Science fiction – Scientific Library Wed, 10 Nov 2021 00:19:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Science fiction – Scientific Library 32 32 University of Maryland IranPoll: Science or Science Fiction? Tue, 09 Nov 2021 15:40:34 +0000 Opinion and analysis of Reza Behrouz and Mohammad R. Jahan-Parvar on IranPoll and the pitfalls of opinion polls in an authoritarian environment.

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Every 6 to 12 months, a survey is conducted by a private Toronto-based company called the Iran Poll in collaboration with the University of Maryland Center for international and security studies. This is a telephone opinion poll of people residing in Iran. The results are then published online and almost always presented by Washington think tanks such as the Atlantic Council. Despite a partnership with a major American research university, the results of Iran Poll are never subject to academic review or published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Iran Poll prides itself on using solid scientific knowledge methodology, which includes sequential randomizations, a catch-all geographic scope, and the ability to interview in multiple ethnic languages ​​and dialects, in addition to Persian. Yet the intent of the survey and its results often arouse controversy and outrage, rather than offer practical information conducive to policy making.

In reaction to Iran Poll, there is always a deluge of indignation on the part of Iranians inside the country and in the diaspora who consider the results far-fetched and detached from reality. The main argument raised by the Iranians against Iran Poll is the unrealistic expectation that politically oriented investigations can ever be conducted in a totalitarian dictatorship such as the Islamic Republic. Opinion polls administered in authoritarian states naturally question the authenticity and honesty of participants when answering politically sensitive questions. There is no doubt that the fear of retaliation influences the way respondents respond to certain politically sensitive questions.

There are also features associated with Iran Poll which are scientifically wrong. The survey methodology was briefly described on IranPoll’s website, leaving ample room for doubt as to the validity of the data collection process. For example, participants are selected from Iranians who have access to landlines, excluding a large segment of the population who exclusively use mobile devices. This reduces the test sample and introduces bias from the start. The process for obtaining participants’ telephone numbers is of course not detailed. It should be noted that each landline number is attached to a physical address, which could theoretically be accessible by the security apparatus of the Islamic Republic. This factor can influence the authenticity and integrity of responses.

Demonstration in Tehran. July 16, 2021

The investigation goes through a succession of awkward randomizations to register the participants. Excessive stratification using multiple randomizations eliminates balanced participant enrollment, counteracting the effect and value of random sampling.

Iran Poll States, “[w]When a residence is reached, a qualified respondent is randomly selected from that household, often using the random array technique. Iran Poll the documentation does not describe the inclusion criteria for the “qualified” respondent. Assuming that being an adult is the primary criteria, randomization would fail if a household consists of only one adult. This riddle also applies to a situation where the randomly selected respondent is disabled and unable to participate. It is not known how these situations are handled by investigators.

The cooperation rate for the latest Iran Poll poll was 79%. The typical cooperation rate in public opinion polls is around 30%, with anything above 50% being considered “excellent”. An unincentive cooperation rate of almost 80% is astronomical, given Iran’s stifling political atmosphere. We are forced to consider this result as “too good to be true”.

The same argument can be made about the overall response rate of 60%. A realistic response rate is between 5% and 30%. A response rate of 60% and a cooperation rate of 79% does not mean that every respondent has completed the survey and answered all the questions. If the survey had been offered online, these numbers would be more convincing, but it is inconceivable that such a large proportion of people would hold the phone line long enough to complete the survey in its entirety. This is why nowadays multi-questions surveys are usually conducted online (or on paper forms), while polls are mainly carried out by telephone request.

Iran Poll of course does not offer any information on completion rates. Assuming the cooperation rate means answering one or more survey questions, Iran Poll intentionally conceals the speed at which individual questions were answered. The more participants refrain from answering a specific question, the smaller the sample size per question and the less accurate the results. For example, if only 50 people answered the question about the favor of President Ebrahim Raisi, it would take 39 favorable opinions to reach the rate of 78% demonstrated in the results. Fifty respondents constitute only 5% of the entire sample. This pitfall applies to all survey questions; from President Joe Biden’s popularity among the Iranian people to his opinion on US sanctions and the nuclear deal.

Besides, Iran PollThe results of s contrast sharply with the results of multiple-question online surveys such as the Netherlands-based polls GAMAAN (Group for analysis and measurement of attitudes in IRAN). For example, the proportion of respondents in Iran Poll who have indicated their intention to vote in the presidential elections of June 2021 exceeds that of GAMAAN by 24 percentage points. Another example is the level of trust in the broadcasting service of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRIB). Iran Poll indicated that around 50% of their respondents trusted IRIB reports “most of the time”, while the number of GAMAAN was only 14%.

GAMAAN’s methodology certainly has its own shortcomings, but its online format alleviates the challenges associated with multi-question telephone surveys. Research has consistently shown that respondents tend to give more extreme and positive responses to attitude items than when asked the same questions over the web. There is also indications that the social interaction inherent in a telephone interview can put pressure on respondents, affecting the way they answer questions. Although the glaring discrepancies between the results reported by the two surveys can be attributed to ” trend “, the differences in responses by survey mode are generally not significant. Thus, the extent of the differences between GAMAAN and Iran PollThe results are too important to ignore.

Overall, there are notable flaws in IranPoll ‘s methodology, as well as the way the results are presented. To our knowledge, the method by which this survey is conducted has never been validated. In other words, its replicability and generalizability are highly questionable. Iran Poll correlates the demographics of its sample with that of the Iranian national census and the Central Intelligence Agency’s Factbook, and attempts to validate by matching the statistics it generates with the official data disclosed by the regime itself. For example, Iran Poll produced a turnout of 52.9% in the presidential elections of 2021. This figure was then juxtaposed with the turnout of 48.9% reported by the Islamic Republic in an attempt to ostensibly demonstrate accuracy and reproducibility. It is impossible to ensure the credibility of the electoral participation declared by the regime when the elections are far from free and fair.

Finally, it is also worth understanding who are the key players behind the University of Maryland program. Iran Poll. To this end, we encourage the reader to consult a item by Ahmad Rafat in Kayhan’s life.

Given Iran PollBecause of its socially reprehensible results, its methodological flaws, the way the results are presented, and the fact that it escapes peer review and scientific scrutiny, an impartial observer is compelled to consider the ‘survey with suspicion. Such an observer can reasonably conclude that this investigation is little more than a propaganda ploy by the Isalmic Republic to influence US policy towards the regime. The data Iran Poll provides that each cycle is outrageously predictable and often downright absurd. Many Iranians and members of the diaspora see this investigation as a source of humor and an object of ridicule. Think tanks that extol Iran Poll as a stunning and genuine revelation from inside Iran should thoroughly examine the merits and validity of this investigation. Likewise, the University of Maryland should consider whether associating its name with such a scientifically dubious and politically controversial project is in the institution’s best interest.

Dr Reza Behrouz is an Iranian-American physician and medical researcher based in San Antonio, Texas, USA.

Mohammad R. Jahan-Parvar PhD is an Iranian-American economist based in Washington, DC, USA.

The opinions expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran International

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Sci-fi movie ‘Dune’ is intriguing franchise debut – METEA MEDIA Mon, 08 Nov 2021 13:39:02 +0000

Until the release of “Dune”, I didn’t know what this movie would be about. I never read Frank Herbert’s original book, so I was blind, with no idea what world I was going to be thrown into. I knew many of the cast of other hit movies, but the world of “Dune” is so big I didn’t know how well the story would be put together. However, even though “Dune” by Denis Villeneuve only covers part of the book, it is a unique and beautiful immersive adventure from start to finish.

“Dune” follows Paul Atréides, played by Timothée Chalamet. Paul is the son of Leto Atreides I who is cast into an unknown world after his family is chosen to take over the “spice” business. Such a “spice” is a magical dust that is collected and which is the key to navigation in interstellar travel. During the transition from the House of Atriedes to leave their Caladan house in Arkakis, Paul dreamed of a Fremen girl, played by Zendaya, on a desert planet. He had never met such a woman, yet she kept coming to see him. Before the house of the Atreids colonizes Arrakis, also known as Dune, Paul’s mother Lady Jessica, played by Rebecca Ferguson, puts Paul through the Gom Jabbar test to determine if his consciousness is stronger than his instinct. Paul passes, but what does that mean? Leto Atreides I, the Duke of the House of Atreides, played by Oscar Isaac, takes his people to Arrakis to start a new life where they can acquire power and wealth through the “spice” of this new world.

The themes of colonization and greed with a mixture of science fiction are the essence of “Dune”. Relevant aspects of “Dune,” such as family and power, make it such a powerful story more than 50 years after the novel’s release. “Dune” has so much deeper meaning that you get more of it as the movie progresses. The world of “Dune” expands more and more as the film progresses through the well-written dialogues. The public learns how the people of this universe are treated. How houses are formed and what is the purpose of “the spice”. “Dune” has great value in relevant aspects, such as family and power, which makes it such a powerful story more than 50 years after the novel’s release.

The casting of this film is something else. The cast is full of leading actors from Timothée Chalamet to Oscar Isaac to Jason Momoa, who also includes a strong female presence with the wonderful actresses Rebecca Ferguson and Zendaya. It’s an amazing sight to see all these actors side by side in scenes. Having such a well-known cast with an excellent performance makes the story presented more intriguing. They really lean on each other when they’re onscreen together. Each plays their role to perfection which adds to the history of “Dune”.

Denis Villeneuve, known for his visually stunning storytelling, is no exception with his latest film “Dune”. The cinematography is some of the best I have ever seen in a movie. The Gom Jabbar test and the first encounter with the sandworm scene are particularly notable for the great feat of making them so beautiful thanks to computer generated imagery (CGI). Coloring these beautiful scenes adds that unique style that Villeneuve brings to his films. Using coloring and CGI really immerses you in the world of “Dune”. The choreography from the scenes with the vehicles moving through space to the combat scenes is so well done, making “Dune” a standout film in recent years. Every aspect of the appearance of “Dune” is magnificent.

Han Zimmer’s score immerses the viewer even more when watching this film. The unique sounds and themes bring it all together, as if you were on this journey on Arrakis with the House of the Atreides. Although there is no artist music (just original sounds), the film is in no way hindered or adversely affected. Rather, it builds on that feeling of being on an unknown planet.

“Dune” is a great movie that established a well-developed universe that will be further developed, seen in the opening title saying the first part. The impressive world-building and storytelling of this film makes it so unique compared to all the other films released in recent years. I haven’t read the original Frank Herbert novel, but I was blown away.

Watching this film made me realize why this book has been so influential and impactful over the past 50 years. The impact he had on science fiction influenced timeless stories such as “Star Wars” and “Tremors”. “Dune,” although adapted once before, brings something new to the sci-fi scene that the movies haven’t seen in a while. It wasn’t all about the action, but the intrigue and world-building that I love about movies. Denis Villenueve uses all his knowledge of cinema to build the powerful story of Paul Atréides. I give this film an eight and a half out of 10. The overall presentation of this story is so well put together. Music, actors, cinematography, etc. work together to make “Dune” one of the best films of the year. Every time I talk to someone or watch videos about it, I learn something new about this universe. There’s so much the story hasn’t covered, which is why the movie ends with a cliffhanger, knowing more will come. I can’t wait to see where Denis Villeneuve takes the story in Part 2. Paul Atréides’ journey has just started. What will become of “Dune”?

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“The stronger Indian science fiction, the better its vision for the future,” says author Kim Stanley Robinson Sat, 06 Nov 2021 08:05:51 +0000

It has been a few years since I imagined India as a world leader. The question follows, darkly, Lead to what? But as I read Kim Stanley Robinson’s Ministry of the Future, the question was answered – and my memory refreshed about this country’s promise and its relevance in 2021.

The novel, which Ezra Klein of the New York Times called “the most important book I’ve read this year,” is a muscular effort by a master of science fiction to find a way to overcome the climate crisis : the hard road to a happier global balance. In the first chapter, a heat wave combines with deadly humidity over Uttar Pradesh, leaving a “wet bulb” temperature at which bodies can no longer cool themselves. The result is catastrophic mass death from the heat – but also a national uprising and the start of a climate revolution.

The Ministry of the Future By Kim Stanley Robinson, Orbit, Rs 1,050, Pages: 576.

India is now emerging as a hero, pulling the world to its feet on decarbonization and ecological rehabilitation. “We looked at what India is doing,” the Chinese finance minister said in a later passage. “They are now leading in all kinds of things.” Robinson’s goal is ultimately to reinvigorate readers with a vision of “all kinds of things”: an abundance of flawed strategies, social alliances, scientific moon shots and sweeping operations, all working together. to eliminate the carbon economy. He situates many of these ideas and actors in India’s current landscape, and others in its future. An image is forming, of India as a moral and political example – just as it was 75 years ago, and sometimes since then – accepting its new rendezvous with fate, its dharma in the Anthropocene.

Reading The Ministry for the Future in Delhi, ahead of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, I found this picture startling – and suddenly compelling. I spoke to Robinson about writing a future for India, at the forefront of the fight for the future of the world.

India is not the only “hero” in the future of the book – but you have chosen it as the society to emerge from the disaster and lead the charge through the crisis. Why India? Is it the mere exposure of the country to climate catastrophe? Or was there a positive association that guided your choice?

Maybe it was a bit of both. It is certain that the vulnerability is there: the plain of the Ganges, the back wall of the Himalayas to try a high pressure cell; also, the dense population, and the stressed electrical network. It could lead to disaster. I don’t think this is news to anyone paying attention. But just as important to me was the positive idea of ​​India as a rising superpower. Along with China, it is one of the super-giant countries that are crucial for the human history of this century.

The book brings out a national quality that I had lost sight of in recent years: India’s progressive and proactive interest and its creative role in the world. Did this cultural and historical heritage guide your writing?

Yes they have. Since my college days in the early 1970s, I have read and practiced to some extent a California form of Buddhism. It’s a long road that ultimately leads to India. And I’m a close student of Henry David Thoreau – he was one of the first Americans to learn Indian philosophy, and it’s good that he also had an influence on Gandhi.

Of course, it is difficult, if not impossible, to speak of other countries with discernment; they are still so complex that even the citizens of this country cannot keep a good track of everything that is going on. America, for example, is now an incomprehensible mess; but with great hope for better times. But no matter which party is in government, they will all have to join in this effort or they will suffer. And the closer we get to the equator, the sooner the suffering will begin.

The political changes you write for India suggest that histrionic nationalism is a serious obstacle to climate action. But the book also offers the prospect for countries – China, Russia, the United States and others – to view climate action as crucial to the national interest or national survival.

All national directorates are dedicated to defending the interests of their nation first; the world as a whole comes after that, if ever. It is a great danger in our time. What I think is that national leaders understand that the sooner their country’s policies and industries are green, the more they will have a relative advantage in the new technological world to come, if anyone is to survive.

In other words, dragging his heels and burning all possible fossil fuels, while other countries take a leap forward in developing green technologies, is a recipe for national failure. The boldest countries will be the most successful later in the 21st century. We cannot stress it enough: the first to go green will do his best afterwards.

I’m curious how you did the research to visualize India’s redemptive future.

It was mostly reading, which I do for many hours every day. In addition, help from acquaintances in the world of technology, who read the manuscript in the early versions. My reading of Indian history dates back to when I was writing The Years of Rice and Salt, an alternative history with a strong Indian component; this reading took place from 1998 to 2001. This reading led me to The Wonder That Was India, by AL Basham, and Autobiography of an Unknown Indian by Nirad Chaudhuri, and New History of India by Stanley Wolpert, among other books that I have kept from that time.

Over the years I have also read a lot about Kerala, Sikkim and Ladakh. I know these might not be the main line of Indian society today, but they illustrate the great variety that India displays politically and socially.

Have you been informed by any particular living characters? Vandana Shiva, for example, receives a cry.

I met Vandana Shiva at a conference in California in 1991, and she was very impressive. I still think she’s very important to farming practices and equality in general, but I don’t agree with her harsh views against genetically modified organisms – we’ve been modifying genes for as long as we’re humans, the methods do not. question; and we need it for the future; and that’s for sure. To complain about the implication of science in genetics is to confuse the good of science with the evil of capitalism. Coming back to the positive, she has been a huge force for good for most of her career.

Finally, I want to say a word for Indian science fiction, with the idea that every culture needs a vision of its future to be complete. The stronger Indian science fiction, the better its vision for the future.

For all the latest news on books and literature, download the Indian Express app.

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Sydney Science Fiction Film Festival 2021, Sydney Fri, 05 Nov 2021 01:30:14 +0000


If you’ve spent much of the past two years escaping in sci-fi movies – and yes, that includes pandemic movies, aka everyone’s recent crush for an obvious reason – then you will want to head straight to Sydney’s own movie. festival dedicated to the genre. It’s all there in the name, with the Sydney Science Fiction Film Festival on just one type of film. So much is science fiction, however, that you’ll always be spoiled for choice.

The 2021 Sydney Science Fiction Film Festival will take place over four days, from Thursday 11 November to Sunday 14 November, and will present a lineup of feature films and short films from around the world. To be transported to another realm – something we could all use this year – you will need to visit the Actors Center Australia in Leichhardt. And you can choose the films that interest you, or opt for a festival pass and follow each session.

Highlights include the Australian zombie sequel Wyrmwood: Apocalypse; Sun dance hit The flamboyant world, which opens the party; and an entire session devoted to the obvious films, aka pandemic. Or, there’s a B-movie style creature feature too Jaws; Tight, about a family trying to survive a neurotoxin epidemic; and meteoric disaster movie resurrected – and yes, the list goes on from there.

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New East Bay factory producing lab-grown meat plans to produce 400,000 pounds per year Thu, 04 Nov 2021 12:03:23 +0000 A huge facility designed to produce hundreds of thousands of pounds of cultured meat opened in Emeryville on Thursday – a significant step forward in an emerging but rapidly growing industry where meat is grown from animal cells without any slaughter.

The facility, which is part of a new $ 50 million, 53,000 square foot campus for Berkeley food technology company Upside Foods, is touted as the first of its kind in the world and ready for use at the ‘commercial scale. While other companies made cultured meat, also known as cultured meat or lab-grown meat, they generally worked in smaller labs.

The U.S. government has yet to approve the sale of cultured meat, but Upside Foods chief operating officer Amy Chen said the new facility is proof the technology is ready.

“It’s not a dream,” said Chen, who left a senior vice president position at PepsiCo to join Upside in June. “It’s not science fiction. This is the reality today.

Until the meat is legal for sale, the company will organize tours and test products. Once approved, Upside’s plan is to begin supplying restaurants, particularly the three-Michelin-starred Dominique Crenn’s Atelier Crenn, in San Francisco. After introducing the meat to the public through chefs, the next step is grocery stores – similar to the rollout followed by Impossible Foods, the Redwood City maker of compelling soy burgers. Unlike vegetable meats, cultured meat is actually fleshy meat of animal origin.

Upside Foods’ grow room in Emeryville is lined with large, brewery-like tanks.

Cayce Clifford / Special for The Chronicle

Located in a residential area near the Emeryville Public Market, the new Upside space looks like a brewery on steroids. It is capable of producing 50,000 pounds of meat per year, with room to eventually expand to 400,000 pounds.

Huge reservoirs called bioreactors line the main room, where cells harvested from living animals will be bathed in nutrients such as glucose, vitamins, and amino acids. Bioreactors create an environment similar to an animal’s body, and the nutrients nourish the cells until they grow larger, forming an unstructured product resembling ground meat. An additional, more complicated step is to create a scaffold that allows cells to grow together and form the fiber and texture you expect from a whole piece of meat, like a steak or chicken breast.

Advocates say the process not only avoids killing animals but, because it requires less water and soil, is a more efficient and climate-friendly way of producing meat. This is in part because the process is much faster, reducing the three years it takes for a cow to mature to a few weeks.

This sales pitch has generated huge interest in the industry, with Upside attracting more than $ 200 million in funding, according to Crunchbase. San Francisco cultured meat competitor Eat Just, also known for its plant-based egg substitute Just Egg, has taken in over $ 450 million.

Audrey Gyr, a startup specialist at the Good Food Institute, a non-profit cultured and plant-based advocacy organization, said Upside’s new facility is a testament to the industry’s growth in recent years. years – and continued growth. . A 2021 McKinsey & Co. report predicts that the cultured meat market could reach $ 25 billion by 2030.

“Technology and innovation have come a long way to enable them to build this type of facility and go beyond the lab,” said Gyr, who is not affiliated with Upside.

When Upside Foods, formerly known as Memphis Meats, started in 2015, it was the world’s first cultured meat company. Now there are at least 80, according to the Good Food Institute.

An employee works in the Upside Foods grow room in Emeryville.

An employee works in the Upside Foods grow room in Emeryville.

Cayce Clifford special for The Chronicle

Gyr said there are other cultured meat companies that are planning production facilities similar to Upside, which have rooms to harvest meat, cook meat, work with raw meat and test recipes. . For example, farmed salmon start-up Wildtype has announced plans for a facility and a sushi tasting room in San Francisco, although it will only produce 50,000 pounds a year.

In addition to being the first to build a facility, Upside is also showcasing notable advancements in the industry, according to Gyr. The Berkeley company can grow cuts of meat – chicken breast is the company’s first planned product – while many others are only capable of producing ground meat. And, given the right cells to grow, his plant can produce any type of meat, from duck to lobster.

Upside Foods' new plant in Emeryville includes several cultured meat production rooms.

Upside Foods’ new plant in Emeryville includes several cultured meat production rooms.

Cayce Clifford / Special for The Chronicle

Upside says it is ready to start production as soon as it gets a green light from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration, which agreed to jointly regulate the new industry in 2019, but failed to approved the sale of cultured meat. Again. The only country so far that allows the sale of cultured meat – especially chicken from Eat Just – is Singapore.

The two U.S. agencies have been mostly silent on the industry since 2019, with the exception of an announcement in September seeking comment on how to label cultured meat. The USDA and FDA could approve specific products like Upside’s chicken breast on a case-by-case basis before determining the language of the industry, according to Gyr. Either way, there is no set timetable.

Chen declined to say how much Upside’s first meat will cost each time it is sold, but suggested it would be on par with high-end chicken such as pasture-raised birds.

Despite the climate-focused missions of cultured meat companies, it is still unclear whether growing meat from cells is better for the environment than animal farming. This is because there has not yet been a commercial scale production facility that researchers could examine; the few studies available are based on speculation.

Amy Chen, COO of Upside Foods, said the company wants to demystify the process of transforming cultured meat through its new factory.

Amy Chen, COO of Upside Foods, said the company wants to demystify the process of transforming cultured meat with its new factory.

Cayce Clifford / Special for The Chronicle

An oft-cited 2015 study in Environmental Science & Technology, for example, agreed with food technology companies that cultivated meat would require less land and water, but said that “these benefits could come at the expense of” more intensive use of energy ”. Other speculative studies have determined that greenhouse gas emissions from cultured meat are likely to be lower than those from traditional beef, but not necessarily from poultry or pork.

More recently, a 2019 study by two researchers at the University of Oxford suggested that this greenhouse gas comparison could be misleading because cows produce methane and a factory would produce carbon dioxide. Methane persists in the atmosphere for about 12 years, far less than the long lifespan of carbon dioxide, which reaches up to 1,000 years.

Upside’s new installation, Gyr said, represents “an incredible opportunity to learn more” about what reality will be like.

Chen said the Upside facility uses 100% renewable energy and is already working on an analysis of its total environmental impact, with the hope that a third party will verify the company’s sustainability claims by the next. mid-2022.

One of the biggest challenges, however, will be convincing the masses to buy cultured meat. Chen said Upside will need to demystify the process to the public, which she called a key goal of the new production facility.

The company plans to offer virtual tours starting this week and then hosting in-person tours starting next year. Visitors will be able to view the facility from large windows throughout the building.

“Anyone who didn’t think this could be a reality now has a chance to see a vision come to life,” Chen said.

Janelle Bitker is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: Twitter: @janellebitker

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Finch is a three sci-fi cronies: Tom Hanks, his dog and a robot Wed, 03 Nov 2021 16:09:00 +0000

Such a basic airy sci-fi journey, Bullfinch follows Tom Hanks traveling through apocalyptic America to San Francisco with his dog and a robot in tow.

The story is aggressively simple, following the tried and true formula that your characters have to get from point A to point B to give the movie a purpose. Hanks, as the titular Finch, leads the way, a lonely and sick man who may well be one of the last people on Earth. Radiation sickness slowly consumes him, leaving him to wonder who will take care of his beloved dog in the event of his death.

A quick reference to a solar flare provides a brief explanation as a precursor to the collapse of humanity. Of course, as with most doomsday stories, the origin of the disaster matters less than what happens after the fabric of society unraveled. In this case, the director Miguel Sapochnik portrays it as upbeat and positive as an apocalypse story, maintaining a consistently light tone by initially focusing on a humorous slapstick between Finch and his fellow travelers. Although a bit of darkness is sprinkled, it mostly only comes as a downpour when we come to the end of the trip.

The impetus for their sudden journey was due to the fact that Finch’s home base was soon to be the site of an extreme weather event that would make it uninhabitable. So he only has a few hours to pack all the supplies he can and get a motorhome for a road trip. Along the way, he’ll have to weather the pretty literal storms that come his way while raising the robot, Jeff, like a son in order to protect his dog.

The dangerous moments of the trip that become loud and bombastic have less impact because they are on the verge of ridicule. They get so excessive that it’s hard to feel like they’re real. A scene where the camper van is lifted into the sky pushes gullibility to a breaking point. However, a quieter moment where Finch demonstrates how the sun would scorch his skin until he was fried alive is more terrifying because of its simplicity.

The hostility of the environment forces him to always stay indoors or wear a protective suit whenever he needs to go outside. The details of the world are solidly constructed and remain the best parts of the movie. You hardly see any other human being during the entire run, leaving you with a deep sense of isolation. There is still a deep humanity to the story as conveyed by robot Jeff, brilliantly voiced and played via motion capture by Caleb Landry Jones. His personality brings a lot of life to the role, making him both childish and curious about the world around him.

It is similar to robots like Chappie although still more innocent and sweet. There is even an important moment when he has a dream, excited about the future that the three of us will have together. This future is still steeped in impending tragedy as it becomes clear that Finch is not long for this Earth. His declining health, illustrated by his frequent coughing up blood, is a key aspect of the story. He establishes how, in his last days, he began to reflect on the life he led. What was the point of all this since he spent much of his life completely alone?

This ensures that Hanks is fortunate enough to have multiple monologues in the style of his textbooks. It’s a role that’s not outside the realm of most of his previous work, and it feels a lot like riding a bike to the veteran actor. That’s not to say it’s bad, just familiar in execution and emotional reach. What separates it is the robot and the apocalyptic setting, elevating it beyond a standard story. On the contrary, the last ten minutes or so are the most interesting aspects of the film.

It would have been more engaging if this were developed and explored in more depth than just a conclusion. Still, it ends on a more complicated, melancholy note that deserves points for trying something slightly different. The rest of the film, while certainly solid, doesn’t really have much hope when it comes to plot or imagination.

Note: 3 out of 5.

Bullfinch is on Apple TV + on November 5th

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How Frank Herbert’s Magnum Opus Reinvented Science Fiction Tue, 02 Nov 2021 15:00:00 +0000

Before becoming a science fiction writer, Frank Herbert held several odd jobs. In 1957, while making a living as a journalist, Herbert traveled to the state of Oregon to write an article on how the state government was using the herbs of poverty to stabilize the sand dunes that stretched along the coast. Impressed by the size and expanse of the Pacific Northwest, whose natural landscape seemed to eclipse even the largest cities he had been to, Herbert never completed the writing task. Instead, part of his mind began to work on what would become the most influential sci-fi novel in the history of the genre.

Today we know this novel as Dune. It was originally released in 1965 and serves as the basis for Denis Villeneuve’s epic film, which has just been released in theaters around the world with both critical and commercial praise. It takes place in a fictional and very distant future, in which humanity has managed to colonize even the most remote corners of the galaxy. Its protagonist is Paul Atreides, the prepubescent heir to an ancient aristocratic family who, sometime before the start of history, was entrusted with the stewardship of the desert planet Arrakis. Their job is to oversee the extraction and export of a life-prolonging and space-time-warping drug known as the Spice Blend, which can only be found on Arrakis.

When readers discovered the world of Dune in the 1960s, they quickly discovered that it was unlike any fictional universe they had yet encountered. George Lucas was decades away from writing the first draft of Star wars. Science fiction was still in its infancy and usually appeared in the form of short stories published in pulp magazines like Amazing stories. In general, these stories were much more focused on crafting a suspenseful plot or exploring an interesting idea about human nature than on establishing a living, breathing alternate reality. Herbert’s Dune accomplished the second without losing sight of the first.

Rethinking science fiction

Of course, Herbert was not the first to try his hand at building such a reality. More than a decade before releasing his magnum opus, British linguist and fantasy writer JRR Tolkien had already been ahead of him. Tolkien The Lord of the Rings the trilogy expanded the boundaries of Middle-earth as described in his previous work, The Hobbit. The appendices containing the stories of the kingdoms and their royal lineages made the stories they wrote more and more believable. But where Tolkien drew inspiration from English and Gaelic folklore, Herbert’s academic interests lay elsewhere. The source material he transformed into Dune was not found in myth but in history.

Those who know Dune can identify many connections between Herbert’s imagination and the real world that spurred him on. Given that the story takes place in a future version of our current universe, it makes sense that the societies depicted in Dune must bear in the footsteps of their counterparts today. In Dune, the planets colonized by mankind are organized in a feudal system called Landsraad – a word borrowed from Danish which means “land council”. Herbert’s choice to use a foreign term as opposed to an English term suggests the possibility that the Galactic Book Empire was of Scandinavian origin, or at the very least based on European feudalism.

Herbert’s Fremen were inspired by nomadic tribes in the real world. (Credit: Chiabella James / Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)

Likewise, many characters – despite living in a whole different millennium – have modern last names. For example, the right-hand man of the novel’s main antagonist, Atreides’ big rival, Vladimir Harkonnen, is called De Vries, which is a surname that comes from the Friesland region in the north of the Netherlands. Likewise, the spice blend, the rarest and therefore the most valuable commodity in the known universe, is a clear analogue of natural resources like oil and gas. As with the spice, these substances are only found in selected places around the world, and their presence (or absence) has major implications for human development and international relations.

The story of Dune

Although Herbert tried to make his writing accessible to a large number of readers, he also wanted to satisfy his own academic interests. To make his fictional universe as realistic as possible, he made sure that the story of the Dune the universe was just as complex as ours. It is, for example, no coincidence that the planets mentioned in history are united under an emperor and organized in a system worthy of a fiefdom. Centuries before the novel began, humanity was on the verge of machine extinction. When they finally managed to turn the tide, the survivors of this conflict (later named the Jihad Butlerian) decided to ban the creation of artificial intelligence.

This resolution – “Thou shalt not make a machine in the image of a human mind” – has become the central command of civilization on the move and helps explain why the societies featured in Dune are not as advanced as you might expect. Culturally, the Butler jihad also seems to have brought society back to a semi-medieval state. For example, readers may be surprised to find that religion is alive and well in Herbert’s distant future, playing a far more important role than it does in our time. At one point in their deep space odyssey, humanity combined all the religions of the “old world” into one humanitarian text.

This text, known as the Orange Catholic Bible, is one of the most influential writings of all Dune universe. Its spiritual teachings, a collection of common themes drawn from monotheistic and polytheistic religions, serve as guiding principles for how citizens of the Galactic Empire should behave and approach the concept of progress. Its supreme command, “Thou shalt not disfigure the soul,” is itself a variation of the lesson learned from Jihad Butlerian.

Many of these ideas do not appear in Villeneuve’s film. They are not even underlined in novels but can be gleaned from appendices and indexes at the end of each book. It is in these often overlooked pages that Herbert’s genius (and the revolutionary impact he had on the science fiction genre) hides.

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12 haunting new sci-fi and fantasy books to read in November Mon, 01 Nov 2021 14:00:00 +0000

Terciel & Elinor by Garth Nix

It may be that the days are slowly getting shorter or the weather is noticeably cooler and sunny outside, but November is really just a great time of year to find a place to relax. with a good book. There’s also the fact that there’s really an embarrassment of riches coming (again!) But that just means our holiday book wishlists have suddenly grown uncomfortably long.

From a print version of one of the internet’s most popular webcomics (Knowledge of Olympus) to a long-awaited return to a popular fantasy world (Terciel and Aliénor) and several buzzy debuts (Sea skin, A wonderful light) that gets everyone talking, there are all kinds of intriguing new titles coming our way. Additionally, several fan-favorite authors (Melissa Meyer, Rebecca Ross) are back with new offerings, and several highly anticipated sequels are also set to arrive (Jade Legacy, Emperor of Bone Shards) this month. Really, there will be something for everyone.

Consider this our regular reminder that if you are planning on buying books for the holiday season, place your orders early with your local independent. Global supply chain issues are unlikely to subside before Christmas, which means Santa is going to have his hands full to get everyone their preorders. And there are just too many great titles waiting for us in the coming weeks to be missed!

What’s on your November must-read list?

Here are 12 of our picks for the best sci-fi and fantasy titles on sale this month. What are you planning to read in November?

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Celebrating the ‘little-known’ 19th-century science fiction writer in his hometown of Cupar Fri, 29 Oct 2021 07:05:00 +0000

Robert Duncan Milne: Celebrating the ‘little-known’ 19th-century science fiction writer in his hometown of Cupar

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Geeking Out with Maurice Broaddus and Ted Chiang, Christianity and Science Fiction Lecture Videos, and more Thu, 28 Oct 2021 11:04:31 +0000

Very soon, I’ll have an update to share on some of my own sci-fi writing, along with a few stories that I’m really excited to be a part of in projects that I’m very excited about in themselves. In the meantime, here are some videos, stories from other people, and some submission deadlines for fictional stories that I wish I had had time to write something about, or have something ready to go that would be suitable. , but alas, I do not. .

For starters, the opening speech of the conference on Christianity and Science Fiction that I helped organize, sponsored by the Michigan Center for Early Christian Studies, is now available on YouTube. It is by science fiction author Maurice Broaddus and is titled “My Spiritual Journey as a Sci-Fi Writer”. Watch / listen here:

Maurice is a local legend here in Indianapolis and I’m so glad that I started to get to know him, even managing to meet him for tea in person despite the pandemic!

You can watch the wrap-up session we hosted at the start of Day 2 of the Christianity and Science Fiction conference on Facebook, where it was broadcast live. It’s now also on YouTube:

Also from the recent conference on Christianity and Science Fiction, here is Paul Levinson’s talk:

See also his “Return to the missing orientation”. Roger Sneed’s presentation on Star Trek DS9 has not been made public, but this conversation he had with Monica Coleman and Tanarive Due shortly after, “Octavia Tried to Tell Us”, is available to watch:

Discover Roger’s new book The Dreamer and the Dream: Afrofuturism and Black Religious Thought. Also discover the Shaping Change project inspired by Octavia Butler.

Of related interest, Jim Clarke has a lot of interesting projects going on as well as some interesting blog posts. Take a look at “Before and After Religion” as an example.

Common good had an article on first contact

How useful could religion be to future colonists on Mars?

Jeff Bezos funds the quest for eternal life

A call for applications for an anthology entitled Save the world on climate change (therefore cli-fi, for those who know this term):


I would like to have time to write something to consider for this, and for this:

Three Time Travelers Enter… Submission Guidelines

I would also like to have the time to write something to submit to the anthology My robot and me:

There is a lot of interesting fiction online, including this Maurice Broaddus story:

Alexandria’s legacy

When I had the chance to attend an online retreat and chat with Ted Chiang in a small group session, we were given his short book “The Great Silence” to read. I asked him about his account of the story of the Tower of Babel and was struck by how he was inspired by the elaborations of history in the Jewish tradition, which detailed the effects of a person in relation to a tool or a falling brick, among others. .

I still need to read “A Thousand Tiny Gods” by Nadia Afifi and “This Is The Way The Prayer Ends” by Barbara Barnett

IO9 shared a story from Ursula LeGuin

From the organizers of the retreat I mentioned, ECLAS (Equipping Christian Leadership in an Age of Science) which is led by Reverend David Wilkinson, Principal of St. John’s College, Durham University, England:

Superman’s Methodist roots: what superheroes can tell us about the rise of transhumanism

Another upcoming event: the art of Dan Curry at the intersection of science fiction and factual science.

And finally, just to find out how lucky I was to talk to Ted Chiang, as well as several non-fiction writers that I also find interesting:

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