JUST about everyone seems to be talking about the HBO smash hit series Game of Thrones and the unfinished novels on which it is based (five published, two more promised by author George R R Martin).

For a couple of years I have found strangers in bars and in offices talking about the latest happenings in Westeros.

Indeed, I have encouraged friends, co –workers, acquaintances and people I have just met to buy the box sets or pick up the books.

Theories abound on who the rightful monarch of Westeros is: Daenerys, Stannis, Joffrey, Renly, Jon Snow, take your pick.

But the more I watch, read and re-read the more I am bugged by something seemingly trivial in the grand scheme of all these theories.

The seasons.

Not as in television seasons, I mean winter and summer which can each last for years at a time. There is no set length of a season and no pattern to the span of seasons.

This is referred to often in the narrative, but it is all a matter of fact. No character questions why, it is just accepted.

What I know about seasons is to do with the tilt of the earth as it spins around the sun. Predictable.

How can a planet as we understand it have unpredictable seasons, wouldn’t an unpredictable spin have made it difficult for life to evolve? I don’t know tonnes on this subject, but from what I remember, it just doesn’t add up.

But then I saw the series and it all made sense, to me at least.

I have read many times the author has told the series producers names the secrets of the books. It is assumed this covers the fate of the characters and who will sit on the Iron Throne at the end of the series.

Perhaps, he has also revealed what the deal is with those odd seasons.

Certainly I watched the credits for the show roll a few times, each time thinking there was something I was missing in them.

Then it struck me.

The maps show curvature, as you would expect from what we know of planets, but it is the wrong way.

Let me say this again: the world containing Westeros and Sothoryos curves the wrong way.

With the attention to detail in the show and the books, something like this cannot be by mistake. And it seems like just the sort of trickery which would appeal to Martin – hiding such a thing in plain sight.

This celestial body is not a planet, but a Dyson sphere – this is where the habitable surface is inside the sphere not outside.

See Babylon Five, which was itself a Dyson cylinder, on a small-scale. Or Relics the episode of Star Trek the Next Generation where a full-scale Dyson sphere featured.

Another telling clue about the seasons is also in the credits, the sun is shown, not that far above the ground and tiny in comparison to how large a sun should be relative to a planet.

Ian M Banks has a variation on the idea of how “planets” function in one of his Culture novels, where there are tiny suns called roll stars which follow irregular paths across the “sky” creating uneven seasons – although in these books the seasons are predictable, due to the superior knowledge of how they work.

The star in the GoT credits reminds me of those little stars in that Banks book and if one understood the route it was following, the seasons would be wholly predictable.

More about those robots

November 16, 2010

The world is changing and what we have seen in sci-fi movies will become reality soon enough.

How many times have we seen on-screen cars which drive themselves?

Well our friends at Google have been experimenting with one on the roads of California.

I have mentioned robots before and how they are set to change our lives for the better – in ways beyond which cars / phones / PCs and the internet have already.

When my solar-powered car will drive me about and I can read or sleep en route I will be a happy man.

Right Google, what about a teleport?

The Rest of the Robots

October 6, 2010

OMG! Please check out this blog and listen to the podcast. I blogged about robots and supermarkets previously and this follows on from that.

What happens when you have an Asimo in your house that can remember EVERYTHING it sees, hears, smells in its internal hard drive and, if you have a cloud version, on a remote server (and several mirror servers)?

What happens if a Government organisation wants access to what this robot has recorded? Will this data be admissible in a court of law – can the robot’s memory be used against you? What you store on your home PC can be, so why would robots be any different?

And how can we be sure our robots aren’t being hacked by criminals to use against us – are we all sure our home PC has never been hacked?

Ryan Calo works at a top US law school and is a robots expert.

One of the key things he says in this podcast is that robots will be the transformative technology of this century.

He refers to how PCs changed lives in the 80s, the internet in the 90s. I would look back to the 19th century and remember the changes cars heralded and also the telephone and light bulb. The rise of the robots is THAT important.

Seriously, the sci fi fear industry shows us what happens when robots go wrong (James Cameron and The Terminator are the most famous and chilling example). As often happens military applications are where technology is developed and robots are the same. Alan Turing is a perfect example here, involved as he was with the development of modern computing and later defined the Turing Test.

I have been speaking about the use of robots for a long time with someone I know well who remains sceptical (I keep telling this person robots would be perfect to do a certain role in their organisation) and this person mentioned it to their boss who agreed with them and said it will never happen.

The blog goes on to discuss the insurance industry which will naturally rise up around robots in every day use. I mentioned this to an actuary I know over a year ago who was going off to see what his company were doing about this. He has not come back to me, which either means his company think I am nuts, or they are well aware and just don’t want to acknowledge it.

There will also be international industry safety standards for robots as there is for all sorts of items you can buy.

Maybe I am wrong about these robots, but I remember when I got my first mobile phone back in 1997 people couldn’t understand what I was doing carrying around this brick everywhere I went.

Just about no one else I knew had one.

One lady (the mother of one of my friends) pointed out I had a post uni McJob rather than a high-flying career, so what was I thinking?

No one got it – yet today every one of those people has a mobile phone they take everywhere they go.

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