When I was a teen devourer of sci-fi, I was obsessed with the spaceship designs on paperback book covers. I would buy any novel or short story collection, however sketchy the contents seemed, if I dug the ship on the cover. Conversely, I would pass over well-regarded books if I thought the spaceship art was crappy. Sometimes, the covers would make a more lasting impression on me than the contents.
I can't imagine how high over the moon teenage me would be for YouTube channels like Spacedock. This excellently-produced channel is a collection of deep-nerdings over the minutia of spaceship designs found in sci-fi media. Episodes look at categories of ships across different sci-fi universes or they are deep dives into a specific class of ship from a world, or a single, iconic ship from a series.
The opinions are definitely those of the creator of the channel, and I don't always agree with them, but current me and teenage me are in love with the nerdiness of it all.
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In April, my wife and I returned from a few months in Mexico, to Texas. We were planning on hanging around until the end of the month before driving back up to Canada. On a particularly hot day, we thought it'd be nice to take our pooch to the beach so that she could cool off. Landlocked as we were, in Mission, we opted to drive east, to the coast. We considered South Padre Island, but seeing the traffic thicken the closer we got, we opted out at the last minute. Instead, on the advice of a fella we met while pulled over for a few licks of an ice cream, we set our Garmin to direct us to Boca Chica. The beach was beautiful, we were told, and no one cares if your dog plays the goof, provided she doesn't bother anyone else.
We were sold.
It wasn't a long drive, but it was a damn flat one. When we arrive in south Texas each year, I'm always thrilled to see the scrub brush, flatlands and palm trees. It's a completely alien world compared to what I grew up with in Canada. By the time we're getting ready to head north, I long for mountains. As the miles down the lone road to Boca Chica clicked by, I starting to whine that I knew what would be around the next corner... it would be flat and dry, with just a hint of dust, just as with the last corner we'd whipped around. Read the rest
Jeff Zugale is an artist specializing almost exclusively in spaceships: if you've seen a really nice spaceship in a game (Bioshock, Sunset Eve) or show (V, Falling Skies) the last few years, there's a chance it's one of his. Starshipwright One is his first art book, derived from Zugale's spaceship-a-day drawing and painting regime and the massive sketchbooks it slowly filled up. You can order it through Kickstarter for $20, with upgrades to get sketches and 3D-printed models.
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Admiral, your fleet awaits! I don't fancy your chance against the Unicode Menace, but do what you can.
The game/generator is called Vortex, but apart from this Reddit thread where creator Huw Millward linked to the video, it doesn't seem to have a homepage. He's got other similar projects, too: I like the look of Feud, a seriously old-school text-based sim set in 13th-century England. Read the rest
Dirk Loechel created this massive poster of starships from various universes, including our own: "I added the ISS. For scale. It's on top, with a yellow frame so it's relatively easy to find." It's visible in the detail below: Read the rest
In one chart, "German graphic artist Dirk Loechel has assembled virtually every spaceship known (over 200) including vessels from video games including Halo, TV shows dating back to Galaxy Quest, and CGI animated fare such as Wall-E."
Check out the image at Loechel's Deviant Art page Read the rest
At Cult of Mac, Sarah Lai Stirland offers an amusing anecdote from Pixar Director Mark Andrews, who got to tell Steve Jobs off.
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Mark Andrews, a writer, director and storyboard artist at Pixar, recounted that Jobs would often drop in to participate in production postmortems. It was at the company’s screening of “The Incredibles,” about a family of superheroes living undercover in the suburbs, where he first met Apple’s late co-founder. Andrews worked on the project as its story supervisor.
“He was sitting next to me and he said: ‘I just got one thing, John and Brad,’[the film's producer and writer/director] They said: ‘Sure, what is it Steve?’ He said: ‘Those stupid-ass, George Lucas-reject Star Wars space ships in “The Incredibles” are asinine!’” Andrews said. “And I designed ‘em, and I turned around and I said: ‘Excuse me, Steve, those are MY George Lucas-reject fuckin’ asinine space ships!’
Theoretical cosmologist Richard Easther has an interesting essay on the theoretical physics of warp drive technologies and why — despite the fact that they could work quite reasonably alongside relativity — they still might not ever make it to reality. Read the rest
It's been a good week for pedantry. In a guest blog post at Scientific American, Kyle Hill discusses the durability of spaceship windows — both in the real world, and in Joss Whedon's movie Serenity. Spaceship windows have to be incredibly tough, because even tiny chips of paint become dangerous projectiles in space. But how would they stand up to frontal attack by a spear? Physics has the answers. Read the rest
Here's the best way I can sum up this story: Yes, some NASA scientists are working on a design for a warp drive. No, that doesn't mean warp drives are real.
Warp drives — as a purely theoretical thing and/or science-fiction plot device — involve manipulating space-time to allow a spaceship to go faster than the speed of light. It's basically loophole that would allow you to get around those pesky laws of physics. Swiss bank account:taxes::Warp drives:speed of light. You get the picture.
Harold White of NASA’s Johnson Space Center is currently leading an effort to design a warp drive space ship. But, as Amy Teitel explains in a story for Vice's Motherboard, the fact that this is happening does not necessarily mean a real working warp drive is possible. It's more about the fact that NASA is partly in the business of letting really smart people try things that are kind of crazy and unlikely, if they can back up the idea with a reasonably plausible hypothesis. Speculative research is a thing that happens.
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The problem is that breaking the light barrier isn’t at all like breaking the sound barrier. The sound barrier–properly, the aerodynamic effects of pressure waves interacting with a body as it approaches the speed of sound–was broken with a cleverly engineered aircraft and an at-the-time state of the art rocket engine.
Bell’s X-1 was, importantly, a physical aircraft made of matter, not made of sound. But the atoms and molecules that make up all matter are connected by electromagnetic fields, and that’s the same stuff that light is made of.