Thailand’s Monkey Police is on the Beat


Thailand’s Monkey Police is on the Beat

Becoming a police officer demands agile dexterity, mammoth strength and big balls of steel, which is why it’s no wonder so few of us ever achieve such an esteemed status. And besides us humans, the only other mammal allowed to patrol the streets is the domesticated canine, aka the dog. This fact has recently changed, however, thanks to Santisuk the monkey.

 

Santisuk Phromdao is a pig-tailed macaque monkey from Sai Buri district, Patttani province, southern Thailand. Although only five years old, Santisuk patrols the streets of Thailand everyday dressed in a blazer with the words ‘Monkey Police’ laced across it.

According to Thailand’s Nation newspaper, Santisuk was adopted by Pol Col Yutthapol Phromdao Yutthapol, who, after discovering the injured monkey at a local clinic, recruited him into his squad, thereby turning the simple-minded primate into the first-ever monkey cop.

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Satisuk’s tour of duty began at a local checkpoint, where Yutthapol taught him how to collect coconuts and other fruits from locals by enticing him with bottles of delectable Vitamilk. Soon afterward, Satisuk’s duties grew from mundane tasks into full-fledged public relations.

 

For you see, the checkpoint, one of many installed by the Thai government in response to recent attacks by Islamic separatist insurgents, was angering motorists who sought only to reach their destination as quickly as possible.

By introducing Satisuk to his checkpoint, Yutthapol inadvertently calmed tensions between local police and the public. The amusing diversion—the public could take pictures or play with the furry flatfoot, instead of sitting idly by and ranting/raving about the long wait—helped calm motorists, thereby serving as a public relations ploy, per se, although that certainly wasn’t Yutthapol’s original intent.

Satisuk hopefully is one of many future monkey cops to come, as the concept of improving public relations by putting a monkey police officer on the beat has inspired other departments to also try and follow suit.

As for Satisuk, he’s having the time of life. According to Yutthapol, he can be found sitting in a nearby chair, nodding his head, winking, and even monkey-talking to passing motorists.

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Deep-sea images reveal colorful life off Indonesia


Deep-sea images reveal colorful life off Indonesia

By ROBIN McDOWELL, Associated Press Writer Robin Mcdowell, Associated Press Writer – Thu Aug 26, 6:17 am ET

JAKARTA, Indonesia – Scientists using cutting-edge technology to explore waters off Indonesia were wowed by colorful and diverse images of marine life on the ocean floor — including plate-sized sea spiders and flower-like sponges that appear to be carnivorous.

They predicted Thursday that as many as 40 new plant and animal species may have been discovered during the three-week expedition that ended Aug. 14.

AP/NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program

More than 100 hours of video and 100,000 photographs, captured using a robotic vehicle with high-definition cameras, were piped to shore in real-time by satellite and high-speed Internet.

Verena Tunnicliffe, a professor at the University of Victoria in Canada, said the images provided an extraordinary glimpse into one of the globe’s most complex and little-known marine ecosystems.

“Stalked sea lilies once covered the ocean, shallow and deep, but now are rare,” she said in a written statement. “I’ve only seen a few in my career. But on this expedition, I was amazed to see them in great diversity.”

Likewise, Tunnicliffe has also seen sea spiders before, but those were tiny in comparison, all around one-inch (2.5 centimeters) long: “The sea spiders … on this mission were huge. Eight-inches (20-centimeters) or more across.”

One animal captured on video looks like a flower, covered with glasslike needles, but scientists think it is probably a carnivorous sponge. The spikes, covered with sticky tissue, appear to capture food as it passes by.

Scientists used powerful sonar mapping system and the robotic vehicle to explore nearly 21,000 square miles (54,000 sq. kilometers) of sea floor off northern Indonesia, at depths ranging from 800 feet (240 meters) to over two miles (1.6 kilometers).

The mission was carried out by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s ship, the Okeanos Explorer. An Indonesian vessel, the Baruna Jaya IV, also took part, collecting specimens that, together with all rights for future use, will remain in the country.

Confirmation that a species is new involves a scientific peer review and other steps and can take years.

____

Online:

http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/

http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/okeanos/welcome.html

http://shiptracker.noaa.gov/

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Close look one of many interesting images

This image provided by NOAA shows a close look one of the many interesting images collected by the Little Hercules ROV during the INDEX 2010 Exploration of the Sangihe Talaud Region off Indonesia in July. Scientists using cutting-edge technology to explore waters off Indonesia were wowed by colorful and diverse images of marine life on the ocean floor — including plate-sized sea spiders and flower-like sponges that appear to be carnivorous. They predicted Thursday Aug. 26, 2010 that as many as 40 new plant and animal species may have been discovered during the three-week expedition that ended Aug. 14.

 Close look one of many interesting images

This image provided by NOAA shows a close look one of the many interesting images collected by the Little Hercules ROV during the INDEX 2010 Explorationof the Sangihe Talaud Region off Indonesia in July. Scientists using cutting-edge technology to explore waters off Indonesia were wowed by colorful and diverse images of marine life on the ocean floor — including plate-sized sea spiders and flower-like sponges that appear to be carnivorous. They predicted Thursday Aug. 26, 2010 that as many as 40 new plant and animal species may have been discovered during the three-week expedition that ended Aug. 14

Close look one of many interesting images

This image shows a close look one of the many interesting images collected by the Little Hercules ROV during the INDEX 2010 Exploration of the SangiheTalaud Region off Indonesia in July. Scientists using cutting-edge technology to explore waters off Indonesia were wowed by colorful and diverse images of marine life on the ocean floor — including plate-sized sea spiders and flower-like sponges that appear to be carnivorous. They predicted Thursday Aug. 26, 2010 that as many as 40 new plant and animal species may have been discovered during the three-week expedition that ended Aug. 14.

Close look one of many interesting images

This image from NOAA shows a close look one of the many interesting images collected by the Little Hercules ROV during the INDEX 2010 Exploration of theSangihe Talaud Region off Indonesia in July. Scientists using cutting-edge technology to explore waters off Indonesia were wowed by colorful and diverse images of marine life on the ocean floor — including plate-sized sea spiders and flower-like sponges that appear to be carnivorous. They predicted Thursday Aug. 26, 2010 that as many as 40 new plant and animal species may have been discovered during the three-week expedition that ended Aug. 14.«

Deep-sea Chimaera

This image provided by NOAA shows a deep-sea Chimaera. Chimaera’s are most closely related to sharks, although their evolutionary lineage branched offfrom sharks nearly 400 million years ago, and they have remained an isolated group ever since. Chimaera’s are most closely related to sharks, although their evolutionary lineage branched off from sharks nearly 400 million years ago, and they have remained an isolated group ever since. According to scientists the lateral lines running across this chimaera are mechano-receptors that detect pressure waves (just like ears). The dotted-looking lines on the frontal portion of the face (near the mouth) are ampullae de lorenzini and they detect perturbations in electrical fields generated by living organisms. Scientists using cutting-edge technology to explore waters off Indonesia were wowed by colorful and diverse images of marine life on the ocean floor — including plate-sized sea spiders and flower-like sponges that appear to be carnivorous. They predicted Thursday Aug. 26, 2010 that as many as 40 new plant and animal species may have been discovered during the three-week expedition that ended Aug. 14.«

Close look one of many interesting images

This image provided by NOAA shows a look one of the many interesting images collected by the Little Hercules ROV during the INDEX 2010 Exploration ofthe Sangihe Talaud Region off Indonesia in July. Scientists using cutting-edge technology to explore waters off Indonesia were wowed by colorful and diverse images of marine life on the ocean floor — including plate-sized sea spiders and flower-like sponges that appear to be carnivorous. They predicted Thursday Aug. 26, 2010 that as many as 40 new plant and animal species may have been discovered during the three-week expedition that ended Aug. 14

Close look one of many interesting images

This photo provided by NOAA shows a close look one of the many interesting images collected by the Little Hercules ROV during the INDEX 2010 Explorationof the Sangihe Talaud Region off Indonesia in July. Scientists using cutting-edge technology to explore waters off Indonesia were wowed by colorful and diverse images of marine life on the ocean floor — including plate-sized sea spiders and flower-like sponges that appear to be carnivorous. They predicted Thursday Aug. 26, 2010 that as many as 40 new plant and animal species may have been discovered during the three-week expedition that ended Aug. 14.«

Close look at red arms

This image provided by NOAA shows a close look at the red arms of a Sea Lilly living 516 meters deep taken July 3, 2010 during the INDEX 2010 Explorationof the Sangihe Talaud Region off Indonesia. Scientists using cutting-edge technology to explore waters off Indonesia were wowed by colorful and diverse images of marine life on the ocean floor — including plate-sized sea spiders and flower-like sponges that appear to be carnivorous.They predicted Thursday Aug. 26, 2010 that as many as 40 new plant and animal species may have been discovered during the three-week expedition that ended Aug. 14.

Scientists : We’ve cracked Wheat’s genetic code


Scientists: We’ve cracked wheat’s genetic code

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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AFP/File – A consortium of scientists on Friday published the first genome for wheat, an achievement that should …

1 hr 25 mins ago

LONDON – British scientists say they’ve decoded the genetic sequence of wheat and are posting the data online.

The plant is among the world’s most important crops and the researchers say the information could help farmers create disease-resistant strains of the global food staple.

University of Liverpool Scientist Neil Hall says the wheat genome was far longer than the human genome first unraveled 10 years ago. But he says the techniques used to decode genetic information have improved considerably, meaning the process took only about a year.

Hall and others worked on a strain of wheat known as Chinese Spring. Hall said Friday that his team would soon work to decode other varieties.

World’s Most Beautiful Lakes


Provided by:

World’s Most Beautiful Lakes

These 10 lakes go to all the right extremes

By Beth Colliins

Plitvice Lake, Croatia

José Fuste Raga/Corbis

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Highest, deepest, clearest—all of these watery wonders showcase nature at its most spectacular. Soak up the views from a boat, a cable car, a trailhead, or a castle tower.

 Plitvice Lake Croatia

These 16 blue-green lakes, hidden by thick vegetation and connected by hundreds of waterfalls, could be the set for the next Jurassic Park. For adventure as well as killer views, start at one of the lower lakes and work your way up following the sturdy wooden planks that turn what could be a treacherous trek into a fun hike. Take a detour along the 10-minute loop that leads to the region’s tallest fall, 230-foot-high Veliki Slap (“Big Waterfall”), a breadth of streaming white water that collects in turquoise pools. While hiking, keep your eyes peeled for deer, wildcats, boars, wolves, and bears—a more likely sighting than a T. rex.

Nearby: There are four hotels in Plitvice Lakes National Park, but most people drive in for the day from Zagreb, about two hours by car.

  Peyto Lake, Canada, Courtesy Travel Alberta

Peyto Lake Canada

Alberta’s Lake Louise is the famous one, on all the postcards and posters. But Louise’s sister lake 29 miles north along Icefields Parkway, a two-laner that winds 142 miles through the Canadian Rockies, is even more picturesque. Thanks to glacial rock flour that flows in when the ice and snow melt every summer, the waters of Banff National Park’s Peyto Lake are a brilliant turquoise more often associated with warm-weather paradises like Antigua and Bora-Bora. For the most dramatic views of the 1.7-mile-long stunner, encircled with dense forest and craggy mountain peaks, pull into the lot at Bow Summit, the parkway’s highest point, and follow the steep hike to the overlook.

 Nearby: The town of Banff, the heart of the park, is 62 miles south of Peyto Lake.

 Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, Frans Lemmens/Corbis

Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

 Nearly a mile up in the highlands of Guatemala, Atitlán (Lago de Atitlán) rests at the foot of three massive conical volcanoes. Small Mayan villages line its shores, which are set off by steep hills draped with oak and pine trees and nearly 800 plant species. There’s no single, must-see view of the lake, so try several vantage points: from up high on Highway 1; from the town of Panajachel, the buzzing market hub that juts out into the water; or aboard a lancha, one of the many small boats that ferry visitors from village to village. We’re saddened to note that the lake has built up high levels of blue-green algae over the years. Last October and November, a film of green scum briefly marred its surface. But an ambitious effort to solve the problem is underway.

 Nearby: Panajachel is about 2.5 hours by car from Guatemala City.

 Loch Lomand, Scotland, Bob the courier/Flickr

Loch Lomond, Scotland, With a backdrop of windswept rolling hills and medieval castles, Loch Lomond feels like it’s straight out of a Victorian romance novel. The 24-mile-long lake is dotted with islands, some so small that they disappear when the water levels are high, and others large enough to be (sparsely) inhabited. Most ferries stop at the largest island, Inchmurrin (population 10), so visitors can get a look at the remains of a 7th-century monastery and the 14th century Lennox Castle, used often as a hunting lodge for kings.

 Nearby: The lake is 24 miles north of Glasgow and 66 west of Edinburgh.

 Lake Garda, Italy, Sandro Vannini/Corbis

Lake Garda, Italy, If the shape of Italy is a couture boot, think of the imprint of Lake Garda as a design from the funky sister line—long and skinny at the top, opening up toward the bottom. Garda is the country’s largest lake and one of the most popular vacation spots among Italians. The southern shore is home to hot springs, resort towns with pastel villas and terra-cotta-roofed hotels, and most of Garda’s 28 miles of serene, pebbly beaches. To the north are the jagged peaks of the Dolomites, a magnet for hikers and bicyclists who want to test their endurance. In Malcesine, an adorable speck of a town with cobblestoned streets and a medieval castle, you can board a cable car up to Mount Baldo for one of the best aerial views of the lake.

 Nearby: Lake Garda is about halfway between Milan (89 miles away) and Venice (109 miles away), but to get the full, relaxing effect, stay in one of the south shore’s many small towns.

 Lake Annecy, France, A. Gerard/courtesy Annecy Tourisme

Lake Annecy, France, This alpine lake in the heart of the French Alps is a looker, but don’t expect to spend your visit gazing over the water in quiet reflection. Lake Annecy is all about activity—particularly in August, when Paris shuts down and the French take extended holidays. Sailors, kayakers, and water-skiers crisscross the water; bikers and hikers hit surrounding nature trails; and refugees from the city fill the outdoor tables at the lakeside restaurants and bars. Repeat visitors know to plan their trip for the first Saturday of August, when a staggering, nearly two-hour-long fireworks display illuminates the water.

Nearby: The closest major city is Geneva, 30 miles north, in Switzerland, but most people stay right on the lake.

 Crater Lake, Ore. Galen Rowell/Corbis

Crater Lake, United States, Thousands of years ago, the top of a 12,000-foot-high volcano in the Cascade Range exploded. The massive pit left behind became known as Crater Lake, the centerpiece of a national park in southern Oregon that displays nature at its rawest and most powerful. Forests of towering evergreens and 2,000-foot-high cliffs surround the lake, where extraordinarily deep waters—at 1,943 feet, it’s the deepest lake in the United States—yield an intense sapphire-blue hue. If winter hiking and cross-country skiing aren’t your thing, wait until early July to visit, when the roads have been plowed and the trails cleared. Rim Drive, a 33-mile road that encircles the lake, has picture-perfect views from all sides. For a closer look, follow the mile-long Cleetwood Cove Trail to the shore. Brace yourself before diving in: The water temperature rarely rises above 55 degrees Fahrenheit.

 Nearby: The laid-back mountain town of Bend, 112 miles away, makes a nice home base for a Crater Lake day trip.

 Lake Nakuru, Kenya, Martin Harvey/Corbis

Lake Nakuru, Kenya, The water is blue enough, and the backdrop—grasslands and rocky hillsides—has the makings of a nice photo, but neither is what sets this lake in central Kenya apart. The real draw here is the mass of pink on Nakuru’s edges. Flamingos are one of the few species that can withstand the lake’s hostile conditions—the water has so much sodium carbonate that it burns nearly everything that touches it —and they flock to the lake en masse. There can be as many as a million birds feeding on algae in the shallows at one time, wading side by side.

 Nearby: The lake is in the heart of Lake Nakuru National Park, a sanctuary for black-and-white rhinos, three hours by car from Nairobi.

 Lake Matheson, New Zealand, Declan Prendiville Photography/Flickr

Lake Matheson, New Zealand

 Alternately known as Mirror Lake, this South Island lake is famous for its reflections of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman. Visiting just after dawn is ideal, when the water is at its calmest and mirror images are impossibly perfect. The lake itself is well worth exploring, too. Park near the Clearwater River suspension bridge and follow the 1-mile loop past kahikatea and rimu trees, which have extra-tall trunks and fanciful bushy tops and look like something from a Dr. Seuss book.

 Nearby: Fox Glacier township, a village that serves as a base camp for trekkers, is three miles east of the lake.

Lake Bled, Slovenia, mirci/Flickr

Lake Bled, Slovenia

 Why not get to the good stuff right away? To take in this Slovenian lake’s most breathtaking vista, head immediately to Bled Castle, at the edge of a sheer, 460-foot-high cliff. You’ll see mountains in every direction—the Julian Alps and the Karavanke range—and below, the Alpine lake and its main attraction, Bled Island, a tiny forested circle that’s home to the 17th-century Church of the Assumption and its prominent baroque clock tower. Down on the lake’s shore, board a pletna boat (similar to a gondola) to the island. Be sure to ring the church bell and make a wish before returning to the mainland. Mountains shield the water from icy northern winds, so Lake Bled is warm, relatively speaking (79 degrees Fahrenheit). If that’s still too chilly, head to the lake’s northern section, where three hotels have built pools around natural thermal springs.

 Nearby: The Slovenian capital of Ljubljana is an easy 35 miles away.

 See more photos of these lakes at BudgetTravel.com

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25 Classic Science Fiction Movies That Everybody Must Watch


25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watch

From: io9 <email@io9.com>
To: y4ppy@yahoo.com  

By Charlie Jane Anders

25 classic science fiction movies that everybody must watch

Science fiction has rocked cinemas for a century, and the genre has produced many undisputed classics during that time. But which movies are essential viewing for anyone interested in the genre? We broke down the 25 must-watch science fiction films.

Methodology: We looked at a few different criteria, including overall cinematic excellence. We wanted to include films that were important to the development of the genre, and which had helped to raise the overall level of awesomeness in science fiction films. We also wanted to represent as many different types of films as possible. And we looked for films that had an original concept, or which were the first of their kind in some way.

But most of all, we looked for films that would represent science fiction well to a new audience and totally rock a neophyte’s brain.

Obviously, a list like this can never be 100 percent definitive, and we may have left your favorite movie of all time out — feel free to disagree and post your own lists in comments!

Metropolis (1927, dir. Fritz Lang) This film is one of the most formative works of science fiction of all time, and its imagery remains potent nearly 80 years later. And now that there’s a fully restored version finally hitting cinemas — for the first time ever, outside of Germany — you can finally appreciate Fritz Lang’s vision in its entirety. With its uniquely weird storyline involving a worker’s uprising and a woman’s robot duplicate, Metropolis remains a source of fascination — but it’s also the source of much of the work that comes after it.

The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951, dir. Robert Wise) The 1950s were the era of sensational movies about aliens and monsters threatening our way of life — but only The Day The Earth Stood Still dares to use that framework to make us question that way of life. Klaatu’s visit to us, and the warning he delivers, still resonate today. With its thought-provoking premise, this film won praise from such luminaries as Arthur C. Clarke, who put it on his own list of the best science fiction films.

Forbidden Planet (1956, dir. Fred M. Wilcox) A formative classic of space opera, this is said to be the first movie to take place on another planet, in deep space. It’s often described as a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, but Forbidden Planet also manages to do something unique, with a monster that comes from within and its secret relationship to the mysterious scourge that wiped out the super-advanced Krell race, 200,000 years ago. Like TDTES, this film examines our own tendency towards self-destruction, but it delves into the psychology of human self-destructiveness more.

Planet Of The Apes (1968, dir. Franklin J. Schaffner) And then there’s this version of humanity’s encounter with the “other” — Charleton Heston is the indignant everyman, thrust into a world where humans are little better than beasts and apes are ascendant. With their stinking paws. This film launched a whole genre of films in which a lone human (sometimes Heston again) copes with an inhuman who have inherited our planet and transformed it in their own image. But this film is still arguably the best.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, dir. Stanley Kubrick) A total departure from everything that came before, this film benefited immensely from Kubrick’s unique eye as well as Arthur C. Clarke’s mixture of hard science fiction and interest in transcendance. It’s almost hard to list everything this film did first, and better than anybody else since: A compelling, realistic description of life in space? A depiction of an artificial intelligence going mad? A huge mystery that spans from the dawn of humanity into our far future? Those are just the building blocks for a film that’s as mind-blowing and rewarding of close attention today as it was in 1968. It’s also given us some of the genre’s most quotable dialogue.

Alien (1979, dir. Ridley Scott) This film didn’t just launch Scott and star Sigourney Weaver — it also launched a whole genre of movies about our terrifying encounters with creatures beyond our own imagination. Scott merged space opera, Westerns and horror in a way that pretty much nobody had done before, and the result remains vivid today. With a sharp script by Dan O’Bannon and note-perfect direction by Scott, this is a master class on how to do creepiness and a compelling story in the sterility of deep space.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980, dir. Irvin Kerschner). This is the first of three sequels that came out in the early 1980s that were better than the films they followed, but which also innovated in a way that their precursors didn’t. Not that the original Star Wars wasn’t innovative — it was, in many ways, including its breathtaking effects, its fresh take on Western and Samurai themes, and its exhilerating approach to space opera. But Empire Strikes Back took all of the formal brilliance of Star Wars and married it to a story that feels truly epic. Luke Skywalker’s journey in the film, from near-death on Hoth to confronting his own darkness on Dagobah to learning the truth on Bespin — this is a real voyage of discovery. You couldn’t skip any of those steps and have it still work. All our other heroes struggle with tragedy and adversity — especially Han Solo — and it makes them deeper and more magnetic as characters. This isn’t just the best Star Wars movie, it’s one of the most essential movies, in any genre.

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981, dir. George Miller) And then there’s this — the first Mad Max film is brutal and awesome, and well worth watching again, especially if you’ve only seen the dubbed version. But where Mad Max shows the breakdown of Max and the civilization he lives in, this sequel shows the aftermath, and becomes an indelible classic of post-apocalyptic films in the process. The final huge convoy scene, with its demolition derby feeling, has influenced everything that came after. And with “peak oil” once again being a hot topic, this film’s story of barbarians struggling over the last oil supplies has a new resonance.

Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982, dir. Nicholas Meyer) Like Empire Strikes Back, this film rises above its status as just another installment in a big, commercial saga. You could show this movie to someone who had never seen any Trek, and it would still resonate on a hundred different levels. James Kirk is the ultimate neophile, who always wants to go forward and rediscover new worlds, but he’s been doing it too long and now his past is chasing him everywhere he goes. He’s got a son and an arch-enemy that he didn’t know he had, and the twist — that the ultimate weapon is also a source of renewal that can literally create life where none existed before — sets up one of the most bittersweet endings in movie history. And then there are the space battles, which are totally different than Star Wars and yet indelibly awesome in their own right.

Blade Runner (1982, dir. Ridley Scott) I think Scott’s the only director who gets represented twice on this list, and with good reason — Blade Runner is just as essential as Alien, in its own way. It’s still just as visually unique now as it was when it came out, and it defined the look and feel of cyberpunk as well as urban dystopia. And you can’t even talk about science fiction noir without delving into Blade Runner. And like many of the other films on this list, Blade Runner looks at what it means to be human by examining our interactions with the “other” — but the line gets so blurry, and the Replicants so fascinating, that the end result is something you have to chew over in the hours after watching.

E.T. (1982, dir. Steven Spielberg) A lot of people may hate on this film, but it changed the way we see first contact with aliens, and E.T. was one of the first really compelling aliens ever to appear on the big screen. E.T. takes the sense of wonder from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and makes it more intimate and personal. This is also the movie in which Spielberg’s obessions with fatherhood, children and discovery resonate the best. But also, from a technical standpoint, it’s an amazing achievement — rewatch it sometime, and look at how everything is presented from a child’s eye-level, and the mom is the only adult whose face we see in the first two acts. Spielberg uses lighting, camera angles and dialog to make a film that’s not just about childhood, but told from a child’s point of view.

Tron (1982, dir. Steven Lisberger) It’s hard to understate how much this film changed the genre of science fiction — it’s arguably the first movie to use computer generated effects, as Lisberger hung out at MIT and learned from the techies there — but it’s also still one of the most thrilling depictions of virtual worlds on the big screen. (Compare Tron to Lawnmower Man to see how much more exciting and believable the earlier film is.) With the theme of fighting against the fascistic Master Control Program, Lisberger manages to update science fiction’s longstanding interest in social change, but makes it fun and exciting rather than dreary and preachy.

Back To The Future (1985, dir. Robert Zemeckis) It’s shocking how few truly great science fiction comedy films there are — I wanted to include Galaxy Quest on this list really badly — but BTTF would still tower above the rest even if there were tons. It’s clever and yet never stops being about Marty McFly and his family. It manages to come up with a coherent theory of time travel, in which you can rewrite the past and the effects are seen nearly instantaneously (luckily, Marty is only missing like an arm and a leg before the timestream rights itself) and never becomes inconsistent. And it’s surprisingly daring, jumping feet first into the tricky waters of time-traveling incest. Plus it’s one of those science fiction movies that everybody, even genre-hating snobs, will admit to loving.

Brazil (1985, dir. Terry Gilliam) And 1985’s other classic film is also a comedy… well, sort of. It’s possibly the darkest, bleakest, most horrifying comedy you’ll ever see, with freakish plastic surgery, a man being condemned to death because of a typographical error, a lecture on ducting and a vigilante plumber. This is my favorite movie of all time, and probably the best thing to come out of Monty Python after the television series. This film probably couldn’t get made today, and it definitely wouldn’t get made in Hollywood, which tried to neuter it in U.S. cinemas. A subversive masterpiece, this film changed what a lot of people thought was possible in dark comedy as well as dystopian film-making.

RoboCop (1987, dir. Paul Verhoeven) Another totally subversive science fiction movie from the 1980s, this film picks up Tron‘s obsessions with corporate fascism and runs in a different direction, with the evil OCP trying to take over Detroit’s police force and remake the struggling city as Delta City. RoboCop himself is a great example of science fiction’s struggle with the ways technology changes or negates our humanity, and 20 years before The Dark Knight, this film manages to delve into similar questions about how far we’ll go to keep society safe from crime. A surreal blend of cyberpunk, Frankenstein and action movie, this film remains Verhoeven’s greatest statement.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991, dir. James Cameron) Speaking of dark action movies that confront us with questions about what it means to be human — this film would deserve a spot on the list just for the scene in which John Connor opens up the Terminator’s head and changes his brain from read-only to read/write, so the Terminator can begin to learn from his experiences instead of just following commands. But it’s also a brilliant action movie, in which every action sequence is inventive and uses special effects in a clever way. Every big-budget, CG-heavy action film aspires to be Terminator 2 deep in its chrome heart.

Ghost In The Shell (1995, dir. Mamoru Oshii) Like Akira, this is one of the first anime films to hit the U.S. and make a big impact, and impress on U.S. fans how powerful anime film-making was becoming. It’s spawned a huge franchise, which for the most part hasn’t diluted the awesomeness of the concept at all — Stand Alone Complex is considered one of the greatest science ficiton anime shows, and it wouldn’t exist without this film. With its theme of possibly false memories and cyber-weirdness, it had a huge influence on both cyberpunks and memory-altering works like Dark City and Dollhouse, but it turns into an amazing examination of the theme of sentience and the definition of life.

The Matrix (1999, dir. the Wachowskis) Forget the colossal letdown of the sequels — viewed as a standalone film, this is a brilliant action movie that spawned a million imitators, but it also put an end to an entire sub-genre. There were a slew of dark cyberpunk movies in the late 1990s that mixed weirdness and clever intrigue, with a sense that nothing was real — and The Matrix basically ended that subgenre by being so good, the others paled by comparison. (Have you even heard of Cyberwars? The 13th Floor?) And this film asked philosophical questions about the nature of reality, while feeding us our messianic candy in a way that didn’t leave us sick to our stomachs afterwards.

Primer (2004, dir. Shane Carruth) Weirdly, this film and Back To The Future stand together as the two great time travel movies, and they couldn’t be more different. Primer is famous as a film that you need to watch a few times before you fully grasp what’s going on, and there’s never been a movie that was less eager to explain itself to its audience. The opening, in which a couple of nerds tinkering in their garage randomly hit on an amazing discovery, is one of the great iconic nerd scenes of all time, and then the movie just gets crazier and crazier, with our heroes going back in time a few times too often until they descend into a kind of insanity. Worth watching just for the Walkman scene. This film is what Lost was trying to do with its own time travel stories.

The Incredibles (2004, dir. Brad Bird) It took immense self-control not to load this list up with a ton of films from the Pixar guys, including Wall-E and The Iron Giant. (Yes, I know Giant wasn’t a Pixar film, but it’s directed by Brad Bird.) But The Incredibles is arguably the best Pixar film, and the best superhero film, of all. This film takes the mythos of the Fantastic Four and mashes it up with a bit of Watchmen, and the result manages to be just as fun as the former and almost as dark and thought-provoking as the latter. And The Incredibles does something no other superhero film — including, I’d argue, Marvel’s recent self-made efforts — has pulled off: it feels like a fully realized superhero universe, in which there are superhero costume makers, and tons of larger-than-life challenges all the time, including big robots and supervillains. We can only hope a live-action superhero film will rise to this movie’s challenge some day.

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004, dir. Michel Gondry). This film works on so many levels. It’s a metaphor for the ways in which you try to erase someone from your memories and your life, after a breakup, in order to reinvent yourself as a single person. And yet, the film manages to suggest, that process is a form of suicide — you have to destroy a piece of your life in order to excise your former lover from it. And since that process is also the reverse of falling in love, maybe it leads you to realize why you fell for the other person in the first place. But Eternal Sunshine is also an incredibly clever science fiction movie that introduces a bizarre new technology in a way that’s both surreal and believable.

Children Of Men (2006, dir. Alfonso Cuarón) On the surface, this film is about a dystopian future in which humans can no longer procreate, and society falls into madness. But it quickly turns into a metaphor for immigration and xenophobia, as the United Kingdom tries to shut out the rest of the world. No film has depicted sheer chaos as kinetically and memorably as this one has, especially in its epic final single-take action sequence. Unpredictable, dazzling and well-made, Children Of Men sets the standard for gritty science fiction action movies.

Moon (2009, dir. Duncan Jones) Yes, we’re putting three movies from the last couple years on this list, and there are a few other recent films that were strong candidates as well, including Wall-E, Avatar and The Dark Knight. As much as it’s true that we’re drowning in a sea of derivative garbage, as Hollywood tries to churn out as many cookie-cutter films and sequels as possible, some really original and clever films have sneaked through. Moon is both a throwback to old-school film-making (mostly practical effects, a single massive set that was built in its entirety and sealed up during filming) and a huge step forward in terms of using special effects in a clever, inobtrusive way. (The central trick, of having two Sam Rockwells, could not have been done without CG effects, and the DVD gives some insight into just how hard it was to pull off.) This movie manages to make the theme of corporate evil and the nature of selfhood, that pops up in so many films on this list, and make it totally fresh by throwing in a horrifying twist, in which Rockwell’s character turns out to be disposable in the most literal sense. Well worth watching a second time, even if you saw it in theaters.

District 9 (2009, dir. Neill Blomkamp). The other great indie film of 2009, this quasi-documentary feels like an old-school Doctor Who story about a human turning into something unrecognizeable, wrapped around a totally savage message film. There’s seldom been a less sympathetic protagonist than Wikus, who’s a pusillanimous cog in a brutal machine — the scene where he casually slaughters alien children and jokes about the popping sound still makes me ill — but we wind up identifying with him and his plight as he’s cast out of society anyway. That makes a more powerful statement than if Wikus were a noble champion of the downtrodden from the beginning. And while Wikus finally sort of redeems himself, it’s shocking how late it comes. Plus, this is another great action movie that actually uses action sequences in an inventive way. Despite its crude stereotypes of Nigerians, this remains an important, influential film.

Inception (2010, dir. Christopher Nolan). It’s already clear that this film that will stand as one of the genre’s most important works — like Eternal Sunshine, it examines the nature of consciousness in a clever way that still makes sense in the end. And like Wrath Of Khan, it’s about a man who’s being swallowed up by his past, except that in this case Dom Cobb is actually haunted by a literal ghost, and he’s in constant danger of being pulled so deep into a kind of netherworld that he’ll never escape. But as a clever caper that revolves around a brilliantly inventive new technology and keeps reinventing itself every few minutes, Inception does what only the truly great science fiction films pull off: it makes science fiction a nexus of different genres, in which every genre is enriched by its contact with the speculative.

Additional reporting by Mary Ratliff. Thanks also to Alasdair Wilkins and Meredith Woerner.

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