Top 10 Natural Wonders of the World to See

The Earth is an incredible planet that holds many spectacular places to see. From snowy mountains to the heated air of the desert, this world pulsates with life and never ceases to amaze us.

8 Autombiles That are Forbidden Fruit in America

Whether safety restrictions, marketing plans, or distribution issues stand in the way, American auto consumers can’t get some of the hottest cars drivers around the world enjoy. It doesn’t mean they aren’t worth a look (or a little lusting after). Here are eight automobiles U.S. consumers would love to have but don’t even have the chance.

The Most Anticipated Geek-Friendly Movies of 2015

Looking at this year's calendar of premieres, here's what I'm most excited about over the next 12 months:

10 Best Xbox Games of 2014 That Nobody Can Forget

2014 was a bizarre year. It was a year of HD premasters and “Conclusive Editions” on Xbox One, or more heaps of cross-gen games discharged on both Xbox 360 and Xbox 1. Few games genuinely emerged – especially on 360 – so making our yearly Game of the Year list in the not so distant future was troublesome. So here is the list of 10 best Xbox games of 2014 that no buddy can forget.

Problems Only 90s Gamers Could Understand

With the PS1 turned 20 last December it’s got us thinking about gaming in the 90s. We complain a lot these days, but there were a lot of problems with gaming back then that we all seemed to ignore. If you were a gamer in the 90s you’d know all about these particular problems…

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Top 5 Awesome Games with terrible stories

You know, as much as I love to stand on my soapbox and declare to the world that video games are the best, most advanced medium for storytelling, I have to admit that I don't always have a lot of evidence to back up my claims. Unfailingly the best-selling games year after year are first-person shooters and sports sims, and sometimes they're not even that fun. The great thing about video games generally, though, is that even if a story is terrible or totally forgettable, the game can still be a blast to play. Consider these five games – favorites for many – with terrible or nonsensical stories.

Destiny
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Can any of you tell me the main, meta, overarching, pre-Taken-King story of Destiny in non-vague terms? I mean really, can anyone? I'll try. A giant white moon-thing called The Traveler showed up a long time ago and ushered in a golden age, and then “the darkness” came to wipe out humanity and destroy The Traveler because... the darkness. That's the best I can do. If you really want to dig into the lore and make sense of anything, Bungie forces you to farm Grimoire cards and read them online. We have no idea why we're fighting, but we sure do love to fight. An abundance of loot, an ever-present urgency to complete daily quests and bounties, and sporadic events make Destiny one of the most fun and most beautiful time sinks we've ever played, even if the story sucks.

Eternal Sonata
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I wanted so badly for this story to blow me away. As a pianist and as a fan of Chopin and his compositions, I expected this to be my RPG of the year when it came out in 2008. If you're unfamiliar with this little gem, Eternal Sonata takes place mainly within the dream world of Frederic Chopin as he lay on his deathbed. Sounds awesome, right? Each part of the story is influenced by the music and life of the man, who joins a very colorful cast in a journey that, while beautiful and at times very moving, ends up trying way too hard to be something it's not. Eternal Sonata is still worth playing, and has some really innovative combat mechanics based on whether your character is positioned in the light or in darkness, effecting his or her moves and magic respectively.

Dark Souls
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As much as I love Dark Souls, I'm willing to admit that the story here is even more obscure and obtuse than in Destiny. But Dark Souls isn't really a game that you play for the story. Instead, the appeal is in getting completely lost in this beautiful, Gothic, hostile world. There is pretty much zero exposition, and you're left to fill in, or imagine, all of the details as you come across various wanderers and entities throughout the course of your journey. You get a keen sense that you've stumbled into a world that has existed - unchanging - for centuries before you came along, like a nightmare materialized and preserved; attempt to illuminate it if you dare.

Resonance of Fate
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If you played Resonance of Fate you probably don't even remember the story. Something about an experiment to control the forces of life and death in people in order to bring back a lost lover, I think? Honestly, even when it was fresh in my mind it gave me a headache - all I know is that the combat system was incredible. Developer tri-Ace has been in the game-making business for over 20 years, and Resonance of Fate proves that. It has the polish and difficulty of an old-school SNES JRPG, and the action and flare of a modern, AAA action game.

Kingdom Hearts
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I'll probably catch some flak for this one, but can we all admit that the first Kingdom Hearts is really lacking in the story department? It gets so needlessly convoluted that it's almost impossible to keep track of everything that everyone is doing or trying to do. It's like they started out with a bunch of concepts and then tried to hack together a story that allowed for every concept and mechanic to fit in somehow. The keyblade, Maleficent and the Princesses of Heart, King Mickey and friends, Sora and friends, the heartless, Ansem... it all makes sense after you've finished the game, but things don't exactly fall together gracefully as you play. The game was fun, no doubt, and there are few games that bear with them the nostalgia payload that Kingdom Hearts offers, but damn if it couldn't do with some consolidation. It's kind of ironic, since Disney is known as a company that tells stories masterfully.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

7 Horror Movies That Have the Darkest Alternate Endings

Horror movies are pretty dark and twisted by themselves so it can be hard to wrap them up. Most movies in America tend to have happy endings so many horror films end the same way no matter how unlikely that would be. But that doesn’t mean movie creators haven’t tried to be realistic in their final scenes.

There are many movies that started out with very dark and probably more realistic endings. However, many of those endings have been pushed aside due to test audience reactions, replaced with endings that are less crazy and depressing. So which of your favorite horror films could have had a much darker fate? Here are seven endings that could have changed many franchises.

1. Paranormal Activity
Paranormal Activity

Here is one ending that was changed for the worse in order to potentially create sequels. Also, there happens to be three alternate endings rather than the usual two. “There were a lot of different endings that were shot,” Micah Sloat, who stars in the film as Micah, Katie Featherston’s boyfriend, told EW. “We could probably do a choose-your-own adventure DVD of the entire movie, we have so many separate story threads [that] didn’t make the final cut of the movie for whatever reason.”

In the original ending, a possessed Katie gets shot down by police after she murders Micah. When Paramount took on the project they changed the ending so the possessed villain could live to see another day. That ending had Katie kill Micah before revealing a demon face.

The third ending was probably the most disturbing. It had Katie come up from downstairs into the bedroom. She then grins at the camera before slitting her own throat and falling to the floor. There is a fourth ending that was considered, but never actually shot. That one shows a possessed Katie hitting Micah with one of his cameras until he is ultimately dead.

2. Carrie
Carrie

The remake wasn’t really a hit, but one thing that probably would have made it more interesting is the alternate ending. The ending that actually made the final cut is a close up of Carrie’s tombstone as it cracks. The alternate ending shows Sue dreaming about having a baby in a hospital. But instead of giving birth to a cute little baby, she sees Carrie’s blood-covered arm reaching out from between her legs. That is definitely more haunting than a tombstone! You can watch the alternate ending on YouTube.

3. Dawn of the Dead
dawn-of-the-dead

This crazy original ending never made it pass the testing stage, but it is still insane enough to mention. The ending that made it to film was Peter and Fran escaping by flying off the roof in a helicopter. However, in the script it had a much darker ending. The two end up choosing to end their lives. Peter shoots himself in the head, while Fran decapitates herself with the blades of the helicopter. Usually test audiences are the ones who keep bleak endings from going into the final cut. In this case, director George Romero was the one who ultimately changed his mind.

4. Alien
Sigourney Weaver in 'Alien'

We’re definitely not complaining, but this is another movie that had an ending changed in order to get more sequels. Originally, Ripley was going to meet her demise by having her head ripped off by the titular creature. According to Blastr, it would then communicate with Earth by making her last log using her head and copying her voice. Although that would have been interesting to see, the producers never shot it and allowed their heroine to live in the hopes of making more sequels.

5. Hostel
Hostel

People tend to want their heroes to be heroic. Bringing in kids for payback doesn’t exactly fit the description so that’s why this director’s cut ending didn’t make the final cut of the movie. Instead of murdering the businessman himself like he does in the final cut, Paxton snatches up his daughter to really hit the businessman where it hurts. Of course, audiences weren’t a fan of this ending at all so it was ditched. But you can still find this darker ending on YouTube.

6. Little Shop Of Horrors
Rick Moranis in 'Little Shop of Horrors'

This alternate ending may not be as surprising if you’re familiar with the play. But like most adaptations, things are changed in order to create a happy ending for moviegoers. In the movie, you saw the plant explode leaving Seymour and Audrey free to experience wedded bliss. But the real ending involves Seymour feeding Audrey to the hungry plant! As if that’s not enough, the plant also gets duplicated and spreads across the world. The apocalypse is essentially caused by these monstrous plants.

7. The Descent
The Descent

n America, this movie’s ending shows Sarah escaping from the creepy cave. International audiences saw Sarah escape, only to wake up to find that was all a hallucination. Yup, she stays in the cave and dies, an ending that was apparently too depressing for the U.S. market. “It’s a visceral ride, and by the time you get to the ending you’re drained,” said Lionsgate Chief Brand Officer, Tim Palen, according to EW. “Marshall had a number of endings in mind when he shot the film, so he was open [to making a switch].”

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Top 10 Episodes of The X-Files To Watch Before The Event Series Premiere

This Sunday and Monday will mark the first new episodes of The X-Files in over a decade. Sure, we had a feature film about seven years ago, but that is not the best medium for Mulder and Scully to investigate the supernatural and paranormal. Despite only being six episodes long, this new event series could open the door for multiple new years of one of the best television series of all time. There are only a couple of days until the show premieres, so here is our list of the top 10 episodes you should watch before the event series starts. Okay, so we cheated a little bit because there are 202 episodes of the show, so these are more double features you have to watch. Some are two-parters and others are just good stories to pair together. If you think we missed any, let us know in the talk backs below.

Season 1 - Pilot/Deep Throat
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Starting at the beginning, you cannot binge The X-Files without the very first episode which introduces Mulder and Scully and outlines the entire reason for their partnership. Things would dramatically change through the series run, but with this first hour we were given the format and style that would become the show's trademark. The second episode introduces us to Mulder's first secret contact, code named Deep Throat. It is here that the international conspiracy really begins to take shape.

Season 1 - Squeeze/Tooms
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After assuming that the series would be all about aliens and conspiracy theories, Mulder and Scully encountered their first monster villain in the early first season episode "Squeeze". Eugene Tooms, able to stretch his body to bizarre lengths in a hunt for human organs, was one of the creepiest creations of all time and came back for a second episode towards the end of the first season, something that almost never happened again on the series' run. Definitely a great pair of episodes to keep you up at night.

Season 2 - The Host/Die Hand Die Verletzt
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Another stellar pair of standaline episodes. "The Host" features one of the scariest monsters the show has ever had in the Flukeman while "Die Hand Die Verletzt" delves into the world of witchcraft. Both are outstanding accomplishments in writing and could have come straight out of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone. The first episode came from creator Chris Carter while the second came from the pen of long-time writers Glen Morgan and James Wong.

Season 2 - Duane Barry/Ascension
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To accommodate Gillian Anderson's pregnancy, this two part episode wrote her maternity leave as part of Agent Scully being abducted by aliens. This would have major ramifications for the rest of the series and begin Scully's transformation from scientist to true believer. Inspired by the true story of Phineas Gage, these episodes garnered critical acclaim for writer/director Chris Carter and guest star Steve Railsback as the titular character.

Season 3 - Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose/Jose Chung's From Outer Space
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In the third season, The X-Files began to find a sense of humor thanks to writer Darin Morgan. Morgan is a contributor to the upcoming event series which bodes well for fans of the show. These two episodes are highlights of the entire series for very different reasons. Peter Boyle was stellar as the psychic Clyde Bruckman whose visions hold major repercussions for Scully. Jose Chung is one of the funniest characters the show has produced and would reappear in a similar episode of companion series Millennium.
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Another big mythology two-parter, this story introduced the Black Oil. Another step in the evolution of the alien menace on the series, the Black Oil would become a major factor for the rest of the show. This episode also saw the return of the duplicitious Alex Krycek. We learn more about the villainous Syndicate and see Walter Skinner begin to sway more from being an FBI straight shooter to confidant to Mulder and Scully.

Season 4/5 - Home/Bad Blood
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While the fourth and fifth seasons are full of great episodes, these two are standouts. The disturbing "Home" was never broadcast by FOX again due to the truly grotesque special effects and controversial storyline. It ranks as one of the best hours of The X-Files of all time. "Bad Blood" is a great comedic episode that twists the vampire myth while allowing David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson to explore the lighter sides of Mulder and Scully.

Season 5/6 - The End/The Beginning
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It was between seasons five and six that The X-Files feature film, FIGHT THE FUTURE, debuted. The titles represent major changes for the mythology of the series as well as the change of production locations from Vancouver to Los Angeles. Both episodes bookend the film nicely while a visible difference can be seen in the production values of the show as the sixth year begins.

Season 8 - Within/Without
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At the conclusion of the seventh season, Agent Mulder was abducted by aliens. While this was a way to write David Duchovny off the series to explore other projects, it afforded a partial reboot for the series. Gillian Anderson's Scully would become the believer and new character John Doggett (Robert Patrick) would serve as the skeptic. While many fans didn't take to Doggett at first, he began to grow as the series continued. Still, Mulder would be missed, but this would only deepen the mythology of the show.

Season 9 - Nothing Important Happened Today/The Truth
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Season nine was disappointing for many, but with the end of the show in sight, Chris Carter began to wrap things up as best he could. Featuring the introduction of Cary Elwes as Brad Follmer and the return of Lucy Lawless as a female super soldier/alien hybrid, this was where things began to get crazy. We learn a lot about Mulder and Scully's baby William whose existence would impact the series forever. The series finale saw the return of David Duchovny as the story came to a close. The finale offered closure but also teased the impending alien invasion that would happen in December 2012. Well, that never happened, but what does that mean for the new series? We will find out on January 24th.

Honorable Mention: FIGHT THE FUTURE/I WANT TO BELIEVE
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If you really wanted to get lazy, you could just watch the two feature films in the franchise. FIGHT THE FUTURE was produced right in the middle of the series run and gives a Cliff's Notes version of the mythology while I WANT TO BELIEVE shows us where Mulder and Scully end up between the end of the show's run and today. Together, they represent the two halves of the show: mythology and standalone stories.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

10 Top Secret Weapons You’ve Never Heard Of

First things first – when we say ‘top secret’ here, we can be forgiven for being a little facetious. After all, some of the weird and wonderful projects in this article date back to World War II, and security clearance tends not to be an issue for seventy-year-old military secrets.

But just in case you consider it impossible for a pop culture website to have access to information on a genuinely top secret weapons programme, we should point out that in 2013, around four million people were considered to have top secret security clearance in the United States alone, including half a million private contractors. That’s a whole lot of potential whistleblowers with a broadband connection and a Reddit account.

This article doesn’t represent an exhaustive list, or a top ten: we’ve compiled a selection of military programmes, some modern, some a little more old school; some successful, some utter failures, and some still in the final stages of development.

The main criterion for inclusion is that they raise an eyebrow or two. After all, we like to think we know how the world works… but some of these classified projects are a little out there. We skipped over the Russian initiative for using exploding dogs to take out tanks in World War II, poor little blighters. We elected to ignore rumours of the years of R&D that went into the so-called ‘gay bomb’, due to lack of corroborating evidence. Others… well, see for yourselves.

10. The Luftfaust
Wikicommons
Some of the finest scientists and engineers in the world worked for the Third Reich around the time of World War II. This isn’t some revisionist history: Operation Paperclip, in which the post-war USA co-opted hundreds of the world’s top technical wizards to come and work in America, is a matter of public record, as is the USSR’s version of the programme, Operation Osoaviakhim.

Back in the day, the Nazi secret weapons projects tend to be bracketed under the catch-all term Wunderwaffe: literally, ‘wonder-weapon’. This would cover a multitude of sins, from light artillery to military vehicles of all shapes and sizes to huge cannons to far more esoteric paraphernalia.

The Fliegerfaust B, also known as the Lufthaust (literally, ‘air fist’), was a prototype for a portable ground-to-air rocket launcher trialled by the Nazi after 1944, designed to take out enemy planes attacking targets on the ground. An improvement on the Fliegerfaust A, the Lufthaust was a metre and a half long, weighed 6.5 kg and had nine (9) barrels instead of the usual one.

Opinions vary as to the operation of the weapon, with some determining that the missiles would be fired in two staggered bursts, and others saying that all of the missiles would be fired separately with a two-second space between each, for a more staccato effect.

The Luftfaust didn’t have an impressive effective range, which is quite important for a weapon intended to bring down aircraft. As far as we know, only eighty were ever used in proper trials, despite the Nazi war machine ordering thousands of them in the final months of the war, including ammunition into the millions. Still, if you saw a platoon of men hoving into view each carrying one of these, you’d probably curl into the foetal position until they went away again.

9. Advanced Hypersonic Weapons
David Neyland, DARPA
Within the programme known as PGS (Prompt Global Strike), the development of the advanced hypersonic weapon is groundbreaking stuff. That’s the programme dedicated to precision delivery of a payload via an airstrike anywhere in the world, within a single hour. The idea is that eventually they’ll achieve a speed of up to Mach 24, heading in on a flat, low trajectory to prevent the enemy mistaking the missile for a nuclear assault.

A properly designed and executed PGS would allow its operators to respond to rapidly changing circumstances worldwide, without the need to mobilise conventional forces. Of course, another application would be the capability to use the advanced hypersonic weapon during a nuclear conflagration.

The first AHW in the US PGS initiative (these things sound like pro wrestling promotions) was successfully tested in November 2011, launching from a facility in Hawaii to the test site 2,300 miles away in less than half an hour. To give you an idea: the current fastest cruise missile on earth is the Russian/Indian BrahMos, able to fly at speeds up to and around Mach 3 and considered to be a supersonic weapon. The hypersonic delivery system being tested, on the other hand, would have a minimum of twice as fast as that.

8. Sonic Weaponry
Wikicommons
Already being used as crowd control devices, the sonic weapon covers a broad range of devices to achieve a multitude of potential effects. The highest of high-power sound waves is capable of causing serious damage to the eardrums, while the more sedate version would only cause discomfort like nausea or lack of equilibrium.

It’s been whispered for ages that an ultrahigh frequency will cause teenagers (and only teenagers) to feel extreme discomfort: apparently the ears begin to fail after the age of twenty, and the noise will only affect the young. On the other hand, the infamous ‘brown note’ is said to force an involuntary bowel movement in the target. These are extra-aural effects: physical manifestations of sound waves on a biological target.

Other such effects include muscle contraction, hypothermia and issues with the lungs. The poor mice that various sonic devices have been tested on over the years have had damage caused to their internal organs at around 184 decibels. Mammals engaged in deep sea diving can also suffer similar effects from high intensity, low frequency sound: it passes easily through water into their bodies, but not so easily through the large gas-filled spaces in those bodies, like the lungs and sinuses.

7. The Pulsed Energy Projectile Gun
Orbital ATK
Involving the creation of a pulsed infrared laser that reacts with the surface of a target to cause the appearance of a tiny amount of explosive plasma and a corresponding pressure wave, which would knock the target off his feet. There would also be corresponding electromagnetic radiation generated as a side effect, which would rub the nerve cells the wrong way, causing severe pain.

The PEP would be intended to be effective over a distance of roughly 2km, and given the limitations of current laser technology, would probably be mounted on a vehicle to begin with. As you can see, that could be a fairly impressive non-lethal weapon, should design flaws ever be overcome: like a taser on steroids. However, lethal variants are just as likely to be researched and developed, because war.

The current rumour is that the non-lethal variant on the weapon is on hold, no longer being developed in the US, because the research indicated that the waveform necessary to render the weapon non-lethal wasn’t practical to create. That’s a longwinded, bureaucratic way of saying that it didn’t work after all. However, an option for an anti-drone variation on the PEP theme is still being budgeted for. It’s not called the military-industrial complex for nothing.

6. The Heat Ray
CBS/60 Minutes
Sonic weapons, lasers… now this. The Active Denial System (ADS) is a directed-energy weapon being developed by the US military. It heats the surface of the target, along the same principles as a microwave, messing with the molecules of water and fat in the top layers of skin (around 0.4mm deep).

The ADS, or heat ray, is designed for security and crowd control measures at present, as the decreased penetration of the short wave bursts only allows for minor surface blisters, not the nastier injuries that microwaves can cause. The longer the beam is applied to the surface of the target, the greater the heat application.

In tests on over 700 volunteers and around 10,000 applications, pain thresholds were exceeded after 3 seconds, and no one could take more than 5 seconds. Key to the non-lethal selling point of the ADS is that immediately the beam is removed from the skin, the pain vanishes. It’s been described as a highly effective weapon with a low likelihood of genuine injury.

However, drawbacks include the fact that a target unable to leave the beam’s area of effect (say, for example someone pinned down, a child or an invalid) would continue to be heated until the operator chose to remove the beam’s effect. Proper reflective clothing is also likely to completely nullify the beam’s effect. What kind of reflective clothing? Common kitchen foil would do. You could protect a regiment by nipping to Poundland in your lunchbreak.

5. Bring Down The Thunder
Applied Energetics Inc.
The lightning, actually. The Laser-Induced Plasma Channel, or LIPC works by creating a plasma pathway in midair and beckoning lightning bolts down them to strike the target. Should the target conduct electricity more efficiently than the air or the ground, they suffer the consequences.

Essentially, a high-intensity laser (around 60 billion watts flicked on for about two-trillionths of a second) ionises the air, forming a plasma channel, which conducts electricity far more efficiently than the normal air surrounding it, allowing electrical energy to travel down the channel towards and then through the target.

The science behind the LIPC is sound, but actually creating a working prototype has met with a few problems, chiefly because the focus of the laser could potentially occur within the laser device itself, rather than in the air. Power requirements are also a concern – in fact, one of the central issues with far too many of the innovative weapons projects currently being developed is that the science for fuelling the devices cheaply and efficiently doesn’t yet exist.

That means that, for all their innovation and the firing of the imagination in coming up with cool weapon systems, the whizkids behind the LIPC are going to have to solve some basic, boring problems with creating a new, gamechanging power source first.

4. Ring The Bell
Igor Witkowski
One of the more esoteric Wunderwaffe apparently being worked on by the Third Reich’d cadre of geniuses was an experimental relativistic device called Die Glocke, or The Bell.

We should point out at this stage that whispers about Die Glocke have been floating around for years with no further evidence that it ever properly existed, or worked if it did. The idea behind it appears to have been to utilise Einsteinian theories to pursue the creation of either anti-gravity or free energy… possibly one, with the other as a welcome side effect.

According to Igor Witkowski, author of the book ‘The Truth About The Wonder Weapon’, transcripts of an interrogation of a former SS officer detailed Die Glocke’s existence, the device being a nine foot wide, twelve foot high metal container roughly the shape of a bell, containing two cylinders rotating in opposite directions. Each cylinder was filled with a violet substance called xerum-525: the facility that housed The Bell and stored the xerum-525 was a place known by the code name ‘Der Riese’, or ‘The Giant’, near the Czech border.

The transcripts allegedly describe The Bell’s area of effect as being around 200 metres, extended from the skin of the device. Within that area of effect, plant matter would collapse and disintegrate and flesh would crystallise, leading to the accidental deaths of most of the scientists working on the project.

Given the peculiarly science fiction nature of Die Glocke, it’s perhaps dubious as to whether the device existed in the form that Witkowski claims it did… but what if the transcripts are genuine? The idea was recently floated as part of the survival horror flick Outpost, where modern day mercenaries are brutally murdered in the face by psychotic, experimental extra-dimensional Nazi ghost soldiers, created by Die Glocke. But that’s definitely not what happened in real life. Definitely.

3. The Super Soldier Exoskeleton
Athena-Carver.com
Superhero comic books have got a lot to answer for: specifically Marvel’s version, with their increased profile following their billion-dollar success stories in recent years. Why else would we have huge companies continuing to attempt to create powered exoskeletons to assist human beings in lifting, walking and of course, fighting?

There are several designs of exoskeleton in development… and they’ll remain in development until the design flaws are ironed out. The comic book inspirations are nowhere more obvious than in their names, with forced acronyms the order of the day. Lockheed Martin’s H.U.L.C. system (the Human Universal Load Carrier) is a classic example, in development since 2000 but announced to the public the year after Iron Man captivated the public’s imagination for the first time in 2008, given a clunky Marvel-inspired name.

Able to assist the wearer in carrying 200lb loads for extended periods at 10mph, the H.U.L.C. wasn’t exactly the most photogenic of creations, and didn’t support a cool looking body armour. Image isn’t something the US Special Operations Command T.A.L.O.S. programme has to worry about: far from it. Named after the huge man of bronze that guarded the island of Crete from invaders in classical myth, the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit had an animated Youtube clip online showing it deflecting bullets and bursting through doors practically before SOCOM had considered whether the damned thing was physically possible.

As ever, power is the key consideration. The many powered exoskeletons in development will need to move independently for longer than a few hours at a time in combat situations. Tony Stark created the arc reactor first and the Iron Man armour second… there’s a reason it went that way around, even in the movies.

The other issue is weight: one of the briefs for the increasingly ridiculous T.A.L.O.S. pipe dream is for the suit to weigh less than 400lbs, the mass of two grown men. Any powered exoskeleton will need to lift its own weight before anything else is considered, severely compromising its efficiency.

2. Maybe One Day We’ll Have A Railgun

A really old idea, the first ‘electric cannon’ was patented in 1918. Nearly a century later, we’re still waiting for a working model to finally reach mass production. The development of the railgun has been plagued with problems for decades.

Working on basic principles of physics, the railgun is intended to act as a hypersonic projectile weapon that acts without the need for explosive propellants or expensive ammunition. Two conducting rails are connected by a power source, and a third conductive bridge – the projectile itself – is laid between them. The ensuing magnetic force pushes the projectile out at phenomenal speeds, anything from Mach 7 to Mach 10. To get a clear indication of comparative speeds, a high end modern rifle like the .220 Swift with a high performance cartridge can expect to reach a muzzle velocity of around 1200 metres per second, around Mach 3.5: a basic railgun model would be expected to reach double that with a huge projectile.

A rail gun has other advantages aside from ridiculous speed and power, not least the fact that the ammunition is so much cheaper and safer to manufacture, transport and store. It’s also supposed to be highly accurate, over an estimated 50-mile range. Aside from the artillery pieces, handheld versions have also been touted for some time: the Gauss gun is a near relative, and hobbyists have been making badly inefficient homemade versions of them for decades.

Today, it’s estimated that a fully operational artillery model will be ready for final sign off and proper production by next year: the weapon is such a big part of the US Navy’s long term plans that the current generation of destroyers are all electric, in preparation for the fitting of the finished railgun product. It makes sense: the railgun is essentially a 21st century ship’s cannon. However, they’ve been saying ‘next year, next year’ for a long, long time. We’ll take it with a pinch of salt.

1. Project Habakkuk
tostevin.net
In the early 1940s, with World War II in full swing, inventor and innovator Geoffrey Pyke was considering how to solve the very topical problem of providing cover and protection from German u-boats to troop ships and convoys in the mid-Atlantic, out of range of any land-based aircraft squadron.

It being halfway through the biggest and most expensive war in history, proper building materials were in short supply, and correspondingly expensive to procure. Suddenly, Pyke hit upon the solution, an idea both revolutionary and practical. He would have build the biggest aircraft carrier the world had ever seen, cheaper and more efficiently than any before it: an unsinkable floating island made entirely of ice.

This wasn’t a new idea, astonishingly. A German initiative had attempted something on a smaller scale a dozen years earlier, and the idea had already circulated the Admiralty a few years earlier, to almost total ridicule. Pyke was the first to consider crafting the huge carrier from pykrete, though.
Ice, you see, isn’t actually that strong, and melts arbitrarily and at the wrong moments. Meanwhile, icebergs are mostly underwater and prone to tipping and rolling, thereby making lousy landing strips for aircraft. Pykrete, on the other hand, named for Pyke himself, was frozen water and wood pulp: its low thermal conductivity made melting far less of a consideration, and it had more in common with concrete in terms of its bulletproof consistency and durability. It could also be easily shaped for construction.

Project Habakkuk (named for the book of the Bible that referenced a magnificent work of the Lord: “Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you.”) was, as should be obvious to anyone, a non-starter. The project required a giant refrigeration plant and insultation to keep the pykrete the correct temperature and prevent plastic flow from causing the shape of the giant ship to sag: such a plant would be too expensive and take too long to build.

Costs had ballooned to £2.5million by the time the idea was scrapped, with every arm of the British military chipping in to add their own outlandish requirements to the increasingly ludicrous proposal. Pyke himself had been removed from the project long before.

Do you have a favourite ‘top secret’ weapon or military project you’d like to tell the world about, whether upcoming or past, roaring success or utter fiasco?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Characters we thought would hook up but never did

Sexual tension is a heck of a way to add drama to any story. Whenever you have a male and female lead in a show or a movie and it seems like there’s any spark between them, the audience will be following along to see if that moment happens when they finally get together and we can vicariously enjoy some fictional celebrity lovin’. But some shows like to make you twist in the wind a little and will string you along forever as the characters you’re sure should get together just somehow never do. Like these ones!

Joey and Phoebe on Friendshttp://img2.looper.com/img/gallery/characters-we-thought-would-hook-up-but-never-did/joey-and-phoebe-on-friends.jpg

This one is almost too perfectly predictable, which is maybe why it never happened. Friends was a monster success for its run and while the central “will they or won’t they” storyline was very much centered around Ross and Rachel, once the show paired off Monica and Chandler, it left one male and one female cast member standing on the sidelines together: Joey and Phoebe. It was only natural to wonder if the two of them, the show’s loveable, kind of dimwitted fools, would end up getting together as well. But for whatever reason, and maybe because it was just too obvious, the show never goes in that direction.

For what it’s worth, in a 2015 interview with Lisa Kudrow and Matt Leblanc, the actors stated they actually pitched the idea to producers suggesting that Joey and Phoebe could have been having casual sex the entire time, and they’d reveal it by recreating iconic moments from the show, but at different angles to show things like Joey and Phoebe sneaking out of closets in the background together. The producers said no.

Jerry and Elaine on Seinfeldhttp://img3.looper.com/img/gallery/characters-we-thought-would-hook-up-but-never-did/jerry-and-elaine-on-seinfeld.jpg

Watching reruns of Seinfeld now, this one seems like maybe somehow Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David knew people would wonder about why they were never a couple, so they sneakily built the show around the idea that Jerry and Elaine already had gotten together in the past and now are just friends. Despite that, the pair are so good together on screen, and in fact do dabble very briefly with the idea of getting back together, or just being friends with benefits, that it gave the audience at the time hope. And of course in the show’s final episode there’s that moment when it almost seems like Seinfeld will cave in and do a serious emotional bit with Elaine and Jerry professing their love for each other—but then it never happens. Because if it does, it wouldn’t be Seinfeld. And maybe that’s the point; no one on Seinfeld is ever meant to learn a lesson or grow as a person. If Jerry and Elaine have a real relationship it would ruin the show’s dynamic.

Benson and Stabler on Law and Order: SVU
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For over a decade, detectives Benson and Stabler are partnered up on Law and Order: SVU. Their chemistry is so good that even though Stabler has a family and Benson seems more like his best friend and sister, as time goes on you just have to start wondering. The actors really sell the fact these two people would do anything for each other, so it’s only human nature to wonder how far that relationship could extend.

However, despite always being there for each other and a number of hugs, glances and thoughtful conversations, their relationship never truly crosses any lines. Not that the idea is never there; even Stabler’s wife believes they’re having an affair at one point. But to the credit of the show’s writers, they made this pair of partners rock solid in their professionalism while just barely masking the idea that both feel something more for the other.

Daryl and Beth on The Walking Deadhttp://img1.looper.com/img/gallery/characters-we-thought-would-hook-up-but-never-did/daryl-and-beth-on-the-walking-dead.jpg

This was a fast burner that died just as quickly as audiences came to the conclusion it would be an awesome idea. Watching The Walking Dead, it’s likely no one predicted back in season three that Beth and Daryl should hook up. However, after the prison goes to hell at the hands of the Governor, and Daryl and Beth end up on the run together, it just seems like a natural pairing. Beth acts as an emotional center for Daryl, and Daryl in turn starts helping Beth become the survivor she needs to be to last in this dangerous world. It’s like they’re two halves of a whole. Isn’t that special?

Naturally things don’t work out as Beth gets kidnapped and later on after she’s found again…well, things go from bad to worse. If The Walking Dead has proven nothing else, it’s that happiness is in short supply. And just because you’re a cast member doesn’t mean you’re going to live to see the next episode. As such, Beth doesn’t make it back to join the others and she never will. Daryl’s kept his hairy greasy in memorial ever since.

Picard and Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation
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Jean-Luc Picard is clearly the best captain the Enterprise ever had, and don’t let any Kirk fans tell you differently. Part of what makes Picard so badass is not just his smooth voice and commanding presence but the fact he, unlike Kirk or Riker, is way more choosey with the ladies. He’s no fly by night playboy hooking up with any green-skinned honey. He’s a discerning man of character. As such, when he chooses to get frisky with the ladies, you know it’s a big deal. And no one in the show’s seven year run worked with that idea and created more chemistry than Dr. Beverly Crusher.

We know that Picard and Crusher have a past together, but on the show everything is strictly business, which maybe gets tested once or twice in a few episodes thanks to unpredictable space shenanigans that cause everyone to lose their inhibitions—space travel can be dangerous that way. The relationship is sold perfectly thanks to the fact that Patrick Stewart is just a fantastic actor. So when his normally straight laced and serious Picard does crack and show a softer side, it’s an attention-getter. Unfortunately for fans, however, it really was limited to teases in a few episodes and nothing more ever comes of it.

James Bond and Miss Moneypennyhttp://img3.looper.com/img/gallery/characters-we-thought-would-hook-up-but-never-did/james-bond-and-miss-moneypenny.jpg

The manliest man in all of fiction, James Bond has been crushing it for decades. Articles and theses have been written on the character as an icon of misogyny, a juvenile fantasy, an allegory, a parable, and anything else you can think of. He’s been dissected philosophically and critically and still, to this day, he’s basically just a really smooth Englishman with a sketchy moral compass who always gets the lady. Usually several ladies.

Maybe because the franchise’s filmmakers felt Bond is so unbelievable—or maybe for just a light garnish of comedic balance to the entire James Bond universe—the character of Miss Moneypenny has always been in the background, somewhat immune to the charms of 007. She readily flirts with him but just as readily shoots him down. Yet all their interactions are stunningly brief and result in very little more than Moneypenny offering Bond a tidbit of information he’ll be able to use later on. Despite all his many conquests, perhaps Bond just has a soft spot for Moneypenny. Or, more likely, because she knows his history, Moneypenny just doesn’t want to touch that with a ten foot pole.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Celebs Who Were Dumped Via Text

We live in the digital age with our faces buried in our iPhones and our thumbs permanently attached to our devices. As a result, it feels like we communicate more via text message than anything else these days. So it makes sense that more and more people are making up and breaking up via text. Celebs like Katy Perry and Jessica Simpson have been unceremoniously dumped with the buzz of a smartphone. Who else has suffered a similar fate? Read on to find out…

Katy Perry http://img2.looper.com/img/gallery/celebs-who-were-dumped-via-text/katy-perry.jpg

Katy Perry told Vogue that her ex-husband, British funnyman Russell Brand, relied on his thumbs to end their marriage. “He’s a very smart man, and I was in love with him when I married him,” the singer said graciously. Ready for the jab? She continued, “Let’s just say I haven’t heard from him since he texted me saying he was divorcing me December 31, 2011.” You stay classy, Russell Brand. Perry deserved much better than a sayonara text.

Perrie Edwards http://img3.looper.com/img/gallery/celebs-who-were-dumped-via-text/perrie-edwards.jpg

Perrie Edwards and Zayn Malik became famous by appearing on The X Factor, yet their relationship ended via the “text” factor. The Mirror reported that the erstwhile ex-One Direction singer ended his engagement to the Little Mix vocalist via a single text message. Yikes! That’s ice cold and extremely harsh, especially since she stood by him when he bounced from 1D and when photos of him seemingly holding hands while on tour with a blonde who wasn’t Edwards surfaced.

Kevin Federlinehttp://img4.looper.com/img/gallery/celebs-who-were-dumped-via-text/kevin-federline.jpg

Britney Spears was a “Slave 4 U” in her lyrics, so she probably used text speak and keyboard abbrevs when she dumped her husband and baby daddy K. Fed via text. The New York Post claimed that the backup dancer was totally thrown for a loop and had no idea that Brit Brit was bailing on their union, receiving a text indicating her intent to divorce while he was in the middle of taping an interview. That’s a brutal way to get kicked to the curb, even when you’re Mr. Britney Spears.

Carrie Underwood And Chace Crawfordhttp://img1.looper.com/img/gallery/celebs-who-were-dumped-via-text/carrie-underwood-and-chace-crawford.jpg

Country queen and American Idol superstar Carrie Underwood dated Gossip Girl‘s Chace Crawford and they made for a very blonde, very good-looking couple. But when things soured, it ended in perhaps the cleanest way possible. The singer told Extra, “We broke up over text.” It doesn’t sound like there was too much verbal bloodshed or ensuing drama.

Charlie Sheenhttp://img2.looper.com/img/gallery/celebs-who-were-dumped-via-text/charlie-sheen.jpg

Even porn stars have to save face from time to time. Adult entertainer Bree Olson was one of Charlie Sheen’s goddesses during his “winning” and “Adonis Blood” phase. She bailed on the situation with a text. The Daily Mail reported that Sheen made the big reveal about Olson ending their relationship via smartphone in April 2011, when he embarked on that weird speaking engagement tour he did.

Lindsay Lohan
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The hapless Li Lo and DJ Samantha Ronson had quite a public “showmance,” although both were somewhat coy about its exact nature. The Metro noted that Ronson had gotten fed up with La Lohan’s endless drama and her inability to get her life together and just gave her the heave-ho via phone.

Jennifer Anistonhttp://img4.looper.com/img/gallery/celebs-who-were-dumped-via-text/jennifer-aniston.jpg

John Mayer once told Playboy that his onetime paramour Aniston didn’t tweet and that she was digitally stunted. However, multiple gossip outlets reported that he also broke up with her, sending her a text saying it was over…after hanging up on her during a 20-minute phone argument.

Jessica Simpsonhttp://img1.looper.com/img/gallery/celebs-who-were-dumped-via-text/jessica-simpson.jpg

After she split with first hubby Nick Lachey, Jessica Simpson dated Adam Levine for a really hot minute. But it wasn’t meant to last. The urban legend, as told in ELLE, suggests that Levine sent the singer/actress/designer a text, saying that he was busy and needed space. That’s a total “He’s just not that into you” moment if there ever was one.

Simon Cowellhttp://img2.looper.com/img/gallery/celebs-who-were-dumped-via-text/simon-cowell.jpg

According to USA Today, Cowell received a text from Terri Seymour ending their relationship, something he spoke openly about in a joint interview. There were no hard feelings despite such a crappy way of terminating the romance. He said, “Terri decided to dump me… you sent me a text.” Perhaps he got a taste of his own medicine, since he was such a meanie when shooting down wannabe dreams as an American Idol judge.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Celebrities Who've Been Friends Since They Were Kids

The Fun Guys: Adam Levine and Jonah Hillhttp://files.mom.me/photos/2015/09/02/6-115970-adam-levine-jonah-hill-1441228722.jpg

The Maroon 5 lead singer and "The Wolf of Wall Street" star grew up together in Los Angeles and have remained friends ever since. Jonah Hill's brother is Maroon 5's band manager, and Hill officiated Levine's glamorous Mexico wedding to supermodel Behati Prinsloo.

The Little Leaguers: John Krasinski and B.J. Novakhttp://files.mom.me/photos/2015/09/02/6-115969-john-krasinski-bj-novak-1441230653.jpg

The two co-starred on "The Office," but their friendship began on a Little League team in Newton, Mass. In fact, John Krasinksi can credit B.J. Novak with giving him a career when Novak asked him to be in a sports satire during their senior year of college.

The L.A. Girls: Kate Hudson and Liv Tylerhttp://files.mom.me/photos/2015/09/02/6-115973-kate-hudson-liv-tyler-1441230661.jpg

They starred in "Dr. T & the Women" together, but had been friends long before. The two attended Crossroads High School together in Los Angeles and are the children of famous folks. (Goldie Hawn is Hudson's mother, and Steven Tyler is Liv Tyler's father.) Celebs all know each other, right?

The Bromance: Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguirehttp://files.mom.me/photos/2015/09/02/6-115972-leonardo-dicaprio-tobey-maguire-1441230674.jpg

Long before the two Hollywood heartthrobs starred in "The Great Gatsby" together, the two met at an audition and their lifelong bromance was born.

"After I met Tobey at an audition, I felt like I wanted this guy to be my friend," Leonardo DiCaprio recalls in a joint interview with Maguire. " I remember driving back from school and he was doing 'Hot Rod Brown Class Clown' with Whoopi Goldberg outside Hollywood High. It was a high school. And I jumped out of my car in the middle of the scene, as they were shooting, practically. I was like, `Tobey! Tobey! Tobey! Give me your number.' He was like, 'Yeah, who are you again?'"

The Sisters From Other Misters: Maya Rudolph and Gwyneth Paltrowhttp://files.mom.me/photos/2015/09/02/6-115971-maya-rudolph-gwenyth-paltrow-1441230686.jpg

The "Saturday Night Live" funny lady and the Goop founder have been buddies since they were 7 years old after their fathers, both graduates of Tulane University who moved to Los Angeles to have successful careers in Hollywood, introduced them. Gwyneth Paltrow dedicated her "SNL" monologue to Maya Rudolph when she hosted the show in 2001, and even shared their 5th grade photo on national TV.

The High School BFFs: Naomi Watts and Nicole Kidmanhttp://files.mom.me/photos/2015/09/02/6-115974-naomi-watts-nicole-kidman-1441230690.jpg
Part of the so-called "Aussie Posse" of Australian actors who have taken Hollywood by storm, the two fair-haired starlets have known each other since high school and have remained besties ever since.

Nicole Kidman said of the friendship, "Naomi Watts and I are very, very good friends and have maintained that through so many things."

"I think that's rare," she adds.

The Frenemies: Paris Hilton and Nicole Richiehttp://files.mom.me/photos/2015/09/02/6-115975-paris-hilton-nicole-richie-1441230694.jpg

Long before the two Los Angeles natives co-starred in "The Simple Life" together, they were best childhood friends. But after the show ended, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie faced some rocky times and quickly changed from friends to frenemies. Hilton has recently been posting #tbt photos of her and Richie, the ultimate sign that a friendship is back on track.

The Roommates: Ryan Gosling and Justin Timberlakehttp://files.mom.me/photos/2015/09/02/6-115978-ryan-gosling-justin-timberlake-1441230723.jpg

The two Hollywood hotties started out on "The Mickey Mouse Club" together, with Justin Timberlake's mom even acting as Ryan Gosling's guardian for six months. The two were roommates and partners in crime, regularly pulling pranks on their "Mouse Club" co-stars, who included Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. The two have remained friends, though new dad Timberlake admits it's hard to keep up with Gosling because of the actor's busy film schedule.

The Supermodels: Tyra Banks and Kimora Lee Simmonshttp://files.mom.me/photos/2015/09/02/6-115976-tyra-banks-kimora-lee-simmons-1441230731.jpg

At just 17 years old, the two women became buddies while modeling for Chanel. Tyra Banks and Kimora Lee Simmons have remained friends ever since and were even together when they met Barack Obama, long before he became president.

The Playwrights: Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson
http://files.mom.me/photos/2015/09/02/6-115977-wes-anderson-owen-wilson-1441230758.jpg
Owen Wilson may be Wes Anderson's go-to guy in many of his films, but their friendship runs deep. The two studied playwriting together at the University of Texas at Austin. They were roommates and even "teamed up" on a term paper. (And by teaming up, apparently that means Anderson wrote the paper.)

Hope the professor saved that one!