I blame Maggie Philbin for having to learn second-order integration.

Tomorrow's World LogoIt’s safe to say that Tomorrow’s World was responsible for the careers of most of this generation’s scientists in the UK and Ireland.

The show was oftentimes ridiculed for being out of touch and it was joked that having your product featured there meant it would never be seen outside of a research lab, but that half-hour on Thursday evenings gave a love of science to myself and many others over the years and is sorely missed.

While rumors of its return turned out to be nothing more than a cynical branding exercise, the BBC has finally released some old episodes from its archives. Unfortunately, the SDI simulation that I mistook for reality isn’t one of them.

“The part about the Hookers was a lie.”

The Men Who Stare at Goats, based on Jon Ronson‘s account of one of the US military’s strangest black ops project, looks to be much funnier and absurd than the source material would suggest.

Based on research into the First Earth Battalion (and various other projects involving belief in magical thinking) the book is a trip down the rabbit hole of the American military-industrial complex at its weirdest.

The cast alone makes it worth checking out.

Slumprawn Millionaire

Bus Stop For Humans OnlyBased on his short film, Alive in Jo’burg, Neil Blomkamp has come up with an intelligent science-fiction action movie in District 9. Shot mostly in a mock-documentary style the movie chronicles an alternate Johannesburg twenty years after an alien ship arrived.

In a plot heavily influenced by Apartheid era South Africa, the aliens are forced into the eponymous District to keep them separate from the native Jo’bergers but this does nothing to quell unrest. We follow newly-promoted bureaucrat Wikus Van De Merwe (in an amazing breakthrough performance by Sharlito Copely who improvised most of his dialogue) as he leads a team to move the Prawn to a new camp, two-hundred miles away from any human settlement.

Despite the science fiction plot and more obviously fantastical elements, there is a gritty realism that pervades the whole movie, especially in the more mockumentary parts. The effects are flawless and fit into the dystopian background of the shanty town that has built up in the aliens’ ghetto and the aliens themselves are a far cry from the plastic and latex creations of Alien Nation. Many difficult questions are asked and few answers are given – like most good science fiction the movie is more than just an excuse for spotty teenagers to see some explosions, but serves to make us think about xenophobia, racism, and how we treat each other as a society.

One of the best films of the decade.