Saturday, 30 November 2019

Building a Castle: Castle and Village


A typical modest rural castle, like Guedelon would have been, was home to about 30 people. But there would have been a whole village of craftspeople built around it. Some more important castles had a town wall built around the whole settlement to protect everyone, but smaller castles could not afford such a building project.


Sunday, 24 November 2019

Research: Oxygen Tax




One of the greatest threats of climate change today is deforestation. Previous generations have thought nothing about clearing areas of forest in order to plant crops or graze cattle. Even today when we understand a lot more about the role that forests play, they are still being cleared at an alarming rate. Forests have been called the lungs of the Earth, but we cannot blame local people for trying to make a living. In some places it's being done by corporations operating on a much larger scale, but still in the pursuit of profit. The main cash crops are  beef, soy, palm oil and wood products.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Building a Castle: Chapels and Vaulted Ceilings


Every castle had a chapel as the Church was an integral part of daily life. But originally the chapel was set up in a modest chamber. As time went on the chapel became more ornate, sometimes with a crypt to celebrate the lord's ancestors, and became part of his display of status and wealth. From the 11th century onward, the chapels were specially built and often had vaulted ceilings, which were beautiful to look at but very difficult to build.
Oystermouth Castle Chapel
In some castles the chapel was built into the gatehouse or one of the corner towers, in others it was part of the keep. It was usually on the topmost floor so that nothing came between it and heaven. Some castles had two chapels, a larger one for the general castle community and a smaller one for the lord's private use, usually near his quarters.

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Research: Gene Editing


We have talked before about DNA and the advances in DNA mapping, but this time the topic is altering DNA, particularly when it is defective.
Wikipedia says:
Genome editing, or genome engineering, or gene editing, is a type of genetic engineering in which DNA is inserted, deleted, modified or replaced in the genome of a living organism. Unlike early genetic engineering techniques that randomly inserts genetic material into a host genome, genome editing targets the insertions to site specific locations.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Building a Castle: Flooring


The size of a Great Hall was limited by the length of beams the carpenters could get from available trees, for the roof and the floor. Some great towers were built with in internal crosswall which enabled each side to be roofed and floored independently. Upper floors were supported by pillars in the rooms beneath.
Joist holes Chepstow Castle
Masons and carpenters worked closely together. In ruined castles today you can see the joist sockets in the walls for the supporting beams. The walls were built to the right height and the joists put in place. Then the walls were continued, building them around the joists. In some cases there was also a spine beam running at right angles.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Research: Faster-than-light Travel


Most science fiction relies on some kind of faster-than-light travel to enable their stories to take place. If space travel took hundreds of years, we wouldn’t have a story. But physics has proven it’s impossible to travel faster than light.

I don’t understand the science, but according to Cosmos Magazine:
THE FASTER SOMETHING TRAVELS, THE MORE MASSIVE IT GETS, AND THE MORE TIME SLOWS – UNTIL YOU FINALLY REACH THE SPEED OF LIGHT, AT WHICH POINT TIME STOPS ALTOGETHER.
It’s all based on the special theory of relativity. If you want the science, Wikipedia has a long article about it. But regardless of science, we science fiction writers have to have a way for spaceships to get about. The most well known is Star Trek’s warp drive, also found in Isaac Azimov’s I, Robot.

Warp Drive

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Building a Castle: Hearths and Tiles


It may seem a strange combination to write about hearths and tiles in the same post, but once hearths moved away from the centre of the Great Hall to fireplaces against the walls, they needed to be lined with tiles. It was far easier to replace damaged tiles than to rebuild a wall damaged by the heat of the fire.
Fireplace Tattershall Castle showing tiles in the back
Central hearths remained popular for many years, even though they must have filled the hall with smoke. Some master masons incorporated flues into the top of the windows in an attempt to draw out the smoke. It was the way they had always done it, to gather around the central fire.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Research: Extinction


Extinction is defined as the death of the last living member of a species, but a species may lose its ability to breed and sustain itself a long time before that.
DNA map
A Brief History of the Future gives a date of 2134 as when fifteen percent of all the species on Earth became extinct but the modern estimate is fifty percent will be gone as early as 2050. Most extinctions are caused by man destroying habitats, particularly through large scale deforestation.