Showing posts with label SDCC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SDCC. Show all posts

This Week in Geekdom

Happy weekend everyone! We're in the very last stages of preparations for Gen Con 2015, which itself is a little surreal. The countdown now somehow stands at single digits, costume pieces need to be shipped, and bags will soon need to be packed. At this point next week Steampunk Hawkgirl will be 100% complete and, hopefully, on her way out to Indianapolis. In the interim, there will be at least one or two more posts that speak to the making of that costume and probably one other post describing where you can find the GIR and I if you're going to be joining us out at Gen Con. In the meantime though, let's get down to the week in Geekdom.


Star Wars: Aftermath, one of the first new canon novels in the Star Wars universe, depicts the tragic fallout after the destruction of the second Death Star. The book will be available on September 4th. 


Did the concept for Spider-Man's costume come from a 1950s era child's Halloween costume?

Archie Comics will be bringing the Ramones into their paper-and-ink world in 2016.

10 actually comics-based announcements from San Diego Comic Con.


The Escapist feels that these are the 8 worst video game villains of all time. Do you agree?


We posted the trailer on our social media pages earlier this week but, in case you missed it, here's our first glimpse of the X-Files reboot.

Artificial Intelligence has been a recurring theme in movies for decades now, but which films treat this technology correctly?

The saga of Dr. Doom's struggle to break into the Marvel cinematic universe.


One of the biggest science stories of the week was undoubtedly the first images of Pluto that were sent back to us from the New Horizons probe. Here are some of the incredible pictures from our most distant neighbor in this solar system. 

Speaking of NASA-originated awesomeness, these are the ideas being bandied about for a post-Hubble deep space telescope.

The other headline-grabbing bit of science news we were treated to this week was this discovery out of CERN that researchers have discovered a new subatomic particle: pentaquarks. 

It's nothing like the summer camp your parents may have been sent to: this is the NSA's cybersecurity summer camp.

Buckyballs, not just a fun desk toy that's been pulled off the US market, but a tool that is still helping researchers unravel long-standing mysteries concerning interstellar space. 
Image Credit

The latest edition of Nature Communications includes this bit of research about a novel type of ceramic developed at the University of Tokyo that holds onto heat until the release of such is purposefully triggered.

Speaking of novel substances, scientists at Rice University have successfully combined titanium and gold to create the first itinerant antiferromagnetic metal.

We talk a lot on here about the sometimes-unsettling advances in the field of robotics. Well, researchers at the University of Hertfordshire are trying to allay our fears a bit with their efforts to teach robots to play soccer.

General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

San Diego Comic Con, the Musical.

If you've been reading here for a little while, you're likely aware of just how much we love Mad Max around here. So we were extra giddy when we came across this fan-made, Doof Warrior inspired ukelele.  

Adam Savage and Chris Hadfield went to Comic-Con incognito while cosplaying as astronauts. Jaime Lee Curtis did the same at EVO 2015 while cosplaying as a Rule 63 version of Vega from Street Fighter.
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This Week in Geekdom

Hi everyone! Hope you're having a wonderful weekend, especially if you're one of those nerds lucky enough to be at San Diego Comic Con right now. This week's entry is going to be a bit on the short side as I'm elbow deep in costuming still and the other, non-cosplay preparations for Gen Con are now in full swing. We're almost two weeks out! But ok, enough convention talk for the moment; let's get down to the week in Geekdom.


IDW Publishing will be making a readable reality of a combination that you may have only acted out with your action figures: Batman and the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles.


On Friday, Beandog announced that they will be releasing a 25-hour expansion to Baldur's Gate titled Siege of Dragonspear. There is no release date attached to the title yet, but Beandog confirmed that the expansion will be available on PC, Mac, and Linux.

In what may be a perfect example of A Realization Too Late, Sega's president admits that the quality of individual games may be a thing of reasonable importance.


Once Upon a Time has cast its Merlin and Guienevere. 

Are you in full-on Walking Dead withdrawal? Well here's the season 6 trailer.

Star Wars: Episode IX will be directed by the man who gave us Jurassic World.

Speaking of Star Wars, here's what SDCC-ers got to partake in regarding Episode VII.

Here's our first look at Nathan Fillion's forthcoming web series, Con Man. That is all.

Ben Affleck's take on Batman was that the Caped Crusader is a bit of a burnout. Also, Affleck will be directing the next Batman film.


Despite SpaceX's recent troubles, NASA is moving forward with plans for the first manned commercial mission to space and selected four astronauts to fly these initial missions.

NASA had themselves a busy week, as they also released the first images from New Horizons showing the surface of Pluto's moon, Charon.

11 years of Opportunity's journeys around the surface of Mars condensed into an 8-minute video.

In what is surely a fabulous idea and won't play at all into the forthcoming overthrow of humanity by robot-kind, a team of Harvard researchers has taken to giving soft, skin-like coatings to their robo-creations.

If the Earth is rapidly heating up, where is all of these ambient heat going? According to a new study by JPL the answer is into the oceans.

How to survive in the coldest place on Earth.
Image Credit

Aside from potentially untangling the thorny issue of computing in quantum states, IBM is also making ultradense computing chips that boast a maximum capacity some four times larger than today's most powerful chips.

Researchers at Yale believe they have discovered a black hole so massive that it's outgrown its galaxy.

One nifty benefit of the ongoing drought in California is that researchers can now readily access the wreckage of a B-29 superfortress that crashed into Lake Mead in 1948.

General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

Ernie Cline, author of Ready Player One, thinks humanity would be a-ok in the event of an alien invasion.

The zombie apocalypse is both entirely feasible and extremely unlikely.

It's a bird. It's a plane. It's...a beagle hunting the Red Baron?

French artist Christophe Guinet made this incredibly detailed suit of Batman armor out of tree bark.

In what may be the most epic of tributes, one Star Wars fan walked 645 miles (in full Stormtrooper armor) to San Diego Comic Con in memory of his wife.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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Critical Convention Mass Redux

Whew! It’s been a very interesting few days. In the past week we’ve been blanketed with over 4.5 feet (apx. 1.37 meters) of snow and the rest of the past two business weeks have been a cavalcade of snow-related hijinks. Amidst all the storminess, the true point of high drama wasn’t the blizzard but, rather, was what has become the annual spike in blood pressure otherwise known as housing registration for Gen Con.

To the outside observer, that last sentence may seem hyperbolic, but if you’ve ever been a participant in the process you know just how nerve-wracking it can be. This year was certainly no exception in that respect. After the chaos that characterized last year’s registration, Gen Con announced that it would be implementing a handful of changes to the registration process in the hopes of addressing some of the biggest sources of frustration from 2014. Arguably the most controversial of these changes was the addition of a lottery system that would randomize attendee access to the housing portal.

In all previous years, using the housing portal was pretty much the textbook definition of a free-for-all. You signed on as close to noon EST as humanly possible and prayed that the server gods would smile on your quest for affordable convention housing. Until recently (let's call 'recently' the past two or so convention years) that roughshod procedure functioned with a reasonable degree of satisfaction for those congoers in need of a place to sleep while in Indy. However, it's no secret that this level of success was only possible because demand in past years was nowhere close to the level it's at now.

As we discussed in detail in this post concerning Gen Con housing last year, the number of Gen Con attendees has been increasing at an exponential rate each year for the past five convention years. In that spirit, I've updated the chart featured in last year's post to include attendance data from Gen Con 2014. The result looks like this:
All attendance data comes directly from Gen Con LLC
It's pretty much what we'd expect of exponential growth: a sharper, more pronounced slope as the line progresses towards the right-hand side. But, at this point, the story isn't the conventions already in the books; the real point of interest are the Gen Cons that will happen between now and 2020. We can treat 2020 as our break point because that is the last year of Gen Con's formal agreement with the Indianapolis Convention Center.[1] So what can we expect between now and then? 

Well, I tried to come up with a reasonable simulation by forecasting a rate of growth similar to what we've seen in the past few years. If we look at the past three convention years, the weighted average increase in attendance is 15.53% year over year. I would have gone back farther to get this measure, but 2011 was a monster year in terms of new congoers and using it skews the average quite a bit higher. I then computed two other averages: one based on the year-over-year percentage increases that Gen Con has reported to give us a lower boundary and the other using six years of raw data instead of three (thus including the high 2011 reading) to give us a reasonable high boundary. Using those averages to compute the number of additional attendees per annum, then projecting the results out over the next six conventions, produces attendance figures that look like this:

In each of these cases, attendance is slated to be more than double last year's final tally of 56,614 by the year 2020 and, in two of the three cases, we'd see doubling of the 2014 measure by 2019 or earlier. This projected increase would effectively mirror the trends in attendance during the past six years given that, “..since 2009, Gen Con’s Annual attendance has more than doubled.”[2] The preliminary information released by Gen Con indicated that this year’s registration was, “…the largest opening registration in Gen Con’s 48-year history,”[3] so it seems as though at least one of our forecasts is a reasonable estimate of the near future. If any of these cases actually come to pass, it would put Gen Con alongside both present-day New York and San Diego Comic Cons in terms of attendance.[4]

Even if none of the above transpires as described and Gen Con attendance enters into a period of relative stability akin to the years 1997-2008 we, as would-be congoers, would still be left with the reality that the Best Four Days in Gaming can only accommodate a percentage of us. The question then becomes, “Well who gets to go?” The immediate follow-up thereto has been uttered in equal parts benediction and curse, “What’s a fair way to determine that?”

This is where the new lottery system was supposed to come into play. Upon purchasing a badge, a would-be attendee was supposed to be assigned a random time. This time represented how long that badge holder would have to wait before being granted access to the housing portal and would also provide the administrators with a measure of control over the demands being placed on Gen Con servers, as the latter had been the source of numerous headaches in previous years.

Registration came and went. Before all was said and done the inventory of the housing portal was wholly depleted. There were those parties who came away pleased with the results, those that could accept the results, and those left gnashing their teeth in fury/disappointment. Gen Con attempted to address this, along with the handful of technical issues that sullied the process, but also conceded, “…rising demand for downtown housing is growing faster than the amount of available properties.”[5] This statement, along with a similar note posted to the con’s official Facebook page just before registration began, marked some of the first full organizational admissions that demand far outpaces supply. Even a flawless registration system would not deliver the experience that everyone who sought it was hoping and planning for and this problem will persist so long as more new people want to attend.

Which leaves us at the present. Fair access will be determined by whatever means Gen Con wishes to implement in a given year and, really, that's pretty much in line with what most other conventions of its size have already done. With demand at such incredibly high levels, no system will be able to accommodate all would-be congoers. PAX East said as much in its registration follow-up FAQ," matter how you skin this, there will be about 75K people who aren't happy because they wanted a badge and were unable to purchase one. All another system would do is take badges from one person and give them to another." Given this, it's likely that Gen Con will default to whatever ends up being easiest to administrate and is most cost effective.

Growing pains definitely earn their moniker and it remains to be seen what the long-term effects of this dizzying expansion will be for Gen Con. What we do know is that the ability to count on rolling dice during the Best Four Days in Gaming is long gone. As mentioned last year, the Nerdaissance runs on with board games at the front of the proverbial pack. It is a beautiful, if bittersweet, phenomenon and it's unfortunately something that we have to learn to live with.

[1] Gen Con LLC. (ND). “Future Show Dates”. Accessed on 4 February 2015 at
[2] Gen Con LLC. (2014). “Gen Con Attributes Record-Breaking 2014 Numbers to Growing Partnership Between Gamers and Indianapolis Community.” Accessed on 4 February 2015 at
[3] Gen Con LLC. (2015). “Housing Registration Follow-Up.” Accessed via email on 29 January 2015.
[4] Hill, Kyle. (2014). “San Diego Comic-Con: By The Numbers.” Accessed on 4 February 2015 at
[5] Gen Con LLC. (2015).
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The Blame Game

Sometimes even the best laid plans get waylaid by chaos. In this case, as with so many others that rile up the ranks of Geekdom, chaos has taken the form of an internet kerfuffle. Our regularly scheduled post will appear tomorrow so we can chat about the maelstrom stemming from this article: “Denise Dorman Asks – Is Cosplay Killing Comic Con?”
Image credit
Wait what? Where’d this come from? What kind of insane claim is this?

Hold up; let’s start at the beginning. This past Saturday, Ms. Dorman, wife of comic/sci-fi illustrator Dave Dorman, wrote this post and published it to her personal blog. Note the title she uses for her post and give it a quick comparison with the header that Bleeding Cool assigned to the same post when they cross-published it (with Ms. Dorman's permission) on their site two days later.

Oh, so Bleeding Cool just turned it into clickbait then? What’s the big deal?

Yes, Bleeding Cool crafted a provocative headline in the hopes of getting the post to go viral. Given how prevalent the article has become since Monday, it would seem that they were successful in that endeavor. However, though the title was designed to incense, it’s not as though that idea (that cosplayers have changed conventions for the worse) was conjured from the ether. Dorman’s essay is a first and also allegedly collective second-hand account of what it’s like to be an exhibitor at a comic book convention. Her contention is that, for the creative minds that comprise the foundation of these events, the act of attending and exhibiting is no longer a profitable venture. She cites her personal experience along with that of her husband at 2.5 events that took place earlier this year: Wizard World, San Diego Comic Con, and GrandCon (which was halfway over as of the time of her writing). At each of these, the Dormans either barely covered their expenses or, in the case of SDCC, lost money. Ms. Dorman attempts to shore up her case by drawing on testimonials from other creatives attending these conventions before drawing this conclusion:

I have slowly come realize that in this selfie-obsessed, Instagram Era, COSPLAY is the new focus of these conventions–seeing and being seen, like some giant masquerade party. Conventions are no longer shows about commerce, product launches, and celebrating the people who created this genre in the first place. [emphasis is Ms. Dorman’s]

She then deploys an anecdote about an “uber-famous artist who traveled all the way from Japan” who was allegedly summarily ignored for the duration of SDCC, “…while the cosplayers held up floor traffic and fans surround the cosplayers – rather than the famed industry household name – to pose for selfies.” [emphasis is again Ms. Dorman’s]

Then she launches into the following:

The hard-working artists and creators who are the very foundation of this industry…the reason there even is an industry….those creatives who have busted their asses and spent money they perhaps didn’t have to spare in order to be there exhibiting for–and accessible to–the fans…have been reduced to being the background wallpaper against which the cosplayers pose in their selfies. At what point do you start to wonder if–other than your faithful, loyal regulars who are like family and who find you every time–the general fandom population even gives a shit about the creators more than they care about their Instagram profiles? [emphasis is yet again Ms. Dorman’s]

Ms. Dorman’s frustrations are certainly understandable, no one likes to spend time and money on ventures that are not worthwhile, but her ire is at least partially misplaced. It is no secret that conventions have undergone many considerable changes within the past decade or so. We’ve talked before about how SDCC in particular has grown and morphed into something that barely resembles its earlier incarnations as the impetus for the con has shifted away from comics and towards general pop culture (usually in the form of visual media). The problem that Ms. Dorman describes is also neither limited to comic book conventions nor is it an issue that plagues only exhibitors. Back in February we discussed the repercussions of a convention experiencing rapid growth and the often hard choices that would-be attendees are left with in the face of rising costs and diminishing con resources. Just last week we covered the importance of helping new, independent conventions gain traction and become self-sufficient. In all likelihood, it’s an issue that many of Ms. Dorman’s readers could have readily related to had she kept the scope of her post focused on exhibitor experiences and the painful economics of convention attendance.

Instead, she blamed cosplayers.

When the chips were down in the height of what she has termed 'my fit of rage' her primal, gut-reaction instinct was to blame cosplayers.

She has since attempted to clarify this accusation in this follow-up post, claiming that, amongst other things, “I have friends who cosplay.” Related aside: has the ‘I can’t be a bigot; I have friends who are [insert group being denigrated here]’ line ever successfully convinced someone that the speaker isn’t prejudicial? Ok, so maybe her original post was written out of frustration; that frustration is real and widely held, but that doesn’t excuse the conclusions she so very publicly drew. You lose the right to claim that it's just mutterings on your personal blog when you claim to speak for an industry, then give your content over to re-bloggers in the hope of getting more attention for your cause.

The real issue isn’t the outburst itself, but the sentiments surrounding it. Ms. Dorman conflates egotistic, ungrateful, and ignorant attendees with cosplayers. It’s unfortunately a set of assumptions that cosplayers have had to deal with for ages now. The follow-up post attempts to delineate between cosplayers and the true object of Ms. Dorman’s ire without going so far as to actually term the latter as what we colloquially know them as: fake geeks.

It's the new breed of attendees who are there because someone said it's cool to be there; they are the ones completely unfamiliar with the comics industry. They are the ones who attend any hard-to-get-tickets event just to boast online. They are the people I take issue with.

What a novel argument you’ve crafted! *coughcough*

While it’s good that Ms. Dorman made something of an effort to extricate her foot from her mouth, that effort is nearly as inelegant as her original contention. In her words, “I think the emphasis on Cosplay is symptomatic of a shift in the larger Cons from being a commerce-driven event to being a social gathering-driven event.” She then goes on to blame fake geeks in so many words.

What's baffling is why Ms. Dorman is focusing on cosplay at all. She had an excellent example of the actual problem at hand in her first post when she mentioned that long-time exhibitor Mile High Comics was considering pulling out of SDCC after suffering a $10,000 USD loss at this year's convention (the final figure was a $6,000 USD loss). What she didn't do was take five minutes to read over her source material (or actually cite it correctly, or follow up on the successor posts by Mile High's president, Chuck Rozanski, despite the latter helpfully linking them to one another). Mr. Rozanski's three-part series about being an exhibitor at SDCC 2014 is a succinct and heartbreaking look at what it's like to be a comics retailer right now. He carefully lays out how volatile the industry is and how retailers/exhibitors are largely at the mercy of major publishing houses and convention associations. He employs various anecdotes from his 42 years of SDCC appearances and his emotional investment in the con experience is readily apparent, but there is nary a mention of attendees and certainly no blame being foisted their way.

Mr. Rozanski is almost certainly not alone. The GIR and I have heard similar complaints from artists, craftsmen, and game developers in our travels through various conventions. Their angst is rooted in the dual-pronged offensive of ever-increasing costs associated with exhibiting at a con and decreased awareness of price point foundations from attendees. It's not surprising that, after years of having free 2-day shipping and very low prices from big-box vendors, many people have become bottom-line focused and disconnected from what exactly goes into developing novel content and value associated with that process. You often see this in the FAQs on the websites of artisans were said professional will detail exactly why their wares are 'so expensive.' This is a problem that affects just about anyone in a creative profession and can be remedied by just taking a little time to learn about a vendor's craft then, if you so choose, cast a vote of confidence with your wallet.

Again, it's a very real issue that can definitely cause and foster frustration. It also has absolutely nothing to do with cosplayers. Ms. Dorman has the advantage of an industry insider's view, an advantage she's since squandered with her rants. It's a subject that merits discussion, especially if we're to preserve things like brick-and-mortar comic shops and friendly local game stores, but casting blame and alienating segments of your base demographic is not the way to go about generating awareness.  
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This Week in Geekdom

Hi everyone! The countdown to Gen Con now stands in the single digits. Single digits! That fact alone is making me do a little anticipatory dance in my chair as I type this. Alternatively, remembering that the Best Four Days in Gaming begins just over one week from now invariably results in this feeling:

If all goes according to plan, next week should feature at least the tutorial for how to make the Dr. Mrs. the Monarch costume, but there's a decent chance that there will be bonus entries on top of that. Fingers crossed that all the last minute preparations go reasonably well! In the meantime, let's get down to the Week in Geekdom!


Marvel is trucking along with their campaign of inclusion with the latest edition of Hawkeye which features the titular hero struggling with hearing loss and learning American Sign Language.

The end of this year will also be the end of custody of the Star Wars licenses for long-time publisher Dark Horse. Marvel is already hard at work planning the release of its Star Wars related titles, including this forthcoming Vader-centric release. 

Do you love Batman? Do you also happen to have a couple hundred thousand USD lying around? If you answered yes to both of those, feel free to participate in this auction of original file copies of the origins of the Dark Knight owned by Batman creator Bob Kane.

The Walking Dead is one of the most popular graphic novels on the market right now, but did the series have a medieval predecessor? The British Library believes it has found the forerunner of Kirkman's blockbuster property.

Hot off the success of last weekend, San Diego Comic Con has declared that there shall be no others to bear that suffix. The mega-convention has served its Rocky Mountain Rival, Salt Lake City Comic Con, with this cease and desist letter.

On a final comic-based note, Happy 40th birthday to Wolverine!


The most recent edition of the Journal of Applied Social Psychology contains this study detailing that participants in said experiment who read the Harry Potter series exhibited reduced levels of hostility and prejudice against historically marginalized groups when compared to their peers who had not read the books. In short, reading Harry Potter apparently makes you a better person.


This is Tom Hiddleston's email to Joss Whedon immediately after the former read the script for the Avengers for the first time.

There has been a fair amount of buzz surrounding the still-in-production Ant-Man movie. The latest rumor: that Ant-Man's wife, Janet (a.k.a. the Wasp) will not be included in the new Marvel cinematic canon.

While we're on a Marvel movies kick, this is a the Lego-ized version of the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy.


All 30 playable characters in Mario Kart 8, reviewed.

Industry insiders concede that PC games are 'decimating' their console competition. PC gamers are too engrossed to feign surprise.


The concept of manufacturing a microwave-based drive for spacecraft has long been dismissed by NASA as an impossibility. On Friday, they recanted that stance and confirmed exactly what a microwave drive can potentially do.

What a microwave drive could look like
On Thursday, NASA provided a detailed list of exactly what will be headed up to Mars on the forthcoming Mars 2020 mission. This list gives us public viewers a reasonably good idea of what the priorities are for this next sojourn to the Red Planet.

Tuesday was the 99th birthday of Charles Townes, inventor of the laser. This is what the University of California at Berkeley and the town of Greenville, South Carolina did to honor their Nobel laureate progeny.

Chemical engineers at the University of Tsinghua may have a new offering in the push for renewable energy sources with their lithium-sulfur powered batteries.

Quantum Cheshire cats. Yes, they are real and here they are explained.

From Nature Communications
General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

Some parents build treehouses for their children; other parents build fully interactive space modules in their kids' bedrooms.

Forget tents. Check out these portable shelters inspired by origami.

This intrepid graphic designer has re-imagined the logos of all 30 Major League Baseball teams as Star Wars insignia.

As always, best wishes for an awesome week ahead!
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This Week in Geekdom

Hey everyone. Hope you're all having a great weekend (or a phenomenal con, if you're among those lucky enough to be at SDCC right now). The news is coming out of San Diego at a breakneck pace so, while this post will include as many of those stories as possible (kudos to DeSlided for that compilation), keep your eyes on the social media sites for additional updates. In honor of Comic Con, let's start This Week in Geekdom accordingly.


Marvel's concerted effort become a pop-culture juggernaut of its own design is arguably one of the greatest such endeavors in entertainment history. However, despite all the press that's been given over to the movies, the TV show(s), and the comics, little is ever said about the man directing it all. This is the backstory of CEO Ike Perlmutter and just how the universe of Marvel comics as we presently know it came to be.


Chris Carter, the mind behind the X-Files, intimated to Vulture earlier this week that a reboot of his beloved cult series may be in the works.

Here are your fresh-from-SDCC first glimpses of the Age of Ultron and Wonder Woman as she'll appear in Batman vs Superman.

The film is still technically in pre-production, but there have been quite a few changes to the cast of Ant-Man.

Guardians of the Galaxy will join the Hulk, Spider-Man, and the Avengers as the stars of their own animated TV series.

Since the 50th Anniversary special enjoyed such success in cinematic release, the BBC has announced that the first adventure of the latest incarnation of the Doctor will receive the same treatment.

Do you like kaiju battles? Well, Godzilla 2 promises to give you all the kaiju battles your giant-monster-loving heart can handle.

Legendary Pictures has confirmed that 2016 will feature yet another King Kong movie.

Disney has confirmed that there will be a fifth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. 

This is the highly amusing blooper reel from Game of Thrones season 4:

And this is the trailer for the Walking Dead season 5:


We've covered the subject a few times before, but Polygon featured this excellent encapsulation of the state of the video game industry for the women who work in it.


Researchers at the German Aerospace Center believe they have come up with a way to grow crops on Mars. Mark Watley approves.

2014 is somehow already more than halfway over, but these past few months have already produced some very interesting inventions. Here are 9 examples of what's been realized in the year to date.

The latest edition of Physical Review B contains this research by Dartmouth scientists that may allow for the transmission of data both to and from a quantum computer. 

Have you ever found yourself getting frustrated in your efforts to learn a new language? Turns out that those efforts may be the very thing that's causing you difficulty.

File this one under All Hail the Robot Overlords: this is a video of a robot adapting to a broken leg, utilizing math to 'teach itself' to be fully mobile again in under 2 minutes.

If you should come across a copy of Nature Communications you'll see this research by a cache of MIT engineers that details their newly developed spongy material as a potential game-changing device for all energy production that currently requires steam.

Image from MIT
General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

6-year-old Alex Pring was born without an arm and his parents' insurance refused to cover a prosthetic replacement. After hearing this story, engineering students at the University of Central Florida built him this bionic arm for less than $350 USD. Bonus: the students then posted their blueprints online so that others can readily build their own bionic limbs.

Hot Toys will be releasing this insanely realistic figure of Marty McFly.

As always, best wishes for an awesome week ahead!
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Dropping the Hammer

Two posts in one week? What is this sorcery? It’s been a while since there’s been a multi-post week but there has been a lot of good fodder for nerdy conversation in the past few days that’s just too good to not explore. Of course, the subject at hand stems from Marvel’s announcement on Tuesday that, come this fall, the character of Thor will be a woman.
Verily, 'tis a lady
The announcement itself was fairly light on the details. What better way to drum up attention, interest, and excitement ahead of next weekend’s San Diego Comic Con? In the interim, we can parse out what we do know from what’s been stated and what has been going down in the current Thor storyline. While this certainly wouldn’t be the first time the mantle of a given superhero has passed to a new bearer, the phrasing that Marvel used and the complications stemming from the makeup of the character himself potentially puts this transition in a brand new category. So, after mulling this over and reading what the comic book experts had to say, I think the Thor-as-woman concept boils down to the following:

The Good: This news serves as primarily as a declaration of where Marvel, as a company, plans to go in the immediate future; as far as corporate statements of intention go, this is a pretty positive one. Between this and Wednesday's announcement that Falcon (a.k.a. Samuel Wilson) will assuming the duties of Captain America it’s clear that Marvel recognizes that diversity in their ‘varsity’ lineup is a good thing. It demonstrates that the company is at least somewhat aware that the phenomenal success of their extremely well-planned multimedia campaign has expanded their consumer base and, in order to keep this base engaged, their characters and storylines need to have correspondingly broad, modernized appeal. That’s brilliant in its own right but gets the bonus of seeming even more so given how poorly arch-rival DC has been handling similar subject matter as of late. I mean, it doesn’t take much to outshine DC right now, but good on Marvel for taking that opportunity and running with it. Woot for strong characters that aren’t all white dudes!

The Bad: I really, really wish that the whole post could just end with the above, but that would paint a pretty inaccurate picture. My first real quibble with Thor-as-woman are the mechanics that will likely have to be involved in the transition of power. This all stems from series writer Jason Aaron and his declaration that the change will be both permanent and a complete superceding of the existing Thor. While this was ostensibly done to prove just how dedicated Marvel is to its diversity goals, it doesn’t make much sense in the context of the character of Thor. As mentioned above, the plot device of a given super identity or a set of superpowers transitioning from one individual to another is nothing new to the world of comics or even Thor’s canon. There have been at least 14 other instances in which another character has been deemed more ‘worthy’ of Mjolnir than Thor and thus were able to wield it. At no point in any of those situations did the new custodians of the mythic hammer become Thor. They were able to control the power set of the God of Thunder (since that seems to manifest in Mjolnir) for a time, but never supplanted Thor himself. For whatever reason, this mechanic will not apply to the new character.

But those were all temporary transitions. This is a brand new Thor!
The new 'unworthy' Thor

Except Thor is a name, not a title. There can be a new Captain America because the outgoing Cap will presumably re-assume his civilian identity as Steve Rogers or become a new superhero. Marvel has confirmed that Thor isn’t going to die or otherwise vanish; he’s just no longer worthy. There’s no indication as to what this will mean for present-Thor who, if the handful of reference images are anything to do by, may have fallen victim to the ‘must be unblemished’ rules of the Tuatha DeDanann (because these are comic books and can mix mythologies!), but is still very much alive. Somehow both the powers and fundamental identity of Thor will become concentrated in Mjolnir, which, as we’ve discussed, doesn’t make much sense. This in-vivo transition is unprecedented and it’ll be very interesting to see how Marvel handles it.

But this has totally happened before! Loki became a woman!

That’s not really the same though. Loki possessed the bodies of both Lady Sif and Scarlet Witch for a time, then relinquished them when they were no longer useful to him. He’s a shapeshifter; assuming someone else’s form is just one of his many trickster abilities.

Ok, then this is just like Starbuck on Battlestar Galactica. No one wanted that character to be a woman and she turned to be an awesome and integral part of the series!

This point has been taken up quite prodigiously, helped along more than little bit by an endorsement from Joss Whedon. Unfortunately, it’s not actually an apt comparison either. The reboot of Battlestar Galactica was exactly that: a reboot. In order for the woman-as-Thor concept to be equivalent, Marvel would have to create an alternate timeline or otherwise start over from the beginning of Thor canon with a new universe in which Thor had always been female. While we haven’t gotten much from Marvel, we do know that the upcoming transition doesn’t involve a whole-hog reboot because the present male Thor is still alive alongside female Thor. The only other way to make the Starbuck argument work is if the reboot had included the original male Starbuck who then trained or otherwise somehow gave his skills to the female Starbuck. Speaking of that…

There’s a distinct risk that the Thor-as-woman concept could be just another example of a female character inheriting or otherwise owing all her power/prestige to a man, which pretty much undermines the whole point. Now we’ve talked at length the futility of getting all worked up over something that, for our purposes as consumers, doesn’t exist yet. There is a very good chance that the new Thor will be a current female character (Maxima and Angela are likely picks) who simply will add Thor’s power set to her own, which would render my earlier fear moot. However, if Marvel chooses to have a non-powered woman take on Thor’s abilities then this exercise would pretty much be for naught. The idea behind embracing gender diversity as it appears in comics is to have a female character who is strong and capable in her own right, not because she has those things given to her by a male character. (Note: I use female in the last sentence only because, to the best of my knowledge, unfortunately no plans exist at this time for a trans or otherwise non-cis gendered character.)

The Ugly: Most of the items in The Bad are there simply because they aren’t logically consistent or because they have the potential to counteract the entire Thor-as-woman endeavor. The things in the Ugly, however, are concrete and definitive in their disappointing qualities.

First up is the costume that the new Thor will be wearing. I’ll admit that I groaned aloud when I saw that it’s yet another set of boob armor. Aside from being needlessly sexual, it’s fundamentally nonfunctional and would probably get the wearer injured or killed.

But don’t you get it? The breastplate is a hammer…THE hammer (or an axe)! See, the little opening in the middle is the handle and the boobs are the head!

That poor, vulnerable sternum
<> I didn’t believe that explanation when it first came out, but it’s all too real and now I'm sorry that you can't unsee it. Seriously Marvel? This is the one arena where DC is actually sort of ahead of you. Yes, you still have to cater to your primary demographic, and yes, she might be an alien and thus not constrained by the limits of the human form, but there are plenty of ways to draw armor that is both reasonably utilitarian and attractive…or at least not hypersexualized.

Which brings me to the last, most irksome, point: how the news of woman-as-Thor was broken. Marvel didn’t reach out to any of the quality outlets that are dedicated to comics news nor did it try to utilize a middle ground like MTV (which covers a surprising amount of nerdy content, especially on its website). It chose to make the announcement on the View. Now, this isn’t to besmirch the View or its watchers but, when you think of places to get news about comics or geeky topics in general, you probably wouldn’t think of the View. It’s understandable that Marvel wants to expand its brand and reinforce the idea that comics are mainstream by making the announcement on a popular TV show, but there are a lot of popular TV shows. There are a fair number of very popular TV shows whose primary demographic consists of women that aren’t quite so chock full of controversy and female stereotypes as the View. The selection of the View as the vehicle for this announcement smacked of a decision-making body that wasn’t really in touch with the population they were hoping to reach. It seemed like:

Producer #1: We need to tell this to a bunch of women. How can we reach a bunch of women?
Producer #2: Maybe a TV show! What do women watch on TV?
Producer #3: I think women watch the View. My mom loves that show!

My intent here is not, as Rob Bricken of i09 put it, to devolve into Comic Book Guy or raging fangirl. I deeply appreciate that a major publisher of comics is making the effort to appeal to all its readers and applaud them for that. It’s just that this effort seems kind of cheap, like a set of semi-formed ideas bolted on to an existing character in order to drive up sales and get people into a frenzy before SDCC/the release of Guardians of the Galaxy. I sincerely and truly hope that I’m wrong in that impression.

What would have been excellent is if Marvel created a brand new character or ‘promoted’ an existing female superhero to have new, badass powers. Since that doesn’t seem to be the case, we’ll just have to sit back and see what the new Thor can do. Hopefully she’ll have no problem putting these fears to rest.
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This Week in Geekdom

Here's hoping that today's post makes a lick of sense, as my brain is adrift on a puffy cloud of antihistamines and cough suppressants. Apparently my immune system has finally run out of steam after what was probably a very difficult winter, but more time spent indoors just translates into more links for This Week in Geekdom. So, without further ado, let's get down the highlights of the past seven days.


$20,000 USD can buy you a lot of things. It can buy you a nice new car, potentially serve as a down payment on a house, or, if you were quick to click earlier this week, could've bought you a role in Winds of Winter. George R.R. Martin is in the midst of a fundraising campaign to benefit the Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary and the Food Depot of Santa Fe and all the rewards associated with the campaign stem from George himself. While the 2 customized roles in Winds of Winter have already been purchased, there are still dozens of interesting rewards still up for grabs and all donors are entered in a lottery to win a helicopter ride with Mr. Martin. Check out the fundraising page for more details.

When George wasn't drumming up support for his favorite charitable organizations, he was combating the rampant rumors that he planned to extend his A Song of Ice and Fire series to span eight books instead of the previously established seven. While Mr. Martin's response to said rumors wasn't exactly clear, he did confirm that his work The World of Ice and Fire: the Untold History of Westeros is still on schedule to be published in October.


In a surprising last minute move, the Wachowski siblings' sci-fi epic Jupiter Rising had its release date moved from July 18th to February 6th of next year. While Warner Bros claims that the delay spawned from a need for additional special effects, industry professionals fear that heavy re-shoots were required.   

How does a character who utters a mere four lines of dialogue over the course of two films end up with his own movie? Behold, the 'cult' of Boba Fett. 


Hermetic Calvin & Hobbes creator Bill Watterson returned to the world of newspaper comic strip publication this but, if you didn't look closely, you might have missed it.

Who is faster: the Flash or Quicksliver? Here comes the science.


On Friday, Tetris turned 30 years old. In celebration of this milestone birthday, here are 30 facts about this beloved Soviet spacial awareness game.

After nearly 10 years in the global marketplace, the Sony PlayStation Portable (a.k.a. the PSP) is being sent to that Great Basement in the Sky. 

If you are an Xbox One owner who has noticed that your machine seems to experience a dip in performance when you plug in your Kinect your suspicions are justified. On Thursday, Microsoft confirmed that its Xbox One consoles can lose up to 10% of their GPU performance when paired with a Kinect, despite initial claims that combining the two would have no adverse effects.


Back in March, the astrophysics community cheered en masse at what appeared to be the discovery that confirmed the theory of cosmic inflation and opened the possibility for a multiverse. Now, the latest edition of Nature provides information that indicates this release of this information to perhaps have been premature.

While one set of celestial waves seems to retreat back into the realm of theory, another inches towards confirmation. 
An artist's impression of the 'Godzilla of Earths'

On Monday, scientists in attendance at the American Astronomical Society meeting discussed the 'Godzilla of Earths'. This mega-planet, officially known as Kepler-10c is interesting not just for its enormous size, but also because, according to our current body of planetary knowledge, it shouldn't exist.

Conversely, a concept that was theorized to exist for over 40 years was finally confirmed with physical proof. The latest edition of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society Letters details the findings of a research team out of the University of Colorado Boulder, who identified this embodiment of Thorne-Żytkow theory or 'a star within a star.' 

Just when we thought we'd recovered from the Heartbleed bug, this decade-old bug goes and screws up internet information exchange all over again.

She may only be 19 years old, but Brittany Wenger is already revolutionizing the way we identify cancer. Read here for the details on her attempts to digitize diagnostics.

The latest edition of the journal Cell includes these findings by a team of Harvard researchers that allowed them to cause mature liver cells of mice to revert to a state similar to that of stem cells. 

If you've ever wondered why you love certain foods, but loathe others, the reason may be hard-coded into your DNA. A team of geneticists from the University of Trieste published these findings linking affinities to certain foods with 17 distinct genomic markers.

Add to the list of things to include in your will: the passwords to all social media that you use.

The algorithm that is the driving force behind Wikipedia reveals the most influential individuals in human history.

General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

The very first Vine shot in space.

Have you ever wanted to build your own solar-powered rover? Well, here you go.

If you've ever wanted to be a polar bear, this video shot from the bear's point of view tries to bring you the closest possible experience.

The Mountain That Rides is indeed aptly named. Watch here as actor Hafthor Bjornsson proves that he was appropriately cast.

In honor of the 30th birthday of the Transformers, Hasbro will be releasing this limited edition playset starring your favorite transformers in the universe's greatest band, the Knights of Unicron.

Do you love Legos? Do you love movies? Well, this is a list that may very well be relevant to your interests. 

Last year, West Coast Customs built this exact replica of the Bravado Banshee from the Grand Theft Auto series, which was given away as a prize in a competition run by GameStop. This week, the car went up for auction on eBay. The auction is now closed and there's no word if the original owner got her $170,000 USD asking price.

I leave you guys with this video from Thailand Comic Con that features a troupe of cosplayers reenacting a battle scene from Pacific Rim. As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!

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