Citizen scientists shape 'destiny of humanity'
With the help of citizen scientists, SETI hopes to make the most of the Allen Telescope Array.
March 27th, 2012
02:51 PM ET

Citizen scientists shape 'destiny of humanity'

In 2009, Jill Tarter wanted to trigger the most meaningful search for extraterrestrial intelligence to date by pulling everyone together to look at the sky. The SETI Institute scientist brought her wish to the 2009 TED Conference. The idea of citizen science gave her hope.

The more eyes and ears she could put on the sky and the signals being received by the Allen Telescope Array - a collection of small satellite dishes together that can simultaneously pick up signals for radio astronomy research - the better chance we have at making new discoveries. Tarter wanted people to analyze the signals the array sends back in real time – something machines can’t do.

“We think humans are able to do something that our machines can’t” Tarter said. “We’re hoping that in these regions of the spectrum, where there are so many signals that we use for our own communication purposes, that humans can perhaps be sensitive to signals buried underneath all of this chatter of our own that might be coming from a distant technology.”

Unlike a machine’s capabilities when sorting through the tangled data, the human eye is good at picking out patterns in “the mess,” Tarter said, and identifying that same mess elsewhere in the sky.

And the more people who actively point to one particular spot in the sky as producing the most interesting frequencies, the telescope will point in that direction. They can help SETI by accessing SETI Live, the citizen science platform, on Science Channel's site. The initiative will continue until the end of the month, with results of SETI's findings to follow after it concludes. FULL POST

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MEMEopedia: Aki Higashihara, the alleged 'Death Blogger'
March 26th, 2012
06:49 PM ET

MEMEopedia: Aki Higashihara, the alleged 'Death Blogger'

Editor's note: Know Your Meme is a research lab from the Cheezburger Network that documents the history of Internet memes and culture. Occasionally, they invite CNN's Geek Out! to go on a very deep dive with them, into the stories behind the memes they profile. Together, we'll learn how memes become the cultural expression of nerds.

At a first glance, Aki Higashihara may seem like just another pin-up idol in Japan's burgeoning gravure magazine industry (somewhat equivalent to bikini swimsuit models in American magazines).

But if you look up her name on the Internet, you'll soon find an impressive track record of misfortunes that has made her infamous in her own right. From the disastrous reception of Sega’s Dreamcast to the Japanese Judo team's all-time low results in Beijing Olympics, the name "Aki Higashihara" has gained quite a reputation for bringing bad luck to anything she publicly endorses on her blog. (Which, as of publish time, looked like it was down for maintenance.)

Thanks to the comparably doom-centric story line of a popular manga called "Death Note," Higashihara's blog  inevitably became known as the “Death Blog," - and she became the topic of a meme. FULL POST

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The truth about 'The Hunger Games:' Katniss is better than Bella
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence, left) and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) before a fiery debut at the Hunger Games.
March 23rd, 2012
08:15 AM ET

The truth about 'The Hunger Games:' Katniss is better than Bella

Editor's note: Colette Bennett, aside from being Geek Out's main otaku, is an obsessive fangirl. Recently, her love of "The Hunger Games" series led her to call it the "thinking woman's YA series." As fans across the country camp out to buy tickets to "The Hunger Games" movie premier, Bennett explains the singularity and relevance of Katniss worship.

In the era of obsessive young adult literature fandom, a new heroine towers above all the others - Miss Katniss Everdeen.

Friday marks a great day for avid fans of "The Hunger Games," as they anticipate public vindication for their devotion to the book's 17-year-old lead character, who has a handsome boy on each arm and a political uprising to lead.

The first movie adaptation of the popular book series opens Friday night, and the trailers have already whipped fans into a frenzy. The madness is sure to soar this weekend once moviegoers get their first real taste of Katniss. Fans will grab their friends and emit high-pitched squeals. Surely the sight of Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth will have some girls reaching for their smelling salts.

"It's sooooooo good," is a phrase that easily falls from "Hunger Games" fans' lips. But what makes people (especially women) love it?

As I watched the fan frenzy build up around Suzanne Collins' young adult trilogy over the last year, (it debuted in 2008 and spent 100 weeks on the New York Times best seller list) I remembered the similar, passionate fan reaction to another series: "Twilight" and its self-named fanbase, the "TwiHards."

It's easy to spot the similarities between these two fandoms and the objects of their affection: both "The Hunger Games" and "Twilight" focus on a central female character and two handsome young men fighting for her affections. Many fans of "Twilight" also praise "The Hunger Games." They proudly show off their Mockingjay hoodies and choose which boy to root for in the battle for Katniss' affection. (Instead of Team Edward of Team Jacob, there's Team Peeta and Team Gale.)

The thing is, "The Hunger Games" is nothing like "Twilight." It's much better, and the fans know it. FULL POST

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Why 'Community' is the geekiest show on TV
Danny Pudi's character, Abed, shows off his Batman costume to first season costars Joel McHale and Gillian Jacobs.
March 22nd, 2012
03:54 PM ET

Why 'Community' is the geekiest show on TV

Editor's note: Erika D. Peterman is a Florida-based writer and editor, and the co-creator of the comics blog

Oh, “Community,” how I’d missed you!

After a far-too-long hiatus that had fans thinking “cancellation,” the brilliant, criminally underrated NBC comedy about a motley crew of community college students returned last week. Count me among the faithful who will be ignoring telephone calls and loved ones from 8 to 8:30 Thursday nights.

There are so many reasons fans enjoy this show, from the stellar cast to Greendale Community College’s Dean Pelton (Jim Rash), who has penchant for drag and extreme political correctness (The school mascot is the Human Being). But “Community” is more than a great comedy in the general sense. It’s the geekiest show on television.

This is not a knock against “The Big Bang Theory,” a show that I watch and enjoy. However, where “BBT” takes a much broader approach in serving up nerd culture, “Community” is more sly and sharper in its comedic delivery. And boy, does it deliver.

We’re talking zombies, dead-on action movie sendups, the “Doctor Who” knockoff “Inspector Spacetime” and an “Earth-2” United Nations. The first season DVD included a “Kickpuncher" comic book based on a fictional, cheesy “Robocop”-style film beloved by characters Troy (Donald Glover) and Abed (Danny Pudi). “Community” is a show that expects viewers to be on their pop culture game, and that may be one reason it’s not a ratings juggernaut. FULL POST

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Reality comics:  Not as bad as it sounds
With "MIGHTY 7 #1," Stan "The Man" Lee is rolling out a new kind of story that he's calling the world's first reality comic book.
March 21st, 2012
10:20 AM ET

Reality comics: Not as bad as it sounds

Hello again, fellow comic readers!

You probably know who Stan Lee is , even if you don't read comic books.

Lee is the co-creator of Spider-Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Thor and the Avengers, just to name a few of the feathers in his cap.

This week’s pick is a new book, a joint venture between Archie Comics, A Squared Elxsi Entertainment and POW!Entertainment, that Lee co-created - with fellow writers Tony Blake and Paul Jackson, and art by Alex Saviuk, Bob Smith, John Workman and Tom Smith - “Stan Lee's MIGHTY 7."

The first issue, titled, "How it all Began!" is a sensational new superhero book that, as is the signature of all Archie Comics, is fun for the whole family.

The comic tells the story of what happens when a crew of alien prisoners and their jailers blast across the galaxy and their ship lands at the feet of Stan “The Man" Lee himself. And that's where the real ride starts. FULL POST

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