Science


July 19, 2013 | 8:00 p.m.

Comic-Con: Modest ‘Europa Report’ gets San Diego’s biggest stage

SAN DIEGO — On the first day of Comic-Con, producer Ben Browning was dozing in the lobby of the Wyndham San Diego Bayside Hotel, exhausted after an early morning drive from Los Angeles to promote his independent science fiction film “Europa Report.” Browning was waiting to make a presentation in the San Diego Convention Center’s largest and most infamous room, Hall H, which holds more than 6,000 people and hosts the event’s biggest names — casts of movies and TV shows with cult-like followings, such as “The Hunger Games,” “Captain America” and “The Walking Dead.” Alpha fans camp out overnight for the chance to see stars and advance footage on the cavernous hall’s jumbo screens, and the fans’ penchant for sharing reactions via social media has made the space a temple of pop culture marketing and snark. FULL COVERAGE: San […]
July 18, 2013 | 6:32 p.m.

Comic-Con: ‘The X-Files’ marks 20 years, ponders its future

Gillian Anderson, left, and David Duchovny, attend the "The X Files" 20th anniversary panel at Comic-Con International on Thursday. (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)
The question that was posed to “The X-Files” creator Chris Carter throughout the hit sci-fi investigation drama’s 20th anniversary celebration panel Thursday at Comic-Con International in San Diego was, will there be more – will there be a third movie? “I have to say just being here today and seeing all these people – you need a reason to get excited about going on and doing it again …” Chris Carter told a packed ballroom, interrupted by sustained applause and hollering. “This is very inspirational.” So stay tuned on the franchise’s future. But most of the hour-long gathering was about its conspiracy-laden, freaky past and its lasting effects – from FBI Agent and scientist Dana Scully inspiring one audience member to earn a doctorate in physics to making possible writer-producer Vince Gilligan’s Emmy-winning (and again nominated) AMC drama “Breaking Bad.” […]
June 18, 2013 | 2:44 p.m.

‘Primates’ graphic novel explores work of Goodall, Fossey, Galdikas

'Primates' (featured image)
Author Jim Ottaviani has made a name for himself writing graphic novels about some of the greatest minds in science, including Isaac Newton, Niels Bohr and Galileo Galilei. The Eisner Award nominee’s latest comics project, out last week from First Second books, is no exception. “Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas,” beautifully illustrated by Maris Wicks, explores the lives of the three greatest primatologists of the last century and the scientific research these women performed in Africa and Indonesia, studying chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. Ottaviani, a former nuclear engineer whose other graphic novels include “Two-Fisted Science: Stories About Scientists” and the New York Times bestseller “Feynman,” says that comics and science are a natural fit. Hero Complex caught up with Ottaviani to talk about science, comics and “Primates.” HC: What was the catalyst for this project? […]
April 20, 2013 | 4:59 p.m.

‘Oblivion': Tom Cruise, Joseph Kosinski on partnership, Morgan Freeman

Tom Cruise is expected to win the weekend at the box office with his new sci-fi outing “Oblivion,” which has garnered some notably warm reviews. The Times’ Kenneth Turan, for example, described the movie as a “throwback to the days when on-screen science fiction was about speculative ideas rather than selling toys to tots.” After an early IMAX screening of the Universal film in New York this week, Cruise and “Oblivion” director Joseph Kosinski (“Tron: Legacy”) talked about their on-set collaboration as one of the secrets to the movie’s creative success. “I don’t know how you wouldn’t collaborate with your actors,” Kosinski told Hero Complex contributor Rebecca Keegan during an interactive Q&A in which people nationwide were invited to participate via Twitter. “They are telling your story for you. It’s so important that the director and the actors are all […]
March 22, 2013 | 9:04 a.m.

A lizard robot for Mars: Scientists dream while Curiosity snoozes

Gecko -- lizards inspire robot
Curiosity may be sitting idle during the solar conjunction (more on that below), but there’s fresh Mars-focused news.  Researchers have suggested  the rover could use a friend — a scuttling lizard robot. Engineers at the Georgia Institute of Technology reportedly came up with a robot whose appendages were inspired by lizards (as opposed to, say, the Hoth walkers from “The Empire Strikes Back,” which were obviously inspired by elephants).  The legs of the bot are designed to scamper over — not wade through — sand. Don’t laugh.  You’ll recall the fate of the Spirit rover on Mars– stuck in sand.  Spirit, which landed on Mars in 2004, became ensnared in soft sand in 2009. NASA tried to wiggle it free for months, but in 2010 the rover was declared officially entombed. The rotating legs of the new robot work a […]
March 20, 2013 | 6:48 p.m.

Senate asteroid hearing: Impact threat real, can Bruce Willis help?

A meteor streaked across the sky of Russia’s Ural Mountains on February 15, causing sharp explosions and reportedly injuring around 100 people, including many hurt by broken glass. (AP Photo/Chelyabinsk.ru)
People of Earth, beware: There is a 30% chance that an asteroid the size of the one that exploded over Russia or bigger will hit our planet in the next 100 years, former astronaut Ed Lu, told a U.S. Senate sub-committee Wednesday. “Yes, most of the Earth is unpopulated and we could get lucky,” he said. “But wouldn’t it be a shame if the area of the next impact wasn’t unpopulated?” Lu currently heads the B612 Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to “protecting humanity from asteroid impacts.” The foundation plans to build and launch the Sentinel, a space-based telescope the size of a Fed-Ex moving van. It will orbit the sun and from that vantage point catalog 90% of near-Earth objects that are 140 meters or larger. He was speaking at a hearing titled “Assessing the Risks, Impacts, and Solutions for […]
March 19, 2013 | 8:50 a.m.

What, again? Curiosity rover’s new glitch keeps it from Mt. Sharp

Curiosity rover has another technical glitch
The Mars rover Curiosity has gotten glitchy again, but NASA is downplaying the significance of the latest bug. In just a few days, the space agency says, Curiosity will be back in business. The culprit in the latest computer problem was a “software issue” that landed the rover in safe mode again. NASA has stressed that this was Curiosity’s idea. When a “command file failed a size-check by the rover’s protective software,” NASA says, the rover automatically went into “precautionary standby” mode. “This is a very straightforward matter,” Richard Cook, project manager for the rover, said in a news release. It just means deleting a file. But it’s slowing things down. Curiosity has accomplished a primary goal of the mission — finding that ancient Mars was indeed habitable — without accomplishing another thing we’ve all been waiting for: arriving at […]
March 18, 2013 | 1:42 p.m.

25 years ago, L.A. Times predicted 2013: E-mail? Yes. Robot dogs? No

The cover of the L.A. Times' Magazine 2013 preview issue. Credit: Los Angeles Times
Do you enjoy waking up in your self-functioning house, coffee already prepared, your “personalized home newspaper” printed out and your robot cheerfully scurrying about the house doing chores? No? Then it turns out several of the L.A. Times Magazine’s predictions in 1988 of what 2013 would be like haven’t come true. That’s not to say that this bit of archival gold isn’t without merit – after all, the notion of a “personalized home newspaper” rings especially true amid the outcry over Google’s decision to end its news-aggregating Google Reader. But we haven’t yet seen the likes of home robot Billy Rae. “With a twitch, ‘Billy Rae,’ the Morrows’ mobile home robot, unplugs himself from the kitchen wall outlet … then wheels out of the kitchen and down the hall toward the master bedroom for his first task of the day. […]
March 18, 2013 | 11:34 a.m.

30 Seconds to Mars launches song with gravity-free spin on ISS

Tom Marshburn aboard the ISS
Rock band 30 Seconds to Mars has launched its new single, “Up in the Air,” in a memorable way — they sent a CD to the International Space Station.  On Monday, they got to watch their CD spinning weightlessly through the air on the ISS. “That’s a moment that we’ll never forget right there,” said frontman Jared Leto. “Thank you so much for spinning that around.” Leto and Mars bandmates Shannon Leto (Jared’s brother) and Tomo Milicevic were at Mission Control in Houston on Monday, where they were piped in to the ISS and spoke with U.S. astronaut Tom Marshburn.  The band’s single is released Tuesday, and their new album, “Love Lust Faith + Dreams,” will be out May 21. “Do you ever listen to music up there?” Jared Leto asked Marshburn. “I do, during workouts,” he said and noted that […]
March 17, 2013 | 12:33 p.m.

Bat-eating spiders: Bat death traps on all continents but one

A Tennessee second-grader cradles a tarantula. This type of spider has been known to eat bats. A new study shows incidences of spiders devouring bats may be greater than previously thought. (Kyle Kurlick / The Commercial Appeal/Associated Press)
Bat-eating spiders are virtually everywhere, a new study has found. The only place bats are safe from these grasping arachnids is Antarctica. And bats don’t live in Antarctica. It’s enough to make you feel sorry for bats.  The study, published last week in the journal Plos One, says: “Incidences of bats being captured by spiders have been reported from virtually every continent with the exception of Antarctica.” Reports include bats being hunted down and captured by tarantulas and other hunting spiders. Otherwise, crafty arachnids have built their webs where the bats will become entangled — and then become lunch. “The dominant group of bat-catching spiders are giant orb-weavers of the genus Nephila,” the report states. These forest-dwelling spiders have a leg span of 4 to 6 inches and can weigh as much as 7 grams. “Feeding was found to be […]
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