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ESSAY THIRTEEN: SCIENTIFICA MAGICA

ESSAYS ON GAME DESIGN

Essay Thirteen: Scientifica Magica

Now before anyone jumps to the wrong conclusion, based only upon the title of this post, let me state clearly that I am not one of those gamers or writers who favor turning magic (in either game or fiction) into a mere exercise in science and technology under a different name. I am not for “scientificizing magic.

I am not in favor of turning either game magic or fictional magic into science by another name, nor am I one of those who favor making magic operate under closely regulated and studied rules of scientific function or with mathematical precision. I like my magic wild, uncontrolled to some degree, definitely unpredictable, prone to malfunction and misfire, and in most other ways outright dangerous.

 

image: http://d15osn4tlmtdxb.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2006/03/img-Burne-Jones.jpg

(You know, much like a woman. Now I say that half-jokingly, but only half jokingly. To me science and technology should operate like a man – with precision, with mathematical certainty, with rules, with predictability. Now am I saying all men are this way? God no, and I can only wish. I know real people as they truly are, you see, and that is merely a philosophical postulate of how male types would operate ideally, logically, and rationally. Sort of like saying all Vulcans should be like Spock.

On the other hand women should be unpredictable, without Newtonian mathematical precision, with emotional flare and passion, fuzzy and quantum at the edges, hard to pin down, and in more than one way, truly dangerous. Generalizations of course, and type generalizations as well, but they make the point. Magic to me should not be Science and science should not be magic despite all the modern Geekery in games and fiction that would have them be, in effect, merely interchangeable and fungible concepts for the same thing.)

Science should be amazing in what it can achieve but predictable in how it operates, Magic should be almost miraculous in what it achieves but largely unpredictable and untamed in both technical function and in its methods of operation. The very point of science is to be controlled and safe, reliable and commonplace, not dangerous, for a dangerous and rare science defeats the very purpose and function of being scientific. On the other hand the very essence of magic is to be rare, uncontrolled – especially in comparison to science and the mundane – and unreliable. For indeed if you have a magic that is too easy to control, utterly predictable, reliable, safe, and ubiquitous then you don’t really have Magic at all, you simply have science under the flimsy and inaccurate guise and faulty nomenclature of “magic.”)

Now all of that being said there is one way in which I favor the intersection of magic and science and that is in the analytical and detective capabilities of modern science, which often border closely upon the frontiers of what I would actually call magic. Or at least magical in effect.

Being an amateur scientist and having a near lifelong interest in physics, forensics, archaeology, medicine, chemistry and biochemistry I often keep up to date on new papers and techniques in those fields and have recently been studying several superb new and relatively new methods of analyzing, collating, detecting, examining, and understanding archaeological and forensic evidence. Such as the use of LIDAR, magnetic surface and subsurface scans, satellite imagery sweeps in the infrared, multiple data source computer modeling, etc.

In thinking on those things and what they can accomplish it has recently occurred to me that a new type of “magic” (of a kind rarely ever encountered in gaming and fiction) could easily be developed to mimic such scientific technologies without necessarily being limited to being scientific in operation.

For instance I have recently begun developing “spells” for both game and fictional use that mimic such new discovery techniques without presenting themselves in a scientific or predictable manner. I won’t specifically describe these “magics” in detail or enumerate the spells themselves as that would take too long and as one could easily develop multiple spells from these general categories in any case, but I will briefly describe a couple of these “spell types” for you to consider in developing your own magics in this regard.

1. REENLIVENING SPELLS – Spells which cast a glamour over an area or other target and can then present, in a complex still or even a moving image, the events that occurred long ago in a particular area, concerning certain bodily remains, etc. For instance the spell could take you back into time (figuratively speaking) to see events that had occurred long in the past, such as making you privy to a particular conversation, an event in the life of a person long dead, to witness a long forgotten or unrecorded (or even an historical) event so that you could view such things occurring for yourself. These would be very different spells from something like Speak with Dead because you would be an observer and witness, not a conversant, and such results would not be limited to mere third party descriptions but rather you would be a first hand, though passive, observer.

2. RECONSTRUCTION SPELLS – Spells which cast a glamour over an area of building or object and that allows you to see that area or building or object as it looked at another period (of the past), say at the point of its making or shaping or construction. Via the use of such an enchantment you could see a building as it is designed and constructed, an object as it is manufactured, or perhaps even several different time periods (in sequence or simultaneously overlain against one another) and their interactions, tracing the construction or object through time to several different time-points to gain detailed information about its history.

3. REENACTMENT SPELLS – Spells which cast a glamour over a large area or maybe a specific person or set of remains that allows one to view, hear, feel, taste, smell, and magically touch the reenactment of a famous battle, an unknown war, the forging of a weapon, a day in the life or an individual, or even the vision, trance, or dream of another individual or creature. The emphasis here would not be merely upon the gathering of information or the witnessing of an event, but more directly upon a sort of shared (or in this case reenacted/relived) past experience. Perhaps such a spell would actually allow you to become another person, another creature, or even an inanimate (but magically aware) object for a certain period of time.

4. RECREATION SPELLS – Spells which cast a glamour upon a particular object, building, device, etc. that can recreate a visual, interactive image of the same. Higher levels spells of this type can actually recreate a physically real or similar mock-up of the original object based upon the information gathered from the object remains by the initial glamour. Still higher level spells can recreate usable approximations of even formerly magical objects (though the magic contained in the reconstructed objects may be limited) and the very highest level such recreation spells can even recreate working (though not necessarily magical in any way) models of previously lost artifacts and relics (assuming there are any remains left for the glamour to read).

5. PROJECTION SPELLS – One of the other types of spells would have to be enacted first, but, once that was done, and using the information or experiences gathered from that initial set of magics a spell caster could then seek to work a secondary set of spells that would allow one to project what would happen in the future regarding one’s chosen target or set of targets. For instance say you were in an existing castle, you could then use a projection spell to analyze and predict how it might fall to ruins, what part of the construction would be destroyed, what parts preserved, why, and by what agencies of destruction or even of renovation or preservation.

As I said above I will not enumerate the specific spells I have developed using these categories or ideas of magical effects because I don’t want to limit your imagination to my conceptions. I think every DM or player or writer ought to develop their own ideas regarding the specifics of this concept.

However I will say this, that when it comes to the operations of “magic” in my own milieus and worlds and writings every use of magic is at least tinged, and sometimes heavily tainted, with the possibility of danger, misdirection, and even failure and misfire. For instance considering the spell types above perhaps the information gleaned from such a spell will be entirely accurate, then again perhaps the work will be only partially accurate, or even mostly inaccurate. Perhaps the caster intends to see an image of one particular fortification or construction site and what he actually sees is an entirely different site. Perhaps the spell will fail entirely (with no discernable consequence or with great and dire consequence). Perhaps the spell will erroneously mix information from several different objects together and produce an amalgam of an object that does not really exist. Perhaps the spell will cause a “Rogue Projection” that will attempt to divine or even produce an unanticipated future rather than accurately display the past. Or perhaps the spell will draw the unwanted attention of some dangerous creature or being that is monitoring or warding the intended target.

The dangers surrounding the use of such magics, as with the use of any such game or fictional magic, could be nearly inexhaustible.

And I fully encourage such dangers, just as I encourage the dangers inherent in the use of any magic.

Magic is, after all, not science. And it should not operate like science. Even when it closely mimics the basic functions of science and technology (as in the case of the “spells” described above), it should be remain essentially separate and distinct in operational methods and in general nature.

For even if magic yields an essentially scientific purpose this does not mean that it should in any way reproduce a technological outcome or result.

It should always remain dangerous, rare, unpredictable, mysterious, and “magical.”

Otherwise it is mere science under another name

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TO BOLDLY GO… AGAIN? – DESIGN OF THINGS TO COME

If they just concentrate upon science and exploration, as the original did, and even to some extent as TNG did, then I’m in. Totally in.

Strangely enough, at least from this write-up, that seems like the way they might be going.

But I can’t stomach another “Enterprise” or yet another Jedi-wanna-be science fantasy or life-action anime series. I just can’t stomach that modern pseudo-science and amoral modern crap in my Star Trek anymore. That kinda stuff is for Star Wars, not Star Trek.

 

A totally new Star Trek television series is coming in January 2017! The new series will blast off with a special preview broadcast of the premiere episode on the CBS Television Network, and the premiere episode and all subsequent first-run episodes will then be available exclusively in the United States on CBS All Access.

The brand-new Star Trek will introduce new characters seeking imaginative new worlds and new civilizations, while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966.

Alex Kurtzman will serve as executive producer for the series. Kurtzman co-wrote and produced the blockbuster films Star Trek (2009) with Roberto Orci, and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) with Orci and Damon Lindelof. Both films were produced and directed by J.J. Abrams.

The new series will be produced by CBS Television Studios in association with Kurtzman’s Secret Hideout. Kurtzman and Heather Kadin will serve as executive producers. Kurtzman is also an executive producer for the hit CBS television series Scorpion and Limitless, along with Kadin and Orci, and for Hawaii Five-0 with Orci.

The new program will be the first original series developed specifically for U.S. audiences for CBS All Access, a cross-platform streaming service that brings viewers thousands of episodes from CBS’s current and past seasons on demand, plus the ability to stream their local CBS Television stations live for $5.99 per month. CBS All Access already offers every episode of all previous Star Trek television series.

Sign up for a free trial of CBS All Access and prep for the new show with every episode of the classic Star Trek series available commercial-free!

Star Trek, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2016, is one of the most successful entertainment franchises of all time. The original Star Trek spawned a dozen feature films and five successful television series. Almost half a century later, the Star Trek television series are licensed on a variety of different platforms in more than 190 countries, and the franchise still generates more than a billion social media impressions every month.

Born from the mind of Gene Roddenberry, the original Star Trek series debuted on Sept. 8, 1966 and aired for three seasons – a short run that belied the influence it would have for generations. The series also broke new ground in storytelling and cultural mores, providing a progressive look at topics including race relations, global politics and the environment.

“There is no better time to give Star Trek fans a new series than on the heels of the original show’s 50th anniversary celebration,” said David Stapf, President, CBS Television Studios. “Everyone here has great respect for this storied franchise, and we’re excited to launch its next television chapter in the creative mind and skilled hands of Alex Kurtzman, someone who knows this world and its audience intimately.”

“This new series will premiere to the national CBS audience, then boldly go where no first-run Star Trek series has gone before – directly to its millions of fans through CBS All Access,” said Marc DeBevoise, Executive Vice President/General Manager – CBS Digital Media. “We’ve experienced terrific growth for CBS All Access, expanding the service across affiliates and devices in a very short time. We now have an incredible opportunity to accelerate this growth with the iconic Star Trek, and its devoted and passionate fan base, as our first original series.”

The next chapter of the Star Trek franchise will also be distributed concurrently for television and multiple platforms around the world by CBS Studios International.

“Every day, an episode of the Star Trek franchise is seen in almost every country in the world,” said Armando Nuñez, President and CEO, CBS Global Distribution Group. “We can’t wait to introduce Star Trek’s next voyage on television to its vast global fan base.”

CBS All Access offers its customers more than 7,500 episodes from the current television season, previous seasons and classic shows on demand nationwide, as well as the ability to stream local CBS stations live in more than 110 markets. Subscribers can use the service online and across devices via CBS.com, the CBS App for iOS, Android and Windows 10, as well as on connected devices such as Apple TV, Android TV, Chromecast, Roku players and Roku TV, with more connected devices to come.

The new television series is not related to the upcoming feature film Star Trek Beyond, which is scheduled to be distributed by Paramount Pictures in summer 2016.

GOING BLIND INTO THE DARK – RESURRECTED RELICS

GOING BLIND INTO THE DARK

If you ask me ancient archaeological sites like these make for superb adventure and dungeon and plot locales, though of a very different type than the standard dungeon or adventure site.

Very bizarre artefacts, relics, objects, events, rituals, and creatures could easily exist at such sites. I often use modified Real World archaeological sites and place them in my games and novels and stories because they are so ancient, rich, and full of odd and often unexplainable things. (As a matter of fact I have an entirely separate category of “adventure and plot locales” when it comes to ancient and prehistoric archaeological sites for my writings and designs, including the artefacts and events discovered/recovered there.)

It is very good to have odd and unexplainable things in your writings and in your games and milieus that the players and readers can try, like everyone else, to figure out, but can’t really understand, deduce, or explain.

Unknown or unexplained or recently discovered archaeological sites are superbly interesting because unlike many other sites they have already passed into pre-history (or out of history) or little to nothing is known about them until they are accidentally stumbled upon again (by completely different peoples and characters, etc.), and because, of course, they tend to be so ancient all memory of them has been subsequently lost. And of course many of these unknown and unrecorded sites tend to be megalithic and absolutely gargantuan in nature, consisting of many vanished layers of development. Entire campaigns and years and years of adventures, not to mention book sequels, can easily be written around such sites. And, of course, one site often bleeds into another.

That’s a superbly good state of affairs for the reader or player (going blind into the dark or going blind back into the far more ancient things), but it is an entirely excellent thing for the writer and the game designer/game master.

Because at such sites the entirely unexpected and the wholly forgotten should be the most common expectation and the most dangerous memory.

 

NASA Adds to Evidence of Mysterious Ancient Earthworks

By RALPH BLUMENTHALOCT. 30, 2015

One of the enormous earthwork configurations photographed from space is known as the Ushtogaysky Square, named after the nearest village in Kazakhstan. Credit DigitalGlobe, via NASA
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High in the skies over Kazakhstan, space-age technology has revealed an ancient mystery on the ground.
Satellite pictures of a remote and treeless northern steppe reveal colossal earthworks — geometric figures of squares, crosses, lines and rings the size of several football fields, recognizable only from the air and the oldest estimated at 8,000 years old.

The largest, near a Neolithic settlement, is a giant square of 101 raised mounds, its opposite corners connected by a diagonal cross, covering more terrain than the Great Pyramid of Cheops. Another is a kind of three-limbed swastika, its arms ending in zigzags bent counterclockwise.

Described last year at an archaeology conference in Istanbul as unique and previously unstudied, the earthworks, in the Turgai region of northern Kazakhstan, number at least 260 — mounds, trenches and ramparts — arrayed in five basic shapes.

 

The Bestamskoe Ring is among the so-called Steppe Geoglyphs in Kazakhstan — at least 260 earthwork shapes made up of mounds, trenches and ramparts, the oldest estimated at 8,000 years old, recognizable only from the air. Credit DigitalGlobe, via NASA
Two weeks ago, in the biggest sign so far of official interest in investigating the sites, NASA released clear satellite photographs of some of the figures from about 430 miles up.

“I’ve never seen anything like this; I found it remarkable,” said Compton J. Tucker, a senior biospheric scientist for NASA in Washington who provided the archived images, taken by the satellite contractor DigitalGlobe, to Mr. Dey and The New York Times.

Ronald E. LaPorte, a University of Pittsburgh scientist who helped publicize the finds, called NASA’s involvement “hugely important” in mobilizing support for further research.

This week, NASA put space photography of the region on a task list for astronauts in the International Space Station. “It may take some time for the crew to take imagery of your site since we are under the mercy of sun elevation angles, weather constraints and crew schedule,” Melissa Higgins of Mission Operations emailed Dr. LaPorte.

The archived images from NASA add to the extensive research that Mr. Dey compiled this year in a PowerPoint lecture translated from Russian to English.

“I don’t think they were meant to be seen from the air,” Mr. Dey, 44, said in an interview from his hometown, Kostanay, dismissing outlandish speculations involving aliens and Nazis. (Long before Hitler, the swastika was an ancient and near-universal design element.) He theorizes that the figures built along straight lines on elevations were “horizontal observatories to track the movements of the rising sun.”

Kazakhstan, a vast, oil-rich former Soviet republic that shares a border with China, has moved slowly to investigate and protect the finds, scientists say, generating few news reports.

“I was worried this was a hoax,” said Dr. LaPorte, an emeritus professor of epidemiology at Pittsburgh who noticed a report on the finds last year while researching diseases in Kazakhstan.

With the help of James Jubilee, a former American arms control officer and now a senior science and technology coordinator for health issues in Kazakhstan, Dr. LaPorte tracked down Mr. Dey through the State Department, and his images and documentation quickly convinced them of the earthworks’ authenticity and importance. They sought photos from KazCosmos, the country’s space agency, and pressed local authorities to seek urgent Unesco protection for the sites — so far without luck.

The earthworks, including the Turgai Swastika, were spotted on Google Earth in 2007 by Dmitriy Dey, a Kazakh archaeology enthusiast. Credit DigitalGlobe, via NASA
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In the Cretaceous Period 100 million years ago, Turgai was bisected by a strait from what is now the Mediterranean to the Arctic Ocean. The rich lands of the steppe were a destination for Stone Age tribes seeking hunting grounds, and Mr. Dey’s research suggests that the Mahandzhar culture, which flourished there from 7,000 B.C. to 5,000 B.C., could be linked to the older figures. But scientists marvel that a nomadic population would have stayed in place for the time required to fell and lay timber for ramparts, and to dig out lake bed sediments to construct the huge mounds, originally 6 to 10 feet high and now 3 feet high and nearly 40 feet across.

Persis B. Clarkson, an archaeologist at the University of Winnipeg who viewed some of Mr. Dey’s images, said these figures and similar ones in Peru and Chile were changing views about early nomads.

“The idea that foragers could amass the numbers of people necessary to undertake large-scale projects — like creating the Kazakhstan geoglyphs — has caused archaeologists to deeply rethink the nature and timing of sophisticated large-scale human organization as one that predates settled and civilized societies,” Dr. Clarkson wrote in an email.

“Enormous efforts” went into the structures, agreed Giedre Motuzaite Matuzeviciute, an archaeologist from Cambridge University and a lecturer at Vilnius University in Lithuania, who visited two of the sites last year. She said by email that she was dubious about calling the structures geoglyphs — a term applied to the enigmatic Nazca Lines in Peru that depict animals and plants — because geoglyphs “define art rather than objects with function.”

Dr. Matuzeviciute and two archaeologists from Kostanay University, Andrey Logvin and Irina Shevnina, discussed the figures at a meeting of European archaeologists in Istanbul last year.

With no genetic material to analyze — neither of the two mounds that have been dug into is a burial site — Dr. Matuzeviciute said she used optically stimulated luminescence, a method of measuring doses from ionizing radiation, to analyze the construction material, and came up with a date from one of the mounds of around 800 B.C. Other preliminary studies push the earliest date back more than 8,000 years, which could make them the oldest such creations ever found. Other materials yield dates in the Middle Ages.

Mr. Dey said some of the figures might have been solar observatories akin, according to some theories, to Stonehenge in England and the Chankillo towers in Peru.

“Everything is linked through the cult of the sun,” said Mr. Dey, who spoke in Russian via Skype through an interpreter, Shalkar Adambekov, a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh.

The discovery was happenstance.

Researchers are hoping to marshal support for investigating the earthen mounds that make up figures like this one, the Big Ashutastinsky Cross. Credit DigitalGlobe, via NASA
In March 2007, Mr. Dey was at home watching a program, “Pyramids, Mummies and Tombs,” on the Discovery Channel. “There are pyramids all over the earth,” he recalled thinking. “In Kazakhstan, there should be pyramids, too.”

Soon, he was searching Google Earth images of Kostanay and environs.

 

There were no pyramids. But, he said, about 200 miles to the south he saw something as intriguing — a giant square, more than 900 feet on each side, made up of dots, crisscrossed by a dotted X.

At first Mr. Dey thought it might be a leftover Soviet installation, perhaps one of Nikita S. Khrushchev’s experiments to cultivate virgin land for bread production. But the next day, Mr. Dey saw a second gigantic figure, the three-legged, swastikalike form with curlicue tips, about 300 feet in diameter.

Before the year was out, Mr. Dey had found eight more squares, circles and crosses. By 2012, there were 19. Now his log lists 260, including some odd mounds with two drooping lines called “whiskers” or “mustaches.”

Before setting out to look for the figures on the ground, Mr. Dey asked Kazakh archaeologists whether they knew of such things. The answer was no. In August 2007, he led Dr. Logvin and others to the largest figure, now called the Ushtogaysky Square, named after the nearest village.

“It was very, very hard to understand from the ground,” he recalled. “The lines are going to the horizon. You can’t figure out what the figure is.”

When they dug into one of the mounds, they found nothing. “It was not a cenotaph, where there are belongings,” he said. But nearby they found artifacts of a Neolithic settlement 6,000 to 10,000 years old, including spear points.

Now, Mr. Dey said, “the plan is to construct a base for operations.”

“We cannot dig up all the mounds. That would be counterproductive,” he said. “We need modern technologies, like they have in the West.”

Dr. LaPorte said he, Mr. Dey and their colleagues were also looking into using drones, as the Culture Ministry in Peru has been doing to map and protect ancient sites.

But time is an enemy, Mr. Dey said. One figure, called the Koga Cross, was substantially destroyed by road builders this year. And that, he said, “was after we notified officials.”

 

 

THE TRIGGERING OF THE HUMAN IMAGINATION – LOST LIBRARY

Recently I have undertaken a new career (or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, an additional career) as a fiction writer. My background as an author is as a non-fiction writer, primarily dealing with such subjects as business, science, and technical matters. Although on occasion, often for private clients and sometimes just to pursue my own interests, I write analytical, white, and theory papers on everything from military and law enforcement matters to educational techniques to religious subjects.

But, as I said, now I am embarking upon a new or supplementary career as a fiction writer. Last night, while reclining in bed, and reading a fiction story before sleeping, it occurred to me that the author was very good as describing some scenes (thereby easily provoking my imagination to work “independently” of the actual words used to construct the scene) and at other times the author did a very poor job of description and my imagination had to work very hard, or was confused as to exactly what the author was describing. (The author was Michael Moorcock.)

I went to sleep and later awoke about 0500 hours from a dream, and then an idea suddenly occurred to me about what had triggered the dream. (I didn’t connect my dream directly to the story Moorcock had written but it had triggered an “oblique set of imaginings” which I thought were related to some of the ideas expressed in the story.) After I was awake about fifteen minutes or so replaying the dream through my mind it occurred to me that many authors, as well as others, such as really good playwrights, poets, filmmakers, graphic or visual artists (I had recently taken my children to see one of the largest collections of Sacred and Italian and Spanish Gothic and Renaissance Art in the entire nation, and most all of the works were both highly symbolic, and fantastically beautiful), even inventors, scientists, and religious leaders often express their ideas in such a way as to have a great and lasting impact upon the imagination of the consumer. (I am using the term consumer here to represent any partaker or user of such services, products, information, or ideas as are being now discussed.)

And herein lies the seed of my theory. That there are certain techniques that writers, artists, inventors, etc. use that are capable of triggering the imagination of the listener, audience, or observer in such a way that the imagination of the consumer is expanded to such a degree that it becomes heavily provoked, and can then operate almost entirely independently on similar matters (if not indeed completely independently) of whatever the original trigger that had initially produced it.

Using a writer as an example of my intent, for instance, certain authors are so good at description, that they can create an image in the mind of many readers that even when the reader completes reading the description or has finished the work, there lingers a sort of lasting or almost semi-permanent impression of (and on) the imagination, that is not static and calcified, but is rather “alive,” flexible, and on-going. A sort of Living and On-Going After-Image that is not static, but is fluid and almost vital. The images and impressions made by the work do not die out with the reading of the last word, or by finishing the book, but rather they “carry on” almost as if they had created a sub-rosan or virtual reality within the mind and psyche of the consumer or the partaker. And this new and virtual mind-reality is likewise not limited to the breadth, depth, or scope of the original subject matter of the work, but rather one type of imagining or image activates numerous others in a long and continuing chain of triggered imaginary impulses, the limits of which are constrained only by the inventiveness, potentialities, and desires of the particular consumer in question.

As a side note I should also mention that I am not using the term Virtual to imply something that lacks reality, as much as to represent something that has not as of yet become imminently real, but could very well become empirically real when imagination is determinedly and ambitiously combined with actual work and concentrated effort. (Now of course a badly executed or ill-conceived effort of work, imagination, or description may leave the consumer either highly confused as to what exactly the author meant by virtue of his description, or may lead the consumer completely away from the actual intent of the author, or may simply provoke a feeling of disinterest or “dullness” on the part of the consumer, triggering within him not sustained and powerful imaginings, but rather impressions of distraction, or a shallowness that can only be indicative of a total lack of interest and respect for the work in question and what it produces.)

But my theory (and my theory is not new, I am sure, but I am seeking a sort of specialized or different application of it) is that while there are certainly defective techniques of the act of describing or envisioning a thing that lead to a failure to spur on the imagination of the consumer, that miscarry the attempt to create a “virtual reality” of the mind through the lacking exertion(s) of a peculiar creator, there are also techniques that rarely fail to produce the sort of positive effects that I am discussing here in respect to the imagination.

That is to say if there are techniques that fail in the cause of provoking and exciting and expanding upon the capabilities of the imagination of the consumer, then there are obviously other and more intense techniques, which will, more often than not, have the desired effect of expounding upon, elucidating, enlarging, edifying, and invigorating (perhaps permanently) the imagination of the consumer. Techniques that can help to create a sort of “perpetual inner motion” of the imagination, and that will have effects far beyond and far exceeding the actual individual triggers or spurs that were used in producing this state of affairs.

(Now, for purposes of this discussion, I am not going to really address the receptivity or state of internal agreement that any particular consumer feels toward the subject matter he is consuming. That is outside the bounds of what I am discussing, and in any case there is very little, practically speaking, that any creator can do to control the state of receptivity on the part of the consumer. The creator can use the best techniques possible, and undertake his or her work in the most crafty and acute manner by which he is able, but he cannot control the inner state of receptivity on the part of the consumer. That is almost entirely the duty or the affair of the individual consumer of information. If someone else wants to discuss this issue of information dispersal versus information receptivity, then feel free, but as for me, and at this moment, I intend to avoid the issue as a momentary distraction to the other more important points at hand.)

It also occurred to me this morning, after teaching my classes, that the same sort of thing happens in Role Play Gaming, and that moreover in such an environment such “triggering of the human imagination” is often a corporate act, as much as an act of the creator of the plot, storyline, and/or milieu being explored. (And if indeed it is an act of both the corporate and individual imagination, then this in itself might be an important clue towards the feasibility and dynamic nature of important methods of “imaginative triggering.”) That being the case it seemed to me that this website and blog would be the perfect place to solicit further ideas for this discussion. And that a discussion of role-play techniques and methods geared specifically towards the architecture of imagination might yield vital and important clues towards even larger issues of the mind and visionary invention.

Now there may indeed be, and I very much suspect that indeed there are, more or less Universal Techniques and Methods for the “triggering of the human imagination” in the way in which I am framing the issue. (Techniques that may vary in application according to media type, or in discipline or field of endeavor, but are still interchangeable in intent and basis of intended achievement.) However let’s put that possibility aside for the moment and work at the problem inductively.

Let me ask the question(s) very simply in this way: What techniques or methods do you employ as a DM (or even as a player), adventure writer, milieu creator, writer, songwriter, inventor, and so forth that seem to you to “trigger the human imagination” in a very intense and enduring fashion? So that your work takes on a “virtual life of its own in the mind of your consumers,” and/or so that it continues to excite your consumers long after the actual act of the game is concluded? And how do you go about employing such techniques on a consistent basis in order to repeat these effects in a systematic and continuing manner?

I’m looking forward to your answers, ideas, opinions, and speculations…

THE MEDICINAL TATTOO

Absolutely fascinating. I mean the entire case, and the murder scenario, which I’ve followed for years now, but these recent discoveries about the tattoos, especially those. That really gives me a lot of ideas, both for gaming scenarios and spells and charms, etc., and for fictional stories.

 

Scan finds new tattoos on 5300-year-old Iceman

January 22, 2015
Examination. (Credit: ©South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology/Eurac/Samadelli/Staschitz)

Aaron Deter-Wolf for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

A new study has used advanced imaging techniques to identify previously unknown tattoos on the ribcage of the 5300-year old man known as Ötzi, bringing his total number of tattoos to 61.

But first, some context

In September of 1991 hikers in the Ötzal Alps along the border of Austria and Italy happened upon the mummified corpse who became an archaeological celebrity. After Ötzi died at the hands of unknown attackers one late spring or early summer around 3500 BC, his body and belongings were left in a small gully where they were entombed beneath an alpine glacier. A combination of glacial meltwater and extreme cold resulted in natural mummification of his body.

Thanks to more than two decades of analysis, scientists arguably know more about Ötzi’s health and final days than those of any other ancient human. He died at around 45 years of age after being shot in the back with a stone-tipped arrow and bludgeoned. In the 12 hours preceding his death he climbed into the mountains from an Italian valley, and ate a last meal consisting of grains and ibex meat. Ötzi suffered a variety of ailments, including advanced gum disease, gallbladder stones, lyme disease, whipworms in his colon, and atherosclerosis. Researchers have sequenced Ötzi’s entire genome, identified a genetic predisposition to heart disease, and determined that he has 19 surviving male relatives in his genetic lineage. However, a new study shows the Iceman still has secrets left to reveal.

Now for the tattoo part

Ötzi was tattooed, and offers the earliest direct evidence that tattooing was practiced in Europe by at least the Chalcolithic period. However, until now it has been difficult to conclusively catalog all of his marks. Ötzi’s epidermis naturally darkened from prolonged exposure to sub-zero temperatures as he lay beneath the glacier, and as a result some of his tattoos became faint or invisible to the naked eye. Consequently previous studies have identified between 47 and 60 tattoos on the Iceman’s body.

For several decades scientists have recognized that advanced imaging techniques, and particularly the near-infrared spectral region, can be used to reveal faint or invisible tattoos on ancient mummified remains. These techniques are effective because the carbon that comprised most ancient tattoo ink absorbs certain wavelengths differently than the human epidermis. Therefore when mummified skin is illuminated using those wavelengths, carbon-based tattoos appears much darker than the surrounding untattooed skin.

The new examination of Ötzi by Marco Samadelli, Marcello Melis, Matteo Miccoli, Eduard Egarter Vigl, and Albert R. Zink consisted of non-invasive multispectral photographic imaging performed on the Iceman at his home in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy. The researchers first slightly thawed Ötzi’s body, which is ordinarily kept at 21.2 °F, in order to eliminate the ice layer from his skin. On reaching 29.2 °F, he was photographed from all sides using a modified 36 MP digital SLR camera outfitted with filters to capture images in ultraviolet, visible, and infrared wavelengths. These images were then processed using specially-designed software capable of distinguishing and analyzing seven wavelength bands for every recorded pixel. This method, which the authors call “7-Band Hypercolorimetric Multispectral Imaging,” allows for detection of color differences even in the non-visible spectral range.

Samadelli and colleagues were able to detect a previously unrecorded group of tattoos on Ötzi’s lower right rib cage. Those marks consist of four parallel lines between 20 and 25 mm long and are invisible to the naked eye. According to the authors, these make up “the first tattoo … detected on the Iceman’s frontal part of the torso.”

The researchers also created a complete catalog of Ötzi’s tattoos. These include 19 groups of tattooed lines, for a total of 61 marks ranging from 1 to 3 mm in thickness and 7 to 40 mm in length. With the exception of perpendicular crosses on the right knee and left ankle, and parallel lines around the left wrist, the tattooed lines all run parallel to one another and to the longitudinal axis of the body. The greatest concentration of markings is found on his legs, which together bear 12 groups of lines.

And no, they weren’t a tribute to his girlfriend

While the different combinations of lines in Ötzi’s tattoos may have held some underlying symbolic meaning, it appears that their function was primarily medicinal or therapeutic. Previous research has revealed that 80% of the Iceman’s tattoos correspond to classic Chinese acupuncture points used to treat rheumatism, while other tattoos are located along acupuncture meridians used to treat ailments such as back pain and abdominal disorders, from which Ötzi also suffered. In his 2012 book Spiritual Skin: Magical Tattoos and Scarification, anthropologist Dr. Lars Krutak documents an experiment in which Colin Dale of Skin & Bone Tattoo in Copenhagen determined that hand-poked tattoos applied to acupuncture points using a bone needle “could produce a sustained therapeutic effect,” successfully relieving ailments such as rheumatism, tinnitus, and headaches.

Samadelli and colleagues note that Ötzi’s newly-identified tattoos are not located above a joint, and suggest that this particular group of lines was therefore not related to the treatment of lower back pain or degenerative joint diseases. However, after reading the article Krutak was intrigued by the possibility that the new tattoos might be located on or near other classical acupuncture points or meridians, and if so “Perhaps these could be traced to Ötzi’s known pathological conditions, such as gallbladder stones, whipworms in his colon and atherosclerosis.”

Krutak consulted Gillian Powers (M.Ac., L.Ac.), a licensed acupuncturist in Washington, DC, who reported that acupuncture points near the newly-recorded tattoos “can be used to treat the symptoms associated with whipworms (abdominal pain, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea) and gallstones (abdominal pain, nausea/vomiting, etc.), as well as breathing issues.” Powers also noted that the location of the new tattoos is in close proximity to the gallbladder itself, and therefore could have additional effects on gallstone pain.

The new study was published online this week in the Journal of Cultural Heritage.

Aaron Deter-Wolf is a Prehistoric Archaeologist for the Tennessee Division of Archaeology and an adjunct professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Middle Tennessee State University, where he teaches the Anthropology of Tattooing. In 2013 he co-edited the volume Drawing with Great Needles: Ancient Tattoo Traditions of North America You can follow his research at http://tdoa.academia.edu/AaronDeterWolf.

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Read more at http://www.redorbit.com/news/science/1113319184/scan-finds-new-tattoos-on-5300-year-old-iceman-012215/#i2td7wjDmPPE7UBa.99

 

CANNA YA DO IT SCOTTY? CAN YA BUILD US A NEW SHIP TO THE STARS?

I’ve seen this guy (Pegg) in both films and interviews before. He’s certainly smart enough to do this – but exactly what kind of film will he and his co-writer pen?

I certainly enjoyed both of the first two Star Trek films (the reboots) as films and storylines but the science (and technology) in both films was horrible and specious, especially in the first one. The Star Trek reboot has become ever more science fantasy (like Star Wars) and ever less science fiction, and the series has definitely drifted far, far away from hard science fiction and technology.

We already have far more than enough science fantasy out there (Star Wars) and ridiculous comic book level science fantasy (comic book films), all of which are interesting enough and enjoyable enough as entertainment. That, and only that though.

So I would very much prefer to see the Star Trek series move back towards being about true science fiction. Even hard science fiction. Star Trek inspired many of my own scientific endeavors, Star Wars never did. Star Wars inspired totally different ideals in me. Which is perfectly fine, and as it should be, but we should certainly have a vehicle that inspires young boys and girls towards actual science. A ship to the stars.

Therefore can Scotty save the day regarding that particular mission? I have absolutely no idea.
But we certainly need a writer to do that who is more engineer and explorer than sorcerer and stage magician. And so far it’s been all about the enchantment and the charm, and nothing about the science and exploration.

So good luck Scotty… you’re gonna need it man.

Though if you go there (towards actual science and discovery and exploration) then I for one will follow.

 

 

Simon Pegg Co-Writing ‘Star Trek 3′ With Doug Jung

pegg
 EXCLUSIVE: Simon Pegg has been set to co-write Star Trek 3, the film that just got Fast & Furious director Justin Lin aboard after Roberto Orci exited the helmer chair. He will co-write the script with Doug Jung, creator of the TNT series Dark Blue. Pegg’s already a pivotal player in the JJ Abrams-produced Paramount/Skydance pic; he also will reprise his role as Scotty, the engineering wiz originated by James Doohan in the original 1960s Gene Roddenberry series. Don’t be surprised if Scotty beams up further on the call sheet. Jung also wrote for Bad Robot and Paramount a film called Diamond, which is how he got the gig. They are just getting underway.

Simon-Pegg-Star-TrekPegg certainly has the writing credits to back him up for such a job. With Edgar Wright, he’s scripted the Wright-directed Cornetto trilogy consisting of Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, as well as Run Fatboy Run. Will tell you more when it becomes clear. Pegg is repped by UTA, Dawn Sedgwick Management in the UK and attorney Dan Fox. Jung’s repped by UTA, Circle of Confusion and Adam Kaller.

ANCIENT NOW

This Ancient Pigment Could Soon Be Used to See Through Your Skin

This Ancient Pigment Could Soon Be Used to See Through Your Skin

Egyptian blue was one of the famous pigments of the ancient world. Not only was it a scientific achievement, it has become an important historical signifier because it only came from contact with Egypt. It’s now being used in advanced technology that see right through your skin.

Egyptian Blue in the Ancient World

This Ancient Pigment Could Soon Be Used to See Through Your Skin

What do you get when you toss calcium carbonate, copper-containing metal, and a lot of sand in a very hot fire? Probably nothing. That’s why it was so impressive that Egyptians were able to turn those ingredients into something thousands of years ago. The three ingredients together can form calcium copper silicate, or Egyptian blue pigment -but the process is arduous and exact. First of all, a flux is needed. A flux is an ingredient added to a firing process that lowers the melting point of the other ingredients. Potash or calcium carbonate are common fluxes. Even with the flux, the fire used to melt the substances has to get up to about 950 degrees celsius. That’s tough to make today, let alone 4,500 years ago.

Once the Egyptians started making the compound, it was enormously popular. Egyptian blue was a vivid pigment that resisted fading. It started appearing along trade-routes, spreading to other civilizations. These days, it’s used to determine whether an ancient civilization was in contact with Egypt, giving us an economic and political picture of the ancient world. It colored the classical world for over five thousand years, and didn’t lose popularity until the end of the first millennium AD.

Egyptian Blue in the Hospital

This Ancient Pigment Could Soon Be Used to See Through Your Skin

Egyptian blue, after a long spell of obscurity, may become very popular again. It has a special property. Hit it with visible red light, and it will give off infrared. It will give off infrared for a prolonged period of time. This is helpful if you’re an archaeologist and you want to determine what kind of pigment coated a statue a long time ago. Expose the statue, the painting, or anything else, to a concentrated beam of red light, then take a picture with a camera sensitive to infrared. While most of the art piece will be dark, anything painted with Egyptian blue will shine like animal eyes in the dark.

It’s even better if you’re a doctor. The frequency of infrared that Egyptian blue emits penetrates flesh more deeply than most other frequencies, without doing any damage. Incorporating Egyptian blue into medical technology will be a cheap way to scan a person’s body. It won’t take much Egyptian blue, either. Egyptian blue can be separated into sheets one thousandth the width of a human hair. How do get this advanced nanotechnology? Stirring the pigment gently in warm water for a few days. Which means that, it’s possible to get a very cheap, very accurate medical technology out of a five-thousand-year-old pigment, some water, and a spoon.

Images: Walters Art Museum

[Via The Spatially Resolved Characterisation of Egyptian Blue, Chemistry of Glass, Egyptian Blue: The Color of Technology, Egyptian Blue: The Oldest Known Artificial Pigment, The Exceptional Near-Infrared Luminescence Properties of Cuprorivaite.]

THE MONSTER IN ME

A superbly functioning creature whose real life capabilities could easily be adapted to a game creature or “monster.” If you ask me the very best “monsters” are those who possess capabilities adapted straight from real life creatures.

I can see many useful applications (Real World and fictional) for such a capability.

Mysterious ‘Glow Worm’ Discovered in the Peruvian Rainforest

by Tia Ghose, Staff Writer | November 18, 2014 12:30pm ET

A mysterious glowing worm has been discovered lighting up the soil in the Peruvian rainforest.

The strange glow worms, which are thought to be the larval stage of an as-yet-unidentified species of beetle, may use their phosphorescence to lure unsuspecting flies and ants into their waiting, open jaws.

Ants or termites will “fly right into their jaws, and then they’ll just clamp shut and that’s their meal,” said Aaron Pomerantz, an entomologist who works with a rainforest expedition company at the Refugio Amazonas near the Tambopata Research Center in Peru, where the glowing larvae were discovered. [See Images of the Glowing Worm]

In tests, the glow worms readily devoured stick insects and termites, Pomerantz said. Their style of attack seems similar to that of the enormous, man-eating worms in the 1990 campy movie “Tremors,” albeit at a much smaller scale, he said.

“They’re underground, and they burst from the earth,” Pomerantz told Live Science.

Glowing earth

Nature photographer Jeff Cremer found the tiny pinpricks of light glowing in a wall of earth when he was working at a lodge in the Peruvian jungle. On closer inspection, Cremer discovered several dozen of these tiny insects, which measured about 0.5 inches (1.2 centimeters), shining green in the night.

Cremer brought them to the attention of entomologists who work at the rainforest nature lodge, who had never seen anything similar in the region.

The team determined that the worms were the larvae of an unknown species of click beetle. These beetles, which belong to the family Elateridae, use a fast popping or “clicking” motion to escape predators, Pomerantz said. Adults may feed on flowers and nectar, but the larvae are probably predatory.

There are more than 10,000 species of click beetles, including about 200 that are bioluminescent, meaning that they give off light. These strange little creatures may potentially be cousins of Brazilian fire beetles and could belong to the group of bugs called Pyrophorini, Pomerantz said.

Brazilian fire beetles burrow into termite mounds, creating ethereal, glowing towers at night, Pomerantz said. Though it’s not exactly clear how the newly discovered insects produce light, similar creatures use a class of molecules known as luciferins to give off their ghostly yellow glow. Pyrophorini typically maintain a constant glow through the night, and may even shine brighter when a predator touches them.

Why they glow

Bioluminescent animals usually glow to either lure in prey or to warn predators that they contain noxious chemicals. But the glowing also occasionally serves other purposes. For instance, fireflies’ blinking is essentially a come-hither signal for potential mates, Pomerantz said.

In the case of the click-beetle larvae, it seems the creatures glow to lure in prey, Pomerantz said. The Brazilian click beetles aggregate in termite mounds and glow to attract more prey.

Right now, the team isn’t sure if it’s discovered a completely new species or a new subspecies of an already known species of beetle larva, but the researchers are contacting experts in Brazil to find out, Pomerantz said.

THE REAL MONSTER OF ALL POSSIBILTIES

I cultivate garden spiders (usually of the genus/species Argiope Aurantia and more recently of the genus/species Araneus Saevus). I very much enjoy watching their web-building and trapping techniques, studying their individual behaviors, and even watching how each new generation is a variation upon the preceding generation.

However I would love to encounter a spider like this and to study its behavior, hunting techniques, and defense mechanisms. That is the naturalist and scientist in me.

The fictional writer and the gamer in me sees enormous opportunities in creatures like this.

From modifying the size, the appearance, the drives, the “intelligence,” the defense mechanisms, the hunting techniques, and the prey. I can even imagine such things, natural or artificial, as spies (remote or organic), agents, or even a sort or familiar. The possibilities are limited only by one’s own imagination.

The Real World is always the very best source of fiction. The Real World is the Real Monster of All Possibilities.

Goliath Encounter: Puppy-Sized Spider Surprises Scientist in Rainforest

 

by Tanya Lewis, Staff Writer | October 17, 2014 07:42pm ET

goliath birdeater spider

The South American Goliath birdeater (Theraphosa blondi) is the world’s largest spider, according to Guinness World Records. Its legs can reach up to one foot (30 centimeters) and it can weight up to 6 oz. (170 grams).
Credit: Piotr Naskrecki
View full size image

Piotr Naskrecki was taking a nighttime walk in a rainforest in Guyana, when he heard rustling as if something were creeping underfoot. When he turned on his flashlight, he expected to see a small mammal, such as a possum or a rat.

“When I turned on the light, I couldn’t quite understand what I was seeing,” said Naskrecki, an entomologist and photographer at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology.

A moment later, he realized he was looking not at a brown, furry mammal, but an enormous, puppy-size spider.

Known as the South American Goliath birdeater (Therapho

AMPHIPOLIS TOMB MOSAIC

Magnificent!

Stunning Mosaic Floor Revealed in Amphipolis Tomb

by Ioanna Zikakou Oct 12, 2014

 1658  78 Google +2  3  4  2347

amfipoli_psifidoto

 

Archaeologists have publicized photos of a stunning mosaic floor recently excavated within the ancient tomb of Amphipolis in northern Greece.

According to the Greek Ministry of Culture, the beautiful mosaic was discovered in the second chamber of the tomb, the site of the Caryatids‘ discovery. The colorful floor was laid with white, black, grey, blue, red and yellow pebbles and depicts a chariot in motion. Hermes, the messenger of the gods, is pictured in front of the chariot.

 

amfipoli_psifidoto_1

 

“The central theme is a chariot in motion, pulled by two white horses and driven by a bearded man, crowned with a laurel wreath,” the Ministry said in a statement.

The mosaic showcases the artist’s ability to portray the figures, horses and colors in exquisite detail.
According to a Culture Ministry announcement, Hermes is depicted here as the conductor of souls to the afterlife.

The stunning artwork, which has yet to be fully uncovered, spans the entire floor of the second chamber. It currently measures 4.5 meters in width and 3 meters in length. The central scene is surrounded by a decorative frame, 0.60 meters in width, featuring a double meander, squares and a wave-curl design.

According to archaeologists, a section of the mosaic floor has been destroyed. The Amphipolis team was able to recover the disturbed pebbles during the excavation process, however, and plans on being able to eventually piece the mosaic back together.

– See more at: http://greece.greekreporter.com/2014/10/12/stunning-mosaic-floor-revealed-in-amphipolis-tomb/#sthash.YhXFFKgo.dpuf

THE LYCURGUS CUP – ROMAN NANOTECH

For your gaming and inventive pleasure…

Goblet tricks suggests ancient Romans were first to use nanotechnology

Aug 27, 2013 by Bob Yirka weblog
Goblet tricks suggests ancient Romans were first to use nanotechnology
Credit: The Trustees of the British Museum
(Phys.org) —Recent evidence suggests that the Roman craftsmen who created the Lycurgus Cup, a glass drinking goblet, used nanotechnology to cause the goblet to change color under different lighting. The cup’s unique properties were first noted when it was brought to a museum in the 1950s—it wasn’t until 1990, however, that researchers figured out how the color changers were brought about…

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-08-goblet-ancient-romans-nanotechnology.html#jCp

INVISIBILITY CLOAK

The Invisibility Cloak – especially good for games involving modern and futuristic technologies.

 

Invisibility cloaks closer thanks to ‘digital metamaterials’

3 hours ago by Penny Orbell, The Conversation
Invisibility cloaks closer thanks to ‘digital metamaterials’
Now you see him … Eric Tastad/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA
The concept of “digital metamaterials” – a simple way of designing metamaterials with bizarre optical properties that could hasten the development of devices such as invisibility cloaks and superlenses – is reported in a paper published today in Nature Materials

link to full article in title.

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