Monday, 21 December 2020

History Illustration: Angevin Lands

There was a time when the kings of England ruled a large part of France. Or rather I should say the Angevins of France ruled England as well. Henry II was the founder of the Plantagenet dynasty of English kings. The last of the line was Richard III whose body was dug up in a Leicester car park in 2012. Henry was also the overlord of the Angevin empire — he was lord of more land in France than the King of France himself, Louis VII. His territory stretched all the way from the Scottish border and Ireland to the Pyrenees mountains south of France.

As you can see from the illustration, as well as England and a large chunk of Ireland, the Angevins ruled Normandy, Brittany, Maine, Anjou, Touraine, Aquitaine and Toulouse. It is from Anjou that the Angevins got their name. Henry II was married to Eleanor of Aquitaine, a powerful woman in her own right. They had four sons, Henry, Richard, Geoffrey and John.

Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Science Fiction and Religion

Christmas is almost upon us, and as a Christian I put the most emphasis on the birth of Jesus. I love the decorations and the presents and the food, especially with children around, but we should remember the event that started it all. With that in mind, it occurred to me to look into how science fiction has treated religion.

Saturday, 28 November 2020

History Illustration: Alina’s Ghost

The last illustration in the book Alina, The White Lady of Oystermouth was not one I requested from my talented art student (now qualified). She was inspired by the story and produced this:

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.