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Review: Splice

Written by Jon Schwarzmann on . Posted in Film

When Splice, which opens in theaters everywhere this Friday, first screened at January’s Sundance Film Festival in Park City, two of our very own writers had the dubious honor of taking it all in.

Now, six months later and with the film’s distributor ramping up a massive ad blitz, we thought it would be as good a time as any to post their initial reactions to that original cut. For those of you planning to see the film, Kristin Clift’s spoiler-free version is directly below. For those of you who couldn’t care less, scroll down for Jon Schwarzmann’s spoiler-heavy review.

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The Automotive Revolution Has Begun

Written by Jon Schwarzmann on . Posted in Tech

The time is soon arriving that the oil barons have been dreading and conspiring against for years. That is,  when electric vehicles (EVs) are no longer a pipe dream of burnt out hippies, but rather a fully viable consumer product.

A while back we talked about Better Place, a company helping to visualize and build the infrastructure needed for the EV to thrive on. What wasn’t known at the time was how many big name auto manufacturers were actually going to be putting out these vehicles. Let it be known that while there aren’t going to be a huge amount of cars to pick from, one key factor will be the kind of EV you choose.

There’s going to be a strict division between types of EVs. Automakers are either taking the pure-electric route or opting for a hybrid-electric engine. The all-electric category is obvious — you plug these bad boys in and they run purely off the electricity for their 100-200 mile range. Top speeds vary, but you’ll have no trouble taking them on the highways. Don’t be expecting to sit in the passing lane like you’re used to though.

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Gaming Future Is Almost Here

Written by Jon Schwarzmann on . Posted in Tech

Last year at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, Microsoft and Sony announced game-changing technologies (literally) and, unless you’re a gamer, you probably haven’t heard of them. Both have to do with user motion-control for the Xbox and PlayStation 3, which directly encroaches on Nintendos long-standing and popular gimmick.

Except Microsoft is taking a different route than the motion controller. They’re taking the controller completely out of the equation by using a host of sensors designed to read your body. Yep, pretend like you’re driving a car, shooting a gun or even fishing and you can play your favorite driving, shooter and fishing games.  If this sounds good to you, then you’re the exact kind of gamer the monopolistic company is looking for, which is to say you’re not (a gamer, that is). You see, this sort of virtual technology has never caught on, and yes, this isn’t its first incarnation.

I remember playing VR games in Vegas nearly ten years ago, and it was lame. Why? Because if you’re pretending to grip a steering wheel, aim a gun or cast a net and there’s nothing in your hand, then you’re going to have no connection with the game you’re playing. But isn’t that the point of video games — to play them, to disconnect from reality? Oh wait, that’s what all entertainment is designed to do. Maybe that’s the thing: to reach a level of gaming where you don’t feel like you’re playing a game. Perhaps this is supposed to make the virtual world more real.  It’s an interesting concept and is the entire idea behind Project Natal. It’s also a giant gamble.

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The Future Is Nuclear

Written by Jon Schwarzmann on . Posted in Tech

It’s been a very long time since I could say I liked Bill Gates, let alone agreed with him. But in a recent Ted Talk (thanks PopSci), he lauded the efforts of President Obama in pushing for a broader use of nuclear power and even supported the idea. Now, when two people with whom I vehemently disagree most of the time start talking about turning to nuclear power (something I have been saying for years), it deserves a look into why they’re saying it now — especially since these two VIPs come from very “green,” “save the world” backgrounds.

Nuclear power is a very old, very underused, and very misunderstood form of energy.  For 60 years the world was gripped by fear of a “nuclear holocaust,” and the impression this left on the  general psyche of humanity has been far from positive. Also, thanks to Soviet negligence at Chernobyl and American pride at Three Mile Island, actual nuclear plants have been painted as evil, unstable and not worth the “risk” by those of the tree-hugging nature. I’ve always found this opposition to such cheap, enviro-friendly power completely ridiculous. I’m no nuclear physicist (yet), but having studied this alternative numerous times over the past 10 years and followed new technologies introduced to the field, I have to proclaim myself to be well-informed on the matter.

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All Alone, But Still Trying

Written by Jon Schwarzmann on . Posted in Tech

This post may be controversial to some, but I see it as something worth talking about.

I heard about Peter Duesberg last semester in my BIO 1610 class, then I read a Newsweek article about him, entitled “The World’s Most Reviled Genius.” In the article you learn quite a bit about Duesberg, his professional career, as well as some basic science/biology. Duesberg became pretty famous in his pioneering work on finding the causes of cancer back in the ’60s. He set himself apart as a true savant for the next two decades, but then began going in a new direction.

Instead of going along with the whole oncogene origin theory of cancer, to which he contributed, he theorized that aneuploidy is the true cause of cancer. In layman’s terms, this is when a cell has either an excess or absence of chromosomes. Most of the time this isn’t a problem, because cells have “self-destruct” mechanisms that takes over once this condition is recognized, but sometimes it doesn’t happen correctly. Down syndrome is caused by this, but according to Newsweek and Duesberg’s research, this condition is also present in the majority of cancers and tumors. While this isn’t a very popular idea in the U.S., some scientists overseas are starting to take notice of his research.

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Even More Google

Written by Jon Schwarzmann on . Posted in Tech

Well, it seems Google, everyone’s favorite Internet company, is trying to take another leap forward.  This time on two fronts. For one, by promising language translation software that works right from your cellphone. And secondly, with their new social networking tool, Buzz.

Let’s talk cellphone interpreter first. The basic plan is to create software that can translate on the fly, letting us break through a few language barriers as we traipse across the globe. While this would be totally awesome, even with the ambiguous time-table of “a few years” away, I have my doubts on Google being able to accomplish such a lofty goal. Even the most advanced consumer voice recognition software has trouble with basic sentences, despite them being spoken in the most robotic, monotonous voice imaginable.

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Electric Cars for Reals?

Written by Jon Schwarzmann on . Posted in Tech

After a too-long absence from writing for Rhombus, I find it fitting to come back with an article that was inspired via request by another Rhombus contributor, a one Mr. J. Petersen, who sent me a link to a company called Better Place.

Simply put, Better Place is a company trying to do for the auto industry what has long been a pipe-dream for every clean-energy, clean-car nut since the ’60s, by making electric cars/vehicles a viable mode of transportation. Not being a stranger to this idea, I already had a lot of objections that needed answering before I believed these guys were serious and not just some sloppy start up.

It should be noted that electric cars have already been shown to work — the engineering isn’t anything new. But there are several major hurdles this technology must overcome to make it into reality, and it seems Better Place has the answers. At least, that’s what they want you to think.

Putting the HD "Revolution" Behind Us

Written by Jon Schwarzmann on . Posted in Tech

It’s fairly hard to argue that both HD and the Blu-Ray disc (BD) are not successful consumer technologies. In fact, if you want to go out and buy a brand new standard definition television, you probably won’t be able to. It even appears that Best Buy doesn’t offer SD televisions anymore, unless you want to watch The Office on a seven-inch screen. Perhaps you have basic Comcast cable, then you should be getting the local channels in HD as well. Of course, owning an HDTV sure helps.

Finding any high-def naysayers has been difficult of late, as they’ve all seemingly succumbed to the idea that you cannot argue with pixels — 1920 x 1080 is absolutely more than 640 x 480. It’s an undeniable fact. One might as well attempt to prove 2+2 does not equal 4. With all this talk of pixels, we’ve found the most compelling reason for the success of high-definition technology — it just looks better and, of course, it is better.

What about the Blu-Ray disc? Why such controversy over it and why do I constantly get told that people “don’t get it?” I would actually say the main reason is because of its name. When pioneering the technology, Sony was directly competing with Toshiba, who were marketing their HD-DVD at the same time. Of course, Sony couldn’t use the same name, so they came up with Blu-Ray.

Facing Global Issues

Written by Jon Schwarzmann on . Posted in Tech

Human progress is an interesting thing. If we look at a strictly anthropologic/evolutionary view, we as a species have been evolving over the past few million years. From walking upright to developing an enlarged left side of the brain which promotes the use of language to eradicating smallpox and landing on the moon (sorry, it wasn’t a hoax), we as a species have come a long way and survived countless trials.

Yet, despite this amazing history of survival and adaptability, if we listen to some people we’ll be told that we’re not only carving the coffin for the species, but lining it with future generations. At first blush, this topic may not seem appropriate for a tech article but, if the doomsayers are to be believed, technology is exactly the formula leading to our downfall. Whether it’s the threat of nuclear war, global warming/climate change, the emptying of our fossil fuel reserves by 2050, overpopulation of the earth, running out of drinkable water or human enslavement by robots, all our alleged problems ca be blamed on human innovation and invention.

Home Invasion: Netflix, the Game Console and You

Written by Jon Schwarzmann on . Posted in Tech

Chances are you either have Netflix, know someone that does, or at least watched a Netflixed movie. The hugely successful online movie rental giant somewhat recently launched their “Watch Instantly” option for all their plans, giving users lightning fast access to hundreds of movies, as long as their internet connection allows it. In fact, Netflix has provided the perfect solution for my weekly movie night with Jordan Petersen, using the economical $8.99 one-at-a-time plan to rent our flick, while still allowing us to stream movies individually throughout the week. It’s the perfect fix for any cinephile.

Last year, Netflix teamed up with Microsoft to provide Xbox 360 systems the ability to stream “Watch Instantly” movies straight to your living room (Xbox Live Gold membership required, $7.99 per month).  This was a smart move by Netflix, but of course Microsoft had to get their greedy hold on such a lucrative venture, forcing Netflix to sign a two-year agreement. The details are a bit fuzzy, but it appears the deal calls for Netflix to stay away from offering their services via any other gaming consoles.