This Week in Geekdom



Happy weekend everyone!  Just a quick post this time around and hopefully, hopefully getting back to real posts again soon. This past month has been unexpectedly tough in a whole bunch of ways BUT May is nearly upon us and, with a new month, there shall be new nerdy awesomeness!


Science/Technology

So 3-D printing has been a legit thing for a few years now. So why isn't the price of the technology coming down so we can, you know, have access to and use it? Here's your answer.

Magnets, how do they work? Well, aside from generating that meme, that question has perplexed quite a few physicists when they attempt to "project" magnetic fields over a given distance. A magnetic field can be extremely powerful and useful, but was effectively limited to its polar bases until these researchers developed a type of "hose" to project fields pretty much wherever they wanted.

60 Years ago this past Thursday four intrepid scientists concluded that DNA generally assumes a helix shape. This is the story of their paradigm-shifting discovery.

What if your college professor gave you full license to cheat on his exam? How would you react? Check out the story of one UCLA professor who presented his students with exactly this scenario.

Frustrating: typing on your handheld device with your thumbs or index fingers. If this is frequently the case for you, fear not, a new keyboard layout may not be too far away.

Holy thermodynamic adherence! Earlier this week, astronomers spotted a galaxy with the ability to convert ambient energy into stars with nearly 100% efficiency.  

Games

In what will almost certainly not be the last of THQ-published franchises to be snapped up by other developers at a bankruptcy-necessitated bargain price, Gearbox Software announced this week that it had acquired the beloved strategy franchise, Homeworld. The purchase came on the heels of a failed crowdfunding attempt bring the property into the hands of its most devout fans.

Since EA couldn't possibly allow for a stable and enjoyable gaming experience, they released the first major patch for Sim City this week. And...yeah...about that

Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses concert series has released a smattering of new tour dates. Check out the updated schedule to see if they're coming to a venue near you.

TV

Though we try to write this off as another "hiatus", it appears that Futurama may be gone for good this time. On Monday, Comedy Central announced that they would not renew the animated series for another season. The show's producers are in the process of trying to find a new home for their creation but, unless there's a massive response from the fans, they seem content to let the series come to an end on September 4th.

Less saddening, but still disappointing was the announcement that the upcoming season of the Venture Brothers has been pushed back from its original release in mid-May to midnight on June 2nd. There was no official reason given for the rescheduling, but we will, in fact, have new Venture Brothers this year.

I leave you with this excellent interview with Clark Gregg (aka Agent Coulson)...because we're not already excited enough about the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series. 
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This Week in Geekdom



And what a week it was. But we've seriously had enough of that already. The only allusion I'll make to that strife is that the organizers of Boston Comic Con, which was to have taken place this weekend, are still working to reschedule the event. You can find updates about the date shift and details regarding their refund policy here.

Comics

75 Years ago Thursday, the world was first introduced to Superman in Action Comics #1 and nerdery, as a whole, would never be the same.

Bronies: hilarious fanboy subgroup or driving sales force working to keep hard-copy comics alive? Turns out, they're both

Games

As we gear up for E3 and the potential release of details for a handful of new consoles, the guys over at Gaming Illustrated break down how exactly the Playstation 3 was able to push past a very slow entrance to the gaming market and became the best-selling console of the past few years.

For those of you looking to get a gaming fix at work, but still look like you're working, an inventive and meticulous gamer accountant has a solution for you.

After years of enduring the persistent pleas of non-Japanese fans, Nintendo has announced that it will release the beloved RPG Earthbound to US gamers via the Wii U console.

Further proving that Sim City is, in fact, just a giant marketing platform, EA released a new bit of "DLC" brought to you by the fine folks behind Crest toothpaste.

The Museum of Modern Art inducted 14 classic video games into its galleries as part of a new exhibit, "Applied Design." The curators broke down which games made the cut and which were significant, but were too lengthy or complex for visitors to play (as it's an interactive exhibit). Foremost amongst these excluded works was none other than the original Sim City. The Museum was quick to point out how groundbreaking Sim City actually was, which was a poignant reminder of just why it's so frustrating to see where the franchise has gone since then.

Science/Technology

Speaking of classic video games, because our attempts to create AI have apparently become bored looking at cat videos on the internet, intrepid comp sci PhD Tom Murphy developed a program that can play first edition NES games on its own. At least now our robot overlords will have plenty to occupy themselves with after they enslave us all. We can't have unhappy overlords now can we?

Ever wondered what companies did after scientists succeeded in sequencing of the human genome? Turns out, they've been cordoning off individual genes and patenting them. After decades of this, and with about 40% of the human genome now considered proprietary intellectual property, the US Supreme Court is set to make a potential ruling on this practice

File this one under "Things We Thought We Understood, but Flagrantly Don't." Turns out protons, which physicists believed they had a decent comprehension of, may actually be much smaller than previously thought. Whether these particles sometimes shrink or if our methods of measurement have improved since we went all sub-atomic remains to be seen.

In another entry to the above list, that whole Hubble Constant thing that physicists have been using to generate theoretical models of the birth of the universe? Yeah, it's not actually constant at all

As a kid, you may have been bombarded with anti-drug public service announcements. If, at any point during said onslaught, you thought to yourself, "This actually might make people want to do drugs," you may have been right.

While we're on the subject of stuff you did in the halcyon days of your youth, did you have a favorite type of dinosaur? Did you ever wonder which kind of mega-reptile you'd be if you lived during the Cretaceous Period? The Discovery Channel has this fun little quiz to help prove that yes, you are a Triceratops through and through.

Remember a few weeks back when we talked about the Roadrunner supercomputer being decommissioned? Well check out its successor: the Titan.

Fie on you 2nd Law of Thermodynamics! This new solar cell can generate 2 electrons per 1 photon!


Movies

We were treated to a veritable treasure trove of trailers this week. (Treasure Trove of Trailers is my deep south sea chanty cover band) Check out new footage of the destruction of Krypton in this Man of Steel trailer and get a glimpse of life after the 74th Hunger Games in this Catching Fire trailer. You can also check out new footage for:


While we're on a mini-movie binge, I highly recommend you take a look at this spot for Joss Whedon's upcoming neo-Shakespearan project, Much Ado About Nothing. That concept might sound a bit strange, but Whedonites won't be surprised to learn that the director is a huge fan of the Bard. This whole idea was borne from occasional "play slam" parties that Whedon hosts for his actor buddies. I can't conceive of just how much I'd pay to see Nathon Fillion and Amy Acker taking on iambic pentameter.
  
TV

George Takai turned 76 yesterday. Sending the best possible wishes to the brave, forthright, unimitatable, and often hilarious Sulu!


General awesomeness

Literary nerds rejoice! This European company seeks to address the rapid digitalization of books by printing classic works on a number of unorthodox physical surfaces. Now you can read Peter Pan from your t-shirt and Moby Dick from your shower curtain!

Fancy yourself a grammar guru? See if you can pass this test.

This economic PhD candidate may have debunked what was considered the fundamental baseline regarding the "link" between governmental spending and a country's economic growth.

Here's wishing everyone a much better week ahead!
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Game Review: Relic



You know what we could really use right about now? Some fun. 

It's been a historically brutal and trying week for countless people. What better way to give our minds a much-needed break than to pick up some dice?

Last summer, in my recap of last year's Gen Con, I mentioned that Fantasy Flight Games (FFG), as part of their burgeoning partnership with Games Workshop, had announced the production of Relic, a rendition of the classic game Talisman set in the Warhammer 40K worldscape. The premise was extremely intriguing in general: a combination of an excellent base game enhanced by a rich and storied universe. It held special appeal for my husband and I, as we're huge fans of pretty much every aspect of this project. (Side note: going forward, I'll refer to my husband as the Geeky Innovation Repositor, or GIR).  Still, apprehension abounded. Plenty of these potential mash-ups start out sounding brilliant, but end up fizzling out or disappointing in one way or another. So, when the intended release date last autumn rolled on by without an update from FFG skepticism mounted. Cynicism set in when the holiday rush passed and Relic remained "at the printer" according to FFG's pipeline rating schema.

Then, when it seemed like we were going to be in for a long wait, Relic appeared in the FFG online catalog and my GIR promptly snapped up a copy. The game arrived at our doorstep a few days later, packaged with the kind of efficiency and attention to detail that makes you say, "Damn, these guys really know games." Of course, that's par for the FFG course.

This brings us to one of those glorious little pleasures unique to Geekdom: unwrapping a new game. Any board game aficionado will tell you that the sensory experience is one of those that's almost guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. It's the gentle cracks as you unfold the board for the first time, the little pops as you free the chits from their cardboard holsters, and breathing deeply of "new game smell." 

Then there's the visual aspect, taking in the board and the entirety of the game laid out on your table for the first time because, honestly, after this the focus will be on playing the game! Relic is stunning to look at. The board alternates the darkness of deep space with galaxial bursts of swirling color. Everything from the character cards to the chits are rendered in detail both minute and unmistakably true to Warhammer 40K canon.

The colors! Oh, the colors!
The layout and actual game mechanics are very similar to Talisman. That being said, the two are entirely separate, self-contained games so you don't need to have any play history or materials from one in order to enjoy the other.

Related Aside: While you don't need to be familiar with Talisman in order to play Relic, the next section will likely be more meaningful if you do have a point of comparison.

Basic Stats: Relic is designed for 2-4 players over 14 years of age (there are some images of blood, references to brutal acts, and a LOT of small pieces). While FFG lists the normal playtime at 1-2 hours, don't be surprised if this game consumes an entire afternoon, especially if you're using any of the game's end condition enhancements or you've got a full contingent of 4 players.

The basic premise is identical to Talisman: select a character (each with unique abilities) and, with said character, make your way around concentric levels of the game board by hacking, slashing and dispelling whatever might obstruct your path. Your journey will also be punctuated with encounters, a few of which will provide you with a chance to obtain the eponymous Relic, which serves as your entry key to the final levels. Fight stuff, gather equipment, get a Relic, clear all three levels.

Ok, if it's so similar why even bother getting Relic? Why not just stick with Talisman?

While the two games are inherently the same at the macro level, Relic offers a number of enhancements to actual play that makes it a worthwhile and worthy successor. These are listed below in a handful of basic categories.

Characters
- The tokens used as primary play pieces are large, detailed resin busts of your chosen character. Not only are they of very good quality material, but they take paint so you can customize them further.

- Gone are the tiny plastic chits used as counters for your character's various attributes. Instead, each player receives a master board with four dials that can be updated with a simple twist. Speaking of which...

- There are four primary attributions instead of Talisman's three: Strength, Willpower, Cunning, and Life. Each of these is denoted with its own color and each gets its own dial on your master board. Managing these will play an enormous role in your character's ultimate fate, but more on this in a minute.

- In Talisman, you basically meandered around the outer layer of the board, killing and acquiring things until you felt "strong enough", after which time you ran at the remaining two layers of the board and hoped that your instincts were true. Relic offers a more concrete method for tracking that previously semi-tangible "strength" by providing the opportunity to level up at distinct intervals. You keep track of your character's level on a support board that hugs your character card and denotes which benefits you receive each time you level.

- Leveling up typically provides your character with two benefits which can range from attribution points to additional hit points to bonus objects and influence (the currency of the game). Arriving at certain milestone levels warrants additional goodies, like more slots to carry gear in. Since you get to see all these benefits and the levels at which you'll receive them you can engage in quite a bit of planning and tailor the gear you choose to pick up to complement your future skill set. 

Game Play
- Like Talisman, the driving mechanic of Relic is resolving combats and encounters. Akin to character advancement, Relic offers the players the opportunity to have a bit more direction when meandering around the board in the form of Mission Cards. As you'd guess from the name, these Cards list specific objectives which provide players with all sorts of useful gear when completed. Complete three Missions and you can exchange the cards for a Relic. The Missions themselves vary from relatively simple "defeat any enemy on square type X" to fairly complex, "select another player as your 'mark', track them down and steal something from them immediately following a combat."

- Unlike its predecessor, Relic does not permit players to duel one another overtly should they be in the same square at the same time. Of course you wouldn't attack another defender of the Imperium! The game is far from cooperative though and you'll have a fair number of opportunities to mess with your fellow players.

- One entirely unique addition to Relic are the Corruption cards. Appearing on certain interactions and in certain boss scenarios, the Corruption cards mutate players and said genetic edits have an equal probability of causing good or ill. While these cards play a much larger role in certain game setups than others, managing your character's level of Corruption can add an interesting twist to overall game play.

End Game/Scenarios
- Players have the option of tackling Relic "straight" (i.e. without any end game enhancements) or enacting an overarching scenario that provides context and additional motivation for play. The former will make Relic feel much more akin to Talisman. The latter can assume several forms, many of which are a game boss that has its own set of requirements in order to defeat. Though these scenarios often add an enjoyable challenge to the game, using them will likely add quite a bit to the overall time taken to play.

Overall, a welcome addition to the Talisman family and a solid effort from FFG. As always, happy gaming!
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Boston Strong



We've been through quite a bit in the year since the founding of the Care and Feeding of Nerds. Together we've weathered meteors, blizzards, and hurricanes of historic proportions. We've tried to lend comfort to one another in the wake of manmade disasters as well, leveraging the very best parts of social media that are so often overlooked. It is profoundly distressing that we've been given occasion to enact the latter once more.

Photo courtesy of Coleen Dolan Photography

While enjoying a brief walk during a break in the work day, I heard what I thought was a building being demolished. Only seconds later, it was unmistakably clear that something horrific had occurred as we were ordered to run to safety. The sounds and sights of those moments will probably never leave me entirely. Of course, I'm immeasurably fortunate to be able to say that such is the extent of what yesterday wrought for me.

More of my waking hours are spent in the city of Boston than anywhere else. The city has a cadence to it, a daily rhythm combined with a seasonal cyclicality that seems to make it come alive. Legions of alternately brusque, ecstatic, obsessive, cynical and boisterous students of the thing we call life fill the streets with a personality that you won't find anywhere else. Earlier today, it was as though Boston itself stood in equal parts profound, wordless grief and steely resolve.

His words have, rightfully, made the rounds on the internet already, but Patton Oswalt's reaction was wholly, entirely spot-on. George Takai's response was similarly brilliant.

While we search for answers and process our grief, there's plenty that we can do to help. 

Governor Patrick has put The One Fund in place to collect donations for those affected by the bombings.

Technology Underwriting the Greater Good (TUGG), the philanthropic collective of Boston's technology sector, has also set up a site taking donations for the victims and their families.

As we discussed in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, blood donation is critically important, entirely anonymous, and always needed.

Or, even if you're not at all exercise-inclined, you can participate in a memorial run/walk. Honor those stricken or who were not able to finish on Monday with a few mindful steps.

Thank you to all the first responders, medical personnel and volunteers that rushed headlong into the chaos of yesterday. Warm, loving thoughts to all the racers and their families/supporters. Profound gratitude to those around the world who have shown their support.

I leave you guys with a story from my commute home yesterday, as I hope it embodies the spirit of what we'll take away from the events of April 15th:

While heading home on the Red Line Monday afternoon I stood between a blood-spattered volunteer nurse and a runner with a bib number, but no medal. When I asked if they were ok, the runner responded with, "This is the third time I've come all the way from Seattle to get a Boston Marathon medal and the third time I've had to come away empty-handed. I was 1.5 miles from the finish line when the bombs went off and they told us to clear the course. I'll tell you what though...I'll be back next year and I'll be damned if I don't get my medal!"

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This Week in Geekdom



Today's post is somewhat special. Why? Exactly one year ago today the Care and Feeding of Nerds made its debut onto the interwebs! In the 365 days since, there have been 51 posts that have garnered 20,940 unique hits. We've weathered disasters both natural and manmade, seen three costumes come to life, ate eight different kinds of delicious nomnoms, and examined movies, books, and gadgets of all sorts. Mostly though, we've talked. We've tried to take a good hard look at what it means to be a nerd/geek because, quite frankly, that's the stuff that's going to matter long after the Nerdaissance fades  and a new subculture morphs into the zeitgeist of the day. Here's to another year filled with all this awesomeness and more.

Happy Birthday Care and Feeding of Nerds!


And what better accompaniment for your slice of virtual birthday cake than a handy recap of all the geeky happens that went down this week? 

Comics

Combination birthday and sympathy cake
DC announced that another of their new 52 run will be shut down. Batman Incorporated will come to an end in July as writer Grant Morrison leaves the service of DC. The author will get a unique sort of curtain call before he departs, as he drew the variant cover for the final issue of his latest comic run.

After a long and increasingly bizarre battle on both legal and...I guess you'd just term them 'other' fronts, lawyer Charles Carreon was ordered to pay $46,100USD to Matt Inman, creator of the web comic, the Oatmeal. 

Science/Technology
Superman wasn't the only one celebrating another year of existence this week. 52 years ago Friday the first human breached the Kármán line and traveled to would become known as outer space. Not coincidentally, Russia chose this week to announce the launch of its new space program.

When Samsung unveiled its forthcoming Galaxy S4 smartphone last month they created a furor with the device's ultra-efficient, breathtakingly crisp 5 inch display screen. The really mind-blowing thing? That shiny screen is potentially only the beginning of what we may see on all mobile devices in only a few years time.

Ever wonder why certain songs seem to download themselves to your mental ipod, then hit repeat an unspeakable number of times. Turns out your brain may be using it as a source of feel-good neurotransmitters.

Researchers at Stanford succeeded in making a mouse brain, and part of a human brain, entirely transparent. This breakthrough has potential applications in the study of countless neurological disorders as well as just allowing for better understanding of the brain itself. Check out the amazing video footage here

Good news if you're a chocoholic: scientists in the UK published their findings on how they managed to lower both the fat and sugar content of chocolate without altering its velvety texture

TV
The guys over at Fox studios either apparently have no inkling about how beloved this whole Firefly show they killed off over a decade ago really was or they get some sort of perverse pleasure garnering the ire of the Browncoats. In response to maker Ripple Junction's version the cap appearing in the virtual catalog of ThinkGeek last December, the studio started throwing down cease and desist orders on all makers of Jayne's trademark knit cap. (10 years after the show went off the air) Yes, all makers. Even hobbysts who put an occasional hat up on Etsy. ThinkGeek has posted this response to the letters, announcing that all profits from the sale of the caps will go to charity, but the fate of Jayne caps remains dark. 

Games
As predicted back in March, EA claimed the title "Worst Company in America" for the second consecutive year. Though the company laughed off their "win" last year, it seems that this public outpouring of vitriol may be prompting them to take a bit more care with the upcoming release of Sim City on iOS. Should be interesting to see how that turns out.

Things we need to make a Kickstarter for/get a game developer to produce: this gorgeous mod of Monopoly set in the Fallout universe. It's not the first one of these to appear on the internet, but it's definitely an impressive piece of work that would probably garner legions of buyers were such a thing available for sale.

Since Microsoft has already proven that absolutely no one in the gaming industry seems to understand that gamers do not want always online devices, it decided to irk Xbox fans further by announcing that the successor console to the 360 will not be backwards compatible. The decision was allegedly a cost-cutting measure, but we'll likely have to wait until E3 to get the full story on this as-yet unnamed device.

Hope everyone has a great week!
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