Here's a sneak peek of 'Documentary for the Recently Deceased: The Making of Beetlejuice'

A feature-length documentary about the making of the 1988 cult classic Beetlejuice is in the works. The film is being made and directed by French Beetlejuice superfan Fred China and produced by Adam F. Goldberg (The Goldbergs) and Lee Leshen (Back in Time, Ghostheads).

Here's its trailer:

They're currently running a second crowdfunding campaign to cover the cost of more interviews. (To note: For €25 you can get the doc's movie poster --shown above-- which was created by Kyle Lambert, the creator of Stranger Things art.)

(Cult of Weird) Read the rest

This is what 'going viral' looks like

Sometimes I blog about something and it goes nowhere, much like this girl's domino:

Sometimes I blog about something and it continues to weave its way to the many corners of the internet, much like this:

But, sometimes I blog about something and it starts a chain reaction that looks more like this (I looked for a domino video that featured fireworks and confetti but came up short):

via

In other words, it goes viral. Now, on November 11, I blogged about Tim Klein's "puzzle montages" and I believe it's the most-viral post I've written in my over-seven-year professional blogging career. While I don't have the exact numbers, I have been watching it quickly spread across the planet and I feel certain that it is. Today, I thought it would be fun to pull back the curtain a little to show you what "going viral" looks like from "backstage."

[TL;DR version (and, warning, this post IS entirely TOO LONG): The post I wrote about Tim Klein's puzzle montages went nuts! Media outlets from around the globe picked up the story (digital, print, TV), some linked back to Boing Boing, some didn't. Tim got TONS of fan mail, all of his art sold, and now he's being offered gallery shows. Well... he and I talked and we plan to take it to the next level together (note: we didn't know each other before all of this). We first want to build a community of people who love puzzle mashups. Want to learn more? Read the rest

Jay Leno's got the goods on the Christopher Nolan Batmobile

It's been years since the first of Christopher Nolan's Batman movies hit theaters, bringing with it one of the coolest rides in movie history: this Batmobile. In this video, Jay Leno talks to some of the folks involved in bringing the beast to life on the silver screen. Watchin it bomb around town for expecting motorists to see? Very cool. Read the rest

Grease's director breaks down the 'You're The One That I Want' scene

Grease was the first feature Randal Kleiser ever directed. That was 1978. Forty years later, Kleiser breaks down the now-iconic "You're The One That I Want" scene, the "electrifying" musical number where the "Bad Sandy" shows up. Did you know that Olivia Newton-John was sewn into those tight zippered pants and was stuck in them all day? Talk about suffering for your art.

A special 40th anniversary edition of Grease is now available. Read the rest

How they used to fake horseback riding scenes in the movies

That's Boris Karloff riding off on a mechanical horse.

This footage was shown at the end of Mario Bava's 1963 film Black Sabbath, but only in the Italian version. In the English version, they cut the scene out, according to coolasscinema.com:

But in the original Italian version, we close out with this ending monologue from Karloff decked out in his Wurdulak costume -- "So there it is. Didn't you see that end coming? There's no fooling around with ghosts, because they take revenge. Well, we've come to the end of our tales... so, sadly, I must leave you now. But watch out on the way home. Look around you, look behind you... careful when you open the door! And don't go in without turning on the light! Dream about me! We'll become friends!"

The camera then backs away revealing Karloff atop a fake horse as film technicians run around giving the illusion he's riding passed trees. This light-hearted, comedic moment was discarded from the US print, which closes without any final words from Karloff. Instead, it goes straight to the end credits backed by a lighter toned Baxter composition that sounds similar to the sort the man created for the Roger Corman-Poe pictures that were popular at the time.

(Super Punch, TATJANA SL) Read the rest

The making of Drunk Science (and why I am never making another one)

I've gotten a few questions about the Drunk Science video that I posted here yesterday. The two most common: "Will there be another Drunk Science?" And, "Jeezus, didn't science journalist Charles Q. Choi drink a bit too much for this?"

The answers to those questions are, respectively, "No" and "Yes". Choi is probably the best person to explain both answers, which he does in a blog post that discusses the science of an alcohol-induced blackout, and why — despite the fact that everybody involved with Drunk Science thinks the final result is pretty damn funny and generally good Internet — we won't ever be doing anything like that again. Read the rest

Sucking up to shrimp

Say you're a marine biologist and you want to study the little bitty creatures of the sea — shrimps and worms and things like that. How do you go about capturing them?

Why, with an underwater vacuum, of course.

At the PNAS First Look blog, David Harris writes that this "SCUBA-tank powered vacuum, called an “airlift,” inhales shrimp, sand fleas, marine worms, and 'things that would swim away if they had the chance.'" Read the rest

More accurate, but less reliable

This is a fascinating problem that affects a lot of scientific modeling (in fact, I'll be talking about this in the second part of my series on gun violence research) — the more specific and accurate your predictions, the less reliable they sometimes become. Think about climate science. When you read the IPCC reports, what you see are predictions about what is likely to happen on a global basis, and those predictions come in the form of a range of possible outcomes. Results like that are reliable — i.e, they've matched up with observed changes. But they aren't super accurate — i.e., they don't tell you exactly what will happen, and they generally don't tell you much about what might happen in your city or your state. We have tools that can increase the specificity and accuracy, but those same tools also seem to reduce the reliability of the outcomes. At The Curious Wavefunction, Ashutosh Jogalekar explains the problem in more detail and talks about how it affects scientist's ability to give politicians and the public the kind of absolute, detailed, specific answers they really want. Read the rest

Inside a nuclear fusion research lab

In downtown Cambridge, Mass., there's a research laboratory where scientists create plasma — the superheated, energy-dense gases that make up the Sun — and then try to manipulate that matter in ways that could, someday, be useful to the human race. Last week, the folks at The Physics Central Buzz Blog went inside this facility. Follow along on their virtual tour of a plasma physics lab. Read the rest

How bad research gets published (and promoted)

In 2010, a group of scientists claimed to have found bacteria that could build its DNA using arsenic, instead of the phosphorous used by the rest of Earth's life forms. Within days, the research behind "arsenic life" was under serious scrutiny and we now know that it was totally wrong. But the work was peer-reviewed. It was sponsored by NASA. How do so many experts make such a big mistake? Dan Vergano at USA Today has an excellent article looking at just that — and it includes the peer review comments that helped the arsenic life paper get published. Though normally secret, Vergano got a hold of them through a Freedom of Information Act request. Read the rest

Fantastic tour of the International Space Station

Space Station Commander Sunny Williams takes you on an in-depth tour of humankind's home away from home in space.

Science, confidential

We've talked here before about the crazy things you can find when you read the "Methods" section of a scientific research paper. (Ostensibly, that's the boring part.)

If you want a quick laugh this morning — or if you want to get a peek at how the sausages are made — check out the Twitter hashtag #overlyhonestmethods, where scientists are talking about the backstory behind seemingly dry statements like "A population of male rats was chosen for this study". Read the rest

In which Santa helps remind us all of the importance of metadata

Metadata is one of those things that is so important, it becomes easy to forget about. We often collect metadata without thinking about it. When we don't collect it — or if we collect it in a sloppy manner — we notice very quickly that something has gone wrong. But when someone says the word "metadata", a large number of us go, "the what now?" And start trying to remember what that word means before we make ourselves sound dumb in conversation.

Metadata is really just information about information — it helps us organize, find, and standardize the things we know and want to know. At the Information Culture blog Bonnie Swoger offers some Christmas-themed examples that will help you remember what metadata is, help you understand why it's such a big deal, and improve your ability to do metadata right.

If you stumbled across this list on the web you might be able to guess what it was, but you couldn’t be sure. It would also be difficult to find this list again if you were looking for it. The list creator might find this pretty useful, but if he or she shared it with others, we would want some added information to help the new user understand what he or she was looking at: this is metadata.

Metadata for this data file:

Who created the data: Santa Claus, North Pole. An email address would be nice. This way we have some contact information in case we need clarification. Title: “My List” isn’t a title that is conducive to finding the file again.

Read the rest

The many stages of writing a research paper

Watch as computer scientist Timothy Weninger goes through 463 drafts of a scientific research paper.

How To: Film cheetahs in slow motion

Watch as National Geographic and the Cincinnati Zoo capture beautiful footage of cheetahs in action.

How experimental design can create conflicting results

Is coffee bad for you or good for you? Does acupuncture actually work, or does it produce a placebo effect? Do kids with autism have different microbes living in their intestines, or are their gut flora largely the same as neurotypical children? These are all good examples of topics that have produced wildly conflicting results from one study to another. (Side-note: This is why knowing what a single study says about something doesn't actually tell you much. And, frankly, when you have a lot of conflicting results on anything, it's really easy for somebody to pick the five that support a given hypothesis and not tell you about the 10 that don't.)

But why do conflicting results happen? One big factor is experimental design. Turns out, there's more than one way to study the same thing. How you set up an experiment can have a big effect on the outcome. And if lots of people are using different experimental designs, it becomes difficult to accurately compare their results. At the Wonderland blog, Emily Anthes has an excellent piece about this problem, using the aforementioned research on gut flora in kids with autism as an example.

For instance, in studies of autism and microbes, investigators must decide what kind of control group they want to use. Some scientists have chosen to compare the guts of autistic kids to those of their neurotypical siblings while others have used unrelated children as controls. This choice of control group can influence the strength of the effect that researchers find–or whether they find one at all.

Read the rest

How To: Preserve a bat for museum display

Perfect, little bat skeletons don't grow on trees, you know.

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