Robots don’t bleed motor oil.

I just wasted two hours of writing time calculating the specifics of a starship traveling from Epsilon Eridani to Rigil Kentaurus, little of which will be appreciated by the reader. We demand accuracy in other forms of literature, but for the most part, people are willing to give science fiction a pass.

I’m one of those people who cringe whenever we see spaceships flying like airplanes, when there’s sound in space, when robots “bleed” motor oil, or, and this is the worst, when aliens come to Earth to steal the water. It gets really bad when you see all of those in one movie.

Fans have complained to the creators and writers of Star Trek that warp speeds are not consistent, and that’s probably the least of Star Trek’s sins. I understand that the point is to tell a story, often one of social commentary, not give a physics lesson.

In the television show Firefly, there was no sound in space, but they abandoned this convention in the movie Serenity. In the book The Making of Star Trek, Stephen E. Whitfield describes how the showrunners actually added the Whoosh! in the credits after the fact, because it didn’t feel right when it wasn’t there.

If we encountered these kinds of factual errors in a murder mystery, we would cut the author no slack, because details are important.

Well, they’re important in science fiction, too. Or, they should be.

The Party of MAGA

It doesn’t surprise me that the MAGA party would condemn Weinstein and defend Moore. I predict that Moore won’t step down, and that he’ll win the election.

What does it mean when your party is more important to you than justice, than a balanced government, the lives of your children, and even your God? What does it mean when your love of your party is so important, that there is no line you won’t cross just to get another check in the W column?

Damned if I know. I’m an independent. But I wish somebody would explain it to me.

Why the dinosaurs went extinct. A short story.

     After decades of debate, name calling, and late night talk show jokes, a group of researchers got together and decided to determine, once and for all, why the dinosaurs went extinct. Was it an asteroid? Climate change? STDs? What?
     So they built a time machine, set the auto-pilot for 65 million years BCE and took a bunch of cameras with them.
     Much has changed in 65 million years, and while plants and animals evolved, so did microbes.
     ”Oops,” said one of the researchers, as they watched all the dinosaurs die from runny noses and upset stomachs. “How are we going to explain this?”
     ”What do you mean, ‘we’? This wasn’t my idea.”
     ”Crap! My career is over!”

Maheux, the planet nobody wants to visit.

The planet Maheux is a frontier planet orbiting Epsilon Eridani, 12.61 yl from Rigil Kentaurus. Native species are mostly insectoid, though none are sentient.

Named after famous entomologist who classified many of the species found there.

M = .9E   Atmosphere: 63% N2; 34% O2; 0.05% CO2; 2.95% other including variable amounts of water vapor. Sea level atmospheric pressure: 586 mmHg.

Maheux is not on anybody’s list of the ten places to see before you die. It is not considered picturesque, or romantic, and it’s over twelve lightyears away from anything civilized. The temperatures tend to be chilly, the atmosphere is mildly toxic, and there are few emergency services beyond the Bureau of Frontiers. Mineral rights are strictly regulated, and there are vast land areas where humans are forbidden due to the danger of contamination of the Maheux biomes.

You need to understand that nobody will care if you are killed by local organisms. They authorities will ask you to sign no fewer than five different forms stating that you understand that it’s a dangerous place to visit before you’re allowed to land. However, they will prosecute you to the fullest extent if you contaminate the place, even accidentally. So pack your garbage out!

Maheux has no major moon. The largest satellite is an artificial one, built on site by humans in order to regulate human commerce. Due to the lack of a moon, the planet has neither tides nor the stabilizing effect of the Earth’s moon. Over the aeons, Maheux’s axis tilts wildly. Without tides, there are no tidal zones or broad coastal tidal flats for evolution to get a good foothold on dry land.

Life on Maheux is at least as old as life on Earth, and biologists are eager to debate the subject if they think you’re even tangentially interested. There are lots of fish on Maheux, but no land based vertebrates. Just bugs. Insectoids of all shapes and sizes which would see any newly emerging life-form from the seas as a tasty morsel.

One of the major factors limiting the size of insects on Earth is the oxygen content of the atmosphere. Three hundred million years ago, the Earth’s atmosphere was over one-third oxygen, and terrestrial insects were much larger then. It’s the same with Maheux insectoids.

Maheux only has two large continents. Sort of like Pangea with a sister. Maheux as almost no tectonic activity, and planetologists love studying it for this reason alone. Without significant tectonic motion, there are no new mountains. Several major rivers drain the polar ice sheets, and without mountains, they flow across featureless desert plains, meandering like the Mississippi. The major parts of the continents that are separated from the seas by hundreds of kilometer of dry land are referred to as “vast inland deserts.”

There are researchers who claim that, while there is little overlap between biological chemistries between Maheux and other human occupied planets, there is too much overlap.

Polygons of Infinite Perimeter but Finite Area

There are damn few people whom I know will be interested in this post, but I wanted to record the idea anyway.

I came across an online math puzzle which states:

It is possible to increase the area of a regular triangle by placing smaller regular triangles on the middle thirds of its three sides. By so doing, you obtain a six-pointed star. The process can continue indefinitely. At each step, a smaller regular triangle is placed on the middle third of all the line segmens on the perimeter of the figure obtained from the previous step. Sketching the shapes obtained for the first few steps of this process is an interesting way to spend a few moments.

The perhaps surprising result is that this process converges to a fractal-like figure of infinite perimeter but of finite area. Can you determine the area limit?

A more interesting question arises. Can some similar process converge to a fractal-like figure of infinite perimeter but of zero area?

Regarding the first question:  in solving this problem, I discovered that the resulting figure is called a Koch Snowflake.  I solved it thus:

Image

Image

Regarding Part Two of the question: Can some similar process converge to a fractal-like figure of infinite perimeter but of zero area?

My first thought was to use a variation on the Koch Snowflake and subtract area instead of adding it.  I should have known that this process wouldn’t have worked, but it fascinated me for a couple of hours.

Image.

Image

So, it sums out to 6/15.  Just over a third of the original area.  Still an infinite perimeter.

Finally I lost interest and went to the website where the question was originally posted looking for the answer to Part Two of this problem, and the author said that the method which I just described above would result in “zero area.”  I tried to create an account so that I could respond to his answer and point out that, although 6/15 was close to zero (relatively) it just was no cigar.  However, the system was balky and wouldn’t let me create an account.

Even though the method didn’t work, it made for same pretty pictures, which I’m happy to share here.  If anybody reading this has another suggestion, I’m happy to talk about it.

Wand Archery

Wand archery is the practice of shooting at a wand stuck in the ground.  Since the same number of points are normally awarded for hitting the wand anywhere along its length, this offers a lot of freedom in elevation, but forces the archer to be very precise in windage.

In the example of the photograph, it was decided to vary the rules a little.  We were given 6 points if we struck the wand along the length that is within the wreath; 4 points if we struck the wand anywhere else, and two points if we put the arrows within the wreath but not touching the wand.  We all agreed that this was very generous of the event organizers.

There were other competitions, including a clout shoot from 100 meters, a timed Rat shoot, a roving hunt, a shooting gallery style rabbit hunt and the infamous steel pig.  More photographs will be availabe soon.

You can find pictures at this post.