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When Science Meets Fiction

Examining how science is used in science fiction and popular TV shows:

"Of course, there are plenty of groan-worthy gaffes in the Buffyverse, too, as there are in just about any form of popular entertainment that dares to inject a bit of science. That’s why nerd-gassing is such a popular and time-honored pastime among the geekerati. I went to see J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot with five PhD physicists, and the post-movie nerdgassing reached Olympic proportions. Their unanimous conclusion: 'Red matter' didn’t have to happen.

"Some people are in favor of this kind of sci-fi handwaving, as detailed in this post by Steven Padnick at Tor.com. I think Padnick is right in principle (science fiction should stretch the imagination and look beyond what is currently possible, and you don’t want to bog down your story with lengthy technical explanations) and wrong in the specific example of red matter, which is so ridiculous that it actually pulls the viewer out of the story — something no self-respecting creator of a fictional world wants to do."
PUBLISHED: Jan. 27, 2013
LENGTH: 9 minutes (2481 words)

Can You Live Forever? Maybe Not—But You Can Have Fun Trying

When I asked these skeptics about the future, even their most conservative visions were unsettling: a future in which people boost their brains with enhancing drugs, for example, or have sophisticated computers implanted in their skulls for life. While we may never be able to upload our minds into a computer, we may still be able to build computers based on the layout of the human brain. I can report I have not drunk the Singularity Kool-Aid, but I have taken a sip.
PUBLISHED: Dec. 22, 2011
LENGTH: 25 minutes (6467 words)

Hands-Off Training: The Challenges for Google's Self-Driving Car

An aspect of Google's project often lost on the casual observer is that its cars are not completely autonomous, even when no human is helping drive them. In order for the vehicles to function the route needs to be driven by a human ahead of time in one of the test cars and mapped using its array of sensors. This rich set of mapping data is then stored on a Google data center and a portion of it is loaded into the car's hard drive. The location of stoplights, school zones and anything else that is reasonably static is marked so the car will acknowledge them without having to interpret them in real-time.
PUBLISHED: May 23, 2011
LENGTH: 7 minutes (1790 words)

Walking the Line Between Good and Evil: The Common Thread of Heroes and Villains

Mythology, science fiction and comic books are chock full of stories of heroes and their battles against the ills of society—the eternal struggle between good and evil. We are meant to view these two main characters—the Hero and the Villain—as opposites on the spectrum of ethics and morality. But are they really so different when you look at their individual traits and behaviors?
PUBLISHED: March 30, 2011
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4837 words)

Seeing God in Tsunamis and Everyday Events

It’s only a matter of time—in fact, they’ve already started cropping up—before reality-challenged individuals begin pontificating about what God could have possibly been so hot-and-bothered about to trigger last week’s devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. (Surely, if we were to ask Westboro Baptist Church members, it must have something to do with the gays.) But from a psychological perspective, what type of mind does it take to see unexpected natural events such as the horrifying scenes still unfolding in Japan as "signs" or "omens" related to human behaviors?
PUBLISHED: March 13, 2011
LENGTH: 8 minutes (2157 words)

The Nazi and the Psychiatrist

Encounters behind bars between Nazi war criminal Hermann Goering and an American doctor 65 years ago raise questions about responsibility, allegiance and the nature of evil. "After Goering matter-of-factly recounted the murder of a close associate that he had once set into motion, Kelley asked how he could bring himself to demand his old friend be killed. 'Goering stopped talking and stared at me, puzzled, as if I were not quite bright,' Kelley recalled. 'Then he shrugged his great shoulders, turned up his palms and said slowly, in simple, one-syllable words: "But he was in my way…." '"
PUBLISHED: Dec. 26, 2010
LENGTH: 12 minutes (3178 words)

Long Live the Web

The Web as we know it is being threatened in different ways. Why should you care? Because the Web is yours. It is a public resource on which you, your business, your community and your government depend. The Web is also vital to democracy, a communications channel that makes possible a continuous worldwide conversation. The Web is now more critical to free speech than any other medium. It brings principles established in the U.S. Constitution, the British Magna Carta and other important documents into the network age: freedom from being snooped on, filtered, censored and disconnected.
PUBLISHED: Nov. 19, 2010
LENGTH: 15 minutes (3984 words)

The "Bitch" Evolved: Why Girls Are So Cruel to Each Other

Researchers study the natural foundations of female social aggression
PUBLISHED: May 27, 2009
LENGTH: 5 minutes (1465 words)