Monday, 29 December 2008

Oceanography update: Rough Sex at 40k Leagues Under the Sea

From Scientific American, an article regarding the mating habits of squid that makes one glad to be a mammal:

"What do you do to pass on your genes to the next generation if you are really hard up, it’s too dark to see clearly and you are literally under enormous pressure? The short answer: play rough and weird."

To cross over into anthropology for a moment, I would venture to say that "rough and wierd" may describe a fair amount of activity in SL. Just an educated guess, that is.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Public Health update: Papal mortality and Welsh rugby

The most recent issue of the British Medical Journal, the Christmas edition, continues the tradition of prior years in reporting on the truth (or lack thereof) in popular medical knowledge.

Here is a sample of one of the medical myths put to the test:

Payne GC, Payne RE, Farewell DM. Rugby (the religion of Wales) and its influence on the Catholic church: should Pope Benedict XVI be worried? BMJ 2008;337:a2768. doi:10.1136/bmj.a2768

Objective: To explore the perceived wisdom that papal mortality is related to the success of the Welsh rugby union team.

Design: Retrospective observational study of historical Vatican and sporting data.

Main outcome measure: Papal deaths between 1883 and the present day.

Results: There is no evidence of a link between papal deaths and any home nation grand slams (when one nation succeeds in beating all other competing teams in every match). There was, however, weak statistical evidence to support an association between Welsh performance and the number of papal deaths.

Conclusion: Given the dominant Welsh performances of 2008, the Vatican medical team should take special care of the pontiff this Christmas.

A link to the editorial covering all the myth-busting articles can be found here:

Delamothe T. Editor's Choice: Everything you know is wrong. BMJ 2008;337:a3027. doi:10.1136/bmj.a3027

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Archæology: top ten discoveries of 2008.

Archaeology Magazine has again given us their list of the top ten archaeologic discoveries of the year.

The year is not quite exhausted, however, leaving enough hope that one may still yet unearth something truly wonderful in the waning days of December.

However, I am certain that this one find (mentioned tangentially in the above top 10 list), will be hard to top:

Gilbert TP et al. DNA from Pre-Clovis Human Coprolites in Oregon, North America. Science 2008; 320 (5877): 786-789. DOI: 10.1126/science.1154116

The interested reader may search for the images of the artefacts via the usual routes; I have a strict no-fæces-images rule for this site.

And if one of my readers does come upon something to challenge the abovementioned top ten discoveries, or even the coprolites, please forward the details straightaway. You may use your judgement in forwarding actual samples.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

A great day, comrades: we sim into history.

As I was subject to a fair amount of unclaimed time this weekend, I took on a new project: running an OpenSimulator environment at home.

Using a somewhat-recent personal computer running Windows (a choice of necessity, not preference, I assure you), I successfully installed and configured diverse and arcane files.

Then, using the better parts of my talents (the creative ones, as opposed to technical), I designed and placed 4 sims on my grid.

Photographic proof is as follows:

Fig. 1: in which I tolerate the Windows interface.

Fig. 2: in which I claim these sims in the name of Caledon, ex patria.

The fact that I can log in to my grid from my laptop and play with 4 sims, each with 45000 available prims, is awesome, as in full-of-awe. (Compare the Russian word грозныи, grozny.)

The area is desolate, though, and bereft of state channel chatter, or any friends visiting -- a definite shortcoming.

A full discussion of materials and methods for this experiment will be available upon request.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

A Summary of Effects of Recent Changes by Linden Lab.

Linden Lab, unaware that they are actually an entertainment provider, successfully decreased the entertainment value of their product, simultaneously increasing customer ill-will towards them.

To prove this, I have the statistics and p-values and references &c. laying around here somewhere ... but suddenly, I just don't feel like writing.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Editorial: Instability of Saint Kitt Islands.

Recently, I began a review of the Tunguska Event, a cataclysmic explosion which leveled thousands of square kilometres of Siberian forest. The initial lack of attention paid by the scientific community, due to the remoteness of the disaster and relatively low loss of life, belied the severity of the event.

More recently, I have been informed that certain parties have deemed Saint Kitt Islands to be safe for general public activity. I am afraid that the available data do not support such a conclusion, and that over-confident reliance on such advice may result in terrible loss.

I would refer the reader to another August, just a few years back, in 1883, when the island of Krakatoa between Sumatra and Java detonated with world-wide effects. Tsunamis were observed throughout the neighbouring coasts, as far away as South Africa. Wave height monitors recorded fluctuations from the event in the Thames. Noctilucent clouds were observed from the ejecta, as with Tunguska.

The data that Professor Krogstad and I gathered predict that significant seismic activity is not only possible, but is imminent.

Saint Kitt Islands were formed from volcanic activity resulting in an island and atoll. The weathering patterns on the volcano itself suggest a young age, perhaps under 50 years. Seismic activity predicts potential surrounding activity, consistent with known patterns of island-building volcanic activity. Seawater temperatures surrounding the island (unpublished data) point towards other submarine volcanic activity in the area. Further geophysical studies will be required to determine the amount and extent of landmass building that has occurred in the region.

Krogstad A, Nicholas K. A biologic and geologic survey of Saint Kitt Islands. Proc Royal Soc 1898 ; 5.

At the time of the initial survey, the cauldron was quiet, and no evidence of volcanic activity was apparent. Even the casual lay-observer on St Kitt now can see the evidence of accelerated instability from the volcano and surrounding sea bed.

Based on the available evidence, allow me to illustrate my prediction for the very near future of our beloved crown colony:

I shall be in contact with the Guvnah straightaway, and I will urge the public not to congregate on or near Saint Kitt Islands, for fear of a disaster of eschatologic proportions.

If any reader wishes to see the raw data upon which these recommendations are based, please contact me at your leisure.

In assistance to Caledon, I remain,
your humble servant,

Kate Nicholas, FRS

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Tunguska, part 2.

The Tunguska event occurred at a remote time in a remote place. This fact has served both to add mystery to the story, and to frustrate those interested in knowing what happened.

The explosion was centered in the middle of Siberia, some 1000 km northwest of Lake Baikal (the largest freshwater lake in the world).

To reach the site, one could start from the Imperial capital of St Petersburg, taking the overnight train to Moscow.

From Moscow, one would board the still-new Trans-Siberian Railroad, leaving again in the evening, heading east towards the Urals, through Ekaterinaburg (where the Tsar and his family would be killed by the Bolsheviks), then skirting the edge of Kazakhstan, through Novosibirsk, then Krasnoyarsk, then to the town of Tayshet.

This town is at the 'shoulder' of the curve where the railroad turns to the southeast, to Irkustk and Lake Baikal.

From Tayshet, then, one must hire teamsters: horse-drawn sledges would provide the best transport over still-primitive roads.

Head north-east, passing well-west of Bratsk, and after 500 km or so, one would reach the town (although that would be a generous description) of Vanavara.

Vanavara lies about 70 km to the southeast of the Tunguska site. This is a small settlement with a trading post, and really the closest developed area to the site.

From here, one would need to speak with the indigenous people, the Tungus (now known as the Evenks), for guidance on reaching the blast centre.

This area of Siberia is still unpopulated and undeveloped in 1908. The Tungus people live as reindeer herders, maintaining a semi-nomadic culture in the forest. The western settlers are here as hunters and trappers and such, or here to escape the reach of the Tsar's empire.

After the "reforms" of the church in 1652 by Patriarch Nikon, the so-called Old Believers who did not support the changes were exiled to Siberia. A number of these staroobryadtsy ("old ritualists") lived in the area. (Due to a difference in how times of the day were called by the Old Believers -- compare our uses of "dinner" and "supper" in English -- their testimonies about the disaster would be called inconsistent with those of the other population.)

The wilderness around the Tunguska site is made up of taiga forest, a sub-arctic type of biome consisting of coniferous trees, and only the hardiest of deciduous trees, e.g. spruce, larch. The forest is dense, and the ground cover is moss and lichen. A forest fire, started by lightning, had destroyed a considerable area about one hundred years prior, and most of the trees that would be claimed in the blast would be only 100 years old.

The Tungus tribe gave its name to two rivers in the area, tributaries of the great Yenisei which flows north into the Arctic Ocean: the Nizhnyaya ("Lower") Tunguska and Podkamennaya ("Stony") Tunguska rivers. "Stony" is the usual English translation, but it literally means "under-stone", as the river flows under pebbles for part of its course. The Stony Tunguska is the closest to the blast site.

What would become the epicentre is a swamp; the first expedition to the site in 1927 would label them the Northern and Southern Swamps. Flies and mosquitoes form large clouds over the swamps during the short-but-hot summers. Other wildlife in the region are reindeer (a herd of 700 or so kept by the tribesmen), bears, turkeys, and smaller forest mammals.

The Tungus practice a animistic/naturalistic polytheistic religion. The loan-word "shaman" comes from their language, and coincidentally, a shaman of one of the local tribes would be blamed (or lauded, depending on which tribe was doing the talking) for the blast, having called down the wrath of Agdy, the god of thunder.

By all accounts, the morning of June 30 was clear, hot, and dry. There were no clouds in the skies over most of the region. It was a Tuesday; by the old-style Julian calendar, it was the 17th of June, one week before the feast of the nativity of St John the Forerunner for the Orthodox, and close to the summer solstice for the Tungus' native religion.

What happened next was otherworldly: at 7:14 AM local time, an explosion occurred near 60 degrees north latitude and 101 degrees east longitude, destroying some 10,000 square kilometres of forest.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

The Tunguska Event at 100.

On June 30, 1908 (NS) *, at 7:14 A.M., a massive explosion occurred in the taiga forest deep in Siberia, near the Tunguksa river, leveling trees up to 30 km away from the centre of the blast, and causing global climatic and geophysical sequelae.

This event has captured the enduring interests of scientists, both professional and laymen, and has intertwined itself in popular culture, science fiction, and conspiracy theories.

The devastation, as recorded by Leonid Kulik during expeditions beginning in 1921, would remain unparalleled until the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

While the immediate effects of the explosion were confined to the swamps and forest within 40-50 km of the centre, the blast caused a number of global atmospheric phenomena, e.g., noctilucent clouds which made it possible to read the newspaper, or take photographs at night, in London. Seismometers read tremors that would register in the 5s on the modern Richter scale, and microbarometers recorded a shock wave that traveled around the globe at least twice before dissipating.

The local tribesmen thought that the wrath of the thunder god Agdy had been brought down by a neighbouring tribe's shaman. Peasant villagers sent a delegation to the local archpriest to ask how the preparations for the end of the world were coming along. Scientists in the European capitals tried to connect the phenomena of the atmospheric and geologic activities.

In this modern day of instant access to all manner of information (I am currently watching lightning-strike data superimposed on a Doppler radar loop, as storms approach from the west), it is hard to imagine that an event of the magnitude of Tunguska could occur without some knowledge of just what happened.

Over the next few days I will be presenting some further discussion regarding the event, which connects to several points of our collective Victorian/steampunk experience.

* The local date was June 17 using the so-called "Old Style" Julian calendar. The majority of the west had already adopted the Gregorian (or "New Style") calendar, but the Russians, being, well, Russian and Orthodox, did not take well to innovation, especially innovation coming from the Bishop of Rome. But that is clearly a story for another day.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

'The World is Just Awesome'. Plus, Kate's sister.

In the event that you, dear reader, have not yet seen this, I pass along a link to the Discovery Channel's infectious 'The World is Just Awesome' promotion.

I cannot take full credit for finding it; that goes to Mr J J Drinkwater.

If you find yourself humming it all day long, well, don't say that I didn't warn you. Infectious!

The good people at have provided a method by which one may download the MP3 file, the video, and ring tones for one's portable telephone.

Now, here is the surprising part: at about 30 seconds in to the film, I do believe I spotted my dear sister Sophie*:

She "loves Egyptian kings", as the lyrics go. As I am the (slightly) more squeamish of the two of us, I'm more than happy to allow her to do all the up-close corpse work.

Now in case you cannot see the obvious family resemblance, I offer this crude figure which may clear things up a bit:

Not only is she the smarter one, her eyesight is better, leaving me the only one in the family requiring spectacles. Oh, and she's a soprano, too. None of this alto-register business for her.

I do think the glasses look grand on her, though, and I'm glad she is aging gracefully, since this is what I suspect I will look like in another *cough*-mumble years. Did I mention that she's the older sister?

In any event: do yourself a favour, and, next time you need re-affirmation of just how awesome the world is, listen to the song. Even helps put one's mind off sibling rivalry, mostly.



* N.b.: Naturally, she isn't really my sister; I haven't the foggiest idea who they found to play Sophie's part in this advert. Incredible likeness, though, and the voice is spot-on.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Photograph of the day: mainland advertising.

This is what I believe the mainlanders term an "ad farm" :

The effect of such surroundings on the prevalent real-estate values is substantial, I fear.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Additional notes from the field.

Okeanos Magic, Tanarian Davies, Audrey Fotherington, Bryndal Ellison, Jayleden Miles and Galactic Baroque have contributed further notes from their outings, again advancing our understanding of Nature here in the Realm.

The wiki ( continues to be updated by divers mycophiles as well.

G. Baroque has provided some interesting data regarding the timing of the appearance of species, and thereby has raised an interesting point: with enough data, could one construct an algorithm for predicting the appearance of a particular species in a particular period of time?


26 May.

Lovelace (Rezzer L - A-D)
B. camelopardis, leopardis 13:10 local/22:20 SLT
B. dalmatia 15:46/22:56, 17:22/23:20, 18:24/23:31, 18:36/23:32, 19:46/23:38, 00:42/00:02
? 01:30/00:06

Bellambia, 05:26 lcl/00:26 SLT (2nd one of that night)
Davanicus, 06:00 lcl/00:29 SLT, 06:36 lcl/00:31 SLT

Elf Ear, 01:52 ( ), 09:33, 09:50
[Previous nights' Winterfell observations courtesy, in part, of Audrey Fotherington and Bryndal Ellison]

Cutie, 08:32, 08:57 and 09:05 (Bryndal Ellison), 10:09

27 May.

B. tigris, 20:45? lcl / 15:39 SLT
Eyre, RCT, 02:20 lcl/23:22 SLT

29 May.

Eyre, Davanicus: no specific local times, all between 18:00 and 02:00/11:55, 12:00, 12:07 SLT

Lovelace, B. tigris: 02:00lcl/20:09 (Fawkes Allen)
Eyre, Davanicus: 03:45lcl/20:15; 05:04/23:23

One Night in Lovelace
Okeanos Magic, 2008-05-30 10:04:22
In the interest of scientificalism , I passed an entire night cycle in Lovelace, and scooped up EVERY SINGLE mushroom that rezzed. This was the local night session that begins around 7:30 AM SLT. I arrived at the Lovelace ring at 5:52 PM and my computer crashed just after 7 AM local time (roughly 8:45 AM SLT)

My tally for the evening is as follows:
B. camelopardis: 22
B. dalmatia: 11 (exactly half as many as the camelopardis - interesting)
B. leopardis: 19
B. tigris: (and pardon me for getting unscientific for a moment) a big fat stinking ZERO!!!!!!

Yours in service to the society,
Okeanos Magic


Galactic Baroque shroom notes 1
Monday, May 26, 2008

Caledon Eyre (rezzer 1)

Eyre species appear on a day/night rotation. Dr. Bob in Glengarry (rezzer 2) also confirmed a shift in species at sunset.

I took timemarked notes for 379 consecutive minutes. Because of the day/night roation, I conjecture that probability per cycle is more significant than the time interval since last appearance. However, I can send you the time marks if you are tracking those.

Also significant is an apparent "clock" with a one minute interval. The second hand on my watch was nearly always in the same position when a shroom appeared, lag could account for the very very few exceptions. So, one may also count a 25th outcome, "none," when calculating probabilities.

Partial Day cycle: 140 minutes, 103 shrooms
(species/shroom count count/percentage by shrooms count/percentage by clock count)
Caledonus 65 63.11% 46.43%
Xenobiologus Horgidae 14 13.59% 10.00%
Darkle's Bane 14 13.59% 10.00%
Devil's Minion 5 4.85% 3.57%
RC Toadstool 4 3.88% 2.86%
RC Death Cap 1 0.97% 0.71%
none 37 n/a 26.43%

Full night cycle: 65 minutes, 50 shrooms
Booomslang's Toadstool 20 40.00% 31.25%
Caledons Ordinalis 16 32.00% 25.00%
Morte Velox 7 14.00% 10.94%
Nicholas Shroom 5 10.00% 7.81%
Fungus Davanicus 1 2.00% 1.56%
Bellambia 1 2.00% 1.56%
none 14 n/a 21.88%

Full day cycle: 175 minutes, 125 shrooms
Shrooms Caledonus 72 57.60% 41.14%
Xenobiologus Horgidae 26 20.80% 14.86%
Darkle's Bane 13 10.40% 7.43%
Devil's Minion 9 7.20% 5.14%
RC Toadstool 4 3.20% 2.29%
RC Death Cap 1 0.80% 0.57%
none 50 n/a 28.57%

Random sightings
2 Elf Ears about 9:06pm , Absinthe
Death Cap for Cutie, 9:55p, Laudanum

Galactic Baroque shroon notes 2
2008-05-27 04:31:31
The night brought much excitement as a new patch with 4 new species was discovered in Lovelace.

partial day cycle count:

Byronium camelopardis 18
Byronium leopardis 13
Byronium dalmatia 5
Byronium tigris 0

full night cycle count:

Byronium camelopardis 17
Byronium leopardis 15
Byronium dalmatia 17
Byronium tigris 1 (12:04 am)

Monday, 26 May 2008

Update in Mycology.

Here I have the privilege of publishing some reports from the field of mycology, passed along to me by Tanarian Davies, a mycophile of the first order.

First, a lovely array of the mushrooms from the Caledon Botanical Society:

Photographic collection courtesy Dame Lapin Paris
"As beautiful and terrible as an army arrayed for battle." -- Ed.

I will again pass the request for further information, data, supposition, intrigue, or startling conclusions. Please send them via notecard, and I shall endeavour to disseminate them.

Mycological note, for your commentary and feedback
Tanarian Davies, 2008-05-23 16:19:53

A proposal for the classification of mushrooms by shape and structure:

Type 1: Bulbous, near-round cap; has annulus; short stem
  • Bellambia
  • Darkle's
  • Cutie (stretched)
  • Dusty
  • Theobroma
  • Xeno
Type 2: Concave, peaked cap; no annulus; short stem
  • Bardhaven's
  • Boomslang's
  • Devil's
  • Amongus
  • Royal Toadstool
  • Story Morel (stretched)
  • Tasty Nonesuch (stretched)
Type 3: Bell-shaped cap; no annulus; moderate stem
  • Ordinalus
  • Monk
  • Morte
  • Royal Deathcap
Type 4: "Classic" flattened-dome cap; no annulus; long stem
  • Glowgill (stretched)
  • Davanicus
  • Nicholas
  • Shroomus
  • Tears
  • Truffle (stretched)

Audrey Fotherington identifies another ring
Tanarian Davies, 2008-05-24 09:15:11

Caledon Downs:
(it's right across from that new Hatpins shop and next to the tracks)

Notes on picking up extremely rare species

Bryndal Ellison, 2008-05-25 19:11:28

Bellambia - picked up 4:08 pm SLT, Eyre (Local Night)
Elf Ear - picked up 11:23 am SLT, Absinthe (Day)
DeathCap for Cutie - picked up approx 2:14 pm SLT, Laudanum (Day)

Mycological observerations, 25 May
Tanarian Davies, 2008-05-25

Laudanum: Cutie @ 09:26, 10:19, 19:20, 20:30
Absinthe: Elf Ears @ 01:29, 10:28, 19:00, 19:51

(all Winterfell times SLT only)
Glengarry: Deathcap @ 11:49 local/17:56 SLT, 2:25?local/18:33 STL (approx)
RCT 14:50 lcl/18:42 SLT
Bellambia 03:04 lcl/00:13 SLT (26th)
Eyre: RCT 09:06 lcl/21:14 SLT

Latest mushroom info/rumors
Tanarian Davies, 2008-05-26

Guvnah Shang wandered into Glengarry while I was holding watch yesterday, and stirred up a whole lot of Xenos, but also =confirmed= as far as he was going to that 24 IS the number of currently available mushrooms.

He implied that at one of the three other previously-referenced locations -- Lovelace, Brythony, Saint Kitt Islands - would be getting mushrooms soon, but would not confirm which ONE. He said I was "partially right".

I also got the impression we're getting much closer to cooking time.

Yes, I'm still a mushroom

Field Guide v.1.0
Otenth Paderborn, 2008-05-26 00:40:25
Adapted from
25 May 2008

Known locations (courtesy of Miss Tanarian Davies)
  • Laudanum 145,97
  • Absinthe 114,131
  • Winterfell 61.227
  • Tanglewood 130,119
  • Moors 106,44
  • Kittiwickshire 113,191
  • Glengarry 168,163
  • Eyre 172,96
  • Downs 166,114
  • Brigadoon 115,141
BardHaven's Bane (Advocatus diaboli)
Location - Absinthe (South), Laudanum (South), Winterfell (North)
Frequency - Uncommon
Type: Thaumalate Cap: Glowing; violet-pink with lighter pink spots Upper stem: Pink with black spots Lower stem: Pink

Location - Eyre (Central)[1], Glengarry (Central)
Frequency - Rare
Type: Oblate Cap: Vivid red with large white spots and small black dots Upper stem: Yellow and brown tiger pattern Lower stem: Yellow

Bilious Glowgill
Location - Absinthe (South), Laudanum (South), Winterfell (North)
Frequency - Common
Type: Patellate (extremely vertical extended) Cap: Glowing; pale green with brown spots, darker green gills Upper stem: Dark blue annulus, fading to medium blue then back to dark blue Lower stem: Green band fading into grey

Boomslang's Toadstool
Location - Brigadoon (Central), Downs (Central), Eyre (Central, night only), Glengarry (Central), Kittiwickshire (North), Tanglewood (Central), Victoria City (Central)
Frequency - Common
Type: Thaumalate Cap: Medium brown Upper stem: Dark brown Lower stem: White

Caledon Ordinalus
Location - Brigadoon (Central), Downs (Central), Eyre (Central, night only), Glengarry (Central), Kittiwickshire (North), Tanglewood (Central), Victoria City (Central)
Frequency - Common
Type: Campanulate Cap: Cream with yellow-brown splodges Upper stem: Light green Lower stem: Grey

Darkle's Bane
Location - Downs (Central), Eyre (Central), Glengarry (Central), Tanglewood (Central)
Frequency - Uncommon
Type: Oblate Cap: Deep red with black, pink and white spots Upper stem: Pink with white mottling Lower stem: White

Death Cap for Cutie
Location - Laudanum (South)[1]
Frequency - Extremely rare
Type: Oblate (extremely radially extended) Cap: Glowing; pink with dark pink and white spots Upper stem: Pink with dark pink mottling Lower stem: Black

Devil's Minion
Location - Downs (Central), Eyre (Central), Victoria City (Central)
Frequency - Uncommon
Type: Thaumalate Cap: Orange with two "eye"-like black spots Upper stem: Brown Lower stem: White

Dusty Stinker (Proditoris crepusculis)
Location - Absinthe (South), Laudanum (South)
Frequency - Common
Type: Oblate Cap: Glowing; blue-grey with sky-blue and pale yellow spots Upper stem: Yellow with blue veins Lower stem: Pale blue

Elf Ear
Location - Absinthe (Central) [1],
Frequency - Extremely rare
Type: Thaumalate (vertically extended) Cap: Glowing; white with black and grey spots Upper stem: White with black spots fading into green Lower stem: Greenish-black

Fungus Amongus
Location - Absinthe (South), Laudanum (South), Moors (Central, night)
Frequency - Common
Type: Thaumalate Cap: Glowing; yellow with green-black spots and a tan point Upper stem: Chartreuse with black spots Lower stem: Greenish-black

Fungus Davanicus
Location - Eyre (Central)
Frequency - Rare
Type: Patellate Cap: Green with darker green spots Upper stem: Bright red Lower stem: Cream

Malevolent Monk
Location - Eyre (Central, night), Winterfell (Central)
Frequency - Rare
Type: Campanulate Cap: Glowing; dark red with pink spots, lighter red band around cap Upper stem: Pink Lower stem: Light green, mottled

Morte Velox
Location - Downs (Central), Eyre (Central, night), Glengarry (Central, night), Tanglewood (Central)
Frequency - Uncommon
Type: Campanulate Cap: Coral-orange with green and grey spots Upper stem: Tan Lower stem: Grey, mottled

Nicholas Shroom
Location - Eyre (Central), Glengarry (Central, night), Tanglewood (Central)
Frequency - Uncommon
Type: Patellate Cap: Grey with green and dark grey spots Upper stem: Dull red Lower stem: White

Royal Caledon Deathcap
Location - Eyre (Central), Glengarry (Central)
Frequency - Rare
Type: Campanulate Cap: Black with vivid red spots Upper stem: Paler red Lower stem: Dark grey, mottled

Royal Caledon Toadstool
Location - Eyre (Central), Glengarry (Central)
Frequency - Sporadic
Type: Thaumalate Cap: Bright red with two "eye"-like black spots Upper stem: Brown Lower stem: White

Shroomus Caledonus
Location - Brigadoon (Central), Downs (Central), Eyre (Central), Glengarry (Central), Kittiwickshire (North), Tanglewood (Central), Victoria City (Central)
Frequency - Common
Type: Patellate Cap: Grey-green Upper stem: Tan Lower stem: White

Story Morel
Location - Absinthe (South), Laudanum (South), Moors (Central, night)
Frequency - Sporadic
Type: Campanulate Cap: Glowing; yellow with a green band, olive mottling and olive & blue spots Upper stem: Darker yellow-green with continuation of mottling Lower stem: Screaming purple

Tasty Nonesuch (Boletus edulis incomparabilis)
Location - Absinthe (South), Laudanum (South), Moors (Central, night), Winterfell (North)
Frequency - Common
Type: Campanulate Cap: Glowing; multicoloured (green-black top, red/coral/yellow/green, blue/purple edge) Upper stem: Green/blue-violet Lower stem: Blue-violet

Tremella Theobroma (the Common Chocolate Shake)
Location - Winterfell (North)
Frequency - Uncommon
Type: Oblate Cap: Glowing, light cocoa-brown with lighter and darker spots Upper stem: Green, black spots Lower stem: Black

Winterfell Tears
Location - Laudanum (South), Moors (Central, night)
Frequency - Uncommon
Type: Patellate Cap: Glowing; vivid purple with blue-violet and pink spots Upper stem: Hot pink with blue-violet veining Lower stem: Electric blue fading to pink

Winterfell Truffle
Location - Winterfell (North)
Frequency - Uncommon
Type: Patellate (extremely radially extended) Cap: Glowing; mottled brown with darker spots Upper stem: Green Lower stem: Blue-grey

Xenobiologus Horgidae
Location - Brigadoon (Central), Downs (Central), Eyre (Central), Glengarry (Central), Kittiwickshire (North), Tanglewood (Central), Victoria City (Central)
Frequency - Common
Type: Oblate Cap: Yellow-green with yellow spots Upper stem: Light blue veined with yellow Lower stem: White

Thursday, 22 May 2008

In Search of ... Fungus!

On behalf of myself and Mr JJ Drinkwater, I would like to announce the collaboration of the Caledon Library and the Royal Society for the Advancement of Knowledge in the Natural Sciences in the matter of cataloguing our surroundings.

A recent article reported by the BBC, "Rare lichen find a European first" shows that the Real World still holds some secrets of nature waiting to be discovered. Our Second World is no exception, as new reports of Caledonian flora and fauna have been surfacing in recent days.

Please join us in our efforts; consider yourselves deputised to the office of Field Scientist, ready to relay your observations from the wild.

If you come across any novel plant or animal life in the Independent State of Caledon, or in the surrounding regions of Winterfell, Brythony, or Lovelace, please collect the following data:
  • location
  • time and time-of-day (e.g., dusk, mid-day, &c)
  • description of surroundings
  • effects on self or others (including physiologic effects of ingestion)
as well as some visual representation of your find (tintype, daguerreotype, cinematograph, Kirlian photogram, transmission electron photomicrograph, or what-have-you).

Please forward your findings to the Royal Society, via note-card addressed to yours truly. Discoveries will be posted (with due credit to the submitter) on the ætheric edition of the Proceedings of The Royal Society (
Please see the Caledon wiki for a collection of descriptions: .

Mr Drinkwater and I, and our learned colleagues, are greatly excited about this new era of promotion of the natural sciences – and equally excited to share the thrill of discovery with every Caledonian. Just think of it: might yours be the next discovery to make headlines?

With best wishes in your endeavours,
I remain,
Yours sincerely,

Kate Nicholas, FRS

Monday, 12 May 2008

A biologic and geologic survey of Saint Kitt Islands.

Krogstad A, Nicholas K.
A biologic and geologic survey of Saint Kitt Islands.
Proc Royal Soc 1898 ; 5.

The Royal Society for the Advancement of Knowledge in the Natural Sciences, Tamrannoch, Caledon.

Saint Kitt Islands is a newly-discovered crown colony of the Independent State of Caledon. The area is composed of a volcanic crater and surrounding atoll, and comprises approximately 65,000 square metres (16 acres, or 0.025 square miles) of land and surrounding sea. Despite its relatively close geographic proximity to Caledon proper, its climate and indigenous plant life is quite distinct from that of the Independent State. In this paper we present the initial descriptions of the island and its biology.

The islands were surveyed by the authors on 11 and 12 May, 1898, funded by an unrestricted grant from the Royal Society for the Advancement of Knowledge in the Natural Sciences. One of the authors (AK) obtained oceanographic information to include sea bed depth, water temperature, currents, and a biologic survey. The other author (KN) was responsible for the geophysical data collection (AK performed the volcanic crater survey). Both authors participated in cataloguing the land-based biodiversity

The atoll itself is 146 metres in maximum north-south dimension, and 100m east-west. The topology is irregular, however, and gives a maximum contiguous straight-line distance (“widest point”) of 142m north-south and 56m east-west. The mean elevation is 2m above sea level at the beachfront. The mountain range running north-south in the atoll is at 11m for the southern-most plateau. Three peaks make up the mountain range proper: 30m at the southern peak, 28m at the centre, and 30m at the northern peak. The peaks are of igneous rock, with lower elevations (i.e. within 5m of sea level) covered in sandy soil and vegetation.

The volcano lies across the atoll to the east, and measures approximately 65 metres in diameter. Maximum elevations are as follows: 32m north rim, 31m southern rim, and 47-50m eastern rim. The rim measures approximately 55m in diameter north-south, and 36m east-west. The crater floor is 20m below sea level, and the cauldron is flooded to sea level. The crater itself is devoid of contents. No lava tunnels or other structures were identified.

The sea depth is -11m in the atoll, near the boat mooring, and -13m elsewhere. The sea bed appears to be uniformly sand, with little ejecta field, lava flows, or other evidence of recent volcanic activity.

In general, the surface conditions are those expected for a volcanic island. The exposed rock is igneous, and the soil is sandy, though rich enough to support vegetation. Sand is the typical pumice-based variety, and is uniformly fine, without larger elements of lava fragments.
Despite the relatively close geographic proximity to Caledon, the climate is an oceanic climate in the Köppen climate classification scheme. Winds appear to move west-to-east, though there is considerable surface-level variability. The day-night cycle is the same as in Caledon. Seismic activity was monitored; those data will be published at a later date.

For a young island, plant biodiversity is greatly important in establishing the biome. On Saint Kitt, two species of palm trees (Arecaceae spp.) and plumeria (Plumeria rubra) are found on the flat coastal regions, facing the atoll. No grasses or flowers were found. The usual ground cover was evident up to 5m or so above sea level, then giving way to igneous rock.

No terrestrial or aquatic animal species were noted despite extensive observations. No bird life was sighted.

Saint Kitt Islands were formed from volcanic activity resulting in an island and atoll. The weathering patterns on the volcano itself suggest a young age, perhaps under 50 years. Seismic activity predicts potential surrounding activity, consistent with known patterns of island-building volcanic activity. Seawater temperatures surrounding the island (unpublished data) point towards other submarine volcanic activity in the area. Further geophysical studies will be required to determine the amount and extent of landmass building that has occurred in the region.

Despite a tropical climate and the amount of plant biodiversity, there is a lack of animal species. This corroborates the geologic weathering-based age of the island, favouring a young landmass. Care must be taken not to introduce foreign plant or animal species if the original species are to be conserved. Caution is also advised regarding wide-scale tourist activity, as the native biome has a potential for serious disruption if faced with unchecked human intervention.

Saint Kitt Islands represent a major find for biologists, geophysicists, vulcanologists, and conservationists. Ongoing investigations would be expected to provide a wealth of information in those fields.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Enough levity for a fortnight: The Bard on Fark

Today I stumbled across a pearl in the midst of swine. No offense to other Fark regulars, but iambic pentameter is not among the average Farker's skills (and don't get me started on those knaves over on 4chan).

But some well-above-average Farkers stepped up to wax eloquent on a particular theme: what if the Bard himself wrote the screenplay for Pulp Fiction?

So, I had the great fortune to combine several of my favourite things over coffee this morning: fun with language, Shakespeare, and Pulp Fiction.

Here are the links: first, the Fark thread itself
then the sources for the epic banter:

Here I will reproduce a few of the better verses ... and as a treat for those who read the whole post, a rendition of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Aire" done in early Norman-English on a faux Bayeux Tapestry.

Honestly, this, dear readers, is the pinnacle of internet culture!

First: Jules addresses Ringo in the coffee shop.
I have for years recited thus. If thou didst but hear,
It was as clear a sign of your demise
As found in any witches' scry.
Yet never had I ponder'd its intent;
T'was simply fiendish sounds I could thus speak
Before I dealt my foes the final stroke
That sent them on to God's Own Realm.
But just this morrow hence, I saw such things
That lead me to reflect upon my words
And divine what the meaning was therein.
Perchance, I guessed, you are the evil man,
And I the righteous man. As for the shepherd,
Methought it could have then stood for my blade.
Anon, perhaps the righteous man is you;
I then may be the shepherd, and the evil and the selfish
Is all that stands about us in this world.
Such is a pleasing thought. But such is also false.
In truth, you are the weak.
And I, the tyranny of evil men.
Yet, henceforth, I assure you, I shall try
In all my ways to now become the shepherd.

Next, Jules and Brett have an erudite discussion on language and semiotics over a Big Kahuna burger.
J: My pardon; did I break thy concentration?
Continue! Ah, but now thy tongue is still.
Allow me then to offer a response.
Describe Marsellus Wallace to me, pray.
B: What?
J: What country dost thou hail from?
B: What?
J: How passing strange, for I have traveled far,
And never have I heard tell of this What.
What language speak they in the land of What?
B: What?
J: The Queen's own English, base knave, dost thou speak it?
B: Aye!
J: Then hearken to my words and answer them!
Describe to me Marsellus Wallace!
B: What?
JULES presses his knife to BRETT's throat
J: Speak 'What' again! Thou cur, cry 'What' again!
I dare thee utter 'What' again but once!
I dare thee twice and spit upon thy name!
Now, paint for me a portraiture in words,
If thou hast any in thy head but 'What',
Of Marsellus Wallace!
B: He is dark.
J: Aye, and what more?
B: His head is shaven bald.
J: Has he the semblance of a harlot?
B: What?
JULES strikes and BRETT cries out
J: Has he the semblance of a harlot?
B: Nay!
J: Then why didst thou attempt to bed him thus?
B: I did not!
J: Aye, thou didst! O, aye, thou didst!
Thou hoped to rape him like a chattel whore,
And sooth, Lord Wallace is displeased to bed
With anyone but she to whom he wed.

And finally, as promised, the Fresh Prince's own story told anew. (N.b.: I haven't gone through and checked the text for accuracy. Get back to me, say, oh, next week.)

Saturday, 29 March 2008

The Earliest Audio Recording (at least as far as we know).

Two of my favourite news sources today referenced a particularly interesting bit of Victorian-era technology. Both the BBC and Edward Pearse are reporting on a device which, I must confess, I really had never learned of before: the phonautograph.

While I encourage the reader to browse the links above, I shall give a condensed version of the story here.

In 1857, Frenchman Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville patented the phonautograph. The device used a stylus, connected to a receiving horn or bell, to inscribe a visual representation of the sound on to a recording medium (originally, a lamp-blackened glass plate; later, blackened paper). The purpose was to create a visual representation of sound -- not to provide for reproduction of that sound. And that is the key point to this story.

In April of 1860, a 10-second recording was made of "Au Claire de la Lune". This recording was recently found in the archives of the Académie des Sciences of the Institut de France.

Scientists working at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California created a method to reproduce the originally-recorded sounds from their sooty spectra. In short, an optical scan of the recording paper was made, and then computer software decoded the transcription to reproduce the sounds which originally drove the recording stylus.

The scientists are part of a collaborative, First Sounds. According to their web site:
First Sounds is an informal collaborative of audio historians, recording engineers, sound archivists, scientists, other individuals, and organizations who aim to make mankind's earliest sound recordings available to all people for all time.

David Giovannoni examines one of Scott's 1860 phonautograms in the archives of the Académie des Sciences of the Institut de France, where it was deposited in 1861.

Photos by Isabelle Trocheris


So: these scientists took a visual representation of sound, which was never meant to be played back, and turned it back into sound.

Go back, and re-read that last sentence, considering the technology involved, and I think you would agree that this work is remarkable.

Are there more inadvertently-saved sounds waiting to be re-discovered? All that is needed, in theory, to record a sound is (1) a moving medium, and (2) a stylus which reacts to sound waves.

As is often the case, I am not the first to have such a fanciful notion. An episode of a popular American television science-fiction television series from the 1990s pondered what would happen if, say, sounds from 2000 years ago were recorded into a wet clay pot as a stick was being used to carve decorative grooves in it.

A little more research reveals that the concept was also the heart of an April Fools Day prank by a certain Bilge Sehir a few years ago, as nicely described on the Language Log blog. I mean, really: a 6500-year-old recording? Too good to be true.

Still, it does make for a nice gedanken experiment.

For quality sound reproduction, stick with Mr Edison's cylinders ... and beware of pseudoarchaeologists and/or April Fools pranksters.

Friday, 21 March 2008

A non-scientific announcement.

Some of my readership have learned of my recent inheritance of a bit of land in Winterfell. While the details of the matter do not require discussion here, suffice it to say that dear old Uncle Alexii will be greatly missed (sniff).

Before I get down to the necessary business on the estate (archæological excavations, mineral deposit analyses, and such like that), it would please me greatly to open up the area to let my dear friends, neighbours, and colleagues have a go at it.

So, it is with great pleasure that I am opening up Winterfell Eventide as a sandbox, at least for a week (Friday, March 28*), and I reserve the right to extend that offer if, say, really good builds appear. Feel free to use the land as well as the water; Viking longboats, anyone?

The caveats? Mediæval-style external themes. No floppy dongs. You have 3000-some-odd prims to play with.

The proclamation above is based on a charter from 1790 in which Catherine the Great promotes a certain Alexsandr Murkhanov to Secund-Rotmistr (Lieutenant-Captain) in the Horse-Mounted Guards.

And, if anyone has an interest in Alexander Nevsky-era uniforms, weaponry, or such accoutrements, please send me a notecard!



* That is Friday, March 28, New Style, that is, using the Gregorian calendar, as opposed to Old Style Julian calendar dates. When one is dealing with mediæval dates, and Slavic matters in general, the Old vs New Style distinction is important.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Failure analysis of the Loch Avie Cryogenic Seasonal Support Engine

Nicholas K, Bellambi E. Failure analysis of the Loch Avie Cryogenic Seasonal Support Engine (CSSE). Proc Royal Soc 1898;3.

The Loch Avie Cryogenic Seasonal Support Engine (CSSE) unexpectedly failed in February 1898, with resultant thermal destabilisation of the terrain. This analysis was conducted to determine the cause of failure, as well as to identify other potential failure modes of the engine. The root cause appears to be geothermal anomalous events triggered by plate tectonic movements. Various preventative strategies are discussed.

The CSSE was implemented during the current winter season in Caledon to support and enhance the ground and air temperature cooling needed to ensure persistent snow cover (maximum -3.5 degrees Centigrade) and precipitation occurring as snow (maximum -2.2 degrees C.) The system exhibited a meta-effect of allowing shallow-water ice to form to depths of up to 1 metre. (Fig. 1.)

The system was controlled from a certain location within Loch Avie. Electromagnetic relays were used to control various aspects of the system. Coolant temperature, flows, and hydraulic pressure were measured at the control panel. (Fig. 2.)

At various locations around the Loch, coolant pipes were exposed to the water and atmosphere to enable convective heat exchange to occur. Figure 3 demonstrates one such submerged pipe.

Note that the combination of the amount of dissolved solutes and particulate matter in the Loch water have dropped the freezing point to below the coolant temperature, as no ice build-up is seen. (Fig. 3a.)

Figure 4 demonstrates one of the above-ground heat-exchange mechanisms, which were used in tandem with the exposed pipe apparatus used for submersible cooling.

The details of the design of the cryogenic plant itself, and the method for dissipating heat from the system remain classified, as they were commissioned originally for The Security Service (Box 500, Loch Avie, Caledon).

System failure.
During the week of February 21, ambient air temperatures and soil temperatures began climbing by an average of 0.17 degrees C. per day, from their prior stable baselines of -3.5 and -2.2 degrees C. respectively. Snow cover began to dissipate immediately due to solar heating, and new precipitation fell as rain and freezing rain by February 26. By the first week in March, existing snow cover had vanished, and there was no contiguous ice remaining on the Loch.

During the warming event, the cryogenic fluid production remained constant, with nominal temperatures. (Fig. 5.) Readings from the heat dissipation system showed increasingly-warmer effluent.

Flow and pressure monitors recorded no pressure drops or coolant leaks. (Fig. 6.)

The data support that the system encountered increased ambient heat which could not be effectively dissipated, resulting in increasingly less-efficient cooling. While available readings from surrounding areas are scant, the data suggest increased energy deposition into the air, water, and soil. Electromagnetic (EM) sensors did not indicate any change in background EM or radio-frequency energies. Seismic readings, though, showed low-level activity beginning and increasing in a temporally-associated fashion with the warming event. One hydrothermal vent which is routinely monitored indicated increased output of geothermal energy.

The CSSE failure was a result of its heat-exchanging system being overwhelmed by an unusual increase in hydrothermal energy. The increase in seismic activity in the area is the most likely etiology. The CSSE operated as designed, without any loss of system integrity . Based on the system design, and the observed mode of failure, the CSSE failed safely. The design could not have been modified on-line to accomodate the increased need for heat dissipation. The authors recommend that the system, now off-line, be re-engineered to increase heat transfer and dissipation, and that seismic monitoring be instituted to allow for better prediction of the need for increased efficiency. Finally, a further study of the unusual seismic events should be undertaken, as the increased geothermal activity provides demonstrable evidence of a change in tectonic interactions.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Shameless advertisement: Mainland expedition site.

On behalf of my colleague, Prof. Krogstad (who appears to be blogless), I would like to announce* that he is divesting himself of a mainland expedition site, way up in the mountains of Livigno, one of the snow sims.

He cites a clear lack of Yeti, Sasquatch, and Abominable Creatures Other Than Mainlanders as reasons for abandoning the site in question. There was also something about using up all his grant funding buying questionable trinkets, but I didn't get that part of the conversation.

So if anyone is interested in a Yeti-free mountain parcel, please contact Adso Krogstad in-world.

* Disclaimer: I report that I have no conflict of interest in the sale of this property, nor am on the payroll of the Yeti, Sasquatch, and Abominable Snowman Council of SL.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Victorian LEGOpunk Adventurers Meet Cthulhu.

I introduce today's missive with five words that, I am sure, have never appeared together before. My very own hapax legomenon, if you will.

And with that subtle pun, I segue into a most fascinating picture in honour of the fiftieth birthday of LEGO bricks.

Using today's vernacular, I ask you: could that scene be any more full of win? I argue that it could not.

The original picture is from here.

Now, if you will excuse me, I'm off to see if I can find a surplus LEGO set that contains a TARDIS, a dirigible, and skeletons.


Kate Nicholas, FRS