Random Result

No idea what this thing'll turn out to be about. Random thoughts, but...on a topic? Let's see.
  • I am of two minds about a recent development. On the one hand, I am irked that I have to rewrite a scene in one of my SF books. On the other hand, I am dancing for joy.

    Why? Tau Ceti not only has 5 planets, one of them's in its Goldilocks Zone. That planet, τ Ceti e, is calculated as having 4.29 times Earth's mass. But if you actually look on the Wikipedia article for τ Ceti, the mass is listed as "4.29±2.00". I.e., 2.29-6.29. And even if it has 4.3 times Earth's mass, if its radius is twice what Earth's is, it'll have the exact same gravity. And still have the mean density of aluminum, planets can vary quite a bit in their density.
  • Ancient Astronaut theorists really might wanna go learn some actual, you know, astronomy. A commenter on that Tau Ceti-Planets article there said he's more interested in "Orion's Belt", because the pyramids don't point to those stars because of some Pharaoh's whim.

    No, they point to those stars because of Egyptian astrology. The three stars of Orion's Belt certainly cannot host any alien civilizations. Mintaka (δ Orionis) is a B-class giant and an O-class subgiant, both nearly 100,000 times brighter than Sol; Alnitak (ζ Orionis) is a pair of O-class stars, a giant and a dwarf, orbited by a B-class giant, similarly brighter than Sol; and Alnilam (ε Orionis) is a blue supergiant 275,000 times brighter than Sol.

    Not only would those stars fry the bejeezus out of anything living anywhere near them, but they only last a few hundred thousand years. That's right, blue stars burn out in under a million years, that's how hot they are. Then they go nova, where do you think all the other stars get their heavy elements?
  • One of those articles on writing quoted, of all things, Cicero—"The difference between a good and a bad writer is shown by the order of his words as much as by the selection of them."

    But...Latin, especially the kind Cicero wrote in, is essentially word-order free, because it's so highly inflected. So what he was talking about was, e.g., which word goes last?—Latin was "head final", the most important thing in a sentence, which in normal speech is usually the verb, goes at the end. "Elephantus non capit murem" and "Murem non capit elephantus" are the same sentence ("an elephant does not catch a mouse"), but the first emphasizes "a mouse" and the other emphasizes "an elephant" (if you say "elephantus murem non capit" you're emphasizing "doesn't catch", only by shifting it to Latin's default syntax you're actually emphasizing nothing).

    English, however, like Afrikaans and Jamaican Patois ("English" is actually a Saxon-Norse-French creole), determines everything by word order (well, except for two verb inflections and the plural). There are about three things you can mess around with in English word order, and none of them are really doable outside of poetry.
  • If anyone has wondered why, when talking about what I have elsewhere termed "fumi-e fantasy", I mainly stick to discussing Martin and Moorcock, while neglecting Mieville, it is for two reasons. First, I am far more familiar with Martin and Moorcock than I am with Mieville. That's the main one.

    But also? Mieville is fairly infamous for being not merely anti-Israel or anti-Zionism, but pro-Palestinian terrorism; he ran for Parliament in the Socialist Workers' Party with the support of several of the most radical Muslim groups in Britain, and has been known to uncritically cite Intifada websites. At that point, he goes in the dumpster with John Norman, he's a walking strawman of his own position.
  • I find it interesting that people generally don't disagree with or criticize Tolkien, among other people, but rather their assumption of Tolkien. E.g., Orcs. Again, you assume Tolkien was saying Orcs are just born evil. Only, no, actually, he was saying evil mechanistic power likes to brainwash people until they are so mentally ill they have no ability to perceive morals. You plainly never read the Silmarillion or you'd know that. And if you disagree, you must've never noticed a little thing called "the 20th Century", because that's pretty much the big thing that happened.

    Also? Aragorn isn't a great king because of his blood. Before you shoot off your illiterate mouth, please consider what his blood is. On the human side, he's descended from people who made Sauron their chief priest and committed so much evil that the Valar sank half of Middle Earth to get rid of them. And on the elf side? He's a Noldor—the people who disobeyed the Valar, slew their kin to get their ships, and either followed Feänor in his evil oath, or hid out in Gondolin while Morkoth ran rampant on the world around them. His blood only gives him power, it's listening to people like Gandalf and Elrond that makes him a good king.
  • If one wanted to do something about sociolinguistics without Sapir-Whorf nonsense, how about the fact that in Japanese and Korean, there are far fewer polite fictions? The greetings mean, respectively, "Today" and "Be at peace"; upon being introduced you say either "indulge me" (Japanese only) or "for the the first time" (both); if you have to inconvenience someone you say "just for a moment" or "let me" (Japanese), or "this is/will be rude" (Korean). And yes, "sumimasen" means "just for a moment", its literal meaning is "it does not abide". Then again it's used idiomatically for things that might take awhile, so maybe it sometimes counts as a polite fiction.

    The only polite fictions I can think of are that in Japanese, you say a meal was a feast when you finish it, and in both, after being thanked you play it off as being nothing, saying "What did I do?" or "it's fine" (J, K respectively). In Japanese you can also respond to thanks with just "no" or "yes", much like how Americans sometimes just say "sure" or "uh-huh" (a habit I hear strikes most other English-speakers, except possibly Australians, as odd).
  • I am forever irked by the idea that intelligent characters are always great scientists (relatedly that fiction-writers largely don't know the difference between scientists and inventors, although to be fair in particle physics and computer science the line is very blurry). This is because scientists are our brahmins, we need to believe they were formed from the head of Purusha.

    As I have said before, the whole point of science, or any other system of thought, is to remove sheer brute intellect from the equation. The whole point of the "scientific method", to the extent there is such a thing, is to let anyone, regardless of their intelligence, discover facts about the world. Anyone who can follow verbal directions and record data can do science, although there is some intelligence involved in coming up with experiments to meaningfully test hypotheses.

    Also, the most intelligent living human (in terms of IQ)? She's a self-help columnist.
  • So you know the movie "Battleship"? Leave to one side that it was obviously made by the Covenant, to convince us that being glassed is precisely what we deserve; the interesting thing is, everyone thinks it was made by Michael Bay. But no, it wasn't, unless he's calling himself "Peter Berg" now.

    I think what it is, is basically the trope "All Animation Is Disney". Or in this instance, "All Dumb SFX-heavy Movies Whose Sole Redeeming Feature Is Patriotism Are Michael Bay".
  • You know those smartasses who like to correct you, when you say Proxima Centauri is the closest star to Earth (or α Centauri is, Proxima being α Centauri C)? Fine, yes, the Sun is the closest star to Earth, never mind that in actual human speech—not scientific discourse, princess, I mean the language we actually use—the sun is not a star, just as people are not animals, even though that's the biological kingdom they go in.

    But the way to do an end-around on these loathsome little beastlings, is to say "nearest star to the Solar System". Because the Sun is in the Solar System, that's why we call it that, and a thing is not generally said to be "near" to itself. Neener neener.
So it turned out to be random thoughts proper.

1 comment:

penny farthing said...

It's kind of mind blowing to think about how fast blue stars die. Assuming the stars in Orion's Belt are about halfway through their lifespans, they may not have been visible during the very first appearance of humans. That shouldn't be!