STUFF: News, Technology, the cool and the plain weird

Recommended Posts

Batman: Hush Trailer - A Classic Comic Story Gets a Faithful Adaptation

The animated movie adaptation of Batman: Hush finally has a trailer. The film was announced last year, and will be the latest in a long line of Batman animated films. Back in March, the voice cast was revealed, bringing back Jason O'Mara as the voice of the Caped Crusader.

Written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by Jim Lee, Batman: Hush was a major comic book storyline in the early 2000s. It introduced a new, deadly villain named Hush, who seemed to know all about Batman. A number of major characters appeared, including Joker, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman. One of the most memorable aspects was the appearance of Superman, and yes, he and Batman get to briefly fight. The idea of an animated adaptation was first brought up publicly during 2016 Fan Expo. Kevin Conroy discussed it with Mark Hamill then as a fun project idea, but nothing came out of that. Two years later, Warner Bros. announced an adaptation. Surprisingly, Conroy was not brought in for the project. Instead, it appeared DC was going to keep it in line with other films like Batman: Bad Blood and Justice League Dark by having the same voice cast.

Fans of the comic will recognize scenes from the famous story. Despite the film seemingly being set in the current New 52/Rebirth animated continuity, it appears to be a faithful adaptation.

The trailer shows various scenes from the comic book, with a large emphasis on the early Poison Ivy-influenced Superman attack. We also see a bit of the famous Batman versus Joker sequence, the blossoming romance between Batman and Catwoman, and more. Interestingly, despite being in the voice cast, Damian Wayne is nowhere to be found in the trailer. He wasn't in the comic book storyline, so it makes sense if he has a minimal role in the animated adaptation. Superman is sporting his Rebirth look.

The animated Batman films continue to be very popular. Before Batman: Hush, Warner Bros. is releasing the Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossover film. Batman: Hush, however, has the opportunity to be a well-received adaptation after the controversial Batman: The Killing Joke. Batman: The Killing Joke was a film adaptation that severely disappointed a number of fans. If Batman: Hush is a faithful retelling, containing the strong writing and characterization of the major players, fans should be in for a treat.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites



A pub without alcohol is something of an oxymoron – but they’re growing in popularity.”

While French aristocrat Marie Antoinette was famously misquoted as saying “let them eat cake” in 1789, millionaire Tim Gurner was correctly quoted in 2017 when he said millennials will never be able to afford their own home, “When they are spending $40 a day on smashed avocados and coffees.” (The Guardian).

While conservative commentators and politicians had been echoing this sentiment for years, Gurner’s smug remark was the final straw, with Smashed Avo On Toast soon becoming the symbol of millennial résistance against the patronising comments of myopic baby-boomers (and rich Yuppies like Gurner).

With that, I all agree. But there’s a more pernicious reason for millennials not to own property—what they do with it. Far scarier than Boomers selling off our environmental assets to offshore companies and taking several hours to read a breakfast menu (held at arm’s length, squinting through their spouse’s glasses) is the incendiary ways millennials use the pieces of land they actually get a hold of.

Sober bars.

As reported earlier this week by the BBC, “A pub without alcohol is something of an oxymoron – but they’re growing in popularity.” The stalwart British Broadcaster then cited Getaway, a stylish bar in Brooklyn, which—at first glance—is like any other “Instagram-friendly” cocktail spot in New York.


“The walls are tasteful green and blue, the space feels cosy enough that you could easily join a neighbouring conversation, and the menu features a list of $13 (£10) cocktails with ingredients like tobacco syrup, lingonberry and jalapeno puree.”

But, as the BBC reports, “There is a crucial difference between Getaway and other Brooklyn bars: Getaway is totally alcohol-free… like an aquarium without fish or a bakery that doesn’t serve bread.”


When you get the BBC riled up you know you’ve done well (or you’re a millennial). But wait: there’s more.


“In cities like New York and London, where bars often function as second living rooms for apartment dwellers with little space, an alcohol-free nightlife option can appeal to people who, for whatever reason, would prefer not to drink.”

“Getaway, which opened in April,” the report continues, “Is part of a growing global wave of nightspots that specifically cater to people who are avoiding alcohol, but still want to go out and socialise in spaces that have traditionally been dominated by drinking.”

Part of a movement in which urban millennials reconsider the place of alcohol in their lives, there is, admittedly, some health benefit to socialising without getting absolutely Espresso Martini-ed.

But it’s also a middle finger in the face of America’s proud history of getting twisted. And much like brunch has become a convenient scapegoat for structural inequality, drinking has become a convenient scapegoat for the rest of society’s ills—when the problem is clearly Crossfit.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Cars will change more in the next decade than they have in the past century

Related image

While the look and feel of our cars has changed in the past 100 years, the way we drive them hasn’t. But fundamental change is coming. In the next decade, not only will the way they’re powered and wired have shifted dramatically, but we won’t be the ones driving them anymore.

Some cars already have basic automation features, but the automotive experiments currently being undertaken by the likes of Uber and Google make up a minuscule proportion of the vehicles on our roads. By 2030, the standard car will evolve from merely assisting the driver to taking full control of all aspects of driving in most driving conditions.

This widespread automation, together with the electrification and increased connectivity of both the car and society, are set to shake up the car industry in a big way, affecting everything from the way cars look and feel, to how we spend our time inside them, and how they get us from A to B.

A very different driving experience

The first major difference we might notice between today’s cars and those of 2030 are their names. Just as Apple and Samsung have taken over a mobile phone market that Nokia and Blackberry once dominated, Tesla, Apple, Dyson, and Google could become the most recognised automotive brands of the future.

They’ll likely look a lot different too. From the outside, the large air intakes and front grills that cool our combustion engines will no longer be needed, while wing mirrors will be replaced with cameras and sensors. Windows could be larger to allow liberated passengers to enjoy the view, or near non-existent to provide privacy. The Mercedes-Benz Vision URBANETIC demonstrates these radical new looks with a modular vehicle that can switch bodies to either move cargo or people.

Cars’ interiors will be much more flexible, some allowing customisation of colour, light, privacy, and layout at the touch of a button. Volvo’s recent 360c concept car envisages a multi-functional space that can transform into a lounge, an office and even a bedroom.

Sun visors will become a thing of the past, with smart glass allowing us to control the amount of entering daylight at the touch of a button. The Mercedes F015 concept car’s doors even have extra screens that can function as windows or entertainment systems.

Many cars will be fitted with augmented-reality systems, which will superimpose computer-generated visualisations onto the windscreen or other suitable display areas, to ease the passenger’s nerves from relinquishing the wheel by showing what the car is about to do.

Drivers will be able to communicate with their cars through speech or gesture commands. In high-end models, we may even see some early versions of brain-computer interfaces, which would associate patterns of brain activity with commands to control the car or entertain occupants. Similar technology has already been used to control prosthetic limbs and wheelchairs.

Connective technology

The ever-growing internet of things will become central to how our integrated cars move us around and communicate with the outside world. Sensors designed to recognise and communicate with upgraded road signs, markings, networks of cameras, pedestrians, and other vehicles will allow cars to synchronise their movement, minimising fuel consumption and improving traffic flow. Cars will also be able to help authorities maintain road infrastructure, for example with tyre sensors that notify them of deteriorating road conditions.

When humans choose to take the wheel, technology will warn drivers about impending collisions with other road users, and attempt to avoid them. Improvements in thermal sensor technology are likely to enable cars to see far beyond the illumination range of car headlights. If sufficiently standardised and legislated for, these technologies should substantially reduce the number of road accidents – albeit probably after an initial spike.

While rural drivers will probably still own their cars, cities may move away from car ownership to the use of on-demand vehicles that take the Uber model to the next level. In Moscow, 9m of these journeys are already made daily, more than 30 times higher than at the start of 2018.

Fuels of the future

Multiple countries and cities have announced upcoming bans on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, many by 2030. Older vehicles will still be on the road, so petrol stations are unlikely to disappear by this date. However, car makers are already focusing more and more on vehicles that will support the fuels of the future.


Precisely what that future will look like is unclear. Uncertainty over whether currently popular hybrid cars will be included in vehicle bans may discourage businesses and consumers from investing too much in this path. Fully electric vehicles only make up 2% of the global market right now, but as their price drops below that of petrol cars by the mid 2020s, their market share will surely balloon.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites



UNTIL THE 19TH century, the Pripyat River basin on the border between Ukraine and Belarus was wetland and forest. As usual, humans kind of ruined it. They burned down forest for pastureland and cut down trees for timber—or for fuel to make glass and vodka. By the middle of the 20th century, most of that industry was gone, and human-driven reforestation efforts had remade the Pripyat region anew. And then, on April 26, 1986, a nuclear power plant called Chernobyl, on the Pripyat River about 70 miles north of Kiev, blew up and caught fire, spewing radiation across the northern hemisphere.

So that was a big change.

The Soviets ended up evacuating 300,000 people from nearly 2,000 square miles around the plant. The bulk of that area is now called the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, and the old power plant is now encased in a giant concrete sarcophagus. But what happened to the Exclusion Zone after everyone left is the subject of disagreement in the scientific community. For decades, research in the area said that plant and animal life had been denuded, and the life that remained was mutated, sick. Newer research says otherwise—that plants have regrown, and animal life is even more diverse than before the accident. The Exclusion Zone hasn’t been rewilded so much as de-humaned, more unmanned in folly than anything Lady Macbeth ever worried about. It’s a living experiment in what the world will be like after humans are gone, having left utter devastation in our wake.

It’d be easy to assume that exposing 3 billion humans to clouds of radioactive strontium, iodine, cesium, and plutonium would be a Thanos-snappingly bad thing. Some 134 emergency responders around the plant got acute radiation sickness, but 530,000 recovery workers got high enough doses to be worrisome. Studies are ongoing as to what that did to their bodies.

One effect seems uncontroversial: The more radioactive iodine you get exposed to, the more likely you are to have thyroid cancer and other thyroid problems later in life. Clean-up crew members today have disproportionately more instances of leukemia and other cancers, as well as cataracts. Luckily, radioactive I-131 doesn’t stick around. “It has such a short half-life that it disappeared quickly—days and weeks after the accident,” says Jim Beasley, an ecologist at the University of Georgia who studies life in the Exclusion Zone. “The animals in Chernobyl today aren’t exposed to that.”

(The effects of radiation can get weirder. Earlier this decade, a small cluster of elderly New Yorkers were diagnosed with an ultra-rare cancer of the eye and optic nerve—vitreo­retinal lymphoma. Ten of them turned out to have lived near Chernobyl or along the fallout path after the accident.)

Yes, yes, you are saying, but what about the Exclusion Zone? A mostly conifer forest west of the plant, where radiation levels were the highest, turned red and then died; it’s still called the Red Forest. But elsewhere? Early studies of birds and invertebrates like insects showed population declines, and later work showed the same for large mammals. “If you go to the most contaminated areas, like some sites in the Red Forest, on a spring day, you can barely hear a single bird singing,” says Anders Møller, an ecologist at the University of Paris-Sud who has been studying Chernobyl since 1991. “I’ll bet you that if we went together to the Exclusion Zone, I would be able to tell you the radiation level from the vocal activity of the birds.”

With his frequent collaborator Timothy Mousseau, Møller has long warned of the negative effects of radiation on the ecosystem. The team found, for example, mutation rates two to 10 times greater in barn swallows in the Exclusion Zone than in Italy or elsewhere in Ukraine—and genetic damage in a bunch of other plant and animal species. Signs of radiation damage, like albino patches on birds, are more common near Chernobyl, they say, as are abnormalities in sperm in birds and rodents. (Apparently the longer an animal’s sperm is, typically, the more subject it is to radiation damage. So … watch out, I guess.)

Perhaps most disconcerting, Møller and Mousseau inventoried the total populations of invertebrates in and around the Exclusion Zone, and they found that their populations were smaller inside. The same, they say, goes for birds and mammals, though the changes weren’t consistent for every species. “We see negative impacts of ionizing radiation on free-living organisms. This applies to mammals, insects, spiders, butterflies, you name it,” Møller says. “And a second issue is, are these populations of large mammals composed of healthy individuals? Or individuals that are sick or malformed or in other ways negatively impacted by radiation? That’s not investigated, and that’s the big question mark that hangs over the Exclusion Zone.”

Other researchers using different methods, though, have found quite the opposite. In the 1990s, a preliminary study of rodents showed that radiation had no effect on population. Twenty years later, a team of international researchers counting actual animals from helicopters found no measurable difference in the populations of elk, deer, and wild boar—and a sevenfold increase in wolf population—compared with similar, uncontaminated nature preserves. And all those populations had gone up since the first decade after the accident.

Why the difference? Possibly it’s that the animals in question reproduce faster than the radiation can kill them. “If 10 percent of the population was impacted by something—and I’m not saying they are, but if they were—in most situations, that wouldn’t be enough to cause a decline,” says Beasley, an author of that 2015 study. “A very low level of mortality wouldn’t be enough to manifest in a population-level response.”

Or maybe the animals die before something like a mutation or a cancer can kill them. “Most animals die within their first months of life, and those that make it to adulthood, most don’t live more than several years,” Beasley says. “Cancer is often a long-developing sort of thing.” That doesn’t take into account the quality of life or health of an individual in those populations, though—as Møller says. The animals might not be dying of radiation toxicity, but they might have cataracts or tumors. Their lives might not be shorter, but they might suck.

Methodologies have also changed. Beasley’s group now uses “scent stations” baited with fatty acids that animals like to sniff at. When they do, their presence triggers a camera, giving his team photographic evidence of at least a population’s overall range. They found wolves, raccoon dogs, wild boar, and foxes in population numbers as high as you’d expect in a region with no people trying to kill these things. They’ve also baited stations with dead fish alongside the rivers and canals in the Exclusion Zone, looking to find things like otters and mink. “One of the things I like about cameras is, images don’t lie,” Beasley says.

Since the accident, brown bears have colonized—or perhaps recolonized—the Exclusion Zone. In the late 1990s, European researchers introduced the nearly extinct Przewalski’s horse. Bison are thriving there too. The absence of humans seems to have allowed these populations to grow freely.

The question is one of balance, or competing lifelines—no human pressure means a diverse ecosystem thrives, but radiation could tamp down that ecosystem’s ebullience. One of the methodological problems, though, is that no one’s really sure exactly how much radiation is there. Some people think that the radionuclides left on the ground are trapped in the soil; others think that animals traipsing through the forests could carry those particles with them and transport them to new locations. Even ascertaining the radiation level is a problem. Researchers from the University of Bristol have tried using quadcopter drones to map them; Beasley’s team is deploying GPS collars for animals with built-in dosimeters to try to answer, finally, the actual doses that critters pick up.

Those differences have knock-on effects that get to the heart of why this place is so hard to study. In the Red Forest, for example, the conifers that died were replaced by deciduous trees that could tolerate radiation better, but their leaf litter is less acidic, changing the microorganisms that live in it. “You’ve changed the ecosystem,” says Beasley. “It’s not just radiation. There are confounding factors.”

This all matters because the Exclusion Zone is all but unique. There are only a few other places on Earth that used to have humans but no longer do. They become models for a different kind of world, even if—or maybe especially because—two of those places, Chernobyl and Fukushima, are also radioactive. That’s important too. If you believe that nuclear power will be one of the key ways to produce energy without exacerbating Earth’s ongoing climate crisis, it’s important to know just how bad an accident at one of those nuclear power plants could get. Nuclear is a green, or at least green-ish, source of power—it requires cold water (which it then heats up) and creates a certain amount of waste, but that might be tolerable if you’re also willing to put up with the occasional risk of a Chernobyl or a Fukushima until someone reengineers these systems to be safer.

Oh, and that’s not the only reason to be thinking about climate change and Chernobyl. In 2015, two wildfires in the Exclusion Zone re-aerosolized radioactive particles in their smoke and carried them aloft, dosing parts of Europe all over again—at about the level of a medical x-ray. In fact, says Møller, the Exclusion Zone is constantly plagued by fire. And climate change has already increased the likelihood of fires in abandoned urban and peri-urban areas in Europe. Which means one of the lasting legacies of the Exclusion Zone extends far beyond its boundaries: climate change-induced radioactive wildfires.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Citroen’s Autonomous Electric SUV Does 500 Miles Per Charge

Featured Image

Few older automotive companies have shown their commitment to future technologies quite like Citroen. But the French manufacturer is far from through with pushing the limits if their unique 19_19 all-electric concept SUV is any indication.

Like something out of Judge Dredd or Blade Runner, this marvelously-futuristic four-wheeler is a direct follow-up to the brand’s urban-focused Ami One concept from February but doubles down on a number of key features. For starters, the 19_19 is said to have an effective range just shy of 500 miles per charge and a horsepower rating of 456 — giving it a top speed of over 124 mph, a 0-62 time of five seconds, and 590 foot-pounds of torque. And while you could enjoy all of that yourself, the 19_19 is also said to have autonomous driving tech built-in, so you can lean back and enjoy the luxurious comfort-focused cabin and let the car do the hard work. Let’s just hope Citroen puts all of this concept’s technologies to good use in the future.






Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

The Range Rover Astronaut Edition Is out of This World


When the Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations team sets out to make the Range Rover even more unique you can bet they’re gonna create something absurd. Their latest, the Range Rover Astronaut Edition, is the perfect example of what’s possible. Designed and built exclusively for the “Future Astronauts” already signed up to travel to space with Virgin Galactic, the Range Rover Astronaut takes everything that makes the Range Rover Autobiography noteworthy and makes it better.


Unique Zero Gravity Blue paint inspired by the depth and intensity night sky. Bespoke Virgin Galactic puddle lamp design that features the silhouette of SpaceShipTwo. Virgin Galactic touches are also throughout the interior with unique badges, stitching and carbon fiber detailing. But the pièce de résistance is in the cup holders. Seriously. The discs inside the cup holders are made with pieces of the front landing skid from Virgin Spaceship Unity.


What’s more, according to Land Rover, “Once a Future Astronaut has flown to space, and becomes an astronaut, this [disc] will be swapped out with part of the wooden skid from that customer’s own spaceflight, personally inscribed with the specific details of a life changing experience.” That’s right. A piece of your spaceship will be in your very own, very limited Range Rover. This all of course assumes you’re already on the list for the hundreds of thousands of dollars spaceflight, and you’re we’re willing to drop another couple hundred thousand on another vehicle.





  • Like 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Our columnist visited the new home of Hendrick’s Gin in Scotland and got the scoop on its recently introduced line of limited-edition products.


The new Hendrick’s “Gin Palace” is about 75 minutes south of Glasgow and almost wholly encased by a Game of Thrones-style black-brick wall. The entrance is a tall gothic door, also painted midnight black.

A group of us on a tour arranged by Hendrick’s approached the gate. We knock. An iPad-sized mini-door some eight feet off the ground swings open and a gnomish face peers out. Inexplicably, none of us shouts, “We want to see the wizard!” Maybe because that’s not needed; the face belongs to Lesley Gracie, Hendrick’s master distiller since 1999. She actually is the wizard.

“Welcome!” Gracie cries out. The doors swing open. Our group enters.

Hendrick’s Gin is celebrating its 20th year this year, and doing so by releasing two new gin products, including Midsummer Solstice, which began rolling out in the United States in early May. Hendrick’s is also showing off its new distillery, which held its grand opening last October. To date, it’s open only to invited guests, including media, distributors and high-profile bartenders, and is not yet offering public tours.


Inside the wall is a showpiece of Victoriana—it’s designed like a 19th century horticultural hall, with a soaring glassed-in pavilion housing palms, a stuffed peacock, comfortable chairs with stacks of outdated encyclopedias. A pair of greenhouses flanks the hall, and it’s here where Gracie grows plants for experimental infusions. Outside the front door there’s a small fleet of penny farthings; the restroom (“Lavatorium”) is adorned with piles of quirky antiquarian books (Simple Heraldry, Cheerfully Illustrated.) Hendrick’s is nothing if not on-brand.

Hendrick’s is celebrating two decades of solid growth. In 2017, it sold more than one million cases for the first time, putting it in the company of a handful of gin producers who move that much liquor. (The club also includes Tanqueray, Beefeater, Bombay Sapphire, Seagram’s and Gordon’s.)

A lot of what has fueled Hendrick’s growth has been quirky marketing—creating a brand with a distinctive identity, one that might be described as “Steampunks Throw a Garden Party.” One mainstay at public events is the Hendrick’s “grand garnisher”—a truck-mounted “bicycle-powered” cucumber slicer the size of an ambitious circus wagon.

When William Grant & Sons first explored the idea of a gin, they approached Steve Grasse, whom Food & Wine magazine once dubbed the “Punk-Rock Prince of Small-Batch Spirits.” Grasse was a marketing guy—his branding agency is now known as Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction—and he was instrumental in crafting Hendrick’s quirky image. (Grasse also was behind the Sailor Jerry brand.) The gin’s taglines included “not for everyone” and “a most unusual gin.”


From the distillery’s palm court visitors can view three copper stills behind a wall of glass. It looks like a Smithsonian museum exhibit—indeed, one of these stills dates to 1860. Yet these are fully operating stills, and not just ornamental. In fact, these stills produced all Hendrick’s Gin for the first 20 years. With these, Gracie worked out an early distilling protocol with dual methods of extracting flavors from botanicals. (These include Macedonian juniper,  Angelica root, cubeb berry, elderflower, and meadowsweet, among others.) One batch of ingredients is mixed with ethanol and run through a Bennet still, yielding a full extraction. Another batch of identical botanicals is placed in a gin basket atop a Carter-head still, where it infuses the ethanol steam. Each method extracts different layers of flavor, adding what Gracie calls a welcome “roundness.”

The final twist on Hendrick’s flavor profile comes at the end, like a surprise dessert. Hendrick’s has a third party distill both rose petals and cucumber essences with vacuum stills. These stills substantially reduce the boiling temperature of alcohol, helping preserve the delicate flavors. (Cucumber, when exposed to higher temperatures, takes on an unfortunate, cabbage-like aroma, says Gracie.)

To meet anticipated demand for the product, Hendrick’s moved its distillery from a mundane former munitions bunker in the middle of their sprawling property to this specially designed hall. (Although William Grant & Sons is one of the largest producers of grain whisky for blending, visitors to the Hendrick’s facility are spared views of the charmless industrial site thanks to artfully placed berms and trees.)


Hendrick’s also had the three original stills replicated exactly, which they installed in an adjacent room not visible from the main hall. The large room has the charm of a standard distillery, which is to say none at all, but makes up for its lack of quirk with a spotless efficiency. In rolling this out, Hendrick’s has doubled its ability to produce gin, and can now make up to two million cases a year. (Gracie notes the building’s design allows for another room and another trio of replicant stills, meaning they’re ready to gear up to three million cases, if demand warrants.)

So why did Hendrick’s wait two decades to extend its brand line? The answer is both in the production and the marketing.

On the production side, Hendrick’s now has the ability to make nearly twice as much gin as current demand warrants. So what to do with the new capacity? They chose to use the excess to develop new products. The two newly released, limited-edition gins—Orbium and Midsummer Solstice—are comprised of the standard Hendrick's, which is complicated with additional ingredients.

The Orbium, for instance, also contains quinine, wormwood and lotus blossom, in addition to all the regular Hendrick’s ingredients. The result is sort-of lazy person’s gin and tonic, which can be made with the simple addition of soda water. The Midsummer Solstice adds floral essences to the standard product, drawing from flowers that Gracie declines to identify. It was initially created for the wedding of a beloved employee, and will be available until sold out.

The new releases are also rolling out for shrewd marketing reasons. Hendrick’s is often thought of as the original craft gin—among the first to boldly depart from the London dry flavor profile—but as it barrels towards two million cases maintaining that craft imprimatur may prove difficult. What was once a Gulliver amid Brobdingnagians is now a Gulliver amid the Lilliputians—Hendrick’s is now surrounded by dozens of smaller craft gin makers, many departing equally boldly further from the norm and nibbling away at the gin market.

One of the lessons smaller distillers have picked up on is that experimentation helps define them. Larger brands aren’t typically interested in releasing new products unless they’re sure it will sell at least a forty thousand cases out of the gate, with the result of an often-monotonous product landscape among the majors. Craft distillers can be more nimble and experimental with their releases—helping generate interest among bartenders and consumers about what they’re up to, especially when their releases are shrouded in semi-secrecy and limited in release.

So in addition to Orbium and Midsummer Solstice (Orbium is available in  “exceedingly small batches and has a finite window of existence,” the company notes), Hendrick’s also made a product called Hendrick’s Kanaracuni, which resulted from a two-week journey that Gracie and others took to the Venezuelan rainforest (with a 10-liter still) to search for new flavors in 2013. They found a plant for infusing called scorpion tail; the extremely small amount that was produced made its way to bartenders and other industry insiders.  

Scarcity plus curiosity can help keep a brand in the front and center.

Hendrick’s created the original playbook for craft products—presenting itself as hand-crafted and quirky, the ideal spirit for younger drinkers who didn’t want to drink their parent’s mass-produced gin. Hendrick’s is now borrowing from the craft playbook of a new generation of smaller craft distillers, plotting its way to three million cases, one experimental batch at a time.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

‘Angel Has Fallen’ Trailer Has Gerard Butler on the Run

Lionsgate has released the first Angel Has Fallen trailer. The upcoming action movie has Gerard Butler returning as Secret Service Agent Mike Banning. When there’s an attempt on the life of President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), Mike is framed for the crime and he must go on the run to prove his name and protect the President. I hope at some point he accuses an old friend of switching the samples.

If you’re still on board with these Fallen movies, great! This looks like it will scratch the itch. Personally, I checked out after Olympus Has Fallen and didn’t even bother with London Has Fallen so I’m missing a key piece of the Mike Banning mythology. But the film will probably be a solid August hit for Lionsgate and they’ll likely keep making them as long as Butler is interested.

The film opens August 23rd

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Sagamore Spirit’s Port Finish Is The World’s Best Rye Whiskey

Featured Image

Making the claim that anything is the “best in the world” is a pretty slippery slope. But when the claim comes from a panel of the world’s top experts, it’s a hard one to ignore. That’s the case with Sagamore Spirit’s Port Finish rye whiskey, which just took home the gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

As you might imagine, Baltimore-based Sagamore Spirit — which was co-founded and is still owned by none other than Under Armour’s Kevin Plank — is very proud of their achievement, as they rightfully should be. But the award is not simply happenstance, as the rye whiskey they’ve crafted is a special one, indeed. This is due in large part to the fact that it’s finished in the finest European and American Port barrels — lending the spirit notes of cherry, plum, and baking spices with a full and dry finish. This American-made, 101 proof, dark amber whiskey is available now for $70 — if you can find it on the shelves, that is.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Scientists Think They Know How Pluto's Hidden Ocean Stays Liquid


Recent results suggest that Pluto has a liquid water ocean buried beneath its icy shell. But how could such a thing be possible at the frigid outer edges of the solar system? Scientists from Japan and the United States might have an answer.

In a paper published Monday in Nature Geoscience, these researchers speculate that perhaps, Pluto’s ocean is kept insulated by a layer of gas beneath the ice. If this hypothesis proves true, then this mechanism might keep other icy worlds from freezing over completely.

“If this mechanism is common, then oceans might be common on other large [Kuiper Belt objects],” study co-author Francis Nimmo from the University of California, Santa Cruz told Gizmodo.

The paper is mainly an inference based on combining other pieces of evidence. The New Horizons mission flew by Pluto in 2015 and discovered that it was quite complex, geologically. In 2016, scientists’ models suggested that the Sputnik Planitia, the lefthand lobe of the dwarf planet’s “heart,” could have a subsurface, partially-liquid ocean like the ones on the icy moons of Jupiter or Saturn.

That’s pretty wild to think about: something as distant and as small as Pluto isn’t completely frozen, but might have liquid water beneath its surface. Scientists wondered how that could be possible. Pluto doesn’t have the gravitational energy from a nearby massive planet to maintain tides and help warm the water.

Nor would heating from the radioactive decay of its elements help avoid a complete freeze, according to the new paper. And it doesn’t seem like there’s enough ammonia on Pluto to dissolve into the water and raise its melting point.

Instead, the scientists propose that the ice shell has a layer of water ice cages that trap gas, like methane, inside. Without the layer, the ice would remove heat from Pluto’s interior. But the “clathrate hydrate” gas cage layer would have different thermal properties that would slow the ice’s ability to take heat from the water.

And the methane trapping would also explain why scientists haven’t observed much methane in Pluto’s atmosphere, Nimmo said.

The paper is “quite interesting,” J. Hunter Waite, a program director at the Southwest Research Institute not involved with this study, told Gizmodo in an email. “Understanding the role of processes like clathrate formation increases the knowledge base for exploring Ocean Worlds and their role in solar system formation and evolution and thereby broadening our horizons as to what constitutes habitable environments,” he continued.

But he warned that scientists still know little about Pluto’s overall composition, and must look to other objects like comets and meteorites to guide their hypothesising.

It’s still interesting, though. “Our results suggest that a long-lived ocean can exist even without tidal heating, which is important to maintain oceans in icy satellites” study first author Shunichi Kamata from Hokkaido University in Japan told Gizmodo.

New Horizons has whizzed far beyond Pluto, and there isn’t a present-day mission that can verify the existence of these clathrate hydrates.

But Nimmo and Kamata hope that in the future, some mission can verify their findings. And maybe there are other icy oceans around the solar system kept warm in the same way.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Archaeological Mystery Deepens As More 'Jars Of The Dead' Uncovered In Laos


An ancient burial practice involving the use of massive stone jars seems to have been more widespread in Southeast Asia than once assumed, owing to a surprising trove of new discoveries in Laos.

A team of archaeologists co-led by Dougald O’Reilly from the Australian National University, with help from Lao government officials, have discovered 15 new megalithic sites in Laos containing 137 previously unidentified stone jars that are thought to have been related, in some way, to disposal of the dead.

The sites, which date back 1000 years, are located in a remote mountainous forest, expanding the geographical area in which these monuments are found in Laos.

“These new sites have really only been visited by the occasional tiger hunter,” said ANU PhD student Nicholas Skopal, a co-leader of the team, in an ANU statement. “Now we’ve rediscovered them, we’re hoping to build a clear picture about this culture and how it disposed of its dead.”


A jar found in Laos.

These so-called ‘Jars of the Dead’ have been known since the 19th century, but French archaeologist Madeleine Colani was the first to conduct a scientific investigation of the monuments, which she did in the 1930s.

Thousands of the megaliths have been found in the Plain of Jars, an area concentrated along the central plain of Xiangkhoang Plateau in northern Laos. The jars measure a couple of metres across and date back to Laos’ Iron Age (500 BCE to 500 CE).

Colani, and the archaeologists who followed in her footsteps believe they were used during ancient burial practices, either to temporarily hold a deceased individual or to serve as a secondary gravesite. Or possibly both.

These jars, and others like them in India and Indonesia, are suggestive of a complex set of burial practices involving various stages of decomposition, which ancient peoples may have associated with various spiritual or metaphysical phases of death.

But archaeologists have long puzzled over the exact purpose of the jars. To compound the problem, researchers don’t even know which culture built these megaliths.

“It’s apparent the jars, some weighing several tonnes, were carved in quarries, and somehow transported, often several kilometres to their present locations,” said O’Reilly in the ANU statement. “But why these sites were chosen as the final resting place for the jars is still a mystery. On top of that we’ve got no evidence of occupation in this region.”

As noted, the distribution of the jars appears to be more widespread than previously assumed, which suggests whatever burial practice they were related to was also more common.

Also, some intricately carved discs were found positioned around the jars, possibly serving as burial markers, according to the researchers. The discs, which were placed face down for some unknown reason, were decorated with pommels, concentric circles, animal imagery and human figures.

According to O’Reilly, decorative carvings around these giant jars are quite rare. The researchers aren’t sure why some monuments were decorated and others were not, and why some had geometric designs as opposed to other imagery.


A disc decorated with concentric rings

Intriguingly, the archaeologists also found miniature jars made of clay, which greatly resembled the larger jars. O’Reilly said he’d “love to know why these people represented the same jars in which they placed their dead, in miniature to be buried with their dead”.

Other artefacts found near the jars included decorative ceramics, glass beads, iron tools, earrings, and spindle whorls for making cloth.

Looking ahead, the researchers are hoping to extract DNA from bodies found buried nearby according to a paper published last year, and to conduct a comparative analysis of similar megalithic jars from the Assam region of India and Sulawesi in Indonesia.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

The Final Brightburn Trailer Goes Full Supervillain Horror Movie

Nothing quite like a pint-sized super boy killing everyone to help you ring in the holiday.

Brightburn, the new film from producer James Gunn and director David Yarovesky, opens this Memorial Day weekend. It stars Jackson A. Dunn as a young boy who comes to Earth with extraordinary powers, kind of like Superman. And like Superman, he’s taken in by two loving parents, here played by Elizabeth Banks and David Denman. But, unlike Superman, this boy isn’t about truth and justice—he’s about evil and violence.

With mere days to go before opening, Sony has released a final trailer for the film. In it you see why Brightburn is being marketed as “the first horror movie of the summer” and not “the second superhero movie.”

While pre-release buzz for Brightburn has been generally positive among people who’ve seen it, my biggest question mark is if Yarovesky can handle the huge task of taking this killer concept and making it into something even more than just that.

Brightburn opens Thursday. 

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Heston Blumenthal Crotch Cheese Is Now A Thing


From his pubes, specifically

London's V&A museum is currently running a food-themed exhibition titled FOOD: Bigger Than the Plate. In addition to containing an edible water bottle and a toilet made from cow manure, one of the highlights of the exhibition is human cheese. Yes, cheese made partially from humans.

And one of them is famed quirky chef Heston Blumenthal.

Cheese is generally made from starter cultures that come in a packet. They're basically single strains of bacteria that curdle the milk and help get the cheese on its smelly way.

Guess what else produces bacteria? The human body. And in the very specific case of old mate Heston... it was taken from his pubic hair to make a comté, according to the Guardian.

Blumenthal wasn't the only celebrity who has put his body on the line in the name of cheese. British rapper Professor Green had bacteria taken from his belly button, and a columnist for the Guardian had some taken from her nose. All in the name of sheer curiosity and display. Are you not entertained!?

If this is grossing you out, never fear. You can't actually eat any of the human cheese - it's just on display.

But I do challenge you to search deep within your own soul and answer this question. If you had the chance to smear some of that crotch cheese on a rosemary and sea salt cracker with some quince paste... would you?

@Ken Gargett you're our very own Cheese purveyor and now creator, is this something you'd tackle? No pun intended ;) 

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, MIKA27 said:

Heston Blumenthal Crotch Cheese Is Now A Thing


From his pubes, specifically

London's V&A museum is currently running a food-themed exhibition titled FOOD: Bigger Than the Plate. In addition to containing an edible water bottle and a toilet made from cow manure, one of the highlights of the exhibition is human cheese. Yes, cheese made partially from humans.

And one of them is famed quirky chef Heston Blumenthal.

Cheese is generally made from starter cultures that come in a packet. They're basically single strains of bacteria that curdle the milk and help get the cheese on its smelly way.

Guess what else produces bacteria? The human body. And in the very specific case of old mate Heston... it was taken from his pubic hair to make a comté, according to the Guardian.

Blumenthal wasn't the only celebrity who has put his body on the line in the name of cheese. British rapper Professor Green had bacteria taken from his belly button, and a columnist for the Guardian had some taken from her nose. All in the name of sheer curiosity and display. Are you not entertained!?

If this is grossing you out, never fear. You can't actually eat any of the human cheese - it's just on display.

But I do challenge you to search deep within your own soul and answer this question. If you had the chance to smear some of that crotch cheese on a rosemary and sea salt cracker with some quince paste... would you?

@Ken Gargett you're our very own Cheese purveyor and now creator, is this something you'd tackle? No pun intended ;) 

i saw this. truly disgusting.

let me say that these cheesemakers are not blessed. indeed, nothing but a sad gimmick which demeans us all!

  • Like 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, Ken Gargett said:

i saw this. truly disgusting.

let me say that these cheesemakers are not blessed. indeed, nothing but a sad gimmick which demeans us all!

For someone who has trouble with blue cheese , that is revolting.

  • Like 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, Ken Gargett said:

i saw this. truly disgusting.

let me say that these cheesemakers are not blessed. indeed, nothing but a sad gimmick which demeans us all!

agreed, well put


  • Like 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
15 hours ago, Ken Gargett said:

i saw this. truly disgusting.

let me say that these cheesemakers are not blessed. indeed, nothing but a sad gimmick which demeans us all!

Yes, I felt you would feel this way. I think a lot of what Blumenthal does is a gimmick. He's good at what he does, but this is an extreme that defies imagination. 

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
8 minutes ago, MIKA27 said:

Yes, I felt you would feel this way. I think a lot of what Blumenthal does is a gimmick. He's good at what he does, but this is an extreme that defies imagination. 

Not all of the things he does is gimmick. Don't ruin my biz.... :lookaround: :hole:

  • Haha 1

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites
24 minutes ago, MIKA27 said:

Yes, I felt you would feel this way. I think a lot of what Blumenthal does is a gimmick. He's good at what he does, but this is an extreme that defies imagination. 

i was reading about this elsewhere the other day and my impression was that this was not a heston initiative. rather someone else - not sure who - who involved various celebrities, including heston.

he is undoubtedly a superb talent wonderfully innovative but people forget that he very much rode on the coat-tails of ferran adria from el bulli. for me, he was the extraordinary chef of this generation and what he did led to so much more. without ferran, i doubt that heston gets anywhere close to what he is now. 

  • Like 2

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Terminator: Dark Fate Trailer


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

A Chef’s Secrets to Grilling Over Charcoal


I’m a firm believer that grilling brings people together. Much like carving the holiday turkey, the ritual is typically deemed a man’s job and has an innate sense of communal gathering and loving family. One of my earliest memories growing up was hanging out at my neighbor’s house for Sunday barbecue after Little League games and watching my friend’s dad, Frank Jimenez, tend to the grill with a Miller Lite beer in one hand and a king-size spatula in the other. Frank brought the neighborhood together with his grill. To this day, when I get a whiff of drifting smoke from someone grilling in a yard nearby, the smell triggers fond memories and takes me back to way back when. Grilling is about summertime and cooking outdoors; grilling is also fundamentality about time and attention.

I’m not one to overcomplicate the marriage of food and fire, so I keep it simple by relying on only direct heat grilling, instead of setting up two hot and cool heat zones. Two-zone grilling is when you set up two areas of your grill by piling more coals on one side of the grill (high direct heat), and then fewer coals on the other side (low indirect heat). The hotter side is typically preferred for searing thinner cuts of meat, such as skinless, boneless chicken breasts and flank steak, while the cooler side is preferred for cooking larger cuts of meat without burning the exterior before the center is cooked, such as pork shoulder, or to finish cooking meats after searing on the hot, direct side. Honestly, I find a simple, even hot zone throughout the grill perfectly fine. What I do encourage is to turn the meat often and rest it periodically to prevent the outside from burning, and control the internal temperature from getting too hot and potentially overcooking. So basically, by constantly flipping the meat and taking it off the grill to rest, it has the same effect as indirect cooking. I’d rather harness the flame of the coals by opening and closing the air vents and lid, to avoid flare-ups and to keep the cooking temperature constant. Working the vents allows you to control the airflow and subsequent heat, and not the other way around! Plus, grills come in various sizes and it’s often challenging to set up two-zone cooking areas in an everyday Weber kettle grill, for example, that is only eighteen to twenty-two inches in diameter; there is simply not ample space to achieve the direct/indirect cooking method successfully, in my opinion. One-zone direct heat cooking does require you to mind the grill a bit more, but that’s part of the grilling experience!


Grilling over direct heat and constantly flipping what you’re grilling moreover creates a lot more flavor due to the meat juices and fat drippings trickling onto the hot coals to produce epic, aromatic steam, as the vapors rise and are reabsorbed into the meat to keep it moist.

Remember to always keep your grill grate clean by using a dry grill brush to scrape off any charred bits stuck to it. When getting ready to grill, many recipes require you rub the grill grate with oil when hot to create a nonstick surface.

Cooking on a grill adds an unsurpassed smoked, charred depth not only to meat but also to everyday breakfast, (Huevos Rancheros and Grilled Quesadilla with Tomatillo Sauce) and it transforms ordinary vegetables into something especially unexpected.


When building a fire for your charcoal grill, I recommend using an ample amount of natural hardwood lump charcoal so you don’t risk the coals dying out during the cook, filling your grill halfway up from the bottom to the top grate. I prefer a hickory and oak mix, and always organic when possible. You want an even layer of coals all the way to the diameter of the grill, so be sure to spread them out. Before you even light your grill, make sure to open the vents. The fire will need oxygen to keep going. To light the grill, I’m a fan of natural fire starter sticks; they’re inexpensive and easy to use with no special chimney starter required (although you may use one if so inclined). With the lid off, stick four fire starters in the charcoal with one in the center and the other three around and light them with a kitchen lighter. After you light the coals, allow them to burn for about 10 to 15 minutes until you see a nice fire going and some of the coals turning red. Check to see if the coals are glowing evenly. If not, rake with a large grilling spatula and mix them around so that the dormant coals catch fire. Carefully secure the top grate in place with gloves and tongs, cover with the lid, and open the top vent fully so air properly circulates in the grill and smoke can escape. Leave the lid on for 10 to 15 minutes until the flames die down and the coals start to ash over. Uncover the grill and get ready to cook.



Charcoal gives you high, dry heat, but it doesn’t impart much flavor. I like having subtle hints of wood flavor in my cooking but find it overpowering to strictly grill over wood alone. So, I combine the best of both worlds and often add a few wood chunks to the coals when grilling. When building your fire, simply add 5 to 7 chunks of unsoaked applewood, oak, or hickory and mix them into your coals so they burn evenly with the charcoal.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

A Trip To Godzilla's Home, Toho, Made Us Want To Stomp Through Its Amazing Sets


Last month in Tokyo, Toho Studios opened its doors to the assembled press, providing a rare look at Godzilla props of yore. We got an up close and personal look at some of the coolest kaiju around—and the cities they’ve destroyed over the years—and we’ve got the pictures to prove it!

Toho’s Toshifumi Shimizu and Kohei Umino, whose actual official job title is “Godzilla Specialist” provided a guided tour and shed light on the future of Toho’s kaiju movies.


Kohei Umino discusses Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, the 1964 film featuring a Godzilla, Rodan, and Mothra team-up.

“The buildings in front are larger than the ones in the back, which are smaller to create more perspective,” explained Shimizu, who worked as the assistant director during the Millenium Godzilla series.

A whole city sprawled before us. Small buildings. Tiny cars. Cute little trees. The realism is staggering, and I just want to hop on the stage and stomp all over the place. I did not, of course.

A Rodan suit, arms spread, from the 2004 film Godzilla Final Wars loomed overhead, staring down a King Ghidorah suit from 2001's Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack.


The Godzilla in the background in the center is the current Godzilla: King of the Monsters design. Also, “please do not touch.”

“This is the oldest existing Godzilla suit,” said Shimizu, gesturing to a suit used in both 1994's Godzilla Vs. Space Godzilla and 1995's Godzilla Vs. Destroyah. The suit was painted red for the second film, but since the design is a fan favourite, it has since been repainted black.

“This is quite a heavy suit,” explained Shimizu. “Normally, the suit is made entirely from rubber, but in order to light it up in red, the suit’s torso area was also made from plastic.”

“With the rubber and the heavier plastic plus the lights and equipment for the smoke the suit emitted, it weighed 100 kilograms. It was quite heavy.”


According to Shimizu, Godzilla suits typically weigh around 59kg. However, the one from Godzilla Vs. Destroyah weighed 100kg, which puts it up there with the very first 1954 suit for the heaviest Godzilla suit. “The suit actor had a tough time.”

As Umino explained, a suit actor could lose a litre of sweat during a day’s work.

“One suit actor played King Ghidorah, and it was so difficult that the actor could only do short takes,” says Umino, who pointed out the wires holding up the monster’s heads like a puppet. “As you can see, we used wires, but in the movies, you cannot see them. We didn’t erase them with CG, which shows how advanced our film making techniques were.” But some of those techniques are being lost. “I think if we did a King Ghidorah now, people wouldn’t know how to operate the wires.”


King Ghidorah’s heads were controlled like a marionette.

The complicated puppetry used for this kaiju suit has apparently not been handed down. But that’s not the only thing that has been lost.

There are Godzilla films dating back to the 1950s, but surely some of the iconic Godzilla suits from before the mid-1990s have survived? Why is the 1994 suit the oldest?

Rubber kaiju, Umino told me later after I pulled him aside for a chat, start to degrade after a few years.


This is the upper body Godzilla costume. Perhaps since Toho actually allowed visitors to put it on their head, the wear and tear are definitely more apparent. It shows how the rubber can degrade over time.

The reason why the 1994 suit is the oldest existing Godzilla suit is that Toho previously did not meticulously preserve or store its archives. Instead, everything was just initially stuffed under a roof and exposed to Japan’s brutally hot summers.

“We didn’t keep archives at all originally,” said Umino. “But after seeing that places like Warner Bros. do, we thought keeping archives was important and that we should, too.”

Now, the Godzilla archives are cataloged and kept in temperature controlled storage in order to preserve them as long as possible. The rubber does still degrade, but the cool temperatures help slow that down. Toho also does maintenance on the suits, such as repainting and patching sections.


While visitors could handle the 2001 Godzilla upper body costume, the head for Megaguirus in 2000"s Godzilla vs. Megaguirus was definitely “do not touch.” However, you can notice how it is beginning to degrade.

While the suits might not hold up well over time, Toho does still have props dating back to the original 1954 film, with the oldest among item being the original Oxygen Destroyer. According to Toho, this is its most important Godzilla prop. The studio does not bring it out on a regular basis and even many Toho employees have not seen it firsthand.

Seeing all the prop images on display made me nostalgic for an era when practical effects ruled, and reminded me of that meme image of George Lucas surrounded by Star Wars models contrasted with him against a green screen.


The Oxygen Destroyer from the original 1954 Godzilla. This is one of the oldest, if not the most important, Godzilla movie props.

“International fans often get upset when the Toho Godzilla movies don’t feature a suit actor,” Umino told me. “But for Shin Godzilla, the original plan was to use both a hybrid CG and a suit actor. However, it was ultimately decided that CG worked best for that particular picture.”

Does that mean that all Toho Godzilla movies will be CG?

“I think for future Godzilla movies, whether we use a hybrid of suit acting and CG or just CG will be decided case by case,” he said.


The actual Mothra used in the character’s 1996 film.

There are signs that Toho is readying its kaiju suit production team. “Last year, we remade the original suit,” Umino explained. This was done to celebrate the character’s 64th anniversary, and the remade suit was shown in Tokyo Midtown.

By Toho having its artisans remake this iconic suit, the studio is ensuring that the artistic tradition that made Godzilla possible lives on.

“There are times that suit acting is best, such as the unexpected ways a building might be destroyed. But with CG,” Umino continued with a smile, “you can easily put those buildings back together.”

Here are even more looks at Toho’s incredible Godzilla props, sets, and suits.


Getting an inside peek at Toho and checking out all these iconic Godzilla suits and props was truly special. Sadly, Toho does not offer tours for the general public, but hopefully, we’ll see more even more suits and sets in future films.wpjax2uewdngkp9xkvct.jpg










Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Extraterrestrial Organic Matter Found In 3.3-Billion-Year-Old Volcanic Rock


Satellite image of the Barberton Greenstone Belt.

Geologists in France and Italy have spotted what appear to be organic molecules from outer space in 3.3-billion-year-old rocks in South Africa, according to a new study.

By now, we know that organic molecules, from methane to amino acids, exist in space, and perhaps some of these molecules were brought to our own planet via carbon-containing asteroids. Scientists studying ancient rock in South Africa seem to have uncovered evidence of the oldest examples yet of these extraterrestrial molecules.

A small range called the Makhonjwa Mountains or the Barberton Greenstone Belt sits in eastern South Africa and Swaziland, and contains a 23-to-66 foot thick deposit of 3.3-billion-year-old volcanic rock called the Josefdal Chert. Among layers of volcanic ash lie carbon-filled layers, deposited during times of lower volcanic activity, and the whole region appears to have been altered by the presence of water (like on a shorefront), according to the paper published in the journal Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta.

The researchers analysed a pair of postage stamp-sized samples gathered during field campaigns, sliced them into a few dozen pieces, and analysed them with electron microscopes, protons from a particle accelerator, and continuous-wave electron paramagnetic resonance (cw-EPR). In essence, the researchers measured how the samples’ electrons responded to a slowly changing magnetic field. They found different kinds of signals in the slices—most of them corresponded with carbon signals found elsewhere on Earth, but for one slice, it looked more like the signal from carbon-containing meteorites.

It didn’t surprise the researchers to find extraterrestrial material in their sediments—as they do today, micrometeorites likely fell on ancient Earth, bringing organic carbon molecules. What did surprise them is that somehow, there was enough of these materials present in the area to still be detectable 3.3 billion years later. They proposed that maybe the layer they analysed formed after a meteor impact produced a layer of dust in the atmosphere that then settled beneath a layer of volcanic ash.

This is just one piece of evidence, and not a literal molecule that was deposited 3.3 billion years ago. But it’s still an important thing to know. New Scientist reports that finding layers of extraterrestrial organic carbon from asteroids might complicate efforts to find similar-looking biosignatures on other planets, like Mars, since the signature an asteroid deposited might look like the signature of life.

Research continues to show that our planet’s rocks preserve an incredible history—not just our own history, but the history of the entire solar system.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

An Astounding Amount Of Water Has Been Discovered Beneath The Martian North Pole


Using ground-penetrating radar, scientists detected a massive reservoir of frozen water sandwiched by layers of sand beneath the northern polar ice cap on Mars. This reservoir contains so much ice that, if melted and brought to the surface, it would submerge the entire planet.

“This was a surprise even for us,” Stefano Nerozzi, the lead author of the new paper and a PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin, told Gizmodo in an email.

The massive reservoir was detected within Mars’ northern cavi unit, a deposit of multiple layers of water ice mixed in with sand that formed over the course of hundreds of millions of years. The cavi unit rests about 2 kilometres beneath the Martian north pole, and prior to the new study, scientists figured it was primarily composed of sand dunes and contained less than 50 per cent water ice by volume. These estimates were based on observations of visible outcrops, which revealed significant amounts of dark sands intermixed with small amounts of frozen water.

But now, radar scans from orbit suggests the cavi unit is packed with more water ice than sand, making it possibly the third-largest water reservoir on the Red Planet, followed only by the two polar ice caps. The new paper was published this week in Geophysical Research Letters.

These new observations were made by the Shallow Radar, or SHARAD, instrument aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. SHARAD emits surface-penetrating radar waves that allowed Nerozzi’s team to discern the internal structures and composition of the cavi unit.

Observations revealed horizontal slabs rich in ice that were sandwiched by alternating layers of sand. The distribution of water ice ranged from 61 to 88 per cent by volume, which means the cavi unit is primarily composed of frozen water. As noted in the press release, if melted and brought to the surface, “the newly discovered polar ice would be equivalent to a global layer of water around Mars at least 1.5 meters (5 feet) deep.” That’s a lot of water.


This composite image shows alternating layers of ice and sand in an area where they’re exposed on the surface of Mars. The water ice appears as light-coloured, while the sand is darker blue.

SHARAD data showed that the frequency and volume of the ice slabs increased with proximity to the north pole. In one region, for example, the researchers detected two sand sheets over 40 kilometres wide on top of a layer of ice ranging in depth from 50 to 100 meters.

These buried structures are the remnants of former ice caps which shrunk and were buried during warm periods, according to the paper. Consequently, this cavi unit contains a historical record of the Martian climate. The layers of ice are like the rings on a tree, showing the growth and retreat of ancient polar caps over the years. Like Earth, Mars has experienced multiple ice ages. During the warm periods, sand enveloped the shrunken ice caps, protecting them from the Sun and in turn preventing the ice from evaporating into the atmosphere.

“The only hypothesis that can reconcile our results and all the previous studies is that the cavi unit is made of alternating ice sheets, remnants of former polar caps, and sand layers, which acted as protective blanket and prevented the complete retreat of the old polar ice,” Nerozzi told Gizmodo.

“This is another big surprise in itself, because it means that we have a new and unexpected record of past polar ice cap growth and retreat that dates back hundreds of millions of years.”

Prior to the new study, scientists figured the ancient ice caps were lost, but SHARAD data suggests otherwise.

“These results are significant because it attests to past climate cycles in the north polar region,” Matthew Chojnacki, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona who was not involved in the new research, said in an email to Gizmodo. “For tens of millions of years, maybe longer, wind built up massive sand deposits which were repeatedly buried with various levels of ice. These intra-dune ice deposits happen on Earth but I’m not aware of such a large example as this north polar cavi unit on Mars.”

The new finding could also tell us a bit more about water ice located elsewhere on Mars, particularly in the lower latitudes. Jack Holt, co-author of the study and a researcher at the University of Arizona, previously used SHARAD to confirm the presence of massive glaciers in the Martian mid-latitudes—one of which is three times the size of Los Angeles. These glaciers are almost completely comprised of water ice, but they’re obscured by surface materials.

“Surprisingly, the total volume of water locked up in these buried polar deposits is roughly the same as all the water ice known to exist in glaciers and buried ice layers at lower latitudes on Mars, and they are approximately the same age,” said Holt in the University of Texas press release.

Mars, as we’re learning, holds a tremendous amount of water. This theoretically bodes well for future colonists in need of the precious liquid.

“The ice sheets might be very pure, with only a few per cent dust impurities. However, this unit is buried underneath a polar ice cap up to 2 kilometres thick, so it is not easy to reach,” said Nerozzi. “It would be much easier to extract nearly pure water from the ice at the surface of the polar cap. To make it drinkable, or process it into fuel for rockets, one would need to filter out the dust impurities and perhaps some salts.”

Nerozzi is continuing to study this cavi unit and using SHARAD to read the record of past polar cap evolution. Given the geological and climate data how available, he might even be able to reconstruct the entire formation history of the cavi.

“This would give us precious insights into the past distribution of water on the planet, and thus if any amount of liquid water existed near the equator that could have supported life,” said Nerozzi.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Taika Waititi’s ‘Akira’ Gets 2021 Release Date


The live-action adaptation of Akira has been through a multitude of directors (I’ve been writing about this movie since at least 2009 when Rurari Robinson was attached to direct), and it was getting close back in 2011 with Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows), but then that fell apart. Then Taika Waititi boarded the adaptation in September 2017 and it looks like his version might actually be happening. The director is putting the finishing touches on his latest film, Jojo Rabbit, but it appears he’ll then turn his attention to Akira. Warner Bros. has announced that the live-action version of Akira will arrive on May 21, 2021.

For those who are unfamiliar with the story, the anime takes place in Neo-Tokyo and follows the leader of a biker gang, Kaneda, as he teams up with a resistance member, Kei, and others to fight his friend Tetsuo, who is threatening to unleash his psychic powers on the city. It’s weird, visually impressive, and the last half of the film feels like Kaneda and Tetsuo just shouting each other’s names for a long time.


Will this be the version that finally makes it to the finish line? It’s hard to say! It’s also surprising that Warner Bros. keeps doubling down on Akira when live-action adaptations of popular manga/anime haven’t exactly been juggernauts at the box office. The live-action Ghost in the Shell made a paltry $40 million domestic off a $110 million budget. Alita: Battle Angel fared slightly better with $85 million except that its budget was $170 million (although a $404 million take worldwide certainly helped matters). I think Waititi’s a great director and I’m curious about his vision for Akira, but this is still an uphill battle no matter how much time and money Warner Bros. wants to throw at this project.

The only competition Akira currently has at that release date is John Wick: Chapter 4, which should be a formidable opponent at the box office.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

Community Software by Invision Power Services, Inc.