Pixel Scroll 4/8/19 File The Scroll Ashore, Pixellujah

(1) MOST READ NOMINEES. Nicholas Whyte blogs the numbers of people who report owning copies of the Hugo nominees in various categories to see if it helps predict who will win: “Hugo finalists – Goodreads/LibraryThing statistics”.

Once again I’m running the statistical ruler over the finalists for the Hugos – this year, more than ever. This has not often been a useful guide to which books will win; however I think it does show the extent to which they ave penetrated popular consciousness, at least to within an order of magnitude.

(2) TAKEN ABACK. Best Fan Artist Hugo nominee Ariela Housman (Geek Calligraphy) apparently is getting some official pushback about which of her items are qualifying work, as explained in “Hugo Eligibility Revisited”.

When we published our eligibility post in December, we included the above two works, plus “Lady Astronaut Nouveau” based on The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal. The former two were created earlier in 2018 and shown in art shows at Confluence and ICON. We finished “Lady Astronaut Nouveau” late enough in the year that we didn’t have any more art shows booked in which we could show it. We put it all over the interwebs, though.

This is what the Hugo Awards Website gives as the criteria for the Best Fan Artist category (bolding ours):

The final category is also for people. Again note that the work by which artists should be judged is not limited to material published in fanzines. Material for semiprozines or material on public displays (such as in convention art shows) is also eligible. Fan artists can have work published in professional publications as well. You should not consider such professionally-published works when judging this award.

The internet is about as public as it gets, right? It was even included in Mary Robinette’s Pinterest Gallery for Lady Astronaut Fan Art.

Apparently the Hugo Committee disagrees. Per the email I received from the committee member who contacted me prior to the announcement of the ballot:

The first two pieces clearly qualify, so that is fine. I’m afraid that the rules exclude pieces that have only been displayed online.

This, dear reader, is ridiculous.

Hopefully, Hugo Administrator Nicholas Whyte will reconcile all this for us, especially since some of us are under the impression fan artists’ online work was included in the 2017 Hugo Voter Packet.  

(3) THUS ENDETH THE SERIES. Comic Book Resources warns fans that “AMC’s Preacher Is Ending With Season 4”.

Co-creator Seth Rogen announced the news in a video teaser posted to his Twitter page. The simple, yet stylized video prominently displays the Preacher title card, followed by an explosion and the declaration, “The end is now.” Then, the title card returns to confirm that the show’s fourth season will mark the end of the series. The teaser also reveals that Preacher Season 4 will debut on Aug. 4.

(4) LUCKY NUMBER. Next week’s Titan Comics releases include another adventure with the thirteenth Doctor Who. No, it’s not a Prisoner mashup.

DOCTOR WHO: THIRTEENTH DOCTOR #6 –  The Thirteenth Doctor’s continue after the season finale, as Eisner nominee Jody Houser brings a fresh new Doctor Who story to fans old and new.

(5) TREK THRU FANHISTORY. The Dana Gould Hour podcast interviews John and Bjo Trimble:

John and Bjo Trimble. For those of you who don’t know John & Bjo, I’m very excited you get to hear their story for the first time. In the late 1960s, they were fans of a little TV show called Star Trek, and when it was announced, during Star Trek’s second season, that the show would not be returning for a third, they sprang into action. John and Bjo knew that TV shows don’t go into syndication unless they have three seasons – that gives you enough episodes strip the show. In other words, you need enough episodes to run five nights a without repeating episodes too quickly. You needed volume. And two seasons was not enough.

In those pre-internet days, John and Bjo started the letter writing campaign that saved Star Trek. Thanks to John and Bjo Trimble, Star Trek had three seasons, which allowed it to be syndicated, which allowed it to catch on, find its audience and become the juggernaut that it is today.

(6) MORE OREO MUTATIONS. Food & Wine’s spies say “Purple Creme Oreos Will Celebrate the Moon Landing, Apparently”.

 The weekend is two days long, so of course, we have photos of three new Oreo varieties for you.

(7) LEARNING A LOT. Cat Rambo posted highlights from Catherine Lundoff’s online class, “So You Want To Put Together An Anthology”. For more information about Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers Classes, see the website at academy.catrambo.com

(8) POP YOU CAN HEAR IN SPACE. Star Trek Nitpickers didn’t find it hard to choose ten, for obvious reasons:

Top 10 funniest uses of pop music in The Orville. There were only 11, so I threw in a runner up. Also–lots of song factoids. This video serves as a loose recap for season one as well. I hope you’ll check out other songs by these great musicians!

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 8, 1887 Hope Mirrlees. She is best known for the 1926 Lud-in-the-Mist, a fantasy novel apparently beloved by many. (I’m not one of them.) In 1970 an American reprint was published without the author’s permission, as part of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series. (Died 1978.)
  • Born April 8, 1939 Trina Schart Hyman. An illustrator of children’s books. She illustrated over 150 books, including fairy tales and Arthurian legends. She won the 1985 Caldecott Medal for U.S. picture book illustration, recognizing Saint George and the Dragon, retold by Margaret Hodges. Among the genre works she’s illustrated are Lloyd Alexander’s The Fortune-Tellers, Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. (Died 2004.)
  • Born April 8, 1942 Douglas Trumbull, 77. Let’s call him a film genius and leave it at that. He contributed to, or was fully responsible for, the special photographic effects of Close Encounters of the Third Kind2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Blade Runner, and directed the movies Silent Running and Brainstorm. And Trumbull was executive producer for Starlost
  • Born April 8, 1943 James Herbert. Writer whose work erased the boundaries between horror and sf and the supernatural in a manner that made for mighty fine popcorn reading. None of his work from his first two books, The Rats and The Fog, to his latter work such as Nobody True would be considered Hugo worthy in my opinion (you may of course disagree) but he’s always entertaining. I will note that in 2010 Herbert was greatly honored by receiving the World Horror Convention Grand Master Award which was presented to him by Stephen King. (Died 2013.)
  • Born April 8, 1966 Robin Wright, 53. Buttercup! Need I say more? I think not. She next pops in in Robin William’s Toys as Gwen Tyler and I see she was in M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable as Audrey Dunn. The animated Neil Gaiman Beowulf has her voicing Queen Wealtheow.  Blade Runner 2049 is next for her where she has the role of Lieutenant Joshi. The DC Universe is where we finish off with her playing General Antiope in three films, to wit Justice League, Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman 1984. 
  • Born April 8, 1967 Cecilia Tan, 52. Editor, writer and founder of Circlet Press, which she says is the first press devoted primarily to erotic science fiction and fantasy. It has published well over a hundred digital book to date with such titles as Telepaths Don’t Need Safewords and Other Stories from the Erotic Edge of SF/Fantasy. (Wouldn’t Bester be surprised to learn that. I digress), Sex in the System: Stories of Erotic Futures, Technological Stimulation, and the Sensual Life of Machines and Genderflex: Sexy Stories on the Edge and In-Between. She was two series, Magic University and The Prince’s Boy
  • Born April 8, 1968 Patricia Arquette, 51. She made her genre debut as Kristen Parker in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. That and the horror film Nightwatch in which she was Katherine are, I think, her only genre gigs other than a Tales from the Crypt episode called “Four-Sided Triangle” episode in which she was Mary Jo.
  • Born April 8, 1974 Nnedi Okorafor, 45. Who Fears Death won the 2011 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel.  Lagoon which is an Afrofututurist novel was followed by her amazing Binti trilogy. Binti which led it off that trilogy won both the 2016 Nebula Award and 2016 Hugo Award for best novella. Several of her works are being adapted for video, both in Africa and in North America. 
  • Born April 8, 1980 Katee Sackhoff, 39. Being noted here for playing Lieutenant Kara “Starbuck” Thrace on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica though I must confess I’ve only seen in her role as Deputy Sheriff Victoria “Vic” Moretti on Longmire. She also played Amunet Black, a recurring character who showed up on the fourth season of The Flash. To my pleasant surprise, I see her on Star Wars: The Clone Wars In a recurring role of voicing Bo-Katan Kryze. 
  • Born April 8, 1981 Taylor Kitsch, 38. The lead in John Carter, a film I’ll be damn if I can figure out how anything can have such great digital effects and such truly bad acting. No mind you he went on next to be Lt. Alex Hopper In Battleship, a film based on, yes, the board game. Earlier in his career is did play Gambit (Remy Etienne LeBeau) in X-Men Origins: Wolverine which, errr, wasn’t received well either. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz is all about coffee science.

(11) JANSSON LEGACY. The Guardian’s Lisa Allardice profiles the Moomins, subject of a new TV adaptation, in “‘It is a religion’: how the world went mad for Moomins”.

It is striking how much fear shadows the novels: for all the sunshine and picnics, menace lurks behind every bush: like a skater on ice, Jansson is always aware of the murky darkness just inches below. Of her success Jansson wrote: “Daydreams, monsters and all the horrible symbols of the subconscious that stimulate me … I wonder if the nursery and the chamber of horrors are as far apart as people think.” As Huckerby observes, the novels “go to some very dark places” and they have tried to reflect this in their adaptation. “It is being billed as prime time drama for all the family,” Ostler says. “It’s not a kids’ show.”

(12) YOU’RE THE TOP! To mix a metaphor, John Scalzi scaled Amazon’s Mt. Everest yesterday.

He also wrote a Twitter thread explaining that this good thing could not be improved by knocking other writers. Thread starts here.

(13) WELCOME OUR ROBOT UNDERLORDS. NPR announces “The Robots Are Here: At George Mason University, They Deliver Food To Students”.

George Mason University looks like any other big college campus with its tall buildings, student housing, and manicured green lawns – except for the robots.

…”We were amazed by the volume of orders that we had when we turned the service on,” Starship Technologies executive Ryan Tuohy says. “But what’s really touching is how the students on the campus have embraced the robots.”

(14) TURN OUT THE LIGHTS. A study shows “Big Cities, Bright Lights And Up To 1 Billion Bird Collisions”NPR has the story.

Up to 1 billion birds die from building collisions each year in the United States, and according to a new study, bright lights in big cities are making the problem worse.

The study, published this month in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, examined two-decades of satellite data and weather radar technology to determine which cities are the most dangerous for birds. The study focused on light pollution levels, because wherever birds can become attracted to and disoriented by lights, the more likely they are to crash into buildings.

The study found that the most fatal bird strikes are happening in Chicago. Houston and Dallas are the next cities to top the list as the most lethal. One of the study’s authors, Kyle Horton, a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University, called the cities a “hotspot of migratory action,” adding, “they are sitting in this primary central corridor that most birds are moving through spring and fall.”

(15) RUBBER WEAPONS CHECK. Somebody thinks Voyager’s photon torpedo account was overdrawn. Because they counted. (A 2011 post.)

(16) VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE FOOD CHAIN. In comments, Darren Garrison figured out what the contents of Ursula Vernon’s next Hugo acceptance speech will be: “Unsettling Video Shows What Happens to a Dead Alligator at the Bottom of the Sea” at Gizmodo.

The enthusiasm of these scavengers is totally understandable. Deep-sea bottom feeders are immensely dependent upon “food falls,” in which deceased aquatic animals from above settle on the ocean floor. This typically involves whales, dolphins, sea lions, and large fish like tuna, sharks, and rays, but it can also involve stuff from the land, such as plant material, wood, and, as the new video shows, alligators dropped by scientists.

(17) ALL ABOARD! The Points Guy tells you how to catch a ride on this celebrity train: “Calling All Muggles: The Real Hogwarts Express Train Is Back in Action”.

Accio tickets to the Scottish Highlands!

After a seasonal break, the Jacobite steam train (a.k.a. the train used as a stand-in for the actual Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films) is back in business, People reports. And no, you won’t have to pass through Platform 9 3/4 to get there. 

The Jacobite steam train has been in operation for over 100 years. Known originally for its scenic views of the Scottish Highlands, the old rail line only got attached the Harry Potter-verse after it was featured as the Hogwarts Express in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and every other Potter film going forward.

(18) TOOTLE, PLUNK AND BOOM. In “Game of Thrones Turned Its Composer Into a Rock Star” in The Atlantic, Spencer Kornhaber profiles Ramin Djawadi, composer of the music for Game of Thrones.

The arsenal of instruments Ramin Djawadi has used to score Game of Thrones includes mournful strings, mighty horns, and the Armenian double-reed woodwind known as a duduk.  During the series’ first five seasons, however, he left one common weapon untouched:  the piano.  Early on, the showrunners, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, decided that the ivories were too delicate for the show;s brutal realms, where even weddings tend to involve some stabbing.  They also banned the flute, for fear that Thrones would sound like a Renaissance fair.

(19) LIVE FROM NEW YORK. Kit Harington Saturday Night Live monologue is full of Game of Thrones jokes, and the sketch “Graphics Department” makes D and D jokes.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Mike Kennedy, Darren Garrison, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 3/11/19 A Scroll Is A Guy That Thinks He’s Fly, And Is Also Known As A Pixel

(1) OBERST FROM COAST TO COAST. As reported the other day, Bill Oberst Jr.’s Ray Bradbury Live (forever) will launch with a performance at the South Pasadena Public Library on March 2. The show’s website says the next performances will be in Indianapolis, IN from May 3-5, then in Charleston, SC on dates to be announced.

(2) ART OF THE SERIES. Seanan McGuire will teach an online class — “Pacing Yourself: The Strange and Sprawling Art of Writing a Long Series” – on Saturday, June 29, 2019, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time.

Writing a series can be a long, strange journey. How do you best prepare for it, and where do you stop to refuel? And how do you do know when to keep going and when to bring things to an end? Join Seanan McGuire, Hugo-winning author of multiple series, as she shares secrets of not get lost along the way when undertaking such a trip.

(3) MURDERBOT MUST ADVERTISE. Tor.com has announced “Murderbot Will Return in…Network Effect. A Full Novel by Martha Wells”. But we’ll have to wait til May 2020 to read it. (Pass the time by watching your stored media.)

(4) SHRINK RAP. Larry Correia talks about “getting paid” all the time, and Harlan Ellison extolled the importance of a writer’s work being acknowledged by a “check of money.” How to explain everyone else who keeps pulling the handle on their typewriter? Camestros Felapton searches for parallels between writing and an addiction in “Writing and Gambling”.

One of the notable features of gambling (and a factor that can lead to it becoming a problem for some people) is that people still gain pleasure from it even when they are losing. The phenomenon called “loss chasing”…

(5) R.E.S.P.E.C.T.  YA reviewer Vicky Who Reads surveyed book bloggers and got over 280 respondents to share “their views on how authors + other people should interact to remain respectful.” — “Blogger + Author Interaction Etiquette Survey Responses: Answers from the Book Bloggers’ Perspectives (2019)”. The YA author/blogger dynamic is obviously different than the pro/fan interaction in social media, however, I found it very interesting reading. Here’s the range of reactions to the question –

Do you mind if authors read and/or comment on your review of their book?

  1. “I don’t want them to comment on negative reviews, but I’m fine if they comment on positive reviews!” +12 with the same sentiment +11 same sentiment, also specifying that they would not tag an author in a negative review
  2. “What I don’t like is when an author comments on my reviews to defend themselves or to try and guilt me into changing my opinions.” +6
  3. “I don’t mind if they read, and a quick thanks for reading my book comment is fine— but nothing else.” +3
  4. (paraphrased) Authors are not obligated to read reviews, but I’d like them to know that someone’s enjoyed it, and it would make me happy if they read my (positive tagged) review! +1
  5. “I don’t mind though I’d rather have them contact me in private if they want to discuss it.”
  6. “…would depend on the relationship you have with that specific author.”
  7. “…from anyone with more power than me, NO.”
  8. “…I wouldn’t mind them BOOSTING blog posts involving their books.”
  9. “I don’t mind them commenting on my review in a tweet…but no comments on my actual blog.”

(6) HANDICAPPING THE SHORTLIST. Ceridwen Christensen’s series at Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog continues with “Blogging the Nebulas: The Poppy War Is a Devastating Fantasy Debut”. Each post makes the case for why the nominee will or won’t win. Here, under Won’t, it says —

Though there seems to be a tendency to nominate debut novels for the Nebula in recent year—more than half of the nominees for the last three years have been first novels—there is a clear precedent for established novelists to actually take home the Nebula. The preference for books from established writers makes sense: not only have they had time to hone their craft, but, as and industry award, connections within the industry factor.

(7) A MARVEL(OUS) CAT. USA Today posts a spoiler warning before telling readers “5 things you need to know about furry ‘Captain Marvel’ breakout Goose the Cat”. Brie Larson’s superhero heads up the blockbuster new ‘Captain Marvel’ but scene-stealing Goose the Cat is one of the movie’s biggest breakouts.   

1. Like the movie’s human heroine, Goose comes straight from the comic books.

She’s named Chewie in the pages of the “Captain Marvel” series (named for the “Star Wars” Wookiee co-pilot), while the movie uses Anthony Edwards’ “Top Gun” sidekick as inspiration. But a lot of the hidden abilities Goose unleashes later in the film mirror the comic character’s cosmic connections as an alien Flerken.

Before they had a script, directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck had a room with a whiteboard where they wrote a wish list of everything from the comics that they wanted to see in the movie, including the cat. After figuring out Goose’s role, Boden remembers giving an initial script outline to executive producer Kevin Feige “and him being like, ‘Yep, we’re going to need about 200 percent more (Goose) in the story.’ And he was right. It was so fun to find all the ways that she could participate in the film.”

(8) TIME BANDITS. ScienceFiction.com has learned “Taika Waititi Will Co-Write And Direct The Pilot For Apple’s ‘Time Bandits’”.

‘Thor: Ragnarok’s Taika Waititi has signed on to co-write and direct the pilot for a series based on the 1981 Terry Gilliam film ‘Time Bandits’ for Apple‘s upcoming streaming service.  Waititi will also serve as executive producer along with Gilliam and Dan Halstead (‘People of Earth’).  This will be just one of many shows that Apple plans to offer for free to owners of its various devices, including Apple TV, iPhones, iPads and Macs.  ‘Time Bandits’ will be co-produced by Anonymous Content, Paramount Television and Media Rights Capital.

Time Bandits is a dark, irreverent adventure about imagination, bravery and the nature of our dreams. It follows the time-traveling adventures of an 11-year-old history buff named Kevin who, one night, stumbles on six dwarfs who emerge from his closet. They are former workers of the Supreme Being who have stolen a map that charts all the holes in the space-time fabric, using it to hop from one historical era to the next in order to steal riches. Throughout the movie, they meet various historical and fictional characters, including Napoleon Bonaparte and Robin Hood, while the Supreme Being simultaneously tries to catch up to them and retrieve the map.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 11, 1921 F. M. Busby. Together with his wife and others he published a fan magazine named Cry of the Nameless which won the Hugo award in 1960. Heinlein was a great fan of him and his wife — The Cat Who Walks Through Walls in part dedicated to Busby and Friday in part to his wife Elinor. He was a very busy writer from the early Seventies to the late Nineties writing some nineteen published novels and myriad short stories before he blamed the Thor Power Tools decision for forcing his retirement. (Died 2005.)
  • Born March 11, 1952 Douglas Adams. I’ve read and listened to the full cast production the BBC did of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but have absolutely no desire to see the film. Wait, wasn’t there a TV series as well? Yes, there was. Shudder! The Dirk Gently series is, errr, odd and its charms escape my understanding. He and Mark Carwardine also wrote the most excellent Last Chance to See, their travels to various locations in the hope of encountering species on the brink of extinction. It’s more silly than it sounds. (Died 2001.)
  • Born March 11, 1962 Elias Koteas, 57. Genre appearances include the very first (and I think best of the many that came out) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, One Magic Christmas, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III (I did warn you, didn’t I?), Cyborg 2 (just don’t), Gattaca, Skinwalkers, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and The Haunting in Connecticut.
  • Born March 11, 1963 Alex Kingston, 56. River Song in Doctor Who. She’s in a number of different stories with a number of different Doctors and was the eventual wife of the Eleventh Doctor. (I don’t believe in spoilers.) I don’t see a lot of other genre work from her but she was in Ghost Phone: Phone Calls from the Dead, as Sheila and she was Lady Macbeth in the National Theatre Live of Macbeth. Oh, and she’s in the Arrowverse as Dinah Lance, in FlashForward as Fiona Banks and recently shows up as Sara Bishop on A Discovery of Witches, a series based off the Deborah Harkness novel of the same name. Great series, All Souls Trilogy, by the way. 
  • Born March 11, 1967 John Barrowman, 52. Best genre without doubt is as Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and Torchwood.  He reprised the role for Big Finish audiobooks and there’s one that I highly recommend which is the full cast Golden Age production with all the original cast. You’ll find a link to my review here. I see he’s been busy in the Arrowverse playing three different characters (I think as I confess I’m not watching it currently)  in the form of Malcolm Merlyn / Dark Archer / Ra’s al Ghul. He’s also had a long history in theatre, so he’s been in Beauty and the Beast as The Beast / The Prince, Jack and The Bean Stalk as Jack, Aladdinas, well, Aladdinand Cinderella as, errrr, Buttons.
  • Born March 11, 1982 Thora Birch, 37. A very, very extensive genre history so I’ll just list her appearances: Purple People EaterItsy Bitsy Spider, Hocus PocusDungeons & Dragons, The HoleDark Corners, TrainDeadlineDark Avenger series, The Outer LimitsNight Visions series, My Life as a Teenage Robot and a recurring role on the Colony series.
  • Born March 11, 1989 Anton Yelchin. Best known for playing played Pavel Chekov in Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond. He also was in Terminator Salvation as Kyle Reese, in the Zombie comedy Burying the Ex as Max and voiced Clumsy Smurf in a series of Smurf films. Really, he did. (Died 2016.)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • “All writers explained” in this Pearls Before Swine strip.
  • Dick Tracy does a shout-out to Gasoline Alley. Joe Staton is one of the creators in the credits – he did fanzine art back in the Seventies before moving up to the big leagues.

Daniel Dern sent the Dick Tracy link with a comment:

Gasoline Alley remains one of my favorite strips. One interest aspect is that characters age “in real time” — they get older, and the strip’s “current time” is the present (as of when it’s written).

Here’s one of my favorite sequences, guest-starring John Hartford [PDF file] (who, IMHO, would have made a great Tom Bombadil). And here’s a clearer view of a few of those.

(11) SO, DOES LOTUS TASTE GOOD? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Some science fiction has imagined a future where automation of one sort or another replaces most or all jobs. Thinking about that sort of future is slowly becoming mainstream but even if this leads to some version of utopia, there will be a difficult transition period. An installment of an AI series on The Verge (The Real-World AI Issue) looks at “How to protect humans in a fully automated society” and asks the question “What happens when every job is replaced by a machine?” It doesn’t get to an answer, but that doesn’t make the question any less important.

People have been worried about machines taking jobs for a very long time. As early as 1930, John Maynard Keynes was warning about the new scourge of technological unemployment, which he termed as “unemployment due to our discovery of means of economizing the use of labor outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labor.” In short, automating ourselves out of a paycheck.

(12) CROCK OF AGES. Armies march on their stomachs, archeologists crawl on theirs: “Archaeologists Find Trove Of Maya Artifacts Dating Back 1,000 Years”.

Mexican archaeologists announced last week that they discovered a trove of more than 200 Maya artifacts beneath the ancient city of Chichén Itzá in Mexico.

The discovery of the Yucatán Peninsula cave – and the artifacts, which appear to date back to 1,000 A.D. – was not the team’s original goal, National Geographic Explorer Guillermo de Anda, who helped lead the team, told NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro for Weekend Edition.

A local resident told the archeologists about the secret cave, known as Balamku or “Jaguar God.” It had been known to locals for decades and about 50 years ago some of them told archeologist Víctor Segovia Pinto about the cave, but he ordered it sealed for unknown reasons, causing it to be forgotten. This time, the explorers decided to search the cave chambers, which involved crawling on their stomachs for hours to reach the coveted artifacts.

(13) NOT MUCH OF A GAME YET. Brian at Nerds of a Feather, in “Microreview : Anthem by Bioware (developer)”, feels he has to speak bluntly:

Anthem is a mess. There’s no nicer way of putting it. I can’t recommend it in any form today. The good(?) news is that it’s essentially unfinished but it’s a part of EA’s games-as-a-service strategy. Like so many other games-as-a-service shlooters (that’s loot-shooters, games like Destiny and The Division), it’s being patched frequently with new features, quality of life improvements, and bug fixes. The outstanding questions are can they fix this game post-release and do they have the will to keep working on this game?

(14) JUST A LITTLE PINCH. Sew what? “Scientists Thread A Nano-Needle To Modify The Genes Of Plants”.

Is there an efficient way to tinker with the genes of plants? Being able to do that would make breeding new varieties of crop plants faster and easier, but figuring out exactly how to do it has stumped plant scientists for decades.

Now researchers may have cracked it.

Modifying the genetics of a plant requires getting DNA into its cells. That’s fairly easy to do with animal cells, but with plants it’s a different matter.

“Plants have not just a cell membrane, but also a cell wall,” says Markita Landry, assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of California, Berkeley.

Scientists have tried different ways to get DNA and other important biological molecules through the cell wall – by shooting microscopic gold bullets coated with DNA into the cell using a gene gun or by hiding DNA inside bacteria that can infect plant cells.

Both methods have limitations. Gene guns aren’t very efficient, and some plants are hard, if not impossible, to infect with bacteria.

UC Berkeley researchers have found a way to do it using something called carbon nanotubes, long stiff tubes of carbon that are really small. Landry came up with the idea, and the curious thing is she’s neither a n­anotechnology engineer nor a plant biologist.

(15) LOOKING BACKWARD. Remember in Armageddon where Bruce Willis’ character says to the NASA manager, “You’re the guys that’re thinking shit up! I’m sure you got a team of men sitting around somewhere right now just thinking shit up and somebody backing them up!” Same answer here – they’re looking for help from the public: “It’s 2050 And This Is How We Stopped Climate Change”.

When NPR interviewed Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes in February about her Green New Deal, she said that her goal was bigger than just passing some new laws. “What I hope we’re able to do is rediscover the power of public imagination,” she said.

Well, we’re unleashing our imagination and exploring a dream, a possible future in which we’re bringing global warming to a halt. It’s a world in which greenhouse emissions have ended.

(Editor’s note: Each story has two sections, the first reflecting the present and the second imagining the world of 2050.)

(16) PASS FAIL. Tadiana Jones reviews Sylvain Neuvel’s novel “The Test: The cost of citizenship in a near-future world” at Fantasy Literature.

Published in February 2019. Britain, the not-too-distant future. Idir is sitting the British Citizenship Test. He wants his family to belong. Twenty-five questions to determine their fate. Twenty-five chances to impress. When the test takes an unexpected and tragic turn, Idir is handed the power of life and death. How do you value a life when all you have is multiple choice?

(17) ANOTHER JOYCE. Speculiction’s Jesse Hudson does a “Review of The Silent Land by Graham Joyce”. The situation doesn’t sound too bad in the beginning —  

Extensive cellars of the world’s best wines. Pristine slopes with no other skiers, the lifts at your disposal. A hotel kitchen with an endless supply of food that never spoils. The penthouse room available day in and day out for sleeping and leisure. Paradise calls, such is the tragedy of Graham Joyce’s touching 2010 The Silent Land.

(18) EYE WONDER. On CNN, “Rep. Dan Crenshaw shows off his Captain America-inspired glass eye”:

“Captain America” found out he had a big fan in Congress after his mission to the US Capitol this week.

Chris Evans, known for playing the superhero in the Marvel movies, met up with Rep. Dan Crenshaw on a visit to Washington, and the two seemed to hit it off.

Crenshaw, who represents Texas’ 2nd Congressional District, lifted his eye patch to show off a Captain America-inspired glass eye to Evans. In a picture posted to Twitter on Friday, the eye resembles Captain America’s shield, with a five-point, white star in the middle surrounded by circles.

(19) AI AND AIRCRAFT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Two very different aviation stories today referenced AI. At BGR they say, “Oh great, Russian fighter pilots are going to start flying with scary AI wingmen,” while at Popular Mechanics the wonder, “Can Big Data Save Old Warplanes?

The BGR story talks about the possibility of Russian fighters using drones (that fly with an AI assist) as a force multiplier.

Well, it seems Russian military officials don’t want to just stop with that fearsome new hypersonic intercontinental ballistic missile that was tested last month, which we told you about and which Russia claims there’s no defense against. It would appear the country’s military forces have also been testing the feasibility of having AI-powered wingmen fly alongside Russian fighter pilots, executing commands issued by the human pilot an inaugurating a scary new chapter in aerial military combat.

News accounts of Russia’s efforts here are the result of images spotted on social media of a drone called Hunter, an unmanned combat vehicle, along with images of a jet called the Sukhoi Su-57. Of particular interest is that fighter jet’s tail. As you can see below, on the tail you can see the shape of a jet as well as an image that seems to be the “Hunter” drone, along with the image of a lightning bolt.

Meanwhile, PopSci takes a look at using big data and machine learning to keep aging aircraft in the air instead of grounded.

Late in 2018, the Air Force (with help from Delta) retrofitted its aging C-5 and B-1 fleets to perform predictive maintenance. “It’s already doing amazing work, telling us things that we need to look at before they become critical,” Will Roper [(USAF assistant secretary for acquisition, technology, and logistics)] says. “The data is there but it’s not in a discoverable format that you can layer in machine learning on top of it. A lot of what we had to do was reverse engineering, so that that data can be exposed in an algorithm friendly way.”

He says there are more than 100 algorithms running on the C-5 systems, and more than 40 examining the B-1. Each algorithm parses the information generated by specific systems, like the landing gear, wheels, temperature sensors, and anything that is deemed mission-critical.

So far, the A.I. found three maintenance actions on the C-5 “that we wouldn’t have found through traditional processes, that affect 36 different aircraft,” Roper says. Maintainers also removed 17 parts that were showing subtle signs of wear well before those parts had issues.

(20) WHAT’S THAT SMELL? It’s D&D night at Ursula Vernon’s place. The thread starts here.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Rich Lynch, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Adam Rakunas.]