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The Holy Writ - Something's Bugging Me

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The Holy Writ - Something's Bugging Me
Post by daspletosaurus   » Fri Dec 09, 2016 6:52 am

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Having read all the books, I've noticed that a major plot point is how Merlin & Co. are having so much trouble with the fact everything in the Writ matches readily observable reality, giving them no avenues of attack. I'm having some trouble with that notion. In no particular order:

1) The Writ uses the Ptolemaic model of planetary motion. After almost a millennium, it should start becoming clear that the quality of its predictions is degrading.

2) I'm assuming that due to a spectacular case of convergent evolution native Safehold animals have very similar body chemistry and metabolic pathways to Earth fauna, but they're bound to have spectacularly different anatomy. Like completely different organs.

3) Safehold's fossil record. The fact that there's likely a plentitude of extinct hexapods but not a single extinct tetrapod.

4) Etymology: If you're looking at a neartuna you just caught, you might wonder at some point "What's a tuna, anyway?" Not to mention the fact that English has morphemes from a whole bunch of languages. Basically any word for a concept more sophisticated than "turnip" probably has a Latin or Greek root.

I think there's a whole bunch of threads to pull if you really look. For example, the conversation with Baron Sarmouth should have gone something like, "Dude, if you measure accurately, you'll notice the planets are not moving the way the Writ says they should. Feel free to double-check." Substitute "My Lord" for "Dude".
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Re: The Holy Writ - Something's Bugging Me
Post by DrakBibliophile   » Fri Dec 09, 2016 9:56 am

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On Point 1, using Roman numerals Safehold math may not be up to the type of calculations that might predict (or not predict) such movement.

On Point 2, the difference between Safeholdian animals and Earth animals (including humans) are obviously noticeable but since Safeholdians have historical records about the existence of the Archangels the explanation of "the Archangels wanted it to be that way" would be perfectly acceptable to most (if not all) Safeholdians.

On Point 3, see answer to Point 2.

On Point 4, names like "neartuna" were given by the Archangels and without knowledge of other languages there's no reason to question the names/words created by the Archangels.

The point of fact is that the Holy Writ knowledge of Safehold is completely practical knowledge. It explains everything a Safeholdian needs to know about what he sees around him.

Nothing the Writ says can seen as false compared to a Safeholdian's experience.


daspletosaurus wrote:Having read all the books, I've noticed that a major plot point is how Merlin & Co. are having so much trouble with the fact everything in the Writ matches readily observable reality, giving them no avenues of attack. I'm having some trouble with that notion. In no particular order:

1) The Writ uses the Ptolemaic model of planetary motion. After almost a millennium, it should start becoming clear that the quality of its predictions is degrading.

2) I'm assuming that due to a spectacular case of convergent evolution native Safehold animals have very similar body chemistry and metabolic pathways to Earth fauna, but they're bound to have spectacularly different anatomy. Like completely different organs.

3) Safehold's fossil record. The fact that there's likely a plentitude of extinct hexapods but not a single extinct tetrapod.

4) Etymology: If you're looking at a neartuna you just caught, you might wonder at some point "What's a tuna, anyway?" Not to mention the fact that English has morphemes from a whole bunch of languages. Basically any word for a concept more sophisticated than "turnip" probably has a Latin or Greek root.

I think there's a whole bunch of threads to pull if you really look. For example, the conversation with Baron Sarmouth should have gone something like, "Dude, if you measure accurately, you'll notice the planets are not moving the way the Writ says they should. Feel free to double-check." Substitute "My Lord" for "Dude".
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Re: The Holy Writ - Something's Bugging Me
Post by Whitecold   » Fri Dec 09, 2016 3:44 pm

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My personal opinion is that bringing the Ptolemaic model back is a stupid move, because it provides something that is disprovable, and you can still set the sun into the center of the universe and keep your tiny comfortable world view. Any accurate observation of planets will reveal the discrepancy, unless you already throw in epicicles into the holy writ, and these need an awful amount of math to describe in the first place.

The Roman numerals may hinder math some, but the Romans were awesome engineers, which requires practical math, and mathematical developments are anyway very hard to prevent. Proscribing math without delivering the recipe of exactly what you have to do is definitely non-trivial.
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Re: The Holy Writ - Something's Bugging Me
Post by MuonNeutrino   » Fri Dec 09, 2016 3:55 pm

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Whitecold wrote:My personal opinion is that bringing the Ptolemaic model back is a stupid move, because it provides something that is disprovable


Yup. And as an interesting note, you can actually disprove the ptolemaic model *without* advanced mathematics or the sort of highly precise long-term observations that would be needed to detect the discrepancies due to imperfect epicycles/etc. All you need is a telescope good enough to observe the phases of any inner planets in the safehold system.

In the Ptolemaic system all objects orbit the Earth using epicycles to explain retrograde motion, with varying degrees of sophistication in terms of exact orbit/epicycle arrangements to more closely match observations. The centers of epicycles move around the Earth in their orbits, and the planets themselves move around the epicycles.

In particular, inner planets always remain near the Sun in the sky as viewed from the Earth. Thus, in the Ptolemaic system, the centers of the epicycles of these planets move around the inhabited planet at the same speed as the Sun does, keeping them lined up with the Sun in the sky in order to match observations.

However, this means that, in the Ptolemaic system, said inner planet will always be *in between* the Earth and the Sun. Meanwhile, in a heliocentric system, an inner planet that orbits the Sun rather than orbiting on an epicycle will be able to pass *both* in between the Earth and the Sun as well as passing on the far side of the Sun from the Earth. And it turns out that these two scenarios predict that the inner planet will show a different set of phases from the point of view of the Earth.

These are visualizations of both scenarios that I worked up for a class I taught. In both cases the viewpoint is from behind the Earth looking 'over its shoulder' towards the Sun and an interior planet (in this case Venus), and each diagram shows the phases of the inner planet that model predicts:

Visualization 1
Visualization 2

In the first visualization, Venus orbits on its epicycle between the Earth and Sun, and the center of the epicycle and the Sun both orbit around the Earth at the same speed so that they remain in sync. In this scenario we can see that, since Venus is always in between the Sun and the Earth, an observer on Earth will always see Venus in a crescent or new phase.

In the second visualization, Venus and the Earth both orbit the sun. In this case, Venus is sometimes in between the Sun and the Earth and sometimes on the opposite side of the Sun from the Earth, and so we can see that an observer on Earth can see Venus in all phases from full to new.

(A similar effect is observed if you place the inner planet on the far side of the Sun in the Ptolemaic system instead of on the near side - in this case, the inner planet shows only gibbous and full phases instead of showing only crescent and new phases.)

All of that was framed in terms of the Earth and Venus, but the same will of course apply to Safehold and any interior planets in its system. Thus, once a powerful enough telescope has been developed, observing the phases of those inner planets (and there are likely to be some, from what we're coming to understand about planet formation) would contradict the predictions of the Writ's Ptolemaic system without the need for any complex math.
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Re: The Holy Writ - Something's Bugging Me
Post by daspletosaurus   » Fri Dec 09, 2016 5:58 pm

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Interesting note: Copernicus came up with his Heliocentrism hypothesis almost a century before Galileo built his telescope.

Either way, there's at least one place in the Writ that can be shown to be flat-out wrong. Once you do that, it's much easier to make the rest of your case. A couple more thoughts:

1) Right now, every realm outside Charis has to be scrambling to build their own version of the Royal College. It's a simple matter of self-preservation. So it's only a matter of time before some eager young researcher will notice that something ain't right.

2) I would bet the Langhorne cabal got other things wrong too if you look closely. The fact that they didn't outright ban glass suggests they didn't grasp the role it played in the scientific revolution. Either they weren't nearly as smart as they thought they were, or, more likely, all the scientists and engineers were with Shan-wei.
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Re: The Holy Writ - Something's Bugging Me
Post by Keith_w   » Fri Dec 09, 2016 6:56 pm

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Whitecold wrote:My personal opinion is that bringing the Ptolemaic model back is a stupid move, because it provides something that is disprovable, and you can still set the sun into the center of the universe and keep your tiny comfortable world view. Any accurate observation of planets will reveal the discrepancy, unless you already throw in epicicles into the holy writ, and these need an awful amount of math to describe in the first place.

The Roman numerals may hinder math some, but the Romans were awesome engineers, which requires practical math, and mathematical developments are anyway very hard to prevent. Proscribing math without delivering the recipe of exactly what you have to do is definitely non-trivial.


Although there is discussion of a Safeholdian moon, I don't recall any discussion of additional planets. Considering what we know of stellar growth, this is highly unlikely but possible.
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Re: The Holy Writ - Something's Bugging Me
Post by evilauthor   » Fri Dec 09, 2016 8:01 pm

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Someone remind me: what do we know about Safehold's solar system?

If Safehold is actually the innermost planet, then the Ptolemaic model presented by Langhorne can't be disproved by looking at the phases of planets closer to the sun because there aren't any.
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Re: The Holy Writ - Something's Bugging Me
Post by phillies   » Fri Dec 09, 2016 10:58 pm

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evilauthor wrote:Someone remind me: what do we know about Safehold's solar system?

If Safehold is actually the innermost planet, then the Ptolemaic model presented by Langhorne can't be disproved by looking at the phases of planets closer to the sun because there aren't any.


Excellent point. Also, Ptolemy only gets into trouble with time if you insist that the other planets move in their spheres at exactly constant speed. If they don't, there is no difficulty.

Oh, if some of the smaller mounting spheres are partly opaque, it appears to me that you can get phases. For example the opaque object orbits around the planet.
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Re: The Holy Writ - Something's Bugging Me
Post by daspletosaurus   » Sat Dec 10, 2016 7:16 am

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Keith_w wrote:Although there is discussion of a Safeholdian moon, I don't recall any discussion of additional planets. Considering what we know of stellar growth, this is highly unlikely but possible.


If Safehold is the only planet in the system, you wouldn't need a Ptolemaic model to begin with.

evilauthor wrote:Someone remind me: what do we know about Safehold's solar system?

If Safehold is actually the innermost planet, then the Ptolemaic model presented by Langhorne can't be disproved by looking at the phases of planets closer to the sun because there aren't any.


That doesn't solve the problem of the outer planets moving "wrong".

phillies wrote:Excellent point. Also, Ptolemy only gets into trouble with time if you insist that the other planets move in their spheres at exactly constant speed. If they don't, there is no difficulty.

Oh, if some of the smaller mounting spheres are partly opaque, it appears to me that you can get phases. For example the opaque object orbits around the planet.


I don't think partly opaque spheres would work. Otherwise, they'd need to occlude stars behind them.
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Re: The Holy Writ - Something's Bugging Me
Post by Bluesqueak   » Sat Dec 10, 2016 7:30 am

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I think disproving the Ptolemaic System would need Langhorne and Co. tohave not looked up the discrepancies and accounted for them.

Differences in phases will be perfectly fine - if the Writ says that the 'divine light show' sometimes changes as a sign that God and the Archangels are still involved in the world.

Of course, the alternative explanation may be that someone in Langhorne's team thought that Safehold needed to be low tech for much longer than Shan-Wei's team thought. So they went along with Langhorne's plan, but made sure the picture of the universe in the Writ was disprovable.

I do wonder if the thousand year return was planned by Schuler, not the Langhorne's/Chihiro Archangels. That would explain why only the Wylsynns know about it.
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