Cool and Crap Awards of the Week

This week, at least two things happened in the worlds of science and fiction: one was cool; the other was crap.

Coolest way to get Neal Stephenson fans hopped up on goofballs using monks: Neal Stephenson, author of Snow Crash and Cryptonomicon, has a new book coming out in September called Anathem. The plot has been shrouded in secrecy, though Stephenson has said in a few interviews that it will involve aliens and math. And this week, advance copies of the book started arriving in reviewers' mailboxes, packaged with a CD containing several pieces of music that sound like Gregorian chants, the beautiful songs sung by monks in the middle ages. Supposedly this music will "set the tone" for the book. We'll have a review for you in September, but for now you can freak out with anticipation by listening to choruses of men chanting. Click through for the crap (may include spoilers):

Crappiest effort to tie together every kind of cutting-edge science buzzword into one giant science fiction TV "event": The Andromeda Strain miniseries aired early this week, raising hopes that this classic scary space virus story would get an awesome update. It didn't. The "update" was basically slapping every single piece of science into one giant ball of lameness, with its Von Neuman death probe coated in "cutting edge nanotech Bucky Balls" which encoded some ASCII text (now there's cutting-edge for you, though maybe encrypting it with ROT13 would have been even more mega) and was sent from the future through a wormhole. Have I left anything out? Oh yes I have. The virus is also "like stem cells." If only they'd somehow stuck the G-phone in there, or maybe some dark matter, then the science buzzword compliance would have been complete.

Oh, and the plot was really bad too, with Very Special Messages about drugs being bad, environmentalism being nice, and making out with Benjamin Bratt being totally awesome.