A Few Things to Chew On, Part One

I have a ton of ideas in my head, but only a limited amount of time to get them all down in paper. This means that triage must occur, and some good stuff must be cut off.

But you might be able to pick out some gems from my thoughts, and work it to an interesting story for your group!


Here the Random Event, the Ma­niac, the Prophet, and the Genius have to be reckoned with. We have absolutely no way of escaping them. The future-predictors don’t suggest that we can avoid or escape them —or ever be able to predict or forecast them. What the future-predictors, the change-analysts, and the trend-tenders say in effect is that with the aid of institute resources, comput­ers, linear programming, etc. they will deal with the kinds of change that are not the consequence of the Random Event, the Genius, the Ma­niac, and the Prophet.

To which I only say: there really aren’t any; not any worth looking at, anyhow.

From The Year 2000 and All That, by Robert Nisbet

I will give Asimov credit: his future history made some allowance for such an outliner.

This week, I had my haircut. Hardly exciting, I realize, but not only is it refreshing to have huge clumps of dry hair hacked away and no longer be confused for Phil Spector, but it’s also a fun way to explore the town and test my Japanese skills. By fun, of course, I mean the kind of “fun” you have when you fall off a cliff in New Jersey and have to gimp walk the four-hour trail back to Manhattan. Even so, today, I wasn’t followed through the woods at dusk by four smiling men in hoods.


Always something new in the 11,000 worlds…

 Alignment: Lawful-Angry

This kind of character is one of the fundamental building-blocks of the universe. Respect his authority!

 SPIEGEL: And for the last three years, Rich’s numbers have worked well. She’s now in the top one percent of the 3,000 forecasters, which means she has been classified as a superforecaster, someone who is extremely accurate when predicting stuff like: Will there be a significant attack on Israeli territory before May 10, 2014? In fact, Rich is so good that she’s been put on a special team with other superforecasters whose team predictions are reportedly 30 percent better than intelligence officers with access to actual classified information.

So I mean, like, do you go to obscure Internet sources or are you just using, like, Wikipedia to make your judgments?

RICH: Usually I just do a Google search.

SPIEGEL: Your basic process is a Google search.

RICH: Yes.

SPIEGEL: Which at least for me raises this question: How is it possible that a group of average citizens doing Google searches in their suburban kitchens can outpredict members of the United States intelligence service with access to classified information? How can that be?

So You Think You’re Smarter Than A CIA Agent

All ordinary Imperials (and many deviant ones!) would call the Ministry of Justice, and accuse the woman of psionic use. In Gavin’s Imperium of the Solomani Rim War, she would be quietly taken away and lobotomized or executed. In Strephon’s Imperium of the Classic Traveller era, she would be quietly taken away and put to work in a secret Imperial facility – in comfort yes, but unlikely to see her friends or family ever again.

But this article isn’t science fiction: it’s science fact.

Therefore, this assertion is true: for major world events, the Web can be used to predict the future, within a certain margin of error.

I wonder which group will be the first to put this fact to profitable use?

(Points to the stock market.)

 A real life treasure hunt - that has cost the lives of six men so far – that might inspire your own in-universe search…

When Muslims have critiqued other Muslims, it has often been to chastise them for not killing enough infidels. When the 8th-century Arab general Muhammad bin-Qasim defeated his opponents on the Indian subcontinent with craftiness, his superior, Al-Hajjaj bin Yousef, demanded that Qasim commit more massacres. In his next action, Qasim was sure to massacre thousands.

There are many examples in Islamic history of relatively tolerant Muslims being replaced by more draconian ones. In Medieval Spain, the more orthodox Almoravid Dynasty replaced previous more tolerant rulers, and, in turn, it was replaced by the Almohads, an even more fundamentalist Islamic dynasty. In Medieval Baghdad, the more liberal Mu’tazilis, who emphasized reason and argued that the Koran was created, were denounced and defeated by more strict Muslims. In modern Iran the more conservative Ayatollahs replaced the Shah. Today the more extreme ISIS is eclipsing Al-Qaeda, whom they assessed as too moderate. The hope that time will temper Islam lacks supportive evidence.

I wonder what an additional 3,500 years of endless war would lead to. In the Empty Quarter, the answer is: poverty and defeat.

I suspect that this will be the answer in the real world, too.

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2014/07/511_160680.html – “Do you wanna be white?”

Amusingly, this isn’t an Indian ad, but Korean.  I have little doubt that “skin lightening creams” will be as much a hot seller among the local Arab & East Indian Solomani women as they are right now on Earth.

Much to the amusement of the racially-uncaring (but culture- and conformity-obsessed), tan-skinned Vilani women…

Someday, one day, someone will design a properly pagan Third Imperium. Not the soft-soap polytheistic-paganism that I assume, but Ancient Greek & Roman paganism. Gary North (who I love to quote a lot) simply loathes it, and has a hostile-but-accurate outline here and here.

In today’s culture, you can probably find some source that will favourably describe ancient Classical culture, complete with sexual and enslaving practices.

(But once again, if you want to get both hardcore pagan, and hardcore sci-fi, I point to Drakon. Now, that’s what I call Imperial Nobility!)

For a contrast, see Karl Popper’s book, The Open Society and Its Enemies. A “Professor Popper” with the serial numbers filed off could make a great enemy of the Imperium. It’s said that the pen is mightier than the sword: the PCs can get a ringside seat to see if it’s true or not.

(Hint: Mere intellectual firepower isn’t good enough: you need organizational ability and a certain level of charisma to really get the ball rolling.)

Another Adventure Seed: a PC starts setting up a 3D house printing company on a low-tech world, providing tons of cheap housing for the masses…

…and angering the masses of workers the PCs have put out of work.

  • Can the PCs defy the mobs?
  • How about when the mobs pressure the local government to shut down the PC’s?
  • And what about the tons of poor people, who are waiting for their cheap housing?

Some Russian Wisdom:

  • “There is nothing easier than to give up smoking. I’ve done it a thousand times!”
  • “Optimists study English, pessimists study Chinese, and realists study Kalash (Kalashnikov)”
  • “We are responsible for what we have tamed.”
  • “People quickly adjust to good times, and slowly adjust to bad times.”

PCs don’t like responsibility… but if they are in a fairly realistic universe, they won’t be able to escape it.

The second proverb is easily tested: give the PCs a windfall, let them enjoy it for a few months, then take it away.

See what happens.

“There are two kinds of people in this world: those who can extrapolate from incomplete data.”

Three types of men live well in bureaucracies:

  1. bureaucratic politicians, infighters, and boot-lickers;
  2. time-servers, at once fearful of breaking the rules and delighted in enforcing the rules on others;
  3. go-along-to-get-along, ‘no is the safe answer to those lower than you, and yes to those above you’ types.

I have always placed the Vilani at the top level, and the Bwap in the middle. I don’t have anyone for the third slot, though… Probably because I see bureaucracies with a hostile eye, looking for conflict (and story potential).

For extra fun, see Communist Bureaucracy vs. Keynesian Bureaucracy”. They key difference is that Communist bureaucrats can arrest and disappear you, while the standard Western bureaucracy can’t.

The Vilani Bureaux – a kind of corporate bureaucracy, with law-making and law-enforcing power (up to and including warfare) is a somewhat different animal than the above. One good thing: as very bureaucratic organizations, they don’t have the arbitrary killing power the Communists have. They take the rules seriously, by and large.

There are two groups of wanderers – the very poor and the very rich. Mongoose Traveller has some good ideals for them, with the Dilettante and Scoundrel books.


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Crew Positions

In case you have no experience, but a desire to really join the working crew of a sailing ship…

Hey – it’s the best way to get hands-on experience for the Great Traveller Novel (Merchantman edition: the Mercenary edition needs a different skillset…)


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The Slaver Weapon

Interesting. It’s good to know that the Japanese aren’t the only ones who can make intelligent animated sci-fi…

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Medical Decontamination

Medical Decontamination

It’s rather tedious and boring to strictly roleplay proper decontamination routines, so I wouldn’t insist on it myself. Even when it is a life-and-death matter, you just don’t want to slow down the game, not even for a “save-or-die” situation.

But, for the climax of a medical campaign or preparing to fight the bad Guy in a hot zone (where he is in his native environment, and the PCs are at a serious disadvantage), it might be useful, if done once, MAYBE twice.

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Mental Limits of the Referee: the Tracy-Widom Distribution

Reading a Quantas article on the Tracy-Widom distribution, I wistfully sigh on the limits my unassisted mind must labour under. A real Referee would be able to easily use the Tracy-Widom distribution to model populations in his game universe!

Instead, I am left to wait until some kind programmer (human, or self-learning program) of the future uses it – and many, many other mathematical & statistical tools, almost all of which I am ignorant of (another sigh!) – to set up a decent model of the Third Imperium “scaled to the Granularity of thousand-sentient population groups, capable of handling tech levels of 0 to 17 – and the interactions between these populations.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up being a post-Singularity project, maybe around 2060, when a laptop (then as intelligent as ~512 humans, if you peg the one computer = one human mind point at 2050, then continue to double up every 12-18 months) can be used to set up one of my lifelong dreams.

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Compact Fusion

As readers here know, I’m a fan of LENR/Cold Fusion.

But… I also like competition and multiple approaches to solve the same problem. This allows more specialization, and a better pick for exactly the solution you are looking for.

So… on to Compact Fusion!

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Roleplaying a Planetary Population Collapse: A Few Tips

Ebola offers the possibility of a 50%, 70%, or 90% planetary population collapse. This is unlikely, if only because our worst fears are unlikely to be realized. But sometimes, worst-case scenarios really do kick in.

Cluborlov provides a useful outline on what to expect, here. The Raconteur Report is also useful to Referees on what to do… and, perhaps, in real life too.

It’s a science-fiction world… and now, we get to face science-fiction threats.

(Massive hat tip to Gary North.)

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Men of the Far Future

Just some portraits of the men (including three women…) of the far frontiers…

Old Timer by TK769
– thoughtful and pensive

Future Portrait by StrangeKiku
– punk rockers also cross the spacelanes

Just this Last Job by Filip Novy
– “That’s what people like you always say. But you know you’re going to die ugly.”

Astronaut Family Portrait by Lasetat
– no matter how hostile the environment, ‘life will find a way.’

Cosmonaut by Fausto De Martini
– ain’t dead yet. Not even close.

Old general by Rui Cheng
– also not dead… but a good deal closer.

 Brave New World by brazze
– someone has to tame it!

The Scout by TomPeters
– taking a break

Z_Carrier Crew by Sebastien Legrain
– photo-realistic

Just a Grunt by Dan LuVisi
– just a grunt… but I have to give them a nod.

and finally

Only War: Shield of Humanity by Kai Lim
– not a portrait at all: it’s only here for the Awesome Lunacy.

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Good News on Biotech… and a Caution

From the Washington Post:

Scientists announced a breakthrough that could one day free millions of diabetes sufferers from a lifetime of insulin injections.

The discovery described in the journal Cell on Thursday and led by stem cell researcher Douglas Melton is a method of growing billions of precious insulin-secreting cells en masse using human stem cells. Patients could receive a single transplant with the newly generated cells, which would have the ability to read out the amount of sugar in the blood and squirt out just the right amount of the hormone insulin.

This is good news, although it may take a decade for these new cells to be rolled out.

Jose Olberholzer, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Illinois whose research is focused on diabetes, described the treatment as akin to creating a new “mini-organ” in a patient’s body.

“It would be a functional cure for a patient,” Olberholzer said. “The underlying disease would still be present but the fact that these insulin-producing cells are there would mean that they would effectively have normal lives.”

Mini-organs in a decade or so? Should be interesting!

And a caution…

North in The Most Important Allocation Problem in History (Paywall) considered just what would happen when a fix for the aging process is developed.

Traditionally, these goodies will go first to those who can pay for it: but putting agelessness (NOT immortality) for sale is going to anger a lot of people, until mass production finally kicks in. The alternative way is by government bureaucracy, which means that Our Leaders (and then the friends of Our Leaders) get to be ageless before anyone else.

He has some other advice for the actual researchers involved. Details are on his site, but I will summarize it here as “be careful”.

Christians are invited to reflect on Isaiah 65:17-20 – a bit of prophecy that, unlike the ain’t-happening Rapture, is actually quite likely to kick in during our lifetimes.

Almost certainly before 2100, I’d say.


[For the "there will be no poor among you" bit of Deuteronomy 15:4, you'll have to wait until near-free energy is coupled with widespread 3D printing (of food and nearly anything else), which is then coupled with robotics. Peg that at 2060 or so, about 10 years after the Singularity, when computer intelligence passes human intelligence...]

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Cold Fusion Returns

A strong third-party report on Andrea Rossi’s E-Cat was issued on October 8, recognizing that it has a remarkable amount of energy density – about a million times that of gasoline.

That’s a lot of energy!

The report is here: http://www.sifferkoll.se/sifferkoll/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/LuganoReportSubmit.pdf

More can be found on the e-catworld site.

This day (actually, yesterday) is a good day for humanity. Especially if it can be used as a clean source of fusion energy. That would bring the other worlds in the solar system far closer:

With this level of energy gain we achieve boosts to efficiencies in: Vertical Farming, Desalinization. Manufacturing, Traveling, Construction and more. Yet the most excitable thing is yet to come. with a fuel source whose weight is negligible yet lasts 6 months or more (the limit of the current round of testing) utilizing an electric based propulsion we gain the ability to sustain constant acceleration via space travel.
Constant acceleration is notable for several reasons:

It is a fast form of travel. When ergonomics are considered, they are the fastest form of interplanetary and interstellar travel.
Constant acceleration creates its own artificial gravity to the benefit of passengers, who may thus be spared from having to deal with the effects of microgravity.

As an example using existing technology (short burn then coast) a trip to Mars would take 8+ months. Using constant acceleration and aiming at a point where Mars will be when we arrive. The time would be cut down to between 1.7 to 4.5 DAYS. As the humble opinion of this amateur writer, I submit that despite all of the above, Mr Rossi has potentially given us more than just greater efficiencies in energy. He very well may have given our children a pathway to the stars.

Onward and upward!

It’s still going to take a decade or so to shift power production over; and there are other sources of power that could well be competitive. (Traveller runs on hydrogen, so recent discoveries supporting cheap hydrogen production from water is music to my ears.)

But in any case, the move to cheap energy is on, and it’s happening in my lifetime. Wonderful!

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