The way Sir Ian McKellen figures it, he’s still got 6.922 years left to play Gandalf.
Last month, Amazon announced plans for a multi-season series based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” series. And McKellen, who played the wizard Gandalf in Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” movies, says he’s up for another trip to Middle-earth.
McKellen appeared on BBC Radio2 with Graham Norton on Saturday, and Norton brought up the Amazon series. “There’s going to be another Gandalf in town,” Norton said.
Not so fast, buddy.
“Well, what do you mean?” said McKellen, 78. He then admitted he hadn’t been asked to play the role, but said, “Gandalf is 7,000 years old, so I’m not too old.”
McKellen currently is providing the voice of the demon in the London production of “The Exorcist,” though he’s not seen on stage. The Guardian newspaper calls him “the classiest thing in a show that is less head-turningly scary than mind-numbingly dull and about as spooky as a wet sock.”
No date has been announced for the Amazon “Lord of the Rings” series.
For the second year running, LinkNYC is giving you a direct line to Father Christmas. Just track down a WiFi kiosk (there’s over 1,200 scattered across all five New York boroughs, so it shouldn’t be hard), and use the new app on the built-in tablet to get in touch with the big man himself. Of course, Santa’s too busy to reach the phone (what with Christmas a week away), so you’ll have to settle for his answering machine. But, maybe one of the minions he has manning the phone lines will pass along your last minute gift request. Sorry Londoners, but the Santa chat doesn’t extend to the UK capital’s InLink phone boxes. And, if the kids want to monitor their inbound gifts, there’s always Google’s Santa Tracker app — that’s if you can tear them away from snapping elfies.
The US government apparently suspected the truth was out there after all.
The federal government spent about $22 million funding a covert Pentagon project that investigated reports of unidentified flying objects, The New York Times reported Saturday. Even though the Department of Defense decided to defund the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program in 2012, its backers say the program remains in existence, the Times reported.
The program investigated sightings of aircraft that appeared to move at very high speeds with no visible signs of propulsion, or that hovered with no apparent means of lift, the Times reported. The program also reportedly studied videos of encounters between unknown objects and American military aircraft.
The program’s initial funding came largely at the request of former Sen. Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, who has had a long-held interest in space phenomena, according to the newspaper. On Saturday, Reid renewed his call for the US to fund UFO research in a tweet that linked to the Times’ report and borrowed “The X-Files” tagline that “the truth is out there.”
“If anyone says they have the answers, they’re fooling themselves,” Reid wrote in a subsequent tweet. “We don’t know the answers but we have plenty of evidence to support asking the questions. This is about science and national security. If America doesn’t take the lead in answering these questions, others will.”
Reid, who retired from Congress this year, told the Times he was proud of the program.
“I’m not embarrassed or ashamed or sorry I got this thing going,” Reid said. “I think it’s one of the good things I did in my congressional service. I’ve done something that no one has done before.”
The Defense Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Solving for XX: The industry seeks to overcome outdated ideas about “women in tech.”
“It’s just bigger than it’s ever been!” he said of the HBO hit, noting that he will return to Belfast, Northern Ireland, next week for more filming. “I don’t know how I’m going to feel sometime next year when I’ve finished. It’s quite a sudden shift, I guess, but it feels like the right time.”
While audiences wait to see Harington return as Snow, they can see him as true-to-life historical figure Robert Catesby, a distant relative of Harington’s who plotted to blow up Britain’s Parliament in 1605. Harington plays Caresby in “Gunpowder,” a new HBO miniseries running Dec. 18-20. Harington also developed and produced the show.
No return date has been announced for “Game of Thrones,” but just last week actress Sophie Turner suggested the show may not come back until 2019.
The malware, nicknamed Triton, hijacked a workstation using Schneider Electric’s Triconex safety technology (typically used in power plants). The culprits hoped to modify controllers that could pinpoint safety problems, but some of those controllers entered a failsafe state in response and shut down the plant, leading operators to conduct the investigation that caught the hostile code. Triton was otherwise fairly sophisticated. It would try to recover failed controllers to avoid raising alerts, and would even overwrite its own programs with junk data if it couldn’t salvage a controller inside of a given time window.
The hack wasn’t made possible by a flaw in Triconex itself, FireEye noted. Instead, it appeared to be an “isolated incident.”
While it’s not certain who’s responsible, FireEye said the hack was “consistent” with a “nation state” readying an attack. And that’s concerning, especially if the perpetrators learn from their mistakes. While shutting down a power plant would be bad enough, it’d be worse if the malware could fool a safety system into allowing attacks that would damage the facility and lead to a long-term shutdown or an environmental disaster. In short, companies and governments alike may have no choice but to prioritize defending critical infrastructure if they want to avoid crippling attacks.
We’re pretty good drivers, you and I. At least, we’d like to believe we are. However skilled, everyone’s occasionally glanced down for a second or two to adjust the radio or climate controls. A vehicle going 70 mph travels over 100 feet in that second, which doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for reaction if the car ahead chooses that moment to slam on the brakes.
Fortunately, technology is here to help in the form of the automatic emergency braking systems offered on many modern vehicles.
AEB, you know me
Automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems are almost always tied into a complementary forward collision warning (FCW) system, which makes sense since they use the same sensors. For the front of the vehicle, these systems are usually radar- or camera-based, which allows the hardware to look further down the road and operate better at high speeds. Camera-based systems — Subaru’s EyeSight package, for example — often boast the ability to detect pedestrians.
When an obstruction is detected in the car’s path, the FCW will first notify the driver with some sort of audible and visual alert. Some systems, such as Ford’s Collision Warning with Brake Support, may even “prime” the brakes, bringing the pads and calipers close to the rotors so that they’re ready to instantly grab, reducing braking reaction time. Sometimes they’re also tied into systems that will prime the seatbelts, cinching them tight to reduce passenger movement during severe braking.
Every millisecond is critical when a collision is imminent, so if the FCW is ignored or missed by an inattentive driver, the AEB system steps in, automatically engaging the brakes.
At lower speeds — the specifics of which will vary depending on the vehicle and the distance to the obstruction — an autobraking system may be able often to prevent a collision completely, bringing the car to a stop short of an impact. At higher velocities, the system may not be able to prevent a crash, but its ability to reduce speed before impact can greatly reduce the severity of a collision.
Once a cutting-edge tech option reserved for luxury cars, we’re starting to see the tech trickle down. Mazda and Nissan, for example, have committed to make AEB systems standard on many of their most attainable cars.
Similar collision-avoidance technology can be applied to the rear of the vehicle. Now, because reversing almost never happens at highway velocities, rear autobraking systems are usually geared toward lower speeds and more often use cameras or sonar to detect obstructions, rather than being radar-based.
Lower speed means that when properly implemented, rear systems often have a better chance of completely avoiding a collision, which is good, because the “obstruction” is more likely to be a human or animal in parking lot or driveway situations.
Some systems also tie into rear cross-traffic alert systems, which detect oncoming vehicles from the side when reversing. The addition of autobrake assist can help prevent you from reversing into the path of traffic when backing out of a blind alley or parking spot.
One of the newest evolutions of autobraking is Audi’s Turn Assist tech. This system looks at oncoming lanes when preparing to make a turn across traffic. If another car is heading your way midturn (maybe they ran the light or maybe you didn’t see them coming) the system can detect the impending collision and automatically brake, stopping before you move into its path at speeds below about 6 mph.
Know before you go
We’ve learned from years of reviewing driver-aid systems that AEB is one of the trickiest technologies to test. You’re not going to get a demo during your test drive. The first time most will experience the technology will be in an emergency situation.
I mentioned earlier that the speed at which an autobraking system can bring a car to a stop depends on the size of the vehicle, but most automakers publish some sort of estimate. Most fall within the 30 to 45 mph range, but you’ll want to check for your ride of choice.
It’s also useful when an autobraking system is paired with some sort of distance monitoring system. Technologies such as Volvo’s Distance Alert can be annoying, but they also help you keep a safe following distance, which gives the emergency braking system a better chance of preventing a collision if you have a lapse of attention at a critical moment. All the tech in the world can’t help if you’re tailgating like a jerk.
Adaptive cruise control systems are convenient and are often bundled with FCW and AEB; the three technologies use the same sensors and hardware. Because adaptive cruise slows to keep a safe following distance behind the leading car, it can help prevent situations where you’d have to emergency brake (or have the car brake for you) in the first place.