Hot Science: Galactic Machiavellis

Galactic Machiavellis, "proofiness," fixing the planet with time travel and more

By Andrew Moseman and Elise Marton
Oct 4, 2010 5:00 AMApr 26, 2023 2:14 PM
V (David Gray/ABC) | NULL


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TV for October 2010

Stargate Universe

At first we feared that this newest Stargate franchise too closely resembled Battlestar Galactica. But season one found the right mix of personalities and got them off the dank ship Destiny just often enough. SyFy, 9 p.m. Eastern


Parallel universes and doomsday machines could have worn out another show. Not Fringe—J. J. Abrams has new conspiracies to explore, a cliff-hanger to resolve, and no Lost to distract him. Fox, 9 p.m. Eastern


The Winchester brothers battled through season five to prevent a Lucifer-induced cataclysm, and the boys’ demon-fighting adventures are back for another run. CW, 9 p.m. Eastern


Anna is angry. The reimagined V returns with the visitors’ leader—played by the menacing Morena Baccarin —reeling from losing her eggs to an attack by the human resistance. Earthlings, beware. ABC, returning midseason.

Terra Nova

Part Jurassic Park and part Star Trek IV, This new Steven Spielberg–backed series transports its time-traveling characters from an overpopulated, ruined 2149 to the time of the dinosaurs, hoping to change history for the better. Fox, beginning midseason.—Andrew Moseman

Books for October 2010

Breakthrough By Thea Cooper and Arthur Ainsberg (St. Martin’s)

In the years following World War I, Cooper and Ainsberg find doctors on the cusp of understanding diabetes after millennia of fearing it. The imagined dialogue is a tad forced, but the narrative captures the era’s terror of disease balanced against the excitement of discovery. A young patient, Elizabeth Hughes, endures a 400-calorie-per-day starvation treatment while a sometimes dysfunctional team of researchers races to isolate insulin and save her life.

Shock of Gray By Ted C. Fishman (Scribner)

Every hour you are alive, human life expectancy gets longer. At the same time, the world is even less prepared than it realizes for the population shift from young to old, Fishman argues. He jumps between the science of aging and the looming political consequences in quickly graying locales like Florida and parts of Spain and Japan—some of the places seeing “a vicious cycle that encourages the unemployment of older workers,” as many people over 65 want to extend their careers, but cannot.

Proofiness By Charles Seife (Viking)

The use of math to mislead is a familiar dirty trick, but journalist Seife is mad as hell and won’t take it anymore. He castigates lawyers who misrepresent data in the courtroom, politicians who manipulate statistics, and journalists who base sensational stories on dubious polls. At times Seife tries too hard to coin buzzwords, speaking of “Potemkin numbers” (bogus statistics), “randumbness” (seeing patterns where none exist), and “fruit-packing” (presenting data out of context). But his indignation is infectious.

The Amazing Story of Quantum Mechanics By James Kakalios (Gotham)

Professor and professed nerd Kakalios explains the quantum world through science fiction characters like Buck Rogers and Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen, who “gained independent control over his quantum mechanical wave function” to teleport and change his size. Some of the examples are a stretch, but Kakalios unites sci-fi fans and the scientists behind quantum theory in their shared ability to believe what once seemed impossible.—Elise Marton & Andrew Moseman

Film for October 2010

Imagine Science Film Festival New York City

Contrary to what certain Hollywood blockbusters or soporific college lecturers would have you believe, great stories and accurate science are not nemeses. That’s what scientist and filmmaker Alexis Gambis believed when he founded this annual festival in 2008.

The audience agrees: Last year’s extravaganza garnered hundreds of submissions from scientists and non-scientists alike, and drew 5,000 spectators to screenings at area bars, universities, museums, and cinemas. The 2010 edition (sponsored in part by DISCOVER) will present 40 new narrative, documentary, and animated films, as well as a feature-length showcase. The winners of the scientific merit and people’s choice awards take home cash prizes. Runs October 15 through 22 —Emily Elert

Games for October 2010

Star Ruler Blind Mind Studios

If you long to reach your Machiavellian potential on a galactic scale, look no further than the dirty politics and complex economies of this multiplayer-capable PC game. Astronomical size and detail define Star Ruler. You control a galaxy of 150 star systems, complete with gas giants, nebulas, asteroid belts, and Earth-like worlds. But it’s not all stargazing. If diplomacy falters, you might find yourself commanding fleets of ships against alien evildoers intent on galactic domination. —Daniel Lametti

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