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Stephen Hawking Lets Loose

May 18, 2011 Leave a comment

This week, Stephen Hawking (a.k.a. “that smart wheelchair guy”) made the following statement in an interview with The Guardian: “[Heaven] is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” The timing couldn’t be better—the Rapture is scheduled to take place in four days’ time.

So, of course, some people find this shocking and controversial. I suppose people with high profiles are expected to toe the line. After all, it’s better to keep your mouth shut and be suspected of having independent thought than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

But I don’t find Hawking’s comments surprising (or offensive) at all. Indeed, I can relate to them all too well.

I’m also a wheelchair guy (though “smart” may be pushing it). Like Hawking, I’m involved in science and technology in academia—my field is computer science, however. And, like Hawking, I seem to be living on borrowed time, with some doctors in the past predicting my demise would occur about 22 years ago.

If you’re a scientist with a death sentence always hanging over your head, you quickly find that there’s no solace to be found in easy answers and pleasant fictions. Not only is there no evidence for an afterlife, the dualism of a mind (or soul) independent from a body makes no sense in a modern scientific context. Unlike the White Queen, I can’t believe six impossible things before breakfast. Read more…

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10 Science Fiction Shows With Under 80 Episodes

May 14, 2011 22 comments

Following the demise of Stargate Universe (and a rather interesting open letter to the fans from Syfy), I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at some of the great science fiction TV shows that have been shafted over the years.

The recurring theme here is ratings (or lack thereof) and the often bewilderment of networks to the genre…

10. Earth 2 (22 episodes, 1994-1995)

Created by Billy Ray (the man currently adapting The Hunger Games for the screen, not Miley’s dad), Earth 2 was an initially successful show made by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment. Featuring the talents of none other than Clancy Brown, the show was basically about a group of interplanetary colonists who discover that an uninhabited planet isn’t so uninhabited after all. It won an Emmy and was nominated for a Saturn award, so, of course, it lasted one season. The reason? Its ratings plummeted after a promising start.


Read more…

A Ledge in Tron Raped My Childhood

May 4, 2011 1 comment

What was I saying about geeks being traditionalists?

A couple of days ago, I watched the original Tron on Blu-ray. It’s the first time I’d seen it on that format, and the first time I’d seen it on a (relatively) big screen. I’m intimately familiar with the film, however, having owned it on Beta in the late ’80s and then buying the original DVD and the 20th anniversary DVD as well. This is the film that inspired me to move into computer science.

And yet never had it seemed so vibrant and immersive as it did on Blu-ray this week. It was as if I had the chance to time-travel back to 1982 and experience it for the first time in the cinema. However, I knew that writer/director Steven Lisberger had made some tweaks, so I was curious to know what the changes were, even though nothing jumped out at me.

Later that day, I did a search to find out exactly what alterations were made. Apparently, the flickering due to an original production error had been reduced, though not enough for anyone to notice. That’s interesting, but not exactly a big deal.

No, the big deal was an addition that strikes at the heart of debates about director’s cuts. Like Jabba the Hutt in the Star Wars Special Edition, a digital ledge has been inserted into a scene in Tron. Or in one shot, anyway

Yes, a ledge was added to one shot. The horror. The horror. Read more…

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