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Mars Curiosity rover sings ‘Happy Birthday,’ dares Earth to collect royalties

  One year ago today, NASA’s Curiosity rover touched down on the surface of Mars and began studying the planet. The rover may be lonely out there on its first birthday, but it won’t go entirely without celebration: NASA has repurposed Curiosity’s soil analysis system to play the tune of “Happy Birthday to You” out loud for all of Mars to hear. Though the analysis system doesn’t include a loudspeaker, it does…


I’m enjoying “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars” more than I expected

I didn’t expect a pseudo-Elizabethan rendering of Star Wars to be great literature, but the R2 soliloquies add an unexpectedly amusing new narrative layer. So far, I can say the “Chorus” character is overused, too frequently walking onstage and delivering lines of exposition that ought instead be woven into the expanded dialogue between the characters. An Elizabethan drama was a medium for the spoken word, and having a narrator walk…


Star Trek: The Menagerie

Just finished watching a two-part episode of classic Star Trek. I know all the old episodes backwards and forwards, since as a kid I made audiocassette tapes of the after-school reruns, and listened to them over and over. (The writers were never confident that the special effects would be any good, so a character always says, “Captain, the enemy vessel is approaching,” narrating whatever is supposed to be happening. With…


Proto iPads and Paper Coexist in Classic Star Trek

Rewatching the classic Trek episode “The Conscience of the King,” which features a Shakespearean acting troupe. In one scene, McCoy writes a report on a wedge proto-iPad… …but in the very next scene Kirk scrawls on a piece of paper. This episode also features characters doing computer searches, using an exposition-friendly voice interface to call up photographs of individuals and compare their biographies, which must have seemed very futuristic back…