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Saturday, October 31, 2009

3D Gaming Monitor Upgrade Coming Soon? Looks Like It!

Jim here. Looks like we may have another 3D capable monitor in play by the end of the year! 3D PC gamers using NVIDIA's 3D Vision technology have been able to choose from only 2 monitors recently, both 22" and running at 1680x1050p and 16:10 aspect ratio (I have the Samsung - the other is a ViewSonic).

Now comes Acer and their 24" 120hz, 1920x1080p, 16:9 aspect ratio monitor and it does look quite nice (orange IS my fav color). My GTX 285 should be able to handle the upgrade if I can get my hands on it. :-)

No word on pricing or other specs yet, but I suspect that it will be all over the Interwebs soon enough if they are releasing it by 2010. Can't wait to see it in action!


Source: twisted-reviews

Quick Link: ABC News Piece On THE EXTREME NATURE OF BATS

Jim here. Here is a quick link to an ABC News piece featuring the story we had a week ago about PassmoreLab's 3D film THE EXTREME NATURE OF BATS. Should be cool to see the environments in which Greg Passmore and his team had to shoot and the fascinating world bats live in. Check it out.

Look for the movie in March 2010 at IMAX, Science Centers and Museums!

Friday, October 30, 2009

HDI Shows Off 100 Inch Laser 3DTV

Michael here. I had the opportunity to visit HDI 3D's offices in Los Gatos, CA this past week to see their recently unveiled 100 inch Laser 3DTV.

I saw a medley of 3D footage that included a reel from PACE, lots of 3D CG animation, and some medical imaging. The polarized 3D glasses were comfortable, the 3D seamless and the colors vibrant. The quality of 3D imagery from HDI's laser rig was at the very least comparable to that of Panasonic's amazing 103 inch plasma 3DTV system.

Interestingly, HDI's display employs a polarization system and glasses rather than the active shutter technology used by Panasonic and Sony. The light is polarized at the source rather than by a screen overlaying the display, so the dual 1080P images maintain full resolution when they reach your eyes instead of being cut in half by the screen (as has occured with other polarized 3DTV's).

The TV displays images at 360 frames per second per color, producing incredibly smooth 3D. In 2D mode, it can create an approximately 3K image by slightly overlaying the two pixel arrays. And if all this is not enough, the TV is very eco-friendly, requiring less than 200 watts to power a 100 -inch image (as opposed to a comparable plasma display, which would require around 1000 watts).

HDI is targeting screen sizes of 80 inches and above, and is seeking business partners to whom it will license its technology. It is also considering producing its own displays. It will be able to sell its rear-projection sets at prices more than three times cheaper than plasmas of similar sizes.

HDI has very impressive tech that produces beautifuly 3D images. I am happy that they are providing a more affordable system for large screen 3D. It will be very interesting to watch how the 3DTV market shapes up in the months ahead.

Comparison Of The AVATAR Teaser And Trailer

Jim here. Got some very nice comparison photos from David Z. who looks at the differences between the AVATAR teaser and the trailer. I also saw that someone did a video comparison too in the comments from yesterday! Well done!!

Here are the shots -
note that there are additions and subtractions as well because this is an ongoing editing process and not just rendering:











Thursday, October 29, 2009

Avatar Trailer 2 in HD + Official Site Updated!!!

SAME DAY UPDATE: The "James Cameron's Vision" Feauturette is now on Youtube in HD, and in standard def below:



Michael here. Trailer #2 is now available in gorgeous 480P, 720P, and 1080P exclusively on Yahoo!:

http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1809804784/video/16357477

Also check out http://www.avatarmovie.com/, which has been massively updated with new pics (including the above shot of Jake's avatar wearing some kind of ear piece), new music, and more.

UPDATE: TheFilmStage has 126 beautiful 1080P screencaps from Trailer 2.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Featurette Reveals New Avatar Footage + Higher Quality Trailer #2!!!

Michael here. TheFilmStage has this featurette with TONS of jaw-dropping new Avatar footage.



And download a better quality version of Trailer 2 here:

http://www.zshare.net/video/67615810638704bd

AND TrailerAddict! http://www.traileraddict.com/trailer/avatar/international-trailer - Thanks Karl!





Today has been a great day for Avatar fans, hasn't it?

Quick Post: New "Avatar The Game" Developer Diary

Michael here with this 2nd developer diary for Avatar The Game, this one focusing on Pandora.



It looks like there will be 5 of these (view the first one here). Can't wait for the rest of them!

Quick Post: New AVATAR Trailer Online Thursday At 10AM Pacific

**SAME DAY UPDATE: AVATAR Trailer will be available ONLY on Yahoo.com tomorrow at 10AM Pacific. Got the info directly from Fox.

Jim here. Apparently Comingsoon caught the news that the AVATAR trailer will be online tomorrow (Thursday) at 10AM Pacific.

Not sure of locations for the launch but I am looking into it. Most likely avtr.com, avatarmovie.com or apple.com! More when I get it :-)

Thanks everyone for the heads up.

New Poster: Dreamworks Animation's HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON

Jim here. Got a new poster for you for Dreamworks Animation's HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON. Personally I have been looking forward to this one more than MONSTERS VS. ALIENS simply because the world really should have dragons, you know? It is one of the better fantastical creatures ever invented - right up there with vampires.

Just click on the poster to enlarge.

Not much to say about the poster other than we can certainly see the brand of humor that is going to be used - quite a few physical jokes. I would like to see the dragons in this S3D animation stepped up a bit from our nicely done BEOWULF dragon at the tail end of that movie.
I expect the 3D in HTTYD to be spectacular simply because aerial battles (and submerged battles for that matter) are well suited for the format. Objects hovering at different distances really set off the effect - no comin' at ya's required - although I am sure some will be :-)

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON opens in stereoscopic 3D on March 26th, 2010. From the advance sketches I have seen, I think the imagery and characters will be awesome. Sorry can't post these again - DWA asked me to remove them some time ago. Stay tuned for more info!



Tuesday, October 27, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: New AVATAR Photo - Michelle Rodriguez!!

**UPDATE: Oct 28 - Just got word from a source that her call sign is "Maya", which is partially visible above her head. The pin is for Sec Ops, the private security arm of the RDA. And it is a tiger on the nose art! Awesome update! :-)

Jim here. Fox just sent me this exclusive shot of Michelle Rodriguez standing beside her aircraft and looking very intense! Perhaps thinking about what perils she will be encountering while piloting through hostile airspace on Pandora! :-)

To download the high res shot just go here.

Some sort of sabre toothed cat on the aircraft - wonder what her call sign will be?

I have tried to get an interview with Michelle but to no avail. I have the right contacts, but she has been hard too land so far. So I want you guys to comment on why she SHOULD give us an interview! Deal?

The attention to detail is amazing! Check out the second zoom in shot I added of her shoulder pin - looks to be made up of a few crosses with one centered in the middle. Note that it more or less matches the cross on her sewn on chest badge. Definitely flying insignia.

Can't make out too much in the cockpit itself. Serious seat and restraints! I would say that is a mission briefing handheld she is placing in the window too. Finally seeing these aerial battles after hearing so much about them will be spectacular! Here's hoping she makes it right through to the end - for that massive fight. Think she will make it?

Don't forget to comment on why she needs to give us an interview! Michelle is a kick @ss character in so many movies - she needs to fill us in on AVATAR! :-) And thank you Fox for the image! Oh and if you use this photo - please link back as I do!

Michael Jackson's THIS IS IT Concert May Not Be In 3D - But Could Be 3D On Disc! Interview: Todd Cogan, Producer

Jim here. Just got off the phone with Todd Cogan, 3D Producer and Stereographer of Michael Jackson's THIS IS IT concert movie that opens tonight at midnight at various locations and wide tomorrow. Todd has a very impressive background in 3D to say the least (one that I am very envious of) and has done extensive work with PACE (Vince) and Lightstorm (Jim Cameron).

What an exciting movie and what an exciting concert it would have been. While Todd could not confirm or deny that there will be screenings of THIS IS IT in 3D, he did say that Sony has all the stereoscopic 3D assets in hand to make it so. Perhaps this is something that they will do in the future for a re-release of the concert film - 'cause this thing is going to open BIG.

They used a 33' by 88' LED screen to show the 3D elements to the would be audience during their rehearsals at The Forum and The Staples Center - he believes that this is the world's first LED screen of this size to be used for 3D.

Had the 3D elements been used intact, there would have been several 4 to 5 minute segments all in 3D. As it turns out, these bits were edited to make the whole piece stand together in a cohesive fashion - hence no 3D as people would be taking their glasses off and on again and again (I suppose they could have converted the whole thing to 3D afterward - no issue there, except for time). I was sad to hear that, but again - these assets still exist and could be used in the future.

Sony will decide on how to release the concert on disc - there is a chance that these 3D elements will be an added feature on these.

There were two main 3D segments: EARTH SONG - focused on conservation (had a race horse scene) and the intro to THRILLER. The latter had a 100' graveyard set built! There was also a haunted mansion.

One of the big things that Michael Jackson insisted on throughout the show was in his own words: "The butterflies will be in your face right"? Apparently he was very interested in bringing the audience into the show through 3D and was a firm believer in the technology. You got to hand it to the King of Pop - he was on top of the tech. He had butterflies, birds, dandelions, bats from a crypt, etc all appearing in coordination with the music and action in a fantastical concert experience. He wanted them floating right out over the audience.

The movie is just under 2 hours long apparently and will be released mainly on 35mm film (to suit the worldwide audience I would imagine). On a technical side, Todd and PACE used a beamsplitter (just like as it sounds - splits light entering the camera for stereo), F23, steadicam, and mainly lived of their 50' techno. There were a lot of effects in a short period of time. In fact, Todd was anticipated making tweaks as the shows progressed due to that time constraint. The team was only a week and a half away from delivering the finished work when Jackson passed away. Michael did however get to see all of this work and had approved it - that was good to hear.

It was great talking to someone so passionate about 3D and who has his hands dirty with so many different projects. He has a couple of secret current projects he is working on that he could not talk about, but you could hear in his voice that he is excited. Can't wait to see the concert and enjoy what millions of others will - and break some concert movie records at the same time!! Hopefully we will see the 3D elements of this concert at some point! Thanks for the chat Todd.

EXCLUSIVE: SPIDER-MAN 4 Will Have Only One Villain - The Lizard!!

EXCLUSIVE:

Jim here. In what must be exclusives week at MarketSaw, we get a quick update on SPIDER-MAN 4 which of course is getting lensed in stereoscopic 3D.

We all pretty much knew that either The Lizard and/or Carnage would be in this movie and now we have word that it will be The Lizard ONLY. No multiple villains. Again, strong source here. Of course, things could change - but it is highly doubtful.

I couldn't be happier! SPIDER-MAN 3 suffered from too many story lines in my mind and with only one villain, Sam Raimi can focus on the character development and really build Dr. Curt Connors / The Lizard the way it should be. If there are too many bad guys you lose the connection - it is a good thing to almost feel bad for them when they lose (or win as the case may be). It is very hard to develop two villains within the same movie and establish that honest mind meld with them.

So what do you think? You happy with The Lizard being the sole villain? Who should be cast? Dylan Baker? (sounds like he has the job!)

First Impressions: RESIDENT EVIL 5 In Stereoscopic 3D Vision!

Jim here. WOW. I am stunned at how great RESIDENT EVIL 5 looks! To those of you not in the know, I just finished building my stereoscopic 3D gaming PC (powered by NVIDIA's GTX 285 and 3D Vision technology) and the first thing I put on it was this awesome zombie hunting game!

I will have a full review soon, but I wanted to share with you my first thoughts. Once I finished downloading the game with my Steam client, I was up and running very quickly (a brief side trip to create my Windows Live gaming account).

Right from the get-go I was into it: The menu screens have floating 'spores' that float in front of the text and man was it impressive. Getting right to gameplay, they have done an outstanding job. Small details like the sun giving a optical beam effect when looking through windows (coming right at you), or dust particles giving a floating effect for example.

Zombie hunting is cool too! You get a 3D effect for aiming your weapon (right mouse button) that traces a laser sight to your target.

Ghosting is very, very minimal. You have to look for it and once in the game - forget it - there is no way to notice very small nuances like that.

I have yet to put any solid game time into it yet, but very soon! Stay tuned for that review!! Hats off to NVIDIA and CAPCOM for this joint S3D effort. Amazing indeed. This stuff WORKS.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rumor Mill: AVATAR 2 Will *NOT* Be On Pandora? Ridley And Cameron Teaming Up For ALIEN Prequel?

Jim here. Remember I had something to tell you guys last week about AVATAR? Well, I think the timing is right after seeing just how freakin' well the second trailer has kick started AVATAR's public awareness.

This is from some of my top sources and you know how well they deliver the groceries right? :-)

Straight from their email: "What would you think if I told you that should a sequel to AVATAR happen, it might not even take place on Pandora? It's all up the air as of now. But remember I'm telling you this. Pandora is not the be all and end all of the Consortium."

WHOA. The AVATAR universe is set to expand people. I am trying to dig for more info, but my source is as much a fan as you and I and doesn't want to spoil the fun for everyone! He/she just happens to be lucky enough to work on the project.I would love to see the scope of AVATAR expand past Pandora!

He/she continues on AVATAR: "It's obvious what will happen (AVATAR 2) will be entirely different to the original, as T2 was to Terminator. AVATAR continues to come together. I genuinely think AVATAR is about 10 years ahead of itself. I think Stephen Lang is going to get a lot of attention when AVATAR hits the screen silver. He is good." Heath Ledger`s Joker good" - obviously not the same kind of deal though."

"I would also like to add, everyone including you Jim is going to have surprises in December. Even those who have followed this from ground zero, will not be "fully" in the know. Marketing is about to go AVATAR nuts. If there are people claiming " most people don't even know what AVATAR is "that will all change very soon."

That should help alleviate some fears from you guys - even though that new trailer kicked serious butt. This source is definitely in the KNOW. And to me, 10 years is a on a revolutionary scale, not a mere evolutionary step. I can't wait for those naysayers to eat chud. Errrr... you know what I mean.

ON ALIEN PREQUEL: What would you think of Xenomorphs in 3D? What would you think of Xenomorphs in 3D as directed by Ridley Scott? Could you imagine if Jim was producing? ahhhhh we can dream, cant we ?

Hello. Read that again. Keep in mind that this is only a rumor. We have all heard the rumors that Ridley Scott is thinking about doing an ALIEN prequel - but Jim Cameron producing it?!? What is the expletive I am looking for (after putting through the MarketSaw morality code) - HOLY SH*T! My source likes to play word games occassionally, so I am attempting to maintain some degree of rationality here, but Ridley Scott directing an ALIEN prequel with Jim Cameron producing it? In 3D! :-) DOES IT GET BETTER THAN THAT FOR AN ALIEN MOVIE? I mean, I ask you. REALLY. I hope that rumor comes to be. Can Cameron work that into his busy schedule?

Remember to keep it right here for the latest and greatest breaking stories on anything 3D. AVATAR 2 not on Pandora? Ridley & Cameron teaming up for the ALIEN prequel? You heard it here first. When I get more on these stories you will be the first to know! MarketSaw's sources kick @ss!


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Quick Post: Kalogridis Writing GitS

Jim here. Variety is reporting that Laeta Kalogridis is writing GHOST IN THE SHELL (GitS) for Dreamworks. Not a huge surprise here at all as clearly the writer is able to form strong stories for leading ladies (BATTLE ANGEL - though it seems the version has been shelved) and we had suspected as much.

Of course we knew about Spielberg obtaining GitS' rights back in April 2008. And, YES, it is in stereoscopic 3D!

Another strong female lead to watch out for is Top Cow's APHRODITE IX.

New A CHRISTMAS CAROL Photos And BTS Shots...

Jim here. My good friends George Roush from LatinoReview and Mike Sampson from JoBlo got their hands on some exclusive images from Disney's A CHRISTMAS CAROL and so I am passing them on to you guys - love the behind the scenes (BTS) shots. Course I am a sucker for those as much as George is for Patron Silver. :-) Be sure to click through to see them all!

Interesting how Zemeckis prefers to not paint the volume floor (save $?) where Jim Cameron leans toward battleship grey. Further evidence of Zemeckis' frugalty (ala Scrooge) during the production? He did not even allow the purchase of tables for the laying out of scenes. "SCENE PREP - take a knee!" (See photo below!)

Seriously though, my exuberance has increased tenfold since the original trailer which I was not terribly impressed with really. Subsequent promos have been far superior, which I am tremendously happy about. I do believe Disney and Zemeckis have a winner here and a classic for years to come.






Friday, October 23, 2009

Are We seeing Movement In The 3DTV Space?

Jim here. TDVision just won the 2009 TV Innovations award for the category of Three Dimensional Television. There are a number of organizations involved in creating the standards for 3D Home Entertainment - I find it fascinating to see developments as they happen and how they will all fit together. The other finalists were BskyB and HDMI. TDVision's innovations include the 2D+Delta system of Full HD 3D and 2D compatible 3D coding.

Now dubbed 2009's top 3D TV technology enabler, TDVision's innovations include the 2D+Delta system of Full HD 3D and 2D compatible 3D coding.
"TDVision's entry was judged to be the most innovative in the 3D Television category by an independent panel of judges. We feel that this is a tremendous achievement for TDVision and I'd like to offer my personal congratulations to TDVision," said Ian Weightman of IMS Research.

"When we started at the beginning of the decade, we knew that there will be the need to deploy stereoscopic content in a digital format, optimized and compatible, that's when the TDVCodec was born. There were no 3D Displays so we made one, there were no 3D cameras available so we crafted one too, we ended up with the full stereoscopic true 3D HD infrastructure for digital, compatible, ubiquitous and multiplatform technology that enables the 3D Ecosystem," said Ethan Schur, Marketing Director for TDVision and acceptor of award at the gala awards ceremony located at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

The TDVCodec 2D+Delta system was invented by TDVision CEO Manuel Gutierrez Novelo in 2001 and patented worldwide in 2003. The 2D+Delta system in an integral IP patent pertaining to current and future standards including MPEG2, MPEG4 and MPEG Multi View Coding.

TDVision Systems has generated massive interest in the past weeks starting with it's presentation of GPU accelerated 2D+Delta coding system at the nVidia GPU conference and continuing across the globe to the 3D International Fair held in Tandem with the Korean Electronics Show.

About TDVision:
TDVision Systems, Inc. is the owner of several 3D-related key patents now listed as part of different standard stereoscopic architectures like ISO, MPEG and AVC. TDVision's technology allows the acquisition, encoding, deployment, decoding and visualization of stereoscopic 3D HD video streams and computer-generated content within the 3D ecosystem. TDVision's solution is
based on firmware and software changes to enable true 3D HD on current infrastructures, ubiquitous, display agnostic, fully compatible and even allows 2D legacy compatibility with existing infrastructures.

PassmoreLab’s New 3D Film Delves Deep Inside the EXTREME NATURE OF BATS

Jim here. When Greg Passmore, president of San Diego-based 3D Production Studio PassmoreLab recently uttered the words ‘to the bat cave’, he wasn’t referring to atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed, Robin, The Dark Knight or Dracula. But all signs point to his bat cave being every bit as entertaining, creepy and biting.

Passmore was referring to a Texas bat cave where he was filming part of his latest science movie, “The Extreme Nature of Bats”, that has a resident population of 12 million of the little flying fanged mammals. These bats are as important to the surrounding ecosystem – and every single ecosystem in the world for that matter -- as the clean air and water that support them. But as beneficial as they are to nature controlling pests, pollinating plants and dispersing seeds, they can often be as deadly. Known carriers of the rabies virus -- which can be fatal to humans and animals -- bats’ dark reputation as nightstalkers is as much fact as it is fiction, and Passmore’s production is traveling the world filming bats in order to tell a balanced truth about them.

Now in production, “The Extreme Nature of Bats” is a new, 35 minute educational science film that will explore the myths and dark legends that have stalked the world's only flying mammal for hundreds of years. Through the wonders of digital 3D technology, audiences will learn that bats are unique and interesting animals; but, because of fear and misconceptions associated with them throughout history, they also are some of the most misunderstood animals in the world.

The film is being shot in various locations around the world and will examine several species of bats, including free-tailed bats, fruit bats, and vampire bats. Texas was chosen as one location because the territory contains some of the largest bat caves in the world, including maternity caves that are winter homes for millions of Mexican free-tailed bats. Other locations are quite exotic, including Africa, chosen for the fruit bat population; Belize, chosen to illustrate ancient Mayan ceremonial practices and primitive bat cave etchings; Romania, to further illuminate the myths surrounding Bran Castle (Dracula’s Castle); and the jungles of Mexico, to film the infamous vampire bats.

Only three of the world’s approximate 1,000 bat species are vampire bats that drink the blood of other animals -- and occasionally humans. These rare species are only found in isolated parts of Central and South America. Once a vampire bat locates a host, such as a sleeping mammal, it lands and stealthily approaches it from the ground.

“Vampire bats are highly-evolved hunters. They have specialized thermoreceptors which help them locate areas where its prey╩╝s blood flows close to the skin. Their front teeth are specialized for cutting and removing skin and their saliva contains an anticoagulant which, when injected, prevents the prey's blood from clotting,” says Greg Passmore. “Often they will return night after night to the same animal, so they simply just have to pull back the scab from previous visits to feed on more blood.”
Passmore’s objective from the start was to take viewers on a highly-memorable, realistic journey and expose them to a world they have never seen before – from deep inside active bat caves filmed from the inside out – giving viewers a realistic understanding of the risks and rewards associated with large bat populations.

“This film is not a tame depiction of bats as cute little cave kittens,” says Passmore. “It’s real -- the good, the bad and the ugly. Millions of bats live in those caves, departing and returning, devouring tons of insects nightly. But they also die there.”

One sequence shows the bats as they die and fall from the roof of the cave into the muck of bat guano below, being quickly consumed by waiting Dermestid beetles and worms.

“That’s not your typical average bat movie fare, and I can attest to the fact that the circle of life inside a bat cave is actually quite bizarre and a little disturbing,” smiles Passmore.

The film will also explore the similarity between humans and bats. Interestingly, bats have the same basic arm and hand bones found in humans and most other mammals. However, the forelimbs of all bats developed as wings, making them the only mammals naturally capable of sustained flight.

More than half of America’s bat species are considered in decline or are already listed for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. Wildlife experts agree that ignorance about bats and their habitats has contributed to their demise. It was Passmore’s passion for conservation and edgy story-telling that led to this film.

“I think this is an important film. The world needs to better understand these creatures before they are gone,” continues Passmore. “We are seeing new diseases like White Nose Syndrome that are killing off entire bat colonies, and that is tragic. Our film will hopefully do much for educating people about the importance of these creatures and why we need to protect them.”

There are close to 1,000 species of bats worldwide and they comprise more than one-fifth of all mammals. The film takes a straight-ahead approach to telling the story of the plight and flight of the worlds’ bat population. “The visuals speak for themselves, and I will admit that the storyline can get a little startling at times,” says Steve Glum, PassmoreLab’s head of Branding & Distribution. “But sometimes a little shock makes people stop and think, and I believe this film’s relevance fits well with the ever-growing worldwide concern for the planet’s well being.”

PassmoreLab’s “The Extreme Nature of Bats” (www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQ23ZMBcVMg) is scheduled for release to IMAX, Science Centers and Museums in March 2010.

About PassmoreLab
PassmoreLab, the “World’s Largest 3D Content Provider”, is a San Diego-based multi-media production studio that specializes in 3D production. The studio custom-designs and builds its own RED camera 3D rigs for both conventional and rugged film productions, shooting everything from feature films, television and science documentaries, to underwater diving, extreme sports and cave exploration http://www.passmorelab.com/PL2minTRAILER.mov. State-of-the-art facilities include a full 3D production studio, video/film post-production, optical development lab, and a software development environment. Production includes 2D, 3D, high dynamic range time lapse, stereoscopic microscopy and cutting-edge simulation technologies for real time SFX. PassmoreLab has additional offices in Russia and the Philippines. For more information, visit www.passmorelab.com.

I am a firm believer in the use of stereoscopic 3D in education. The more synapses we have firing the better and 3D makes it happen! This is one to check out for sure...

PassmoreLab is a sponsor of MarketSaw.

New Avatar Trailer Cam!!!!!!!!

Michael here. Wow. Best trailer ever. Insanely epic is an understatement.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Amazing Ultra-High Quality "Avatar" Pics + More!

Michael here with a bunch of Avatar stuff on the eve of the release of the second trailer.

1. Check out these ultra high quality pics (thanks Jonmc123 for pointing me to these!!). Click here and here for the UHQ versions.

These are absolutely breathtaking, and completely photoreal. It's mind boggling how much detail has gone into the characters - their clothing, their jewelry, their weapons. Beautiful. The pic of Ney'tiri giving Jake archery lessons is now my favorite image from Avatar.





















2. Avatar The Game (Wii) Banshee gameplay featurette:




3. James Horner's Avatar score is available for pre-order on Amazon. It will be released on December 15.

4. Thanks to kostas2 for linking to this scan from a French magazine showing a concerned Grace-avatar surrounded by Na'vi.

Quick Post: New AVATAR Trailer Playing In Front Of AMELIA Friday Night!

Jim here. As I suspected, the new AVATAR trailer will be playing in front of AMELIA starting Friday night. AND - here is an advance preview of the trailer courtesy of One Movie, Five Reviews:

"I attended a screening of Amelia tonight, (reviews coming Friday), and much to my pleasant surprise they showed a brand-new trailer for the hugely-anticipated Avatar. This over 3-minute trailer has gotten me more excited for the film than the original teaser-trailer and 16-minutes of “Avatar Day” footage put together. It explains the story very well for those who don’t already know what it’s about, has a very classy type-font that looks like something right out of a ‘70’s blockbuster, and best of all reminds people of James Cameron’s impressive filmography."

So check it out tonight! Let us know what you think :-)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Lucasfilm Gearing Up Another Star Wars Trilogy In 3D?!?!!

**UPDATE: Oct 27 - Well, well, well! May wonders never cease. Lucasfilm denies the rumors. Like they haven't done that int he past right? Apparently it is ignorant and stupid even lol. There is no way it can be true! Don't believe a word of what the PR for Lucasfilm has to say - they are covering their @sses like anyone would. Oh there is talk of another trilogy, mark my words Internet. We shall see what we shall see. It is going to happen whether Steve Sansweet says so or not :-)

EXCLUSIV
E


Jim here. Here is a strong rumor that should whet your appetites! (or sour them if you have had too much of the franchise). I have been hearing rumblings... extremely quiet at first, but now heating up significantly and from a trusted source - that George Lucas is preparing to unleash another STAR WARS trilogy upon us, this time in stereoscopic 3D. This is NOT the TV series, these are brand spankin' new 3D STAR WARS movies.

Yes, the pending 2D to 3D conversions of his six existing STAR WARS properties are still a go as 3D theaters are approaching 3000 (5000 is the number Lucas wants). No word on when this work will be completed.

But here is the shocker: Lucas will be producing and NOT directing these new episodes apparently! Could Steven Spielberg be tapped to direct a STAR WARS movie after all? Yes according to a trusted source of mine! Further, Francis Ford Coppola was mentioned too as a possible director for a future film!

A lot depends on the success of AVATAR this winter - if it takes off like everyone is expecting it to, then you will most likely see three additional STAR WARS movies added.

What an interesting competitive box office landscape that would make over the next 6 to 10 years! James Cameron's AVATAR world vs. George Lucas' STAR WARS world. I could see Lucas getting a little jealous over a successful launch of AVATAR - jealous because it is a fully articulated universe, like his. And if he doesn't act on it - his franchise may well be relegated to a back seat as potentially the records will start falling to Pandora. Heck STAR WARS is still not 3D yet and what better way to try to maintain a lock on bragging rights than to launch into three more in native stereoscopic 3D.

How seriously should you consider these rumors? Well it is coming from a source that SHOULD KNOW. This source is absolutely connected. So odds are it is seriously being talked about at Lucasfilm. Right now. Will it happen? AVATAR will have to hit and hit big and then all the stars have to align properly - all I can do is pass on the info.

Personally I WANT this to happen dearly. I REALLY want to see what the STAR WARS universe looks like in Spielberg's hands *AND* in stereoscopic 3D. You would too, wouldn't you? :-)

Quick Post: AVATAR The Game For The Nintendo Wii

Jim here. Got a quick post highlighting some game action from AVATAR THE GAME for the Nintendo Wii - check it out:



Thanks to A@ronW for the heads up!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Want To See The Next Big Gaming Sensation? SILHOUETTE 3D!!

Jim here. Just saw some very interesting clips of Softkinetic's SILHOUETTE in action at NVIDIA GTC 2009! Awesome really.

Taking a cue from DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION and some outstanding innovation, Softkinetic has come up with a winner. Players simple stand in front of their televisions with their NVIDIA 3D Vision glasses on and watch the "silhouette" shape that they must make approach them as a shadow would on a wall.

I suspect that these approaching walls can be sped up and the shapes made outrageously hard! Now I am 6'6" so I don't know if I can even fit through them :-) Looks like fun though - my kids will enjoy laughing at me. I am pretty sure that this game will be a hit, especially in 3D.



Monday, October 19, 2009

Second AVATAR Trailer Confirmed For Friday, October 23!

Jim here. Once again MarketSaw's sources smell like roses in telling us that the new trailer will be out within a window of time - and here it is!!

Comingsoon.net has confirmed the date - Friday, October 23 - from presumably Fox (doesn't actually give a source of the confirmation) and that it will be 3 minutes, 30 seconds of pure bliss. It will be in theaters only initially, with the online version due on October 29.

For more info about what will actually be in the trailer - read our original post that gave us the timeline right here. Get ready to be transported to Pandora people!

Quick Post: Simply A Great Read - James Cameron Article in The New Yorker

Jim here. If you are a James Cameron fan, consider this a MUST read: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/10/26/091026fa_fact_goodyear

I have been asked a few times why are the humans on AVATAR's Pandora using older technology if this is set in the future (a good question) - read on! (From the article): Cameron looked around excitedly as the machine guns started to rattle and shells popped off in every direction. He snapped his fingers nervously. The acrid smell of gun smoke filled the air. Pointing to his left forearm, he said, “I have a piece of shrapnel right here from ‘Terminator 2’ that never came out.” Tiny, tight smile. “We made up the three barrel guns,” he said. “The two waist guns are .30-calibre machine guns modified for the movie. It’s an older model, a Vietnam-era M60. The idea is that Pandora has such a hot, humid climate, with incredibly powerful magnetic fields, that they can’t use sophisticated energy weapons. A lot of the equipment is retrofitted, from their perspective, because it works on Pandora. So you’ve got vehicles that are more consistent with twentieth-century warfare.” His face was flushed and happy. “It’s all just an excuse to do helicopters versus pterodactyls,” he said.

Read the article. I am not kidding. It covers a lot of ground and is well worth the time to read it! This is the first time I am officially jealous over another Cameron article. Very well done, Dana Goodyear.

And next to the shot of Cameron manning a gunship machine gun - this is the best shot of Cameron yet :-)

Short Survey: 3D Glasses

Jim here. I just got an email from a USC student doing a research project on 3D glasses and wanted to have MarketSaw readers have a look at a survey he has created on that subject.

How about it guys? Let's help this guy out! Survey can be found here and is a quick 10 questions.

Any questions - just leave them here in comments. I will publish results if I can.

3D Geek Alert: Sony's New 360 Degree 3D Display - No Glasses Needed

Jim here. Well - what the heck is it? According to Sony it is a 360 degree 3D display that users can view objects without 3D glasses (so probably some sort of lenticular lens arrangement). Further, it doesn't matter where you are looking at it from - so multiple viewers can watch at the same time.

It is a prototype so you won't be able to buy it any time soon, however I can see many applications for this little device - gaming for example. Perhaps a snow globe style PSP? :-) Potential commercial applications include medical imaging and advertising.

It measures 10.6 inches tall by 5.1 inches in diameter, supports 24 bit color, and has a resolution of a small 96x128 pixels. The device is set to be unveiled on Thursday, October 22 in Tokyo at the Digital Contents Expo 2009.

I think Sony is defining a new breed of appliance here. Until such time as much larger units can be built for living room floors, it could certainly be used in 3D gaming. Thanks Matt for the heads up!


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Another 3D Horror Brings *Stiff* Competition: THE MORTICIAN

Jim here. Have some news from BloodyDisgusting on a new 3D horror movie entitled THE MORTICIAN, and a family horror movie, MONSTER MUTT. Co-creative Directors Harvey Lowry and Todd Tucker are involved with both. With each passing week, more and more horror movies are being planned and announced in 3D. Lets hope the 3D screens that have been promised to start ramping up in November can handle the load next year. Release window negotiations will be key for the time being. Stiff competition for THE MORTICIAN :-)

Director Harvey Lawry spoke about THE MORTICIAN: “We signed on a movie today called THE MORTICIAN it’s shooting in New Orleans in about five weeks. It’s a 3-D thriller-horror film and is pretty graphic, but I don’t want to get into it too much yet.”

And here are the plot highlights: The Mortician processes corpses with a steely regard. He is alienated and cold. He feels threatened by his new employee, Noah, who brings the notorious gangster, Carver, to the mortuary door. The Mortician’s attention is pricked by the tattoo of Botticelli’s 'Birth of Venus' on the body of a murdered young woman, Jenny. A fleeting recognition triggers a sequence of haunting dreams from his childhood. He discovers a scared child, Kane, fleeing the morgue. Carver interrogates him about the whereabouts of the boy. The Mortician witnesses Noah drag Kane into the shadows of a derelict tenement. Forcing him to act, Kane sparks the Mortician’s emotional awakening. Emerging from his icy state, the Mortician and Kane become reluctant allies united in their struggle to escape the physical and emotional chains that threaten to imprison them.

Tucker continues about MONSTER MUTT: “We also just finished out first in house production, which is MONSTER MUTT. Harvey produced and I directed. We’re about a week away from having it done and were gonna have it sold and out next year. It’s a family fantasy PG film about a family dog that gets turned into a monster. Zak Ward is in it.” He goes into a bit more depth about the actual plot, “[It’s about] a family dog that gets kidnapped by an evil corporation and they use it for testing and accidently turn it into a monster mutt,” he continues, “it finds its way home and the kids try and hide it from the rest of the neighborhood.”

Thanks again to BloodyDisgusting for their continued great work uncovering these 3D movies! THE MORTICIAN sounds a little psychological - and creepy. Would have liked to learn a bit more about how Tucker will be tackling the 3D, but when we get more, you will have it.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Eyes on Alpha Centauri: The Hunt for a Pandora

Michael here. Could there be habitable planets orbiting amidst the three stars of the Alpha Centauri system? What are the chances that a Polyphemus, or even a Pandora, really exists? If you know anything of James Cameron’s passion for science, you should know that the answer to the question, “could there be planets in the Alpha Centauri system?” is a resounding “YES!”

Picture (click to enlarge): Alpha Centauri A and B hang over the rings of Saturn. Click here to read more about this picture

Scientists are putting money on it. While Cameron is busy creating a moon orbiting a gas giant circling Alpha Centauri A, Professor Debra Fischer of Yale University, working at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) in Chile, is aiming the CTIO 1.5 meter telescope at both Alpha Centauri “A” and “B” as a part of a 5 year observation that will hopefully reveal planets as small as Mars.

She is using the radial velocity method, which uses spectral measurements to detect variations in the speed that a star moves towards or away from Earth (any star with planets will move in its own small orbit around a common center of gravity).

With our solar system largely explored, the stars beckon us ever more forcefully. And among the stars, the Alpha Centauri triple star system, the closest star system at only 4.37 light years from our Sun, is calling out the loudest for exploration.

Think of how awe-inspiring it would be to know that Alpha Centauri harbors potentially habitable planets.

Read below for my conversation with Prof. Fischer, in which we discuss the current state of thought regarding the chances of habitable planets in the Alpha Centauri system, her observational program that is working to discover these planets, and the possibility of sending a probe to explore the star system directly:

Michael: I appreciate you taking the time to talk about Alpha Centauri. I’m interested in the state of thinking regarding the possibility of planets or planetary systems existing around either Alpha Centauri "A", Alpha Centauri "B", or even around the entire system, if that is even possible.

Prof. Fischer: Yes, in fact it would be possible. There could be a stable orbit around both stars. But, we’re searching for planets orbiting either alpha Cen A or alpha Cen B individually.

Michael: So, is the Cerro Tololo telescope that you’re using focused primarily on Centauri B?

Prof. Fischer: Actually, we’re looking at both “A” and “B”.

Michael: I remember reading that "B" would be a better target because “B” would be less active, with less solar activity that would interfere with your spectral measurements. Is that still true? Are you still hopeful that you might find something around Alpha Centauri “A” as well?

Prof. Fischer: As stars go, alpha Cen A and B are inactive. But, we don't know if there are velocity fields at the sub-meter-per-second level. The stars are not completely smooth cue balls in space, like pool balls on your table. They have atmospheres, and those atmospheres have flares. In addition, the stars themselves pulsate. We know that Alpha Centauri "A" has a dominant pulsation period that’s about 5 minutes, just like the sun. I’m not really worried about periodic variations of minutes. We'll be able to average right over that kind of noise. But no one knows whether or not there are long period variations in "A" or "B". We do know that "A" is probably not as stable as "B". People have measured pulsation periods in "A", and in general we find that more massive stars have more active atmospheres. So yeah, I agree that "B" is a better bet. And if you told me that I could only observe one star, I’d choose B. But we’re studying both stars. And it turns out that this strategy of looking at both stars is pretty critical in ensuring a solid set of data.

Michael: Do you have two telescopes, one constantly trained on “A” and one on “B”?

Prof. Fischer: No. We use one telescope, but we nod back and forth. The exposure times are 15 seconds for A, and 30 seconds for B. So we take ten observations of A, and then we move over to B and take ten observations there, then nod back to A and so on. So it’s just one telescope going back and forth. This is helpful because if we see the velocities of both stars just jump up or down for some reason, this will be a clue that there’s some kind of systematic error, and I hope that we’ll be able to track it down.

Michael: Error due to stellar activity?

Prof. Fischer: In this case, I’m thinking of errors that we introduce. Perhaps there is an instability in the spectrometer. Or maybe we have the wrong times written down - the Earth is travelling at 30,000 meters per second, and we have to account for and remove that velocity. If that’s not done perfectly, then we would incorrectly attribute the Earth's velocity to the alpha Cen stars.

Michael: The first time I read about your project was March or April of 2008, and at that point I think you were planning on starting in June of 2008. So it’s been going on for about a year now?

Prof. Fischer: We commissioned the spectrometer in May of 2008 and collected observations for a month in May. We received discretionary time from the director, who liked our project and I received a few weeks of telescope time through NSF (National Science Foundation) in August and September. But the project started in earnest on January 1st of this year.

Michael: Two questions. How long would it take to find a Hot Jupiter? (A Jupiter-sized or larger gas giant orbiting very close to the star). A Hot Jupiter would cause a larger Doppler shift that would be detectable more quickly. I would assume that detecting a more Earth-sized planet would take a number of years. So do you have a timeframe in mind – a hopeful timeframe – as to when you may be able to tell that there’s a Hot Jupiter, and then another timeframe in which you would hope to find a smaller, more Earth-sized planet?

Prof. Fischer: Ah, we are quite sure that there are no Jupiters or Saturns orbiting "A" or "B". First of all, people have collected data and those types of planets haven't been found. We think that makes sense, because alpha Centauri is a binary star system [actually, the very distant Proxima Centauri makes it a triple system, but that star is very far away from "A" and "B"], there are only stable orbits out to about 2 times the Earth to Sun distance around either star. Any planets at greater distances would be gravitationally destabilized by the other star in the system. So, we are only looking for objects that have orbital periods out to about 4 or 5 years. That’s when the program ends – in 4 or 5 years we’ll be done.

Michael: Could you go into more detail on why planets cannot exist beyond 2 times the Earth to Sun distance?

Prof. Fischer: The stars themselves are in a very elongated, eccentric, elliptical orbit. At the widest part of their orbit, they are almost 40 AU (40 times the earth to sun distance) apart. That's a comfortable separation for orbiting planets. But, when the stars, A and B, make their closest approach, they are only 11 AU away from each other. The stars are moving into the domain of the planets, and they will gravitationally rip away any planets that aren't closer than 2 AU around "A" or "B". Several computer simulations have demonstrated this. If you start the simulation with a system that has more distant planets, as the other star comes in closer, the planets are gravitationally disrupted, dislodged from their stable orbits. The orbits first become eccentric, and then the planet shoots right out of the system.

Michael: Does the 2 AU maximum distance apply to both Alpha Centauri "A" and "B"? Does the maximum apply for any size planet, or would the maximum change depending on the mass or orbital period?

Prof. Fischer: [The maximum distance] is not quite as sensitive to the mass of the planet as one might guess. However, because star “B” isn’t as big as "A", it’s tugs less on planets that are orbiting “A”. “A” is a more massive star, so it pushes more on any planets that would be orbiting “B”. But the difference in the stable zone is relatively small.

Michael: I’ve heard Chile is a prime location for an observatory. What was the reason that this location was chosen for the observatory?

Prof. Fischer: Well, it’s a great site. We had to observe from the southern hemisphere because the alpha Cen stars can be seen for most of the year. This site in Chile was originally chosen because the atmosphere is quite stable and the weather is really good. We’ve been observing since January and I can count on one hand the number of nights that we’ve been shut down.

Michael: So very little cloud cover, smog, or pollutants?

Prof. Fischer: Yeah, that’s right. We’re far away from any cities, and there’s an ocean breeze that rolls over the top of the mountaintop and it creates what’s called a laminar flow, that’s very stable.

Michael: You are using a 1.5 meter scope, correct?

Prof Fischer: That’s right. It’s a small telescope. I also use the Keck telescope, which is the world’s largest telescope and I use a 3 meter telescope at Lick Observatory. So the telescope is small, but it’s all we need because these stars are so close to us, and they are so bright.

Michael: Why hasn’t there been a dedicated observation of the Alpha Centauri system until now? It would seem the obvious choice.

Prof. Fischer: It’s because we learned early-on that finding planets was a "numbers game." We found planets similar to Jupiter, a gas giant planet, around 5 to 10% of the stars. So we had to look at a lot of stars to find planets and publish results. Now that we’ve found a lot of planets, we're taking a different strategy: choosing two stars and trying to average down our precision so we can detect an Earth. That’s something that we haven’t been able to do yet. So this strategy of "high cadence" observations is a new idea. Our rival team, the Swiss team, lead by Michel Mayor, is working on HARPs, a spectrometer on a telescope at La Silla in Chile (which I can see from CTIO). They’re also looking at alpha Centauri. So I think we’re in a sort of friendly race. And it’s exactly the right thing to do; we need to have confirmation. It's important that both teams see this tiny whisper of a signal.

Michael: I know that if NASA gets enough funding, there could be a few space-based planet hunting missions. The SIM Lite mission is an astrometry mission which would directly observe the circular motion of the star based on the existence of a potential planet.

Prof. Fischer: That’s right. And that would be the most important mission for this particular project.

Michael: Any updates on potential funding for SIM or other planet hunting missions?

Prof. Fischer: As a community astronomers try to set priorities in the form of strategic roadmaps and the "Decadal Survey" to help advise both NASA and the National Science Foundation. I think there’s a good plan in place. As the first priority NASA has just repaired the Hubble Space Telescope. And Kepler was recently launched. The next priority for a major mission is the JWST (James Webb Space Telescope) which will replace Hubble. Then, the plan is for a flagship exoplanet mission. The two competing ideas right now are an astrometric mission like the Space Interferometry Mission, and an imaging mission to take pictures of planets orbiting nearby stars, conceptually, like the Terrestrial Planet Finder.

They’re both fantastic ideas - there's no question that eventually we want to image the planets. But I think that an imaging mission may have greater technical risk associated with it. There’s still a lot of work to be done to demonstrate that technology is in hand to image close-in planets. In contrast, an astrometric mission like SIM has had extensive technology development.

Michael: If you detect a planet, that would certainly help NASA get the funding it needs for SIM. I’m just crossing my fingers – I want everything to happen.

Prof. Fischer: Exactly, me too!

Michael: Would it be possible for a Jupiter to have formed in a close orbit around one of the Alpha Centauri stars, perhaps at a Mercury distance?
Prof. Fischer: It would have been possible, but we’ve looked and they’re not there. This kind of planet would be fairly easy to detect. Alpha Centauri has been observed by folks at the Anglo Australian telescope, and by our Swiss colleagues with HARPS. In both cases giant planets have not been detected. This is good news for prospective "Earths." If there were giant planets around alpha Centauri "A" or "B," they would have destabilized orbits of small rocky planets.

Michael: One thing that I read on another site was that you were observing other stars as well, including Tau Ceti.

Prof. Fischer: That’s right. These are our standard stars. They help us to debug our analysis and the instrument. [They are] our calibrators.

Michael: Kepler, which uses the transit method, recently launched, and it was placed in an orbit in which it could view a patch of stars without that portion of the sky being obscured by the sun during any portion of its orbit. Would it be possible to use the transit method to detect planets around Alpha Centauri?

Prof. Fischer: The probability of a planet transiting in that system is pretty low. We think that the planets that formed around “A” or “B” would have been dynamically forced into the same orbital plane as the binary star system. That’s been demonstrated through computer simulations. And we know that the tilt of the plane is close to edge-on, but probably not close enough for a transit to be seen.

Michael: A similar problem could have occurred with radial velocity measurements like the ones you are doing. If you are looking at a star system top down, obviously you won’t be seeing anything going towards you or away from you. So how is the Centauri system oriented in respect to your observatory?

Prof. Fischer: Right. Right. What we measure is the velocity coming towards us and away from us. So we wouldn’t see velocities perpendicular to our line of sight – so the velocity in the plane of the sky. We're helped again because the orbital plane of Alpha Centauri “A” and “B” is 79 degrees (90 degrees is perfectly edge-on). That's important; since the planets will inherit this same orbital tilt, most of the reflex velocity of the star is along the line of site. That's one of the reasons we chose this system. We knew ahead of time that any planets would have an optimum orbit for detection with our technique.

Michael: It’s such an obvious target - it’s surprising no one did this before.

Prof. Fischer: Yeah, but astronomers are lucky to get a few nights of telescope time a semester. Sometimes, people get 20 nights, 50 nights, something like that, on smaller telescopes. So, you have to decide: do you take all of that time, and put it into one star, where after four years you may come up empty handed? Or do you mitigate your risk and look at lots of stars so that you’re sure to find planets?

Michael: Now that we have so many results (planets found), we can start focusing more directly on certain star systems…

Prof. Fischer: Yes, I really think it’s the right science to do. And I feel like I can afford to do this risky project because I’ve got other planets rolling out from other projects.

Michael: I have a few astrobiology type questions I was wondering about. I know that Alpha Centauri "B" has a different spectrum – the more orange K1V – as opposed to the Sun and Alpha Centauri "A", which are G2V. Would that spectral type, as far as you know, prohibit the development of life, or change the potential atmospheres in a way that would hurt the chances of a planet evolving some kind of lifeforms?

Prof. Fischer: Maybe the biggest question is whether or not water could survive on planets in that system. Interestingly, we think water was delivered to Earth by water-rich asteroids that orbited the Sun at distances beyond 2 AU. If close binary stars disrupt the orbits of water-rich asteroids around alpha Cen A and B, maybe rocky planets there don't have oceans. That would make life as we know it impossible. On the other hand, models of planet formation suggest that the presence of that second star actually helps to assemble the planet faster - maybe that also plays a role in rapidly delivering water to any planets in the system. Our understanding is so immature at this point, that anything is possible and it's best to just look. We are trying to make comparisons based on a single example, our solar system. The alpha Cen stars may be perfectly lovely places for planets with life. The stars emit light that is very much like the radiation from our Sun. The brightest star, "A" is the most massive star, but it is only about 10% bigger than our sun. And “B” is about 30% smaller or less massive than our Sun. Compositionally, the stars are quite similar to our Sun, so the same building blocks for our life existed around these stars.

Michael: That’s sounds very hopeful...

Prof. Fischer: The Alpha Centaurians could be sitting on their planet observing our sun and theorizing that, "there’s no way that poor single star, Sol, has planets with life. It’s a single star, it wouldn’t have made planets fast enough to accrete water."

Michael: I know that “A” and “B” range from about 11 to 36 AU. Would that cause major climate changes during the 79 year orbital period?

Prof. Fischer: Certainly that would impact the atmosphere on the planets but I don't know how that would play out. There have been so many climate cycles on our planet and it's complicated and tied to the ratio of water to land mass. 11 AU is still quite a distance from either planet. It's an interesting question!

Michael: So let’s say we had another sun, equivalent to our sun, that was 11 AU from us right now. How would that affect us in terms of heat, radiation, solar wind…

Prof. Fischer: I haven’t seen any work on this, though it would be a very interesting investigation. It’s a great idea. The second star would be further away from us than Saturn is in our solar system. So it’s pretty far away. But a second star would impact the planets – you’re right!

Michael: With the new Star Trek movie, there’s been an influx of articles about NASA’s advanced propulsion research.

Prof. Fischer: It's fascinating! If we do find rocky planets around Alpha Centauri “A” or “B”, then NASA may think about how they could send a probe there - maybe a probe the size of a cell phone now. If the probe accelerates to 10% of the speed of light, it would take about 40 years to reach Alpha Centauri, and then about 4 years to radio the signal back. Both of those things (accelerating to 10% the speed of light and phoning home from alpha Centauri) are hard to do.

Michael: The timeframes, if you think about it, aren’t actually much bigger than some current missions. There are plans on the drawing boards for missions that won't produce results until potentially well into the 2030's.

Prof. Fischer: True. The Voyager spacecraft launched in the 70’s, and that’s 40 years out now. It's within a human lifetime. You can imagine doing something like that.

Michael: I need to read up on my advanced propulsion technologies, but I believe that Project Orion, or nuclear thermal propulsion rockets could achieve speeds close to that. Especially if everything that is not the fuel tank is so incredibly small, I can definitely see that happening.

Prof. Fischer: With a platform in space, the space craft can be assembled outside of the Earth’s gravity. People are thinking about this. It’s so tantalizing, it’s just -- almost -- within reach.

Michael: Do you know whether SETI or anyone else has been beaming signals directly at the Centauri system?

Prof. Fischer: I'm not sure, but I'd bet that this is a prime target. Frank Drake is the astromomer who searched for radio signals around Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani. He was working from the northern hemisphere, so the Alpha Centauri system would have been out of reach. Just think - our television signals have swept past the star system. We’ve been transmitting for more than 50 years. They’re seeing five year-old shows. If they're watching, the Alpha Centaurians are probably more tuned in than I am!

Michael: The Hubble recently directly imaged the first extrasolar planet. Is it possible that Hubble could be trained on Centauri to look for planets?

Prof. Fischer: That was around HR 8799. This is interesting because this image is the first example of what astronomers hope to do. I showed [these images] to my class when they came out – they’re very exciting. The planets are many times the mass of Jupiter and at quite a distance from the star. It’s much more difficult for Hubble to image small planets, especially in close orbits around Alpha Centauri “A” and “B”. You really need a mission like the Terrestrial Planet Finder.

Michael: I think it would be such a huge cultural, media event if we could confirm an earthlike planet, or even a super earth, around either of the Centauri stars.

Prof. Fischer: Yes, I agree.

Michael: Do you think you could detect a Mars size planet?

Prof. Fischer: That’s what our simulation showed - that we could reach down that low. But this all hinges on the stability of the stellar atmospheres.

Michael: That's so exciting. Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but I think there's a very, very high chance of planets around either or both stars.

Prof. Fischer: I started this project with Greg Laughlin. He’s a brilliant theoretician and a professor at UC Santa Cruz. One day Greg and I were in a meeting together - we both served on the exoplanet task force commissioned by NASA and the NSF. At one point Greg said to the whole committee, “I’ll bet my career that there are planets around Alpha Centauri A AND B.” And I just thought, wow! His confidence inspired me.

Michael: It's certainly a bet I would make.

Thanks so much to Prof. Debra Fischer for taking the time to talk Alpha Centauri!

So, could a Polyphemus / Pandora pair exist? The answer is that it would depend on where James Cameron placed Polyphemus in relation to Alpha Centauri A.

According to Prof. Fischer:

"If there were gas giants within 2 AU of either star, they definitely would have been discovered by now. [In regards to planets orbiting beyond 2 AU], the theorists would say that it is not possible, but we have 4 counter examples of close binary systems with gas giant planets orbiting at 2.5 AU, where simulations show it would be unlikely that they would even form (once they form, they can survive in a stable orbit). A new idea I heard at Cambridge University is that the planets may migrate outward! Therefore, they form closer in (and faster because of the binary star system) and then they migrate out a bit."

So while there is no Polyphemus within the habitable zone (where liquid water can exist) of Alpha Centauri A, there is a chance - despite theoretic models to the contrary - that gas giants may exist beyond 2 AU. So a Polyphemus / Pandora pair could exist beyond 2AU. But if that's the case, then it would require an alternate source for heating, as liquid water would otherwise not exist at this distance from Alpha Centauri A.

However, a Polyphemus certainly could have formed within 2 AU in an alternate universe, and there certainly could be Pandora-sized planets with liquid water directly orbiting Alpha Centauri A.

In any case, we'll have to wait and learn more about exactly where Cameron placed his planets, and any other explanations he may have come up with!

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