Archive for November, 2010

Kottke.org postulates the existence of bacteria on Titan; Atlantic editor Alexis Madrigal says “Urm, I don’t think so”

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

So Jason Kottke did something called “research” and looked into the backgrounds of all the scientists at Thursday’s NASA press conference.

This was what he came up with:

So, if I had to guess at what NASA is going to reveal on Thursday, I’d say that they’ve discovered arsenic on Titan and maybe even detected chemical evidence of bacteria utilizing it for photosynthesis (by following the elements).

Then former Wired man and current tech editor at The Atlantic Alexis Madrigal had to go and quash the hopes and dreams of every nerd in America (and the whole world, in fact).

Damn you, Madrigal! At least give me Tuesday and Wednesday (and much of Thursday)!

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Has NASA found evidence of extraterrestrial life on Titan?

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

In a media advisory posted earlier today, NASA announced that it will hold a press conference at 2pm on December 2 “to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.” The announcement is likely related to the recent discovery of Oxygen in the atmosphere of Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, by the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft.

And with wording like that, we can only assume that this is a truly major announcement. If it just turns out to be a dud — some non-announcement announcement — I sincerely hope their press release writers will soon be looking for another job.

The full media advisory is copied below:


MEDIA ADVISORY : M10-167

NASA Sets News Conference on Astrobiology Discovery; Science Journal Has Embargoed Details Until 2 p.m. EST On Dec. 2

WASHINGTON — NASA will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. EST on Thursday, Dec. 2, to discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life. Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, distribution and future of life in the universe.

The news conference will be held at the NASA Headquarters auditorium at 300 E St. SW, in Washington. It will be broadcast live on NASA Television and streamed on the agency’s website at http://www.nasa.gov.

Participants are:
– Mary Voytek, director, Astrobiology Program, NASA Headquarters, Washington
– Felisa Wolfe-Simon, NASA astrobiology research fellow, U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Calif.
– Pamela Conrad, astrobiologist, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
– Steven Benner, distinguished fellow, Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, Gainesville, Fla.
– James Elser, professor, Arizona State University, Tempe

Media representatives may attend the conference or ask questions by phone or from participating NASA locations. To obtain dial-in information, journalists must send their name, affiliation and telephone number to Steve Cole at stephen.e.cole@nasa.gov or call 202-358-0918 by noon Dec. 2.

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A steampunk record player

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Youtube user asciimation created a record player that runs on steam.

This is a small steam engine I made, mainly from bits of junk around my garage, playing a Sex Pistols punk LP. The engine speed is controlled by a throttle being driven from a servo controlled by an Arduino. The RPMs are measured by a coil detecting the passing of six magnets in the edge of the platter and the approximate revs are displayed on an analogue meter. I am using the PID controller library to do the work out how to control the servo based on the input speed. The safety valve is making the whistling noise at the start as steam pressure is built up. A small flick of the platter will start the engine and then the Arduino takes over trying to maintain 33 1/3 RPM. At the end the meths burner runs out of fuel so the steam pressure, and therefore the speed, drops. You can see the Arduino trying to throttle up to maintain the speed right at the end.

Read more about the project at asciimation’s blog.

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@GaryJBusey becomes @NotGaryBusey after Twitter suspends the parody account due to a “valid impersonation report”

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

@garyjbusey is back.

For almost six hours on Monday, the infamous Twitter account was suspended because of a “valid impersonation report.” The suspension caused a Twitter uproar and resulted in some speedy changes to the account, said Pauly Casillas, one of the contributors.

Twitter’s “TheCaptain” stated that if we don’t make the necessary changes within 48 hours that we could face permanent suspension. I hope the changes made were sufficient enough. I’ve sent emails asking if the changes made follow Twitter’s rules and guidelines with no response. The bio has been changed to “The patron saint of headbutts and parody accounts.” The username was changed to NotGaryBusey, and the avatar has Groucho glasses photoshopped in, which I thought was a clever touch.

Although the changes were quick and painless, Casillas did not think they were necessary.

I don’t like the fact that, after 2 years and 180K followers, we now have to change things to make it more of a parody account. I thought it was pretty clear what we were trying to do. Especially since Gary Busey has a twitter account that is already verified obviously making ours a parody.

Gary Busey, the actor, has not released a statement regarding the suspension. His childen, Alectra and Jake Busey, have highlighted some of dad’s disgust over the parody account. On July 12th Alectra Tweeted, “hahahah so my dad is sooo mad about the @GaryJBusey twitter. apparently it was on Enews the other week. hahahahhaha.”

For now, @garyjbusey is back in the business of making people laugh, cringe or throw up.

“I guess, in the end, it was good for us being that we picked up 2k in followers in one day and made #FreeGaryJBusey a trending topic nationwide,” Casillas said.  “It just goes to show how much influence the account has on Twitter.”

And be sure to read our interview with the mad minds behind the account here and here.

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Portal 2 trailer explained in-depth

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Most gamers on Steam are still getting pumped about Portal 2 coming out April 2011. In the above Machinima.com video, a dude breaks down every frame in the E3 Portal 2 trailer. He made some predictions in it that turned out to be correct, including the fact that the red and blue icons indicate a Co-Op mode, which was revealed back in September.

Co-Op mode is not all the good people at Valve have leaked after E3 and Valve’s ARG surrounding Portal 2’s release. If you haven’t already, head over to ThinkwithPortals.com and watch all the great “training videos” that have come, which are all in the game’s wonderfully witty language of course.

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Better to apologize to an animated corpse than to a regular corpse, and other lessons from last night’s episode of The Walking Dead, “Wildfire”

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Last night’s episode of The Walking Dead began slow, moved fitfully — with all the eschewing of common sense we’ve come to expect — and ended with a bang (bangs, actually, on a door).

We tally up the points below. (Warning: Spoilers ahead!)

+10 The episode begins with Rick trying to contact Morgan — the father from the first episode — over the CB. He warns him not to come to Atlanta. Nothing major, but it’s good the show didn’t forget about this plot line.

-100 We then see Andrea, expressionless, looking at the body of her dead sister Amy. No one can pull her away.

+200 Meanwhile, the gentleman (in the post-apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead, we revert to 19th century gender rolse in about two weeks) are doing the heavy lifting, moving the zombies into piles. Daryl’s preferred method of zombie corpse delivery is to slam a pick axe into its head, and then drag. And I must now admit that a pick axe to a zombie head has a special place in my heart, where I did not know one existed before.

-50 Jim, apparelenty, was bitten, and tries to cover it up, but fails. They lock him in the trailer, and Rick decides it’s time to go see if the CDC has any cure for zombie-ism.


+500
For the existence of Dale. The old man is one of few truly interesting characters in the show– maybe because he’s not supposed to be anything special, and has none of the blinding alpha-maleness of the men or obsequious 19th century femaleness of the women. Certainly he’s shown more depth than anyone else. Leaning over Andrea as she continues to mourn Amy, he tells her of how his wife died of cancer. “Since she passed,” he says, “you girls were the first peopele I cared anything for.”

+100 As the body cleanup continiues, Carol tells Daryl she needs to pick-axe her own husband’s head. So she does it, and does it with enthusiasm. The awful goriness of this scene is phenomenal

-100 For the same above awful goriness. Holy shit that was gross.

-1,000 Andrea is hovering over the body of her sister because she is waiting for her to return as a zombie, we eventually find out, so that she can apologize for “not being there for her” and then also personally shoot her in the head. She’s so hell bent on doing this that she pulls a gun on Rick. Meanwhile, Daryl makes the perfectly reasonable argument that perhaps they should deal with Amy’s corpse themselves — to which Lori says, dismissively — “no, just leave her alone for Chrissakes.” This is the strange sort of internal logic that is standing out more and more as the show goes on — of characters responding to life-threatening situations in a detached and yet also, oddly emotional manner, where the rightness of behaviour doesn’t match the life-or-death-holy-shit-we’re-gonna-die reality of a zombie apocalypse. Wouldn’t the whole camp be interested in prying Andrea from the arms of her soon to be zombie sister, her feelings be damned? And, at the very least, wouldn’t they all be watching her closely? And why, why why why, does Andrea need to wait for Amy to return AS A ZOMBIE to apologize to her? Is this somehow better than apologizing to her corpse? Please educate me, dear readers, for I do not understand.

-500 The same problem continues later on when Glenn — a seemingly rational member of the group — insists, against Daryl’s wishes, that the bodies of their companions be buried, not burned. Seriously? The whole world has been destroyed by zombie hordes and you’ll risk the life of yourself and everyone you know that’s left because you’ve just got to give them a proper Christian burial? Seriously? Again, please educate me, because whatever logical circuits fire in the brain of the show’s characters do not — or rather would not — fire in my mind, and many of the decisions they make seem more of deus-ex-machina attempt at conflict creation than an even reasonable decision in a life or death situation.

-100 For losing Jim — an intriguing, quiet, and mildly crazy character (see last episode) who had a lot of promise. But even more, the show loses points because Jim’s zombie bite is inexplicably on his belly. Now, I have not been bitten by many zombies in my day — I admit — but I can say that it does seem highly improbably for the sole wound from a zombie tussle to appear on a dude’s belly. Was he doing a cartwheel or something, and a zombie managed to sneak a bite from his upturned belly?

+100 Meanwhile in the woods, Shane and Rick argue over whether the group should leave for the CDC. They hear a noise, and Rick goes off to investigate. For a moment Shane holds him within the sight of his rifle, able to kill him the flick of a finger. He hesitestes, until Dale steps in and calls him out. A tense scene — but only good if Dale brings it up later, or if at some some kind of influence on the plot later on.

+1,000 The stragglers finally ditch their quarry home, making for the CDC. A thousand points, because it was damn time they left the most illogical homebase every in any zombie media ever.

-50 The Morales family isn’t going, however. But I dont care. Why? Who the hell are the Morales family? This show is almost as bad as Lost at managing its tertiary characters.

+100 Jim does the right thing — I guess — and asks to be left along the roadside, rather than continue on to the CDC.

+500 After Jim takes his place by the side of the tree and we watch some awful commercials, the show returns to the biggest and most abrupt plot shift so far. We watch a man who calls himself Jenner give a video diary. He is apparently the only one left in the CDC. It has been 194 days since “Wildfire” was declared, and 63 days since it went global. He is having no luck discovering a cure. He makes some kind of progress, we discover, only to spill some kind of toxic chemicals that force him to flee the lab and cause a sanitizing fire blast. In the process, he’s lost his only good zombie brain tissue — the only tissue that wasn’t necrotic. As you can imagine, he isn’t very please with this turn of events. He claims he may shoot himself in the head the next day.

+100 I said I’d give a 100 for each crossbow zombie fatality, and the writers listened to me .. using their time machine, or something. Anyway, the survivors find the CDC and argue outside. Daryl has to off at least one with his weapon of choice — nice. And Rick swears he sees the camera move, and then tells it in a less-than-nice way that the camera’s operator better damn well open the door. At the last minute Jenner opens the door, and a white light comes pouring out.

+1,000 For a strong, mysterious ending, and one that gives us hope that the show will go beyond the run-and-hide-from-zombie plot devices that a much shorter zombie flick would resort to. This is a television series. We need a lot more going on.

Episode point total: +,2010
Running point total: +1,600

The series’ rebound from the dullness of episode three continues. Can it keep going next week? And will the significant negatives continue to accrue?

About the point system:

“Romero Points” is a system that awards or takes away points for certain scenes in a The Walking Dead episode. A positive score is the degree to which George Romero would approve, and a negative score indicates the number of times he would roll over in his grave — that is, if he had one, because he’s very much alive, and also who knows whether or not he even plans to be buried, as he might want to be cremated, or if there would be room in his grave to roll, or even if he will ever die.

The points may seem arbitrary, because they are, and if you complain about the point system then you automatically lose 5,000 points. Also, I cannot be held accountable for incorrect math, because I am not good at math, but I am very good at awarding points.

Finally, please note: these points are not the real George Romero’s opinion, because I have no idea what he thinks. Rather, it is the one who lives in my head and tells me every night that I’m the “best little zombie fan ever.”

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Twitter temporarily suspends @GaryJBusey because of “valid impersonation report”

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Tracy Jordan once said that celebrity deaths come in threes. Today he was proven right.

Leslie Nielsen, Irvin Kershner and now, @garyjbusey.

Today Twitter officially suspended the @garyjbusey account because they received a “valid impersonation report,” said Pauly Casillas, one of the minds behind the account.

The suspension has stirred up some serious support for the famed account. @YourFavWhiteGuy, @Jesus_M_Christ and @Nick_Nolte are only some of Twitter celebs showing their love for the “patron saint of headbutts.”

Here’s some more of what Casillas had to say about the suspension:

Twitter has said that they will activate the account as long as we change two things: The avatar and the username.
As we have been @GaryJBusey for almost two years and also have tweeted our followers to follow @THEGaryBusey out of respect, it seems as that is not enough. Of course, we will follow Twitter’s demands and comply as soon as we can, but you and I both know who the real Not Gary J Busey is.

Check out the #freegaryjbusey hashtag on Twitter for more updates.

And be sure to read our interview with the mad minds behind the account here and here.

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R.I.P. Leslie Nielsen

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Surely the most quotable man since Shakespeare, but don’t call him Shirley — Leslie Nielsen has died, but we still have his lines. Here’s a good mash-up of some of his greatest jokes, with one more video in the post. That video? Possibly the greatest line ever uttered.

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The top five moments from Ugly Americans season one

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

In its first season, Ugly Americans has brought the best out of horror with its satirical premise and violent, dark comedy. It proved to be one of the weirdest shows on television by pitting bearded little wizard men against each other (as show above) and continually punishing protagonist Mark Lilly’s bleeding heart approach to his job as a social worker.

The show vacillates from silly humor to seriously fucked-up scenarios with a lot of blood and gore. As I’ve said before, fantasy, sci-fi and monster flick parodies tend to lighten the mood of Ugly American‘s otherwise abrasive and super-violent humor, which it share with other cartoons from Augenblick Studios such as Superjail!.

So here are a few scenes from this brief, 14-episode glimpse of a world where otherworldly creatures are integrating into society instead of hiding from it:

  1. Demon Manufacturing Plant
  2. Mark’s Waking Dream Sequence
  3. Twayne and Mark’s Death Match
  4. Mark Is a Bad Influence on the Treature
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Graham Annable’s “The Walking Not-So-Smart” — A parody of The Walking Dead

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Though we’re big fans of AMC’s The Walking Dead, we’ve had our share of quibbles with some of the shows logical absurdities. Much to our delight, Graham Annable, or grickle on Flickr, has started using his comic skillz to pick apart some of the shows more obvious plot holes and logical head-scratchers. But do not fear! He’s not skewering the show in its entirety.

From his Flickr site:

I hope that this flickr set doesn’t come off as super hateful of the TV series “The Walking Dead”. It’s just that, so far, I’ve been disappointed in a lot of the writing. I think the zombie scenes and efx have been solid but the character development and logic has been killing it for me. My nerdy inclination, of course, is to vent all my issues through a collection of slightly mean-spirited doodles. Enjoy or object. :)

More on Graham (also from his Flickr site):

Graham Annable began doodling at an early age and has never stopped. His work has appeared in the film, TV, video game and comic industries. He has contributed to projects with George Lucas, Chuck Jones, Nickelodeon and Walt Disney Productions. His first published comic effort, Grickle, was nominated for a 2001 Harvey Award for Best New Talent. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon where he does feature film storyboard work.

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