AI

Which Movies Get Artificial Intelligence Right? 236

sciencehabit writes: Hollywood has been tackling Artificial Intelligence for decades, from Blade Runner to Ex Machina. But how realistic are these depictions? Science asked a panel of AI experts to weigh in on 10 major AI movies — what they get right, and what they get horribly wrong. It also ranks the movies from least to most realistic. Films getting low marks include Chappie, Blade Runner, and A.I.. High marks: Bicentennial Man, Her, and 2001: a Space Odyssey.
Sci-Fi

Frank Herbert's Dune, 50 Years On 234

An anonymous reader writes: This October will be the 50th anniversary of Frank Herbert's massively popular and influential sci-fi novel Dune. The Guardian has written a piece examining its effects on the world at large, and how the book remains relevant even now. Quoting: 'Books read differently as the world reforms itself around them, and the Dune of 2015 has geopolitical echoes that it didn't in 1965, before the oil crisis and 9/11. ... As Paul's destiny becomes clear to him, he begins to have visions 'of fanatic legions following the green and black banner of the Atreides, pillaging and burning across the universe in the name of their prophet Muad'Dib.' If Paul accepts this future, he will be responsible for 'the jihad's bloody swords,' unleashing a nomad war machine that will up-end the corrupt and oppressive rule of the emperor Shaddam IV (good) but will kill untold billions (not so good) in the process. In 2015, the story of a white prophet leading a blue-eyed brown-skinned horde of jihadis against a ruler called Shaddam produces a weird funhouse mirror effect, as if someone has jumbled up recent history and stuck the pieces back together in a different order."
Movies

Adam Nimoy "For the Love of Spock" Documentary On KickStarter 43

New submitter Yohannon writes: In November of 2014, Adam Nimoy, son of Leonard, began talking with his father about creating a documentary regarding the late actor's most iconic role for potential release on the 50th anniversary of the premier of Star Trek. With the actor sadly passing in late February, the project has become more of a celebration of Leonard Nimoy's life as a whole. To fund the project, Adam has turned to KickStarter to raise the relatively modest 600 thousand dollars (US) to complete the documentary.

[Full disclosure: I am the husband of one of the models Nimoy used for his "Full Body Project", and she might be interviewed as a part of the documentary; However, cutting room floors being what they are, even virtually, that's not a guarantee she would actually be IN the doc.]
Sci-Fi

2014 Nebula Award Winners Announced 52

Dave Knott writes: The winners of the 2014 Nebula awards (presented 2015) have been announced. The awards are voted on by members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and (along with the Hugos) are considered to be one of the two most prestigious awards in science fiction. This year's winners are:

Best Novel: Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer
Best Novella: Yesterday's Kin, Nancy Kress
Best Novelette: "A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai'i", Alaya Dawn Johnson
Best Short Story: "Jackalope Wives", Ursula Vernon
Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation: Guardians of the Galaxy, directed by James Gunn
Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy: Love Is the Drug, Alaya Dawn Johnson
2015 Damon Knight Grand Master Award: Larry Niven
Solstice Award: Joanna Russ (posthumous), Stanley Schmidt
Kevin O'Donnell Jr. Service Award: Jeffry Dwight
Sci-Fi

Star Trek's Nichelle Nichols Hospitalised In LA After Stroke 40

WheezyJoe writes: The Register tells us that Nichelle Nichols, who played the lovely Lt. Uhura, communications officer of the original starship Enterprise (original series and animated series), has been hospitalized after a mild stroke. She is reported to have undergone a CAT scan and MRI, and was awake and eating as of Thursday evening. Nichols has shown minor signs of loss of mobility but otherwise no signs of paralysis.
Movies

Tron 3 Is Cancelled 205

Dave Knott writes: Tron 3 won't be coming to a theater near you. Disney had been developing a sequel to Tron:Legacy since the movie, made for $170 million, grossed $400 million worldwide. But now they have chosen not to move forward with a third installment in the sci-fi series, sources say. "Disney has had strong success with its live-action properties recently, including Maleficent and this year's Cinderella, which earned $527.4 million worldwide. But it recently had a stumble with the $180 million live-action film Tomorrowland, which underperformed at the box office this past weekend with a $33 million U.S. debut."
AI

What AI Experts Think About the Existential Risk of AI 421

DaveS7 writes: There's been no shortage of high profile people weighing in on the subject of AI lately. We've heard warnings from Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Stephen Hawking while Woz seems to have a more ambivalent opinion on the subject. The Epoch Times has compiled a list of academics in the field of AI research who are offering their own opinions. From the article: "A 2014 survey conducted by Vincent Müller and Nick Bostrom of 170 of the leading experts in the field found that a full 18 percent believe that if a machine super-intelligence did emerge, it would unleash an 'existential catastrophe' on humanity. A further 13 percent said that advanced AI would be a net negative for humans, and only a slight majority said it would be a net positive."
Sci-Fi

The Hoverboard Flies Closer To Reality 81

Dave Knott writes: Fans of 1980s cinema were disappointed when the year 2015 arrived without a practical version Marty McFly's hoverboard. Now, a Montréal-based man has brought it closer to reality by setting a new record for longest "flight" by hoverboard. In a filmed test recognized by the Guiness Book of World Records, Catalin Alexandru Duru pilots his somewhat cumbersome looking rig for 250 meters — five times the previous record — at a height of five meters above Quebec's Lake Ouareau. Duru and his business partner "hope to have a new prototype finished by the end of the year and then have hoverboards available for purchase across the country. He wouldn't say how much the prototype cost to build, but said that the first generation of the machine will likely be 'quite expensive.'" "This thing is still quite dangerous," he added, explaining that the pilot uses only his or her feet to fly the contraption. The commercial version's software will limit it to flying below a height of about one-and-a-half meters above the ground.
Sci-Fi

Secret Files Reveal UK Police Feared That Trekkies Could Turn On Society 214

An anonymous reader writes: Scotland Yard was worried that fans of shows like the X Files and Star Trek might run amok during the Millennium according to secret files. The file, called UFO New Religious Movements (NRMs) And The Millennium, reveals that anti-terrorism experts were also concerned about the brain-washing effect of Dark Skies, Roswell, Millennium and The Lawnmower Man on viewers. According to the Telegraph: "The secret briefing note was obtained from the Met under the Freedom of Information Act by Sheffield-based British X-Files expert Dr Dave Clarke while researching a new book, How UFOs Conquered the World. Dr Clarke, who teaches investigative journalism at Sheffield Hallam University, said: 'The documents show the police and security services were concerned about the export of some new religious movements concerning UFOs and aliens from the USA in the aftermath of the mass suicide by followers of the Heaven's Gate.'"
Sci-Fi

On the Taxonomy of Sci-Fi Spaceships 90

An anonymous reader writes: Jeff Venancio has done some research that's perfect reading for a lazy Saturday afternoon: figuring out a coherent taxonomy for sci-fi spaceships. If you're a sci-fi fan, you've doubtless heard or read references to a particular starship's "class" fairly often. There are flagships and capital ships, cruisers and corvettes, battleships and destroyers. But what does that all mean? Well, there's not always consistency, but a lot of it comes from Earth's naval history. "The word 'corvette' comes from the Dutch word corf, which means 'small ship,' and indeed corvettes are historically the smallest class of rated warship (a rating system used by the British Royal Navy in the sailing age, basically referring to the amount of men/guns on the vessel and its relative size; corvettes were of the sixth and smallest rate). ... They were usually used for escorting convoys and patrolling waters, especially in places where larger ships would be unnecessary."

Venancio takes the historical context for each ship type and then explains how it's been adapted for a sci-context. "Corvettes might be outfitted to have some sort of stealth or cloaking system for reconnaissance or spec ops missions; naturally it would be easier to cloak a smaller ship than a larger one (though plenty of examples of large stealth ships exist). In some series they are likely to be diplomatic vessels due to their small size and speed, particularly seen in Star Wars, and can commonly act as blockade runners (again; their small size and speed makes them ideal for slipping through a blockade, where a larger ship presents more of a target)."
Sci-Fi

Actress Grace Lee Whitney, Star Trek's Yeoman Janice Rand, Has Died 62

SternisheFan writes: Grace Lee Whitney, the actress who played Yeoman Janice Rand on "Star Trek: The Original Series," reportedly died Friday in her home in Coarsegold, California. No cause of death has been reported. She was 85. The versatile actress and vocalist was born Mary Ann Chase in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1930. She was adopted by the Whitney family, and as a teenager, began her career in entertainment as a singer and dancer. She eventually became interested in acting and in 1966, clinched a role as Yeoman Janice Rand, a personal assistant to William Shatner's Captain James T. Kirk in the first season of the original "Star Trek" TV series.
Sci-Fi

Astronaut Snaps Epic Star Trek Selfie In Space 143

mpicpp writes with this story about astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti's tribute to a Star Trek icon. "Captain Kathryn Janeway led the USS Voyager through many harrowing lost-in-space adventures. She was the first female Starfleet captain to take the lead role in a 'Trek' series. Janeway is fictional, but she is an inspiration to many women interested in space. European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, the first Italian woman in space, took a moment to celebrate Captain Janeway at around 250 miles above Earth. Cristoforetti is currently aboard the International Space Station. She tweeted a selfie on April 17 while dressed in a Star Trek: Voyager-style red and black uniform with a purple turtleneck. The image shows her pointing a thumb at SpaceX's Dragon supply capsule."
Television

StarTalk TV Show With Neil DeGrasse Tyson Starts Monday 76

An anonymous reader writes: Neil DeGrasse Tyson of StarTalk Radio and Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey has a TV show starting on Monday, April 20, at 11 p.m. ET/10 p.m. CT on NatGeo. Based on Dr. Tyson's prominent podcast of the same name, the hour-long, weekly series infuses pop culture with science, while bringing together comedians and celebrities to delve into a wide range of topics. Each week, in a private interview, Dr. Tyson explores all the ways science and technology have influenced the lives and livelihoods of his guests, whatever their background.
Books

Hugo Awards Turn (Even More) Political 587

An anonymous reader writes Last year, the Hugo Awards went to mostly minorities and women. In response, a fan group decided to fight back against what they saw as a liberal attack on their medium. It appears that they have succeeded, as the 2015 nominees are predominantly chosen by a group called "Sad Puppies. Now a counter-counter group is trying to ensure that no one wins any Hugo awards in any category except Best Novel.
Sci-Fi

We're In a Golden Age of Star Trek Webseries Right Now 71

New submitter DakotaSmith writes: io9 has an article explaining why We're Living In The Golden Age Of Star Trek Webseries Right Now. If you're a true geek, you probably already know about Star Trek Continues and Star Trek: Phase II. (If you're a true geek and you don't know about them, run — do not walk, run — to watch "Lolani." Your brain— and more importantly, your heart — will love you for the rest of your life.)

But there's more to it than that. A lot more. How about the years'-long wait for Act IV of Starship Exeter : "The Tressaurian Intersection"? Or Yorktown: "A Time to Heal" — an attempt to resurrect an aborted fan film from 1978 starring George Takei? For fans of old-school Star Trek (the ones who pre-date "Trekker" and wear "Trekkie" as a badge of honor), not since 1969 has there been a better time to watch Star Trek: The Original Series.

(Oh, and there's plenty content out there for you "Trekkers" and NextGen-era fans. It all varies in quality, but it doesn't take much effort to find them. This is truly a Golden Age. Recognize it and enjoy it while it lasts.)
Sci-Fi

The X-Files To Return 166

An anonymous reader writes: Fox announced today that The X-Files will return with six new episodes. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson will both reprise their roles as Mulder and Scully, respectively, and show creator Chris Carter will return as well. Production begins this summer, but air dates are not yet known. The X-Files originally started in 1993 and ran for 9 seasons, spawning two feature films and a short-lived spinoff called The Lone Gunmen. It won 16 Emmy awards and 5 Golden Globe awards before critical reception soured over the last few seasons. Carter said, "I think of it as a 13-year commercial break. The good news is the world has only gotten that much stranger, a perfect time to tell these six stories."
Medicine

First Prototype of a Working Tricorder Unveiled At SXSW 61

the_newsbeagle writes The $10 million Tricorder X-prize is getting to the "put up or shut up" stage: The 10 finalists must turn in their working devices on June 1st for consumer testing. At SXSW last week, the finalist team Cloud DX showed off its prototype, which includes a wearable collar, a base station, a blood-testing stick, and a scanning wand. From the article: "The XPrize is partnering with the medical center at the University of California, San Diego on that consumer testing, since it requires recruiting more than 400 people with a variety of medical conditions. Grant Campany, director of the Tricorder XPrize, said he’s looking forward to getting those devices into real patients hands. 'This will be a practical demonstration of what the future of medicine will be like,' said Campany at that same SXSW talk, 'so we can scale it up after competition.'"
Mars

Kim Stanley Robinson Says Colonizing Mars Won't Be As Easy As He Thought 228

An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from io9: Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy filled us all with hope that we could terraform Mars in the 21st century, with its plausible description of terraforming processes. But now, in the face of what we've learned about Mars in the past 20 years, he no longer thinks it'll be that easy. Talking to SETI's Blog Picture Science podcast, Robinson explains that his ideas about terraforming Mars, back in the 1990s, were based on three assumptions that have been called into question or disproved:

1) Mars doesn't have any life on it at all. And now, it's looking more likely that there could be bacteria living beneath the surface. 2) There would be enough of the chemical compounds we need to survive. 3) There's nothing poisonous to us on the surface. In fact, the surface is covered with perchlorates, which are highly toxic to humans, and the original Viking mission did not detect these. "It's no longer a simple matter," Robinson says. "It's possible that we could occupy, inhabit and terraform Mars. But it's probably going to take a lot longer than I described in my books."