Geek Girl: The Cost of Building a Death Star

Plus: Disney's new feminist heroine, the Nebula Award nominees, and more!

Geek Girl: The Cost of Building a Death Star

Plus: Disney/Pixar’s new feminist heroine, the Nebula Award nominees, and more!

-Lucia Peters and PJ Gach

Death Star

Have you ever wondered how much it would cost to build a Death Star? We have. Because we’re special like that. But hey, guess what? Now we know! And we’ve got loads of other awesome geeky and science-y news for you, too, including a look at the Nebula Award nominees, a pair of wacky keyboard-pants, what happens when you try to copyright a time zone, and much, much more. Read on for the latest!

Disney Finally Steps Up with a Feminist Heroine in Brave


We’ve all grown up with the typical Disney princess: pretty, smart, sassy and…..helpless. And while we may get caught up in the romance of the celluloid gal and guy when we’re kids, it does rankle that for all of their smarts, the Disney princess always needs a guy to get her out of a jam.

When I was a kid, there were times when I’d mentally re-write the movies so the DP wasn’t such a dip. Disney and Pixar have finally noticed that society isn’t mired in the ‘50s mentality of the “weak female” and created a movie that won’t make you gnash your teeth. Matt Patches of The Hollywood Reporter says, “Brave follows the fiery princess Merida, who defies her culture’s conventions by tackling adventure normally meant for the men. She’s fearless, abrasive and pretty darn good at shooting bow and arrow. She’s everything but a damsel in distress. So is she the strong female lead Hollywood animation needs? Or is she another stereotype, the tomboyish gal who can’t fit in?”

And watching the trailer, you do get the feeling that Disney/Pixar might be making a turn for the better:

Merida, played by Kelly Macdonald (Trainspotting, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire), seems like a very cool chick. Kelly told the Daily Mail, “I kind of didn’t realize [sic] until quite recently that I was the first female [lead] – like way after I’d started my voice recordings and everything. I’m delighted but it’s kind of scary.”

However, the film was originally supposed to be released on June 15, but was pushed back until June 22. It doesn’t seem to be much of a push-back, but the question is why? When films do get a push-back, it means there’s trouble. But with positive buzz and a cast that includes Julie Waters, Billy Connolly, Emma Thompson, Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson and Pixar’s “lucky charm” John Ratzenberger, we can only keep our fingers crossed that it rocks.

Photo credit- movie poster-

How Much Does a Death Star Cost?

Death Star

Of all the things Darth Vader considered when he set about building his infamous Death Star, budget was probably not one of them. Lord Vader may be an all-powerful galactic dictator, but odds are he’s got other people managing his money.

It’s probably a good thing, too, because Death Stars? They’re not cheap. And knowing Vader, if he really knew how much his pet project cost, he likely would have been too much of a penny pincher to give it the final go-ahead (dictators aren’t known for their generosity, monetary or otherwise). Want the final total? We now know, thanks to a group of economics students at Lehigh University: A whopping $852,000,000,000,000,000. Holy moly!

So how did these intrepid students figure it all out? Well, they’re not Jedi, but there may have been a fair amount of mind trickery involved (of the academic variety, of course). In working out the cost of a Death Star, the team researched all business practicalities involved, the biggest of which was the sheer amount of raw material needed for such a project. They compared the Death Star’s mass to a modern-day battleship, only bigger (much, MUCH bigger), and determined that at today’s steel prices (assuming, of course, that a Death Star, like a battleship, is built out of steel), the raw material would cost Vader the aforementioned $852,000,000,000,000,000.

Don’t expect anyone to build an actual, life-sized Death Star anytime soon, though; the students also determined that at today’s rate of steel production—1.3 billion tons annually—it would take 833,315 years to produce enough steel just to begin the work.

Looks like we’re safe—for now, at least!

Is that a Keyboard in Your Pocket, Or…?

Keyboard pants

Okay, you’ve finished your great email/thesis/thought/whatever and you’ve started to wander away from your laptop, when lo! Another great idea has zoomed into your head. So what do you do? You type it out on your pants, of course. Say what? Yes my friends, keyboard pants are arriving soon (we think)!

Developed by Erik de Nijs and his partner Tim Smit, the two have called their keyboard jeans Beauty and the Geek. The back pocket will contain a wireless mouse—though we do wonder how comfy it would really be to sit on—and speakers are built into the legs.

Keyboard pants sitting

According to Erik, the idea behind it “was that you could log in to your computer and control it without sitting in a closed environment behind your desk.

The jeans made by Erik and Tim’s company, Nieuwe Heren, would cost you about $400. I say would, though, because the pants are just a prototype; the company doesn’t yet have the money to mass produce them.

Still, it’s a pretty clever idea!

Read Geek Girl: First Look at the ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ Trailer and More!

The Nebula Award Nominees Are Out!

Nebula Award

For film, there are the Golden Globes and the Oscars; for theatre, there are the Tonys; and for sci-fi and fantasy, there are the Nebulas. And hey, guess what? The nominees for this year’s Nebula Awards have just been announced!

There are actually a number of high-profile awards geared towards science fiction and fantasy—think the Locus Award, the Hugo Awards, and so on—and no, the Nebulas aren’t quite as chi-chi as the Hugos; but they’re all about writers honoring writers (kind of like the Writer’s Guild Awards in film), and as such, there’s always a great sense of camaraderie surrounding them. The awards are given in six categories: Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novelette, Best Short Story, the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, and the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Book.

So what’s the toughest category? This year, I think it might actually be Dramatic Presentation. Here are the nominees:

Attack the Block, Joe Cornish (writer/director)

Captain America: The First Avenger, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely (writers), Joe Johnston (director)

Doctor Who: “The Doctor’s Wife,” Neil Gaiman (writer), Richard Clark (director)

Hugo, John Logan (writer), Martin Scorsese (director)

Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen (writer/director)

Source Code, Ben Ripley (writer), Duncan Jones (director)

The Adjustment Bureau, George Nolfi (writer/director)

I’ve seen all of them, and they’re all wonderful. Source Code is probably the weakest of the bunch—it’s got some holes that were difficult to ignore—but there was still a lot of creative stuff going on in it, so I’m glad it got included. If I had to pick one to pull for, though, it would probably be the Doctor Who episode. Not only was it a particularly magnificent Who ep—and we all know how much I love my Who—but (almost more importantly), it was written by Neil Gaiman, who just so happens to be one of my absolute favorite writers. Neil Gaiman WOULD use his episode to personify the TARDIS, wouldn’t he? Neil has also been a longtime lover of Doctor Who himself, and it totally comes through in the episode. Great stuff!

The winners will be announced at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s 47th Annual Nebula Awards Weekend, May 17 – 20 in Arlington, Virginia. Check back then for the results! In the meantime, see the full list of nominees here. Happy reading!

No, You Can’t Copyright a Time Zone!

Time Zones

It’s been said that people are pretty litigious and yup, this news item proves it! The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) is a San Francisco based organization that aims to defend freedom in your digital world. They’ve been working on a project where the Internet’s time zone database (yes, apparently one exists) would be available to researchers and basically everyone.

An astrological software company, Astrolabe, filed suit against two members of the EFF, Arthur David Olson and Paul Eggert, who have been coordinating the time zone database for the EFF. Apparently, Astrolabe felt that an atlas Olson and Eggert used which was created by Astrolabe was an infringement of their copyright. However, you can’t copyright tidal times—when the sun rises and sets and so on. In other words, you can’t copyright basic facts. Whoops!

Astrolabe filed the suit in September; but in January, EFF and their law firm told them that if they didn’t behave, they were going to file sanctions against the firm. The firm has now dropped the suit. According to the EFF website, Astrolabe has backed down and released this statement: “Astrolabe’s lawsuit against Mr. Olson and Mr. Eggert was based on a flawed understanding of the law. We now recognize that historical facts are no one’s property and, accordingly, are withdrawing our Complaint. We deeply regret the disruption that our lawsuit caused for the volunteers who maintain the TZ database, and for Internet users.”

So the next time someone threatens to sue, remember that the facts and the law, just might not be on your side!

Would You Wear a Transformers Engagement Ring?

Transformers engagement ring

See this ring? It’s an engagement ring. Perhaps this is fairly obvious, as it’s a big ol’ diamond in a silver setting. But take a closer look at it for a minute. Closer… closer… there we go. Besides an engagement ring, what does this piece of jewelry look like to you?

If you answered “a Transfomer,” you are correct. This ring was created by deviantART user TheBoog17, who subsequently gave it to fellow deviantART user (and now fiancé!) Fire-Readhead. Technically, it’s not an ACTUAL Transformer—it is described merely as “the symbol of an evil robot organization,” no doubt as a way to get around copyright problems. But, I mean, really—that’s a Decepticon symbol if I’ve ever seen one. And it’s AWESOME.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’d totally wear this. We can only hope that the wedding is just as spectacularly geeky as the ring that’s symbolizing it. Mazel tov, you two! May your married life be full of action, adventure, and Optimus Prime!

Photos 1, 2,4, 5, 6, 7, 8

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