panglott

Month: October, 2016

Zombie infection rates modeled

Good news! How would a zombie invasion play out in the US? These scientists modeled it.:

The zombie simulator is based on a real-life disease model known as SIR (which stands for “susceptible, infected, and resistant”). The researchers developed simulations based on variables like how fast zombies move, how often humans kill them, and how often bites occur. The team is presented its results at the 2015 American Physical Society March Meeting.

“Modeling zombies takes you through a lot of the techniques used to model real diseases, albeit in a fun context,” Alemi said in a statement. “Each possible interaction — zombie bites human, human kills zombie, zombie moves — is treated like a radioactive decay, with a half-life that depends on some parameters, and we tried to simulate the times it would take for all of these different interactions to fire, where complications arise because when one thing happens it can affect the rates at which all of the other things happen.”

The simulator allows you to control various factors, like the “bite-to-kill” ratio — a measure of how likely zombies are to bite humans versus how likely humans are to kill zombies. (The researchers told Jacob Aron of New Scientist that an 0.8 bite-to-kill ratio was roughly the value they found for movies like Shaun of the Dead…) …When I ran the zombie simulator using the default assumptions, it took several months for zombies to overrun the entire United States. Cities fell astonishingly quickly. But zombies were much slower to spread into rural areas. And areas like the northern Rockies remained zombie-free for a long time.

The first outbreak, of course, will be Pittsburgh or outlying farms.

TIL

Having kids is a lot like getting a college education: you’ll have four years of sleepless nights, gross stories, and scrounging for cash—after which you have earned something of enduring value.

A reading list of the Appendix N literature

At the back of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide (first edition), Gary Gygax famously included Appendix N: a short list of suggested fantasy and science fiction books.

This list is not actually so short.

Gygax listed 21 specific novels, another 12 novel series (comprising about 55 books by 9 authors), and 9 individual authors listed without specific works cited. These works have had a rather varied publication history—the “Harold Shea” stories were issued in a single volume in 1989 (which is how I treat them here), while Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft published short fiction that has been widely anthologized in a variety of editions. Jack Vance’s Dyring Earth novels are probably best read today in the Tales of the Dying Earth omnibus. Other of these are desperately out of print, although some have come back into print in eBook editions (at writing time, Gardener Fox’s Kothar series has a Kindle anthology, but the Kyrick series does not). Others are currently available in different formats—the Harold Shea anthology has long been out of print, but is available as an audiobook from Audible.com, while public domain works are available on Project Gutenberg and Librivox. I have also generally excluded books in series that were published after about 1977 or 1978.

Novels specifically cited:

  • Three Hearts and Three Lions, by Poul Anderson
  • The High Crusade, by Poul Anderson
  • The Broken Sword, by Poul Anderson
  • The Face in the Frost, by John Bellairs
  • Lest Darkness Fall, by L. Sprague de Camp
  • The Fallible Fiend, by L. Sprague de Camp
  • Carnelian Cube, by L. Sprague de Camp & Fletcher Pratt
  • Hiero’s Journey, by Sterling Lanier
  • Creep, Shadow, Creep, by A. Merritt
  • The Moon Pool, by A. Merritt
  • Dwellers in the Mirage, by A. Merritt
  • Stormbringer, by Michael Moorcock
  • Stealer of Souls, by Michael Moorcock
  • Swords Against Darkness III, ed. by Andrew J. Offutt
  • Blue Star, et al., by Fletcher Pratt
  • Changeling Earth, et al., by Fred Saberhagen
  • The Shadow People, by Margaret St. Clair
  • Sign of the Labrys, by Margaret St. Clair
  • The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • The Eyes of the Overworld, by Jack Vance
  • The Dying Earth, by Jack Vance
  • Jack of Shadows, by Roger Zelazny

Novel series:

  • At the Earth’s Core, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1914) (“Pellucidar” series #1)
  • Pellucidar, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1915) (“Pellucidar” series #2)
  • Tanar of Pellucidar, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1929) (“Pellucidar” series #3)
  • Tarzan at the Earth’s Core, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1929) (“Pellucidar” series #4)
  • Back to the Stone Age, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1937) (“Pellucidar” series #5)
  • Land of Terror, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1944) (“Pellucidar” series #6)
  • Savage Pellucidar, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1963) (“Pellucidar” series #7)
  • A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (“Barsoom” series #1)
  • The Gods of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (“Barsoom” series #2)
  • The Warlord of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (“Barsoom” series #3)
  • Thuvia, Maid of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (“Barsoom” series #4)
  • The Chessmen of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (“Barsoom” series #5)
  • The Master Mind of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (“Barsoom” series #6)
  • A Fighting Man of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (“Barsoom” series #7)
  • Swords of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (“Barsoom” series #8)
  • Synthetic Men of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (“Barsoom” series #9)
  • Llana of Gathol, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (“Barsoom” series #10)
  • John Carter of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (“Barsoom” series #11)
  • Pirates of Venus, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1934) (“Venus” series #1)
  • Lost on Venus, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1935) (“Venus” series #2)
  • Carson of Venus, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1939) (“Venus” series #3)
  • Escape on Venus, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1946) (“Venus” series #4)
  • The Wizard of Venus, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1964) (“Venus” series #5)
  • The Warrior of World’s End, by Lin Carter (1974) (“World’s End” series #1)
  • The Enchantress of World’s End, by Lin Carter (1975) (“World’s End” series #2)
  • The Immortal of World’s End, by Lin Carter (1976) (“World’s End” series #3)
  • The Barbarian of World’s End, by Lin Carter (1977) (“World’s End” series #4)
  • The Pirate of World’s End, by Lin Carter (1978) (“World’s End” series #5)
  • Giant of World’s End, by Lin Carter (1969) (“World’s End” series #6)
  • The Complete Compleat Enchanter, by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt (1989) (“Harold Shea” series)
    The Maker of Universes_, Philip José Farmer (1965) (“World of Tiers” series #1)
  • The Gates of Creation, Philip José Farmer (1966) (“World of Tiers” series #2)
  • A Private Cosmos, Philip José Farmer (1968) (“World of Tiers” series #3)
  • Behind the Walls of Terra, Philip José Farmer (1970) (“World of Tiers” series #4)
  • The Lavalite World, Philip José Farmer (1977) (“World of Tiers” series #5)
  • Kothar—Barbarian Swordsman, by Gardner Fox (1969) (“Kothar” series #1)
  • Kothar of the Magic Sword!, by Gardner Fox (1969) (“Kothar” series #2)
  • Kothar and the Demon Queen, by Gardner Fox (1969) (“Kothar” series #3)
  • Kothar and the Conjurer’s Curse, by Gardner Fox (1970) (“Kothar” series #4)
  • Kothar and the Wizard Slayer, by Gardner Fox (1970) (“Kothar” series #5)
  • Kyrik: Warlock Warrior, by Gardner Fox (1975) (“Kyrik” series #1)
  • Kyrik Fights the Demon World, by Gardner Fox (1975) (“Kyrik” series #2)
  • Kyrik and the Wizard’s Sword, by Gardner Fox (1976) (“Kyrik” series #3)
  • Kyrik and the Lost Queen, by Gardner Fox (1976) (“Kyrik” series #4)
  • “Conan” series, by Robert E. Howard (17 original stories)
  • Swords and Deviltry, by Fritz Leiber (1970) (“Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser” series #1)
  • Swords Against Death, by Fritz Leiber (1970) (“Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser” series #2)
  • Swords in the Mist, by Fritz Leiber (1968) (“Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser” series #3)
  • Swords Against Wizardry, by Fritz Leiber (1968) (“Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser” series #4)
  • The Swords of Lankhmar, by Fritz Leiber (1968) (“Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser” series #5)
  • Swords and Ice Magic, by Fritz Leiber (1977) (“Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser” series #6)
  • The Jewel in the Skull, by Michael Moorcock (Hawkmoon/”History of the Runestaff” series #1)
  • The Mad God’s Amulet, by Michael Moorcock (Hawkmoon/”History of the Runestaff” series #2)
  • The Sword of the Dawn, by Michael Moorcock (Hawkmoon/”History of the Runestaff” series #3)
  • The Runestaff, by Michael Moorcock (Hawkmoon/”History of the Runestaff” series #4)
  • The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien (“Lord of the Rings” trilogy #1)
  • The Two Towers, by J.R.R. Tolkien (“Lord of the Rings” trilogy #2)
  • The Return of the King, by J.R.R. Tolkien (“Lord of the Rings” trilogy #3)
  • Nine Princes in Amber, by Roger Zelazny (1970) (“Amber” series #1)
  • The Guns of Avalon, by Roger Zelazny (1972) (“Amber” series #2)
  • Sign of the Unicorn, by Roger Zelazny (1975) (“Amber” series #3)
  • The Hand of Oberon, by Roger Zelazny (1976) (“Amber” series #4)
  • The Courts of Chaos, by Roger Zelazny (1978) (“Amber” series #5)

Individual authors:

  • Leigh Brackett
  • Frederic Brown
  • August Derleth
  • Lord Dunsany
  • H.P. Lovecraft
  • Andre Norton
  • Stanley Weinbaum
  • Manly Wade Wellman
  • Jack Williamson

It’s hard to narrow down the last category: Stanley Weinbaum wrote for only about 18 months before his death, and his work fits in an anthology or two. Jack Williamson, on the other hand, wrote dozens of books, mostly science fiction, and Leigh Brackett is better known for planetary romance than fantasy per se.

Some of the fantasy I’ve read, and would recommend, of these individual authors includes:

  • Who Fears the Devil?, by Manly Wade Wellman
  • Darker Than You Think, by Jack Williamson
  • The Gods of Pegana, by Lord Dunsany
  • Time and the Gods, by Lord Dunsany
  • “The Doom that Cane to Sarnath”, “The Terrible Old Man”, “Celephaïs”, “The Cats of Ulthar”, “The Rats in the Walls”, “The Call of Cthulhu”, “The Colour Out of Space”, “The Dunwich Horror”, “The Nameless City”, “The Thing on the Doorstep”, “The Haunter of the Dark”, “History of the Necronomicon”, by H.P. Lovecraft
  • The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, by H.P. Lovecraft
  • At the Mountains of Madness, by H.P. Lovecraft
  • The Shadow Over Innsmouth, by H.P. Lovecraft

In any case, that’s approaching 100 books—quite a reading list!

Excerpts on Speedtalk

Speedtalk, from Robert Heinlein’s novella “Gulf”, is an example of science fiction grappling with the possibilities of “logical language” and the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. It’s a bit silly, as most of the best science fiction can be. The story is anthologized in Assignment in Eternity, which has finally come back into print as an e-book.

Speedtalk was a structurally different speech from any the race had ever used. Long before, Ogden and Richards had shown that eight hundred and fifty words were sufficient vocabulary to express anything that could be expressed by “normal” human vocabularies, with the aid of a handful of special words— a hundred odd— for each special field, such as horse racing or ballistics. About the same time phoneticians had analyzed all human tongues into about a hundred-odd sounds, represented by the letters of a general phonetic alphabet. On these two propositions Speedtalk was based.

To be sure, the phonetic alphabet was much less in number than the words in Basic English . But the letters representing sound in the phonetic alphabet were each capable of variation several different ways—length, stress, pitch, rising, falling. The more trained an ear was the larger the number of possible variations; there was no limit to variations, but, without much refinement of accepted phonetic practice, it was possible to establish a one-to-one relationship with Basic English so that one phonetic symbol was equivalent to an entire word in a “normal” language , one Speedtalk word was equal to an entire sentence. The language consequently was learned by letter units rather than by word units— but each word was spoken and listened to as a single structured gestalt. But Speedtalk was not “shorthand” Basic English. “Normal” languages, having their roots in days of superstition and ignorance, have in them inherently and unescapably wrong structures of mistaken ideas about the universe. One can think logically in English only by extreme effort, so bad it is as a mental tool. For example, the verb “to be” in English has twenty-one distinct meanings, every single one of which is false-to-fact. A symbolic structure, invented instead of accepted without question, can be made similar in structure to the real-world to which it refers. The structure of Speedtalk did not contain the hidden errors of English; it was structured as much like the real world as the New Men could make it. For example, it did not contain the unreal distinction between nouns and verbs found in most other languages. The world— the continuum known to science and including all human activity— does not contain “noun things” and “verb things”; it contains space-time events and relationships between them. The advantage for achieving truth, or something more nearly like truth, was similar to the advantage of keeping account books in Arabic numerals rather than Roman. All other languages made scientific, multi-valued logic almost impossible to achieve; in Speedtalk it was as difficult not to be logical.

Another section:

There were hurrying footsteps moving past his bedroom door. There were two voices, one male, one female, outside the door; the female was Thalia Wagner, the man he could not place.
Male: “tsʉmaeq?”
Female: “nø!”
Male: “zulntsɨ.”
Female: “ɨpbit’ New Jersey.”
These are not precisely the sounds that Gilead heard, first because of the limitations of phonetic symbols, and second because his ears were not used to the sounds. Hearing is a function of the brain, not of the ear; his brain, sophisticated as it was, nevertheless insisted on forcing the sounds that reached his ears into familiar pockets rather than stop to create new ones.

A third except:

“You’re the doctor. Joe. In that case—” A speaker on Baldwin’s desk uttered: “œnIe r nøg rylp.”

Baldwin answered, “nu,” and sauntered quickly to the fireplace. An early-morning fire still smouldered in it. He grasped the mantel piece, pulled it toward him. The entire masonry assembly, hearth, mantel, and grate, came toward him, leaving an arch in the wall. “Duck down stairs, Joe,” he said. “It’s a raid.”

Heinlein, Robert A. (2012-07-01). Assignment in Eternity (Kindle Locations
749-752). Baen Books. Kindle Edition.

TIL: Immiseration

In the U.S., the left and right immiserate people in different ways: the right tries to bring down wages, and the left tries to drive up prices. Same thing in the end.