Your portfolio is the key to any design job. If you don’t have one, then you need not bother to apply. You can have all of the fancy schooling, you can know the entire Adobe Creative Cloud product line like your own family, and you may have worked at Ogilvy while moonlighting at Frog, but if you do not show me your design thinking process, you might as well go into chartered accountancy.
When I was a young design student in art school, I got my first lesson in how important portfolio presentation is for winning the day. I had been taking classes in 2D design, and getting mostly As with the occasional B+, but I was looking at an A for the semester. It all hinged on my final portfolio grade. But, since I thought that this was just a matter of me turning my work from the previous few months in a case, I was sure that my grade was in the bag. Boy, was I wrong.
I went to check out the final grade posting and was gobsmacked to see a B− next to my name. How could this be, I’d never even gotten a grade below B+ the whole semester. In shock, I went to my teacher – who I was on friendly terms with–and asked what had happened. She told me that, yes, the work had all been A-level, but my portfolio was sloppy. It was unorganized with dog-eared pages that were difficult to flip through. Many of the sketches in pastel had not been spray fixed and nothing was mounted. For this, she had knocked me down an entire grade level for the semester.
This was the most important design lesson in my life. Showing up is not enough. You also have to look good.
For web designers, we no longer have to worry about spray mounting and dog eared pages, but we do have to show our work in a compelling manner that not only represents the work we have done, but the work we are capable of.
01. Be the master of your own domain
I am almost immediately suspicious of any designer without their own unique URL. Call it snobbishness or call it high-standards, a designer without their own unique URL seems less professional to me. Not that I won’t look at someone’s site if they are only using a portfolio service (see below), they just go down a bit in my estimation.
And having your own domain name is not that difficult or expensive. You can easily register with a domain service, or even, more conveniently, through WordPress. And if you are not a developer, then you can choose a theme to customize with your own design aesthetic.
02. Keep it fresh
Once you have your own domain and have set up a presence on portfolio web sites sites, don’t let them go stale. I’ve passed over more than one perspective employee because their portfolio was more than 3 years out of date.
Plan to check in at least once a year on portfolio web sites to keep everything up-to-date. For your own domain, you should update as often as you can to add new and better projects.
03. Be everywhere you need to be
Although I highly recommend keeping a customized web site that shows off your skills as an interactive designer, you also need to maintain a presence on the most trafficked portfolio Web sites like Bēhance, Dribble, and even LinkedIn. LinkedIn may not be a true portfolio site, but it is a place a lot of people begin looking, and you can include things like videos and slide presentations.
The fact is, a lot of employers troll these sites looking for their future Don Drapers and Peggy Olsons. Your personal domain alone may not be so easy to find. You need to maintain some kind of presence in these places to make sure you are seen. But always make sure to have a prominent link on these sites back to your main portfolio.
04. Sweet Sweat the details
As my little parable of a good class gone wrong illustrates, people notice the little things. I am dysgraphic, a condition that means I have a really hard time spotting typos and spelling mistakes. I always have an editor (often my wife) look over my work, so that I can avoid errors which would make me look bad.
Even if you don’t have a learning disability like me, it never hurts to have a second (or even third or fourth) pair of eyes look over your portfolio for mistakes or point out problems. They’ll be forgiving and tell you what to fix. An employer will just move on to the next portfolio.
Design is often seen as a ‘soft skill’ that is about an opinion of aesthetics, not hard rules, much less the rigorous logic of code. Yet designers work for years perfecting a craft, not just spouting uninformed ideas. However, being able to explain and articulate the ‘method behind the design madness’ is not always easy, and rarely quick, which leads to numerous project frustrations. Fortunately, there is usually a way to defuse the tension.
01. I designed it that way for a reason
The Problem: The designer spends weeks creating meticulously crafted visual comps and spec documents, only to have them seemingly ignored by the developer. Beyond ignoring the specifications, some developers simply allow the browser defaults to stand without change if they are not explicitly stipulated in documentation, not just shown in visual comps.
The designer assumes that the developer will look closely at the comps and try to make them match ‘pixel-perfect’. However, this generally leads to interfaces that feel cramped or poorly organized, despite the best efforts of the designers.
The Solution: Designers should assume nothing, and know that documentation is never enough. A good design guide is the first step toward eliminating this problem, but designers also need to work side-by-side with the developers, regularly reviewing their work to ensure it’s what is intended in a design acceptance review when the developer feels comfortable with what they have done.
02. MVP!?!? It’s all MVP!
The Problem: The developer has a finite amount of time to create the end product, even less for each sprint, so they will prioritize features and functionality based on the ‘minimum viable product’ that will meet the product specifications. Most designers, though, view the product as an integrated whole, not a series of interlocking components. But the MVP is often not defined until the development phase, so it can feel more like developers are making the decisions based on their schedule needs rather than user and product needs.
The Solution: The MVP needs to be defined during the initial phases of the product, and truly be the minimum viable product, not just the easiest to make, for different development phases/sprints. Designers can work to create a product that is built-up in stages, rather than completed all at once. This should also make it easier for developers to plan accordingly.
03. This will take how long?!?!?
The Problem: The designer has spent months planning, researching, and creating designs to meet the user needs, only to be told that it will take much longer than expected due to conflicting project schedules, staff shortages, and the dreaded scope creep.
The Solution: One of the facts of any UI development project is that development comes last, and is generally squeezed in time by the steps before (I have never known the discover, define, or design phases to go faster than planned to give development more time).
One way around this is through Agile coupled with Lean UX to allow development in parallel with design, allowing the developers to get started before the design is completely locked down. This approach is not without risks (design may need to be reconsidered) but generally leads to faster output and happier project managers. And really, isn’t that what we all want?
04. What do you mean “I can’t do that!”?
The Problem: The designer has created a really cool experience, but the developer takes one look at it and proclaims, “That’ll never work.” One reason developers might not be able to do something is because it cannot be done, but more often than not it’s one of two other reasons: 1) it would take too long, longer than the project has, or 2) the developer just doesn’t know how to it.
The Solution: If it can’t be done, it can’t be done, and the designer needs to rethink the solution. If it will just take too long, then the team needs to decide whether to scale back or take the time needed. But, if the developer just doesn’t know how to make it work, the designer will need to show them examples of places where the desired technique is working. I find that CodePen.io is my best go to place when I need to show ‘existing art’ to my developers.
05. Usability testing is NOT optional
The Problem: For many developers ‘usability’ means that it works as defined by the requirements. If designers want to test anything, they should do that before the developer spends long hours building the UI to specs. However, only so much usability testing can be performed with paper and clickable prototypes. Often, the most effective usability testing is done during development.
The Solution: Plan usability testing spikes into any Agile project with iterations that feedback into the development of the product.
06. They are telling me how to design again!
The Problem: A developer reads one article on usability by Jakob Nielsen, and suddenly they are a usability and design expert. Designers spend years developing their abilities, knowledge, and aptitude. One problem is that, because everybody has an ‘opinion’ about design (informed or not) in some projects – especially where there may be a UX team of one – their voice is often drowned out.
The Solution: This is not an easy problem to solve, as it has more to do with interpersonal and group dynamics than it does with actual logic and reason. The best way I have found to deal with these situations is to simply listen without getting defensive. Let them have their say and consider what they say.
Does what they have to say have merit? Let them know, and then explain why you chose to go the path you did, acknowledging even that you are disagreeing with existing ‘best practices’ as prescribed elsewhere. Often developers want to just feel as if the designer is simply listening to them.
I’ve outlined the six frustrations that I commonly see designers having with developers, and previously detailed the six frustrations developers have with designers. What’s your take on this, and can you add to the list? Please suggest solutions in the comments below for us all to benefit from your experience.
Jason Ulaszek is one of the most forward thinking people I know about user experience and it’s growing importance, not just in business, but to humanity. Here’s a recent presentation he gave at the Product, Customer, and User Experience Summit (16 June 2014). Look and learn.
UX for Good is an organization that brings user experience skills to bear on some of the most difficult social issues we face. For this year’s annual challenge, UX For Good be working with Aegis Trust, which established the Kigali Genocide Memorial on behalf of the Rwandan people in 2004. More than a museum or shrine, the memorial serves as the final resting place for 250,000 victims of the 1994 genocide.
You don’t have to be a social worker, diplomat, philanthropist, or other do-gooder to do good. The best way to affect change in the world is to apply your own skills to fixing the big gnarly problems the world faces. For user experience (UX for short) professionals, like myself, this means bring our skills at creating the best user interfaces to bear. But we are always strongest when we work as a group.
Since 2011, UX for Good has worked to empower designers to solve problems to make the world a better place. UX For Good has tackled some difficult problems over the years, such a raising awareness.
Previously, the challenge was to improve the income of working musicians in New Orleans Street Musicians increase their income. The designers’ answer was “Tip the Band,” a collection of tactics and tools to encourage and enable visitors to support musicians.
The problem this year is the biggest yet: Can we harness feelings to end geonocide? Like genocide memorials around the world, the Kigali Genocide Memorial site produces powerful feelings in all who visit it. UX designers have a unique capacity to understand the steps that take place between emotion and action. In Kigali, we’ll ask them to apply that skill set on behalf of all humankind.
As part of the Annual Challenge, UX designers from across the globe will visit Kigali for several days of exploration, research and debate. Then the team will reconvene in London, where they’ll design an original way to translate the feelings evoked by genocide memorials into sustainable action. Finally, they’ll share their findings to leaders from Aegis and other advocates for human dignity.
Contribute anything from $10 to $10000 dollars to help the team help the the Kigali Genocide Memorial raise awareness, and you can benefit, not only as a human being but as a UX professional as well. Sponsors will receive, virtual seminars, original posters, A full-color, hardcover book detailing the ideas that come out of the challenge, up to a day long workshop with UX For good professionals.
“My kid said he wanted to be an astronaut” there goes that dream!” space evangelist Tim Bailey overheard that statement while standing in line to pick up tickets for a planned (but canceled) space shuttle launch at Kennedy Space Center earlier this year. The speaker went on “Unless maybe he learns to speak Russian.” What made these sentements even more depressing to hear was that they came from a member of the media covering the event.
Tim, always a fast thinker, pointed out to the reporter that NASA was at that very moment holding a press conference awarding contracts to US commercial providers to create a new fleet of space vehicles. But if this is this the way most of the press is thinking and reporting “that there is no future for space flight, and America is only dreaming” what hope does the prospect of manned space exploration have for our children? Is the dream really dead? Will astronauts become nothing more than the stuff of legend, like cowboys and knights in shining armor? I don’t think so.
By the time you read this, the last space shuttle â€” Atlantis â€” will have launched, marking the end of the US Space Shuttle program and the end of an era in manned US space exploration. There are a lot of people who are decrying this as the end of the United States dominance in space exploration. Maybe, maybe not, but it really depends on how you define dominance. There’s little argument that NASA has achieved some astonishing and wondrous things â€” both with manned and unmanned craft â€” but NASA is best when it is pushing the boundaries of space exploration and science, and NASA will dominate that arena for the foreseeable future.
If you look at the history of human exploration, however, you will quickly realize that many of the great “discoverers” were private individuals who may have been government sponsored, but not a part of the government itself, and many where completely private ventures. Consider Christopher Columbus. He was a Genoan flying under the flag of Spain, but only because King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were footing the bill.
There are a few notable exceptions to this, but it’s generally people in the private sector who move quickly into undiscovered (or recently discovered) territory, but only if there is the hope of profit. The future of your child’s dreams of becoming an astronaut (or cosmonaut or taikonaut) are less likely to reside with the fate of any particular state or governemt, but instead with humanity’s ability to find out-of-this-world commercial opportunities.
There have been close to 550 individuals trained as astronauts, but until 2004 anyone going into space had their training sponsored by a government. That changed with the launch of SpaceShipOne, the first wholly private venture into space. Virgin Galactic is building on the success of SpaceShipOne, planing to launch its first commercial space flights for adventurous sight-seeres.
Virgin Galactic is now taking reservations at $200K a pop for a trip 70 miles straight up â€” you can download the brochure here. Although the exact length of the trip is unclear, you and five other passengers get to float above the earth, looking down on the world where, as Carl Sagan so eloquently put it, “everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.”
Still, taking a quick and expensive picnic into space is not the same thing as working and living in space. The dream of being an astronaut is about a profession, not a hobby. So that’s where those commercial contracts Tim was telling the reporter about are important. NASA has awarded four contracts for commercial crew development. This is what NASA should also be doing: encouraging the private sector to take on the more day-to-day aspects of space travel, while they push the frontiers. According to the NASA press release:
Each company will receive between $22 million and $92.3 million to advance commercial crew space transportation system concepts and mature the design and development of elements of their systems, such as launch vehicles and spacecraft.
OK, so that isn’t exactly Buck Rogers, but it’s an important start. We may be in a slight lull between epochs of manned space exploration, but a new paradigm will emerge, where we go into space, not just because “it’s there,” but because of what is there. NASA is constantly discovering resources that are hard or impossible to find on the Earth. That’s where your kids can still dream of being an astronaut â€” aboard missions with a purpose. Not just to go there, but to go there, do something, bring something back, and sell it. What will eventually drive our children into space is not just the desire for discovery, but also the promise of profit.
I think we can all agree: The best dads are geek dads. After all, we generally share a lot of interests in common with our kidsâ€”like, reading comic books, playing video games, and building Legoâ€” and we are far more likely to want to play a game of D&D with our kids on a Saturday morning than, say, go play a round of golf with â€œthe guys.â€ So, why are there so few geek dads in fiction? When I first proposed a list of fictional geek dads, there were many here in the slave pits at Geek Dad who didnâ€™t think I could find 10 fictional dads geeky enough to make the list. â€œPshaw,â€ I said, â€œstand back.â€ It turned out to be tougher than I thought.
The problem with being a fictional dad (especially a fictional geek dad) is that, to make a compelling story, there has to be some element of danger. Someoneâ€™s life has to be on the line. Some tragedy has to be hanging over everybodyâ€™s heads. The protagonist (often the kid) has be risking certain death, or the story is just not going to be very interesting. Yet, one of the primary goals of being a dad (or at least a good dad) is to keep your kids out of danger. So, when looking for fictional geek dads, my criteria included how much time they spent with their children, how cool a geek they are and finally how often they place their childrenâ€™s lives in mortal danger.
10. Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker, Star Wars
Marital Status: Widower
Geek Type: Gear Head
Kids: Luke and Leia
Ok, I concede that his list of villainous crimes is lengthy: killing billions of people, torturing his own daughter, and cutting the careers of many a promising Imperial officer tragically short, to name just a very few. He may have even killed his own wife (of a â€œbroken heart,â€ really?!) and tries at various times to kill his own children. But Anakin Skywalker comes through in the end, saving his boy from the Emperor and restoring balance to The Force. Thatâ€™s got to be worth at least a few thousand points. And, yes, Anakin is a total gear-head geek: Even as Darth Vader, he loved his tricked out TIE Fighters.
9. The Doctor, Doctor Who
Marital Status: Itâ€™s complicated
Geek Type: Itâ€™s complicated (Varies depending on regeneration)
Kid(s): Itâ€™s complicated
We know he had a granddaughter, Susan, but her mother and father are never mentioned. At least she called him â€œGrandfather.â€ But, â€œGrandfatherâ€ might have been more an honorific rather than indicative of their actual relationship. And recently when asked if he had any children the Doctor said â€œno.â€ But, then thereâ€™s that episode called â€œThe Doctorâ€™s Daughter.â€ But she was actually a clone. But clones are people, too. As I say, itâ€™s complicated.
8. Arthur Dent, Mostly Harmless
Marital Status: Single
Geek Type: Hitchhiker
Kid: Random (no, not random children. Her name is Random â€” Random Frequent Flier Dent).
Arthur Dent may be the worst father this side of a father who is actively trying to kill his own children (see above). More than neglectful, he seems incapable of anything close to a paternal feeling.
7. Wayne Szalinski,Honey, I Shrunk The Kids
Marital Status: Married
Geek Type: Inventor
Kids: Amy and Nick
Wayne is trying to create a shrink ray, which, of course, is best left in an attic where your nosey kids can easily find it. Talk about not kid-proofing your house!
6. Kevin Flynn, Tron: Legacy
Marital Status: Widower
Geek Type: Hacker
Kevin may be the ultimate absentee father, but he does sacrifice himself to save his son. Plus, itâ€™s not like he wanted to be trapped on the Grid for all of those years. Just the line â€œWeâ€™re always on the same teamâ€ chokes me up every time I hear it.
5. George McFly, Back to the Future
Marital Status: Married
Geek Type: Nerd/Sci-fi Author
Kids: Marty, Dave, Linda
George is hard to nail down as a dad. He starts out as a nerdy dad who loves his kids, but is basically ineffectual at every level (Grade: Câˆ’). However, through the magic of time travel, he ends up being the cool sci-fi author dad who buys his kids jeeps (Grade: A+). Averaging things out, weâ€™ll call that a B.
Benton is really smart, loves his son, and takes him to some cool out of the way places. We shouldnâ€™t hold it against him too much that those places generally have giant lizards, flying saucers, and frog men trying to kill Jonny. But we will a little.
3. Caractacus Potts, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Marital Status: Widower
Geek Type: Inventor
Kids: Jeremy and Jemima
Caractacus (no relationship to Galacticus) is an inventor, and, although his kids sometimes feel a bit neglected, he has a flying car to take them on picnics and tell them cool stories. His stories involve the children being abducted by a creepy child catchers, imprisoned in dungeons and then saved by Benny Hill. Minus a few points for that.
2. Gomez Addams, The Addams Family
Marital Status: Married
Geek Type: Goth
Kids: Wednesday and Pugsley
Gomez loves his wife (a lot!), stays at home with the kids, and is always available for fun and games. The games generally involve sharp objects, explosives, or predatory flora and fauna, but do you really think that Child Services is going to be stopping by to ask any questions? I donâ€™t think so.
Rick is always there with the father-knows-best advice, yet still finds time to listen to his daughterâ€™s own words of wisdom. He has a cool Manhattan apartment, sends his daughter to the best schools, and only occasionally gets paranoid about her boyfriends. Whatâ€™s not to love? Okay, so he needlessly endangers his own life fighting crime with the New York City Police Department, thus risking leaving his daughter fatherless. Nobodyâ€™s perfect.
OK, Iâ€™m sure I left some great geek dads out (what about Arthur Weasley?) and maybe you disagree with my ratings (Anakin got an A+?!). Let me know in the comments.
The Doctor is no stranger to animation. Even before the current reboot, for the 40th anniversary of the show the BBC released a six part animated series in 2003 called Scream of the Shelka, using a Ninth Doctor who is not a part of the official continuity. More recently, the Tenth Doctor has appeared in his own animated episodes â€” although the CGI animation is a bit stiff. There are also some fan attempts to animate all of the missing episodes of Doctor Who that were destroyed by the BBC.
One project in particular that has been getting attention over the past few years as short clips have been released is this Japanese Anime-inspired fan created movie. It was created by UK amateur animator Paul â€œOatkingâ€ Johnson, who (according to his YouTube bio)â€¦
â€¦lives, breathes and sleeps classic 80s and 90s anime, back when it was still good. He also sings, animates, translates and writes about himself in the third person.
Iâ€™ve been watching the development of this video over the four years it has taken Paul to complete his twelve minute and thirty second masterpiece. There are Cybermen and Daleks and Sontarins (oh my!) going up against the Third Doctor (â€œThe Dandyâ€, played in the original live action series by the late Jon Pertwee). Most of the voices are a pastiche of clips from previous episodes, with Paul and a few friends providing additional voices.
Although itâ€™s a bit rough and the story is somewhat disjointed, if the BBC is smart, theyâ€™ll hire this guy and start an animated adventures series.
Okay, enough words. Enjoy the movie:
The video will not play anymore, because the creator is now under contract to do work for the BBC (WOOT!) Here’s the explination from his Deviant Art page:
I am now contracted to work with Theta-Sigma, in partnership with Big Finish, on some secret BBC animation projects for 2entertain. This is very exciting news and, though I canâ€™t say anything about it, there is an absolutely top class team assembled, and the recreation of some extremely long awaited lost stories is now going to become a reality for a very large number of people whoâ€™ve been waiting for them for many, many years.
When last we left The Doctor, he had just discovered that he had a Flesh dopplegÃ¤nger, or gÃ¤nger. Let’s call him DoctorG, to try and avoid confusion, because the only other way anyone has of telling them apart is by their shoes. The DoctorG has original shoes, while The Doctor has a pair of barrowed boots he got after his own shoes were eaten by acid. With me so far?
The DoctorG seems every bit as charming as The Doctor, but almost immediately goes into convulsions as he tries to integrate his past regenerations. Imagine going through 9 regenerations all at the same time. He starts spouting out catch phrases from the past, and I’m pretty sure we even hear Tom Baker’s voice at one point (the Fourth Doctor).
DoctorG: Reverse the jelly-baby of the neutron flow.
There’s also an interesting bit where The Doctor quizzes The DoctorG on various aspects of their lifeâ€”including a brief discussion of cybermatsâ€”to confirm that he (The DoctorG) is in fact him (The Doctor). Still with me?
However, The Doctors and Companyâ€”including Amy (no Rory) along with the human staff of the factory (Foreman Cleavas, Jimmy, Buzzer, and Dicken)â€”have a bigger problem: their gÃ¤ngers are at the door and out for blood. The gÃ¤ngers tried breaking the door down, to no avail. So they began to use acid to try and melt the door (remember this is an acid factory). The Doctor and The DoctorG are seen plotting something, while being highly complementary of their own intelligences, and work to find an escape route, eventually landing upon a rather convenient air vent.
Doctor: Yowzaâ€¦ An Escape Route. Amy: (Mouths â€œYowzaâ€ with quizzical look) Doctor: You know Iâ€™m starting to get a sense of just how impressive it is to hang out with me. DoctorG: Do we tend to say â€œYowzaâ€? Doctor: Thatâ€™s enough, let it go, OK. Weâ€™re under stress.
The Doctor suddenly yells “Breathe” at Amy. No particular reason. He just does.
The gÃ¤ngers enter the room at last, only to find the birds have flown the coop.
JenG is still skulking about the castleâ€”Drawing strange circles on the walls with Fleshâ€”and Rory is shadowing her. The acid is still pouring out, interacting with the stone walls to create a noxious gas.
This gas forces the humans to head to the evac tower to get above the gas and contact the mainland to be evacuated. As it turns midnight, Jimmy thinks of his son, Adam, and the little dance he does when he gets excited. Once at the evac tower, first they have to restore power to the systems. Queue The Doctors behind a bank of machinery repairing away. The problem is we can’t tell which is which as they pop-up like a whack-a-Doctor game. We’ll call them DoctorX on the left and DoctorY on the right.
Amy: Look but hang on. You said the TARDIS is stuck in acid, so wonâ€™t she be damaged. DoctorX: Nahh, sheâ€™s a tuff olâ€™ thing DoctorY: Tuffâ€¦ oldâ€¦ sexy DoctorX: Tuff, dependable, sexy
After bringing the power back on line, the humans are able to send a message asking for a rescue. Foreman Cleaves sets up the rescue and then sends a typed codeword to make sure any changes can’t be made by the gÃ¤ngers. She also asks that the gÃ¤ngers be wiped out after the humans are safely away. The gÃ¤ngers are listening in, though, and begin their own plans.
Meanwhile, JenG has become obsessed with revenge on the humans, all humans, for what they have done to The Flesh who are decommissioned, or “executed” as she puts it. She has a plan to destroy them all. We next see Jen as she tries to do something at the thermostatic override control panel, but apparently it can only be used by a real human. Are her plans thwarted. I think not.
The Doctor is making mysterious phone call, as Amy suddenly sees a wall slide away and our mysterious eyepatch woman appears startling her. Amy tells The Doctor, but he reassures her that it was probably nothing.
Amy is still distrustful of The DoctorG, who says something about something being in his head and leaves, stepping outside. Amy follows to apologize and confesses that sheâ€™s seen moment of Doctorâ€™s death. Could it have been The DoctorG not The Doctor she saw? The DoctorG suddenly turns violent, and throws Amy against wall apparently distressed over dying gÃ¤ngers. Amy is now completely freaked by The DoctorG and hurries back to the others.
Rory hears Jen in distress. He finds both Jen and JenG but can’t tell which is which. One Jen is limping from a previous wound. The two Jens fight and one is pushed in acid and decomposes into the Flesh. The remaining Jen has the limp. I guess that settles that.
Back in the evac tower, the crew see Rory on the monitors and decide to go after him. At first Amy wants to go, but The Doctor hands over the sonic screwdriver to The DoctorG to go find Rory. Amy balks at going with him, so Buzzer goes instead.
Foreman Cleavas: You canâ€™t let him goâ€¦ are you crazy. Doctor: Am I crazy Doctor. DoctorG: Well you did once plug your brain into the core of an entire planet just to halt itâ€™s orbit and win a bet.
Foreman Cleavas is not looking so good. The Doctor does a quick scan and tells her that she has an inoperable blood clot causing her headaches. The evac tower becomes unstable and they have to evac the evac and head to another evac position. Foreman Cleaves tries to radio where they are headed to the rescue ship, but gets cut off before she can send the codeword. Foreman CleavasG intercepts and sends her own message for new a new rendezvous location and guesses the code word, â€œbad boy”. They are the same person after all.
Jen leads Rory to the thermostatic override that she says will restart the oxygen and prevent an explosion. She asks big strong Rory to turn wheel to open it, but first needs to activate with hand pad which responds â€œHuman source recognized” The thermostatic override is engaged and the temperature immediately begins to rise. On their way to find the others, Jen shows Rory pile of discarded Flesh that has been left to rot in full conscience. Rory is and indeignant, but it’s clear that Jen is playing on Rory, asking him to trust her.
The DoctorG, using the sonic screwdriver, finds Dead Jen (the real one; the other one with Rory is Flesh), but Buzzer knocks The DoctorG out, muttering that it was the Foreman’s orders.
Buzzer: I should have been a postman like my dad.
Buzzer comes across Jen soothing the pile of discarded Flesh, angry that she killed the real Jen. JenG shows her ability to change her body as she rushes Buzzer and we hear him scream (off screen).
The Doctor and Co. are walking down hallway where there are huge eyeballs sticking out of the stone workâ€”remember the circles created by JenG. They make it to thermostatic override, but itâ€™s too late. Everything will explode. They head off to find Rory.
The DoctorG is found by other gÃ¤ngers, and revives an old name.
Foreman CleavasG: Youâ€™re on of us doctor. DoctorG: Call me Smith. John Smith.
Rory and Jen lead Doctor & Co into acid room and Jen locks the door as Rory realizes he has been tricked. The gÃ¤ngers have set the room to overheat, killing everyone inside. Rory confronts JenG, and The DoctorG seems unconcerned about humans, even physically stopping Rory from going to help them. The gÃ¤ngers, led by Jen, want to head to mainland and start the revolution.
And then the phone rings. The DoctorG answers holo call and itâ€™s Adam, Jimmy’s son. JimmyG is moved and dashes out to save his human self.
JenG: You tricked him into an act of weakness. DoctorG: No, Iâ€™ve helped him into an act of humanity.
Foreman CleavasG orders the acid be pumped out to save the humans. She’s tired of the war and what they are becoming, but JenG will have her revenge
DoctorG: It doesnâ€™t have to be about revenge. It can be so much better than that.
JimmyG is too late. Jimmy is hit with acid and lies dying on the floor, but makes JimmyG promise to be a dad to Adam and â€œremember herâ€ as he hands JimmyG the gold ring he had on a chain around his neck.
With everyone reunited â€” Amy and Rory have a big hug â€” JimmyG talks to Adam and adam does his little dance of excitement. But the reunion is short lived as JenG transforms into a true monster, chasing everybody throughout the tunnels. It appears that they are trapped with the mad JenG at the door, when suddenly the TARDIS breaks through roof.
Doctor?: Ohhhh, she does like to make an entrance.
Someone has to hold JenG back while the others escape, and also prevent her from reaching the mainland. Amy, in a moment of revelation decides she wants to save both Doctors, but they come clean and admit DoctorG is actually the Doctor. The Doctors had swapped shoes almost from the very beginning. Only one can be saved as they leave The DoctorG and Foreman CleavasG behind to deal with JenG using the sonic screwdriver to send a pulse that will disrupt the Flesh, unfortunately it will disrupt them as well.
Doctor: Your molecular memory can survive this, you know. It may be that this is not be the end. DoctorG: Well, If I turn up and knick all of your biscuits, then youâ€™ll know you’re right.
As the TARDIS dematerializes, The DoctorG opens the door, pulls the trigger and all three flesh forms disintegrate. Let’s just hope they don’t come back as some kind of hybrid.
After escaping, it’s only JimmyG, DickenG, and Foreman Cleavas left, but the gÃ¤ngers are stabilized and fully human. After reuniting JimmyG with his son, The Doctor drops off Foreman Cleavas and DickenG at a press conference to expose how the Flesh is being treated.
Doctor: Dicken, remember, people are good, in their bones truly good. Donâ€™t hate them, will you. Dicken: How can I hate themâ€¦ Iâ€™m one of them now.
Now for the season arc story. The Doctor turns to Amy and tells her to breathe, something he has been repeating inexplicably for a while now. Amy doubles over in pain as they take her to the TARDIS, The Doctor explains sheâ€™s in labour. That’s right, she’s having a baby. Right now. And this isn’t the real Amy, but a Flesh construct and has been for a while. The Doctor suspected this, which is why he needed to visit an early version of the Flesh to find the frequency that would disrupt it.
Doctor: I was going to drop you off for fish and chips, but things happened, and there was stuffâ€¦ and shenanigans. Beautiful wordâ€¦ shenanigans.
The Doctor points the sonic screwdriver at Amy and her Flesh construct dissolvesâ€¦
â€¦Amy wakes up in small white room. The wall across from her opens to show our one eyed matron who tells Amy thatâ€™s sheâ€™s about ready to pop. Amy is pregnant and delivering the baby right now. â€œHere it comes.”
DoctorX: And we both wear the same bow-tie, which is cool. As bow ties areâ€¦ DoctorY: â€¦And always will be.
Doctor: If you have a better plan Iâ€™m all ears. In fact. if you have a better plan, Iâ€™ll take you to a planet where everyone is all ears.
DoctorG: Well my death arrives I supposeâ€¦ Doctor: But this one we weâ€™re not invited to.
There is a lot of lip-service given these days to the importance of innovation in our society. You often hear that we live in an “innovation economy,” or that we can innovate our way out of a crisisâ€” implying that innovation is something that spontaneously happens with little or no effort. True innovation rarely comes so simply. It is most often the result of the intersecting of two or more seemingly separate and often disparate ideas (you got your chocolate in my peanut butter). We may be banking our future on innovation, but our educational system is not set up around innovation. No, you can’t teach innovation, but you can foster an environment of innovation while learning. Instead, disciplines are taught in independent silos called “classes” with little or no overlap.
David Edwards wants to change that. In his recent book The Lab, David explores the frontiers of learning to promote the theory that innovation comes when we worry less about the scientific “disciplines” involved and more about the desired outcome. In other words, figure out what you need to do and then what scientific tools you need to bring to bear on the problem to solve it.
David has a history of combining art and science in new ways both as a teacher at Harvard University and as founder and director of Le Laboratoire in Paris, France. For example, one of the most striking examples he gives is how he and a class of his solved the problem of being able to quickly and cleanly transport water for people in areas without running water. To create the device â€” called “The Pumpkin” â€” David and his students at Harvard combined biology and engineering to create a device inspired by the way in which living cells transport water.
A few other of his innovations include:
La Whaf â€” A way of “eating” by inhaling liquid droplets
La Whif â€” Breathable chocolate, coffee, and even vitamins.
Andrea â€” A system that uses plants to clean indoor air.
I had a chance to talk with David through email and ask him about education, art, science, and raising kids. GeekDad: Science and art â€” like science and religion â€” are popularly shown as being at odds and incompatibleâ€” truth can’t be beautiful â€” but in your book, The Lab, you argue that laboratories have to erase “conventional boundaries between art and science.” Why are those boundaries a problem?
David Edwards: Obviously we value a work of art, a MET performance of The Nose of Shostakovich, very differently than we value a work of science, like the discovery of the latest Mersenne Prime, as valuable works of the human mind art and science appeal for different reasons. What interests me in the context of laboratories, a general term I give to environments that “curate” the creative process, is less, however, the “works” of art and science than the creative processes by which we get them, the one being aesthetic, comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity, guided by images, true in that it is inalienable in some way from the human condition â€” the other being scientific, analytical, guided by equations, able to simplify a complex world to problems that can be solved, true in that it is reproducible. GD: What would a world be like where the boundaries did not exist? DE: These two processes, “art” in the sense that we imagine how Beethoven “lived” and thought and “science” in the sense that we imagine how Einstein “lived” and thought, actually merge in the creative process, and that fascinates me. In the process of discovery, whether with purely artistic, scientific, or some other ends, discoverers â€” how I think of creators â€” dream, and analyze, induce and deduce, are comfortable with uncertainty and are capable of reducing a complex world to resolvable problems and meaningful solutions. Creative lives are like this.
GD: So, what’s happening to the creatives in our society? DE: With the specialization of knowledge, we now teach, learn, and perform within environments that are specialized to promote dreaming, or to promote analysis, or to promote questioning, or to promote solutions, but these environments are murderous to creative thought, a good reason why the most creative minds often flee institutional environments. GD: Is the Internet helping to dissolve these boundaries? DE: Perhaps largely as a result of the Internet Revolution, the “information providing” value of institutions has suddenly been overrun by the “innovation providing” value of institutions. And our institutions remain too focused on the old value model. The boundaries between art and science, as processes of creative thought, become a major obstacle to institutions and society adapting to the conditions of the 21st century. Remove these barriers and the anxiety many now feel facing a future that is so full of uncertainty will be replaced by the freedom a creator feels in a world where dreams can matter.
GD: How long do you think it will take our current mindset about creativity to change? DE: I think it is indeed a transition that is taking place with the generation that is growing up today. We look at the young today and are shocked by what often seems to be an attention deficit problem. One thing however that strikes me in teaching at Harvard University is how young people, who have grown up surfing the Internet, moving in a matter of seconds from “recombinant RNA” to “Jackson Pollack,” don’t feel the same knowledge restrictions previous generations grew up with, actually recognize, experimentally, the great value of leaping from one culture to the next, feeling your way forward in innocence, discovering. GD: Many seem to despair a culture where the novice and uninformed have the same access to many-to-many communication as the professional and studied. Do you see this as a problem, and how do you think we are dealing with it? DE: I actually think that in the world we live in today we find the sources of information, the communities, which suit us, and, yes, I do agree that disastrously uninformed souls can influence millions, billions probably, but I’m not sure that the elite, the most educated and informed, ever had much more influence on human affairs than they do today. What has really changed is that we all, as individuals, have tremendously more outreach than we did. What we say – and do – is amplified. But the elite have always dialogued with the elite. What to do? Making innocence an asset, as it is for an infant, who learns so quickly, may be a goal, and guiding the elite toward more creating, along with the observing, might be another. I keep coming back to the contemporary power of the creative mind.
Spoiler alert: While we will discuss what happened in last Saturdayâ€™s episode, weâ€™ll avoid talking about any future plot details.
Despite giving us a good-old fashioned cliff hanger at the end of “The Impossible Astronaut” â€” Amy taking a shot at the little girl in the big astronaut suite â€” the follow-up episode does not pick up directly where it left off. Instead, we jump several months ahead with Amy, Rory, and River on the lam while the Doctor has been imprisoned â€” in Area 51, naturally â€” and then jump back and forth with flash back to fill in the pieces. The team’s new “ally,” secret agent Canton â€” ably played by Battlestar Galactica actor Mark Sheppard â€” is hunting them down across the US. Their mission is to see how extensive is the infestation of the Silence. The answer: they are everywhere and have been her for millennia.
So, how do you defeat an enemy who is everywhere but you can’t remember as soon as you look away? (First Steven Moffat gave us the Weeping Angels who turn to stone when you are looking at them; now Moffat gives us the Silence who, essentially, cease to exist as soon as you look away. It seems as if Moffat has been reading a lot of the french philosopher Michel Foucault, who also had a thing about the power of the gaze.) According to the Doctor “We’re not fighting an alien invasion, we’re leading a revolution.” The Doctor’s solution turns out to be ingenious and direct: feed all of humanity a subliminal message to rise up against their oppressors, played at a moment that almost all of humanity will be watching: Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon.
River: Apollo 11’s your secret weapon?
Doctor: No, no, it’s not Apollo 11. That would be silly. It’s Neil Armstrong’s foot.
But that all happens later in the episode. After rescuing the Doctor from a cell made of Zero Balanced Dwarf Star alloy (that’s right up there with “reversing the polarity of the neutron flow!”), the team has to split up again to track down leads while the Doctor goes on a secret mission to “NASA” (i.e. Cape Canaveral) to place something in Apollo 11 capsule that will allow them to broadcast their alien subversion message.
Oh, and Amy’s not pregnant. Or, well maybe she is. Or she’s not. We can’t be too sure, but that’s what happens with the timey wimey wibbly wobblyâ€¦ stuff. This entire episode is told in flash-forwards, flashbacks, and I think there are even a few flash-sideways.
Pond or Scully? You decide.
â€¦which is I think how Amy and Canton arrive at Graystalk Hall Orphanage, looking for the small girl in the space suite. The caretaker for this orphanage, a Mr. Refrew, is obviously unhinged, and the entire house is filled with graffiti, saying things like “Get Out,” andâ€¦ OK, this whole part of the episode is incredibly X-Files â€” with Amy looking particularly Scully-eque â€” and loads of seeming non-sequiturs like an unknown woman with an artificial eye at a door saying “No I think she’s just dreaming.”
This is one episode you will have to watch a few times through to make complete sense of.
Unlike most Doctor Who episodes, this story does not tie together very neatly at the end. Although it looks as if the Silence has been defeated, it’s clear that there is a lot more to this story. The end of this episode leaves us with seemingly more questions than it actually answered:
How and why were The Silence manipulating events last season?
Why does The Silence need the girl?
Why is the girl in the space suite and how does she get out?
Why does The Silence need a space suite?
Did the person in the space suit (we’ll assume it’s the girl) really kill the Doctor?
According to the life support software, the girl is human, but incredibly strong. But she’s regenerating at the end of the episode, so she must be a Time Lord, right?
Is Amy pregnant? If so, is the little girl her child? If so, The Doctor her father? If not, is Rory? If he is, does that mean that Rory is not an Auton? Earth girls may be easy but I don’t think a lump of plastic could get one pregnant.
If the girl is a Time Lord, which one is she? The Doctor’s daughter with Amy? The Doctor’s female clone from the episode “The Doctor’s Daughter”? Could it even be Romanadvoratrelundar, last seen stranded in eSpace? I can hope, can’t I?
Obviously “To Be Continued.” Great lines from this episode:
Amy: Is this very important flirting, because I feel I should be higher on the list right now.
River: What are you doing?!? Doctor: Helping! River: You have a screwdriver. Go Build a cabinet! Doctor: That’s really rude!
Rory: So, what kind of doctor are you? River: Archeologyâ€¦ love a tomb.
Doctor: You could let me fly itâ€¦ River: â€¦or we could go where we’re supposed to.
The sixth season of the new Doctor Who Series premiered Saturday night in both the UK and the USA, with only a few hours difference to take account of the time zones. This was a first in the showâ€™s 50-year history, meaning that American fans only had to put up with spoilers from across the pond for a few hours before joining the fray.
Last season began with The Doctor regenerating for the 10th time (his 11th body) and ended with him confronting all of his worst enemies at the same time and the destruction of the entire Universe. Although the Universe was restored, a new enemy was revealed â€” although not shown â€” called The Silence. The last we saw The Doctor was during the Christmas Special where his current companions, the recently wed Rory and Amy, were honeymooning on an apparently doomed spaceship.
Spoiler alert: while we will discuss what happened in last nightâ€™s episode, weâ€™ll avoid talking about any future plot details.
Season six opens with the Ponds (Amy and Rory) living a domestic life back on earth and River Song still in jail, when they all receive an invitation to â€” inexplicably â€” meet in the middle of the American Southwest. Itâ€™s unclear if the reason for this location will become apparent or whether this was just an excuse to film in some beautiful American scenery, but it makes for some pleasant locales for reunions.
Then The Doctor is killed. Dead. No, really. Stone cold dead. They cremate his body and everything. Of course The Doctor has been through worse. I mean, last season he ceased to exist altogether, and didnâ€™t seem to slow him down, so it shouldnâ€™t come as too much of a surprise when the companions run into him again a bit later at a truck stop restaurant. They soon discover, though, that this is a much younger Doctor, ignorant of the machinations of his future self.
This leads us to wonder â€œwhat could possibly happen next?â€ The Doctor will die in the future, thatâ€™s pretty much inescapable, but has Steven Moffat (the executive producer and author of this episode) written this series into a corner in the first fifteen minutes of the season by showing how it happens? Or will history be rewrittenâ€¦ again? But those are questions for a later date, as this episode quickly drops us into the middle of the mystery of aliens on earth in 1969, haunting President Nixon. The thing is, these aliens (Roswell aliens dressed in Men in Black suits) are instantly forgotten as soon as you look away.
Oh, and Amy is pregnant. Surprise!
Moffat is a master of the twist and surprise in plot that come together in the long run. But what he does best is great dialog and character development. What was best about this episode was the growing relationship â€” not to mention the sexy, clever banter â€” between The Doctor and River. Thereâ€™s a great exchange between The Doctor and River about Nixon where River is commenting on Nixonâ€™s record:
River: Vietnam, Watergateâ€¦ Thereâ€™s some good stuff too. Doctor: Not enough. River: Hippie! Doctor: Archeologist.
Or my favorite line of the night when The Doctor tells River to shout if she gets in trouble, to which she quips â€œDonâ€™t worry. Iâ€™m quite the screamer. Now thereâ€™s a spoiler for you.â€ And thatâ€™s not all we learn about their relationship and the hardship of living it â€œback-to-front.â€
â€œThe Impossible Astronautâ€ was an impressive beginning to what looks to be an impressive season. If you havenâ€™t been watching Doctor Who, I canâ€™t recommend it highly enough. The Doctor is a free agent who uses his wits and intelligence and will do anything to save a life. Heâ€™s not a part of a military or government agency, heâ€™s just a good guy going around doing good things. â€œThe Impossible Astronautâ€ is the first episode of a two part story, leaving us with a cliffhanger, and Iâ€™m on the edge of my seat waiting for next week.
Doctor Who will be returning to our screens in a little less than a week (23 April) with the season 6 premiere “The Impossible Astronaut”, and it’s clear that while the Doctor may be chasing aliens, the BBC is chasing the Colonies. Although the less than lustrous Doctor Who: The Movie was set in the States, the Doctor seems drawn like a Dalek to Davros to that tiny little island off the cost of France known as Britain.
If the season 6 trailer is any indication, Doctor Who will be getting even bigger and better.
A few observations about the trailer (no real spoilers here):
We will be hearing “Hello, sweetie” a lot this season as River Song will be a major player. We may even find out about her mysterious past.
The overarching story will be about a new menace called “The Silence” who are responsible for the events of last season.
There will be one or more episodes not just set, but actually filmed in the United States.
Make no mistake, the Doctor will still be spending plenty of time in Blighty, but there will be at least a few episodes set in North America. It’s not just a change in scenery, though. In addition to episodes set in my country ’tis of thee, BBC America is doing a full court press with their marketing of the show, running two page front cover ads in magazines like Spin. My feeling is this a good bet on their part. The Doctor’s popularity seems to have only been growing in the US over the last few years, and this season looks like it just may be a home run for them (I thought about continuing the sports metaphors here by making a joke here about bowling a century, but came to my senses in time. You are welcome.)
To get you ready, The Beeb have released a prequel to the first episode of the new season â€” a little taste of things to come â€” featuring Richard Nixon in the Oval office having his own Empty Child moment. Now we know what was on those missing tapes!
If you’ve ever wanted an in-depth crash course in web typography, here’s your chance.Â I’ll be presenting a half day marathon workshop at WebVisions in Portland this May to help you understand the NEW Web Typography. My workshop covers recent advances in technology and focuses on case studies that that provide a framework and techniques for successfully implementing online typography. Designers will see how they can use the new Web typography to set their work apart from the rest of the herd.
What you’ll learn:
How do I use Webfonts?
How do I find Webfonts?
How do I choose webfonts?
Where can I find inspiration for new Web typography techniques?
What are the technologies that have shaped the evolution of Web typography?
In addition to me, there’s other great stuff to do. WebVisions is a nationally recognized conference exploring the future of Web and mobile design, technology, user experience, and business strategy.
A great selection of workshops with me and others.
Keynotes by Douglas Rushkoff and David Armano.
Shorter, punchier sessions on the event’s Main Stage, and BarCamp style presentations in the Design, Tech, DIY and Business Pods.
Fun parties and networking events like the Stumptown 40, The Webvisionary Awards with Presentation Karaoke, A Meet the Speakers Mixer, and the famed wrap party.
This April will see the 50th anniversary of the most important event in all of human history: the first time any of us left the planet. On April 12, 1961, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin pierced Earthâ€™s thin shell of atmosphere to (literally) boldly go where no one had gone before. Yuri orbited the earth once in the Vostok 1, taking 108 minutes. Admittedly, this is a bit like dipping the tip of your toe into the ocean and considering yourself a great mariner, but many of us hope this event will be remembered as the first day of the migration of humanity to the stars.
Over the decade since it was first established, Yuriâ€™s Night has grown from a few dozen parties a year to over two hundred parties all around the world. Parties range in size from a few dozen people to a few thousand and have been staged on every continent (including Antarctica) and the International Space Station and in Second Life. The largest parties are generally in San Francisco and Washington, DC, but there are always some great events in almost every major city on the planet. Some parties are still on the 12th, but some opt to celebrate on the closest Saturday (this year, the 9th).
The important thing is to celebrate, and now is the time to start planning. Hereâ€™s how you can get involved:
Go to a party. Events are held around the world, and therefore probably one not too far away. You can find parties either by using the map or by consulting the handy-dandy list. And if you canâ€™t find a party near youâ€¦
South By Southwest (SXSW) is a little less than a week away, so time to get packing. SXSW Interactive (SXSWi) is the â€œtechyâ€ portion of SXSWâ€”the others are Film and Musicâ€”and is one of the geekiest popular culture events this side of San Diego Comic-con. While there isnâ€™t any cosplay and no one is likely to spit in your face if you tell them that Janeway was the greatest Star Fleet Captain of all time, SXSWi does attract the likes of Felicia Day, Devo and Bruce Sterling as regulars. Itâ€™s a mixture of art nerds, drama nerds and computer nerds, who are almost all focused on technology and culture.
This will be my 3rd year attending SXSW but my first as a non-speaker. In previous years Iâ€™ve given sessions on web typography and online comic books. This year I will be attending as a representative of my company, Forum One, and I will be able to sit back, relax and enjoy the sessions without the specter of an hour long speech hanging over my head.
While Iâ€™m by no means an old proâ€”this is the conferenceâ€™s 25th anniversaryâ€”I have picked up a few nuggets of wisdom over the years that I would like to share with you.
The next season of Doctor Who is still a few months away, but thereâ€™s no time like the present to catch up on the good Doctor and his time traveling adventures with this handy-dandy Doctor Who infographic by noted illustrator Bob Canada. He did the layout and the illustration for the TARDIS all using Adobe InDesign, but ran into the same issue generations of Doctor Who illustrators have discovered:
I think this is the first time in my life Iâ€™ve ever drawn the TARDIS. It was surprisingly hard! It seems like it would be simple; after all itâ€™s just a blue box with some windows. But there are tons of little details and recessed panels and whatnot, and it took forever to get it all straight.
Earlier this week I published a list of top 10 things science fiction promised us that didnâ€™t happen in 2010. So, lest you think Iâ€™m completely negative, letâ€™s take a look at a few things that did happen in 2010 that were predicted in science fiction. The funny thing about progress is that itâ€™s rarely confined to just one year. This list collects some of the important stuff that either happened or reached a tipping point in 2010. They are my favorites, but feel free to share yours in the comments below.
Walk through X-ray airport scanners â€” Who can forget the classic scene in Total Recall where Ahnuld walks through the scanner at the space port and we get a full x-ray of his body? Well, for some reason, people didnâ€™t think this technology was quite as cool when it was brought to an airport security line near them this year. Maybe it was the the thought that someone in a dark room is looking at virtual nudie pictures of us. Maybe it was the increase in radiation bombarding our bodies. Whatever it was, many want to leave this advance behind in 2010.
Video phones â€” This one has been possible for a long time, but just never seemed to catch on. Maybe it was the expense or the fact that to use it the other person needed the same equipment, but both of those issues were solved when the personal computer entered into the equation. With the growing popularity of Skype, Google Chat, and the new Apple FaceTime protocol, weâ€™re going to be seeing a whole lot more of each other in 2011.
Alien Life â€” Admittedly it was not extra-terrestrial alien life, but a complex life form completely unlike our own was discovered this year. Rather than being carbon-based like us (and every other form of life weâ€™ve known so far) this small microbial life form thrives on arsenic. This is a far cry from pointy eared Vulcans or acid drooling bugs, but it means that life seems to have developed twice on one planet greatly increasing the likelihood of ETs. [UPDATE: This one has since been shown to be slightly different than initially thought. The lifeforms thrive in arsenic and use arsenic instead of phosphorus in their DNA but are still carbon based.]
3D TVs â€” Well, itâ€™s here. 3D TV. Yippee. And for a mere 4000 or so dollars and another $800 for goggles for the family you too can watch any of the 50 videos Amazon has in 3D. This one still has a ways to go. Of course this catalog will grow over time, and some TV shows may even make the switch, but I still see this as more of a gimmick than a real technological break through. I think a more ground breaking technology is Sharpâ€™s Aquos TV that adds a fourth color (yellow) to the standard red, green, and blue, vastly increasing the color gamut (possible colors that can be displayed) for your screen, meaning sharper and more realistic images.
Big Brother â€” I remember as a young lad reading George Orwellâ€™s masterwork, 1984, with great fear, but being highly skeptical of the entire concept that the government could spy on all of the people all of the time. That would take an awful lot of people watching. The answer, of course, is to have everybody watching everybody. It may not be exactly what Mr. Orwell predicted, but we are all watching each other these days using the Internet. Whether itâ€™s an old lady in the UK throwing cats into trashcans or the broken condoms of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, we are all now up in each othersâ€™ business to an unprecedented degree. And these people are all publicly taken to their own virtual Room 101 to repent their actions.
Telepathy â€” Got a mobile phone and Bluetooth headset? Then youâ€™re a telepath. Stay with me on this one. Telepathy is the ability to broadcast your thoughts across small or great distances to another persons mind instantaneously, seemingly without using your normal senses. With a wireless headset you can send thoughts (through speech) to anyone in the world almost instantaneously. Implant the headset behind your ears and mic at your throat, learn how to sub-vocalize (speaking with only your throat) and no one around you would hear. For all intents and purposes, telepathy. It makes me wonder if all of the crazy people wondering the streets muttering to themselves arenâ€™t just early adopters.
A Permanent Space Station â€” Although started in 1998 and not slated for final completion until 2011, 2010 was the first year in which the International Space Station (ISS) was fully crewed with 14 occupants. It may not be the double ringed floating Hilton envisioned in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it still counts.
Tablet Computers â€” Kirk had them in the 23rd century. Picard had them in the 24th century. Now you can have them in the 21st century. The iPad and other tablet devices are changing the way we will be consuming and creating content. How do I know? Iâ€™m typing this article on one.
The Web â€” Yes, the Web has been around for 20 years now, but 2010 has seen the widespread deployment of some important new technologies that will fundamentally change the way you view the Internetâ€™s most popular offspring. â€œWeb 2.0â€³ was really just a marketing ploy compared to how HTML5, CSS3, and the new web typography are shaking things up. If you are using Firefox, Chrome, Safari, iOS devices or other tablet devices to view the Web, then you are getting a taste of things to come. Expect the static pages you are viewing now to come alive, transforming The New York Times into something more akin to the The Daily Prophet from Harry Potter.
Cyber Wars â€” 2010 has already been labeled the Year the Internet Went to War and I can go along with that. The information warfare started by Wiki-leaks blossomed into a fully formed conflict, as sides began DNS attacks both for and against the embattled secret-spilling Web site. These conflicts will only grow in size, but may avoid public attention for a long time, since there is no obvious collateral damage. Weâ€™ll probably only find out the true size of these wars when someone brings down a bank or a national power grid. Strange days indeed.
Science fiction makes a lot of predictions about the future â€” thatâ€™s really the point, isnâ€™t it? The best science fiction looks at the future, trying to see where we are headed and what it will be like when we get there. Some authors are so good at this it seems as though they actually are able to peer into the future (even if only through a scanner darkly) and tell stories of what is to come. But even the best sci-fi has, over the years, gotten a lot wrong about what was the future when it was written.
2010 is almost over, and I thought it would be an appropriate time to look at a few things that were supposed to happen (or have happened) by this year, but didnâ€™t.
Flying Cars â€” This is a popular one to gripe about, but Iâ€™ve got bad news for you: it ainâ€™t ever gonna happen. Itâ€™s not that flying cars are technically impossible, but they are socially impossible. I have little doubt that if our best and brightest applied themselves to the task, we could mass-produce personal travel devices that would allow us to rise off the ground and zoom through the air just like George Jetson. But imagine a world where the millions of cars on the road are replaced by millions of flying cars, or, should I say, millions of potential flying bombs. Even if we were to create some system that automatically forces cars to avoid buildings, how long before some moron with a beef against a particular government, philosophy, or just against sanity in general hacks that system and heads towards the closest sky scraper in a flying car packed with C4 explosive? No thanks, Iâ€™ll stick to the ground.
A Moon Base â€” We were supposed to have Moon Base Alpha by 1999, or at least by 2001, but for sure by 2010. That didnâ€™t happen. What did happen in 2010 was some unmanned moon landings (deliberate crashes, really) that provided new evidence that it might be technically possible and financially rewarding one-day to establish a permanent (but small) outpost on our lonely satellite. Well, I guess thatâ€™s something. The goalpost for a working Moon base has now been pushed all the way to 2069, according to a recent design challenge from Shift Boston. Iâ€™ll be 101 years old in 2069, so I just hope we have anti-aging pills soon.
Anti-Aging Pills â€” Although you can not yet pop a pill and stay 36 forever, the possibility of arresting or reversing aging is looking promising. New advances in unlikely places such as nano-technology are pointing to ways that we might ingest little robots that rebuild our systems from within. But nano-bots are also the bane of a lot of sci-fi stories, turning the world into a mass of gray goo.
Trips to Jupiter â€” Zooming off to planets far was a staple of 1950s sci-fi. Whatâ€™s changed in the nearly-50 years since Yuri Gagarin took the first off-planet jaunt is that we learned space is a really inhospitable climate. No air, no water, no heat, no gravity and no magnetosphere leads to dead humans. And recreating all of this in a portable format has proven far more elusive than the dreamers of the golden-age of sci-fi first thought. Even the more realistic versions shown in 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel 2010: Odyssey Two may be centuries away.
Nuclear Holocaust â€” OK, so itâ€™s a good thing this one didnâ€™t happen, obviously, but when I was a child in the 1970s, it seemed like a high probability. Growing up with the specter of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction, for anyone too young to remember it) looming over you was a way of life that we hoped no one was mad enough to test. The made-for-TV movie The Day After scared the hell out of me when I was a teen. But no one would have guessed in 1980 that by the end of the decade the Soviet Union would no longer exist. The nuclear threat may not have disappeared with it; however, the constant specter of nuclear holocaust has, if not disappeared, at least become less of a daily concern.
Virtual Reality â€” Sure, we have Second Life, World of Warcraft and Toy Story 3D, but the truly immersive user interface that is virtual reality is still just a dream. Thereâ€™s some promising work being done with wearable computing, but its still a long way from being able to jack your cranium straight into the net as in Neuromancer, or even hacking your optic nerve with VR goggles as in Snow Crash.
AI Robot Butlers & Self-Driving Cars â€” I want my piÃ±a colada served to me on the veranda at the perfect temperature by a slave robot. I want to be chauffeured around the city at night in my high speed luxury electric car while it reads to me the news of the day customized to my unique interests. I want all of this and I want it all guilt free. Oh sure, I can get a Roomba to vacuum my house or a Lexus which can park itself, but thatâ€™s not really the same thing, is it.
Computer Overlords â€” On the up side, none of the non-existent robot butlers and self-aware cars have risen up to overthrow their human oppressors and imprison them in The Matrix. Weâ€™ll call this one and #7 even.
Cheap, Clean, and Unlimited Energy â€” Nikola Teslaâ€™s dream of free and unlimited electricity seems even more impossible today than when he first proposed it in the early 20th century. Many of the wars on this small blue marble we call home are in large or small part over energy resources. Global climate change is intrinsically linked to the ways in which we produce energy. Whether itâ€™s gas for your car or electricity for your house, we all spend a lot of money on energy. A limitless, non-polluting, inexpensive (or even free) energy source could completely transform humanity, taking us out of the energy dark age we live in now, and leading to a true peace on Earth and good will between all mankind. Thatâ€™s my wintertime wish for the future. Do you have one?