Archive for October, 2012

Elon Musk Hints at New Mystery Rocket

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

During interviews on SpaceX’s current and near-future plans for the company, both Elon Musk and SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell have made allusions to a much larger rocket than the Falcon Heavy they plan on launching next year. The Falcon Heavy, basically three Falcon 9’s strapped together with modified Merlin engines will be the most powerful rocket since the Saturn V with a launch to low earth orbit capacity of 53 tons. The new rocket, powered by “MCT” engines would have a capability of up to 200 tons to LEO. That’s enough capacity to put the entire International Space Station up in two trips.

By comparison, NASA’s next rocket system, the Space Launch System is planned to have a cargo capacity of 130 tons to LEO, a third less than the MCT.

The engine cores for the MCT rocket would each be capable of 1.5 millions pounds of thrust. Shotwell says final specs are still being determined. The vehicle itself could have a diameter of 21 feet – making it wider that an Boeing 747 jet.

Elon Musk hasn’t elaborated on what MCT stands for, but that hasn’t stopped people from speculating. Given his stated goal of retiring to the red planet, the “M” could stand for Mars; making this the Mars Cargo/Crew Transport?

SpaceX aims big with massive new rocket

Did a Trail Camera Capture a Passing Zombie?

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

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We are pretty sure this picture from a trail camera in Luneberg County, VA is either not real or some kind of lighting trick. But also… HOLY SMOKES THAT’S A ZOMBIE! THE END IS NIGH!

Thanks to reader J Lowder Jr. for sending this along.

What’s that? You want a terrifying close up? Okie dokie!

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A Whole New World [The Walking Dissection]

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

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Imagine you have an alcoholic uncle. He and your dad were always close and even though he’d embarrass himself sometimes it was always funny and never tragic. But over the last few years things got worse. He borrowed money, burned through friendships, marriages and familial trust.

Then one February he really screws up. Wrecks a car. Loses his job. Needs to borrow even more money. Finally, dad has enough. He’s still his brother, but the trust isn’t there. More specifically, the faith that he could ever pull out of his tailspin finally vanishes.

That Thanksgiving, he shows up. Everyone sits down and as your mother offers a glass of wine to everyone he makes a show of asking for water. In conversation he makes sure to mention that he’s been sober for the last five months. After dinner, he gives your dad a check. Not for everything, but something. He promises there is more where that came from.

Is he a different man? Who knows. But in this moment, he’s doing everything you’d ask of him. Even if it proves fleeing, he’s changed.

Two things are for sure. One, I really enjoyed the Walking Dead season three premiere. Two, this metaphor is too long.

Much more AFTER THE JUMP (more…)

Possible Chinese Rage Virus? Man Chews Other Man’s Arm Over Subway Seat!

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Here in the states, Bath-Salt Zombie activity has gone into a lull as everyone following the gruesome trend keeps a wary eye out for the next crazy-looking person who reeks of ‘Blossoming Garden Jasmine’ and keeps eyeballing your body like a slab of ribs.

Meanwhile, over in China, a strange attack has caused hopeful zombie apocalypse fans to perk up with curious dog head-tilt.

During a subway ride, a 67 year-old retiree asked a young man refused to give up the seat to his elder? The 28 year-old whipper-snapper suddenly found himself tackled by the older man. Not only was he being attacked, he was being chewed on! The elder man was literally taking chunks of flesh out of the younger man’s arm and the blood was flowing.

In behavior that resembled a bunch of cornered mice, witnesses scattered to corners of the subway car then someone hit the record button on their phone and caught the whole attack on video for the world to see. YouTube has taken down the video based on their policies but you can still find it online. We’re warning you. It’s not for the squeamish when you do find it.

According to the news covering the story, both men were apprehended, taken to the police station and let go.

Yup. Let go.

Not only that but they both apologized for their behavior and agreed to pay their own medical bills.

Neither of them will be charged with anything.

Anyone else seeing into the near-future now that this precedent’s been set? Us too.

[SINA]

Multiple Yeti Sighted In Russia!

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Russia has become a hotbed of Yeti activity over the last couple of weeks. And what’s more awesome than seeing a Yeti?

Seeing a group of Yeti.

In those last couple of weeks the sightings of Bigfoot’s Siberian cousin, two have included multiple Yeti hanging out together.


Sighting #1:

“We shouted, ‘Do you need help?’ They rushed away, all in fur, walking on two legs, making their way through the bushes and with two other limbs, straight up the hill. The person who made the report added: “It could not be bears, as the bear walks on all fours, and they ran on two. Then they were gone.”

Sighting #2:

“We saw some tall animals looking like people. Our binoculars were broken and did not let us see them sharply. We waved at the animals but they did not respond, then quickly ran back into the forest, walking on two legs. We realized that they were not in dark clothes but covered by dark fur. They did walk like people.”

Sighting #3:

A forestry inspector reported seeing a yeti in a national park, a government official said. Sergei Adlyakov, the inspector who reported the incident said: “The creature did not look like a bear and quickly disappeared after breaking some branches off the bushes.”

Are Yeti growing in number? Have they just gotten numb to the whole ‘being spotted’ thing? Only one man may know the answer because he’s Russia’s Yeti expert. Igor Burtsev is the head of the International Center of Hominology and is very excited to learn more about the recent blossoming of Yeti activity. Burtsev also claims that there is an active population of about 30 of the creatures living in the Kemerovo region of Russia.

He said: “We have good evidence of the yeti living in our region, and we have heard convincing details from experts elsewhere in Russia and in the U.S. and Canada.

[Fox News]

The Walking Dead Will Again Become the Best, Most Important, Genre Show on TV Tonight

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

This is the PRO half of PRO/CON pair of columns talking about expectations for the upcoming season of The Walking Dead beginning tonight at 9 p.m. on AMC. Unless you are on Dish Network. In that case you’re screwed.

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It has to be better.

There is to much going for it. Too many brilliant ideas. Too much drama.

The Walking Dead finally gets out of the woods tonight. Not only because our characters are finally off that God forsaken farm where all character consistency and plot momentum went to die but because of where they are headed.

Without getting too specific into spoilers, the source material of the first two season has its moments but is comparatively light compared to the books that inspire this season.

Drama is created from and by inspired and interesting concepts and conflicts. Specifically dealt with this season are the follow: the price paid for security, the damage this disease has done to our culture, who we define as a threat and our first glimpse at “normalcy” are themes dealt with in delightful depth.

Compare that to the second season when the major overriding theme appeared to be “are we alive” and “who’s making a stink face”. The source material for those seasons, although different where by and large chase and regroup stories without much beyond the overarching survival themes of the series.

Specifically, The Governor is too good of a character to not get SOMETHING compelling from. I really enjoyed the casting of Phillip Blake and what we’ve seen of the character so far. He has the face of a man you can trust. The kind of man who would take the any loss from his flock very personally.

They’re also returning Season 1’s Michael Rooker as Merle Dixon. Scenes find it very difficult to be boring when you add a coked up racist with a vendetta to the mix. Not to mention what that means for his brother Daryl, who’s found a life for himself as a leader amongst our survivors.

When you add up the potential, it seems impossible to say this season can’t be more entertaining than the last.

And maybe, with a little luck, it’s really special. The ingredients are there, and no matter what my apprehensions I’m eagerly awaiting digging in.

The Walking Dead is a Disappointment and Will Continue to be a Disappointment

Sunday, October 14th, 2012

This is the CON half of PRO/CON pair of columns talking about expectations for the upcoming season of The Walking Dead beginning tonight at 9 p.m. on AMC. Unless you are on Dish Network. In that case you’re screwed.

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The Walking Dead is big on the metaphorical zombie.

People can be worse than the ghouls roaming the Georgia highways. Friends can lose their humanity. Loved ones can crumble in a moment of weakness and be more dangerous than whatever viral menace mangled the world.

Appropriate to the subject matter of the show, my love for AMC’s biggest hit also underwent a transformation. See, I started writing recaps for TWD because I loved the first season. Loved it. Not only was it enjoyable, but for those who enjoy the horror half of “genre” popular art it was important.

It had the capability to do for horror what Battlestar Galactica did for science fiction. Maybe it would never snag the Emmy hardware but it could perennially stay in the mouths of critics enough to demonstrate what well-told, violent, smart suspense is not something to be ashamed of.

Unlike BSG, Dead has a massive audience. The finale for season two brought in a gargantuan 4.7 ratings, making it the most watched scripted program on cable. In comparison, Battlestar’s superb second season finale Lay Down Your Burdens II brought in a 1.9 share.

I wanted to write about a show I loved.

I wrote about a show that frustrated me on a weekly basis.

My love morphed into a bitter screed ambling across your browser every Monday morning. It’s not how I wanted it. This was supposed to be a celebration, instead I was a “walker” wearing a party hat.

So why write about it again this season?

After all, the undeniable creative influence of Frank Darabount is still missing. And even if you have faith in new honcho Glenn Mazzara, who is to say that the network forces that nickle’d and dime’d the old boss out the door won’t hamper the new ones?

Also, does anyone who had to suffer through a month and a half of looking for Sophia really going to get super excited that the Walking Dead will have even MORE episodes (16, up from 13) in the upcoming season? Who’s ready for three hours worth of Rick trying to find his keys?

Even the exciting, new characters are booby-trapped by expectations.

Michonne has a fairly simple character arc in the comics, well suited for the medium. Will that hold up on this show? How differently will she act.

Meanwhile, has there been a character on modern television more ripe for “BUT IN THE COMICS?!?!!?” fan griping than The Governor? He can’t be a mustache twirling villain, he needs to have his heartbreaking motivation, he needs to be charming, he needs to believe that sexual assault is on the table when discussing torture options.

With the signature storyline of the series now at hand, this is a make or break season for TWD critically. I’d love to say that the evidence suggests you be exited to for it.

I’d love that.

Doctors Put Woman’s Skull In Her Belly!

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

Hell’s Canyon is a name where you actually expect weird stuff to happen on a regular basis. Knowing that Hell’s Canyon is in Idaho only makes it worse.

For 36 year-old American beauty queen Jamie Hilton it got worse.

During a fishing trip to Hell’s Canyon with her husband, Jamie stumbled and slammed her head causing severe swelling and other complications.

In an attempt to save her life, doctors removed a quarter of her skull to prevent the swelling from causing any more damage.

When the mother of three, a former Mrs Idaho, woke from the operation she found a lump in her stomach and a large portion of her head missing. Mrs Hilton posted a photo of the skull in her abdomen on her blog entitled ‘Miracles… believe in them’ as well as a photo showing a scar running the length of her head.

That’s where her little skull-friend stayed too…for 42 days!

When Jamie had recovered from the first portion of the surgery, it was time to remove the incubating skull-piece from her belly and return it to her dome. You’d think science and medicine would’ve come up with some kind of awesome adhesive at this point like ‘Gorilla Bone & Organ Glue” but nah…

Using industrial strength staples, doctors stapled the skull piece back into place, sewed her pretty little noggin’s fleshy covering back up and called it a day.

Jamie is currently in recovery, doing well and happy as can be.

Guess who’s going to be the ‘astronaut at the table’ when it comes to her interview at the next beauty pageant? Yup…the chick who carried her own skull in her belly like a baby.

Winning!

[Metro.Co.UK]

Podcast: SpaceX Launch Live!

Saturday, October 13th, 2012

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Andrew is live in Cape Canaveral to watch SpaceX launch their first supply mission to the International Space Station and he is joined by CBS’ Molly Wood! Justin is live at TWiT’s studio in Petaluma, CA and is joined by Tom Merritt. Brian is somewhere in Dallas and is joined by his ever buoyant enthusiasm.

Listen to the sounds of the launch! Hear how NASA has taken their social media communication with new heights in an impromptu interview with one of the men who makes it happen! It’s Space! Space! Space! in this commercial free episode.

Special thanks to NASA, TWiT, Leo Laporte, Lisa Kentzell, Tom Merritt and Molly Wood.

Support the show by purchasing Andrew’s BRAND NEW BOOK Hollywood Pharaohs just click on the image below.

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Fresh Giant Eyeball Found on Beach Still Bleeding!

Friday, October 12th, 2012

[ UPDATE: Giant Eye Mystery Solved! ]

Florida always seems like it’s sitting on some kind of undiscovered Hell-Mouth.

Between Bath-Salt Zombies, giant snakes slithering through your lawn, Night Creepers and lizards eating humans there’s just something…not…quite..right.

Which brings us to Pompano Beach..in Florida.

Some guy’s going for his morning stroll and spots something odd drifting around in the surf. Just like in any other horror film, the dude goes to investigate…and kicks it over…revealing at a huge eyeball staring right back at him.

“It was very fresh,” he said Thursday. “It was still bleeding when I put it in the plastic bag.”

Police referred him to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission who, frighteningly couldn’t identify what species the eye came from.

The Fish and Wildlife officers place the eyeball on ice and sent it to the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute for analysis.

In the end who really cares about where the eyeball came from…the Fish and Game Commission people should be looking for the thing that ripped apart the thing with the giant eyeball.

[Sun Sentinel]

Farmer Killed and Eaten By His Own Pigs!

Friday, October 12th, 2012

It was totally bound to happen.

People have been enjoying the sweet nectar of pork we all afftectionately refer to as bacon on a overly indulgent basis for a long, long time.

Forget the dead rising up to walk amongst us and gnaw on our fleshy parts.

This story might be the first sign that something much more sinister is taking place on farms around the country…

A pig uprising.

On a small farm in Oregon, police have reportedly found the false teeth and a few remains of farmer 69 year-old Terry Vance Garner in the pen where he keeps his pigs.

According to Garner’s old brother, Michael, one of the pigs had apparently bitten Terry last year when he accidentally stepped on a piglet. While no one’s sure what exactly took place the horrific and creepy fact is that a bunch of pigs ate a farmer and had no problem with the taste of man-meat.

District Attorney Paul Frasier told local papers and news media:

“For all we know, it was a horrific accident, but it’s so doggone weird that we have to look at all possibilities.”

[BBC UK]

Who Needs DNA to Bring Back the T-Rex?

Friday, October 12th, 2012

New research from scientists presenting in Proceedings of the Royal Society has put a damper on getting viable DNA from samples older than 8.5 million years. In studying fossilized moa bones, they discovered a half-life for DNA of about 521 years, meaning that getting even fragments of DNA older than 8.5 million years would be unlikely. While mother nature has a habit of throwing us curveballs, and that up until recently, the fact that DNA would last this long was considered an impossibility, would-be dinosaur breeders need not despair. There’s no reason a simple thing like lacking DNA should stop us from bringing back giant chomping things with tiny little arms. Recreating a T-Rex was always going to involve some genetic tampering.

We’d never use the original recipe to begin with
Let’s assume for a moment that we did have an intact strand of DNA from a T-Rex and a viable way to get it to replicate inside a cell and make a baby dino. We’d have to tamper with the DNA anyways for a variety of reasons.

1. First is that the world has changed since these giant scavengers roved the plains looking for food. In their era, 65 million years ago, the air had 150% more oxygen. To get your T-Rex in your dino zoo to do anything other than limp around and wheeze, you’d need to change its blood cells and lungs into something that could deal with our much thinner oxygen. This kind of re-engineering would have a dramatic effect on the whole creature from behavior to life-span. A T-Rex in 2012 wouldn’t behave the same way as she would have back in her day. Imagine watching an NBA basketball game played at 20,000 feet altitude. They’d be off their game, so would a T-Rex in our atmosphere. While our modified creature may look like a T-Rex, it’d be a very different animal. We’d have to give her a new designation, T-Rex+.

2. Not all the information is in the DNA. It’s not just our DNA that makes us who we are. Other epigenetic factors outside of DNA also help build organisms. A complete strand of DNA won’t likely have the DNA methylation or histone modifications needed to build an accurate dinosaur. These instructions can be critical. Early attempts at cloning that resulted in over-muscular cattle or sheep that died prematurely were due to missing vital instructions contained outside the DNA. To clone a dinosaur we’d have to make educated guesses about these instructions based on modern birds and reptiles.

3. A T-Rex isn’t just one animal. A human being isn’t just all the genetic and epigenetic information that make us. If we cloned you but left out all of the bacteria living in your stomach and intestines, you’d probably starve to death in weeks. A human being is a symbiote of about 50 million organisms. We’re the ones that get to call the shots (mostly). A carrion eating creature like a T-Rex is going to need a lot of critters, many long extinct, to help it digest its food. Making our T-Rex+ will mean creating a new pack of digestive bacteria, possibly borrowed from buzzards and komodo dragons. The end result would be a creature that behaves differently than a T-Rex. Did eating a bunch of hadrosaur meat give the T-Rex a tryptophan buzz that sent it into a mating frenzy because that’s when the bacterium like to spread? We may never know. We’d only be able to make an approximation.

How to make a T-Rex+
Now that we’ve accepted the fact that even a cloned T-Rex was never going to be an authentic, original article, we can get on with making a T-Rex that does everything we wanted it to do in the first place; Terrify and eat things.

Right now biologists are assembling genetic tool kits that allow you to custom design organisms. These are computer programs that tell a DNA replicator in what order to place the base sugars of ATGC, that then go onto to form the instruction set place into a cell. We’ve already created single-cell organisms from instructions that were sent via email. A next step is to move onto more complex forms of life. Along the way we’ll be able to add features like kinds of photosynthesis, proteins that perform special functions, instructions to manufacture vaccines, etc. One day you’ll be able to code for a specific kind of mouse or chicken and then make enhancements. If we took the chicken genome and tinkered around a bit, we could probably make something like a dinosaur, but suited for today’s environment. Paleontologist Jack Horner has already begun working with researchers to reverse-engineer ostriches into something like a dinosaur by switching off all of the later-evolved functions that made dinosaurs into birds.

The blueprint for this creature will be everything we know about the T-Rex. We can design bone structure, ligature and a thousand other tiny details we’ve learned from the fossil records. Although we may never find DNA, we have found cells inside T-Rex fossils, resembling the same kind in ovulating birds. Cells, protein and other kinds of information can help us build a replica that’s perhaps 95% accurate. Which really means more from a marketing point of view. A chimpanzee is arguably 96% of a human (or vice versa). We also share 40% of our genes with a carrot…

What is a T-Rex anyway?
To the purists, our T-Rex+ wouldn’t be the same. Even a full clone would still make some compromises that would leave them unhappy. But our T-Rex+ would fulfill our idea of what the creature is supposed to be. And even that’s an evolving concept. If Jurassic Park were filmed today, the animators would probably have to add a lot of feathers to the theropods like T-Rex. T-Rex DNA can only tell us part of the story about these creatures. While intact DNA could tell us a lot, maybe the best thing we can do is to make a bunch of creatures that look like them and set them loose in some place and see how they interact.

The T-Rex’s reign lasted for several million years. The animals that lived at the end of that period were different genetically than the ones at the beginning. Even individual T-Rex’s probably varied in temperament just as much as kittens from the same litter. There is no ideal T-Rex because they were all different.

These T-Rex+’s won’t be the same as what once walked the earth. But placed into a Cretaceous-like environment, we could understand how it filled out its ecological niche. These creatures would undoubtedly surprise us and have just as much to teach us as the animals we based them.

For a final thought, here’s a photograph of two sets of bones. Although they look almost identical, they’re separated by about 100 million years of evolution. The one on the right is a wolf. The one on the left is a Tasmanian Tiger. Sadly, the Tasmanian Tiger is now extinct (hopefully only temporarily).

Although they have 100 million years of evolution between them (we diverged from chimpanzees only about 10 million years ago and share more common relatives with a wolf than the the Tasmanian Tiger does) they evolved to fill very similar niches. Yet, for some reason, man was able to hunt the Tasmanian Tiger to extinction, possibly due to some other environmental factor that made it threatened, while the wolf still thrives.

The T-Rex was a hardy species whose reign was ended by an asteroid impact that shut down the photosynthesis process that fed the plant eaters they preyed upon. Without that cataclysm, who knows how long they could have lasted? Maybe part of their survival mechanism is their innate badassness that causes a monkey species to bring them back 65 million years later.

Podcast: Mind Control the Old Fashioned Way

Friday, October 5th, 2012

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Has mysterious device that has a major city in a panic fallen into the wrong hands? The infection that affects millions of people every day and replicates every second could be permanently changing the brain of someone you love! Can we decode the brain. Wait, is there water on Mars? Because I heard there was. Or wait. Was it not? Brian asks the age-old question: What’s got seasons?

PLUS a WeirdThings LIVE EVENT THIS SUNDAY FOR THE SPACEX LAUNCH!

Support the show by purchasing Andrew’s BRAND NEW BOOK Hollywood Pharaohs just click on the image below.

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Try out the brand new PODCASTR player, featuring wireless syncing between desktop browsers and iOS devices.

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