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Old 01-25-2020, 06:42 AM   #21
Icelander
 
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Default Re: Scientific Specializations for Exploring Unknown Island

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Really glad to see you back. :-)
It is exceedingly good to 'see' you two, Brett, Anthony and everyone else.

I've missed gaming, the forums and the erudite, intelligent discourse of which SJ Games forumites are capable, even on these awful Internets.

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Almost every kind of scientist can be useful here. One starts with an expert in the geology of the Caribbean, whom you'll probably do best to look for at the Mona, Jamaica campus of the University of the West Indies. Establishing the relationship - or otherwise - of the geology of this island to the surrounding areas will be important. If it's extra-planar, then new kinds of minerals, unusual isotope ratios in common minerals, and other such details may be present, which will be quite convincing.
Professor Harlan P. Wehmeyer has an M.Eng degree in petroleum engineering with an emphasis in geology from Texas A&M University from 1958, MSc in Geoscience from the Institut Francais du Pétrole (IFP) from 1960 and a PhD in Geophysics from Texas A&M, which he received in 1963. As a consultant, Wehmeyer has extensive experience of reviewing potential offshore petrochemical fields, many of them in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean.

Commander Shackleford also received his PhD from Texas A&M, albeit the Galveston campus, probably around 1960-1964. While he's spent much of his life as a research scientist in the public sector, doing oceanographic surveys for the US Navy and various official institutions, he's also done stints of private consulting for offshore oil companies. He knew the waters in question pretty well, as the island was situated just 250 miles north of Puerto Rico, where he's done much survey work (and never seen this island before).

The University of West Indies is a good idea. Either graduates from there, faculty or research scientists associated with it should probably be represented in some way.

Of course, just because only eight scientists were lost with Teddy Smith (PC) in his backstory, that doesn't have to mean that they were the only scientists involved in investigating the new island. The eight who were lost were those who were on the seaplane that had overflown the island and the boat with scientific instruments sent to support it. Other scientists might have been analyzing data in their workplaces or from Puerto Rico, collecting data from various other sources or simply on another mode of transport, a helicopter or another boat, which was set to take them to the island when they got the news that the tropical storm warning was upgraded to hurricane warning, leading them to delay joining the rest.

Those who were lost ignored weather warnings, driven by the need to explore the island before the US Navy or Air Force officially took note of it and sent their own expedition. Surely pilots and others had noticed a whole island coming into existence just 250 miles off the coast of Puerto Rico, in 1995 still home to a huge naval base and military airfield. That's international waters, but very much within the area which the US government and military considers its backyard.

Even if satellites and various long-range sensors inexplicably seemed not to pick up the island, anyone flying over it or sailing by couldn't fail to see it, not to mention that meteorologists, oceanographers and others must notice its effects on ocean tides and weather patterns. Commander Shackleford, though he had heard nothing officially, was certain that the US Navy and/or the Air Force must already have dispatched ships, planes and helicopters to the island, and certainly would mount a full-scale expedition to land there within a day, if not hours.

So the expedition that was lost was hastily assembled, in great secret, among men who'd worked with J.R. Kessler (the billionaire Patron behind the expedition) before or at least were known to someone he trusted and recommended without reservations as discreet and reliable. Kessler had an advantage over the military in that he believed the eyewitness reports of a low-flying pilot, despite maps, models, satellite sensors and images showing nothing there. So he had maybe an extra 24-36 hours which the US authorities lost before taking the reports seriously. But that's not a lot of time and the expedition was mostly mounted using resources previously used for similar, smaller scale expeditions investing reports of anomalies, cryptids or other OOPA.

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If this island is of any size, inspecting the photographic archives of the Landsat program will show that it wasn't there in the past, but is now. You might well find that a fisheries expert is the kind of person who would be closely familiar with Landsat imagery and its interpretation.
Excellent.

Of course, any satellite images, regardless of date, show nothing but empty ocean. This is alarming, to say the least, but leads to the hypothesis that the island is not wholly present in this world or time, but that those who fly low enough or travel close to it somehow occupy the same Elsewhere time or space as the island.

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Once on the island, you'll want botanists, entomologists, ecologists, and so on to classify the species found there and explore their relationships with species in surrounding areas. You'll also want a meteorologist to see if the island seems to have been subject to a different climate to the area where it is now.
In your opinion, which scientific specializations are most vital among those who reach the island first?

Assuming that efforts are ongoing to eventually bring in trusted experts from a wide variety of scientific disciplines, which fields of expertise would be so absolutely vital that the initial party to land on the island simply had to have someone with that education and experience?

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I think one thing you'd try to bring along is someone whose word is unimpeachable. Perhaps someone political as well. Maybe combine the two. A war hero who served in the current administration. Someone not known for taking in or taking on bullsh*t. A witness to the weirdness if you will.

I think you'd also want a journalist or two as well and much for the same reasons at first, but afterward getting them to get the word out would be just as darn useful.
Very good thought.

Of course, the initial team would be somewhat unusual, what with the specific requirements. The need for absolute reliability and discretion, the ability and desire to drop everything to travel to Puerto Rico based on a strange story, a motivation to land on the island as soon as possible that proved stronger than reasonable caution or instinct for self-preservation in the face of weather warnings, and, last but not least, a requirement that they have some sort of a personal allegiance to the eccentric billionaire Patron (or someone close to him).

However, I imagine that Kessler, (our eccentric billionaire Patron) would be planning on obtaining unimpeachable witnesses of stature and reputation as soon as he could, certainly to land on the island as soon as it was determined to be safe. As well as having already had his PR people select tame journalists to feed the story to if and when he decided he had enough evidence to publish.
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Old 01-25-2020, 08:45 AM   #22
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Commander Samuel H. Shackleford; oceanographer from Texas A&M, Galveston; US Navy Reserves, veteran expedition leader.

Reverend Francis Coughlin S.J., PhD (b. September 9, 1939; Dublin, Ireland); theologist and bioethicist from Loyola University.

Dr. Spencer Duvall, PhD (b. October 28; 1943; Houston, TX); MD and forensic anthropologist from UT-Medical Branch and Texas State University; US Army Reserves.

Professor Denzel Rolle (b. August 1, 1948; Nassau, Bahamas); cultural anthropologist from University of Texas - Austin.

Professor Harlan P. Wehmeyer (b. May 14, 1935; Galveston, TX); geologist/mining engineer/geophysicist from Texas A&M.

Hubert Caron, PhD (b. September 23, 1961; Lille, France); biologist (biodiversity, ecology) from Sorbonne Université.

J. Garrett Sullivan, PhD (b. August 15, 1956; Dallas, TX); post-graduate biochemist research assistant from Baylor College of Medicine; former USASF Medical Sergeant.

Martin Luther 'Marty' White, PhD (b. March 19, 1964; San Antonio; TX); linguist from UT-Austin and Université Paris-Sorbonne.
Is there any evidence that the island has inhabitants? If not, then you have too many human scientists. An anthropologist is a reasonable precaution, but two anthropologists and a linguist is pushing it. Cultural anthropologists at least used to be expected to be able to learn some of the language of the people they were studying, and that would be enough for a first visit, I think, and I don't know what the forensic anthropologist will be doing, though having a doctor may be useful. On the other hand, a medical sergeant might be more immediately useful in taking care of the injured.

I don't see how either theology or bioethics could be useful.

I don't see a meteorologist, and looking for abnormal weather/climate conditions might be useful. I'd also suggest a botanist, unless the ecologist specializes in plant ecology. And I have to endorse Agemegos's recommendation of an entomologist as well.

On the other hand, it might be a good idea to send along a physicist specializing in electromagnetic phenomena. It seems as if the island is unexpectedly difficult to spot remotely, and that suggests something weird about the transmission of physical signals.

An archaeologist could explore ruins, but if they haven't spotted ruins, there's no obvious reason to send one. Better to tell them not to muck about if they find ruins, but mark the location for the next expedition.
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Old 01-25-2020, 09:40 AM   #23
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Default Re: Preliminary List of Eight Scientists and Academics

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Is there any evidence that the island has inhabitants?
Not conclusive, but from the air, they spotted odd structures of either stone or coral, which may or may not be natural.

Also, the billionaire funding the expedition has absolutely no doubt that alien-looking islands don't simply appear out of thin air by natural means. He believes the island has been displaced in time or between worlds and considers it unlikely that such a powerful paranormal phenomena would occur in the absence of intelligent design of some kind.

Hence, the expedition comprising as many private security personnel as scientists, as well as being heavily armed. They are expecting to encounter something, whether that should prove to be time-displaced people, dinosaurs, intelligent aliens or alien monsters.

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If not, then you have too many human scientists. An anthropologist is a reasonable precaution, but two anthropologists and a linguist is pushing it. Cultural anthropologists at least used to be expected to be able to learn some of the language of the people they were studying, and that would be enough for a first visit, I think, and I don't know what the forensic anthropologist will be doing, though having a doctor may be useful. On the other hand, a medical sergeant might be more immediately useful in taking care of the injured.
Dr. Spencer Duvall has carried out many autopsies related to alleged supernatural causes of death and has personally witnessed cryptids slowly changing into human corpses or animal carcasses when removed from the remote, eerie places where they were found. He was probably the greatest expert Kessler knew and trusted on the physionomy of unnatural animals or inhuman people.

Denzel Rolle and Marty White are also believers in the supernatural and both knowledgable about Afro-Caribbean religions, mysticism and magical traditions.

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don't see how either theology or bioethics could be useful.
Ah, but Father Coughlin is a believer in the supernatural, long-time friend of the billionaire J.R. Kessler and an expert in thaumatological theory!

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I don't see a meteorologist, and looking for abnormal weather/climate conditions might be useful. I'd also suggest a botanist, unless the ecologist specializes in plant ecology. And I have to endorse Agemegos's recommendation of an entomologist as well.
All good ideas.

I imagine that a meteorologist might be with the group setting up a base to support those making a landing on the island, probably on Puerto Rico (unless Kessler worries about the US Navy becoming curious about them and opted for a more remote location, possibly on a ship).

It is true that having just one researcher, Hubert Caron (and not particularly senior either, at age 34), for any and all flora and fauna is not ideal, even if he is a sort of interdisciplinary expert, with his focus on biodiversity and fragile ecologies meaning he's at least familiar with both botany and various fields of zoology. I should explore the possibility of somehow fitting one or two other biologists in the expedition, but I'm somewhat bound by the fact that Teddy Smith's (PC) backstory already states that it was a sixteen man expedition, scientists/scholars and security. Perhaps I could remove two guards in favor of a botanist and an entomologist or zoologist of some kind.

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On the other hand, it might be a good idea to send along a physicist specializing in electromagnetic phenomena. It seems as if the island is unexpectedly difficult to spot remotely, and that suggests something weird about the transmission of physical signals.
Well, that or it suggests that only those who travel near it actually inhabit the same time and/or physical plane of existence as the island, as Kessler immediately concluded (with little enough evidence, but he's had some success relying on his hunches in an adventurous life that's seen him amass a fortune from nothing).

That being said, a physician specializing in electromagnetism is a good idea. Professor Wehmeyer holds a PhD in geophysics, but that is a somewhat different field.

Should the electromagnetic physicist be among the first to step on the island or would he be more likely to be 250-300 miles away on Puerto Rico, perhaps planning to work his way to the island later on a ship fitted with all kinds of sensors, measuring a wide spectrum trying to quantify the issue with remotely sensing the island?

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An archaeologist could explore ruins, but if they haven't spotted ruins, there's no obvious reason to send one. Better to tell them not to muck about if they find ruins, but mark the location for the next expedition.
At least half of the expedition members would feel pretty let-down not to find, at minimum, ancient and mysterious ruins. After all, what would be the point of a disappearing island apparently lost in time and space if it didn't have a ruined temple to forgotten gods?

Or, even better, actual, still living inhabitants, possibly time-displaced people from an earlier era, possibly something even stranger.

After all, J.R. Kessler, the eccentric billionaire Patron behind this hastily-launched expedition, has spent the last decade or so sponsoring research into paranormal science, reports of supernatural occurances, cryptids and occult phenomena. All of the security staff, pilot and boat crew involved are veterans of many (mostly fruitless) 'scientific' expeditions in Africa or the Caribbean.

Most of the scientists and academics have at least consulted on such projects and several have done field research on projects funded by Kessler devoted to something extremely odd, though usually covered either as more reputable research or little-publicised for reasons of commercial confidentiality.

This research has not yet yielded conclusive proof of the existence of the paranormal, at least not in a form that a reasonable man might feel comfortable publishing as evidence likely to convince skeptics, but most of the scientists involved have themselves had experiences sufficient to make them believers, even if recordings and measurements never seem to quite capture the most dramatic phenomena.
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Old 01-25-2020, 12:18 PM   #24
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Of course, any satellite images, regardless of date, show nothing but empty ocean.
That is interesting. Things to try in the initial aerial observation would include:
  • Horizontal and vertical ranges at which the island is visible.
  • Apparent climate and type of vegetation.
  • Vulcanism?
  • Does GPS work near and over the island? It wasn't a consumer item at the time, but was thoroughly available as navigational equipment.
  • Does being near or over the island interfere with radio?
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In your opinion, which scientific specializations are most vital among those who reach the island first?
That depends on the results from aerial observation to some extent, but a geologist, a botanist and an entomologist are fields likely to show up anomalies from looking carefully at a small part of an island. If you're planning to be there overnight, an astronomer to look for differences in the stars, in Aberration, and in the positions and appearance of the planets would also be useful.
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Old 01-25-2020, 12:49 PM   #25
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Given the short time frame, I have a feeling that the team would be closer to who Kessler can get at a moments notice instead of who would really be best for the project.

In addition to the people that have been mentioned already, I might want someone to do simple physical experiments to answer "is the island still on Earth?" What is the local gravity like? What is the atmosphere made of? Do the laws of physics as we know them work?

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That being said, a physician specializing in electromagnetism is a good idea. Professor Wehmeyer holds a PhD in geophysics, but that is a somewhat different field.

Should the electromagnetic physicist be among the first to step on the island or would he be more likely to be 250-300 miles away on Puerto Rico, perhaps planning to work his way to the island later on a ship fitted with all kinds of sensors, measuring a wide spectrum trying to quantify the issue with remotely sensing the island?
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.

As to where that guy would be sent on the island or stay on the boat would depend a lot on what he/she wanted to do. A radio astronomer might be happy staying on the boat and looking at any emissions from the island, others might want to get closer. Many of the physics type experiments are simple things which could be done by others. I'd want to make sure the team had some radiation meters, Electric/magnetic field meters, cameras and perhaps a small telescope to take pictures of the night sky, air samplers, and something to measure the gravitational field (even if it is only a stopwatch and pendulum). However, none of these would really require a specialist to operate them.
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Old 01-25-2020, 01:43 PM   #26
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Reverend Francis Coughlin S.J., PhD (b. September 9, 1939; Dublin, Ireland); theologist and bioethicist from Loyola University.
Um, which Loyola University? There are five, according to wikipedia, and three of them were known by that name in 1995 (a fourth was called 'Loyola College in Maryland' until 2009).

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Excellent.

Of course, any satellite images, regardless of date, show nothing but empty ocean. This is alarming, to say the least, but leads to the hypothesis that the island is not wholly present in this world or time, but that those who fly low enough or travel close to it somehow occupy the same Elsewhere time or space as the island.
That's going to be very much of interest to various governments, once they know for sure that no-one on their end was painting the island out (which is the normal explanation when a civilian finds a place that they can see, but that doesn't appear on satellite). It's something I've considered for some of my own stuff.
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Old 01-25-2020, 02:26 PM   #27
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Um, which Loyola University? There are five, according to wikipedia, and three of them were known by that name in 1995 (a fourth was called 'Loyola College in Maryland' until 2009).
Yes, sorry, bad habit when I'm making personal notes (from which this list is a copy). I tend to leave out stuff that's obvious to me from context (knowing that Kessler has interests in New Orleans, but very little up North or on the West Coast, I didn't consider any other Loyola Universities relevant).

It's the Jesuit institution in New Orleans, often known as Loyola of the South; and in 1996 will be formally named Loyola University New Orleans.

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That's going to be very much of interest to various governments, once they know for sure that no-one on their end was painting the island out (which is the normal explanation when a civilian finds a place that they can see, but that doesn't appear on satellite). It's something I've considered for some of my own stuff.
It is something that would absolutely shatter the worldview of anyone who can confirm it, not to mention alter the foundations of any government's policy if proven.

However, the reason it didn't really have as much effect as it might have is that only people sailing close to it or flying low over the island actually saw it, which means that any reports were dismissed is incorrect when satellites, sensors, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft found nothing. And it's not like many people were sailing or flying on that specific out of the way place, especially with four tropical storms active in the Caribbean at the end of August and beginning of September in 1995.

The island was apparently only present for less than a week, enough time for the expedition to be mounted, despite numerous tropical storm and hurricane warnings in a very active hurricane season in the Atlantic.

The expedition was caught in Hurricane Luis and by the time it subsided enough to send a rescue ship, no trace of the island, the boat or the Wilson Global Explorer amphibious plane could be found.
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Old 01-25-2020, 04:05 PM   #28
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That is interesting. Things to try in the initial aerial observation would include:
[*]Horizontal and vertical ranges at which the island is visible.
From at least ten miles out horizontally, but less predictable vertically, with aircraft needing to fly quite low to see it, below 5,500 feet at the very least.

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[*]Apparent climate and type of vegetation.
Well, it rained almost all the time the island was visible, so the climate seemed similar to the surrounding Atlantic during a time of four tropical storms, but the vegetation was thoroughly mysterious. From the air, it looked like quite thick vegetation covered the island, but the trees were not all that similar to neighboring island and there appeared to be all sorts of flowers and ferns that didn't resemble the vegetation in Bermuda, Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands.

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[*]Vulcanism?
No sign of it.

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[*]Does GPS work near and over the island? It wasn't a consumer item at the time, but was thoroughly available as navigational equipment. [*]Does being near or over the island interfere with radio?
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.

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That depends on the results from aerial observation to some extent, but a geologist, a botanist and an entomologist are fields likely to show up anomalies from looking carefully at a small part of an island. If you're planning to be there overnight, an astronomer to look for differences in the stars, in Aberration, and in the positions and appearance of the planets would also be useful.
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.

Of course, Kessler is very interested in the thaumatological aspects of the mysterious island. Local mana, ley lines, places of power, etc.

Professor Wehmeyer is a self-taught 'tellurgist'*, in addition to his formal education as a petroleum engineer and geophysicist, so will attempt to measure these things.

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.

*His term for a researcher of ley lines, places of power and the ebb and flow of thaumatological energy.
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Old 01-25-2020, 04:53 PM   #29
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Given the short time frame, I have a feeling that the team would be closer to who Kessler can get at a moments notice instead of who would really be best for the project.
That's true enough, but considering that he regularly employs at least a hundred scientists and scholars on a variety of projects connected to paranormal investigations in the last decade, and has contracted with probably twice that many on a more limited basis, there are a lot of potential recruits.

Also, if Kessler will pay high consulting fees to two or four scientists to investigate reports of dubious reliability about a cryptid or a curse, he'll pay orders of magnitude more now that he can see a chance to prove the existence of other worlds in such a dramatic fashion.

So for someone he really felt he needed who was willing to drop everything and get on a charter flight within a couple of hours, he'd offer two or three times what he'd paid for even hazardous contracts of much longer duration before, so probably enough to raise the eyebrows of even highly sought-after consultants. A year's work for a consultant in the oil business ($100,000+) for a week or two of work, and if they proved reluctant, double or triple that for someone he felt he couldn't be without.

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In addition to the people that have been mentioned already, I might want someone to do simple physical experiments to answer "is the island still on Earth?" What is the local gravity like? What is the atmosphere made of? Do the laws of physics as we know them work?
Very good points.

Would not such simple tasks be within the capabilities of nearly any scientist, however?

For example, wouldn't Professor Wehmeyer, a geophysicist with an M.Eng in petroleum engineering, be able to perform all of these?

An oceanographer, biochemist and forensic scientist also ought to be able to manage some such tests, especially with textbooks and manuals available during the boat trip over there and experts in these fields who couldn't travel there in time (or weren't willing to risk going out on a boat with a storm warning) available by radio to prepare them.

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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.
What would be likely to be the field of study for someone who had been working for Kessler trying to measure supernatural influences using technological means?

For example, locating and quantifying areas of increased magical energy from degradation in the performance of electronics, such as radios, radar or various other sensors?

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As to where that guy would be sent on the island or stay on the boat would depend a lot on what he/she wanted to do. A radio astronomer might be happy staying on the boat and looking at any emissions from the island, others might want to get closer. Many of the physics type experiments are simple things which could be done by others. I'd want to make sure the team had some radiation meters, Electric/magnetic field meters, cameras and perhaps a small telescope to take pictures of the night sky, air samplers, and something to measure the gravitational field (even if it is only a stopwatch and pendulum). However, none of these would really require a specialist to operate them.
Those who have gone on expeditions where they've witnessed paranormal phenomena before will recognize that technology tends to get wonky around such phenomena and the more advanced it is, the more prone to failures it is.

Of course, given the value of high-tech gear, this doesn't stop the scientists from trying to use it, but it does mean that lower tech work-arounds are often necessary and any electronics that you do use need someone to maintain them, even if they are usually reliable.
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Old 01-25-2020, 05:49 PM   #30
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It is exceedingly good to 'see' you two, Brett, Anthony and everyone else.

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Very good thought.

Of course, the initial team would be somewhat unusual, what with the specific requirements. The need for absolute reliability and discretion, the ability and desire to drop everything to travel to Puerto Rico based on a strange story, a motivation to land on the island as soon as possible that proved stronger than reasonable caution or instinct for self-preservation in the face of weather warnings, and, last but not least, a requirement that they have some sort of a personal allegiance to the eccentric billionaire Patron (or someone close to him).

However, I imagine that Kessler, (our eccentric billionaire Patron) would be planning on obtaining unimpeachable witnesses of stature and reputation as soon as he could, certainly to land on the island as soon as it was determined to be safe. As well as having already had his PR people select tame journalists to feed the story to if and when he decided he had enough evidence to publish.
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.

That way you can make the story about getting there and exploring it, but also keeping riffraff away as well
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