SciTechBlog
March 23, 2010

Geek Out!: Trailer for Weird Al 'biopic' up on Funny or Die

Posted: 11:59 AM ET
 
 
Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.
 
Remember when "Weird Al" Yankovic hooked up with Madonna?

Or the booze-fueled meltdown that nearly ended his career?

Yeah ... neither do we. But that didn't keep all of those titillating moments out of a movie trailer for "Weird:  The Al Yankovic Story."

The spoof video was posted early Tuesday on the comedy site Funny or Die.

Watch the video.

"Finally, my life story is being made into a major motion picture!" Yankovic wrote early Tuesday morning on his Twitter feed - @alyankovic.

The trailer spans Yankovic's fictional life, from being busted as a child for hiding copies of "Accordion Player" magazine under his mattress to the drunken tirade aimed at his bandmates - a staple of any rock star's life story.

"Nobody wants to hear a parody song, when they can hear the real thing for the same price," Yankovic says, playing a smarmy record-company executive.

"Breaking Bad" star Aaron Paul plays Al himself in a star-studded cast that includes Academy Award winner Mary Steenburgen, Olivia Wilde and comedian Patton Oswalt as Dr. Demento, the host of the syndicated novelty-song show on which Weird Al got his start.

Founded by actor Will Ferrell and others, Funny or Die has emerged as a platform for famous actors to cut loose - filming one-off projects they probably couldn't get approved anywhere else.

Sadly, there are no plans for an actual movie on the life of the man who brought us classics like "Eat It," "Dare to Be Stupid" and "White & Nerdy."

But if he can spoof the songs of famous pop stars, why not follow them into the biopic world too?

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Filed under: Geek Out! • Internet • Movies • Music • online video • pop culture


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March 22, 2010

Geek Out!: What will we get from iPhone 4.0?

Posted: 02:15 PM ET
 
 
Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's Marquee and SciTech blogs.
 
 
The launch of the iPad is looming, but some of us are still more concerned about what's going to be new for its smaller-statured brother - the iPhone.

There will likely be an update to the phone’s operating system in conjunction with the release of the iPad.  The question is – what will we get?

There have been plenty of rumors that this update will be BIG.  Of course, "big" is a relative term and could really mean anything.

The hottest rumor is that the phone may actually be able to finally run more than one application at a time.

For Apple geeks, that would be bigger than big  - that would be huge -  and would bring our beloved iPhone in line with Palm’s Pre.

There are some other smaller features I would love to see come to my favorite technological addiction.  Some of these include:

_ Tethering/Hotspot creation:  The Palm Pre can do this – time for AT&T to allow the iPhone to do the same – i.e. create a wireless hotspot or allow the phone to be tethered to a laptop so you can surf anywhere.  I don’t even care if I have to pay for this feature – just don’t expect me to pay much. (An additional $15 -25 would be in line with what I'd expect).

_ Bluetooth remote profile:  The last update gave us Bluetooth streaming for wireless headphones and other audio devices.  But for some unknown reason Mr. Jobs neglected to include the profile that lets you change tracks.  Please enable this!

_ Custom sound sets: Friends with jailbroken phones (who will remain nameless) lord this over me all the time.  Why can’t I make my e-mail, SMS or other alerts sound like whatever I want?  Also, why can’t I choose just one email address (my work account for example) to beep/buzz when I get a new email?  Right now it’s all or nothing. 

Those are just a few of the things that bug me on this phone.  And as always, it’s not that the phone isn’t great - it’s that it could be so much better! 

What features do you want to see?  What isn’t there that drives you crazy?  And let's leave new hardware features for another post!

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Filed under: Geek Out! • iPad • iPhone • Palm Pre • smartphones • technology


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March 19, 2010

Geek Out!: Still got game

Posted: 12:52 PM ET
Older gamers still got game
Older gamers still got game

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's Marquee and SciTech blogs.

It’s been an epic week for gamers. First God of War III and then Starcraft beta news. As I trudge in to work today, a little worn out from last night’s Dol Guldur run, I can spot a few others who share the hallmarks of my gaming hobby.

As gamers in our 30s, we’re a little more otherworld-weary than the high school and college-aged kids who were waiting in line to buy God of War III Monday night. But as older gamers we keep coming back to the table. Why is that?

Here’s a conversation I bet a lot of us have had at one point in the last 10 years. Chat log:

ScaryGrrl: This game reminds me of Castle Wolfenstein!
Solereaper: What is that?
ScaryGrrl: Umm, a game, from the 80s.
Solereaper: Dude, how old are you?

Has gaming evolved to a point where it’s a surprise that someone my age would be as into a game as someone (clearly) 15 – 20 years younger than me?

No way! Older gamers still have plenty of game.

Back in the 70s when Atari introduced the 2600 console, we could nestle in the safety of our homes and play to our heart’s content without having to face the questions of “why do you play those things?” from our classmates and teachers.

The kids LARPing and playing D & D back then have become the adults who now embrace new technology in all its forms whether it be FPS games, MMO’s or console games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero.

The draw for gamers today is the same as it was back then: Escape. For a brief period of time you can be anyone, do anything. Back then it was a roll of the dice and you won the fight, got the loot and praise from your party. Today, all it takes is a few well-timed keyboard clicks and you can become the hero, get the best gear and have the adoration of your guild.

The best part about being an older gamer is the choice. Today there’s a buffet of nerdly delights. Games like WoW, Eve Online and Lord of The Rings Online offer the chance to become one of the characters we read about in grade school. I chose the chance to follow Frodo and his fellowship to Mount Doom. I started playing LoTRO in beta three years ago and I’m still hooked. We’ve made it to Mirkwood Forest and are marshalling the rangers to aid us in our fight.

Do you still have game? Do you notice a difference between younger and older gamers?

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Filed under: Geek Out!


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Geek Out!: Starcraft II : Wings of Liberty

Posted: 11:20 AM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting nerd culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.

[Correction: I mistakenly say in the video that Sarcraft 2 is published by
Activision/Blizzard, but in fact it is being published by Blizzard
Entertainment
. Sorry, Blizzard!]

I got a chance to check out “Starcraft II,” along with colleague Larry Frum.

Subtitled “Wings of Liberty,” the sequel – currently in closed beta - is a long-awaited follow-up to Blizzard’s much-loved real-time strategy game.

The attached video is our full review. But here are a few high points:

Pros:
Beautiful to look at
Smooth game play
Smooth controls

Cons:

Unbalanced game play, based on which race you play
Hard to see whole map
No single-player mode

We both like what we’ve played so far, and patch updates from Blizzard have done a lot to help with the unbalanced game play.

The game will have three releases. We’re expecting the first will allow single-player play as a Terran [i.e. human] and the future ones will expand to the other two - Zerg, Protoss. And with just the first full release, players will be able to go online, at battle.net, and play the other two races in multi-player mode.

What was our final verdict? Watch the video to find out.

Are you in the closed beta? Have you had a chance to play? Let us know what you thought in the comments below.

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Filed under: Geek Out! • video games


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March 16, 2010

Geek Out!: Two CNNers rate 'God of War III'

Posted: 01:40 PM ET
God of War 3
God of War 3

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature on latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From sci-fi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's Marquee and SciTech blogs.

"God of War III" is officially out today, and scores of gamers are no doubt fighting fatigue after waiting in line last night to get their hands on this highly anticipated game. "GOW III" follows a warrior, Kratos, who has a serious beef with the ancient Greek gods. He battles zombie warriors, minotaurs, ogres and other mythological creatures on his way to exact revenge. And when he gets to the gods, "God of War III" gets really good.

Two of CNN.com's resident gamers, Larry Frum and Dereyck Moore, have played the game and are raving about it. *SPOILER ALERT* If you're one of those people who don't want to know about the gory, HD details, look away now. For those of you ready to find out specific details and gameplay, read on!

Larry Frum, one of our bloggers, got his hands on an advanced copy of the game. Here's what he had to say:

“God of War III” is spectacular in all facets of the production. From the graphics to the gameplay to the story itself, the team at Sony Santa Monica really put their all into making this game worth the three-year wait.

Boss battles are with various gods and defeating each has far-reaching consequences. Beating Poseidon, god of the sea, causes the oceans of the world to rise. Killing Apollo, the god of the Sun, darkens the skies and blocks out the light. Breaking the neck of Hera, wife of Zeus, causes all plant life to die. This game is all about making the Kratos series bigger.

There are new weapons to use, new magic to unveil and new combinations to dazzle opponents. Kratos can strike with Hercules’ gauntlets, and then use Army of Sparta magic to fend off opponents, before finishing them off with the Nemesis Whip.

Indeed, the scale of the game is probably the most impressive aspect of “God of War 3”. Battling gods on top of Titans while other Titans are climbing Mount Olympus and watery horses rise up to try to drown Kratos – it can be a bit overwhelming.

It is difficult to stop playing at any given point in the game. Even after boss battles, I find the story pulling me along to the next sequence without feeling rushed. This is a game that I want to play because I will enjoy the challenges, battles and cinematics. But more than anything, I want to know how it ends. And that’s what compels me to go forward.

Dereyck Moore, a member of our Digital Business Integration team, waited in line last night for his own copy of the game, and couldn't wait to start playing. Here are his impressions:

I left the store with my copy in hand at about 12:10 am. By 12:30 am, the PS3 was fired up, and so was I. From the moment the game began, it didn't just feel like watching any old movie, it was a movie of considerable size and scale. It felt "Avatarish."

Scale has always been an integral part of the "God of War" trilogy storytelling, and with the Sony Playstation 3's ability to produce unparalleled graphics and sound, "God of War III" is a complete assault on the senses. Every drop of blood from the hoards of Kratos' victims is visible and distinct, as is the way he can dismember one of them, or one hundred of them. The scenes depicted bring many of the traditional Greek mythological buildings and characters to life in breathtaking detail and artistry.

Did I mention the sound? The game does an outstanding job of accentuating the strength, might and willpower of its central figure to endure all that he sees and experiences. No titan is too large, and no foe is too gigantic to deter the will of Kratos, and it sounds like it. As he fights his way through these unimaginable worlds, the detail of every crunch, every grunt and every blade slicing an enemy can be heard perfectly in stunning quality. At the same time, his footsteps in a darkened corridor or an enormous chamber reflect the depth of the space compared to the action he's facing, and those sounds are equally as impeccable. The game's music soundtrack completes the mood, and it is also outstanding.

Have you gotten your hands on "GOW III" yet? If so, what do you think so far?

Filed under: Geek Out! • video games


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March 12, 2010

Geek Out!: My life with pi

Posted: 03:09 PM ET
Pumpkin pi.
Pumpkin pi.

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting nerd culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.

Happy (almost) Pi Day, everyone! I'm going to be eating some pie with my friends Sunday to commemorate the day. But Pi Day (see my CNN.com story here) wasn't always so well-recognized.

When I was 13, I thought I was different because several of my hobbies involved the number pi. For me, the ratio of circumference to diameter of a circle held many exciting possibilities. Since no one had proven that the digits were random, yet there were infinitely many of them, I saw this as an amazing opportunity for creative expression, and perhaps some code-cracking too.

For instance, you can put pi to music: using a piano, make middle C=1, D=2, E=3, and so on, you have a song representing pi. At the first instance of "0" the melody breaks down a bit (I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the “0” anyway), but I think there's a natural musical ending ("53421") - ending back on middle C - with the number 1 at digit 95.

I also did a lot of pi-related creative writing back in my teenage years, including this song "American Pi." Here’s a poetry technique you can try too: the number of letters in each word correspond to a digit, so a “pi poem” begins with a three-letter word, a one-letter word, a four-letter word, and so on. Here’s an example I wrote, representing (3.1415926535897932384626433832795).

Why, π? Stop, π! Weird anomalies do behave badly!
You, madly conjured, imperfect, strange, numerical,
Why do you maintain this facade?
In finite time you are barbaric.
You do wonders, mesmerize minds!

It was also fun to memorize digits from the poster in my math classroom. When that poster ran out around digit 50, I turned to books. To remember the digits of pi, I primarily relied on a rhythm in my head that grouped 2, 3, or 4 digits together at a time. To me it was three point one four one five nine two six and so on, although more ambitious pi memorizers may use other methods.

Today, it appears that pi become much more mainstream than when I first fell in love with it. Back in 1997, I had only my books and a few Web sites to draw from for pi inspiration. Now, there are hundreds of pi-related Web resources, not to mention a great deal of enthusiasm on YouTube – you’ll find pi recitations far longer more than my personal record of 178, and pi songs that are more ambitious than my own. It’s on "The Simpsons," in the movies, and a lot of other places you’d least expect. There’s even a Kate Bush song involving the digits of pi. Judging by how many pi-related t-shirts there are, I’d say it’s become a status symbol in this whole "geek is chic" movement.

Apparently it’s not so weird to like pi anymore. In fact, pi has actually brought me closer to other people. One of my good friends, also a pi fan, learned of my existence in 2002 when I published an opinion piece about pi in the Philadelphia Inquirer. A college classmate spent the morning of March 14, 2005, memorizing more than 200 digits so that he could beat me at Princeton’s annual math department Pi Day celebration (he took first place, I took second, we're still friends). In recent years I’ve worn a pi-related outfit at Dragon Con, which is a great ice-breaker among thousands of self-proclaimed geeks.

Clearly, I will not be the only one eating pie in honor of Pi Day on Sunday. What are you doing for Pi Day? Share your ideas in the comments.

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Filed under: Geek Out! • Mathematics


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March 4, 2010

'Hella' proposed as standard scientific prefix

Posted: 06:28 PM ET

"1,000 yottabytes? That's hellabytes."

So proclaims a T-shirt sold by the campaign to make "hella" the prefix for 10^27, an extremely large number written out as a 1 followed by 27 zeroes.

Apparently, there is not yet a standard prefix for this number, in the way that "kilo" is "thousand" and "mega" is "million." That's how you know that a "kilobyte" is 1,000 bytes and a "megabyte" is 1,000,000 bytes. But so far only prefixes for units up to 10^24 ("yotta") have names, according to the International System of Units (SI). Here are the established prefixes.

Now comes a Facebook page (with more than 37,000 fans and counting), and an online petition to get "hella," a hip, Northern California slang term that means "a whole lot of" as a standard prefix for 10^27.

Here's an excerpt from the Facebook page, written by physics student Austin Sendek at the University of California, Davis:

Addressing this issue presents an exciting opportunity. Since the SI system has traditionally adopted the last names of accomplished scientists for unit nomenclature, it follows that prefix designation should do the same. From this tradition comes the chance for the SI system to use nomenclature to honor a constantly overlooked scientific contributor: Northern California.

According to Sendek, since Northern California institutions have contributed greatly to scientific endeavors, it makes sense to honor the region with "hella." Apparently, that's where people originally started saying things like, "there are hella stars out tonight."

Speaking of stars, the word "hella" would be useful to describe the sun's energy, which is 4 x 10^27 watts according to NASA. That would be 4 hellawatts according to the proposal.

What do you think about bringing "hella" into scientific standard practice?

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Filed under: Facebook • Geek Out!


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Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

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