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science fiction

em The Vast of Night /em Is Like a UFO Movie Directed by a Very Talented Alien


Orson Welles, who knew a thing or two about making movies, reportedly remarked after touring the RKO lot that it was "the biggest electric train set any boy ever had." And yet it is rare to see a feature film that communicates any of that delight, any of the sheer fun of playing around with the possibilities the medium offers. The Vast of Night, the debut feature from director Andrew Patterson and screenwriters James Montague and Craig W. Sanger, arriving on Amazon Prime on May 29, is one of the exceptions: Every scene has been staged and shot with intelligence, intent, inventiveness, and a sense of play. To watch it is to get excited about the billions of different ways you can combine sound and moving images to tell a story. That is not to say that you'll necessarily be astounded by the story The Vast of Night is telling.

Japan extends timeline for approving Fujifilm's Avigan drug for COVID-19

The Japan Times

The government has decided to postpone approving Fujifilm Holdings Corp.'s Avigan drug for the treatment of COVID-19 until June or later, health minister Katsunobu Kato said Tuesday. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had said earlier this month he hoped the drug, known generically as favipiravir, would be approved some time in May if its efficacy and safety could be confirmed. But Kato told a news conference Tuesday that clinical tests on the drug would continue into next month or beyond, while noting that there was no change in the government's policy of approving the drug swiftly once its effectiveness is confirmed. Fujifilm shares slumped last week after it was reported that an interim study showed no clear evidence of efficacy for Avigan in COVID-19 cases. Researchers at Fujita Health University, which is conducting a clinical trial on the drug, said in a statement the interim study was done to ensure the scientific validity of the trial, not to determine the efficacy of the drug.

Coronavirus: Author Neil Gaiman's 11,000-mile lockdown trip to Scottish isle

BBC News

Author Neil Gaiman has admitted breaking Scotland's lockdown rules by travelling 11,000 miles from New Zealand to his holiday home on Skye. The Good Omens and American Gods writer left his wife and son in Auckland so he could "isolate" at his island retreat. He wrote on his online bog: "Hullo from Scotland, where I am in rural lockdown on my own." The science fiction and fantasy author has since been criticised for "endangering" local people". The SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford, who is the MP for the island, told the Sunday Times the author's journey was unacceptable. He said: "What is it about people, when they know we are in the middle of lockdown that they think they can come here from the other side of the planet, in turn endangering local people from exposure to this infection that they could have picked up at any step of the way?" Mr Gaiman - whose main family home is in Woodstock in the USA - has owned the house on Skye for more than 10 years. The English-born author wrote on his blog that until two weeks ago he had been living in New Zealand with his wife, the singer Amanda Palmer, and their four-year-old son. He said the couple agreed "that we needed to give each other some space". The 59-year-old said he flew "masked and gloved, from empty Auckland airport" to Los Angeles. He then caught a British Airways flight to London before borrowing a friend's car and heading for Skye. "I drove north, on empty motorways and then on empty roads, and got in about midnight, and I've been here ever since," he said. "I needed to be somewhere I could talk to people in the UK while they and I were awake, not just before breakfast and after dinner.

On Starships, Humans Will Not Be Pulling the Trigger


In Max Barry's new novel Providence, a four-person crew sets out into deep space to battle aliens. It's a scenario that recalls many classic science fiction novels such as Starship Troopers and Ender's Game. "It was a chance to revisit some of the exciting sci-fi I'd enjoyed as a kid, but do it with a bit more of a modern take on it," Barry says in Episode 414 of the Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast. The crew soon discovers that their real purpose is to maintain public support for the mission back home while the ship's AI does the actual fighting. It's Barry's response to movies like those in the Star Wars franchise, which emphasize the skill of human pilots.

A futurist on COVID-19 and business: Pandora's box is now open


In the surreal past few months, P.W. Singer has watched the concept for his new science fiction thriller come to life. Singer is an author, an expert on 21st-century warfare at New America and, lately more than ever, a consultant helping companies in tech and other industries grapple with the repercussions of global unrest. His soon-to-be-released novel about social upheaval, automation and artificial intelligence, "Burn-in," is named after the practice of pushing a new technology to the breaking point. But Singer didn't expect the future of technology to arrive as fast as it has amid the fallout from COVID-19, forcing tech companies, governments and people everywhere to adapt on the fly. Get what matters in tech, in your inbox every morning. "Has Pandora ever been put back in a box?" Singer asked during a recent phone interview from his home near Washington, D.C. "Roles and applications that would have previously seen a more gradual transition over the course of years have been pushed forward in a matter of weeks."

The video chat that existed in the 1870s

National Geographic

Since the invention of the telephone and even before we had it in real life, video chatting has appeared in science fiction. See how this once elusive technology was commonplace in illustrations, television, and movies for over a century. You hear your phone ring. You look down, and what do you see? Ah. After you hit decline, think about how commonplace video chat's become.

'Spaceship Earth' revisits controversial Biosphere experiment

Boston Herald

Biosphere 2 was touted as a new Noah's Ark, a new Garden of Eden, a way to test how humans might colonize other worlds and study the effects of greenhouse gasses on Biosphere 1 -- aka the Earth. Eight carefully vetted and uniquely skilled "Biospherians" would enter the gleaming glass and steel vivarium in the desert in Oracle, Ariz., (that's right) in 1991 and spend two years inside the sealed environment with plants and animals, even a coral reef, collected from all over the world and try to sustain themselves with what they could harvest inside. It was a real-life version of the prophetic 1972 science-fiction film "Silent Running" from director Douglas Trumbull ("2001: A Space Odyssey") and co-writers Michael Cimino ("Heaven's Gate") and Steve Bochco (TV's "Hill Street Blues"). But were the "Biospherians" really scientists? Or were they the offshoot of a cult-like group that had started life as a pseudo-theater collective in hippie-era San Francisco led by a "genius" named John Allen, who is described by one enthusiastic at first follower as a "mind musician"?

Cancel NASA: Coronavirus is now America's final frontier


I have always been in love with space travel. I was born in the summer of 1969 when a man set foot on the Moon. I grew up a lover of Star Trek, of Star Wars, of Battlestar Galactica, of 2001: A Space Odyssey, of all forms of science fiction in which humankind leaves the bonds of terra firma and travels into the void, to the planets, to the stars. Rockets, space stations, habitats, and bases on the moons and planets intrigued me as a child, and also throughout my entire adult life. So much that I have spent part of my professional career as a writer addressing our national space program, including a look back at the technologies that enabled the Apollo landings, and interviewing people who made it possible.

RoboCop is coming to 'Mortal Kombat 11' on May 26th


NetherRealm still isn't done bringing pop culture icons to Mortal Kombat 11. Its Aftermath DLC arrives on May 26th with not only a new story (more on that in a moment) and greater roles for fighters like Fujin, Nightwolf, Shang Tsung and Sheeva, but the addition of... RoboCop. Yes, you can wield everyone's favorite police officer turned cyborg and dish out a very rough form of justice. The team even worked with Peter Weller to recreate his character. Aftermath is notable as the first add-on for the game that continues the core storyline.

Baseball and Sci-Fi Make Quite the Team


Science fiction author Rick Wilber is best known for writing about baseball, including a series of alternate history stories about real-life catcher-turned-spy Moe Berg. Wilber's preoccupation with the game is understandable given his upbringing. "My father was a major league baseball player," Wilber says in Episode 412 of the Geek's Guide to the Galaxy podcast. "Then he was a minor league manager--AAA manager--for many years. So I grew up in dugouts and clubhouses of major league teams through the 1950s into the '60s."