Category Archives: fantasy and science fiction

Blinking Astronomical Photographs

Low-Cost Approach to Scanning Historic Glass Plates Yields an Astronomical Surprise. Technical details at Precise Photometric Measurements from a 1903 Photographic Plate Using a Commercial Scanner.

Professional astrophotography used to be done on emulsion-coasted glass places. That was how astromical discoveries were made for nearly a century.

More than an estimated 2.4 million glass plates are out there in collections in North America alone. These were taken starting in the 1890s right up until the 1970s, when CCD (Charged Couple Device) detectors started to come online for astronomy. Of these, only an estimated 400,000 plates have been digitized to research quality

The team in this article has found a much cheaper way to proceed with this process, using off-the-shelf hardware.

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The Eyes of Legolas

Tumblr User Explains Why Elves’ Eyes In Lord Of The Rings Shouldn’t Look The Way They Do, but in fact there is no problem.

In The Two Towers Legolas claims to clearly see the horsemen of Rohan at a distance of 5 leagues. How is this possible when you consider the curvature of the Earth? You can come up with some bizarre ideas about Elven anatomy which are not suggested in the books or seen in the movies. However, there is a an elegant answer based on the nature of Arda, Tolkien’s world. It was flat, not round, until the end of the second age. At that time the Valar made it round so that mortals could not access Valinor. But Elves could still go there. For them the Earth was still flat and they could sail the straight path to Valinor. Hence for Legolas the curvature of the Earth and the horizon did not exist and hence he could accurately see the horsemen 5 leagues away.

Another Hobbit

Exploring the People of Middle-earth: Lobelia Sackville-Baggins, an Unexpected Hero.

… Lobelia is one of only a few Hobbit women who are given more than a momentary glance in Middle-earth, and a compelling character in her own right. And what’s more, her narrative arc illustrates beautifully some of the more important lessons The Lord of the Rings has to teach, as she becomes an unlikely hero to those who had consistently refused to give her a chance.

This will only make sense if you have read the books. Peter Jackson did not include the Scouring of the Shire in the film version of The Return of the King.

Another one of Tolkien’s Sources

Mithra-ndir: Gandalf and the Roman cult of Mithras.

J.R.R. Tolkien described The Lord of the Rings as a fundamentally Catholic work. But a close reading of the epic novel reveals many more influences, including a connection between Mithras and the wizard Gandalf, whose Elvish name is Mithrandir.
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Good article about LOTR

Bent Out of Shape: The Ring of Power and the Wraithing of Humanity.

It runs against human nature to reject an advantage once we have it, but that’s what Tolkien’s heroes do again and again. It seems natural to long to wield power and to have great authority, but Tolkien uses a Ring and a concept—wraithing—to warn us against the terrible, corrupting force of absolute power.

Also

“And here is where I take a brief aside and beg you to please read the books if you have only seen the movies, because Peter Jackson utterly destroyed Faramir’s character in the movie.”

See Tolkien vs. Jackson: Differences Between Story and Screenplay. For myself, I had read LOTR many times before seeing the first movie. Hence when seeing the movies my mind automatically filled in the parts Jackson omitted, and corrected those he changed. The books come first, in more than one way.

Science Fiction got there first (again)

Back in High School (1964-68) I read a lot of science fiction by Mack Reynolds. His Joe Mauser series is set in a world where the cold war continues into the 21st century, but, to avoid catastrophe, the West and the “Sov-world” have agreed to restrict all military forces to pre-1900 technology. There is still lots of fighting going on at that level.

Recently I was reading about the decades old border dispute between between China and India countries, which actually led to war in 1962. The conflict still simmers on, but a 1996 agreement states that

Neither side shall open fire, cause bio-degradation, use hazardous chemicals, conduct blast operations or hunt with guns or explosives within two kilometers from the line of actual control.

Neither side wants to get the blame for starting a shooting war, so both sides are following the letter of the agreement. However, nobody is backing down. There have been reports that “Chinese troops have used improvised edged weapons, such as nail-studded clubs, in … skirmishes with Indian forces.” and both sides have martial artists in their border forces.

It seems that the Chinese are escalating. We now have Chinese soldiers armed with new devices for hand-to-hand combat with Indians in Tibet. Actually the “new device”, the guan dao, is quite old. It similar to a a western medieval halberd. It will be interesting to see how Indian army responds. They have a rich tradition of edged weapons to draw upon.