Friday, 25 March 2011

ExTerra is off duty...Frank is out celebrating

I don't know what's gotten into Frank, but he shut down the entire operation this week. As soon as Tom returned, Frank declared a holiday and sent everyone home. Apparently there was some kind of award given to some math guy that Frank really likes: John Milnor.

I had to do quite a bit of research for this one. What I found out was that the King of Norway gives out the Abel Prize every year for outstanding mathematicians, and this year John got the MILLION DOLLARS, so I guess it is a pretty big deal.

So, anyway, apparently Frank has been following John's work on "7-dimensional spheres with nonstandard differential structure". Just what that means, I have no idea, but Frank calls them exotic spheres. What I can tell you is that whatever Frank means by 'exotic' certainly doesn't match what *I* consider exotic.

As soon as the party's over and Frank returns to his senses, we'll have more to report.
[shrug] What can I say? I've never really understood this engineering attitude.

If any of you understand that math stuff, let me know!

Friday, 18 March 2011

Get some sample writing, put Tom to work

Based on our discussion last week, Tom took a handful of engineering pads and a box of standard wooden No. 2 pencils on his trip this week. When he gets back, we hope he's managed to find someone with the ability to give us a good sampling of the native written language.

Only one problem: when he gets back, I'm certain we'll need a linguist. Although Tom has picked up some of the native tongue (which is only to be expected as he's spent so much time over there), he's only managed to learn some rather basic things (food, water, sleep, etc.) and none of the written form. Besides, he's not up to analysing the language to see how it relates to any we have on this planet, if it even does at all. If anyone knows of a good linguist, let us know.

Hopefully we'll have more interesting stuff to report next week.
(Again, if you have any suggestions for Tom, let us know.)

Friday, 11 March 2011

Books aren't common, but is writing?

Apparently books aren't as common over there as they are here, and Tom says that there's not much chance of 'checking' any books out of their library. Frank suggested that Tom take a picture of some of the books, so we can get a sample of their writing, but Tom just grabbed a pen and notepad (of course, it was an engineering pad because we were standing at Frank's desk having the conversation). Tom waved the pad around and said that he was just going to have the town chief write something down. Frank certainly has an engineering mindset; Tom just gets things done.

Tom says that he's certain that the chief would be willing to write something for him because he is a really friendly guy. Remember that I said his name was Shess? Well that's just the nickname that Tom gave him. His full name is Shessiteros; see why we call him just Shess? Tom tried coming up with a nickname for the school teacher, but Zhahmonichas wouldn't go for it. He's a really uptight kinda guy. I guess that's to be expected of anyone who has to deal with kids all day long.

Well, I guess next time we send Tom out, we'll have to give him a whole stack of pens and paper. If the natives were so interested in how books were made, I'll bet that they've never seen entire pads of paper, already lined and ready for writing. Then again, if books are so rare, I wonder if writing is very common. It might be that only the politically connected or school-teacher-type folks can write. We'll have Tom check into that.

We don't have much for Tom to do on his next trip out, so if you have any more ideas, just let us know in the comments. See ya next week!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Books to share

All right, so Tom got a couple books of star charts from the local library and used them to show the natives what he meant about constellations. Most of them seemed to understand, but he said that more of them were interested in how the book was made. They were impressed with the slick pages, the bright colours, and even the binding.

At the level of technology they have now, books are either a stack of almost leather-like pages stitched together with a thong or a scroll of papyrus-like paper. Apparently the oft used books, like the ones they have in the schools, are leather, whereas the ones used by the government officials are the scroll-like ones.

Tom says that Shess, the chief of the local town, only has a couple of scroll books, but Shess says that farther south there's a larger city where there are lots of books. The local school teacher (his name sounds something like Zhahmonichas) has a pretty big collection of books that he uses to teach from, all of the leather variety. He also claims to have even more that he keeps only for reference, but Tom wasn't allowed to see those.

No books brought back this time, but we're hoping. We'll let you know if we have anything more to share.