Blade Runner Sequel to Be Made

After revisiting both Indiana Jones and Han Solo in recent years, it looks like Harrison Ford will be reprising another one of his iconic roles from the late ’70s/early ’80s. It’s being reported that a sequel to Blade Runner is in the works, and Ford is set to star in it. Ridley Scott will not be the director of this new film.

The original Blade Runner was loosely based on Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep? by Philip K. Dick. This sequel will not be based on Dick’s novel but rather will be an original story. Philip K. Dick’s works have been popular with filmmakers for decades, although most of them don’t hew too closely to the original source material.

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Leonard Nimoy Dies

You may have heard that Leonard Nimoy – most famous for portraying Spock in Star Trek – died earlier today. He was 83. I’ve never been a huge fan of Star Trek, but Nimoy portrayed one of the most iconic and most beloved sci-fi film characters of all time. He will be missed.

Net Neutrality Approved by the FCC

The FCC finally approved net neutrality by voting to treat the Internet as a public utility after years of protests and activism. In practice, not much should change for users, but this decision allows the FCC to prevent internet service providers from controlling how users use the Internet and what they see. Neutrality (or at least a close approximation) has been how the Internet has largely operated anyway, but this potentially codifies the principle into federal regulations. While some have argued against it, net neutrality is popular with many different groups. It helps keep the internet accessible to all content providers. It seems like it should be hard to argue that the Internet is not a utility, since most ISPs operate as monopolies or near-monopolies in many areas, and the Internet is also now one of the most, if not the most, important way that many people access information. It is not much different from television or telephone, which are already seen as utilities. With this ruling, people now need to watch the regulators to prevent the industry from taking control of any oversight.

Huge and Ancient Black Hole Discovered

A new Nature paper has been getting a lot of press over the past couple days. The black hole lies at the center of a quasar and is reported to have a mass greater than 10 billion (1010 for those of you who don’t use American numbering conventions) solar masses. What makes this black hole so interesting is that not only is it huge, but it also formed less than a billion years after the Big Bang. According to the abstract, this black hole as well as some other large, ancient black holes don’t really fit in with current models of black hole formation.

In case you don’t know what a black hole is:

A black hole is a hypothetical object created when so much mass accretes into a small enough volume that the escape velocity from some radius near the black hole exceeds the speed of light (i.e. particles/objects must attain infinite kinetic energy to escape). Black holes are a consequence of general relativity, which requires that gravity act on all forms of energy, including light. Not even light can escape the black hole since it will be infinitely redshifted.

Grad Student Designs Lego LHC Model

An intrepid graduate student on one of the experiments at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN has proposed an LHC Lego set. The proposed set includes tiny models of all four of the principal LHC experiments (ALICE, ATLAS, CMS, and LHCb) as well as some miniature beamline models.

You can find the set at Lego’s Ideas page. If it can attain 10,000 supporters by February 2016 then Lego will review the proposal for possible approval and sales.

Overview of Financial Aid at Wealthiest US Universities

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a nice overview of the various financial aid policies at the wealthiest schools in the US. Something many people don’t realize is that most of the richest US colleges and universities offer very generous financial aid plans to ensure that students who are accepted can afford to attend. The $50-$60,000 sticker price is really a ceiling on how much can be required and not the real out-of-pocket cost of attendance. In fact, with rapidly increasing tuition and fees at public institutions, these schools are often more affordable than students’ local state universities.

Most of the schools they look at have need-blind admissions (i.e. don’t consider ability to pay in admissions) and also guarantee to cover what they deem as the full need (total amount of money a family needs in order to afford college). This graphic goes over various fine print issues in these policies, such as who is covered by need-blind admissions, who is eligible to receive full need-based aid, and also how much students are expected to contribute from earnings during college.

The article doesn’t go into things like specifics of how much students’ families can expect to pay, but it does offer a lot of information that people wouldn’t necessarily think about when they look at the differing financial aid policies.