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Medicine

Will the High-Tech Cities of the Future Be Utterly Lonely? (theweek.com) 108

adeelarshad82 writes from a report via The Week: The prospect of cities becoming sentient is "fast becoming the new reality," according to one paper. Take Tel Aviv for example, where everyone over the age of 13 can receive personalized data, such as traffic information, and can access free municipal Wi-Fi in 80 public zones. But in a future where robots sound and objects look increasingly sentient, we might be less inclined to seek out behaviors to abate our loneliness. Indeed, one recent study titled "Products as pals" finds that exposure to or interaction with anthropomorphic products -- which have characteristics of being alive -- partially satisfy our social needs, which means the human-like robots of tomorrow could kill our dwindling urge to be around other humans.
Sci-Fi

Steve Wozniak Predicts The Future (usatoday.com) 198

USA Today asked Steve Wozniak to predict what the world will look like in 2075 -- one hundred years after the founding of Apple. An anonymous reader writes: "He's convinced Apple, Google and Facebook will be bigger in 2075," according to the article -- just like IBM, which endured long past its founding in 1911. Pointing to Apple's $246.1 billion in cash and marketable securities, Wozniak says Apple "can invest in anything. It would be ridiculous to not expect them to be around... The same goes for Google and Facebook."

Woz predicted portable laptops back in 1982, and now says that by 2075, we could also see new cities built from scratch in the deserts, with people wearing special suits to protect them from the heat. AI will be ubiquitous in all cities, as consumers interact with smart walls to communicate -- and to shop -- while home medical devices will allow self-diagnosis and doctor-free prescriptions. And according to the article, Woz "is convinced a colony will exist on the Red Planet. Echoing the sentiments of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, whose Blue Origin start-up has designs on traveling to Mars, Wozniak envisions Earth zoned for residential use and Mars for heavy industry." (Though he doesn't have high hopes that we'll ever meet aliens.)

Woz is promoting the Silicon Valley Comic Con next weekend. (Not coincidentally, its theme is "The Future of Humanity: Where Will We Be in 2075?") During the interview, Woz pointed at a colleague's iPhone, smiled broadly and said it "shows you how exciting the future can be."
Movies

17 Years Later, A New Season Of MST3K Premiers On Netflix 84

Launched in 1988, Mystery Science Theater 3000 ran for ten seasons on Comedy Central and The Sci-Fi Channel, with its last episode airing in August of 1999. But now Slashdot reader #5844 ewhac writes: 17 years later, Season 11 of MST3K debuted Friday on Netflix. A full season has been produced, including a stretch-goal Christmas special, funded by the highest-earning Kickstarter Film & Video campaign to date ($5.76 million) -- thousands of contributors are listed in the show's end credits, spread across all fourteen episodes.

The show remains true to its low-budget roots, relying almost exclusively on models and practical effects, including a very inventive new door sequence. The backstory for the new season is very swiftly established in the opening to Experiment 1101, as Jonah Heston (played by co-producer Jonah Ray) is abducted by the evil mad scientist Kinga Forrester (Felicia Day) and her sidekick Max a/k/a TV's son of TV's Frank (Patton Oswalt). Together with Gypsy (Rebecca Hanson), Tom Servo (Baron Vaughn), and Crow (Hampton Yount), Jonah quips his way through a barrage of bad movies, including Reptilicus, Starcrash, The Loves of Hercules, and The Christmas That Almost Wasn't.

In 2008 MST3K's original creator Joel Hodgson answered questions from Slashdot's readers, and said he was fascinated by the popularity of Creative Commons licenses. "For most of the public domain titles that we've used, it's a matter of the garbage not being taken out. Basically, they forgot to apply for a copyright so it in fact lapsed into the public domain."
Movies

Science Fiction Actor Bill Paxton Dies At Age 61 (ew.com) 142

Bill Paxton died Saturday at the age of 61 after complications from surgery. An anonymous reader remembers Paxton's work with some YouTube clips: Bill Paxton starred in a surprising number of cult science fiction favorites. After playing both the blue-haired punk rocker who confronts The Terminator and the mean older brother in John Hughes' nerd comedy Weird Science, Paxton was cast as private Hudson in Aliens, the soldier who at one point wails "Game over, man!" Sigourney Weaver called his performance "brilliant," while James Cameron said Paxton's character released some of the audience's tension. [For Hudson's climactic final showdown with the aliens] "Bill made up different dialogue on every take, and he was yelling it over a machine gun, so none of it actually recorded."

Paxton also appeared in Predator 2, Apollo 13, Twister, and James Cameron's Titanic. Most recently he provided the voice of the executive Kahn in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and had a recurring role as Hydra agent John Garrett in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Sci-Fi

Lost Winston Churchill Essay Reveals His Thoughts On Alien Life (theverge.com) 187

"A newly discovered essay by Winston Churchill shows that the British statesman gave a lot of thought to the existential question that has inspired years of scientific research and blockbuster movies: are we alone in the University?" reports The Verge. "The essay was drafted in the 1930s, but unearthed in a museum in Missouri last year." Astrophysicist Mario Livio was the first scientist to analyze the article and has published his comments in the journal Nature. The Verge reports: Livio was "stunned" when he first saw the unpublished, 11-page essay on the existence of alien life, he tells The Verge. The astrophysicist was visiting Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, for a talk last year, when he was approached by Timothy Riley, the director of Fulton's US National Churchill Museum. Riley showed him the essay, titled "Are We Alone in the Universe?" In the essay, Churchill reasons that we can't possibly be alone in the Universe -- and that many other Suns will likely have many other planets that could harbor life. Because of how enormously distant these extrasolar planets are, we may never know if they "house living creatures, or even plants," Churchill concludes. He wrote this decades before exoplanets were discovered in the 1990s; hundreds have since been detected. What's impressive about the essay is the way Churchill approaches the existential and scientific question of whether life exists on other planets, Livio says. Churchill's reasoning mirrors extremely well the way scientists think about this problem today. The British leader also talks about several theories that still guide the search for alien life, Livio says. For example, he notes that water is the key ingredient for life on Earth, and so finding water on other planets could mean finding life there. Churchill also notes that life can only survive in regions "between a few degrees of frost and the boiling point of water" -- what today we call the habitable zone, the region around a star that is neither too hot or too cold, so that liquid water may exist on the planet's surface.
Movies

Actor John Hurt Dies At Age 77 (hollywoodreporter.com) 50

Slashdot reader necro81 writes: A fantastic chameleon of the stage and screen has died. Sir John Hurt passed away at age 77. Slashdot readers should recognize him as the first person to have a xenomorph burst from his chest in the original Alien (a scene he later parodied in Spaceballs ). Others may recall he played the downtrodden protagonist Winston Smith in the film adaption of 1984 , then later played the tyrannical High Chancellor in V for Vendetta . Also: the titular character in The Elephant Man, Caligula in I, Claudius, Ollivander in the Harry Potter films and, more recently, Gilliam in Snowpiercer. But his career spanned decades and genres, and our world is a bit meeker and colorless without him.
Hurt also appeared as the War Doctor in five episodes of the new Doctor Who series, and provided the voice of Aragorn in Ralph Bakshi's 1978 adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.
Books

George Orwell's '1984' Tops Amazon's Bestseller List (theguardian.com) 659

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Sales of George Orwell's dystopian drama 1984 have soared after Kellyanne Conway, adviser to the reality-TV-star-turned-president, Donald Trump, used the phrase "alternative facts" in an interview. As of Tuesday, the book was the sixth best-selling book on Amazon. Comparisons were made with the term "newspeak" used in the 1949 novel, which was used to signal a fictional language that aims at eliminating personal thought and also "doublethink." In the book Orwell writes that it "means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them." The connection was initially made on CNN's Reliable Sources. "Alternative facts is a George Orwell phrase," said Washington Post reporter Karen Tumulty. Conway's use of the term was in reference to White House press secretary Sean Spicer's comments about last week's inauguration attracting "the largest audience ever". Her interview was widely criticized and she was sub-tweeted by Merriam-Webster dictionary with a definition of the word fact. In 1984, a superstate wields extreme control over the people and persecutes any form of independent thought. UPDATE 1/24/17 6:56PM PST: Orwell's dystopian novel is now the #1 Best Seller in Books on Amazon.
NASA

NASA Names an Asteroid After 'Star Trek' Actor Wil Wheaton (cnet.com) 126

"An asteroid going boldly through the universe now carries a new name that honors actor Will Wheaton, who played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation," reports CNET. An anonymous reader quotes their article. The announcement showed up on Twitter Wednesday from NASA's Ron Baalke, who describes himself as a "space explorer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory". Wheaton is in good company with other Star Trek alumni. Asteroid 7307 Takei is named for Sulu actor George Takei and 68410 Nichols gets its name from Nichelle Nichols, who played Uhura. There's also asteroid 4659 Roddenberry for Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry.
"Today, I found out that I kind of get to be in space and live right here on Earth..." Wheaton wrote on his blog Wednesday, describing his life-long interest in space exploration. "As soon as it gets dark here, I'm going to walk out into my backyard, look up into the sky, just a little above Sirius, and know that, even though I can't see it with my naked eye, it's out there, and it's named after me."
Movies

Star Trek Discovery Gets Delayed Again As Spock's Father Is Cast (hollywoodreporter.com) 164

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Hollywood Reporter: CBS All Access' Star Trek: Discovery has been delayed again as the series continues casting. The revival for the streaming platform has cast James Frain as Spock's father, producer CBS Television Studios announced Wednesday, as sources confirm that the show's planned May debut has been pushed. "Production on Star Trek: Discovery begins next week. We love the cast, the scripts and are excited about the world the producers have created," reps for CBS All Access said in a statement. "This is an ambitious project; we will be flexible on a launch date if it's best for the show. We've said from the beginning it's more important to do this right than to do it fast. There is also added flexibility presenting on CBS All Access, which isn't beholden to seasonal premieres or launch windows." Frain will play Sarek, the famed father of Spock who was first introduced in the original Star Trek and who has made several appearances throughout the franchise's many incarnations over the past five decades. The CBS All Access show features the franchise's Enterprise, now known as the U.S.S. Discovery. The drama will introduce new characters seeking new worlds and civilizations while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966. Star Trek: Discovery was originally scheduled to debut in January and was pushed back to May, with The Good Wife spinoff The Good Fight now set to be the first scripted offering on CBS All Access, the network's VOD platform. This marks the second delay for the series, which saw former showrunner Bryan Fuller step down to focus on his Starz drama American Gods.
Government

Chile's Goverment Announces Unexplainable 'UFO' Footage (yahoo.com) 124

An anonymous reader quotes Yahoo News:The report from an alleged UFO sighting by the Chilean military over two years ago has just been declassified, leaving experts completely stumped. The Chilean government agency which investigates UFOs, the CEFAA, reports that a naval helicopter was carrying out a routine daylight coastal patrol in November 2014 when the camera operator noticed an unidentified flying object ahead...flying horizontally and at a steady speed similar to that of the helicopter. The mysterious object could be seen with the naked eye but couldn't be detected with the helicopter's radar, ground radar stations or air traffic controllers. Authorities ruled out that it was an aircraft as no craft had been authorized to fly in the area.
In 2014 the CIA admitted their tests of a high-altitude U-2 reconnaissance aircraft between 1954 and 1972 coincided with a spike in UFO reports. Could this be another new military aircraft that's getting its first tests?
Books

'Watership Down' Author Richard Adams Died On Christmas Eve At Age 96 (theguardian.com) 46

Initially rejected by several publishers, "Watership Down" (1972) went on to become one of the best-selling fantasy books of all time. Last Saturday the book's author died peacefully at the age of 96. Long-time Slashdot reader haruchai remembers some of the author's other books: In addition to his much-beloved story about anthropomorphic rabbits, Adams penned two fantasy books set in the fictional Beklan Empire, first Shardik (1974) about a hunter pursuing a giant bear he believes to be imbued with divine power, and Maia (1984), a peasant girl sold into slavery who becomes entangled in a war between neighboring countries.
Adams also wrote a collection of short stories called "Tales From Watership Down" in 1996, and the original "Watership Down" was also made into a movie and an animated TV series. In announcing his death, Richard's family also included a quote from the original "Watership Down".

"It seemed to Hazel that he would not be needing his body any more, so he left it lying on the edge of the ditch, but stopped for a moment to watch his rabbits and to try to get used to the extraordinary feeling that strength and speed were flowing inexhaustibly out of him into their sleek young bodies and healthy senses.

"'You needn't worry about them,' said his companion. 'They'll be alright -- and thousands like them.'"

Sci-Fi

'Star Wars' Actress Carrie Fisher 'Stable' After In-Flight Heart Attack (abc7news.com) 120

Best-known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars trilogy and The Force Awakens, actress Carrie Fisher is recovering from a "cardiac event" Friday. An anonymous reader quotes ABC: Her brother, Todd Fisher, told The Associated Press that she was "out of emergency" and stabilized at a Los Angeles hospital Friday afternoon... The 60-year-old "Star Wars" star experienced medical trouble during a flight from London and was treated by paramedics immediately upon landing in Los Angeles around noon Friday, according to reports citing unnamed sources.
Fisher reportedly remains in the intensive care unit while lots of celebrities are now wishing her a speedy recovery for Christmas, including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels, Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew, and Billy Dee Williams, as well as Star Trek actors William Shatner and George Takei. Many fans are using the hashtag #MayTheForceBeWithHer, and she's even receiving messages of support from the Twitter account set up for her therapy dog, Gary.
Google

'The Circle' Trailer Looks An Awful Lot Like Google (cnet.com) 77

theodp writes: If you never got around to reading Dave Eggers' novel The Circle, the tale of a powerful tech company that bears a more-than-passing resemblance to Google (and has an Apple spaceship-like HQ) is coming to the big screen and the first trailer is out. The film has a release date of spring 2017, and stars Tom Hanks, Emma Watson and John Boyega. Remember, sharing is caring!
Television

Ron Glass, Firefly's Shepherd Book, Has Died (hollywoodreporter.com) 67

Slashdot reader tiqui tells us that Emmy-nominated actor Ron Glass has died. The actor was 71 and the family has not released more details of his death, but Firefly/Serenity fans can follow this link to the Hollywood Reporter for more information.
Firefly creator Joss Whedon posted on Twitter that Glass "got there with grace, humor and enormous heart. He was, among so many other things, my Shepherd. Raise, appropriately, a glass. Rest, Ron." And Nathan Fillion, who played Captain Reynolds on Firefly, posted an appropriate quote on Instagram. ("Shepard, don't move." "Won't go far...")

The actor's Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor came in 1982, for his role on the long-running TV series Barney Miller. Interestingly, one of Glass's co-stars on that show was Abe Vigoda, who also died earlier this year at age 94 -- a full 34 years after his death was mistakenly reported by People magazine.
Classic Games (Games)

2016 Winners Announced For Interactive Fiction Competition (ifcomp.org) 24

An anonymous reader writes: This week IFComp 2016 announced the winners in their 22nd annual interactive fiction competition. After a seven-week play period, the entry with the highest average rating was "the noir standout 'Detectiveland' by Robin Johnson," according to contest organizers (while the game earning the lowest score was "Toiletworld.") A special prize is also awarded each year -- the Golden Banana of Discord -- for the game which provoked the most wildly different ratings. This year that award went to "A Time of Tungsten" by Devin Raposo. ("The walls are high, the hole is deep. She is trapped, on a distant planet. Watched. She may not survive...")
The games will soon be released on the official IF Archive site, but in the meantime you can download a 222-megabyte archive of all 58 games.
Sci-Fi

'Stranger In a Strange Land' Coming To TV (ew.com) 227

HughPickens.com writes: EW reports that Paramount TV and Universal Cable Productions are teaming up to develop Robert A. Heinlein's classic 'Stranger in a Strange Land' into a TV series on Syfy. The 1961 sci-fi book, set in the aftermath of a third world war, centers on Valentine Michael Smith, a human born on Mars and raised by Martians, who, as a young adult, has returned to Earth. The true driving forces of the novel are religion and sex, which Heinlein's publisher at the time wanted him to cut out. But as the author noted to his literary agent, if religion and sex were removed from the text, what remained would be the equivalent of a "nonalcoholic martini." "From my point of view, Stranger in a Strange Land isn't just a science fiction masterpiece [...] it also happens to be one of my favorite books ever!" says NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Chairman Bonnie Hammer. "The story is timeless and resonates more than ever in today's world. As a fan, I can't wait to see it come to life as a world-class television event." A previous attempt at adapting Heinlein's novel came in 1995, when Batman Returns' Dan Waters penned a script designed for Tom Hanks and Sean Connery.
Movies

How Stephen Wolfram Devised Interstellar Travel (And Code Samples) For 'Arrival' (backchannel.com) 102

The new movie "Arrival" depicts first contact with aliens, and its producers faced the question of how interstellar spacecraft would actually work. They turned to futurist Stephen Wolfram, who came up with an answer overnight, and also tasked his son with writing much of the computer code seen on displays in the movie. Slashdot reader mirandakatz brings us Wolfram's story: Christopher was well aware that code shown in movies often doesn't make sense (a favorite, regardless of context, seems to be the source code for nmap.c in Linux). But he wanted to create code that would make sense, and would actually do the analyses that would be going on in the movie... For instance, there's a nice shot of rearranging alien "handwriting," in which one sees a Wolfram Language notebook with rather elegant Wolfram Language code in it. And, yes, those lines of code actually do the transformation that's in the notebook. It's real stuff, with real computations being done...

For the movie, I wanted to have a particular theory for interstellar travel. And who knows, maybe one day in the distant future it'll turn out to be correct. But as of now, we certainly don't know. In fact, for all we know, there's just some simple "hack" in existing physics that'll immediately make interstellar travel possible.

Wolfram's theory posited that space is just one of the attributes emerging from a low-level network of nodes, where long-range connections occasionally break out of three-dimensional space altogether. His 6,900-word essay (originally published on his blog) also suggests film-making has "some structural similarities" with software development -- and grapples with the question of how we'd actually communicate with aliens once they've arrived.
Movies

Remembering The Creator of Marvel's Doctor Strange, Steve Ditko (hollywoodreporter.com) 44

An anonymous reader writes: As Marvel publicizes its Doctor Strange movie, "there's one key figure you won't be hearing from: the person who created the Sorcerer Supreme." Steve Ditko (who also co-created Spider-Man with Stan Lee in 1962) introduced Doctor Strange in 1963, remembers The Hollywood Reporter, then abruptly left Marvel in 1966 to work for other publishers. "He would more or less be done with mainstream comics by the 1970s, though he would pop up from time to time (he co-created Squirrel Girl for Marvel in the 1990s)."

Ditko was recently involved in a Kickstarter campaign to honor the anniversaries of famous comics (in which 152 backers ultimately pledged $5,462). He celebrated his 89th birthday this week, but "He is private and has intentionally stayed out of the spotlight like J.D. Salinger," says the director of Doctor Strange, adding "I hope he goes to see the movie wherever he is, because I think we paid homage to his work."

The article includes fond memories of working with Ditko from both Jim Starlin and Stan Lee, who also praised his work in a book called The Art of Steve Ditko. "All I had to do was give Steve a one-line description of the plot and he'd be off and running. He'd take those skeleton outlines I had given him and turn them into classic little works of art that ended up being far cooler than I had any right to expect."
Sci-Fi

Will The New 'Starship Troopers' Reboot Stay Faithful To The Book? (hollywoodreporter.com) 457

HughPickens.com shares news from the Hollywood Reporter: "Columbia Pictures is rebooting Starship Troopers, the 1997 sci-fi film directed by Paul Verhoeven... The studio is not remaking the film but is said to be going back to the original Heinlein novel for an all-new take." The original movie, considered a mixed success at the time of its release, went on to achieve a cult following, and during the DVD boom of the 2000s it became a mini-franchise for the studio, which produced three additional direct-to-DVD movies... "Starship Troopers [the novel] has been decried as promoting fascism and being racist in its creation of a society where democracy has been severely restricted..." writes Graeme McMillan. "The question then becomes: in updating Starship Troopers to make it more acceptable to today's audience, can it still manage to remain faithful enough to Heinlein's original to please the existing fan base?"
The script will be written by the writers of the upcoming Baywatch film starring Zac Efron and Dwayne Johnson.
Sci-Fi

Star Trek Discovery Gets Delayed After Losing Showrunner Bryan Fuller (variety.com) 191

It looks like we're going to have to wait even longer for CBS's upcoming Star Trek Discovery series, as the production's showrunner, Bryan Fuller, is stepping back. He will however still remain the show's executive producer. Variety reports: The decision was made late last week to hand the day-to-day showrunning reins to "Star Trek" exec producers Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts as "Discovery" gears up for the start of filming next month and a May 2017 premiere date. Fuller, who will remain an executive producer, will still be involved in breaking stories, and the show will continue to follow his vision for the universe that this latest "Trek" series will inhabit. Writer-director Akiva Goldsman is also expected to join "Discovery" in a top creative role. He's envisioned as serving as producing support for Berg and Harberts, Fuller and exec producer Alex Kurtzman as they juggle the demands of the series that CBS is counting on to be the marquee selling point for subscriptions to its CBS All Access SVOD service. Sources said there had been some strain between "Star Trek" producer CBS Television Studios and Fuller over the progress of production on the show, as Fuller is also juggling the final weeks of shooting and post-production duties on Starz's upcoming drama "American Gods" and prepping a reboot of "Amazing Stories" for NBC. Fuller has penned the first two scripts for "Discovery" and has hammered out the broader story arc and mythology for the new "Trek" realm. But it became clear that he couldn't devote the amount of time needed for "Discovery" to make its premiere date and with production scheduled to start in Toronto next month.

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