This Week in Geekdom

Hi guys. Happy weekend and best wishes for an excellent last day of con to all those of you attending PAX South right now. I know, it's been a little while since a new post went up on here. As mentioned earlier in the month, studying has been consuming just about every spare minute of my time and will continue to do so for the majority of 2016. Fortunately, a bit of a break will allow us to get down to This Week in Geekdom!

Games

Happy 20th birthday to Duke Nukem 3D!

Squad claims to not only be the most realistic team-based online shooter, but also eliminates all of the headaches that have plagued just about every other constituent of the genre.

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More disappointment for everyone who backed and/or is eagerly anticipating the release of the distinctly Megaman-ish platformer Mighty No. 9, it's now slated to come out in the spring of this year, assuming no additional delays.

Movies/TV

After bringing a slew of comics-based series to the small screen, the CW network is now turning to Archie as a potential source of future programming.

Science/Technology


This is the story of how a cousin of the zebra went extinct a century ago and how South African geneticists have been able to bring the species back to life.


The latest edition of Science includes this research from Northwestern University that has resulted in an entirely new type of polymer. 

There is an epic throwdown taking place at the cutting edge of physics-related research. The grand prize: a billion dollar particle accelerator.

It's been inherent to a lot of our collective internet-browsing experience for years now, but Oracle is finally killing off its Java Plugin.

General Awesomeness

Turns out that 2016 will mark the 25th anniversary for many of our favorite geeky things, like these, for example.

If the minds behind this Kickstarter have their way, you may end up with a levitating bonsai to spruce up your decor.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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Developer Dialogues: Moonquake Escape

It's been a spell since the last iteration of Developer Dialogues and we return to the series with a very special entry. MoonQuake Escape was the very first game to venture into our Playtesting Lab and we've been gleefully watching its development in the nearly two years since. We'd sit here gushing about the mechanics, the artwork, and that board all day, but it's assuredly better if we turn this over to Jeff, the mind behind MoonQuake Escape, and Michael, the man behind its distinctive art.


Tell us a little about yourself. What prompted you to want to become a developer?

HI, Kel! I’m Jeff Johnston (@PairOfJacksGame) and I’ve been designing games as a hobby for the last few years. I started shortly after a friend at work mentioned that writing a book was on his bucket list. It got me thinking about what I’d want to do and I started thinking about all the fun I’d had when younger playing games with friends and family.  I decided my goal was to see a game that I’d created on a store shelf. Within about six months I had a fun little game about toasting marshmallows, Toasted or Roasted, and about six years later I walked into an EMS store and said “Look what I made!” to anyone within earshot.

Once you decided to put on the developer’s hat, what made you choose this specific type of game? Why did you feel this style was a particularly good fit for your vision of MoonQuake Escape?

I really enjoy making games for families with younger children. Like a Disney film, something focused on the youngest but enjoyable by the whole family. My second game, Flashlights & Fireflies, is about playing flashlight freeze tag and catching fireflies. I mention F&F in particular because its core fun was a “hide and seek” mechanic (a la 3-Card Monte) with players traveling a straight four-step track. My son was taking an entrepreneurial course during his college studies and I suggested we develop a game together and KickStart it—not sure I’ve ever a heard a faster “No” in my life! But, my wheels were already turning. I thought it would be a lot of fun to take F&F and add a bluffing mechanic: what if each player could protect (or shield) one face down card—would they protect their one key card, or would they try to lure you away? I also thought it would be interesting to have a way to bring players together on the board unexpectedly for some interesting interaction and I started to picture a set of concentric circular boards to create those situations, and inspired the look of a planet. The space-aged theme on a prison was simply to aim at an older audience and keep it a competitive setting. And thus “Monsters & Moonbeams” was born! The name MoonQuake Escape came about six names later…

The game is touted as being extremely easy to learn, but a highly satisfying overall play experience. How long would you say it takes people to pick up Moonquake Escape and what demographics do you think would most enjoy the game?

I think I’d like to meet these touters! At first brush, MoonQuake Escape takes some explaining. You do have to convey an entire world—its dangers, how you move, how it moves, how its moon moves!—how you interact with the other players, and your goals in the race to the only remaining escape rocket.  Hard core gamers jump right in without issue, but lighter gamers are often initially skeptical about the level of complexity. But after a round or two, they start to get that there are only a few but rewardingly deep decisions to make in each round. I was challenged by my fellow game designers to make it as simple as possible and so I created a Basic rule set that feeds you a healthy portion of the MQE world before introducing the rest in Advanced rules.  Those extra rules aren’t hard or complex, just less to absorb in an initial sit down.

I’ve been playing MQE with people from all walks for more than two years now of many ages and demographics.  The box will say ages 10+ and its extremely engaging for families. I’ve had kids chasing down parents to join in a second or third demo game. But, I’ve been extremely pleased with how adults playing adults enjoy the game and the constant playful interaction each round creates.

The board game market is pretty competitive with both major publishers and indie developers in the field. What would you say makes MoonQuake Escape distinctive?

It’s amazing the quality, variety and creativity in the market today.  That really means that your project has to have something special about it.  I didn’t really know where MQE would go—I just followed its lead.  It needed rotating rings and an orbiting & revolving Moon, and I was foolish enough to craft it.  In 2014 at PAX East, I accidentally “kidnapped” Shari Spiro (@AdMagic/@Breaking Games) and showed her an MQE prototype. At first sight, she immediately said “I want to make that!” and I knew MQE had the ally it needed to make it real.

The visual appeal of MQE on the table is amazing, but, it couldn’t be a gimmick. The game play on the board, with the cards, and between the cards and the board needed to be compelling all around.  Working through this was my key focus, even more so than the visual aspects of the game. I’ve developed a saying: “The board brings them to the table, the game brings them back.” OK, sometimes a Moon Pie brought them to the table.

The artwork and overall aesthetic of the game is very visually striking. What was your inspiration for the look and feel of the game?

After a great reception of the game at Boston Festival of Indie Games (@BostonFIG) in Sep 2014, I found Michael’s vector superhero art style and started collaborating with him on the art and design. I quickly realized what value he was bringing to the entire process and decided that partnering on this project would be the most rewarding. I think Michael can best speak to the overall art.  Michael?

Hello, I’m Michael Parla (@Michael_Parla) the art director for MQE and I’ll field this question. After working in the pharmaceutical industry as a graphic designer/art director for 15+ years, I felt called to scratch a creative itch I’ve been carrying since starting my career. This project seemed just the ticket!
When I was first introduced to MQE I felt it was an ambitious project offering a creative challenge. Initially Jeff was using an illustration for the cover that looked like something out of a Flash Gordon strip. Although the image fit the game’s genre, I didn’t feel it matched with the feel I got when Jeff would demo his games. Much like a 1950 serial film poster, MQE needed to feel loud and exciting, and that inspiration crystalized the art concept.  To capture the feel of these posters I found a bold display font for the main titles (thanks blambot.com) and a condensed secondary font similar to that of poster movie credits.
To me the cards were the most exciting to work on. I was able to display my illustration as a main focal point and add value to the gameplay. I saw early on that I could help clarify card type with colors (green = good, red=bad), making sure players could focus on enjoying the game play and not translating icons or inferring details from the text. Might not sound like much but in a game designed as complex as this it was a nice break.
Color was also missing from the board. In the early stages, Jeff wanted a stark prison world, so for that reason the colors of the board were a boring and drab color. It wasn’t until Shari Spiro (Ad Magic/Breaking Games) insisted that the surface include “MORE COLOR!” I wanted something that people could relate to as alien while contrasting off the dark blue background so it was pretty much set in stone that from here on Zartaclaton would be a bright orange planet. After that everything else fell into place.
What do you feel was the most enjoyable part of developing MoonQuake Escape and, conversely, what would you say was your biggest challenge?

The most enjoyable part was listening to the feedback from fellow designers, playtesters and observations, and then creatively solving the issues. For example, players were having trouble remembering whose turn it was—that was the problem that an orbiting moon component solves for the game!  Early in the process I discovered the Game Makers Guild here in the Boston area and it’s been an incredible resource—game design expertise, playing testing, and most importantly, honest frank feedback. I was confidently done with MQE at least three times before receiving that one additional comment that made me iron out one more crease. And, of course, sharing the game with hundreds of people the last year and a half at conventions across the country has been a blast.  We try to keep the interaction going—our fans are creating the backstories of our alien criminals on the MQE FaceBook page!

The biggest challenge: the rulebook, no doubt.  I must have tackled the approach to tell the whole MQE story in rule form five ways to Sunday with different reactions to each.  Some players wanting information in this order, others in that order.  But, I worked with some really sharp editors—Jim White (@twwombat) in particular—and many savvy play testers to iron out a rule book that tells the MQE story very well. A long process, but I’m very pleased with the final version (you can check it out on the MQE BGG page if you’re curious).

Let’s say MoonQuake Escape is received particularly well by the gaming community at large. Would you be open to continuing to develop it? Would you pursue any expansions or other additional content?

Which designers haven’t already mentally built an expansion to their game?! Yes, we have some exciting ideas we’d like to add to MQE. More dangers on the planet’s surface. A new set of board rings that lets you play a “prequel”: you start in the center of the board deep under the surface in the high security dentention cells and have to make your way through the prison to the surface (the moon will be replaced by a security camera with a different game play effect). And, I think there’s a more card focused game that focuses on the final battle on the Launch Pad. And each of these add to the others allowing you to revisit with new options. But, let’s sell the first copy of MQE before I get too excited!

Is there anything else that you think potential players should know about MoonQuake Escape?

If it looks like I’m having fun telling you about MQE, it’s only because I know how much fun you’ll have playing it. Many moons ago I had to admit that this project is officially my mid-life crisis (of my possible choices, my wife has approved this one!). It’s been quite a ride and we hope you escape with us!
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This Week in Geekdom

<Unearths herself from beneath her study materials> Oh, hey guys. It's that time again, isn't it? Studying is creating what seems to be even more distortions in the space-time continuum than I'd normally expect from this time of year. It's going to be a very interesting few months to say the least. It was a very busy few days though, due in no small part to the annual Consumer Electonics Show. In case you missed out on CES, here's a round-up of some of the highlights. Add to all that goodness, these fun highlights from This Week in Geekdom!

Books

Unlike George R.R. Martin, Outlander author Diana Gabaldon adheres to her deadlines.

Games

Final Fantasy IX will be available on Steam within the next few months and here's what you can expect.

Did Jurassic World spark your desire to live in harmony with dinosaurs? You may want to check out ARK: Survival Evolved.

Movies/TV

J.J. Abrams has been a very busy man. Check out the trailer for his latest project: 11.22.63, a time-travel series for Hulu based on a Stephen King novel of the same name.

Despite working the publicity circuit for The Force Awakens and 11.22.63, Mr Abrams was not too busy to stop and address complaints that the latest installation of the Star Wars franchise bears too strong a resemblance to its founding chapter.

Back in December, the Huffington Post published a lengthy list of 'plot holes' in The Force Awakens. Here is a very thorough point-by-point rebuttal.


While we're in an HBO state of mind, the network has given the official green light to the development of a Deadwood movie.

Science/Technology

Oculus Rift officially hit the open consumer market this week as it opened itself up for pre-orders. The catch: a set will cost you an eye-popping $599 USD. Perhaps this is where Fortune got its projections of the virtual reality market being worth $5.1 billion USD this year alone.


Thanks to the efforts of many researchers and one very, very specialized telescope, we may get a chance to see the event horizon of the black hole at the center of our galaxy by 2017.

Experts believe it will look something like this.
Speaking of black holes, NASA's Chandra telescope is presenting astrophysicists with new data derived from observations of this...ehm...interesting behavior from the Whirlpool galaxy. 

Aside from observing black holes, NASA is also occupied developing this, the successor to the Hubble telescope.


If you weigh 220 lbs (99.79 kg) or less then Ehang may have a very interesting way for you to get to school or work.

Desert sand is so efficient at capturing and retaining heat that researchers at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology want to develop ways to turn it into a thermal energy storage medium.

Acoustics experts at Australia's RMIT University may revolutionize the way that stem cell treatments are delivered to patients by combining two different sound waves.

The artificial pancreas is two clinical trials away from being a consumable reality.

General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

What do you get when a Disney storyboard artist combines the aesthetic of Calvin & Hobbes with The Force Awakens? These awesome cartoons, that's what.

It's no secret that we at the Care and Feeding of Nerds love us some excellent infographics and here's an excellent series depicting the fact that half of the Earth's population lives on 1% of its land mass.

And here's a fun infographic breaking out all of the character deaths in Shakespeare's oeuvre.

Amateur astronomer Michael Sidonio thought he was taking pictures of galaxy NGC 253 and ended up discovering a galaxy of his own.

As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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This Week in Geekdom

2016 is off and running and we're officially back from our holiday break. Woot! Let's keep the momentum going, shall we? Down to the Week in Geekdom!

Books

Much to the surprise of exactly no one who has been following the exploits of George R.R. Martin, the author officially conceded what we've long since expected: that Winds of Winter will not be ready before Game of Thrones returns to the airwaves. 

Movies/TV

George Lucas has taken just about every possible position with regard to the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney and the subsequent development of Episode VII but, following the smashing success of the latter, the director is no longer attempting to conceal his angst.

On that note, Disney chairman Robert Iger has confirmed that we will be getting another cinematic dose of Indiana Jones.

The 50 best X-Wing pilots in the Star Wars universe, ranked.

We are mere weeks away from the premiere of the X-Files revival series. If those few weeks are still too damned long (not that I feel that way...or anything), then this making-of featurette may help you bide the time.

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These are 12 of the most burning questions we have concerning the future of the Marvel cinematic universe. Fortunately, we'll likely get some answers to these this year.

Science/Technology

If you're on the hunt for fun, informative and all-around excellent sciencey podcasts, look no further.

It's a promising sign for those of us excited about the status of future space-faring missions: plutonium-238 has been produced in the United States for the first time since 1988.


What if the various computer programs you use every day never needed another update again but, rather, were continuously self-correcting? MIT and Adobe are teaming up to develop exactly that.

It's a theme that pops up on this site with no small degree of frequency, but why does time seem to speed up as you age?

General Awesomeness


As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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Upcoming Awesomeness in 2016!

Happy New Year everyone! I hope that 2016 is already treating you well and that the year is off to a great start. Composing this post has become a fun tradition in itself both because it elicits a little nostalgia when I look over similar posts from previous years (speaking of, here are the entries for 2015, 2014, and 2013) and looking ahead to all the forthcoming awesome is always fun. So let's get to it, shall we?


New Site Stuff in 2016

It's no secret that the pacing of new posts has slowed in the past few months and that's something I think we can all agree isn't the best. The goal is to change that, but, not gonna lie guys, that's going to be tough to do in 2016. A good chunk of this upcoming year is going to be devoted to studying for (and taking) a handful of professional certification exams. If all goes well and I pass all the exams on the first try then this will be the only year that gets consumed in this not-so-fun way. Fingers crossed!
That's not to say that the Care and Feeding of Nerds is going on ice. Not at all! There will definitely be plenty of novel content and, hopefully, a few contests coming your way. It's just that there will likely be a bit less of both in 2016 when compared to previous years.

But there will be goodness! We'll be bringing you coverage from at least two conventions: PAX East 2016 and the Boston Festival of Indie Games. There's a very good chance that we may add a few conventions that have never been covered on the site before, which we're really excited about.

Comics

The past two years have seen some pretty massive upheavals in the comics world, but 2016 is shaping up to be a bit more tranquil as most major publishers appear to want to enjoy their new status quo. Here are 5 upcoming titles that we can look forward to in the very near future and a whole heap more spanning the comic, manga, and graphic novel realms.

TV

January/February are often rife with mid-season premieres and introductions of fun new programs. Here's what we can add to our viewing queues in the next few weeks (premiere dates and times may vary based on your location and cable provider). Ahhhh...X-Files....Venture Bros!!

The Shannara Chronicles: (MTV) January 5th 
Colony: (USA) January 14th
The Flash: (The CW) January 19th
Agent Carter: (ABC) January 19th
Arrow: (The CW) January 20th
Supernatural(The CW) January 20th
DC's Legends of Tomorrow: (The CW) January 21st
The X-Files: (FOX) January 24th
The Venture Bros: (Cartoon Network) February 7th
The Walking Dead: (AMC) February 14th


Movies

As with most recent years, the trend in 2016 will be lots of reboots and sequels, with a bit of novel content tossed in here and there.

January
The 5th Wave - The Earth is devastated by successive waves of alien attacks. One girl asserts herself and bands with fellow survivors to reclaim the planet.
Ip Man 3 - Donnie Yen returns to the title role and takes a stand against a band of crooked property managers and cruel gangsters.
Synchronicity - A physicist invents a time machine only to have his work fall into the hands of a femme fatale.
February
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - The film treatment of the wildly popular adaptation of the Jane Austen classic.
Deadpool -  The Merc with a Mouth gets to incite havoc on the big screen.
March
Allegiant - The cinematic version of the Divergent young adult novel series continues with this third installment. The content of the book bearing the name of the movie will be divided into two films, akin to what we saw with the Hunger Games.
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice - The Man of Steel and Gotham's Knight square off first against one another, then against a novel Earth-threatening foe.
April
Gods of Egypt - An ordinary thief finds himself drawn into a divine conflict.
The Jungle Book - The classic Rudyard Kipling tale will be the latest of Disney's animated films to get the live-action treatment.
The Huntsman Winter's War - Chris Hemsworth returns to the role of the Huntsman and faces the wrath of not one, but two evil sorceress queens.
Ratchet and Clank - The beloved title characters leap from the console to the big screen as they race to save the galaxy.  
May
Captain America: Civil War - The tension wrought from the developments seen in Age of Ultron boils over into open conflict and threatens to tear the Avengers apart.
X-Men: Apocalypse - The world's first mutant, Apocalypse, intends to obliterate all life on Earth; the X-Men band together an an attempt to stop him.
June
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows - The heroes on a half shell are back to defend New York City from a new threat.
Warcraft - The monolithic video game franchise expands to a new medium.
Independence Day: Resurgence - The extraterrestrials that first threatened humanity 20 years ago have spent the past two decades preparing for and plotting for their shot at vengeance.
July
The BFG - Roald Dahl's beloved tale is brought once more to the big screen.
Ghostbusters - This revisiting of the 80s franchise features a mostly female cast.
Star Trek Beyond -  The next installment of the rebooted movie series has JJ Abrams' thumbprint all over it.
August
Suicide Squad - Some of Gotham's most notorious criminals are recruited to undertake black ops-esque missions in exchange for clemency.
Pete's Dragon - A remake of the 1977 original in which an orphan flees from his abusive adoptive parents to the company of his pet dragon.
Spectral - Supernatural beings have taken over New York City and a very special team of operatives are brought in to restore order.
September
Patient Zero - After humanity is decimated by a horrific pandemic that renders most of humanity into violent rage monsters, a lone survivor finds he's able to communicate with them.
October
Gambit -  Not to be outdone by Deadpool, the Ragin' Cajun will get his own movie.
November
Doctor Strange - Benedict Cumberbatch assumes the title role as a ruined surgeon whose life is forever changed after encountering a sorcerer.
Moana -  The only daughter of a chief of a South Seas tribe sets off to explore the wilds of the Pacific.
December
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - The first of the Star Wars spinoff films focuses on a group of Rebels seeking to steal the structural plans of the Death Star.
Passengers - A spacecraft careens through the depths of space on a journey to distant planet when one of its stasis chambers malfunctions, causing a passenger to wake 60 years too early.
Assassin's Creed - Michael Fassbender stars in this movie adaptation of the wildly popular video game series.

Board Games/RPGs

As mentioned in a couple of our round-up posts, most board game developers, even the largest ones, operate on a quarterly schedule for their forecasts and releases with the latter generally coinciding with major conventions. However, if all goes well we should see several of the games we got a chance to try during Gen Con 2015. Also, the always-excellent folks at BoardGameGeek have put together this compendium of what's slated to hit our tables in 2016.

Video Games

Video game releases tend to be a bit more precise than their tabletop brethren in terms of their release scheduling, but the volume of titles that will be available for PCs and consoles is gargantuan. Game Informer did a commendable job of gathering up all those dates into this comprehensive list.


It's already shaping up to be an excellent year! Here's to a very happy and healthy 2016!
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Movie Review - Star Wars: The Force Awakens

We've arrived guys. This moment has been two years in the pragmatic making and arguably decades more if you're among the ranks of those who refuse to acknowledge the Prequels. We've already expressed our fears, misgivings, and erstwhile rage fodder as they relate to or potentially stem from this film. The hype has been blasted at us full force for months on end, swathed in a marketing blitz so comprehensive that it's almost difficult to find a product line that doesn't have an Officially Licensed offering. It's been a long, dizzying ride, but we're finally here.

And...?

If you've been an even occasional visitor to this site, you may have gleaned that I might have a modicum of emotional investment in this franchise and, as a result, that I'm not going to be an unbiased reviewer of this movie. That being said, I went into a showing this past Saturday with a melange of both dire expectations and barely constrained glee that arguably only fellow Star Wars fans who had their hearts broken by the Prequels can appreciate.


Name of the Maker...I can't wait anymore! How was it?

The very first line spoken in the film is, "This will begin to make things right."

That is entirely, wholly accurate.

AHHHH!!!

I know!

That reality is, in itself, a source of considerable relief. In all honesty the film just had to not be actively terrible; the fact that it was so deeply enjoyable was a phenomenal surprise that I hadn't dared to anticipate.

Fangirl gushing aside, Episode VII certainly isn't a perfect film (we'll get to exactly why that is in a minute), but it is an excellent tool with which new fans can be cultivated and long-jaded aficionados can be drawn back into the franchise fold. In short, a great way to open a new trilogy.

**The following contains some references that may be considered mild spoilers, but no explicit mention of major reveals**

The actual plot will feel incredibly familiar to anyone who has seen Episode IV. There's a profoundly talented orphan eking out sustenance on a barren desert world, a lovable droid bearing secret plans key to the success of a rebellious faction, a wise-cracking foil to the straight-laced orphan, a totalitarian regime bent on dominating the galaxy, a mask-wearing villain and his nefarious master, a wizened character with extensive knowledge of the Skywalker lineage, an underdog organization attempting to counter the totalitarian regime, a massive superweapon, and many, many mentions of the Force.

That...that's pretty much Episode IV...like, all of it.

Yes. If I had to point to the single biggest shortcoming of The Force Awakens it would be that Abrams adhered to the original a bit too closely. There are several instances where the pastiche/homage to nostalgia crosses over into self-congratulatory carbon copy territory. The pacing of the film is also disjointed at times, as is typical of just about all instances of Abrams' work. However, these are assuredly minor quibbles that did not detract overly much from the overarching experience.

The Force Awakens is boldly honest about the fact that it is purely a fan film. If you are a person for whom the rest of the franchise elicited nothing but meh, then you can expect more of the same from this installment. I cannot, for the life of me, begin to imagine what watching this movie would be like for either someone who had no experience with or even actively dislikes Star Wars.

For those of us who have spent countless hours of our lives with the characters, ships, planets, and concepts of the Star Wars universe, there is a substantial non-zero chance that The Force Awakens may cause you to weep happy tears. Seriously...I know this because of...a friend. Ok, I totally cried happy tears #noregrets.

The non-originality of the narrative aside, the film does an incredible job of blending old elements with new ones and, more importantly, causing you to be emotionally invested in the latter. The new characters, Rey (the orphan), Finn (the comic foil), and Poe Dameron (a hotshot Resistance pilot) fit seamlessly into the Star Wars universe and are so well rendered by the respective actors that play those characters that you will find yourself caring deeply about them mere minutes after they are introduced. They are each extremely capable in their own ways and, with the possible exception of Poe, reasonably well-rounded. You want to find out what's next and you want them to come out of this experience okay.


Abrams accomplishes this primarily via the manner in which he feeds the audience information. We find out various bits of history and pertinent personal information often in the same moment that the characters do. This simultaneously draws us in and leaves us wanting so, so much more. The events that take place in the 30 year post-Episode VI gap are mentioned in fits and starts, but never in any real detail. There's just enough there that we can understand where the masked villain came from and why the characters from the original trilogy are situated as they are in The Force Awakens.

The other tactic that Abrams employs is the setup of a very large number of key shots. These deliberately bear a strong resemblance to those used in Episodes IV and VI and create an instant familiarity with Episode VII. That being said, there are other, less overt inclusions that will make fans extremely happy. Specifically, there are a handful of references to items that were cut from Episode IV as well as a few key bits of the Expanded Universe. If the care with which those inclusions were made doesn't win you over to Episode VII I'm not sure what will.

Add to all this some extremely thrilling action sequences (thankfully done with a tactful blend of CGI and practical effects) and some solid comedic timing and you have an excellent way to pass two hours and fifteen minutes. The film stands well on its own, but also ends in such a way that you may rush to find a countdown to the release of Episode VIII. Warning: a single viewing may not prove sufficient to sate your fandom needs.

It will make you cheer, laugh, cry, and, above all, love Star Wars again.

Embrace the changes to our beloved universe, for they are phenomenal and everything we've been waiting for.

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This Week in Geekdom

Oh. My. We're still recovering from yesterday's viewing of Episode VII (a full review will be forthcoming in the very near future). It's killing me not to just starting talking to you about it right now, so I'll pour myself into the review literally the minute that this post goes up. <Kermit the Frog style flailing> Episode VII!! Ok, ok...enough of that for the time being. Less flailing and more of This Week in Geekdom.

Games

With a little over a week remaining in the year, the Best of...countdowns have begun. These are purported to be the top 10 video games of 2015.

The creators of Cards Against Humanity asked 150,000 of the customers who signed up for their Eight Sensible Gifts for Hanukkah some extremely personal questions and these are the hilarious results.

Movies/TV

Mel Brooks will allegedly give us a brand new Spaceballs.

What if decorated documentarian Ken Burns had directed Star Wars?

Science/Technology
Image Credit

Trying to avoid any Star Wars spoilers (or spoilers for any movie/show for that matter)? There's a Chrome extension for that.

Or, if you need a fun Star Wars themed sciencey distraction while you wait for your showing, there's this comparison of the planets in our solar system to those in a galaxy far, far away.

It's been a very tough year for SpaceX, but the company isn't about to throw in the towel on 2015 just yet. NASA has confirmed that SpaceX was able to conduct a successful static fire test on its flagship Falcon 9 rocket. This has cleared the way for a full launch later today (watch it live here).

The Large Hadron Collider has potentially given the physicists of the world an early Christmas present: a new particle not previously included in the Standard Model.

We occasionally chat about the ongoing development of driverless cars. Now, as the state of California begins to craft legislation that will govern this process, we have this breakdown of some of the challenges that lie ahead for these autonomous autos.

Just what does it take to re-create an image of the Earthrise from the Moon's Compton crater? Well, generally it involves this.

The latest edition of Nature describes this process that could potentially mitigate carbon dioxide emissions from diesel engines (without cheating).

General Awesomeness/Feats of Nerdery

Behold this dude's very impressive build of a functional flame-based lightsaber:


Ok, so it's not the Avatar, but these 100-year-old negatives were successfully excavated from a block of ice in the Antarctic.

This is the story of one gamer dad and his successful quest to immortalize his cancer-stricken son in the game Grim Dawn.

I'll leave you guys with this last fun little bit of Star Wars-ery. As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!


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This Week in Geekdom

Happy weekend everyone! With the holidays (and Episode VII!) on our doorstep, it seems like the days just evaporate. The goal for the next week or so is to figure out when, exactly we'll get to the movies (and avoiding any and all spoilers until that point). While we wait, let's get down to a special Star Wars-themed Week in Geekdom.

Movies/TV

Anthony Daniels is the only actor to have appeared in every one of the Star Wars films. This in-depth interview details Daniels' interactions with J.J. Abrams and his tireless desire to own every part of his most famous role.

Carrie Fisher has also been giving quite a few interviews, though hers tend to be  a bit more...colorful than those proffered by Daniels.

If you've been harboring even the tiniest bit of doubt, you put your fears to rest: The Force Awakens will not feature any Jar Jar Binks.

On a very not-Star Wars note, we have the first trailer for the sequel to the epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.


And, while we're at it, the trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse:



Science/Technology
Image credit

The latest edition of Nature Materials includes this research from MIT that, after combining microRNA strands into a triple helix, may be the foundation for a new type of cancer treatment.

Are you ready for your weekly dose of awesome photos from New Horizons? Well, wait no more.

Ok, we couldn't get through this section without at least one Star Wars reference. What's a realistic way to build a to-scale Death Star? The guys at JPL have a potential answer.

Feats of Nerdery/General Awesomeness

Check out this fully armed and operational Death Star replica


As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!
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This Week in Geekdom

Holy December Batman. Seriously, how are you here already? Apparent distortions in the space-time continuum notwithstanding, I hope you're all having great weekends and wonderful holiday seasons thus far. Before we all dive back into our respective yuletide preparations let's get down to the Week in Geekdom.

Comics

Neil Gaiman's landmark graphic novel, the Sandman, turned 27 on November 29th. Here is why said work remains in a class all its own nearly three decades after its publication.


The city of Cleveland has some concrete, or potentially Kryptonite, plans to honor the Man of Steel.

Games

Behold the first trailer for the Final Fantasy VII remake!


Movies/TV

We gave this announcement plenty of love over on our social media pages, but it's definitely worth revisiting. 2016 will see the return of Samurai Jack!

Speaking of returns in 2016, DC would like to remind us that Batman vs Superman will be coming our way in the not-so-distant future.


Science/Technology

Check out these incredible images/videos of Italy's Mt. Etna, which erupted in spectacular fashion earlier this week.

It's been a few weeks since we had some new images of Pluto from New Horizons. Well, if you're a fan of the dwarf planet it was worth the wait, as the latest batch of pictures are the sharpest we've seen yet.

When you think of commonly occurring elements in the known universe, you may think of Hydrogen and Helium, but would you correctly guess that this is the element that would come next in that sequence?

While we're...sort of...on the subject of helium, the ultralight element is proving to be the key ingredient in next-generation high-capacity storage drives.

We talked last week about the burgeoning 'war' of privatized space exploration, but here's a far less bellicose facet of the Blue Origins side of things guaranteed to make you smile: the reactions of the 400 scientists and researchers that worked on their firm's reusable rocket.


We've talked a bit over the past few weeks about the centennial of the publication of Einstein's Theory of Relativity but, if we get right down to it, what is spacetime...really?

For decades researchers have been stymied by the concept of cosmic microwave background radiation, as it has proven incredibly difficult to detect by direct means. The latest edition of Nature presents what may be the solution to this mystery.

Potentially commercially viable synthetic diamonds. Bonus: they glow in the dark.

Turns out that your appendix may not be a useless evolutionary vestige after all.

General Awesomeness/Real Life Superheros

In honor of 'Giving Tuesday' Jason Gidman, the host of 'DC All Access', launched a campaign to send 10,000 comic books overseas to provide some much-needed escapism and entertainment for actively serving military personnel. Want in? Here's how you can get involved.

Ever wonder just how much either of the Death Stars cost or just would have happened to the Galactic economy following the destruction of said superweapons? The School of Engineering and Applied Science at Washington University in St. Louis gave their best crack at coming up with a comprehensive response.

Mattel has brought back the Viewmaster in time for the holiday gift-giving season and the latest incarnation of this classic toy is a bit different than what you may remember.

This Lego-based kinetic sculpture of Sisyphus is both stunningly realistic and somehow very soothing to watch.


As always, best wishes for an excellent week ahead!

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