Archive for June, 2013

Planetes1

Space junk has been hurtling about the edges of popular science news recently. First Ecuador lost Pegaso – its only satellite – to Soviet rocket debris in May 2013, and one of the few remaining space telescopes (COROT) joins the ever expanding low orbital scrap heap. Hopefully, the computer simulations coming out of the mind of Professor Eric Fahrenthold, at the University of Texas, will protect those venturing beyond our planetary confines. Perhaps his findings will also address the on-going problem that any impact – at around 10 times the speed of a bullet – risks causing yet more high-speed debris.

On the sunny side, it’s an issue that has notably fired the creativity of Makoto Yulimura – writer of Planetes (pictured above) as well as launching the MacGuffin of Alfonso Cuarón’s latest filmic outing, Gravity. Now if only he’d employed Professor Fahrenthold as scientific consultant, we could have avoided all that unnecessary heavy breathing.

There are few days left for UK readers of Drozbot to listen to David Pownall’s radio play ‘Babbage’ over on the BBC iPlayer. It’s a clever piece of historical fiction that recreates the relationship between the creator of the analytical engine and his computational muse, Countess Ada Lovelace. While many of you will already be familiar with Lord Byron’s only legitimate daughter – and her influential role at the well-spring of modern computing – it’s only fitting that she finally finds her way onto these pages.

That said, this site already has its conceptual patroness in the form of Mary Shelly, but there remains a natural affinity between the founder of modern science fiction and the author of the first computer algorithm. Did these two influential contemporaries ever actually meet? You only have to look at the writings from the SF sub-genre of Steampunk to see just how stimulating the legacies of these women remain.

Which brings us to The Order 1886 above, a video game in development at Sony’s Santa Monica studio – makers of the excellent Journey and Unfinished Swan. It’s a title festooned with Gothic and Steampunk tropes and, as such, it can easily be thought of as the conceptual offspring of both Mary and Ada. Perhaps the first would be astounded at the longevity of Gothic horror, while the second might marvel that her predictions about the computer had come to fruition in this ubiquitous form of domestic entertainment.

Micronauts50

Micronauts, for the uninitiated, were a line of action figures brought to the west by US Mego Corporation in 1976. Originally made by Japanese toy company Takara (later to merge with Tomy), they brought a healthy dose of unhinged eastern narrative to boys trying to acclimatise their Action Men to the space age.

Marvel followed up on the success of the toy line with a comic book series in 1977, which fleshed out the idea of the Microverse – a sub atomic series of habitats linked together in molecular formation. Here bearded hero Arcturus Rann battled against the dictatorial rule of Baron Karza.

On the action figure front, the Time Traveller was the most widely produced, which is peculiar due to the fact that in the comic book series he remained one of the most mystical and enigmatic members of the ensemble.

What makes this all suitably topical is that JJ Abrams – fresh from the second leg of re-imagining Star Trek – has secured the film rights to reboot the series. However, as this will not be a Marvel endorsed endeavour, there are some elements of the original series that won’t make it to celluloid. Whether that means the resurrection or sanitisation of Microtron’s rotating codpiece remains to be seen.