Archive for the ‘aliens’ Category

Nailing down the nature of ‘Oumuamua—it’s probably a comet, but…

November 29th, 2018
Image of an extraterrestrial spaceship from the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Enlarge / I mean, maybe, right? Maybe? Probably not, though. Almost certainly not. (credit: Columbia Pictures)

Shortly before Halloween, the chairman of Harvard's astronomy department openly declared that an interstellar object hurtling through our Solar System might just be part of an extraterrestrial craft. And then…crickets.

The astrophysics blog Centauri Dreams broke the story to the cognoscenti three days later. It presented an informed survey of the academic paper which raised this brash possibility, bolstered with quotes and commentary from the paper's co-author (and noted department chair), Avi Loeb. It was well into November before outlets like CNN, Time, and The Washington Post picked up the story, replete with the inevitable sarcastic quotation marks and snarky headlines. The object, named 'Oumuamua, had a number of weird and seemingly contradictory properties; it could be that those properties appear the way they do because our observations weren't all that great. There are also other possibilities.

I read Loeb's paper—which by then had been speedily accepted for publication by the respected Astrophysical Journal. A few days later, Loeb and I sat down for the longest and—by Loeb's own account—the most serious and in-depth interview he's given on this subject. The embedded audio player following the colon at the end of this very sentence features an hour-ish edit of it, including all the highlights:

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Posted in ‘Oumuamua, aliens, astronomy, i'm not saying it was aliens but, NASA, Podcasts, rob reid, science, space | Comments (0)

Reddit users re-enable Alien: Isolation’s VR mode with unofficial patch

July 30th, 2017

Enlarge / You’d never be able to tell that a crewmate turned inside out on this very table only a few short hours ago!

Although 2014’s Alien: Isolation was a well-written, beautifully stylish exercise in terror, it failed to sell in large enough quantity for publisher Sega to justify a sequel—something for which we are all lessened, because the game is an exquisitely crafted love letter to the Alien universe. It’s also—as can be attested by numerous Youtube reaction videos—pants-wettingly terrifying.

The game was released just before the consumer versions of the Rift and Vive VR headsets became available, but it had a hidden Rift DK2-compatible gameplay mode that could be enabled by editing a configuration file. The VR mode mostly worked—the camera clips through the player’s body a lot, and folks prone to VR sickness would likely get nauseated within minutes due to the lack of any kind of VR accommodation in the game’s design, but even in its limited unsupported form the VR mode was stunning—and provided an even more terrifying experience than playing on a regular screen.

Unfortunately, the extended screen method by which Isolation’s VR mode functioned made it incompatible with the release versions of the Rift or Vive. The game’s sales figures were too low for Sega to justify bringing the coding team back together to update the feature for consumer headsets, and it would have passed into history as little more than an experimental footnote.

Except, of course, for the fan community—thanks to them, you can once again play Alien: Isolation in VR. Mostly.

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Posted in alien, alien isolation, aliens, Gaming & Culture, oculus rift, rift, virtual reality, VR | Comments (0)

Arrival proves that first contact movies can still blow your mind

November 11th, 2016

Enlarge / Louise (Amy Adams) gives the first alien high-five in human history.

Arrival is the riveting, slow-burn story of an alien encounter that’s satisfyingly complex. Instead of showing how we blow up the buggers, this movie poses a difficult question: how would we communicate with seemingly peaceful aliens whose language is as impenetrable as whalesong? The welcome surprise is that Arrival explores the answers without shying away from the reality of how linguistics work, as well as the geopolitical consequences of first contact.

Louise (Amy Adams) is a gifted linguistics professor who has done some spot work for the government translating videos made by foreign insurgents. As the film opens, her quiet classroom life is disrupted permanently when a dozen enormous spaceships materialize over seemingly random regions across the world. Made of no materials we recognize, and emitting no chemical signatures whatsoever, the ships hover like perfectly curved stones just above the ground. Twice per day, an opening appears in the bottom of each ship, admitting humans into the gravitationally bizarre interior to meet with squidlike aliens who hover in what seems to be an atmosphere chamber behind a transparent barrier.

Dubbed heptapods for their five legs, the aliens make noises that are completely incomprehensible. When military officer Weber (Forest Whitaker) plays a recording of one to Louise, demanding a translation, she can’t even figure out what kind of organ could produce the noises. “Do they have… mouths?” she asks, bewildered. Despite her initial confusion, Louise manages to crack the alien code by using writing to communicate with them rather than speech.

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Posted in aliens, amy adams, arrival, ted chiang, The Multiverse | Comments (0)

This is what meeting aliens might really be like

August 17th, 2016

First trailer for Arrival, based on Ted Chiang’s Nebula-winning novella, “Story of Your Life.”

Alien invasion might be a lot weirder than you think. That’s the premise of Arrival, a first contact story told from the point of view of linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) who is the first to translate the language of the mysterious “heptapods” whose ships arrive on Earth seemingly just to make conversation.

If this movie is even a quarter as good as the novella it’s based on, we’re in for a damn fine story. (For those who have not had the pleasure of reading it, Chiang’s collection, Stories of Your Life and Others, has just been reissued as a handsome paperback.) Though the film is dramatizing the alien visitation with international politics and war threats, the original story explores a more personal crisis. Without giving away spoilers, the central idea is that the heptapods’ written language allows the reader to know the ending of a sentence at the moment they start reading it. Based in part on the aliens’ mathematics—and informed by the Earthly mathematics of Fermat’s Principle—the heptapods’ language changes the consciousness of humans who decipher it, essentially allowing them to remember the future.

So what happens when a conversation with an alien changes your perception of linear time? In Chiang’s story, it raises questions about whether you will make the same life decisions despite knowing when people will die—indeed, knowing when you will die. The result is a moving, intense exploration of temporality, linguistics, and the human psyche. It’s clear that some of these themes are going to come up in the movie, too, though with the added dramatics of some kind of standoff with Russia.

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Stephen Hawking and Yuri Milner plan to build interstellar spacecraft

April 13th, 2016

By Andreas Campbell

Stephen Hawking and a Russian Billionaire Release plans to build

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How Fargo’s midwestern UFOs became pop culture’s “realest” alien depiction

December 13th, 2015

Streetlights in Minnesota are just captivating. (credit: FX)

Warning: this piece contains minor spoilers to several episodes of the show. 

By now everyone knows Fargo’s famous disclaimer—”This is a true story.” The Coen Brothers’ 1996 classic starts the same way each episode of the TV series it inspired on FX does, but just because something is true doesn’t mean it can’t get a little fuzzy or downright weird. And the currently-in-progress-season two is playing with pop culture’s favorite oddity—aliens. UFOs, technically.

Then again, were there UFOs in this season’s penultimate episode last Monday? The cop (Lou Solverson, played by Patrick Wilson), the villain (Angus Sampson as Bear Gerhardt), and everyone in-between sure seemed to stop mid-firefight to stare at something, but only the in-over-her-head beautician (Kirsten Dunst as Peggy Blumquist) said anything: “It’s just a flying saucer, hon.” This is the same person who hallucinated a Lifespring coach in her basement one week earlier.

Fargo, obviously, is not a true story. The people are made up, the intercity travel times fudged, the Midwest accents exaggerated. But among other things making its current season an all-time great is that its brand of aliens feels different. Rather than having any scientific or nefarious purposes or creature-like appearances, Fargo’s aliens are… a mystery. That’s what makes this season the most realistic pop culture depiction of extraterrestrial life to date.

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Prometheus 2 is now Alien: Covenant, and fully part of the Alien franchise

November 16th, 2015

Enlarge / Prometheus 2 is now Alien: Covenant. Though Scott sadly missed the opportunity to continue with franchise tradition and call the movie “Prometheuses.” (credit: 20th Century Fox)

From Ridley Scott’s lips to our ears: the sequel to 2012’s Prometheus has gained yet another name. In an interview at the AFI film festival late last week, Scott casually informed the audience that the 2017 film is now known as Alien Covenant. The movie has changed names and forms multiple times over its development—growing from its egg stage as Prometheus 2, to its facehugger stage as Alien: Paradise Lost, and now chest-bursting forth as Alien: Covenant.

The name was confirmed this morning in a tweet by the official 20th Century Fox Twitter account, which not only firmly stated that the movie is part of the Alien franchise, but that it also will be released in late 2017: October 6, 2017, to be precise.

The first Prometheus film had a tortured development process, being first pitched as a straight prequel to Scott’s 1979 Alien. During development, the film swerved into less of a direct prequel and more of an origin story, giving glimpses of the enormous humanoid “Engineers” apparently responsible for the creation of the titular aliens (and who, incidentally, also seeded life here on Earth). The scary chest-bursting aliens themselves were never seen on camera—although their biological precursors had several bits of screen time.

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Nomadic Aliens might stamp us out- Stephen Hawking

October 2nd, 2015

By Carolina

There have been many alarming pronouncements made by Stephen Hawking

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New Aliens movie coming from District 9, Elysium director Neill Blomkamp

February 19th, 2015

“Um…,” starts an Instagram post from writer-director-produer Neill Blomkamp, “So I think it’s officially my next film. #alien”

The post’s image is a painting by Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger in the artist’s famous airbrush style, of the movie Alien’s eponymous alien in profile, toothed tongue extended, leg raised like a dancer.

Though the Instagram post is a little light on detail, last night Variety confirmed that the message it appears to be sending—that Blomkamp will be helming a new film in the Alien franchise—is correct. Citing “sources,” Variety says that Blomkamp and 20th Century Fox have indeed closed a deal for a new Alien movie, and that the movie will be separate from Ridley Scott’s Prometheus 2 (which is still being written while Ridley Scott films the movie version of Andy Weir’s The Martian).

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Posted in 20th century fox, alien, alien franchise, aliens, neill blomkamp, The Multiverse, xenomorph | Comments (0)