Mickey Mouse as You've Never Seen Him Before
Disney's most iconic character is Mickey Mouse, a happy-go-lucky, non-controversial figure. But Mickey wasn't always like that, as anyone who has seen the trouble he got into in Fantasia in the Sorcerer's Apprentice sequence can attest. There was a time when Mickey was quite mischievous and behaved badly. Now Warren Spector of Deus Ex gaming company, collaborating with Disney, hopes to bring some of the dark side of Mickey back in a 2010 game release for the Wii called Epic Mickey.
Mickey Mouse will be a hero in this platform-RPG. The storyline will take him through a cartoon wasteland created by Yen Sid, the wizard from the Sorcerer's Apprentice (and also Disney spelled backwards). The wasteland features all of Disney's forgotten and abandoned creations, with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit foremost among them. Oswald has grown bitter at Mickey's success, and Mickey must deal with this character to achieve his goal and save the world.
One of the challenges Spector had to face in creating this new game was creating a 3D animated version of Mickey Mouse. With a couple of rare exceptions, Mickey's always been in 2D and the animators cheated all the time...In 3D you can't do that, so I looked at the few previous 3D Mickeys and I didn't feel anybody had gotten it right. We went through probably thousands of concepts trying to find the right look...Rendering it in 3D was tough and then getting it to move like a cartoon character was a huge challenge and tons of fun, Spector notes. Epic Mickey is expected to hit the market in the fall of next year.
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Anti-Counterfeiting Treaty Leaks to Internet
Sometimes it's necessary to cover something that is weird but NOT cool. Such is the case with the Internet chapter of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. This is a copyright treaty whose text the US government cited national security concerns in refusing to disclose. Okay then, how bad can it be? In Cory Doctorow's words, It's bad. Very bad.
According to the terms of the treaty, ISPs would have to proactively police copyright on user-contributed material. That's in contrast to how it's handled today, where common carrier precedents do not hold ISPs liable for copyright-infringing material posted by users unless they've been informed of it and refuse to take it down. Think of the difficulties in running a service such as Flickr or YouTube or even Blogger if the ISP had to check each and every item posted to make sure it did not infringe someone's copyright!
Another example of the pain such a treaty could cause lies in its requirement that ISPs cut off the Internet access of anyone accused of copyright infringement or face liability. There are at least two problems with this. First, just because someone is accused of copyright infringement doesn't mean they've actually done it, so the rule could punish the innocent. Second, given that Internet access these days is arranged for an entire household at a time, a whole family could be denied access to the Internet if just one member is accused of copyright infringement, which DEFINITELY punishes the innocent. Note that these are just two of a number of problems with this chapter of the treaty.
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Try, Try Again: NASA's Elevator to Space Competition
In three years, NASA's Space Elevator Games have yet to produce a winner. But that doesn't stop teams from trying. This week, in the Mojave Desert, near NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, three teams were scheduled to compete in the fourth annual games, for $2 million in prizes. Teams must use laser beams to power a machine to climb a cable suspended from a helicopter hovering more than a half-mile high. To win, the machine must climb at a rate of 16.4 feet per second.
It may sound crazy, but it's simply a step in an attempt to make science fiction into science fact and travel into space a lot cheaper and safer than it currently is. The idea of riding an elevator into space was first conceived in the 1960s and popularized in 1979 by Arthur C. Clarke in his novel The Fountains of Paradise. In the book, electrically powered vehicles run up and down a cable anchored to earth and extending into space, thousands of miles up. The cable is anchored at the space end by a mass in geosynchronous orbit.
We certainly have satellites capable of such orbits communications satellites use them all the time but the space elevator idea faces other challenges. Is there any substance with all the properties needed for a cable that would be that long, and used under those conditions? Can a machine climb up the cable quickly enough to make space elevators viable? NASA hopes, with its challenge, to keep the science moving forward and maybe, this year, we'll have a winner.
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