Saturday, 22 October 2011

Stand back – I’m going to try science!

Did anyone else catch Stephen Hawking's ‘Brave New World’ on Monday? It’s the follow up to his British Genius’ programme from last year, which looked at the scientific endeavours of a host of clever bastards, and not just the well known ones either, that have helped make the world what it is today. No, not a cesspit of depravity, disorder and chaos – there is no science in banking and economics – but a world where pre-term babies have an infinitely better chance of survival than they did 30 years ago and with less chance of suffering associated developmental illnesses to boot. And when non-polluting cars driven by perpetual motion machines finally arrive it will mean that said children won’t then be killed off by the cancer-inducing smog produced by the combustion engine. Science – making us more awesome, one slow step at a time!

That’s kind of the concept with Brave New World. Looking at present scientific endeavours and unravelling their future potential benefit to humanity. Whilst it’s not quite as interesting as some of the bonkers science explored by renowned entrepreneur Cave Johnson in Portal 2 – that’s how they need to re-boot Big Brother; get the moronic participants to complete in some of his insane test chambers – it does feature some pretty remarkable stuff. A bit like Tomorrow’s World then, just much less shit, as the science in Brave New World is qualified by the testimonies of proper scientists like Hawkins, not Philipa Forrester.  

Anyway, it’s currently on 4OD at the moment and you really need to watch the following from the 32 minute mark and marvel at the mechanical legs that are helping people paralysed from the waist down to walk again.

I’m not thoroughly versed in the science behind it, but I think it has something to do with the robotics picking up the signal from the brain that can no longer reach the individuals legs and the mechanics carrying out the brain’s instructions on their behalf. Pretty incredible, huh? It also seems to have beneficial additional effects – just the process of being able to stand upright brings pain relief from the compression of the spine when constantly sitting in a wheelchair. It just seems like an incredible piece of hardware. No evasive surgery required, just strap on a pair of these bad boys and all of a sudden mobility has been restored to those it had been taken from.

Okay, so the first girl shown is not completely versed in the use of these robo-legs (to be fair she’s only been using them for a couple of months), but the second girl featured powers through and whilst full mobility is not completely restored, it still remains an incredible feat of science. The final bonus is that the drive of this motion is all generated by the mechanics of the device, meaning the individual using them provides no effort to generate movement and, consequently, suffers no fatigue from their use. Utterly remarkable! And then they show a reel of what these things can do when utilised by the able-bodied. They’re like a more compact version of the power-loaders from Aliens. You can pick up 200lbs with next to no effort. It’s probably one of the single coolest things I’ve ever seen. Why? Because they’re like the freaking power-loaders from Aliens!!

I just hope it’s not a hoax - the American professor narrating and the footage shown do make it seem like one of those inexplicable adverts for a gardening gadget at only £49.99 that subsequently doesn’t work. But if Hawking's has put his name against it, well, this must be the future. Just a shame it won’t last though. If you watch the segment before the robotic legs you have baby faced robot AIs being taught simple tricks by scientists and learning from them with remarkable ease. The guy leading the programme proclaims that in 20 years time every household will have such robots helping with the household chores. Just in time for 2027 and judgement day. I hope the company he works for is not Cyberdyne Systems. Science, so great it has the potential to heal and destroy the world in the blink of an eye. Well, you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth, I suppose…

Friday, 7 October 2011

Decisions, decisions...

If we’ve learned anything from the current Conservative Party conference it’s that Theresa May is an idiot, their political doctrine is pandering to the more vocal right-wing loons in the party and foreigners and the poor are to blame for many of the things going wrong in the country, not the parties cack-handed ability to put their lie… sorry, words into appropriate policy. The banks, meanwhile, are back to burning fivers for chuckles, their moral compass beset somewhat by the lure of making shitloads more money at the expense of their customers. Of course, they’re completely not to blame, at all, for the economic fiasco of recent times either and anyone that says otherwise must be a Nazi. All of which makes being a public servant a right joy at the moment!

Not only do you have to contend with tools like Michael Gove making regular contradictory statements and basing his educational policy on ideology rather than the sound, credible research and data put in front of him, but you also have to suffer a pay freeze (where the bonus culture of banks has not been culled) and a large number of vacancies not being filled (meaning there’s much more work that needs doing with fewer hands). Plus, you invariably have smug-faced posho-twat Cameron regularly beam that we would not be in this mess if it wasn’t for public servants. Sigh! These things are cyclical. Give it another 10 years and when the local authorities are shown to be rather inept, there’s a lack of consistent data on things of the day that are important and need measuring and England has turned into a ghetto infested dump then they will realise their folly at turfing out civil servants and central government.

Still, I do get 30 days holiday plus an extra two-and-a-half bank holidays a year, flexible working hours (including working from home), subsidised gym membership and many other benefits from being a civil servant to make up for the considerable woe. This includes something called an instant recognition voucher. Do a good piece of work, be it simply adding code to an SQL process that makes retrieving data a good deal more efficient and anyone in the organisation can nominate you for a voucher. It’s like an instant bonus; £50 to spend at the likes of Amazon, John Lewis, Sainsburys, etc. Okay, so it’s not a lump sum of three grand in your pocket, but beggars can’t really be choosers.

Anyway, I’ve recently received a voucher – for being awesome no less – but I’m in a quandary about what to purchase with it. It will be a PC or PS3 game of course, as having children is expensive and these vouchers are now the only way to fund my gaming habit. But the question is what game? Consider the titles that have either just been released or will be released in the next month or so:

·        Deus Ex 3 – sequel to one of the most outstanding first-person shooters ever crafted, more so because of its combination with elements of role-play and an awesome plot. However, the second game in the series was shite, so caution required.
·        FIFA 2012 – Electronic Arts yearly franchise update. £50 for some new gloss but few changes under the surface. That’s how EA roll. Bastards.
·        Batman: Arkham City – Sequel to the best game of 2009. Advertised to death and potential spoilers revealed in the huge number of trailers available, but my word it does look fantastic. So long as they haven’t decided to fix the gameplay (which was not broken) this should be made of win.
·        Uncharted 3 – Sequel to the second best game of 2009 sees Indiana Jon… sorry, Nathan Drake looking for more treasure whilst undertaking dare-devil climbing antics and shooting shitloads of bad guys in bonkers plot machinations. Should rock the monkey!
·        Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Fifth game in the Morrowind series and sequel to Oblivion which was just vast. Need I say more?

That’s some supposedly top quality shit there all being primed for the Christmas schedule. I want all of them (who wouldn’t) but balls if I can choose between them. So, I’ve set up a poll to help me in this decision making process. Just pop over to the right, select the game you think I should get and in a few days I’ll order or pre-order the winner from Amazon. Help me Obi-Wan, you’re my only hope!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Ribbit motherfucker, ribbit!

There’s nothing going on in the Megaverse at the moment; well, except for Carlos Tevez’s most recent act of petulance and the Euro going to shit, but that’s well covered elsewhere. So, here’s a quick round up of potentially cool stuff the Man has created to keep us wilfully obedient and feeble-minded in the coming months. Because fun and entertainment are far better than the reality of it all, right?

Black Dynamite

You may have missed the Black Dynamite flick that was released last year. A blaxsplotation movie in a similar vein to I’m Going Git You Sucka! (hmm, no you probably haven’t heard of, yet seen that either) but a little dafter, funnier and featuring much more Kung-Fu. It stars Michael Jai- White (the poor bastard who played Spawn in what remains the worst comic book/graphic novel adaptation to the big screen yet) as eponymous hero Black Dynamite who has shed loads of fun chewing up the scenery, being heroic and kicking arse whilst attempting to prevent The Man’s diabolical plan to emasculate all brothers by having them suffer from Little Richard (think about it).  Can you dig it?

Anyway, the flick was a laugh riot and someone with damn good sense decided that the concept was sly enough to produce an animated series of Black Dynamite’s further adventures. The pilot has been picked up and the full animated series of Black Dynamite will be shown sometime from April next year onwards. For now, the unscreened ten minute pilot can be found on the adult swim website and gives a taster of what gives; a pastiche of the muppet show with Kermit going rogue and pimping out all the children. It may sound bonkers, but it is damn funny. Watch and enjoy the ribbiting mofo try and get one up on Black Dynamite here…

The Raid

At the advent of the VHS revolution, my old man ensured he got a video club card for the local video store (Capricorn Video, RIP) so that every weekend he would rent a couple of flicks to keep me and my brother entertained. You would think this was a great opportunity to use film to enhance our understanding of our own mortality and place in the universe. No. It was the perfect breeding ground to watch daft action movies. Anything with ninjas or Jean Claude Van Damme rocked, Commando was the essence of the perfect film, all else was just pretentious wank, especially if it was in black or white. Subtitles were fine, otherwise how else would we get to enjoy the sheer awesomeness of Hard Boiled and The Killer! It’s an upbringing that means the following trailer for an Indonesian flick, directed by a Welshman, titled The Raid just leaves me creaming in my jeans. Watch, and tell me you’re not salivating at how spectacular it looks as well…

Now, don’t give me any of this bollocks about “what do Indonesian’s know about action movies”. You could probably have said the same about Thailand before Ong-Bak was released in 2004. And Ong-Bak is amazing. This is why The Raid will be amazing. No release date in the UK as yet though (sniff)…

Batman: Arkham City

The follow up to easily the best game of 2008, yet despite this it’s being advertised to death. Seriously, if there’s one game this year that doesn’t need any kind of advertising it would be the sequel to Arkham Asylum. Everyone will buy the game anyway, even if it does turn out to be a complete turd. Luckily, the current trailers (of which there are many) suggest that developers Rocksteady have kept to an if it isn’t broken don’t fix it approach, which means it should be more of the same but with minor differences. The perfect design for a sequel in other words. So what we get are a few new combat moves, the action taken to a less enclosed space beyond the Asylum and shitloads more of Bats’ most fearsome enemies making a proper appearance. So long as they haven’t bodged up the fantastic free-flow combat system, everything should be as before. My only worry is the balance between giving each villain enough screen-time. This was superbly managed in the original, but I really hope they haven’t over done it this time round to appease the fanboys at the expense of gameplay. We’ll find out soon enough as Arkham City is released on the 21 October.