26 March 2011

Fun with Physics Special Topics

I recently discovered the online journal Physics Special Topics (current issue, archives). These are essentially collections of student articles on various topics. Here is how the journal describes itself:

This is an undergraduate journal for year 4 (MPhys) students in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leicester. The journal accepts brief papers on topics original to the authors. It does not accept reviews or summaries of other peoples work. It is managed by an editorial board which rotates round the student body overseen by a member of staff. The journal forms part of the assessed element of the MPhys degree. Assessment is by number and quality of accepted publications and referee reports.

The students are writing serious article on a wide variety of topics, some of which are inspired by by games and science fiction. As science goes, these is not exactly cutting edge, but it sure is fun. Some of the articles that caught my eye are:

How Heroic is a Hero? An exploration of the probability distribution behind character creation in the D20 system.

Niven Rings looks at some of the physics of Larry Niven's Ringworld.

Can superhuman muscles stop bullets?  Ask the question, "Just how bulletproof is Superman, anyway?"

And much more.

This is perhaps slightly off the usual theme of this blog, but surely playing games and reading SciFi has raised a few of these questions in the minds of gamers - "Just how what that work, if we actually tried it?" - Like many things, the fun is in the finding out. 

If one of these articles catches your interest, please post about it below. Have fun!

07 March 2011

A few more minutes in the library

I received the following email, apparently from a young person, so I won't reveal the name:
Hi im 14 and ive loved modeling since i was 10. I have 3 dioramas Railroads Cut, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania/ The Battle of the Hurtgen Forset, France/ and one that i made up and created when i was 11 Bloody Ridge, Kentucky. I am know working on the battle of waterloo and was wondering do you have any tips for me i have already painted 80 bristish and prussian and 15 French calvalry and am working on the french foot soldiers. I am hoping to get a large board than i have know but any terrain tips or details?

There are many sites on the internet where you can find such advice, but I have a different suggestion: Go to your local library and look for books on "military modeling", "model railroading", "Civil War history", and anything you can find by Sheperd Paine. Browsing those shelves of related hobbies can show you more in a few minutes than you will find in hours of Googling the internet, because library shelves aren't sorted by keywords. 

That doesn't mean you won't find the same information with your favorite search engine, but it's hard to search for ideas you don't know exist. Look in your library - because libraries are absolutely full of good ideas. You will be pleased with the results.

This is good advice for anyone who enjoys games, miniatures and modeling. DO NOT limit yourself to learning only from others within a narrow segment of your hobby. Reading some of the bulletin boards, you might get the impression that painting miniatures is nearly exclusive to just one or two games, and nothing could be further from the truth. Make a serious effort to study what others are doing, and bring back what you learn to make your own hobby work even better.