These Sci-Fi Home Conversions Are Making Me Drool

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DivorceVisit the home of any self-respecting science fiction fan and the telltale signs will be there. The shelves packed to bursting with books about strange new worlds. Full runs of Star Trek, Farscape, and Babylon 5 tucked away in the TV room. Perhaps even some prop replicas from the genre’s most memorable outings given a place of honor up on the wall. But for fans whose passion is equaled by their disposable income, things must be taken to the next level. Because why have a boring old basic media room when you could instead have the command deck of the Enterprise, complete with comfy chairs?

Just about a year ago we reported the story of Tony Alleyne, a British chap who had spent years converting his apartment into something straight out of Star Trek, only to have it become a sticking point in his divorce. (That’s him up top.) See, the apartment actually belonged to his ex, and now that they were divorcing, she wanted to sell it as a “conventional property.” Ouch. Hopefully the rest of these folks are either single, happily together in a stable relationship, or packing an ironclad pre-nup. It’d be a damn shame if the lawyers had to get involved in this gorgeous TARDIS control room replica, which Jayman White spent a year making. He even put in the round things! (What are the round things?)


Laurence Fishburne Becomes Morpheus Again For Kia Super Bowl Spot

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Laurence Fishburne has played a lot of different roles over the years, but the role that they’ll probably carve into his tombstone is that of Morpheus, Neo’s mentor in the WachowskisMatrix films. It’s the voice, man. Dude does good enigmatic. Now, over a decade after he last donned the shades of Morpheus, Fishburne is back in the role that made him a sci-fi icon…well, sort of. Morpheus has been resurrected by the one force more powerful than The One — advertising.

The TV spot above is due to air during the Super Bowl this Sunday, but apparently Kia decided to show it to us early. I’m never sure how that makes any sense when companies do this. If you’re spending a zillion dollars for 90 seconds of the most coveted advertising real estate around, why spoil the surprise and put it up online early? Not that I’m complaining, but it seems counterproductive to me.


The Best Sci-Fi Movies Of All Time As Chosen By Scientists

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The internet loves a good list. Best of lists. Worst of lists. The top 10 lists about lists about lists. We’re not immune to the appeal: it’s an easily digestible way to examine a subject, and they can be a lot of fun to write. We’ve certainly made our share of lists here at GFR, and we cover science fiction enough that we hope we can share some insights you might not have thought of, or at least make you laugh at the occasional poop joke. Still, we may have just been outclassed in the area of science fiction-related lists, because a group of scientists and engineers have gathered together and revealed their picks for the 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies of All Time. (Of all time!)

The Best Sci-Fi Movies According To Scientists

war of the worlds poster
10. War of the Worlds (1953)

9. Star Wars (1977)

8. Blade Runner (1982)

7. Jurassic Park (1993)

6. WALL-E (2008)

5. Fantastic Voyage (1966)

4. Alien (1979)

3. Brazil (1985)

2. The Matrix (1999)

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey

All in all it’s a solid line-up, with a few surprises. I wouldn’t have expected Fantastic Voyage to make the cut, but then again it’s been ages since I’ve seen it so maybe my memories of it have degraded. I do have to call shenanigans on Blade Runner being that far down the list though. In my opinion it ought to be at least neck-in-neck with Alien, and there’s no way both of those films should be below The Matrix. For that matter, WALL-E seems unnaturally high compared to Blade Runner and Star Wars. Then again, this isn’t a “most influential” list, so it’s all up for debate.

Here’s what Popular Mechanics’ brain-trust of scientific experts had to say about Blade Runner, perhaps my very favorite science fiction movie of all time:

Humanlike robots can be a good thing. But in this sci-fi classic, androids called replicants get too lifelike for comfort and are banished to space colonies. If they escape and return to Earth, special cops, or blade runners, who can tell humans from replicants, hunt them down and neutralize them. Our experts give the film high marks, in part, for its humanization of advanced robots. ‘Blade Runner has probably done more to ready the world for artificial life than [any other film],’ says Daniel Novy, a scientist at MIT’s Media Lab. ‘Inspiration is important, even at the expense of some accuracy.’

Wait a minute, Mr. Novy. Are you telling me that Blade Runner’s replicants aren’t exactly what we can expect within the next few decades? I bet you’re just pissed that Batty came up with that awesome “Tears in rain” speech and you didn’t. (No wait, that’s me that feels that way.)

And what about Fantastic Voyage, the dark horse I didn’t expect? We may not be on the verge of shrinking humans down and injecting them into our bodies, but that’s just a thematic predecessor to the idea of nanotech. Here’s Popular Mechanics again:

A miniature spacecraft and crew are injected into a comatose scientist to remove a life-threatening blood clot, so that he can survive to share vital secrets. The movie’s lavishly depicted workings of the human body garnered two Academy Awards and three additional nominations — and got James Giordano thinking about medicine at the tiniest scale. Now a professor of neuroscience at Georgetown University, Giordano examines the mechanics of the brain’s response to pain. ‘The film has been a lifelong inspiration for me to work on developing neurotechnology,’ he says. David Carroll, director of the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials at Wake Forest University, says that the movie’s minuscule technology, although physically impossible, is echoed in his current work. ‘It’s exactly what we are working on: Injecting nanobots that find a cancerous tumor, tell us when they have found it, and destroy it,’ he says. Now that’s fantastic.

Another pick that seems like it should be higher on the list, here’s the entry for Ridley Scott’s classic, massively influential Alien (which thankfully hasn’t been damaged by retroactive association with Prometheus):

Sigourney Weaver proved that a woman can be a bad-ass sci-fi action hero. But our experts saw the gooey, exoskeletal villain — which uses living humans as hosts for its nasty progeny — as a pioneer of fictional biology. ‘The Alien franchise bases its xenomorph life cycle on parasitic wasps on Earth,’ says Terry Johnson, a bioengineering researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. ‘It’s a pleasure to see a film that acknowledges just how weird life can be.’

As long as nobody brings up the damned albino critter from Alien: Resurrection. Or Alien: Resurrection at all, for that matter.

You can read the rest of the list entries over at Popular Mechanics. What do you think of their picks?


Smartphones Used For Bullet Time And Brainwave-Led Video Recording

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smartphoneBack in my day, the only smart phones were the toy ones that could say the numbers as you pressed them. (I also had one that could predict the future, but no one ever believed me, especially the cops.) But now they’re being used to do nearly anything the imagination can come up with, not the least of which is beating 500 levels of Candy Crush instead of going grocery shopping. Here we’ll be focusing on smartphones being used to create a workable facsimile of The Matrix‘s “bullet time,” as well as a video camera that only records what your brain is actually interested in. It seems like there would have to be a strict interview process to see who gets to qualify for the latter.

But first, let’s talk about the awesomeness that is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Booth, a 540° spiral rig set up in Venice, California and New York City to show off the impressive capabilities of its Snapdragon 600 processors. Volunteers of all kinds took part in creating the videos you’ll see below, including skateboarders, breakdancers, Frisbee-loving dogs and, of course, a fire breather. Unfortunately, no one who qualified as “The One” entered the ringed booth to take on an army of Hugo Weavings, but it is all pretty damned cool nonetheless. And if you want loads more examples of people doing crazy things from all angles, just head over to the Snapdragon Booth website to see a slew of GIFs.


The Matrix, Donnie Darko, And More Get Classy With Fake Criterion Covers

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CriterionIf you’re not a die-hard cinephile, you might know know what “the Criterion Collection” is. The high-end Blu-ray and DVD publisher releases “important classic and contemporary films.” A quick survey of their new and coming soon listings include titles like It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights, and Richard Linklater’s Slacker. Being a high-falutin’ line as they are, they don’t have nearly as many science fiction films represented as they should. Artist Peter Stults decided to remedy that.

Okay, so he can’t actually make Criterion give fancy-schmancy new releases to flicks like The Matrix and Starship Troopers…but he can ape the visual style of Criterion’s cover art to show what those hypothetical Blu-rays might look like. For instance, check out this classy image that could adorn a Donnie Darko Criterion version. Like many Criterion releases, it’s evocative and symbolic, latching on to important visual elements from the film, in this case the pages from Roberta Sparrow’s The Philosophy of Time Travel.



Ghostbusters And Slow-Mo Matrix Fights Invade New York Courtesy Of Improv Everywhere

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So you’re just sitting around a very recognizable New York public library, cramming for class or maybe researching the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow, when suddenly your day takes a turn for the stranger. At first you might suspect the dude wearing the sheet with eyeholes cut in it might be a particularly ballsy Klu Klux Klan member who forgot to starch his sheet, but after he takes a seat another “ghost” wanders in. And another. And before you can wonder who you gonna call, the Ghostbusters are on the scene and they’re ready to believe you.