Tuesday, March 15, 2011

NASA wants to blast space junk with lasers!

I'm not sure if this is a plot to an Atari 2600 video game or, like, my personal dream of shooting stuff in space with lasers come true, but a research team thinks they've solved the space junk problem. BLAST IT WITH LASERS!!!

First, the problem: space junk is accumulating at an alarming rate. Beside the risk of falling debris, it's downright deadly for anyone operating/working in space, as well as potentially catastrophic for orbiting satellites.

Wired has some details:
Simply keeping new fragments from forming can make a big difference for orbital safety, Levit said. Because objects with more surface area feel more drag, the atmosphere pulls down the lightest, flattest fragments of space junk first. When big pieces of debris break up into smaller ones, the pieces become harder and harder to remove.

Worse, the pieces left behind are often the most dangerous: small, dense things like bolts.

“If one collides with a satellite or another piece of debris at the not-unreasonable relative velocity of, say 5,000 miles per second, it will blow it to smithereens,” Levit said.
Sounds completely logical, right? "So gentlemen, how do we propose to solve the alarmingly massive accumulation of orbital detritus problem?  BLAST IT WITH LASERS!!11!!"
In the new study, the researchers suggest focusing a mid-powered laser through a telescope to shine on pieces of orbital debris that look like they’re on a collision course. Each photon of laser light carries a tiny amount of momentum. Together, all the photons in the beam can nudge an object in space and slow it down by about 0.04 inches per second.

Shining the laser on bits of space litter for an hour or two a day should be enough to move the whole object by about 650 feet per day, the researchers show. That might not be enough to pull the object out of orbit altogether, but preliminary simulations suggest it could be enough to avoid more than half of all debris collisions.
That sounds reasonable to me! Where do I sign up to be a space junk blasting jockey?  (Oh, I'm so writing up a new skill-set for X-plorers!)

SERIOUSLY. The chances of any of us being an astronaut are 1,589, 292, 874 to 1, so we they might as well let us disintegrate detritus in low orbit.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Ralphie Saves Flash Gordon

This is little link I found over Christmas and meant to post during Flash Gordon month (let's just say 2011 is Flash Gordon Year!).

Apparently in the film, A Christmas Story, there was a deleted scene of radio show junkie Ralphie listening to a Flash Gordon broadcast and daydreaming a rescue of Flash from Ming the Merciless.

In the scene, Flash is lashed to a "cobra tree" with snakeskin bark while Ming monologues on his imminent doom. The tree is supposed to awaken and devour our hero. A perfect example of injecting a little homebrew "weird" into the story! Ralph arrives with his trusty Red Rider BB gun to save Flash and well...I don't want to ruin it, so head on over to the film's legacy site to find out how it ends. Sadly, the none of the footage survived to present day.
If you're ever in Cleveland, you can tour the house used in the film and to see costumes, drawings, and the script.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Scalzi scores the space invaders

Award-winning sci-fi author and interplanetary badass John Scalzi wrote a great piece about alien invasion films where he grades the invaders on their success or failure.

Speaking of which, anyone going to see Battle: Los Angeles this weekend?

You know it's based on a true story, right? ;)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Have you ever played Player Vs. Player in an RPG?

I'm asking mainly if anyone out there in the blogosphere has experience actually playing player v. player RPG session (or campaign?). I know that there's a few games out there with rules and such, but I'm just conducting a little research...using anecdotal evidence of course. I've peeked in a few forums, but I thought I'd ask my peeps.

So, anyone? Bueller? Comments please!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Secret History of Spelljammer and a Question

Former TSR game wizard Jeff Grubb has done a another "secret history of" post on his blog, this time about Spelljammer--a game near and dear to his heart--that I think is fascinating. There's a lot to love/learn from his post, but some of the best is the fact that the game was inspired by a single image:
One of the things that I came into the pitch session with was the idea that I wanted to push the envelope on what D&D fantasy was. Yeah, we had done FR and DL, but those had been written down as typical fantasy worlds. Vanilla fantasy. Default fantasy. Background static. Here was a chance to go out on more of a limb and push the envelope. So this was the chance to do D&D in space. I’m sorry – Innnnn Spaaaaaaace!
He goes on to describe that image:
A knight standing on the deck of a ship in space. He doesn’t freeze. He doesn’t blow up. He doesn’t float away. Everything that follows comes out of that one image, which is captured (with more to it as well) on the final cover Jeff Easley did. All what people have called “Grubbian Physics” with its air envelopes and its gravity planes, comes from creating a universe where that image is true.

If that's not the definition of weird science fantasy, I don't know what is. Sure it seems wacky at first, but it led to a whole new way of thinking in the game and opened a really imaginative approach to the genre (which he talks more about in his post).

Fair disclosure: I'm not even a fan of Spelljammer. Always thought it was a little too out there, which is my own fault for not giving it a chance. But I'm willing to admit what a fool I've been! Anyway, I'm just getting to the good part, which is:
For the boxed sets at that time, we had a format – two 96-page books, 4 big color maps, and a bunch of light cardboard sheets. Our task was to fill that space. Sometimes the format worked, sometimes it was less successful. For Spelljammer, we used them to create the ship stat cards and standups. So that worked out pretty well.

A Challenge!
So, here you have a template:
  • 1 box, 
  • 2 books
  • 4 maps
  • Some cardboard sheets
Make a game. Take an image--real or imagined--and base an entire game on it. Think what the cover would look like, what the books would cover, and most intriguingly, what do you do with those cardboard sheets?

Using the same items and format, what type of game do you come up with? To the comments my friends!