What I’m Reading: Think Tank: Fun With PTSD

May 30, 2014 § Leave a comment


Work has kept me from posting in a while, but unless you’re one of the few who regularly read Think Tank by Matt Hawkins with art by Rahsan Ekedal, I need to tell you:


Think Tank is kind of like Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare written by guys who want to explore the politics and moral issues of destroying your enemies with groundbreaking technology.  Though it’s far from Image Comics’ best-selling title, I have to believe it’s one of its best.  What makes this one-shot Fun With PTSD  essential reading is just how sophisticated, relevant, and poignant the story is.

Without giving too much away, Think Tank: Fun With PTSD is a one-shot comic book about a government scientist named David Loren who attempts to cure the PTSD of a friend who is a Navy SEAL.  Loren is the funny and rascally kind of genius, but the seriousness of the situation takes the story into some affecting places.

There have been a few stories in print and on-screen that address PTSD, but Think Tank is unique in that it examines the biological aspects of the disorder.  Scientists have known (or at least suspected) for a while that there is a biological component to PTSD.  I’m a veteran who doesn’t have PTSD (most don’t), and I volunteered to be in the control group for a study on PTSD’s affect on the physical brain way back in 2007.

Hawkins and Ekedal take time in the story to explain a lot of the science.  This is one of the reasons to love this series: it treats the reader like he or she is smart. If we’re honest, most current science fiction treats you like you’re a reasonably intelligent eight-year-old.  In explaining the science, these creators take a serious look at the issue and its solutions.  And a tangible solution makes for great storytelling because it gives our protagonist a concrete goal.

So even if you don’t want a moving story that takes a serious look at PTSD that’s respectful of America’s veterans, you actually get a quality science fiction story, where real, relevant science fuels the story, as opposed to the science fantasy that audiences usually get.  And if you don’t want a quality science fiction story, you get an emotional story about the effort a person will give to save a friend in need.  And if you don’t want any of that, Ekedal’s ink-wash is gorgeous.

And if you like ANY of that stuff, well, you don’t enjoy life very much, do you?



Sci-(Non)Fi: The End of Art and Warhol’s Amiga

April 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

BBC reports that a bunch of Andy Warhol’s work has finally been recovered from a 30 year old Commodore Amiga 1000.

Magnetic imaging tools were used to copy data on the disks so no damage was done to the original floppies. Examination of the copied data revealed several files that had titles such as “campbells.pic”, “flower.pic” and “marilyn1.pic” that were reminiscent of Warhol’s best-known works.

The recovery project was initially thwarted from viewing the actual images as the data was saved in an obscure format that modern Amiga emulators could not read.

Though you can’t help but applaud the efforts of Cory Arcangel and the Carnegie Mellon students who recovered these pieces, this incident is a real argument for working in analog formats.  Modern film stock is supposed to last 100 years, but I don’t even have the photographs I took with my last cell phone anymore.  Unless you’ve worked in film and TV for more than 15 years you won’t remember 1-inch video tapes, and those things were supposed to preserve our projects for forever.  Now we’ve got everything in “The Cloud,” which really just means we’re letting somebody else take care of the physical home of our work.

As the artist’s technology develops, more and more visual art is moving towards digital formats, and though there are a ton of things we can do digitally that we can’t with ink and paper,

The Trees Are Coming!

February 26, 2014 § 1 Comment

Through his newsletter, Warren Ellis has confirmed that he and Scatterlands collaborator Jason Howard are working on an Image title called Trees.

According to Ellis’ newsletter:

I’m finishing issue 4 today — Jason’s doing layouts on the first half while I fix a sticking point in the last half, and that’ll go out tonight or tomorrow. By the time May rolls around, we should have six complete lettered coloured issues in the can. We’ve been working on it since the early autumn of 2013, after all.

Plot-wise, it sounds like a bunch of trees have invaded Earth. Kind of like Triffids.  But more subtle.  And not real.

There’s more on the Ellis/Howard project at CBR.

Sci-(Non)Fi: Forget Skynet – Here’s Amazon.com!

December 2, 2013 § 1 Comment

We humans are experts at welcoming the robot apocalypse with open arms.  So many of us are used to operating on mindless autopilot we don’t really care who’s in charge as long as we can get the beloved consumer goods we shop for.

So give a big hug to Amazon.com and its impending delivery drones!  Not only are we buying our products written by a computer, on a computer, over a website that gives us suggestions for what we ought to buy, but soon we won’t even have to worry about interacting with those pesky humans who delivery those smiling, brown boxes to our doorstep.  All Amazon needs to do is get rid of those weak homo sapiens working in its warehouses, and the world’s largest online retailer will be completely inhuman!

The next step: robot consumers, so humans will be completely removed from the equation.  Now, that’s utopia.

Sci-(Non)Fi: Titan Arm

November 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

The Titan Arm, designed and 3-D printed by a team from University of Pennsylvania, has won the 2013 Dyson Award for design and engineering.  From C-Net:

…the exoskeleton is intended to help rehabilitate people who’ve had serious arm injuries or strokes, and to give more power to the elbows of those who lift heavy objects for a living.

At least somebody plans to use their robot arm for good.

Sci-(Non)Fi: I’m Over Science

October 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

Science?  I’m over that.  A lot of my reasons have to do with the Center for Disease Control  making gun control studies for Obama.  Those people who told you you’d die of bird flu?  Yeah, they also think guns are a virus.

Other than politics and careerism influencing the science that gets publicity, this animated short from The Economist explains why you shouldn’t trust most scientific studies.  [Click the link.  The embed isn’t working.]

So those people who were making fun of you for believing in astrology?  They’re probably wrong more often than you are.

Sci-(Non)Fi: Tickets to Space

September 30, 2013 § Leave a comment

A collection of Virgin Galactic’s first batch of space tourists gathered in the Mojave Desert last week.  The astronauts formed an eclectic group, from an 11-year-old Pakistani girl to a 59-year-old grandfather from Maryland.  For most people, $250,000 to let Richard Branson launch you into space for a fifteen minute ride seems unreasonable, and it probably is;  but that won’t  stop me from buying a ticket as soon as I scrape enough change from underneath the couch pillows.

Why would I be so interested in going to space?  Because Warren Ellis told me so, of course.  Back in 2010, he ranted a bit harshly in Wired against the funding cuts to NASA’s manned space flight program:

Exploration has always been central to the human drive. Not because of population pressure, nor trade necessity, but because it’s in our essential nature to wonder what and where is next. We are unique in the biosphere as creatures of imagination. Robot missions do not thrill us because the empathetic engagement is on a level with watching a Roomba do a decent job of hoovering some carpet fluff. It is nowhere near the same as seeing and hearing one of us walking somewhere brand new and telling us about it in the knowledge (however misguided that might eventually prove) that more of us, the rest of us, will follow.

He does say a few disparaging words about “quickie space tourism,” but that’s only because he wants a manned mission to Mars yesterday.  I do, too, but since I don’t want to commit myself to that (I’d rather commit someone else to it) I’ll settle for a shorter jaunt out of the atmosphere.

Sci-(Non)Fi: It’s a Rocket-Powered Shark!

September 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

Why didn’t anybody tell me that owning a jet-powered shark was a thing?

Sort of biomimetic, the Seabreacher X is a jet-powered shark that you can drive around.

Remind Santa that you’ve been good this year.  The Seabreacher also comes in dolphin or killer whale.

Sci-(Non)Fi: Life on Earth IS From Outer Space

September 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

Comet Halley
Comet Halley. Credit: ESA/Max-Planck-Institute for Solar System Research

Sort of.

(I discovered this on theconversation.com.) There’s a theory that’s been floating around since the early 1960’s that comet impacts on Earth could produce enough energy to create amino acids, one of the major building blocks for life as we know it.  The process is called “shock synthesis,” and famous astrologer Carl Sagan tinkered with the idea.  More recently, Mark Price and some other folks at the University of Kent created a different experiment that produced the same result:

“… we shocked ice mixtures analogous to those found in a comet with a steel projectile fired at high velocities in a light gas gun to test whether amino acids could be produced. We found that the hypervelocity impact shock of a typical comet ice mixture produced several amino acids after hydrolysis. These include equal amounts ofD- and L-alanine, and the non-protein amino acids α-aminoisobutyric acid and isovaline as well as their precursors. Our findings suggest a pathway for the synthetic production of the components of proteins within our Solar System, and thus a potential pathway towards life through icy impacts.”

In other words, shooting blocks of ice has proved that life came from outer space, yo.

Warren Ellis Knows All the Cool Scientists

July 23, 2013 § Leave a comment

A guest post from Professor E. Paul Zehr on Warren Ellis blog reveals how one day we might all have Wolverine claws!  Some MIT researchers have been looking into strengthening the attachments of titanium, often used in joint replacements, to bone.

What this team discovered was that they could stimulate better growth between bone and titanium by using a special superglue adhesive in rats… the basic concept was to trick the body into thinking the titanium implant was bone (or at least bone-like).

This was accomplished by making many, many, ultra-thin layers that then worked like superglue to help get bone cells to grow together. This worked much better than conventional bone cement that has a more brittle and less stable outcome. It’s kind of like really good double-sided tape.

I guess that doesn’t cover how to retract the claws or how to keep yourself from cutting yourself with claws while you drive your car or dance with buddies, but it’s a start.

Clawed Gangam Style can be hazardous without expert supervision.

Read the full post here.

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