Douglas Rain, Voice of HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dies at 90

Douglas Rain, voice of the computer HAL 9000 in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, died on Sunday morning. He was 90 years old.

Born in Canada, Rain started on the stage and was known in both the Canadian and British theater communities for his roles in William Shakespeare’s classics like Othello and Twelfth Night. But Rain is best known in the sci-fi community as the voice of HAL—a cold, monotone voice that immediately evokes fear in anyone who hears it.

Even if you’ve never seen Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1967 movie, you know the famous exchange between the astronaut David Bowman and HAL. “Open the pod bay doors, HAL,” Dr. Bowman says. “I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that,” the HAL computer replies.

From NBC News:

Rain was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and trained at the Old Vic Theatre in London. In 1972, he was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Supporting or Featured Actor in a Drama for his performance as William Cecil in “Vivat! Vivat Regina!” on Broadway.

In 1953, he became a member of the first repertory cast of the Stratford Festival and performed in 32 seasons with the company.

According to Vincent Lobrutto’s 1997 study “Stanley Kubrick: A Biography,” Rain was initially contracted to narrate “2001″ after Kubrick heard his narration of the short documentary “Universe,” which was released by the National Film Board of Canada in 1960.

“Today we lost Douglas Rain, a member of our founding company and a hugely esteemed presence on our stages for 32 seasons. He will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family,” the Stratford Festival in Ontario tweeted yesterday.

RIP Douglas Rain. You gave life to a character that will live on for generations to come; a character that served as a warning to those of us living in “the future.” Sadly, we didn’t listen. Or, if we did listen, we just didn’t care. Because HAL is now becoming real. The HAL of today just goes by a different name: Sometimes Siri, sometimes Alexa. And for those with a truly dark sense of humor, just HAL.

I’m a doctor, not a bricklayer

An original Star Trek episode titled ‘The Devil in the Dark’.

The starship Enterprise arrives at the pergium mining colony on planet Janus VI to help the colony deal with an unknown creature that has killed 50 miners and destroyed equipment with a strong corrosive substance.
Captain Kirk and his security team begin to search for the creature. Spock, suspecting the creature may be a silicon-based lifeform, modifies their phasers to be effective against it. They encounter the creature, which has the appearance of molten rock, and fire upon it, breaking a piece of its skin off; the creature flees by burrowing through the rock wall at a rapid pace.
Spock conducts a mind meld with the creature once it stops attacking. Spock discovers the creature is severly wounded.
The creature is dying, Kirk advises Doctor McCoy to heal it. Which astounds the good doctor.

Catastrophic Year for California Wildfires

The 2018 California wildfire season has been one of the most destructive on record in the state of California. During 2018, a total of 7,579 fires had burned an area of 1,667,855 acres (6,749.57 km2), the largest amount of burned acreage recorded in a California fire season, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the National Interagency Fire Center, as of November 11. The fires caused over $2.975 billion (2018 USD) in damages, including $1.366 billion in fire suppression costs. Through the end of August 2018, Cal Fire alone spent $432 million on operations. The Mendocino Complex Fire burned more than 459,000 acres (1,860 km2), becoming the largest complex fire in the state’s history, with the complex’s Ranch Fire surpassing the Thomas Fire and the Santiago Canyon Fire of 1889 to become California’s single-largest recorded wildfire.

In mid-July to August 2018, a series of large wildfires erupted across California, mostly in the northern part of the state, including the destructive Carr Fire and the Mendocino Complex Fire. On August 4, 2018, a national disaster was declared in Northern California, due to the massive wildfires burning there. In November 2018, foehn winds caused another round of large, destructive fires to erupt across the state. This new batch of wildfires included the Camp Fire, which destroyed more than 6,700 structures and became California’s most destructive wildfire on record.

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Kazakh pensioner ‘back from the dead’

dead

A Kazakh family was recently coming to terms with the violent and mysterious death of their elderly relative, when he just turned up at home.

“When Uncle Aigali walked through the door hale and hearty two months after we’d buried him, my daughter Saule nearly dropped dead of a heart attack,” Esengali Supygaliev told the Azh.kz news site.

The 63-year-old had left home one June morning and didn’t come back. “Aigali had been known to wander off for a week of two before”, Esengali said, so the family waited a month before contacting the police – who in due course asked them to identify a badly-burnt body.

Tea and sympathy
DNA tests showed that these were the mortal remains of Aigali Supygaliev “with 99.2% certainty”, the authorities said, and issued an official death certificate.

In September the family buried Aigali in the Muslim cemetery of Tomarly, their home town just north of the Caspian Sea port of Atyrau.

“We held a wake, and the extended family organised a traditional ‘konil shai’ ceremony,” where friends can share tea and sympathy with the bereaved, Esengali said.

The grave of Aigali Supygaliev, Kazakhstan, 2018The Tomarly burial plot still waits for Aigali

So, when Aigali walked through the door two months later, he had some explaining to do.

It turns out that he had taken up an offer of work in a nearby village from a man he’d met down the market that fateful day. Job done, four months later Aigali walked all the way back to Tomarly.

Neither the police nor the regional justice department were available for comment on the story. The forensic scientist who carried out the DNA analysis did tell Azh.kz however that she stood by her 99.2% findings, “but you must never forget that other 0.8%”.

The Supygalievs were not pleased that they had already paid for a tombstone, and commissioned a stone shrine over the grave in the Kazakh tradition. They had even returned the pension payments for the two months that Aigali was “dead”, and are considering legal action.

But the family are also contemplating a bigger question. “Who did we bury? Perhaps his family are looking for him,” Esengali concluded ruefully.

Aigali Supygaliev's death certificate, Kazakhstan, 2018Memento mori: Aigali Supygaliev’s death certificate

BBC: Reporting by Azim Rakhimov and Martin Morgan

Beatboxers have invented whole new ways of making sounds, scientists say

In an MRI study of five beatboxers, researchers found unprecedented patterns of movement

Researchers using MRI to study five beatboxers have found that when making their characteristic percussive sounds, the volunteers were doing things with their vocal tracts not seen in any human languages. Essentially, they were inventing new ways to produce sound.

“There are sounds in beatboxing you won’t find anywhere,” said Reed Blaylock, a PhD candidate in Linguistics at the University of Southern California who was part of the research team.

[Beatboxers] are pretty much using all the moving parts of their vocal tracts and coordinating them in these extra fast ways and in a much more finessed way than usually found in language.– Reed Blaylock

Using real-time MRI, researchers were able to track the movements inside beatboxers’ vocal tracts while they performed, to better understand how the different parts work together to produce the unique sounds.

According to Blaylock, they use the same speech articulators — tongue and lips — to make sounds. But while some of the sounds they make are found in language, others are completely new.

Brand new sounds
The spit snare and inward click roll – lip roll are two sounds observed in the study that the researchers believe are unique.

The spit snare mimics the short, crisp sound of a hand clap. It’s created by raising the tongue to the palate, puffing out the cheeks, and swiftly pressing the air out between the tongue and cheeks.

The inward click roll – lip roll, on the other hand, is much harder to create. It requires the beatboxer to make the lip trill, and the rolling ‘r’ simultaneously, and inhale instead of exhale throughout.

“[Beatboxers] are pretty much using all the moving parts of their vocal tracts and coordinating them in these extra fast ways and in a much more finessed way than usually found in language,” explained Blaylock.

Linguists call it a “bilabial ejective” in speech, and it’s created by closing the lips and the vocal folds, and pumping the larynx upward to pop air out through the lips.

“Beatboxing tells us what the human vocal tract is capable of,” said Blaylock. “When we look at it through the lens of beatboxing, you can see all the possibilities that we never use in speech. It also helps us figure out which parts of speech are special to speech and which parts are part of a broader cognitive system that we as humans have.

The beatboxing sounds were collected at the Signal Analysis and Interpretation Laboratory by Dr. Shri Narayanan and his team.

Beatboxing and language
One sound in beatboxing that does overlap with language is the kick drum sound. It’s found in most beatboxers’ repertoire, and can also be heard in languages like Georgian and Armenian.