The Onion - Science & Technology November 17, 2009 | Issue 45•47
BOSTON—Members of the world's engineering and telecommunications communities admitted Tuesday that fiber optics, the supposed technological application that ostensibly allows light to carry signals across optical cables, is not actually a real thing. "Yeah, we sort of made that one up," renowned physicist Willard Boyle said of the fictitious technology around which a $40 billion-a-year industry has been built. "It started as more of a joke, really. We thought the two words sounded cool together, so we just started throwing that term out there. Trust me, no one ever thought it would take off the way it did." Sources added that if fiber optics were, in fact, a real thing, it would probably be utilized in some way with Bluetooth technology, if that existed.
So far, Demon's Souls has to be the best game overall that I've played on the PS3, and that includes Grand Theft Auto 4, Dead Space, Resident Evil 5, Metal Gear Solid 4, and Bioshock, among several others. It's part adventure game, part action RPG (third person perspective), and it's all business. It's the most difficult game I've played since the PS3's launch, mainly because it's painfully unforgiving of mistakes. If you want a grownup version of Zelda, here it is.
If you die in a given level, you go all the way back to that level's beginning, and you continue playing as a disembodied soul (with only half of your hit points) until you earn back your physical body. If you accidentally (or intentionally) attack a friendly NPC to the point where you piss him off, he will continue to attack you until one of you dies. If that character happens to be someone useful, like a blacksmith, merchant, or magic teacher, you're screwed for the remainder of the game.
The game doesn't tell you very much in the beginning, and you have to learn many lessons the hard way. The game constantly autosaves, and you don't have multiple save slots per game; which means if you arrive at a proverbial fork in the road, you can't take one path, see how it works out, stop the game, and restart at the save point to try the other path. All of your decisions are permanent. It's so brutal, that there's not even a pause button. The motto here is "Get good, or die!" Oh, and the second playthrough is much harder, even though you get to keep all of your equipment and skills from the first game.
You get to choose your character's class and gender, and you can fully customize the character's physical and facial features, and later in the game, the armor/attire. The class determines only how you begin the game, but after the first level, you can customize your skill set any way you want. You can focus on spells (magic and miracles), melee skills, or a balance. There are several different types of ranged and melee weapons (bows, swords, axes, etc.). You collect souls from the enemies that you kill, and use those souls for both currency and increasing your skill levels.
The game has a lot of depth, and there are some side quests aside from the main quest (beating the bosses of five worlds, then the final boss). There's a good variety of enemies and bosses, the graphics are beautiful, the character motions are smooth, and in the Asian imports, the English dubs and subtitles are relatively well done, although some of the descriptive text suffered a bit in translation ... [ Read More (0.1k in body) ]
While seven states – Tennessee, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Alaska and Louisiana – have had both houses of their legislatures pass similar decrees, Alaska Gov. Palin [R] and Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen [D] are currently the only governors to have signed their states' sovereignty resolutions.
The resolutions all address the Tenth Amendment that says: "powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
I often disagree with Bredesen, but I certainly support him on this issue.
Scientists have unveiled a 47-million-year-old fossilised skeleton of a monkey hailed as the missing link in human evolution.
The experts concluded Ida was not simply a lemur but a 'lemur monkey', displaying a mixture of both groups, and therefore putting her at the very branch of the human line.
Two things immediately came to mind while reading the article:
1) Not that I don't appreciate the relevance of this discovery as it directly relates to humans, but was there really any legitimate question regarding evolution prior to this discovery? True, discoveries such as this continually provide more evidence of evolution, but I thought the case had already been made, generally speaking.
2) Holy @%#$! The creature from Eraserhead was real!
RE: 'Star Trek': An exclusive first look at the Enterprise
11:41 pm EDT, May 13, 2009
O.K., I finally saw the film. Spoiler time.
First off, the new USS Enterprise (the main character) really is that ugly (externally - see image in above post). The interior looks O.K., but the exterior looks like it's been pimped out. I could've sworn I saw the rims spinning in one scene. The Romulan ship is even uglier, but being a mining ship (like the USG Ishimura in Dead Space), it has an excuse. The original design of the Enterprise is beautiful. There's no need to keep tampering with it.
Regarding less important aspects of the film...
If you're looking for Star Trek, look elsewhere. In no way did this feel like Star Trek to me, nor did I ever buy that these new guys were Kirk, Spock, etc., although the actors did have some chemistry. Unless Shatner and Nimoy are cloned (or completely digitized), my strong bias in favor of the original series won't let me accept any new stories with a young Kirk and Spock. The old Star Trek gave me things to think and dream about. This new one just gave me pretty lights to stare at for a while.
On the other hand, if you're looking for an enjoyable two-hour action film with lots of excitement, fights, and explosions, this is about as good as anything that comes out of Hollywood... actually, a little better than average, in that regard. Some of it was pretty to look at (but not the ships), and the acting wasn't bad, but the story wasn't very good. The Star Trek franchise should leave time travel to the Dr. Who franchise. Still, non-fans who enjoy Hollywood action films should enjoy it.
I will say that this new film is better than anything else the franchise has offered since the original cast days. That's not saying much, though. I give the 2009 film 2.5/5 stars for shiny new entertainment, but there's not much in the way of depth or rewatchability.
Fortunately, the Blu-ray set of Season 1 of the original Star Trek series is incredible! Everything has been restored, and there are lots of cool special features. It's even better than the Blade Runner, Godfather, Matrix, and Dirty Harry Blu-ray sets, all of which are great. I highly recommend it.
If there's an exact opposite to the game Dead Space, it's Flower. Aside from the fact that I enjoyed both of them, and that they both look beautiful, they couldn't be more different.
You start each level with a single flower petal, and you control the wind to blow the petal into other yet-to-bloom flowers, causing them to bloom. Each time a flower blooms, you pick up another petal. As shown in the picture at right, you eventually have a stream of petals following the original one, making it easier to bloom large patches of flowers as you swoop across the countryside. As you progress through the stages, you get closer to a rundown city, and the weather gets progressively worse. Basically, your ultimate goal is to revitalize the city by making flowers bloom.
The graphics aren't groundbreaking, but they're still very good, and the pretty scenery alone is worth playing the game. The music is simple and soothing in the first level, beginning with a solo guitar (think "Brokeback Mountain soundtrack") for both music and sound effects, and in later levels, the music will build, as other instruments are introduced. I know it seems rather... pleasant (O.K., boring) for a video game, but it's actually a fun game, and it's nice to see something so completely different turn out to be interesting. It's not very long, nor is it very difficult, but it's only $10.00 (Playstation Store download).
Not that I'll be giving up my M-rated games anytime soon, but Flower is a welcome diversion. If you own a PS3, I recommend it.
How often do engineers get to save the day in video games?
If you have a PS3 or an Xbox 360, you might want to consider playing Dead Space. It has a nice, creepy atmosphere (like the first Alien film), very smooth motion, and beautiful 1080p graphics. The hero of the game is an engineer, and the two antagonists are a computer systems specialist and an insane physician, who's a member of the "Church of Unitology" (which closely resembles Scientology). Yes, you do run around and kill a lot of scary things, but there are enough unique elements to make it stand out from other action/adventure games. It's a pleasure to play because so much attention was paid to details and making the game flow the way it should. The zero-gravity sequences (of which there are several) are a lot of fun. The PS3 has a free demo available for download, and I assume the Xbox 360 does, as well.
The linked Wikipedia article does contain spoilers.
"Not too little, but too late?" - Nashville's Building Projects
11:15 am EDT, Apr 16, 2009
The City Paper, Monday, April 6, 2009: But a building boom might not be the cure all. Even if everything lines up perfectly — if the right type of funding materializes in the next few months and workers at the sites spend enough of their incomes — the building projects may not be a part of our recession-beating recipe. Simply put, we might have missed our window.
Nashville has several private and public "planned projects" that can't seem to get going, thanks to the current state of the economy. Even when things improve, I doubt that Signature Tower will ever be built, and if it does happen, it likely won't reach the 1,030 feet height that was initially projected. It's a shame. I was looking forward to the improved skyline. The West End Summit project actually did break ground, but construction has been suspended, so now we have a huge pit at 1600 West End Avenue, for no telling how long. At least Music City Central (MTA Downtown Station) was completed. That block looks so much better now.
Levon Aronian wins 18th Amber Blindfold and Rapid Tournament
6:19 pm EDT, Mar 26, 2009
It's good to see Anand looking sharp. He placed fourth at Linares earlier this year (one point behind), but only two points separated first and eighth places. Anand didn't play in the Corus tournament, and neither Topalov nor Kramnik played in either one this year. We're still waiting for the official dates for the World Chess Championship 2009 between Anand and Topalov.
Why has Daniel Hannan become an Internet sensation?
5:46 pm EDT, Mar 26, 2009
Andrew Sparrow at guardian.co.uk asks a question he can't quite answer.
But this does not fully answer the question. Why did this speech take off? Hannan himself admits to being "slightly perplexed" because he's been making similar speeches for years. Having listened to it a couple of times, and read the text, I don't think it's a great speech (and some of the arguments are relatively easy to dismantle, as Sunny Hundal and Sunder Katwala have demonstrated). But it's much clearer and more concise than the speeches normally delivered in Congress or at Westminster. And, at three minutes long, it's just the right length for YouTube.
MEPs in the European parliament are sometimes only allowed to speak for one minute. They don't get heckled, in the way that MPs do at Westminster, and they don't have to use any of the archaic language about "honourable friends" etc. This makes the place quite soulless. But it also makes it much better for YouTube. Hannan's the last person I would expect to applaud European parliamentary procedure, but he should; it's one factor, I think, that has helped to make him an internet star.
Hundal and Katwala have dismantled nothing, and Sparrow will never get why this speech took off the way it did (especially in the U.S.A.). Hannan's words (and to an equal, if not greater, degree, his attitude) resonate with many people here who want what's best for their country, now and for future generations, and who have been greatly disappointed by the Republican Party's failure to adhere to the principles of capitalism and conservatism. This is the type of speech that Republicans in Congress should've been directing toward George Bush for the past several years. Today, as a guest on The Sean Hannity Show, Hannan himself stated that even he preferred Obama as a candidate over a continuation of the Bush policies. I think many Americans thought the same way in 2008, and the Republicans can blame only themselves.