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Dead Lies Dreaming: Spoilers

I've been head-down in the guts of a novel this month, hence lack of blogging: purely by coincidence, I'm working on the next-but-one sequel to Dead Lies Dreaming.

Which reminds me that Dead Lies Dreaming came out nearly a month ago, and some of you probably have read it and have questions!

So feel free to ask me anything about the book in the comments below.

(Be warned that (a) there will probably be spoilers, and (b) I will probably not answer questions that would supply spoilers for the next books in the ongoing project.)

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1:

I found it a bit hard to understand whether the Bond (who was the Captain Hook analogue?) was going tragically off-piste because of his own toxic masculine bloodlust, or whether I missed the implications when Rupert briefed him, because Rupert wanted to challenge or eliminate Eve?

2:

The Bond has totally gone rogue -- but that's the whole point of James Bond in the first place: he's fucking with things he doesn't understand because he thinks he's in charge and can just shoot his way through problems. (In this respect the Bond is somewhat true to the original spirit of James Bond, who wasn't a spy so much as a drunk, sociopathic, government-licensed mass-murderer.)

3:

Thanks! Another one - will we ever find out what was the "bigger thing" Rupert was holding over Eve? Is it Chekov's geas?

4:

Yes: it's a significant sub-plot in In His House and the main driver behind the primary plot of Bones and Nightmares (currently in progress, not finished yet).

Suffice to say, the intersection of magic, contract law, and Rupert's offshore private jurisdiction is going to cause Eve serious problems. And we haven't seen the last of Rupe.

5:

Alexei from Novosibirsk is a happy callback to the Fuller Memorandum, but wasn’t he the one member of that team who was very definitely dead by the end of it?

Or am I seeing a contradiction where there’s actually a plot strand?

6:

I can't wait to read them! Dead Lies Dreaming was great and I'm really looking forward to where you take the series next.

7:

I laughed out loud at the KLF reference.

At some point I felt that there were quite a lot of coincidences, but it's a literary device and I can imagine it being part of the magic coming back to the world. I did enjoy the book, thank you for it!

8:

I'm not a native English speaker but I'm generally good at it; however, I really can't really decypher the title of the book: what does it exactly mean?

There are at leat two ways to read it:
- (someone) dead [subject] lies [verb] dreaming
- dead lies [subject, with "dead" being an attribute of "lies"] dreaming

Can you clarify this?

9:

"There are at least two ways to read it:"

When OGH first revealed the title, I assumed that the ambiguity (is "lies" a noun or a verb?) was deliberate.

A propos of nothing, it just occurred to me that The Odd Order Theorem would be a great title for a Laundry Files novel.

10:

What I found truly horrifying in this book was what happened to their mother; we already know how Schiller's church operated and their way to make converts, but we always seen only the end result (possessed fanatics) until now, not the thing itself happening, not to mention to a loved one; BTW, I was under the assumption that it was an instant process (you receive the host, you get possessed), not a gradual takeover of your soul... which makes it even worse, especially if the victim in question is presented as a real human being with real people caring for her.

That part is really, really creepy and dark and makes you hate those f**ing cultists even more than TAC and TDB together; Schiller and its church manage to upstage all the villains in this book with that single piece of backstory.

11:

And then, of course, there is the giant elephant in the room, the story about magic having actually existed in the past and then having disappeared some centuries ago for unexplained reasons, only to make its comeback now; and the whole can of worms about history having changed multiple times in order to avoid paradoxes and time travel to settle on a stable timeline (at least for now).

All of which I really hope has been left vague on purpose and will be explored in due course, because there are lots of tales to tell here...

12:

"I really can't really decypher the title of the book: what does it exactly mean?"

I think it also references HP Lovecraft's Call of Cthulhu:

"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn"
("In his house at R'lyeh, dead Cthulhu waits dreaming.").

13:

Oops, I was pretty sure he was the one member of the team who survived? (Other than wossname, the boss-man spymaster?)

14:

All of the above. (Heh.)

It was picked for resonance value, and for being a unique search term on Amazon and Google.

My original title for the book was "Lost Boys". Which fits with the Peter Pan references, and was mostly clear apart from the cult 1988 teen movie. Except I'd written it and guess what movie got re-made as a TV show on one of the big streaming services?

If you are a writer it is a very bad idea indeed to pick a title (or, hell, your own name) that is already occupied by a prominent media property, and at the time I had no way of knowing that "Lost Boys" (the new TV show) wouldn't be the next "Game of Thrones" by the time my book came out. So I had to change it.

The (current, they're not in production yet) trilogy titles are, in order:

Dead Lies Dreaming
In His House
Bones and Nightmares

If you read this as a half-assed Haiku riffing on Cthulhu you won't be far wrong.

They also deviate clearly from the Laundry Files title format, which is [Definite Article][Noun][Document-related Noun]. (Note: "stacks" and "morgue" are both unusual terms for some sort of repository or archive; "score" refers to a musical score, and so on.)

The reason for this is that despite "Dead Lies Dreaming" being marketed as Laundry Files book 10, it's actually book 1 of a series I gave the working (unofficial) title of "Tales of the New Management".

And, oh, not-a-spoiler here: "Bones and Nightmares" is a historical Laundryverse novel largely set in the early 19th century. So there!

15:

Eve's mother hasn't had communion with the tongue-eating thing, she's very much a member of the outer congregation. Hence the gradual brain rot.

A not-entirely-buried theme of this trilogy (it may turn out to be a longer series) is how and why magic was suppressed and why it's creeping back out into the world now. This was sort of hinted at in the documentary inserts in "The Concrete Jungle" but I never really had an opportunity to explore it properly until now.

16:

Yes. (But I wanted to avoid the keywords "R'lyeh" and "Cthulhu" because (a) way to give the game away, and (b) do not give your books titles which can easily be mis-heard or mis-spelled unless you enjoy lost sales.)

17:

So was I - I was utterly convinced he was the one that got away, and was chuckling to myself that he gets all the worst jobs. Then I went back to look at the Fuller ebook, did a name search, and he definitely gets his soul eaten when trying to steal from Bob.

I was sure that was someone else.

(I guess ripples in the timeline are a hazard here, but I was thinking they’d be confined to the fiction...)

18:

There are a couple of other continuity errors in the series -- usually across material written > 10 years apart. (When "Bones and Nightmares" is baked, the Laundryverse will contain 12 novels and about 75,000 words of short fiction, for a total of about 1.5 million words. I have middle-aged brain fade, and the fan-established wikia wiki is heavily contaminated with non-canon stuff developed for the role-playing game so I can't use it for reference.)

(Oh, and when B&N -- the Eve novel -- is baked, there will still be at least one novel to go in the original series, and maybe one or more non-Eve books in the new one: I'm pretty sure Wendy warrants a book of her own.)

19:

It's not clear to me how Eve ended up in possession of the hedge fund. The concordance and the house, sure, well explained, but the book's view of contract law doesn't apply to British courts, nor does it make the various fund managers obey. And I wouldn't expect Rupert's will to leave her shares.

20:

This becomes clear in the first two chapters of "In His House". To explain how at this point would be a huuuuuuge spoiler.

(It's the same reason that the Eve-as-dutiful-daughter we see in the flashbacks gets turned into the corporate crime gorgon we get to see in the rest of the novel, too.)

21:

Charlie
2: Bond is plainly a leftover from I Fleming ( & his associates' ) capers in WWII, when anything was allowed, operating under some minimal constraints in the post-Korean War era
15: ..how and why magic was suppressed and why it's creeping back out into the world now. .. I forget which Laundry bok, but it was v strongly hinted that this was the case, with excerpts from Youbhusband's diaries in one novel, & the methods used in the C19th for dealing with Gorgonism ....

22:

Greg: that was in "The Concrete Jungle", the second story in "The Atrocity Archives". It's been baked into the setting since 2002!

23:

I wondered as I was reading the novel why Rupert didn't just join the victorious opposition

MANICHEISM, n. The ancient Persian doctrine of an incessant warfare between Good and Evil. When Good gave up the fight the Persians joined the victorious Opposition. —Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

It became clear by the end, of course - retirement plans for high priests of other gods tend to be sketchy under the New Management.

24:

I was wondering about the seller of the book. It wasn't somebody who was conspiring with any of the main characters, right?

(oh, and the openid login seems to be broken; it didn't work for me: complained about not being able to load some object "0")

25:

You mention Dwarf Fortress in the book. c. You stated previously that Nethack was the height of computer graphics.c. Surely there is some mistake? c

26:

Ah, I see you stubbed your toe on my sense of humour.

Next you'll be telling me that Grace Jones never starred in a Luc Besson space opera :)

27:

Well, Dwarf Fortress has colour, and I know people who play NetHack with no colours. Personally, I like to be able to tell the purple h apart from others, so I play it with colours. The basic Dwarf Fortress uses fixed-width character graphics, but I have the impression you can run it with graphic tiles. I like that also in the original mode.

28:

Various things.

Well, I got the nethack joke! I tried it, once, in the early days, and wasn't prepared to tolerate such a gruesome user interface.

You seem to have left the major loose ends I noticed, deliberately. The history of the family and house, but also Wendy's background. Plus the big one, where your replies here puzzle me.

The "Why was there a campaign to suppress magic?" was obvious in the Atrocity Archives, but it is also historical. What brought me up short in Dead Lies Dreaming was "Why did that campaign succeed?" and/or "Why did it largely disappear?" The historical explanation is that science replaced magic, because it worked better, though magic is still going strong in Africa and elsewhere. But that doesn't ring true in the context of effective magic, and I read you as saying that there was some underlying reason it became less effective. Have I read that right?

29:

> Eve's mother hasn't had communion with the tongue-eating thing, she's very much
> a member of the outer congregation. Hence the gradual brain rot.

I'm sorry?
She actually HAD that thing in her mouth!
And quite for a while, according to the previous backstory fragments.

30:

Quoting:

>She blinked at him. “You mean, they literally planted something in her? Like what, one of the lesser daemones?”
>“Yes, exactly that. You can see it in her mouth when she eats—she’s avoiding the dentist, did you know that?”
>He spoke harshly. “It’s eating her soul, and I intend to kill it.”

>“Your mother is infected.” Using his thumbs at the sides of her jaw, he gently levered her mother’s mouth open. “Observe.”

>“What the fuck is that thing?” she snarled, wiping her runny nose on the back of her sleeve. She pointed past
>her mother’s sagging lips, at the silvery articulated shield nestling in her lower jaw like an armored parody
>of a normal tongue: “How did it get in there?”

>"It’s what that church she goes to uses in place of a communion wafer.”
>“But it’s eating her soul—”

What do you mean by "Eve's mother hasn't had communion with the tongue-eating thing"? Looks very much like she did indeed. And quite voluntarily, since she was already in thrall with that church (as opposite to restrained victims we've seen before).

But in TAC and TDB it looked more like the parasite instantly took over the victim's body as soon as it got in, while instead here it looks more like a progressive takeover over some time.

31:

I said what wait now?

No, not that contradictory. Let me retcon this: some of the congregation get fed from slowly and used as muscle, a few are stable and end up as the inner congregation: and the majority deteriorate, like Eve's mum. It is, in short, as messily distributed as any other human population's response to an endemic parasite.

32:

The magic thing:

Two phenomena are at work. One of them is a push/pull between authorities' desire for total control (which requires tightly locking down non-authority access to magic: thaumaturgic gun control in other words) and the subsequent generations' loss of institutional memory of why they're doing this thing to suppress something that obviously doesn't exist.

The second phenomenon is that, as Larry Niven noted wrt. SF dealing with time travel, a time line in which time travel is possible can only be stable if time travel never happens (because grandfather paradoxes or similar excise all occurences of it). If temporal distortions are a side effect of magic, then a universe which permits magic may destabilize itself until it arrives in a rest state where magic doesn't emerge. We've seen the ghost roads, we've seen access to variant pocket universes and/or time lines, there is some rather fucked-up shit in the background: the universe of the Laundry Files is constantly retconning itself. (In other words, it's not just that Bob is an unreliable narrator.)

33:

> Let me retcon this

Never underestimade the Sacred Retcon Power ;)

Anyway, that part was deeply scary and unsettling. Much more than some already-infested generic thugs hunting Persephone or Bob. The whole point of my comment was kudos for great horror writing, not looking for contradictions in mind parasite behaviour :)

34:

> there is some rather fucked-up shit in the background: the universe of the Laundry Files is constantly retconning itself.

As the comment immediately before clearly demonstrates ;)
See also Forecasting Ops and their not-so-stable existential status.

Hope to get a deeper (in-story) look at this; as you said, it's "some rather fucked-up shit", and I for me would love to see it in action.

35:

See also Forecasting Ops and their not-so-stable existential status.

If you side-eye them from the right perspective, well ... the rise of England (then the UK) from a relatively poor peripheral European mess (1000AD) to a troubled but gradually unifying regional nation that couldn't even hold onto its continental properties (1350AD), to a second-tier maritime power (1600AD) ... then suddenly to giant-ass thalassic world-empire that owns most of Africa and India and 25% of the world's land area and 50% of its manufacturing GDP (1850AD) does seem, on the face of it, a little implausible, yes?

One might ask what happened around 1600AD that kicked off such a meteoritic rise to hegemony. (And then lost it over the century 1850-1950.)

36:

Thank you. I see what you were saying, now.

Yes, the first was pretty obvious, and is horribly common in what we fondly imagine is real life. I take your point about the second, but it still leaves "why did it happen THEN, and exactly what happened?" as a loose end. Maybe you will tie it off, sometime; maybe you won't.

37:
a time line in which time travel is possible can only be stable if time travel never happens (because grandfather paradoxes or similar excise all occurrences of it).

Not quite true. A time-line can be stable if it has what I call "orthodoxes", because they are the opposite of paradoxes. For instance, suppose Einstein never developed General Relativity. Rather, he had a mysterious elderly visitor in 1910 who expounded the theory to him. He published, then later secretly developed a time machine, went back to 1910 and explained General Relativity to himself. This is disturbing, because in this timeline physicists know about GR, even though no one ever developed the theory. But there is no paradox, and no reason that such a timeline need be unstable.

This leads to the idea of the "grandfather orthodox", where you go back in time and become your own grandfather. This has appeared in Science Fiction (the most famous example is the Heinlein story "All You Zombies"), but it is much less popular as a plot device than versions of time travel in which paradoxes can occur, leading to branching timelines, as described in detail by David Deutsch. A less famous example is the movie Timerider, in which the motorcyclist Lyle Swann travels back in time to become his own great-great-grandfather. This leads to interesting questions about his racial origins, and about who made the medallion he gave to his great-great-grandmother.

It is interesting to notice that these two views of time travel are the natural expectations resulting from the two great revolutionary physical theories of the early 20th century: GR, which views the universe as a self-consistent spacetime continuum, and quantum mechanics, which (in the MWI) sees the universe as infinitely multifurcating.

38:

Charlie @ 35
Two things, one taking 45 years & the other, right at the end of that period, lasting a single day, with "local" effects lasting a couple of months
The first was the first overthrow of an absolutist monarchy - then an absolutist-"republic" - then an uneasy compromise, follwed by a constitutional moanrchy/fledgling democracy.
The second was a massive injection of talent, inventiveness & drive by a single shot of displaced religious, moderate-protestant refugees: The Huguenots.
The latter also bolstered the natural antipathy to the local great power ( Louis XIV's France ) - so that the much-rejuvanated new nation simply went out & took it away from them ... & then ... the planet.
The "loss" - everyone else caught up + two utterly disatrous wars, which expended the blood & treasure ....

"A single day"
22 October 1685 Edict of Fontainbleu
Some sources asy 17th October .....

39:

I mostly interpreted it as an elder god tool similar to vampirism: the slow-soul-eating one grants the host power / divine communion / whatever. At the cost of, literally, consuming the soul of the host. This allows for autonomy and devotion, rather than some elder mind having to keep track of the human resources, while at the same time feeding the monster.

40:

I loved this book, and I loved the queer-as-heck found family around Imp. Also enjoyed the references to 90s British electronica--not just the KLF (Justified Ancients), but I also did a double-take at the earlier The Shamen reference (Ebenezer Goode). I had to actually go digging online to find if that was indeed a reference or if that was at some point an actual person!

Could the situation of Magic in the Laundryverse be somewhat closer to that quote by Robert Anton Wilson? "The border between the Real and the Unreal is not fixed, but just marks the last place where rival gangs of shamans fought each other to a standstill."

Except replace 'shamans' with 'human practitioners, elder gods, gibbering horrors from beyond, demons, elves, ancient pharoahs, etc etc etc'. Also no longer a standstill but more of a boiling-over cauldron.

41:

In parallel computing, that's known as "out of thin air" effects, and occur on some architectures. It's surprisingly tricky, both to get your head around and to handle mathematically. Most science fiction uses just the easy case: where there is a single, isolated, stable "orthodox". I have tried and failed to think of a way of thinking about them more generally, and know other experts who have also failed. There MAY be people good enough, but there won't be many; I don't know of any.

Depending on your viewpoint, that offers either great scope for science fiction, or is a morass better avoided :-)

42:

I take it you haven't read "Palimpsest", then?

Won the 2010 Hugo award for best novella, deals with exactly this sort of thing, can't think who might have written it ...

43:

I have, in fact, read Palimpset.

44:

assuming you mean the Catherynne Valente novel, and not the one by Gore Vidal, which I haven't read.

45:

Oh, I see you're referring to a book of your own. Not available on Kindle, so I haven't read it.

46:

It is available on Kindle.

(Along with "Missile Gap", which won the 2007 Locus award for best novella, "Overtime", which was a Hugo nominee in some other year, and a bunch of other stories.)

47:

Ah, thank you. I am embarrassed to admit that I have in fact read it, but didn't remember the name.

48:

Though it takes a different approach to what I understood him to mean, and what I was describing. It struck me as a self-consistent model, but I tried to think of it in terms of a physical theory, and failed :-) This is one of the many areas where I know that I am out of my depth ....

I shall be very interested to see what you do if you explore the questions in #36.

49:

I will have to re-read it to find out why you thought that someone who had read it could not have written what I wrote above.

50:

> "Overtime"

Which marks, on a totally unrelated note, the first appearence of Forecasting Ops and their ability to retroactively unestablish themselves if their existence would lead to a terrible outcome.
And then somewhat exist again after the terrible outcome didn't happen.

51:

there is some rather fucked-up shit in the background: the universe of the Laundry Files is constantly retconning itself. (In other words, it's not just that Bob is an unreliable narrator.)

And yet you keep saying this isn't the same universe as Palimpses (/ducking and running).

52:

If you side-eye them from the right perspective, well ... the rise of England (then the UK) from a relatively poor peripheral European mess (1000AD) to a troubled but gradually unifying regional nation that couldn't even hold onto its continental properties (1350AD), to a second-tier maritime power (1600AD) ... then suddenly to giant-ass thalassic world-empire that owns most of Africa and India and 25% of the world's land area and 50% of its manufacturing GDP (1850AD) does seem, on the face of it, a little implausible, yes? One might ask what happened around 1600AD that kicked off such a meteoritic rise to hegemony. (And then lost it over the century 1850-1950.)

First, I thought the British Empire maxed out in 1920 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_empires).

Second, I'm quite sure that magic is the cause, and not that the UK had wonderfully exploitable reserves of coal and iron ore right when the industrial revolution kicked off, and followed that up by luckily claiming the Ganges Delta (through the British East India Company) in the late 18th Century, thereby giving itself a huge and unending supply of saltpeter.

But yes, magic was definitely it, which explains why Churchill was a druid and not a theosophist.

53:

Massimo @ 11: And then, of course, there is the giant elephant in the room, the story about magic having actually existed in the past and then having disappeared some centuries ago for unexplained reasons, only to make its comeback now; and the whole can of worms about history having changed multiple times in order to avoid paradoxes and time travel to settle on a stable timeline (at least for now).

All of which I really hope has been left vague on purpose and will be explored in due course, because there are lots of tales to tell here...

I thought that was all obviously inherent in the whole concept. If "Case Nightmare Green" is what happens when "the stars come into alignment", doesn't that suggest that someday they will again go out of alignment? If so, they must have come into & gone out of alignment previously and will probably do so many times again before the whole universe just finally goes away.

Also, who had the power to put "the sleeper in the pyramid" to sleep & why aren't they still around to keep an eye on him to make sure he doesn't get loose again? Why did they put him to sleep in the first place?

54:

JW @ 17: So was I - I was utterly convinced he was the one that got away, and was chuckling to myself that he gets all the worst jobs. Then I went back to look at the Fuller ebook, did a name search, and he definitely gets his soul eaten when trying to steal from Bob.

I was sure that was someone else.

(I guess ripples in the timeline are a hazard here, but I was thinking they’d be confined to the fiction...)

OTOH, if I was to look in the Novosibirsk phone book, how many Alexeis might I find? Haven't read the book yet, but is it possible this could be a different Alexei from Novosibirsk? Even if they both worked for the KGB.

55:

Well, one scenario I'm playing with is the idea that magic is resilient, science is productive. Since these tend to require opposite adaptions (resilience is about minimizing loss, while productivity is about maximizing gain), it would explain why science beats out magic, at least in the short run. In the long run, if science can't make for a resilient civilization (case in point: 2020) then the magic comes back in the ruins.

With respect to the Laundryverse, we could add the additional complication that introducing magic to a highly productive system is dangerous, because it attracts Things from the Dungeon Dimensions outside, and this can cause the system to crash in various and diverse ways. The real world analogy is what's happened in the US and Australian with the abandonment of indigenous fire management systems and the institution of scientific forestry and range management. The fires didn't go away, but they have gone out of control. Re-establishing a resilient fire management system is likely to take centuries to millennia, especially with a changing climate.

Anyway, in a "primitive" magic system (low density of humans living in a resilient fashion), a couple of things keep the monsters away. One is that with few people, mathematics tends to stay simple, so all the dangerous possibilities opened up by modern math theory remain mostly unexploited. Another is that power-hungry psychopaths tend to get ostracized, especially in really low tech conditions, because they're a real danger, not useful warlords as in more dense cultures. That may in turn keep the serious monsters away, at the expense of having low level monsters endemic in the system.


56:

Charlie - speaking of time travel, did you read The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.? What did you think? I enjoyed it, and it had an interesting perspective on magic and time travel; if not necessarily full self-consistent it least admitted some great storytelling.

(rot13: Gur ivxvat fntn bs gur Jnyzneg envq ernyyl znqr gur obbx sbe zr.)

57:

"Gur ivxvat fntn bs gur Jnyzneg envq ernyyl znqr gur obbx sbe zr."

Yes, that was a lot of fun.

58:

> If "Case Nightmare Green" is what happens when "the stars come into alignment", doesn't that suggest that someday
> they will again go out of alignment? If so, they must have come into & gone out of alignment previously and will
> probably do so many times again before the whole universe just finally goes away.
>
>Also, who had the power to put "the sleeper in the pyramid" to sleep & why aren't they still around to keep an eye on him
> to make sure he doesn't get loose again? Why did they put him to sleep in the first place?

I TOTALLY want to know this. Let's hope OGH is into worldbuilding.

59:

I dead-ended halfway through; ought to go back to it some time, but it felt highly repetitive at that point. (Could have done with a bit of shortening.)

60:

“ We've seen the ghost roads, we've seen access to variant pocket universes and/or time lines, there is some rather fucked-up shit in the background: the universe of the Laundry Files is constantly retconning itself. (In other words, it's not just that Bob is an unreliable narrator.)”

Yeah, this was the bit I was wondering about with regard to Alexei - especially given the time travel elements of the book. I wasn’t sure if I was missing a deliberate easter egg that hinted this had happened to him.

Thinking about it, the fate of the last Russian wasn’t explicitly called out, was it? The book had changed hands by that point, so did the Lares still go after them? Or is that plot for another time?

61:

No. As OGH says, its heyday was roughly 1850-1900. The Boer war was the writing on the wall, and WW I and its consequences marked its loss of near-total hegemony. See 1066 And All That, which was actually used as a history book when I was at school! As with organic systems, the time of massive extent of often later than the time they start to break apart.

62:

Damn. I forgot to add this. As I have said more than once before, Diamond is quite simply wrong - the UK iron and coal resources were nothing exceptional - look at a good atlas, and you will see lots of other places that have at least as much of both. And the industrial revolution had more-or-less completed before it became worthwhile to ship such things from even eastern or southern Europe or north Africa, let alone any colonies. Yes, there are lots of places that DON'T, which explains some non-developments.

63:

That is stated, a good many times, yes, but more as a mantra than a description. The usual explanation in the books is the amount of computational power (including brains). OGH has mentioned above that he may go into it in more depth in a future book, so we shall all have to be patient :-(

64:

Are those not the same question?
I assumed the Sleeper was asleep at least partly because The Stars Were Not Right.

65:

power-hungry psychopaths tend to get ostracized, especially in really low tech conditions, because they're a real danger, not useful warlords as in more dense cultures

I am not sure I remember exactly where, but I have read recently that there is a pattern in small group societies where (it's always) men who become, as you say, power hungry psychopaths (for whatever measure of such things is important in the society in question) are killed quietly in their sleep, often with the responsibility to do so delegated to their closest (female) relative or spouse. It might have been David Graeber.

I'm not sure about the usefulness of warlords, but as a species we do certainly seem to have made plenty of them.

66:

I'm going to be slow responding to questions here for a while because there seems to be a major ongoing broadband failure with British Telecom, affecting the whole of London and knocking me offline here in Edinburgh (and I know of folks affected in Glasgow and Manchester too ...)

I don't feel like burning gigabytes of mobile data, so I'll play catch-up once the cable internet is working again. Humph.

67:

waldo @ 64: Are those not the same question?

I don't know. Maybe?

I assumed the Sleeper was asleep at least partly because The Stars Were Not Right.

Ok then. What was he doing before he lay down for his little nap that has everyone so upset about waking him up?

68:

Why was magic suppressed - don't tell me it was all Newton's fault!

69:

Damn. I forgot to add this. As I have said more than once before, Diamond is quite simply wrong - the UK iron and coal resources were nothing exceptional - look at a good atlas, and you will see lots of other places that have at least as much of both. And the industrial revolution had more-or-less completed before it became worthwhile to ship such things from even eastern or southern Europe or north Africa, let alone any colonies. Yes, there are lots of places that DON'T, which explains some non-developments.

Nope. Go check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_coal_mining

Here's the short version:
--Even the classical Greeks knew about coal being *really good* for metallurgy. However, they only used surface deposits, and when those were gone, that was it. This was also true of China and elsewhere. The lesson? Coal isn't magical stuff, and if you put a deposit of it near a smith, they use it.
--Two places in the world combined good metallurgy and abundant coal: China and England. In England, the Romans were using coal to do stuff during their time in Britain, and the Chinese used coal from 400 BCE on. The lesson here: supplies matter. I'll come back to this.
--Coal was used and traded in Medieval Britain, and finally took off when people started mining it in tunnels in 1575.

So, if I had to answer the question about why China and Britain both formed world-spanning powers, I'd throw this up as a hypothesis that abundant deposits of iron, coal, and the means to exploit both is one of the necessary precursors.

And that's the key point that goes back to the bronze age: bronze started in places where tin and copper were relatively close to each other (within a few hundred kilometers), AND there was the technology for making fires hot enough to melt both.

This last is also critical. Bronze age Britain had some use for coal as heating, but less use for iron ore because they couldn't smelt the stuff. Equally, there is (was) a good tin mine in southern California (mostly worked out) and there was abundant copper ore in the California desert and even more east, where it was mined as the famous Arizona turquoise.

Why didn't the Puebloan Indians and California Indians couldn't make a hot enough fire to melt either of the ores. Even their pottery is low-heat earthenwear, not fully melted ceramics. Some copper ores were good for jewelry, but not for tool-making.

Anyway, I didn't get this from Diamond, but by doing my own constraints analysis. It's a good exercise, especially now, when the world increasingly depends on a different set of elements, including rare earths and lithium. Where those are abundant and in close proximity, I'll bet that country is going to be a global powerhouse. Incidentally, the biggest rare earth miner on the planet at the moment is China...

A similar analysis worked for oil during the 20th Century.

70:

Assuming for a second it was put to sleep by something/someone rather than fell asleep as lack of mana (oxygen) made it sleepy, then I assume it will be coming back pissed off and angry.

It seems to me that a pissed off avatar/larval stage of an Elder God is something to keep creating Preta’s/zombies to sing lullabyes to.

71:

A line got deleted, sorry.

The background was me asking why North America never had a bronze age, given that Native Americans were pounding on native copper five thousand years ago and abandoned the technology. I was thinking alt-history, as I often do. It got weirder when I found out that the southwestern US had active tin and copper mines, certainly enough to start a bronze age. Why didn't they?

The answer, I think, is kilns, which they didn't have.

The background: people have been pounding rocks on rocks for millions of years, so finding a rock that deformed (like an iron meteor or copper ore) is eminently possible, if such things exist in an area. Also, people have been cooking rocks for a very long time: burying chert under a fire is one way to change the crystalline properties so that it flakes to a sharper edge. So the idea of cooking rocks and banging them on things are ancient and/or spontaneously arising. They're not constraints.

What is a constraint is the heat of the fire. Too cool a fire, and you can't melt ores or metals, or alloy them. That heat requires kilns. For whatever reason, kilns showed up possibly 12,000 years ago in Turkey (not sure I believe the evidence, but they're old). Again, there's a use for them: making better pots. Simple earthenware can be made in a campfire, but if you want to melt the silicon in the clay and make a harder pot of ceramic or porcelain, you need a kiln. Kiln-like structures are also what you use to smelt ores to get metals, so advances in making hotter kilns to make better pots feed into efforts to cook rocks to see what happens when they melt, and whether the resulting material is good for anything.

Kilns seem to be missing from Native North America, and the analogous technology showed up less than 2,000 years ago in South America. Conversely, kilns showed up ~5,000 plus years ago in Asia Minor and maybe ~4,000 years ago in China (not sure what happened in southeast Asia, but they're similar). Along with these came metallurgy, and soon thereafter, alloys, such as bronze. Get the fires a bit hotter, and you can smelt iron and make porcelain.

That's where I came up with the notion that huge technical advances happen where the stuff you need is available, as is the technology to process it. Without all three in place, the technological revolution doesn't happen. And for the technology to be in place, it has to be adapted from some other purpose, or (as in the case of wheels and carts), someone's got to be a real genius.

I now return you to the regularly scheduled spoiler thread. Just remember, it's all magic, that's the important bit.

72:

By the end of the 17th century, industrialisation was well under way in Britain, as was its thassalocracy. Coke only gradually replaced charcoal during the 18th century, and was not used for iron smelting in the 17th century. How things would have developed if Britain had lacked one or the other of coal and iron is unclear, but it is NOT true that the easy availability of both was the reason for our development of either our industrialisation or thassalocracy.

Sweden has ample high-grade ore and forests, and did not develop in the same way. You should also look up Zimbabwe, for an example of somewhere that had both in ample supply. I can't remember the other examples I found offhand. You need to be more careful distinguishing what happened, historically, from what COULD have happened.

I am baffled by your remark about oil, given what happened in Europe and the near east.

73:

The plot detail that caused me to worry a bit concerned Eve's "coffee making skills" as applied to the Bond. She took something of a risk heating the entire brain, didn't she?

The SAS and SO14 try to get a pistol shot into the brain stem to prevent the target counter attacking. Just heating this area ought to be quicker.

However, two other potential uses occur to me. Heating an eye ball or middle ear should cause rapid sensory deprivation, not to mention causing some "explosive yuck" worth writing about.

But if you really want to disable someone and continue chatting, how about just heating the spinal cord between C4 and C5 for "instant quadraplegia"?

74:

She could also move things around. Brains are pretty mushy. Just grab a good chunk of brain and twist it upside down.

Though having said that, it was so refreshing to see super hero powers used in the obvious way. Many years ago my younger brother came home from his first D&D game. He'd been playing a weak, recently rolled character that had very limited teleport powers. Just one pound, one foot. Obviously intended to be a starting point as a magic user, but of no practical value. First fight: "I teleport the middle of his brain one foot to the left".

Since then every superhero or magic story I've seen or read (other than those written by OGH), all I can think is "why don't they just...."

75:

I just assumed it is hard to target, like I dunno spitting precisely onto a small target a meter away. Like, she would have to somehow will the correct distance as well as direction.

Also, according to the book she can heat up 500 grams of water to near boil in a minute, which is about 2.7 kilowatts.

If she could focus it she would be able to cut through various metal objects etc.

76:

Friend of mine was working on a young adult story a decade or two ago, which had weakly-powered preteens/young teens. One of the characters had very weak telekinesis. Turns out when you start pulling their nose hairs even big bullies go where you want them to :-)

77:
But if you really want to disable someone and continue chatting, how about just heating the spinal cord between C4 and C5 for "instant quadraplegia"?
Are you thinking of a certain Bujold novel? I certainly am.
78:

There's a bit where she picks the coffee grounds out of the brewing coffee and leaves the brew behind. That's pretty fine control. She can't see the grounds in the mug "on the far wall". Admittedly that's the telekinesis not the heating power, but it's indicative.

My first thought on first reading was "she could rip the neurons out of your brain and leave the brain behind." on reflection that might not be possible, but the equivalent of stirring your brain with a teaspoon certainly is. It's overwhelming in its implied lethality. It takes Imp a second to digest it, but then,"his mouth dried up".

79:

I wrote a piece about supervillains, and superpowers, a couple years ago, that was eventually published in the WSFA Journal (DC area sf club).

As for what *real* superpowers people would do, it's not, as Tom Smith sings, "out bashin' baddies in their BVDs".

But you'll have to wait for my novel to come out, and I'm thinking that might be next summer.

Yes. I was at ROFCON in Oct, and had a chance to pitch the novel, and was invited to submit. Got an email this past Wed, I think... and I'm in the process of fixing what Walt, the editor, wants fixed, before they buy it.

YEE-HAAA!!!!

80:

Oh, damn, the blog invisibled the link. Let me try again:
http://mrw.5-cent.us/supervillians.html

81:

Hey, congrats for the novel!

82:

That's great news! I'm looking forward to it.

83:

hmm yes global universal information access

Dwarf Fortress is getting a graphical overhaul real soon now in 2020 (announced in 2019)

Dead Lies Dreaming is set in 2016.

84:

What is it with the Russian characters dialogue being rendered in broken English even when they're speaking Russian with each other?

"Is fucking library. How the fuck we meant to find right book?"

85:

(It's the same reason that the Eve-as-dutiful-daughter we see in the flashbacks gets turned into the corporate crime gorgon we get to see in the rest of the novel, too.)

My guess? Combined with Rupert's 'greater hold' and the fact you said we haven't seen the last of him, this is analogous to how we no longer have an Angleton but we still have an Eater of Souls. He's literally living rent-free inside her head.

86:

Yep.

There's a talk Eve doesn't get to give in the final draft in which she lectures Imp on the three P's of direct mentally controlled magic: Precision, Power, and Perception. Perception: it's no good being able to burn holes in a target if you can't see it because your radiation vision is blocked by 10 centimetres of air. Power: it's a log scale, and you don't need anything like as much energy as a locomotive to kill an enemy messily and instantly if you've got a precise lock on their C4/C5 vertebrae, as noted. Precision is a good substitute for raw Power, as demonstrated.

Oh, and Eve's perception is the card she palmed. She's quite weak (low power), precise enough to pick the tumblers in a lock (better than milimetric precision), but the killer talent that drags it together is that she can "feel" inside objects my trying to manipulate them and sensing the degree of resistance, which gives her something that's in practical terms more useful than X-ray vision (to a non-radiographer).

87:

I quite often need to work on household 'things' where access and vision are obstructed or impossible, and can witness how true that is! The usefulness of raw power is seriously overstated.

Incidentally, in addition to the half dozen ways to kill people with very little power, and the wonderful nose-hair method, mucking up their semi-circular canals will disable most people to an extent that has to be experienced to be believed. Provided those are not damaged, recovery after that stops takes mere seconds.

88:

What is it with the Russian characters dialogue being rendered in broken English even when they're speaking Russian with each other?

This is actually fairly accurate literal translation of Russian, as it lacks definite (and IIRC indefinite) articles such as "the" and "a." A Russian speaker would literally say "we are in library." "How the fuck" is of course a translation of a whole phrase rather than the individual words.

89:

This is actually fairly accurate literal translation of Russian, as it lacks definite (and IIRC indefinite) articles such as "the" and "a."

Yes, but I don't think dialogue should be done like this. You wouldn't want a Chinese character to sound like a fortune cookie when talking in Mandarin, just because (if I recall my very basic Mandarin correctly) something like "Zhao say he want money" might be said to be the accurate literal translation. This makes the speaker sound like a simpleton, and it is not really a good look when writing foreign people. (Compare this to the way Panin speaks Russian in the Fuller Memorandum; it is not decipted with broken English and thus he does not sound like a caricature.)

90:

"--Even the classical Greeks knew about coal being *really good* for metallurgy. However, they only used surface deposits, and when those were gone, that was it. This was also true of China and elsewhere. The lesson? Coal isn't magical stuff, and if you put a deposit of it near a smith, they use it."

Here I have to disagree, unprocessed coal is *bad* for making steel, because it is full of chemical impurities that ruin the metal. You need to hit upon the idea of coking before you can use it for good quality iron or steel. Before that idea mined coal is worse than tree coal.

Quote from here : https://acoup.blog/2020/09/25/collections-iron-how-did-they-make-it-part-ii-trees-for-blooms/

"Instead, the fuel I gather most people assume was used (to the point that it is what many video-game crafting systems set for) was coal. The problem with coal is that it has to go through a process of coking in order to create a pure mass of carbon (called ‘coke’) which is suitable for use. Without that conversion, the coal itself both does not burn hot enough, but also is apt to contain lots of sulfur, which will ruin the metal being made with it, as the iron will absorb the sulfur and produce an inferior alloy (sulfur makes the metal brittle, causing it to break rather than bend, and makes it harder to weld too). "


By the way good steel was not coming from China, but from India :


https://acoup.blog/2020/11/06/collections-iron-how-did-they-make-it-addendum-crucible-steel-and-cast-iron/


the cast iron made in China was most often inferior and very wastefull in energy to get to an acceptable grade of steel.

91:

Great read Charlie. Very cool characters and parallels nicely with the Laundryverse. One question regarding the finale between Eve and the Bond. Shouldn’t the Bond’s ward, which protected his person from Imp’s magic earlier, prevent Eve from parboiling his noggin? The mechanics of wards is a tad unclear. Preventing influence but not energistic magical effects?

92:

I'm not arguing about wootz, I'm arguing about industrialization, and we need to get our timelines disentangled as well.

To be fair, I don't know enough about the history of India to know whether they had a nascent industrial base or make coke from coal. Their long-term mastery of iron is unquestioned (cf: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_pillar_of_Delhi).

However, the Chinese were producing coke at the same time that the Iron Pillar of Delhi was constructed around the 4th Century CE(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coke_(fuel)#History). They implemented large-scale iron manufacturing with coke in the 11th century (within a century or two of when they introduced guns to warfare) and a Brit patented the process in 1589.

Again, there's not a genius-level jump in making coke from coal. It's an analogous process to cooking wood to make hotter-burning charcoal, which is something smiths and others figured out at the beginning of the Bronze Age. It's not hard to speculate that a smith who wanted something even hotter than coal would have thrown some coal into a charcoal-making operation to see what happened.

And finally note that modern blacksmiths use both coal (not coke) and charcoal (cf: https://feltmagnet.com/crafts/Basic-Blacksmithing-coal-charcoal-or-propane-for-forge-fuel, or watch episodes of Forged in Fire). The problem is that scaling charcoal and coal-heated forging likely runs into fuel constraints, because they burn cooler and introduce all sorts of interesting things into the iron if they're of low quality. Coke is better, and you're right, having a lot of coal and making coke with it is one of the keys to industrialization.

93:

This is actually fairly accurate literal translation of Russian, as it lacks definite (and IIRC indefinite) articles such as "the" and "a."

That's right. No "a", "and" or "the" and learning to use them isn't easy. Also, Russian has a robust system of noun inflections (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, instrumental, prepositional, vocative) that allow it to say things in one word that take a word plus prepositions or other modifiers in English. That's frequently encountered in possessives, which in Russian usually just employ the genitive case but in English can be rendered with the " 's " construction, "of", or often with an adjectival noun. " 's " would kind of correspond to the genitive case if English still had such.

Language ain't easy.

94:

>No "a", "and" or "the"

Arg. "and" -> "an", of course. Dratted fingers...

95:

Thanks for that site - very interesting. This page is highly relevant, too:

https://acoup.blog/2020/09/18/collections-iron-how-did-they-make-it-part-i-mining/

These maps are relevant, too, especially when you note that the coppicing productivity in wet tropical areas is several times that of it in northern Europe and most of China.

http://image.slidesharecdn.com/topic3-sedimentarymanganesandironoredeposits-151123211157-lva1-app6891/95/sedimentary-manganes-and-iron-ore-deposits-28-638.jpg?cb=1448313204
https://grandemotte.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/global-coal-fields.jpg

96:

It seems to me that if one takes multiple civilizations that developed in different regions, one will find common elements. Then by filtering out common elements that aren't plausible prerequisites, then the only elements left are plausibly-sounding prerequisites.

Because of that, I'm skeptical of such environmental determinism.

In addition, it is easy to dismiss locations that had those elements but failed to develop (for however you define "develop" - and that's a big can of worms) because the honest truth is that for almost all of the time there's been humans displaying behavioral modernity, we spent most of that time in the stone age.

So as far as this line of speculation goes, I find it not disprovable, which makes it a horrible theory.

It reminds me of online discussions where someone pretends to be a member of an alternative timeline and asks a counterfactual question like "why didn't Europe colonize the world?", to which other people come up with reasons that sound quite plausible except they are disproved by our reality.

As for magic being the reason for the rise of the British Empire in the Laundryverse: did other far-flung empires also require magic? Did the Romans? The Spanish? What's the cutoff? It does seem like New Management is fond of Tzompantli, which may hint at the Triple Alliance having knowledge of practical magic, although we aren't told if it was necessary for the size of the Aztec Empire.

97:

There's another answer. In Kurtz' first Deryni trilogy (from the seventies, IIRC), at the end, the now-king kills the bad guy... by stopping his heart. Mental hand around the heart, and squeeze....

You could probably close a vein, as well.

98:

Consider this: one of my beta readers on the new novel comments was that she was having trouble telling my people apart, because they all spoke the same way. I had to make changes to give people accents, or to speak more formally (few-to-no contractions), etc, to make them more distinguishable.

I don't think Charlie's usage of that is giving them pidgin, it makes real clear what group, at least, is speaking.

99:

Great maps, and I appreciate both of you pointing me to acoup.

One other note is that not all coals are the same. Good old carboniferous-era anthracite coal has the highest carbon content and lowest level of impurities, while bituminous coal can be more rock than carbon at the worst end and is full of crap. It's also younger. I had to deal with these when I was trying to understand climate change. Coal shows up almost everywhere in the fossil record. It's basically dead, buried marshes and swamps. Since these are depositional environments pretty much by definition (being low-lying areas), the absence of coal in the fossil record means that there are serious hydrological issues going on.

Anyway, the carboniferous was a cool, high oxygen era when plants had developed trees, but insects hadn't developed termites and fungi hadn't figured out how to rot wood. Thus, a lot of swamp trees got buried for 300-350 myr, making nice, well-cooked anthracite. The soft coals IIRC mostly come from the Paleocene and early Eocene. At that point, there were plenty of termites and wood-rotting fungi, but no hadrosaurs chewing up rotten logs, and so, again, there's a bunch of buried swamps making coal in places like Wyoming. This stuff is the high sulfur (etc.) low carbon stuff that really needs to be coked for a lot of uses.

Want to guess where people were exploiting anthracite since the Middle Ages? Try Wales.

---

Getting back to the story, I think the simpler solution to the whole "magic goes away with civilization," is that the old magicians knew from bitter experience that having too many magicians around was a soul-crunching experience, and expected bad things to happen if civilization started ramping up magic. One could easily retcon in the fall of just about any great empire as due to widespread magic use.

So anyway, the danger posed by industrial magic led the magicians to lay down widespread geas a(perhaps linked to The Book of Common Prayer? or other missionary stuff) to squelch magic and keep the globe from getting overrun by Them From Outside.

Unfortunately, this solution worked about as well as the Smokey The Bear campaign of forest fire suppression. It suppressed magic around the world for perhaps a century or two. But it set up a world of billions of people practicing magic-adjacent stuff like mathematics, who were totally naive about the risks. Thus, when magic came back, it was big, dangerous, and uncontrollable.

To pervert Sagan's comments about the "Demon Haunted World" of superstition, if magic is real and can spontaneously arise, then a world haunted by semi-tolerable demons may be preferable to one that can be colonized by Outer Gods. That's the world the old magicians tried to craft, to keep Things in check.

100:

Your feltmagnet link is bad - it gets a 404, unless you go into the URL and delete the punctuation at the end. It also doesn't have a lot of info....

101:

Interesting. Also in The Witling, published in the same year (1976).

102:

It looks like Larry Niven perhaps got there first, with one of his Gil the ARM stories. The collection was also published in 1976, but if I got the right story ("Organleggers") it was published in 1969. James Schmitz also used high precision teleportation to kill people in "Glory Day" (1970-ish).

I suspect that, if we look, the notion of using paranormal powers to stop a heart goes back quite a ways, but those are the early-70s SFF stories I can think of off the top of my head.

103:

One could easily retcon in the fall of just about any great empire as due to widespread magic use.

Why did that me think of the Interwebs?

104:

Why did that me think of the Interwebs?

No reason, I'm sure. At least you didn't go with the rise of modern paganism or similar stereotypically problematic idea.

More "seriously," I'm perfectly happy if someone wants to swipe the idea and retcon magic into the fall of empires and state in general. Have fun with it, if it seems interesting.

The onset of dark ages seems to be a worldwide problem of state-level civilizations. And since record-keeping tends to be sparse when things fall apart and documents tend not to survive regardless, it's reasonable to speculate that the rise in civilization leads to more sophisticated math and magic done by more people, which leads to the Opening Of Ways To Things Men Were Not Supposed to Know, which leads to the collapse of the civilization and the loss of the Openers Of Ways and their knowledge...and the cycle repeats itself hundreds to thousands of years later. Heck, the environmental anomalies recorded around the ends of civilizations might be correlated with Incursions From Outside, rather than the direct causes of collapse, as scientists propose.

Finally, and really going out on a limb here, if a bunch of magicians were to do something to blot out knowledge of magic, one logical instigator is The Little Ice Age, which ended the Renaissance and brought about The Enlightenment. The timing is good (the Enlightenment being about the rise of science, ignoring Newton's Alchemy*), and a worldwide disaster barely averted might lead magicians to decide that widespread magic is simply too dangerous, and to take measures to suppress that knowledge to save the world. This would in turn lead to the problems mentioned in the previous post.

*Check out Hutton's Triumph of the Moon if you want a history of magic in England. The tl;dr version is, no, magic didn't ever go away. So any story that posits magic going away is total BS. But that's perfectly okay in a SFF story, just so long as it's acknowledged BS, and no one mistakes it for an alternate truthy thing.

105:

A reasonable explanation of the demise and resurgence of western European magic is that it is enabled by the cumulative belief around it (some distance-weighted function, with disbelief counting negative). I.e. the Enlightenment led to a disbelief in magic, and the rise of computers (which many or most people regard as applied magic) to its resurgence.

I generally dislike plots that involve global geases, especially ones that control the functionality of the very thing that powers them, because that's not how anything else in the universe works; regard it as the aesthetic generalisation of Goedel's theorem, of you like :-) Variations on Jacob's Monkey's Paw are common, but going beyond that is extremely tricky without falling into the Deus ex Machina trap, as Zelazny's Lord Demon does (in that respect, which is not a critical part of the story). I sincerely hope OGH's explanation is both more interesting and more, er, plausible.

106:

Hmmmm…'Marcus'?

107:

Am I wrong to see the late William Hartnell as Professor Skullface?

108:

You're right, and I hope he does too. The only virtue of this one is that you don't have to invoke the ruinous effects of cold iron, photography, or similar, because the magic is only being temporarily suppressed by massive action, not entirely banished.

I'll note that the whole Rivers of London series runs on the idea of the magic returning after a complete debacle during WWII that caused the survivors to limit magic to only a few individuals per country. So it's been done on a smaller time frame.

I'd also point out that the standard missionary and conquistador practice of stamping out paganism and witchcraft wherever they found it during imperial expansion actually would fit quite well into this storyline.

109:

H @ 99
( Back from 2 days out as old computer's Hard Drive turned its toes up ... )
What about Niven's "The Magic Goes Away" where Mana is a consumable, but finite resource ....

110:

I think the challenge here is how to make a universe like the Laundryverse, where the magic existed quite open, apparently went away (or was repressed), then came roaring back when a certain number of people are around.

Niven's actually working in parallel with Tolkien, with the idea of magic gradually leaving the world, along with the fantastic beings and monsters it sustained.

I'll note so far that Charlie has used precisely none of my ideas in the Laundryverse. Thus I'm happy to discuss this, because based on the priors, these aren't spoilers, merely distractions.

Now if someone will just pull in Anderson's Brain Wave....

111:

The high(er)-speed combat magic used by Game Boy and Del (slightly different scales and focuses; Game Boy is more ... profligate) is particularly underrated/powerful. Neither are killers so probably, and thankfully, they haven't given it much thought. (I have, and will not write down the details, my rules.)
(The Mike Resnick trilogy "Soothsayer", "Oracle" and "Prophet" tries to cover this ground too, though she's seriously high-powered. Miles Teg in the later Dune Series is an example as well (shorter timescale), though he also could seriously amp his body (including brain) speed up as well. Clunky Nick Cage movie as well IIRC.)

112:

Well, it's taken me weeks, buying a 50' cable, then working out how to run it through the basement from the family room, then, just this afternoon, up through the wall, then the floor, to the living room, so Ellen's tv could be connected to the 'Net....

What a pain.

Double pain: I got a Galaxy Tab A 8", and now I have to create accounts, including where I would have preferred not to (like Google Play). All this for a fancier ereader...

113:

Now if someone will just pull in Anderson's Brain Wave....

Also Heinlein's Waldo & Magic, Inc.

Reality undergoes major changes.

114:

I’m curious about the real-estate-related craziness - “Grave of the Unknown Komatsu Mini-Excavator”, mansions abandoned to rot because they’re too valuable to live in. To what extent (if at all) is this an exaggeration over the situation in our timeline’s London?

115:

I know nothing about London, but I've heard exactly the same from multiple sources. Including Hugh Grant of all people, if memory serves.

116:

I think the challenge here is how to make a universe like the Laundryverse, where the magic existed quite open, apparently went away (or was repressed), then came roaring back when a certain number of people are around.

Well, there's always Shadowrun - at least the older versions when both it and Earthdawn were developed by the same company (FASA in the beginning, I'm not sure about the later licensing deals). There were these cycles of magic, and in Shadowrun it was the Sixth world - every even-numbered one having magic and odd-numbered not, though I'm not sure about the first one.

Earthdawn was set in the end of the fourth one, where magic had been declining from its peak, but stopped. The high mana allowed some not very nice incursions from other dimensions, and this was used to set up dungeons to explore. In Shadowrun there were things which accelerated the mana increase and said not very nice things were coming back sooner than expected.

Shadowrun is set up from 2050 onwards - it was first published in 1989 and has been mostly a bit over sixty years into the future. I haven't bought new stuff in a decade so I don't know its current status, though - I have plenty of gaming material for it for the rest of my life anyway. Earthdawn is more D&D-type fantasy, though it did give more reasoning for its classes and dungeons than D&D ever did.

117:

I was also taken by the excavator detail. Google informed me that despite the original 2014 source (New Statesman article, picked up by the Graun and others), the Evening Standard debunked it a few days later. Convincingly, I thought.

Ghost mansions however, I've always assumed are real.

118:

Will we find out what the Russians are up to with Chernobog?

119:

acoup is a great blog. the articles about bread taught me a few things about subsidence agriculture (and the mindset of the subsidence farmer).

Probably nothing new for you given your areas of interest.


120:

It's a real phenomenon, and happens in other 'high value' areas, like Cambridge, too - with existing properties, new builds and land with planning permission. While it is probably too strong to say that it is intentional, it is certainly intentional to preserve the legal and financial conditions that make it profitable. I have seen figures as high as 10% in some areas.

121:

The Triple Alliance certainly believed in their own magic, fwiw.

Aliette de Bodard's Obsidian and Blood novels feature a protagonist who is the High Priest of the Dead and, in the 3 novels and various shorts, is investigating murders that are suspected to be magic-related.

Good fun reads, if anyone fancies that kind of thing. And she was obsessed with the Mexica as a kid, so lots of interesting ethnographical detail too 😊

122:

Robert writes: I’m curious about the real-estate-related craziness - “Grave of the Unknown Komatsu Mini-Excavator”,

The PC09-1 costs about £8,000 second hand, it weighs about 1 ton, and given the cost of a basement excavation in Central London will be a large chunk of £100,000s even for the smallest basement, and millions for Christian Candy's latest ( https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8977485/Christian-Candy-locked-neighbour-row-150m-Candyland-plans.html ) just leaving it behind may make economic sense. You can drive it into a building, do some underpinning, dig a bit more, insert a reinforced concrete floor and just keep repeating. Getting it out again involves a crane and sufficiently large access ports or stripping it down to man-handleable chunks.

Robert continues: " mansions abandoned to rot because they’re too valuable to live in. To what extent (if at all) is this an exaggeration over the situation in our timeline’s London?"

I was first aware of the phenomena in the 1980s on Bishop's Avenue ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bishops_Avenue#:~:text=It%20is%20considered%20to%20be,of%20%22Billionaires'%20Row%22.&text=Most%20of%20the%20land%20was,and%20a%20nearby%20residential%20home. ) one of the routes we used between central London and Watford back in the day.

123:

Charlie writes: "Power: it's a log scale, and you don't need anything like as much energy as a locomotive to kill an enemy messily and instantly if you've got a precise lock on their C4/C5 vertebrae, as noted. Precision is a good substitute for raw Power, as demonstrated."

BTW Charlie, if I've got it right, a C4/C5 break leaves you control of your lungs but not your limbs -- ideal for information extraction from non-magic users. Slightly higher would give you a twitch-free despatch method should one be needed.

124:

A question about powered people, Charlie. Where individuals have special abilities to able to do something, you've generally kind of explored a bit of the how and why, and also the consequences for the person, group and society.

The obvious reference point here is Wildbow's "Worm" and "Pact" series. OK, he started writing after you did, but he got to powered people before you did. :) A major element of "Worm" is how Taylor Hebert leverages an apparently-trivial power (control of insects) to a point where she becomes a warlord and takes down the strongest Flying Brick, which compares somewhat to your point about "precision".

Without landing yourself the wrong side of legal nasties, did you have any of this in mind? Or conversely, have you had to consciously *avoid* reading things like that to avoid polluting your own ideas?

125:

Legal nasties: all I have to avoid is infringing trademarks owned by DC and Marvel (or Hollywood studios). Even then, parody is protected free speech in the US market. Pretty much everything else is fine.

Yes, I've read "Worm" (dead-ended partway into "Pact"). It's an interesting take, but somewhat ... American in flavour; the American superhero genre is infested with assumptions about the nature of policing and law enforcement's relationship with society which are really not universally agreed upon even between social classes within the US, never mind internationally.

To be cynical: Imp et al are somewhat self-centered -- Wendy apart -- but barely register as supervillains, they're just the average young adult in a crapsack society trying to get along, with added superpowers and a whole bunch of baggage. But what constitutes crime is decided on by The Money. Imp is a criminal because he's obsessed with making a type of art which is forbidden because of a specific act of law designed to extend copyright on one particular pop culture wellspring, for example. Yes, it's illegal: but that doesn't make him wrong -- what makes him bad is the lengths he'll go to work around that law, having fallen for the old Yorkshire proverb "may as well be hanged for [stealing] a sheep as a lamb". Eve ... I'm going to leave her aside for now: Eve is the primary focus of book 3, and she's done horrible things but not without justification.

Consider that if an offense is punished with a fine, that offense is only a crime for the poor: rich folks pay the price of entry and move on. This is totally unjust -- it violates the enlightenment principle of equality before the law -- but is frequently unquestioned in US and UK culture. Then consider that one of the archetypes of the US superhero genre, Batman, is basically a billionaire who gets his jollies by dressing in bondage gear and beating up poor and/or mentally ill people, rather than (for example) solving childhood food poverty in Gotham City. The New Management holds up a distorting mirror to our own society's misplaced and warped priorities, and when you see what the official superheroes do in "In His House", well ... it isn't pretty.

126:

Consider that if an offense is punished with a fine, that offense is only a crime for the poor: rich folks pay the price of entry and move on.

And when the fines are scaled according to people's incomes (which is kind of also problematic), the people with big incomes will complain to great lengths about the "unfair" punishment when they get caught for example speeding. In Finland at least some fines do scale that way.

127:

Elderly Cynic @ 87: I quite often need to work on household 'things' where access and vision are obstructed or impossible, and can witness how true that is! The usefulness of raw power is seriously overstated.

Incidentally, in addition to the half dozen ways to kill people with very little power, and the wonderful nose-hair method, mucking up their semi-circular canals will disable most people to an extent that has to be experienced to be believed. Provided those are not damaged, recovery after that stops takes mere seconds.

I guess us mere mundanes or muggles or whatever we are will just have to be satisfied with older tried & true methods for taking out a sentry.

128:

What worries me more is the question of what Baba Yaja's doing.

129:

ARGH! Baba Yaga.

130:

> Baba

You may have created something here, a set of Babas. Baba Yaga, Baba Yaja, Baba Yoga, Baba Ghanoush...

Like the Norns or Shakespeare's witches.

131:

A few years ago a colleague insisted on naming a project Baba Yaga. It might not have been a wise choice. :-)

132:

You may have created something here, a set of Babas. Baba Yaga, Baba Yaja, Baba Yoga, Baba Ghanoush...

Baba Fett…

133:

colleague insisted on naming a project Baba Yaga
[He was I think a fan of the movie. The department manager was a brilliant woman, practicing Roman Catholic, and didn't like the name perhaps for religious reasons.]

136:

It could have been a *lot* worse. When I was working for Ameritech in the mid-nineties, and in a year, our division had grown from 4 to 27, and they brought in corporate sysadmins, we had two test boxes. One of the senior admins named one fat man (or was the other one little boy?)

I had to explain to the young consultants where the names came from , and why that was NOT a Good Omen.

137:

Movie? I was thinking of the Russian myth....

138:

NOT a Good Omen.
If somebody had named a test server around me fat man (or little boy) I'd have been laughing all day. :-)

(SotMN in the other thread just mentioned another (ugly) approach to magic suppression. Pondering it.)

139:

Skimmed her posts. Nothing much interesting, too much like "math puzzles++", not willing to work to figure out what she's hinting at, so didn't get her suggestion.

140:

whitroth & others
Baba Yaga? ( You tube clip - ignore prelim advert ) _ Modest Mussorgsky from "Pictures" ...
- 139 ... math puzzles have solutions, because they have actual content(!)

141:

Oh, that takes me back.

I bought this about 40 years ago...

https://youtu.be/IVvQQMrEUzQ

Tomita Pictures at an exhibition.

142:

If it was CRISPR, that's facile - sorry. The problem isn't a mechanism that permanently disables itself - that's fairly common in the real world - but one where it temporarily disables itself. It's extremely tricky to arrange such things.

143:

I had a couple Tomita records back in the day. Holst's "The Planets" and one other, I forget which. I should listen to "The Planets" again soon.

144:

If it was CRISPR, that's facile - sorry. The problem isn't a mechanism that permanently disables itself - that's fairly common in the real world - but one where it temporarily disables itself.
She did say "CRISPR isn't the metaphor you're looking for."
Permanent disability in a high percentage of a large heterogeneous population might be acceptable, reducing the potential number of practitioners below a threshold (or more cynically, reserving talents for the perpetrators). Temporary disability (and some permanent disability, if there are genetic correlates) might also be achievable, though not globally, with cultural practices/teachings that discourage (or even disable) thought styles conducive to magic ("discouraging magical thinking"), by actively discouraging magic(al thinking) through variations on "burn the witch" (inquisition, etc), made more effective pre biological science if there are semi-reliable proxies for identifying such talents. (And see the fluoridation video I linked in that thread, guy on a gold throne talking about fluoride disabling certain such abilities.)

The other part of that is that we are presuming that there are no genetically distinctive (and perhaps culturally distinct) subpopulations correlated with such abilities. See the bits about speed being taught to children. Early on SotMN was pushing some papers about schizophrenia and building "cognitive reserve" (also associated with high cognitive function in those with healthy (e.g. not schizophrenic) elderly brains). I eventually poked at them, and looked at the experimental design for a few of them and replicated some aspects which used adaptive speed training, with the surprising side effect of being able to induce a low-grade sustainable tachypsychia (and somewhat improved reaction time including choice reaction time). It is likely that there are subpopulations for whom this is much easier and works better, due to slightly variations in brain connectivity/etc. And perhaps there are other such variations that are more directly related to magic.

145:

Just because I'm mean, wicked, cruel, and nasty, here's another version of Why The Magic Went Away in the Laundryverse. Note that this is totally BS and I'm not checking dates, as well as ignoring things like Chinese history.

Anyway, Our Story:

In Ye Olde Medieval times, magic existed. It was limited because knowledge was limited because stuff was handwritten on parchment, which is both slow (see the Nova episode on the history of writing: the tl;dr is that inking letters on parchment is a slow process due to the nature of the materials) and expensive (parchment is hide, so it's radically rarer than paper). These limits, plus K-syndrome and associated nastiness, keep magic in check.

Then Gutenberg invents the printing press, about the same time as paper mills are spreading throughout Europe, in the late 15th Century. Knowledge escapes, bigly, including magic. The magicians get alarmed, because they know thattoo many idiots doing magic is Bad.

And they're right. The idiots start conjuring, and there's witch hunts, religious schisms, and Dyverse Alarums, everywhere. Worse, some idiots up north conjure an infovore straight out of the Atrocity Archive, triggering The Little Ice Age. Perhaps this is where the Nazis got the idea for A:A?

So after the infovore is banished, the magicians get serious about ANTI-magic, and that's where the enlightenment comes from. It's not just magicians radically innovating on the old Celtic Geasa magictech, it's a concerted effort by church authorities, magicians, and whoever to suppress magic by promoting rationalism. The meme that magic doesn't work, science works better is one of the cheapest and greatest shields they have.

And it sort of works. There are periodic outbreaks of magic, especially when new technology like mechanized printing presses show up in the 1850s and there are explosions of new religions in places like America.

But this campaign against magic also gives a critical advantage to the European colonial powers. The rest of the world uses magic, but the colonialists are armed, not just with superior guns, but with superior anti-magic. The anti-magicians conquer large swathes of the world by wrecking indigenous magic systems, sowing rationality, and so forth. Missionaries armed with ubiquitous printed anti-magic geasa poo-poo magic as useless superstition wherever they find it, and so on, and people who used magic as a basic part of their lives are left to become plantation workers and other "mudsills."

But it's now a red queen race between magicians trying to use new information technologies to bring back the magic, and the anti-magicians using the same technologies to keep the world from getting overwhelmed. Computers and the internet only make it worse. And worst of all, people have forgotten about magic, so it seems harmless to dabble in D&D, or Wicca, or to do fractals on the computer. As with vaccines, they very success of magic suppression breeds a growing and dangerously naive population that has few defenses against the very thing they're being protected from.

And that sets the stage for the Laundryverse: a red queen race that the defenders are about to lose...

146:

The reason that it was facile is that ANY Darwinly-inheritable capability doesn't match the speed at which it comes back in the Laundryverse. In that, I am including simple genetics, inheritable gene expression, and anything else of that nature. It's not that such a mechanism couldn't effect the suppression; it's that it can't account for the resurgence.

While a Lamarckian-inheritable capability can emerge that fast, that is doesn't square with the incidence of 'non-computational' (*) wild magic by people with no plausible background in magic referred to in the Delirium Brief and (possibly) Dead Lies Dreaming. Up until the former book, #145 was consistent with the universe, but they introduced that problem. Even emergence by natural Lamarckian inheritance forms very definite clusters, where one person teaches his or her descendents (as with Eve and Imp).

One could sweep that under the table by saying that the exceptions (mainly in TDB) are the sort of anomaly that arises with intellectual abilities, but the TDB has cases where they showed no plausible equivalent of computational ability.

(*) Note that I am including unorthodox systems, such as graphics, music or poetry as 'computational'. The similarity is that they all need someone with a good imagination for patterns to create them.

147:

Troutwaxer @ 143: I had a couple Tomita records back in the day. Holst's "The Planets" and one other, I forget which. I should listen to "The Planets" again soon."

I was always a little disappointed Holst had not written a movement for "Pluto", but now that Pluto is no longer considered a planet ...

148:

I can almost understand keeping the properties empty in case someone comes along wanting it right away. But not spending 0.001% of the value per year on maintenance?

149:

JBS at 147: It would be a bit startling if he had :)

150:

Early in the series it’s established that having an ever-increasing density of thinking beings and computing machines on Earth is “weakening the walls of the world” and making magick exponentially easier. It’s not surprising that that would overwhelm a previously successful magick suppression system. The population explosion changed the context.

151:

Not only the population density, but Christianity and other "major" religions (that is, magick suppressing religions) have had considerable trouble adapting to the truths which science has exposed, which has caused a measurable part of the population to go looking for a form of spirituality that doesn't suck, and they've been reviving some old forms - and forget Cthulhu, all you really have to do to "weaken the walls of the world" is to optimize something like Wicca, which happens naturally as people try various forms and perform it in different places, (which means places where the magick suppressors forgot to bury some hematite or perform other types of magick suppression.

152:

When Pluto fans complain about the demotion to “dwarf planet” status I say “When you hear ‘dwarf’ don’t think Sleepy or Doc, think Thorin Oakenshield.”

153:

Early on SotMN was pushing some papers about schizophrenia and building "cognitive reserve"
WAS SHE? You sure it wasn't more random dribble? Or was there actually a message-with-content in there?
LIKE I SAID - you can translate it into English, for the rest of us!
Sorry, but I'm really annoyed by this ...

Troutwaxer
I'm beginning to suspect that all forms of "spirituality" suck ....
Certainly, when anyone mentions that word I immediately start looking for the bullshit-mountain that's around somewhere!

154:

You are forgetting they are not properties - they are merely financial instruments in an investment portfolio. It’s the functional equivalent of forgetting one of your many bank accounts or that semi famous self portrait of the minor 17th century painter.

155:

powerline networking... a lot less hassle than that

156:

"I'm beginning to suspect that all forms of "spirituality" suck ...."

I'll bow out of that discussion ASAP. I was speaking to the magic/tech issues in the Laundryverse.

157:

Sigh.
A few mentions in this 2016 thread, including a question by me and an answer, helpful to me at the time. (S. Silverstein's very interesting works first mentioned in 2015. I subsequently read his other papers on the subject and a few related papers.)
https://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2016/02/holding-pattern-part-n.html
paper
Cognitive and neuroplasticity mechanisms by which congenital or early blindness may confer a protective effect against schizophrenia (Steven M. Silverstein, Yushi Wang, Brian P. Keane, 21 January 2013)

158:

A bit of a word-geeky question, but why use a concordance rather than the real McCoy (the Necronomicon) as the quest object/Maguffin of DLD? The most basic form of a concordance, which is most feasible for human-free processing, is basically a list of words plus page numbers and/or frequencies and is not very useful for most non-academic uses. (They're mostly used to examine a corpus than a corpse.) The more sophisticated "keyword in context" concordance is much more useful, but doesn't offer advantages over an index in most cases: you still have to read the surrounding text (the context) to infer the role of the words in that context. An index crafted by a professional indexer provides that context for you, predigested by the indexer, so a book containing a good index seems both more useful for practical sorcery and safer for the reader -- for small values of "safer".

Perhaps the Necronomicon itself will make an appearance in a future Laundry book?

159:

Oops... that should say "rather than a corpse".

160:

Not only the population density, but Christianity and other "major" religions (that is, magick suppressing religions) have had considerable trouble adapting to the truths which science has exposed, which has caused a measurable part of the population to go looking for a form of spirituality that doesn't suck, and they've been reviving some old forms - and forget Cthulhu, all you really have to do to "weaken the walls of the world" is to optimize something like Wicca, which happens naturally as people try various forms and perform it in different places, (which means places where the magick suppressors forgot to bury some hematite or perform other types of magick suppression.

This is where the Laundryverse and reality part ways. The problem I alluded to above is that the so-called Eastern religions--Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and Shinto--do a crap job of suppressing what Christianity would call pagan magic. And that's a majority of the human population right there. Throw in polytheistic Africa, the African diaspora (voudoun, etc.), and indigenous American spiritual practices, and most of the world never stopped doing magic.

Yes, Buddhism preaches that magic and enlightenment are incompatible for technical reasons*. But if you want polytheistic perversity, spell-casting clerics, and possession cults, they've all got them. That's why I pointed out that my latest Laundryverse thing is total BS if you want it to be congruent with known history.

That said and getting back towards the Laundryverse, there is something very interesting going on with Christianity that I think you missed. If you read about the activities of ministers and missionaries in the first half of the 20th Century, they tended to preach more about reason, and mysticism was a dirty word outside the back woods churches. This is the tradition of the gentleman cleric, not the god-wanker. As a priest friend of mine put it, anyone who wanted to practice the Way of Jesus or Christian magic was put in a monastery for their own good. Then, along about the 1980s, as yoga and Buddhism crept into the mainstream, there seemed to be a more public discussion that perhaps Christianity had lost its spiritual side.

In more recent decades, especially with the evangelicals, there's been a big ol' push to embrace what I'd only call Christian magical practices: magical prayers, angels, meditations on the presence of Christ, all that. I'm not sure there's a big separation between what the Wiccans do and what the more magical Christians do, except in numbers.

So if I was worried about magic straining the fabric of reality, I'd look at the number of evangelicals, rather than the number of pagans. Granted, I'm more sympathetic to the pagans, but they're not a majority group.

And I agree with your comment to Greg. This is really about the Laundryverse, not about Greg's spiritual allergies.

*You care about the technical side of Buddhism? Fine. Enlightenment, as has been more recently explained to me, is living while aware of all the "energies" that influence your life. AFAIK, this is pretty similar to a bunch of different modern magical practices. However, the Buddhist and Taoist point is that reprogramming yourself to live this way takes a heck of a lot of luck and a huge amount of work. And, unfortunately, there's all this shiny stuff--the magical practices available when you become aware of these "energies" which, if pursued, will distract you from the very difficult task of becoming more enlightened. That's what I mean by technical. Buddhist monasteries are supposedly designed to minimize distractions so that the inmates can work on enlightening themselves. I also understand from various sources that working Catholic and Orthodox monasteries really aren't that different in this regard.

161:

I don't think it's evolution; rather, I think it's infection... and the infection can be spread by looking at a picture of something, and if you Get It, you've caught it.

See?! You can catch a virus from your computer....

162:

& 147

Perhaps. but you *are* aware that when they did that to Pluto, the conference was essentially over, and it was, I think I read, about 10% of the attendees voting for that, and most astronomers ignore it, and call it a planet.

To quote the Plutonian who showed up in the Masqerade at Denvention in '08, "Equal rights for Pluto! Pluto is a planet!"

(Yes, she got an award in the young fan division.)

163:

"Then, along about the 1980's"....

It was mid-late seventies. You suddenly started seeing "Jesus freaks", and the GOP used them, callously, and pushed the wacko religious wrong (they are *not* "right"), the Moral Majority (which was neither), to build their base, because they'd believe in faith, *not* logic, or even "enlightened self-interest" (which would have meant unions).

I remember, it was '84? '85? that I was at... can't remember if it was Disclave or Balticon, and some Jesus freaks had a table in the dealers' room. Not sure if someone set them up, or they did it to themselves. They literally had leaflets against UFOs, and Witchcraft, and D&D. *Large* dealers' room. maybe 40 or more folks in it, around 16:00 on Sat, someone in front of their table started singing, and everyone else in the room joined in... that Real Old Time Religion....

They took it ok, but never came back.

164:

Yeh the original PSI rules for DND(1st edition) where broken.

Telekinises was defined as acceleration and it was concentration with no upper limit - so I can accelerate a javelin to high speeds and throw it at a dragon.

of course I though you could add a light spell on the rear for tracking and use scrying to keep on pushing all the way to the target.

Oh and should I mention my "Hobit Komando" who specialize in growing stage trees :-)

165:

The original D&D rules said, explicitly, "These are only guidelines," feel free to modify....

I added a spell point system that made *sense*, and stopped ultra-power: you had the number of spell points of your constitution and your (intelligence for MU, wisdom for cleric, so those two numbers finally had some use). You hit zero, you're unconscious. Negative numbers mean you're dead.

Ah, yes, the high level magic user: earthquake! Um, lightninng! SLEEPSLEEPSLEEP!!!

166:

H:
especially with the evangelicals, there's been a big ol' push to embrace what I'd only call Christian magical practices =bullshit: magical prayers, angels, meditations on the presence of Christ, all that. I'm not sure there's a big separation between what the Wiccans do and what the more magical Christians do, except in numbers.
Oddly agree- I am talking about what we laughably call the "real" world ....

167:

Hey, wait - are you talking actual Wiccans... or Newagers (rhymes with sewage)?

Old Pagan joke:
Q: How do you tell the difference between a Newage witch and a real Witch?
A: Throw them both in a pond. The Newage witch will since under the weight of their expensive crystals, while the real Witch will come up, swim out and teach you a lesson....

168:

Christianity and the other monotheistic religions were never far from indigenous paganism until the age of European colonial conquest.

1453 -- the magical processions in Constantinople to power the the Virgin's and the Saints' erection of a magical invincible dome over the city and save it from Mehmed II's siege. There were many other actions of this nature at the walls. In parallel Mehmet II's forces performed their own rituals that would allow Islam to finally take the Red Apple. On the 29th of May, 1453, the whole world learned whose magic was greater.

And since the 1960's, even Lutheran Church Missouri Synod -- not just the Roman or Orothodox churches -- have expanded from zero of such fantastical behaviors to congregants walking together over dried out fields with basins of water, throwing handfuls on the earth and at the sky. Evangelical born again prayer warrior parades against satan have been going on regularly in the west and southwest ever since the 1980's. And so on and so forth.

Magic it seems makes what belief or spiritual system concrete. Evidently the transformations that are the sacraments, such as baptism and communion, just ran out of juice in the Christian US?

169:

Christianity and the other monotheistic religions were never far from indigenous paganism until the age of European colonial conquest.

I think we can safely say that the age of colonial empires didn't make much difference. CF: https://aeon.co/essays/how-the-jesuits-cultivated-the-idea-of-european-empire

The tl;dr is that the missionaries were often far less successful in their missions than their reports home indicate, and that people adopted Christianity for their own reasons and often on their own terms. I'd be shocked (shocked!) if the same wasn't true of the other big missionary religions, Islam and Buddhism.

It's another case where, if you only read the documents of the ones in charge, you get an ever-so-slightly biased view of what happened in history, not that I need to tell you this.

170:

I wasn't clear -- it was important to the Europeans after the 15th C for Christians at least, if not Islam or Judaism, to separate themselves as starkly as possible -- in their own minds, at least, and in the minds of their adherents -- from the paganism and religions of those they invaded and conquered, whether in Asia, Africa or South America. This was particularly so as the protestants felt they needed to do the same thing of stark division between themselves, true Christians, as opposed to those followers of the Roman whore of Babylon and all those saints and superstitions. So science was encouraged, as well as separation of church and state. I've been fairly boggled seeing this break down so starkly in my lifetime, people I've known within the protestant religion now matter of course practicing what when I was growing up was considered unacceptable.

171:

I don't know how stuff was elsewhere, but in the late 70's my family started having some really weird shit go down. I won't say exactly what because, 1, no direct bearing on what I'm saying, 2, I'm not convinced that my memory is accurate at all (I literally don't believe myself despite my brother confirming my memories) and 3, all the written records of what went on got scrambled (ink on paper, gone).

So anyway, weird shit is going down. We ask for help from the local Anglican minister, who's, like "well officially we don't deal with this any more, and haven't for hundreds of years, but I'll put you in touch with someone" so we get passed up the chain and it turns out that there's a sort of magical rural fire service in the High Anglican Church of Australia. They come out and do a bunch of things, very reminiscent of the laundry service in the early books, putting out fires so to speak.

So at least 40 years ago, there were active magic practitioners in the church.

BTW, my memories tell me that it tamped things down for a while, but the issues remained unresolved until we posted a stone back to Agra.

172:

I was always a little disappointed Holst had not written a movement for "Pluto", but now that Pluto is no longer considered a planet ...

Well to be fair, The Planets was completed in 1916, which is 14 years before Pluto was discovered.

173:

If magic relates to computation, then those positing historic magic need to confront just how foreign to us historic mathematics was.

Maths did not come from algebra, or arithmetic, or computation, it came from geometry. Geometric proofs, like Euclid did.

Newton is a point of change. But he while gives proofs of things the way you might expect, those are just thought experiments for him, he then goes through and laboriously redoes each proof geometrically, because that geometric working is for that time a ‘real’ proof.

But then a split between continental and English maths that started with Newton vs Leibniz was real, and lasted for at least a couple of generations. It relates to deep philosophical differences on the nature of space and time. And dates to around the defeat of the Spanish Armada and the start of England’s climb to world domination.

174:

foxessa
Indeed - the adoption of the xtians of MORE magical symbols surprises many, though not really, when you think about it.
After all ... "BigSkyFiaries" don't actually exist, so it hardly matters which collection of blackmailing bullshit you follow.
It's all - unacceptable.

175:

Then Gutenberg invents the printing press, about the same time as paper mills are spreading throughout Europe, in the late 15th Century. Knowledge escapes, bigly, including magic. The magicians get alarmed, because they know thattoo many idiots doing magic is Bad.

That's a really neat idea and I'm embarrassed that I missed it. So I'm going to try and find a way to work it into the back story as canon: that printing presses and missionaries can be used to spread the suppression of indigenous magic systems.

176:

World-building note:

This kind of got lost in the mists of time, but back in 1999 when I began writing the first Laundry story, I decided that it'd be an SF yarn with magic, for values of magic that emerged organically from "Let's assume Roger Penrose was right about quantum mechanical phenomena in microtubules in neurons being the wellspring of consciousness (i.e. consciousness is an emergent quantum-mechanical property of complex macroscopic systems)".

He wanted to go from collapse of quantum coherency in roughly atom-sized entangled systems to "entire brain", so invoked an as-yet unspecified theory of quantum gravity, and it seems to me that if you can get complex effects across a distance of whole tens of centimetres when upscaling from atoms, then jumping another nine or ten orders of magnitude in scale isn't much of a reach ...

177:

Would "Real Old Time Religion" have anything in common with Pete Seeger's version? Which, BTW, can be heard on the Arlo Guthrie/Pete Seeger disk "Precious Freind".

178:

His point about printing presses is very salient - books changed from a perquisite of the wealthy to being widely owned in a very short period. The consequences were immense.

The missionary aspect is part of what I was referring to, when I pointed out that a scientifically plausible (and theoretically if no longer practicably) testable explanation of the reports of reliable magic by reliable raconteurs, and why it no longer works and stopped working in Europe a long while back. They were the people who changed the 'massed belief', though often less than is commonly believed - it is still practiced, openly, in Africa.

179:

Yes. Euclidean proof methods were being taught in 1962 in the UK, though not widely - I could still prove Pythagoras's theorem, though not the nine-point circle. But most people won't realise what has happened in mathematics in the past half-century. There has been a great deal of unification, with multiple different systems being shown to be equivalent (which started a long time before, of course), which was at the heart of my remark about patterns in #146. OGH and some other SF writers have taken that on board, and several different magical methods are used in the Laundryverse.

I agree with you the attitude to mathematics and science this was a factor in the rise of the British Empire, and Charles II had a lot to do with that.

180:

Something possibly of interest to OGH, Safari under Big Sur still behaves in an interesting fashion with sign ins here, I signed in to reply to whitroth, found myself signed out after submission, thought nothing new and had a look at "Countdown To Crazy", found I was signed in there (!), commented, found I was signed out after submission, came back here to find I was signed in (!!). Life here is less alarming under Firefox...

181:

And then there were 4.
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/11/penguin-random-house-simon-schuster-monster-about-amazon/617209/

As I understand it thing are now sort of King Kong and the 3 lemurs.

182:

> Safari under Big Sur still behaves in an interesting fashion with sign ins here

Same thing with Edge on Windows, being logged in or not seems to be quite random.

183:

If magic relates to computation, then those positing historic magic need to confront just how foreign to us historic mathematics was.

Egyptian computation was different than what we do now, and interesting.

The mathematics of ancient Egypt was fundamentally different from our math today. Contrary to what people might think, it wasn’t a primitive forerunner of modern mathematics. In fact, it can’t be understood using our current computational methods.

Fully illustrated in color throughout, Count Like an Egyptian also teaches you some Babylonian computation—the precursor to our modern system—and compares ancient Egyptian mathematics to today’s math, letting you decide for yourself which is better.

https://press.princeton.edu/books/hardcover/9780691160122/count-like-an-egyptian

Very interesting, and recommended.

184:

It sounded interesting until I saw this "In fact, it can’t be understood using our current computational methods." Unless Wikipedia is completely up the spout, it's not actually very interesting as mathematics and is easily expressible in modern terms.

What a lot of people don't understand is that, until modern times, counting and arithmetic was not the entry to mathematics (*) and wasn't always even closely linked - it was primarily a branch of accounting. For example, the geometric proof methods mentioned above don't use numbers as we know them. Mathematics in that era was linked more closely to astrology than accounting.

icehawk is right, but that example is poor, and it is why I keep mentioning patterns. I will post an idea I have just had, separately.

185:

Related to #184, one of the known causes of the scientific revolution was the invention of the concept of a variable. Few people (even with a STEM background) realise just what a major effect that had on human mentality - I have known people who had not learnt that as children, have had to teach one the concept, and I can witness how much of a change in thinking it causes.

Hmm. Could that have been the cause of the demise of magic? Specifically that thinking in terms of variable-based arithmetic uses the brain mechanisms that were previously used for magic, and therefore meant that ordinary people would have stopped being able to do the latter as they learnt the former?

If doesn't conflict with occasional magic users, because (higher level) mathematicians can also work with other formulations. It doesn't conflict with the modern resurgence because, for the past half-century, primary school teaching has had an increasing amount of non-arithmetical mathematics (*). And, despite the claims of the ignorant in decades past, computation was never limited to arithmetical tasks.


(*) I was amazed that my daughter was being taught mathematical topics in primary school that I had not encountered until my mathematics degree. That partly explains why so many parents with a full schooling had/have trouble helping their children even at that stage.

186:

I may be off base, but I think there may have been three separate math traditions that merged:
--accounting, which led into algebra
--geometry from architecture (this is the old straight edge and compass school)
--trigonometry (timekeeping and wayfinding, also astrology).

The point is that these are three different functions: keeping track of stuff is the accounting function, and it's where writing and counting really became formalized. It's a fundamental function of complex societies.

Builders can be (and often were) illiterate well into the Middle Ages. There are great examples of books with angles illustrated with mnemonics rather than word to help them build. Going back to Celtic times, builders used straight edge and compass to lay things out, and this is the old geometry tradition.

Keeping time and wayfinding by using the sky are related things, and both are critical in everything from navigation to agriculture. The roots of these are probably the oldest, as humans have always needed environmental cues to tell which food is available when, and how to get to it and get it. Same with agriculture: when to plant, when to harvest, and what the year is going to be like are really good reasons to watch the sky. It also turns out that you can use the sky to go from one point to another.

These all come together, not in astrology, but with traveling merchants, who need to account for their goods, but also build ships and find their way and keep track of things like the seasons of the monsoon winds that dictate where sailing ships can go in the Indian Ocean. It's absolutely no surprise that most of our mathematics comes ultimately from the people who founded and lived around the western Indian Ocean, from the Fertile Crescent to India.

And I suspect they all became linked up through trigonometry (measuring of angles), and especially algebra using trig.

187:

I was also taken by the excavator detail.

Well there is this:
https://www.therobbinscompany.com/projects/the-channel-tunnel/

"In December 1990, the French and British TBMs met in the middle and completed the Channel Service Tunnel bore. In all of the tunnels the French TBM was dismantled while the U.K. TBM was turned aside and buried."

I've heard them called the most expensive grounding rods in the world.

188:

Ghost mansions however, I've always assumed are real.

We just had one torn down here a month or so ago. They had a sale of the contents. Things like fixtures, marble floors, stairs, etc. Then when all the nice bits were scavenged it was torn down and the property split into 4 lots with new houses being built on each.

Originally built in the 30s I think. For some local guy who made it big making something or the other.

189:

Thanks, I'm honored!

Also, there's no reason for embarrassment. Since I only tripped over the notion when I started wondering what would have had to come before the Little Ice Age for that disaster to have been caused by magic, it's safe to say that it's not intuitively obvious.

I'd also point out that this idea gives a convenient excuse for the fall of the western Roman Empire. They used papyrus, which is much more available and easier to write on than parchment. Handwritten papyrus books are intermediate in technical ease and availability between pen and parchment (hard and rare) and printed paper (fast and abundant). One could speculate that the political chaos, weird weather, and falling birth rates of the later (western) Roman empire also had to do with the increasing ubiquity of magic. And we do know they used lots of magic, because some of those papyrus scrolls have been recovered.

190:

I'm not sure that's really true.

In the USA, medicine shows were a big deal in the days before effective antiseptics, anaesthetics and vaccines. They were effectively selling magic, plain and simple. They fizzled out in popularity as actual medicine came up with treatments which worked. But as medicine shows faded, the whole tent-revival evangelical movement kicked off, and the evangelicals used *precisely* the same methods of stooges with magic cures, sales patter and group manipulation. They still do to this day, they've just moved onto TV instead. The entire Christian evangelical concept is inherently built around "Christian magic", and it inherits directly from the medicine show "magic".

In the UK, we'd like to think we're not so gullible. Except that Golden Dawn kicked off in Britain at the end of the 19th century, and a cult of angels started during WWI and continued after the war. The non-English countries of the UK had (and continue to have) enough "true believers" that the concept of people doing work on Sunday is still controversial to this day. (The Scottish island of Lewis only got a Sunday ferry service in 2009, due to religious objections.) Let's not forget Ian Paisley's happy little bunch of divinely racist God-botherers too. All these groups are driven by a belief in the literal truth of Hell and damnation, so it's untrue to say that any of them ever are or were rationalist.

Compared to everyone else these days, evangelicals look pretty nutty. But if you wind the clock back even just 100 years, they'd be mainstream in any church anywhere, and they'd look like positive backsliders compared to Welsh chapels or the Scottish Kirk. In Europe and the USA, most people may describe themselves as "Christian" but you'd be lucky to see them in church for more than Christmas (and maybe Easter). If you're judging by quantity of religious "magic", we really are at an all-time low these days.

Re Buddhism "creeping into the mainstream", that's a rather US-centric view. In the two largest countries in the world by population (China and India), Buddhism has never been anything *but* mainstream.

191:

I am afraid that you are, with respect to geometry and trigonometry; before Newton and Leibnitz, they were essentially the same thing. If you search, you may be able to find a Web reference to the methods actually used for those, and you will see what I mean; as I said, I have used some of them but that puts me into a timy minority of even mathematicians. I don't know what you mean by algebra, but the only meaning of it in the OED that was known in the ancient world was the surgical treatment of a fractured or dislocated bone! As icehawk said, mathematics was VERY different then.

You are right that trigonometry and geometry (in your sense) were used in different ways, but my point is that the developments were driven by astrology (as the court science, rather than the artisans' one), and both used the same mathematics - UNLIKE accounting. If you can find a reasonable reference contradicting that, I should be interested.

192:

Re Buddhism "creeping into the mainstream", that's a rather US-centric view. In the two largest countries in the world by population (China and India), Buddhism has never been anything *but* mainstream.

Yep, you're absolutely right. I was describing this in the context of Christianity and Wicca, and pointing out that the contemplative and meditative practices in Christianity ran towards the mainstream once Buddhism became popular enough that a fair number of (middle and upper class) people had an idea of what was missing.

As for the role of Buddhism in India, it's definitely worth talking to a few hundred million Hindus about that...

193:

I'd disagree about astrology. This is another ancient/modern split. We think of astrology as the superstitious finding of omens in the sky. It is that, but before good watches were available, watching the night sky was the most reliable method of keeping a calendar.

In the Fertile Crescent, from Babylon to Egypt, agriculture was less based on rain falling on fields, and more based on rains falling in mountains far away, rivers flooding, and catching those flood waters in canals, as well as timing planting correctly. Because of that, timing is literally everything, especially in Egypt for reasons I'll come back to.

Thus, the rulers whose priests could accurately help farmers get their fields prepped for whatever the weather brought them reaped bigger harvests. That's the practical use of astrology that we've lost because we've got clocks, calendars, and weather satellites.

The thing about Egypt is that most of the water in Nile comes from the Ethiopian Mountains. Egypt is on the eastern Mediterranean weather cycle, but Ethiopia is on the Indian Ocean monsoon cycle, and they don't particularly overlap. Thus, winter rains in Egypt don't necessarily cue for summer monsoonal moisture getting carried down the Nile to flood and fertilize the fields. Calendar keeping was thus critical to keeping the fields working, and the easiest way to keep the calendar in a desert country is to watch the sky every night.

As for algebra and accounting, here's a made-up example. A small city state has tribute obligations to (say) Egypt, Assyria, and Mycenae, as well as the need to stockpile enough to get the city-state through the year. As the planting season is beginning, is it worth sending out a mission to get luxury goods or slaves for the tribute? This is fundamentally an algebra question, because it's about portioning up a future harvest and anticipating future gluts or shortfalls and how to best send them or make them up. Whether or not the city rulers were using written algebra explicitly, they were thinking in terms of variables and trying to solve a problem where supplies equaled or exceeded needs.

194:

built around "Christian magic" ... even when it actually works...
The classic medieval example is driving out an infestation of "Demons" caused by Erot fungus growing in rye, especially in damp conditions.
Whole villages or towns would get very bad LSD trips ... only to be cured by the Church, with "Specially blessed" WHITE ( Wheat ) bread.
They knew it worked, but hadn't a clue why, of course.

195:

Aargh! Aaarrgh!!! AAAARRRGH!!!!!

I know perfectly well what astrology was used for - but I also know SOMETHING about the mathematics used for it. And it was the MATHEMATICS not the PURPOSE that was relevant to the topic under discussion.

Look, TODAY that last calculation is an algebra question, but NONE of the meanings of algebra as we know it today were known before the 17th century. I don't mean the word, I mean the ruddy CONCEPTS. There is ONE meaning (other than the surgical) that was known before that, which refers to things like the GCD algorithm and similar things in geometry.

And, NO, THRICE NO, they were NOT thinking in terms of variables. They did such calculations in terms of specific numbers and procedures, without ANY abstraction of the form we use variables for. Indeed, that is how mathematics was taught until at least the 19th century in the UK and, as I said, I have both been taught that way have have known and taught people who had been taught NO OTHER way.

You really don't seem to prepared to accept that the ancients didn't use the same approach to mathematics as we do today.

196:

Could what really have kicked off the return of magic have been the development of N-dimensional math? Minkowski space, and others....

197:

Do calm down. All of this is explained, in fulsome detail by the late great John Sladek, this in his, ever so serious , study of astrology ... "Arachne Rising. The Thirteenth Sign of the Zodiac." https://www.jamescumminsbookseller.com/pages/books/229263/john-sladek-james-vogh/arachne-rising-the-thirteenth-sign-of-the-zodiac Oh, all right it is available elsewhere at a somewhat lower price ..or you could look it up in the back issues of Cosmo ..." "Everything You Need to Know About the Controversial 13th Zodiac Sign Sorry, but Ophiuchus isn’t a thing. " https://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/a3614109/everything-you-need-to-know-about-13th-zodiac-sign-constellation-ophiucus/

198:

http://www.paganlibrary.com/music_poetry/real_old_religion.php

The late John Betancourt had over 900 verses on his pages....

199:

I saw that, and went oh, shit....

Hey, at what point do they become a monopoly, and get broken up? I need to talk to lawyers I know.

200:

Why do you always make it a screaming argument?

Would it help if I told you that I did very well in my college-level history of astronomy class, where I actually had to build a working astrolabe and cast a horoscope? I take it you've done the same?

I'd also add that you might want to reread that article on Ancient Egyptian Mathematics, especially the section on algebra (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_Egyptian_mathematics#Algebra), the entry on Egyptian algebra (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Egyptian_algebra)and the articles on the papyri linked thereto.

That's what I'm talking about. I agree that it's elementary (literally) compared with what we consider to be algebra, but it's middle bronze age mathematics. And since they appear to be problems to be solved and tables of fractions, it's fair to say that the whole corpus of Egyptian Middle Kingdom mathematics was likely a bit more comprehensive, if not advanced.

201:

Halfway through the book, and enjoying it greatly. As a minor point, the old folk etymology for the insulting V sign comes up, that it goes back to Agincourt and archers showing they still had their index and middle fingers. It's a nice story, but it doesn't stand up. The claim that the French were cutting off archers' fingers goes back to a speech by Henry V, who talked about the French cutting off three fingers, not two -- you use three fingers to draw a longbow, after all. For whatever it's worth, there isn't evidence that people were using the V sign earlier than the beginning of the twentieth century, but then it isn't something you'd expect to be well documented.

I'm not sure why you'd need to explain it, anyway. If you wanted to make the middle finger gesture more emphatic, this is the the first thing you'd think of.

Apparently Churchill wasn't consistent about doing V for Victory palm out or palm in, until somebody finally explained the difference to him, since people of his class didn't use the insulting form. Not that it made the victory sign any less popular, one imagines.

202:

Apparently Churchill wasn't consistent about doing V for Victory palm out or palm in, until somebody finally explained the difference to him

...And after it was explained to him, it depended where DeGaulle was standing...

203:

The biggest problem, as that Atlantic article rightly says, isn't that Simon's Random Penguin will be a monster running about 1/3 of US non-academic publishing (and a hefty chunk of various other markets too). In a better world, it might be, but the issues presented by (ahem) Big River Corp dwarf it, in the same way that Big River itself dwarfs the "big five" publishers themselves.

How much bigger is it? Amazon's declared net income (effectively profit) for 2019 was larger than the total revenue of all big five publishers combined. It's their biggest customer to the extent of selling roughly as many books as everyone else put together, and one of the largest licensors of secondary rights (especially, but far from exclusively, as audiobooks via Audible). And that was last year; 2020 may have been horrible for pretty much everyone else, but it was AMAZING for Amazon's sales growth.

So it's vastly larger than they are, and definitely verging on monopsony conditions - and of course also a significant publisher (ie competitor) in its own right. I suspect that if Amazon isn't either broken up or very strictly reined in, the nominal number of major publishers may be essentially irrelevant in another decade or so - if you want a shot at big sales, you'll do it on Amazon's terms.

204:

Charlie,

If you get the chance read Fantasyland by Kurt Anderson. That would give you more insight into The Black Chamber and the American mindset.

Basically all of the radical extremist Protestants left Europe and came to America. The craziest of the crazies, if you will.

Reading Fantasyland, and remembering your take on the Black Chamber, it all fits.

- Nothing that you "invent" for America can really go too far compared to actual history.

The thread has been incredibly useful, thanks...

Another thing to remember, is that each country had their own calendars. The dates were not equal between them. Not just years but months did not coincide.

It wasn't until the 20th Century that countries started adopting the Gregorian Calendar. I remember Walter Cronkite saying what year it was depending on what country you were from.

That is another useful tactic to limit contagion between the different magic systems.

BTW, I find the New Chronology stuff by Anatoly Fomenko to be great for Story.

Wiki - New chronology (Fomenko)

These are the first four books in pdf. They are the size of phone books so be prepared for a long and intense read.

Volume 1

Volume 2

Volume 3

Volume 4

BTW, I'm really not interested in "debating" Fomenko. These are for people trying to find inspiration for alternate chronologies. When I found the Fomenko I found the mother load for Story. I don't have to make this stuff up.

205:

As good a place as any to comment--people interested (for story purposes or otherwise) in the 17th-century divergence between magic and science might like to consult the works of Frances Yates:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frances_Yates

Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, etc. Lots of material for secret-history-type storytelling involving the likes of Bruno, John Dee, Campanella...

For that matter, what of Leibniz and Spinoza? Leibniz apparently traveled to Amsterdam to meet with Spinoza in November of 1676. What did they *really* talk about at their meeting?

206:

allynh
Fomenko is either a supreme bullshitter or a giant, fraudulent liar, or both ...
He makes as much sense as an xtian cretinist.
For actual evidence that he is: "Not even Wrong"
Start HERE

207:

Charlie,
I have a question about another book of yours, The Nightmare Stacks.

I tried to find whether or not someone had asked you a similar question before, but couldn't turn up anything.

Why was First of Spies and Liars so damn incompetent? I mean, yeah, Cassie knew nothing of military value, but wouldn't an afternoon googling stuff have solved that? And if even that was too much to ask, surely Cassie knew what guns were? How did firearms come as a surprise to the Host? Not to mention them believing the Queen lived in goddarn Leeds of all places. Did Agent First really not figure out from Cassie's memories that London is the capital and that is where everyone pictures the Queen as living?

208:

Basically all of the radical extremist Protestants left Europe and came to America. The craziest of the crazies, if you will.

Ha ha nope, not all of them! You might want to look into the Wee Frees or the Plymouth Brethren some time.

What's different is that they turned into a green-field invasive species when they landed on a continent that had been helpfully genocided by smallpox and first contact pandemics.

209:

allynh's recommendation of Fantasyland by Kurt Anderson seconded.

210:
Why was First of Spies and Liars so damn incompetent?

It wasn't that she was incompetent. She knew that the Queen spent her time smiling, not smiting. Also that Leeds was a small provincial town[1].

Cassie was caught in the vise that if she told dear old dad the truth, (1) she wouldn't be believed and (2) she'd be killed. Parallels with Stalin refusing to believe that Operation Barbarossa was about to kick off, despite MANY spies (metaphorically) shouting "German troops are massing on the borders! The invasion is set to begin in mid-to-late June!! Start preparing!!!" None so blind as they who will not see, I guess.

As for Gustav Holst and The Planets, GH was asked to write another movement after Pluto's discovery in 1930. He declined, because The Planets were based on astrological beliefs about what a planet was and what effects they had on people. We're lucky that he wrote movements for Uranus and Neptune, which astrology didn't take into account. It's a shame he didn't write movements for the Sun and the Moon, though. Those would have fit in.

One final word regarding Pluto may be found here.

~oOo~

[1] Population of London (2019): 8.982 million. Population of Leeds (2018): 792 thousand. Leeds isn't tiny, but London is eleven times bigger! Members of the Host of Air and Darkness couldn't believe the size of Leeds when the saw it. Who needs that many slaves?

211:

Why was First of Spies and Liars so damn incompetent? I mean, yeah, Cassie knew nothing of military value, but wouldn't an afternoon googling stuff have solved that?

You missed the bit about the Alfar host hiding out in a bunker after the magical equivalent of world war three? And about them running low on food and supplies? And a whole lot of surplus bodies being kicked out of the bunker or executed to make the food last longer? Agent First only survived the cull -- that wiped out almost all the Alfar intelligence service -- because she was the All-Highest's daughter. So, nepotism. Then she ends up in a world that runs on entirely different principles to her own, and has the bad luck to borrow the memories of a kid who barely knows anything about how her own nation's governance works. And then, the Alfar command ignores or discounts her reports because Evil Stepmom has the All-Highest's ear. It's a clusterfuck all round. As for guns, why waste time throwing ridiculous bits of lead at your enemies when you've got necromancers who can eat their souls, or basilisk weapons that are effectively line-of-sight death rays?

As for London, Cassie has probably never been there -- and the Queen lives all over, she's mostly in the news when she's visiting somewhere else.

212:

I think the problem with this part of the book (which I otherwise enjoyed and have reread multiple times) was that Cassie didn't spend an afternoon Googling, then spend an hour thinking through what she could or could not tell her father. The same plot would have been possible, but without the obvious problem.

213:

I should note that no author catches all their own problems. This is a failure on the part of the editors and it could have been fixed with a couple paragraphs of First-of-Spies-and-Liars being sad about the stupidity of her people.

214:

I actually felt that she was almost too COMPETENT to be plausible - in Alfar terms! Her scheme to become All-Highest was either freakishly lucky or showed an amazing ability to model other people's thinking and manipulate them. There certainly are such people, and they come to the fore in exactly that sort of society.

Also, I can witness just how much difficulty people from one 'culture' have in realising that something basic to another culture is even possible. It's not just Gargle - it's the existence of even libraries, if your culture doesn't have them. Or picking up a magazine from a stall, and not realising it's fiction, because your culture has no equivalent. No, I won't restart the mathematics debate, but these are examples I have experience of.

215:

"I think the problem with this part of the book (which I otherwise enjoyed and have reread multiple times) was that Cassie didn't spend an afternoon Googling, then spend an hour thinking through what she could or could not tell her father. The same plot would have been possible, but without the obvious problem."

There's actually a lot in the book. The whole Alfar system resembles North Korea with a massive magical overlay. It's a society where you keep your mouth shut except to repeat the party line (of the day). Cassie apparently had limited freedom, only due to being the daughter of the Big Guy, and still had to step carefully, even before Step Mom moved in. Notice that not being a psychopath was a disability which would have gotten her killed.

And it looks like she grew up in the aftermath of something which made WWIII look mild.

She had to make two extremely radical adjustments: a society of non-psychopaths, and a society not based on magic. Either would have been a major adjustment.

216:

"...as that Cassie didn't spend an afternoon Googling, ..."

Why would she think of Googling, and why would she think that public information source was not 90% censored *and* monitored for people who were too curious?

217:

waldo @ 149: JBS at 147: It would be a bit startling if he had :)

I don't think startling is the word I would use. It was discovered before he died, and he apparently did consider the idea before rejecting it.

Now, if he had written a movement for Pluto and then removed it when Pluto got demoted, that would have been startling.

218:

Because she'd merged her consciousness with someone who did know about Google. And Libraries. And all that other stuff.

219:

Information is all there, via memories; ingrained habits of thought are not -- otherwise any agent who did the whole stealing-of-faces-and-memories trick would immediately go native.

220:

Greg Tingey @206, said: For actual evidence that he is: "Not even Wrong"

Let us say that you had a Time Viewer that could look into the past, and you set your Time Viewer to look over the Acropolis in Athens. You would watch in the 1860s while they demolished any buildings that were not "Ancient".

- They literally sanitized the area of anything that conflicted with their twisted aesthetic of "Ancient" Greece.

Now look farther into the past, hundreds of years earlier when they built the Acropolis. That's hundreds of years, not thousands of years.

- There was no such thing as "Ancient" Greece.

You need to actually look at Volume 1 before you start commenting. We are talking reading about 15 pages or so to see what I'm talking about. They even have pictures.

Starting on page 415(457) they discuss "Ancient" Greece.

- The page numbers are shown for the actual page(and the PDF page).

Look on page 427(469) where they show Athens being gutted of buildings that were not considered "Ancient".

There is a picture on page 434(476) showing the Acropolis with all of the exposed foundations. They basically destroyed anything that looked Christian and not "Ancient".

We are lucky in having pictures made in the 1860s when the area was being sanitized.

When you look at the level of fabrication of history that they did, Frank's scenarios above are all too clearly "fact based" rather than fiction.

This lets me have a plausible structure for erasing whole histories, time and again, going back vast ages. That creates a beautiful framework for Story. I could even take the story back to Hyperborea, with Conan the Barbarian, Kull of Atlantis, all of the Lovecraftian prehistory.

This is the mother load.

221:

Damian @ 172:

I was always a little disappointed Holst had not written a movement for "Pluto", but now that Pluto is no longer considered a planet ...

Well to be fair, The Planets was completed in 1916, which is 14 years before Pluto was discovered.

Pluto was discovered while Holst was still alive. He considered & rejected the idea of adding a movement for Pluto.

Let me try to put this in perspective - I saw in my news feed this morning that scientists have discovered our solar system is 2,000 light years closer to the Sagittarius-A Black Hole than we thought it was.

Based on this new information, my fear for the ultimate fate of our solar system is on a par with my disappointment that Holst didn't decide to add a movement for Pluto to "The Planets".

It's not a really big deal, and I'm sure I'll get over it in time.


222:

Elderly Cynic 2 184: It sounded interesting until I saw this "In fact, it can’t be understood using our current computational methods." Unless Wikipedia is completely up the spout, it's not actually very interesting as mathematics and is easily expressible in modern terms.

What a lot of people don't understand is that, until modern times, counting and arithmetic was not the entry to mathematics (*) and wasn't always even closely linked - it was primarily a branch of accounting. For example, the geometric proof methods mentioned above don't use numbers as we know them. Mathematics in that era was linked more closely to astrology than accounting.

icehawk is right, but that example is poor, and it is why I keep mentioning patterns. I will post an idea I have just had, separately.

Is that the If A = B and B = C, then A = C stuff I learned back in high school?


223:

Sorry, wet blanket time. And I am sincere about the apologies.

I got there about five years ago, and blogged about the problem: https://heteromeles.com/2015/07/29/that-brief-window/ You may want to read this.

You're quite right that history gets erased. It looks like the window for having significant information about what's going on is around 5,000 years, give or take. I'm *guessing* (and I'd like some help here, actually), that historical information has a half-life of somewhere between 500 and 1,000 years, barring accidental interments like Pompeii which freeze stuff. Those can last hundreds of millions of years (something similar to Pompeii is what preserved a bunch of feathered dinosaurs in China). But to return, about half of our history is wiped out in 500-1000 years, mostly by fire, rot, and other problems. A good example is that we actually have more textual evidence from the Aztecs (500 years ago) than from ancient Greece (2500 years ago), and almost no evidence from the Neolithic (8,000-5,000 years ago).

Beyond that, it gets random. We know, for instance, that the oldest modern human skull is around 300,000 years old, but the oldest language isolate groups, like the !Kung, are thought to be only about 50,000 years old. That strongly implies that the majority of our history is basically totally erased, aside from the odd bone or tool here and there.

Can you hide Atlantis in the blank spaces? The answer is somewhere between "no" and "depends on what you mean by Atlantis." The issues are things like metals, mining, mass extinctions, and climate change. The test is whether the damage from your deep time Atlantis will leave physical traces. These include:
--Mining. We know, from history, that there are a lot of mines that got worked out as early as 4,000-5,000 years ago. This is especially true for tin mines, because tin is the limiting factor in bronze. But it's also true for most metals, oil, and coal in more modern times. When humans started exploring for oil in the 19th Century, there were oil fields that were literally artesian wells, and they got swiftly depleted, sometimes in days. If there had been a petroleum-based state, say, 100,000 years ago, none of those wells would have been available. If there was a bronze age in the last interglacial (the Eemian), there wouldn't have been a lot of tin available near the surface to make our own bronze.

These are the big tells. Bronze, especially, is highly durable, so if someone was making bronze artifacts tens of thousands of years ago, there's a good chance one would turn up.

Then there's the dodo problem, otherwise known as the extinction of island endemic animals. Right now, a lot of the extinct animals and plants in our world lived on islands: dodos, moas, etc. They were hunted out fairly recently, and we've often got subfossil skeletons that allow us to date when they died. This is not a problem of civilization, as the people who colonized the Pacific Islands routinely wiped out species of flightless rail and duck on each island when they first settled, leaving the bones for the archeologists.

Because of this recent extinction record, and because such bizarre creatures don't evolve in, say, 300,000 years, we can be pretty sure that the humans who caused the extinctions were the first humans to settle those islands.

Similarly, the people who settled islands spread a lot of plants from their homelands that became weeds on those islands. The fact that those weeds got their in historical time and not in prehistory pretty strongly says that the people who introduced them were the first humans to settle the islands.

So what does that leave for prehistory? Quite a lot, actually. If you want to posit Ice Age civilizations, they have to be neolithic in technology and limited to the Old World until 20,000 years ago or so. Now neolithic doesn't necessarily mean primitive, as the Maya used little if any metal. The simple constraint is that civilization has to be invisible to the archeologists, and there's got to be a good reason (other than being invisible to archeologists) why they're not working with metals or driving mammoths extinct. The metal thing can be a simple matter of an alt-history technology issue: they never figured out kilns, and so they never melted metals or developed metallurgy, beyond (perhaps!) pounding native copper or meteorites into tools. This describes the whole of North America, so it's entirely possible.

The good news is that the discovery and abandonment of agriculture are entirely possible, because there's some evidence that it actually happened. There's a site in Israel where the seeds found look a lot like agricultural weeds, except they date back to the height of the last ice age. The likely answer is that those people tried agriculture, the climate changed, and they abandoned it, much as the people who built Stonehenge almost abandoned agriculture when the weather got a bit wonky.

Anyway, have fun, and be critical of everything you read. And also, don't forget, that what I wrote above definitely applies to our future too, so you've got a billion-odd years of future human history to play with the same way, if you assume our civilization crashes but humans don't go extinct.

224:

Barry @ 216:

"...as that Cassie didn't spend an afternoon Googling, ..."

"Why would she think of Googling, and why would she think that public information source was not 90% censored *and* monitored for people who were too curious?

"Cassie" would have naturally Googled it. Agent First is not Cassie even though she has an overlay of the personality & memories. Still, Agent First does recognize that the plan to invade is doomed by faulty assumptions, but she is bound by her geasa in what she can do to alter that plan.

When Most Highest & First of airborne (or whatever) interrogate the real Cassie, they refuse to understand what she tells them.

Plus, it's pretty obvious that Agent First has been set up for failure, so she's already fighting an uphill battle against her own people.

225:

No. That's basic discrete logic and, while it is not common knowledge in all cultures and is surprisingly often ignored even today, I don't know of anything that can be called mathematics that doesn't have it.

I was referring to things like geometry, music, poetry, many forms of 'abstract' art etc. As the Laundry books say, those have a lot in common with mathematics and programming - indeed, the first programming language was knitting patterns! I can't stand Hofstadter's writing, and haven't read this, but agree with his connection.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del,_Escher,_Bach

226:

Um, er, uh, huh?

Page xx: Jesus Christ was born in 1053 AD and crucified in 1086 AD. The Old Testament refers to medieval events. Apocalypse was written after 1486.

Excuse me, there's a giant lightening bolt from Venus, which was expelled from Jupiter, stretching to the Earth for 40 years, and I think that's as believable....

227:

1. It cuts down the number of editors - I guarantee that will be the case within 5 year.
2. There will be *far* less "work with the author to get it into shape", as Walt's doing with me.
3. There will be far fewer *different* novels, and more Sword of Shannara, etc.

228:

Not disputing what you are saying, but providing other examples:

"That strongly implies that the majority of our history is basically totally erased, aside from the odd bone or tool here and there."

That is one reason people like Elaine Morgan, me, and the more heretical paleoanthropologists opposed the 'official beliefs', and have now been, er, exonerated. Basket weaving, rope, netting etc. were FAR more likely to be the first technologies than stone tools, possibly contemporaneous with bone tools, which is contra-indicative to the Great Savanna Hunter theories. Survival of those over millions of years? Don't make me laugh!

"This is especially true for tin mines, because tin is the limiting factor in bronze."

I'll raise you flint! In many places (including Britain), it was the first limiting resource and was essentially mined out in the neolithic.

Howard and the Conanists got one thing right: if there were to be a lost centre of civilisation in prehistory, Doggerland is probably the strongest candidate. We know that it was densely populated, and even know when it was inundated, and why.

229:

allynh
Not even, not even wrong, nottevenwrongg ... to as many powers as you like.
It's bollocks
There is physical evidence of the past, coupled with written records - some going back as far as ancient Egypt & those records are themseleves dateable, by things like, but not restricted to Radio(carbon) methods.

At = A0 * e-λt     ALL THE TIME, everywhere & everywhen.

"They" sanitised - who - some giant international CONSPIRACY that no-one has found out about? DO GROW UP!
This is the mother load of 💩 actually. Oh & I think you meant "lode" b.....

( See also whitroth )

230:

I completely agree that fiber arts are likely more ancient than we believe. The problem is that, if we define stone tools to include situations where animals bang stuff on rocks or rocks on stuff, then there's even an example of a fish using a hunk of reef to break clams open. So the banging stuff on stuff is likely one of the most ancient tool-uses. Dragging stuff around to hide you is possibly even more ancient, and building nests (a fiber art) is also pretty ancient. All of these pre-date humans

However, if I had to bet, I strongly suspect that the most ancient form of tool use is sex toys, in the general category of objects that are rubbed against or otherwise manipulated to induce orgasms without the possibility of reproducing. There's one survey out there (Biological Exuberance) that attempted in the 90s to survey the literature for "alternative sexuality" (homosexuality, transgender animals, sex toy use and non-reproductive sexual activity). It's worth hunting down a copy. The tl;dr takeaways are:
--Humans are actually pretty cigender vanilla compared with other apes, and definitely compared with some other species out there like ruffs.
--What we take as gender diversity and "perversions" in humans are actually pretty widespread in nature,
--and the kicker, the most common form of tool use in animals is sex toys. There are a large number of species that will rub against something to masturbate that show no other tool use.

And if you're willing to extend the idea of "tool use" to using spaces as well as objects, then the most ancient form of tool use is digging holes and hiding in them. That goes back to the Cambrian.

Oh, and I entirely agree about Doggerland. Ice age littoral zones in general are great because, being 100 meters below current sea level, they're beyond SCUBA range and generally little explored by marine archeologists.

231:

Likely this is covered in a sequel, but what happened to Rupert's guards? —and did Eve assume full power so rapidly that she was able to head-off the full search of Rupert's last known location?

I mean sure, he's not a white, blonde, teen, but a missing man of enormous wealth generally draws interest…or did everyone just sort of forget about him the moment they could, or rather just always start thinking of something more interesting the moment after he's remembered, with perhaps that track greased by the New Management?

232:

So the banging stuff on stuff is likely one of the most ancient tool-uses.
Also, if you bang flint (or even chert) on another rock often, the odds are high that you'll get interesting sharps, usable as knives. (Obsidian is rare.)

233:

For the answers to these (and other) questions, you need to read "In His House" and "Bones and Nightmares". The former is written, the latter is about 30% there, and when I get the contracts signed you'll read about it on this blog (along with provisional publication dates for both books).

NB: all is definitely explained, and so are the answers to some other questions you haven't asked.

234:

WHAT is your favorite color?

235:

There's actually a book out there, Paul Campbell's Universal Tool kit which goes into primitive stone tools.

If this is something you're interested in, it's worth finding, although the writing isn't great.

His starting point is there are a bunch of different rock types out there. At the top end are microcrystalline things like chert, flint, and obsidian, which are really good for edges. These are the materials you lavish skill on, because (as noted) they're rare.

At the other end of the scale are the mudstones and other fall-apart stuff. These have their uses, but they're relatively useless for a lot of things.

In the middle are, well, most rocks. The "universal toolkit" is what you can make by fracturing a halfway decent cobble with another rock. You can make simple edges, mashers, scrapers, and rasps, and so forth. These aren't things to keep unless you're desperate, they're the discardable equivalent of plastic cutlery or box cutters, quick to make, reasonably useful, and not a problem if lost, unlike the fine flint knife.

The other point is that these simple tools were made well into historic times, often by women. They tend to fool naive archeologists, because they're so primitive even cavemen did make them. One name for these kind of flake tools is "teshoa," which you can google to see what I'm talking about.

There are plenty of societies that made very fine obsidian blades and also teshoa, depending on circumstances. I'd suggest that if you're into primitive survival skills, learn to make teshoa before worrying about flintknapping. It's the more primitive skill, and you won't lack for material to practice with.

236:

Yikes! Are you telling me that none of you people have read Robert E. Howard? Where have you been. Where has your imagination gone. Everybody was doing so well before it all fell apart.

I have story to write.

Thanks...

237:

Greg - and Whitroth - I don't think Allynh actually believes that this stuff is true. I think he's saying that it makes excellent fodder for alternate-world science-fiction and fantasies, not to mention a good general source of stories.

238:

Read them all and still like them, even the L. Sprague de Camp ones. I was pissed when I found out my mom had pitched my stash. Although to be fair, the cats had been throwing up on them regularly...

I mean, heck, I even read them after I read On Thud and Blunder, which I'll bet a lot of people are remembering right about now.

Still, you're right, it is a good time to get into Conanism, because they're planning a Netflix Conan series.

OTOH, you can do so much better than elegant Robert E Howard pastiches. I mean, here's one for free (to anybody actually):
--set it a half million years in the future
--It's during the next ice age (that's one reason it needs to be that long in the future.)
--The Straits of Gibraltar have closed, and the Suez Canal is long gone, and the Mediterranean Sea is dry. (this is the other reason for the far future. Google Messinian Salinity Crisis to see what I'm talking about).
--Add magic or whatever.

There, you've now got a world map that looks pretty much like Hyboria, without the REH racial cycling squickiness. Better yet, it's got that mix of Vancian futurism and atavistic Conanism to make it easy to populate from old D&D manuals. And best of all, the only place to mine for stuff people need are in the 500,000 years of dead cities that populate the highlands, all other mines being entirely worked out. And those ruins might even be populated by monsters and demons, if that's the way you swing.

Have fun with it. Guaranteed original, and I'm definitely not working on this particular world.

239:

I saw the Checkov gun, but wasn't sure where it was going to go.

Initially when it was revealed I thought the bladder was going to be heated, If only for the pay off line 'it boils your piss'.

hey, I like a good one liner.

Still steam cleaning the pipes would be quite distracting.

240:

I haven't read it, but here are a couple of other aspects. Flint is common and easy to extract in many chalk and soft limestone beds, so it's not so much rare as local; it was traded around western Europe, including Britain. And the extremely common granite is generally a ghastly material to make an edge out of (how do I know?), but an excellent stone for hammers, and a natural rasp; if it was the local stone, it would encourage making spearpoints and knives out of bone (for example).

241:

A Netflix series.

Argh. So, let's see, will they have the ultimate Conan story, which starts out with him having been crucified, and he bite the neck out of a vulture and drinks the blood?

242:

Guys (and girls if any), please don't forget about a basic thing that anyone tends to ignore.

This planet is several billions years old. Our species is several hundreds millennia old. And yet, we only know anything at all about the latest 4-5000 years.

It's not really a leap of imagination to guess that literally anything could have happened so much time ago that it would have not left any trace recognizable to today's men.

Many SF writers guessed this, of course. And all real historians and/or archaeologists knows this, but just can't do anything about it.

Bottom line, if really ancient civilization actually existed, we wouldn't be able to know anything about them.

If human civilization collapsed right now, what would be left of us in 10000 years? What about 50000? 100000? And this is nothing compared to the real age of this planet.

See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Canticle_for_Leibowitz

243:

OTOH: Charles, what about the crib sheet for The Labyrinth Index? It has been out for a while now, and the next book in the series (for variable definition of "next book in the series") is out now. Time for a CS, I think.

244:

Actually, we would have evidence of any human or hominid civilisation that used pottery, brick, worked stone or much in the way of metals. They all last well.

Another story is The Green Marauder, over a timescale a thousand times longer. But, even for that, Niven had to assert the lack of an endoskeleton and little use of the above technologies. We would find evidence for those after half a billion years, if they were used heavily, even if we couldn't say more than 'something unnatural went on here'.

245:

We’re going to leave behind a layer of isotope anomalies that will be detectable for aeons.

246:
We’re going to leave behind a layer of isotope anomalies that will be detectable for aeons.
The fossil record will show a sudden global migration of land species.
247:

The sixth great extinction.

248:

If human civilization collapsed right now, what would be left of us in 10000 years?

Glass artifacts (e.g., discarded bottles) in the mud and sludge at the bottom of oceans and lakes and marshes. Mud turns to rock, sludge turns to coal, both last a long, long time.

249:

We’re going to leave behind a layer of isotope anomalies that will be detectable for aeons..

Everybody and their queer Aunt focuses on isotope anomalies. Those are hard to see. And things like pollen can last for hundreds of millions of years. This is why (rant) the idiots who decided when the Anthropocene started used the radiation emitted by 1950s bomb blasts as a marker, instead of corn pollen from four hundred years ago suddenly being found all over the world. It's stupid, because we use isotopic anomalies to date stuff, and if the sediments from an area get enriched or depleted, they suddenly overlap with an earlier era and throw the dating off. (/rant). Well (more rant) this happened in Polynesia. Ancient Polynesians burned some driftwood in their fires, and archeologists in the 1960s scooped up all the charcoal and used it for old-school carbon dating. Problem was, the driftwood had come from an old growth log from the Pacific Northwest, so it yielded an age that was approximately 1000 years older than the fire that burned it. Now the archeologists identify the wood in charcoal fragments to species, and only use fast-growing wood that gives a date close to the time of the fire (/end rant)

Anyway, the general answer to this, #242, and #244 is that no, the traces are different. About a decade ago I wrote a pretty awful time travel story (Ghosts of Deep Time) where the premise was that there a time traveling civilization that colonized throughout the paleontological deep past, all the way into the Precambrian, but they only settled where they would leave no trace for naive fossil hunters like ourselves, because they didn't want us to figure out that time travel was possible. So I did a deep dive into what fossilized and what did not. And I got a real taste for deep time that showed up in Hot Earth Dreams.

The way it works in general comes down to a few things. I'm going to overly simplify, because you really need a book like Hot Earth Dreams read backwards to get into more detail.

First, the longer the time span, the less that lasts. I'm not going to write a full essay here, but bronze and gold last a lot longer than iron and brick.

Second, there are erosional zones and depositional zones in geology. If you're trying to leave no trace, focus on places that erode away (highlands), and stay away from places where stuff accumulates and gets emplaced in the fossil record (wetlands, certain river deposits, certain ocean deposits, certain volcanoes like Vesuvius). Coal, especially, preserves stuff extremely well, down to microscopic size, and all coal is is the remnants of drowned, anoxic plant material from swamps. Bury a brick in a swamp and if the material around it gets made into coal, it will preserve the brick. Build a brick building on the edge of a cliff in Scotland, and the weather's going to chew it up in a few centuries or less.

Third, speaking of coal and oil. These have depth limits. If they get buried to deep, the pressure and temperature breaks them into simple organic compounds and they're useless as fuel. Unfortunately, we can now mine pretty deep ourselves, so our civilization now is in a state where we can get all the coal if we want. This is pretty important, because coals are limited. We've cleaned out most of the coal from the carboniferous around 300 million years ago, and more of that stuff won't form, because the evolution of wood rotters has gone so far that trees don't simply fall in swamps and get buried nearly as often as they did 300 million years ago. This puts a hard upper limit on what paleocivilizations could do. For example, if aliens landed 65 million years ago and used the coal to make guns to kill all the dinosaurs, between that, air pollution, and climate change, we'd see the death of the dinosaurs, and almost all our coal would be younger than that period. And if you think an alien paleocivilization would ignore that much cheap fuel literally lying around, free for the burning, you're more optimistic than I am.

Metal ores are a bit different. I set a good chunk of Ghosts of Deep Time at a time traveler academy in Paleocene Scotland for a couple of good reasons. One was that, thanks to the London Clays and a really weird volcano in the Hebrides that pulled a bit of a Vesuvius, I could make a reasonable guess about what the place looked like (Highland Papua New Guinea, sort of). Second, for some reason people have done a lot of geology in Scotland, so I had evidence that over the last 56 million years, about a kilometer of rock has eroded off the highlands. So if time travelers were mining ores in the highlands, their mines and settlements would be eroded entirely away. But note, that erosion rate was about a kilometer for fifty million years, and it's not uniform across the planet. Still, metal ores aren't subject to the same depth restrictions that fossil fuel deposits are, so I suspect that, if a paleocivilization avoided using fossil fuels but mined surface metal and gem deposits, their mining activity would get eroded away and new deposits would surface, again over deep time.

...I could go on, but I can see the eyes glazing already.

That's why I'm saying that if you want to do Hyboria where you actually bring it up to modern science instead of aping REH, the thing to do is to go into the Ice Age Balkans (or Doggerland, or the Baltic, or somewhere in the Mediterranean, green Saharan Africa, or wherever), and create a Mayan/African neolithic civilization, Mayan for sophistication without metal, African for living around big game like mammoths and lions. Read up a bit on what we know about Mayan history (bloody dynastic fights among city states autocrats, with lesser known, more democratic folk on the margins), transform it for Ice Age Europe (pyramids in site of the glaciers? Are mammoths friends or food?) and go to town. Oh yeah, the other good thing: Mayans were about as cave-crazy a civilization as has ever walked our fair planet, and the ice agers seem to have been inordinately fond of caves too. So if you want an underworld dungeon crawl, this is definitely the system to build.

Or do something completely different. But if you want to make it science fictional, make it sciencey and make motions of respect towards what the geologists, paleontologists, and archeologists have already published.

250:

There, that's better.

Wiki - Newmanera

It's a game set a billion years in the future after having eight earlier civilizations rise and fall.

Think Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun series.

http://numenera.com

So I can run the Story back into prehistory and into the future.

To add spice to the future story, I'm using Growing Earth Theory(GET) as well, so that the Earth has doubled in size. Double the size, double the gravity. A variation, is that the Earth has doubled in size, but the continents are floating above a planet that is all ocean. There was a point when a Singularity occurred and a vast Intelligence runs the Solar System and keeps the Earth as a reserve for baseline DNA humans to harvest.

- The floating continents were a way to stabilize the surface and have the reserve in place.

It is unsafe and unethical to grow an AI, but let a baseline human grow up, have a life, then offer them uplift. It is safer to upgrade baseline humans to become advanced beings.

That was the whole point of the TV series Lost. The copy Earth they were on was seeded with humans that all had nano-recorders in them. That was the glow you saw in the cave. The Spark. When people died, their recordings were stored in the Sideways, a VR world where they could live many different lives, learning and growing until they were ready to move on to their next life. The Island was basically the Arc(hive) for collecting the harvest.

Any advanced civilization would have to grow baseline humans as feed stock for uplift rather than have children that advanced.

Wiki - Charlie X

Wiki - The Squire of Gothos

For examples of the danger of having advanced children.

Now, back to writing story.

Thanks...

251:

> glass

Though glass may de-vitrify, it, like bones and even soft tissues, can leave casts in the surrounding matrix. Coke bottles and their ghosts will be around for hundreds of megayears.

252:

True, but 20-30 million years from now, what are the chances of someone finding such a thing?

253:

10 000 years?
Remains of great earthworks, the collapsed edges of big dams, railway embankments, large bridges, se walls - same as we find around the edges of the Fertile Crescent right now, in fact.

allynh
For examples of the danger of having advanced children.
The Midwich Cuckoos, for example?

TRoutwaxer
The Boot in the Coal-Mine ... Pterry - Strata

254:

Allynh
"Numenera"
Any way of getting that to stay on a single page, so that we can LOOK at it?

10 000 years?
Remains of great earthworks, the collapsed edges of big dams, railway embankments, large bridges, se walls - same as we find around the edges of the Fertile Crescent right now, in fact.

For examples of the danger of having advanced children.
The Midwich Cuckoos, for example?

Troutwaxer
The Boot in the Coal-Mine ... Pterry - Strata

255:

"Anyway, the general answer to this, #242, and #244 is that no, the traces are different."

Eh? Are you saying that a civilisation could have made serious use of pottery, brick, worked stone or much in the way of metals (or glass, as Allen Thompson says) a mere 100-250,000 years ago, and it would NOT have left clearly anomalous traces?

Even in Niven's tale, any large chunks of durable material falling into the sediment under the cities would be visible as a clearly anomalous inclusion in the resulting rocks. Yes, we would have to find one of the right rocks, which is the point about such use being extensive.

I agree with you that a (small) civilisation that was trying to hide could do so.

256:

True, but 20-30 million years from now, what are the chances of someone finding such a thing?

Depends on who the someone is. If it's a civilization comparable to the human one(s) of the past few centuries, given to extensive mining and geological investigation, the chances would be pretty high. Otherwise maybe not so much so..

257:

Another story where magic went away due to technology is "The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O." by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland.

MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD

The central conceit is that the invention of photography stopped magic (specifically, witchcraft) from working due to quantum handwaving. Then a scientist starts working with boxes carefully isolated from quantum effects outside. Initially he actually puts cats inside them, and proves Terry Pratchett's dictum that the three states the cat can be in are alive, dead and bloody furious. Then some government people arrive and provide the funding to scale it up, and a witch turns up from the long ago past who seems to be part of a stable time-loop...

Its a fun book.

258:
WHAT is your favorite color?

Witroth! No! Don't ask those questions!

Do you want Charlie to be pitched over the Bridge of Death if he gets one of them wrong?

259:

To clarify, I'm thinking of Hyborian or paleosophants, so I'm talking about traces surviving tens of thousands to tens of millions of years.

To pick on Hyboria, Conan's steel swords wouldn't survive. We know this, because early iron age swords are mostly known from the rust stains they left behind, and that's only 2,500-3,000 years ago. Meanwhile bronze swords a thousand years older are still sharp once you get rid of surface corrosion. However, Aquilonian porcelain would be found (complete vitrification would make it more durable) while the charcoal from Pictish campfires on marshy islands were survive better than would the earthenware pots they made in those fires (low-fired earthenware, aka terracotta, falls apart much more easily than does porcelain, while we've got charcoal dating back to the Carboniferous IIRC).

I agree that an anomaly falling into a swamp somewhere, or better, into anoxic sea-floor conditions, is the best way to find a trace. The fun bit with putative ice age civilizations is that sea level rose and fell by 100 meters or so, and AFAIK there were no coastal dead zones. What this means in turn is that if Conan of the Eemian buried a body in a sea-level swamp somewhere during the last interglacial, during the following ice age, the sea level would drop 100 meters. Depending on the drainage, that swamp might turn from a nice depositional environment that accumulates stuff to an erosional environment that gets chewed up and thrown away. Or ground under a glacier. But this is only really true about ice ages.

Anyway, it's entirely possible to build a primary state without metal. The Maya are one (well, technically the Olmec are, the Mayans being their successors). The Hawaiians are another, even more extreme example, of supporting hundreds of thousands of people on an extremely limited material base.

As I was playing with the idea, the big problem with an ice age civilization in Europe is "what did they cultivate?" Take a look at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_food_origins. Europe is pretty depauperate in crops that could be domesticated and cultivated to support people. Most of the critical species that support European civilization came out of the Middle East or various parts of Asia. Somehow, I don't think anyone would buy a metal-free civilization, raising pyramids for its god-kings in sight of alpine glaciers, that fed its people mostly on turnips.

If someone wants to stick with the neolithic founder crops, just have them domesticated earlier, then the setting has to be around the Fertile Crescent, southwestern Asia to northeastern Africa. There's no reason not to do this, and if you add back in the montane cedar forests full of monkeys, as well as Pleistocene wildlife like lions, bears, and wolves, with elephants, hippos, ostriches, and cheetahs in the lowlands, it starts getting exotic again.

260:

OTOH: Charles, what about the crib sheet for The Labyrinth Index?

I thought I already did one?

If not, well, remind me next week. (Right now, am writing.)

261:

I agree about the level of vitrification, which also applies to brick (and similarly for durability of stone). But my point is that you DON'T need such things to fall into an anaerobic swamp - anywhere that detritus accumulates will do, including accumulating beaches and most European land surfaces. And my point about significant use is that, while a single iron sword may disappear, a cluster of them or suit of full armour in an accumulating (and not acidly leaching) soil will leave an anomalous amount of iron oxides, even after the soil has turned into rock.

On the matter of food, there was a lot of hazel and oak woodland, northern European oaks' acorns are edible after treatment, and there was VERY rich fishing, as there was in the Fenland until the Fens were drained. Greens and fruit in season would have been easy to obtain, too. That's all well-documented.

In history, farming spread from west Asia to Britain in a few thousand years, could have done the same 120,000 years ago, and the previous maximum (c. 120Ky BP) was as warm as historical times; the succeeding ice age would have killed them off. The pollen evidence points to the previous situation, however!

Aside: I prefer dating the anthropocene from c. 10,000 years ago, when we started to reshape ecologies. I will pass 400 years ago, but that's because we started to change the global climate.

262:

"Doubled in size" do you mean twice the diameter? Because surface:volume is square-cube law, and off the top of my head, not doing any calculations, I'd think four times the gravity.

263:

No, it's double the gravity - the mass M goes up as R^3 and the gravity as M/R^2. It's quadruple the energy needed to launch a rocket to space.

264:

About what would be left half a million years from now?

I can't believe none of you have thought of the most obvious: let's see, GIANT, humoungous, immense *trash* *heaps*. They'd find a hell of a lot in them, including the remnants of electronics (gold contacts, remember? and plastics that are not tasty, covering the copper of the printed circuit cards? Lost scissors, and rings, and on and on). Piles, only some of which hve been recybled of old cars, etc. Most converted to rust, though not all of every car, and there'd be the shapes.

There'd probably also be the basements of skyscrapers - *solidly* built, and deep.

265:

Heteromeles @ 238: There, you've now got a world map that looks pretty much like Hyboria, without the REH racial cycling squickiness. Better yet, it's got that mix of Vancian futurism and atavistic Conanism to make it easy to populate from old D&D manuals. And best of all, the only place to mine for stuff people need are in the 500,000 years of dead cities that populate the highlands, all other mines being entirely worked out. And those ruins might even be populated by monsters and demons, if that's the way you swing.

If the Mediterranean basin dries up, wouldn't mineral deposits that are now UN-mineable because they're currently hidden below sea level become exposed? And if sea level drops enough to again expose Doggerland, what might lie underneath that?

266:

Greg Tingey @254, said: Any way of getting that to stay on a single page, so that we can LOOK at it?

In the upper left hand corner of the page are three small lines, stacked on each other, before the name Newmanera. Click on them and a menu drops down to access more information.

267:

Troutwaxer @ 252: True, but 20-30 million years from now, what are the chances of someone finding such a thing?

What are the chances scientists would find 100 million year old dinosaur feathers?


268:

We have a good idea of what lies in Doggerland, from trawling - it's all less than 200 metres from the surface, about half less than 50 metres. See what Heteromeles and I have been saying. I am pretty sure that it's not been more studied because it's poor scuba diving territory - cold, windy and murky, with ever-present danger from feral trawlers.

The Mediterranean is 'interesting'. It's much deeper, probably filled catastrophically, but just too long ago for hominids (appararently now renamed), let alone a human civilisation. However, if there had been a great ape that had adapted to the extreme conditions there and evolved intelligence, I doubt we would have a clue about it!

269:

Oh, I did think about it. It's in Hot Earth Dreams, and this thread is about Dead Lies Dreaming. The tl;dr version is that, unless we get really smart about things this century,* most of the resources are going to be in the ruins of cities, which in my book includes waste dumps and the metal skeletons of skyscrapers. This stuff is "high entropy," meaning that it's going to take a lot of work to make something useful out of it. Worse, unless we figure out good ways to bootstrap from the use of firewood to good solar and wind generators, most of the energy needed to refine old materials and build stuff with it will be from biofuels, like wood, charcoal, alcohol, and methane. And not much of those either, compared with the amount of energy we use now.

That's the critical bottleneck going forward, that we get stuck with critical metals and other resources found solely in the trash and ruins, and recycling them will take a long time, because we'll have limited supplies of high energy fires for things like smelting and refining. It makes for an interesting technological base for stories, but it's kind of depressing to consider ending up there from where we are now. Incidentally, if you're thinking future medievaloid, I'd recommend looking at Ming Dynasty China. Same tech level, but some interesting ideas that were differently developed in Europe.

The other thing is that, if you have to cannibalize the past to make the present, then history gets recycled too. That leads to a rather different mindset about things like history and historical sciences.

* After four years of living under Agent INEPT APOCALYPSE trying to push the fast forward button towards a dystopian future, I decided that it's worth being hopeful about renewable energy, especially the notion that it's possible to have large-scale, closed-loop recycling of old panels and turbines using only renewable energy. It would be nice to keep electricity flowing into the indefinite future. And unlike the Moties, I don't think we can bootstrap to fusion reactors each time.

270:

If the Mediterranean basin dries up, wouldn't mineral deposits that are now UN-mineable because they're currently hidden below sea level become exposed? And if sea level drops enough to again expose Doggerland, what might lie underneath that?

Good point! It looks like they're experimenting with Mediterranean sea-floor mining now (https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02242-y). So the answer depends on the 21st Century: Maybe a lot of stuff lying around for the taking, maybe just the ginormous salt beds left over from the Miocene when the Mediterranean last dried. And as the Garretts pointed out in the Gandalara Cycle, I know even less about what resources are mineable on the currently submarine slopes of Cyprus and Crete.

So if you like this scenario, it depends on the history you're writing. It could be anywhere from completely mined, aside from the salt to a rush for nodules and salt.

Four other historical points:
A. 500,000 years is too short a time for evolution to undo a mass extinction by at least an order of magnitude. However, given what we're doing with CRISPR and related technologies now, that may be less relevant.

2. I'd just guessed about the next ice age, but looking at the Milankovitch cycles, it looks there's one primed to start around 550,000 years, give or take

III. Gibraltar closing was another guess. But digging through ol' Wikipedia, it turns out that the African Plate is apparently moving northward at 0.292 degrees/million years. That equals something like 17.5 nautical miles/million years. The Straits are about 7 nautical miles wide, so that would take about 400,000 years to seal, not counting the erosive power of the sea moving in and out and keeping it open. It would then take at least 1,000 years for the Mediterranean to dry out.

D. If you believe Wikipedia on this, the drying of the Mediterranean does some interesting things, besides screwing up the formerly Mediterranean climate of the former littoral around the now dry Bottomland. The other interesting thing is that it moves an appreciable amount of fresh water into the hydrosphere (Mediterranean salt remains behind to form yet more halite). A lot of this water ends up in the remaining oceans, probably lowering their salinity a bit and raising their freezing temperature a bit more. That makes the onset of the next ice age just a bit easier, and helps it last a bit longer.

So yes, setting Hyboria around 550,000 years in the future, with a dry Mediterranean and a major ice age, isn't stupid at all. Indeed, the suggestion that the reason to colonize the Bottomlands is to mine for newly exposed minerals makes a lot of sense, although the mines will be rapidly exhausted, compared with the process of the Med drying down and exposing them.

You can tell I'm avoiding work by having fun worldbuilding?

271:

I do not understand why people are confusing discussions about Story with Reality. All of the negative comments are about Reality not living up to something fun. People are forgetting the vast cities that Robert E. Howard wrote about.

- How those cities disappeared into the ancient past is a far more interesting discussion.

But if you insist on looking at Reality, and vanishing societies, consider the Silk Road.

People did not load up a bunch of camels with silk and then set out over a trackless desert to get to a market on the other side of the continent. They followed a road that travelled through a well populated region with towns and cities made of mud brick, constructed using very little wood or stone.

Over time, those towns and cities wiped out the easy resources for firewood to cook food, or have grazing for their animals. Those towns and cities were abandoned and the mud brick buildings left to collapse back into the landscape.

- That whole region was turned into a desert by the people living there, yet the caravans still followed the old routes when they were gone.

I can't find the specific videos on YouTube that I remember seeing on our local PBS station, but decades ago people brought over a guy from Namibia who built using mud bricks. They wanted him to build using that technology to show what could be done.

Here in Santa Fe they often build using adobe bricks, so they made a bunch before he showed up, but adobe is the wrong size, too wide and long, so he started out by breaking the adobe into brick size units. He then proceeded to build a dome without a wood frame to support the construction. He also built an arched vault roof, once again without wood framing.

This is an example of using larger adobe. The guy who was here would have split the adobe you see and did the dome totally by eye. The people who were trying to help him, were basically in the way.

Adobe dome workshop part 21080p H 264 AAC

This example uses larger adobe and limited wood to guide building a vault roof.

adobe mud bricks vault

The point I am making, is that we already have a real example of a region collapsing and basically lost to view, and that all happened in recent memory, i.e., the last 10k years.

People have been building with mud brick for thousands of years, and built big towns and cities that essentially vanished when abandoned.

BTW, Those areas can be restored with proper reintroduction of herd animals.

How to green the world's deserts and reverse climate change | Allan Savory

I have watched an area of land along I-25 that is turning to desert because they no longer allow proper grazing technics. They have now posted signs along the Interstate warning of blowing dust where that was never a problem before.

I have also watched a paved road that was no longer used or maintained, turn into gravel. The asphalt literally evaporated over the past 30 years, leaving the aggregate behind.

In the far future, there will be no indication of our vast cities because later generations will harvest the resources and use them for other purposes. It is standard here in Santa Fe to completely strip a building down to the ground, breaking up the concrete foundations and brick walls for aggregate, etc..., completely recycling the materials.

Watching them tear down a block of buildings along Cerrillos Road, turning concrete foundations and brick into piles of aggregate showed me the future. I have whole stories where the major industry of this century will be stripping out the resources in all the abandoned sub-divisions, and re-wilding the land.

Short of a Mad Max style collapse, we will clean up the technology stigmata of our society and the Next People will have no clue that we were ever here.

Despite what Frank is saying, the question I want to examine for Story is, how many times has that already happened.

272:

Re: ' ... we already have a real example of a region collapsing and basically lost to view,..'

Also like Chernobyl which is now almost overgrown by local flora in a matter of a few decades. This area is also likely to yield a lot of info about how modern materials/infrastructure actually deteriorate - relative aging/stability.

About glass lasting a long time ... When I watched a documentary a couple of years back about Chernobyl they showed how most of the glass/windows in pretty well all the buildings in that area had been damaged/broken. Basically, whatever glass there was is completely gone apart from small shards and pieces. These too are likely to get smaller over time as wind/snow/rain gusts throw them around mostly to the ground where they'll shatter after which animals and/or plants will continue grinding them. Based on this, I'm wondering how realistic it is to assume that 'intact' anything will survive the elements, fauna and flora. Might be more realistic just to look for increased concentrations of stuff.


273:

Chernobyl is an unusual example because it doesn’t have people picking it over for anything of value. To get widespread Chernobyl-like conditions you’d need a very sudden, very extreme reduction in human population.

274:

Not to derail again, but Al 'unSavory is not worth following. His hypotheses have been tested in Africa, and they didn't work. His response was to change his story so that the tests did prove his new story right. That kind of post hoc hypothesis shift is, shall we say, dubious?

I remember when he came out to San Diego and looked at Torrey Pines State Reserve in the summer. Most of you don't know the area, but it's famous as the biggest population of Torrey pines (one of the world's rarest pines, growing in coastal sage scrub that is dormant during the dry summer, and it's growing on sandstone that is considered stone only by courtesy. I can rip chunks of it out with my hands, and climbing on it is a good way to die.

Anyway, 'unSavory took one look at Torrey Pines, said:
--there was way to much dead material (mistaking dormant for dead)
--It was overgrown and there should be grass there (mistaking coastal scrub for grasslands. Presumably he's seen the fynbos around the Cape)?
--Therefore it was badly mismanaged, and it needed to have lots of cattle on it ASAP. Remember what I said about how friable it is? Yeah, imagine what herds of cows would do, and imagine them hitting the beach 50' below when the slope crumbles under them. And Torrey Pines are far from the only really rare species on that sandstone outcrop. But it's okay if these species, which have no defense against grazing because cows aren't fucking native to San Diego and Torrey Pines was never ranched, get grazed anyway. If you're an 'unSavory cultist.

The upshot of this 'unSavory pontificating was I and the other local plant ecologists had to deal with a bunch of 'unSavory cultists yelling at us that we were stupid and their master was right. Fortunately, it never got far beyond FacePlant. But he's just another loon, along with the jobsworth pushing pervasive aluminum toxicity, who wants to put the fix on the already difficult problem of managing a tiny reserve of rare plants that gets more visitors than Yosemite.

So please get yourself deprogrammed from this 'unSavory cult, and free up your bandwidth for more useful things. Of course, I'm quite sure that this will make you go deeper into 'unSavory intellectual practices, but I really have to try. Grazing has its place, but extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, not showboating and result retconning.

275:

Re: 'To get widespread Chernobyl-like conditions you’d need a very sudden, very extreme reduction in human population.'

I think we've seen a few episodes of this i.e., war (including 're-locating' indigenous populations), famines, floods, fires, volcanoes, epidemics, etc.

276:

Anyway, getting away from unsavory intellectual discussion, I pretty much agree. There are parts of the Middle East (Iraq, for instance) where AFAIK every low hill in the otherwise flat area is remains of a dead city or city-state, melting back into the ground. There are ruins throughout the Andes and the US too with much the same cause.

The problem for us is that people envision ruins like ancient Rome where the Italians recycled Roman stone well into modern times, and project forward to think that this will happen to our modern glass, steel, and concrete cities. That I disagree with, because I don't think reinforced concrete, structural steel, or glass will last nearly as long as Roman unreinforced concrete and rock. That suggests, instead, that our gleaming cities are so much rubble waiting to happen, rather than more picturesque ruins.

Of course, if we change the way we build, all bets are off, but buildings are built now for a 50-100 year life, not centuries.

Anyway, I'm interested in set building, trying to get creatives to try something new rather than just trot out the same old tropes, like Lovecraftian tentacular racism, or Conanism and the prototypical murder hobos who become autocratic strongmen with tarnished hearts of gold.

The key thing, to me, is that Lovecraft and Howard took their understanding of the science of their times and ran with it. Some of that science was admittedly racist as fuck, but they weren't rewriting Frankensteinian science fiction from a century ago, they were taking what was current for them and using it. When we copy their century-old milieus, we're not copying their methods, we're copying their results. And boy does it show.

One of the great disappointments is that so many writers are dutifully copying this century-old canon like it's holy writ, borrowing tropes slavishly, rather than doing the work that Lovecraft and Howard did to try to make interesting stories out of current science.

So you want to do sword and sorcery? Why not? Set it 500,000-odd years from now, populate to your taste, race-swap to make it politically current. Then you can unleash a new generation of homicidal vagrants doing good for the hell of it. At least it will be a bit different than the more prosaic thudding blunderers with ye olde medieval times of yore.

277:

Yes, glass is fragile and much softer than sand, but Roman glassware is dug up regularly, mediaeval stained glass is still extant in Europe, and I can witness that glass will survive half a century of being in soil that is turned over every year.

278:

There are parts of the Middle East (Iraq, for instance) where AFAIK every low hill in the otherwise flat area is remains of a dead city or city-state, melting back into the ground.

Check out every place there that has a name beginning with תל : Tel- or Tal-. As you say, IIRC, there are places in the middle US that are also vast midden-heaps.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midden

279:

"Witroth! No! Don't ask those questions!

Do you want Charlie to be pitched over the Bridge of Death if he gets one of them wrong?"

Yes.... Err NO! Ahhhhhhh

281:

whitroth @262 said: "Doubled in size"

Mark,

Yes, as Elderly Cynic said @263, double the size, double the gravity. Half the size, half the gravity.

BTW, Look at the stuff below if you want, but please, don't go all "whitroth" on me if you are not interested.

I find inspiration for Story from many sources. If it hangs together, is internally consistent, I will use it and monetize it.

Fair enough?

TL;DR

Growing Earth Theory(GET) is another fun source of story.

This is a fun video by Neal Adams that shows how the continents connect up on an Earth the size of Mars, to give you an idea of what they are talking about. That means Earth's gravity was about a third of what it is now, when the Jurassic breakup started.

Expanding Earth Theory

- Seeing the continents floating over an ocean world fit with the future Story I was working on, so I'm using that.

Notice that Australia moves up to fit between China and North America. It turns out that the geology and fossils all match up when they come together.

Watch it a few times and see if you can wrap your head around it. I have the giff version of the video on my homepage so I can watch it anytime.

This next video is about the work of Samuel Carey.

Planet Earth: A Question Of Expansion (1982)

James Maxlow has continued the work of Carey. He has basically taken the geological data and shown that everything fits on a smaller Earth when you subtract the material all over the Earth, by age. He has shown that Plate Tectonics fails to actually fit or make predictions the way that it claims. Each piece of the puzzle Earth has one and only one way to fit together, where Plate Tectonics is randomly assembled by different people.

- Everything he has done is data based, not theory.

Here are a series of lectures that he has given on the Dissident Science channel that go into detail. He just did the fourth lecture.

Expansion Tectonics: Dr. Maxlow on Recent to Permian Small Earth Modeling

Expansion Tectonics #2: Dr. Maxlow on Permian to Archaean Small Earth Modelling

Expansion Tectonics #3: Fact or Mere Coincidence? - Dr. James Maxlow

Expansion Tectonics: Fact of Mere Coincidence 2 with Dr. James Maxlow

Maxlow sent me a copy of his new book on pdf. He is still trying to have it available in paper and ebook so people can buy it at a good price. When it's available I will let people know.

This is deeply fun stuff. Great for Story.

282:

Reading Imp's reunion with Eve, a minor point caught my eye: "She stared at him as the door hissed shut. There were no windows, just cameras in every corner, discreetly embedded in the cornices and skirting boards." Eve goes on to explain the remote controlled doors and face recognition security measures.

So is Bigge is just a gadget freak with too much money? Yes, I think so. He's certainly overconfident about failure modes. His IT people will have redundant computers and power supplies, and hopefully air gap the house system from everything else in the world - not, as Bob Howard demonstrated, that air gaps will always stop a supernatural hacker in that world. It's an obvious privacy vulnerability so the IT team should be paranoid about it.

It depends on whether Bigge has heard of Scorpion Stare. I'm guessing not! He's certainly evil villain enough to install Scorpion Stare on the systems watching his minions but he should be wary enough not to idle around between multiple cameras himself.

I wouldn't bet a penny against someone from the Laundry installing Scorpion Stare on Bigge's network anyway, just in case...

283:

Re: ' ... but Roman glassware is dug up regularly, mediaeval stained glass is still extant in Europe,'

Makes me wonder what the key differences in composition/manufacture are vs. modern day glass.

Also: impact of local weather/climate conditions on such materials. I quickly scanned the article below but it doesn't seem that glass manufacturers typically look at environmental factors when formulating their products. Mostly seems to be application driven.

https://www.britannica.com/topic/glass-properties-composition-and-industrial-production-234890/Properties-of-glass#ref76320

BTW - The above or a related article mentions that some Romans had glass-paned windows. Glass beads/jewellery, goblets and for-show knickknacks - sure. But windows - would never have guessed! Can't wait for the next cinematic ancient Rome themed epic (e.g., Ben Hur, Nero fiddling while Rome burns) to include a 'feature' glass covered window.

284:

It is not the composition, it is the size and thickness of the panes. Ancient glass is blown, which puts an upper size on how large it can be, while modern glass is poured out onto a bath of molten metal, which is both heavier than molten glass, and has a lower melting point than it, then the glass puddle solidifies and is pulled off the metal bath. This technique allows for the production of enormous and very thin glass panels.. but large thin glass panels are easy to break.

285:

Glasses and other glass ware. Eyeglasses. Whisky glasses (very heavy bottoms). And on... for that matter, safety glass, like that on your car.

286:

Growing Earth Theory(GET) is another fun source of storytotal bollocks - please don't bother ....

287:

So is Bigge is just a gadget freak with too much money? Yes, I think so. He's certainly overconfident about failure modes.

Rupert is over-confident and sloppy (see also: Boris Johnson!) but he's also far more dangerous than Eve realizes and was planning far ahead of the horizon he kept her focussing on: you'll see more of his plans unfold in the next two books.

Let's just say he's left her a ticking bomb or three to defuse, and Eve is in much worse danger than she realizes at the end of "Dead Lies Dreaming".

288:

One question about Growing Earth theory:

Where does the extra mass come from?

And a corollary:

What are the cosmological consequences?

If Earth is packing on mass, then so is the rest of the solar system ... indeed, the universe. This has implications for the dynamics and stability of planetary orbits. It also has implications for the life expectancy of the sun.

TLDR is that I suspect Jupiter and Saturn will begin to chow down on their moons, then migrate inwards, and the inner planets and outer smaller giants will either migrate with them (they're locked in resonance orbits: cf Bode's law) or be ejected from the solar system. Meanwhile, the sun will brighten rapidly and head towards a blue-white supergiant, absorbing the planets -- Jupiter will be at least brown dwarf mass by then, possibly Saturn too -- in a relatively short period of time. Finally, as the sun's mass bloats up past the 150M mark it'll end in a pair instability supernova, resulting in a black hole or complete stellar disruption.

If the mass doubling period is ~60MY, then the sun is in the range for pair-instability supernova mass (or exceeding the Eddington limit) within 300-400MY.

This presumably affects the rest of the observable universe: so within 300-400MY every F or G class main sequence star in the local group of galaxies gives rise to a hypernova. The less massive stars -- those starting out at, say, 0.1 solar masses -- will take an extra 240MY or so to go "bang", and they outnumber the F and G dwarves by an order of magnitude; if we extend it to include brown dwarves then, eh, add another 500M years. So there will be on the order of 10^12 giant-ass hypernovae within a radius of 5M light years in a period of a billion years, for about a thousand observable hypernovae per year (of which maybe one a day in our own galaxy). Factor one billion sun bloc is not enough: you also need to be neutrino-proof to have a hope of surviving.

The end result will be a gradually collapsing cluster of hypermassive black holes gobbling up other black holes.

But wait! I forgot to factor in the galactic nucleus black holes. They are doubling in mass, too. Sgr A* currently masses about 3.6 x 10^6 solar masses, but the exponential mass-doubling with a period of 60MY means that it's ... well, my brain just crashed but I'm pretty sure 64 doubling periods (3.8 billion years, which -- outside of Growing Earth cosmology -- is currently about the time until the milky way and M31 galaxies merge) will have it exceeding the current total mass of the universe. At which point, maybe send off for another big bang?

TLDR: "Growing Earth" is some prime-grade bonkers that is incompatible with actually-existing cosmology over a time frame short enough that it should be directly observable with today's instrumentation.

289:

PS: Of course, if one combines Growing Earth theory with Hollow Earth theory -- all you need is some helpful source of anti-gravity to ensure everything doesn't float off the inside of the hollow sphere -- it bypasses the entire "where's the mass coming from" question and you get extra lebensraum to play with. No wonder Himmler was so keen on it ...

290:

Without extra mass appearing, though, the shell would get thinner and thinner; eventually mines would come out the other side, oil wells before that, and there would be some major difficulties with volcanoes.

291:

Probably not safety glass - the frozen-in stresses in it make it quite keen on breaking up into dinky little chunks if it gets the chance.

The thing about window panes is that window glass is sensitive to whether or not people care about it. If an old factory or warehouse is abandoned it's not long before all the windows are broken, even the ones that are far too high for anyone to throw rocks at from either inside or out; if it was just natural rate of breakage, then you would see a corresponding number of visits by glaziers to the not-abandoned buildings nearby, but you don't. Medieval stained glass can last for hundreds of years in churches that are being used, but rapidly disappears if the church is abandoned. And around Chernobyl all the windows have broken very quickly indeed even though there isn't anyone to throw rocks, because the glass knows for sure the people aren't coming back and it just despairs.

292:

Yes. That is one factor in glass's survival; the other being the conditions.

294:

It's odd you should mention Sagittarius A... Growing Earth theory must be true, because apparently a new study says we're 2000 light years closer to Sag A than we thought.

https://phys.org/news/2020-11-earth-faster-closer-black-hole.html

295:

TLDR: "Growing Earth" is some prime-grade bonkers that is incompatible with actually-existing cosmology over a time frame short enough that it should be directly observable with today's instrumentation.

I'm not sure prime grade bonkers is where I'd put it. After all, this was just an alternative explanation for why continents fit together in continental drift, that the oceans were growing because the world's getting bigger.

To me, it's just a downer. Who needs more gravity, when it just makes for backaches and shorter football kicks and more "blink and you miss it" moments? Unless you're rewriting Mission of Gravity or Dragon's Egg with a human cast, or perhaps doing the Family D'Alembert circus, it's not clear what good it is for fiction. Maybe I'm just too much of a naive realist.

296:

No. It WASN'T bonkers when it was proposed. It IS bonkers today.

Now, as for a mechanism. Azulno, fusion in stars eventually ends up in iron. What if the universe finds all that iron in one place a bit boring, and is gradually coverting the iron in the earth's core back to hydrogen? The earth would expand, but without increasing in mass.

There's clearly scope for science fiction there, because it will eventually end in a massive burp, with consequences I leave to the imagination.

297:

But if you drew all the continents on a balloon, and you blew up the balloon, the continents would grow with the rest of the balloon. So why haven't the continents grown with the Earth? The continents have iron inside them just like the rest of the planet.

Of course, in your idea, the hydrogen would mix with the oxygen (also being converted out of iron as part of the chemical process of turning iron into hydrogen) and ignite. Which is why it's so hot at the center of the Earth!

298:

That is true, but I was perpetrating a theory that anti-fusion was a bit like fusion, and took place only where there was a very high concentration of iron (and possibly only at highish temperatures and pressures). I.e. in the core.

Your variation of assuming that it also produced oxygen (and the consequences) is equally, er, plausible.

299:

It would only logical that the anti-fusion is producing anti-matter right? And that's why the Earth is about to explode!*

* Probably on December 31st, because what could make 2020 worse? (Don't answer that question!)

300:

Re: ' ... only logical that the anti-fusion is producing anti-matter right?'

How about:

Since 'waves' and 'matter' (particles) are different sides of the same coin therefore by definition always in balance then the continued accelerating expansion of the universe propelled by gravity waves requires that more matter pop into existence.

Another possibility: changes in the gravitational constant will affects the rate of atomic fission/fusion at some threshold/critical level. (What are min/max distances over which electrons can bind vs.jump ship to another atom?)

301:

"Another possibility: changes in the gravitational constant will affects the rate of atomic fission/fusion at some threshold/critical level. (What are min/max distances over which electrons can bind vs.jump ship to another atom?)"

You know son, we're very lucky we still have matter. And you should be careful, because we have less of it every day!

302:

Getting back to the original thread, I remembered the question I had about Dead Lies Dreaming: Who's the patron of the Chelsea Flower Show? Shrub Niggurath?

303:

Charlie Stross @289, said: One question about Growing Earth theory:

Where does the extra mass come from?

And a corollary:

What are the cosmological consequences?

Yes! Way to go, Charlie. At least somebody is using their imagination. With a little work on the specifics, you would have something to build your Space Opera.

- Remember, Ming the Merciless had a traveling world, the planet Mongo, that had inhabited moons.

Well done.

- Your questions are the heart of the Story.

Once Science takes GET seriously it changes everything. I'm thinking back to all of the fun E.E. "Doc" Smith stories where they discover one new thing, the inertialess Drive, and proceed to build a Space Empire. Or James Blish with his Cities in Flight, when they developed the Spindizzy drive, lifting whole cities into space. Or the fun stories from the 50s and 60s when you would have Scientists on islands building earthquake machines to threaten the world. Or the way Baxter will take an impossible idea and then spin off multiple books playing with variations of that same impossible idea. Or the way Greg Bear manipulated matter in The Forge of God series creating whole worlds and wiping out solar systems. Or the way David Brin will take incoherent Space Cadet babble and turn it into a coherent narrative.

Imagination is the heart of building fun stories. Why is everyone suddenly letting themselves be stripped of their imagination, being tied up in "nots". Not this, not that. Glug!

BTW, just as I was going to post I saw SFReader @301 and Troutwaxer @302.

I want to give a shout-out to them for seeing the potentials. SFReader is on the right track for a great Story mechanism.

The implication is that you can transmute matter at will, harvest moons and have them grow into living worlds, etc...

There are a whole series of books that follow from that "etc..."

304:

To be momentarily (and undeservedly) fair to the Growing Earth boffin (bogon?), back in the pre Plate Tectonics days there were some goofy theories and observations unsupported by theory.

For one thing, a common theory of orogeny was that the Earth was shrinking as it cooled, this wrinkled the surface and caused mountains. Makes sense, and might even be happening on Mercury and probably elsewhere. Plate tectonics gave a better answer.

Then there was the observation that the continents fit together. How'd they move apart? Well if the planet can be shrunk to produce mountains, why not grow the oceans to move the continents apart?

This makes sense some if you're living on a flat Earth or deep inside your own skull. On a globe with curved surfaces? Not so much.

Now I'm just waiting for someone to pop up the theory that tectonic plates have, on average, something like six edges. That one bugs me.

305:

I should note one more thing about the "expanding matter" theory. It explains why we can't detect anything that powers gravity. But if both space and matter were expanding at once, we'd be pushed against worlds from both sides - all sides really!

306:

Troutwaxer @306

Wiki - Le Sage's theory of gravitation

That's a classic.

307:

Imagination is the heart of building fun stories. Why is everyone suddenly letting themselves be stripped of their imagination, being tied up in "nots". Not this, not that. Glug!

Well, whimsy certainly has its place, and I'm a sometime practitioner of the wound-up arts.

Still...

On a serious note, I think there's an equally good argument to be made for creativity happening within strong constraints. There are good examples in both novels (Cryptonomicon, for example) and real life. My favorite real life examples are flying proas and the original kayaks. Both were built by resource-poor people using whatever they had: driftwood, seal skins and skeletons (kayaks), coconut fiber and breadfruit wood and sap (proas). And out of these pathetic materials they created some really amazing boats.

That's the kind of art I'm pointing to when I talk about a Neolithic Hyboria in 50,000 years ago, getting rid of the steel. The constraints are what force a worldbuilder to come up with something new, different, and inspiringly cool. Steel armor and swords are nice, but why not have a battle with linen armor, flint-edged microblade clubs, and spearthrowers? Swap out cotton for linen, and you've got Mayan warfare, which was every bit as bloody as something out of Robert E Howard. And linen makes better armor, apparently. And if it's set in ice age Europe, you can even have war mammoths, if you must.

That's the power of using constraints.

308:

Now I'm just waiting for someone to pop up the theory that tectonic plates have, on average, something like six edges.

For that you'd need a Universal Geometry of Geology.

https://www.quantamagazine.org/geometry-reveals-how-the-world-is-assembled-from-cubes-20201119/

309:

And if it's set in ice age Europe, you can even have war mammoths, if you must.

Yes, but you don't get to play with tusk swords! (Which are scary AF.)

310:

Elderly Cynic @ 268: We have a good idea of what lies in Doggerland, from trawling - it's all less than 200 metres from the surface, about half less than 50 metres. See what Heteromeles and I have been saying. I am pretty sure that it's not been more studied because it's poor scuba diving territory - cold, windy and murky, with ever-present danger from feral trawlers.

The Mediterranean is 'interesting'. It's much deeper, probably filled catastrophically, but just too long ago for hominids (appararently now renamed), let alone a human civilisation. However, if there had been a great ape that had adapted to the extreme conditions there and evolved intelligence, I doubt we would have a clue about it!

I was replying to the assertion "the only place to mine for stuff people need are in the 500,000 years of dead cities that populate the highlands, all other mines being entirely worked out" ... It's not what lies in Doggerland (or the Mediterranean basin), but what lies underneath.

The "new" land areas revealed by retreating sea levels would likely include new places to "mine for stuff people need" that are NOT "worked out".

311:

Ivory is just a cooler form of bone. And don't forget that Ice Age 'Onan can use a walrus oosik if carving a tool out of mammoth ivory isn't manly enough.

And yes, I know what tusk swords are.

312:

SFR
Congratulations, you have just re-invented the Steady Gait, oops, "Steady State" theory of the Universe!

H @ 305
The Well-World, you mean?

allynh
But - it's TRUE!
Those miniscule particles are what we call ... Neutrinoes ... Or maybe not?

Charlie
Naah ... Narwahl Tusks are v. effective, as we know!

313:

Tusk swords aren't made out of bone or ivory; they're steel sword bayonets mounted ring bayonet style on elephant tusks, about six to ten feet long (in old money units).

Elephants with fricken' swords strapped to their heads. Doctor Evil would approve, right?

314:

Wait... when the stars get iron as a fusion result, and they're spinning still, then we get humongous electromagnets, and that pulls the universe back together to a Big Crunch, right?

315:

Heteromeles @ 270:

If the Mediterranean basin dries up, wouldn't mineral deposits that are now UN-mineable because they're currently hidden below sea level become exposed? And if sea level drops enough to again expose Doggerland, what might lie underneath that?

Good point! It looks like they're experimenting with Mediterranean sea-floor mining now (https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02242-y). So the answer depends on the 21st Century: Maybe a lot of stuff lying around for the taking, maybe just the ginormous salt beds left over from the Miocene when the Mediterranean last dried. And as the Garretts pointed out in the Gandalara Cycle, I know even less about what resources are mineable on the currently submarine slopes of Cyprus and Crete.

[ ... ]

So yes, setting Hyboria around 550,000 years in the future, with a dry Mediterranean and a major ice age, isn't stupid at all. Indeed, the suggestion that the reason to colonize the Bottomlands is to mine for newly exposed minerals makes a lot of sense, although the mines will be rapidly exhausted, compared with the process of the Med drying down and exposing them.

Not saying it's stupid, only that if sea levels fell 100+ meters (enough to completely expose "Doggerland"?), and especially if the Mediterranean basin dried up completely, there would be new land areas where sub-surface mining would become possible. The remnants of today's cities wouldn't be the only place you could find useful materials.

Current sea-floor "mining" is just scraping the surface, so even if we removed all of the useful minerals from the sea-floor during the 21st century, there would still be minerals below the current sea beds available for mining if they became dry land in some far distant future.

316:

Wait, you mean it *isn't* virtual quark foam pushing things together that creates gravity? And then, of course, with large empty areas of space, they push things apart, right?

There we go, no dark matter need apply!

317:

As noted, I do, in fact, know what an elephant sword is. What elephants can do without swords is more than sufficient in a neolithic setting, although there's no reason not to armor them up with linothoraxes atop their wool.

The point I'd forgotten is that there's all this mammoth ivory lying around for tool manufacture. And that's kind of cool too.

318:

Re: '"Steady State" theory of the Universe'

Well, sure -- might be because I've read some of Fred Hoyle's SF although I've no idea how Hoyle worked gravity into his theory. (Gravity was still something of a puzzle back then.)

319:

Looks like if you google "Dogger Bank Geology" you get some information on what's under there. For example: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/318503179_The_evolution_of_the_Dogger_Bank_North_Sea_A_complex_history_of_terrestrial_glacial_and_marine_environmental_change

If I'm reading this map right, the higher Dogger Bank (aka Doggerland when it's expecting company) is more-or-less between to of the larger north sea oil fields, and Doggerland itself is an oil patch. The top layer is glacial morraine, so any minerals (gold nuggets, etc) in there would be stuff scoured off the surface of Britain and Europe and deposited there.

320:

Getting back to erased histories in the real world (or somebody's "let's make Trump president" simulation, or whatever it is): my favorite artifact that doesn't fit well at all with history as we know it is the Antikythera Mechanism -- a geared device which was constructed in Greece somewhere between roughly 200 BCE and 50 BCE, which shows the motions of the planets and other calendrical information (including the cycle of the Olympic Games), and which was lost in a shipwreck around 87 BCE, then recovered by marine archaeologists around the turn of the last century.

What's interesting about this thing is that it's hard to see how it could have been the only device of its kind -- engineering a long gear-train so it doesn't jam requires tricks which someone has to learn from experience. And yet there's not much trace of any others. It's not just that the devices are missing -- precious metal tends to get reused -- but also that there are very few references to them. Technical knowledge might have been closely held as the equivalent of guild secrets which died with the equivalent of the guilds, but at the very least, this suggests that there was other technology in ancient Greece and Rome of which no record whatever survives. And if some crowd of fanatics was trying to erase traces of it deliberately, well... that would explain why the only surviving example was at the bottom of the Mediterranean, where they couldn't get at it.

321:

Gravity was still something of a puzzle back then

Like it isn't now?

322:

SFReader @ 275:

'To get widespread Chernobyl-like conditions you’d need a very sudden, very extreme reduction in human population.'

I think we've seen a few episodes of this i.e., war (including 're-locating' indigenous populations), famines, floods, fires, volcanoes, epidemics, etc.

Those are still fairly localized. To get the kind of world-wide abandonment of cities required for the trope under discussion would require some kind of global catastrophe that strikes everywhere at pretty much the same time.

323:

Charlie Stross @ 290: PS: Of course, if one combines Growing Earth theory with Hollow Earth theory -- all you need is some helpful source of anti-gravity to ensure everything doesn't float off the inside of the hollow sphere -- it bypasses the entire "where's the mass coming from" question and you get extra lebensraum to play with. No wonder Himmler was so keen on it ...

Hmmm ... If you're going to combine Growing Earth with Hollow Earth maybe there's a cosmic glass-blower somewhere inflating the hollow inside of a molten mantle layer and it doesn't require additional mass?

That would also explain why the earth heats up & cools down - global warming and ice ages ... and why it spins.

324:

I think there's a misunderstanding. The general problem with the Mediterranean drying down is that it takes from 1,000 to tens of thousands of years, depending on who's making the estimate. Mines are generally used for decades to centuries, although if they're sparingly used, they can last much longer.

That was the problem I was pointing to, that as the Mediterranean dries out, the newly exposed mineable minerals could be found and exploited as they get uncovered. Once the Mediterranean dries completely, the mines may well be played out, except for those kilometer-thick deposits of salt in the lowest reaches. Those won't be mined out for a very long time.

Doggerland geology is probably far better known than what's in that paper I referenced above, because it's in one of the world's great oil patches. I'm guessing that there's little of hard rock mineral interest in there, but I could be wrong.

The fun question is what else is lurking in the nearshore environment around the globe right now. While you're right that there are undoubtedly new ore bodies waiting to be discovered, you've got to come up for a reason why they wouldn't be mined out on discovery as sea levels decrease, rather than sitting around until the middle of an ice age for a novel civilization to find them.

The only scenario I've come up with so far is that the onsets of ice ages are civilization killers, so basically, as an ice age drops ocean levels, no one's mining much of anything until conditions stabilize at the new low. That might work, if you buy into it.

325:

This is also a reply to JBS. The North Sea is extremely shallow, and there is little geological difference in at least the top layers between East Anglia, the North Sea, the Low Countries and I believe Denmark, none of which have much in the way of mineral resources except for gas and some oil. It has also been fairly thoroughly surveyed, and there is very unlikely to be much in the way of accessible minerals there. Doggerland was a lot more than the bank, and was believed to be similar to the Fenland (or Holland, probably) before they were drained, and the interest is entirely archaelogical, not potential mining.

https://www.eea.europa.eu/data-and-maps/figures/north-sea-physiography-depth-distribution-and-main-currents/n1_overview.eps/image_large

The Mediterranean basin is a very different matter, but I know little about it.

326:

Well, see, the core of the Earth is surrounded by something like a dyson sphere. The problem is, there are no holes, so heat builds up. This causes the Earth to expand until cracks form in the cool outer shell, and molten inner material is driven out, along with some of the gas on the inside. Pressure release causes the planet to shrink again, sealing the volcanoes shut.

Yeah.

327:

Troutwaxer @ 298: But if you drew all the continents on a balloon, and you blew up the balloon, the continents would grow with the rest of the balloon. So why haven't the continents grown with the Earth? The continents have iron inside them just like the rest of the planet.

If the continents were drawn on pieces of paper & stuck to the surface of the balloon by static electricity the balloon could expand while the continents would stay the same size.

Of course, in your idea, the hydrogen would mix with the oxygen (also being converted out of iron as part of the chemical process of turning iron into hydrogen) and ignite. Which is why it's so hot at the center of the Earth!

And combusting hydrogen with oxygen makes water which explains why the sea level rises even with an expanding earth.

328:

I can see it now: the king comes to the Holy Precincts with this ore, and comes back x (days/months) later, and is given Sacred Swords for him and his army.

Inside the Holy Precincts are, of course, rooms where gas flames burn eternally... and are used for smelting and casting.

329:

Oh, right, and when the Revolution/Invasion/End Times come, the invade the Holy Precincts, and try to dig up the source of the flame....

Much BOOOOOOOMMM!!!! follows, not leaving evidence of Holy Precincts....

330:

Heteromeles @ 320: Looks like if you google "Dogger Bank Geology" you get some information on what's under there. For example:
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/318503179_The_evolution_of_the_Dogger_Bank_North_Sea_A_complex_history_of_terrestrial_glacial_and_marine_environmental_change

If I'm reading this map right, the higher Dogger Bank (aka Doggerland when it's expecting company) is more-or-less between to of the larger north sea oil fields, and Doggerland itself is an oil patch. The top layer is glacial morraine, so any minerals (gold nuggets, etc) in there would be stuff scoured off the surface of Britain and Europe and deposited there.

"The top layer is a glacial morraine, ..."

You're still thinking of what's on the surface rather than digging down below it.

Take a look at Figure 2 from your document which shows the bottom of the moraine located at approximately 39.25 m below the seabed.

If sea level fell sufficiently for Dogger Bank to become Doggerland once again, and the seabed became dry land, what might be found 100 m (60.75 m below the bottom of the moraine) below the newly dried out surface? Or Deeper?

No matter what the composition of the surface of Doggerland, you're not addressing my objection to your assertion "the only place to mine for stuff people need are in the 500,000 years of dead cities that populate the highlands, all other mines being entirely worked out"

The Boulby Mine (Britain's deepest) is "1,400 metres (4,600 ft) deep". So what lies 1,400 m below Doggerland?

PS: Maps are useful only if you can read the key to understand what the map is supposed to be showing.
What do the red blotches and green blotches indicate?
What do all the other text boxes along side the map tell about what the map means?
What do all the little graphs in the right side-bar mean?

331:

Glass:

In the archaeological museum in Stavanger there is a Norse-made drinking horn, from (IIRC) the sixth century AD, made of glass with that classic blue colour which shouts "Roman manufacturing technique". (I haven't been able to find an online image of it, sorry.)

332:

Re: 'The only scenario I've come up with so far is that the onsets of ice ages are civilization killers, ...'

Will be interesting to find out what did in the civilization described below. The only info currently publicly available* is that these folks lived about 10,000-12,000 years ago. Maybe some of the 'art' shows examples of tools, devices, contructions - if so, then maybe a timeline can be mapped to show likely discoveries.

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/nov/29/sistine-chapel-of-the-ancients-rock-art-discovered-in-remote-amazon-forest

* They're saving the big reveal for a documentary show. And I'm guessing it's a 'civilization' just because of the scale of this wall of art.

'Civilization killers' ...

Okay - who has to die in order to 'kill' a civilization? Seriously. I'm guessing that this is not an 'only the numbers matter' scenario because a civilization could go downhill pretty fast if even a relatively small fraction of the population but a good proportion of key members died off because of disease, war or some double whammy natural disaster. Also, I'm guessing that a civilization that relies mostly on oral teaching is at much higher risk of losing its lore/knowledge. Charlie D's comment (321) about guilds also figures into this: risk of civilization collapse decreases as universal access to education increases.

333:

As I said, it's been well studied. A seach on "North sea bed composition" finds these on the first page:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/197333/TR_SEA2_Geology.pdf
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geology_of_the_North_Sea

Move along - nothing to see here. Sorry.

334:

David L
Thanks - fascinating ....

SS
Actually, a "Deltic" locomotive on "full song" i.e. powering along at about 98.5 mph emitted a continuous low-pitched scream, which was wondeful to hear
Example clip

335:

"Now I'm just waiting for someone to pop up the theory that tectonic plates have, on average, something like six edges. That one bugs me."

So do dried out mud flats and various other things in the general category of a skin that forms on goop and cracks as it shrinks on drying/cooling. It smells like something to do with minimising some energy quantity related to the length of the boundary, so it really wants to give you circles but circles can't be tiled so you get hexagons or something vaguely like them.

336:

In the archaeological museum in Stavanger there is a Norse-made drinking horn, from (IIRC) the sixth century AD, made of glass with that classic blue colour which shouts "Roman manufacturing technique". (I haven't been able to find an online image of it, sorry.)

The thing to remember is the Uluburun shipwreck, which went down of the Turkish coast in 14th Century BCE, had 175 ingots of glass onboard, including blue glass. People have been making glass for well over 4,000 years. Granted, the early stuff was beads and faience, and probably a lot of it was semi-accidentally produced during copper smelting, but the basic idea has been around for awhile. The late Bronze age (3,000 years ago) saw an explosion of glassmaking, particularly in Egypt. Clear glass didn't get produced in quantity until after 100 CE, again in Alexandria, probably because the soda from the desert, a lot of silica sand, and glasswort from the coast are all close to hand there.

Anyway, so the only thing I'm surprised about with a 6th Century Norse glass horn is if it was made in Scandinavia from imported glass ingots as opposed to Byzantium. By that point, the technology to make it was over 2,000 years old.

337:

Yeah maybe. Allen Thomson caught the reference back in #309 to this article:

https://www.quantamagazine.org/geometry-reveals-how-the-world-is-assembled-from-cubes-20201119/

Quanta's a great source for bleeding-edge ideas, 90% of which are on the controversial side, and thus perfect for science fictional cogitation. This one....? I'll believe it more if I see it catch on.

338:

About Antikythera: I agree that it's weird. The question is whether it's out-of-place in all history, or in western history.


The reason I make that distinction is that the Byzantines made stuff with gears too. I don't know if it was as complex as Antikythera, but the technology didn't die before Christ.

The thing to remember, again, is that the Roman Empire ended in 1453 when Byzantium fell, not in 476 when Odoacer was crowned king of Rome. And the Byzantines actually kept inventing stuff; not just Greek Fire, but trebuchets, grenades, forks, civil jurisprudence, and hospitals, among other things.

339:

If you want to talk hacked history and not noticing the bleeding obvious, here's something I don't understand: Thylacoleo, the "marsupial lion."

What I don't understand? The family Thylacoleonidae had at least four genera, and they were mostly arboreal, possibly excepting the last, biggest one, the "marsupial lion" which (as far as we know) was the only one humans ran into.

So what, you ask? Here's the deal. The family Thylacoleonidae is embedded in the order Diprotodontia, suborder Vombatiformes. Its living relatives are wombats and koalas, and it's in between them on the family tree.

So we've got basically a giant, carnivorous, arboreal koala. And that's what bugs me:

Why isn't it called a drop bear instead of a marsupial lion?

What strange alteration of history came through and made Aussies not notice this?

340:

Well, we're well past 300, so....

I'm almost done the first revision (reordering, editing, etc), and will be sending the novel back to the editor in the next few days.

AND...
< he says, in full Mad Scientist/Writer mode > I've done what I threatened to do since I was in my late teens, and have Gotten Even with all of those, those *writers* who put in epigraphs in French. And Latin. And Ancient Greek, because, I mean, Everyone reads those languages.

Now they'll see!!!

I've added five or six epigraphs. Several in Cymraeg (Welsh), and several in Finnish. (translations in the end notes....

341:

I remember tutoring community college students in arithmetic and algebra. I'm not sure how many, if any, had lightbulb moments, but I did try to explain the idea that x,y,z are just placeholders for stuff - they could be apples, oranges, and bananas as easily as numbers.

(I was in "new math" from junior high into high school. We learned stuff that's still useful, though maybe not the way it was expected. Base 7 FTW!)

342:

Genealogists are aware that the limit for reliable memory is about three generations - you probably know about your great-grandparents, but farther back than that is hearsay, and as it gets farther back, it gets increasingly unreliable. Written records help - but even there, there are errors. (I've met some in my own family.)

343:

Stone quarries. Probably not gravel pits - those will fill with sediment, but it may take a long, long time for the larger ones to disappear. (One near where I grew up is now a water park, with boating. The gravel beds in that area are up to a thousand or so meters deep.)

344:

I've seen them do that with a couple of buildings - I think the concrete that's crushed into gravel may be used to build the next structure.

345:

Before or after the Giant Meteor arrives?

346:

In Europe, coracles, which have lightweight wood frames covered with something like leather.

347:

I admit I find it hard to visualise doing trig without algebra, although I can sort of glimpse that it's possible if I squint mentally and try to look sideways while not really focusing on it. I find it hard to visualise geometry as we understand it without either, although I must agree that it was in fact practiced, and still is. I think you have hit on the important idea that literacy isn't a binary in the way we'd usually think of it where it comes to remembering things and especially associations. You've referred to Lynne Kelly here before too.

If we think of associations as tuples, and we have memory aids (mnemonic devices, sticks, henges, songlines) that keep these intact, perhaps even incorporating a small amount of error checking, data science shows there is a lot you can do just by persisting complex tuples. When ibises move inland while the big emu (constellation) is in the southwest quarter and blue moths swarm the cycads, it is time to move camp to the bay where dugong will be moving through the tidal estuaries. Again, if you squint, it's not totally unlike a database query, where the mnemonic holds the query and the database is the physical environment. I openly wonder about "illiterate" trades in the classical and medieval worlds and how they too used mnemonic devices.

I think it has advantages. My literate understanding of trig left me spending time re-learning stuff from high school to solve for safe stair stringer dimensions recently. Whereas the traditional thing would be for a particular combination of rise and going, you start with a certain dimension of stringer. We get a little of this inheritance via standards, but it's simplified. So builders are either heavily listed, or they are engineers, but that isn't how the industry works (it's different for someone doing their own thing and trying to align to the building code).

348:

I'm always surprised how challenging it can be to explain that symbols are placeholders. People expect symbols and meanings to be intrinsically inseparable and the problems that result appear in surprising ways. It can be sort of hand-waved by taking into account that for most people the definition of a word that they learned in school is the fixed and only meaning for that word for all time (even if they in fact learned multiple meanings which they treat as interchangeable, and basically conflate). But it runs deeper, and affect how the representational models of reality that are built in the general practice of business IT work out.

349:

Why isn't it called a drop bear instead of a marsupial lion?

Because the species was named many decades before the "drop bear" running joke (which is almost exclusively conceived as applying only when the target is from the USA) arose? That would be my speculative guess.

350:

So builders are either heavily listed, or they are engineers

Sorry, that sentence is a bit garbled, both by not thinking it through as communication properly and (especially) by autocorrected typos. I mean builders are limited to a subset of the allowable contrivances (e.g. ALL stairs have 175mm rise and use 240mm treads, stringers are 50x280mm) while in Ye Olden Days a mnemonic would have applied that at least gave more variation. To deviate requires an engineer. Actually a lot of building approvals seem to work exactly that way.

351:

Originally geometry and algebra were two different subjects with almost no overlap. They were unified by Descartes invention of Cartesian (note the name) coordinates. This let you write down equations for circles, lines etc, and an intersection between two geometric shapes becomes the solution to their equations. In modern terms we would say that Decartes demonstrated that algebra and geometry are isomorphic, although the full isomorphism had to wait until people got their heads around geometry with more than 3 dimensions.

Today we take analytic geometry for granted; cartesian coordinates are introduced at primary school and equations for lines in early secondary school (IIRC), so its kind of hard to think back to a time before they were invented.

352:

[..] builders are limited to a subset of the allowable contrivances [..]

Highly regulated industries (I've worked in a couple, though not construction) tend towards this pattern. They have a hierarchy of rules with actual primary legislation passed by parliament at the top, followed by regulations written by civil servants, and "guidance" at the bottom. I put "guidance" in scare quotes because it tends to be mandatory in practice.

The laws and regulations define the space of what is allowed, but they are often based on goals and have some vague bits. In the building trade for example they will say that buildings must be structurally sound, have sufficient foundations for their size etc. The "guidance" will provide some general templates and standard rules. For instance, if you are building a 2 storey house then the guidance says foundations must be this deep, the walls should be constructed of breeze block of a defined grade and size, etc.

As long as you follow the guidance you know you are in the clear without any further effort, which makes it quick, simple and risk-free. As soon as you step outside the guidance you have to go back to the regulations and hire a bunch of experts to inspect your plans and certify that they comply with the regulations. You also have to spend time educating the relevant government inspectors about your innovation. Even then they might decide to veto it just to be safe; for them approving an innovation has no upside and lots of potential downside. This makes innovation slow, expensive and risky, which means that you don't do it unless you are a wealthy eccentric or you have some business model that makes all this worth-while.

So in all regulated industries the "guidance" is effectively mandatory 99% of the time.

In the building industry the situation is even worse because most of the tradesmen who actually build things were trained by rote purely from the guidance, so as soon as you step outside the guidance you also need to retrain the workforce, an investment which is lost as soon as the project ends because these guys are contractors not employees.

353:

Yes, and that is much the lesser part of the variable concept. The greater part, which changed mathematics so drastically, was that a variable could represent an arbitrary member of an algebra (in this sense, a set with some defined axioms (transformations)), and can be manipulated as an abstract entity. Parts of the ancient world used symbols to represent specific values, but never made the second leap (which is what defines algebra, in the modern sense). The difference is easier to explain by example:

In school, and before Newton and Leibnitz, the problem was to (for example) to solve an equation where almost all of the values were known, and the symbols stand for an unknown but specific value. E.g. 123 = 456*X+789. School-level simultaneous linear equations are similar.

In modern mathematics, you work with the symbols as if they were numbers, but they do NOT stand for a specific value - they stand for ANY member of the set. A = B*X+C can be rewritten as X = (A-C)/B. All you are using is concepts like "for every A there exists a value -A" and "A + (-A) = 0". It may sound similar, but I can witness how conceptually different it is (both personally and from needing to teach it), and how much it changes your mentation.

My personal example is not having learnt this at my (dire) school, and being completely unable to do the practicals in my first term at university. I then had a light bulb moment and, since then, have been unable to recapture how I thought before I changed.

Since then, I have had to teach it, and it is definitely harder to grasp than the concept that a symbol stands for a specific, unknown value.

354:

All this talk of [sub–]sea-floor mining that ignores the Benthic Treaty seems awfully unrealistic.

The Deep Ones aren't going _anywhere_.

355:

Did I miss the point at which Imp or any of the Lost Boys says 'Wait a tick: "Wendy" is _not_ a common name, shitʼs getting _deep_ here.'.


Oh,and thanks, O.G.H., for inducing in me a mind's-ear–worm of Robyn Hitchcock's piratical:


So Wendy went to Manchester
To buy a balaclava
But suddenly became engulfed
In floods of molten lava!

The Can Opener still roves the gulch
With sevʼring claws akimbo
And rips through sheets of yielding tin
And Wendy is in Limbo!

357:

I would send this via another route, but don't do twitter. I have some familiarity with pre-Victorian language and conventions and, if you don't have someone else, am happy to try to act as a proof-reader for Bones and Nightmares. My only actual experience of doing that is for technical documentation, which isn't hugely relevant! If you have enough people, please just ignore this.

358:

I openly wonder about "illiterate" trades in the classical and medieval worlds and how they too used mnemonic devices.

Lynne Kelly's got some great examples in Memory Craft. Before I get to the specific, I'll get to the general. The problem with medieval books is 2.5-fold: they're written by hand (which is slow), on parchment (which, as highly processed hide, is rare compared with paper), and apparently writing in ink on parchment is slower than writing in ink on paper, due to the interaction between pen nib, ink, and the surface properties of parchment versus paper. These put a upper limit on how much can be written.

Now, getting back to literacy: if you're stuck with parchment, you can't take a book home and leave it for bedside reading unless you're royalty. Each book is the equivalent of a modern car in value, and their information density is apparently low, due to the thickness of the parchment (note how many Medieval bibles aren't the complete bible, just individual books?). A solution to this is to make it possible to memorize entire books, traveling to read, memorizing the book, and keeping the memory. Illuminating each page with doodles and funny critters is a way to make each page more memorable. If you're trying to remember a passage from the Book of Mark, you're more likely to remember it was next to the flying monkey before you remember the exact words. Kelly, incidentally, recommends doodling on each page of class notes, as a way to borrow this technique for memorizing notes before a test.

Unfortunately, if you only read a few books in your life, this isn't a great way to promulgate knowledge, so most of the knowledge is propagating through non-literate means until paper and the printing press show up and radically change things.

This all gets back to the original question: how literate were builders and tradesmen. A lot of them were, apparently, illiterate. IIRC, there was an example on TV of a medieval book made for a builder that used mnemonic pictures to illustrate various angles. There were things like jack legs and lion mouths and so forth. Builders would learn these by rote. Rather than specifying an angle of, say, 33 degrees*, you specify a lion's mouth (or whatever), and the well-trained builder knows what you're talking about. This stuff can be learned by apprenticeship.

As for geometry without numbers? If you've done geometric constructions with a compass, a straight edge, and possibly a square, that's how it's done. This goes back to classic times, and things like Celtic knotwork and spiral designs were created with nothing but these three tools. The modern freemason's symbols of the compass and square goes back to this era, AFAIK.

My earlier remark to EC about the union of medieval algebra and geometry comes from things like builder's sites. It's square and compass geometry to design a building, but then you need simple algebra to figure out how much stone, wood, labor, provisions, tools, and money to pull it off. On something complicated, you've got the master builder laying out the site and supervising the construction, and accountants (working with an abacus or sand table) doing the logistics. If you've got a literate builder who can do his own accounts, then you've got the possibility of a guy who can do analytic geometry, turning figures into numbers and vice versa. I'm not sure how common such people were, and I'd bet any competent noble would rein in the master builder by having one of his own accountants handling the logistics at some point in the process.

The other place where analytic geometry, trigonometry, and accounting would have collided was in the heads of navigators and long-distance traders. Building an astrolabe is a fun exercise in analytic trigonometry (I've done it, and there are a lot of calculations and a lot of precise work with a compass). In using it, you don't use "jack leg" angles, you pretty much have to use numeric ones, because the astrolabe is built around degrees of latitude. If you've got someone who knows something about building/repairing boats (an exercise in geometry and logistics), is good at celestial navigation (trigonometry), and has to deal with logistics and accounting...what kind of math(s) are going on inside their brain? Do they compartmentalize each one, or do they blend intuitively? It depends on the person, but when they blend fields, you get something like analytic geometry. It's not formalized, but I'm pretty sure it's there.

*33 degrees the analytic geometry solution, although the Babylonian astrologers would recognize this. They pioneered the 360 degrees in a circle as a way to link the movement of stars through the seasons to the days of the year to keep the calendar. I'll forgive them not using 365 degrees in a circle, because that would have been a pain for angle calculations, and keeping the 5.25 extra holidays per year in the right places in the calendar would have kept the astrologers in beer and bread, because they were the ones keeping the calendar straight from year to year and not precessing by most of a week each cycle.

359:

I would describe a variable as being like an envelope. Either you or the math (computer program) decides what to put in the envelope. But you treat it as an abstraction that holds something.

360:

Heteromeles
Geometry without "numbers": The late Lancelot Hogben showed, in several texts aimed at educated teenagers & interested adults, how the ancient Egyptians ( i.e. well pre-classical ) managed extremely well with straight-edge, compass & even taut-rope ( for large circles ( & got some very impressive results.
Interaction with Mesopotamia would have helped, of course.

"Varaibles" - You throw a stone ( or something ) straight up ... it's height at any time is "h", but h is not constant ... it's going up, then stationary ( the maximum ) & then down again, back to your arbitrary zero = ground-level.
This was well-known before Newton, even if only by artillerymen.
It's putting it all together, to make an integrated whole that's the difficult bit.

361:

Oh, for heaven's sake! Go and look up "algebra" in a decent dictionary - what you are talking about is simple arithmetic.

And Troutwaxer is equally off-beam. That use of 'variable' is the ancient one, and the modern one was needed for the breakthrough in mathematics.

362:

News update:
Major part of Protein-Folding problem(s) partially solved by "Deep Mind" AI - it says here.
Profound implications for medicine, if correct.

363:

It would help if you found some other people who shared your particular definition of algebra before you went off.

Right now, it appears that your complaint is that I'm not using words the precise way you want them to be used, despite the fact that pulling in references to show how I'm using them.

Why this is insulting? I've been living for four fucking years under Donald Trump, and I visit this site for escape. Having someone ape Il Douche's abusive tactics is unpleasant at best. Especially since there's no reward for going along with it.

I'll apologize if I'm systematically wrong, but the onus is on you to demonstrate that, not to shout and attack and carry on about how I need to consult the dictionary every time you're offended that I'm not reading your mind and kowtowing to whatever brilliance it is you have. If you can't do that, go away.

364:

"Kelly, incidentally, recommends doodling on each page of class notes, as a way to borrow this technique for memorizing notes before a test."

Hehe. I remember copying down a diagram off the blackboard, labelling it Vosges horse and Black Forest horse, and being amused because it was silly. Of course, the teacher would have told me off if he had seen it. Nevertheless, ever since then I have never had any difficulty remembering what a horst is. But I did forget that the bit in between is called a graben, a word for which no silly alternative suggests itself to me.

365:

Re Antikythera, there's some real nonsense talked around that, some of which is being repeated here. It's not out of place at all - it's simply that we don't have many records about exactly how people built stuff then. We know about some of the stuff Hero built a little later, and he was clearly standing on the shoulders of the artificers who'd preceded him.

We do have sources confirming what they could make in the centuries before Hero too. Cicero doesn't just give an example of one orrery, but also says that it's one of several made by multiple artificers, and that's right around the time the Antikythera mechanism was made. The interest for the mechanism is that it gives us solid evidence of something which was described by non-specialists. It's the difference between someone trying to describe a crocodile ("here be dragons") versus someone bringing back a stuffed one so you can see it.

It's pretty simple to kill knowledge though. It doesn't need malice, it needs indifference. If your society is mostly focussed on living through the winter, or living through the latest round of barbarian attacks, you're going to be pretty indifferent to clockwork mechanisms. And if your society actively rejects science and learning (hello Christianity!) then you're probably not going to get far either.

366:

In #191, I said "I don't know what you mean by algebra, but the only meaning of it in the OED that was known in the ancient world was the surgical treatment of a fractured or dislocated bone!". I still don't know, because you have not provided a definition of what you DO mean, let alone a reference to one in a decent dictionary.

I am not going to quote all of its definitions, for copyright reasons, but you are demanding that I provide a definition to prove the absence of a definition! Don't be ridiculous.

Here is the most relevant one: "the branch of mathematics in which symbols are used to represent quantities, relations, operations, and other concepts, and operations may be applied only a finite number of times." I have stressed the key part, which is what distinguishes it from arithmetic, but it is a layman's phrasing of what I described in the next paragraph as modern algebra.

If you dislike the definitions in the OED, I am prepared to use the terms "primitive algebra, or aithmetic with unknowns, sometimes using symbols, also called the Rule of Cosse" and "modern algebra, a form of abstract mathematics, based on sets and axioms". It's a mouthful, but you seem to keep denying that there is a distinction.

I have no idea whether you are claiming:
(a) there is no significant conceptual difference between those two, or
(b) the ancient Egyptians used mathematics that escaped all other mathematicians before Newton and Leibnitz.

Both of those are nonsense.

367:

Profound implications for medicine, if correct.

Nope, not medicine: it's much bigger than that.

Basically this is one of the key technologies that will allow us to bootstrap Drexler-style molecular nanotechnology. (The next step is to start designing special-purpose enzymes and motor peptides to order, and run this in reverse to work out the linear sequence that will fold itself into the right shape to work. Which seems to me to be a much shorter step.)

368:

Yes, assuming that further development in both it and computers improves its effectiveness, which seems extremely likely. It's taken several decades to get this far, so I shan't be holding my breath, but a plausible prototype is always a big milestone.

369:

And how much of the code was based on XPLOR, from the NIH?

https://nmr.cit.nih.gov/xplor-nih/

Why, yes, I did personally work with the maintainer of XPLOR for 10 years....

370:

No paper yet, but they have written something slightly more technical:
Until we’ve published a paper on this work, please cite: - High Accuracy Protein Structure Prediction Using Deep Learning
DeepMind papers have been pretty interesting (self serving, but interesting).

371:

So
As profound & as far-reaching as sequencing the Human Genome was, about 18 years back, in other words.
Research will be running off in all directions, simultaneously, if correct.
Big stuff, as Charlie implies.

372:

Nope, not medicine: it's much bigger than that.

Yes. It may be a start on resolving the top-down vs bottom-up problem of reductionism(*). Also, maybe on beginning to see how "emergence" works in a non-trivial case -- which, IMO, is kind of the same as bottom-up reductionism.

(*) Top-down: We've got a protein that does x; how did a bunch of atoms get to that configuration? Bottom-up: We've got a bunch of atoms; how do we get them to do x?

373:

Heteromeles @ 338: About Antikythera: I agree that it's weird. The question is whether it's out-of-place in all history, or in western history.

Is it "out-of-place" in history at all?

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

Damian @ 349:

Why isn't it called a drop bear instead of a marsupial lion?

Because the species was named many decades before the "drop bear" running joke (which is almost exclusively conceived as applying only when the target is from the USA) arose? That would be my speculative guess.

I don't think tourists from the U.S. are necessarily singled out for this. Seems like anyone gullible enough will do no matter where they're from.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCGUNpzjD6M

... and apparently the connection has been made:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drop_bear#Origin

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

Gerald Fnord @ 354: All this talk of [sub–]sea-floor mining that ignores the Benthic Treaty seems awfully unrealistic.

The Deep Ones aren't going _anywhere_.

OTOH, if sea levels were to fall 125 m (to wherever they were during the Last Glacial Maximum) it wouldn't BE "[sub-]sea-floor mining" would it?

374:

> We've got a bunch of atoms; how do we get them to do x?

Note that we know that there's a bunch of atoms manifesting as a particular protein that does x. Whether there are other configurations of atoms that do the same x is an interesting question that maybe AI can help out with.

375:

Re: Math perspectives/definitions

Watched a Royal Institution lecture by a French mathematician (a Fields medalist, therefore a reliable source) who mentioned the group below. Seems that arguments about what various 'maths' encompass are pretty common including among mathematicians.

ESL math teachers also see kids from different countries use different approaches to basic math problems. Let's face it - curricula, math included, vary considerably by and even within country.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolas_Bourbaki

Have no idea whether the above collection has been translated into English - would be interesting to read.

376:

Yes, indeed, and over time. As I mentioned, I have been taught and could/can use geometric proofs (in simple ways) as Euclid and Newton did, and I previously mentioned my daughters were taught modern mathematics in primary school, whereas I didn't encounter it until my mathematics degree.

I was, however, referring to the major leap in the basic concepts of mathematics that followed Newton and Leibnitz, not the details of how it is approached.

I am pretty sure that most, if not all, of Bourbaki has been translated into English. It's pretty influential.

377:

It's a little more complicated than that. I'm remembering a talk or two by the man who maintains XPLOR, and they were finding that the *shape* of the protein can affect its action in the biological system.

378:

It's a little more complicated than that. I'm remembering a talk or two by the man who maintains XPLOR, and they were finding that the *shape* of the protein can affect its action in the biological system.

I'm not sure what you mean by "that". Of course the shape of the protein and how it changes is of primary importance in most instances. Lock and key.

379:

I'm saying that the *shape*, NOT just the molecular compesition matters.

380:

I think anybody who thinks that being able to accurately predict the shape of a protein from its sequence is the end of the line needs to read a couple of really short esssays from Derek Lowe, to wit:

https://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2020/09/01/its-weird-down-there

and

https://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2017/10/26/building-a-house-building-a-cell

These are metaphors for the problem that our mesoscale knowledge doesn't translate down that well to the microscale world of protein folding. These things didn't evolve in a vacuum, so often the folding and shapes are more possible in the crazy world inside a cell, where the blueprints are considerably larger than the house, and fairly often a blue print gets crumpled up in a specific way and used to make part of the house. Among other oddities.

381:

I have no idea whether you are claiming: (a) there is no significant conceptual difference between those two, or (b) the ancient Egyptians used mathematics that escaped all other mathematicians before Newton and Leibnitz.

None of the above. I'm simply claiming that any version of a question like "how much stone do I need for a temple, how do I pay for it, and (critically) what's the best way to make the most impressive temple I can afford" is essentially an iterative algebra question, where you're solving for amounts of materials, money, people and time, and doing tradeoffs. Similar questions can be found in efforts to predict future food supplies from farming efforts, buy lumber to build ships, long distance trading, keeping a calendar using the stars and trigonometry, and so on.

I'm not the one claiming that the Egyptians used a unique math. To me it's bloody obvious that the Egyptians and Babylonians were capable of solving for unknowns, and using simple exponentials in calculating areas of unknown squares. It's hard to build a pyramid if they couldn't do all this.

This fits the definition you quoted, yet you persist in calling me wrong and insisting I use the definition you quoted because I'm wrong. That, I think comes under the category of abuse, rather than discourse.

382:

I'm saying that the *shape*, NOT just the molecular compesition matters.

Er, yes. Shape's mostly what the protein folding studies have been trying to determine, because shape is an important determinant of function. Note, BTW, that a given nucleotide sequence can fold in different ways -- some diseases result from abnormal folding altering the function of the resulting protein.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on November 21, 2020 10:58 AM.

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