Transformers Invade Orlando, Take No Prisoners

Transformers
Universal Orlando

Ever think being part of an intergalactic battle to save the Earth might be an interesting day’s work? Yes? Well head on over to Universal Studios Florida and help the Autobots fight off invading Decepticons at Transformers: The Ride, now open and ready to recruit your help.

“Transformers is one of the movie industry’s most successful franchises and Universal’s ride offers a four-minute, condensed version of all the action that people loved from those movies,” Robert Niles, editor of Theme Park Insider told NBC News. “It’s just the robots, fighting, with the audience along for the ride – literally.”

Heralded by an elaborate pyrotechnics ceremony, a Transformers song by the band Cheap Trick and a flyover of private jets, Transformers: The Ride opened last week to kick off the central Florida attractions summer season. Basically, the 4 1/2 minute ride is an interactive battle between the Autobots and Decepticons.The queue for the ride begins at the headquarters of NEST (Nonbiological Extraterrestrial Species Treaty). As the story goes, the evil Decepticons want Allspark, a source of energy nestled in NEST. Using flight simulator technology, movie screens, wind, smoke, heat and other effects, the ride takes guests after Decepticons, including Megatron, Grindor, Devastator, Sideswipe and Bonecrusher. Guests survive explosions, crashes, free falls, missiles and more as good wins out over evil, all in 3D.

Help Name Pluto’s Newly Discovered Moons

Pluto
Pluto is one of the little mysteries of our solar system. An icy dwarf planet far from Earth, it’s never been studied up close. The best scientists have been able to do is to examine it with the Hubble Space Telescope, one of the coolest scientific instruments ever invented.

In 2011 and 2012, they discovered two new moons around Pluto, bringing the total number of its satellites to five. Right now they’re known by the boring scientific designations S/2011 (134340) 1 and S/2012 (134340) 1. Most astronomers call them by the shorter yet equally boring nicknames P4 and P5. Now an online poll on the website Pluto Rocks!, run by Dr. Mark Showalter of the P4/P5 Discovery Team, is letting YOU help decide what to name them.

All the choices come from Greek and Roman mythology but one has a special significance for science fiction fans – Vulcan. None other than William Shatner has gotten behind the push to name one of the moons after Mr. Spock’s home world. He’s urging fans via his twitter feed to vote for Vulcan. On his own twitter feed, Leonard Nimoy said, “‘Vulcan’ is the logical choice. LLAP.” LLAP stands for “Live long and prosper,” of course.

According to the current tally, Vulcan is way ahead, with Cerberus and Styx neck-and-neck for second place. I decided to release my inner Trekkie and voted for Vulcan. Since there are two moons to be named, you get to go back and vote again. I’ll be voting for Thanatos. It’s way behind but it’s the coolest name on there after Vulcan.

P4 is Pluto’s smallest moon, measuring an estimated 8-21 miles across and orbits Pluto in about 31 days. P5 is 6-16 miles across and orbits Pluto in 20 days. Little is known about their physical makeup although it is thought they are a combination of water ice, other frozen elements and molecules, and small bits of rock.

While astronauts and space tourists won’t be getting to these destinations anytime soon, it’s nice to know that you had a part in naming them. Voting ends at noon EST on Monday, February 25.

[Photo courtesy NASA via the Hubble Space Telescope]