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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Why DVDs and Blu rays remain essential in the age of streaming

Even the best streaming experience can't compete with the benefits of physical media.

A dozen years ago, it was common for film fans to wake up on Christmas morning and find a trove of DVDs under the tree. DVDs, and later Blu-Rays, were the go-to gifts from people who love movies to people who love movies. But over the past decade, as disc sales have dropped and streaming video services have displaced physical media, it's an experience that's become far less common: Why purchase a single movie for someone when Netflix, Amazon Prime, and a growing number of other streaming services offer libraries with thousands of films and TV shows for a monthly price less than the cost of a single new movie on disc?

If you did find movies on disc under this tree this year, or if you picked up a few with holiday gift cards, count yourself lucky: Physical media remains superior to streaming in nearly every way as a technical experience. But even more than that, owning movies yourself helps build an emotional connection that's hard to replicate with streaming.

When it comes to picture and sound quality, even the best streaming lags behind physical media

Let's start with the most essential element of the home viewing experience: the picture and sound quality. Physical media, which isn't beholden to the vagaries of internet connections and underpowered home wifi networks, is clearly preferable in most circumstances — even when viewing the highest-quality streaming content on the newest televisions.

Right now, the gold standard in home video is what's known as 4K. That means that the picture is created using at least 8 million pixels — nearly the resolution of the best digital movie projectors. With a standard resolution of 3840x2160 (or the number of lines of pixels on each side of the screen), 4K offers a much denser, sharper image than the older HD standard of 1080p. ( offers a useful graphic showing the difference between the standards.) But simply put, 4K offers much more picture information than 1080p.

Netflix has been broadcasting some content in 4K since 2014, and Amazon now offers some 4K content too. In theory, these streaming services offer picture quality that is comparable to Ultra HD video discs, the latest in digital video disc technology, and substantially better than a traditional 1080p Blu-ray disc. But when the A/V enthusiasts at compared the three formats earlier this year, they found that the 4K streaming experience was actually more in line with watching a traditional 1080p Blu-ray — and that Blu-rays had a clear advantage in terms of contrast and color. Ultra HD discs, meanwhile, looked far better than either.

Nor can streaming services handle the latest and greatest in surround sound technology — the gloriously rich and detailed seven-speaker sound produced by the Dolby TrueHD or DTS HD Master Audio standards that have been around on conventional Blu-rays for years. With the right setup, these audio formats can make big action scenes incredibly dynamic: The engine noise in Mad Max: Fury Road becomes a guttural roar; the gunshots in Heat's bank robbery sequence almost seem to pierce your living room walls; the pod race in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace ricochets across the speakers as if your couch has been transformed into a desert canyon on Tatooine. Streaming services offer five-speaker sound at lower fidelity, but if you have a modern surround system at home, you're missing out on the full experience.

The problem for streaming is compression: The picture and sound information has to be processed in a way that allows it to be sent efficiently over the internet. And while compression has improved greatly over the years, it invariably means a loss of information along the way. Darker scenes tend to fare the worst, as sunsets that are supposed to gently fade from color to color turn into blocky digital stripes and rooms lit by firelight start to look chunky and pixelated, like web videos from 15 years ago. Discs, on the other hand, are right in the room with you, sent to your television on a high-quality cable, and thus don't suffer from the same issues.

Physical media offers added features and consistent access. Streaming doesn't.

There are other reasons to prefer physical media to streaming services beyond the technical aspects. Blu-rays and DVDs often come packed with extras, from commentary tracks to behind-the-scenes featurettes, that can help you understand the filmmakers and the filmmaking process.

Sure, some of these extras are just promotional material. But from time to time you discover something truly revealing: Full Tilt Boogie, a feature-length documentary about the making of From Dusk Till Dawn that for years came as part of the DVD package, remains one of the weirdest, rawest, and more fascinating looks at the making of a movie I've ever seen. Brad Bird's director's commentary on the deleted scenes of Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol shows how focused the production was on nailing the movie's big action set pieces, almost to the point where the connecting material was an afterthought. The Criterion Collection edition of Michael Bay's The Rock is worth it simply for the incredibly profane reel of outtakes.

This sort of extra material helps you understand how the movies you love are made, and the personalities of the people who make them. You won't get any of this sort of filmmaking color from most streaming services.

FilmStruck, a recently launched streaming service geared toward cinephiles, goes a long way toward solving this problem, offering carefully curated programs designed to show off certain films and directors, as well as streaming access to the Criterion Collection, which for years has been the gold standard in collector's edition home video. The service, which is a partnership between Turner Classic Movies and Criterion, makes a good case as a value proposition. "If you buy three Criterion discs a year," Criterion president Peter Becker told IndieWire, "you've already paid for a year of FilmStruck, and a lot of our customers buy more than three discs a year."

But even a movie geek–friendly service like FilmStruck runs into another problem with streaming, which is a lack of permanence and availability. Before FilmStruck, Criterion had offered its streaming collection through Hulu. Then it moved, forcing Criterion fans with Hulu subscriptions to switch or go without. There's no guarantee that an upstart venture like FilmStruck will be around five years from now, and if it is, the titles it offers could easily have changed.

As Netflix subscribers have learned all too well in recent years, streaming services don't offer access to a set list of titles. Instead, they let subscribers pick from a rotating library, meaning you can never be entirely sure that your favorite film won't disappear. Instead, you're stuck with whatever the service decides to offer at the moment. That's not always a bad thing, but it's very different from owning a disc yourself.

Physical discs allow for a deeper connection to your media

More than anything else, though, it's ownership that makes physical media an improvement over streaming services. Ownership means that the unknowable programming gods who manage those services can't unexpectedly take away your favorite movie. Ownership means having a physical object that you can see, touch, hold, and display on your shelf. It means connecting with the thing itself, knowing that it is yours. And it means knowing that you can watch a movie whenever you want, as many times as you want, in the highest possible quality.

That sort of unlimited repeat viewing is an important part of connecting with a film. There's an odd kind of personal transformation that I find happens when I watch a favorite movie over and over again. I stop simply watching the movie and start feeling it, becoming tuned in to its rhythms and nuances, almost experiencing the film as a participant, knowing it from the inside. Eventually, it starts to come back to me in flashes and memories, and I start to see my own life on the film's terms, in its language and ideas. It becomes, in some small sense, a part of me.

This isn't impossible with streaming, of course. You can watch movies over and over and get to know them pretty well. But the unreliability of connections, the picture and sound hiccups, and the lingering uncertainty about whether it will be available — and if so, for how much longer — make it much more difficult to form this sort of lasting connection.

That's not to say that streaming services aren't useful and don't have some real advantages: In terms of price, selection size, and ease of use, they are hard to beat. The original programming alone can make some services worth the price of admission. Ultimately, though, the streaming experience is more like channel surfing: You choose to watch whatever's on, from a selection determined by someone else. With physical media that you own, you choose to watch what you want, from a selection determined by you, or at least people who know you well enough to give you movies as gifts.

Streaming may be cheaper and more convenient, but physical media offers the equivalent of a premium, personalized experience — and it's one that's worth preserving.

By Peter Suderman, VOX article:

Scientists About To Contact Aliens From Nearby Stars

Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) wants to send a message to nearby stars in the hope of contacting alien species, possibly starting with Proxima Centauri. - METI

"A collection of scientists and philosophers are planning to send messages into space in the hope that alien civilizations will find and hear them, and view the recent discovery of a planet around the nearest star to the Sun, Proxima b, as a good place to start.

Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI), as the group is called, is starting a discussion about what the messages should say, with the intention to begin sending in 2018. However, many others remain deeply opposed to sending a message at all, raising the question of who has the right to speak for Earth.

In 1974, the Arecibo radio telescope sent a message to the globular star cluster M13. In 1977, the famous Golden Record was sent on the Voyager spacecraft for any alien to find it. These were, however, almost entirely symbolic gestures. The chance of aliens noticing a short and narrowly focused signal, or a tiny craft in the vastness of space was very low. Our unintentional signals are far more likely to give us away.

METI is planning a far more systematic approach. They have started fundraising to buy time on a powerful transmitter, or to build their own, to send extended signals with as much power as we can muster. They will be holding two conferences in 2017 to discuss what the message should contain and where it should be sent.

There are considerable obstacles to the presence of advanced life on Proxima b, but as the closest possibly inhabited world to our own, this is one place METI is considering directing a signal, Mercury News has reported. In the unlikely event of an advanced civilization there, it is also one place close enough for us to hold a conversation, albeit one with eight-year breaks between asking a question and getting an answer. »

Source: IFL Science

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Kodak's New Super8 Camera Is Coming This Spring! Test Footage Here

I just received this newsletter about Kodak's newest Super8 camera. It's just around the corner!!

"Engineers have been working, filmmakers have been testing and the camera is on its way. 

We have been so inspired by the passion and dedication of the filmmaking community around the return of Super 8. We wanted to share with you some of the first footage shot on the new camera.

It will be available for you to start telling your story Spring 2017. Watch Kodak’s CES coverage for more details.

Visit the new Super 8 YouTube Channel

Super 8 has inspired generations of filmmakers across all creative abilities to pick up a camera and capture everything from a family vacation to feature films and music videos. The creativity unleashed by Super 8 shooters the world over has inspired us to launch a new YouTube Channel devoted to Super 8 and curated by Kodak. Prepare for new adventures in filmmaking."

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Monday, November 7, 2016

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Canadian Military Is Investigating a Mysterious Noise In the Arctic!

The Canadian Military Is Investigating a Mysterious Noise In the Arctic
November 2, 2016 // 01:20 PM EST

"In the tiny Arctic hamlet of Igloolik, Nunavut, hunters say a mysterious sound, seemingly coming from the bottom of the sea, is driving wildlife away.

According to the CBC, locals have different theories about its source, and have attributed this "ping" or "hum" to a mining company that has operated nearby, or even to sabotage by Greenpeace. Both entities denied having anything to do with the phenomenon that hunters allege has made an area once teeming with wildlife a bit more barren over the course of the summer.

Although the Arctic has been increasingly opening up to mining operations, tourism, and military exercises, this pinging sound remains unexplained. Without anywhere else to turn, and with no leads on what's causing it, the Office of the Premier of Nunavut called on the Department of National Defence (DND) to investigate in October.

"The Department of National Defence has been informed of the strange noises emanating in the Fury and Hecla Straights area, and the Canadian Armed Forces are taking the appropriate steps to actively investigate the situation," DND spokesperson Evan Koronewski wrote me in an email.

"We appreciate the information provided by the Government of Nunavut and will follow up with the Premier's Office once the investigation has concluded," he added.

Canada is apparently becoming the official Land of Extremely X-Files Shit, as this isn't the first mysterious noise that locals have called upon the government to investigate. Citizens of Windsor, Ontario have long been plagued by what's known as the "Windsor hum."

In 2014, a public summary of an as-yet unpublished government report on that strange hum stated that its origin could not be established, but that it might be the result of industrial operations in the area.

It's unclear whether DND's investigation into the Arctic "ping" will be any more fruitful, but until some answers can be found, there's going to be some pissed off hunters up in Igloolik."




Wednesday, November 2, 2016

SOLD! Original Solaris Magazine Cover (No. 102)

Acrylics on canvas, 48" X 60"
Last month I sold this artwork! A Solaris cover that is quite possibly my favorite magazine cover...!

I'm happy to say it's now part of the private collection of a hard core science fiction enthusiast.

The painting is probably now in better hands than those from the artist himself.
Very happy the artwork found
a new, loving home!

Solaris issue 102 highlights
Short science fiction stories by Daniel Sernine, Elisabeth Vonarburg, Joel Champetier and Jean-Louis Trudel.

Comic art by Mario Giguère.

Interview with science fiction author Francine Pelletier.

Monday, October 31, 2016

SOLD! Original Album Cover for Amorphis' Tales From The Thousand Lakes

Acrylics on canvas, 36" X 48"
The baby is gone!
Recently I parted with this album cover I painted in late 1992, a commissioned work by Nuclear Blast GmbH for Amorphis' Tales From The Thousand Lakes.

I've been carrying it around for nearly 24 years. Every now and then I received offers from fans to purchase the original painting, but always declined.

Until today.

Now the painting will be part of a private collection belonging to a long time heavy metal fan who's collecting classic album covers' original artwork. I'm very, very proud that my painting will be displayed next to Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Metallica and several other original art for heavy metal classics...! I feel a bit like an intruder among these famous artists, that have always been an inspiration to me. It definitely is a privilege for me to be part of that collection...!

New Metallica Track released: Atlas, Rise!

Yet another amazing Metallica track from their upcoming album Hardwired To Self-Destruct!
Here's Atlas, Rise!
Also: HARDWIREDMoth Into Flame and Dream No More music videos

New Metallica Track released: Atlas, Rise!

Yet another amazing Metallica track from their upcoming album Hardwired To Self-Destruct!

Here's Atlas, Rise!
Also: HARDWIRED video here!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Killer Klowns From Outer Space as a trilogy!!

Killer Klowns From Outer Space back as a trilogy? I say YESS!!!

Bloody-disgusting reports:
"The Chiodo Brothers, the key creative forces behind 1988 gem Killer Klowns from Outer Space, have made no secret of the fact that they're incredibly hungry to bring the Klowns back for more wacky fun, and it seems that every couple years they provide us with an update. Granted, the update is usually of the "not much is happening with this" variety, but when the brothers Chiodo talk Klowns, we listen. What's the latest update? Well, it's not all that much different from the last one, unfortunately.

Speaking with The Odd Podcast this week, Stephen Chiodo once again expressed his desire to bring the Klowns to the small screen in the form of a brand new trilogy that would serve as both a remake and a sequel. As he described back in March of this year, he's calling the ambitious project a "requel."

But what's the status on all that? Chiodo explains:

There's nothing coming out that you could guarantee. Look, Hollywood is a very fickle industry. We've been working on a sequel since the day after we made [Killer Klowns from Outer Space]. I mean we have tons of ideas on different directions we can take it. There's been a lot of legal issues, a lot of financial difficulties. We've had deals people presented us with that we weren't really interested in. There is something that's going to happen. We are currently working on something. But it doesn't mean that it's coming out next week.

He also elaborated on the concept being played with:

We want to take some of the characters we had in the original film and do a new film that has new characters having their little adventures with Klowns, but also revisit some of the people we've seen in the past. Instead of a theatrical release, we're thinking of going to television. We've got this great idea. Sort of like a trilogy in four parts, with the original film being the first, and then we have an idea for a trilogy that would just be a long-ranging series that follows new characters as they battle Klowns, but then we also see Mike Tobacco pop up. And then we see Debbie Stone. And then we see Dave the cop. We've got it all written out. It's a fantastic concept.

At the moment, Chiodo says that the ball is in MGM's court, and that he and the brothers are looking for a writer to come on board and help them flesh out their ideas, so that they have something tangible to present the studio with. For now, their lofty ideas for the franchise are sitting in a drawer and dancing around in their heads."


Monday, October 17, 2016

R.I.P. Ted V Mikels

Farewell brother, you've been a guide to all horror indie filmmakers.
Thanks for everything you brought to the horror and exploitation genre!

Thru a friend actor, I've been lucky enough to contribute a small segment to his anthology film Paranormal Extreme: Text Messages From The Dead.

"During his grade school years, he was an amateur photographer who developed his own film in his bathtub. While in 8th grade, he was awarded his first acting role in a film that was to star William Powell, but World War II forced the cancellation of the production. By the age of 15, he was a regular stage performer and developed an interest in filmmaking when he attempted to shoot his performances.In 2008, he said, "I figured out that you have to move the camera around to get different angles, and then you have to edit the film when you're done."

In the 1950s, Mikels moved to Bend, Oregon, joined the Bend Community Players little theater group, and founded his own film production company. Soon, he began producing both educational documentaries, and short dramatic features. Additionally, as horseman, archery expert, Indian, and stuntman, he contributed to the production of several Hollywood films made in Central Oregon. Notably, during on location filming of The Indian Fighter, he taught studio special effects crews a technique for making flaming arrows appear authentic. Before leaving Oregon in the early 1960s, Mikels wrote and directed his first feature-length film in 1963 entitled Strike Me Deadly.

In 1993, Mikels began running run TVM Studios, a film and video production studio based in Las Vegas, Nevada. On August 28, 2005, he was presented with a Certificate of Recognition by Nevada Lieutenant Governor Lorraine T. Hunt on the day of screening of his then-latest film, Heart of a Boy, which was the only G-rated film of his career. The certificate was awarded to Mikels for his contributions to the filmmaking industry.

In 2010, Mikels released the third installment in his Astro-Zombies franchise, Astro-Zombies M3: Cloned, followed two years later by Astro-Zombies M4: Invaders from Cyberspace. Both were produced by TVM Global Entertainment in association with Blue Heron International Pictures, and distributed by Alpha New Cinema. »


2016 The Corpse Grinders
2015 Paranormal Extremes: Text Messages from the Dead
2013 Our Forever Friends
2012 The Corpse Grinders 3
2012 Astro Zombies: M4 - Invaders from Cyberspace
2010 Astro Zombies: M3 - Cloned
2009 Demon Haunt
2008 The Wild World of Ted V. Mikels
2006 Heart of a Boy 
2004 Mark of the Astro-Zombies
2004 Cauldron: Baptism of Blood
2003 I Chimera
2000 The Corpse Grinders 2
1997 Apartheid Slave-Women's Justice
1991 Mission: Killfast
1987 Angel of Vengeance
1982 Ten Violent Women
1982 The Aftermath
1979 Missile X: The Neutron Bomb Incident
1977 The Worm Eaters 
1977 Alex Joseph and His Wives
1973 The Doll Squad
1973 Blood Orgy of the She-Devils
1972 Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things 
1971 The Corpse Grinders 
1968 The Astro-Zombies
1968 Girl in Gold Boots
1966 The Black Klansman
1965 One Shocking Moment
1964 Dr. Sex
1963 Strike Me Deadly

Friday, October 14, 2016

Shark Breaks Into A Diver's Cage

Tourist diver Ming is one lucky guy, as a shark broke into his cage...!

We're gonna need a bigger cage.

Like sharks? How about a Jaws screening in the water?

Monday, September 26, 2016

R.I.P. Herschell Gordon Lewis, The Godfather of Gore.

R.I.P. HG Lewis.
You will be greatly missed.

Thank you for everything!

Bloody Disgusting reports:

"It’s with a heavy heart that we report the death of Herschell Gordon Lewis, the “Godfather of Gore”, who passed away at the age of 87. No reason for his passing has yet been released but we’ll update as more information comes in. The announcement was broken by Something Weird Video.

Lewis is the man responsible for such films as Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs!, A Taste of Blood, The Gruesome Twosome, Scum of the Earth!, and She-Devils on Wheels, which is only a few of the titles he worked on. Lewis took an extended hiatus from directing after 1972’s The Gore Gore Girls only to return for 2002’s Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat, the sequel to the 1963 film that is widely considered to be the first splatter film.

Herschell Gordon Lewis was one of Bloody-Disgusting’s first interviews, conducted in 2002. You can read it here.

We send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Lewis. We also want to send our deepest gratitude to a director whose films were the foundation and inspiration for countless filmmakers since.

Rest in peace, Mr. Lewis."

Original Bloody-Dusgusting Post

New Metallica Video Posted! Moth Into Flame

Killer stuff!

Metallica's newest video is now available:

Watch it HERE!!

Also available:
Dream No More
Atlas, Rise!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Prayers for Bernie Wrightson. Good luck!

Bernie is undergoing surgery today, to remove a brain tumor. Send prayers, everyone!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Fan Of Iron Maiden? Fan Enough To Like Maiden's Lamp Post Official Page?

If you're fan of Iron Maiden, make sure you become fan of the legendary lamp post that influenced cover artist Derek Riggs for Maiden's first album cover!


Inside Ed Force One - Iron Maiden's spectacular tour plane!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Mad Max: Fury Road prequel said to be on the way!!

Wicked news!! But I hope they won't forget about that flamethrower guitarist

"Reports in Australia's Herald Sun suggest Theron and director George Miller may return for film that will focus on Furiosa's backstory.

A followup to Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller's surprise commercial and critical hit, is in the works, according to unconfirmed reports.

According to the Australian Herald Sun, the untitled prequel "will be filmed in and around Broken Hill", an area in New South Wales, and that shooting "could start as soon as later this year". The script is said to focus on the backstory of Furiosa, played by Oscar-winner Charlize Theron.

The enormous success of 2015's Fury Road has meant there is a keen appetite for another movie. At February's Oscars, the film walked away with six awards (the best result of the night) and took $378m worldwide.

In January, Miller spoke of his eagerness to explore Theron's character further, but said he was keen to tackle a smaller-scale project before returning to the vast canvas of Mad Max.

Theron has spoken of the challenges of the extended shoot in Africa. If the reports are correct and the film's events will unfold before she teams up with the titular character, then she will not have to work with Tom Hardy, with whom she apparently did not get along."

Source: The Guardian

#Writer Runs Into Burning Home To Save His Work

I must say I'd probably do the same for my artwork.

"NEW ORLEANS — Avoiding a nasty real-life plot twist, a writer dashed past firefighters into a burning New Orleans house to rescue two completed novels stored on his laptop.

Thirty-five-year-old Gideon Hodge told The New Orleans Advocate that he didn't hesitate to rush into the burning multifamily house Thursday morning to grab the computer. He made it out safely with the laptop as firefighters battled the stubborn blaze.

The fire had spread to the house where Hodge lived from an empty, single-family house next door, where firefighters believe it started. Dozens of firefighters responded to the stubborn three-alarm blaze. A huge column of black smoke was visible for miles. Occupants of the second house escaped safely. No injuries were reported."

New York Post article:

Monday, September 12, 2016

Spectacular Raw Footage From Mad Max Fury Road!!

No special effects.
No image processing.
This is a compilation reel of raw footage, some shots from Mad Max: Fury Road. As real as it gets.

Hope you got an airbag!!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Comic book readers still prefer print over digital - USA Today reports

USA Today article!

"...Although digital has forced publishers of books and newspapers to reduce their print runs, the comic book industry remains largely unaffected by the emerging technology..."


"WILMINGTON, Del. — Brent Williams is a hardcore comic book collector.

The Wilmington resident will purchase multiple versions of the same book, hunting for issues with variant covers, industry slang for one book with multiple covers. Some of the rarer covers become valuable collectors items.

Despite his passion for reading the latest releases from Marvel, DC and other comic publishers, Williams has eschewed the immediacy and convenience of reading his books on a digital device such as a tablet, iPhone or even laptop. Instead, he will make the weekly drive to his local store, The Comic Book Shop in Brandywine Hundred, to add print copies to his already massive collection.

"I will always go to the comic book shop until my legs give out," Williams said Thursday, as he was rummaging through back issue bins at the store. "Even after that, I'll find a way to get to a comic shop."

Williams' prefers comic books shops over digital downloads because store owners can recommend books he might like, he can discuss the latest developments with other fans and the print issues he purchases have collectors value, something that is lacking in their digital counterparts.

"There is a huge benefit to coming to comic book shops," he said."

Read the full USA Today story here!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Phantasm V: Ravager. This October. Booooy....

It's finally coming!
This October:
Phantasm V!
The long-awaited fifth and final entry in Don Coscarelli's
classic horror Phantasm film series is coming soon.
Starring Reggie Bannister, Michael Baldwin and, yes, Angus Scrimm.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

VHS Fever Dreams. Is it real, or is it Memorex?

A spectacular flash back to VHS days... Fasten your seatbelts.
VHS Fever Dreams, by Jeremy Gillespie!

VHS Fever Dreams from Jeremy Gillespie on Vimeo.

Monday, September 5, 2016

E-Books Are No Match for Printed Books

E-Books Are No Match for Printed Books

With smartphones, tablets and e-readers reaching mass adoption over the past few years, many have predicted that printed books would soon become a thing of the past. And while it's true that people use their electronic devices to read, they still rely heavily on ink and paper when it comes to reading books.

According to a new report on book reading published by the Pew Research Center, not only did 73 percent of U.S. adults read a book in the past 12 months, but the vast majority did so using actual ink on paper. Compare the 65 percent of Americans who read a print book to the 28 percent who read an e-book during the same period and it becomes pretty clear that, as of now, most readers don't see e-books as a replacement for printed books but rather as a complement. People may grab an e-reader when they head to the beach or commute to work, but as far as actual books go, there's nothing like the real thing.

Statista report:

Friday, September 2, 2016

EmDrive Paper Passed Peer Review!

The 'physics-defying' thruster even NASA is puzzled over
An EmDrive paper has reportedly passed peer review

Even if you don't keep up with developments in space propulsion technology, you've still probably heard about the EmDrive. You've probably seen headlines declaring it the key to interstellar travel, and claims that it will drastically reduce travel time across our solar system, making our dreams of people walking on other planets even more of a reality. There have even been claims that this highly controversial technology is the key to creating warp drives.

These are bold claims, and as the great cosmologist and astrophysicist Carl Sagan once said, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." With that in mind, we thought it'd be helpful to break down what we know about the enigmatic EmDrive, and whether it is, in fact, the key to mankind exploring the stars.

So without further ado, here's absolutely everything you need to know about the world's most puzzling propulsion device.

An EmDrive paper has finally been accepted by peer review

Originally, this article pointed out that previous studies and papers on the EmDrive have either not been submitted, or passed peer review. Those days are in the past, however, given a NASA Eagleworks' paper on the EmDrive test which has reportedly passed the peer review process and will soon be published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' AIAA Journal of Propulsion and Power.

This is an important step for the EmDrive as it adds legitimacy to the technology and the tests done thus far, opening the door for other groups to replicate the tests. This will also allow other groups to devote more resources to uncovering why and how it works, and how to iterate on the drive to make it a viable form of propulsion. So, while a single peer-reviewed paper isn't going to suddenly equip the human race with interplanetary travel, it's the first step toward eventually realizing that possible future.
What is the EmDrive?

See, the EmDrive is a conundrum. First designed in 2001 by aerospace engineer Roger Shawyer, the technology can be summed up as a propellantless propulsion system, meaning the engine doesn't use fuel to cause a reaction. Removing the need for fuel makes a craft substantially lighter, and therefore easier to move (and cheaper to make, theoretically). In addition, the hypothetical drive is able to reach extremely high speeds — we're talking potentially getting humans to the outer reaches of the solar system in a matter of months.

We're talking potentially getting humans to the outer reaches of the solar system in a matter of months.
The issue is, the entire concept of a reactionless drive is inconsistent with Newton's conservation of momentum, which states that within a closed system, linear and angular momentum remain constant regardless of any changes that take place within said system. 
More plainly: Unless an outside force is applied, an object will not move.

Reactionless drives are named as such because they lack the "reaction" defined in Newton's third law: "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." But this goes against our current fundamental understanding of physics: An action (propulsion of a craft) taking place without a reaction (ignition of fuel and expulsion of mass) should be impossible. For such a thing to occur, it would mean an as-yet-undefined phenomenon is taking place — or our understanding of physics is completely wrong.

How does the EmDrive "work?"

Setting aside the potentially physics-breaking improbabilities of the technology, let's break down in simple terms how the proposed drive operates. The EmDrive is what is called an RF resonant cavity thruster, and is one of several hypothetical machines that use this model. These designs work by having a magnetron push microwaves into a closed truncated cone, then push against the short end of the cone, and propel the craft forward.

This is in contrast to the form of propulsion current spacecraft use, which burn large quantities of fuel to expel a massive amount of energy and mass to rocket the craft into the air. An often-used metaphor for the inefficacy of this is to compare the particles pushing against the enclosure and producing thrust to the act of sitting in a car and pushing a steering wheel to move the car forward.
While tests have been done on experimental versions of the drive — with low energy inputs resulting in a few micronewtons of thrust (about as much force as the weight of a penny) — The first peer-reviewed paper has only been recently accepted, and none of the findings from other tests have ever been published in a peer-reviewed journal. It's possible some positive thrust results may have been caused by interference or an unaccounted error with test equipment. The fact that NASA Eagleworks' paper has been reportedly accepted by peer review and will be published in AIAA Journal of Propulsion and Power does add quite a bit of legitimacy to these claims, however.

Although there's been much skepticism regarding the EmDrive prior to the Eagleworks paper, it's important to note that there's been a number of people who have tested the drive and reported achieving thrust.

In 2001, Shawyer was given a £45,000 grant from the British government to test the EmDrive. His test reportedly achieved 0.016 Newtons of force and required 850 watts of power, but no peer review of the tests verified this. It's worth noting, however, that this number was low enough that it was potentially an experimental error.

In 2008, Yang Juan and a team of Chinese researches at the Northwestern Polytechnical University allegedly verified the theory behind RF resonant cavity thrusters, and subsequently built their own version in 2010, testing the drive multiple times from 2012 to 2014. Tests results were purportedly positive, achieving up yo 750 mN (millinewtons) of thrust, and requiring 2,500 watts of power.
In 2014, NASA researchers, tested their own version of an EmDrive, including in a hard vacuum. Once again, the group reported thrust (about 1/1,000 of Shawyer's claims), and once again, the data was never published through peer-reviewed sources. Other NASA groups are skeptical of researchers' claims, but in their paper, it is clearly stated that these findings neither confirm nor refute the drive, instead calling for further tests.

In 2015, that same NASA group tested a version of chemical engineer Guido Fetta's Cannae Drive (née Q Drive), and reported positive net thrust. Similarly, a research group at Dresden University of Technology also tested the drive, again reporting thrust, both predicted and unexpected.

Yet another test by a NASA research group, Eagleworks, in late 2015 seemingly confirmed the validity of the EmDrive. The test corrected errors that had occurred in the previous tests, and surprisingly, the drive achieved thrust. However, the group has not yet submitted their findings for peer review. It's possible that other unforeseen errors in the experiment may have cause thrust (the most likely of which is that the vacuum was compromised, causing heat to expand air within it testing environment and move the drive). Whether the findings are ultimately published or not, more tests need to be done. That's exactly what Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory intend to do. For EmDrive believers, there seems to be some hope.

In mid-2016, a new theory was put forth by physicist Michael McCulloch, a researcher from Plymouth University in the United Kingdom, which may offer an explanation of the thrust observed in tests. McCulloch's theory deals with inertia and something called the Unruh effect — a concept predicted by relativity, which makes the universe appear hotter the more you accelerate, with the heat observed relative to the acceleration.

McCulloch's new theory deals with the unconfirmed concept of Unruh radiation, which infers that particles form out of the vacuum of space as a direct result from the observed heating of the universe due to acceleration. This theoretical concept largely fits into our current understanding of the universe and predicts the results of inertia we currently observe, albeit with one notable exception: small accelerations on the scale of about what has been observed while testing the EM Drive.

This acceleration comes as a result of the Unruh radiation particles, whose wavelengths increase as acceleration decreases. Unruh particles at different wavelengths would have to fit at either end of the EM Drive's cone, and as they bounce around inside the cone, their inertia would change as well, which would ultimately result in thrust.

McCulloch's theory is, admittedly, a bit difficult to parlay into succinct layman's terms. If you're curious and want to delve into further reading on the theory, you can read McCulloch's entire paper discussing his theory here. The point here is that, should the Unruh Effect and Unruh Radiation be confirmed, it offers an entirely plausible explanation for the EM Drive's seemingly heretofore impossible thrust observations. This will require further research and experimentation, and gives the propulsion system even more momentum for testing.

Implications of a working EmDrive

It's easy to see how many in the scientific community are wary of EmDrive and RF resonant cavity thrusts altogether. But on the other hand, the wealth of studies raises a few questions: Why is there such a interest in the technology, and why do so many people wish to test it? What exactly are the claims being made about the drive that make it such an attractive idea? While everything from atmospheric temperature-controlling satellites, to safer and more efficient automobiles have been drummed up as potential applications for the drive, the real draw of the technology — and the impetus for its creation in the first place — is the implications for space travel.

Spacecraft equipped with a reactionless drive could potentially make it to the moon in just a few hours, Mars in two to three months, and Pluto within two years. These are extremely bold claims, but if the EmDrive does turn out to be a legitimate technology, they may not be all that outlandish. And with no need to pack several tons-worth of fuel, spacecraft become cheaper and easier to produce, and far lighter.

For NASA and other such organizations, including the numerous private space corporations like SpaceX, lightweight, affordable spacecraft that can travel to remote parts of space fast are something of a unicorn. Still, for that to become a reality, the science has to add up.

Shawyer is adamant that there is no need for pseudoscience or quantum theories to explain how EmDrive works. Instead, he believes that current models of Newtonian physics offer an explanation, and has written papers on the subject, one of which is currently being peer reviewed (separate from the Eagleworks paper). He expects the paper to be published sometime this year. While in the past Shawyer has been criticized by other scientists for incorrect and inconsistent science, if the paper does indeed get published, it may begin to legitimize the EmDrive and spur more testing and research.

Spacecraft equipped with a reactionless drive could potentially make it to the Moon in just a few hours.
Despite his insistence that the drive behaves within the laws of physics, it hasn't prevented him from making bold assertions regarding EmDrive. Shawyer has gone on record saying that this new drive produced warp bubbles which allow the drive to move, claiming that this is how NASA's test results were likely achieved. Assertions such as these have garnered much interest online, but have no clear supporting data and will (at the very least) require extensive testing and debate in order to be taken seriously by the scientific community — the majority of which remain skeptical of Shawyer's claims. Hopefully, with this new peer reviewed paper, more EmDrive tests will be undertaken, helping elucidate just how this thing works.

Colin Johnston of the Armagh Planetarium wrote an extensive critique of the EmDrive and the inconclusive findings of numerous tests. Similarly, Corey S. Powell of Discovery wrote his own indictment of both Shawyer's EmDrive and Fetta's Cannae Drive, as well as the recent fervor over NASA's findings. Both point out the need for greater discretion when reporting on such instances. Professor and mathematical physicist, John C. Baez expressed his exhaustion at the conceptual technology's persistence in debates and discussions, calling the entire notion of a reactionless drive "baloney." His impassioned dismissal echoes the sentiments of many others.
Shawyer's EmDrive has been met with enthusiasm elsewhere, including the website — where information about the most recent Eagleworks' tests was first posted — and the popular journal New Scientist, which published a favorable and optimistic paper on EmDrive. (The editors later issued a statement that, despite enduring excitement over the idea, they should have shown more tact when writing on the controversial subject.)
NASA Eagleworks' paper opens the door for better understanding of the technology, and for further refinement of it. A demonstrable, working EmDrive could open up exciting possibilities for both space and terrestrial travel — not to mention call into question our entire understanding of physics.

Digital Trends article:

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Oh-hoo! DC's Batman Day Returns!

2016's Annual Celebration for World's Most Popular Super Hero Slated for September 17

DC Entertainment will join millions of fans in celebration of the pop culture phenomenon as Saturday, September 17th is officially announced as BATMAN DAY 2016. 

Celebrating Batman's endearing legacy with generations of fans, DC Entertainment will once again fete the iconic legend with festivities at thousands of comic book retailers, bookstores, schools and libraries across the country. Retail activities include free comic book giveaways and talent signings. Confirmed signing events feature blockbuster talent like Frank Miller, Scott Snyder, Tom King, James Tynion IV, and Greg Capullo with many more to be announced.

In addition to DC Entertainment, BATMAN DAY participating partners include many Warner Bros. divisions, as well as Warner Bros. Consumer Products licensees -- Capstone Young Readers, Penguin Random House, Scholastic, DK Licensing, Bendon, and HarperCollins. These partnerships provide the unique opportunity for retail and digital promotion across various media in celebration of the Dark Knight. 

The annual fan-favorite event, now in its third year, was first introduced to honor the iconic character's 75th anniversary. Continuing the BATMAN DAY tradition, DC Entertainment will present Bat-centric promotions, fan giveaways and more, all to honor the character that has become a Super Hero to many generations and continues to inspire fans across the globe. 

The official BATMAN DAY event kit will include activity sheets, trivia, and games and will be available for download on

DC's Official Press release:

Thursday, August 18, 2016