Author Archives: jrenstro

Are You Being Controlled By Mind Parasites?

If something you can’t quite explain stops you from reading this post, you might be in trouble. One of the science fiction books that has stuck with me most over the years is Colin Wilson’s The Mind Parasites. Working like … Continue reading

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No Light? No Problem.

Any superhero worth his or her salt has night vision: Doctor Mid-Nite, Wolverine, Peter Parker, Superman, Catwoman. Regular humans have desired this power for quite some time—night-vision devices have been around since World War II. But most of them look … Continue reading

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These Walls Have Ears

In season 5, episode 10 of Fringe, the Observers, hot on the trail of Walter and the gang, use an “LQ-7 unit” in Nina’s office to reconstruct the conversation she had a few minutes earlier. The Observers stick sensors to … Continue reading

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Robo-Journalist Wins The Pulitzer

Okay, so that hasn’t happened yet, but the folks over at Narrative Science, a company that has created software that performs “automated narrative generation,” confidently predicts that its computer program will win the coveted prize by 2016. Let’s back up … Continue reading

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Exoskeletons, Cyborgs, and Prosthetics—Oh My!

Ellen Ripley’s power-loader, Matt Damon’s Elysium exoskeleton, and Iron Man’s get-up aren’t just fiction anymore. Italy’s Perceptual Robotics Laboratory has created a “body extender” that allows wearers to curl 100 pounds in each hand. Someone who calls himself Hacksmith has … Continue reading

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I, Snowbot

In science fiction, robots perform all kinds of tasks. Sometimes they dictate the fate of humanity, such as in Isaac Asimov’s “Reason,” in which Q-T, a robot with impressive and frustrating existential curiosity, keeps an energy beam steady during an … Continue reading

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Microsoft’s Holographic System Will Project More Than Princess Leia

When I first watched R2D2 beam a hologram of a distraught Princess Leia onto a tabletop, I was more interested in how I could get my hands on that technology than I was about her problem (don’t judge—I was little … Continue reading

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The Apes Shall Inherit The Earth (Or At Least A Little Piece)

One of the reasons Planet of the Apes resonates so deeply with viewers is the plausibility of its premise. Have you ever seen monkeys up close? Their profound intelligence is clear, and there’s no question we evolved from them. Their … Continue reading

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Wake Me Up Before You Go Go

British neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote Awakenings in 1973, detailing his experiences giving a drug called L-Dopa (Levodopa, now commonly used to treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s by increasing the brain’s supply of dopamine) to catatonic patients. The book was later … Continue reading

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Am I Only Dreaming?

Ever since I first saw Nightmare on Elm Street as a kid (and watched Johnny Depp get blended by his bed and splattered on the ceiling), I’ve been fascinated and a little scared by dreams. If you die in your … Continue reading

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