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Date: Monday, 10 Jun 2013 13:00
Shark Wheels

SharkWheel.com and SharkWheelSkate.com on Kickstarter

Square wheels offer skateboards more control and grip, the inventors say.

Could square wheels give you a better ride? One new project on Kickstarter is looking to fund the manufacture of sets of weirdly shaped wheels for skateboards. The design is based on a square, but tilted in a third dimension so that the squares actually roll in a smooth line.

The project is popular: Five days after its launch, it's already exceeded its $10,000 goal.

You can see the wheels' square shape from one angle, while in other views, they appear more wavy, like ramen noodles. The startup that's creating them, called Shark Wheels, says that compared to regular skateboard wheels, the Shark Wheels roll more swiftly and offer better grip during turns and on gravel and sand (A problem on the beachfront walks in Southern California, where the creators are based).

Can't quite wrap your mind around the shape? The Daily Bruin, UCLA's student paper, has some helpful photos of bigger versions of the wheel. Shark Wheels also offers a 3D viewer you can visit online.

Shark Wheels' makers have created prototypes of their design and tested them with experienced riders. They're looking for funding for larger-scale manufacturing, they say.

Those who contribute to the Kickstarter campaign now can get a set of Shark Wheels' first run of longboard wheels. Street skateboard wheels will come out in the future, according to the Kickstarter page.

Author: "Francie Diep" Tags: "Entertainment & Gaming, Francie Diep..."
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Date: Wednesday, 10 Apr 2013 14:00
The Freest States

U.S. states' ranks in level of freedom, as defined in an analysis by George Mason University's Mercatus Center

Mercatus Center, George Mason University

A new analysis ranks how free different states are based on things like taxes, business laws and rent control laws.

Oklahoma, New Hampshire, Tennessee and the Dakotas are the freest states in the U.S., according to a new analysis. Sound like places where you'd want to live?

The analysis comes from the market research center at George Mason University in Virginia. It uses numerous measurements of freedom. Some of the weightiest measures include tax burden, the legal climate for businesses and how often people are incarcerated for "victimless crimes" such as illegal gambling or drug use.

Not everyone will agree that all of the freedoms are positive. For example, different people will surely want more or less stringent rent control laws, gun control laws and same-sex marriage availability. The George Mason analysis counts less rent control, less gun control and more marriage equality as more freedom.

The map's creators make their own stance clear. In a YouTube video, they poke fun at Vermont and New York for being "weighed down by taxation and debt," while in blog posts, they write about the advantages of greater freedom as they define it. Nevertheless, their online app offers a cool function: You can make your own map including only the freedoms you want. Go to "Personal Rank" in the top menu and click on the names of the larger categories to see more specific categories you can select as you desire.

Author: "Francie Diep" Tags: "Entertainment & Gaming, Francie Diep..."
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Date: Tuesday, 25 Sep 2012 21:30
Einstein On The Beach at BAM

Stephanie Berger

Did I mention there was no intermission?

I went into the production of Philip Glass's "Einstein on the Beach" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Friday, curious to see if this famous 1976 work would tell me anything about science.

In the program, I found no Einstein (although one orchestra member wore a white wig and mustache) and no beach. Also missing: Coherent lyrics. Oh, and a plot.

If Einstein was there at all, it was in the music. Philip Glass's composition (often described as minimalist) is highly repetitive. It takes a few measures and repeats them dozens of times with little variation. Listen to the example below. It sometimes felt like a mantra, other times like a plodding freight train (a good thing!).

Somewhere between three and four hours in, I reached sensory overload, felt trapped and scared, and started wondering if I was about to go insane.

The feeling was appropriate for an opera named after Einstein. Much about Einstein's work is difficult to truly comprehend. Our brains evolved in a hunting and gathering environment. Our experience is classically Newtonian. I've never traveled close enough to the speed of light that special relativity became noticeable and time appeared to stretch or shrink. Most of us have never seen matter turn into pure energy. Although we have equations and words to describe such phenomena, the ideas are not intuitive. They are overwhelming and beautiful and sometimes frightening. And Glass has captured some approximation of that.

Susannah Locke is an associate editor at Popular Science magazine.

Author: "Susannah F. Locke" Tags: "Entertainment & Gaming, Susannah F. ..."
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Date: Friday, 03 Dec 2010 16:00
July 1935
PopSci covers "talkies," newsreel cinemas, drive-in theaters, and other breakthroughs in 20th-century filmmaking

When was the last time a film scene blew your mind? Plenty of people will cite Avatar's dizzying 3-D battle sequences. Others may name the rotating hotel hallway scene in this summer's Inception. Now ask your grandpa the same question. Chances are, he'll answer that Avatar in IMAX was cool, in a seizure-inducing way, but it doesn't compare to the first time he watched a movie in color.


Click to launch the photo gallery.

Popular Science has been around for 138 years, which gives us a couple of decades on the first commercial motion pictures. After the use of narrative and orchestra music became integral to cinema, filmmakers devoted themselves to elevating movies from experimental form of entertainment into an art form. Not only were we there to break the news when movies finally played sound, but we were privileged enough to receive a couple of enlightening articles from Charles Francis Jenkins, who helped invent the television, and D.W. Griffith, who is credited for creating America's first feature film.

Although the debut of sound and color have gone down as the 20th century's biggest cinematic breakthroughs, there are other developments that are worth noting, even for nostalgia's sake. During the 1930's and 1940's, people flocked to newsreel theaters in awe that they could witness distant disasters and world events just hours after they unfolded. A decade later, the drive-in theater became a highlight of teen culture during the 1950's.

While movie fads came and went, the appetite for better films only intensified, which in turn inspired up-and-coming producers to get more creative with special effects and light techniques. Speaking of movie tricks, Griffith impressively claimed to have developed 3-D movies (glasses and all) in 1923, so click through our gallery to see how that, as well as other innovations in cinema, turned out (Spoiler: they turned out amazing, and now we can enjoy cool stuff like Tron: Legacy as a result.)

Attached Media: image/png ( 92 ko)
Author: "Denise Ngo" Tags: "Entertainment & Gaming, The Future T..."
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Date: Tuesday, 15 Jun 2010 17:44
Nintendo 3DS Nintendo

Today Nintendo officially announced the Nintendo 3DS, the first mobile game console to get on the 3-D wave.

On the outside, the 3DS looks just like the the standard DS clamshell we've come to expect since the device first launched in 2004 but with one big difference: One of it's screens has an extra dimension. But rather than mate the standard DS touchscreen with the 3-D display, Nintendo opted for a sight-only 3.5-inch widescreen LCD on the top.

As the speculation has said over the last couple months, the screen requires no glasses. Using parallax barriers (two LCD screens stacked one of top of the other to direct light at either the right of left eye), it creates a virtual stereoscopic 3-D effect if you are in the screen's sweet spot. Fuji's 3-D LCD viewer uses a similar trick.

What the 3DS adds, though, is the ability to adjust the 3-D effect. The side of the device has a small slider switch, which allows you to choose how exaggerated you'd like the third dimension to appear -- from popping way off the screen to nothing at all.

The screen isn't all the device does to immerse you in your gameplay. It also packs two side-by-side camera lenses, so it can both shoot and display 3-D pictures. Aside from that, it now has a motion and gyro sensors that developers will surely make plenty of use of when trying to manipulate 3-D gameplay.

Knowing the content problem we've experienced with so much of the 3-D tech we've been seeing over the past months, the first question we had was: what about the content? Nintendo's got that covered, too. At launch, they will have a full range of both in-house and third-party games at the ready. The company developed their own demo game, Kid Icarus Uprising, to show off their high-flying effects today. In house, Nintendo is readying a 3-D version of Nintendogs, while developers from everywhere from EA to Activision are reportedly chomping at the bit to release their own 3-D titles. (Think DJ Hero, Batman, Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid, and Madden.)

The 3DS will also support video playback in 3-D; the current demo shows Dreamworks' How to Train Your Dragon in addition to titles from Warner Bros. and Disney.

Pricing and availability are, sadly, still a mystery.

Author: "Corinne Iozzio" Tags: "Entertainment & Gaming, Corinne Iozz..."
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Date: Monday, 10 May 2010 17:03
Iron Stare

Robert Downey Jr. sports a physical Iron Man suit.

Francois Duhamel/Marvel

This season's blockbusters prove that great science fiction and futuristic-tech-filled flicks don't need to rely solely on CG tricks-innovative props can still blow an audience's mind. Here are the best examples from this summer's lineup (we'll try not to spoil anything).


Author: "Gregory Mone" Tags: "Entertainment & Gaming, Feature, cgi..."
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Date: Tuesday, 23 Feb 2010 06:34
Sony NX800 Sony

Sony has revealed its HDTV line-up for 2010, and it's not exactly the 3D revolution we've all been anticipating. There are ten different models in all, each of them available in different sizes; and of the ten models, only one of them has 3D technology integrated into the television set. Two of them will have 3D available as optional extras.

The LX900, available in 60" and 52", will be a Full HD 3D flatscreen television that can deliver 3D images at 200Hz. The HX800 (available in 55", 46" and 40") will do the same with 3D as an optional extra, but the HX900 (available in 52" and 46") reduces fuzziness in 3D images by bumping up the refresh rate to a staggering 400Hz.

The primary feature being touted by Sony across 8 of the models was actually the integration of online video content via the Bravia Internet Video service. Bravia Internet Video simply piggybacks on an existing wireless Internet connection and streams videos direct to the television set. 15 Internet channels are to be made available, including Yahoo!7, SBS, Billabong and YouTube.

During today's launch demonstrations, videos were streamed as seamlessly into Sony's new TVs as they would into a standard PC or Mac set-up. Surprisingly, while we expected some level of pixellation on account of the quality of the television display, the picture quality was incredibly clear.

Find out more about the upcoming 3DTV releases in our next issue of Popular Science, which goes on sale March 3.

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Author: "

Kevin Cheung

" Tags: "Entertainment & Gaming, 3DTV, IPTV, ..."
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Date: Tuesday, 02 Feb 2010 18:19
The Flying Scotsman

via The Scotsman

While the English use their UAVs to covertly spy on their own citizens, the Scots have leveraged the technology for a much greater social good: helping them beat the snot out of those southern wankers on the rugby pitch.

In preparation for the RBS Six Nations Rugby Tournament, the Scottish national rugby team has been using Cyberhawk unmanned helicopters to monitor their practices, and deliver God's-eye-view footage of each scrum. The UAVs are on loan from team sponsor Scottish Hydro, which normally uses the UAVs to inspect pylons and wind turbines.

They players have taken to calling the UAVs "Flying Scotsmen," after Ian Smith, who is tied with Tony Stanger for the team record of most tries (24) in international play.

Armed with UAV technology, Scotland may actually have a chance of winning the Six Nations, despite entering the tournament ranked below every other team except Italy.

[The Scotsman]

Author: "Stuart Fox" Tags: "Entertainment & Gaming, Stuart Fox, ..."
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Date: Sunday, 31 Jan 2010 20:17
Disney's Up
The science behind the flying house in 'Up'

Pixar's latest animated odyssey features a house being lifted into the air by a cluster of helium-filled balloons. While most adults would write off the idea as childish fantasy, director Pete Docter was on hand to explain the science behind it.

"The first thing our technical team did when they started working on the balloons was to figure out how many balloons it would take to lift a house in real life," says Docter. "Carl's house is 150 square metres. Somewhere I found some figures saying that the average 150 square metre house weights about 156,500kg, of which 73,000kg is from the foundation, and about 13,000kg is from the garage."

Since Carl lifts off and leaves the foundation behind, that leaves just over 70,000kg that the balloons needs to lift. Accelerating toward the ground at 9.8m/s2, that's 688,998 Newtons of force from gravity that the balloons have to overcome.

With the density of Helium at 0.1786 kg/m3 and representing a balloon as a sphere with a radius of 85cm (170cm diameter), each balloon can generate 4.5 Newtons of buoyant force.

So to generate at least 688,998 Newtons of force to overcome gravity, you'd need 153,053 helium-filled, 170cm diameter balloons. If you're trying this with big party balloons, say 30cm diameter, then you'd need a whole lot more: more than 26.5 million balloons. Of course, none of this takes into account the weight of the balloons themselves or the strings to tie them to the house.

For more great in-depth stories, pick up the latest issue of Popular Science, on sale now! Can't find it in the stores? Well, we can help you with that: Every time you see a story from the current issue here on the site, we're going to give one lucky reader a free copy of that magazine. All you have to do is email us your name, contact details, and tell us what you liked about this story!

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Kevin Cheung

" Tags: "Entertainment & Gaming, BLU-RAY, feb..."
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Date: Thursday, 28 Jan 2010 22:35
Are you ready for a career in the exciting world of computer animation?

via Science Daily

The same subtle, random movements, bouncing shadows, and immense complexity that make plants fascinating to observe in life also make them hell to animate. Like water and fire, a rustling tree is one of the hardest things for a computer animator to realistically render. Thankfully, a new computer program can design realistic trees by watching and copying video of real ones, saving animators plenty of time and money.

Developed at the University of Bath, England, the program works by analyzing digital video of actual trees. Then, the computer program can make copies of the original video, but with enough slight, random variations to make the new tree appear unique. Apply those variations to the movement of a wholly new computer generated tree and viola, all the realism of a painstakingly animated tree with none of the hassle.

This may seem like a trivial advance, but imagine animating an entire forest, and you get the idea of how this could speed up and cheapen the animation process. In fact, the technology is so promising that Aardman, the animation studio responsible for the Wallace and Gromit movies has already expressed interest in the project.

Additionally, this technology is only the first step. The University of Bath scientists hope to develop similar programs that allow computers to learn from videos of other notoriously difficult to animate materials like smoke, fire, clouds, and water.

Now, with the painstaking process of animating fluids and trees automated, animators will need to come up with a new reason to stay long hours at work, avoiding their friends and loved ones.

Author: "Stuart Fox" Tags: "Entertainment & Gaming, Stuart Fox, ..."
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Date: Tuesday, 19 Jan 2010 22:00

Sifteo, makers of Siftables, the ingenious cookie-sized computer blocks that play together in infinitely interesting ways, has today officially gone from MIT Media Lab research project to actual company. They're now open for business, but you'll have to wait a bit longer to actually get your hands on some. Nonetheless, we're excited.

Siftables, which you may have already seen featured on PopSci's Future Of on the Science Channel), are computerized blocks that can communicate wirelessly, sense their orientation and proximity to other blocks, and display an image. Those seemingly simple attributes enable a nearly endless range of gaming and other interactive possibilities.

Siftables blocks can transmit music cues to each other to become musical instruments, display letters or numbers for educational games, or interact with a console to become the controllers for a larger gaming system. By giving physical form to abstract data, the blocks bridge the gap between physical and virtual. It's best explained and demonstrated by creator David Merrill himself at last year's TED conference:

You can follow Sifteo's developments at their newly launched site, but frankly, there are only two questions I need answered: where can I get them, and how soon?

[Sifteo]

Author: "Stuart Fox" Tags: "Entertainment & Gaming, Stuart Fox, ..."
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Date: Tuesday, 19 Jan 2010 19:51
MAG: 256-player multiplayer Sony Computer Entertainment
256-player multiplayer match is becoming a reality

When it comes to video games involving multiplayer battles, the numbers aren't very big. Whether you're playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 or Team Fortress 2, they'll only involve 2-4 players when you're at home. When you're online, you're looking at 8, 16, 32 if you're lucky. The reasons are mostly logistical and obvious if you ever play a 16v16 match: Gamers often won't act as a team, opting instead to run amuck for personal glory; and the map designs generally aren't large enough or properly designed to accommodate that many players. There's also the challenge of signal latency caused by servers and players being too distant from each other, which impacts on the experience for everyone else.

Sony's new shooter for PlayStation 3, MAG, will be able to host 256 players on a single battlefield. Now this is something we've got to see. In a 128 v 128 match, each team will be divided into four 32-man platoons; and each platoon is further divided into four 8-man squads. Within each squad, players will be able to assume the role of a sniper, medic, scout or an assault operative; plus there are options to hop into vehicles, conduct assaults by parachute and order air strikes. There's no word yet on whether a 256-player free-for-all mode will be available.

Sony promises that Australia will have its own dedicated servers, which means latency should be at an absolute minimum. The question is: Will there be enough people to fill the servers?

MAG is due for release in Australia on February 11.

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Kevin Cheung

" Tags: "Entertainment & Gaming, 256 player m..."
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Date: Thursday, 07 Jan 2010 16:05
Play's the Thing

Courtesy Claudio Midolo

A school uses videogame-based lessons to teach a new generation of kids

An 11-year-old boy taps furiously on a laptop, blasting enemies as he weaves through a maze. They wipe him out before he can reach the end-game over. Frustrated, he opens the game's programming window, adjusts the gravity setting, and this time bounds over the baddies. Victory!

This could be the future of American education, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. The Quest to Learn school opened last September in Manhattan, welcoming the first class of sixth-graders who will learn almost entirely through videogame-inspired activities, an educational strategy geared to keep kids engaged and prepare them for high-tech careers.

Ever since Pong, videogames have outperformed teachers in one key way: They command attention for hours. "Games are exceptionally good at engaging kids," says Quest's main designer Katie Salen, a game designer and technology professor at the New School university. "They drop kids into complex problems where they fail and fail, but they try again and again." She knew, though, that when kids face tough problems in school, they sometimes just give up, which is partly why only a third of eighth-graders earn "proficient" math scores on national assessment tests.

With this in mind (and with MacArthur Foundation funding), three years ago Salen started the Institute of Play, a nonprofit collaboration of game designers and learning experts who create games to teach school material. After successful tests in city classrooms, the group worked with the New York City Department of Education to open Quest to Learn.

This year's 72-student class is split into four groups that rotate through five courses during the day: Codeworlds (math/English), Being, Space and Place (social studies/English), The Way Things Work (math/science), Sports for the Mind (game design), and Wellness (health/PE). Instead of slogging through problem sets, students learn collaboratively in group projects that require an understanding of subjects in the New York State curriculum. The school's model draws on 30 years of research showing that people learn best when they're in a social context that puts new knowledge to use. Kids learn more by, say, pretending to be Spartan spies gathering intel on Athens than by memorizing facts about ancient Greece.

Most sixth-graders don't expect to ever need to identify integers, but at Quest, it's the key to a code-breaking game. In another class, when creatures called Troggles needed help moving heavy objects, the class made a video instructing how long a ramp they should build to minimize the force they needed to apply. "They're picking concepts up as well as, if not better than, at other schools," says Quest's math and science teacher Ameer Mourad. Beyond make-believe, Quest is the first middle school to teach videogame design. Salen says building games teaches students about complex systems, which will prepare them for growing fields such as bioinformatics.

The plan is for this class to attend Quest through high school, adding more sixth-graders every year. Although students must pass the annual standardized tests that all public students do to keep a school open, educators so far are impressed. "We need new ways to create a passion for learning," says Gregg Betheil, a New York City Department of Education director who helped Quest's application. "The planning has been extremely thoughtful. It seemed like a chance worth taking."

Salen has pilot studies to back up that risk; however, she won't know if the school prepares kids for real-world success until the first class graduates. But Quest has already proved itself in one area: The kids love it. "It's fun," says student Nadine Clements. Her least favorite part of school? "Dismissal."

Author: "Susannah F. Locke" Tags: "Entertainment & Gaming, Susannah F. ..."
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Date: Tuesday, 22 Dec 2009 21:17
Avatar 3-D The view, it's incredible! Fox

Like many of you, I saw Avatar this weekend. And even though the fairly positive early reviews had tempered my skepticism, I still had doubts as to whether I would enjoy Avatar's almost entirely synthetic, effects-driven, Papyrus-loving world. Despite this, as a devotee of all things futuristic, I was going to give it a shot. And now, unlike John, who wasn't quite as moved, I'm poised to embrace our 3-D harbinger of the future of movies. Here's why.

First, and most obvious, is that Avatar brings to life many of the seemingly far-out concepts for the future we all enjoy here at Popular Science every day. And like the best science fiction, they usually have some semblance of a foundation in real-world innovations. Does James Cameron read PopSci? I think there's a pretty good chance, considering some of the major technology themes in the film:

  • Marines in Space: The film opens with hero Jake Sully awakening from cryogenic hibernation after a long-haul space flight from Earth to Pandora. Floating attendants straight out of 2001 encourage the Marines to take it slow (and use the space-sickness bags) as they acclimate themselves to microgravity. While our concept of space Marines didn't go as far as to assume a landing on another planet, we featured our vision of the Marine Corps' Sustain project. Sustain would utilise suborbital flight (what Virgin Galactic's first passengers will experience) to deliver Marines anywhere in the world in less than two hours, all without encroaching on foreign airspace.
  • Exoskeletons: A bad-ass exoskeleton suit is practically a requirement in anything even remotely sci-fi today (see also District 9, anything from Japan), and James Cameron is himself no stranger, giving us one of the more memorable mecha scenes already in Aliens. While no one has quite approached the scale or level of control on display in Avatar's amazing warbots, real-world tech like Sarcos's XOS exoskeleton, which we covered in-depth last year continues to push boundaries. And with Iron Man 2 already staking out territory as next year's big superhero blockbuster, expect more exoskeleton madness to come.
  • Prostheses: As you well know from the trailer, Sully, the leading Marine, is a paraplegic. In many ways he treats his Na'vi avatar as a full-body prosthesis: While Jake himself is lying in semi-hibernation, with his brain inhabiting his avatar's body he can run, jump and enjoy all the other benefits of a 10-foot-tall, super-strong alien with an "organic carbon fiber" skeleton; the scene in which he first takes control--his liberation--is wholly exhilarating.

Here in the real world, breakthroughs in modern prosthetics continue to close the cyborgian gap between the human nervous system and man-made replacement limbs. Led by incredible projects like Dean Kamen's "Luke Arm", the wild idea of directly controlling a mechanical arm or leg with your brain is coming into focus as an attainable goal.

Expanding on this, one of the Na'vi's most impressive accessories are their ponytails--which serve a double purpose both to highlight Cameron's alien-fetish eroticisation of his blue creations, and to allow them to perform brain-prosthesis-type mind-melds with Pandora's other similarly-equipped beasts. By wrapping their ponytails' tendrils around the tendrils of another, the Na'vi can sync their consciousness to talk to trees and fly their dragon-like lizard-horses by reflex.

It's pretty awesome, and I want one. Which brings me to the second reason I loved the film--its almost too brilliant execution of escapism that is inspiring all of the "he's changed movies forever" type of hype.

If you haven't noticed yet, we're all being nudged slowly but firmly into what the visual entertainment industry--from the writers and directors, the major studio heads, all the way up to the Sonys and Samsungs of the world--sees as the future of our movies, TV shows and video games: 3-D. At CES next month, you will see 3-D TVs trotted out as this year's world's-thinnest or world's-largest, all promising to put us "inside" our entertainment (and, presumably, "outside" of the real world) like never before.

It is only fitting that the the most visually compelling 3-D movie ever made is centered around a multi-threaded plot of a series of escapes. There is Jake's escape into an alien avatar, replacing his own disabled body with one of super-human, almost dream-like strength and ability; there are the Na'vi's augmentation of their own consciousness with nature and their ancestors via their neural-network-interface ponytails, and of course, there is the escape of Jake, a human, from what has become a destructive and soulless race into a foreign culture that ultimately accepts him as one of their own.

This plot may come off as one-dimensional and flat only because it's universal (All the reviews are right: Cameron essentially re-made Dances With Wolves with blue aliens instead of American Indians). And like John, I find it kind of amazing that one of the most technically sophisticated and innovative movies ever made is, in the end, a polemic against the distance we've placed between ourselves and the natural world. It plays on every human's desire for acceptance into a like-minded group, and in the film, no one wants to be a part of the future humanity Avatar depicts. So what's left are the Na'vi and their natural world.

And in many ways that's exactly the point--Cameron's made 3-D that's addictive in its subtlety and its ability to enhance not just gimmicky, stuff-flying-out-of-the-screen shots, but every shot. It's hard to take off your Kim Jong-Il glasses at the end because you don't want to leave the world he's created; it's just another escape. So much so that it's surprising Cameron is even allowing it to be shown in 2-D (the reason, obviously, is to reap money from the still-significant number of theaters not equipped for 3-D, but it was surely a difficult concession made by one of Hollywood's craziest control freaks).

It's indicative, though, that Cameron has woven the content of the film and its delivery method together so tightly. If this is the true future of visual entertainment media, as every studio head and electronics CEO would have you believe, it's going to be a tough act to follow.

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John Mahoney

" Tags: "Entertainment & Gaming, 3-D, Avatar,..."
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Date: Monday, 21 Dec 2009 20:42
Cricket
Confuse your mates and add a bit of variation to your delivery range.

There is a reason why players like Glen McGrath and Dennis Lillie are such legends of the sport: sure they have skill and athleticism, but they also understand the science behind the perfect delivery. Reverse swing is one of the deadliest deliveries in world cricket and it occurs when the asymmetry of the ball changes in flight causing it to move in the opposite direction to conventional swing as it travels towards the batsman. It commonly swings more violently than the traditional delivery and also very late in the ball's trajectory which is what makes it particularly deadly.

The perfect reverse swinging ball has one side of the seam smooth and shiny, and the other side roughed up by the impact of play. The seam acts as a barrier between the two halves of the ball, and the variation in the surface of each side affects the wind flow over it. This, in turn, determines the drag coefficient and by extension, its movement one way or the other through the air. Traditionally, air over the rough side will become turbulent while remaining smooth over the shiny side: the result is a greater pressure variant on the smooth side and swing in that direction.

However, when the ball is delivered fast enough - upwards of 130km/h - the asymmetry of the ball changes. Instead of wind moving normally over the shiny side and turbulently over the rough side, it tends to be turbulent over both. Furthermore, it becomes turbulent on the upper, shinier side before it hits the seam. So as it crosses the seam it loses strength and ‘grip' on the ball. As a result, the wind passing over the rough side of the ball plays a stronger role, causing it to swing in the opposite direction to what the batsman would initially think. In rare occasions, this can even give the delivery a devastating ‘S' trajectory where it swings naturally at first before reversing at the death.

Reverse swing becomes more prevalent late in the innings. At this stage there is often more roughness to one side of the ball, and the more abused it is, the lower the delivery speed that is required to create the effect, allowing for a greater range of bowlers to achieve it. It also works better in the less dense air associate with humid, overcast afternoons.

There is a trick to getting the action right. The seam should sit at a 30 degree angle towards the slips at the point of release and the arc of the bowler's arm should be away from the body, as opposed to directly over the rotation point, to give it an inclination for swing right out of the hand. The seam should also remain at that angle, do not attempt to spin it. The rough side is given the pole position towards the batter.

Finally, when buying a cricket ball, make sure that the leather has been polished, not lacquered. Despite looking glossy, lacquered balls fail to swing nearly as much as polished balls.

For more great in-depth stories, pick up the latest issue of Popular Science, on sale now! Can't find it in the stores? Well, we can help you with that: Every time you see a story from the current issue here on the site, we're going to give one lucky reader a free copy of that magazine. All you have to do is email us your name, contact details, and tell us what you liked about this story!

Author: "

Chris Stead

" Tags: "Entertainment & Gaming, cricket, Dec..."
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Date: Friday, 18 Dec 2009 05:44
Aliens Vs Predator

Sega

Classification Review Board Reverses Banning of Aliens Vs Predator Video Game

Australian gamers were given an early Christmas present today as the Classification Review Board reversed the decision of the Office of Film and Literature Classification to Refuse Classification to Sega's upcoming video game, Aliens Vs Predator. Games that are Refused Classification in Australia are banned from sale.

Sega of Australia issued the following statement: "It is with great pleasure that we announce the success of our appeal. We are particularly proud that the game will be released in its original entirety, with no content altered or removed whatsoever. This is a big win for Australian gamers. We applaud the Classification Review Board on making a decision that clearly considers the context of the game, and is in line with the modern expectations of reasonable Australians".

Based on the cult sci-fi action films, Aliens Vs Predator is expected to be released on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 on February 18 2010.

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Author: "Kevin Cheung" Tags: "Entertainment & Gaming, Aliens Vs Pr..."
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Date: Thursday, 10 Dec 2009 20:50
Play's the Thing Courtesy Claudio Midolo
A school uses videogame-based lessons to teach a new generation of kids

An 11-year-old boy taps furiously on a laptop, blasting enemies as he weaves through a maze. They wipe him out before he can reach the end-game over. Frustrated, he opens the game's programming window, adjusts the gravity setting, and this time bounds over the baddies. Victory!

This could be the future of American education, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. The Quest to Learn school opened last September in Manhattan, welcoming the first class of sixth-graders who will learn almost entirely through videogame-inspired activities, an educational strategy geared to keep kids engaged and prepare them for high-tech careers.

Ever since Pong, videogames have outperformed teachers in one key way: They command attention for hours. "Games are exceptionally good at engaging kids," says Quest's main designer Katie Salen, a game designer and technology professor at the New School university. "They drop kids into complex problems where they fail and fail, but they try again and again." She knew, though, that when kids face tough problems in school, they sometimes just give up, which is partly why only a third of eighth-graders earn "proficient" math scores on national assessment tests.

With this in mind (and with MacArthur Foundation funding), three years ago Salen started the Institute of Play, a nonprofit collaboration of game designers and learning experts who create games to teach school material. After successful tests in city classrooms, the group worked with the New York City Department of Education to open Quest to Learn.

This year's 72-student class is split into four groups that rotate through five courses during the day: Codeworlds (math/English), Being, Space and Place (social studies/English), The Way Things Work (math/science), Sports for the Mind (game design), and Wellness (health/PE). Instead of slogging through problem sets, students learn collaboratively in group projects that require an understanding of subjects in the New York State curriculum. The school's model draws on 30 years of research showing that people learn best when they're in a social context that puts new knowledge to use. Kids learn more by, say, pretending to be Spartan spies gathering intel on Athens than by memorizing facts about ancient Greece.

Most sixth-graders don't expect to ever need to identify integers, but at Quest, it's the key to a code-breaking game. In another class, when creatures called Troggles needed help moving heavy objects, the class made a video instructing how long a ramp they should build to minimize the force they needed to apply. "They're picking concepts up as well as, if not better than, at other schools," says Quest's math and science teacher Ameer Mourad. Beyond make-believe, Quest is the first middle school to teach videogame design. Salen says building games teaches students about complex systems, which will prepare them for growing fields such as bioinformatics.

The plan is for this class to attend Quest through high school, adding more sixth-graders every year. Although students must pass the annual standardized tests that all public students do to keep a school open, educators so far are impressed. "We need new ways to create a passion for learning," says Gregg Betheil, a New York City Department of Education director who helped Quest's application. "The planning has been extremely thoughtful. It seemed like a chance worth taking."

Salen has pilot studies to back up that risk; however, she won't know if the school prepares kids for real-world success until the first class graduates. But Quest has already proved itself in one area: The kids love it. "It's fun," says student Nadine Clements. Her least favorite part of school? "Dismissal."

Author: "Susannah F. Locke" Tags: "Entertainment & Gaming, Susannah F. ..."
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Date: Friday, 02 Oct 2009 13:41
What Ever Happened To The Day Of The Wedgie?

Rockstar Games, via Liquid Architect

Won't somebody please think of the children!

After listening to a week of testimony, the House Judiciary Committee has crafted two bills that seek to deal with the problem of cyber-bullying. One bill is a nuanced attempt to create a conversation between children, parents and school administrators about the proper use of technology, and the other is, well, not.

The first bill, H.R. 3630, is sponsored by Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), and focuses on providing money for Internet awareness and education programs for parents. The Bill would dole out $125 million in grants to teach parents how to better discuss Internet safety with their children.

The other bill, H.R. 1966, is sponsored by Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA), and more or less leaves reason at the door. Named in honor of Megan Meier, the 13-year-old who killed herself after a classmate's mom harassed her over MySpace, H.R. 1966 attempts to criminalize cyber-bullying with vague language that butts up against free speech rights in a wide range of ways.

Neither bill has come before the Committee for a vote, let alone made it to the floor, but I think it's obvious which one is going to win out. In a fight between well-reasoned, responsible engagement and knee-jerk criminalization, I believe we can trust Congress to make the craziest, least practical choice.

[via Ars Technica]

Author: "Stuart Fox" Tags: "Entertainment & Gaming, Stuart Fox, ..."
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Date: Tuesday, 29 Sep 2009 19:40

Three points! Is this shot really within the realm of physical possibility?

If we time the flight, we can then apply some ballpark approximations to determine whether the trajectory we see in the video conforms to that flight time. Using our stopwatch we observe that the ball is in the air for 3.8 seconds before passing through the basket. The horizontal distance to the basket from the launch point is approximately 50 meters, and the launch angle θ is about 20 degrees.

Let's use what we know about projectile motion. We know for a projectile that the horizontal motion is independent of the vertical motion, and that in the absence of significant air friction the horizontal velocity is constant. We also know that along the vertical axis, a projectile has a constant downward acceleration due to gravity 9.8 m/s2.

Looking at the horizontal part of the motion and accounting for the launch angle we can then determine the initial speed (v0) of the basketball necessary to cover the horizontal distance in 3.8 seconds. We get

Δx = vhorizontal t = v0cosθt

and therefore v0 = Δx/cosθt = 50 m /[cos 20 (3.8 s)] = 14 m/s

Now if we look at the vertical part of the motion we can determine how far the ball would drop in 3.8 seconds. We'll then compare our theoretical result to the actual vertical distance from the third deck down to the basket that we observe in the video. (We estimate that drop to be similar to the horizontal distance of about 50 meters.) Therefore, based on the time of flight and the initial velocity that we determined above we calculate a vertical drop of

Δy = v0vertical t + ½ at2 = v0 sin t -- ½ gt2 = 14m/s(sin 20)(3.8 s) -- ½ (-9.8m/s2 )(3.8)2 = -53 m

Well, this corresponds pretty well to what we see in the video. Even accounting for the effects of air resistance (which we did not address above to keep things simple) the result isn't altered drastically. The motion recorded in the video (in what appears to be a continuous frame) certainly appears possible according to the laws of physics.

Now whether or not this was done in a single take is another matter!

Adam Weiner is the author of Don't Try This at Home! The Physics of Hollywood Movies.

Author: "Adam Weiner" Tags: "Entertainment & Gaming, The Breakdow..."
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Date: Tuesday, 22 Sep 2009 18:49
Periodic Table of Video Game Characters

via I Heart Chaos

Name: Mario. Age: 28. Profession: Plumber. Ethnicity: White. Anyone who has played a lot of video games knows that the vast majority of characters are white males. However, a team of scientists have conducted the first ever virtual census, putting a number on the ethnicity and sex composition of video game characters, and raising questions about the psychological effects these games might have on members of the underrepresented groups.

Writing in the journal New Media and Society, the researchers note that 89.5 percent of the characters in the top 150 selling video games (console and computer) are male, and 85 percent of them are white. Overall, males, Whites and Asians are overrepresented, while Hispanics, Blacks, women, Native Americans and the elderly all appear less as video game characters frequently than they appear in the actual US population. Hispanics are the most disproportionately underrepresented , appearing as characters in only 2.7 percent of games, despite making up 12.5 percent of the population.

Naturally, because many of these games are programmed in Japan, the characters cannot be expected to conform to the same demographics seen in society at large. However, those over and under representations conform very closely to the same disparities found with television characters, suggested a larger phenomena is at work.

Aside from making it difficult to market the games to a wide audience, the authors of the paper also believe the homogeneity of video game characters may cause identity issues in children who don't see people like them in the video games they play.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the highest selling non-Mario video games of all time don't have protagonists of any set ethnicity or sex. The Wii Sports, Play and Fit games, and the computer games the Sims, don't have a set protagonist at all, and let users design characters that look like themselves. The Pokemon games revolve around monsters, Nintendogs is about dogs, and Tetris is just a bunch of falling blocks.

Sadly, the study did not say whether orcs, hedgehogs, night elves, or mutant turtles were over or under represented.

[via New Scientist]

Author: "Stuart Fox" Tags: "Entertainment & Gaming, Stuart Fox, ..."
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