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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
05/21/10 -- Vol. 28, No. 47, Whole Number 1598
Table of Contents
You Never Know (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Next time you see a can of Arizona Iced Tea check to make sure its nutrition statement is in order. [-mrl]
Moon Zoo (comments by Mark R. Leeper):
Scanning my daily science pages I saw some references to a new Internet site called "Moon Zoo", run by NASA. I thought the title was unlikely since there is no life on the Moon and "zoo" really refers to "animal". But a piece of e-mail from friend Greg Frederick suggested I take a closer look at Moon Zoo. You can see it at http://www.Moonzoo.org.
This is one of those projects that let ordinary people and/or their computers take part in some real science discovery. In a much older project one group is looking for large prime numbers, a computation-heavy task. You can hook your computer into the network so in its idle time it can be searching for prime numbers. Or another project uses your computer to look for signals of extraterrestrial life. You basically are donating idle desktop computer time to the project. You have a double benefit in that you can feel you are contributing to the extension of humanity's knowledge base and also while your desktop processor is kept busy it cannot be planning taking over the neighborhood and exterminating carbon-based life forms. You want to keep your PC or Mac too busy to plot rebellion and world domination.
So what is this all about? Well NASA has put in orbit around the Moon their Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera. It is taking a *lot* of high-resolution pictures of the Moon. It can make out visible features a half yard across. If it is collecting in such detail there are a lot of pictures to look at. And scientists can do only so much with automatic computer analysis. So the claim is that you can, with their software, take a "virtual Moonwalk", something that smacks of a Disneyworld Ride. In fact you can be doing some real science with a useful outcome. To me that sounds better.
Most of what you will be doing is identifying the size and number of craters and pointing out other interesting features to call to the attention of NASA experts. Okay, it is not the most glamorous work, but I can believe it is useful data-collecting. You will actually be adding in a modest way to our knowledge of the Moon.
I will describe what you do for the crater survey.
You are presented with one of these highly detailed pictures of the Moon's surface. I don't know if you will be the first to see this picture, but you will be one of very few people who have seen this stretch of Moon. You put your cursor over the picture and you will be able to find it with crosshairs. Where the crosshairs come together there is a circle. You put that circle over a crater. If the crater can be completely hidden by the circle you can ignore it. It is sort of like throwing the small fish back. If the crater is bigger than the circle it is a feature of interest. You click on the circle and drag it, and it increases in size. So you can use it to reasonably well express the size of the crater. You can also stretch the circle into an ellipse if the crater is more elliptical in shape. Once you have cataloged all the craters in the picture you can look for other features of interest. These might include little points of rock, graffiti, nine-legged creatures, a carved humanoid face, a cigarette butt, or even just an old Almond Joy wrapper that has been carelessly discarded. The points of rock are the most likely. And I am not saying you will find any of these things, but if you do, please report it.
When you are done you click "submit" and your species will know a little more about the lunar surface. The density of craters will tell how old the surface is and how deep the craters are. The instructions appear at the web site.
There is another application with the overly cute name "Boulder Wars." You just look at two different stretches of surface and record which one has more boulders. This will help find what regions have more and less boulder coverage. If region A has more boulders than B, and B has more than C, then A has more than C. NASA will quickly will find the areas of greatest boulder density.
In any case you will be looking at features that may be as old as four billion years. That is about 30% of the time since the Big Bang. You won't see features that old on the Earth since they would have been eroded by atmosphere.
So if you have some time, you might want to be among the first to look in detail at some sections of the surface of the Moon.
Minor complaints: you will not know how big the square of surface you are looking at is, and you won't know where on the Moon it is. But what are you doing more exciting than exploring the Moon? [-mrl]
Frank Frazatta, Old Movies, and BONESHAKER (letter of comment by John Purcell):
In response to the 05/14/10 issue of the MT VOID, John Purcell writes:
Long time no loc! Yes indeed, it has been awhile, but I am always grateful to receive the latest MT VOID like clockwork every Friday. Amazing staying power you two have. I stand--or rather, sit--agog at your devotion.
[It keeps us off the streets and out of mischief. Thanks for the nice comments. -mrl]
A couple of things got to me this time around, notably the passing this past week of one of my all-time favorite illustrators, Frank Frazetta. His work always amazed me. Such detailed artwork and yet the figures, either human or nonhuman, never seemed out of proportion or unbelievable. To me that is the mark of a true artist. Some of my prized possessions are the Burroughs and Howard books that Frazetta illustrated. Fabulous. Fans around the world are stunned by his loss, perhaps even more stunned by the family developments of the past few years. The whole craziness around Frank Jr. makes one wonder what was really going on. Interestingly, though, none of that seems to matter to me right now. I mourn the passing of a great one, and dearly hope that the family battle doesn't drag the Frazetta name down more than it has descended already.
[Frazetta had that rare talent to get people excited about the images he found exciting. And my guess is that he was paid for doing what he loved. That is a rare privilege. -mrl]
My wife and I have a number of old movies on DVD now, such as the Peter Lorre film you mention, THE FACE BEHIND THE MASK. We find quite a few of them in those $1 DVD bins at Wal-Mart or at the Dollar Tree. That's how I found the Vincent Price version of THE LAST MAN ON EARTH doubled with THE DEVIL'S MESSENGER (1961), starring Lon Chaney, Jr., to say nothing of assorted Roger Corman gems like THE HAUNTED SEA and other DVD's of ROCKY JONES, SPACE RANGER and the Steve Holland FLASH GORDON television episodes. It really is fun to dig through those bins and find some good films. Granted, there's a lot of junk to sift through, but that's to be expected. Patience brings rewards--and some really gawd-awful skiffy flicks. Nothing better than that.
[As time goes buy I find less that I want and do not already own, but what is good is the hunt. -mrl]
BONESHAKER sounds like an interesting novel. I have been enjoying a lot of the Steampunk novels being published lately, and this one sounds like I'd enjoy it too. So thank you very much for another recommended read, and it's nominated for a Hugo? I didn't know that; guess that just displays how much I care about those awards nowadays. C'est la vie...
Thanks again for the zine, and I look forward to next Friday's edition. [-jp]
[Well, you have it. I hope it lives up to your expectations. -mrl]
This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):
EGYPT, CANAAN, AND ISRAEL IN ANCIENT TIMES by Donald B. Redford (ISBN 0-691-00086-7) covers the history of that area from the Stone Age until 586 B.C.E. While it is very detailed, nonetheless most non-specialist readers will find the second half more interesting in that it is about a period they are familiar with--supposedly-- because of the history of it given in the Bible. However, Redford has little use for this Biblical history (or, as he would say, "history").
Redford begins by saying, "The patient and observant reader will have noted that, up to this point in our study, no mention has been made of Israel or its ancestral patriarchs. The reason for this is an empirical one; in our sources, both Egyptian and west Asian, there are virtually no references to Israel, its congeners, or Biblical associates prior to the twelfth century B.C.; and beyond that point for four centuries a mere half dozen allusions can be elicited."
[I can understand that he is saying what he finds in the Bible is not corroborated elsewhere. But I suspect a lot of what he does accept comes from only one source. I am not saying that he should accept the Bible, but my suspicion is that a lot of what he he considers history is from very subjective sources. That is just the nature of history. -mrl] Redford then presents a succinct chronological argument against taking the Biblical history of the Pentateuch, Joshua, and Judges as accurate. He begins with the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.E. Adding up the lengths of the reigns of the kings since the dedication of the Temple (in the fourth year of the reign of Solomon), he gets 430 years, which puts the Temple at 1016 B.C.E. According to I Kings 6:1, that was 480 years after the Exodus, putting the Exodus in 1496 B.C.E. Exodus 12:40 says that the Sojourn in Egypt lasted 430 years, so Jacob's family want down to Egypt in 1926 B.C.E. Adding up the lives of Abraham (Genesis 21:9), Isaac (Genesis 25-26), and Jacob (Genesis 47:9), we get another 290 years or 2216 B.C.E. for the birth of Abraham. So Abraham arrived in Canaan in 2141 B.C.E. (Genesis 12:4) and his descent to Egypt between then and 2116 B.C.E. (Genesis 12:10-19).
Now Redford works forward and synchronizes the Biblically-derived dates with the historical Egyptian chronology. The Sojourn in Egypt would have covered "the outgoing 12th Dynasty, the entire 13th Dynasty, the Hyksos occupation, and the early [14th] Dynasty to Hatshepsut's ninth year!" After the 40 years in the desert, the conquest of Canaan must have started in 1456 B.C.E. "or on the morrow of Thutmose III's victorious campaigns when all Canaan belonged to Egypt, and on the eve of Amenophis II's deportation of the local population. Even more astounding are the implications of the resultant placement of the Period of the Judges, namely 1456 to 1080 [B.C.E.]. This is almost exactly coeval with the Egyptian empire in Asia!" Yet, Redford points out, there is no mention of the Patriarchs, the Sojourn, the Exodus, or the Conquest in any Egyptian sources. Q.E.D. (at least according to him).
Redford goes on to note that some "Biblical exegetes" try to get around some of these conflicts be saying, for example, that 480 years must really be 12 generations, but a generation should be considered to be 30 years, and then you have the Exodus in 1255 B.C.E., and then the 430 years of the Sojourn should be thought of as four generations, or 120 years, and so on.
Redford compares the attempt to answer such questions as which Egyptian princess pulled Moses from the river to attempting to do something similar with the Arthurian legend: "Who were the counsels of Rome when Arthur drew the sword from the stone? Where was Merlin born? Where is Avalon to be located?" (The only problem is that there are people who do this.)
Redford ends this analysis by saying that the phrase "Biblical history" ought to be used only to refer to studying the history of the book called the Bible, and "Biblical archaeology" to refer to the unearthing of texts that form part of that book.
For the rest of the book (covering roughly the twelfth century through sixth century B.C.E.), Redford discusses what the Bible says about the time as well as what the (other) historical records say, usually to the detriment of the former. He points out the many anachronisms. For example, Judges 1:19 talks about iron chariots," but iron did not actually replace bronze until much later. Judges 6:5 refers to domesticated camels; camels were not domesticated until several hundred years later. And so on. A full chapter is dedicated to "The Creation Accounts", "The Table of Nations", "The Sojourn", and "The Exodus" and comparisons with other versions and histories of the period.
As I said, most people may find the main thrust of the book a little dry, but the sections discussing the Biblical version of history will interest a lot more people. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper firstname.lastname@example.org Quote of the Week: There is no such thing as inner peace. There is only nervousness and death. -- Fran Lebowitz
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