Why you should go and check out Cosmonauts at the Science Museum, London

xl_Cosmonauts-science-museum-again-1-650-80

While the U.S.A supposedly won the space race – with the admittedly impressive feat of putting a man on the moon – It was the Soviet Union that led the way with practically every other space ‘first’.

The Soviets were behind the first satellite in orbit (Sputnik 1), first man in space (Yuri Gagarin), first woman (Valentina Tereshkova), first dog (Laika) and first spacewalk (Alexey Leonov).

What’s more, it was also responsible for the first photos of the dark side of the moon (Luna 3), first probe to orbit the moon (Luna 10), first multi-person crew (Voskhod 1) and first space tourist (Dennis Tito on Soyuz TM-32). Even following the Apollo moon landings, it was the Soviet Union that was the first to build a space station (Mir).

However, until now Soviet and Russian space tech has been wildly underrepresented, especially at London’s Science Museum, with its permanent space gallery including only a passing mention.

The South Kensington institution is putting that right with its museum-based form of Perestroika in which curators have gathered together the largest collection of Russian space exploration artefacts ever seen. Brought in from numerous locations, most of the pieces on show have never been on public display before.

xxl_Cosmonauts-again-9-1-970-80

The impressive selection of artefacts ranges from early satellites and spacecraft to personal cosmonaut memorabilia and Soviet space propaganda.

Techie highlights include Tereshkova’s Vostok 6 capsule, visibly charred from its re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, along with first multi-person space craft Voskhod 1 and the spacesuit used by Helen Sharman who became the first Briton in space when she flew to space station Mir in 1991 on a collaborative mission between Russia and a collective of British companies.

A scale model of the stunning Sputnik 1 hangs from the ceiling as you enter the exhibition. The Soviet Union’s visionary rocket engineer Sergei Korolev, then only known as the mysterious ‘Chief Designer’ cannily declared that the history-making satellite needed to look good as one day it would be displayed in museums around the world.

Seeing numerous parties of school kids arriving at the Science Museum reminded us how just important this exhibition is. When the T3 crew were at school in the dying days of the Cold War, we were taught about Gagarin and Tereshkova and not much else.

It wasn’t until 1989, with Mikhail Gorbachev’s Glasnost reforms in full swing, that the Soviet Union even admitted that it had worked on a manned lunar programme, which it ditched in 1970 after Neil Armstrong beat them to the moon.

The Cosmonauts exhibition includes the LK-3 Lunar Lander – a five-tonne spacecraft built to go head-to-head with Apollo – a sight never seen outside of Russia before…

You can read the rest of the article at T3.com (originally published 13 October 2015).

We went to Secret Cinema’s Empire Strikes Back performance and it was immense

Credit: Will Cooper

Credit: Will Cooper

The most mind-blowing spectacle since the Death Star exploded (though admittedly almost as expensive)

T3 was invited to join the rest of the rebel scum at this year’s Secret Cinema: The Empire Strikes Back extravaganza. This is a spoiler-free look at the clandestine film club’s latest outing, so if you haven’t been yet, don’t worry, this won’t ruin any surprises.

Secret Cinema first kicked off back in 2007 with a screening of Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park. In its early years, the gimmick was that nobody knew what the film was going to be until they arrived at the screening location (though they could often be guessed from a series of pre-show clues).

More recent shows have changed format to include a pre-announced film, plus a much more ‘immersive theatre’ approach, replete with sets, actors dressed as Marty McFly or whoever, and so on.

Ticket prices have accordingly gone up to a whopping ÂŁ75 (ÂŁ50 for accompanied under 18s).

Obviously unperturbed by the price, in 2014, over 80,000 people attended Secret Cinema’s Back to the Future event in Olympic Park. This ran into initial controversy when the venue wasn’t ready for the opening night, leaving hundreds of ticket holders disappointed. Secret Cinema has clearly learnt from its mistakes, because there are no such problems this year.

9140c13a-3210-42e3-9493-6fdd9b2f9f75-2060x1236

This time round Secret Cinema has opted for The Empire Strikes Back, which ties in nicely with the latest instalment of the Star Wars saga (The Force Awakens) which is heading to cinemas later in the year. Read on for our search droid’s findings.

As everyone knows, the first rule of Secret Cinema is that you don’t talk about Secret Cinema.

To prevent spoilers from leaking and to stop dickheads ruining the experience for everyone else, mobile phones are placed in sealed silver pouches for the duration of the show. An idea that we would dearly love to see adopted in every cinema across the land.

You’re not allowed to bring food or drink in with you but there are plenty of “retail experiences” dotted throughout, selling booze, food and merch. Unsurprisingly, rations are not cheap, and you can’t pay cash for them. Take a cash card with you.

It’s worth noting that as it’s a major production with built-up sets and lights, the venue gets pretty warm so wearing military rebel chic is preferable to a full wookie costume. Open toed shoes are a no-no due to the “alien terrain” you’ll encounter…

You can read the rest of the article at T3.com (originally published 12 June 2015).

10 movie futures we want to live in right now


xs_Lead image - Tron-650-80

From Minority Report, with its multitouch surfaces, to 2001: A Space Odyssey with its homicidal computers, Hollywood has long served up future visions that tap into our tech dreams and nightmares.

Obviously there are lots of movie futures that we wish to avoid at all costs – the state-controlled euthanasia for people over 30 in 23rd Century Logan’s Run springs to mind. Likewise, we could probably do without the rations of manufactured ‘food’ in Soylent Green’s 2022. And let’s not even talk about post-Bond Sean Connery and his alarming Zardoz outfit.

While most of the futures predicted in movies are bleak as hell and some have been and gone, there are loads of superb Hollywood worlds of the future that we can’t wait to see become reality. Here are our favourites…

Oblivion

xs_Oblivion-650-80

As with the majority of his films, obviously Tom Cruise does a lot of running, but what else does this post-apocalyptic flick offer apart from a tiny sprinting Scientologist? Well, it’s 2077 and Earth’s population is relocating. Jack Harper (Cruise) is one of the few humans left on Earth, living in a fancy sky apartment perched above the clouds that looks like it has been designed by Jonny Ive. We could definitely see ourselves chilling out in this beautiful example of futuristic interior design. While trying to ignore the murderous alien force that’s trying to hoover up the planet’s remaining resources and eliminate the humans, obviously.

Her

xs_Her-650-80

Set in the not-too-distant future of 2025, Spike Jonze’s futuristic fable Her sees mild-mannered Theodore Twombly developing a romantic relationship with an intelligent operating system (voiced by Scartlett Johansson). Shot in LA and Shanghai, the subtle advances in technology along with minimalist design and a beautiful colour palette make this a future we’d dearly like to be part of. We’ll probably stick to being just good friends with our OS though.

Back to the Future Part II

xs_Back to the Future Part II-650-80

We could hardly talk about movie futures without including Back to the Future’s version of 2015. Lots of the tech featured is already here, including video calling, voice recognition, gesture control and ironic 80s themed establishments. Even the self-tying trainers from Nike are on the way. There are no sky-high cities here, just an old-fashioned town square with a few technological advances. And that’s why we like it – there are no murderous robots about, just pizza rehydrators and a healthy dose of nostalgia. We’d move to Hill Valley faster than you can say “where’s my f***ing hoverboard?!”…

You can read the rest of the article at T3.com (originally published 21 April 2015).

The wearables from NASA that made it back to Earth

3842-192ea456d83b425941e2a6e2ae03929c
What has spaceflight ever done for us? A hell of a lot, actually – and aside from trying to get humans to Mars, NASA’s technology has trickled down to a host of wearable gadgets.

NASA makes a huge investment in technology and each year it releases a report called Spinoff. This details all of the innovations that have been developed as a result of space travel, from Sony’s latest ‘magnetic fluid’ speakers to more realistic 3D mapping in video games like SSX.

NASA estimates that over the last decade or so, its spinoff innovations have saved 449,850 lives, created 18,888 jobs and created $5.2 billion of revenue.

From healthcare to aviation, sports and product manufacturing, the benefits of spaceflight have filtered down into almost every aspect of our lives, and there are several pieces of wearable kit that have been developed as a result of space exploration. Here are some of the best so far…

Zephyr Bioharness

zephyr-1428486180-AXRk-column-width-inline

NASA was in need of a gadget with real-time sensors for astronauts to track their own physiological symptoms in order to prevent vomiting caused by microgravity.

Step forward Maryland-based Zephyr Technology which developed a product for the space programme, while also giving it the opportunity to improve its own technology. The Bioharness is now used for tracking health and fitness by the US military, firefighters and several pro sports teams in the NBA, NHL and NLB as well as numerous college teams.

Jockey Staycool

untitled-3-1428486324-la1K-column-width-inline

Famous US underwear maker Jockey’s Staycool range was created using the ‘phase change materials’ that NASA developed for astronauts’ space gloves. The special material is designed to maintain a suitable temperature for optimum comfort. Basically, space pants.

Jasper Systems compression wear

vasper-1428484368-5VoZ-column-width-inline

NASA’s Ames Research Centre originally developed liquid-cooled garments to keep astronauts’ airtight spacesuits from becoming hot and humid. The technology has since been used by California-based Vasper Systems to produce compression garments which are designed for more efficient exercise by concentrating lactic acid buildup in the muscles.

You can read the rest of the article at Wareable (originally published 8 April 2015).

Impossible Project Instant Lab Universal review

phptgwito

The first thing you need to know about the Impossible Project Instant Lab Universal is that it produces Polaroid-style photos from your smartphone snaps. The second thing you need to know is that it’s a camera, not a printer.

Unlike the rather disappointing Polaroid-branded Zink printers, the Instant Lab produces actual Polaroid-esque photographs. That’s because Impossible Project cleverly bought Polaroid’s remaining factory a few years ago in order to manufacture its own film, which is designed to work with vintage Polaroid cameras and, of course, the Instant Lab Universal.

The original Instant Lab was launched in 2013, but only worked with the iPhone 4, 5, 5S and iPod touch. The new Universal model, however, is designed to work with more devices thanks to new “touch location technology”. This means it supports phones from Samsung, HTC and Google (Nexus), as well as the iPad. Screens need to be high-res (approximately 300ppi) and run on Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or above.

We’ve unleashed our inner hipster and have been testing the Lab using an iPhone 6, iPad Air 2 and the HTC One M8. It’s a lot of fun, like a big kid’s toy.

Design and build

The Lab Universal sports a simple yet functional design, with a sturdy metal base along with a plastic bellows-style extendable turret with a phone cradle on top. The only controls you’ll find are the latch for opening the film bay door at the bottom – where the film cartridges can be easily slipped in – along with an eject button to pop out the exposed photo.

To the top are three sensors on the cradle – representing the touch location technology part of things – used to detect when a phone is placed there. For larger devices, such as an iPad, these act as essential points to communicate with the app and let it know which portion of the screen is in play, then re-adjust the photo’s placement on screen so the Lab can make a duplicate exposure of it.

phplpti4t

A removable adaptor can be used with iPhones 4/4S/5/5S/5C, but for Android devices not everything is compatible just yet. The brand new HTC One M9 is one such unsupported example (we did try it out, but it was a no go). Check with Impossible Project for compatibility prior to purchase if you’re concerned.

You can read the rest of the article at Pocket-lint.com (originally published 25 March 2015).