specularium

Rebel Physics

Peter J. Carroll

Latest Blog Post

  • Spring Equinox 2017

    I hope that you have all acquired, and started to read twice, and thoroughly study MYOMT by Lionel Snell as mentioned in the previous blog. Nobody henceforth gets into the Illuminati without having done so.

    Finally, the season turns, the first toads have come to the pond at Chateaux Chaos and laid their astonishingly long strings of potential successors, and a solitary newt has appeared awaiting a mate. In the greenhouse, the three Greek Autumnalis Mandrakes have produced their best ever foliage but it will not last much longer and they have not yet flowered in their first five years. Thus, the plan to reintroduce them to the wild in the entire southwest of England will plainly take a century or two unless I resort to some genetic engineering.

    The Spring Equinox Druidical Neo-Pagan Easter/Ostara ritual went off delightfully. I could see no point in celebrating the season of fertility by some ghastly sacrificial crucifixion of the son of some Middle Eastern deity who got promoted to monotheistic position around 700BC. Therefore, we made eggshells full of wishes and spells and affirmations (mainly in chocolate) and invoked the god of the sun and the goddess of spring in many guises, and superbly personified by some of our members, to consecrate our ‘plantings’ for harvest at autumn.

    The arse end of winter seemed dominated for me by the dislocation of my shoulder a few weeks ago, occasioned by the over exuberance of our dopey giant sheepdog tugging me down a flight of slimy stone steps in the churchyard. The pain and shock seemed quite astonishing, for a moment, I felt a sort of ‘out of body experience’, a sort of superposition of the experience of standing at the top of the stone steps, lying at the bottom of it, and leaping up again shouting F*** innumerable times. My eldest up in Scotland caught a twinge of it at the exact moment according to a later call.

    A neurophysiologist at grove later explained this as a peculiarity of the fight-flight-freeze sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous system, but I dunno, it seemed very weird at the time. I can well appreciate why the inquisition used dislocation via the rack or the strapado as a method of torture.

    At A&E they asked me to evaluate my agony on a scale of 1-10. I could still imagine blowtorches and molten lead as more painful so I opted for 8, probably a mistake, but nevertheless four medics eventually knocked me out in the end and wrenched it back in.  On the bright side, I have partially mastered the awkward arts of left hand pickaxe, mattock, shovel, and sledgehammer, without too much collateral damage, round at the Memsahib’s community garden construction project. Yet at 64 this comes as an intimation of mortality and human frailness. I shall avoid surfing until at least midsummer. Whilst drowning reportedly seems a good way to go, I still have another 2 books to write, a further 3? grandchildren to welcome, New Zealand to visit, and a Michelangelo grade sculpture to make.

    Meanwhile on Arcanorium College we explore the experimental belief that extra-terrestrial intelligences may know stuff that we don’t yet quite understand.

    As Robert Anton Wilson said, ‘Magic is what you use when you have exhausted the possibilities of common sense’.

    Thus we scroll through all human knowledge on various topics such as consciousness, biology, ontology/epistemology, philosophy, spacetime cosmology, and quantum physics and then ask the Lovecraftian Necronomicon Mythos Elder Gods for the next bits, on the justifiable assumption that something in the universe probably already knows. Whilst I have historically taken a dim view of ‘channelling’ this does seem to have generated some very provocative feedback.

    Scotland has seen an export boom in the wake of the post-Brexit currency correction. The policy of the Loch Ness Sturgeon and the SNP of quitting Britain and joining the EU looks increasingly like an absurd posture. Scotland would implode economically without UK handouts and they know it, and they know they won’t get them from the EU now. The Scots just want a bit more autonomy and more subsidies.

    Jean Claude Junker threatens Brexit Britain with the sort of spiteful punishing EU exit conditions that surely confirm that no country in its right mind would have ever contemplated joining this failed synarchic superstate if it had known its real agenda. Only fear holds it together now.

    I recommend that we threaten to use the RAF and our missile arsenal to completely flatten the corrupt shite-hole of Brussels (having of course given a humanitarian warning to evacuate it first).

    Only the French have the capacity to retaliate but I suspect they would like to see the end of it too. Only the Germans and the Euro-Political class have profited from the EU.

    ‘Belgium’ remains a term of vilest abuse in most of the civilised cultures of the galaxy according to Douglas Adams, one can now see why. 

    Written on Tuesday, 21 March 2017 13:57 in Blog Read 67 times

Latest Games Post

  • Favorite Games

    Herewith a list of games that have particularly intrigued me over the years, some remain in print, some you can find easily on the net, others remain personal creations or in development. Games have made a considerable contribution to my thinking since an early age, not perhaps as much as books, yet interesting games function a bit like a books, and not only do they have a stories to tell in their structures but you can evolve stories as you play them or adapt them.

    Careers. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Careers_(board_game) I came across this at about age 12. I knew little about the world in those unsophisticated times and attended a grammar school where the English Master (a wily and provocative old cove) would occasionally announce ‘You are here to be educated as clerks, like your fathers’. Fortunately the school also had a science department, although nobody had a clue what you could do with a science education except become a science teacher. The school gave no career advice, it assumed you would either take one of the plentiful clerical jobs available at the time, or go to university and think of something whilst there. The game of Careers thus seemed an astonishing eye opener. Choose Wealth, Happiness, or Fame, join a whole series of professions, buy a yacht, in short; choose an Identity! All this seemed to sit in my subconscious till the mid-1970s, an era of plenty when career-anxiety seemed to give way to the search for personal identity in my peer group. I guess that I have always looked at life as a sort of board game. A lot of the assumptions built into the Careers game now seem simplistic but eventually it would perhaps have some influence over what I wrote in EPOCH, but more of that in a following article.

    The Game of Nations. This came out in the 1970’s to model the then current oil crisis. Players control abstract Middle –Eastern oil producing territories and vie to get wealth that they can spend on oil extraction, tankers, and pipelines, or on taking over adjoining territories. The game system does not involve dice but it does have uncertainties built in with event cards. Players can buy Politicians, Secret Agents, Monarchs, Dictators, and Guerrillas in an attempt to subvert or conquer additional territories. Today we should perhaps consider adding Theocrats as well, and making the map less abstract and updating the events cards.

    The Russians currently seem to play a strong hand in Syria. The West has perhaps made a mistake in supporting the ‘moderate’ rebels. Both sides need Iranian cooperation and support but if the Iranians come out of this on top then all hell may break loose if they go head to head with the Saudis.

     Diplomacy. This classic game of early 20th Century European alliances represents one of the few games which model WW1 in an interesting way. Apart from the naval battle of Jutland the battles of WW1 mainly got settled by terrible attrition rather than by interesting tactics and manoeuvres. In Diplomacy we see the bigger picture as nations make secret alliances and agreements off board and then simultaneously reveal their strategies to see what results. Historians argue constantly about the causes of WW1, but in this model scenario, war seems virtually inevitable if the game represents the actual diplomatic system of the time. The game however does really need 5 or more players, but you can play it over many days with perhaps a move a day, and with secret diplomatic notes passed around at tea and lunch breaks.

    Axis & Allies. The basic Axis & Allies game models WW2 from after it has started and Japan has attacked Hawaii and the Germans have attacked Russia. It can accommodate five players but it works well with just two. Basically it works a bit like the simple strategy game of ‘Risk!’ where you get extra forces for conquering more territory, however the forces consist of various types of land, sea, and air units which makes it far more detailed and engaging. Subsequent versions have striven for yet more detail and realism. The initial game suffered from the structural quirk that Japanese commanders with any sense should disengage quickly from the pacific and attack Russia in the east, thus virtually ensuring an Axis economic victory. However for historical reasons, notably the Nomonhan Incident, the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact and an Oil Embargo, they adopted a Pacific strategy. The critical role of oil supply in WW2 does not seem well reflected in the basic rules.

    Buck Rogers – Battle for the 25th Century. This quirky game never became very popular but you can get second-hand versions quite easily. It has an Axis and Allies type strategic structure but set in the inner solar system with spaceships and spacefaring troops disputing the control of Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, the Asteroids and various orbital facilities. It has the extraordinary feature of a variable geometry board. The Planets move around the Sun and you need to plan spacecraft trips accordingly. The basic game has some complications that I don’t find worthwhile; I have preferred to adapt the rules to make it more like Axis & Allies and also to use the Risk 2210 sci-fi pieces to provide more choices of troop type. 

    Discworld. Ankh-Morepork. Something extraordinary happened here and then a tragedy occurred. Perhaps by some happy chance a really good game got cobbled together in Ankh-Morepork, (two attempts to make sequels to it fell badly flat) but then after the death of Sir Terry Pratchett something went wrong with the rights and the publishers had to stop making it. Sets can now fetch several hundred pounds. The game has a bit of everything, it seems a bit like turbo-monopoly with assassination and magic, although amassing property may not necessarily win you the game because you don’t know which characters your opponents play. It works best with four players and it contains enough randomness and pageantry from the books to make it surprising and enjoyable for aficionados and beginners.

    Space Raid.  Interstellar board game design presents two major problems, firstly how to represent 3D space on a 2D board, and secondly how to allow for the vast distances and speeds involved. The designer needs to invoke or invent some reasonably credible but as yet undiscovered physics.

    In designing Space Raid, I opted for sheets of black board with numbered or named stars on them joined by pale green lines representing possible jump routes between them of lengths of up to a few parsecs, to produce a sort of spider web or network of jump routes with the stars at the nodes and with most stars connected to between 2 and 4 others by jump routes. On the board the jump routes have different apparent lengths to represent the reality of the stars not all lying in exactly the same plane, but perhaps lying in the thickness of the plane of a spiral galaxy.

    The starships move using (hypothetical) gravity focussing devices. By focussing the gravity drive exclusively on a nearby star, a ship accelerates towards it and achieve an immense velocity fairly quickly.  It then performs a slingshot manoeuvre around the star and as it hurtles away it uses the gravity focussing drive to brake against the star to eventually bring itself more or less to rest around another nearby star. Thus each time a ship makes a jump it leaves one star system, hurtles through another without stopping, and ends up in a third. Two further quirks of relativistically dubious speculative physics also occur in this scenario, initiating a jump sends out a non-local gravitational hyperwake through the system so all ships know when another has jumped, but not to where, plus all jumps take a very similar amount of time, irrespective of differing distances.

    Rather conveniently this leads to the situation where all ships on both sides can jump simultaneously but commanders don’t know the destinations of their opponent’s ships. So both sides secretly write down the next destinations of their ships and then both reveal them and move their ships and see if any have arrived at the same star systems, in which case combat begins. Plus ships passing through a star system in the middle part of their two star jump have such an enormous velocity that interception and combat remain impossible, however they can deploy kinetic energy weapons in passing, basically dropping rocks on very large targets like planets to create massive devastation. No defence exists against this except to intercept them well before they get within jump range of a star system with a base or colony on one of its planets. This does not seem unreasonable, the capacity for flight soon brought with it the capacity to wreck entire cities; the capacity of interstellar travel would probably bring with it the capacity to wreck entire planets. Players may agree to a treaty forbidding such tactics, or a severe loss of victory points if they break it.

    When opposing starships end up in the same system they can attempt to engage or evade each other using a variety of sensors, cloaking devices, and evasive tactics, force shields, particle beam weapons, and missiles. Each ship has a variety of factors for these and duelling proceeds through the use of asymmetric combat polygons. Ships can also exchange fire with orbital bases or with planetary bases.

    Written on Monday, 22 February 2016 14:34 in Games Read 1995 times

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