PlanetDeusEx | Features | Illumination | The First Dawn




**King Kashue sneaks into article, glancing about** And that is how we know the world to be banana-shaped...So, join us next week for more illumination...*pause*...not buying it, eh? Yeah, okay, it's been over a year since I brought you any Illumi–licous goodness, and other than "it's free, stop your whining", I've got nothing to say in my defense...However, we have some serious knowledge-impartation for...impartation...it is so a word...Look, impart is a verb, impartation is the corresponding nominative form...nominative, it's a...look, we can discuss this later, I've got my Illumination shtick to do here...ahem, Great have you grown in your wisdom, yet still much you have to learn...Mysteries and knowledge I have brought from beyond the pale of human knowledge, we shall see if you have indeed begun to comprehend... perhaps the student has become the master...But I wouldn't put money on it...better chance of seeing a Cubs–Red Sox world series next year...Dirty Bastard Yankees...*sobs*...I'm...I'm going to need a minute here...

*stifles tears* As you can see, this is the landmark first article in the "Second Age" of the article...This new installment represents the beginning of "The Second Age" of The Path to Illumination for three reasons. The first is that the article will now be dually posted at both PlanetDeusEx as well as King Kashue's new website Augean Stables, so if you're at one, go check out the other (the sites that is, generally there won't be much difference in the installments themselves). Reason B, as stated, the last week *cough* of the article was over a year ago (due to a lowered frequency of questions, in addition to some real life developments...WHAT!?! This isn't real life?!?) , and it seemed appropriate to mark some of the changes that have occurred in the interim (as for the schedule, the articles are now monthly, posted on the 1st Sunday of the month). Reason #12, We hit the thirteenth installment with The Thirteenth Sign, and there's just no options for Mysteriously Powerful™ titles for 14 and beyond...The Fourteenth Dance? The 27th Out in the Game? (Now, the 22nd Out, that was mysterious! Grady Little!...I'm gonna end up screaming his name like Bill Shatner in Wrath of Khan) ...Huh?...oh yes, sorry, King Kashue is a bit of a baseball fan...won't happen again (just like the chance at a Cubs–Red Sox Series, son–of–-a...) WHAT!?!...Oh right...

For those new readers just joining us, I suggest that you go ahead and read through the first age of The Path to Illumination so you know what's going on, but for those stubborn rebels among you, I'll run down the "rules" for you (have to be difficult, don't you...probably sit too close to the television too...) To put everyone on even footing (and because I am extremely lazy), I will excerpt the guidelines from Installment #1 for everyone...ahem...

You know what, on second thought, you can get off your butt and look at the installment yourself... Actually you don't even need to get off your butt, just follow the link, it's not like it's in your kitchen cupboard or something...man, you are so lazy...

Well, shall we get down to it? As a bit of a recompense for leaving you without illumination for so long, this installment is ten pounds of Illumination in a five pound bag...uh, that means I'm going to answer more questions than usual, three times as many, in fact (and legend) ...right then, as always, if you've got any new questions send them to me.,

The First question in our Illumination 10K comes from someone with one of those crazy aliases that I love so much...Dave...oh yeah, that's nice..."Dave" asks:

Who is beleived to be the first European to discover North America?

I'll resist the urge to correct his spelling and just get on to the question...Now, this used to be a really big issue, especially in North American schools, what with the focus on Christopher Columbus and the the Spanish exploitation and genocide...uh, sorry Colonization of the Americas (yes, I know, hating dead white men is soooo trendy). And the thought that another European was in America first was quite revolutionary, however we now have significant evidence to support the idea (and I'm sure that within 50 years or so, American Schools will change curricula to reflect the new knowledge...they're efficient that way)...Whew, long intro...anyhoo, the answer is one of two people, depending how you define "discover"...The standard answer is Norwegian Leif Ericsson, of whom a saga is written. Leif was the son of Norwegian outlaw Erik the Red (hence the patronymic "Ericsson"), founder of the Viking settlement in Greenland. Erik had to go to Greenland originally because he had murdered someone in Iceland, where his father Thorvald Asvaldsson had fled after murdering someone in Norway (great lineage, neh?)...The Saga of the Greenlanders is written about Leif and his journey (among other things), and in said saga, it reports of Leif sailing west from Greenland finding

"Helluland" ("land of stone slabs", probably Baffin Island)
looks inviting...
"Markland" ("woodland", probably Labrador)
In Memoriam: Buddy, a purebred labrador, and fine companion, 1989-2002)

and finally settling in a nice little spot with rivers full of salmon, green grass in the winter time, and grapes. The presence of grapes led to Leif calling the land "Vinland", which some modern historians want to see as L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland

I guess if you're from Greenland, this is a garden-spot
Who knew that Vikings were into basket-weaving...

though there are issues with that, namely that grapes don't grow in Newfoundland (though that could be explained by climatic change or that Vinland was the region south of L'Anse aux Meadows, and the settlement was just a northern landing site). Either way, Vikings were there, and Leif is the only fellow credited with settling in North America, so there you go...The other possible answer (again, depending how you define "discover") is the fellow who was the impetus for Leif's journey, Bjarni Herjˇlfsson (I am soooo going to name my kid that...boy or girl, doesn't matter)...Bjarni was travelling from Iceland to Greenland when he was blown way off course, eventually coming to view the North American continent. Not particularly caring about it, he continued on to his original destination of Greenland as quickly as possible, eventually telling his tale in both Greenland and Norway. For a decade, no one seemed to really care (Vikings were notoriously disinterested in making it into history books...) However, Leif ended up buying his boat, and following his course back towards America, and the rest is history (at least now it is)...So, depending on your particular semantic bent, one of those two burly vikings discovered North America.

Our second question comes from Scarab King, who asks:

Does Area 51 exist? If so, is there any Weird Crap(C) there?

At first, this question may seem that it belongs to the smart/dumb-ass section, but there is an answer in the realm of fact that has nothing to do with Roswell, Conspiracy theories, or the smoking man from X-Files

Season 4, Episode #7, Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man...best episode ever

Yes indeed, Area 51 exists, and there is Weird Crap© there, just not quite the type that some people seem to think...Area 51 is a restricted area in the Nevada Test Site in southern Nevada, 65 miles north of Las Vegas (aka, the Get–drunk–and–do–something–incredibly–stupid Test Site). The NTS is most famous for the Nuclear tests undertaken during the cold war, and significant portions of the site are still "dead" today from the effects of nuclear tests. Currently, the NTS is home to a few thousand people, mainly scientists and military, and contains all the buildings necessary for their work and living (hospitals, post office, etc.), two airfields, ten heliports, and a lot of boring desert roads...quite sinister, neh? The entire NTS is divided into a grid, and Area 51 is one of those grids. What is popularly called "Area 51" is actually the Groom Lake Base, operated by the USAFFTC, better known (but not much better) as the United States Air Force Flight Test Center. The base was originally built in 1954 as a testing site for the U2 spy plane (one of which we inconveniently left in the USSR in 1960). The base would continue to be a test site for experimental aircraft such as the

SR-71 Blackbird
Still the coolest looking plane ever...any wonder that it's what the X-men fly?
and the F-117A Nighthawk
Volvo...boxy, but good...

Well Scarab King, those planes alone qualify as Weird Crap© in my book, throw on the nuclear tests, as well as what else might reasonably (emphasis on reasonably) occur on 1,375 square miles of restricted access land and the answer to your question seems to be a "yes"...As for the idea that the NTS and Area 51 are used for testing of UFO technology or some other such nonsense, there's none of that stuff that we might call "evidence" except the rantings of Bob Lazar, a "physicist" (read: delusional moron) who claims to have worked at a base south of Area 51, and knew they were doing tests on technology they got from trading with Aliens...*waits for that to sink in*... Right then...His highly reliable *cough* account is supplemented by the eye-witness accounts of some assorted Hippies and Deadheads who since Jerry Garcia died have nothing better to do than sit in the Nevada desert for days on end. Their accounts of, and I quote, "lights", are of course damning in their implications, but nevertheless unconvincing...I mean, exactly how freaky can the stuff that's going on there be if you can take a tour?

Moving on to something that actually has something to do with space, our next question comes from Sabrina (seriously, isn't there like a "random online alias generator" out there?), who asks:

What is the name of the star at the center of our solar system? (And I'm not looking for "The Sun")

Well I should hope you're not looking for the sun, it's not like it's hard to find (besides, your not supposed to look directly at it...kinda like the power of God in Raiders of the Lost Ark, or Kylie Minogue...) The answer that you're looking for is actually contained within your question itself; "Sol", the basis for the term "Solar System"...The name for the sun comes (as a great many words) from Latin, in this case a direct transmission. You can also see the etymology at work in the romance languages, as the names for the sun in those languages clearly shows the Latinate origin (Soleil in French, Sole in Italian, Sol in Spanish, etc...) Beyond the answer I can't say much, though I can give you a historical tidbit regarding "Sol" during the Roman empire. Many people have heard that before the battle of Milvian Bridge in 312, Constantine, future Emperor of Rome, had a vision of a cross suspended before the sun, with the words "In Hoc Signo Vinces" (You will conquer by this sign) and had his troops inscribe the Christian Chi-Rho (A monogram of the first two letters of the Greek word Christos) inside their shields, and after the battle, he attributed his victory to this act, and responded by converting to Christianity. While his conversion is in little dispute, his motivation and the symbol that he had inscribed in his troops shields is. In the Late Roman Empire, a cult to the "Invincible Sun" (Sol Invictus) was popular, particularly among the emperors and those attached to the imperial court. An Eastern cult, it had a great deal in common with Christianity in it's essential monotheism and many of it's practices. There is evidence that it was a symbol of this cult, not the Chi-Rho that was inscribed in his troops shields, and that Constantine's conversion was a political expediency prompted by the increasing numbers of Christians in the Empire (the most conservative estimates place the their number at 10% of the empire). Not much to do with the actual star, but our Sun is in fact pretty average (as gigantic balls of fusion-reacting hydrogen go), so I thought Constantine would be more interesting...If you'd like, you can click here for a picture of our sun

Whew...I'm already tired and we're not even close to done...this is more exhausting than the KING KASHUE, EXCEEDINGLY BELATED, MERRY NEW YEAR OF THE RINGS, MULTIMEDIA EXTRAVAGANZA!!! was (and I was in bed for a week after that)... Right, we now turn the proverbial corner to move into the hypothetical next stage with the non-rhetorical questions that I had to research...We start with a question from a long–time reader, first–(and only)–time question...uh, asker...Silver Dragon, who asks:

What game did the popular phrase "All your base are belong to us" come from?

For those of you who didn't notice a few years ago (and how blessed you are), "All your base are belong to us" was a bit of a computer geek passphrase that was taken by the American media and turned (as is everything they touch) into a hackneyed and over-exposed cultural annoyance... The original phrase comes from the Sega Genesis (what a great system) version of the Toaplan arcade game "Zero Wing". The rather unremarkable side-scrolling Gradius copy gained it's Warholian 15 minutes when the Genesis version added a number of animated cut-scenes that were translated into English...though just barely...The laughably poor quality of the translation led to a number of rumors about the game, the most famous that to save money the developer had one of the programmers, who was taking a beginning English course in night school, do the translation...Here is the transcript of the famous initial sequence, in full...(A basic summary is thus, Earth is being invaded, and the representative of the invaders is oh–so–intimidatingly named "Cats")... right then, on with the show...

In A.D. 2101
War was beginning

Captain: What happen?
Mechanic: Someone set up us the bomb.
Operator: We get signal.
Captain: What!
Operator: Main screen turn on.
Captain: It's You!!
Cats: How are you gentlemen!!
Cats: All your base are belong to us.
Cats: You are on the way to destruction.
Captain: What you say!!
Cats: You have no chance to survive make your time.
Cats: Ha Ha Ha Ha ....
Captain: Take off every 'Zig'!!
Operator: You know what you doing.
Captain: Move 'Zig'.
Captain: For great justice.

Seriously though, despite the overblown nature of its exposure to the public, that's pretty darn funny...The cut-scenes themselves were animated in a traditional Japanese style, and aren't all that bad considering the 16-bit nature of the graphics on the Genesis

This guy's shoulders are HUGE...no wonder he wears a cape...can't find suits in his size...

If you happen to have actually played Zero Wing, I'd love to hear from you, so drop me an email... because, that's just weird...Moving from science fiction to actually science, we have our next question, which comes from Project Soldier (who recently won a second place ribbon in the Chester A. Arthur Middle School Science Fair...get it? project?...moving on)...Project Soldier (Seriously, science project, that's good stuff) asks:

What is the exact temperature that a superconductor can work at?

In researching this question I wondered if it was in fact a trick question, because I discovered that there is no answer to the question as it was asked...I decided that it likely was not a trick question, and that I would in fact use it because the information that I found out was really interesting to me, as superconductors are one of those things in nature that scientists classify as "funky"...However, I don't want to leave any bases uncovered (especially if they are belong to us), so if indeed this was a trick question, Project Soldier can stick it where the Sol don't shine (at which point it might be safe to look directly at it, though I really don't think you'd want to)...Well then, as stated, there are several answers to the question depending on exactly what kind of superconductor we're talking about. Before I get into that, let's quickly cover exactly what a superconductor is.

A superconductor is a scientific oddity in which a substance, when cooled to extremely low temperatures, loses all electrical resistance (which theoretically allows an electrical charge to travel along it infinitely without degradation). The first superconductor was discovered by Dutch Physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes in 1911 when he observed that mercury lost its electrical resistance when cooled in liquid helium to a temperature of 4 degrees Kelvin, which is -269C or -452F (or in other words, about as cold as a Green Bay Packers Game in late November)...Now while this is all well and good for a Ripley's Believe it or Not episode, it wasn't terribly practical to cool something to within 4 degrees of the cessation of molecular movement to achieve its superconductive condition. However, Scientists continued to discover things (as they are inclined to do if you leave them alone in laboratories)...

Heike Kamerlingh Onnes of Leiden University
I didn't include him in installement six...he would have looked great next to the cheese sled...

Most significant to this particular discussion is that scientists discovered other superconducting materials (though the invention of the Sharper Image Massaging Recliner and Ottoman is pretty significant...massaging ottoman...brilliant)...The general trend among these materials is an increasing operational temperature (which equates to an increase possibility of actually being useful in an non-laboratory setting)...Some of the strangest among these is the ceramic compound developed by the IBM Research Laboratory in RŘschlikon, Switzerland, because ceramics are usually insulators, and the compound developed in 1993 at the University of Colorado which superconducts at a temperature of 138 degrees Kelvin (only -135 Celsius) which is significantly warmer than liquid nitrogen (which is common enough that it could be used in practical applications)...This funk-doobiest of superconducting materials is a thallium–doped, mercuric–cuprate comprised of the elements Mercury, Thallium, Barium, Calcium, Copper and Oxygen...but you already knew that...

Well, I don't know if you found that cool (no pun intended), but I did...Well, we can't dwell in the past, and must continue on to our next question (if for no other reason that I really need to get some sleep one of these days here)...The next question in question comes from Chris Baker (You know, if you guys don't get a bit more creative, I'm going to have someone program a random online alias generator, and you're all going end up with names like "Frosty Stooge")... So, for our third question Frosty Stooge asks:

What causes the aurora borialis?

Now I sort of knew the answer in that I knew it had "something to do with gas and magnets or something", and I was glad to get this question because it is actually something that I am interested in...The Aurora Borealis, or "Northern Lights" (there are corresponding "Southern Lights" or Aurora Australis) is an often spectacular display of atmospheric colors visible in the northern latitudes, that spread in huge curtains about 65 miles or so up into the atmosphere... The colors present in the Aurora are rather remarkable (and of the sort that made me decide to go visit the Arctic next time I travel far and wide)...

Looks like a scene from E.T.
Somewhat patriotic if you happen to be from the USA...or France...or...uh, who else has red and blue in their flag...
Photo courtesy of Phil Huff...or is that Hoff...Uh...Photo courtesy of the guy whose name is in the corner...

All them purdy colors are caused by a process not unlike a Television (non-projection variety) or a neon sign. The step–by–step guide to making your own Aurora at home is thus. First, get a Sun and an Earth. Second, have the Sun create a current of electrically charged gas that it expels into space; call this gaseous discharge "Solar Wind" (note: this is not what happens when you eat too much Mexican food...oh yeah, going for the fart joke, we're intellectual here)...When this Solar wind hits the Earth (after about three days) it is deflected by the Earth's magnetosphere (a darn good thing to, because if it didn't we'd, well...die) and kind of swirls around in the upper atmosphere of the Earth. The charged particle of the Solar Wind interact with the magnetosphere (because magnetism and electricity are interrelated, as we all know from listening to Magneto's speeches in ) and essentially turns the magnetosphere into a generator on a global scale, producing upwards of ten million megawatts of power. The auroras are caused when the electrons in the magnetosphere strike gases in the atmosphere and produce the "neon sign" effect. Different gases produce different colors (the color also changes based on whether the gas is ionized or not). The most common color is a yellow-green (as in the third picture above) produced by low atmosphere oxygen and the rarest is evidently an all red aurora, which indicates entirely high altitude (200 miles) oxygen. Beyond being pleasant to look at, aurora can actually cause a few problems. Because they represent electro-magnetic activity in the lower atmosphere, they can disrupt radio transmissions, radar, and even power lines. Perhaps the funkiest thing is that the magnetic field fluctuations that go along with auroras can cause current to form in conduits, such as the Trans-Alaska pipeline for instance, and actually cause corrosion in the metal of the pipes...

Dang, I need a nap...and some cardio–vascular exercise (you know you're in trouble when typing tires you out)...As always, for asking the question (in this case, questions) that I had to research, I salute you!

For those about to rock!

Now as always (unfortunately) are the smartass question...Despite the fact that I took a year break from the articles, alas, the questions of this particular persuasion didn't...The first of these eternal jewels of stultificity (I honestly don't know if that's a word...but it should be) comes from MadMax2050, who inquired:

"Is it a bad thing when the (pizza) box has begun to decompose?" That is the question you couldn't answer in the Path to Illumination: The Twelvth Majestic.

Ah, you're a crafty one...That is indeed a question that I asked of you all in The Twelfth Majestic, but you failed to learn the lesson I was trying to impart there as I did not ask the question to learn the answer, but merely to learn whether you knew it or not...I know full well whether it is a bad thing when the pizza box had begun to decompose (answer: it depends)...Nice try though, if I had another T-Shirt...jpg...to give you...uh, you'd have two...

Well then, that taken care of, we move on to a question that I know nothing about (and if anyone tells you different they're lying)...Bob Hu (who?) asks:

What level of Cleric can automatically turn a Wight? and even harder What is a Dweomer?

Now, Bob tried to be sneaky and cram two questions into one through the use of poor punctuation, but I'll forgive him...this time...because if I didn't, someone might actually apply the laws of English grammar to these articles, and I'd end up in detention after school, writing lines on a chalkboard for the next 24,601 afternoons...*shiver*...oh, not at the writing, I just thought of fingernails on a chalkboard...you too eh? Anyhoo, back to Bob Who's question (which I remind you I know nothing about)...Not that I know anything about Dungeons & Dragons or anything, but if I were to make a guess (and a wild one at that, because as stated, I know nothing about this subject) I would answer Bob by saying that under the current 3rd edition rules, clerical turning is no longer defined by a set table, but rather upon a turning roll, so there is no level at which all clerics can turn a wight...but that's purely a random guess, entirely out of the blue (monkeys on typewriters territory)...As for what a Dweomer is, I really don't know, other than to speculate that it might possibly be (and not that I actually know) the aura and effect of enchantment when a spell has been cast upon a person or object...Continuing to stress that I don't actually know what I'm talking about, and may in fact have constructed this whole event from my fevered imagination in a fit of hallucinogenic rantings...or not...

Now then, I have saved the best for last, and by that I mean the worst...KirReal wrote in (I guess "typed in" is more accurate) and asked:

Here`s a history question: What was the diameter of Universe in its thirst 0,00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 seconds of existanse?

First of all, I've got a question for you guys, do you guys not have a spell check on your email client? I know I'm not Samuel Johnson here, but really, these have been pretty bad...That said, let me answer KirReal's question. This question reminded me a great deal of Stuart Wright's questions in The Thirteenth Sign, and indeed my inital impulse was to answer "Sir Issac Newton"...However, in an eerie mirror to the process in that installment, upon further examination I discovered that the answer was not in fact "Sir Issac Newton", but most definitely "Richard Burton"...The diameter of the Universe in its first (or "thirst" if you rather) 0.00000000000–whatever–1 seconds of existence was "Richard Burton"...

That settled, we move on to what is fast becoming my favorite section of the article, the GET SOME FREAKIN' CULTURE CORNER...This month's attempt to drag you kicking and screaming into education and erudition is one of a compositional nature, as we have not yet tarried in the musical realm in our journey to illumination. The composer and performer of this work is a friend of mine (though long strayed in commune) who I consider exceedingly talented. The piece, entitled Les Memoirs de dansle Verger, is a sort of large file, so it might take a while to download (and I cannot guarantee it's consistent presence, bandwidth and all)...The piece is a piano piece, and is quite beautiful while remaining rather sorrowful and at times disorienting...All in all an emotive work...

Now it's time for COMPLETE AND UTTER GIBBERISH AND ENTIRELY USELESS CARP!!! (cue tape reel of crowd cheering)...Right, since this installment marks a bunch of changes and such, I thought this section would be the most blatant plea for attention...uh, I mean, most representative of those aforementioned changes. This month's Carp are in fact two sites, the very two sites where this article is posted Augean Stables (Which is actually crap, not carp, but we'll let it slide) and PlanetDeusEx Both of which have lots of stuff to waste your time on...

However, I do have a bit of a challenge for everyone, built into the original 13 "First Age" Illumination installments is an element of "replayability", always important in a game, now in website form!...There is an element that only a few people know about, and it's a reason to read all of the installments again...The first person (or only, who knows) to let me know what this feature is, will win a naked goat (we originally ordered them to reward folks who stumped me on history questions, but that doesn't seem too likely, and they're starting to eat the furniture). If you figure out the secret code, Let me know... Now that I'm done hijacking this portion in a pathetic ploy for traffic, we'll return next installment with it serving its proper function...

Next up (I am sooo glad we're near the end here) is the quote contest, which got fewer responses that I would have thought, considering ya'll had a year to write in, but I got several correct answers...as well as this one

"Great Moments in Literature: In 1936, Ernest Hemingway, while trout fishing, caught a carp and decided not to write about it."
This wouldn't be some silly reference to his "Old Man and the Sea," would it? The one where the main character doesn't catch a fish? If Hemmingway caught a carp, not writing about it could mean he wrote about not catching a fish.

Moo,

Kevin Ma

*pause*...wow...I mean...wow...*shakes head*...So, the winner of this week/month/year's (have to cough up a lung over that one, so we'll skip that bit) is RodeoClown who correctly answered (and provided extra info regarding) Richard Guindon who quoted it in one of his rather funny cartoons.

Cartoonist Richard Guindon
yes, he really is that pale...he lives in the North, they don't go out much...

RodeoClown did request "please give me mad props, or a naked Ghand...well, preferably not naked, because my wife would not take kindly to having a naked man in our house."...Tough noogies...Ghand is on his way, naked as the day he was born...Your wife's just going to have to adapt...*like that will ever happen*...Huh?!?...No I didn't say anything...*stays very still*...

Now on to the cause of my ulcer and the reason that I long for sweet death to ease my pain on that day when cruel fate will release me from this tainted orb...The contest name...I thought about actually getting a name for the stinking thing, but with the new body of readers from Augean Stables (I hope), I didn't want to leave them out of the redundant fun that we have all had the privelege of enduring, so here it is...

**INSERT CONTEST NAME HERE**

Yeah...that's the stuff...I should bottle that and sell it...I'm sure it would sell like mad in the former Soviet Union...What and what, here is this month's quote:

"We turn virtues upside down and want to soil a clean vessel. If any honest man lives among us, we call him slow and stupid."

If you know who said that, let me know.



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