Mark Hamill Admits to Being Skeptical About Returning in the New Star Wars Movies

Logo for the new Star Wars movie

Mark Hamill was a bit skeptical regarding his return to the Star Wars franchise

The Star Wars movies are some of the most successful productions ever made, and the actors who starred in them will always be associated with the characters they played. However, not all of them were so happy about it. Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker, was a bit skeptical about returning for the seventh movie in the franchise. However, it was Han Solo the one who convinced him to do it.

When the seventh movie in the Star Wars series, the Force Awakens, has been announced, everybody got extremely excited. However, this wasn’t the case for Mark Hamill, as he actually spent some time deciding if he really wants to be back in the series to play his iconic character Luke Skywalker.

He admitted that he got really scared when George Lucas told him about the plans for a new trilogy. Therefore, he barely accepted the role in the seventh movie, and much bigger action awaits him in the eighth one, The Last Jedi.

Hamill was finally persuaded to join the old Star Wars cast in the new trilogy

Hamill thought that bringing the original characters back to life wasn’t going to be successful, and said nobody wanted to see the old versions of Luke, Leia, and Han Solo. However, Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia, was extremely excited at the prospect, and agreed to return to the movie.

Hamill thought he still had a chance with Harrison Ford, as he was convinced Han Solo wasn’t up to it. However, his amazement knew no limits when even Ford agreed to return to the franchise. This left Luke with no other choice, as he didn’t want to be the one who spoiled the iconic trio.

He couldn’t have afforded to piss off an entire world of geeks, so he took the major decision – he returned to the Star Wars movies. Only after did he find out how small a spot he was given in the seventh movie, but worry not, geeks worldwide. He is going to return with a lot of force in The Last Jedi.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Google Earth Helps Researchers Spot Ancient Stone Gates in Saudi Arabia

Satellite view of Saudi Arabia

The stone gates have been built by the ancestors of Beduins

If you thought Saudi Arabia was only a barren desert, think again. A team of researchers used Google Earth’s help to uncover some huge stone gates on the territory of the country, suggesting the landscape was not as deserted as they used to think. Now, they think the area hosted an unknown ancient civilization, and that many other sites await their discovery.

The stone gates are not visible from ground level

Researchers explored Saudi Arabia with the help of a series of images displayed on Google Earth, and spotted a series of stone walls which haven’t been discovered before. These walls are actually 400 gates which are hard to spot at ground level, but become visible as soon as you go up several hundreds of feet.

In fact, from the ground level, they look like some simple flat gates, connected between one another by several bars. Therefore, researchers decided to call them like that instead of walls. Even if they are now uncovered, their secrets remain hidden. Judging from their looks, these formations couldn’t have housed humans neither when they were alive nor when they were dead.

The formations might indicate the presence of older civilizations in Saudi Arabia

However, they could estimate an age when these were built, even if the period was quite vague. Therefore, the gates should have come into being sometime between 2,000 and 9,000 years ago. Also, the builders must have been the ancestors of today’s Beduins which live in the area. They call other similar stone formations ‘The Works of Old Men’.

David Kennedy, the researcher responsible with finding the gates, spotted them in the most interesting of ways. He has never been to Saudi Arabia, but the formations would have been difficult to spot anyway at ground level. Therefore, he used Google Earth imagery to make the amazing discovery. The study on the stone gates is scheduled for publication next month in the journal Arabian Archaeology and Epigraphy.
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The Death of Stalin Might Cause Nationalist Uproars in Russia

Joseph Stalin sitting at a desk in March 1935

The Death of Stalin wasn’t as popular with the Russian audience as it was with the Western one

Armando Ianucci’s movie The Death of Stalin was regarded by many as the film of the year, attracting a lot of positive reviews and causing great entertainment among the western audience. However, it didn’t have the same effect in Russia. People were afraid to reopen a heated debate on the role Stalin played in the Russian society, so nobody found the film half as amusing.

The movie is a dark satire on Post-Stalinist Russia

The Death of Stalin documents the political situation of Russia soon after the death of the communist leader in 1953. Steve Buscemi plays the main character, Nikita Khrushchev, who was the successor of Stalin, while another important role is embodied by Simon Russell-Beale.

This other character is no other than the cruel chief of secret police, Lavrentiy Beria. Despite the dark tone of the character and the entire movie, Beria is often made fun of, contributing to the entire comedic twist of the production. This is precisely what made the movie so highly acclaimed among the western critics and watchers.

Russian nationalists say the movie is an offense

However, the Russians found nothing entertaining in the movie. In fact, it might have threatened to reopen a spicy problem in the Russian society, especially with this year’s celebration of 100 years since the Bolshevik Revolution. Nikolai Starikov, a Russian history writer and party leader, didn’t have any kind words to say about the movie.

“The death of any person is not a subject for comedy, and even more so the death of a head of state and a great leader.”

Starikov leads a nationalist party, and is a great supporter of Stalin. He wrote many books on the history of Russia, and most of them presented Stalin as a great leader of the people. The man regarded this movie as offensive, and a hostile act coming from the former allies of Stalin.

As a result, The Death of Stalin hasn’t yet received a license to be displayed across Russia. A representative of the country’s Ministry of Culture said she couldn’t tell if the movie would be banned, but a future screening might lead to unwanted reactions from the nationalists.


Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Advanced Photo Technique Allows Regular Cameras to Shoot Images in Blind Spots

Person taking a photo with a professional camera

CornerCameras lets you take pictures of objects in blind spots

The MIT researchers developed a technology which allows a regular camera to take photos of objects hidden around the corner. Thanks to a special imaging technique, the camera becomes able to analyze the shadows of objects hidden in blind spots, and create an image based on these observations.

Shooting images even in blind spots

This revolutionary photo system is called CornerCameras, and lets you shoot blind corners that sometimes not even the human eye can see. This system is equipped with sensors which perceive the slight changes in light which affect the shadow of an object. Then, according to the shadow captured by the camera, the system can make up what should be hidden around the corner.

CornerCameras captures small 1D images, and puts them all together, revealing the shape of objects in blind spots, as well as its speed or direction. If this technology gets perfected, it might have valuable applications, in the self-driving car industry for instance.

The system needs plenty of light to take photos

The technology makes use of the movement of objects to detect their shape and trajectory. By seeing how this motion affects their shadow and the penumbra which surrounds them, the camera can build up a complete image of objects even when they are in blind spots. Also, CornerCameras uses walls and obstacles as natural cameras, exploiting their optical properties.

You don’t need a highly sophisticated camera for the technology to work, as it is suitable for any kind of smartphone. Also, it can capture blind spots both inside and outside, and not even rain can stop it. However, the system still requires quite a lot of light to be present. At the moment, researchers are working to perfect it in a low-light environment, as well as in a dark one. Even shifting lights might disturb its well-functioning, so there’s room for improvement.


Image Source: Pexels

Google Gives a Helping Hand to Online Publications By Giving Up on the First Click Free Rule

News in a newspaper, on a mobile app, and on a tablet

Google helps online publishers by removing the first click free rule

Most online publishers despise the popular first click free rule, as it made them lose subscribers and suffer financial losses. Now, Google decided to drop this rule, and found a way to help these publications gather subscriptions and still maintain their prominence among other search results.

Google gives up on the first click free rule

A recent blog post from Google officially announced the company was dropping the first click free rule. This rule forced publishers to offer three of their articles for free every day, so that the search engine would boost them among the other results. However, publishers aren’t big fans of this rule as, over time, it came to affect their revenue.

Google understood this method wasn’t helping publications, so it decided to adopt a more flexible approach. This new model will allow each publisher to make its own decision, and decide how many free articles per day it wants to offer for the readers. The possible ‘customers’ get the chance to see a small sample before deciding to subscribe, but publications are no longer forced to offer too much of their content for free.

The tech giant will focus on improving subscription models for publications

Google wants to add some more features, apart from the removal of the first click free rule. The company will soon adopt a model which will ease the subscription process. Given all its resources, Google will make it possible for people to subscribe through a single click, and then get unlimited access everywhere, including the website itself, the special app of the publisher, Google News, or through a search.

Giving up on the first click free rule is one of the best choices Google could make. Focusing on a better subscription models is extremely helpful for online publications, and the trials performed with several online news giants have proven successful.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Secret to an Effective Flu Shot Might Be a Good Mood

Nurse giving a woman a flu shot

The flu shot might work better if you’re in a good mood when you’re getting it

If you are afraid of the flu, it makes perfect sense to go and get vaccinated against it. However, a new research found there are cases when a flu shot works better. Scientists discovered the shot was more effective if people were in a good mood when they got vaccinated. This was the most powerful factor which influenced the shot, as it worked better than good sleep, exercise, or proper diet.

The flu shot works better for younger people

Researchers have observed how the flu shot works for older patients between 17 and 53 percent of the cases. In contrast, the vaccine is more effective in younger people, since it works in almost 90 percent of the cases. Therefore, they wanted to see what makes it work better for younger people, and how they could use this to increase its efficacy for older people.

They started monitoring a group of 138 older people six weeks before getting their vaccines. Among the things they looked at, there were these people’s sleep patterns, diet, exercising schedule and, finally, mood. Then, after they got the flu shot, researchers kept monitoring the levels of antibodies they produced 16 weeks after the vaccination.

Being in a good mood increases the production of antibodies

They were surprised to discover only one of these factors actually had an impact on the effectiveness of the flu shot, namely the mood. Those participants who had been in a good mood for most of the six-week period prior vaccination produced more antibodies. Also, being in good spirits when getting the shot increased the antibody levels even more.

However, it’s hard to say that good mood was definitely the thing which increased effectiveness. There are many factors which make the flu shot work, and a stronger immune system might be among them. Even so, being positive when you get the vaccine would definitely not hurt. All the details of the study have been published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.
Image Source: Freestockphotos.biz

Could A Giant Sea Snail Species Help Save The Great Barrier Reef?

crown of thorns starfish food for giant sea snail

The giant sea snail might start being used to stop the spread of crown of thorns starfish across the Great Barrier Reef.

When people think of a hero, the first image conjure is very rarely that of an invertebrate. However, one species of giant sea snail might change that perception, at least in Australia. The giant Triton sea snail, a species which can grow over half a meter in length, is currently being closely studied by the Australian government. This believes that the species might help stem the growth of the crown-of-thorns starfish. These latter are threatening and might contribute to the destruction of the iconic Great Barrier Reef.

Giant Sea Snail to Combat Coral-Eating Starfish?

The starfish has seen its numbers swell to unsustainable levels in recent years due to a variety of ecological factors. This species is known to feed on living corals. Their actual impact, however, was largely overlooked until a 2012 study of the Great Barrier Reef. This found that not only had coral growth halved in recent years, but that crown-of-thorns starfish may actually be responsible for nearly 42 percent of the damage.

So here enter this giant sea snail species. These massive mollusks, it seems, have quite an appetite for the ravenous starfish. The sea snails are seemingly capable of hunting them down on scent alone. According to reports, this gave the Australian government an idea. Rather than attempt to release human-made measures like poisons or hunters to eliminate the starfish, they decided it might be more ecologically sound to „encourage” and let the snails save the reef.

Unfortunately, however, it appears that giant sea snails are so rare that relatively little is known about them. The biologists conducting and part of the study are really only guessing and hoping that their plan will work.

Whether or not the giant triton sea snail can actually do the job assigned to them remains to be seen. Still, ecologists around the world remain hopeful. Saving the Great Barrier Reef is one of the top priorities for marine ecologists across the globe and especially in Australia.

Image Source: Wikimedia

500 Million Years Old Fossils Reveal Important New Piece Of The Evolution Theory

500 million years old fossils on a geological evolution scale

Scientists discovered over 500 million years old fossils which could change the ecological evolution scale.

A team of paleontologists discovered over 500 million years old fossils which revealed themselves to be the first creatures capable of moving around on their own. This makes them an important piece in the theory of the human and animal evolution timeline.

The 500 Million Years Old Fossils are the Remains of Almost Microscopic Creatures

The University of Manchester group of researchers behind the discovery revealed that they found these fossils in Brazil. Dating the fossilized remains showed them to go back to the period known as the Ediacaran-Cambrian transition. During this meeting point period, science considers that there was an ‘explosion’ of life on Earth as a great variety of creatures emerged at once.

The oldest examples of bilaterian animals also go back to this same transition point. Bilaterians are animals which have a body that can be divided into a top and a bottom. Also, in a left and a right side, a front and back one.

These recently discovered over 500 million years old fossils were noted to trace back to even earlier than any of the currently known bilaterians.

The creatures were discovered thanks to the burrowed traces they left in the rocks. According to reports, these were just ‘a fraction of an inch in diameter’ or somewhere between 0.002 and 0.0024 inches. Based on this, the university team determined that the creatures to leave these tracks “were similar in size to a human hair”.

They consider that these organisms left behind the burrows as they dug through the sediment layers. The creatures were likely comparable to the present-day roundworms, believes the team.

Such organisms would have propelled themselves through undulating locomotion or the wave-like movement of their body. This also places them in the complex animals class, as they were able to move themselves.

“Our new fossils show that complex animals with muscle control were around approximately 550 million years ago, and they may have been overlooked previously because they are so tiny,” states Luke Parry, the study lead author, part of the University of Bristol.

The team studied the fossils by creating a 3D model of the rocks containing them through X-ray images. This way, they were able to take a closer look at the creatures without damaging them.

Study findings are available in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Image Source: Wikimedia

The Aggressive Southern Pine Beetles May Soon Expand Their Territory

southern pine beetles illustration

Southern pine beetles may soon expand their territory because of the warmer weather.

According to a new study, the southern pine beetle, one of the most aggressive tree-killing insects in the world, may soon extend its territory because of the climate changes and their temperature increases.

Their range may earlier than expected come to include large portions of the northern United States as well as southern Canada, says the new study.

The Aggressive Southern Pine Beetles and Its Effects on Nature

This new study was led by Corey Lesk, a Columbia University graduate student of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Southern pine beetles used to be live only in Central America and the southeastern United States. However, over the past few years, they were spotted in the Northeast and even in Long Island in New York and Connecticut.

This beetle’s range is limited by the weather, more precisely, the annual extreme temperature lows. The study team points out that now, these extreme lows are rising even faster than the average temperatures. If this trend continues, the beetle might have few to no problems in spreading and extending its territory.

Research also points to this possibly resulting in quite serious problems for the environment as it could affect a “vast ecosystem” and make it “vulnerable”.

“We could see loss of biodiversity and iconic regional forests. There would be damage to tourism and forestry industries in already struggling rural areas,” state the researchers.

Radley Horton, a study co-author and Columbia University Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory researcher points out some of the consequences of the southern pine beetle on a forest.

According to him, infected trees could begin drying out, which would also increase their risks of more easily catching fire and burning. In turn, this would endanger all of their surrounding areas, be it ecosystem or even properties. Large forest fires would also release significant quantities of carbon into the atmosphere, increasing the greenhouse effect.

The study projects that, by 2020, if this trend continues, the southern pine beetles would have spread and established themselves along the Atlantic coast of the U.S. and up to Nova Scotia.

Imgae Source: Wikimedia

Who Is Going to Die on Game of Thrones This Sunday?

game of thrones Cersei and Jamie Lannister

Plenty of fans are pointing towards Cersei as the most likely main character to die in episode 7.

Critics have not been as kind to season seven of “Game of Thrones” as they have to previous seasons as accusations of pandering to the happiness of fans and Internet message boards have been leveled against showrunners, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. The question many dedicated fans of the HBO show are now asking is will there be a surprise cliffhanger to season seven featuring the death of a beloved character.

Surprises Usually Arrive In “Game of Thrones” Finale Episodes

The history of “Game of Thrones” is littered with the corpses of major characters who died in shocking circumstances at unexpected times during previous seasons. The writers of the show have failed to kill off any of the characters who were expected to play a key role in the coming final season of the show; critics have voiced concerns the show responsible for shocking scenes, such as The Red Wedding has begun to play it safe and pander to the hopes of fans.

via GIPHY

One of the major problems facing “Game of Thrones” in season seven has been the fact the show has moved beyond the novels of author George R.R. Martin and appears to be looking to drag the majority of the cast along to the final season. Fans and critics are hoping the feeling of safety and comfort felt for all the major players in the “Game of Thrones” will be thrown out of the window during the finale of season seven.

Plot twists have been the currency of “Game of Thrones” throughout the first six seasons, from the beheading of Ned Stark to the use of wildfire by Cersei Lannister at the close of season six the show has always shocked and annoyed viewers. The latest finale is heralded by critics as offering the opportunity to throw open any shocking conclusion to the story that may come in season eight.

Game of Thrones is currently the most popular TV show in history, fans generating theories about its hidden meanings faster than the producers are able to kill off major characters.