Get ready to flip some monopoly boards—International TableTop Day is nigh! On April 5th, 2014, fans of tabletop gaming around the world will gather together for the largest (known) game day in the (known) universe.
Until recently, humans have relied on each other to distribute and share memory, in a world where the human brain was the pinnacle of data storage. But the Internet has radically and rapidly changed our relationship with this transactive memory system. In the December issue of Scientific American, Daniel M. Wegner and Adrian F. Ward explore the phenomenon in “How Google is Changing Your Brain.”
“Human! We used to be exactly like them. Flawed. Weak. Organic. But we evolved to include the synthetic. Now we use both to attain perfection. Your goal should be the same as ours.”
–Borg Queen, Star Trek: First Contact
For those of us who recall the shadowy time before the rise of the Internet and Google, if you had a question, you were promptly sent to the dictionary, encyclopedia, or library (up hill, in the snow, both ways) to try to find the answer. Today, a question barely has time to cross our minds before we are tapping away on our phones or computers to Google the answer. When a proper noun becomes a verb, you know something big has happened.
Almost Human, FOX’s new sci-fi crime drama may have arrived a few weeks late, but it seems to be worth the wait. Not surprising since the show comes from an impressive pedigree—creator/executive producer J.H. Wyman (Fringe) and Emmy award winning (and general life-winning) executive producer J.J. Abrams (All The Franchises).
Almost Human is set in L.A. 2048, which looks similar to L.A., 2019 (and, to be fair, similar to a lot of future L.A.s). The rapid advancement of technology has resulted in a 400% increase in crime. To fight the rising tide of violence, advanced combat-ready androids are issued as partners to every officer in the police department (with, as we’ll see, varying degrees of success).
Dear Mr. Watterson, a new documentary by Joel Schroeder, attempts to capture the enduring appeal of Calvin and Hobbes. For a comic that began in 1985 and ended a decade later at the peak of its popularity, Calvin and Hobbes’ mixture of wry observation and mischievous childhood imagination continues to draw new fans and entertain the old, even 18 years later. Dear Mr. Watterson will probably not enjoy that kind of longevity—fans of Calvin and Hobbes won’t find anything new here, but it is a safe place to geek-out and reminisce.
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, ABC’s new Once Upon a Time spinoff (and nominee for clunkiest show name ever since Wednesday 9:30 (8:30 Central) debuted/tanked) hopes to recreate some of the magic—and ratings—of the original. I have only seen a handful of Once Upon a Time episodes, making me just barely familiar with the residents of Storybrooke and the devices regularly employed by the show. So, for newbies like me, Wonderland is not only a chance for ABC to hook viewers with a new fantasy show, but it’s also an opportunity for them to talk us into giving OUAT one more try. While Wonderland has some strengths, the premiere didn’t make a terribly strong case for itself either as a stand-alone or as OUAT bait.
If you are familiar with The Vampire Diaries, then you know the “Original” vampires (and hybrid!) are generally a whiny, entitled lot, with a proclivity for treachery, dagger play, and excruciating lectures about the importance of family, particularly the originals we’ve seen in action most: Elijah, Rebekah, and Niklaus. Though they’ve not been my favorite group of TVD‘s villains-turned-allies, I felt compelled to check out their eponymous new digs.
In any spin-off media—be it book, film, or television—the challenge is to provide newcomers with enough background info to jump in, without alienating the core fan base you hope to attract from the original outlet—all this, while hopefully telling a compelling story that will hook both groups. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like The Originals accomplished this with their premiere, but first a recap.
You can’t talk about banned books without talking about Ray Bradbury. Not so much because any one of his more than 500 published works have been banned or challenged more vehemently than other frequently challenged books, but because he wrote so passionately and urgently about societies without books, without intellectual freedom, and the dire consequences they faced as a result. But, believe it or not, Bradbury’s greatest fear regarding censorship, wasn’t crushing government laws or sweeping totalitarian regimes, it was you.
To GM or not to GM? The genetically modified (GM) argument has been raging for decades, though recently it has gained more mainstream attention as advances in science and the increased clout of biotechnology corporations such as Monsanto and BASF make more bioengineered foods a reality. In the September issue of Scientific American, David H. Freedman, author of Wrong, takes a look at both sides of the GM debate.
Almost a century of research has established that sleep aids in the formation of memory. The question that scientists are now examining is how sleep accomplishes this. When you’re sleeping, the neurons in your brain fire almost as much as they do when you’re awake. For many years, it was thought that this sleeping brain activity helped learning by strengthening the connections between neurons. However, the role sleep plays in memory may be different than previously thought. Psychiatrists Guilin Tononi and Chiara Cirelli offer a somewhat controversial new theory in the August issue of Scientific American, called synaptic homeostasis hypothesis (SHY). SHY states that sleep aids memory not by strengthening the connections between neurons, but rather by weakening them. With twenty years of research to back them up, it’s a theory that’s rapidly gaining attention.
Summer reading lists—as a kid, these curriculum-imposed killjoys lurked in the corner of your vacation, never quite letting you forget just how close September really was. I realize now, that those reading requirements often exposed me to authors and books that I might not have explored if left to my own devices. Books that would become lifetime favorites, or motivate me to branch out of my reading comfort zone.
In that same spirit of discovery, we asked some of the creative minds behind Pixar’s latest short, The Blue Umbrella, to tell us about the books that inspired them and the film. From Russian lit to technical journals, you might be surprised by their selections, and maybe even discover some books to add to your personal summer reading list.
As children, the world around us is very clear on one thing: animals have feelings much like our own. Nearly every children’s book, film, cartoon or toy that features animals—features anthropomorphized animals—who love, laugh, cry, sing, have epic adventures on their tiny toy motorcycles, and so on. Bambi is devastated after hunters kill his mother. When Dumbo’s mom is unfairly incarcerated, we are treated to a punch-in-the-heart montage of their love and loss.
At some point—I suppose around the same time we are handed a scalpel and a formaldehyde-soaked fetal pig—the message changes. We go from freely ascribing human feelings to animals, to stripping them entirely of sentiment. We’re told that to be properly scientific (and adult), one needs to believe that animals don’t experience emotions or have feelings. But renewed scientific interest in animal emotion may be changing that ideology.
Twelve years after the award-winning Monsters, Inc. hit theaters, Pixar returns to the candy colored kaleidoscope of the Monster universe with the highly-anticipated prequel: Monsters University. Like any reunion, Monsters University is teeming with old friends, inside jokes, and (sometimes) too-high expectations.
A year ago today, we lost one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, Ray Bradbury. Bradbury inspired generations of creators, including Stephen Spielberg, NASA scientists, and of course writers like Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Kelly Link and Harlan Ellison. What better way to celebrate his life and memory today, than to let his writing inspire you?
Like the best kids’ books, the best kids’ movies work on multiple levels, and Monsters, Inc., Pixar’s fourth feature-length film, is no exception.
The eponymous competition at the heart of The Hunger Games is a brutal event, which means death for all but one of the competitors. At first glance, it seems nearly impossible that the gruesome premise behind these fictional games could ever become reality. But can we really be so sure?