NASA Finds Water On Mars (Gizmodo.com)

This is a stunning discovery. Of course, finding clay (or water after a sample’s been super-heated) isn’t the same thing as finding drinking water, but it does mean more excitement and interest will be eyeballing NASA. I believe we need far more money spent on space (and undersea) exploration.


NASA’s Curiosity Rover Just Found Water in Martian Soil

Just when you thought ol’ Curiosity was digging in for the winter, the little discovery machine came up with a doozy: It discovered water in Martian soil. NASA scientists just published five papers in Science detailing the experiments that led to the discovery. That’s right. There’s water on Mars.

Impressive as it is, though, the discovery comes with some caveats. It’s not like Curiosity stumbled on a lost lake under a mountain or a stream trickling across the landscape. Rather, it found water molecules bound to other minerals in Martian soil. There’s kind of a lot of it, too. Researchers say that every cubic foot of Martian soil contains about two pints of liquid water. All things told, about two percent of the Martian soil is made of up water.

“We tend to think of Mars as this dry place—to find water fairly easy to get out of the soil at the surface was exciting to me,” Laurie Leshin, dean of science at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, told The GuardianShe also explained how the discovery was made. Curiosity picked up and sieved a scoop of soil from the surface before dropping it into an on-board oven. “We heat [the soil] up to 835C and drive off all the volatiles and measure them,” she said. “We have a very sensitive way to sniff those and we can detect the water and other things that are released.”

Of course, this isn’t the first sign of water on the red planet. Back in June, Curiosity scooped up a rock specimen that contained a type of clay only be formed in neutral water telling scientists that Mars was once home to running water. And of course, scientists have long suspected water once existed on the planet due to various formations across the Martian landscape. In fact, it’s widely believed that water existed in abundance on Mars, perhaps just as prominently as it does on Earth.

The discovery is important for a number of reasons, but especially exciting because of what this means for future missions to Mars. “We now know there should be abundant, easily accessible water on Mars,” says Leshin. “When we send people, they could scoop up the soil anywhere on the surface, heat it just a bit, and obtain water.” She makes it life on Mars sound so easy; now we just have to figure out how to get around that the quantity of deadly radiation we’ll encounter on the trip over. [Science via The Guardian

Update (5pm): We reached out to Dean Leshin to ask what the discovery of water meant for the larger question of life on Mars, and she replied with a shade of optimism:

Although we found water bound up in the soil particles, it’s still pretty dry. Also, we didn’t find evidence of organic molecules in the soil. So, this doesn’t have a very big bearing on the life on Mars discussion. However, we now know that our instruments are working beautifully, and our next step is to drill into rocks that may have been better places to preserve evidence or organics and of wet environments that could be suitable for life.

S.H.I.E.L.D. 101: Everything You Need To Know About Marvel’s Spy Agency (Wired.com)

Any good nerd probably already knows everything there is to know about S.H.I.E.L.D., but alas, my Nerd Card was taken away this round. I didn’t know most of this. Hopefully the series will help educate me as well so I can get my credentials back.

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Image: Marvel Comics

There’s a scene in the pilot episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. where someone asks one of the agents what the acronym “S.H.I.E.L.D.” stands for. His answer? “Someone really wanted our initials to spell out ‘SHIELD.’” Sure enough, the acronym has changed throughout the years at Marvel Comics, where the espionage agencies originated before appearing in films like Avengers and its TV spinoff, premiering tonight on ABC.

These days, S.H.I.E.L.D. stands for “Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division,” but it previously also stood for “Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate” and, originally, “Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division.” But most of all, it stands for the fact that spy agencies with acronym names were really cool in the mid-1960s when S.H.I.E.L.D. made its comic book debut.

At the time, Marvel’s core audience was already enjoying the weekly exploits of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. on television and watching James Bond foil the plans of S.P.E.C.T.R.E. in movie theaters, so the idea of reviving the abandoned war comic character Nick Fury as a slick super-spy working for an agency with a similar name seemed like it might sell. Created by the famous comics team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in a 1965 issue of Strange Tales, S.H.I.E.L.D. was originally less an organization than a collection of spy cliches, gimmicks and plot contrivances. Need some generic government organization to hunt the Hulk/get their asses kicked by a new villain/stand around threateningly while frowning at the Avengers? Like AllState, S.H.I.E.L.D. would be there in their tight body suits complete with shoulder-holstered laser blasters.

The comic book version of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a particularly tortured history, even by superhero comic standards. Originally an international peace-keeping organization founded by Fury in the aftermath of World War II, it was later revealed that the organization has actually been under the control of its sworn enemy, the evil spy organization HYDRA, since the very start. Of course, that was before it was retconned again into the latest incarnation of a secret society dedicated to defending humanity, founded by the Egyptian Imhotep with members that included Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo Galilei and Nikola Tesla.

Whatever its origins, S.H.I.E.L.D. has multiple sister organizations — A.R.M.O.R. (Altered-Reality Monitoring and Operational Response), S.W.O.R.D. (Sentient World Observation and Response Department) and S.T.R.I.K.E. (Special Tactical Response for International Key Emergencies) being foremost amongst them — and was, for a short period, replaced by another organization called H.A.M.M.E.R. (this acronym did not stand for anything). As the movies introduced S.H.I.E.L.D. to a larger audience, however, the organization made a return in the comic book universe, and now employs a number of high-profile characters including its own team of Avengers as well as the Hulk.

The success of the movies also changed another element of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s comic book tradition. Samuel L. Jackson is now the most high-profile version of Nick Fury, and while there’s an alternate universe version of Nick Fury that specifically modeled after the actor, the Nick Fury of the primary Marvel Universe still looks like the same white superspy that first appeared in Strange Tales. Instead of accepting this and moving on — or allowing the alternate world version of the character to cross over — the publisher choose a third option: introducing Fury’s previously-unknown mixed-race bastard son and pushing him through a series of adventures that caused him take his father’s name, lose the same eye as his father, and join S.H.I.E.L.D. Comics, everybody.

The highpoint of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s comic book incarnation is undoubtedly the short run of writer/artist Jim Steranko. These days enjoying a renaissance as Twitter-based raconteur, the Steranko who took over the series with 1967′s Strange Tales #155 — continuing through #168, before the strip continued in its own series (Steranko created #1-3 and #5 of that series, as well) — brought a cinematic sleekness to mainstream superhero comics that the genre hadn’t seen before, and a contemporary attitude miles away from the soap operatic bombast of other books in Marvel’s line. Sexy, smart and unlike anything else on the stands at the time, it managed to end Nick Fury’s days as a leading man for almost two decades, with S.H.I.E.L.D. returning to the background of the Marvel universe and an existence as generic government goons with great outfits.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., then, is a strange thing indeed for comic fans. How will it translate to the small screen? Tune in tonight and judge for yourself.

Robots, Humans, and Animations Dance (Gizmodo.com)

This is phenomenal.
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Combine robots, 3D graphics, and actors and what do you get? Box, an amazing performance by San Francisco-based engineering firm Bot & Dolly. It’s a short film that explores how the digital world interacts with the real world.

Originally performed live, Box is equal parts art and technical demonstration. Bot & Dolly explain:

It is the culmination of multiple technologies, including large scale robotics, projection mapping, and software engineering. We believe this methodology has tremendous potential to radically transform theatrical presentations, and define new genres of expression.

A little more on those technologies: The piece uses one SCOUT and two IRIS robotic motion control systems that are based on Kuka robots, as well as two high-res projectors. The software that makes Box happen integrates with an Autodesk program called Maya, and was designed in-house at Bot & Dolly. This could easily be a scene from The Matrix, right? [Bot & Dolly via Creators Project via Engadget]

YouGov: UK Majority Believes Video Games Cause Violence (Gamasutra.com)

Honestly, I feel like they’re asking all the wrong questions. Maybe the CDC’s investigation will return different results?

I do not believe normal, average people are going to be negatively impacted by violence in video games or TV or movies or paintball courses. I play violent video games, I still give to charity, and I’m still generous and loving with family and friends. It’s also extremely apparent that age is the biggest difference as to whether or not people believe if video games are a negative influence or not, which means public opinion should shift substantially over the next two decades.

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The debate surrounding whether video games cause real-world violence and aggression continues to rage on as it always has — especially with the launch of Grand Theft Auto V last week.

A new study from UK-based market research firm YouGov this week suggests that the more familiar a person is with video games in general, the less they believe that there is a connection between in-game violence and real-life violence.

Dr. Andrew Przybylski, a research fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, surveyed nearly 2,000 adults in the UK, with a wide ranging mix of ages, beliefs and experience with video games. Of those surveyed, around 53 percent said they play games, with 19 percent saying they play games “most days.”

The survey found that 61 percent of UK residents believe that playing video games can be a cause of real-world violence and aggression.

Breaking down the data reveals far more interesting statistics, however. Take the age break-down, for example — most of the people surveyed between the ages of 18 and 39 disagreed that video games caused real-life aggression, while an overwhelming number of 60+ year olds said there was a link (79 percent, in fact).

Generation Gap 3.pngIn other words, the older the person surveyed, the more likely they were to believe that there’s a connection between video game violence and real-life violence. The older people surveyed also were more likely to disagree that video games can be utilized as an outlet for frustrations and aggression.

The experience and gender gaps

There were other notable gaps beside the age correlation — both gender and video game experience were picked out as part of the report.

71 percent of the women surveyed said that they believe violent video games can cause real-world aggression. This compared to 48 percent of men who agreed there was a connection.

And when looking at those people who have played games versus those who have no experience with games, the results are as you’d expect: 74 percent of those surveyed who don’t play games said games can cause aggression and violence, while 47 percent of those who play games agreed there was a connection.

Players who had experience with violent games, however, disagreed far more that there is a connection. 35 percent of people who play violent video games said violent games can lead to real-world violence.

Raptr: Most Played Games August 2013

Call of Duty: Black Ops II was the #1 game played for August. However, Raptr’s focus on this month’s review is about DOTA2 and LoL. For me, I really only cared about RIFT and the fact that their F2P subscription model continues to impress. Oddly, they did not reveal top PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 titles as they’ve done the past few months.

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RAPTR’S MOST PLAYED GAMES: AUGUST 2013 — DOTA 2 TOPS LEAGUE OF LEGENDS

A new champion has taken the field. And we’re not talking about Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, which is once again in at the top slot overall.

No, the big news is that after a few brief shots at the crown, Valve’s DOTA 2 surpassed Riot Games’ smash-hit League of Legends in both total players and total playtime for the month of August based on gameplay data from Raptr’s 18 million members.

Italicize that last part in your mind if you need to — Raptr’s membership skews more North America-centric than the total gaming audience, so we aren’t saying categorically that more people spent more time playing DOTA 2 than LoL. But among Raptr members, they definitely did, although it was close. Also, this list includes PC and Xbox 360 games only — Sony and Nintendo don’t let players share gameplay data publicly.

LoL vs. DOTA 2 Analysis

League of Legends shot to the top of our playtime charts due in part to its wildly popular spectator modes, tournament livestreams, and world championships. DOTA 2 officially launched (after an extended beta) on July 9 and just concluded its own livestreamed championship event, The International, which ran August 7-11.

No doubt that had a strong effect on DOTA 2′s numbers. LoL’s Season 3 World Championships just finished up last week, giving Riot a big opportunity to recoup.

But Valve’s challenger has nipped at LoL’s heels for months now. DOTA 2 first passed LoL in total players on March 3 — coincidentally, right when LoL servers went down (possibly due to a denial-of-service attack). That gave DOTA 2 a free shot at taking the lead for a day. A few isolated days followed where DOTA 2 came within a few hundred players of LoL’s total…or leapfrogged it by six or seven thousand without warning.

Those events occasionally coincided with Riot releasing major patches — typically a source of downtime for online games. But even with servers up and running at capacity, Riot’s numbers have taken a substantial hit of late. Total LoL playtime hours have dropped 13% in the last 30 days. New members in that same timeframe are up a healthy 27%, but overall unique active members are down 6%.

That suggests older, established players are drifting away, and the new players coming in aren’t engaging as deeply.

LoLvsDOTA2_playtime_may-aug copy

By contrast, in the same 30-day window, DOTA 2 saw an 11% increase in unique active members while new signups were down 3%. It’s the exact opposite of LoL’s problem…players are engaging long term, but the influx of new blood is starting to dip.

Pushing into the first week of September, it looks so far like a fairly even split between days favoring League of Legends and those carried by DOTA 2. With the glow of The International pretty much faded and LoL’s incredibly popular World Championships happening last week, it’s likely LoL’s numbers will angle straight up again in the middle of the month. But the recent erosion of its player base should be a serious cause for concern if the trend continues after the World Championships. And DOTA 2′s numbers prove that if Riot Games opens the door, Valve’s increasingly popular MOBA will walk right on through.

Hand Gesture Holographic Interface Demo (BitRebels.com)

Our favorite sci-fi billionaire is at it again. This time it’s a holographic gesture system. Y’know…a year after implementation, nerds around the world will have the upper body strength of Mr. Universe!

I could see this working well for specific applications (design, CAD, art, medicine, etc.), but games? Hmmm.

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The Iron Man movies have become synonymous with next generation technology. Many innovators are trying to recreate the magical interfaces that we are now used to seeing on the silver screen. One of those people is billionaire and space age fanatic Elon Musk, who’s been known to take ideas and realize them with the help of his earned fortune. Tony Stark’s Jarvis holographic interface is just one of the technologies that Elon Musk has been trying to recreate.

A couple weeks ago, Elon Musk tweeted that he and his SpaceX team had just built and 3d printed parts for a rocket using a hand gesture system which he was eager to showcase. The video was uploaded recently, and since then, Mr. Musk has made several intriguing updates about what goes on over at his innovative company.

Elon Musk Jarvis System Tweet

Even though the expectations were almost too high, people were still impressed by the innovative way this system utilizes hand gestures to interact with the objects on the screen. The ability to model and alter objects by just using hand gestures is a a huge optimization. If the team manages to incorporate a holographic interface using Displair, or something similar, this technology could rapidly become something that is really close to what we are used to seeing in the Iron Man movies.

In this video, we are taken through the process of building the virtual reality holographic interface system Elon Musk and his team have been working on. Even though it’s not a legit holographic interface, it still is in a way. By using virtual reality glasses, the system allows the user to seamlessly operate in unlimited space. The question is whether or not virtual reality can be called a holographic interface, or if it is still just a virtual reality system. Either way, with people like Elon Musk working on holographic interface systems and spending millions on developing software and hardware to bring them to reality, I am quite sure that we’ll be seeing some pretty cool stuff very soon.

Elon Musk & SpaceX’s Hand Gesture Holographic Interface

Elon Musk Holographic Interface

Elon Musk Holographic Interface

Elon Musk Holographic Interface

Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic Stadium Is Breathtaking (Dezeen.com)

This looks like something out of “V” or most any alien invasion movie, but stunning is a great word for the competition winning design.

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics to centre around Zaha Hadid stadium

News: the forthcoming National Stadium of Japan by Zaha Hadid Architects is now set to become the main sporting venue for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games, following the news that Tokyo will be the host city.

The new 80,000-seat stadium will host the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2020 games, as well as athletics, football and rugby events.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics to centre around Zaha Hadid stadium

“The stadium will become an integral part of Tokyo’s urban fabric, directly engaging with the surrounding cityscape to connect and carve the elegant forms of the design,” said Zaha Hadid, after winning a competition to design the stadium in November.

“Our three decades of research into Japanese architecture and urbanism is evident in our winning design and we greatly look forward to building the new National Stadium,” she added.

Tokyo 2020 Olympics to centre around Zaha Hadid stadium

Set to replace the existing Kasumigaoka National Stadium, the new building will join Kenzo Tange’s iconic 1964 Olympic stadium in Yoyogi Park, which will function as a handball arena this time around. Zaha Hadid Architects will also work on this building, renovating the structure and adding a retractable roof.

Two other venues from the 1964 games – the Nippon Budokan and the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium – will also be reused, offering venues for judo and table tennis.

Additional arenas will be constructed in downtown Tokyo in an effort to save energy and reduce the need for transport investment, while the Olympic village is proposed on Tokyo’s harbour and will be converted into housing after the games are over.

Tokyo was named as the host city for the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games over the weekend and will follow on from Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Find out more about Rio 2016 »

Zaha Hadid Architects previously designed the Aquatics Centre for the London Olympics in 2012, which recently had its two temporary wing-like seating stands removedSee more architecture by Zaha Hadid  »

Plated Lets You Be The Gourmet Chef (Mashable.com)

Folks who know me know I’m serious about food (I used to write a restaurant review blog) and I love spending time in the kitchen. However, I have tons of friends (and even family) who don’t feel confident in the kitchen but still wished they could make a gourmet meal from time to time.

Plated.com piggybacks onto social media and has come up with a great answer: you pick the recipe you want, they locally source your entire meal and ship it to you, and you follow the easy instructions to make a fantastic meal for your friends and family.

Done!

I’m in love with this idea. Too bad it’s not yet national! For you lucky folks in the Northeast (DC to Boston) and the Midwest (all of IL, IN, and MI, along with major cities like St. Louis and Cleveland), try this out. Enjoy something amazing. And take all the credit. Just be sure to toss the box in the trash before company arrives.
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Plated-delivery-box

Busy schedules affect our food choices. It isn’t just laziness that leads us to take-out and delivery — long days at work, school or raising kids can squash even the best of dinner intentions. Who has the time or energy to prepare a full meal, and a healthy one to boot?

Plated, an online service and TechStars alum that delivers fresh, local ingredients to your doorstep, wants to return the complete cooking experience to your kitchen. It saves you the time it usually takes to find healthy recipes and ingredients by providing all the necessities for a gourmet meal. All you need is about 30 minutes to make it.

Co-founders Nick Taranto and Josh Hix came up with the idea for Plated after they graduated from Harvard Business School, when they noticed their busy schedules directly influenced their diets. Plated’s “dinner kit” is their solution. After you select a chef-designed recipe (the team releases a new featured menu every week), you receive locally sourced ingredients in a biodegradable box, which is designed to keep the contents fresh in your fridge for five days.

“We believe that most people want better, more nutritious, less greasy food, and they’re willing to put in 20-30 minutes of work in order to get it — if given the choice,” Taranto says.

Placing an order requires a minimum of four plates at $15 per plate, so pricing is definitely geared more toward multiple people than individuals. However, the potential for leftovers may still save you money in the long run. Plated also offers a membership for cheaper plates and automatic delivery options.

We spoke with Taranto about his reasons for creating Plated, how it’s “built on the back of social media” and what the team is planning next.

Q&A With Plated Founder Nick Taranto

Plated Cofounders
Plated co-founders Josh Hix (left) and Nick Taranto. Image: Plated 

How did you come up with the concept for Plated?

I met my co-founder, Josh, at Harvard Business School in 2008. After we both moved back to New York City, we found ourselves making bad food decisions, spending way too much money to eat crap. We knew there had to be a better way, and we seized the opportunity to build the “Warby Parker of food.” Our mission is to reconnect people with their food.

Sustainability and sustainable farming are popular topics right now. Can you talk about Plated’s commitment to that, and how you partner with local vendors?

At Plated, we are committed to providing delicious and convenient meals with a whole lot of honesty. Honesty means knowing exactly what is going into our meals by seeing, feeling, holding, chopping and cooking raw ingredients. We avoid processed foods, especially ones that rhyme with “butylated hydroxyanisole,” because we prefer our mashed potatoes without a heaping tablespoon of carcinogens.

We source our meats from local purveyors that are committed to raising livestock responsibly, without the use of hormones. We prefer our animals au naturel, and only work with businesses that share our vision of what constitutes fresh and sustainable. We also work with responsible companies to make sure that most of our fish is wild-caught. We love knowing exactly which boat threw out a line to catch our salmon fillets.

Our philosophy on food is that it should be really fresh and really real. Again, we want to reconnect people with their food — from farm to dinner table.

Where is Plated available?

We have warehouses in New York, Chicago and San Francisco [currently delivering across the Northeast and the Midwest], and we will be nationwide within the next few months.

Plated HQ Meeting
The Plated team gathers for a meeting at the Manhattan headquarters. Image: PlatedHow do you select the featured recipes?

Elana Karp is our Cordon Bleu-trained in-house culinary director. She works with chefs across the spectrum, ranging from Michelin-starred restaurateurs, to cookbook authors, to up-and-coming sous chefs toiling away in New York City’s best restaurants.

How can Plated become a social platform for its users?

We built Plated on the back of social media. [The process of] cooking and eating is one of, if not the the most, shareable things that people do. There are 12 #foodporn photos uploaded to Instagram and Pinterest every second. We are working behind the scenes on building out our platform to turn this content into commerce.

Plated Calendar

What kind of customer base have you and your team seen?We have thousands of customers spread across the country. Our customers are aspirational foodies — folks who want fantastic food experiences, but don’t have the time to spend two hours at the farmers’ market three days per week. Pre-kids, dual-income households are where we find our most fanatical customers.

How does Plated compete with sites such as Seamless and Delivery.com? What sets Plated apart in the online delivery space?

We believe that most people want better, more nutritious, less greasy food, and they’re willing to put in 20-30 minutes of work in order to get it — if given the choice. Within the next year, you’ll see a number of initiatives directly … competing with take-out as a category.

What’s your favorite featured recipe?

Hands down, the sesame-encrusted tuna with avocado and seaweed — nom nom!

Images: Plated

Japanese Player Earns $10K Playing ArcheAge (Massively.com)

Massively has at once given hope to every nerdy gamer wishing they could play games full-time AND crushed everyone’s dreams because this already happened for a lucky man in Japan.

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Japanese player earns $10K playing ArcheAge

There’s that dream out there of getting paid to simply play games. You know you have it. We even have it. Well, a married Japanese man who goes by “Moru-chan” grabbed that dream and looted it to its fullest, as he earned over $10,000 (one million yen) in three months for playing the MMORPG ArcheAge.

The money’s on the up-and-up, in case you were thinking otherwise. Moru-chan was selected by ArcheAge’s project management team to live in a one-room apartment and stream the game for 12 hours a day. He’d wake up at noon and start playing in the afternoon until the wee hours of the morning, streaming ArcheAge for all to see. Moru-chan also blogged about his experience and organized large-scale activities using his new-found fame.

Harry Potter Franchise Creates “Fantastic Beasts” Spin-Off (Nerdist.com)

This week brought with it a decision by Harry Potter’s author, J.K. Rowling, and Warner Bros. Entertainment that’s been met with a fairly polarized reply. Do we really need a Harry Potter spin-off? And yet, how could we NOT enjoy a Harry Potter spin-off?

Overall, the Harry Potter blockbuster franchise has earned $8 billion in its first decade. And that’s just the movies! With most early 20-somethings literally having grown up with the Harry Potter cast, it’s no wonder the studio and author are looking to strike with lightning a second time.

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He’s not just the Boy Who Lived; Harry Potter is also the Franchise That Wouldn’t Die as news broke today that author J.K. Rowling will be returning to the Harry Potter universe by penning Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a spin-off film based on the magizoology textbook of the same name that all first-year Hogwarts students were required to purchase, for Warner Bros.. In 2001, Rowling also wrote and published a physical version of the book to serve as a magical bestiary and companion to the multi-billion dollar-grossing film and book franchise.

magicalbeasts

Here’s the full press release:

“Warner Bros. Entertainment today announced an expanded creative partnership with world-renowned, best-selling author J.K. Rowling. At the center of the partnership is a new film series from Rowling’s world of witches and wizards, inspired by Harry Potter’s Hogwarts textbook “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” and the adventures of the book’s fictitious author, Newt Scamander. The announcement was made by Kevin Tsujihara, Chief Executive Officer, Warner Bros. Entertainment.

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” will be an original story and will mark Rowling’s screenwriting debut. It is planned as the first picture in a new film series. Set in the wizarding world, the story will feature magical creatures and characters, some of which will be familiar to devoted Harry Potter fans.

“Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for seventeen years, ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world,” said Rowling. “The laws and customs of the hidden magical society will be familiar to anyone who has read the Harry Potter books or seen the films, but Newt’s story will start in New York, seventy years before Harry’s gets underway.”

“We are incredibly honored that Jo has chosen to partner with Warner Bros. on this exciting new exploration of the world of wizardry which has been tremendously successful across all of our businesses,” said Tsujihara. “She is an extraordinary writer, who ignited a reading revolution around the world, which then became an unprecedented film phenomenon. We know that audiences will be as excited as we are to see what her brilliant and boundless imagination conjures up for us.”

In addition to the film series, “Fantastic Beasts” will also be developed across the Studio’s video game, consumer products and digital initiatives businesses, including enhanced links with Pottermore.com, Rowling’s digital online experience built around the Harry Potter stories.

The Studio’s expanded partnership with Rowling also covers the continued expansion of its Harry Potter activities, including the wonderful Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme parks in conjunction with partner Universal Parks and Resorts (currently in Orlando, FL; opening in Hollywood, CA and Osaka, Japan), digital initiatives (including Pottermore), video games, consumer products and visitor attractions.

In addition, Warner Bros. will serve as the worldwide TV distributor (excluding the U.K.) of J.K. Rowling’s upcoming television adaptation for the BBC of “The Casual Vacancy,” her best-selling first novel aimed at adult audiences. This miniseries begins production in 2014.

The relationship will be managed in London by Neil Blair of The Blair Partnership, Rowling’s literary agency, and Josh Berger, President & Managing Director, Warner Bros. UK, Ireland and Spain, who will serve as Warner Bros.’ chief business contact for all J.K. Rowling initiatives going forward.

Rowling’s expanded quote regarding “Fantastic Beasts” is below:

“It all started when Warner Bros. came to me with the suggestion of turning ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ into a film. I thought it was a fun idea, but the idea of seeing Newt Scamander, the supposed author of ‘Fantastic Beasts,’ realized by another writer was difficult. Having lived for so long in my fictional universe, I feel very protective of it and I already knew a lot about Newt. As hard-core Harry Potter fans will know, I liked him so much that I even married his grandson, Rolf, to one of my favourite characters from the Harry Potter series, Luna Lovegood.

As I considered Warners’ proposal, an idea took shape that I couldn’t dislodge. That is how I ended up pitching my own idea for a film to Warner Bros.

Although it will be set in the worldwide community of witches and wizards where I was so happy for seventeen years, ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ is neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world. The laws and customs of the hidden magical society will be familiar to anyone who has read the Harry Potter books or seen the films, but Newt’s story will start in New York, seventy years before Harry’s gets underway.

I particularly want to thank Kevin Tsujihara of Warner Bros. for his support in this project, which would not have happened without him. I always said that I would only revisit the wizarding world if I had an idea that I was really excited about and this is it.”

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What is most intriguing about this news is what it means for J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. going forward. It’s no small secret that Disney and Marvel have been giving Warner Bros. and DC a sound thrashing at the box office when it comes to superhero films. Plus, Disney’s acquisition of Star Wars and its plan to churn out a new
SW picture each year means that they’ll be in a prime position to dominate the market on all things fanboy-related. Clearly, Warner Bros. is trying to step up its superhero game, but harnessing the potential of the expanded Harry Potter universe is one of the smartest decisions the studio could make right now, especially as tentpole franchises like The Hobbit will come to an end in the next few years. That isn’t to say that Rowling and WB will churn out a new Potter film every year, but it does open up a whole wizarding world of possibilities

This isn’t just Rowling stepping back into Harry’s world with WB; this is a full-scale media blitz that can touch on everything from films to video games to theme parks. The phrase “expanded creative partnership” should be of particular note as it implies that Rowling and WB won’t just be putting out a new Potter-verse film, but they’ll also be producing video games and “other digital initiatives” like apps and web-based campaigns that can leverage Rowling’s official Harry Potter fan hub Pottermore.com’s 5.53 million users for forthcoming content. Who knows? This could be the Golden Snitch that Warner Bros. needs to win the studio system House Cup.

It’s never been a better time to be a Muggle. What do you make of all this Potter news? Let us know in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter.

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