Monday, 16 November 2020

Research: Replicators

‘Tea, Earl Grey, hot.’ said Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

And the replicator dutifully produced not just the tea but the cup holding it.

In Star Trek replicators mostly produced food but later on could provide almost anything small enough to fit into the microwave-sized machine. Replicators solved two problems at once. There was no need to carry any more than emergency supplies (in case the replicators broke) and the ship’s waste products were efficiently recycled.

Star Trek Replicator and 3D Printer

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

History Illustration: Oystermouth Castle

This month’s illustration from Alina, The White Lady of Oystermouth is a dark and brooding Oystermouth Castle, symbolic of the tempestuous times that the Lordship of Gower went through.

Alina lost everything in the barons rebellion and ended up in the Tower of London. Not only that, but she was given into the care of Hugh Despenser the Elder, the father of the king’s favourite. He gave her a hard time and she had to give him the only inheritance remaining to her: the Sussex estates, including Bramber, that she had from her father. Her son John was permitted to inherit the Mowbray estates.

Monday, 12 October 2020

Research: When Robots Exceed Humans

Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku p.101

When we finally hit the fateful day when robots are smarter than us, not only will we no longer be the most intelligent being on earth, but our creations may make copies of themselves that are even smarter than they are. This army of self-replicating robots will then create endless future generations of robots, each one smarter than the previous one. Since robots can theoretically produce ever-smarter generations of robots in a very short period of time, eventually this process will explode exponentially, until they begin to devour the resources of this planet in their insatiable quest to become ever more intelligent.

This idea, carried to extreme, is called the ‘Singularity.’ Once Earth is consumed, robots will find a better, faster way to reach the stars and gradually consume them also.

What do you think? Will computers take over the universe some day? When? Soon? Will humanity be safe in their care?


Saturday, 26 September 2020

History Illustrations: Queen Isabella

This illustration is a great one. It reminds me of Elizabeth I in the film, when she gave her speech to the army: I may have the body of a woman but I have the heart and stomach of a man.

The two Despensers' hold over King Edward II not only caused resentment among the barons and the court, but, understandably, with the queen. Isabella was the sister of the king of France, Charles IV. When a dispute arose between England and France over Gascony, Isabella managed to persuade the king to send her to her brother to make peace, and so escaped from court and from England.

Monday, 14 September 2020

How Does a Ray Gun Work?

When you're writing a novel set in the real world you sometimes have to stop and research something. What's the procedure at the police station when you get arrested? How does the control panel work in a power station? Any number of things you need to get right.

But what about a novel set in a science fiction world (or a fantasy world, but anything could happen once you introduce magic)? There is much you have to invent, on top of the characters and the plot. I have no background in science so I find it particularly difficult with machinery of any kind, to make it sound plausible. How does a ray gun work? Or a plasma rifle or laser pistol? What's the difference anyway?

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

History Illustrations: The Battle of Boroughbridge

The barons' rebellion that went so well in bringing Edward II to heel (see Order of Banishment post), did not last. The king looked for an opportunity to get back at them and when the queen was refused entry to Leeds Castle he seized the opportunity to declare everyone who opposed him to be traitors went to war against them. As soon as Edward could he recalled the two Hugh Despensers, father and son, back from exile and they were soon up to their scheming again. Hugh the Younger in particular wanted revenge on those who had him banished.

Monday, 10 August 2020

Research: Expert Systems

Today, many people have simple robots in their homes that can vacuum their carpets. There are also robot security guards patrolling buildings at night, robot guides, and robot factory workers. In 2006, it was estimated that there were 950,000 industrial robots and 3,540,000 service robots working in homes and buildings. But in the coming decades, the field of robotics may blossom in several directions. But these robots won’t look like the ones of science fiction.

The greatest impact may be felt in what are called expert systems, software programs that have encoded in them the wisdom and experience of a human being… [O]ne day, we may talk to the internet on our wall screens and converse with the friendly face of a robodoc or robolawyer. (Physics of the Future by Michiu Kaku p.77)