Orion capsule is headed into deep space – and it takes hopes for commercial space travel and Mars with it

After a private rocket blew up just weeks ago, and as public enthusiasm for space travel surges, the Orion launch could make or break commercial space travel and hopes for exploration of Mars

Only recently, some experts’ hopes for pioneering space exploration had dwindled, as funding cuts and public boredom pulled down enthusiasm. The Orion space capsule, set to launch into deep space tomorrow, could resurrect those hopes – or it could dash them completely.

Read the full feature at The Independent.


OS X Yosemite review: the Mac catches up to the iPhone

In the frenzied excitement about iOS, iPhones and countless other new devices, Mac users would be forgiven for worrying that Apple has abandoned OS X, the operating system for its PCs. It’s tended to lag behind the mobile software – getting updated no less often, once a year, but tending to focus on much-needed but unspectacular improvements to battery life and performance. The new update, Yosemite (which is Mac X 10, though Apple has dropped the numbers) looks like another minor update, and in many ways it is. But also, in finally bringing OS X and iOS together, it makes a much-needed case for both.

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Scott Walker + Sunn O))), Soused (listening event) – Church of St John-at-Hackney, London – October 14th, 2014

So far, so transcendent. For long enough the soundsystem, which had been the subject of much self-satisfied, speculation in the queue ahead of the event, had pumped out Scott Walker + Sunn O)))’s visceral, thundering, grim new record, Soused, into the plaster-clad church in Hackney. The album is superlative – much more superlative than you might expect of Scott Walker plus Sunn O))); more superlative than Scott Walker times Sunn O))).

(This was all written, in a rush, in a notebook, during and shortly after the event, and hasn’t been corrected.)

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House of Cards and Game of Thrones: TV for an age of villainous heroes

Our leaders are venal, manipulative, incestuous and murderous. And we can’t get enough. The two biggest TV events of the year – the premiere of the second series of House of Cards, in February, and the finale of the fourth series of Game of Thrones this week – have appealed to our unquenchable and contemporary thirst to see those in power slime around.

But why do we like them so much? It doesn’t seem to be a simply reflective appeal –the world is full of selfish and powerful people and it is not a new or interesting insight for a person or TV show to have. Instead, in a bewildering and new age, these programmes demonstrate important contemporary paradoxes. We like our heroes villainous; we want behind the scenes manipulation to take centre stage. It’s more honest, and more attractive: in TV, as in life, it’s the slimy people that make things happen.

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Beyond the Redshift (and the future of festivals)

It’s a grand claim for a festival, especially one that is more like a constellation of similar artists than the usual fête-y feel of many UK events. But Beyond The Redshift lived up to it:

The cosmological redshift is caused by the expansion of space. The wavelength of light increases as it traverses the expanding universe. Unable to assume that we have a special place within this universe, the redshift suggests to us that everything is moving away from everything else…

We may not be able to go beyond the redshift, but we can certainly think beyond it. We are bringing together artists who expand within their space – artists who create something special within this space.

Beyond the Redshift was held in three venues around Kentish Town on Saturday, May 10. It began at lunchtime and ran till 11pm. It offered a neat rejoinder to death of the festival rhetoric, and a vindication of the heavily abstracted, tightly-defined version of the event-form.

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Blue Ruin: failures and fantasies of revenge

Revenge is the sweetest vice; the possibility of virtuous violence. Violence without revenge is brutality, but with it, violence can become justice. Blue Ruin puts all of those easy abstractions to death.

The film has the making of a plain revenge flick. A man called Dwight has been living in a car at the beach, washing by breaking into other people’s bathrooms and eating discarded sandwiches, apparently unable to join society since his parents were killed. The man locked up for killing them is, at the start of the film, freed. Dwight pledges revenge. It starts, and falls apart, from there.

Dwight, Blue Ruin

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Facebook buying Oculus is great business – and the start of terrible sci-fi

Facebook is buying Oculus, the maker of virtual reality headsets, for $2bn. Like with Whatsapp, that’s a lot of money (though a lot less money). Neither is overvalued, though we’ll hear plenty of it: the premium to what you might have expected them to pay, though, is where the insidiousness lies.

When Facebook buys virtual reality headsets, it’s really buying the opportunity to make a Facebook branded (virtual) reality. When it bought Whatsapp it was buying the opportunity to brand your whole social interaction with its friendly blue and white logo, in the same way it’s already done to your whole personality and social sphere. Facebook wants to re-make your entire world in its image – these new companies that it’s acquired, and the ones that are no doubt to come, are just the most recent signs of that.

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How to solve a problem like Crimea? A Eurasian conspiracy story

Why has the diplomatic community’s response to Russia’s annexing of Crimea, riding roughshod over international law, been so feeble? Why are financial markets in central and eastern Europe rallying, despite the fact that the threat of war still hangs over the region? Why is nobody panicking? The answer is, or at least could be, simple and scary: it’s all part of the plan.

The international response to Crimea has been decided, barring anything unexpected. All that remains is a few brief months of playfighting, to give Crimeans the impression that they’re being fought for by the West, and Ukrainians the same feeling about Russia.


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The tech bubble is real — but it’s not where you think

There are plenty of reasons to worry about the new lust for tech stocks. King, the UK-based maker of Candy Crush, will be valued at up to $7.6bn when it lists in New York next month, despite being perceived as a one-hit wonder with few apparent plans for the future. Twitter is valued at $30bn after listing in November, 23 times its estimated earnings for 2014 despite failing to post a profit in its first seven years of existence. But the really worrying signs of a tech bubble lurk in the less exciting stocks.

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