Lobsters Stuffed With Tacos

A Hero's Journey Through Science Fiction

Archive for the category “Technology”

Did Any of This Help?

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Great-grandpa would have spat tobacco on the floor. Then…he would have cursed this like a sailor.

Fishing-SimulatorGrandpa would have just shook his head. Then…he would have cursed this like a sailor.

Dad would have just laughed…

…Then Dad would have turned off the cartoons and showed me how it’s done. Kick yourself and the kids off the couch and go outside before the summer is over.

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Toy Story. (But Not The Movie. A Story About A Toy…Story.)

“It also seems to me that he was a pretty sophisticated toy for a pre-digital age, since he exhibited “behavior” of a sort, and responded to stimuli—or to one stimulus, I should say, and only if you actually hit him at the right spot on the tail. (And never, not once, did I ever make the dart actually stick to his tail, the way that kid did in the commercial.) But soon enough, entropy began to encroach upon the mighty Zor—just as it did on the real dinosaurs—as the ping pong balls went missing or got dinged up so that they wouldn’t fire or (in one case) got accidentally crushed underfoot in the heat of battle. And then his roar gave out, and he began to lurch more like a raucous drunk than a murderous carnivore, and finally his motor fried itself, and the light went out of Zor’s eyes forever. Well, to be honest, he never had a light in his eyes, but you know what I mean. I kept playing with the gun, though, even after the spring inside broke and it wouldn’t fire darts anymore, because it was so cool looking. (Hey, I was eight, alright?) I can still remember the feel of the grip in my hand.

The noble thing to do when he died would have been to bury him in the backyard, so that he could either join with the elements, or fossilize like his brethren and intrigue future paleontologists. I can’t actually remember what happened to him, but it’s possible he’s still in the attic of my parents’ house, along with the broken gun and three and a half ping pong balls, still waiting for me, still fighting mad.” — James Hynes, Cultwriter

Vertical Farming: Cornfields are behind the Third Door on the Left

The future of farming! (Well, maybe not.)

“Due to unpredictable weather patterns that destroy millions of tons of crops each year and a growing human population set to peak at about 9 billion, some future-focused innovators are looking for better ways to keep food on the table. Two neo-farm prototypes currently evolving on separate continents share a common concept: urban farming as the future of sustainable agriculture.” — Venessa Posavec, Future Blogger.

In the two years since Venessa’s article, the notion of skyscraper farms has not died off. However, vertical farming has taken a more cautious and practical turn.

“The idea of vertical farming is all the rage right now,” says Michaeleen Doucleff at NPR’s The Salt. “Architects and engineers have come up with spectacular concepts for lofty buildings that could function as urban food centers of the future.”

Doucleff notes that in Sweden “they’re planning a 177-foot skyscraper to farm leafy greens at the edge of each floor. But so far, most vertical gardens that are up and running actually look more like large greenhouses than city towers. And many horticulturists don’t think sky-high farms in cities are practical.”

Sadly for those of us who dream of aforementioned and illustrated mega towers of amber waves of grain or banana jungles from fifty stories up, “the future of vertical farming…lies not in city skyscrapers, but rather in large warehouses located in the suburbs, where real estate and electricity are cheaper.”

Douclef points out that Barry Holtz and his company Caliber Biotherapeutics “have built a 150,000-square-foot ‘plant factory’ in Texas that is completely closed off from the outside world. They grow 2.2 million plants, stacked up 50 feet high, all underneath the magenta glow of blue and red LEDS.”

“A photon is a terrible thing to waste,” Holtz explains. “So we developed these lights to correctly match the photosynthesis needs of our plants. We get almost 20 percent faster growth rate and save a lot energy.”

The pay off, Holtz says, is the efficiency in water and electricity use.

“We’ve done some calculations, and we lose less water in one day than a KFC restaurant uses, because we recycle all of it.”

This method of efficiency is most essential as global fresh water availability per person continues to constrict, and is wonderful for singular projects, such as those demonstrated in Sweden and Texas. The trick will be translating the dynamics of these small projects onto a larger canvass as entire regions in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe contest with shifting climes heading into the 2020s.

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This “pinkhouse” at Caliber Biotherapeutics in Bryan, Texas, grows 2.2 million plants under the glow of blue and red LEDs.

“Oh my, no. You look fine.” (Run, children, run!)

“Have you ever peered over a ledge, so high up…that it made you nervous or dizzy…that it made you feel the urge to jump?” Michael Stevens at Vsauce explains this as the High Place Phenomenon, and this is just part of the issue when it comes to being creeped out or put ill-at-ease with Ambiguity. Those of us who swim the waters of science fiction know this as The Uncanny Valley. Observe:

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“Will you go with me to the prom? Let me babysit your children?” No. And no.

Why is Wall-e and R2-D2 just so darn cute, and yet this Japanese android makes us want to run screaming from the room in terror? As Michael Stevens explains, it all hails from “an adaptive human response to the ambiguity of threats from others.” Like Teddy Bears with teeth.

Watch this, uh, creepy explanation of ambiguity by the good folks at Vsauce.

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Joan Rivers? That makes sense.

The Next Independence Day? (New Pacific Rim Trailer)

Science ‘Splains Stuff

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“Okay, so what you want to do is this: You want to attack at the most vulnerable spot. Come at it from this angle and locate the automatic flip-flop override device here, which in turn will defuse the antigyroscopic preinterface thruster chamber, and the pneumatic centripetal antigravity shield deflectors, then you simply deactivate the axial gyro-presubinertia-photomegatronic oscillator that you see here.

Now…have you understood all this? Oh I see. It’s this bandage on my hand that troubles you? Well, I recently bought a cat, and it scratched me. What I didn’t know at the time is that the cat was used in a laboratory for the testing of radioactive isoptopes and other doo-whackees. Because of this, my DNA and that of the cat’s have combined. And no. I do not have special superhuman powers. That would be truly fantastic. What’s actually happening to me is what we in the scientific community refer to as a slow rotting death. No ability to jump and run with amazing dexterity and speed. Not even the flexibility to lick nearly every square inch of my own body. No. I am simply dying. Tumors mostly. Bleeding from the rectum. So…are there any questions–about the transduction I illuminated on earlier, and not about the rectal bleeding? Very well then. Get to your ships. And may the Force be with you.”

When Toy Makers Had No Timidity…

“The premise of the toy was that the cubes were actually monsters, which were hibernating in the Starburst-like forms, waiting to be unleashed by the mad scientist (the child). The cubes were placed inside the see-through plastic chamber, where they were heated; and the cubes, consisting of ‘memory plastic,’ would revert to their original shapes – a variety of weird-looking monsters and dinosaurs. They could be removed from the heat (using the tongs) and, after cooling, could be played with normally, as little plastic figures.

If they misbehaved, the child could turn them back into cubes by reheating them in the chamber (remember to use the tongs!), and then placing them inside a small metal chamber in the toy’s base, where a hand-cranked vice would take the now-softened monsters and squish them back into cube form – complete with the Mattel logo on one side.”

— T. Frye, Pop-Cult.com

Adam Savage Talks Blade Runner Special Effects

“Adam explains the secret of Blade Runner’s timeless special effects, it’s connection to Star Wars, and the different ways images can be composited on a single piece of film.” — Tested.com

Ollivanders? It’s by the Sharper Image…

“Okay, so like…do I choose one, or do they choose me?”

“It’ll work. I promise.” (Now hand me that atomic bomb…)

Not until the scientific community accepted plate tectonics in the late 50s and early 60s could this film have been made. In 1965 new sources of energy were actively sought. Naturally, of course, you can’t have a sci-fi disaster movie unless you introduce old Doc Washburn’s favorite bromide, The Atomic Bomb, to help things along. Perhaps the giant ants, 30 foot spiders, 50 foot women and incredible shrinking men never convinced them otherwise.

(Spoiler: This doesn’t end well for our planet.)

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