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17 Apr

Awesome Con Is Going To Be, Well, Awesome: Here's What To Expect

D-140845_Awesome-Con_T-shirts_final_front.jpgDo you fly your geek flag high and proud? Do you participate in cosplay? Do you collect comic books, draw manga, compete in epic gaming battles or write your own sci-fi fan fiction?

Then get thee to Awesome Con this weekend in Washington, D.C. The three-day convention runs April 18 to 20 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and celebrates all that's gloriously geeky in pop culture.

It's sure to be a packed weekend, from Sci-Fi Speed Dating (looking for love? Awesome Con has you covered) to a panel on how to survive the zombie apocalypse (pro tip: don't get bitten) and special effects makeup training, there's truly something for everyone. (If you're a newbie, that's okay too.)

Awesome Con isn't just for us mere mortals; check the schedule to find out when you can hang out with VIPs like Sean Astin, Danai Gurira, Cary Elwes, Andrew W.K., Billie Piper (no guarantees that she'll arrive in a Tardis) and many, many more.

Tickets are available at the door or online.

If you attend Awesome Con this weekend, share your photos and favorite moments on Twitter using the hashtag #moSCIfi. Have fun!

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3 Apr

Bill Clinton 'Wouldn't be Surprised' If Aliens Visit Earth, Former President Tells Jimmy Kimmel

During President Bill Clinton's two-term tenure in office, one of the questions he wanted answered was: "What's inside Area 51?"

Area 51 is, of course, a top-secret military installation located north of Las Vegas; it was only in December 2013 that a U.S. president publicly acknowledged Area 51's existence, a moment that occurred in a joke by President Obama.

Appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live Wednesday night, Clinton said he "wouldn't be surprised" if aliens visit Earth, and that he "had people go look at the records on Area 51 to make sure there was no alien down there."

Unfortunately for believers, "there are no aliens there." Clinton also had all of the papers reviewed from the Roswell UFO incident and said if he'd learned there were extraterrestrials out there, he would have told the American people.

The truth may still be out there, the former president said:

"We know now we live in an ever-expanding universe. We know there are billions of stars and planets, literally, out there. And the universe is getting bigger. We know from our fancy telescopes that just in the last two years more than 20 planets have been identified outside our solar system that seem to be far enough away from their suns and dense enough that they might be able to support some form of life. So it makes it increasing less likely that we’re alone."

Watch President Bill Clinton talk aliens with Jimmy Kimmel:

If astronauts encounter a UFO, NASA has a set procedure in place. See what happened when astronauts on the International Space Station saw something strange outside the space station:

Are you a believer like President Clinton?

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28 Mar

'Star Wars' Behind-the-Scenes Photos Make Friday More Fun

It's Friday. It's spring. We've all earned a little levity.

Ever since Star Wars joined Instagram with a Darth Vader selfie back in December 2013, the franchise has been populating its page with a plethora of behind-the-scenes photos.

From a 'Han-some' Han Solo

to some sibling bonding

and C-3PO out of costume,

Star Wars has made us smile on Instagram since day one.

We even got a look at Indiana, George Lucas' dog and the inspiration for Chewbacca

and discovered that Darth Vader's helmet isn't nearly so scary without the imposing voice behind it.

Meet Darth Vader's stunt double:

So sweet.

Chewie?!

Does this inspire you to build a lightsaber? Check it out:

For more Star Wars fun, watch all of your favorite characters kick up their heels to Pharrell's "Happy" over on SCI2.

Stay connected with Science Channel on Twitter and Facebook.

19 Dec

Harry Potter's Invisibility Cloak Is Real And Ridiculously Cool

"What if we lived in a world where the human species had changed? Where technology made us all-seeing, invincible, fearless? In short: superhumans."

What James Woods described in Tuesday's Futurescape finale may sound like something out of Tom Cruise's sci-fi thriller Minority Report but it's anything but a fantasy view of the future.

In "How To Be A Superhuman," Woods explores the scientific advancements that could eliminate human fear, pain and weaknesses -- but is this a good thing or not?

One human 'weakness' that seems set in stone in invisibility. It's the stuff of fantasy films, right? But, Woods asks, "What happens in a world where indivisibility is a reality?"

"Invisibility may seem like a childhood dream," says Dr. Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist, "but with something called metamaterials invisibility cloaks may become a reality in the near future."

Harry Potter's invisibility cloak may have been magic but a team of Muggles at Duke University is creating their own invisibility device, no wands required.

Duke's scientists are working on "the ultimate illusion": a cloaking device that manipulates electromagnetic waves

Lead researcher David Smith breaks it down:

"If you actually want to mold the flow of electromagnetic waves amd make things invisible, you can really engineer point by point the properites of materials right down to our artificial atoms in order to make light do and behave the way we want it to."

But while visions of Harry and Ron sneaking around Hogwarts may immediately spring to mind, the actual cloak has more practical purposes. Some teams are looking into ways to shield buildings from earthquake damage, while others see the potential to detect or cloak landmines. And what if a soldier in the battlefield could make himself invisible to the enemy, as PopSci's Future Of explored:

Will there come a time when, as invisibility becomes more common, we can't trust our own eyes? Will this make the world less safe -- or will humans adapt along with technology? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

Watch more clips from Futurescape on ScienceChannel.com

2 Oct

Put Your Head on My Shoulder

Surgeon-250x150

And no, we're not talking metaphorically about romance, as in the 1963 Paul Anka classic, later covered ably by 1970s teen idol Leif Garrett. We're talking literally here, about the possibility of surgically transplanting your noggin on someone else's body.

When I last wrote about head transplantation in this 2009 blog post, it still seemed like a fairly remote prospect, given the problem of connecting a transplanted head to the donor body's spinal cord. But now, in a newly published article in the medical journal Surgical Neurology International, Italian surgeon and neuroscientist Dr. Sergio Canavero of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group argues that recent developments in the use of fusogens--basically, plastic membranes that can be used to connect severed nerve fibers and allow the transmission of nerve impulses--now have eliminated that obstacle. He even describes a theoretical procedure for performing such a transplant. As he explains to Oggi.it, an Italian news website: "The head transplant in humans is technically possible. And in a couple of years could be a reality. " 

Continue reading >

18 Jul

Science Channel Returns to SDCC with New Panels That Are Both Outrageous and Unexplained

Comic-con-morph-2012-350x210You heard right! We struck gold last year with the Firefly 10th Anniversary with Joss Whedon, Nathan Fillion and other reunited cast members (check out videos from that panel here). Now, Science Channel returns to San Diego Comic-Con this Friday and Saturday with two brand new panels: Outrageous Acts of Science on Friday, July 19th and The Unexplained Files on Saturday, July 20th

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Check out the full press release for more info on SDCC and Science Channel panels:

THE OUTRAGEOUS AND THE UNEXPLAINED DOMINATE SCIENCE CHANNEL'S LINEUP AT THE 2013 COMIC-CON INTERNATIONAL

Science Channel presents OUTRAGEOUS ACTS OF SCIENCE on Friday, July 19 and THE UNEXPLAINED FILES on Saturday, July 20

Following up on the success of last year's BROWNCOATS UNITE: THE FIREFLY 10th ANNIVERSARY reunion panel, Science Channel today announced its lineup for this year’s Comic-Con.  On Friday, the network known for smart, lean-forward content will debut its panel for the breakout series OUTRAGEOUS ACTS OF SCIENCE, where citizen scientists from around the web walk the line between genius and insanity.  A panel featuring experts in topics ranging from the worlds of astrophysics and biology will comment on the unbelievable internet videos created by crazy geniuses from around the globe.  On Saturday evening, Science Channel delves into the unknown with a look at the upcoming series THE UNEXPLAINED FILES.  Panelists will share eye-witness accounts of blood rain, alien encounters and mysterious meat eaters with Comic-Con crowds for the first time ever.

Continue reading >

5 Jul

Terra Nova's Stephen Lang is Hilarious in These All New Videos

For those of you who haven't heard, Terra Nova is coming to Science Channel for an all-day marathon on Sunday, July 7 starting at 10am. The series was produced by Stephen Spielberg and is the most expensive show ever made. To help us get the word out, our marketing team spent some time with actor and writer Stephen Lang to create some promotional videos. 

Most people think of Stephen Lang as the serious military man, like his role as Cmdr. Taylor on Terra Nova or Col. Miles Quaritch in the movie Avatar. But the truth is, he's actually hilarious! Don't believe it? Check out this mashup of his funniest moments from his time on camera with the Science Channel video crew.

 

Don't forget to catch the Terra Nova marathon Sunday, July 7 starting at 10AM, only on Science Channel.

3 Apr

A Real Version of Marty McFly's Hoverboard?

If you're a fan of the Back to the Future movie trilogy of the 1980s and early 1990s, you undoubtedly remember that when Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travels to the year 2015 in the second movie in the series, he discovers something more state-of-the-art--a hoverboard, which floats above the ground. From YouTube, here's the scene. Notice that Marty's new nemesis Griff (Thomas F. Wilson) also has one, a macho version with a pitbull emblazoned on the board. You always wanted one of those, didn't you? I did.

I was reminded of this when Griff's hoverboard recently turned up on eBay, where it's being offered for the bargain price of $9,995. (There already have been a number of presumably lower offers, all declined by the seller.)

The drawback, of course, is that the hoverboard is just a prop, rather than an actual working hoverboard. Back in 2001, when inventor Dean Kamen was on the verge of announcing what he promised would be a revolutionary new transportation device, there were rumors across the webisphere that he had developed an actual working hoverboard. Instead, to our disappointment, he gave us the Segway.

Continue reading >

28 Mar

What We Could Learn From Aliens

Gort-alien-250x150

If you've ever seen the 1951 sci-fi classic The Day The Earth Stood Still, you may remember the scene in which the flying saucer lands in Washington, and Klaatu the alien emerges, holding in his hand what looks to the terrified humans like a weapon. After a soldier shoots Klaatu, Gort the robot emerges from the spaceship, and employs his otherworldly powers to disarm the soldiers and reduce a tank to scrap metal. It's only then that the wounded Klaatu rises to reveal that what he had in his hand was a miniature telescope, capable of seeing father into space than existing human observatories. From the script:

KLAATU: It was a gift. For your president. (Glances at the broken object ruefully) With this, he could have studied life on other planets.

Okay, that was just from a movie. But the paradox that the scene raises might well turn out to be a real one, if we ever actually make contact with terrestrials, who most likely will come from a vastly more advanced civilization. While we're likely to fear aliens, assuming that they're out to conquer and/or destroy us, it well be that they're actually benevolent creatures who want to share with us what they know. And what they know might have the potential to help us an enormous deal. 

In a 1995 report, the U.S. Naval Observatory's Steven J. Dick wrote that discovery of an extraterrestrial civilization also would have potentially mind-blowing impact upon science and our view of reality, comparable to Europe's rediscovery (through the Arab world) of classical Greek science in the 12th and 13th centuries, orCopernicus' discovery in the early 1500s that the Sun, not the Earth, is the center of our solar system.

Here are a few areas in which I think we could make enormous progress as a result of contact with an extraterrestrial civilization:

  • Unlocking the secret of faster-than-light travel. Presumably, aliens who visited our planet would come from an enormous distance across interstellar space, since even the nearest potentially habitable planet is probably at least 13 light years away. That might mean that they have developed a technology similar to the warp drive envisioned by theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre, or something else that is at this point beyond the human imagination. They may also possess antigravity technology as well, since UFOs (assuming that at least some of them actually are alien spacecraft) have been observed to perform seemingly impossible aerobatic feats. 
  • Freedom from the limitations of our biology. Humans already are beginning to dabble in transhumanism--that is, augmenting ourselves with powered exoskeletons and electronic gadgetry such as microchip implants that enhance vision. But if an intelligent extraterrestrial species has been around for longer than us, it may well be that they've become completely post-biological creatures whose brains merge natural and artificial intelligence. They may even have discarded their meat bodies completely to live within machines of their own creation (which hopefully don't look like circa 1991 Arnold Schwarzenegger--that would be too weird). Here's a 2006 paper by NASA scientist Steven Dick on that subject. We could make a quantum leap forward toward transhumanism with their help.
  • Reversing environmental damage. It's conceivable that extraterrestrials from a far more advanced civilization have mastered planetary engineering--that is, the ability to make major intentional alterations in the environment. (Here's a paper that Carl Sagan co-authored on that subject years ago.)  That might enable them to fix our atmosphere and reverse the destructive process of climate change. 
  •  Conflict resolution. International conflicts are killing people at a far lower rate than in the past--about 55,000 people are dying worldwide from warfare each year in the 2010s, according to Foreign Policy magazine, about a third of the fatal casualty rate in the 1980s. But humans still possess an alarming propensity for slaughtering one another, as evidence by the estimated 468,000 homicides committed worldwide in 2011, according to United Nations research. If an intelligent extraterrestrial species has been around for longer than us, most likely they've developed lethal technology at least as potent as ours, and possibly even more so--imagine something along the lines of the Death Star from the Star Wars fictional universe. But the aliens' continued existence would mean that they also have some advanced method for resolving differences without violence. We might be able to get them to share that method with us--or perhaps, as a last resort, to send a legion of Klaatus and Gorts to force us to stop the killing.

21 Mar

What If Extraterrestrials Are Just Ignoring Us?

Extraterrestrials-ignoring-us-400x328Back in 1924, when Mars made its closest approach to the Earth in two centuries, scientists in the U.S. and Europe eagerly tried to establish contact with the extraterrestrial civilization that many thought might exist there. In Switzerland, astronomers used a heliograph--a giant mirror--to flash Morse code translated into light flashes, in hopes that Martians would notice it and respond. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the Chief of Naval Operations, Edward W. Eberly, sent a telegram to Navy radio operators, asking them to monitor the airwaves for "any electrical phenomenon (of) unusual character" that might be a sign of the Red Planet's inhabitants trying to communicate with us by radio. A New York Times article excitedly pondered what the aliens' opinion of their human cousins might be:

...They are of an order of intelligence much superior to ours...It is reasonable to suppose that the Martian knows much more about us than we know about him or his world, and it is interesting to speculate what he thinks of us, of our feverish struggle for a living, our vanities, our suicidal World War, our little gardens and our big deserts. Perhaps he thinks our deserts are pygmies and envies our gardens, for Mars has deserts far more cruel than we can imagine.

Continue reading >

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