The first Science of Discworld book came as a bit of a shock to me. Usually “The Science of…” books are explanations of how by recalibrating phase emitters to re-write DNA at the molecular level it’s possible to create a Starship with no lavatories and no signs of discomfort in the crew. Terry Pratchett rejected this for the Science of Discworld. Magic wands work because they need to in a fantasy story. No scientific justification is necessary.
Yet Discworld books have tended to be more scientifically literate than a lot of what passes for sci-fi. Instead Science of Discworld uses the Discworld setting to tell a story. The first tells about the origins of the Earth, the evolution of life and the eventual rise of a species with an interest in sex and hitting things with sticks. This was done by interleaving ‘story’ chapters with ‘commentary’ chapters, both dealing with the science from differing angles. It was the best tie-in science book I read, and the only one where the authors had clearly thought “What can we do with the material?” rather than simply following where they thought the material led them.
If Science of Discworld was similar to Stewart and Cohen’s “Collapse of Chaos”, then Science of Discworld II: The Globe owed an even bigger debt to “Figments of Reality”, which explored a theory of the development of the mind. I expected Darwin’s Watch to be a Discworlded version of Evolving the Alien (aka What Would a Martian Look Like?). It’s not.
It just is isn’t it?
The essay was submitted to Cheathouse. They took a few days to check it before accepting it. They’ve put it in their category of ‘super’ essays, which needs the biggest contribution to read it. I assume the other essays at Cheathouse underwent the same highly taxing review before being accepted. It also seems likely that many of the ‘super’ essays are of equally high quality.
Yes, I know the essay is bad. It is intentionally bad. If you look carefully you should see that there are one or two obvious errors in it to give away how bad it is. What I was interested in was finding how out bad an essay could be and still appear in one of these essay banks.
I don’t suppose I should be that surprised that it got in. It’s already received a negative mark from SweetKimmy225. Looking at SweetKimmy’s comments on other essays, she gets upset that people plagiarise essays when they submit them to Cheathouse. Now I would have thought that the sort of people who seriously contribute to these things are going to be the sort of people who want to use these things. That would be the students who are too lazy to write proper essays and think plagiarism is ok.
I thought I did this because of scientific curiosity, but another personality test (via Pharyngula and World Wide Rant) suggests it could just be an act of evil.
A few days ago I mentioned the Postmodernism generator and how it could actually be useful. I’d also seen a website, which sadly I forgot to bookmark, talking about plagiarism that suggested that professors could submit essays into essay banks to deter students. That sounded a bit like hard work. What I thought was you could generate essays with minimal effort on any subject and then submit them to the essay banks used by students who can’t quite summon the effort to write their own essays.
Why do this?
Not to entrap students. More to demonstrate that the quality of these sites is shockingly poor. I thought if I could publicly get a generated essay on one of these sites and yell about it then it would act as a deterrent against using these sites.
I made a small mistake in my logic. I thought students would want to do well. I was reminded that actually they’d be perfectly happy scraping a pass. Poor essays might not be a deterrent. So I wondered “How bad could an essay be and still be accepted by one of these sites?”
For those of you who have more sense than money you can read the public domain version below. I am aware of the argument that these sites are for reference rather than plagiarism. Those of you who subscribe to this view can pay to read the Cheathouse version at Cheathouse . The opening paragraphs are free and if you scroll down you’ll see the bibliography. Cultural references you might need:
David Beckham: English footballer. He’s particularly famous for the depth of his thoughts.
Luther Blisset. Another footballer who used to play for Watford. His name is now used by an Italian art collective for novels.
Noël Edmonds. Presenter of ‘Noël’s House Party’ which came from Crinkly Bottom. Introduced the world to Mr. Blobby.
Edward Gibbon. Author of a well-known book on the Roman Empire, but not the one listed.
Andre Young. 40-something Hip Hopper. Records under the name Dr. Dre.
With these guiding influences how bad could it be?
The Midquarter Days are one of the more divisive ideas in archaeoastronomy. The idea was popularised by Alexander Thom, who proposed the year could be divided into eight segments. The solstices and equinoxes divide the year into quarters and a further four festivals in the middle of the quarters sub-divides the year into eight segments. Thom then went further and split the eighths into a year of sixteen ‘months’.
How do you prove this?
It’s easy for relatively recent times as these ‘Midquarter Days’ can still be seen being celebrated today.
Keyhole is starting to get useful. The new database is online which has a lot of the world available at medium resolution and quite a bit at high resolution. You can now get photos like this of the Pyramids at Giza:
Of more use to me is the coverage of Sicily and southern Italy. Here’s a view over the theatre at Akrai, looking to the north and Mount Etna. It looks like there’s coverage of a few sites which should make serious archaeological work possible.
I’m tending not to reprint the press releases I get sent as they can be read on anyone else’s site. But this one seems to have slipped by unnoticed, which is a shame as it’s rather cool. A golden tunic has been discovered in the Ukraine. I assume it’s the lack of pictures which does it. It’s amazing given the fuss over an Iron Age earlier in the week. If there was one artefact guaranteed to be sexy you would have thought it would be the clothes of a hetaira, a courtesan.
Specialists of Kharkov National University named after V. Kazarin have managed to disclose one of mysteries of antique beauties’ attires. They investigated a rare finding – a fragment of antique goldwoven brocade discovered in the burial place of Roman times in the National Preserve of Tauric Khersones located in the territory of contemporary Sevastopol.
To read it all click:
After yesterday’s review I thought I’d add another of an episode of Meet the Ancestors. I’ve been ambivalent to Meet the Ancestors since its early days. It looked like BBC2 executives had examined Time Team thoroughly and decided what made it so popular was it had a gimmick. So Meet the Ancestors had a gimmick too. They reconstructed the face of someone found at the site during the course of the programme. It was a mixed success. It was interesting the first time, tolerable the second. By the later episodes in the first series you knew that after Julian Richards had intelligently explained the mysteries of rural life in early Christian Ireland and the limits of what we can know from the archaeological evidence that he’d wheel out a portrait “…and here’s what she looked like!” He also did Blood of the Vikings, a history of Viking Britain. The gimmick being that it tied into a genetic survey of the country. If the BBC ever decide to investigate archaeological sites whilst breathing helium from party balloons, you can bet Julian Richards will be first choice for squeaky-voiced narrator.
And that’s a shame because this programme showed that if he can talk about the archaeology itself rather than a bizarre attention-grabber then he’s pretty compelling. This is even more remarkable when you consider than Stonehenge is something that would be hard to cover in a series, let alone one 45 minute programme.
This is the new Big Archaeological Series on the BBC. I really wanted to like the programme, I really did. But it’s inconsistent at best. The central theme is that much of the modern world rests on Art and the concepts which lie at the root of Art were formed thousands of years ago. Dr Nigel Spivey presents the series. He’s a classical archaeologist at Cambridge and without wishing to sound like I’m sniping that’s probably the problem. Spivey appears to be a very good classical archaeologist. The series however stretches from the Palaeolithic to the classical period.
Looking north over Akrai theatre to Mount Etna in the distance