Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Wedding Drone Groom Hit

I think it was at Norweson that I attended a session on the private use of drones.  It’s fairly easy to attach a camera.  This one was used for wedding photos, with mixed results. 

I think they should get a set of free pictures.  What do you think? 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Movie Review: Europa Report

Putting the science back in science fiction movies.  That’s Europa Report

In the near future, water has been discovered on Europa, a moon of Jupiter.  A privately-financed mission goes to investigate and hopefully find life.  But before they even reach their goal, accidents happen, and communications are cut off.  The result is “found footage” which people on the ground present to us with some explanation, but they mostly let the footage speak for itself. 

Space is dangerous.  As the footage plays out, it becomes obvious someone has died, and the rest puzzle about how to break the news.  That sets us up for the spacewalk:  This is no common walk on a shuttle mission.  Simple repair work turns treacherous, and it’s like a blow to the gut to see how fragile human life is when trapped in spacesuits in the vacuum of space millions of miles from any help. 

The team lands safely on the ice of Europa, barely.  Having missed their landing spot with the most promising place to find liquid water beneath, Dr. Katya Petrovna (Karolina Wydra) is determined to walk across the ice and work her experiments.  Out of direct line of sight from their craft, the radiation from Jupiter is growing.  She is convinced if she goes a little farther, she may find what their mission is all about—evidence of life.  Will she risk it? 

Europa Report is a lean, spare movie about space exploration.  This is no Star Trek or Star Wars, where people can lounge around inside their spaceships.  And it is scientifically accurate, with the science an integral part of the plot, instead of being used as a form of magic when a crisis happens.  To the contrary, the science causes the crises:  Space is filled with radiation.  Metal freezes to metal in space.  Hydrazine is corrosive.  You have to go back to 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Andromeda Strain for a similar movie, but this is done with modern filmmaking panache. 

The entire cast is outstanding, especially Sharlto Copley as Corrigan, the man who constantly sends messages to his little boy about this great adventure.  And we’re right with Wydra as Dr. Petrovna as she risks it all for scientific discovery.  And Anamaria Marinca as Rosa Dasque shows great determination as the astronaut who explains the footage, giving us hope that some of them make it back.  But the universe cares little about adventure, science, or determination.  It can run these over without looking back.  In the end, the movie poses the question, “Compared to the breadth of knowledge yet to be known, what does your life actually matter?” 

This is easily the best science fiction movie so far this year, especially when compared to overblown entries with gigantic budgets and forgettable characters and stories.   

Friday, August 16, 2013

NASA Map of Killer Asteroids

NASA has released its map of 1,400 killer asteroids—that is, asteroids that could possibly strike the Earth. 


In reality, none of these are on a path to strike the Earth.  They pass somewhat close, and they would have to have their orbits disturbed to hit us. 

It’s actually kind of pretty.  It reminds me of the Spirograph designs I used to make as a child. 

photo by Kannanshanmugam

Thursday, August 8, 2013

H.G. Wells and Copyright

When reimagining a novel, such as my The War of theWorlds and Fairies, it’s important to make sure the older work is copyright free.  This is true even though over 95% of the words are mine, and very few words are from the original. Knowing that a novel was written before 1900 is not enough.  Since I didn’t want to do all the work of writing a novel and then have it turn out to be illegal, I consulted the H.G. Wells Society in England. 

Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science
H.G. Wells around 1890 

They are authoritative, and they say that any works of Wells printed before December 31, 1922 is public domain in the U.S.  The War of the Worlds was published in 1898, so it’s free to use. 

(In the United Kingdom, his works remain under copyright until December 31, 2016, but it would take incredible speed to have my work accepted, published, and then distributed in the U.K. before then, so that’s not a problem.) 

While on this subject, I believed the rumor that Star Trek: The Next Generation got in big trouble for using the Sherlock Holmes characters without permission.  The Arthur Conan Doyle estate still owns the rights until 2023, so don’t touch. 

public domain
Yes, Arthur Conan Doyle looked like Watson
but that is another story

But the wacko website io9 has revealed there was no trouble.  Paramount had permission from the Conan Doyle estate, for lotsa lotsa money. 

Back to H.G. Wells.  The only novel of his published after 1922 that I have some knowledge of is Things to Come.  I never read the book, but I watched the movie that was made back in 1936.  It predicted a Second World War that would last for decades and leave the world in a kind of feudalism.  Then it would be up to the scientists to lead us to a kind of utopia.  It’s the sort of movie whose predictions of the future were amazingly wrong, and the special effects were not special, but which still fascinates. 

The movie is in glorious black and white


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