Sci-Fi Weekly Round-Up: 4.9.16-4.15.16

April 15, 2016

 

SCIENCE NEWS:

Robot Beetles Take Over the World:

Robotic insects are nothing new…I had no idea they existed but apparently they have been around for years. They can fly, crawl, scurry, and all those other verbs that describe the movement of bugs.  However, Hirotaka Sato and this team, from the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, have developed a way to control this movement. Their beetle can move at different speeds, something that is very new in the world of robotics. 

 

The Lucky 13:

Doctors have discovered a small group of 13 people that are seemingly immune to disease. Not all disease, just a disease they were genetically prone to. The study examined DNA from nearly 600,000 test subjects. Because the test subjects were adults, they looked for mutations that caused childhood diseases. They then were able to single out the subjects that should have contracted illnesses as children, but didn't. There were additional, more specific factors that helped narrow the list down to 13 people, people with DNA they hope can help lead to cures.  

 

Change That Embryo!

They’ve done it before and they’ve done it again. China has successfully edited genes in a human embryo, for the second time. They cut the gene CCR5 to acquaint it with a mutation that will make the cells unsusceptible to HIV. Germline editing, the practice of modifying human cells that will be passed down through reproduction, is incredibly controversial. Because these Chinese modified embryos aren’t viable, they are discounted as being germline edited.

 

Gamers Are Smarter Than Computers:

Gamers helped scientists get closer to the “quantum speed limit” by playing a game called Quantum Moves. Of course they didn’t know the purpose of their quest, simply there to do what they do best - play a game. The gamers performed better than an algorithm the scientists had built, creating new strategies the computer had failed to see. The scientists then added these gamer strategies into their algorithm and are now closer to the “quantum speed limit.” Who says kids should get outside more? Gamers for the win!

 

Kepler Space Telescope, You Trickster You: 

The Kepler Space Telescope, NASA’s planet finder love child, gave its parents quite the scare on April 7th. Engineers were unable to communicate with the machine because it went into an emergency state. This occurred moments (well, hours, but moments sounds more dramatic) before the telescope was set to begin it’s new mission: looking for exoplanets in the center of the galaxy, something only before performed by ground-based telescopes. HAVE NO FEAR - Kepler was back up and running on April 11. The cause of malfunction is still unknown.

 

Yuri Milner, Like Whoa:

Russian billionaire geek, Yuri Milner, has a vision he calls Breakthrough Starshot. Milner will spend $100 million to use 100 million one kilowatt lasers (that’s a million $ a laser!) to propel a tiny satellite into space towards Alpha Centauri, the closest star to our Sun. Even though the neighboring star is 30,000 light years away, because the satellite will travel at 100 miles an hour, it will reach its destination in a mere 20 years. Like WHOA.

 

Robot Assassins:

Sea creatures are devouring the Great Barrier Reef in record time. Crown-of-Thorns starfish are resilient little buggers and their numbers are growing at an alarming rate. You can only kill one by COMPLETELY chopping it up OR injecting it with bile salts, the animal’s Kryptonite. Robots to the rescue! COTSbot scours the reef for the starfish, for up to eight hours at a time, injecting each one it finds with the deadly poison. The machine uses onboard image processing to locate its prey with surprising 99% accuracy.

 

The 2-Year Old Cyborg:

In 2014, Ohio State Neurological Institute scientists injected a 24-year old quadriplegic with a pea-sized microchip. The chip, sitting in the motor cortex of the patient’s brain, with the help of a couple of other gadgets, allows him to move his right arm with his thoughts. Brain-computer interfaces have been around for about a decade, but up until now, these devices have only helped other quadriplegics play computer games or move robotic arms. The chip doesn’t just allow the patient to move his arm, it’s learning about his particular movement style and how his brain communicates with his body. In turn, the chip is teaching him how to refine his movements.

 

Cassini Stays True to Course:

Since 2004, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has been in orbit around Saturn. Recent reports claimed that Cassini’s orbit was being affected by the gravitational pull of a very large exoplanet, hiding out beyond Neptune. But these reports implicating Cassini in the evidence of a massive planet in our solar system have been proven false by NASA’s mission managers and orbit determination experts in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. A planet that big would affect the orbit of Saturn, not an orbiting spacecraft.

 

Artifacts of the Early Universe?

Two blackholes, in the distant universe, have exactly he same galaxy jets, meaning they are spinning in the same direction. Some scientists theorize that this is because of “primordial mass fluctuations in the early universe.” But what exactly does that mean? Well, in science, nothing really means anything until it’s a theory that’s proven, but scientists believe that it’s possible these black holes have been around since the beginning of time.

 

Man, Those Stars Move Fast!

18,000 light years away, on the outskirts of our galaxy, lives the newly discovered hypervelocity binary star, PB 3877. It is the first of its kind. In the past, hypervelocity stars have been single stars, controlled by the gravitational pull of a black hole. Not only is PB 3877 unique because it’s a wide binary hypervelocity star, according to researchers at the Friedrich Alexander University in Erlangen, Germany and the California Institute of Technology, the binary isn’t controlled by the black hole at the center of our galaxy. Now, scientists theorize there may be more to black matter and it’s gravitational effects on the universe.

 

 

NEW SCI-FI BOOK RELEASES:

 

2016 Del Rey Sampler

Authors: Katherine Arden, Indra Das, Sylvain Neuvel, Michael J. Sullivan, and Connie Willis

Released: 4.11.16

 

What’s on the horizon for 2016 and beyond? Find out in this annual ebook sampler of excerpts from some of Del Rey’s most exciting science fiction and fantasy titles!

 

 

 

 

Atheisaurus: 3in1

Author: Andrew Cahill

Released: 2.14.16

 

Two time travelling, shape shifting aliens, Bjorn and Zorn, witness the destruction of the Earth in 2032. They travel in time to collect a little band of misfits, to help them save humanity from itself. The laid back, Ptoni The Pteranodon, the Ladylike, Florence The Jersey Cow, the excitable, Penelope The Adelie Penguin, and the Chicken Nugget obsessed Dax the Maine Coon Cat, set off an adventure that sees them travel 70,000 light years across the galaxy and back again. 

 

 

 

Armada

Author: Ernest Cline

Released: 4.12.16

 

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

 

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

 

And then he sees the flying saucer.

 

 

 

 The Honoured

(Part of The Horus Heresy)

Author: Rob Sanders

Released April 2016

 

In the immediate aftermath of the Word Bearers' attack on Calth, survivors from both sides were driven into the subterranean shelters. Now the Ultramarines face a new war in the underworld.

 

In the immediate aftermath of the Word Bearers' attack on Calth, survivors from both sides were driven into the subterranean arcology shelters by the tortured Veridian star. While their primarch Roboute Guilliman had planned for many seemingly unthinkable eventualities, the Ultramarines now face a new war in the underworld - could Steloc Aethon, renowned captain of 'the Honoured' 19th Company, be the one to lead them to ultimate victory over the traitors? Perhaps, if he can master his own bitter desire for vengeance...

 

 

 

 Nemesis

(Nomad Series Book 2)

Author: K.A. Finn

Released: 1.15.16

 

Commander Terra Rush has spent the last eight months mourning Gryffin, believing he died when his ship crashed. When he returns to her, broken and scarred from months of torture at the hands of the Foundation, it feels like a miracle. At first. 

 

His unpredictable mechanical side, reawakened by the brutality he endured as a prisoner, threatens to destroy him. He’s lost the trust of the colonists. Has he lost part of himself as well? 

 

 

 

The Regional Office Is Under Attack

Author: Manuel Gonzalez

Released: 4.12.16

 

In a world beset by amassing forces of darkness, one organization—the Regional Office—and its coterie of super-powered female assassins protects the globe from annihilation. At its helm, the mysterious Oyemi and her oracles seek out new recruits and root out evil plots. Then a prophecy suggests that someone from inside might bring about its downfall. And now, the Regional Office is under attack.

 

Recruited by a defector from within, Rose is a young assassin leading the attack, eager to stretch into her powers and prove herself on her first mission. Defending the Regional Office is Sarah—who may or may not have a mechanical arm—fiercely devoted to the organization that took her in as a young woman in the wake of her mother’s sudden disappearance. On the day that the Regional Office is attacked, Rose’s and Sarah’s stories will overlap, their lives will collide, and the world as they know it just might end.

 

 

 

 Star Wars 2016 Del Rey Sampler

Authors: Alan Dean Foster, Alexander Freed, Claudia Gray, and Chuck Wendig

Released: 4.11.16

 

Come home to Star Wars with this ebook sampler of excerpts from Del Rey’s latest novels—including the official adaptation of The Force Awakens—set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. . . .

 

In this year’s sampler, you’ll also find selections from the Battlefront videogame tie-in novel and from a pair of gripping titles that fill the gaps between Episodes VI and VII. Plus, don’t miss four Star Wars short stories presented in their entirety: “Bait” by Alan Dean Foster, “Inbrief” by Janine K. Spendlove, and “Blade Squadron” and “Blade Squadron: Zero Hour” by David J. Williams and Mark S. Williams!

 

 

 

 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Author: Vonda N. McIntyre

Released: April 2016

 

Admiral James T. Kirk is charged by the Klingon Empire for the commandeering of a Klingon starship. The Federation honors the Klingon demands for extradition, and Kirk and the crew of the Starship Enterprise are drawn back to Earth.

 

But their trip is interrupted by the appearance of a mysterious, all-powerful alien space probe. Suddenly, Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the rest of the crew must journey back through time to twentieth-century Earth to solve the mystery of the probe. - See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.com/Star-Trek-IV/Vonda-N-McIntyre/9781501150944#sthash.7zxUCNwf.dpuf

 

 

 

Warping Time

Author: Dave Folsom

Released: 2.20.16

 

On a quiet, warm summer evening just after the midnight chimes at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, a young researcher scans the night sky, listening to and documenting. He hears a constant stream of routine space background noise while the huge telescope slowly pans the observable universe. His efforts are mind numbing, tedious, and wearisome to a point that he is fighting to stay awake. On the edge of a catnap his trained mind hears an anomaly of beeps; a resonance foreign to the environment he is monitoring, but he knows the familiar code. The message is simple and he easily decodes it in his head. The source is what chills him deep into the marrow of his bones.

 

 

 

 

There Will Always Be A Max

Author: Michael R. Underwood

Released: April 2016

 

A hero is missing. The post-apocalyptic wasteland is awash with violence and injustice, and the genrenaut's own King must step in and show precisely why There Will Always be a Max.

 

 

 

 

 

 Zombie Apocalypse Preparation

Authors: David Houchins and Scot Thomas

Released: April 2016

 

We can’t guarantee this guide will save your life. But we can guarantee it will keep you smiling while the living dead are chowing down on you.

 

This is the only tool you need to survive the zombie apocalypse.

 

OK, that’s not really true. But when the SHTF you’re going to want a survival guide that’s not just geared toward day-to-day survival. You’ll need one that addresses the essential skills for true nourishment of the human spirit. Living through the end of the world isn’t worth a damn unless you can enjoy yourself in any way you want. (Except, of course, for anything having to do with abuse. We could never condone such things. At least the publisher’s lawyers say we can’t.)

 

 

 

NEW SCI-FI FILM RELEASES:

 

Criminal

Written by Douglas Cook and David Weisberg

Release Date: 4.15.16

 

In a last-ditch effort to stop a diabolical plot, a dead CIA operative's memories, secrets, and skills are implanted into a death-row inmate in hopes the he will complete the operative's mission.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEW SCI-FI TV PREMIERES:

 

12 Monkeys: Season 2

Network: Syfy

Premiere Date: 4.18.16

 

Cole (Aaron Stanford) and Jose Ramse (Kirk Acevedo) travel through time to stop the Army of the 12 Monkeys with the help of Detective John Damato (David Marciano) and a Vietnam vet named Kyle Slade (David Dastmalchian).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orphan Black: Season 4

Network: BBC

Premiere Date: April 14, 2016

 

 

Sarah's investigation about the clones brings her into contact with the mysterious M.K. (Tatiana Maslany), who has information about the conspiracy the could protect Alison and Cosima from Neolution.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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