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Old 01-25-2020, 07:47 PM   #31
whswhs
 
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

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Originally Posted by a humble lich View Post
By 1995 you don't really have too many physicists who specialize in Electromagnetism (that is mostly a solved field), but there are similar fields (Radio Astronomy, Plasma Physics, Quantum Electro-Dynamics, ...) The National High Magnetic Field Lab is in Florida and Puerto Rico is home to a large radio telescope, so you could get researchers from there.
I grant that for the theory, but various applied fields having to do with electromagnetic radiation seem still to be active, often under the name of "optics."
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Old 01-25-2020, 10:36 PM   #32
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
Premise

You are an aging Texan billionaire in 1995, cosmopolitan, but based in Texas, with outposts in Louisiana, Florida, France, several Caribbean islands and various African countries.

...

You want reputable scientists, capable experts, competent specialists and academics familiar with exploration, new discoveries and first contact with what could be a new, extraplanar, paranormal, supernatural biosphere.

What kind of scientists do you recruit, among your widespread contacts?

That is, what kind of degrees do they have, what universities do they come from and what institutions are they connected to?

[/SIZE]
Your character sounds like a nice guy, I think too nice. I would be interested in what makes him tick, this seems like a fluff press release as it were.

If you look at a movie like "Alien vs. Predator (2004)" with Mr Charles Bishop Weyland has quite a character sheet, tremendous ambition, motivations (he is obviously dying) ... or you can look at The Thing (2011) Dr. Sander Halvorson has tremendous drives. Both are acutely aware that they are funding expeditions that are on the fringe and if pan out are history changing. The following is also true for (in a PG rating setting) for Jurassic Park with John Hammond being the Billionaire dreamer (perhaps his lawyers are the more rated-R motivators behind the scenes)

In the end, they pick people they can control and manipulate. Weyland and Hammon start out by promising you the future you so desperately need, funding for your dying project (which maybe they helped cripple) or similar new lease on life.

All the participants are clearly heavily NDA'ed and bound to him in a remote and secure setting (no internet or cellphones).

For you setting you might choose a university itself, like Arkham than can lean on specific faculty and grad students, or alumni that are in need of a break or another chance.

He could be a critical funder for such a university that might be in trouble in some way, the University might be like Marshall College in Bedford, Connecticut where Indiana Jones taught ... it could have its own set of dreamers like Marcus Brody who was Dean. The University was also an extension of the National Museum, which brings a few degrees of connection for NPCs.

Rather than a 'X-Men' of academics, I would seek out desperate and unique personalities. Perhaps even some frauds or people that might want to steal the idea themselves ("if only you spoke Hovitos")

Such people like Jane Foster, Darcie, and Dr Stellan Skarsgård (and the helper interin guy) in Thor are a hilarious cadre.
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Old 01-26-2020, 03:49 AM   #33
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

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I would also think that someone somewhere would leak the story and you'd get crackpot journalists who are determined to see this Caribbean Shangri La. That would be bad - one story in a tabloid and your guy's credibility is gonna go down.
As things unfold over the few days that the island is visible, there probably wouldn't be time for journalists to become involved. Commercial flights in the Caribbean and surrounding area are heavily disrupted by the four tropical storms active simultaneously at the end of August and beginning of September. Even in areas where the storms haven't yet hit, there are weather warnings, as at least two of the storms are moving erratically and their paths are hard to predict.

In order to get the expedition members to Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands, it is necessary to use private planes or boats, with pilots and crew willing to risk the weather. That is practical for Kessler, because he is literally a bilionaire and already has several boats and planes based in Florida, the Bahamas and several of the Leeward and Windward Islands, with crew used to catering to his eccentric desires, but it is not as easy for journalists.

Also, there aren't all that many people who would want to leak this. There is a private pilot who saw the island, by accident, but while he did tell several people, it isn't as if any reputable news source can print it without some form of confirmation that there is something out there. Absent that, the news would be 'Local pilot misreads instruments, thinks he is at a different location and tells a wild story'.

Any others who know ahout it are either Kessler's staff, chosen for loyalty and tight-lippedness, expedition members who'd be risking their spots and salaries by talking, not to mention tanking their own credibility by talking to press before they really know anything, and then possibly someone from the US Navy, Air Force or Coast Guard.

Even if some journalist hears unconfirmed reports about something interesting being spotted in the Atlantic a couple of hundred miles north of Puerto Rico and/or about several academics congregating on one of the Virgin Islands, flying or sailing there in private transport despite bad weather, I don't think any journalist could make it there before the expedition leaves. It's not like news organizations have private transport crewed by ex-military types kept ready at all times to be ready to chase down paranormal occurances.

If a local journalist comes around asking questions, there would be a PR person and a number of attorneys who'd cite confidentiality concerns (everyone involved is obviously heavily NDA'ed) and give prepared and boring answers related to meteorological and oceanographic surveys and valuable research instruments that need to be removed from the path of Hurricane Luis.

They'd be covered under two or three different entities, one of them a company involved in offshore mining (where CDR Shackleford, the expedition leader, genuinely works) and maybe one or two private scientific research institutions where others involved work.

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That way you can make the story about getting there and exploring it, but also keeping riffraff away as well
This is actually backstory. The campaign is set in 2018/2019.

Teddy Smith (PC) was one of the security on this expedition and along with fifteen other expedition members, as well as several boat crew, a private pilot and a mechanic, he disappeared when the expedition was caught in Hurricane Luis.

Twenty three years later, at the start of play, he washed ashore on the island of Dominica, a good six hundred miles away from where he disappeared (the twenty three years lost at sea were rather more remarkable, of course). With him were two other members of the security team, one catatonic and one incoherent, as well as Professor Harlan P. Wehmeyer.

I'm establishing the names, background and connections of the other members of the expedition for backstory purposes and because their families, friends and connections might affect Mr. Smith in play.
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Old 01-26-2020, 04:42 AM   #34
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Default J. R. Kessler, Our Billionaire Texan Patron

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Your character sounds like a nice guy, I think too nice. I would be interested in what makes him tick, this seems like a fluff press release as it were.
J.R. Kessler (b. October 23, 1918; Galveston, Texas) is not often called a 'nice guy'. There are plenty of journalists who've written positive pieces on him, of course, as a pillar of the community in Galveston, as a self-made billionaire who as a son of poor immigrants exemplifies the American dream, but none of them would ever call him 'nice'.

There are many wild tales about Kessler, some of which he encourages himself. It is said, for example, that he was a deck hand (or cabin boy, the story varies) on a rum-runner during Prohibition and that he knew more or less every hoodlum in the 'Free State of Galveston' in his youth. He's also said to have run guns to Abyssinia and fought in the Spanish Civil War (for which side, reports vary).

Of course, anyone capable of using a calendar can see that it is unlikely that someone who was fifteen when Prohibition ended could have been very important in bootlegger circles and as for Abyssinia, that war also ended before Kessler got out of his teens.

It is considered factual that Kessler joined the French Foreign Legion in 1939, but whether he did so from anti-fascist motives, as sometimes attributed, is not certain. Other stories are that he was forced to join because he was on the run and/or that he joined for romantic, adventurous motives. In any case, he spent the years 1939-1954 in the French Foreign Legion.

When he came back home to America, his sudden rise to wealth and success is somewhat murky. In the early sixties, he invested in oil and mineral concerns, both in Texas and abroad, but the source of funding and his partners are not exactly known. Certainly, he ran a successful business in Cuba (the Hotel Metropole Havana) in the late 50s, before Castro ruined that, but whether the Maceo brothers were truly silent partners in that casino is unclear. It is more likely to be one more romantic fabrication.

More prosaically, Kessler had partners in France who invested in various mining concerns in former French colonies with him. Granted, this tended to involve him in unstable and sometimes wartorn places, but also seems to have been rather profitable.

It is true that in the 1960s, Kessler contributed to anti-Communist causes in the Western hemisphere, chiefly Cuban causes, but the loss of his casino in Havana would explain a personal dislike for the Castro regime. There is no credible evidence that Kessler was ever personally involved in political causes in Latin America and as for the stories about involvement with CIA cover businesses in Florida, Texas, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Vietnam and Africa, they read like a novelist's imagination and have about as much evidence behind them.

Extracting petrochemicals and mining copper, cobalt and other minerals in Angola, Botswana, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, as well as many other developing nations, Kessler has long employed private security contractors, but it is baseless to term such professionals 'mercenaries'.

By modern sensibilities, J.R. Kessler could be considered a robber baron capitalist, a blood-soaked industrialist who profited from exploiting Third World countries and a violent, dangerous man who has spent much of his life surrounded by killers. He is cynical about governments, but this doesn't prevent him from maintaining friendly and close relationships with everyone from African presidents to local sheriffs in Texas or constables on Caribbean islands, complete with charitable donations to the appropriate institutions that support local law enforcement, all entirely legal and aboveboard.

To further emphasise, to media sensibilities in the 2010s at least, Kessler's war-mongering past and violent nature, he owns an armory of military weapons. They are mostly WWII or 1950s vintage, ostensibly obtained because he collects various memorabilia, but there are dozens of fully-automatic firearms registered to companies in his name. He also keeps a personal security detail at all times, and they mostly comprise a collection of disreputable characters; many of them former Legionnaires, veterans of various African wars, mercenaries or all of the above.

Finally, liberal journalists are naturally appropriately outraged that Kessler employs such notorious racists as white South Africans and self-identifying 'Rhodesians'; and the fact that black Africans and Afro-Caribbeans are just as numerous in his employ is probably not enough to deflect the fury of all of them.

Given all this, the fact that J.R. Kessler enjoys relatively good publicity, not only in his home state of Texas, but more or less generally, is nothing short of astonishing. Somehow, he has managed to maintain a very surprising level of privacy for himself and his household, but more than that, it seems that when publicity has been unavoidable, a great deal of it has been much more positive than what one would expect.

Oh, certainly, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Kessler was the subject of rumours and not a few innuendos in print about his alleged mob ties. And there have always been the occasional vicious articles from journalists whose personal feelings about the rich, oilmen, 'neo-colonialists' or veterans of military service unleavened by the fig leaf of patriotism (not to say 'mercenaries') have driven their coverage.

But in general, the vast majority of journalists who've covered Kessler in any depth have ended up portraying him as some sort of lovable rogue; a romantic, rakish, buccaneering figure whose dark charm is only enhanced, not lessened, by rumours of dangerous deeds of derring-do, mysterious intelligence or mob connections, and thoroughly immoral mercenary adventures in Africa. In short, it seems that a wide range of journalists who've interviewed J.R. Kessler have been seduced into liking the old goat a great deal more than they probably should.

There is a perverse attraction to stylish and flamboyant villainy, especially when it can be packaged with a legend of personal integrity and a private code of honour uncomplicated by consideration of laws or conventional morality. Many Americans*, perhaps especially in Texas and the South, still retain an admiration for a myth of martial manly virtue which has more in common with the ethos of legendary Roman generals, feudal lords, Italian mafioso or Corsican bandits than any civilized veneer of modern Western society.

As for what makes Kessler tick, at least in this context, would be en event that is far from widely known. In 1986, Kessler had an experience in Mali that not only made him a fervent believer in the supernatural, but caused him to consider it a threat to humanity. In the years 1986-1995, while his many commercial interests continue to flourish, Kessler has devoted his personal wealth to funding and organizing research into anomalous occurrences and paranormal science. Even less widely known is the fact that he has not been entirely unsuccessful.

Whatever his motives for much of his life, whether he has been driven by greed, thirst for adventure or some unspecified ideological motive, what seems to drive J.R. Kessler since 1986 is that he knows that the world everyone thinks we live in is a veil of illusion, covering something much darker and infinitely more terrible. Whether he is a good man or not is debatable, but he is a man who loves life and all the nice things that his success has brought him. All of which are kept in this world, so he has a pretty major stake in ensuring that if something threatens it, someone is there to stand against it.

And given his cynicism about governments, J.R. Kessler does not trust law enforcement, military, intelligence or security agencies to stand against a hidden threat that no one seems to believe in. And being a capable, intelligent man with a truly breathtaking network of connections, Kessler has built up an unofficial, but effective organization that researches and investigates the paranormal without coming to the attention of the world.

*Not to mention Frenchmen and many other Latin people.

Last edited by Icelander; 01-26-2020 at 05:33 PM.
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Old 01-26-2020, 05:27 AM   #35
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
There were major problems with all sorts of electronic devices near the island. Some could be made to work, but this required constant babying and fine-tuning.
The specific question is "Do radio (including GPS) signals propagate from outside the zone where the island is visible to inside that zone?" Sunlight appears to, but there might be a similar sun there.
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The island itself is clearly anomalous and any person familiar with Caribbean flora will notice that the vegetation is unusual. The rain and the thick fog that persists during times when it isn't raining make it hard to see whether there is anything else odd about the island, but Kessler and most of the people behind the expedition expected the island to be extremely divergent, simply because of how it suddenly appeared.
Given that information, your botanist needs to be less of a taxonomist and more an expert specimen-collector and photographer.
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An astronomer is an excellent idea. The expedition could hardly avoid staying overnight, as the island was around 250 miles from Puerto Rico and 300 miles or so from British Virgin Islands, so in any boat that could handle potential heavy seas, the trip would take more than half a day.
You want a positional astronomer (an important speciality), who's an expert in the history of their field, so that they can make the relevant observations with portable equipment.

An oceanographer is a good idea, and finding one who's a former naval officer, like Don Walsh but younger, would suit Kessler's style. That hopefully gets you an expert in Navigation (Sea) without radio navaids in the same person.
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Old 01-26-2020, 05:37 AM   #36
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

One experiment a oil geologist might think of if seismic testing can be spotted from off the island. Set off some test blasts and see if whatever nearby seismic stations see them.

Plus of course giving you an idea of what the geology under the island looks like.
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Old 01-26-2020, 09:20 AM   #37
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

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One experiment a oil geologist might think of if seismic testing can be spotted from off the island. Set off some test blasts and see if whatever nearby seismic stations see them.

Plus of course giving you an idea of what the geology under the island looks like.
Are you suggesting that they might have a good supply of explosives?

How delightfully adventurous!

I support it wholeheartedly.
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Old 01-26-2020, 10:21 AM   #38
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

On the physics front, I was thinking a high energy physicist or particle physicist, who might have theories to test about the nature of reality on the island. Your tellurgist, though, would probably cover the same ground.

As well as measuring gravity and EM propagation, he might try to observe radioactive decay samples. Bubble chambers, cloud chambers or spark chambers might still work effectively when electronics fail.

And he might be dreaming about getting a portable synchrotron onto the island to test CP-parity of kaons, although I don't think we can do that on a desktop device today, let alone in the 90s.

There are also secondary cosmic rays which can be observed at ground level, but I'm not sure how much he could calculate about them on the spot.
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Old 01-26-2020, 02:55 PM   #39
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
The specific question is "Do radio (including GPS) signals propagate from outside the zone where the island is visible to inside that zone?" Sunlight appears to, but there might be a similar sun there.
Ah, a very good question.

In the event, Kessler never got adequate answers to that question, as by the time the boat reached the island, Hurricane Luis had altered course once again and was heading right for them, which forced them to start preparing for surviving a tropical storm (which I assume means anchoring on the lee side of the island).

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Given that information, your botanist needs to be less of a taxonomist and more an expert specimen-collector and photographer.
Yes, I believe I need to drop two of the security team for two more scientists, at the very least a botanist and then presumably either an entomologist or an astronomer.

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You want a positional astronomer (an important speciality), who's an expert in the history of their field, so that they can make the relevant observations with portable equipment.
Which is more of an advantage, the young eyes of a recent PhD graduate or thirty years of experience in the field?

Of course, Kessler might not have much of a choice, as I'm not sure whether he'll have employed a positional astronomer before. This is his first planned expedition into a potentially new world, most of the research and investigation until this was concentrated on reports of something supernatural in this world; whether ghosts, possessions, curses, ley lines, places of power, mysterious deaths, mystic artifacts or something else.

Not unless he'd employed a positional astronomer to assist in scientific research on the validity or lack thereof of astrology, which I suppose might be possible.

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An oceanographer is a good idea, and finding one who's a former naval officer, like Don Walsh but younger, would suit Kessler's style. That hopefully gets you an expert in Navigation (Sea) without radio navaids in the same person.
Commander Samuel H. Shackleford is younger than Don Walsh, but only by a few years. He got his PhD from Texas A&M a few years later and has spent most of his life working for the US Navy or other public institutions doing oceanographic surveys. His rank is in the US Naval Reserve. For the past eight years, however, Shackleford has worked for an offshore oil company owned by Kessler.

Edit: Wait, no, Don Walsh didn't actually attend Texas A&M until he was in his thirties, which means that he and Shackleford were actually there at the same time, as 1964 was the year Texas A&M - Galveston started a program where naval officers could pursue graduate studies there while on active duty.
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Old 01-26-2020, 04:32 PM   #40
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

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Which is more of an advantage, the young eyes of a recent PhD graduate or thirty years of experience in the field?
Neither is as important as the interest in the history of positional astronomy, which is what you need to get someone who can make the measurements without having to learn how first.
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Not unless he'd employed a positional astronomer to assist in scientific research on the validity or lack thereof of astrology, which I suppose might be possible.
Possible, but almost any astronomer knows enough positional astronomy for that.
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