Wednesday, August 16, 2017

One step closer...

...to being able to 3D print replacement organs (I think we can all agree that not having to rely on donors is a good thing).

Researchers at Oxford and Bristol universities have come up with a high resolution scaffold that puts individual cells right where they need to be. The organs could be made using the recipient's own stem cells (or a donor's if there's some genetic reason not to use the patient's - but the patient's are better because it eliminates rejection).

Wouldn't it be great if everyone who needed a new liver or kidney could get one?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Acknowledge Them

The death of stuntwoman SJ Harris while filming Deadpool 2 is a highly tragic accident.

Harris was a professional stunt rider and road racer - something went wrong and it is likely her death was simply that. An accident.

This one was high profile, but in early July John Bernecker fell from a balcony while doing a stunt for the TV show "Walking Dead" - he also died.

Stuntmen (and women) have been risking their lives for our entertainment since the start of visual entertainment. Olivia Jackson lost her arm while doubling for Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (this was also a motorcycling accident). Harry O'Connor was killed in a parasailing accident while doubling for Vin Diesel in XXX. And, surprise surprise, a stuntman, Art Scholl, was killed filming the flight sequences for Top Gun.

Actors have also been injured doing their own stunts, but when a stuntman is injured or killed, much of the time no mention is ever made of it. We don't even know their names. (Whilst a lot of us remember Brandon Lee's death - he was shot with a blank, which is why they're very careful how they use blanks now).

So, I'd like to dedicate to SJ Harris a mention to all stuntmen and the dangerous work they do so we can escape reality for 90 minutes or 2 hours.

Monday, August 14, 2017

I...

...really hope that the celebrity deaths in threes isn't going to become awfully specific.

Victor Pemberton both acted in Doctor Who (in the 1967 episode Moonbase) and wrote precisely one Doctor Who arc.

So, why is he important?

Because in that sadly mostly-lost story, Fury From The Deep, he introduced something that is now one of the symbols of the show: The Sonic Screwdriver. (He also wrote one audio adventure and wrote the novelization of Fury from the Deep himself). He had a lot of experience in radio as well as TV. Oh, and he created the Lighthouse Keeper in Fraggle Rock, which Americans probably won't understand the importance of.

Pemberton died today at the age of 85.

Friday, August 11, 2017

British Fruitcake

....has to be one of the most inedible creations ever made by man. It's even worse than American fruitcake.

So when somebody said they found 100-year-old fruitcake in Antarctica that was "almost edible" I knew it had to be British fruitcake. (It was, it was dropped by Scott's expedition). Because fruitcake is only almost edible anyway.

(Why yes, I am ribbing on my own country. You're allowed to join in. Ugh, fruitcake).

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Shooting Stars

If you're planning on observing the Perseids this year, the fireworks show will peak on August 12 at...1pm. In other words, you want to be out the night before or the night after. The recommended time is before dawn on August 12.

Unfortunately, the moon will be full, which won't help for meteor viewing - you need to get out of the city to get a good view.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Largest Land Animal...

...is some kind of brontosaurus, right?

Actually, it's now Patagotitan mayorum - weighing in at 152,000 pounds. That's ten times the weight of the largest elephants.

Scientists believe this is close to the maximum size for an animal in our gravity. (And likely land animals could not get this big right now due to the lower oxygen compared to the Cretaceous).

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Godzilla!

The signature Japanese monster was introduced in 1954 as a cautionary tale about nuclear weapons.

And he rapidly became an international phenomenon. In fact, Godzilla movies are still being made today - there's one scheduled for release in 2019. Kaiju - the Japanese word for monster - has developed a specific meaning in English and we talk about kaiju movies.

In 1954 there was no CGI and not really any animatronics. So, how did they do the monster?

The answer: A stuntman in a suit. And the man they hired was Haruo Nakajima - who had four credits as a stuntman in Samurai movies at the time. He was given no briefing on how to play the monster - so he spent hours at the zoo, looking at elephants, bears and other creatures to create the distinctive gait (and, of course, the distinctive victory dance).

Most people who aren't serious monster movie fans don't even know Nakajima's name (a common fate for stuntmen) - even though he played Godzilla 12 times and also took a turn as King Kong, Baragon, Matango, Rodan...basically, he played monsters (and on occasion swordsmen). He retired from acting in 1973, no doubt exhausted from all of those rubber suits. His last outing as Godzilla was in Godzilla vs. Gigan.

Nakajima died this week at the age of 88 after a struggle with pneumonia. I'm going to go attempt that dance now. Doesn't work as well without the rubber suit.