Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fiction/Science: Series 2, Log 2.0 - Curse of the Draco (Part 1)

Snead and Lovable Robot play space checkers ("King me!")

THE FICTION: (re: Propagation of the Species)
Yesterday we released the second episode of Season 2, “Curse of the Draco (Part 1),” which you can watch on YouTube or in Koldcast’s high-definition player.

Previously on Space Hospital, Nurse Ratknee had to choose between Dr. Larry’s delicious space muffins and saving Nurse Barbara and Dr. Drake from certain death. In this episode, we learn she took the high road but regrets it when she runs into a pregnant, glowing and gloating Nurse Barbara. Nurse Ratknee is, for once, not pregnant, and hints at her complicated relationship with child-bearing (which we first learned about in Season 1).

Prince Plodd proudly welcomes aboard dreamy, accomplished Dr. Drake (played by Andy Hungerford). Oh, and Draconoid forces are attacking Space Hospital, too! But automatic weapons aren’t functioning as the ship downloads software updates, so it’s all hands on deck to fire weapons manually. Lindsay finds Snead playing space checkers in a closet with Lovable Robot, hands him a plunger and orders him off to unplug clogged toilets. When Nurse Ratknee questions Lyndsay’s tough tactics with Snead, Lyndsay makes a startling revelation that’s a call-back to Season 1’s “I, Man-Bot.” Let’s just say that Nurse Ratknee learns that she is a mother – just not in the way she imagined.

THE SCIENCE: (re: Cylons & Other Talking Toasters)

On a Friday in March 2010, researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute inserted artificial DNA into some Mycoplasma capricolum cells, lit a few scented candles, turned on some Marvin Gaye, and when they returned on Monday, the cells had bloomed into colonies.

These are cells running man-made software. Wired science writer Rachel Swaby says that the ultimate goal is, “a brand-new genome from the ground up.”

UC San Francisco synthetic biologist Chris Voigt adds, “what do you do with all that design capacity?”

I think the real question is, how far away are we from Cylons – or the other variety of talking toaster?

Speaking of artificial DNA and, by extension, artificial intelligence...Lovable Robot (also known as Lenny Roboticus in certain circles) steals every scene he's in, whether he's serving drinks, serving a court order, playing space checkers or singing a stirring rendition of "Ave Maria." When asked about Lovable Robot's construction, Rob Poe explains, "People think that Lovable Robot is part vacuum cleaner. He is, however, descended from a 1950s hair-dryer, an Ikea Ice-crusher, a blender, a large salad bowl and miscellaneous plumbing parts.”

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