NASA

NASA Uses Its First Recycled SpaceX Rocket For a Re-Supply Mission (nypost.com) 89

An anonymous reader quotes the New York Post: SpaceX racked up another first on Friday, launching a recycled rocket with a recycled capsule on a grocery run for NASA. The unmanned Falcon rocket blasted off with a just-in-time-for-Christmas delivery for the International Space Station, taking flight again after a six-month turnaround. On board was a Dragon supply ship, also a second-time flier. It was NASA's first use of a reused Falcon rocket and only the second of a previously flown Dragon.

Within 10 minutes of liftoff, the first-stage booster was back at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, standing upright on the giant X at SpaceX's landing zone. That's where it landed back in June following its first launch. Double sonic booms thundered across the area. At SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, cheers erupted outside the company's glassed-in Mission Control, where chief executive Elon Musk joined his employees.

The Dragon reaches the space station Sunday. The capsule last visited the 250-mile-high outpost in 2015. This time, the capsule is hauling nearly 5,000 pounds of goods, including 40 mice for a muscle-wasting study, a first-of-its-kind impact sensor for measuring space debris as minuscule as a grain of sand and barley seeds for a germination experiment by Budweiser, already angling to serve the first beer on Mars.

Also onboard were several hundred Star Wars mission patches created by a partnership between Lucasfilm and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (the non-profit organization managing the ISS National Lab). Space.com reports that Elon Musk named the Falcon X after the original Millennium Falcon in Star Wars.
Communications

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Has Critics In Raptures (bbc.com) 263

gollum123 shares a report from BBC: "Rousing." "Thrilling." "Addictively bold." Just a few of the superlatives the critics are using to describe the latest film in the Star Wars saga. The Last Jedi, writes the Telegraph, is "enormous fun" and "will leave fans beaming with surprise." The Guardian calls it "an explosive sugar rush of spectacle" possessing "a tidal wave of energy and emotion." Variety, though, swims against the tide, describing it as "the longest and least essential chapter in the series." Rian Johnson's film, says Peter Debruge, is "ultimately a disappointment" that "gives in to the same winking self-parody that is poisoning other franchises of late." Writing in The Verge, Tasha Robinson tends to agree: "Audiences will likely come away from The Last Jedi with a lot of complaints and questions." Driver's Kylo Ren is singled out for praise by USA Today, who describe the character as "blockbuster cinema's most magnetic and unpredictable antagonist since Heath Ledger's Dark Knight Joker." Have you seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi? If so, how do you think it stacks up against the others in the saga?
Sci-Fi

Quentin Tarantino and JJ Abrams Team Up For 'Star Trek' Movie (hollywoodreporter.com) 228

Quentin Tarantino reportedly has a pitch for a Star Trek film, and he has shared his vision with J.J. Abrams. According to Hollywood Reporter, "Tarantino and Abrams have plans to bring together a writers room to develop a film at Star Trek studio Paramount. Tarantino has an eye to direct the potential project." From the report: Abrams rebooted the franchise with 2009's Star Trek and also helmed 2013's Star Trek Into Darkness, before pivoting to Lucasfilm's Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He remains a producer on the Star Trek franchise even as he readies 2019's Star Wars: Episode IX. Paramount previously stated it was developing a fourth Star Trek film to star Chris Hemsworth as Captain Kirk's (Chris Pine) father, but no director has been attached and it's unclear where this Tarantino development leaves the project. The latest installment, Justin Lin's Star Trek Beyond (2016), was well-liked by critics but earned just $343.4 million worldwide, the lowest in the rebooted universe. In a 2015 Nerdist podcast interview, Tarantino revealed that he would be more likely to direct a Star Trek film over a Star Wars pic, noting he was a big fan of the original series.
Graphics

NVIDIA Launches Modded Collector's Edition Star Wars Titan Xp Graphics Card (hothardware.com) 45

MojoKid writes: NVIDIA just launched its fastest graphics card yet and this GPU is targeted at Star Wars fans. In concert with EA's official launch today of Star Wars Battlefront II, NVIDIA unveiled the new Star Wars Titan Xp Collector's Edition graphics card for enthusiast gamers. There are two versions of the cards available -- the Galactic Empire version and a Jedi Order version. Both of the cards feature customized coolers, shrouds, and lighting, designed to mimic the look of a lightsaber. They also ship in specialized packaging that can be used to showcase the cards if they're not installed in a system. The GPU powering the TITAN Xp Collector's Edition has a base clock of 1,481MHz and a boost clock of 1,582MHz. It's packing a fully-enabled NVIDIA GP102 GPU with 3,840 cores and 12GB of GDDR5X memory clocked at 5.5GHz for an effective data rate of 11Gbps, resulting in 547.2GB/s of peak memory bandwidth. At those clocks, the card also offers a peak texture fillrate of 379.75 GigaTexels/s and 12.1TFLOPs of FP32 compute performance, which is significantly higher than a GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. In the benchmarks, it's the fastest GPU out there right now (it better be for $1200), but this card is more about nostalgia and the design customizations NVIDIA made to the cards that should appeal to gamers and Star Wars fans alike.
Star Wars Prequels

John Mollo, Oscar-Winning 'Star Wars' Costume Designer, Dies At 86 (hollywoodreporter.com) 13

schwit1 quotes the Hollywood Reporter: John Mollo, the costume designer who brought to life Ralph McQuarrie and George Lucas' conceptual vision for Star Wars, has died. He was 86... "We discussed a few concepts when I joined the team, and George Lucas had a clear vision of what he was looking for. He liked the idea of the baddies having a fascist look about them, with the heroes reflecting the look of heroes of the American Wild West," he told www.starwarshelmets.com.

With McQuarrie's sketches and a meager budget of $1,173 for one costume, the London-born Mollo began shaping and fine-tuning Darth Vader's image through his knowledge of World War 1 trench armour and Nazi helmets, ultimately creating the look of one cinema's most memorable villains. His military influence is also visible in the regalia worn by the crew of the Death Star.

Working on Ridley Scott's Alien, " Molloâ(TM)s focus was to create used and well-worn clothing for the crew of the Nostromo on their long return trip to Earth as well as designing the patches and emblems emblazoned across their suits."
Software

EA Shuts Down Visceral Games, Shifting Development On Its Star Wars Game (kotaku.com) 75

Visceral Games, the studio behind games like Battlefield Hardline and Dead Space, is being shut down by EA. The Star Wars game in development at Visceral will be revamped and moved to a different studio. Kotaku reports: "Our Visceral studio has been developing an action-adventure title set in the Star Wars universe," EA's Patrick Soderlund said in a blog post. "In its current form, it was shaping up to be a story-based, linear adventure game. Throughout the development process, we have been testing the game concept with players, listening to the feedback about what and how they want to play, and closely tracking fundamental shifts in the marketplace. It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design." Soderlund added that Visceral will be "ramping down and closing" and that "we're in the midst of shifting as many of the team as possible to other projects and teams at EA." "Lastly," he said, "while we had originally expected this game to launch late in our fiscal year 2019, we're now looking at a new timeframe that we will announce in the future."
Star Wars Prequels

Predatory Journals Hit By "Star Wars" Sting (discovermagazine.com) 112

intellitech quotes an article from Discover's Neuroskeptic blog: A number of so-called scientific journals have accepted a Star Wars-themed spoof paper...an absurd mess of factual errors, plagiarism and movie quotes. I know because I wrote it... I created a spoof manuscript about "midi-chlorians" -- the fictional entities which live inside cells and give Jedi their powers in Star Wars...and submitted it to nine journals under the names of Dr. Lucas McGeorge and Dr. Annette Kin... The American Journal of Medical and Biological Research accepted the paper, but asked for a $360 fee, which I didn't pay. Amazingly, three other journals not only accepted but actually published the spoof.
At one point the paper simply transcribes dialogue from Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. ("Did you ever hear of the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise? I thought not. It is not a story the Jedi would tell you....") And the author also cut-and-pasted big chunks of the Wikipedia page for mitochondrion (after globally replacing mitochondr* with midichlor*), then admitted in the paper's "Methodology" section that "The majority of the text in the current paper was Rogeted from Wikipedia" -- with a direct link back to that Wikipedia page. One sentence even mentions "JARJAR syndrome."

Three more journals did reject the paper -- but at least one more unquestioningly asked the author to revise and resubmit it. The author calls it "a reminder that at some 'peer reviewed' journals, there really is no meaningful peer review at all" -- adding that one journal has even invited Dr. Lucas McGeorge to join their editorial board.
Star Wars Prequels

Ron Howard Steps In To Direct Han Solo Movie (hollywoodreporter.com) 89

Two days after directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were let go in the middle of shooting the Star Wars Han Solo spinoff movie, the spot has been filled. Ron Howard has been named the new direct of Lucasfilm and Disney's Han Solo movie, according to The Hollywood Reporter. From the report: Howard, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter, will meet with the actors -- Alden Ehrenreich is playing the iconic smuggler, Donald Glover is playing Lando Calrissian, with Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke and Thandie Newton also on the roll call -- to soothe a rattled set and will pore over a rough edit to see what the project needs. Filming will resume on July 10. Howard, who directed 1995's Apollo 13 and won an Oscar for helming 2002's A Beautiful Mind, comes to the Han Solo film with several connections to George Lucas and the worlds of Lucasfilm. He appeared in Lucas' 1973 breakout film American Graffiti and helmed Lucas' 1988 pet fantasy project Willow. Howard also revealed on a podcast in 2015 that Lucas had approached him to direct 1999's Star Wars prequel The Phantom Menace. Though his recent movies, including Inferno and In the Heart of the Sea, have been costly ventures that underperformed at the box office, Howard is considered to be a safe choice to complete the task, someone who will ably finish the movie while being a calming presence on set.
Star Wars Prequels

Star Wars' Han Solo Spinoff Directors Quit In the Middle of Shooting (theverge.com) 160

hondo77 writes: Due to "different creative visions," Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are no longer directing the Han Solo movie, despite filming having started in January. The film is still scheduled to be released in May 2018. "Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are talented filmmakers who have assembled an incredible cast and crew, but it's become clear that we had different creative visions on this film, and we've decided to part ways. A new director will be announced soon," Kathleen Kennedy, president of Lucasfilm, said in a statement. The Han Solo spinoff is set to star Alden Ehrenreich as a young Han Solo, with Woody Harrelson as his mentor, Donald Glover as a young Lando Calrissian, and unspecified roles for Emilia Clarke and Thandia Newton.
Television

3D TV Is Dead (cnet.com) 399

While Samsung dropped 3D support in 2016, LG and Sony -- the last two major TV makers to support the 3D feature in their TVs -- will stop doing so in 2017. None of their TVs, including the high-end OLED TV models, will be able to show 3D movies and TV shows. As a result, 3D TV is dead. The question is no longer when (or even why) 3D TVs will become obsolete, it's will 3D TVs ever rise again? CNET reports: The 3D feature has been offered on select televisions since 2010, when the theatrical success of "Avatar" in 3D helped encourage renewed interest in the technology. In addition to a 3D-capable TV, it requires specialized glasses for each viewer and the 3D version of a TV show or movie -- although some TVs also offer a simulated 3D effect mode. Despite enthusiasm at the box office and years of 3D TVs being available at affordable prices, the technology never really caught on at home. DirecTV canceled its 24/7 3D channel in 2012 and ESPN followed suit a year later. There are plenty of 3D Blu-ray discs still being released, such as "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," but if you want to watch them at home you'll need a TV from 2016 or earlier -- or a home theater projector. Those market trends are clear: Sales of 3D home video gear have declined every year since 2012. According to data from the NPD Group, 3D TV represents just 8 percent of total TV sales dollars for the full year of 2016, down from 16 percent in 2015 and 23 percent in 2012. Native 3D-capable Blu-ray players fell to just 11 percent of the market in 2016, compared to 25 percent in 2015 and 40 percent in 2012. As for whether or not 3D TVs will ever become popular again, David Katzmaier writes via CNET, based on his own "anecdotal experience as a TV reviewer": Over the years, the one thing most people told me about the 3D feature on their televisions was that they never used it. Sure, some people occasionally enjoyed a 3D movie on Blu-ray, but the majority of people I talked to tried it once or twice, maybe, then never picked up the glasses again. I don't think most viewers will miss 3D. I have never awarded points in my reviews for the feature, and 3D performance (which I stopped testing in 2016) has never figured into my ratings. I've had a 3D TV at home since 2011 and I've only used the feature a couple of times, mainly in brief demos to friends and family. Over the 2016 holiday break I offered my family the choice to watch "The Force Awakens" in 2D or 3D, and (after I reminded everyone they had to wear the glasses) 2D was the unanimous choice. But some viewers will be sad to see the feature go. There's even a change.org petition for LG to bring back the feature, which currently stands at 3,981 supporters. Of course 3D TV could come back to life, but I'd be surprised if it happened before TV makers perfect a way to watch it without glasses.
Movies

Despite Piracy Claims, North American Box Office Hits Record $11.4 Billion In 2016 (variety.com) 142

Slashdot reader rudy_wayne writes: Despite constant claims of losing billions of dollars to "piracy", the North American box office closed out 2016 with $11.4 billion in ticket sales. That marks a new record for the industry, bypassing the previous record of $11.1 billion that was established in 2015.

Disney had four of the top five highest-grossing films, including "Finding Dory," the year's top film with $486.3 million. "When holdovers are taken into account, Disney had six of the year's ten highest-grossing releases, a group that includes Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which debuted in 2015," reports Variety. Other top films include Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ($408.2 million), Captain America: Civil War ($408.1 million), The Secret Life of Pets ($368.4 million), and The Jungle Book ($364 million).

Disney "controlled more than a quarter of the domestic market share despite releasing fewer films than any of the major studios," according to the article, which notes that the record was achieved despite the absence of big releases in several major movie franchises partly through higher ticket prices (and possibly also inflation).
Star Wars Prequels

Lucasfilm Creates A 4K Ultra-HD Restoration of the Original 'Star Wars' (4k.com) 304

An anonymous reader quotes 4K.com: When the first ever of the Star Wars films, "A New Hope" turns 40 in 2017, millions of dedicated fans of the immensely popular franchise might get a very unique treat in the form of a limited theater screening in beautifully restored form with theatrical 4K resolution of the first movie released in the series. According to recent comments made by Rogue One director Gareth Edwards, a 4K restoration of Star Wars Episode IV "A New Hope" does indeed exist and now the only real question is whether or not the cleaned up and sharpened version of the movie will be hitting the big screen once again.
White it's release status is unknown, the ultra-high definition footage is said to be spectacular. In the interview, Edwards says "You can't watch it without getting carried away... It just turns you into a child."
Star Wars Prequels

Iconic Star Wars Actress Carrie Fisher Dies at 60 (people.com) 456

Carrie Fisher, the actress, author and screenwriter who brought a rare combination of nerve, grit and hopefulness to her most indelible role, as Princess Leia in the "Star Wars" film franchise, died on Tuesday morning at the age of 60. From a report: "It is with a very deep sadness that Billie Lourd confirms that her beloved mother Carrie Fisher passed away at 8:55 this morning," reads the statement. Fisher was flying from London to Los Angeles on Friday, Dec. 23, when she went into cardiac arrest. Paramedics removed her from the flight and rushed her to a nearby hospital, where she was treated for a heart attack. She later died in the hospital. The daughter of renowned entertainers Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, Fisher was brought up in the sometimes tumultuous world of film, theater and television. Escaping Hollywood in 1973, the star enrolled in the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, where she spent over a year studying acting. Just two years later, though, the bright lights of Hollywood drew her back, and Fisher made her film debut in the Warren Beatty-led Shampoo. Her role in Star Wars would follow in 1977 -- and she detailed the experience, including her on-set affair with costar Harrison Ford, in her latest memoir, The Princess Diarist. She was only 19 when the first installment of the beloved sci-fi franchise was filmed. Fisher's fans, family, and colleagues have paid their tribute to the actress The Guardian has published an intense tribute to Fisher in an article titled "The loss of Carrie Fisher is felt by all who love Hollywood, warmth and wit".

From BBC's obituary of Fisher: She was a self-confessed bookworm as a child reading poetry and classical literature. Her high school education was disrupted by the lure of the stage when she appeared in the musical Irene alongside her mother, and she never graduated. She moved to London where she enrolled in the Central School of Speech and Drama before returning to the US and attending the Sarah Lawrence arts college near New York. Having managed to kick drugs and alcohol, she was rushed to hospital in 1985 after accidentally taking an overdose of sleeping pills and prescription drugs. The episode formed the basis for her first novel, the semi-autobiographical Postcards from the Edge, in which she satirised her own dependence on drugs and the sometimes difficult relationship she had with her mother. Three years later Fisher adapted it into a screenplay, and it was made into a film starring Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine, and Dennis Quaid. Fisher -- who had bipolar disorder -- also wrote and frequently talked in public about her years of drug addiction and mental illness. Carrie Fisher's fame as an actress rested on just one role, but it was a role in one of the best known and most successful film franchises in cinema history. She was remarkably frank about the personal difficulties she had fought and overcome. "There's a part of me that gets surprised when people think I am brave to talk about what I've gone through," she once said. "I was brave to last through it." The world is poorer without you, Fisher. Rest in peace.
Sci-Fi

'Star Wars' Actress Carrie Fisher 'Stable' After In-Flight Heart Attack (abc7news.com) 120

Best-known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars trilogy and The Force Awakens, actress Carrie Fisher is recovering from a "cardiac event" Friday. An anonymous reader quotes ABC: Her brother, Todd Fisher, told The Associated Press that she was "out of emergency" and stabilized at a Los Angeles hospital Friday afternoon... The 60-year-old "Star Wars" star experienced medical trouble during a flight from London and was treated by paramedics immediately upon landing in Los Angeles around noon Friday, according to reports citing unnamed sources.
Fisher reportedly remains in the intensive care unit while lots of celebrities are now wishing her a speedy recovery for Christmas, including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, C-3PO actor Anthony Daniels, Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew, and Billy Dee Williams, as well as Star Trek actors William Shatner and George Takei. Many fans are using the hashtag #MayTheForceBeWithHer, and she's even receiving messages of support from the Twitter account set up for her therapy dog, Gary.
Star Wars Prequels

Thanks To the Princess, Han Wasn't Always Solo (cnn.com) 143

rmdingler writes: It seems the chemistry was strong with these two. It is interesting to note how long it took this to emerge, as by today's standards, it doesn't rise to nearly the same level of scuttlebutt. Almost 40 years later, Carrie Fisher told People magazine that she and Harrison Ford had an affair on the set of the 1977 film 'Star Wars.' "It was Han and Leia during the week, and Carrie and Harrison during the weekend," she said. "After stumbling on often angst-ridden journals she kept while filming on location in London, she felt the time had come to open up about the formative experience," reports People magazine. "'It's been 40 years,' explains Fisher, who went on to write The Princess Diarist, excerpted exclusively in this week's issue."
Star Wars Prequels

Star Wars Production Company Fined Almost $2 Million For Harrison Ford's Injury (bbc.co.uk) 81

New submitter Shimbo writes: Foodles Production (UK) Ltd was fined 1.6 million British pounds (almost $2 million) at Aylesbury Crown Court today after pleading guilty to two charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act at an earlier hearing. Judge Francis Sheridan said, "The greatest failing of all on behalf of the company is a lack of communication, a lack because, if you have a risk assessment and you do not communicate it, what is the point of having one?" The fine is a result of an unfortunate incident while filming Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Harrison Ford was reportedly knocked to the ground and crushed beneath a heavy hydraulic door when he walked on to the set of the Millennium Falcon -- not believing it to be live. The 71-year-old actor suffered a broken left leg. Prosecutor Andrew Marshall said, according to Britain's Press Association, the door acted like a "blunt guillotine," coming down "millimeters from his face." The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) told the court that Ford was hit with a force similar to the weight of a small car.
Sci-Fi

Star Wars Actor Kenny Baker Dies at Age 81 (theguardian.com) 51

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes The Guardian: The British actor who played R2-D2 in the Star Wars films has died at the age of 81 after a long illness. Kenny Baker, who was 3-feet 8-inches tall, shot to fame in 1977 when he first played the robot character.

He went on to play the character in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, as well as the three Star Wars prequels from 1999 to 2005. He also appeared in a number of other much loved films in the 1980s, including The Elephant Man, Time Bandits and Flash Gordon.

Baker's niece told the newspaper that "He brought lots of happiness to people and we'll be celebrating the fact that he was well loved throughout the world..."
Security

A Bored Hacker Easily Stole And Defaced More Than 70 Subreddits (vice.com) 74

An anonymous reader writes: Hacker, BVM, said he's "lost count" of the number of subreddits he's stolen and defaced, but estimates that the number is more than 70. Subreddits like r/pics, r/starwars, and r/gameofthrones, and many others, have been defaced just in the last few days. He claims Reddit's crummy security, and lack of two-factor authentication are what has made his exploits possible. "Reddit's security is shit," he says. "If Reddit would simply add 2FA it would be a lot harder to get in." Why is BVM hacking these subreddits? "No reason really. Just boredom. It's not like it's really a challenge or anything so I just do it to pass time," the hacker told Motherboard in an online chat. BVM didn't comment on how exactly he is taking over subreddits. However, he did admit he's been hacking into moderators' accounts and then changing the CSS style of the pages, replacing it with a note taking responsibility. Reddit appears to be responding to these incidents quickly, restoring the subreddits.
Star Wars Prequels

Star Wars Buttons And Lights You May Have Missed (vice.com) 125

tedlistens writes: At Motherboard, Alex Pasternack writes: "Star Wars is set in a world of wildly advanced technology. But take a good look at the machinery of Star Wars, and you may be surprised to see how wonderfully analog it all is -- buttons! levers! vector graphics! Yes, there are hyperdrives and lightsabers and hologram Princess Leias and droids that know six million languages (including the language of moisture vaporators, along with various etiquette and diplomatic protocols useful across the galaxy). But it's also a world where sometimes you have to hit a robot to get it to work, like an old dashboard radio, a place where the supercomputers are operated manually and where buttons and control panels and screens seem far removed from our own galaxy: tactile, lo-fi, and elegantly simple." May the 4th be with you.
The Military

Ted Cruz Proposes Reviving SDI To Counter N. Korean Nuclear Threat (blastingnews.com) 349

MarkWhittington writes: One of the more substantive issues that was discussed during the Republican presidential debate in Detroit concerned the latest threat to come out of North Korea. That country's mad, bad, and dangerous to know leader Kim Jong-Un has ordered his nuclear arsenal prepared and is firing missiles in the vicinity of Japan. The United States and South Korea have started military maneuvers, partly as a result of North Korea's actions. Discussions on deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea have also become urgent. Sen Ted Cruz, R-Texas would go one step further. He proposed reviving the idea of space-based missile defenses that were part of the Reagan-era Strategic Defense Initiative.

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