Weird Tales

Weird Tales: Zambian Space Program

Hello and welcome to the far reaches of the unusual and unexpected, the Weird Tales That Happens To Be True.

 

The year is 1964, Zambia have just started celebrating their independence and their very first, very own president, Kenneth Kaunda. Not everyone in the crowd is smiling though. Edward Makuka Nkoloso spoke up, telling the entire crowd (and the visiting journalists from Time Magazine) to keep quiet, as they were disrupting the Zambian Space Program.

At his own initiative, Nkoloso had entered Zambia into the ongoing Space Race, with the intention to beat both USA and Russia to the moon and later to put a man on Mars. By that time, Zambia had less than 100 college graduates, and Nkoloso was not one of them. He was a grade-school science teacher and the self-appointed director of the unofficial National Academy of Science, Space Research and Philosophy.

Nkoloso had it all figured out. All he needed was $700 million from UNESCO and he’d build the launcher that would take 10 Zambian men and a 17-year-old girl (and her cat) to Mars, passing by the moon on the way. The launcher was a gigantic catapult and the “pod” was a 10x6m aluminium tube with no machinery or furniture.

The Zambian scientist claimed he could’ve conquered the natives of Mars a mere week after the independence of Zambia, if UNESCO had granted him the funding. He had observed Mars for months at his secret laboratory and found that Mars was inhabited by primitive humans. He promised not to convert them to Christianity, should they chose to keep their own religion.

The space program met an ungraceful end shortly after Nkoloso had finished training the 11 people and the feline to walk on their hands, the only way they could walk on the moon. He called for the arrest of American and Russian “spies”, who were trying to steal his space secrets and by this point, the Zambian government distanced themselves from the science teacher.

As odd as it may sound, Nkoloso did a lot right. He didn’t know everything needed to do a successful space mission, but he knew that space was the next big thing. He wanted his country to be part of the space race and did everything he could to make that happen. He had several training regiments that showed he knew some things about space. A prime example is how he had the trainees swing on ropes as he cut the rope when they reached the peak, to simulate zero gravity, or how he had them ride inside an oil barrel downhill to simulate the extreme pressure they’d endure during launch.

All he really needed was the funding, a following and fellow scientists and engineers who could fill in the gap, and Zambia might have been the first nation to put a human (or cat) on Mars.

It is better to aim for the stars and miss than to aim at the ground and hit.

About these ads
Torch Top 5

The Torch Top 5 – April 21st

5) Heroes reboot announced

The producers behind hit-and-miss TV show Heroes have announced they want to try again. The show hit good ratings in its first season, but when the writer’s strike of 2007 hit, the ratings plummeted. They now feel the show did not get the chance it deserved and are working on making a reboot of the series to correct all wrongs.
If this comes to be, we can expect to see the familiar everyday-men turned supermen on the TV-screens in mid-2016.

4) Boys don’t read

According to OnePoll, men don’t read as much as they used to while women read more than ever. The same poll revealed that men are more likely to wait for a televised version of a book, even if they are interested in the premise.
The most common cause given by men is lack of time or difficulty to enjoy written words.

It was also revealed that 20% of those who did say they read books did this to appear more intelligent.

3) Top 40 of 2013 revealed

The Official Charts Company has revealed the 40 best selling albums of last year. Surprisingly Daft Punk’s ‘Random Access Memories’ placed second and Robbie Williams’ comeback came third.
The top seller of last year was ‘AM’ by Arctic Monkeys.
The chart only looks at physical discs sold in record stores, which could explain the lower numbers on last year’s most talked about album, ‘Time’ by Rod Stewart, which came in at number 7. Continue reading

Torch Top 5

The Torch Top 5 – April 14th

5) Mysterious bank shutdown

On Thursday evening, all of Swedish bank Swedbank’s systems were mysteriously shut off. Neither customers nor employees could access anything that had to do with the bank for 5 hours, starting at 9pm local time. This included bank withdrawals, credit card services, the telephone services and even the website.

An investigation has been launched to find out the reason why all the backup systems failed at once, but so far no cause has been stated.

4) Peaches Geldof dies, aged 25

Actress Peaches Geldof, daughter of music legend Bob Geldof, was found dead of a brain aneurysm in her apartment in Kent.
Geldof is survived by her husband, Thomas Cohen, her father and her daughter.

3) GWAR raises monument

Thrash band GWAR will raise a permanent monument to the late lead singer Dave Brockie, aka Oderus Urungus. Brockie passed away earlier this year, aged 50.
The statue will be accompanied by a foundation, the Dave Brockie Foundation, to promote advancement of music, images, letters and performances in arts as well as preserving the legacy of Dave’s works.
The foundation will mainly target struggling artists who, like GWAR themselves, have found it hard to survive through “mainstream channels”.

2) Kick-ass director remakes He-Man

The cinematic bomb that is Masters Of The Universe, the live action film about Mattel toy He-Man, has been cleared for a remake. Sony has been toying with the idea since 2009 and on the Wednesday it was announced that it will be done.
There were several writers in line to take on this project. Among them were Jon Chu from G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. But it was Jeff Wadlow, most known for the Kick-Ass series, that managed to land the contract.

Masters Of The Universe is scheduled for a 2016 release.

1) Ultimate Warrior dies, aged 54

WWE wrestler Ultimate Warrior, iconic for being the only wrestler who ever beat Hulk Hogan in a fair match, passed away on Tuesday evening. The cause of death has not yet been released.
The energetic wrestler legally changed his name from James Hellwig in 1993. He had just been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Ultimate Warrior is survived by his wife, Dana, and his two daughters.

Torch Top 5

The Torch Top 5 – April 4th

5) “TV-licence” extends in many countries

Sweden was one of the first countries to do it and now more countries follow. UK is about to do it as well.
We’re talking about extending the “TV-licence”, the fee put on every television owner in a country to fund the public service TV and radio stations, to include other devices as well. More and more public service stations have taken the leap into an online environment and with this, they feel that computers should be included as well.
Certain countries even include smartphones and game consoles into the licensable devices.

This is a sign that the world is going more and more into the virtual environment of the Internet for every day.

4) Bionic animatronic

German scientists have produced the first ever bionic animal, an entirely mechanical animal. The biomechanical leap was taken quite literally as the team at Festo created a mechanical kangaroo, capable of not only jumping and then recovering its balance, but also to store the energy recovered when landing for its next jump. This mimics the function of a real kangaroo perfectly.

The mechanical animal has no commercial use, but it instead used as an example to get more aspiring students interested in biomimetics, the study of mechanical applications of designs in nature.

3) Marvelous plans

Marvel has high ambition for their current series of superhero movies. The movies that center around the heroes in the team called Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy will be produced for a long time. The current production schedule extends all the way to 2028, according to Marvel Studio president Kevin Feige. Continue reading

Torch Top 5

The Torch Top 5, March 31st 2014

5) Minecraft retracts Oculus Rift support

After the recent announcement that Facebook bought Oculus VR, Mojang announced they will drop all development for the virtual reality hardware.
Mojang and Oculus were working on a virtual reality version of Minecraft but Notch Persson, owner and founder of Mojang, has decided to pull the plug. Notch stated on his blog that the reason behind the decision was his fear that Facebook might use the company to limit the development of games. He went on to state: “Virtual Reality and social media is not a bad combination, but I don’t want to work with social media, I want to work with games.”

4) Cerebral Ballzy frontman in musical horror

Honor Titus, frontman of New York punk band Cerebral Ballzy, will play the leading role in the horror film Condemned. The film is about a musician livinf in a condemned squat that gets overtaken by an infection that causes the residents to go crazy. The only thing that can save him is his skills with his collection of vintage bass guitars.

3) Ian Flemming’s love letters recovered

Earlier this week, James Bond author Ian Flemming’s letters to Edith Morpurgo, his first love, was found. The letters were written in the early 1930’s in Austria and contains many flaming descriptions. One letter was so rowdy, it had been torn to pieces and patched back together with tape.
An example of his early writing: “I would also like to hurt you because you have earned it and in order to tame you like a little wild animal. So be careful, you.”

2) World War I a century old

On Thursday March 27th it’s been exactly 100 years since World War I broke out in Soviet, now Russia. It would take another 2 months, until June 28th until the rest of Europe would follow, when the infamous “shot that was heard over the world” was fired in Sarajevo.
The centennial is commemorated all over the world during these two months with several global events.

1) Facebook acquires virtual tech

Social network Facebook bought the virtual reality hardware manufacturer Oculus VR. The company creates the virtual reality headgear Oculus Rift and was bought for 2 billion USD.
Facebook plans to use the headset for more than gaming and have expressed intention to find a use for it in social media.

Torch Top 5

The Torch Top 5, March 17th

5) Terminator kinda sequel, kinda reboot announced

The next instalment in the Terminator series will begin filming shortly. Terminator: Genesis will take place around the same time as the first two movies and follow Sarah Connor once again, but this time we will get to see things from the other side.
In a style similar to Back To The Future, director Alan Taylor wants to show the original events from a different perspective.

4)  Guitar Hero goes Children’s Author

Rock legend Keith Richards from Rolling Stones has found a new career. In a story inspired by his grandfather and illustrations by his daughter, Richards is about to publish a children’s book.
Richards just became a grandfather himself, for the fifth time, so he really knows what he’s talking about.

3) EU bans phone chargers

On Thursday, EU politicians backed a regulation that will force smartphone makers to only use one type of charger. The bill will help reduce electronic waste and reduces the need for several chargers in the same home.
Apple, one of the few manufacturers that haven’t gone over to the standard mini-USB charger, was surprisingly one of the first backers of the new bill.

2) Lady Gaga accused of fraud

Charity foundation “Born This Way”, started by Lady Gaga, has been accused of squandering away most of its donations to legal fees and promotions. Based on a tax report from the foundations, millions of dollars were spent on promoting and securing the foundation, while only 5000 dollars reached its intended destination.
According to Gaga and her co-founder Cynthia Germanotta, this is just a misunderstanding of the tax report. They both assure their donors that most money reached the intended charities.

1) SL Go met with backlash

SL GO, a mobile client for Second Life, recently went to Open Beta. The viewer looks and performs much like the standard SL Viewer. However, it was met with huge criticism due to its pricing.
Unlike its contenders that either work on a monthly subscription or initial purchase model, SL GO has an hourly rate of as much as 8$ per hour.
You can try the viewer out on any android device for 20 minutes for free on slgo.onlive.com.

Torch Top 5

The Torch Top 5 – 10/3 2014

5) OUYA will come to more devices

OUYA CEO Julie Uhrman announced earlier this week that the storefront, called Discover, will be available to several Android devices. The decision to open it up to more devices than the console itself is inspired by Amazon’s Kindle setup, where you have the Kindle devices, but you can access the books from almost any smart device.

They will put certain hardware requirements on Discover to ensure the customer can play all games offered.

4) Archie is back

The popular 1940’s American Classic comic Archie will be back sometime next year. This is thanks to the star and creator of Girls, Lena Dunham, who has been approved to write a new four-part story about Archie Andrews.
Dunham has been a long-time fan of the series and was sent a box full of Archie comics by the publishers for her research. Within a week she had read them all and pitched a story to the publishers, who approved it right away.

Dunham’s Archie stories will be released sometime in 2015.

3) Power Suit available soon

Italian robotics company Percro has engineered the first publicly available and cost efficient robotic power suit, Continue reading

her-movie-poster

Barton’s Movie Reviews – HER

Both a heartfelt and captivating film, Her is a love story like no other.

Joaquin Phoenix stars as Theodore Twombly, a writer going through a divorce who decides to purchase a new operating system to meet his every need. The trouble is that it does more than that when he falls in love with the operating system named Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson).

Set in 2025, Her shows us a world where people rely on technology even more than they do today. So much so that some people are more comfortable having a relationship with their computer software than another human being.

The initial idea of the film is one that could alienate an audience but I recommend that you should give Her a chance. It really could turn out to surprise you.

The film is funny, wonderfully written by director Spike Jonze and beautifully shot by Hoyte van Hoytema. 

Theodore and Samantha are played exceedingly well by Phoenix and Johansson. They have a genuine chemistry and that is quite an achievement for a film that has only one human in the relationship.

That is one of the most interesting aspects of Her. Johansson’s performance as Samantha makes you think of her as more than just a voice. Some of the emotional exchanges between Theodore and Samantha are very moving.

There is also some good work from the supporting cast. Amy Adams plays Amy, Theodore’s friend who breaks up with her husband and also finds herself becoming close with an operating system. You can always rely on Adams to deliver, whether it be in the main role or in a lesser supporting role.

Rooney Mara brings a steeliness to Theodore’s ex-wife, Catherine and Olivia Wilde shows up briefly as Amelia, a woman who Samantha sets Theodore up on a date with. Theodore’s struggle to let go of Catherine and his lack of interaction with humans make this date all set to fail.

Her is an alternative to all the love stories that are released in the cinemas nowadays. Her is also a film that is so relevant in today’s world, of course with the relationship between man and machine taken to a whole new level.

 

Verdict: 4/5

ThoughtsCyberverse

Thoughts from the Cyberverse: Altcoins, the alternative BitCoins

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that even BitCoins have novelty currencies, just like the celebratory silver coins or gold coins that most other currencies have. It is hard to do that with a digital currency, though, so instead several sites have decided to make their sites and “miners” into the novelty. Their entire service becomes “endorsed” by what they are celebrating.

That is where the problems lie though. Many of these so called Altcoins aren’t endorsed at all, they are just trying to cash in on a celebrity or something that is popular at the moment. Such was the case with the Norris Coin, which claimed to be endorsed by Chuck Norris. Norris had nothing to do with the service and before the service even launched the site was taken down and legal action was taken against the owners.

The potential customers got lucky here, as the service was removed before any transactions could take place, but others are not as lucky. Coinye West is another Altcoin company that uses what they now call a “half-man-half-fish mutant with sunglasses” which closely resembles rapper Kanye West. Late November last year, the company was struck with a Cease-And-Desist from West’s lawyers but they fought the claim. The lawyers are now threatening to take legal action against not only the company, but all who use the coins provided by Coinye.

This is a typical example of what happens when something is new and easy to make money from. We have seen this form of copying and alteratization in all forms of new products and services. Who doesn’t remember the Kickbike craze in the early noughties? One year we have over 15 million sold units from the company that invented it, the next year 15 other companies try to sell copies of the same thing.

I’m not saying it’s wrong, on the contrary, this is how new products and services gets a foothold on the world market and evolve as products and services. It follows the stages of learning: Copy, Modify, Create. The Kickbike craze eventually died down, but they are still out there. They are still being used and produced and remade and made better. I believe we are in the Copy phase of BitCoins right now and once some really smart people get a hang of it, they will start the Modify phase, where we will see the digital currency evolve to a new, improved form. After that, those same smart people will create something of their own and that’s when we will really see Altcoins take off. Continue reading

Torch Top 5

The Torch Top 5 4/11-2013

1) Music legend Lou Reed passed away

Velvet Underground founder and music legend Lou Reed passed away on Sunday, October 27th. Reed had three decades of a successful solo career, even though most of his earlier work never reached commercial success. The singles released both from Velvet Underground and in his solo career didn’t sell well, but still topped the charts. Reed is also known as the man who invented the Ostrich Guitar Tuning, where every string on the guitar is tuned to the same note instead of the regular tuning.

He died at the age of 71 after complications from a liver transplant.

2) Command & Conquer free-2-play cancelled

Command & Conquer Generals 2 have been cancelled by the publisher, Electronic Arts. With this announcement they also announced that the developing studio, Bioware Victory, which is a subsidiary of major developing studio Bioware, will also be closed down. Continue reading