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Bacteria-Resistant, Hydrogen-Powered Leaf Could Soon Power The World

Artificial leafIf you think about all the problems that plague the world at large, especially impoverished countries that don’t have many of the things first-world citizens take for granted, your top five is definitely going to include “Christmas trees don’t power their own decorations.” I mean, you’re spending money on presents already. Who needs to shell out extra dough for a shit-ton of little light bulbs? While this scourge of our holiday season almost certainly isn’t on the mind of biochemist Daniel Nocera, PhD, it will soon be possible thanks to his revolutionary invention.

Nocera, a former MIT professor who entered Harvard’s Chemistry and Chemical Biology department last year, saw his decades-long efforts in creating sustainable power come to fruition in an “artificial leaf” that he first revealed in 2011. He recently unveiled a self-healing version that will soon see commercial release through Nocera’s company, Sun Catalytix. Consider those billboards that converted humidity into drinking water, and the impact they could have on countries where clean water isn’t freely available. Nocera’s leaf will give those areas power. Electrical power! Sure, it doesn’t sound that exciting to you because you’re reading this on an electrical device.

In basic terms, the leaf — actually just silicon covered in catalysts — works like so: put it in water, and it separates the hydrogen from the oxygen and stores it in fuel cells. How well does it work? Less than a quart of water could provide 100 watts of electricity, 24 hours a day. The only setback is a need for clean water, as the bacteria would quickly build up otherwise. At American Chemical Society meeting in New Orleans, Nocera discussed his amazing innovation:

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The Frankenstein Theory: Nick’s Giant Freakin’ Queue Review

The Frankenstein TheoryFor this weekly feature, I’ll be watching some of the non-populist science fiction fare lurking around the edges of Netflix. These might be new to you, or you might have seen them a thousand times. They may be wonderful, or they may be terrible. Part of the fun is figuring it out. Now sit back in your captain’s chair and join me as I clear out my Giant Freakin’ Queue.

To debut this column, I thought it best to go with something slightly new, both to Netflix and to viewers in general. The low-budget sci-fi horror flick The Frankenstein Theory is the first feature from writer/director Andrew Weiner, whose first major job listed on his IMDb page is casting director/associate producer for Tromeo and Juliet, which is slightly telling. The Frankenstein Theory was released on VOD on March 1st, and it’s a film I’d have to assume works best with absolutely no prior knowledge or expectations. What is it about independent horror movies that always begs for such a blind entry?

Plain and simple, The Frankenstein Theory is not an excellent film by any means, but it’s also not the cheap pile of garbage I expected it to be either. (That bastard IMDb rating can do that sometimes.) The Frankenstein Theory is perfectly derivative of every film that came before it that was bled dry of inspiration and narrative. When a director is working with smaller budgets, that’s occasionally acceptable, but this one really toes the line by taking a used-but-still-interesting concept and doing almost nothing different with it. Though it could have been more than a Blair Witch ripoff, I almost feel the need to describe it as “a female-led documentary crew goes off into unfamiliar territory to try and document a monstrous legend and runs into more than they can handle.” Ta-dah! Let’s break down the plot.

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Continuum Promo Teases Season Two

If you can barely contain your enthusiasm for season two of Continuum, you’re in luck, because you don’t have to wait much longer for the new season to begin. Season two premieres on April 21st…in Canada, anyway. American audiences will have to wait until June 7th. At any rate, you can check out the latest promo for the sophomore effort above.

On the surface, this seems like a ridiculously quick turnaround, but keep in mind that though season one just finished airing on Syfy here in the U.S., the show’s initial 10-episode run wrapped all the way back in August 2012 in Canada. Either way, it isn’t too terribly long to set eyes on new episodes.

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Transcendence Adds Morgan Freeman

Morgan FreemanHis latest film, Oblivion, is getting middling reviews, but it looks like Morgan Freeman will follow it up with another science fiction movie. Freeman is set to join the cast of Wally Pfister’s directorial debut, Transcendence.

Variety is reporting that the Academy Award-winning actor will re-team with Wally Pfister on the mysterious science fiction film. Freeman previously worked with Pfister on Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy: Freeman played Lucius Fox, while Pfister served as the cinematographer on all of Nolan’s Batman films. The Transcendence cast already includes Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Kate Mara, and Paul Bettany.

Not much is known about the plot of Transcendence, but the film is said to follow three scientists (perhaps Freeman will play one of them) as they try to combine human intelligence with computer technology. After one of the scientists is assassinated (most likely Johnny Depp), the others try to upload his brilliant brain into a supercomputer.

Morgan Freeman gained recognition in the late ’80s with standout performances in Driving Miss Daisy, Lean on Me, and Glory. He was later featured in iconic roles in The Shawshank Redemption and David Fincher’s Se7en in the ’90s. Freeman even played the President of the United States in the asteroid disaster movie Deep Impact. He won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby in 2004. He can be seen in the post-apocalyptic science fiction film Oblivion later this month.

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Jurassic Park Recreated In Minecraft

Minecraft is one of those things where the appeal of it just doesn’t click with me. I get it to some degree — it’s basically digital Legos with lots and lots and lots of blocks — but the sheer devotion and effort some put into the game still drops my jaw. We’ve seen people making Minecraft versions of famous science fiction ships from Star Trek, Babylon 5, HALO, you name it. Hell, there was even one guy who recreated the Battle of Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back. The latest bit of inexplicable Minecraft devotion can be seen above: a tour of a digital Jurassic Park.

The Minecraft park is the creation of YouTuber Josh Colin, who says it took him four months to complete. Not knowing much about Minecraft, I’m going to assume the process involved digital rock quarries, imported Oompa-Loompa slave labor, and spackle. Nature finds a way…

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Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes Pics Show Mo-Cap Suits A’Plenty

Andy SerkisAlthough the film will not be released until May 2014, we’ve got a first look at the production of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The sequel to 2011’s surprise hit Rise of the Planet of the Apes should be one of the most anticipated movies of summer 2014. The leaked location images below show off the production’s multiple motion-capture ape actors in the forests of Vancouver, Canada, including Andy Serkis as Caesar. Keri Russell and Jason Clarke were also spotted, playing some of the film’s human characters.