Saturday, February 05, 2011
Even thus saith Hermes: Through long years I have not ceased to experiment, neither have I have spared any labour of mind And this science and art I have obtained by the sole inspiration of the living God, who judged fit to open them to me His servant, who has given to rational creatures the power of thinking and judging aright, forsaking none, or giving to any occasion to despair. For myself, I had never discovered this matter to anyone had it not been from fear of the day of judgment, and the perdition of my soul if I concealed it. It is a debt which I am desirous to discharge to the Faithful, as the Father of the faithful did liberally bestow it upon me.
Understand ye, then, 0 Sons Of Wisdom, that the knowledge of the four elements Or the ancient philosophers was not corporally or imprudently sought after, which are through patience to be discovered, according to their causes and their occult operation. But, their operation is occult, since nothing is done except the matter be decompounded, and because it is not perfected unless the colours be thoroughly passed and accomplished. Know then, that the division that was made upon the water by the ancient philosophers separates it into four substances; one into two, and three into one; the third part of which is colour, as it were-a coagulated moisture; but the second and third waters are the Weights of the Wise.
Ser Ciapelletto said, "Master friar, don't speak this way, for no matter how many times or how often I have confessed, I have always wished to confess generally all my sins which I remember from the time I was born to the time I give confession; for this reason, I beg you, my good father, that you as thoroughly question me as if I had never confessed in my entire life: and do not spare me because I'm sick, for I would love very much to mortify my flesh, rather than treat it leniently, to the perdition of my soul, which my Savior redeemed with his precious blood."
Boccaccio, The Decameron
The Motion of the Juices in a Plant is carried on by other Powers, such as Rarifaction and Condensation of the Air, as in some of my Works I have shewnj and this particularly depends upon the Knowledge of the four Elements and their Powers.
A general treatise of husbandry & gardening: containing a new system of ...
By Richard Bradley
Urraca, Queen of Castile and Leon (rf. 1126), by her marriage with Alfonso I. of Aragon united that crown to those of Castile and Leon, but afterwards made war on her husband and excluded him from Castile. She also quarrelled with her son and her sister, Theresa of Portugal.
Cassell's new biographical dictionary
alphonso I., king of Aragon, "the Battler," who married Urraca, daughter of Alphonso VI. (1104-1134), is sometimes counted the Vllth in the line of the kings of Leon and Castile. A passionate fighting-man (he fought twenty-nine battles against Christian or Moor), he wasjmarried to Urraca, widow of Raymond of Burgundy, a very dissolute and passionate woman. The marriage had been arranged by Alphonso VI. in 1106 to unite the two chief Christian states against the Almoravides, and to supply them with a capable military leader. But Urraca was tenacious of her right as proprietary queen and had not learnt chastity in the polygamous household of her father. Husband and wife quarrelled with the brutality of the age and came to open war. Alphonso had the support of one section of the nobles who found their account in the confusion. Being a much better soldier than any of his opponents he gained victories at Sepulveda and Fuente de la Culebra, but his only trustworthy supporters were his Aragonese, who were not numerous enough to keep down Castile and Leon. The marriage of Alphonso and Urraca was declared null by the pope, as they were third cousins. The king quarrelled with the church, and particularly the Cistercians, almost as violently as with his wife. As he beat her, so he drove Archbishop Bernard into exile and expelled the monks of Sahagun. He was finally compelled to give way in Castile and Leon to his stepson Alphonso, son of Urraca and her first husband. The intervention of Pope Calixtus II. brought about an arrangement between the old man and the young. Alphonso the Battler won his great successes in the middle Ebro, where he expelled the Moors from Saragossa; in the great raid of 1125, when he carried away a large part of the subjectChristians from Granada, and in the south-west of France, . where he had rights as king of Navarre. Three years before his death he made a will leaving his kingdom to the Templars, the Hospitallers, and the Knights of the Sepulchre, which his subjects refused to carry out. He was a fierce, violent man, a soldier and nothing else, whose piety was wholly militant. Though he died in 1134 after an unsuccessful battle with the Moors at Braga, he has a great place in the reconquest.
The Encyclopædia Britannica
Thursday, February 03, 2011
Wednesday, February 02, 2011
The first page of figures from Theoria Philosophiæ Naturalis from 1763. Figure 1 is the force curve which received so much attention from later natural philosophers such as Joseph Priestley, Humphrey Davy, and Michael Faraday. The ordinate is force, with positive values being repulsive, and the abscissa is radial distance.
Ruđer Josip Bošković (see names in other languages; 18 May 1711 – 13 February 1787) was a theologian, physicist, astronomer, mathematician, philosopher, diplomat, poet, Jesuit, and a polymath from the city of Dubrovnik in the Republic of Ragusa (today in Croatia), who studied and lived in Italy and France
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
All is gray, green and brown. Any primary colours here are sucked at by the eye: a hazmat sign, burning yellow; the silvery blue of a vacuumed sealed meal; the red of Red in a mug, steaming from heating over a fire and smelling of spices. Down here the eye is starved.
We begin our treck across no-mans land today. 50,000 kilometers down ever narrowing trenches. In the early stages by small trains, later on foot. To get to the oppositions trenches will take around three years, assuming no changes in space across no-mans-land..
My squad, here more to prevent me deserting than for any military purpose, will accompany me to the real front. And there I will have to exercise my power as the Tactician and take control of the whole offensive.
My squad of puppets is a mix of men and women. I won't touch the woman I've decided. After Yelena I've become aware that what I do with puppet women is rape, no matter how willing they may seem.
I still think that fully autonomous puppets will lead to the destruction of the true human race. That's why I consented finally to perform this mission. I won't, however, allow the level of puppet mistreatment that was common here before I arrived.
Call it altruism. Call it an attempt to accrue goodwill before some nameless disaster strikes us all. I don't care.
Monday, January 31, 2011
Even now, when Red makes it so easy to build them, we are obsessed with high places. A child's game is to build a thin skyscraper 300 meters high, then knock it down from a safe distance. I did it myself, the narrow lattice of crimson stakes swaying in the wind, then the controlled explosions at the base. It fell away from me, as planned, and I ran towards the toppling spire through the dust cloud, the gentle rumble of collapsing Red all around me.
Some structures are meant to last, however. They have a purpose other than to fall. The East Atlantic Government Structure next to the old Houses of Parliament is one. The Front Observation Tower is another.
Joe took me up there when the weather cleared, muttering something meeting the neighbors.
The structure itself was around 400 meters high, a larger and more stable version of my sacrificial tower. It was shaped like an air traffic control tower, a long stem with a flared control room at the top.
We exited the elevator into a startlingly large space, filled with observation tools and a great deal of much stranger equipment. There were bowls and cups on every flat surface, their contents in varying stages of decomposition.
There is no science except for the study of Red. There is no art except for that which deals with Red or that which denies it.
By that standard Jenkins, in his huge tower right be the edge of the front, is both the last scientist and the last artist.
She observes the front with the care of an ornithologist and makes hypotheses with the ease of an artist. She devises experiments to test those hypotheses with his engines of vast destruction at one scale or the tiniest of atomic shifters at the other. She takes the results of these experiments and feeds them back into the jigsaw of data, adding a single piece here, removing two there.
She would be the first to admit that she has failed in his task of understanding the front. It's simply not the kind of place that can be understood from a distance.
They left me alone for a few minutes to look out of one of the huge window. I saw an ocean of gently rippling mud. It was the colour of cigarette ash, each ripple topped by a wavering line of pure black. After a minute or so I saw, superimposed on the great ripples, zig-zag patterns that at first, by some optical illusion, stood out above the mud. Thick walls made of blurred strata of the stuff. Then my eye caught on, the illusory walls inverted and I realised that I was looking at a network of trenches. They meandered across the battlefield, mostly hugging the near side but some reaching out for what looked like kilometers.
"Frightening sight isn't it?" came a voice next to me. The owner of the voice, who surely must have been the woman responsible for the unholy mess in the observation room, was petite and immaculately turned out. She wore a pale pink summer dress with deep brown hair pulled back in a pony tail. She looked about twelve years old and was the toughest, least likely to take bullshit person I have ever known.
"It's hard to get a sense of scale up here. Those trenches that go the furthest out reach about 4000 kilometers. The whole battlefield is currently about 100,000 kilometers across. Perfect demonstration of the world being near or actually flat out here.
"So you're the murderous son-of-a-bitch that they've sent out this time? Don't expect any help from me. That Yelena was my friend."
She glared at me with eyes far too old and tired for someone so apparently young.
"What the hell. You're going to die anyway. Use these." She handed me a large pair of stabilised binoculars.
"Look at that smudge on the horizon."
I raised the binoculars to my eyes, corrected the focus and look where she indicated. The smudge suddenly resolved into a tall tower, seemingly made out of planks of dry red. As it swayed in the wind I saw a flash from the very top. Someone was watching us from across the mud soup.
"See a flash from another pair of glasses? There's usually someone up there. The tower marks the far edge of no-mans-land. Today it's about 150,000 kilometers away. Sometime it's as far as a light year. The tower is always visible though, as though it can change height."
"The thing is made out of Red. Anything is possible with that stuff."
"Perhaps." She grimaced and looked about to spit. "Appeals to the ineffable nature of Red won't help you down there however."
I looked through the binoculars again. There was no sign of movement down there. Of course, if what Jenkins had told me about the distances I was seeing were correct I'd never see something as small as a puppet.
"The war started 96 years ago. Since then we have lost 127 kilometers and, despite our vast advantage in numbers, we lose more all the time. They are better trained, better equipped and better lead. That's where you come in of course. Nothing larger or more sophisticated that a kilo of TNT works down there. Mercifully that applies to the other side as well. All fighting is short range, sometimes with bayonets.."
"Who are we fighting?"
"Look at this." She pointed at a screen with a blurred image on it. "long baseline interferometry. Got a whole bunch of hooked up telescopes along the front line."
She typed something on the computer keyboard and the image leaped into clarity. It was the top of the opposing tower and the figure on top, binoculars dangling from its hand, was a puppet.
Joe took me to the camps to give me a feel for how the operation was run.
Perhaps the greatest initial impression was one of how haphazard it all was.
It was a vast expanse of tents with unpaved paths between them. Varied tents of all sizes and configurations, some made of canvas, others from animal skin, others again from what looked like parachute material.
The alleyways were filled with puppets and humans, immature puppets following the horses to scoop up great streams of shit. Small carts pulled by puppets, mixes of wood and metal, cut off One World logos occasionally visible. Some of them powered by electric motors or inefficient internal combustion engines.
Under the smell of dung and half burned gasoline was the ubiquitous reek of vinegar and incense that puppets exude. As always they burned herbs to cover the smell, half aware of its offensiveness. The tiny sparkle of the flames, thousands of them everywhere one looked, lent the night a marvelous feel, a noisy fairyland.
"Who's in charge?" I asked Joe.
"No-one," he replied. "We gave them a few simple instructions and the ordered complexity you see is the result. Who would have thought war could be an emergent behavior?"
He grinned at me as though he'd imparted some great secret.
"They come off the convoy from the West and immediately settle in. They use the metal and wood in their road machines to build what they need and as soon as they have everything sorted out they report to the recruiting office. All very neat and tidy."
As we walked by a primitive blacksmith who was using what looked like a military laser to cut a sheet of metal, I thought about fear.
I was very afraid of course. Joe had given me some idea of what I was expected to do and the thought of it made my knees weak. It seemed that if I ever expected to get West again I would have to do it.
In general, however, we fear what is closest to us but has changed into something we don't understand.
It informs our desire to understand what happened to the shape of our world when Red came. The new, huge distances available to us. The possibility that we now live on and infinite surface.
It makes us lie awake at night wondering about the changes in ourselves, the great strength, the biological immortality, the control of Red at a very basic level.
Above all we fear the puppets. Those whom Red rejected became the strange slaves that we can control with a gesture or a thought. They are numerous enough and strong enough to overpower us whenever they wish and we live our lives in shadow because of this. Autonomous puppets could hardly help but be filled with justified rage towards us.
In this camp, according to Joe, there were over a million puppets. The idea of that many armed puppets in one place made me feel sick.
"What do they eat and drink?"
"There are springs of natural Red all over the place. They boil it down and make cakes of the stuff. Also the convoy brings in thousands of tonnes of grain every day. They drink Red."
I stared in incomprehension at him.
"Yes, it's risky," he said. "It brings them close to breaking through but they need intelligence and initiative where they're going. It can lead to difficult operations for the police."
"And the police are puppets as well?"
"Of course. Who else. After all, there's only three humans here at the front."
Sunday, January 30, 2011
My destination was a bare concrete platform with no building other than a phone booth. The sky was a dull metallic grey and there was a faint directionless rumble all around.
A man paced up to me, appearing from the booth. He was tall and rotund with legs and arms that were so thin they seemed about to snap with each of his enthusiastic motions. As he got closer I saw watery grey eyes with long eyelashes that gave him the look of some sleepy predator.
"Good morning Alan," he said. "Ready to face the dark-side of our happy society?"
He took me to dinner in an otherwise deserted restaurant. The food and wine were indifferent and I couldn't help noticing that the puppet serving us had a broken leg, poorly splinted with a thin length of wood.
"Pay no attention to Igor. He or she is far better off here that where I found him or her. Standing orders are that there be no medical interventions for injured puppets. There are always more where they come from."
I studied the puppet for a moment. Bald with deeply sunken eyes of undifferentiated misty blue. Each eye surrounded by a corona of what looked like cork. The rest of the face looked human but the body was very different. Thin, except for a pot belly, limbs that seemed to be too long and have too many joints. There was no sign that it was in pain. There never was.
I shared gossip from the West with him and told him of my journey, including the events with Yelena.
He looked sad. "I'm aware of the Yelena project of course. Everyone in the East is, but we try and keep it from people in the West. You tend to be puritanical about puppet improvement. You were wrong to kill what sound like a very advanced member of the class, the Novy Petrograd crown were very wrong to unleash her on you. Keep quiet and there should be no consequences."
I decided that this was the best I could hope for. I'd keep my head down until I returned to the West and then tell Giles' uncle everything.
The meal finished we sat drinking brandy that tasted like cough drops and smoking cigars that smelled like dung.
"You know why you're here of course?" he asked.
"To familiarise myself with the situation and report back to London," I said, filied with a sinking feeling that I was about to discover a new interpretation of my mission.
"Wrong. You're here as our new Tactician. Any experience in that?"
"None whatsoever. Anyway, I'm leaving in a week."
"I'm afraid you aren't. Read your orders? You must have pissed someone off big-time.
He threw a thin packet of papers across the table. I read them and sure enough they stated that I was on permanent secondment to the 20 N deg lat, 5000 E deg long camp.
"I never saw these before. They can't be real."
"Trust me, they are. Came through on the very slow, very unreliable radio link back to the West. You weren't given a copy?"
'No, nothing at all.'
'There you go. They didn't want you to make a fuss. Don't try to leave. The tube won't work for you now and the return puppet convoy takes ten years to get to the Urals."