SciTechBlog
May 25, 2010

Geek Out!: Five unanswered 'Lost' finale questions

Posted: 01:28 PM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the 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 SciTech blog.

There are many, many questions still out there about "Lost," some which were answered vaguely, many that are "up for interpretation," shall we say... and the series finale itself raised some questions as well.

Here are just five of the frequently asked questions about the way the show ended, and my best educated guesses on the answers:

Q: Did all the characters die in the original plane crash?
A: No. Going by what Christian Shepard told Jack (and the fact that the final scene showed Jack's death), everyone died at different times, some on the island, others many years later. In the case of Hurley and Ben, it would appear that they died after perhaps thousands of years protecting the island, like Jacob, based on their exchange about being a great number one and number two.

Q: Why didn't Ben go into the church? Why was Penny there? Where were Michael and Walt?
A: It would seem that Ben, despite knowing the truth about purgatory (that's what we'll call it here, anyway), chose to stay there a little longer as a father figure to Alex. Desmond and Penny weren't on the plane, but Desmond brought all these people together, and Penny was the reason he "let go" and had a connection to everyone else there.

Michael's ghost is presumably still on the island, whispering. Walt either wasn't ready to "let go," or already has, which brings us to the next question...

Q: Why were people the age/state they were in purgatory? Why did Aaron have to be born again, for example?
A: One presumes that Aaron lived a long full life, but he had to be born in purgatory for Claire to "let go." Everything that people needed to "let go" was there for them if they were willing to accept what had happened to them.

The sixth season premiere actually implied that Rose might have been trying to help Jack "let go" while on the plane, and she said those words to him herself (this scene was replayed on the "Jimmy Kimmel Live" special after the finale). This might also partially explain why Walt wasn't in the finale, as most people in purgatory would remember him as a kid, not the teenager that the actor (and character, when Locke last saw him) is today.

Q: What was that light/"source" on the island after all? How did that cork get there? What were those skeletons below the waterfall?
A: For those looking for concrete answers, this could be the most frustrating question of all. Last year, executive producer Damon Lindelof told E! Online, "I feel like you have to be very careful about entering into Midi-Chlorian territory (referring to the oft-maligned Star Wars Episode I)... But 'What is the Island?' That starts to get into 'What is the Force?' It is a place. I can't explain to you why it moves through space-time—it just does. You have to accept the fact that it does."

The "source" is whatever you interpret it to be. In "Across the Sea," it was implied that Jacob and the Man in Black's Mother was not the first protector of the island, and that many people have been there and have dealt with the light or "source" while they were there. The Dharma Initiative is just one example of that.

The skeletons and the cork are likely representations of people who were there before the Mother even got there.

Q: Did Ajira Flight 316 return to the mainland safely? We saw the wreckage of a plane during the end credits.
That was the wreckage of Oceanic 815, which I would interpret as further confirmation of Jack saying, "There are no shortcuts, no do-overs – what happened, happened. All of this matters."

The plane did crash, they did land on that island, and the "flash-sideways" was only a "do-over" in the heads of the crash survivors and others. One can assume that Kate, Sawyer, Claire, Richard, Miles and Lapidus all landed safely and went on with their lives.

And speaking of moving on with our lives, here was Lindelof's final "Lost"-related tweet before going to an "undisclosed location:" "Remember. Let go. Move on. I will miss it more than I can ever say."

There is no doubt in my mind that this series and this finale will continue to resonate and be debated for years to come. And that's exactly the way the makers of "Lost" wanted it.

Share your final thoughts on "Lost," not to mention my interpretation of the finale's big questions, in the comments below.

Filed under: Geek Out! • television


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May 21, 2010

Geek Out!: iReporters predict the end of 'Lost'

Posted: 02:14 PM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the 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 SciTech blog.

iReporters shared their theories and predictions on how "Lost" would end. Check out the video above!

And if you would like to react to the finale, upload your video on Sunday night. In the meantime, you have one last chance to share your prediction about the finale below.

Filed under: Geek Out! • television


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May 20, 2010

Google rolls out 'the future of television'

Posted: 12:48 PM ET

Saying it will "change the future of television," Google on Thursday rolled out Google TV - the internet giant's venture into web-TV integration.

The application, run by Google's Android operating system, lets users search for content from their television, DVR and the web.

Even as sites like Google-owned YouTube have increasingly emerged as viable entertainment options, the move is a nod to a basic truth of leisure time.

"There's still not a better medium to reach a wider and broader audience than television," said Google project director Rishi Chandra.

The platform will let users search for content, from the name of a TV show to the name of a network, in much the same way a Google search works. They'll get results from TV and the web and be able to watch either on their TV screen.

"Videos should be consumed on the biggest, best, brightest screen in your house," Chandra said. "That's your TV."

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Filed under: Google • television • YouTube


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Geek Out!: Can anything replace 'Lost?'

Posted: 09:01 AM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the 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 SciTech blog.

Where will the next "Lost" come from? Just as Jacob found his replacement in Jack, one has to wonder what, if anything, will replace this phenomenon. The Geek Out! team members have some very different opinions on this subject.

Henry Hanks:

Intriguing mysteries, parallel worlds, weird science and J.J. Abrams… yes, of course, I’m talking about “Fringe.”

Currently in its second season, this show is quickly becoming one of my favorites, and quickly grabbing a cult fan base. I think “Lost” fans looking for the next show to obsess about (or just watch for fun) could do no better than to check out “Fringe,” if they haven’t already, that is. John Noble’s performance as Walter is certainly on par with Michael Emerson or Terry O’Quinn.

And we actually know what it’s about now! That didn’t even take two years!

Christian DuChateau:

Viewers are much more likely to see the next “Lost” not on the major broadcast networks but on cable TV. Networks like AMC, FX and USA are attracting viewers with edgy, intelligent, character-driven dramas like “Mad Men,” “Justified” and “Burn Notice.”

Because they don’t have to attract as big an audience as the major networks, the cable nets can afford to take a risk on a new show with a complex mythology. AMC will put this to the test in the fall, with their new sci-fi drama, “The Walking Dead.”

The network has ordered six episodes of the series, based on the comic book of the same name. The story follows a small group of survivors stranded in an apocalyptic future overrun with zombies.

It’s a sci-fi premise, a story driven by interpersonal conflicts, and if you’ve read the comic you’re already aware, no character is safe. Hmmm, sounds familiar.

Doug Gross

George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" fantasy novel series is epic in scope and complexity in a way "Lost" fans should recognize and enjoy.

After years of turning down several movie offers, Martin - a fan of series like "Rome" and "Deadwood" - signed up with HBO to turn the books into a series. The show, "Game of Thrones," named for the first book in the series, is set to start up some time next spring.

Martin's characters are complex, with the line between good and evil often blurry at best. There are surprises aplenty in a fully realized high-fantasy world that rivals Tolkein's Middle Earth.

No seriously. It does.

If the series stays true to the books, there will be bloody medieval-style battles, alliances made and broken and just enough magic to keep things interesting.

Plus ... dragons.

Topher Kohan:

There will never be another “Lost” and we should stop trying to look for one. What made shows like “Lost,” “X-Files,” “Battlestar Galactica” - and, heck, even “24” - what they are is that they were, and are, cultural phenomena.

Let’s forget that fact that “Lost” is one of TV’s most expensive shows to produce, and let’s forget that TV is more and more going away from sci-fi-type shows. “Lost” is one of a kind, and if we keep looking for the next “Lost” we’ll will hate a bunch of good TV just because we thought it should be the “next” whatever.

I will miss “Lost” when it goes off the air. Then I will look for a the next show I will like and watch it for the show that it is, not try and compare it to the show it will never be.

Is “Lost” truly one of a kind, or is there something out there that can replace it for fans? Share your opinion below.

Filed under: Geek Out! • pop culture • television


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May 17, 2010

Geek Out!: Farewell (or good riddance) to 'Heroes'

Posted: 04:17 PM ET
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Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the 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 SciTech blog.

Let's travel back to the year 2007. Back then, Marvel was working on a very risky movie version of "Iron Man" with Robert Downey, Jr., the idea of a musical TV series sounded preposterous, and viewers were excited about the season finale of a show called "Heroes," which had become a phenomenon.

The phrase "Save the cheerleader, save the world" had successfully entered the public lexicon, with no small help from the NBC promotions department, and Masi Oka was a breakout star for his portrayal of the lovable time-stopping, time-traveling Hiro. The next-to-last episode of the season had the villainous Sylar set on attacking New York City, with a bunch of ordinary people with extraordinary abilities preparing to come together to stop him.

Here was an exciting show with a continuing story arc that actually answered questions, unlike the then-floundering "Lost," and fans ate it up. Then a funny thing happened: the season finale was not that great. Nathan flew into outer space with his brother Peter, averting disaster before he exploded like a nuclear bomb. All in all, it was pretty anticlimactic.

Season two spent a lot of time in feudal Japan where Hiro ended up, and we were introduced to a few new characters who were about as interesting as watching paint dry (with the exception of Kristen Bell's electro-charged Elle). The second part of the season was scrapped due to the writers' strike, so the show made an attempt to get back in the good graces of fans by screening the season three premiere at the San Diego Comic-Con.

Season three was just a mess. It seemed as though the writers threw everything they could at the wall to see what stuck. New plot points were introduced and old ones forgotten on a regular basis.

If you want an example of how to handle time travel in an interesting way, check out the fifth season of "Lost." If you want to see an example of how to handle it badly, check out the third season of "Heroes." At one point, all of the characters lost their powers in a solar eclipse, a plotline which ultimately went nowhere. And then there was the time when Hiro literally regressed to being a child. The less said about that, the better.

It also looked like Sylar might redeem himself but that didn't take either. It seemed as though a solution had been found to get rid of Sylar, by making him believe he was Nathan, but eventually that was reversed in the increasingly confusing fourth season.

Sylar was a fascinating character, no doubt, and Zachary Quinto chewed the scenery whenever given a chance. But eventually the show seemed to be all about him, never mind the title.

So, at long last, "Heroes" is over, and that's probably for the best. There were some great moments no doubt (usually when Bryan Fuller was writing), but it was a slow death that was hard to watch.

It's a cautionary tale for other shows which capture the public's imagination early on. There are reports that the show might wrap up as a TV-movie in the coming season. Either way, I look forward to the new show "The Cape," which on the surface bears a lot of similarity to Batman, and hope that it can succeed where "Heroes" failed.

Filed under: Geek Out! • television


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May 11, 2010

Geek Out!: Stephen Hawking and five ways to travel in time

Posted: 01:31 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 SciTech blog.

Stephen Hawking's new Discovery Channel series, "Into the Universe," aired again last night and continues into next week. In it, the famed cosmologist discusses the mathematical probability of aliens, the Big Bang and time travel. Hawking's theories on time travel in particular seem fairly optimistic - although "Back to the Future"-style DeLoreans are conspicuously absent. That will be the topic next week. Taking a cue from the show, here are five semi-practical models of time travel:

Barrel through a wormhole
If time itself is a dimension like length and height and width, then Hawking says the fabric of time contains imperfections we could take advantage of. A smooth billiards ball has microscopic crevices, and so does spacetime. We'd need to find a true "wormhole" and prop it open, and then head on through.

The caveat, of course, is that we'd be facing heavy radiation feedback concerns (a bit like the screeches you hear at rock concerts) and even without that problem, that we would create paradoxes by messing around with historical events in the past. For this reason, Hawking believes travel to the past may well be impossible.

Go near a black hole
It's simple: All we have to do is find a supermassive black hole and get into its orbit without being sucked into it. Hawking says time would slow down for the people in orbit relative to people elsewhere. Now to find a black hole ...

Go really, really fast
Hawking says if we can get close to the speed of light, a "cosmic speed limit" will kick in to prevent going any faster. Approaching roughly 186,000 miles per second, time will slow down for the traveler vs. the observer. When the traveler emerges, they will have jumped into the future. We just have to develop an engine that can go that fast. Don't try this on the Autobahn, folks.

Live on a space station
Turns out Cosmonaut Sergei Avdeyev is said to hold the record for the most time traveled into the future: about 20 milliseconds. His cumulative experience aboard Russian space station Mir gave him an edge over the competition. Hawking discusses in his documentary how orbiting global positioning satellites must have their timekeeping adjusted every so often because of the relative time slowdown.

Become a Retronaut
This one might be a cop-out, but many scientists (including Hawking) argue that time travel to the past is paradoxical and potentially impossible. In lieu of a Wayback machine, we can turn to the work of Chris Wilds, who created a website about his experiments with being a being a Retronaut. That is, a person who travels into the past by exploring perceptions of time. Whether by looking at old pictures juxtaposed with new ones (which we experimented with at CNN iReport a few weeks ago) or hunting anachronisms, Wilds' site hints that time travel may be all in your head.

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Filed under: Astronomy • Space • television • universe


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May 4, 2010

Geek Out!: The real Dharma Initiative?

Posted: 02:40 PM ET
The Dharma Initiative booth at San Diego Comic-Con 2008
The Dharma Initiative booth at San Diego Comic-Con 2008

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the 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 SciTech blog.

The Dharma Initiative. Red herring or consequential? Once one of the biggest mysteries of "Lost," much of what it was about was revealed in season five.

A short refresher course: Dharma (Department of Heuristics And Research on Material Applications) was founded in the 1970s by a couple of scientists named the DeGroots, who were greatly influenced by the work of psychologist and inventor B.F. Skinner. They were given funding by one Alvar Hanso, which allowed them to send a large team to the island to conduct research in meteorology, psychology, parapsychology, zoology, electromagnetism and Utopian social engineering.

A major reason why we know all of this is thanks to the orientation films hosted by Dr. Pierre Chang, a.k.a. Marvin Candle, a.k.a. Mark Wickmund, a.k.a. Edgar Halliwax. So what did Francois Chau, the actor who played Chang, think of all of this? "This stuff is way over my head. Astrophysics is not something I would read about," he said. "But what they were researching is pretty interesting. I never would have known any of this stuff if I hadn’t gotten involved."

Much of their research does exist in the real world, leading one to another question: Are there organizations from history that may have inspired the idea of the Dharma Initiative?

Ask many who have pondered that question, and one answer you often hear (aside from Skinner, obviously) is DARPA. DARPA - the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency - is often credited with creating the internet and has researched and developed some pretty advanced stuff, especially in the area of robotics. DARPA even sounds like "Dharma," but as tempting as it is to draw conclusions about the two, the similarities start and end there (for one thing, Dharma is a private organization).

One person who has thought about this quite a bit is blogger Klint "Klintron" Finley, who has written about the concept of "real-life Dharma initiatives" extensively at Hatch23.com. "I think it stems from various trends and movements from the '60s and '70s," he said. "More specifically, anywhere that two or more of the following intersected: Eastern spirituality, fringe science, defense spending, disturbing psychological research, experiments in utopian/communal living and experiments social control."

He points to many possible influences for the Dharma concept but thinks there is one in particular that shares a lot with Dharma: the Esalen Institute. Made famous in a 1967 New York Times article, the institute began as a place where one could, as its website says, have "the intellectual freedom to consider systems of thought and feeling that lie beyond the current constraints of mainstream academia."

It still serves as a retreat center at the beautiful Big Sur mountains to this day and, according to the website, has been devoted to the exploration of human potential since the 1960s. It's here that the "Physics Consciousness Research Group" was allegedly co-founded in 1975 by theoretical physicist Jack Sarfatti. Sarfatti is the author of such works as "Progress in Post-Quantum Physics and Unified Field Theory" and "Super Cosmos: Through Studies Through the Stars."

And what about Dharma's benefactor, Hanso? Aside from maybe Richard Alpert and Charles Widmore, no one character has fascinated and mystified fans more. ... In fact, much of the online "Lost Experience" a few years ago revolved around him. (According to Finley, Hanso may have been modeled after people like inventor Charles F. Kettering, who died in 1958.) In ABC's game "The Lost Experience," players found out that a main reason for his interest in the Dharma Initiative was the "Valenzetti Equation." In "Lost" lore, this is a calculation of the exact date on which humankind would wipe itself out, consisting of the familiar "numbers" from the hatch, Hurley's lottery ticket and, we now know, Jacob's candidates. Dharma was trying to change these numbers in order to save the world.

The closest thing to such an equation in the real world would appear to be the doomsday argument, which theoretically would calculate the probability that a certain number of humans could still be born in the future. Similarly, there is the Doomsday Clock, which symbolizes how close we supposedly are to the end of the world, whether due to nuclear war or, more recently, global warming or possibly harmful technological factors.

Leaving aside the reasons behind Dharma and their areas of study, it turns out that Dharma's method of having a closed-off area for research is quite common, according to Georgia Tech associate professor of electromagnetics Gregory Durgin: "There is a longstanding tradition of placing research groups in secluded places together, providing the members resources, privacy and freedom to develop important technologies. One of the earliest and most famous examples of this is the Manhattan Project, where an entire community of scientists was established in the New Mexico desert for developing the atom bomb."

Durgin says that such arrangements are necessary in certain cases. "Any researcher will tell you that, when a new frontier of knowledge opens up, some degree of seclusion and freedom are required to study the emerging field," he said. "Without some 'hedge of protection,' technical people get roped increasingly into the mundane maintenance of an organization. ... Thus, today's corporate research labs foster an 'island culture' of freedom (complete with the same hippie themes of the Dharma Initiative) without having to ship out their technical personnel to the South Pacific."

A modern example of an "island culture" that comes to mind for him is that mysterious, shadowy organization known as ... Google. "They have game rooms, pools, cafeterias with exotic foods and eclectic décor, all in the hopes of providing a unique culture of innovation for their personnel" at the "Googleplex" near San Jose, California. "It’s the 'do no evil' approach to managing researchers."

Close to reality or not, some of the most hardcore fans focused in on the Dharma Initiative over the years as a major part of unraveling the mysteries of "Lost." Clearly, the "incident" (or lack thereof, depending on how you look at it) caused a lot of what we're seeing take place in this final season. But what further role, if any, does it play in the war between Widmore and the Man in Black? That remains to be seen.

How do you think the show's last few episodes will play out? Share your theory (keep it brief!) on CNN iReport. In the meantime, share your thoughts on Dharma, or anything else "Lost"-related below, and look for another "Geek Out!" post on one of our favorite shows next Tuesday.

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Filed under: Geek Out! • television


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April 30, 2010

WSJ: Google TV to be announced in May

Posted: 10:41 AM ET

Google is trying to bring the Web to your living room.

The search engine giant plans next month to unveil a new software package to help developers better display the internet on TV sets, according to the Wall Street Journal, which quotes unnamed sources familiar with the announcement.

Google TV, an android-based software platform, has drawn interest from TV makers, the Journal says.

Google is expected to break the news at the Google's I/O conference, which will be held May 19 and 20 in San Francisco, California, the newspaper reports.

At the conference, Sony also will announce a TV that runs an Intel chip and Google's software, Bloomberg reports.

In an e-mail to CNN, a Google spokesman declined to comment, saying, "We don't comment on rumor or speculation."

This comes as the idea of "connected TV," or television sets that let people browse the Web for video, news stories, video conferencing and to stream music, continues to get a push from electronics and internet companies.

A number of companies are developing apps, or software programs, that format the Web for optimal viewing on TV sets. Some are creating hardware to help with the transition, too.

[via Mashable]

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Filed under: Google • television


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April 23, 2010

Geek Out!: The 'Fett' is back!

Posted: 04:14 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 SciTech blog.

With the 30th anniversary of “The Empire Strikes Back” only weeks away [May 21, mark your calendars!] I was happy to see that “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” [on Cartoon Network, which, like CNN, is a division of TimeWarner] was about to start a three-episode season finale arc this Friday called “Death Trap.”

Why? Because one of the Star Wars universe's biggest fan favorites - Boba Fett! - will make his first appearance.

I, like many Star Wars fans, love “Empire,” and believe it's the best in the original trilogy. And, by far, my favorite character from the movie is "The Fett."

To be completely accurate, Boba Fett was first introduced to us in an animated section of the ill-fated 1978 “Star Wars Holliday Special” [You know ... the one that inspired Lucas to say he would like to "... track down every copy of that show and smash it."] .

Also, Kenner released a Boba Fett action figure before "The Empire Strikes Back" was released.

And if we want to get *really* deep into Star Wars geekdom, I'll point out that his first "public" appearance was at the San Anselmo's County Fair parade on September 24, 1978, in a parade alongside Darth Vader.

But when the largest group of us saw him first was on the bridge of the Star Destroyer being briefed by Darth Vader.

We loved him from the get-go.

He wore that cool Mandalorian armor [not that we knew what it was called when we saw the movie]. He hid what he looked like. He said only 29 words in the entire original trilogy.

His ship, Slave I, was so whacked-out looking. He was just ... cool.

It was even cooler that he was hunting down the heroes of the movie and we were never 100 percent sure of his motives. Was he just in it for the money? Or did he have another reason he wanted to get his hands on Han Solo?

For me, he was the second coolest of all the characters we meet in the Star Wars universe [I'm a Vader guy]. He is also one of the characters that we meet in the Star Wars universe that gets their back-story fully fleshed out later in the movies (Ep II, Ep III, Ep V, Ep VI), video games and comics books.

I can't think of a part of the Star Wars world that does not have at least a mention of him.

Are you a Boba Fett Fan? What went through your mind when you first saw him in the Star Wars universe? Let us know in the comments.

Also, what are your favorite “Empire Strikes Back” memories, especially if you saw the movie when it first came out? Share your story and photos on CNN iReport.

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Filed under: Geek Out! • Movies • pop culture • television


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March 18, 2010

Google entering the 'smart TV' market, reports say

Posted: 03:09 PM ET

Google and its partners are looking to become the latest players to beam Web content onto your television, according to media reports.

The Web search giant, along with Intel and Sony, would integrate applications like Twitter and the Picasa photo site onto TV screens, according to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

Both reports attributed news of the project, said to be in its early stages, to unnamed sources. Google did not return a message from CNN seeking comment.

Google would open its Android smartphone operating system to developers to use for the television project, according to the reports.

Projects based on the software could begin popping up as early as this summer, the Times reported.

The move would follow several established companies and some startups working to more fluidly combine Web content and television viewing.

Earlier this month, TiVo announced that subscribers will be able to pull Internet content, music and movies onto their televisions more easily with a new Premiere service.

The "Boxee Box," which won the title of "Last Gadget Standing" at January's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, lets users search and store Web content and either play it on television or share it on social-networking sites.

California-based company Roku has also rolled out a digital video player that integrates television, Web content and a video library.

What do you think? Would you welcome Google's entry into the TV business?

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Filed under: consumer tech • Google • television


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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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