 2016. All evidence clearly points to a metal item of decidedly terrestrial origins, but the actual people responsible have not stepped foreword, and the Utah DPS has warned against looking for the object. It’s easy to get lost in a desert, and they’re not exactly hospitable places. The monolith’s construction material, location, and one likely origin have all been identified by Reddit sleuths.

It’s worth noting that the area has long been used as a shooting location. Some of the more recent productions to use the site include John Carter (2012) and HBO’s Westworld.

The Mandalorian: Twitter goes rancor wild for Rosario Dawson's Ahsoka Tano and Baby Yoda's true name @ Syfy Wire

Former Disney CEO Bob Iger wasn't whistling dixie last December when he said that "Baby Yoda" is not the true name of The Mandalorian's breakout character. Thanks to "Chapter 13: The Jedi" (now streaming) Star Wars fans can finally refer to the Force sensitive child by a proper monicker. If you haven't watched the episode yet, we suggest heading over to Disney+ to check it out before you read any further.

***WARNING! The following contains major spoilers for the latest episode!***

Written and directed by executive producer Dave Filoni, "Chapter 13: The Jedi" brought Anakin Skywalker's old Padawan, Ahsoka Tano, back into the galaxy far, far away. Played by Rosario Dawson in live-action, the character is able to commune with Baby Yoda through the Force and learns that his real name is actually "Grogu." She also reveals that The Child was trained on Coruscant for many years before the Jedi were betrayed by the Empire. When Palpatine rose to power, Grugo was hidden away, but what happened between then and his first meeting with Din Djarin in Season 1 is a mystery. Even Grand Admiral Thrawn gets name-dropped in the latest connection to Filoni's animated Star Wars shows.

Naturally, viewers are going nuts over the episode's big reveals and touching moments between Mando and his young charge. According to Ahsoka, their bond is so strong, that she cannot train Grogu in the ways of the Jedi. After seeing what happened to her old master, she knows what strong emotions, particularly love and anger, can do to a powerful Jedi Knight.

However, some members of the audience are unsure of switching over to "Grogu" from now on. We're all so used to calling him "Baby Yoda" at this point, that it probably feels weird to call him anything else. Based on some of the tweets we've seen so far, a schism may be brewing among Mandalorian fans. But there is one thing everyone can agree on: Anakin did not kill every youngling on Coruscant in Revenge of the Sith.

Check out some of the best reactions to this week's episode below:

Episodes 1-5 of The Mandalorian's second season are now streaming on Disney+.

The Mandalorian revealed Baby Yoda’s name before name-dropping another huge Star Wars character @ Syfy Wire

He has a name! 

No more Baby Yoda and no more “The Child.” The kid formerly known as all of those things has a name, and we learned it from a trusted source. 

Chapter 13 of The Mandalorian, "The Jedi," was a seismic charge of Star Wars reveals. The episode’s writer/director, Dave “Chosen One” Filoni, apparently decided to go absolutely insane and throw every chicken into the pot. We saw some of it coming, but other things? We did not. See. Coming. 

We knew that it was nothing but open sky after Bo-Katan Kryze showed up a couple weeks ago, but come on. As C-3PO might say, this was madness. We’re absolutely and utterly here for it. 

***WARNING: From this point forward, there will be huge spoilers for The Mandalorian, Chapter 13. If you haven’t seen it yet, do not read any further. Get out of here, Dewey! You don’t want any part of this.***

Baby Yoda no more — his name is Grogu. Speak it. Live it. Love it. Say it many times in rapid succession. He grew up in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant and was hidden away when the Empire rose to power.

How do we know this? Ahsoka Tano communes with him and tells Mando what she learns. It was widely expected that Ahsoka (now played by Rosario Dawson) would appear this week, and she did. What some of us did not expect was how well Dawson would capture Ahsoka’s gestures, looks, and mannerisms from animation. We’ll miss Ashley Eckstein, and she’ll always be Ahsoka in our hearts. That said, Dawson does a damn fine job of carrying the torch. 

Ahsoka’s info dump about Grogu brings many classic Star Wars moments into the mix, culminating in her refusal to train him. He harbors a lot of fear, he’s very attached to Mando, and he is going to have to choose his own path. She sets Mando and Grogu on a new journey before sauntering off at the end of the episode. 

Credit: Lucasfilm/Disney+

Baby’s real name isn’t the only one she lets slip, though. After Ahsoka duels and defeats the episode’s villain (played by Bruce Lee’s goddaughter, Diana Inosanto Lee), Ahsoka asks her about someone else. 

“Where is Grand Admiral Thrawn?” 

Whaaaaaa? The last time we saw everyone’s favorite blue-skinned, art-loving Chiss was in the finale of Star Wars Rebels, in which he was trapped in the tentacles of a Purrgil. He went zooming off with them and Ezra Bridger, and we don’t know where they went. We only know that in that show’s epilogue, Sabine Wren says that it’s time to find Ezra and bring him home. Ahsoka joins her to go and make this happen. 

Many fans (ourselves included) are randy as hell for a “Search for Ezra” series starring Sabine and Ahsoka. Animated, live-action, we don’t care at this point. It would be fair to think that if Ahsoka and Sabine did ever find Ezra, they’d also find Thrawn. This episode takes place around five or six years after those two set off on their journey, and here we have Ahsoka asking someone where Thrawn is. 

We seriously didn’t think that we’d hear that name in this episode, but a year ago, we didn’t think we’d ever really see Ahsoka in live-action. Here we are. This one utterance of the name brings up many, many questions. 

Did Ahsoka and Sabine successfully find Ezra as well as Thrawn? Are both of those characters back in play? Is Thrawn back to his old tricks in this part of the galaxy, to the point where Ahsoka has to track him down and give him the business? Has he started an art gallery that will try to steal memberships away from the Frick? 

Another possibility is that this is a part of the search itself. If Ahsoka finds Thrawn, she’ll find Ezra. There’s a lot of story yet to be filled in here (Sabine's nowhere in sight in this episode), but just saying Thrawn's name makes it clear that we’re going to get the story at some point. You don’t bring in Rosario Dawson to play Ahsoka Tano and have her in just one episode. She’ll be back. She’s looking for Grand Admiral Thrawn, so either on this show or another one, she’ll find him. When she does, we’re bound to get a big update on what happened after Ahsoka and Sabine shipped off. 

Credit: Lucasfilm/Disney+

This then leads us to other questions: If Thrawn does show up, who will play him? Lars Mikkelsen had the honor on Rebels, and he's an established physical screen presence with a great look. They could go the same route here that they went with Katee Sackhoff and just keep him in the role, or, they could do what they did with Ahsoka, and bring in... Benedict Cumberbatch? (Maybe? We're just spitballin' here.) If Ezra or Sabine shows up, we realistically have no idea who would play them. We can’t believe we’re even writing this because we never gave serious thought to either character appearing in The Mandalorian. It was only ever a fun thing to think about, a lark at most. No more than that. Now? It’s a distinct possibility. 

Also distinct possibilities: everything and anything. This episode brought back HK droids from Knights of the Old Republic. It had Mando outdraw Michael Biehn. It had Ahsoka sending Mando and his son (don’t @ us) to a Jedi Temple that we’ve never heard of. 

It also told us that the child’s name is Grogu. 

It’s an artistic miracle that this show is real.


Satellite Photos Show Gigantic Iceberg Possibly Drifting Away From Ecologically Sensitive Island @ io9

Iceberg A68a—currently the world’s largest iceberg—is rotating and possibly moving in a westerly direction away from South Georgia Island, according to new satellite photos. This is potentially good news, as the enormous chunk of ice appeared to be on a collision course with the wildlife-filled island.


The Mandalorian's Grandest Episode Yet Uncovers Old Friends, and Older Pains @ io9

The Mandalorian has always promised the picture of a much wider place it could encompass in the Star Wars universe, ever since its first episode flipped the script and put our titular hero in front of a little green mystery from the stars. Its latest chapter re-aligns the show’s place in that world even as it grows it…


Sunday's Best Deals: AeroGarden Harvest, Immortals: Fenyx Rising, Indoor Ceramic Heater, Ugly Star Wars Sweaters, 4TB NVMe SSD, AA Batteries, and More @ io9

'The Movie Show' asks 'What if Batman was a nun?' in first look at SYFY's new puppet-themed comedy series @ Syfy Wire

What if Bruce Wayne became a singing nun instead of a masked crime-fighter after witnessing the death of his parents?

That is the question of the hour in our exclusive first look at The Movie Show, SYFY's new comedy series in which a pair of puppets discuss the biggest genre blockbusters ever released.

In this clip from Episode 2 of the first season, Wade (voiced by executive producer Adam Dubowsky) pitches "Musical Batman: Batman The Musical," which is just the Caped Crusader's backstory blended with the plot of 1992's Sister Act. And yes, Wade does want to cast Whoopi Goldberg as Gotham's Dark Knight. His co-host, Deb (voiced by fellow EP Alex Stone), isn't too impressed with the marriage of nuns and superheroes, but at least it's kind of original ... right?

The following sneak peek has been brought you by the letter 'M' for Movie Show:

The show is produced by Line by Line Media with Bob Unger and Sam Sarkoob serving as executive producers alongside Dubowsky and Stone. Each week, Deb and Wade will deliver the hottest movie takes from their public-access studio in Modesto, California. Back to the Future, JumanjiApollo 13, Wonder Woman 1984Dune, and Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 3 are just a few of the films you can expect to be discussed between the bickering puppets. Plus, keep your eyes peeled for special celebrity guests like Bruce the Shark, Stephen King's laptop, the T. rex from Jurassic Park, and more.

The Movie Show will preview two episodes on SYFY this holiday weekend. One will air Friday, Nov. 27, while the other is scheduled to run Sunday, Nov. 29. You can check out both episodes at 11:35 p.m. EST. The 12-episode series will officially launch in its regular time slot on Thursday, Dec. 3, at 11 p.m.

The Nerd's Watch: The Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Streaming in December @ io9

Viewers are turning to streaming entertainment more than ever thanks to the global pandemic, and the plethora of services can serve as a much-needed escape. At the start of each month, most streamers do a little shuffle, adding new movies and taking some away, and io9 is here to help with your decision making.


Misery's Annie Wilkes remains Stephen King's most terrifying (human) villain 30 years after her onscreen debut @ Syfy Wire

"I'm your number one fan." Annie Wilkes' first utterance to Paul Sheldon, the badly-injured, bed-ridden author she's single-handedly rescued from a snowbound car wreck, sounds like the kind of harmless stock phrase he'd no doubt heard repeatedly at every book signing. By the end of Stephen King's psychological thriller Misery, these five words have become the ultimate menacing threat. Forget the Eminem obsessive who drove off a bridge with a pregnant tied-up Dido in tow. Annie is the original stan.

King knew all about the perils of having a fandom that treads that thin line between love and hate. He'd been badly burned by the hostile response to 1984’s The Eyes of the Dragon, a medieval fantasy dismissed by the majority of his loyal readers as a lightweight children's story. He also firmly believes the persistent celebrity hunter who thrust a Polaroid camera into his face outside a New York studio back in 1979 was a certain Mark David Chapman.

Further inspired by a trans-Atlantic dream about being held hostage by an enraged fan, King channeled these experiences into an eerily prescient tale about idol worship taken to the extremes. Three years later, Rob Reiner — who'd previously adapted the horror maestro's novella The Body into coming-of-age classic Stand By Me — was tasked with transferring its wince-inducing chills to the big screen. And the result remains the only King film to pick up an Oscar (incredibly, seven-time nominee The Shawshank Redemption went home empty-handed).

Kathy Bates' mesmerizing Best Actress performance as Annie was responsible, leaving original choice Bette Midler to rue the day she turned the role down. It's now hard to imagine anyone else swinging that sledgehammer in such a terrifyingly nonchalant manner. Before 1990, however, Bates' considerable talents had been largely confined to the Broadway stage. It was only when screenwriter and long-time admirer William Goldman threw her name into the ring that the Annie we know and fear began to take shape.

Of course, it takes nearly 20 minutes for the iconic character's good Samaritan veneer to slip. Holed up in an isolated farmhouse just outside the remote town of Silver Creek with only a sow pig and the sounds of Liberace for company, Wilkes initially cuts a lonely, pitiable figure. Sure, her enthusiasm for Paul's Misery romance novels is a little on the excessive side, but you can also understand her desire to step into its corny Mills and Boon-esque world and the shoes of its titular Victorian-era heroine.

Annie's banal existence and ostensibly naive persona makes it all the more shocking when she first flies into an uncontrollable fit of fury. King's most effective human villains usually show their cards from the offset — think sadistic prison guard Percy Wetmore in The Green Mile and the stomach-carving bully Henry Bowers in It. Or, like manipulative religious fanatic Mrs. Carmody in The Mist and parasitic tyrant Big Jim Rennie in Under the Dome, their malevolence rises to the surface in the most apocalyptic of situations.

However, Annie isn't dealing with Lovecraftian beasts or giant invisible barricades when she finally snaps: she's simply perturbed by the profanities in the unreleased manuscript Paul's allowed her to read (a slightly hypocritical stance considering the filth she spews in the climactic showdown). Yet by immediately apologizing for her outburst, Annie is still able to keep the true monster inside her at bay. The following day she's back to being her awkward, sorry self, whether she's gushing over a hardback copy of Misery's Child or gazing at the window solemnly reflecting on her post-divorce depression. 

These moments suggest that Annie is still worthy of our sympathy. She obviously has some major issues — in a collector's edition DVD special feature, forensic psychologist Reid Meloy diagnoses the character with numerous disorders including severe borderline personality and bipolar. But her mood swings haven't yet escalated into full-blown psychopath, while her childlike vocab ("cockadoodle," "rootie-patooties") and occasional flashes of humor (an impersonation of her beloved pig Misery is a particular highlight) further lull us into a false sense of security.

The innocuous spinster shtick falls apart for good, though, when Annie wakes Paul up in the middle of the night maddened by the tragic fate that befalls Misery Chastain ("You murdered her!" she screams as the threat of violence looms for the first but certainly not the last time). It's here where her relationship with Paul officially turns from carer/patient to captor/hostage. ("And don't even think about anybody coming for you... 'Cause I never called them. Nobody knows you're here").

Annie resorts to mind games at first, forcing Paul to burn his masterpiece and using the extensive knowledge of his writing practices against him during a futile attempt to save it. His torment at seeing months of hard work go up in flames is almost as difficult to endure as the physical cruelty that lies ahead. Not only does he have to start from scratch, he also now has to cater to Annie’s every narrative whim. 

Even when she's not trying, Annie somehow always remains one step ahead. See the accidental spill that agonizingly ruins a painstaking mission to spike her wine. And a misplaced ornamental penguin is all it takes for her to suss out Paul's opportunistic bid for freedom. Annie appears to be an all-seeing, all-knowing entity disguised as a Cheetos-eating, middle-aged frump.

Paul's punishment for that tense, sweat-drenched trek around the house certainly suggests that Annie has lost all humanity. Remarkably, despite an aversion to violence, Bates was disappointed she didn't get to decapitate Paul's foot, as in the source material. Instead, she had to settle for simply breaking both his ankles. The fact she does so without batting an eyelid only makes her character even more sinister.

By this point, we've also learned, via a handily-placed scrapbook, that Annie has offed pretty much anyone she's come into close contact with and was only acquitted of multiple infant murders due to a lack of evidence. It's a startling revelation that confirms once and for all the nurse from hell would have no qualms about going from kidnapping to full-blown murder.

Sadly, it's the kindly sheriff Buster who feels the full force of this killer instinct after suspecting that the town's resident oddball may be something of a "dirty birdy" herself. His execution-by-shotgun is brutal, and instantly takes Annie's depravity to new unforgiving levels.

Now that any lingering trace of sympathy for the deranged super-fan has been literally blown away, we can fully cheer in her darkly comic demise. Like every great, seemingly undefeatable villain, Annie doesn't go easily. Even after having her eyes gouged, throat choked with the charred remains of Paul's rewritten novel, and head bashed against a typewriter, she's still baying for blood. In the end, she’s beaten, ironically, by the whack of a pig-shaped doorstop.

Annie would live on in a Broadway adaptation, DirecTV commercial and, of course, the recently-canceled anthology Castle Rock in which Lizzy Caplan proved the nurse was just as disturbed in her younger years. Yet in the on-screen pantheon of King's human villains, it's Bates' Annie that undoubtedly makes us feel the most "oogie."

Eat lasers, Carina Nebula! @ Syfy Wire

Every now and again a photo will cross my path that shows an astronomical object in a new way, something unexpected. I love being surprised, so these images always excite me.

But sometimes the photos are exciting not because of the science in them, but the engineering. And sometimes what's actually excited is... sodium.

So, Carina Nebula, witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational observatory!

Four powerful lasers fire from the Very Large Telescope to create artificial guide stars in the sky near the Carina Nebula. Credit: ESO/G. Hüdepohl

WHOA. And, may I add: pew pew!

Everything about this photo is fantastic. The glowing nebula you see is indeed the Carina Nebula, a sprawling and ridiculously photogenic star forming gas cloud about 6,500 light years away. You can read all about it in an article I wrote that features more dazzling images.

But what are those laser-looking beams sleeting across the sky?

Well, they're laser beams. Yes, seriously.

A big problem with astronomy done from the ground is that you have to look through a hundred kilometers or more of atmosphere over our heads. The air is on constant motion, and sometimes turbulent motion. Light bends a little bit as it moves through air — this is called refraction — and the amount it bends depends on the different in density between one layer of air and the next.

The spoon appears bent and even sliced in two due to the way the water bends the light as it passes through. Credit: Phil Plait

As all that air moves around it bends the light this way and that. From the ground, a point source (or in human terms, a dot) like a star looks like it's constantly and rapidly jumping around. When you're taking an image of the star it's doing this dance, so the final product is not a dot but a smeared out disk. Astronomers confusingly call this "seeing" (a very old term that we're stuck with). It's a pain because first of all it blurs the image, lowering the resolution (for example, two stars close together may be blurred into a single smear), but also because it spreads the starlight out, dimming it. That makes faint objects be harder to spot.

One way to avoid this is to launch your telescope into space. This can be prohibitively expensive.

Another way is to use what's called adaptive optics. By carefully measuring how seeing is distorting the star's shape (and assuming it should be a dimensionless dot), you can change the shape of the telescope's mirror to compensate for it.

This is fiercely advanced tech, and it always amazes me that we can do it. Literally, there are actuators (small pistons) on the back side of a thin mirror that can be adjusted hundreds of times per second to deform the mirror's shape, changing it on a scale of microns (millionths of a meter). The incoming starlight is analyzed by computer extremely rapidly, and the actuators are, um, actuated to change the mirror shape such that the light is undistorted, collected up into a small dot. This can dramatically reduce the effect of seeing.

The Carina Nebula seen by the VLT Survey Telescope. Credit: ESO. Acknowledgement: VPHAS+ Consortium/Cambridge Astronomical Survey Unit

The problem is you need a relatively bright star near your target to do this, and that doesn't happen often.

So what's an industrious astronomer to do? Why make their own star, of course.

Enter the lasers. Most lasers used for pointers and such have helium and neon in them, which creates a red beam. Green ones use a more complicated process, but the point is different chemicals produce different colors.

In 2009, engineers were able to create lasers that produce a yellow color at a wavelength of 589 nanometers. This is a big deal! That's because high above the Earth, in the mesosphere roughly 90–100 kilometers above the ground, there's a thin layer of sodium floating around from material that's blown off meteorites as they burn up in our atmosphere. When hit by the laser, these sodium atoms glow brightly. Seen from the ground, a laser beam appears to make a very small dot in the sky.

Aha! So if you have a powerful sodium laser you can make an artificial star anywhere you want! And that's just what's going on with the European Southern Observatory's 4 Laser Guide Star Facility. It can make several laser stars in the sky around an object, allowing a telescopes equipped with adaptive optics to compensate for Earth's roiling ocean of air and make phenomenally sharp images.

The mighty star Eta Carinae (actually a binary star), one of the most massive and luminous stars in the galaxy. Credit: NASA, ESA, N. Smith (University of Arizona, Tucson), and J. Morse (BoldlyGo Institute, New York)

And that's what you're seeing in that incredible photo! You can see the beams themselves as well, since their light scatters off dust and small particles in the air. From the laser placement, it looks to me that they were observing Eta Carinae at the time, a hugely massive and luminous star that will go supernova sometime in the next, oh, million years or so. Probably less.

Using these laser stars, big telescopes on the ground can have resolution that rivals or even exceeds Hubble's. This is fantastic because these telescopes are far larger than Hubble, and can sometimes also have much wider fields of view on the sky. Hubble still has lots of advantages over ground-based 'scopes (it can see in wavelengths of ultraviolet and infrared that get blocked by our air; and it also has a much darker sky background allowing it to see fainter objects), but this technique gives 'scopes on Earth a vast improvement.

Incidentally, the power in these lasers is jaw dropping: They fire at 22 Watts, thousands of times more powerful than your typical laser pointer. I have a 1W laser that can pop balloons from many meters away and set fire to paper, and it terrifies me. These are much stronger. That's why the laser facility is equipped with an automated aircraft detection system that shuts them off if a plane gets in the vicinity. I don't think they could slice a wing off, but of course the biggest danger is blinding the pilots.

I do love to write about fantastic and complex cosmic objects that grace our skies and delight our brains. It's nice, too, to let you know in part how we get those images. Astronomy is an amazingly complex science, from the objects we study to the ways we study them.


Joss Whedon Has Already Departed His New HBO Show @ io9

Get your first look at a big red dog in the teaser for Clifford the Big Red Dog. Josh Boone discusses why The Kid won’t be a part of the new adaptation of The Stand. Plus, new rumors about potential characters in the Obi-Wan Kenobi Disney+ series, a brief tease for Lucifer’s return, and what’s up on the next episode…


Marvel's Avengers Didn't Sell As Expected, Says Square Enix @ io9

Earlier this month in Japan, Square Enix held a briefing for investors. This week, the Tokyo-based game company finally released an official transcript of the meeting.


Aesop’s Fables: The Lion, the Wolf, and the Fox @ Bureau 42

The king of beasts is shockingly gullible. 

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Author: W. Blaine Dowler

The Mandalorian Chapter 13 Spoiler Discussion Zone Is Right Here @ io9

No more sidequests. No more bounties. Is this the day a legend of the Clone War and Rebellion alike meets Din Djarin? It’s time to gird yourself for The Mandalorian’s next chapter.


If gators can regenerate like The Lizard, dinosaurs might have done the same thing because…lizards @ Syfy Wire

Lizards often look like something tasty to predators, but some have evolved an advantage that lets them get away. Their tails will regenerate even if a part is bitten off.

You would think something as fierce as an alligator—the closest we can get to a dinosaur without a time machine—wouldn't need the ability to regenerate its tail for survival. The thing is, sometimes gators do fight each other, and even cannibalize each other. Clashes over territory, a mate or some prime meat could be dangerous, even deadly. Now a team of researchers have found that young alligators who get parts of their tails bitten off over a love triangle or turf war can actually grow them back. No wonder lizards have inspired regenerative abilities in sci-fi.

"This novel finding of partial regeneration of the alligator tail extends the ability to a large, long lived, animal," said biologists Jeanne Wilson-Rawls and Kenro Kusumi of Arizona State University, who recently co-authored a study published in Scientific Reports. "Most animals with regenerative capacity, such as the salamander, are small and short lived. Additionally, the amount of tissue regrown in the alligator is some of the largest among animals. Understanding how regeneration occurs here will help us develop future therapies for human regeneration of tissues after traumatic injuries or in neuromuscular diseases." 

If lizards can regrow their tails, and alligators are one of those lizards, could dinosaurs, the most monstrous lizards of them all, pull this off?

Maybe some of them did. Some 250 million years ago, the ancestors of dinosaurs, alligators and birds split from each other. Reptiles are the only amniotes (a vast group of vertebrates that includes humans), which are capable of tail regeneration, though there are other creatures which can regenerate limbs and other parts of their bodies. Dinosaurs are also related to birds, but known birds are capable of regrowing their tails. What sets bird tails apart is that they are mostly feathers (which can regrow apart from anything else), and not much is actually a part of the skeleton. That may or may not be the reason birds never evolved the almost supernatural power of regeneration.

While fossils of dinosaurs with evidence of tail regrowth have not yet emerged, it is possible they are out there somewhere, or that there is evidence which has just not been identified yet. If they really could do this, it wouldn’t be the first time alligators told us something about their extinct brethren.

"So far, we have not found any published reports of dinosaur fossils with what looks like a regenerated tail," Wilson-Rawls and Kusumi said. "In terms of non-dinosaur reptiles at that time, researchers have found fossil evidence of regions of the vertebral bones that aided in tail self-amputation in both captorhinids and mesosaurs of the Permian, indicating that they may have purposely shed their tails to avoid predation. However, if they did regenerate their tails, we would predict that they would replace the bony elements with cartilage, and you would see the outline of the regrown tail without evidence of bony skeleton inside."

There is a difference between the structure of the original tail and the regrown part of that tail in alligators. In the regenerated part of the skeleton, the spinal bones are replacd with a cartilage tube, inside which are axons, or the long parts of nerve cells that send messages to other cells, and the membrane of cells surrounding the spinal cord, which is known as the ependyma. Regeneration doesn’t generate any new neurons. The way regenerated skeletal muscle grows is also somewhat random. If this happened in some species of dinosaurs, cartilage and muscle do not fossilize well, which could be why there has been no evidence of tail regeneration found in specimens that are tens to hundreds of millions of years old.

“We used MRI scans and X-rays to examine regrown tails and found that the vertebrae were damaged. Beyond that point, there was a structure that was tubular but not bone," Wilson-Rawls and Kusumi said. "We then dissected the tails and found that this was cartilage. During dissections, we noticed a lack of skeletal muscle.”

What especially stood out was that not only can alligators regenerate their tails while they are young enough, but the wound actually heals at the same time. Regrowth can give them an advantage in the rivers and swamps where they live. An alligator’s tail is long and powerful to help it steer as it swims through the murk. They may look like they are just hanging out with their eyes barely above water most of the time, but gators can really bring it when they need to go after prey or get away from an enemy gator. They tuck their legs underneath their bodies and lash their tails back and forth. Permanently losing part of that tail would slow them down.

The regenerative abilities of alligators may mean a new frontier in medical treatments for humans. Mammals are thought to have lost most regenerative abilities they may have had because it did nothing for them, or because it was a trade-off for functions that were needed more. Wilson-Rawls and Kusumi have seen examples of regrowth in humans, but we don't have reptile-level power. Yet.

"There are examples of regeneration in mammals, but what we aren’t capable of would be the robust regeneration of a complete limb, or regeneration after volumetric muscle loss," they said. "I think the difference in regenerative ability is likely not due to more than one reason reason. There are differences in immune responses, that predispose a fibrotic repair response in mammals instead of regeneration. There are also changes in gene regulation that limit the ability to re-activate cells to proliferate in order to rebuild missing tissues. There are many people that are actively trying to understand these factors."

Making the connection between what remains in reptiles and what was lost in humans may eventually give us their superpowers.

Toy Watchdog Says Hasbro's Star Wars Darksaber Is Too Dangerous...Because It's a Plastic Sword @ io9

Please, this holiday season: be careful when your children enter ritual combat for the right to become Mand’alor.


The 10 Best Deals of November 26, 2020 @ io9

Plucked! This Ancient Puebloan blanket was crafted with 11,500 turkey feathers @ Syfy Wire

Somewhere in the American southwest some eight centuries ago, a half-dozen turkeys might have been severely shivering after having their feathers plucked to craft a thick blanket for Ancestral Pueblo tribes, unless of course they were already the centerpiece of a hearty harvest festival meal or simply relieved to have their annual molting season over.

Washington State University archaeologists recently inspected and analyzed a rare, 800-year-old turkey feather blanket measuring 39 x 42.5 inches from southeastern Utah to better understand how it was created. This comfy artifact is currently on public display at the Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum in Blanding, Utah. 

In a new research paper published this week in Science Direct, the team detailed how their scrutiny revealed thousands of soft downy body feathers wrapped around 200 yards of yucca fiber cord to make the ancient blanket. 

Credit: Edge of the Cedars State Park Museum

Domestic turkeys and feather blankets similar to the one studied first appeared in the archaeological record of the Upland Southwest (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona) during the classic Basketmaker II period (B.C.E. 400—C.E. 500) of the Ancestral Pueblo tradition. These indigenous people were relatives of present-day Puebloans like Hopi, Zuni, and Rio Grande Pueblos.

“Blankets or robes made with turkey feathers as the insulating medium were widely used by Ancestral Pueblo people in what is now the Upland Southwest, but little is known about how they were made because so few such textiles have survived due to their perishable nature,” said lead study author Bill Lipe, emeritus professor of anthropology at WSU. “The goal of this study was to shed new light on the production of turkey feather blankets and explore the economic and cultural aspects of raising turkeys to supply the feathers.”

Credit: Bill Lipe, Shannon Tushingham/WSU

Textiles derived from turkey feathers woven inside a web of fiber warp cords were a common household item in this region that Ancestral Pueblos often settled at elevations above 5,000 feet, where winters were frigid and summer nights often cool. These warm turkey feather blankets would have been more long-lasting than ones made with rabbit skins and would have held up for many years.

“As Ancestral Pueblo farming populations flourished, many thousands of feather blankets would likely have been in circulation at any one time,” said co-author Shannon Tushingham, assistant professor of anthropology at WSU. “It is likely that every member of an ancestral Pueblo community, from infants to adults, possessed one.”

To accurately obtain a correct count, researchers reached out to legally compliant Idaho hide dealers for feathers from two wild Merriam's turkey pelts and estimated it would have taken between four and ten adult turkeys providing 11,500 feathers to make the blanket being investigated.

Credit: Bill Lipe, Shannon Tushingham/WSU

Another fascinating element of the study was that these 800-year-old turkey feathers used for cold-weather garments were probably painlessly harvested from live birds during their natural molting periods in the spring and fall, enabling a constant supply of feathers many times per year over a bird’s total lifespan.

“When the blanket we analyzed for our study was made, we think in the early 1200s C.E., the birds that supplied the feathers were likely being treated as individuals important to the household and would have been buried complete,” Lipe added. “This reverence for turkeys and their feathers is still evident today in Pueblo dances and rituals. They are right up there with eagle feathers as being symbolically and culturally important.”

Stan Lee Celebrates the Art of Cursing in This Cute Animated Short @ io9

Yes, Stan Lee was known for punctuating his commentary with a hearty “excelsior!”. But this cute animated short, using some archival recordings from the Marvel Comics legend in action, sees him express a fondness for a shorter, equally emphatic bit of profanity.


The Inventory’s Holiday 2020 Wishlist: All the Stuff You Should Buy Us This Year @ io9

2020 is a weird year to give gifts and expect anything in return. With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full force—evidently fuller force than before—many businesses have closed either temporarily or for good, and as a result, unemployment has skyrocketed and the economy has taken a turn for the worse. This holiday, I…


‘Feedback Loop’ in Central East Asia Threatens Disturbing Changes to Mongolia's Climate @ io9

A review of weather patterns in inner East Asia over the past 260 years suggests the region is currently caught in a dangerous cycle of heatwaves and droughts that could forever reshape the area, and possibly turn the Mongolian Plateau into an arid wasteland.


Cannibal! The Musical Has No Right Being as Good as It Is @ io9

Having watched Cannibal! The Musical is one of those things that feels like a badge of honor. The movie was not something anyone saw first in theaters. It had to be discovered. You had to find it or be told about it by a friend. When you finally watched, you were rewarded with proof of pure genius—a film that by all…


Daria Nicolodi, Italian actress, co-writer of original Suspiria and partner of Dario Argento, dies at 70 @ Syfy Wire

Daria Nicolodi, the Italian actress and screenwriter who co-wrote Dario Argento's Giallo classic Suspiria (1977), has passed away at the age of 70. Nicolodi was also romantically involved with Argento throughout the 1970s and '80s; together, they had one daughter, Asia. It was Asia who confirmed the sad news on Instagram, who wrote the following message (translated from Italian by Google):

"Rest in peace beloved mother. Now you can fly free with your great spirit and you won't have to suffer anymore. I will try to go on for your beloved grandchildren and especially for you who would never want to see me so grieved. Even if without you I miss the ground under my feet, and I feel I have lost my only true point of reference. I am close to all those who have known and loved her."

Born in Tuscany in June of 1950, Nicolodi's acting began in 1970 with Francesco Rosi's Many Wars Ago. Her first collaboration with Argento came via 1975's Deep Red (originally titled: Profondo rosso), a Giallo film about a web of intrigue that begins to unfold after a psychic is brutally murdered. From there, the actress appeared in several more Argento projects: Inferno (1980), Tenebre (1982), Phenomena (1985), and Opera (1987). She was supposed to appear in Suspiria as well, but sustained an injury prior to filming and was ultimately replaced by Stefania Casini.

Thanks to its iconic use of color and disjointed/shocking imagery, Suspiria (the story of an American dance student who attends a German dance academy run by an academy of witches) remains one of the most influential pieces of Giallo cinema ever made. The project was recently remade by Luca Guadagnino.

"The inspiration came from a tale my grandmother, Yvonne, used to tell me when I was a child, after an experience she had in a northern acting academy where she discovered the teachers were teaching arts, but also black magic," Nicolodi allegedly told GoreZone Magazine. "I was fond of this story of her's, more than Pinnocchio by Collodi, and when I told it to Dario it was natural for him to fall in love with it, too. It was his first step from thrillers to fantasy-alchemy movies, and we did it together."

Nicolodi is survived by Argento; her daughter, Asia; and two grandchildren, Anna Lou Castoldi and Nicola Giovanni Civetta.

(certain biographical info and quote via IMDB)

What I'm thankful for in 2020: the comics edition @ Syfy Wire

I'm betting I'm not the only person counting down the days until we can put 2020 in our permanent rearview. The onslaught of life-affecting news during the past 11 months has been relentless and I'm sure has made this year almost too much to bear. It really is incredible how much life has changed since March, when the pandemic really hardened its grip on much of the planet.

No comic cons.

No summer blockbuster season at the movies, no fall Oscar bait, and no holiday movie season.

No live music.

And just when I start whining and complaining about how much I miss all those activities, I remember this: More than 250,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, and more than 1.4 million people worldwide have lost their lives to the virus.

I remind myself of those numbers to give myself some perspective.

It's been a hellacious year for just about everyone, in varying degrees. But there are some people who have lost people they love, people who are an indelible part of their lives. When I look at it that way, missing out on a year of conventions and trips to the movies just doesn't seem to matter much to me now.

Comics, however, always matter to me. In fact, they've mattered as much as they ever have to me this year. My first trip to a comics shop after stores reopened earlier this year felt somewhat like a return to church. I love the damned things, as I'm sure many of you do. So once again, with a special tip of the cap to Furman Bisher, one of the great newspaper columnists of all time, here's What I'm Thankful for this year:

I'm thankful for The Department of Truth. Dayum, have James Tynion IV and Martin Simmonds created something that is superglued to the present-day, post-truth world we're living in. I mostly "wait for the trade" these days, but this is one of the few comics I get on a monthly basis.

I'm thankful for writer Gerry Duggan and artist Stefano Casselli for the best X-book on the market right now, Marauders. It's the high-seas, high-stakes mutant adventure serial we didn't know we needed, and now we have it.

I'm thankful I still remember attending C2E2 back in March, the last convention before the world changed. The way this year is going, I expect my mind to convince me I just imagined talking to people on the convention floor for our Robin retrospective.

I'm thankful for SYFY adapting the Dark Horse series Resident Alien because it gave me the chance to spend 30 minutes on a Zoom call with co-creator Peter Hogan. Not only was it incredible to talk with him in detail about the comic (which is brilliant) and the TV series it inspired (I've seen the pilot; it's really good!), but I also got to pepper him with questions about his time as editor for rock legend Pete Townshend's book imprint. I can talk The Who for days, and Peter was kind enough to indulge me with some cool bits of rock history. Also, his favorite Who song is "Bargain" — excellent choice!

I'm thankful for this unbelievable Batman and Robin piece I commissioned from art superstar Lee Bermejo. I'm sure some of you know which artist Lee is paying homage to here.

Credit: Lee Bermejo. Photo credit: Mike Avila

I'm thankful to Kelly Sue DeConnick for keeping her promise to me and not killing Aquababy Andy. Kelly Sue's run on Aquaman was incredible, one of the best eras the King of the Sea has had in years. It deserves all of the praise.

I'm thankful for another instantly-classic take on an iconic DC hero, the Hawkman series by writer Robert Venditti and great artists such as Fernando Pasarin and Bryan Hitch. This series was a gift from heaven to Hawk fans like yours truly. The final issue, #29, provides a touching coda to the story Venditti and his creative partners told of Carter Hall and Shayera.

I'm thankful for Judd Winick and his fantastic kids' graphic novel series, Hilo. My youngest daughter Talia is hooked on the books, and reading them with her — and sounding out all the Simonson-esque sound FX in the stories — put a smile on my face every. single. time.

I'm thankful for the reboot of the Animaniacs somehow being better than it has any right to be, and not making me look like an idiot with my girls for talking up the original. The world is a better, funnier place with Yakko, Wakko, and Dot back in play.

I'm thankful for my book for Insight Editions, Wonder Woman: Wisdom Through the Ages. It's a pocket-sized hardcover I wrote full of Diana's most memorable quotes. As research, I read hundreds of Wonder Woman comics dating back to the 1940s. As expected, the quality varied. But you know which WW era I gained a new appreciation for? The late '60s, which featured the de-powered version of Diana Prince. I dig the super-spy Amazon.

For getting a chance to read Abraham Reisman's book, True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee. The pandemic bumped this book from its original September release until February 2021. Trust me when I say it will be well worth it to read. It is illuminating, it is tragic, and it is disillusioning.

I'm thankful so many snazzy comic book T-shirts are available — and Gods know I own way too many already — but is it too much to ask for someone to put out an official and high-quality Dazzler tee?

I'm thankful for Leah Williams and artist Carlos Gomez for The Amazing Mary Jane. It was a long-overdue spotlight series for Marvel's best non-powered character, and I wish we had gotten to see more. It was clear to anyone who read the series that Williams understood what made MJ such a fan favorite. Silver lining? Ms. Watson is free to take a prominent spot again in Amazing Spider-Man, hint-hint Nick Spencer. :)

Cover Art: Paulo Siqueira. Credit: Marvel Comics

I'm thankful for Gail Simone. She's an incredible writer and a mad genius at social media. Her Twitter trolling is so good, it's like she has a cheat code. But even more than that, Gail is a good person. She spearheaded the #ComicsWriterschallenge fundraiser that collected roughly $300K for Black Lives Matter. It was her effort that inspired countless other comics pros to step up.

I'm thankful for comic book stores. I didn't realize exactly how much until I couldn't visit them. When my LCS in Miami was able to reopen, stepping back inside felt like putting on that old leather jacket you've had for way too many years. It may have a few scuffs, but it still fits just right.

I'm thankful for the block button on Twitter.

I'm thankful for being able to see the Savage Dragon cartoon again for the first time in nearly 30 years. It's on the Peacock Network.

I'm thankful for everyone who watched and commented on the documentary Todd McFarlane: Like Hell I Won't. Creating top-shelf content centered around the greats of the comics business has been a longtime goal of mine, and this documentary was the realization of that ambition. I'm immensely proud of the entire team of people who put together this doc on Todd, one of the towering figures in comics over the past 30 years. It won't be the last.

Also, I'm grateful for the return of gunslinger Spawn.

I'm thankful for being able to convince the PTBs to let me do a video tribute to the great John Romita, Sr. The man is as responsible for the worldwide success and popularity of Spider-Man as anyone, and my only regret is that I couldn't make it twice as long. Jazzy John is the greatest.

I'm thankful for being able to do video essays like examining the legacy of The Dark Knight Returns, and another where I got to heap praise on one of my favorite cult favorites, Squadron Supreme.

I say this all the time, only because it's true: I can't believe I get paid to do the work I do. I'm immensely grateful for the platform Behind The Panel affords me. How much longer I'll get to do it is anyone's guess, and if there's one thing we should all know after the year we've had, is that things can change at a moment's notice. But until that changes, I'll continue to squeeze as much enjoyment out of this gig as I can. It's important to acknowledge those things that are worth it. And this job is one for me.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Want to share what you're thankful for? Find me on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram and let me know.

Don't forget that Behind the Panel is a multi-platform series that can help keep you entertained during these strange and stressful times we're in. Our video series is loaded with my in-depth interviews with amazing comic book creators. The Behind the Panel podcast is an audio documentary series that provides unique insight into your favorite creators and stories. Check 'em out, we think you'll enjoy them.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBCUniversal.

Report: Godzilla vs. Kong Could Be the Next Big Movie to Debut On Demand @ io9

Hollywood has been thrown into a tumultuous crisis by the covid-19 pandemic. Production on movies has come to a standstill, and those that have attempted restarts have faced struggles and stalls as the industry attempts to reckon with the mass crews required on blockbuster bread-and-butter complying with new safety…


Thursday's Best Deals: AirPods Pro, Mario Kart Live, CBD Spiced Drops, New iPad, Super Mario 3D All-Stars, Ulta Soap & Glory, Assassin's Creed Valhalla, and More @ io9

Dosing Mix-up Raises Questions About Promising Covid-19 Vaccine @ io9

A manufacturing error is raising concerns about a promising covid-19 vaccine being developed by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.


WandaVision will finally clarify the story behind Scarlet Witch's 'ill-defined' powers, Kevin Feige promises @ Syfy Wire

When WandaVision kicks off Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in early 2021, it'll do so by offering up major revelations about the inner workings of the onscreen comic book mythos. Chatting with Empire for the magazine's latest issue, Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige promised that the series would finally give audiences a clear explanation of Scarlet Witch's (Elizabeth Olsen) magical abilities.

"No character seems to be as powerful as Wanda Maximoff. And no character has a power-set that is as ill-defined and unexplored as Wanda Maximoff," he said. "So it seemed exploring that would be worthwhile, post-Endgame. Who else is aware of that power? Where did it come from? Did the Mind Stone unlock it?"

What we know is that Wanda and her late brother, Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), gained their abilities after they were subjected to HYDRA experiments  involving Loki's sceptre, which was embedded with the Mind Stone. That Infinity Gem eventually gave life to Vision (Paul Bettany) in Age of Ultron, but was ripped out of his forehead by Thanos (Josh Brolin), thus killing the android, in Avengers: Infinity War. Moreover, a recently-published MCU tie-in book hinted that Wanda and Pietro may be mutants, which is very much a possibility now that Disney owns the screen rights to the X-Men.

Empire gives even more credence to that theory by stating that WandaVision was directly inspired by Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel's famous House of M storyline from 2005, in which a mentally unstable Wanda rewrites reality and nearly rids the world of mutants. As Chance Huffman theorized in a SYFY WIRE comments section on Facebook: "I think we’re gonna learn she already made the world forget about the X-Men and mutants. Her past has a lot to do with why she was introduced in containment. She’s gonna realize what she’s done and bring mutants back."

WandaVision Trailer | Marvel Entertainment

It's a pretty cool theory and plausible if the show is using House of M as a basis. But that's not the only comic book arc that had a bearing on the series' plot. Per Empire, WandaVision was also influenced by Tom King and Gabriel Hernandez Walta's Vision run, which saw the sentient android living an idyllic life in the suburbs. That explains the 1950s-style sitcom format we'll see in the first episode, which was filmed in front of a live audience for maximum effect. From there, WandaVision runs through a variety of different genres from the '60s, '70s, '80s, and beyond — all the way up to the cinéma vérité approach of 21st century TV projects

"Wanting to really dig into the sitcom styles over the decades was something that fascinated all of us," Feige told Empire. "We go up to the Modern Family and The Office style. The talk-to-the-camera, shaky camera, documentary style."

"We're swinging for the fences," added Olsen. "I love risking stuff, so it's fun to do that. But it's a palatable amount of strange. It's playful in its oddity and its strangeness."

Credit: Disney+

We know what kind of ride we're in for, but what we don't know is how Vision is alive after the Mad Titan murdered him in cold blood. On that front, Empire has some ideas: "stricken by grief, [Wanda] has built an alternate reality in which she and a resurrected Vision can live contentedly ... another is that Wanda is unwittingly at the heart of an experiment pushing the limits of her reality-building powers for some reason."

"It's very much about Wanada coming to more of an understanding about who she is, where she comes from, and what she's capable of," teased executive producer/showrunner Jac Schaeffer (Black Widow).

Consisting of six episodes, WandaVision arrives on Disney+ Jan. 15, 2021. The project was directed by Matt Shakman (Game of Thrones) and co-stars Kathryn Hahn, Teyonah Parris, Kat Dennings, Randall Park, Fred Melamed, and Debra Jo Rupp.

5 Virtual Ways to Have Safe and Geeky Fun Over the Thanksgiving Holiday @ io9

For millions of people, Thanksgiving is going to look a little different this year. Because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, I’ve chosen to stay home instead of traveling for the holiday and interact with my family over video. But it doesn’t just have to be making an awkward toast to “These Strange Times” before…


From Xenogears To Xenoblade: The History Of Monolith Soft @ io9

If you’d told me back in 2006 that Monolith Soft would go on to become one of Nintendo’s most talented and indispensable first-party development groups, I would have said the same thing as everyone else: “The guys who did Xenosaga?”


Peanuts get a glow up, the Nightmare gets ready for Christmas, and more toy news @ Syfy Wire

Welcome back to Important Toy News, the SYFY WIRE column that shows you all the best and coolest happenings in the world of amazing toys and collectibles for the week.

Get ready for your nest egg to make its weekly wallet escape while you lurk closer to the newest goodies with me, your resident, if not favorite, Toy Journalist. And this week, as we edge closer and closer to that Christmas season, we are going to inhale a breath of crisp Autumn air and celebrate the arrival of a certain special Nightmare.

Credit: Super7


Fans of The Nightmare Before Christmas will be happy to know that the wait for Super7’s new ReAction figures of the cult classic is almost up — these toys are shipping this month!

I personally have a few old Funko x Super7 Nightmare Before Christmas ReAction figures, so I was really curious to see what this new line up looked like. To my delight, they’re completely different, right down to the packaging! The new wave includes Jack with Zero, Sally, The Mayor, Vampire, Witch, and Harlequin Demon. Make sure you order yours today! We have links to several stores below where you can get them. Each figure is 3.75 inches, features five points of articulation, and costs $18.

Credit: Pintrill


And speaking of Christmas... let’s discuss the world’s best franchise that fully encapsulates the Christmas spirit!

It's Peanuts, of course! I love Peanuts more than most things in the world, and I am elated to see this brand new “Then and Now” pin series from Pintrill. While not toys, pins are most certainly collectibles, and we Peanuts collectors take our goodies seriously! For $20, fans will receive two pins, one of the original '50s Peanuts comic book character designs and an updated version that has been on-model ever since. This wave includes Snoopy, Lucy, Linus, and Charlie Brown. You can check them out and purchase the collection here at Pintrill’s site.

Credit: Hasbro


Known for his shifting allegiances, Loki faces evil head-on when he is confronted by the Black Order — a sinister group of Thanos’ cohorts that includes the menacing Corvus Glaive in the movie Avengers: Infinity War.

These 6-inch Loki and Corvus Glaive figures are highly articulated, making them another worthy addition to the Marvel Legends Series. The Loki versus Cornus Glaive exclusive two-pack costs $42.99, ships January 2021, and is available for preorder today.

Credit: Mattel


Can you smell what The Rock is cooking?! Well we sure can, and it’s better than a Thanksgiving dinner! (Wait, you know what, we take that back, wrestlers are probably quite sweaty.) 

It’s time for a WWE Championship Showdown with these Superstar action figures celebrating the greatest matches in WWE history! Each pack features two approximately 6-inch tall figures boasting articulation, TrueFX enhanced facial detailing for lifelike authenticity, and their ring gear. Each figure also comes with its own double-sided 3 3/4-inch Championship Title plates to enhance the battle excitement and use as a display stand.

And seriously, the 3D printing of these face sculpts is just out of this world. It’s incredible how Mattel is upping its game and making its action figures better and better, yet still manages to keep its toys affordable. I’m super impressed — I really think wrestling fans deserve this love. Each two-pack costs $21.99 and will ship in February 2021. You can choose from Bayley vs Charlotte Action Figure two-pack, Rock vs Triple H Action Figure two-pack, or the John Cena vs Randy Orton Action Figure two-pack

Credit: Mezco Toyz


The Ghost Rider joins the One:12 Collective along with his Hell Cycle — featuring a light-up function, removable flames, and sound feature! The One:12 Collective Ghost Rider is outfitted in motorcycle gear from head to toe — a black shirt under his leather-like jacket, leather-like pants, motorcycle-riding boots, and gloves. Via Mezco, “The Spirit of Vengeance comes complete with a light-up head portrait that flickers, achieving a realistic flame effect. Ghost Rider is equipped with his lethal Hellfire Chain that he can hold, as well a posable, real metal chain.” 

Mezco Toyz's One:12 Collective Ghost Rider & Hell Cycle Set costs $240, ships Summer 2021, and is available for preorder today.

Credit: McFarlane Toys


Want to keep with the theme of amazing pop culture toy motorcycles? Then let’s get ready for some death metal! McFarlane Toys is showing off their (flippin’ rad) version of the Death Metal Batcycle. It even has moving wheels and handlebars! The vehicle is scaled to fit all 7-inch scale Mcfarlane Toys DC Multiverse figures (figures not included with this piece), and is showcased in DC-themed window box packaging.

The Batcycle is based on the Batman ride in Dark Nights: Death Metal #1. The toy includes a collectible art card with Batman: Dark Nights: Death Metal #1 artwork on the front, and a character biography on the back. The DC Multiverse Dark Nights Death Metal Batcycle Vehicle costs $24.99, ships January 2021, and is available for preorder today.

Credit: GameStop


We’ve reached the end, my toy loving friends, but we’re getting close to Black Friday... which means we have to give some love to our favorite websites giving the internet some collectibles sales love, right? If you’re hungry for more collectibles and geekware, make sure you check out some of these Black Friday sales:


Black Friday deals keep getting better at GameStop, as the company just announced new offers across a variety of video game software, hardware, accessories, PC gaming equipment, and pop culture collectibles merchandise. Gift givers can see the complete expanded Black Friday offers by visiting

Entertainment Earth

Wise shoppers know that the day following Thanksgiving in the United States is a terrific time to score great buys and deep discounts on gifts for Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa (or for any reason, really), but not all of us get a kick out of getting up early, standing in lines, facing the crowds, and sorting through merchandise in disarray, only to be disappointed by not finding what we really want. Entertainment Earth and its amazing collection of collectibles has got you covered! Check out all the very cool stuff below at equally cool prices and take advantage of one of EE's biggest sales ever! Sale ends on Nov. 27, 2020!

Bluefin Brands

The keeper (and distributor) of many Japanese action figures, Bluefin Brands is my favorite place to shop for Gundam, Bandai action figures, Transformers model kits, and Storm Collectibles action figures. The sale is running from Nov. 23-30 so don’t miss it!


Pintrill is getting ready for its site-wide Black Friday sale. The sale begins on Thursday, Nov. 26 2020, at 11:59 p.m. Savings include buying three to four items and receiving 25 percent off, buying five to six items and receiving 30 percent off, or buying seven or more items and receiving 35 percent off. Pintrill has quickly become the maker of my favorite enamel pins (they are small and detailed and incredibly accurate to the source material of the license), so if you have a pin lover in your life, shop one of their many franchises and you will find something to make everyone happy.

You think *you're* isolated today? Meet the galaxy MCG+01-02-015 @ Syfy Wire

To all my USAian readers, happy Thanksgiving!

Given our current situation — that is, apparently in the third act of a movie that starts off with politicians ignoring scientists and ending with a heroic effort at the last minute to save everyone — I hope you're self-isolating and celebrating the holiday on your own or with people you've already been sequestered with for quite some time.

I know it can be hard. But maybe I can help put some perspective on this. If you think you're isolated, you should see the galaxy MCG+01-02-015.

In fact, you literally should! So let me show it to you:

The galaxy MCG+01-02-015, a lovely spiral that happens to sit in a very empty region of the Universe. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA and N. Gorin (STScI) and Judy Schmidt

Oh, it's a lovely one, isn't it? Originally classified as an elliptical galaxy, in this Hubble image you can see it's a barred spiral, a disk galaxy with spiral arms and a rectangularish structure across the middle. The arms are wound pretty tight, which is likely why it was mistaken for an elliptical in lower resolution images.

It appears rather colorless here, but that's mostly because this image only uses two filters instead of three to produce a natural-color photo. What's displayed here as blue is actually from a filter that lets through yellow light, what looks red is actually near-infrared, and green is a mix of the two filters (which produces a color sorta kinda in between the two filters, and is sometimes used to fill out the RGB colors of a photo when only two filters are used).

A closer view of MCG+01-02-015, a lonely spiral galaxy. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA and N. Gorin (STScI) and Judy Schmidt

The galaxy looks like it enjoys the company of other objects; you can see a handful of stars around, and dozens of smaller galaxies. But that's an illusion. MCG+01-02-015 is about 330 million light years away, and the stars are in our own Milky Way; we look past them to see intergalactic space. And those other galaxies are nowhere near MCG+01-02-015! They just appear to be due to a lack of distance perception; they are much farther away. This is like looking out a window past a nearby tree to a distant mountain. They look like they're next to each other, but that's just perspective.

In fact, MCG+01-02-015 is all alone in space. It sits inside what's called a void, a vast volume of space where there are few to no galaxies. You may be familiar with galaxy clusters and superclusters, which are gravitationally bound collections of huge numbers of galaxies, hundreds or thousands of them. A void is the exact opposite of that.

The location of the galaxy MCG+01-02-015 in the Universe; see text for an explanation. Credit: Wegner and Grogin

The map above is a little odd, but it's a common way for astronomers to show structures in space. It shows a slice of the Universe with Earth at the vertex. Left to right is east to west across the sky, and distance from the Earth increases as you move away from the vertex. It's measured in the odd units of recession velocity — the Universe is expanding, and the farther away from Earth a galaxy is, the faster the galaxy appears to move away from us (the Xs are various galaxies). MCG+01-02-015 is moving away from us at about 7,200 km/sec, and in the map it's labeled with a big "2." Green lines are contours where there are lots of galaxies, red lines where there are few. So MCG+01-02-015 is located about 2/3rds of the way from the center of a void to its edge.

The void is called the Pisces-Perseus void, and it's huge, over two hundred million light years across. This means that there's really no other galaxy near MCG+01-02-015 at all. If we lived in that galaxy, no other galaxy would be visible to the eye, and you'd need a pretty good telescope to see any at all. I wonder how that would change the development of the science of cosmology for a civilization?

It's a little weird that such a big galaxy would be in the void at all. This is seen in many voids, but it's not clear why they're there. In fact, we're not exactly sure why voids exist in the first place. It's thought that early in the Universe's history (like really early, just hundreds of thousands of years after it formed) it was a little lumpy, and the lumps grew to form clusters, and the underdense regions between them became voids. But the details are a bit sketchy.

That's why this lonely galaxy was observed in the first place, to determine its history. It may be that such galaxies have formed relatively recently, and are much younger than galaxies like our Milky Way, which is roughly 12 billion years old.

So if it is lonely it hasn't been so for long, cosmically speaking. Still, to a human, a few billion years is a bit of a stretch. With luck, hard work, personal responsibility, and good ol' science, we can hope our own isolation may be over in only a few months.

I hope that gives you a sense of perspective. It certainly does for me! And for that, I give thanks.

Turns Out, Star Trek: Discovery Does Want Michael to Have It Both Ways @ io9

Last week’s episode of Star Trek: Discovery put Michael Burnham in a hard place. At a crossroads between the potential new life she’d found in the 32nd century and her commitment to her family in Starfleet, our hero faced the consequences for trying to have it all. This week, the show decides that the actual solution…


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