Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

  • The Physics of Space Battles

    An anonymous reader writes PBS' It's OK to be Smart made this interesting video showing us what is and isn't physically realistic or possible in the space battles we've watched on TV and the movies. From the article: "You're probably aware that most sci-fi space battles aren't realistic. The original Star Wars' Death Star scene was based on a World War II movie, for example. But have you wondered what it would really be like to duke it out in the void? PBS is more than happy to explain in its latest It's Okay To Be Smart video. As you'll see below, Newtonian physics would dictate battles that are more like Asteroids than the latest summer blockbuster. You'd need to thrust every time you wanted to change direction, and projectiles would trump lasers (which can't focus at long distances); you wouldn't hear any sound, either."

    470 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Expedition 42 ISS Crew Embraces Douglas Adams

    SchrodingerZ writes: In November of this year, the 42nd Expedition to the International Space Station will launch, and the crew has decided to embrace their infamous number. NASA has released an image of the crew mimicking the movie poster for The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, a film released in 2005, based on a book with the same name by Douglas Adams. Commander Butch Wilmore stands in the center as protagonist Arthur Dent, flight engineer Elena Serova as hitchhiker Ford Prefect, flight engineer Alexander Samokutyayev as antagonist Humma Kavula, astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti as Trillian, and flight engineers Terry Virts and Anton Shkaplerov as two-headed galactic president Zaphod Beeblebrox. The robotic "Robonaut 2" also stands in the picture as Marvin the depressed android. Cristoforetti, ecstatic to be part of this mission stated, "Enjoy, don't panic and always know where your towel is!" Wilmore, Serova and Samokutyayev blasted off September 25th for Expedition 41, the rest of Expedition 42 will launch November 23rd.

    39 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Sci-fi Predictions, True and False (Video 2)

    You might want to go back to Video 1 before watching this one (or reading the transcript). This video is the second part of our recording of a panel discussion at the recent science fiction convention in Detroit. Panelists include writer and forensic science expert Jen Haeger; professor and generally fascinating guy Brian Gray; and expert in Aeronautical Management and 20-year veteran of the Air Force Douglas Johnson. In this video, they continue running down a list of science fiction predictions, both successful and unsuccessful, and evaluating how realistic or far-fetched each now seems. (Alternate Video Link)

    27 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Sci-fi Predictions, True and False (Video 1)

    Science fiction is the domain of predicting future technology. But we rarely stop to account for which predictions come true, which don't, and which are fulfilled in... unexpected ways. A panel at the recent science fiction convention in Detroit explored this subject in depth, from Star Trek's communicators to nanotech and cloning. Panelists include writer and forensic science expert Jen Haeger; professor and generally fascinating guy Brian Gray; and expert in Aeronautical Management and 20-year veteran of the Air Force Douglas Johnson. In this video, they run down a list of science fiction predictions, both successful and unsuccessful, and evaluate how realistic or far-fetched each now seems.

    139 comments | about a month ago

  • Interviews: David Saltzberg Answers Your Questions About The Big Bang Theory

    As the science consultant for The Big Bang Theory for the past seven seasons, Dr. David Saltzberg makes sure the show gets its science right. A few weeks ago, you had the chance to ask him about his work on the show and his personal scientific endeavors. Below you'll find his answers to those questions.

    106 comments | about a month ago

  • Developing the First Law of Robotics

    wabrandsma sends this article from New Scientist: In an experiment, Alan Winfield and his colleagues programmed a robot to prevent other automatons – acting as proxies for humans – from falling into a hole. This is a simplified version of Isaac Asimov's fictional First Law of Robotics – a robot must not allow a human being to come to harm. At first, the robot was successful in its task. As a human proxy moved towards the hole, the robot rushed in to push it out of the path of danger. But when the team added a second human proxy rolling toward the hole at the same time, the robot was forced to choose. Sometimes, it managed to save one human while letting the other perish; a few times it even managed to save both. But in 14 out of 33 trials, the robot wasted so much time fretting over its decision that both humans fell into the hole. Winfield describes his robot as an "ethical zombie" that has no choice but to behave as it does. Though it may save others according to a programmed code of conduct, it doesn't understand the reasoning behind its actions.

    165 comments | about a month ago

  • Sci-Fi Authors and Scientists Predict an Optimistic Future

    An anonymous reader writes: A few years ago, author Neal Stephenson argued that sci-fi had forgotten how to inspire people to do great things. Indeed, much of recent science fiction has been pessimistic and skeptical, focusing on all the ways our inventions could go wrong, and how hostile the universe is to humankind. Now, a group of scientists, engineers, and authors (including Stephenson himself) is trying to change that. Arizona State University recently launched Project Hieroglyph, a hub for ideas that will influence science fiction to be more optimistic and accurate, and to focus on the great things humanity is capable of doing.

    For example, in the development of a short story, Stephenson wanted to know if it's possible to build a tower that's 20 kilometers tall. Keith Hjelmsad, an expert in structural stability and computational mechanics, wrote a detailed response about the challenge involved in building such a tower. Other authors are contributing questions as well, and researchers are chiming in with fascinating, science-based replies. Roboticist Srikanth Saripalli makes this interesting point: "If the government has to decide what to fund and what not to fund, they are going to get their ideas and decisions mostly from science fiction rather than what's being published in technical papers."

    191 comments | about a month ago

  • Original 11' Star Trek Enterprise Model Being Restored Again

    NormalVisual (565491) writes The original 11-foot U.S.S. Enterprise studio model from the original series has gone back into the shop again. The Smithsonian owns the model and has had it on display in a gift shop at the National Air and Space Museum for the last 13 years, but will be placed on display in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall in 2016, to coincide with the museum's 40th anniversary. In the meantime, the model will be undergoing its fourth restoration to address a number of issues. The last restoration in 1991 was performed by Ed Miarecki, a professional modelmaker well known for his work in "Star Trek: The Next Generation", as well as films such as "Event Horizon". This previous restoration had Trek fans up in arms owing to the paint job, which many feel doesn't represent the way the model looked originally. Hopefully this next restoration will bring her back to her former glory.

    99 comments | about a month ago

  • The Future According To Stanislaw Lem

    An anonymous reader writes "The Paris Review has an article about SF author Stanislaw Lem, explaining Lem's outlook on the future and his expectations for technological advancement. Lem tended toward a view that technology would infect and eventually supplant biological evolution. But he also suggested an interesting explanation for why we haven't detected alien civilizations: "Perhaps ... they are so taken up with perfecting their own organisms that they've abandoned space exploration entirely. According to a similar hypothesis, such beings are invisible because technological ease has resulted in a 'Second Stone Age' of 'universal illiteracy and idleness.' When everyone's needs are perfectly met, it 'would be hard, indeed, to find one individual who would choose as his life's work the signaling, on a cosmic scale, of how he was getting along.' Rather than constructing Dyson Spheres, Lem suggests, advanced civilizations are more likely to spend their time getting high.""

    196 comments | about a month ago

  • BBC and FACT Shut Down Doctor Who Fansite

    An anonymous reader writes with this report from Torrentfreak, excerpting: In just a few hours time the brand new season of Doctor Who will premiere, kicking off with the first episode 'Deep Breath'. There's been a huge build up in the media, but for fans who prefer to socialize and obtain news via a dedicated community, today brings bad news. Doctor Who Media (DWM) was a site created in 2010 and during the ensuing four and a half years it amassed around 25,000 dedicated members. A source close to the site told TF that since nothing like it existed officially, DWM's core focus was to provide a central location and community for everything in the 'Whoniverse,' from reconstructions of missing episodes to the latest episodes, and whatever lay between. But yesterday, following a visit by representatives from the BBC and Federation Against Copyright Theft, the site's operator took the decision to shut down the site for good.

    186 comments | about 2 months ago

  • The 2014 Hugo Awards

    Dave Knott writes: WorldCon 2014 wrapped up in London this last weekend and this year's Hugo Award winners were announced. Notable award winners include:

    Best Novel: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
    Best Novelette: "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" by Mary Robinette Kowal
    Best Novella: "Equoid" by Charles Stross
    Best Short Story: "The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere" by John Chu
    Best Graphic Story: "Time" by Randall Munroe
    Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): Gravity written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, directed by Alfonso Cuarón
    Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form): Game of Thrones: "The Rains of Castamere" written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter

    The results of this year's awards were awaited with some some trepidation in the SF community, due to well-documented attempts by some controversial authors to game the voting system. These tactics appear to have been largely unsuccessful, as this is the fourth major award for the Leckie novel, which had already won the 2013 BSFA, 2013 Nebula and 2014 Clarke awards.

    180 comments | about 2 months ago

  • If Fusion Is the Answer, We Need To Do It Quickly

    Lasrick writes: Yale's Jason Parisi makes a compelling case for fusion power, and explains why fusion is cleaner, safer, and doesn't provide opportunities for nuclear smuggling and proliferation. The only downside will be the transition period, when there are both fission and fusion plants available and the small amount of "booster" elements (tritium and deuterium) found in fusion power could provide would-be proliferators what they need to boost the yield of fission bombs: "The period during which both fission and fusion plants coexist could be dangerous, however. Just a few grams of deuterium and tritium are needed to increase the yield of a fission bomb, in a process known as 'boosting.'" Details about current research into fusion power and an exploration of relative costs make fusion power seem like the answer to a civilization trying to get away from fossil fuels.

    305 comments | about 2 months ago

  • Babylon 5 May Finally Get a Big-Screen Debut

    Ars Technica reports that "J. Michael Straczynski will shortly begin work on a rebooted big-screen version of his 1990s sci-fi TV series [ Babylon 5]." From the article: According to JMS's latest announcement, the new script will be targeted at a 2016 theatrical release and will be a reboot of the series rather than a continuation. This is necessary for both dramatic and practical purposes—the series was in regular production from 1994-1998, and the cast has simply aged too far to credibly play themselves again during the series’ main timeline. Additionally, several of the foundational cast members — Michael O'Hare, Andreas Katsulas, Richard Biggs, and Jeff Conaway — have passed away. ... The movie rights to the Babylon 5 property remain in JMS's hands, but the creator is hopeful that this time around, Warner Bros. will choose to finance the film instead of passing on it. Nonetheless (at least according to TV Wise), JMS is prepared to fund the movie through his own production company if necessary — something that wasn't a possibility ten years ago — suggesting that B5 will in fact come to the big screen at last.

    252 comments | about 2 months ago

  • Old School Sci-fi Short Starring Keir Dullea Utilizes Classic Effects

    New submitter Wierzbowski85 (2852925) writes Indie Kickstarter-funded sci-fi short HENRi features classic visual effects and storytelling – with a twist. As detailed in Cinefex magazine (issue 134), the film itself utilizes a mixture of the old and the new — combining live-action sequences with puppetry, quarter-scale miniatures, and modern CGI. Speaking with Wired, the film's director said: "The goal was to seamlessly integrate these different techniques to create the world. My philosophy is that effects are merely a tool to help the story, and that in mind, we used pretty much every trick in the book." The film also stars genre legend Keir Dullea, of 2001: A Space Odyssey. In a making-of video for the film, Dullea says, "Having done 2001, [HENRi] was a wonderful homage to Stanley Kubrick and that film." The short is now available for free viewing online at Hulu.

    91 comments | about 2 months ago

  • Ridley Scott to Produce Philip K Dick's The Man In the High Castle

    hawkinspeter (831501) writes Amazon has given the green light to produce the Hugo award-winning "The Man in the High Castle". This is after the four-hour mini-series was rejected by Syfy and afterwards by the BBC. Philip K Dick's novel takes place in an alternate universe where the Axis Powers won the Second World War. It's one of his most successful works, probably due to him actually spending the time to do some editing on it (most of his fiction was produced rapidly in order to get some money). Ridley Scott has previously adapted PKD's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" as the film Blade Runner, so it will be interesting to see how close he keeps to the source material this time. This news has been picked up by a few sites: International Business Times; The Register and Deadline.

    144 comments | about 3 months ago

  • Nightfall: Can Kalgash Exist?

    First time accepted submitter jIyajbe (662197) writes Two researchers from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics investigate the imaginary world of Kalgash, a planetary system based on the novel 'Nightfall' (Asimov & Silverberg, 1991). From the arXiv paper: "The system consists of a planet, a moon and an astonishing six suns. The six stars cause the wider universe to be invisible to the inhabitants of the planet. The author explores the consequences of an eclipse and the resulting darkness which the Kalgash people experience for the first time. Our task is to verify if this system is feasible, from the duration of the eclipse, the 'invisibility' of the universe to the complex orbital dynamics." Their conclusion? "We have explored several aspects of Asimov's novel. We have found that the suns, especially Dovim are bright enough to blot out the stars. Kalgash 2 can eclipse Dovim for a period of 9 hours. We also tested one possible star configuration and after running some simulations, we found that the system is possible for short periods of time."

    86 comments | about 3 months ago

  • HUGO Winning Author Daniel Keyes Has Died

    camperdave writes Author Daniel Keyes has died at 86. Keyes is best known for his Hugo Award winning classic SF story Flowers for Algernon and the film version Charly. Keyes was born August 9, 1927 in New York. He worked variously as an editor, comics writer, fashion photographer, and teacher before joining the faculty of Ohio University in 1966, where he taught as a professor of English and creative writing, becoming professor emeritus in 2000. He married Aurea Georgina Vaquez in 1952, who predeceased him in 2013; they had two daughters.

    66 comments | about 4 months ago

  • The Sci-Fi Myth of Killer Machines

    malachiorion writes: "Remember when, about a month ago, Stephen Hawking warned that artificial intelligence could destroy all humans? It wasn't because of some stunning breakthrough in AI or robotics research. It was because the Johnny Depp-starring Transcendence was coming out. Or, more to the point, it's because science fiction's first robots were evil, and even the most brilliant minds can't talk about modern robotics without drawing from SF creation myths. This article on the biggest sci-fi-inspired myths of robotics focuses on R.U.R, Skynet, and the ongoing impact of allowing make-believe villains to pollute our discussion of actual automated systems."

    222 comments | about 4 months ago

  • The Singularity Is Sci-Fi's Faith-Based Initiative

    malachiorion writes: "Is machine sentience not only possible, but inevitable? Of course not. But don't tell that to devotees of the Singularity, a theory that sounds like science, but is really just science fiction repackaged as secular prophecy. I'm not simply arguing that the Singularity is stupid — people much smarter than me have covered that territory. But as part of my series of stories for Popular Science about the major myths of robotics, I try to point out the Singularity's inescapable sci-fi roots. It was popularized by a SF writer, in a paper that cites SF stories as examples of its potential impact, and, ultimately, it only makes sense when you apply copious amounts of SF handwavery. The article explains why SF has trained us to believe that artificial general intelligence (and everything that follows) is our destiny, but we shouldn't confuse an end-times fantasy with anything resembling science."

    339 comments | about 5 months ago

  • Ask Slashdot: Can Star Wars Episode VII Be Saved?

    An anonymous reader writes "10 years ago today, in the wake of two disappointing Star Wars prequels, we discussed whether Episode III could salvage itself or the series. Now, as production is underway on Episode VII under the care of Disney, I was wondering the same thing: can it return Star Wars to its former glory? On one hand, many critics of the prequels have gotten what they wanted — George Lucas has a reduced role in the production of Episode VII. Critically, he didn't write the screenplay, which goes a long way toward avoiding the incredibly awkward dialogue of the prequels. On the other hand, they're actively breaking with the expanded universe canon, and the series is now under the stewardship of J.J. Abrams. His treatment of the Star Trek reboot garnered lots of praise and lots of criticism — but his directorial style is arguably more suited to Star Wars anyway. What do you think? What can they do with Episode VII to put the series back on track?"

    403 comments | about 5 months ago

Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?