Thursday, September 18, 2008

Warp 9! Star Trek's totally for real!

Yes, we live in strange and wonderful times. Cats and dogs living together, soccer mom's for veep in the US and eclipses of the sun and moon. And warp drive! Got to love it. I'm a huge Star Trek TNG fan and have often wished I really lived in that society rather than our current one. Hanging out with Captain Picard would be a bonus, but it's just the general joy and scope and spaciness of it all that really gets me.

Anyway, it looks like warp drive is now not only for trekkies, but may one day be something for everyone:

In their scheme, in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, a starship could "warp" space so that it shrinks ahead of the vessel and expands behind it.

By pushing the departure point many light years backwards while simultaneously bringing distant stars and other destinations closer, the warp drive effectively transports the starship from place to place at faster-than-light speeds.

All this extraordinary feat requires, says the new study, is for scientists to harness a mysterious and poorly understood cosmic antigravity force, called dark energy.

Dark energy is thought responsible for speeding up the expansion rate of our universe as time moves on, just like it did after the Big Bang, when the universe expanded much faster than the speed of light for a very brief time.

This may come as a surprise since, according to relativity theory, matter cannot move through space faster than the speed of light, which is almost 300,000,000 metres per second. But that theory applies only to unwarped 'flat' space.

And there is no limit on the speed with which space itself can move: the spaceship can sit at rest in a small bubble of space that flows at "superluminal" - faster than light - velocities through normal space because the fabric of space and time itself (scientists refer to spacetime) is stretching.

In the scheme outlined by Dr Cleaver dark energy would be used to create the bubble: if dark energy can be made negative in front of the ship, then that patch of space would contract in response.

"Think of it like a surfer riding a wave," said Dr Cleaver. "The ship would be pushed by the spatial bubble and the bubble would be travelling faster than the speed of light."

The new warp drive work also draws on "string theory", which suggests the universe is made up of multiple dimensions. We are used to four dimensions - height, width, length and time but string theorists believe that there are a total of 10 dimensions and it is by changing the size of this 10th spatial dimension in front of the space ship that the Baylor researchers believe could alter the strength of the dark energy in such a manner to propel the ship faster than the speed of light.

They conclude by recommending that it would be "prudent to research this area further."

So ok, it won't happen soon. But just the thought of it makes me excited. Now I just need a holodeck and I'll be all happy!

The Hunt For Gollum

I've got to plug this movie. The trailer looks intriguing, the idea behind it likewise: to tell the story
of how Aragorn/Strider searched, and found, for the creature Gollum at Gandalf's insistance. It's an episode that is alluded to and mentioned in The Lord of the Rings, but we don't get to see it "first hand". Until now!

Take a look at the official website for this non-profit movie which will be released as a free download later this year. Since I know somebody who is on the production team, I can tell you they have and are still working very hard on this project. And no, none of them are getting paid. Rather they are blowing their own money to make the movie a reality. Also: orcs are not careful with props. Just so you know!

There's also a message board to discuss and ask questions about the movie.

Just judging by the trailer and the pictures: this movie looks great. I mean, look at that orc! I swear he looks right out of Peter Jackson's movies. I wish the movie-team the best of luck. Hopefully the release of the movie will bring them lots of positive attention and some well-paying jobs. Like, say, on that upcoming Hobbit movie for example...

All stills from the official site.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Asimov's Foundation Coming To The Big Screen?

Anyone's who has seen my list of favourite books knows I'm a fan of Isaac Asimov and his Foundation series. And now there's news that some old New Line people are going to produce a big screen version of the books.
The project marks the first undertaking for Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, who set up their own banner called Unique Features earlier this month after exiting New Line when the ailing studio was absorbed by its bigger corporate sibling Warner Bros. Unique aims to make two or three movies annually, with Warners handling marketing and distribution.
No word yet on cast, director or script writer.

I'm surprised it's taken this long to bring the books to the big screen. Sure, there will be big problems adapting the books. Some of the problems are touched upon in that Reuters story:

The politically inflected work, which features such characters as the prophetic Hari Seldon and a villain called the Mule, spans hundreds of years, essentially tracking the rise and fall of entire civilizations. Each book contains a new set of characters, which poses a multitude of challenges for a big-screen adaptation.

Additionally, Asimov's books tend to incorporate philosophical themes as much as action elements. Still, the very loose adaptation of his "I, Robot" collection of stories turned into a $340 million global hit for Fox in 2004. In 1999, Disney released the Chris Columbus film "Bicentennial Man," based on one of the author's short stories. That film grossed $94 million worldwide.

Now, I really really really hope they do a better job of sticking to Asimov's books than the makers of I, Robot. That was an entertaining little movie, but beyond some lip service to Asimov's "robot laws" there wasn't any Asimov in it. Too bad, since his robot stories would make excellent movies, even IF someone stuck to the actual written word...

One problem I can see with the Foundation movie/s is that people will think they rip off Lucas' Star Wars with all the Empire, emperor, galaxies, parsecs, rebellion etc stuff. When in fact Asimov was first out of the gate. Not that Lucas acknowledges that he owes that writer any debt. But whatever. I guess it could be said that they're all copying the Roman empire to some extent.

As for casting (always a fun thing to speculate on!), I've decided I want Bilbo, aka James McAvoy as the Mule. He's got the looks, the energy and the charisma imo. With some prostethics he'll be fantastic. And they need some kind of knock-off Harrison Ford for the role of Golan Trevize.

I'm happy the books have been picked up, but man, they better take the task seriously and make some damn good movies. I want spectacular FX and a better than great cast. No cheese please! Or at least nothing too smelly...

Lots more about Asimov and his books here.