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Television

Amazon Is Making a 'Lord of the Rings' Prequel Series (techcrunch.com) 109

Amazon is making a Lord of the Rings prequel TV series for its Amazon Instant streaming service. The show, which already carries a multi-season commitment, will "explore new storylines preceding J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring." TechCrunch reports: It's possible the new series will mine the ponderous but rich Silmarillion for material, as fan fiction writers and lore aficionados have done for decades. The exploits of the Elf-Lords of old would make for a stirring epic, while many would thrill at the possibility of seeing Moria at the height of its grandeur. So much depends on the quality of the adaptation, though. Amazon has been pretty good about its Originals, but this will be an undertaking far beyond the scope of anything its studios and partners have yet attempted. Amazon is partnering with New Line Cinema, which of course was the film company behind the much-loved trilogy that began in 2001, and the Tolkien Estate, as well as HarperCollins for some reason. The deal also "includes a potential additional spin-off series," presumably if it's popular enough.
Space

Is Physical Law an Alien Intelligence? (nautil.us) 264

What if alien life were so advanced that its powers were indistinguishable from physics? It's the one-year anniversary of a startling article which appeared in Nautilus magazine. Long-time Slashdot reader wjcofkc writes: Caleb Scharf, astronomer and the director of the multidisciplinary Columbia Astrobiology Center at Columbia University presents an intriguing thought experiment.

"Perhaps Arthur C. Clarke was being uncharacteristically unambitious. He once pointed out that any sufficiently advanced technology is going to be indistinguishable from magic. If you dropped in on a bunch of Paleolithic farmers with your iPhone and a pair of sneakers, you'd undoubtedly seem pretty magical. But the contrast is only middling: The farmers would still recognize you as basically like them, and before long they'd be taking selfies. But what if life has moved so far on that it doesn't just appear magical, but appears like physics?"

The original submitter included their own counterarguments against the idea, but the astronomer follows his proposal to its ultimate conclusion.

"Perhaps hyper-advanced life isn't just external. Perhaps it's already all around. It is embedded in what we perceive to be physics itself, from the root behavior of particles and fields to the phenomena of complexity and emergence."
Education

Magazine For Museums Publishes Its 2040 Issue -- 23 Years Early (aam-us.org) 40

A nonprofit founded in 1906 is now offering a glimpse at 2040, according to an anonymous reader: The Alliance of American Museums has just published an ambitious Nov/Dec 2040 issue of Museum, the Alliance's magazine. The columns, reviews, articles, awards, and even the ads describe activities from a 2040 perspective, based on a multi-faceted consensus scenario.
Besides virtual reality centers (and carbon-neutral cities), it envisions de-extinction biologists who resurrect lost species. It also predicts a 2040 with orbiting storehouses to preserve historic artifacts (as well as genetic materials) as part of a collaboration with both NASA and a new American military branch called the US Space Corps. And of course, by 2040 musuems have transformed into hybrid institutions like "museum schools" and "well-being and cognitive health centers" that are both run by museums.

It also predicts for-profit museums that have partnered with corporations.
Sci-Fi

'Starcraft II' Goes Free-to-Play on Tuesday (techcrunch.com) 67

An anonymous reader quotes TechCrunch: It was only in April that Blizzard made the original StarCraft free to play, and now the company has done the same for its sequel. StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty, which is certainly the most-played real-time strategy game ever made, will be free for anyone to play starting on November 14. Of course there's a catch, but nothing nefarious. The game was divided into three episodes, each focusing on one of the three playable races (Human, Zerg and Protoss -- but you knew that), and only the first (the human one) will be available for free. If you already own Wings of Liberty (as the episode is called) you can also get the Heart of the Swarm chapter for free by logging in and claiming it before December 8.
TechCrunch calls it "a good way to onboard new players who just never wanted to pay full price to find out if they liked it."
Sci-Fi

Star Trek: Discovery Will Return On January 7th, 2018 (theverge.com) 278

CBS announced that Star Trek: Discovery will return for the second half of the split season on Sunday, November 12th. There will be roughly a two month gap between the last episode of the first half of the split season, which aires on Sunday, November 12th, and the first episode of the second half of the split season. The Verge reports: When the network announced the series's September release date, it revealed that the first season would be split into two "chapters." The second chapter begins with the show's 10th episode, "Despite Yourself." Chapter 2 will contain the season's remaining six episodes, and will run through February 11th. According to CBS, the show will apparently find the crew of the USS Discovery in "unfamiliar territory," and they'll have to get creative about ways to return home. In this week's episode, the crew came face-to-face with the Klingon Empire over the planet Pahvo, after the planet's native species summoned them, hoping to resolve their conflict. After that, it'll be a longer wait for the show to return: CBS recently announced that it renewed Star Trek: Discovery for a second season, but that announcement didn't come with further details about a second season release date, or the number of episodes or chapters planned for season 2.
Sci-Fi

CBS To Reboot 'The Twilight Zone' (hollywoodreporter.com) 125

phalse phace writes: During CBS's Thursday evenings conference call for their 3rd quarter earnings, CEO Leslie Moonves revealed that CBS was planning to reboot the classic fantasy science-fiction television series "The Twilight Zone." According to the Hollywood Reporter, "the show hails from Jordan Peele's Monkeypaw banner, with Marco Ramirez set to pen the script and serve as showrunner." This wouldn't be the first time CBS has brought the show back. "The network revived the series in the 1980s that ran for three seasons and again in 2002 for a season on UPN with host Forest Whitaker. The franchise has also been licensed to a new stage play set to premiere in December at the Almeida Theatre in London and run through January. The original series won three Emmys during its 156-episode run and explored topics including humanity's hopes, despairs, prides and prejudices."
Sci-Fi

Star Trek: Discovery Is Returning For a Second Season (engadget.com) 478

Engaget reports that CBS' Star Trek: Discovery series is being renewed for a second season. The show has reportedly been enough of a success to justify a second season of episodes. From the report: The move comes as a vote of confidence for both the show and its platform, since it has recently aired the sixth of its fifteen-episode first season. Now, a second run of Discovery will air, presumably at some point toward the back-half of 2018. Discovery has certainly benefited from plenty of hype, since it's the first Trek show to air as a TV show since 2005. The pull of the Star Trek name was always going to be a draw, but it wasn't clear how much of a draw given the saga's lackluster popularity at the box office. CBS refused to offer numbers, but did boast that Discovery's debut lead to the highest number of sign-ups in the history of its All Access service.
Books

Ask Slashdot: What Is Your Favorite William Gibson Novel? 298

dryriver writes: When I first read William Gibson's Neuromancer and then his other novels as a young man back in the 1990s, I was blown away by Gibson's work. Everything was so fresh and out of the ordinary in his books. The writing style. The technologies. The characters and character names. The plotlines. The locations. The future world he imagined. The Matrix. It was unlike anything I had read before. A window into the far future of humanity. I had great hopes over the years that some visionary film director would take a crack at creating film versions of Neuromancer, Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive . But that never happened. All sorts of big budget science fiction was produced for TV and the big screen since Neuromancer that never got anywhere near the brilliance of Gibson's future world. Gibson's world largely stayed on the printed page, and today very few people talk about Neuromancer, even though the world we live in, at times, appears headed in the exact direction Gibson described in his Sprawl trilogy. Why does hardly anybody talk about William Gibson anymore? His books describe a future that is much more technologically advanced than where we are in 2017, so it isn't like his future vision has become "badly dated." To get the conversation going, we rephrased dryriver's question... What is your favorite William Gibson novel?
Sci-Fi

Why Is 'Blade Runner' the Title of 'Blade Runner'? (vulture.com) 221

Why is Blade Runner called Blade Runner? Though the viewer is told in the opening text of Ridley Scott's 1982 original that "special Blade Runner units" hunt renegade replicants -- and though the term "Blade Runner" is applied to Harrison Ford's Rick Deckard a few times in the film -- we're never given an explanation of where the proper noun comes from. The novel upon which Blade Runner was based, Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, offers no clues either.
Sci-Fi

'Blade Runner 2049' Isn't the Movie Denis Villeneuve Wanted to Make (vice.com) 264

Readers share a Motherboard article: There are seemingly two inescapable realities for big-budget filmmakers in 2017: you have to use existing intellectual property and you must provide spectacle that can lure massive domestic and foreign audiences to the the theater. It seemed that Denis Villeneuve chose wisely when he selected the IP that he would ride into the mainstream. [...] There is much to admire, but as a whole, Blade Runner 2049 works best as a case for why filmmakers like Villeneuve should be given big budgets to try out new concepts rather than retread what's come before them. Just like Arrival was at its best when we saw the elegance of how the space ship and the aliens within it actually functioned, this version of Blade Runner shines when we get to watch how Villeneuve's dystopia operates. Moments of technical brilliance small and large are at the soul of this film. Whether you're watching the creation of robot memories, the execution of an air strike from an effortless, detached distance, or even something as simple as a stroll through a hall of records, the mechanics of this world are jaw-dropping. Ryan Gosling (K) wisely opts for a muted, brooding performance, allowing the world to steal the show while still illustrating the burden of living in it. Even with all of this technical brilliance on display (the costumes, sound, and special effects are brilliant), the baggage of the original film's mythology weighs down Blade Runner 2049. The most burdensome baggage for Villeneuve to carry, sadly, is the Blade Runner story itself.
Sci-Fi

According To Star Trek: Discovery, Starfleet Still Runs Microsoft Windows (theverge.com) 237

AmiMoJo shares a report from The Verge: The third episode of Star Trek: Discovery aired this week, and at one point in the episode, Sonequa Martin-Green's Michael Burnham is tasked with reconciling two suites of code. In the show, Burnham claims the code is confusing because it deals with quantum astrophysics, biochemistry, and gene expression. And while the episode later reveals that it's related to the USS Discovery's experimental new mycelial network transportation system, Twitter user Rob Graham noted the code itself is a little more pedestrian in nature. More specifically, it seems to be decompiled code for the infamous Stuxnet virus, developed by the United States to attack Iranian computers running Windows.
Books

SciFi Author (and Byte Columnist) Jerry Pournelle Has Died (jerrypournelle.com) 221

Long-time Slashdot reader BinBoy writes: Science fiction author and Byte magazine columnist Jerry Pournelle has died according to a statement by his son Alex posted to Jerry's web site. A well-wishing page has been set up for visitor's to post their thoughts and memories of Mr. Pournelle.
Pournelle's literary career included the 1985 science fiction novel Footfall with Larry Niven, which became a #1 New York Times best-seller -- one of several successful collaborations between the two authors. In a Slashdot interview in 2003, Larry Niven credited Jerry for the prominent role of religion in their 1974 book The Mote in God's Eye.

Wikipedia also remembers how Byte magazine announced Pournelle's legendary debut as a columnist in their June 1980 issue.
"The other day we were sitting around the BYTE offices listening to software and hardware explosions going off around us in the microcomputer world. We wondered, "Who could cover some of the latest developments for us in a funny, frank (and sometimes irascible) style?" The phone rang. It was Jerry Pournelle with an idea for a funny, frank (and sometimes irascible) series of articles to be presented in BYTE on a semi-regular (i.e.: every 2 to 3 months) basis, which would cover the wild microcomputer goings-on at the Pournelle House ("Chaos Manor") in Southern California. We said yes."
Slashdot reader tengu1sd fondly remembers Pournelle as "frequently loud, but well reasoned." He also shares a link to a new appreciation posted on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America site. And Slashdot reader Nova Express also remembers Pournelle's Chaos Manor website "later became one of the first blogs on the Internet."
Music

SoundCloud Halts Volunteer Archiving Project (vice.com) 48

Slashdot reader nielo tipped us off to more SoundCloud news. Motherboard reports: Last week, a group of volunteer digital preservationists known as The Archive Team announced they would be attempting to independently archive a 123.6 million track, 900-terabyte swath of SoundCloud, the popular streaming music and audio service that recently announced mass layoffs and office closures, sparking fears of an imminent closure. But just as the volunteer archive of SoundCloud was due to be getting started, it's been abruptly called off at the behest of the company... I reached out to SoundCloud for more information, and a spokesperson responded with the following written statement: "SoundCloud is dedicated to protecting the rights and content of the creators who share their work on SoundCloud. We requested the Archive Team halt their efforts as any action to take content from SoundCloud violates our Terms of Use and infringes on our users' rights... SoundCloud is not going away -- not in 50 days, not in 80 days or anytime in the foreseeable future..." But that hasn't stopped some individuals on Reddit's r/datahoarder subreddit from attempting to gather their own personal archives of as much of SoundCloud as they want and can afford to host.
Sci-Fi

George A. Romero, Martin Landau Both Died This Weekend (variety.com) 53

This weekend the world lost two familiar faces from the world of fantasy, horror and science fiction films -- director George A. Romero and actor Martin Landau. An anonymous reader writes: Bronx-born director Romero started his career with a segment for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood about tonsilectomies, but is best remembered for his influential zombie movies Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), and Land of the Dead (2005), as well as the 1982 horror film Creepshow (written by Stephen King). In 1998 Romero also directed a zombie-themed ad for Resident Evil 2, and later even wrote a rejected script for the first Resident Evil movie. In 2004 Romero began work on a zombie video game City of the Dead, which was ultimately never finished. Romero appears as himself in the zombie section of Call of Duty: Black Ops, and in 2014 Marvel comics launched Empire of the Dead, a 15-issue title written by Romero.

Martin Landau began his career playing a gunfighter in the third episode of The Twilight Zone, and a time-travelling astronaut in the sixth episode of The Outer Limits. Soon he was starring as master of disguise Rollin Hand on Mission: Impossible -- which ran from 1966 to 1973 -- and on Space: 1999, which ran from 1975 to 1977. At the age of 66 Landau finally won an Oscar for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's 1994 film Ed Wood. In 2012 Landau also provided the voice of the science teacher in Burton's Frankenweenie, and had an uncredited role in the director's 1999 movie Sleepy Hollow as one of the early victims of the headless horseman. Landau was also in the 1998 X-Files movie (playing the doctor who tips off Mulder that there's something suspicious in the morgue).

Slashdot reader schwit1 remembers that Landau began his career playing a sadistic henchman in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (who appears in the climactic final scene on Mt. Rushmore) -- and that Landau famously turned down the role of Mr. Spock on Star Trek.
Television

Doctor Who's 13th Time Lord Announced: Actress Jodie Whittaker (bbc.co.uk) 508

Peter Capaldi, the 12th Doctor Who, had said that he wanted to see a woman replace him in the Tardis, and so did former Doctor Who stars Billie Piper and Karen Gillan. And today it's official: "the 13th incarnation of Doctor Who will be portrayed by an actress," writes Slashdot reader Coisiche -- specifically Jodie Whittaker, who American viewers may remember from her performance as CIA officer Sandra Grimes in the 2014 mini-series "The Assets." The BBC reports: She was revealed in a trailer that was broadcast on BBC One at the end of the Wimbledon men's singles final... She will make her debut on the sci-fi show when the Doctor regenerates in the Christmas Day show... Whittaker said: "I'm beyond excited to begin this epic journey...with every Whovian on this planet. It's more than an honour to play the Doctor. It means remembering everyone I used to be, while stepping forward to embrace everything the Doctor stands for: hope... Doctor Who represents everything that's exciting about change."
Doctor Who's new showrunner said the 13th Doctor was always going to be a woman -- and that Whittaker was their first choice. "Jodie is an in-demand, funny, inspiring, super-smart force of nature and will bring loads of wit, strength and warmth to the role." Doctor Who #12 added that Whittaker "has above all the huge heart to play this most special part. She's going to be a fantastic Doctor." And Will Howells, who writes for the Doctor Who magazine, said "I don't think it's a risky choice at all but if a show that can go anywhere and do anything can't take risks, what can?"
Sci-Fi

Vintage SciFi Magazine 'Galaxy' Preserved Online - And Hopefully Also SoundCloud (archive.org) 52

Long-time Slashdot reader Paul Fernhout writes: Archive.org has made available 355 issues of Galaxy Magazine for free access. Galaxy Science Fiction was an American digest-size science fiction magazine, published from 1950 to 1980 with stories from many sci-fi greats [including Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, and Robert Heinlein]. At its peak, Galaxy greatly influenced the science fiction field. See also Open Culture and The Verge for more about the history of a magazine that help shape the imaginations of a generation of techies..
Meanwhile, Archive.org's Jason Scott -- who also founded textfiles.com -- says his own group of preservationists "plans large scale backing up of Soundcloud soon" -- or at least part of it. A placeholder page already informs visitors that "We are currently working on getting all the API data... We also are writing the scripts to get a good grab of everything we can." Scott told Motherboard Saturday "Our main concern is artists and creators suddenly finding their stuff gone, and making it so it's not in oblivion."
Space

Could Giant Alien Structures Be Dimming a Far Away Star? (sciencemag.org) 397

sciencehabit quotes a report from Science Magazine: Astronomers and alien life enthusiasts alike are buzzing over the sudden dimming of an otherwise unremarkable star 1300 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. KIC 8462852 or "Tabby's star" has dimmed like this several times before, prompting some researchers to suggest that the megastructures of an advanced alien civilization might be blocking its light. And now -- based on new data from numerous telescopes -- it's doing it again. "This is the first clear dip we have seen since [2013], and the first we have ever caught in real time," says Jason Wright, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University in State College. If they can rope in more telescopes, astronomers hope to gather enough data to finally figure out what's going on. "This could be the first of several dips about to come," says astronomer David Kipping of Columbia University. "Many observers will be closely watching." KIC 8462852 was first noticed to be dipping in brightness at seemingly random intervals between 2011 and 2013 by NASA's Kepler telescope. Kepler, launched to observe the stellar dimmings caused when an exoplanet passes in front of its star, revealed that the dimming of Tabby's star was much more erratic than a typical planetary transit. It was also more extreme, with its brightness sometimes dropping by as much as 20%. This was not the passage of a small circular planet, but of something much larger and more irregular.
Space

Scientists Claim 'Cold Spot' In Space Could Offer Evidence of a Parallel Universe (inhabitat.com) 125

New submitter LCooke writes: A international research team led by the University of Durham thinks a mysterious cold spot in the universe could offer evidence of a parallel universe. The cold spot could have resulted after our universe collided with another. Physicist Tom Shanks said, [...] "the cold spot might be taken as the first evidence for the multiverse -- and billions of other universes may exist like our own." From the report via Inhabitat: "NASA first discovered the baffling cold spot in 2004. The cold spot is 1.8 billion light years across and, as you may have guessed, colder than what surrounds it in the universe. Scientists thought perhaps it was colder because it had 10,000 less galaxies than other regions of similar size. They even thought perhaps the cold spot was just a trick of the light. But now an international team of researchers think perhaps the cold spot could actually offer evidence for the concept of a multiverse. The Guardian explains an infinite number of universes make up a multiverse; each having its own reality different from ours. These scientists say they've ruled out the last-ditch optical illusion idea. Instead, they think our universe may have collided with another in what News.com.au described as something like a car crash; the impact could have pushed energy away from an area of space to result in the cold spot." The study has been published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Sci-Fi

Star Trek Discovery's First Trailer Brings a New Ship, New Characters, and Old Conflicts (cbs.com) 507

nyquil superstar writes: Hey all, the Star Trek: Discovery trailer is out. Looks entertaining! From a report via Vox: "The trailer features Sonequa Martin-Green, fresh from The Walking Dead, as Michael Burnham, a first officer promoted unexpectedly to the position of captain by her mentor, Captain Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). Set 10 years before the original Star Trek series (and 90 years after the franchise's only other prequel, Star Trek: Enterprise), the new series follows the starship Discovery as Burnham learns to become a captain. But she soon finds her abilities tested by a host of challenges that will be familiar to all lovers of the classic sci-fi universe: new worlds to explore and alliances to forge, hostile Klingons, and the difficulty of adhering to the Federation's peacekeeping mission."
Books

Today is 'Free Comic Book Day' (npr.org) 31

An anonymous reader writes: "Walk into a comic shop this Saturday, May 6, and you'll get some free comic books," reports NPR. "You can find your closest shop by typing your ZIP code into the Comics Shop Locator on the Free Comic Book Day page... While you're there, buy something... The comics shops still have to pay for the 'free' FCBD books they stock, and they're counting on the increased foot traffic to lift sales."

There's many familiar characters among the 50 free titles this year, according to Gizmodo. Marvel's free comics are a Guardians of the Galaxy tie-in by Brian Michael Bendis and a Secret Empire prequel, "which has seen Steve Rogers transform from a patriotic superhero to the fascist leader of an invasive Hydra force that has taken over the U.S." Meanwhile, D.C. Comics will re-release "the excellent second issue of the current Wonder Woman Rebirth series," and there's also comics based on Rick & Morty, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and Star Trek: The Next Generation.

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