March 3, 2010

Hulu loses 'Daily Show,' 'Colbert Report'

Posted: 04:09 PM ET

Comedic television hosts continue to be at the center of programming battles. Comedy Central, owned by Viacom, Inc., has decided to pull "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report" from, according to The Wall Street Journal.

As of March 9, Hulu will lose the rights to the two half-hour shows, but that doesn't mean they're disappearing from the Internet entirely. Full episodes will still be streamed on and

Andy Forssell, Hulu's Senior Vice President of Content and Distribution, characterized the split in a blog post as a parting of ways that may not be permanent, noting that Comedy Central's content had been incredibly beneficial to the free service.

"In the past 21 months, we’ve had very strong results for both Hulu and Comedy Central, in terms of the views and revenue we’ve generated, thanks to a couple of key trends," Forssell wrote. "First, more and more of our viewers have voted with their time by making these shows a regular part of their day. And second, we’ve driven steadily increasing revenue per view as advertisers voted with their budgets to take advantage of innovative ad formats and very strong advertising effectiveness."

So why the split?

"Maybe Viacom is hoping that viewership on its own air and websites will improve if the shows aren’t available elsewhere," wrote Samuel Axon on the social-media news site Mashable. "We’re also not sure exactly what caused the arrangement between Viacom and Hulu to end. Hulu simply said it was unable to secure the rights. Viacom might have asked for a financial deal the site was unable to agree to."

The news sparked much grousing online among Hulu users and fans of the shows.

"This sucks. Hulu is the future of TV, and the big execs at the studios know it, and they know it will kill their old revenue streams (subscriptions) so they’re trying to kill it before it has a chance to mature," wrote a user named Chris in a post on Hulu's blog.

"Hopefully eventually the studios will see the potential for major revenue streams through sites like Hulu, but it won’t happen until TVs come with a Hulu sticker & people can just tune in like another channel. That’s the future – it’s just a matter of waiting for the studios to realize it," Chris added.

Posted by: ,
Filed under: Hulu • television

Share this on:
August 18, 2009

Will the Big Crunch follow the Big Bang?

Posted: 08:57 AM ET

The Big Crunch may sound like a slogan for crackers or potato chips, but it’s actually an astronomical theory with a gloomy twist.

We’ve all heard of the Big Bang, a widely accepted theory that proposes the entire universe began from a single point about 13.7 billion years ago and has been expanding ever since.

But will it expand forever? Or could it stop and reverse that process?

One possible fate of the universe is the Big Crunch, the idea that the cosmos could one day begin contracting and eventually collapse back on itself or return to a single point.

If it ever happens, this anti-Big Bang would take place so far in the future that Earth might even not exist anymore, according to experts writing for Cornell University’s Curious About Astronomy Web site.

But the experts also took a stab at what a contracting universe could look like to an observer billions of years into the future.

“As the present-day observable universe started to get really small, the observer would most likely see some of the things that happened in the early universe happen in reverse. Most notably, the temperature of the universe would eventually get so high that you could no longer have stable atoms, in which case the hypothetical observer wouldn't be able to hold himself together.”

Yikes. But fear not. It turns the expansion of the universe has been accelerating rather than slowing.

Astronomers believe that’s caused by a mysterious dark energy pulling galaxies apart, according to NASA.

“Dark energy is this idea that not only is the universe expanding, dark energy is actually making that expansion happen even faster,” said Marla Geha, as assistant professor of astronomy at Yale University. “The dark energy will actually continue the expansion of the universe forever, so there probably will not be a Big Crunch if we have the numbers right.”

But the continuous expansion would have other consequences. Over tens of billions of years, the galaxies that we see around us would get farther and farther away, making the universe more of a lonely place, Geha said.

Posted by: ,
Filed under: Astronomy • NASA • Space

Share this on:
July 20, 2009

Meet the strange moons of Mars

Posted: 08:00 AM ET

Famous for its reddish color, Mars has long fascinated astronomers, ordinary sky gazers and science-fiction writers.

But its strange, tiny moons also deserve plenty of attention, especially since one of them has been suggested as a way for humans to get to the planet itself.

“To reach Mars, we should use comets, asteroids and Mars’s moon Phobos as intermediate destinations. No giant leaps this time. More like a hop, skip and a jump,” Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the moon, wrote recently in an article in Popular Mechanics. Read more about the moon vs. Mars debate

Phobos is one of two Martian moons, with Deimos keeping it company in space.

Just 13 miles across, Phobos orbits so close to Mars that it may be shattered by the Red Planet’s gravitational tidal forces in about 100 million years, according to NASA.

You can see its battered, pockmarked surface in the photo above, taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter last year. The Stickney Crater, which takes up almost half its diameter, is on the lower right.

Some astronomy Web sites call Phobos potato-shaped and that’s a good way to describe it!

Think Phobos is small? Deimos is even tinier, at about 7.5 miles in diameter. If you were to stand on the surface of Mars, it would look light a bright star, NASA says.

And here’s a bit of mythology to add to your astronomy knowledge. You may know that Mars was named after the Roman god of war. So in keeping with the tone, Phobos (“Fear”) and Deimos (“Terror”) were named after the horses that pulled the chariot of Ares, the Greek god of war and the counterpart to Mars.

Posted by: ,
Filed under: Astronomy • Mars • NASA • Space

Share this on:
June 18, 2009

Will hypersonic flight take off?

Posted: 08:51 AM ET

I recently spent a miserable 10 hours on a flight from Europe to the U.S. and it made me think of how wonderful it would have been to be able to take the Concorde and cut that time in half.

My misery, and a conversation with a colleague about it, inspired an article on the status of supersonic flight six years after the Concorde fleet was retired from service.

Those planes flew at twice the speed of sound, but what if you could travel even faster?

Research continues into hypersonic flight, defined as least five times faster than the speed of sound. The first human to travel at hypersonic speeds was Russian Major Yuri Gagarin 1961 during the world's first piloted orbital flight, according to the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission.

Future generations might one day zip around the globe in planes that reach those speeds with the help of supersonic combustion ramjets. Also known as scramjets, these engines use external air for combustion, according to NASA.

But there are lots of obstacles to overcome.

“It really comes down to the faster you go, the higher the temperatures associated with the external shape of the airplane,” said Peter Coen, principal investigator for NASA’s supersonic fundamental aeronautics program.

To illustrate, the temperature on the surface of an object that is traveling at five times the speed of sound reaches 1,800° F, according to the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission.

“That really requires an airframe that has the life that would be associated with commercial success. That material has not been envisioned yet, never mind invented,” Coen said.

Posted by: ,
Filed under: Aviation • NASA

Share this on:
April 27, 2009

The strange concept of white holes

Posted: 07:50 AM ET

In researching a story about what it might look like if you were to fall into a black hole, I came across the concept of white holes.

This is not a new idea, but it’s fascinating, so for those of you who have never heard about it, here’s a primer.

Think of a white hole as an “anti-black hole,” according to Cornell University’s Curious About Astronomy Web site. So if black holes are places where matter is sucked in, white holes could be where it spews out, like water through a fire hose.

“Some people say maybe all that material that’s collapsing into this black hole… goes through a worm hole or some theoretical idea and blasts out in some other place in the universe,” said Jeff McClintock, senior astrophysicist, at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Another way to look at it is through the waterfall analogy. If you think of a black hole as space falling down one side of a ravine, imagine it bouncing off the bottom and climbing back up the other side, said Andrew Hamilton, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

“But you never see that thing in nature and it doesn’t happen in real black holes,” Hamilton said.

The concept of white holes is totally theoretical and most people don’t give it much credence, McClintock added.

“Thousands of astronomers are just grinding their brains away on black holes,” he said. “You compare that to a white hole, I don’t think you’ll find one astronomer grinding his brain away.”

Posted by: ,
Filed under: Astronomy • Space

Share this on:
March 27, 2009

Ready for Earth Hour?

Posted: 04:53 PM ET

You've heard of Earth Day. Now get ready for Earth Hour.

The El Capitan theatre in Hollywood is one of many famous structures planning to switch off its lights during Earth Hour. Photo: Getty Images

A global initiative organized by the World Wildlife Fund, Earth Hour is asking people and institutions around the world to turn off their lights for one hour Saturday night - 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. in whatever time zone you're in - to conserve energy and make a statement of concern about climate change.

Earth Hour began in Sydney, Australia, in 2007, when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for 60 minutes. Last year 50 million people turned off their lights, according to the project's Web site, Such global landmarks as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Rome’s Colosseum, the Sydney Opera House and the Coca Cola billboard in New York's Times Square all stood in darkness. (No word on Las Vegas, though.)

This time, organizers hope that 1 billion people worldwide - almost one-sixth of the Earth's population - will switch off their lights. More than 2,400 cities and towns in 82 countries - plus such floodlit icons as Paris's Eiffel Tower, Egypt’s Great Pyramids and New York's Empire State Building - are already on board, according to the Earth Hour site.

(The site doesn't say anything about whether participants should stop using all electricity during Earth Hour, so if you stay home and watch TV in the dark you might be OK.)

As with any public venture these days, Earth Hour leaders are using the Web to rally folks to their cause. An Earth Hour group on Facebook has more than 628,000 members, an Earth Hour video has been watched more than 57,000 times on YouTube and Earth Hour was the top-searched topic Friday afternoon on Twitter.

Tweets ranged from statements of support to such comments as "[I] will be cranking out as many jigawatts as possible during Earth Hour. I even plan to run both cars in the garage."

One man's Facebook post, titled "Why Earth Hour is stupid," argued that the initiative will simply waste energy unless power plants lower their production during this time. People could conserve electricity more efficiently by unplugging unused household appliances, he wrote.

So what, if any, are your plans for Earth Hour? And why?

Posted by: ,
Filed under: climate change • Energy

Share this on:
September 2, 2008

Gaming on the cheap

Posted: 03:15 PM ET

Here's the next installment of our "Get Your Game On" series, in which speaks to experts about what's hot in video gaming. This week, Scott Jones from joined us to talk about finding cheap games.


The economy may be bad, but that doesn't mean you can't get your game on.

Gaming can be an extremely expensive hobby. The latest consoles, whether it’s Nintendo's Wii, the Xbox 360, or PlayStation 3, cost $250 to $500. Add in an extra controller or two, a few peripherals, and the price climbs exponentially higher. On top of that, new games cost anywhere from $50 to $60 a pop.

You don't have to cut video games simply because the economy is bad. There are many ways to game on the cheap. Indeed, gaming can be an extremely expensive hobby, but the dirty secret of the industry is that it doesn't have to be. Yes, there are ways to be a gamer and not completely empty out your wallet or go broke.

Watch's Scott Jones talk to LIVE about ways to play big money games without spending a lot of cash

Tip 1: Go retro.

While it's great to have the latest shiny, new next-generation consoles and games, it makes better fiscal sense to buy last-generation consoles. For example, buy a PlayStation 2. For $130 you get the sleek slim line version. You instantly have access to, literally, hundreds of great games.

Beyond that, because the install-base for the PS2 is so great, many developers are still making games for the PS2. You want to play "The Force Unleashed?" "LEGO Batman?" "Rock Band 2?" "SingStar?" PS2 versions are available.

Of course, the way to save the most money is by tossing the used games bin at your local game store.

Tip 2: Buy used.

The new Tiger Woods game - "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09" - is in stores this week. But don't buy the new one; instead, toss the used-games bin and dig out the 2008 version. As soon as the new game ships, the old game typically gets marked down 50, 60, or sometimes even 70 percent.

And the dirty little secret that companies like EA don't want you to know is that the new version is usually nearly identical to the previous year's version. Yes, the new Tiger is good, make no mistake; but last year's Tiger? That was pretty good too.

Other great games that you can pick up on the cheap are "God of War "and its terrific sequel; "Shadow of the Colossus," "Kingdom Hearts" 1 and 2, "LEGO Star Wars," "Resident Evil 4," "Okami," "Bully," "Katamari Damacy" –all of these games can be found new for less than $20. And if you're willing to buy used, you can save even more money.

Tip 3: Be smart when buying used games.

Four things to keep in mind when buying used games:

1. Be willing to do a little hard work. This sounds ridiculous, but scour the lower shelves for the best deals. Gamers are lazy and often don't look there.

2. Also: Keep an eye out for multiple versions of the same game in the used section; I've seen the same game at three or four different price points in the same store.

3. Once you've settled on the game of your choice, ask to see the disc before closing the deal. Turn the disc over, let the light reflect off of it, and look for any scratches, or warp marks of any kind. If you see anything that looks off, ask to see another copy of the game.

4. One final note: If the cashier offers you some kind of insurance plan for the disc–it'll sound something like this: "For an extra $5, we'll replace the disc at any point if it should break" - always, always, always say no. Discs are generally very durable. If it works when you get it home, it'll work pretty much into infinity.

Posted by:
Filed under: Gaming

Share this on:

subscribe RSS Icon
About this blog

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.

subscribe RSS Icon
Powered by VIP