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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AOL celebrates 25 years

Posted: 11:52 AM ET
Mario takes on the Universe
Mario takes on the Universe

AOL, an early titan of the internet that now finds itself struggling to rebrand in a vastly bigger online world, turned 25 on Monday.

In people years, 25 is young. On the internet, it makes you a wizened veteran.

At a celebration at AOL's Dulles, Virginia, campus, chairman and CEO Tim Armstrong worked to turn a celebration of the seminal web portal's past into a look at its future.

"Today's event is not just meant to honor that rich history, but celebrate the next 25 years of helping people through innovation and creativity," he said. "We're certainly proud of our past, but we're even more excited about what we have in store for customers as we move forward into the future."

To be sure, AOL's customer base is smaller than it once was in the dial-up days.

Known best for its pay e-mail service and "you've got mail!" greeting, AOL has watched a peak of 26 million customers dwindle to about 6 million by the end of last year. Its instant messenger service remains viable, although it too has slipped as people move toward text messaging and direct messages on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

But AOL's homepage remains one of the internet's most visited, ranking consistently in the top five sites and drawing about 250 million unique visitors a month, according to web analyzers comScore.

After a split late last year with CNN parent company TimeWarner (dissolving a deal that some analysts have called the worst corporate marriage in history) AOL rolled out a visual remake and a new strategy.

Focusing on advertising, a blog network and quick-hit news, AOL is stepping into areas that may not even carry the familiar AOL logos (the blue triangle and yellow "running man" have largely disappeared and AOL is now technically "aol." - with the period).

Some landmarks of AOL's first 25 years:

_ 1985: Launched as Quantum Computer Services
_ 1989: Members hear "You've got mail!" for the first time
_ 1989: Instant Messenger launches
_ 1995: AOL reaches 1 million members
_ 1996: The "running man" debuts on Instant Messenger
_ 1998: "You've Got Mail" movie is released
_ 2001: AOL and Time Warner merge
_ 2006: AOL begins offering e-mail and most of its web services for free
_ 2009: AOL separates from Time Warner. Time Warner stock that once sold at $99 hovers around $30 a share

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Filed under: Internet


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May 24, 2010

Britney passes Ashton atop Twitter

Posted: 11:07 AM ET
Mario takes on the Universe
Mario takes on the Universe

Alas, poor Ashton.

You may have beaten us to 1 million followers on Twitter, but that's so last year. Now, Twitter is Britney's world.

Over the weekend, the official Britney Spears Twitter account passed actor Ashton Kutcher's feed as the most popular on the microblogging site.

Both are closing in on a whopping 5 million followers - Britney had about 4,946,000 as of late Monday morning, compared to Kutcher's 4,942,000.

Her new place in the top spot comes despite the fact that Britney's feed, in contrast to Kutcher's ultra-personal musings, is largely filled by posts from her manager, Adam Leber, and other staffers.

She does chime in from time to time, though, with posts like "Happy mamas day ya'll!! -Brit," on May 9. The most recent Britney post on Twitter - where many popular users are always updating their status - is from last Wednesday.

There was no acknowledgement of the milestone on the feed.

On Kutcher's Twitter feed , he addressed the seismic shift in the Twitterverse by dismissing it.

He's been doing promotional interviews for his upcoming movie "Killers" and said that - behind "Are you having a baby?" - the most popular question from reporters has been about being passed by Britney.

"Answer 'I don't care. Aren't u suppose 2B a movie reporter?' " he wrote Sunday night.

Aside from the mind-boggling realization that Britney has at least 5 million fans, the most interesting aspect of the news may be what the numbers say about Twitter's growth - or at least the growth of its most popular users.

Just over a year ago, Kutcher and CNN's breaking news account, @CNNbrk, were publicly racing to become the first Twitter account with 1 million followers (that CNN account now has just over 3 million).

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Filed under: Internet • universe


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Geek Out!: Stars, Shadow & Iron Man (too)

Posted: 10:14 AM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From sci-fi and fantasy to games 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.

Mario takes on the Universe
Mario takes on the Universe

Despite having some well-deserved time off that did not see any console gameplay time (except for "Picross 3D" on the handheld – I’m hooked), three games found their way into my consoles demanding play when I returned.

“Super Mario Galaxy 2” (Nintendo) is a fun, galactic ride for everyone’s favorite plumber in his never-ending quest to defeat Bowser and rescue Princess Peach. The game starts off typically enough with Bowser kidnapping the Princess apparently for her baking skills and Mario goes planet hopping on his effort to collect stars and save the fair damsel.

The graphics are colorful and whimsical and the gameplay on the Wii is very solid. The platforming action has moments of 2D and 3D movement, but does so without sacrificing camera angles. The Wii controller expertly keeps Mario and friends on their targets and the music didn’t detract from the action.

The planets and spaceships that Mario visits are varied in size and shape. First of all, his own spaceship looks like his head – no worries about losing it in a mall parking lot. The game progresses along a pretty linear path from planet to planet – some large planets that you can tunnel through and some small ones that seem to take two steps to get from one side to the next.

Mario collects power stars to fuel his ship, collects coins and star bits to power himself and specialty items to do different things. In all, this is a fun game for everyone and is a nice addition to the extensive library featuring Mario and friends.

The only drawback – and it feels like nitpicking – is the constant barrage of reminders by characters in the game how much more fun I could be having if there was another person playing along with me. If I’ve started the game as one player, I’m likely to be continuing as one player. I understand the Wii wants to be a console for the entire family, but there are some of us who just like solo missions. As I said, a little nitpicking but it was the only detraction I found.

If “Super Mario Galaxy 2” is all about fun and frivolity, then “Dead To Rights: Retribution” is the opposite.

“DTR: Retribution” (Volatile/Namco Bandai) features a tough, gritty cop named Jack Slate and his dog Shadow who are trying to clean up the city – one dead body at a time. This is a follow-up game (not really a sequel) to the original from 2002.

The gameplay starts by filling in the backstory on how Jack and Shadow began teaming up after the murder of Jack’s father. Different missions let you control Jack alone, Jack with Shadow as an NPC partner or missions where you are Shadow.

Playing as Jack, you battle the bad guys through some good hand-to-hand combat that feels intuitive. The end of the battle can sometimes get pretty brutal for the bad guys, but hey, they had it coming, right? Gunplay is a bit dodgier where lining up for a shot can be a bit tricky and it seems like the criminals never miss. But never fear, because eventually they come out of their hiding places and are exposed targets for the cop on a mission.

Playing as Shadow was a bit more fun. There are some laugh-out-loud funny achievements to get while acting as the dog and the controls are pretty straight forward. There was an excellent stealth mission that would have made Batman proud and Shadow can sense bad guys by listening to their heartbeats.

It is definitely an adult game and not very much fun to look at. Your opponents start looking very similar from mission to mission. Everything is relatively dark and foreboding and there were times it seemed like Shadow was walking on air. But the challenges were evenly paced with a couple of difficult situations that test your nerve and hiding skills.

Finally, “Iron Man 2” (Sega) is not just a movie, but a video game tie-in as well - in as much as “tie-in” means it has the same title and same characters, but not the same story.

Gamers get to play as Iron Man or War Machine – sometimes you have a choice and other times you don’t. Weapons are your standard repulsers, machine guns and missiles, but most of the time, it really doesn’t matter. Battles are often plagued by a bad targeting system that seems not to work at long distances or switches around erratically as enemies come into view. Even when the hero gets locked in, the shot misses because the bad guy moved and the targeting system doesn’t follow it. Enemies will swarm from all different angles and sometimes it is just better to let your fists do the destruction.

For a guy that (in the movies) zoomed into the upper reaches of the atmosphere, Iron Man moves extremely slow. There are moments when he can zoom along, but he can't fight at those speeds, which is very frustrating. In an escort mission, the helicopters he’s supposed to be protecting cruised along faster than Iron Man was flying.

The dialog is snappy and quick. There are some great exchanges between the characters and it helps move the story along. However, the characters themselves look like aging versions of their movie counterparts and you will be waiting for the suit's faceplate to close just so you don’t have to see Tony Stark in need of a facelift.

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Filed under: Games • Gaming • Geek Out! • video games


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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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Does Facebook know who you'll date next?

Posted: 01:29 PM ET

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg genuinely cares about your relationship status. Well, maybe not genuinely, but he may look into it if he’s bored.

One of Zuckerberg’s favorite pastimes is determining Facebook users’ relationship patterns, according to David Kilpatrick’s upcoming book, “The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World.”

Are you constantly chatting with your girlfriend’s best friend? Do you spend more time on your crush’s Facebook page than your boyfriend’s?

You don’t have to be honest with us, but don’t bother lying to Zuckerberg.

A handful of tech blogs have published an excerpt from the book that says Zuckerberg uses certain factors to determine whether your relationship is on the outs and who you’ll likely be dating next.

All Facebook, a blog about the social-networking site, posted this passage:

“By examining friend relationships and communications patterns (Zuckerberg) could determine with about 33 percent accuracy who a user was going to be in a relationship with a week from now. To deduce this he studied who was looking which profiles, who your friends were friends with, and who was newly single, among other indicators.”

So what's your take on Zuckerberg as Cupid? Is his theory on this credible, or just creepy? If he offered you an insider's prediction on your significant other’s romantic future, would you take it?

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Filed under: Facebook


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Politician tries to out anonymous Twitter critics

Posted: 11:42 AM ET

Pennsylvania's attorney general recently subpoenaed Twitter for the real names of two anonymous bloggers who have been criticizing him. Twitter generally doesn't give out user identities, according to a statement issued to the blog TechCrunch. And the American Civil Liberties Union in Pennsylvania now says it will represent the online critics.

"Any subpoena seeking to unmask the identity of anonymous critics raises the specter of political retaliation," Witold Walczak, legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, says in a prepared statement. "It's a prized American right to criticize government officials, and to do so anonymously."

The anonymous Twitter users in question - @CasablancaPA and @bfbarbie - continue to use their feeds to criticize Tom Corbett, the current Pennsylvania AG, who also is running for the governorship in that state as a Republican.

According to the subpoena, as posted by TechCrunch, Corbett wants the Twitter users' names, addresses, contact info, IP addresses. This isn't the first time a politician or celebrity has tried to out anonymous dissenters online. Last year, the New York Supreme Court ordered Blogger.com, which is owned by Google, to release the identity of an anonymous online writer who had been ranting about former cover girl Liskula Cohen.

The identity fight in Pennsylvania also comes as the Web in general is becoming less anonymous. Facebook is leading the charge against anonymity, as it encourages its 400 million users to use their Facebook profiles - with photos, real names and background information - to comment on online news stories, music, events and other web content.

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Filed under: 4chan • anonymity • Facebook • Internet • Twitter


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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!: Leonard Nimoy's swan song

Posted: 12:27 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.

Tonight's episode of "Fringe" will be the final performance for "Star Trek" legend Leonard Nimoy. He was crystal clear on that when he spoke with reporters last week.

"I have announced my retirement," he said. "I will not be doing any more television or movie acting or directing. I can tell you that I feel very fulfilled with the work that was given to me to do in this final episode."

Since the end of last season, Nimoy has been playing the enigmatic character William Bell, the head of Massive Dynamic, a company that has been at the center of much of the plot threads going through the show. Last week, he approached Agent Dunham (Anna Torv) inside the parallel universe where he now lives, and he and the "Fringe" team appear to be headed to a confrontation with the parallel version of Walter, who recently kidnapped Peter.

Nimoy said he really enjoyed working on "Fringe" for his final performance: "I admire all of the people on this show: [actors] Anna Torv, Josh Jackson, and John Noble and all the rest. I had some wonderful scenes to play with John Noble, who I think is a wonderful actor."

Nimoy promises some very intense scenes between himself and Noble in tonight's season finale.

As for "Star Trek," don't expect him to be in any future films, either. "I have said that I think it’s time for me to get off the stage and make some room for Zachary Quinto, who is the new Spock and a wonderful actor, looks a lot like me," he told reporters. "And I’m very flattered that the character will be continued by an actor of that caliber. He’s very well trained and very talented."

Nimoy is ready to move on full time to his new passion, photography: "I’ve had 60 years of working in films and television. I’m very grateful for all the great opportunities that I’ve had and all and the people that I’ve met, the people I’ve worked with, the 'Fringe' company; I said on my final day of shooting was as good as any company I’ve ever worked within the 60 years of my experience."

Filed under: Geek Out!


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Facebookers respond to 'Draw Mohammed Day'

Posted: 11:59 AM ET

Thousands of users posted illustrations of Muslim prophet Mohammed to the web Thursday, responding to a controversial Facebook group that prompted Pakistan to block access to the social-networking site.

Everybody Draw Mohammed Day encourages people to flout the belief by devout Muslims that it is wrong to depict religious figures because it could lead to idol worship. The group has more than 81,000 fans on Facebook.

Creators of the group say they got the idea after recent controversies surrounding the belief. A series of cartoons of Mohammed published in a Danish newspaper in 2005 led to riots in countries around the world.

At least two European cartoonists live under police protection after drawing Mohammed and, most recently, Comedy Central edited part of the animated show "South Park" because it showed the prophet.

By mid-morning on Thursday, more than 7,300 images had been uploaded to the Facebook page, most of them drawings of Mohammed.

Some are silly. But a quick scan showed many that are crude, and some seemed to be intentionally offensive.

The creators of the page said that's not what they're after - that their message is about free speech, not attacking Islam.

"Enjoy the rest of the day and draw Mohammed however you may like," said a Thursday morning post. "We will of course encourage you to make a creative and humourous picture, instead of something hateful."

Predictably, the group has created backlash. Another Facebook group, called "AGAINST Everybody Draw Mohammed Day," actually had more members - about 96,000, as of Monday morning.

Recent posts on that page called on members to "keep protesting against those filthy pages" and report the Draw Mohammed page to Facebook as being objectionable.

But a Facebook spokesman said the page does not violate any of the site's terms. A glitch prevented some users from accessing the page briefly Monday morning, but he said that was technical and has been fixed.

"We want Facebook to be a place where people can openly discuss issues and express their views, while respecting the rights and feelings of others," he said Thursday.

"With now more than 400 million users from around the world, who have varying cultures and ideals, using Facebook as a place to discuss and share things that are important to them, we sometimes find people discussing and posting about topics that others may find controversial, inaccurate, or offensive."

He did, however, suggest Facebook is monitoring the situation closely.

"When these feelings, or any content reported to us becomes an attack on anyone, including Muslim people, it will be removed and further action may be taken against the person responsible," he said.

He said Facebook is disappointed with Pakistan's decision to block the site and is considering legal action.

Pakistan's government issued an order Wednesday blocking Facebook for an indefinite time because the site had not removed the page.

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Filed under: Facebook • Internet


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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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