Sad news indeed. After an extraordinary 6-year mission, the Spirit rover on Mars has been officially re-designated by NASA as a Stationary Research Platform. This decision follows months of effort by engineers to find a way of freeing the rover from a sand trap that had left its wheels spinning. But the science is not over for Spirit and it will continue to gather data, confounding estimates that on landing on Mars, it would only last 3 months. Over 6 years later and it is still functioning, plus of course its sister probe Opportunity is still operating after a similar period of activity.
Simon Conway Morris, professor of evolutionary paleobilogy at Cambridge University will tell a Royal Society lecture today that we should be wary of any encounters with aliens. Morris contends that any evolutionary process likely to create intelligent life will bring about beings with all the same negative attributes as humans. While they might come in peace, they are just as likely to be searching for living space, fuel or water. Personally, I think he might well be right in principle, but I feel there is one serious flaw in this kind of argument. While aliens could indeed be rather nasty, invading an inhabited planet would be a huge undertaking. Just look at the mess we made of Iraq. Subjugating an entire would be infinitely more difficult, and it's just not worth the bother. Water and fuel can be found in vast amounts on uninhabited worlds, free for the taking, and any species able to cross interstellar space with an invasion fleet of sufficient size to occupy the earth could just as easily spend their money on terraforming projects or space colonies. I think John Carpenter came up with a more plausible scenario in his film They Live, in which the aliens are revealed to be capitalist exploiters, stripping the world of it's wealth by stealth.
Zombies seem to be flavour of the moment right now, so hardly surprising to find The War of the Worlds getting an undead makeover from Marvel Comics. I must confess I've never seen an issue of Marvel Zombies or even have a very clear idea of what it's all about, but issue 5 due out soon apparently returns to the world of Killraven, the resistance fighter created in the 1970's who battles a 2nd Martian invasion of Earth. Writer Fred Van Lente has been talking up the series at the Marvel website: "We've got zombies in the Old West, we've got zombies in Killraven's War of the Worlds, we've got zombies in Camelot," he exclaims. "I like the storytelling challenge of taking a straight-forward genre and twisting it into pretzels. It's also fun to come up with new ways to eviscerate zombies."
There's no specific information on precisely what they are shooting, but an official press release from Disney has announced that Pixar's John Carter of Mars movie has begun principal photography in London. I have high hopes for this movie given the involvement in Pixar, though this is a major departure for the studio, marking it's first foray into live action. Can the Pixar magic transfer from animation to live action? Hopefully in a few months we'll start to see some images emerge and start to make that judgement, but there's certainly plenty of talent behind and in front of the lens. In related news, Spy Kids' Daryl Sabara and There Will Be Blood's Ciaran Hinds have joined the cast, with Sabara playing Edgar Rice Burroughs.