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Sci-Fi

5 Star Trek Shows in Development, 1 Could Star Patrick Stewart, Reports Say (gizmodo.com) 18

An anonymous reader writes: In the wake of shocking allegations against Star Trek: Discovery's showrunners, producer Alex Kurtzman recently took over the role of showrunning the latest Trek series' sophomore season. But according to multiple reports today, he's just signed a new deal with CBS that could usher in multiple new Star Trek shows. Variety reports that Kurtzman has inked a $25 million deal with CBS as part of a five-year plan to bring more Trek shows to TV in the wake of Discovery's success. According to the site, five series are currently in early development: A teen-oriented series set at Starfleet Academy from Stephanie Savage and Josh Schwartz, the duo behind the recent Dynasty reboot and Marvel's Runaways adaptation. A limited series with a currently confidential plot. A limited series based around the beloved character Khan, from the original Star Trek and the classic film The Wrath of Khan -- something that's been rumored for a while as being spearheaded by Wrath of Khan director Nicholas Meyer. An animated series with another currently confidential plot.
Star Wars Prequels

A Star Wars Boba Fett Movie Is In the Works (variety.com) 318

"Logan" director James Mangold is reportedly directing a "Star Wars" standalone movie centered on the bounty hunter Boba Fett. Variety reports: The untitled movie will be a part of the studio's Star Wars Anthology films, which are being spun off as origin stories. The first anthology film was 2016's "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," followed by "Solo: A Star Wars Story," starring Alden Ehrenreich as a young Han Solo. "Solo" began opening in previews on Thursday night in North America, with forecasts of an debut weekend of $130 million to $150 million. Boba Fett debuted in 1980's "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" and re-appeared in 1983's "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi" as a mercenary for the Galactic Empire. Jeremy Bulloch played the character in the two movies and Jason Wingreen provided Fett's voice. Here's a video highlighting all the scenes starring Boba Fett in the Star Wars trilogy. Do you think it's wise to produce a movie around a character who's had such few scenes, relative to the others?
Space

Did Octopuses Come From Outer Space? 256

A scientific paper, originally published in March, from peer-reviewed journal Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology has found its way in this week's news-cycle. The paper, which is co-written by 33 authors including molecular immunologist Edward Steele and astrobiologist Chandra Wickramasinghe, suggests that octopuses could be aliens, adding legitimacy to a belief, which otherwise has been debunked several times in the recent years.

An excerpt from the paper, which makes the bold claim: The genetic divergence of Octopus from its ancestral coleoid sub-class is very great ... Its large brain and sophisticated nervous system, camera-like eyes, flexible bodies, instantaneous camouflage via the ability to switch color and shape are just a few of the striking features that appear suddenly on the evolutionary scene. [...] It is plausible then to suggest they [octopuses] seem to be borrowed from a far distant 'future' in terms of terrestrial evolution, or more realistically from the cosmos at large."Ephrat Livni of Quartz questions the basis of the finding: To make matters even more strange, the paper posits that octopuses could have arrived on Earth in "an already coherent group of functioning genes within (say) cryopreserved and matrix protected fertilized octopus eggs." And these eggs might have "arrived in icy bolides several hundred million years ago." The authors admit, though, that "such an extraterrestrial origin...of course, runs counter to the prevailing dominant paradigm." Indeed, few in the scientific community would agree that octopuses come from outer space. But the paper is not just about the provenance of cephalopods. Its proposal that octopuses could be extraterrestrials is just a small part of a much more extensive discussion of a theory called "panspermia," which has its roots in the ideas of ancient Greece. Newsweek spoke with Avi Loeb, the Frank B. Baird Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard University, who told the publication that the paper has raised "an interesting but controversial possibility." However, he added, that it offers no "indisputable proof" that the Cambrian explosion is the result of panspermia.

Further reading: Cosmos magazine has outlined some flaws in the assumptions that the authors made in the paper. It has also looked into the background of some of the authors. The magazine also points out that though the paper has made bold claims, it has yet to find support or corroboration from the scientific community. News outlet Live Science has also questioned the findings.
AI

Ask Slashdot: Could Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics Ensure Safe AI? (wikipedia.org) 235

"If science-fiction has already explored the issue of humans and intelligent robots or AI co-existing in various ways, isn't there a lot to be learned...?" asks Slashdot reader OpenSourceAllTheWay. There is much screaming lately about possible dangers to humanity posed by AI that gets smarter and smarter and more capable and might -- at some point -- even decide that humans are a problem for the planet. But some seminal science-fiction works mulled such scenarios long before even 8-bit home computers entered our lives.
The original submission cites Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics from the 1950 collection I, Robot.
  • A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  • A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  • A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

The original submission asks, "If you programmed an AI not to be able to break an updated and extended version of Asimov's Laws, would you not have reasonable confidence that the AI won't go crazy and start harming humans? Or are Asimov and other writers who mulled these questions 'So 20th Century' that AI builders won't even consider learning from their work?"

Wolfrider (Slashdot reader #856) is an Asimov fan, and writes that "Eventually I came across an article with the critical observation that the '3 Laws' were used by Asimov to drive plot points and were not to be seriously considered as 'basics' for robot behavior. Additionally, Giskard comes up with a '4th Law' on his own and (as he is dying) passes it on to R. Daneel Olivaw."

And Slashdot reader Rick Schumann argues that Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics "would only ever apply to a synthetic mind that can actually think; nothing currently being produced is capable of any such thing, therefore it does not apply..."

But what are your own thoughts? Do you think Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics could ensure safe AI?


Sci-Fi

Christopher Nolan Returns Kubrick Sci-Fi Masterpiece '2001: A Space Odyssey' To Its Original Glory (latimes.com) 135

LA Times' Kenneth Turan traces Christopher Nolan's meticulous restoration of Kubrick's masterpiece to its 70-mm glory: Christopher Nolan wants to show me something interesting. Something beautiful and exceptional, something that changed his life when he was a boy. It's also something that Nolan, one of the most accomplished and successful of contemporary filmmakers, has persuaded Warner Bros. to share with the world both at the upcoming Cannes Film Festival and then in theaters nationwide, but in a way that boldly deviates from standard practice.

For what is being cued up in a small, hidden-away screening room in an unmarked building in Burbank is a brand new 70-mm reel of film of one of the most significant and influential motion pictures ever made, Stanley Kubrick's 1968 science-fiction epic "2001: A Space Odyssey." Yes, you read that right. Not a digital anything, an actual reel of film that was for all intents and purposes identical to the one Nolan saw as a child and Kubrick himself would have looked at when the film was new half a century ago.

Sci-Fi

Sci-Fi Is Still Working on Its 'Stale, Male, and Pale' Problem, Says James Cameron (indiewire.com) 796

An anonymous reader shares a report: As science fiction finally earns mainstream acceptance in Hollywood, James Cameron believes the genre's awards drought will soon be over. "I predict that sometime in the next five to 10 years you will have a science-fiction film win Best Picture," he told reporters while promoting "AMC Visionaries: James Cameron's Story of Science Fiction," which premieres Monday. Films like "Arrival" and "Ex-Machina" have earned nominations, but as the older guard ages out of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Cameron believes that the membership's "prejudice" against sci-fi -- which he says "definitely exists" -- will fade. "They're definitely a red-headed stepchild when it comes to the acting, producing, directing categories," he said.

"Science fiction is kind of a commercial genre, it's not really an elevated dramatic genre. I would argue that until I'm blue in the face that science fiction is the quintessence of being human in a sense. We are technological beings. We are the only truly conscious species that we know of. We are struggling with ourselves over the issue of our own question for understanding, our own ability to manipulate the fabric of our reality. Our own technology is blowing back on us and changing how we behave amongst ourselves and as a civilization," he added. "I would argue that there's nothing more quintessentially human than dealing with these themes. But Hollywood tends to pull short from that."

But as Hollywood changes its perception of science fiction, Cameron stressed that the genre itself needs to continue to evolve from its origins of being too "stale, male and pale." "It was white guys talking about rockets," Cameron said of early sci-fi. "The female authors didn't come into it until the '50s and '60s and a lot of them had to operate under pseudonyms." But even now, "women are still unrepresented in science fiction as they are in Hollywood in general," he said. "When 14 percent of all film directors in the industry are female, and they represent 50 percent of the population, that's a big delta there that needs to get rectified."

Sci-Fi

Apple Is Developing a TV Show Based On Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series (deadline.com) 142

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Deadline: In a competitive situation, Apple has nabbed a TV series adaptation of Foundation, the seminal Isaac Asimov science fiction novel trilogy. The project, from Skydance Television, has been put in development for straight-to-series consideration. Deadline revealed last June that Skydance had made a deal with the Asimov estate and that David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman were cracking the code on a sprawling series based on the books that informed Star Wars and many other sci-fi films and TV series. Goyer and Friedman will be executive producers and showrunners. Skydance's David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross also will executive produce.

Originally published as a short story series in Astounding Magazine in 1942, Asimov's Foundation is the complex saga of humans scattered on planets throughout the galaxy, all living under the rule of the Galactic Empire. The protagonist is a psycho-historian who has an ability to read the future and foresees the empire's imminent collapse. He sets out to save the knowledge of mankind from being wiped out. Even the Game of Thrones' creative team would marvel at the number of empires that rise and fall in Foundation. Asimov's trilogy has been tried numerous times as a feature film at Fox, Warner Bros (with Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, who greenlit The Lord of the Rings), and then at Sony with Independence Day director Roland Emmerich. Many top sci-fi writers have done scripts and found it daunting to constrict the sprawling saga to a feature film format. Most recently, HBO tried developing a series with Interstellar co-writer and Westworld exec producer Jonathan Nolan, but a script was never ordered.

DRM

Ask Slashdot: What Would Happen If Everything On the Internet Was DRM Protected? 190

dryriver writes: The whole Digital Rights Management (DRM) train started with music and films, spread horribly to computer and console games (Steam, Origin), turned a lot of computer software you could once buy-and-use into DRM-locked Software As A Service or Cloud Computing products (Adobe, Autodesk, MS Office 365 for example) that are impossible to use without an active Internet connection and account registration on a cloud service somewhere. Recently the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) appears to have paved the way for DRM to find its way into the world of Internet content in various forms as well. Here's the question: What would happen to the Internet as we know it if just about everything on a website -- text, images, audio, video, scripts, games, PDF documents, downloadable files and data, you name it -- had DRM protection and DRM usage-limitations hooked into it by default?

Imagine trying to save a JPEG image you see on a website to your harddisk, and not only does every single one of your web browsers refuse the request, but your OS's screen-capture function won't let you take a snapshot of that JPEG image either. Imagine trying to copy-and-paste some text from a news article somewhere into a Slashdot submission box, and having browser DRM tell you 'Sorry! The author, copyright holder or publisher of this text does not allow it to be quoted or re-published anywhere other than where it was originally published!'. And then there is the (micro-)payments aspect of DRM. What if the DRM-fest that the future Internet may become 5 to 10 years from now requires you to make payments to a copyright holder for quoting, excerpting or re-publishing anything of theirs on your own webpage? Lets say for example that you found some cool behind-the-scenes-video of how Spiderman 8 was filmed, and you want to put that on your Internet blog. Except that this video is DRM'd, and requires you to pay 0.1 Cent each time someone watches the video on your blog. Or you want to use a short excerpt from a new scifi book on your blog, and the same thing happens -- you need to pay to re-publish even 4 paragraphs of the book. What then?
Movies

The 50th Anniversary of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" 206

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the original release of Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey," a seminal film in motion picture history and one that has awed millions over the years. Kubrick's title has often been credited with paving the way for science-fiction films that took a realistic approach to depicting the future. Even as "2001" has grown to become one of the most iconic movies of all time, the reception it received when it originally premiered wasn't good. An excerpt: The film's previews were an unmitigated disaster. Its story line encompassed an exceptional temporal sweep, starting with the initial contact between pre-human ape-men and an omnipotent alien civilization and then vaulting forward to later encounters between Homo sapiens and the elusive aliens, represented throughout by the film's iconic metallic-black monolith. Although featuring visual effects of unprecedented realism and power, Kubrick's panoramic journey into space and time made few concessions to viewer understanding. The film was essentially a nonverbal experience. Its first words came only a good half-hour in.

Audience walkouts numbered well over 200 at the New York premiere on April 3, 1968, and the next day's reviews were almost uniformly negative. Writing in the Village Voice, Andrew Sarris called the movie "a thoroughly uninteresting failure and the most damning demonstration yet of Stanley Kubrick's inability to tell a story coherently and with a consistent point of view." And yet that afternoon, a long line -- comprised predominantly of younger people -- extended down Broadway, awaiting the first matinee.
The Cannes Film Festival will celebrate the 50th anniversary of "2001: A Space Odyssey" with the world premiere of an unrestored 70mm print, introduced by Christopher Nolan. The event is set for May 12 as part of the Cannes Classics program. The screening will also be attended by members of Kubrick's family, including his daughter Katharina Kubrick and his longtime producing partner and brother-in-law Jan Harlan.

Further reading: Why 2001: A Space Odyssey's mystery endures, 50 years on (CNET); 50 years of 2001: A Space Odyssey -- how Kubrick's sci-fi 'changed the very form of cinema' (The Guardian); The story of a voice: HAL in '2001' wasn't always so eerily calm (The New York Times); and The most intriguing theories about "2001: A Space Odyssey" (io9); and Behind the scenes of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the strangest blockbuster in Hollywood history (Vanity Fair).
Sci-Fi

Amazon Plans Blockbuster TV Series Based On Chinese Sci-Fi Trilogy 'The Three-Body Problem' (medium.com) 158

hackingbear writes from a report: Amazon is reportedly likely to earmark $1 billion for a television series (Warning: source paywalled, alternative source) based on the ultra-popular Chinese science fiction trilogy The Three Body Problem. The American video subscription service will likely acquire the rights to the Yugo-winning, extremely popular trilogy of novels written by Liu Cixin and produce three seasons of episodes. The rights to the trilogy are currently owned by Lin Qi, the chairman of Youzu Interactive, a Chinese developer and publisher that typically focuses on online and mobile games.
Sci-Fi

Ask Slashdot: Is Beaming Down In Star Trek a Death Sentence? 593

Artem Tashkinov writes: Some time ago, Ars Technica ran a monumental article on beaming of consciousness in Star Trek and its implications, and more importantly, whether it's plausible to achieve that without killing a person in the process.

It seems possible in the Star Trek universe. However, currently physicists find the idea absurd and unreal because there's no way you can transport matter and its quantum state without first destroying it and then recreating it perfectly, due to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. The biggest conundrum of all is the fact that pretty much everyone understands that consciousness is a physical state of the brain, which features continuity as its primary principle; yet it surely seems like copying the said state produces a new person altogether, which brings up the problem of consciousness becoming local to one's skull and inseparable from gray matter. This idea sounds a bit unscientific because it introduces the notion that there's something about our brain which cannot be described in terms of physics, almost like soul.

This also brings another very difficult question: how do we know if we are the same person when we wake up in the morning or after we were put under during general anesthesia? What are your thoughts on the topic?
Sci-Fi

UFO Disclosure Group Releases Newest Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet UFO Encounter Video (cnn.com) 242

alaskana98 writes: CNN and other media outlets are reporting that the "To The Stars Academy of Arts and Science" group has released the third in a series of videos purportedly showing an encounter between Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet pilots and an object moving at seemingly impossible speeds off the East Coast of the United States. The video was captured by the Raytheon: Advanced Targeting Forward-Looking Infrared (ATFLIR) pod and includes audio of the pilots excitedly observing this object from far above as it zooms over the ocean surface. The ATFLIR system has trouble getting a lock on the object at first but then gets a lock on it eventually demonstrating that whatever this this was it wasn't a figment of the pilots imaginations. If the video is authentic there are indeed some strange things flying in our skies. The video can be viewed here.
Sci-Fi

The Hitchhikers Guide To the Galaxy Returns With the Original Cast (arstechnica.com) 84

Jonathan M. Gitlin reports via Ars Technica: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy deserves a special place in the geek pantheon. It's the story of hapless BBC radio editor Arthur Dent, his best friend Ford Prefect, and the adventures that result when Prefect saves Dent when the Earth is unexpectedly destroyed to make way for a galactic bypass. Written by the late, great Douglas Adams, THGTTG first appeared as a radio series in the UK back in 1978. On Thursday -- exactly 40 years to the day from that first broadcast -- it made its return home with the start of Hexagonal Phase, a radio dramatization of the sixth and final book of an increasingly misnamed trilogy.

Although Adams died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2001, the universe he gave birth to lived on. Beginning in 2004, the original radio cast was reunited to dramatize the third, fourth, and fifth books. In 2005, a film adaptation was released, and then in 2009 came a final novel in the "trilogy," And Another Thing..., written by the novelist Eoin Colfer. It's this story that the BBC is now dramatizing, again using many of the original cast, along with newcomers like Jim Broadbent, Lenny Henry, and Stephen Hawking. Yes, that Stephen Hawking.

Star Wars Prequels

'Iron Man' Director Jon Favreau Will Write And Produce a Live-Action 'Star Wars' TV Series For Disney's New Streaming Service (cnet.com) 90

From a report: Jon Favreau is going from "Avengers" blockbusters to a galaxy far, far away. The director, actor, producer and writer will take on a Star Wars starring role by helming a series destined for Disney's new streaming video service. While Favreau is multi-talented, his focus will be on producing and writing the unnamed show. Favreau is a bonafide Star Wars fan who voiced a character in the animated "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" and also has appearance in the upcoming "Solo: A Star Wars Story."In a statement, Favreau said, "If you told me at 11 years old that I would be getting to tell stories in the Star Wars universe, I wouldn't have believed you. I can't wait to embark upon this exciting adventure."
Movies

The Oscar-Winning Special Effects of Blade Runner 2049 (bbc.com) 107

On Sunday, 'Blade Runner 2049' won the Oscar for the movie with the best visual effects. BBC spoke to Richard Hoover, the visual effects supervisor at Framestore which was one of the companies responsible for the movie's special effects.

Further reading: How 'Blade Runner 2049' VFX Supervisor John Nelson Brought Rachael & Pic's Holograms To Life (Deadline); Behind the breathtaking visual effects of 'Blade Runner 2049' (Digital Trends); How Blade Runner 2049's VFX team made K's hologram girlfriend (Wired).
Books

HBO's Fahrenheit 451 Trailer Teases Dystopian World Filled With Burning 'Chaos' (hollywoodreporter.com) 171

HBO has released the first trailer of its film adaptation of Ray Bradbury's best-selling 1953 dystopian tale, Fahrenheit 451, which depicts a time period where history is outlawed and "firemen" burn books. The Hollywood Reporter reports: In the Ramin Bahrani-directed film, Michael B. Jordan stars as Guy Montag, a fireman who comes to question his role in enforcing the state's censorship laws, and in so doing finds himself at odds with his "mentor," Beatty (Michael Shannon). "By the time you guys grow up, there won't be one book left," Jordan is shown telling a group of students. Throughout the trailer, a reel of destruction is shown as Beatty's voiceover warns that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing." "We are not born equal, so we must be made equal by the fire," Beatty explains. Jordan will also serve as the film's executive producer. Sofia Boutella, Martin Donovan, Laura Harrier, Keir Dullea, Jane Moffat and Grace Lynn Kung also star.
Sci-Fi

Amazon Is Developing a TV Series Based On Iain M. Banks' Sci-Fi Novel 'Consider Phlebas' (hollywoodreporter.com) 104

leathered writes: Jeff Bezos today announced that Amazon Studios has picked up the rights to adapt the late Iain M. Bank's acclaimed Culture novels to the small screen, beginning with the first in the series, Consider Phlebas. This comes after nearly three decades of attempts to bring Banks' utopian, post-scarcity society to film or television. A huge fan of the Culture series is Elon Musk, whose SpaceX drone ships are named after Culture space vessels. Here's how Amazon describes Consider Phlebas: "a kinetic, action-packed adventure on a huge canvas. The book draws upon the extraordinary world and mythology Banks created in the Culture, in which a highly advanced and progressive society ends up at war with the Idirans, a deeply religious, warlike race intent on dominating the entire galaxy. The story centers on Horza, a rogue agent tasked by the Idirans with the impossible mission of recovering a missing Culture 'Mind,' an artificial intelligence many thousands of times smarter than any human -- something that could hold the key to wiping out the Culture altogether. What unfolds, with Banks' trademark irreverent humor, ultimately asks the poignant question of how we can use technology to preserve our humanity, not surrender it."
Sci-Fi

Marvel Cinematic Universe Has a CGI Problem (screenrant.com) 398

Corey Hutchinson, writing for ScreenRant: The MCU may be the biggest thing in Hollywood these days, but there's no denying that its overuse of CGI is becoming more and more noticeable. Don't get us wrong; for the most part, the MCU's CGI has been great, even spectacular at times. Even at its worst, it's nowhere near the bottom of the pile in terms of poor special effects in superhero movies. And no single MCU entry has come anywhere close to the awfulness that is Justice League. But when a superhero franchise is pulling in this much money and getting consistently glowing reviews, the bar has to be set high, and several of the MCU's latest offerings just aren't clearing it. It's worth noting that the MCU's CGI shortcomings are a relatively recent thing. There's very little to complain about when it comes to the special effects behind their Phase One movies. They all hold up surprising well, in fact, and the same goes for the vast majority of Marvel's Phase Two films. There's a few dicey moments in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but it wasn't really until Captain America: Civil War kicked off Phase Three that any negative attention was paid to the MCU's effects work.

Take a moment to rewatch the second Black Panther clip that was released to the public a few weeks ago. Specifically, hone in on the 45 second mark, where you see Nakia shooting two guys, the second of which is very obviously computer-generated. Why the hell would they even bother to CGI that, you ask?

Sci-Fi

Would You Fear Alien Life or Welcome It? (cnet.com) 226

If you've ever watched a science fiction movie about aliens, you'll know that humans tend to freak out and destroy everything when faced with incontrovertible proof of the existence of alien life. But a new analysis from Arizona State University psychology professor Michael Varnum and his colleagues suggests that humans might actually remain pretty calm and collected when that big news breaks. CNET reports: Varnum makes this conclusion based on an analysis of newspaper articles covering past potential discoveries of extraterrestrial life. Specifically, he and his colleagues looked at articles about the weird dimming of so-called "Tabby's Star," Earth-like planets around the star Trappist-1, and the potential discovery of Martian microbe fossils from 1996. They found language in the stories demonstrated much more positive emotion than fear or other negative emotions. In a second study, the team also surveyed over 500 people, asking them to guess how they and humanity would react to an announcement that alien microbial life had been discovered. In the case of both their own reaction and everyone else's, the participants hypothesized responses that were more positive than negative. The research was published last month in Frontiers in Psychology.
Sci-Fi

Firefly Canon To Expand With Series of Original Books (ew.com) 106

More Firefly stories are on the way. Entertainment Weekly: EW can exclusively report that Titan Books and Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products have teamed up to publish an original range of new fiction tying in to Joss Whedon's beloved but short-lived TV series Firefly. The books will be official titles within the Firefly canon, with Whedon serving as consulting editor. The first book is due in the fall. Starring Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, and Alan Tudyk, the western-tinged space opera ran from 2002 to 2003 on Fox. Exploring weighty moral and ethical questions, Firefly centered on a collection of characters living on the fringes of society, joined together in the pioneer culture of their star system in the wake of a civil war. It lasted just 14 episodes, but in the decade and a half since it went off the air has amassed a significant cult following.

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