Snapshots 146 BC Carthago delenda est

Here are 11 developments of interest to fans.


(1) “Two thousand million or so years ago two galaxies were colliding; or, rather, were passing through each other.” So began the first sf novel I ever read, E. E. “Doc” Smith‘s Triplanetary, its opening line fraught with such cosmic drama it has remained imprinted on my memory.

As I understand it, “Doc” Smith’s story begins that way because theorists of his day assumed that kind of cosmological accident was a prerequisite for creating large numbers of planets. Otherwise we’d be wondering how he guessed — it was only in 2012 that NASA scientists announced our Milky Way actually is bound on an collision course with Andromeda.

The galaxy is already close enough that if it were fully visible to the naked eye and as bright as the Moon it would appear as shown in the photo above. In about 3.75 billion years, Andromeda will dominate the night sky. Click here for an artist’s interpretation.

(2) Tetris the movie. No kidding.

“It’s a very big, epic sci-fi movie,” Threshold’s C.E.O., Larry Kasanoff, told the Journal. “This isn’t a movie with a bunch of lines running around the page. We’re not giving feet to the geometric shapes.” The people at Tetris were equally vague. In a press release, the company said, “In this new universe, as you’ll soon find out, there’s much more to Tetris than simply clearing lines.”

“The response was not surprising, because how the hell are you going to make a movie out of Tetris?” Kasanoff told me on Thursday. He declined to offer any specifics about the story, but said that it would be a live-action movie. “When you make a movie out of a video game, you don’t make it of the game itself, but you try to figure out what is the essence of that game,” Kasanoff said. “And then you go up a level on the food chain to tell a story.” For the nature of that essence, he pointed to what Henk Rogers, the founder of the Tetris Company, once identified as the game’s appeal: that it speaks to people’s desire to create order out of chaos.

(3) Britain’s first sf movie, A Message from Mars, has now been restored as part of a special project by BBC Arts and the British Film Institute.

A Message from Mars follows the story of a Martian, who is sent to Earth as a punishment for misbehaving. The silent film has been given a new soundtrack, composed by creative director Matthew Herbert.Brian Robinson from the BFI told BBC Breakfast: ‘Anything that’s lost for 100 years is going to have some elements of decay… those had to be painstakingly removed.'”

You can watch the entire film online here.

I suspect that if they put it on a double-bill with Tetris, the Martians of 1913 would look a lot smarter than 21st Century movie producers.

Martian court

(4) And if you have two more minutes to spare, this short video traces Superman through the years, from his first appearance on the cover of Action Comics #1 to Henry Cavill in this year’s Man of Steel.

(5) I’m a great admirer of thought experiments, and Chris Lough’s effort to deduce How Fast is The Millennium Falcon wrangles math and fictional cosmology with an agility worthy of the applause of Gregory Benford himself.

We know—unlike Obi-Wan Kenobi, seriously wizard don’t you read SmugglerFeed?—that this is the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. But we also know that a parsec is a measure of distance, and since Han doesn’t specify how long it took the Falcon to make this sub-12 parsec shortcut, we don’t actually get an idea as to how fast the ship can go.

Oh, but she’ll do “.5 past light speed” which…doesn’t tell us much either. Obviously ships in the Star Wars galaxy can go faster than light speed otherwise there’d be no movie, but how fast is .5 on their hyperdrive scales in terms of light years traversed per day?

(6) Did anyone say spending time on research is nuts? Scientists in Canada using peanut shells have created a hybrid sodium ion capacitor in a pioneering study bridging the gap between conventional ion batteries and supercapacitors.

(7) Here’s a whale of a tale. World News Report said an entire dead whale was found in a field in Utah. Locals responded by flooding the cops with calls:

Dispatchers say the amount of calls regarding the story have been over-whaleming. Ever since the story hit, people can’t seem to stop blubbering about it. It’s unknown if the pod of citizens calling was orcastrated from the beginning, but the Sheriff’s Office is kindly asking residents to stop, as it’s giving them a humpback.

Eventually somebody was forced to explain that World News Report is a satirical news site – something which was never a secret in the first place.

I have my own plans for the fake photo WNR ran with its story. In a few weeks, when memories have become sufficiently fuzzy, I’m going to gank the photo and run it here as part of an item congratulating Larry Correia for being the first bowhunter to bag a whale in Utah.

(8) Plans for remaking Fahrenheit 451 are in development hell. Hoping to spark some interest (so to speak) the proposed designs for the fire trucks have been published.

These concepts revealed what the trucks of Fahrenheit 451 may have looked like in the final film if it ever gets made, although in Hollywood, nothing is ever really dead. So why has the film not been made yet? For the same reason all films get delayed: budget. Sometimes it’s the talent who has to finish a film, but generally, everything comes down to money and has to answer one basic question. Would you guys go see this movie? I would… as long as there’s cool cars.

(9) I see this following item as being like the counterpart of HO railroading for …oh… insane people… It’s about making a line of action figures for the first Alien movie.

Unlike the first Star Wars, which had a wealth of action figures featuring virtually every character in the film, the first Alien never had a proper toy line of its own. Though one was planned back in 1979 and prototypes were built, Kenner ultimately cancelled the idea before the toys went to manufacturing. (Toy company Super7 released its own figures in 2013 based on the original prototypes.)

For [Dayton] Allen, this made Alien an ideal project to tackle: not only was it his favorite sci-fi movie, but he’d also be helping to fill in a gap. “One of things I most enjoy about the hobby is creating figures and environments which the current toy industry would never consider producing,” he explains.

It’s still a work in progress, but Allen’s Alien project is a wonderfully detailed and complex recreation of the film, at 1:18 scale. Built in his spare time — Allen is a graphic designer by day — so far he’s managed to complete several characters, most of the terrifying xenomorph, and a good chunk of the interior of the Nostromo spaceship. “Since I’m not on a payroll to complete the work on a deadline,” he says of the project, “I take my time and enjoy the ride.”

The process starts with a lot of reference material — screencaps from the films, behind-the-scenes-photography, and other production-related imagery. Allen has even gone so far as to talk to some of the original production crew to suss out some of the finer details. After that, he gathers the right materials — he builds figures and sets out of everything from epoxies and clay to laser-cut MDF board — which is followed by the pain-staking process of modeling and sculpting the figures. “This being a Ridley Scott film,” explains Allen, “nothing is without complexity.”

(10) Brother Guy Consolmagno, whom the internet likes to call “the Pope’s astronomer,” is co-author (with Paul Mueller) of Would You Baptize an Extraterrestrial?

Consolmagno’s short answer is “yes.“ But “only if she asks!”

(11) Some people at Texas A&M find fandom – I attended a convention on campus once – but a lot more of them find Bonfire. Grantland’s story about the community that engineers the tower of flaming logs (which cost the lives of a dozen students 15 years ago) shows the quasi-fannish culture that has helped this tradition persist in the face of tragedy.

It is practically inevitable that Lechner’s crewmembers are known at Bonfire as Lechnerds. On one side of Eckardt’s pot are the words “NERD CHIEF,” on the other “BOTTOM POT.” The other crew chiefs are dubbed Strange Pot and Charm Pot. Bottom? Strange? Charm? “Those are three types of quarks,” one kid explains. Lechnerds.

Nearly six feet tall and trim as a tennis pro, Eckardt wears denim overalls. A fawn-colored braid falls from under her pot and over one shoulder. When she wields an ax, it is with power. In appearance and dexterity, there is nothing nerdy about Alia Eckardt. Her major is civil engineering. Born and raised in Dallas to parents who are not Aggies, she turned down Cornell to attend A&M. At first she was unsure she’d made the right decision. “I can easily say, if I had not found Bonfire in my first semester, I would not be nearly as happy at this university as I am now,” she says. “Especially for our fish, the nerdy ones, the ones who aren’t necessarily going to go out and meet people, Bonfire gives them a community.”

[Thanks for these links goes out to Dave Doering, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter and Martin Morse Wooster.]

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7 thoughts on “Snapshots 146 BC Carthago delenda est

  1. If the Adromeda galaxy really was this bright, I’d worry about what’s going on there that we don’t know about.

  2. One of the previous entries of game turned into “video” was Rubik’s Cube. Featured on Saturday Mornings. The cube gained superpowers when all the sides were properly aligned. For kids, this was a yawn.

    I’m still awaiting CANDYLAND as a film.

  3. The BFI recently released OUT OF THE UNKNOWN, an anthology of the remaining shows from that series from the mid 1960’s. I sat back and watched E.M.Forrester’s “The Machine Stops”, which was very good. The author was still alive when it was broadcast, and gave praise. Part of the cautionary tale was about people using the machine and ending self relience, even refusing to visit others in person. Part of the story were used by Wally Wood in an EC comic and portions of the idea were used in WALL E.
    There are adaptations to William Tenn and Isaac Asimov.

  4. I remember Bill Warren referring to the 11″ ALIEN action figure which came out in 1980 as “the world’s ugliest doll.”

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