Who’ll win ‘Game of Thrones’? Play the market

Image: Daenerys Targaryen
Emilia Clarke plays Daenerys Targaryen on HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” (Credit: HBO)

She belongs to a political family who used to be in power. She’s leading the odds to take the reins of power again. And she’s a blonde.

No, we’re not talking about Hillary Clinton: The powerful woman in question is Daenerys Targaryen, the platinum-haired dragon queen on “Game of Thrones.”

The next season of the HBO sword-sex-and-sorcery series, based on George R.R. Martin’s novels, begins this weekend. This season, for the first time, the show goes beyond what Martin has written, which means what happens is anyone’s bet.


PredictWise, the prediction market aggregator created by Microsoft Research’s David Rothschild, includes the outlook for “Game of Thrones” alongside its charts for the presidential campaign (which currently looks good for Clinton) and prognostications for hockey’s Stanley Cup (with the Washington Capitals as the top-ranked contender).

As of today, Daenerys is given the best chance of sitting the Iron Throne when the TV series ends, which seems likely to happen in 2018. PredictWise gives her a 28 percent chance, compared with 19 percent for Jon Snow (who is supposed to bedead, dead, dead, dead, dead) and 9 percent for wine-loving Tyrion Lannister (played by Emmy-winning Peter Dinklage).

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How a satellite aided scientists on Viking quest

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Archaeologists Chase Childs and Sarah Parcak remove an upper grass layer at the Point Rosee site in Newfoundland. (Credit: Greg Mumford / UAB)

Archaeologists worked hard to unearth what might well be only the second Viking site ever discovered in North America – but they had a little help from a higher power.

To be precise, 386 miles higher, in the form of DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-3 satellite.

It was the satellite’s near-infrared imagery that set Sarah Parcak, an archaeologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and her colleagues on a quest to excavate the site on the southwestern coast of Newfoundland, known as Point Rosee.

“It screams, ‘Please excavate me!’” said Parcak, who won a $1 million TED Prize for her satellite sleuthing in Egypt.

Her quest in Newfoundland is the focus of a two-hour PBS/BBC documentary titled “Vikings Unearthed,” which makes its PBS broadcast debut on Wednesday and is available online for streaming via the “NOVA” website on

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‘X-Files’ climax shines spotlight on gene editing

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FBI Agent Einstein (Lauren Ambrose) takes a blood sample from Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) in the season finale of “The X-Files.” (©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Credit: Ed Araquel / Fox)

Spoiler Alert! This post doesn’t reveal any major plot twists, but it does explore significant elements of the “X-Files” season finale. Stop reading now if you want it to remain a surprise.

This week’s season finale of “The X-Files” is one of the first prime-time TV shows to reference the revolutionary gene-editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9, but it won’t be the last.

We won’t delve into the details of how CRISPR figures in the alien conspiracy. Let’s just say that the ability to snip out and insert genetic coding with molecular-scale precision is as good a match for the “X-Files” mythology as Scully is for Mulder.

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‘Age of Aerospace’ recaps 100 years of flight

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“The Age of Aerospace” traces 100 years of history. (Credit: Science Channel)

This year marks the Boeing Co’s 100th anniversary, and the company is using the centennial as an opportunity not only to celebrate its own history, but the history of aerospace as well.

That celebration takes the TV spotlight starting Feb. 1, in the form of “The Age of Aerospace,” a five-part documentary series that’s airing on the Science Channel on Mondays. The series, sponsored by Boeing, will be shown on Saturdays on theDiscovery Channel. Eventually it’ll be available for online streaming as well.

Check your local listings and/or search engines, and check out a preview as well.

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Check out real X-Files from the CIA and FBI

Sheffield UFOs
A grainy photo shows what appear to be flying saucers over Sheffield, England, in 1962. (Credit: CIA)

The FBI denies having a secret collection of X-Files like the ones that Mulder and Scully are investigating in “The X-Files” TV series – but you’d expect the alien conspiracy to say that, wouldn’t you?

Whether or not the truth is out there, both the FBI and the CIA have capitalized on the X-Files buzz to rehash some of their, um, more unusual cases. The FBI’s online vault features nine cases having to do with unexplained phenomena, including flying saucer reports, cattle mutilations, ESP and the purported Majestic-12 conspiracy.

The CIA took its turn just in time for this season’s “X-Files” reboot, which continues tonight with what’s said to be the best episode to date. The spooks offered up five flying-saucer surveys from 1952 that would warm the heart of Fox Mulder, the true believer on the fictional FBI’s X-Files team. Five more files, dating from 1949 to 1952, take a skeptical view that’s in keeping with the usual attitude of Mulder’s partner, Dana Scully.

The CIA also threw in its top 10 tips for investigating unidentified flying objects.

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This biologist slips science into ‘The X-Files’

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University of Maryland biologist Anne Simon puts science into “The X-Files.” (Credit: Univ. of Md.)

If the truth is out there in this year’s reboot of “The X-Files,” microbiologist Anne Simon helped put it there.

Simon, a researcher at the University of Maryland at College Park, has been a science adviser to “X-Files” creator Chris Carter since the end of the original show’s first season in 1994. Carter was a family friend, and Simon was so taken by the show’s premiere that she volunteered her scientific services.

She loved seeing the interplay between FBI Agent Fox Mulder, who’s a true believer in UFOs, and Agent Dana Scully, who starts out as a thoroughly skeptical scientist. “How often are scientists portrayed as real people?” she told GeekWire. “Back then, never.”

The first show she consulted on, “The Erlenmeyer Flask,” featured a mysterious character with green blood, as well as a flask containing weird bacteria. Simon came up with a way to tell that the bacteria were of extraterrestrial origin.

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‘X-Files’ revival brings UFO sleuths into the light

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Alien visitation is a big topic for “The X-Files.” (Credit: Fox)

UFOs are back in style, thanks in part to the return of “The X-Files” to television this weekend, almost 13 years after the last episode had its original airing. And while Mulder and Scully are delving into new anomalies in prime time, the folks who deal with UFO reports in real life are gearing up for renewed attention as well.

“X-Files, Y-Files, No-Files, I get calls from people who say they have evidence of alien visitation,” said Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute. “Either they’ve seen something, they’ve photographed something or they’re in touch with something.”

The calls generally come in at a regular rate, but Shostak does recall that there was a noticeable uptick while the original “X-Files” show was on TV.

Don Lincoln, a physicist at Fermilab who’s the author of “Alien Universe,” notes that attitudes toward UFOs tend to reflect depictions in popular culture, ranging from flying saucers and little green men to mysterious “Men in Black” and alien conspiracies. The original “X-Files” told tales of gray extraterrestrials and government coverups, and he’s curious to see whether the new series will follow the same path.

“It could well be that what the new X-Files will ultimately accomplish is to introduce a new generation to the mysteries of Area 51 and the unsettling idea of the Men in Black,” Lincoln wrote in an email. “I have said enough. They’re watching…”

One expert who won’t be watching is Peter Davenport, who’s the director of the National UFO Reporting Center, or NUFORC. He doesn’t even own a television.

“I try to avoid addressing works of fiction, because I am a scientist,” he told GeekWire from his home base in Harrington, Wash. “I collect data that is appropriate and accurate. … I find [fictional UFO tales] to be unsatisfying, seeing that I deal with the real thing, all day, every day.”

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The Force is strong with sci-fi shows on TV

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Like Han Solo, spaceship pilot Alex Kamal (played by Cas Anvar) has a complicated past in “The Expanse,” which has its TV premiere on Syfy tonight. (Photo by: Rafy/Syfy)

While you’re waiting for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” to invade theaters this week, you can tune in a couple of other star wars on TV – with settings and themes that hit much closer to home than the goings-on in a galaxy far, far away.

Starting tonight, the Syfy channel is bringing two classic science-fiction sagas to the small screen: Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End,” a novel about space aliens that was written before dawn of the Space Age; and “The Expanse,” a series of future-looking novels and short stories by James S.A. Corey (the pen name for collaborators Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck).

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Elon Musk gets in the Thanksgiving spirit on TV

You wouldn’t think Elon Musk was a warm and fuzzy guy, based on this year’s biography of the hard-driving CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, but on this week’s episode of “The Big Bang Theory,” we learn that he loves to help the homeless.

The big reveal comes when engineer and one-time spaceflier Howard Wolowitz (played by Simon Helberg) reluctantly joins his wife as well as his pal Raj and his girlfriend to help with Thanksgiving dinner at a homeless shelter. Howard gets stuck washing the dishes, but loses control of his sink sprayer when he sees Musk walk in with a load of dirty plates.

“What are you doing here?!” Howard asks.

“I’m washing dishes … I was on the turkey line, but I got demoted for being too generous with the gravy,” Musk replies.

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