Where do you fit in the universal scale?

Whether we consider something “big” or “small” often depends on the context we see it in. Place a Spitfire next to a Boeing 747 and the Spitfire seems small. Try to fit it into your living room, though, and it suddenly seems a lot bigger!

Scale of universeIf you want to get an idea of where we humans fit in the scale of the universe, there’s a great site to help you do just that. Handily, it’s called “The Scale of the Universe 2“.

As well as letting you move up and down the size scale (using the scrollbar), you can click on the various items you see to learn a little more about them. It’s a genuinely fascinating site and makes me appreciate just how much stuff is happening on too small a scale for me to see… and just how small humankind is in comparison to the rest of the universe.

One slight word of warning, you’ll need Adobe Flash so you may have difficulties if your browser has automatically disabled it. Assuming you’re good to go, though, head on over to The Scale of the Universe 2 and take a look.

See how Rogue One leads into A New Hope [spoilers]

First, SPOILERS AHEAD! Do not read any further if you don’t want to know the ending of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Still here?

Are you sure now?

Alright, here we go. Rogue One ends just before the opening scene of A New Hope. If you’ve seen A New Hope, you already know the story of Rogue One; it’s pretty much the opening crawl. While I appreciated Rogue One would fit nicely with the rest of the Star Wars canon I hadn’t realised just how much attention to detail had gone into making the two match up.

Rogue One ends (These are those spoilers, remember? One last chance to look away) with the Rebel Fleet taking a pounding from the Imperial Navy. Darth Vader makes a supremely memorable assault on the Tantive IV in an attempt to stop the Rebels escaping with the Death Star plans. We get to look inside the Tantive IV and get a brief on-screen appearance from a CGI Princess Leia.

Vimeo user Barre Fong has spliced the end of Rogue One with the opening of A New Hope, and it’s plain to see there was a great effort to make everything look just as it should. Sure, you can occasionally see the effects in A New Hope are a bit dated (after all, it did come out in 1977) but it still stands up well and you could almost believe it’s a continuation of the same movie.

Take a look at the video below and enjoy just how well Disney and Gareth Edwards made these two great movies join up (and look soon, because I have no idea if or when the video will be pulled off Vimeo).

If you would like to own Rogue One for yourself it will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on the 10th of April.

Help your children learn to code with Code.org

Computers are everywhere. They make modern televisions, washing machines, and cars work, they control the flow of electricity into your home, they control the sequence of traffic lights on your local roads, and they are used to track and transport the food to your local supermarket.

You get the idea.

Hour of Code - Star WarsI passionately believe that learning to code is a valuable life skill for children to pick up as early as possible, and I was impressed that my children’s school held an Hour of Code event back in December of last year. That’s where I came across Code.org, which has loads of resources for introducing children to coding. I mean, I would have killed to have a Star Wars programming course when I was little… kids today don’t know they’re born!

If you’re looking to get your little ones interested in making technology work for them, you could do a lot worse than checking out Code.org. Who knows, you might even learn something yourself!

Classical orchestra and chilli peppers? How do they keep going!?

What happens if you give the Danish National Chamber Orchestra super-hot chilli peppers? Well, I know I’ve munched on a few chillis that turned out to be too much for me so you might be thinking you know how this is going to go.

Watch the video below, though (from 2014) and I think you’ll be surprised as just how disciplined these folks are to keep going while obviously suffering!

A Soft Murmur … of background noise while you work

A Soft MurmurSome time ago, I wrote about a website called Coffitivity. Coffitivity plays the background noise of a cafe so that you can have some ambience while working. I work alone (not in the Chuck Norris sense, it’s just that I work from home) so sometimes a bit of background noise can be welcome.

More ambience sites have sprung up since then, and one of my new favourites is A Soft Murmur. But why is it different?

Simply put, it’s because it offers a variety of sounds. The coffee shop is still in there, but you can mix it with thunder, rain, white noise, singing bowls, and more. Each sound has a slider (on the desktop version of the site) so you can get the relative levels you want. Personally, I like listening to the rain and thunder so that’s the combination I usually go with.

I find having a little background noise does help with my concentration, and these sites have an advantage over “live” noise in that I can turn them off anytime I want to. It’s kind of hard to get everyone in my local coffee shop to be quiet on demand! The disadvantage, of course, is there’s no counter to buy coffee from!

Have a listen at http://asoftmurmur.com/ and see if it works for you.

 

Cute Mythos – Terrifying creatures turned into cute pins

H.P. Lovecraft’s writing has given rise to some truly iconic ideas, characters, and myths. Adam Howie (you may remember I mentioned him in yesterday’s post about the 2017 Dunfermline Comic Con) has created a series of enamel pins based on the Cthulhu mythos, which is itself based on H.P. Lovecraft’s stories.

If you’re wondering how you can make an ancient octopus-like monster into something cute… well, take a look at the gallery below.

These gorgeous pins appeal to me as an adult, but also to my children (who have claimed two of them for themselves).

If you would like a set for yourself, head over to Adam’s Facebook page and drop him a message. The pins cost £6 each, or £20 for the set, plus postage and packing.

Dunfermline Comic Con 2017

Last weekend (11th March) saw the second Dunfermline Comic Con take place in Pittencrief Park. As last year, it was organised by the awesome team at Little Shop of Heroes.

Luke's Landspeeder & DroidsAfter last year’s success, the Con was extended to include a marquee that effectively doubled the amount of space available. The marquee was packed with vendors, artists, and the opportunity to have your photo taken on a replica of Luke’s landspeeder from Star Wars: A New Hope.

If you take a look at the panorama below you might be tempted to think it was pretty quiet. Well, yes, it was when I took this (the doors had just opened) but, believe me, it got much, much busier!

Dunfermline Comic Con 2017 - marquee

The marquee – taken first thing before it got busy!

The nice thing, though, was that it didn’t feel as crowded as it did last year. Still busy, but I didn’t feel like there were any points where I couldn’t get to wherever I wanted to go.

So what was happening? Well, there were many artist tables and it was great to get a chance to chat with diverse artists like Neil Slorance (Dungeon Fun), Claire Roe (Batgirl Birds of Prey), Ian Kennedy (Dan Dare and Commando), John Allison (Bobbins), and lots more! One of the things I learned is that the artists are more than happy to chat about their work, their interested (Surprise! Most of the ones I spoke to are massive geeks!), and to let you watch them as they sketch at their tables. I was there with my daughter this time, and she was fascinated to see the artistic process taking place right before her eyes. A special shout out to my friend Adam for whom Dunfermline Comic Con was his first con as an artist/exhibitor!

ComiclocksThere were plenty of vendors too, selling wares ranging from handmade crafts to vintage toys. I saw a few toys I played with in my childhood years and, yes, it made me feel old! I spent a good long time talking to the guys at the

I spent a good long time talking to the guys at the Dunfermline Wargaming and Roleplaying Fellowship table and to sculptor David Chapman (who I also bought an MDF bat’leth from!). We had made a decision that we would look around everything before making any purchases, and it was nice to see the vendors understood (and even agreed). No hard sell, no pressure, everyone was relaxed and enjoying the day.

StormtroopersOf course, what is a convention without cosplay? There was an amazing array on display including some stunning Stormtrooper, Rebel Pilot, and Mandalorian outfits.

I was particularly taken with a chap dressed up as Sulu, from Star Trek, including gorgeous movie-era Starfleet uniform.

Between the two of us, my daughter and I also spotted Master Chief (Halo), several Ghostbusters, a dog dressed up as an AT-AT, and a group dressed up as characters from Peter Pan (my daughter loved this group because of the fantastic steampunk Tinkerbell costume!).

Derek the DalekMy highlight was seeing the Doctor Who lookalike and discovering Derek the Dalek can actually move! The Doctor took it for a couple of spins around the hall and it was great to watch people’s reactions. I had a quick chat with The Doctor afterwards, and it turns out he built Derek himself!

We didn’t manage to get to the panels but there were three throughout the day on “Comics/books – online to physical”, “Comics, video games and Animation + The British Superhero”, and “Dungeon Fun & Nimona”. Next year!

Just as last year, we had a fantastic day. It was a great opportunity to share in some geekiness with my daughter (my son was there too, incidentally, and also had a great time, but opted to go round with his mum instead) and we are already looking forward to next year. If you want to know when details of next year are out, keep an eye on the Little Shop of Heroes facebook page.

LEGO Timelapse – The Big Bang Theory (21302)

If you’re a fan of The Big Bang Theory, you might enjoy this.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Trailer

Guardians of the Galaxy was (and still is) one of my favourite movies so I’m really looking forward to Vol. 2. The good news is, if the trailer is any indication, it looks like it’s going to be great!

Take a peek at the latest trailer below:

5 Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books to start off the year

We’re already some way into 2017, but I wanted to take the chance to recommend some books I think you’d enjoy this year. These aren’t new publications but are simply books I have enjoyed reading in the last year. If you enjoy Science Fiction (or Speculative Fiction as it’s sometimes called) and Fantasy I’m pretty sure you will find something to enjoy here.

Many of these books to deal with adult themes, contain swearing, or are otherwise aimed at an adult audience. Just giving you a heads-up before you buy them for your children! Anyway… here we go!

1. Rivers of London

by Ben Aaronovitch

A murder witness approaches a Metropolitan Police Constable to give evidence. There’s just one problem… the witness is also dead. PC Peter Grant is then thrown into a world where he learns that ghosts, magic, and all other manner of fantastic situations aren’t actually fantasy; they’re very real.

Not only that, the Met has known this for quite some time and has a department to deal with them! PC Grant winds up working with the “magic department”, and learning a few tricks of his own along the way.

Rivers of London mixes elements of fantasy with comedy, has a cracking story, and plugs right into that sneaking suspicion that there’s more to the world than what we see.

If you enjoy this, there’s a series of follow-up books too.

Find Rivers of London on Amazon.co.uk

2. Old Man’s War

by John Scalzi

Old Man’s War is John Scalzi’s debut novel. I mention this because it’s probably my favourite book of recent times and I’m amazed that it’s his first! It falls firmly into the category of Science (or Speculative) Fiction. It’s the story of an elderly man who joins the Colonial Defence Force. Yes, this OAP just decided to join the army.

Why would he do that? As we learn in the opening pages, the CDF only takes elderly recruits, but it does so on the promise that it can make them “young” again. The process by which that happens and the events that affect our OAP once he enters military service had me completely enthralled from beginning to end.

Again, if you enjoy this novel there is a series of follow-up books.

Find Old Man’s War on Amazon.co.uk

3. The Martian

by Andy Weir

Mark Watney is part of a manned mission to Mars. He didn’t expect to be left behind, though, and become the first human to be completely alone on a planet.

There’s loads of gallows humour and science fiction actually based on science. If you’ve seen the movie and are thinking you would like there to have been more, this is definitely for you!

Someone once told me this book (and the movie) are for people who watched Apollo 13 and wish the entire thing was like the part where they were trying to work out how to make a new Carbon Dioxide scrubber using only what was available in the Lunar Module. That’s probably a fair comparison, actually, but it’s surprisingly fascinating to see how the various problems Watney faces cold be solved.

What surprised me is that Andy Weir didn’t have a contact at NASA he could ask about the tech of a hypothetical Mars mission. Instead, he crowdsourced the material by posting book excerpts online and allowing people to comment and correct him (and you know how the Internet is for correcting people!).

All in all a brilliant read, and highly recommended. Just be aware it drops the f-bomb in the first few lines but, then, if you were stranded on another planet I reckon you might be a bit sweary too!

Find The Martian on Amazon.co.uk

4. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

by Douglas Adams

This is an absolute classic, and one I come back to again and again. Douglas Adams’ absurd tale of Arthur Dent, dressing-gown wearing survivor of Earth’s demolition (to make way for a hyperspace bypass), requires a certain willingness to abandon logic and just go with it but, I promise you, it’s worth it.

The story leaps from one bizarre situation to another in a series of highly improbable events that never fail to make me laugh even now, after goodness knows how many readings.

If you enjoy the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, there is a series of follow-up books too.

Find The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on Amazon.co.uk

5. Neverwhere

by Neil Gaiman

Is what you see real? What if there’s more than just the mundane world we see around us every day? Richard Mayhew inadvertently manages to leave the mundane world and enter the magical world of London Below… a world where the normal rules don’t apply, and things take on a new and fantastic meaning. The caution to Mind the Gap on the Tube? It’s more than just about being careful not to fall between the train and the platform. The Angel, Islington? Well, in London Below it actually lives up to its name.

Richard’s adventures as he tries to get his life back and save a young girl called Door from assassination kept me enthralled from beginning to end. Now that I think of it, the hidden world here probably puts it in the same category as Rivers of London. If you enjoy one, I’m sure you’ll enjoy both.

Find Neverwhere on Amazon.co.uk

So there we go – five ideas of books to keep you entertained and enthralled. I loved all of these, and I have some others I want to tell you about in a future post. If you do read them, please do let us know what you think by leaving a comment or, if you want to say something after comments have closed here (we do that after a while to cut down on comment spam) you can pop over to our SubReddit and leave your thoughts there instead.