Chris Hadfield Not Done Exploring

I doubt anyone expected Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield to have a traditional retirement.  But his latest project makes that clear.  Hadfield is currently on an Arctic icebreaker expedition traveling Baffin Bay between Greenland and Canada.  Besides the paying passengers, joining Hadfield on the expedition is the cast of another edition of Hadfield’s Generator touring show.  (Those who miss the Arctic stops can see the program later this year in Canada).

Hadfield intends to have some aspects of this trip – through the Generator cast – presented to a broader audience than those on board the icebreaker.  Exactly what form this takes won’t be clear until after the expedition, but nearly all of the Generator artists joining Hadfield have significant video experience, so I’d expect the output to be heavy on the visuals.  Regardless, I’m looking forward to it.

Science and Technology Guests on Late Night, Week of August 22

The summer reruns will end soon-ish (none make the list this week).  The Comedy Central programs are off until after Labor Day, and The Nightly Show is already off the schedule.  Of note is that twice in its final week of shows it aired two segments that engaged with a topic that involved science.  One of host Larry Wilmore’s favorite segments was about food deserts, and it was re-run on the August 16th show.  The program took another Super Depressing Deep Dive, this time on opiod addiction.  The show’s previous Super Depressing Deep Dive, on lead poisoning, is perhaps one of the best science-themed segments the show ever did.  As is this latest (and sadly last) Deep Dive.

Two of the cast of Mr. Robot, currently in its second season on the USA Network, appear this week.  Tonight (Monday) Grace Gummer is on Late Night.  She is an FBI agent and new to the program this season.  Rami Malek, who plays the main character (a hacker and activist) is on with Stephen Colbert on Tuesday.

Kate Mara, one of the lead actors in the science fiction film Morgan, will be on The Late Late Show Thursday.  The title character of Morgan is a young girl who was created and developed in a lab, growing up faster than normal.  As you might imagine, things go wrong, and Mara’s character has to come in and assess the situation.  I’ll put the over/under on Frankenstein allusions at 12.

The most interesting science and technology guest this week will probably be Werner Herzog.  He’ll be on with Conan Wednesday night to discuss his latest documentary, which focuses on the influence of the Internet on people.

Marvel Covers Its STEAM Interests

This week Marvel announced that several of its titles will have STEAM-themed variant covers.  Readers are likely familiar with the STEM acronym – science, technology, engineering and math.  STEAM adds art to the acronym, and can be favored by some advocates (who are generally objecting to the crowding out of many subjects in American education).

In November Marvel will issue variant covers for five of its titles, each one corresponding to a category in STEAM.  As of this posting the images for four of the five titles are available, with the Engineering-themed Iron Man cover not yet available.  Each of the four titles available features a younger superheroine or superheroines, likely intended to appeal to the young people Marvel wants to see in STEAM fields.  The four other covers are:

Science – Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur
Technology – Spider-man
Arts – Champions
Mathematics – The Unbelievable Gwenpool

While I don’t know enough about comics to be certain, Marvel has perhaps more than its fair share of scientists and engineers who support superheroes or are ones themselves.  While some might complain that the titles selected are relatively obscure, I think most of the Marvel characters that have featured in the last decade of films were obscure as well.

Regardless, this is not the first time (and probably won’t be the last) that Marvel has tried to promote STEM or STEAM disciplines in connection with its comics.  For some of its recent films Marvel has held contests to encourage students (often with an emphasis on girls) to develop projects and/or inventions using STEM skills.  I suppose if someone inspired by these covers or film contests manages a scientific or technological breakthrough, they might get drawn into a panel or two.  Maybe even their own title?

Herzog Documentary On The Internet Out Now

Documentary filmmaker Werner Herzog has released his latest film today, and it focuses on the Internet.  Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World is in theaters and available for download. If you don’t recognize Herzog’s name, you still might have heard his voice (or a parody thereof). Check out the trailer and find out.

Herzog’s film is primarily interested in the impacts – actual and potential – of the Internet on our lives.  The film is constructed in short chapters or snapshots, and may not break new ground in terms of history.  It does appear to provide a different way of looking at the wonder of the Internet (both good and bad) and trying to be a bit more reflective about it.

It’s worth noting that the film is presented by NETSCOUT, a company delivering network and application performance and assurance to businesses.  It seems that a senior executive at the company thought Herzog would make an interesting film about the Internet based on his previous film on texting and driving.

Science Entertainment Corner: Hidden Figures Trailer, HeLa Cast Additions

Hidden Figures is a forthcoming book and film chronicling the efforts of NASA’s black female mathematicians during the space race.  The book comes out in September, and the film (a fictionalized adaptation) is scheduled to debut in January 2017.  On Sunday 20th Century FOX studios released a trailer for the film.

Based on the number of known actors involved, the January release seems a bit odd from an awards perspective.  If it’s as good of a film as it looks like on paper, I’ll cross my fingers that people remember it the following January.

HBO continues to cast for its upcoming film treatment of Rebecca Skloot’s book The Secret Life of Henrietta Lacks.  Rocky Carroll, currently seen on NCIS as Director Leon Vance, has been cast as Sonny Lacks, one of Henrietta’s children, and brother to Deborah Lacks (played by Oprah Winfrey, who is one of the producers of the film).  Several other roles have been cast, and other actors you might recognize include Courtney B. Vance (recently seen in The People vs. O.J. Simpson as Johnnie Cochran) and Leslie Uggams  According to Skloot filming started this month in Atlanta, so I would not expect to hear any additional casting news.  No air date is scheduled yet, but sometime in the second half of 2017 would be a reasonable guess.

Science and Technology Guests on Late Night, Week of August 15

First, a cancellation to report.  The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore will air its last episode on Thursday.  While it did not have science and technology guests on as much as it’s timeslot predecessor The Colbert Report, it was certainly no slouch in that department.  No announcement of a replacement has been made, and it will not likely happen before the beginning of 2017.  I for one will miss the show.

The August repeats continue on those programs not airing on Comedy Central (the NBC programs are pre-empted for Olympics coverage).  Of this week’s repeats, none have science and/or technology guests of note.  As for the new episodes this week, the best I can come up with is from the Netflix show Chelsea.  On her episode premiering on Friday, Tinder CEO Sean Rad is one of her guests.

Thankfully the Comedy Central programs did have some science content last week.  As part of its Olympics coverage, The Daily Show dealt with the spread of Zika on its August 9 show.  That same night The Nightly Show continued its coverage of the situation in Flint.  With that show’s cancellation, the apathy over Flint that it notes in the segment will certainly increase.

We May Find Out If Ray Kurzweil Has A Sense Of Humor

Word came out yesterday that a potential television project at the FX Network involves the ‘singularity’ – not the gravitational one associated with a black hole, but the technological one prophesied by technologist Ray Kurzweil (among others).  He envisions a tipping point in the future where the development of artificial/technological intelligence will surpass human intelligence and expand at a rate that marks a dramatic change in civilization.

The potential television project is a comedy currently being developed by actor/writer/producer Seth Rogen and his frequent partner Evan Goldberg.  The project is very early in the development process, with both men still working on a pilot script that they would film early in the next year.  Their collaborations have mostly been broad comedies, but some of them have brushed up against issues or themes with resonance beyond the jokes and sight gags.  Will this be a satire like Idiocracy, but related to technology?  It’s possible, and should this get to air, I’ll at least watch the first few episodes to find out.