Rise-of-the-Tomb-Raider

If I would have to pick out one announcement from last week’s Gamescom that got the most attention, I would take Microsoft and Crystal Dynamics revealing the next Tomb Raider as an Xbox exclusive. Most of the discussion surrounding the subject concerned the duration of the exclusivity. Of course, if Microsoft has paid a lot of money to Square Enix for the exclusivity, they will not easily disclose the duration but instead provide some murky statements. Still, it’s clear that it’s coming to PlayStation 4 and PC at a later time, which shouldn’t surprise anyone.

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Neil-head-on-Bill-shoulder

It wasn’t until I bought a smartphone that I really started listening to podcasts. Of course, finding podcasts that are worth listening to is quite difficult and to be honest, even though I’ve been recording podcasts for a few years, I might want something entirely different of the podcasts I am going to listen to myself. Luckily, I’ve found a few good shows, so why not discuss them here?

Let’s start with Startalk Radio. If you’re into science, you’ve probably heard of Neil deGrasse Tyson. You might know him by his appearances in TV shows such as Big Bang Theory and Stargate Atlantis, as well. Heck, he has even had a brief visit in DC’s Superman comics. He is the guy who people blame for the fact that Pluto is not a planet anymore. If you’ve been watching the new Cosmos series, he is the narrator of that documentary series.

Neil also happens to be the host of Startalk Radio. As the name perhaps points out, Startalk Radio deals mostly with astronomy and cosmology stuff, but sometimes they deviate to discuss other subjects as well. For example, one episode had an expert on answering questions about diseases and pandemics. But mostly it’s Neil sharing his wisdom in an entertaining fashion. His deep voice makes him a great host for a radio show (not to dismiss his ability to host a TV series, as seen on Cosmos).

The style of the show is very much like a TV or radio show: the episodes are usually divided into pretty short segments and the transitions happen through commercials and brief music snippets relevant to the subject at hand. The duration of the episodes matches that of many TV dramas: 42 minutes (maybe it is also a reference to Hitchhiker’s guide to galaxy, who knows).

While many podcasts rely on the chemistry between the participants, Startalk builds heavily on Neil’s charisma and ability to explain difficult concepts rather well. There are usually other participants as well, but their role is mostly about supporting Neil by providing funny commentary and the “stupid” point of view, as the guests are not necessarily experts in any field of science, and the show works and flows usually very nicely.

However, there have been some really bad missteps, mostly the episode “A conversation with God”. Besides the Mythbusters episodes, that was the only episode I had to just stop listening to. In the case of the Mythbusters episodes it was more about me not caring that much about that particular TV show, while the God episode was just plain bad in my honest opinion.

But still, if you want to have some rather light and entertaining but still science themed podcast to listen to, you should most def give Startalk a go. You might even have to chance to hear Bill Nye talking, and that is definitely a plus.

Kuva

I watched the newest Star Trek movie, Star Trek Into Darkness recently, mostly because I didn’t think that the first new one was that bad. Well, the second one is also pretty entertaining if forgettable, but as a “scientist”, there are a few interesting details I’d like to discuss.

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One day I felt the sudden need to buy myself a new audio system. You might laugh, but I had this image of me waking up in my bed, grabbing my iPad or phone to activate the sound system and play something epic via Spotify. Now I’ve achieved that “dream” by buying a new AV receiver and a pair of speakers. I’m no audiophile so you should not expect a very technical of my new equipment but instead some comments about the general experience.

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An integral part of work as a researcher is collaborating with other researchers. One way to do that is to attend conferences. I’ve now seen two of them myself: last summer I was helping with organizing the EPS conference on plasma physics in Espoo, this week I was participating in Physics Days 2014.

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While the EPS conference is a large international event, Physics Days is a organized for the Finnish physics society. This year the event was held in Tampere, and I’ll try to discuss it briefly, as the conference is still fresh in my mind. I’ll tell about my personal contribution and other interesting presentations (not that I’m implying that my talk was very interesting), say something about the other activities and take a moment to ponder the nature of the event.

As a brief summary, my own contribution went alright considering the circumstances, but I had to start wondering the role of an event like this and what should one present there. This was supported by some exciting talks by more experienced people. I would still say that the conference is worth attending, as it does not take too long (three days), gives you a broad overview of Finnish physics research, and offers some chances to network and just have a good time. Physics Days 2014 gave me some valuable experience and I might attend the conference again, if the opportunity presents itself.

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