An anonymous reader writes "Rick Webb has an article suggesting we're in the nascent stages of transforming to a post-scarcity economy — one in which we are 'no longer constrained by scarcity of materials—food, energy, shelter, etc.' While we aren't there yet, job automation continues to rise and the problem of distributing necessities gets closer to being solved every day. Webb wondered how to describe a society's progress as it made the transition from scarcity to post-scarcity — and it brought him to Star Trek. Quoting: 'I believe the Federation is a proto-post scarcity society evolved from democratic capitalism. It is, essentially, European socialist capitalism vastly expanded to the point where no one has to work unless they want to. It is massively productive and efficient, allowing for the effective decoupling of labor and salary for the vast majority (but not all) of economic activity. The amount of welfare benefits available to all citizens is in excess of the needs of the citizens. Therefore, money is irrelevant to the lives of the citizenry, whether it exists or not. Resources are still accounted for and allocated in some manner, presumably by the amount of energy required to produce them (say Joules). And they are indeed credited to and debited from each citizen's "account." However, the average citizen doesn't even notice it, though the government does, and again, it is not measured in currency units—definitely not Federation Credits.'"
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An anonymous reader writes "My boyhood hero, actor Leonard Nimoy, has developed lung disease. To those still smoking and in the grips of marketing induced denial, he says 'quit now.' Small acts of goodness make the universe a better place."
Space MMO EVE Online has been providing stories of corporate espionage and massive space battles for years. A battle began yesterday that's the biggest one in the game's 10-year history. The main battle itself involved over 2,200 players in a single star system (screenshot, animated picture). The groups on each side of the fight tried to restrict the numbers somewhat in order to maintain server stability, so the battle ended up sprawling across multiple other systems as well. Now, EVE allows players to buy a month of subscription time as an in-game item, which players can then use or trade. This allows a direct conversion from in-game currency to real money, and provides a benchmark for estimating the real-world value of in-game losses. Over 70 of the game's biggest and most expensive ships, the Titans, were destroyed. Individual Titans can be worth upwards of 200 billion ISK, which is worth around $5,000. Losses for the Titans alone for this massive battle are estimated at $200,000 - $300,000. Hundreds upon hundreds of other ships were destroyed as well. How did the battle start? Somebody didn't pay rent and lost control of their system.
theodp writes "After making light of a bad situation — Safeway's closing of its Chicagoland Dominick's grocery store chain and termination of 6,000 workers — with a satirical SciFi YouTube clip, Dominick's employee Steve Yamamoto found himself suspended just one day before the grocery chain closed up shop for good. 'My store manager got a phone call that she had to suspend me,' Yamamoto told NBC Chicago. 'I was like, "Are you serious?" It's crazy as it is. I'm just dumbfounded.' Perhaps Safeway was concerned that viewers of Yamamoto's video might think that aliens, robots, and monsters did Dominick's in, although the Chicago Tribune suggests financial machinations as a more likely culprit: 'By pulling the plug on Chicago [Dominick's], Safeway could not only satisfy [hedge fund] Jana, but also generate a $400 million to $450 million tax benefit.'"
Last week you had a chance to ask "Chairman Bruce" about the state of sci-fi, dystopian futures, and the modern surveillance state. Below you'll find his answers to those questions, including who would win if he fought William Gibson and Neal Stephenson in a no-holds-barred battle.
Esther Schindler writes "It's certainly fun to pretend to find work inspiration from our favorite SF films. That's what Carol Pinchefsky does in two posts, one about positive business lessons you can take away from SF films (such as 'agile thinking can save many a project (and project manager) in a crisis' from Robocop and team motivation lessons from Buffy), and the other, 5 Project Management Horror Stories Found in Sci-Fi Movies, with examples of the impact of poor documentation on Captain America."
One of the founders of the cyberpunk genre, Bruce Sterling needs little introduction to science fiction fans. You can read what "Chairman Bruce" has to say at Beyond the Beyond on Wired and the Sterling tumblr. He has agreed to to sit down and answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
doom writes "Charles Stross has announced that there won't be a third book in the Halting State trilogy because reality (in a manner of speaking) has caught up to him too fast The last straw was apparently the news that the NSA planted spies in networked games like WoW. Stross comments: 'At this point, I'm clutching my head. Halting State wasn't intended to be predictive when I started writing it in 2006. Trouble is, about the only parts that haven't happened yet are Scottish Independence and the use of actual quantum computers for cracking public key encryption (and there's a big fat question mark over the latter-- what else are the NSA up to?).'"
beaverdownunder writes "To commemorate 50 years of the Tardis, today the BBC is airing a 75 minute special finally revealing the secrets of the Time War. What did you think of the special? And what's your fondest memory of Who? And what about that Capaldi guy?" Okian Warrior pointed out today's Google doodle too.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Calum Marsh writes in The Atlantic that when Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers hit theaters 16 years ago today, American critics slammed it as a 'crazed, lurid spectacle' featuring 'raunchiness tailor-made for teen-age boys' and 'a nonstop splatterfest so devoid of taste and logic that it makes even the most brainless summer blockbuster look intelligent.' But now the reputation of the movie based on Robert Heinlein's Hugo award winning novel is beginning to improve as critics begin to recognize the film as a critique of the military-industrial complex, the jingoism of American foreign policy, and a culture that privileges reactionary violence over sensitivity and reason. 'Starship Troopers is satire, a ruthlessly funny and keenly self-aware sendup of right-wing militarism,' writes Marsh. 'The fact that it was and continues to be taken at face value speaks to the very vapidity the movie skewers.' The movie has rightfully come to be appreciated by some as an unsung masterpiece. Coming in at number 20 on Slant Magazine's list of the 100 best films of the 1990s last year, the site's Phil Coldiron described it as 'one of the greatest of all anti-imperialist films,' a parody of Hollywood form whose superficial 'badness' is central to its critique. 'That concept is stiob, which I'll crudely define as a form of parody requiring such a degree of over-identification with the subject being parodied that it becomes impossible to tell where the love for that subject ends and the parody begins,' writes Coldiron. 'If you're prepared for the rigor and intensity of Verhoeven's approach—you'll get the joke Starship Troopers is telling,' says Marsh. 'And you'll laugh.'"
v3rgEz writes "By September 14, 1960, Isaac Asimov had been a professor of biochemistry at Boston University for 11 years, and his acclaimed "I, Robot" collection of short stories was on its seventh reprint. This was also the day someone not-so-subtly accused him of communist sympathies in a letter to J. Edgar Hoover. They ominously concluded that "Asimov may be quite all right. On the other hand . . . . ." The "tip off" wasn't given much credit, but it didn't matter since Asimov's science fiction writing alone was enough to warrant FBI monitoring, particularly as the FBI hunted for the mysterious ROBPROF, a communist informant embedded in American academia. MuckRock has Isaac Asimov's FBI files in full, and a write up of the more interesting bits."
Ender's Game is the quintessential classic military sci-fi book. It ranks near the top of virtually every list of good sci-fi novels. When Hollywood decided to finally go forward with a movie adaptation, the initial reaction from most fans was one of skepticism. (After all, we saw what they did to I, Robot.) But there was reason to hope, as well, because Ender's Game is more action-friendly than many sci-fi stories, and the filmmakers had a big budget with which to make it. The movie was finally released last week; read on for our review. In short: the film tries too hard to straddle the line between assuming viewers are familiar with the details and bringing new viewers up to speed. The cuts to the story were both too much and not enough. It left us with only brief glimpses at too many characters, and introduced themes without fleshing them out enough to be interesting.
Esther Schindler writes "We all know that the arts reflect the technology of their times. So let's look at The Doctor ('the definite article,' as Tom Baker said in December 1974) and his use of computers. Actually, for a show so closely associated with the Slashdot-techie lifestyle, Doctor Who didn't have much to do with computers early on. This article by Peter Salus traces the formative years: 'In January 1970, Jon Pertwee (Doctor #3) acquired a Cambridge scientist (Caroline John as Liz Shaw) as his companion, which might lead the unsuspecting viewer to think that a firmer computer science basis might ensue. But only in April did Liz exhibit her technical knowledge (by recognizing a Geiger counter reading).' And then we get to K-9....."
Okian Warrior writes "Hackaday brings us news about a continuation of the original Star Trek series. The Kickstarter-funded project is attempting to complete the original 5-year mission, which ended after only three seasons on the air. The fan-based and fan-supported reincarnation is cleverly titled Star Trek Continues and has CBS's consent. Check out the first episode, Pilgrim of Eternity. For being fan-made, it's actually pretty good." The attention to detail in the sets, costumes, and even lighting is incredible. It's far and away the most faithful re-creation of the original series I've ever seen.
dryriver writes in with a story lamenting the lack of accurate science in movies. "The relationship between science and science fiction has always been tempestuous. Gravity focuses on two astronauts stranded in space after the destruction of their space shuttle. Since Gravity's US release (it comes to the UK in November) many critics have praised the film for its scientific accuracy. But noted astrophysicist Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, had several issues with the accuracy of Gravity's portrayal of space. Through a series of posts on Twitter, Tyson — who later emphasized that he 'enjoyed the film very much' — highlighted various errors. He noted the Hubble space telescope (orbiting at 350 miles above sea level), the International Space Station (at 250 miles), and a Chinese space station could never be in line of sight of one another. On top of that, most satellites orbit west to east, yet in the film the satellite debris was seen drifting east to west. Tyson also noted how Sandra Bullock's hair did not float freely as it would in zero-gravity. This is arguably not so much an error in physics, but a reflection of the limitations of cinematic technology to accurately portray actors in zero-gravity. That is, of course, without sending them into space for the duration of the film. The Michael Bay film Armageddon is known for its woeful number of inaccuracies, from the space shuttles separating their rocket boosters and fuel tanks in close proximity to each other (risking a collision) and to objects falling on to the asteroid under a gravitational pull seemingly as strong as the Earth's. More than one interested observer tried to work out how big the bomb would have to be to blow up an asteroid in the way demanded in the movie. Answer: Very big indeed. Nasa is reported to have even used Armageddon as part of a test within their training program, asking candidates to identify all the scientific impossibilities within the film."
BigBadBus writes "Putting an end to months of speculation, the BBC announced at a press conference today that it had recovered 9 previously lost episodes of Dr.Who, from the Patrick Troughton era (1966-69). The episodes complete 'The Enemy of the World' and almost complete 'The Web of Fear' (leaving one episode outstanding). The episodes were found in a relay station in Nigeria by Phillip Morris; previously Nigeria had been checked and had returned 6 lost episodes in 1984. The episodes are now available from UK and US iTune stores and can be for pre-ordered from Amazon.co.uk"
MajikJon writes "The BBC junking policies of the '60s and '70s resulted in the loss of hundreds of episodes of the classic series in its earliest years. Through the work of ardent fans over the succeeding decades, dozens of these lost episodes have been painstaking recovered and added back into the BBC archives. Now, it seems, the searchers have struck the mother lode. According to the Wikipedia, there are currently 106 missing episodes of the serial. If reports are correct, we may finally get to see all the episodes."
First time accepted submitter wmr89502270 writes "Doctor Who is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The special The Day of The Doctor will be broadcast simultaneously in over 75 countries and hundreds of cinemas in the UK. Across the world the hotly anticipated special episode will be screened simultaneously in full 3D. According to Copyright law of the United Kingdom, the copyright in a broadcast program expires 50 years from the end of the year in which it is broadcast, which means the first episodes will fall to public domain next year."
Bruce66423 writes "As the NSA scandal moves from appalling to laughable, the latest report in the Guardian indicates that the current NSA chief spent US taxpayers' money to create a command center for his intelligence operations that was styled just like Star Trek. From the PBS News Hour report: 'When he was running the Army's Intelligence and Security Command, Alexander brought many of his future allies down to Fort Belvoir for a tour of his base of operations, a facility known as the Information Dominance Center. It had been designed by a Hollywood set designer to mimic the bridge of the starship Enterprise from Star Trek, complete with chrome panels, computer stations, a huge TV monitor on the forward wall, and doors that made a 'whoosh' sound when they slid open and closed. Lawmakers and other important officials took turns sitting in a leather 'captain's chair' in the center of the room and watched as Alexander, a lover of science-fiction movies, showed off his data tools on the big screen. "Everybody wanted to sit in the chair at least once to pretend he was Jean-Luc Picard," says a retired officer in charge of VIP visit '"
Have you ever wondered how much energy is needed to power a phaser set to kill? A trio of researchers at the University of Leicester did, so they ran some tests and found out it would take roughly 2.99 GJ to vaporize an average-sized adult human body. Quoting: "First, consider the true vaporization – the complete separation of all atoms within a molecule – of water. With a simple molecular structure containing an oxygen atom bonded to two hydrogen atoms, it takes serious energy to break these bonds. In fact, it takes 460 kilojoules of energy to break just one mole of oxygen-hydrogen bonds — around the same energy that a 2,000-pound car going 70 miles per hour on the highway has in potential. And that's just 18 grams of water! So as you can see, it would take a gargantuan amount of energy to separate all the atoms in even a small glass of water — especially if that glass of water is your analog for a person. The human body is a bit more complicated than a glass of water, but it still vaporizes like one. And thanks to our spies spread across scientific organizations, we now have the energy required to turn a human into an atomic soup, to break all the atomic bonds in a body. According to the captured study, it takes around three gigajoules of death-ray to entirely vaporize a person — enough to completely melt 5,000 pounds of steel or simulate a lightning bolt."