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Old 01-28-2020, 04:00 PM   #61
Icelander
 
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

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Originally Posted by Christopher R. Rice View Post
Hmmm. Interesting. So where were they during their time away then if they weren't declared dead officially? That's a hole someone is going to poke at.
Well, most of the expedition had lives and families and were unavoidbly declared dead. Heirs, estates, etc.

However, Teddy Smith is:
a) An orphan whose only family consists of a number of expatriate mercenaries who form an unofficial household and retinue for Kessler.
b) A citizen of the former country of Rhodesia who left when it became Zimbabwe and became truly, a man without a country.
c) A veteran of the French Foreign Legion whose current name of Edward Alvin Smith is the name he adopted in the Legion, with no one except a few other mercenaries (i.e. those who knew him in Rhodesia) in Kessler's employ even knowing his real name.

Aside from Kessler and people in Kessler's network, not a single person or entity had any interest in Teddy Smith or cared whether he lived or died. The US government had marginal interest in him (well, mostly the IRS cared that he paid taxes), as he had a Green Card and was resident there 1987-1994, but as he always had a second residence listed on Dominica and moved his home of record there in 1994, the US didn't see anything unusual about the fact that he no longer travelled to the US.

And as Smith no longer had income in the US or a listed residence there, the IRS didn't have any complaints, especially as accountants dutifully filed a tax report and paid taxes on the year 1995. As far as the US was concerned, Edward Alvin Smith moved to a remote cottage on the Caribbean island of Dominica, where he had acquired a citizenship through the Economic Citizenship Program of 1993.

The Dominican authorities collected what little taxes Dominica imposes on him, but as accountants kept paying that, no one in Dominica was pressing for any formal action. They knew he had probably been lost in the storm, as the seaplane he was most likely on was caught in Hurricane Luis just as the boat was, but given that no one filed a manifest or flight plan where his name was included, officially, he wasn't listed among the lost.

Frankly, he wasn't the first mercenary employed by Kessler to be lost under murky circumstances and he wouldn't be the last.

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Originally Posted by Christopher R. Rice View Post
What I'm curious about is has the island been found before? You could do a lot saying explorers from the 16th or 17th century found the place and explored it a bit.
That's a very good idea.

If so, should the expedition members have been aware of that in the 1995 or would that be an obscure historical source that Kessler's people only discovered after the loss of the expedition?

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Originally Posted by Christopher R. Rice View Post
What if the Nommo were originally land dwellers and they used magic or something similiar to leave the land because there was something in the temple complex that was trying to awaken/attract worshippers?
That's very close. They are amphibious and can spend hours on dry land without significant discomfort (with preparations, they can survive days), but avoid going more than a short distance inland, explicitly because of a superstitious dread of the ruins. Although, as Teddy Smith found out, when push came to shove, the Nommo sacrificed to the dread gods of the ancient temples, whose names no one but the shaman dared speak, and in so doing, he damned himself.

That being said, the true terrors of the sidereal realm of eternal twilight lie in the deeps. The Nommo live in the shallows and among the fantastic coral structures around the island, but the depths of the ocean are home to other things.

The Nommo are not the only 'people' of this world and the Old Ones of the temple ruins not the only gods. From what Teddy eventually discovered (or at least hypothesised), the Nommo believe that their world is being invaded by vast, inhuman forces of the unknowable depths, terrifying enough to make them willing to embrace the forbidden Old Ones of the ruined temples.
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Old 01-29-2020, 06:19 AM   #62
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

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Electrical engineers, or communications engineers, would be the obvious answer (though they'd be better at measuring the problem than understanding it, I guess), but...
I'm guessing that Kessler has both electrical and communication engineers working for him in a confidential capacity, largely consulting on the subject of why every technological instrument on his yacht has a failure rate far higher than it should and what can be done to mitigate any harm from this (the answer that emerges is a mixture of using very reliable, robust equipment that is easy to repair and also of using as much older or rebuilt [by hand] equipment as possible).

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... it occurs to me that an important member would be an instrument maker. Off-the-shelf instruments would all be based on electronics, with a USB (common in the 90s?) or just parallel port interface for a PC. To mimic the same effects and accuracy without electronics, and at a portable scale, would take a fair bit of talent and ingenuity.

For the bubble chamber, as an example, you could rig some mechanical camera triggers to expose film or a photographic plate with the right time and exposure, linked to triggering the bubble chamber detection period.

A lot of physics can be done accurately with purely mechanical and optical instruments, but making many of them would be a lost art.
That's very true, but do any designers or instrument makers involved with Kessler's network have a reason to be out of their workplaces in Houston when the expedition goes to the mysterious island?
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Old 01-29-2020, 10:02 AM   #63
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
Could data for appropriately specialized physicists to analyze at a university or a research institution elsewhere be collected by specialists in different field; e.g. by Professor Wehmeyer or by an oceanographer with experience in naval surveying as well as working for offshore oil companies, like the expedition leader CDR Shackleford?
Oh, absolutely. For example, we were discussing the weak mixing angle. This will affect certain kinds of radioactivity. So send one of your surveyors with a HPGe (High Purity Germanium) gamma ray spectrometer and some calibration sources, including both alpha and beta sources. Take gamma ray spectra from these sources, and compare them to the spectra taken under identical geometries and for the same time back in the lab. If the beta sources change in activity, it tells you something odd is happening with the weak nuclear force. If the alpha sources change, you've got something going on with the strong nuclear force. Changes to either of these forces (or the electromagnetic force, but significant changes to the electromagnetic force would just kill everyone dead due to its effects on biochemistry) would change the energies of the gamma ray emission lines coming out of the calibration sources.

Samples of the local biota or geology might give similar clues. If there's no carbon-14, maybe C-14 is much more unstable here and decays away too quickly to accumulate in biological tissues. If there's no pottassium-40 in the rocks, or thorium or uranium for that matter, same thing. If you have radioactive elements that are not present on earth, maybe the local nuclear forces allow them to be more stable in that existence, while they would decay away much more rapidly where we live. (Of course, having everyone going there becoming intensely radioactive as all the C-14 and K-40 in their bodies begins to decay would also probably be bad for their health. I haven't run the numbers yet to see how bad it would be.)

You could try for high precision measurements of various dimensionless coupling constants. The fine structure constant, for example, can be measured to high precision. You probably don't have time to make a device to do such measurements in the field on short notice, but if you already have one lying around - taking high precision measurements of the line spectra of various ionized gases, for example - you could have a non-specialist do the measurements after a quick training session. We already know the fine structure constant can't change too much (it's the electromagnetic coupling constant, and again if it varies by more than a bit everyone will be dead), but minute changes could be indicative of something weird going on.

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Old 01-29-2020, 11:07 AM   #64
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

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That's very true, but do any designers or instrument makers involved with Kessler's network have a reason to be out of their workplaces in Houston when the expedition goes to the mysterious island?
I was answering in terms of the larger network, but now that you ask, an instrument maker would probably want to be on hand to get a new piece of equipment working in the first place. There's no point sending out a physicist to make all the measurements if his equipment won't do what it's expected to do. With the designer there, he can make on-the-fly fixes and adjustments to whatever malfunctions crop up.

The physicist might have enough knowledge about how the instrument works to do this himself too, so it depends on the individual nature of each instrument and what it's trying to measure. So, short answer, you have a good excuse to have an instrument maker on the roster if you want one, or say that the experts know enough to keep him at home if you don't.
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Old 01-29-2020, 05:25 PM   #65
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Default Instrument Makers

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Originally Posted by Daigoro View Post
I was answering in terms of the larger network, but now that you ask, an instrument maker would probably want to be on hand to get a new piece of equipment working in the first place. There's no point sending out a physicist to make all the measurements if his equipment won't do what it's expected to do. With the designer there, he can make on-the-fly fixes and adjustments to whatever malfunctions crop up.

The physicist might have enough knowledge about how the instrument works to do this himself too, so it depends on the individual nature of each instrument and what it's trying to measure. So, short answer, you have a good excuse to have an instrument maker on the roster if you want one, or say that the experts know enough to keep him at home if you don't.
I certainly appreciate speculation about the network as a whole, as that has an impact on current campaign play in 2018, not just the background for one PC (which this catastrophe in 1995 is).

I expect that even if technicians and instrument makers were 'on hand' in 1995, they wouldn't be the absolute first people allowed to step on the island. After all, there were only spaces for only 8-10 academics and scientists on the boat and seaplane going despite the weather warnings, while probably around fifty other people involved in some way were providing support from the Virgin Islands and/or waiting to travel to the island on a larger ship when the weather improved.

The scientists who take the absolute first spots would be one of the following: a) Important allies of Kessler who've been involved with him in researching the occult and paranormal for years and wouldn't accept not having a chance to visit what might be another world, no matter the risks, e.g. CRD Shackleford, Reverend Coughlin, Professor Wehmeyer, Dr. Duvall, Rolle and White; b) those impelled by either scientific curiosity or sense of adventure, e.g. Sullivan; and c) those with specialties that Kessler or the other planners consider absolutely vital and convince to go by any means necessary, e.g. Caron (ecologist) and probably the last two members (as yet unnamed and un-detailed), a botanist and entomologist.*

However, I'm very interested in ideas for education and background for people who might have been involved in building instruments for Kessler's research at any point between 1987 and the modern day.

It's plausible that the first people involved in designing and building specialized instruments to work in high-magic areas would have taught others who are currently doing the same in 2018, so the backgrounds of the people involved in this in 1995 might lead naturally to their successors and students.

*Unless I'm convinced that the last two places should go to some scientific specialties that are even more vital.
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Old 01-29-2020, 06:51 PM   #66
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

Lots of PhD candidates get good with soldering irons and scientific programming because you need custom instruments and both budget and time keep you from hiring someone to custom build it for you. The result tends to be touchy both physically and in user interface but works in the hands of the builder.
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Old 01-29-2020, 11:08 PM   #67
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
Well, most of the expedition had lives and families and were unavoidbly declared dead. Heirs, estates, etc.

However, Teddy Smith is:
a) An orphan whose only family consists of a number of expatriate mercenaries who form an unofficial household and retinue for Kessler.
b) A citizen of the former country of Rhodesia who left when it became Zimbabwe and became truly, a man without a country.
c) A veteran of the French Foreign Legion whose current name of Edward Alvin Smith is the name he adopted in the Legion, with no one except a few other mercenaries (i.e. those who knew him in Rhodesia) in Kessler's employ even knowing his real name.

Aside from Kessler and people in Kessler's network, not a single person or entity had any interest in Teddy Smith or cared whether he lived or died. The US government had marginal interest in him (well, mostly the IRS cared that he paid taxes), as he had a Green Card and was resident there 1987-1994, but as he always had a second residence listed on Dominica and moved his home of record there in 1994, the US didn't see anything unusual about the fact that he no longer travelled to the US.

And as Smith no longer had income in the US or a listed residence there, the IRS didn't have any complaints, especially as accountants dutifully filed a tax report and paid taxes on the year 1995. As far as the US was concerned, Edward Alvin Smith moved to a remote cottage on the Caribbean island of Dominica, where he had acquired a citizenship through the Economic Citizenship Program of 1993.

The Dominican authorities collected what little taxes Dominica imposes on him, but as accountants kept paying that, no one in Dominica was pressing for any formal action. They knew he had probably been lost in the storm, as the seaplane he was most likely on was caught in Hurricane Luis just as the boat was, but given that no one filed a manifest or flight plan where his name was included, officially, he wasn't listed among the lost.

Frankly, he wasn't the first mercenary employed by Kessler to be lost under murky circumstances and he wouldn't be the last.
Ahhh. Ok.


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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
That's a very good idea.

If so, should the expedition members have been aware of that in the 1995 or would that be an obscure historical source that Kessler's people only discovered after the loss of the expedition?
Two things I would do if this were my game: 1) I'd have the documentation of the island broken up into two parts. Maybe two different journals by a witness. 2) I'd have multiple instances of ships finding the place. Maybe have rumors of it go out kind of like the Caribbean El Dorado. Kessler finding the place first was either luck or good research.


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Originally Posted by Icelander View Post
That's very close. They are amphibious and can spend hours on dry land without significant discomfort (with preparations, they can survive days), but avoid going more than a short distance inland, explicitly because of a superstitious dread of the ruins. Although, as Teddy Smith found out, when push came to shove, the Nommo sacrificed to the dread gods of the ancient temples, whose names no one but the shaman dared speak, and in so doing, he damned himself.

That being said, the true terrors of the sidereal realm of eternal twilight lie in the deeps. The Nommo live in the shallows and among the fantastic coral structures around the island, but the depths of the ocean are home to other things.

The Nommo are not the only 'people' of this world and the Old Ones of the temple ruins not the only gods. From what Teddy eventually discovered (or at least hypothesised), the Nommo believe that their world is being invaded by vast, inhuman forces of the unknowable depths, terrifying enough to make them willing to embrace the forbidden Old Ones of the ruined temples.
Deeeeeepppppp Ones. Love a good fish-people scare.
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Old 01-31-2020, 03:43 AM   #68
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Default Instruments and Instrument Makers

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Lots of PhD candidates get good with soldering irons and scientific programming because you need custom instruments and both budget and time keep you from hiring someone to custom build it for you. The result tends to be touchy both physically and in user interface but works in the hands of the builder.
If you had a budget, significant enough to justify custom-built instruments, what kind of education and/or background would you look for if you meant to hire a person (or several persons) to design and build instruments to your specifications that could perform measurements of various things important to paranormal research (i.e. using actual, real-world science to investigate alleged supernatural phenomena)?

Keeping in mind that such instruments would work better around real paranormal events, objects or beings the less complex technology they involve. Mechanical is less affected than electronics, analog less than digital and, in general; organic and 'natural' materials seem to play nicer with magic than metals, plastics or composites. Advanced alloys or metals that humanity only started to work in the modern era seem to interfere more with magic than materials which were in use during earlier tech levels. Also, hand-made things or things made with personal attention seem to play better with magic.

In general, the lower the functional tech level, the less penalty there is to work magic on something (for any other purpose than to ruin it) and the less magic reduces reliability and Malf. numbers.

Technically, even steel causes a small penalty and TL2+ is worse than things that could be made at TL0 or TL1, but for practical purposes, unless you mean to enchant the device in question, early TL7 and earlier technology generally functions, more or less, around magicians, although it may start to play up around more overtly supernatural things, strong ley lines or Places of Power or powerful magical effects.
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Old 01-31-2020, 04:03 AM   #69
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Originally Posted by Christopher R. Rice View Post
Two things I would do if this were my game: 1) I'd have the documentation of the island broken up into two parts. Maybe two different journals by a witness. 2) I'd have multiple instances of ships finding the place. Maybe have rumors of it go out kind of like the Caribbean El Dorado. Kessler finding the place first was either luck or good research.
Good research actually sounds more plausible and suitable.

On the other hand, in the modern era of 2018, Kessler should have more information about the island than they had available in 1995. Even if he was working from a mention in a Spanish captain's journal from the 17th century or something when they found the island, after 23 years of trying to determine what happened to the lost expedition, I think they should have found some more interesting sources, perhaps by someone who actually explored the island.

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Deeeeeepppppp Ones. Love a good fish-people scare.
Teddy Smith (PC) explicitly doesn't remember everything from the strange twilight realm, and got some points for Amnesia and Unknown Enemy. Where last session (which was far too long ago) left off, a crewman of a ship that the characters were boarding had been possessed by an aquatic horror from out of this world, one that telepathically indicated that It knew Teddy Smith quite intimately and was hoping to get reacquainted with him in a painful and ultimately fatal way.

After twisting the body of the unfortunate possession victim into a shape more adapted to haunting the nightmares of aquatic people, He Who Hungers in the Deep ended up diving from the ship, probably because the PCs had allies in the form of the Coast Guard and quite a lot of police incoming and were quite prepared to destroy his still-weak vessel with heavy firepower. They had also used a ritual to close off the surrounding area from any other planes of existence, preventing the full horror of He Who Hungers from penetrating the veil between worlds, limiting him to the single tendril of his essence possessing the crewman.

Using Know Your Enemy type of skills and good-old-fashioned deductive reasoning, the PCs reason that the tentacled, shark-like horror will seek out powerful sources of dark magic, as well as sacrifices to feast on, consuming souls as well as physical bodies, in order to be able to more fully exist in this world. If they don't stop him immediately, they estimate a death toll in the dozens or even hundreds just in the first night, with the death toll growing as He Who Hungers in the Deep is able to increase the power of the vessel. If he manages to open a way to enter this world, that would probably mean an eventual apocalypse.
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Old 01-31-2020, 02:34 PM   #70
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

A possible piece of background: it seems worth investigating just what it is about high-tech that trips up magic. This is a fairly long-term project, but not a terribly expensive one.

For an example, consider two mechanically identical Colt SAA revolvers. One is from an early production run, and is definitely TL6. The other is a modern replica, made with TL8 materials and machine tools. Presumably the modern one works worse around magicians, although probably not as badly as a Glock.

This can be investigated further: make one out of modern steel, with hand tools. How does it behave? Make one out of pre-WWI steel, by hand, and try it; make another out of pre-WWI steel with modern machine tools.

The persin you want to run this project is an engineering physicist. They're the people who apply scientific method to engineering problems more thoroughly than ordinary engineers, and are usually formidable problem-solvers.

Our favourite billionaire could well have set one up with a lab some time back. He'd also need a machine shop, or maybe a museum of such equipment, and skilled machinists of various ages. Doing this kind of work for a few years is likely to give you some useful people skilled at investigation of weird phenomena. Making friends with James Randi might also pay off.

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