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How accurate tv isn’t—

…woke up this morning (after a lovely New Year’s, thank you)—hearing some professor on the military channel (Battles BC) proclaim that Julius Caesar went to Gaul as a completely inexperienced novice senate appointee who had never been in the field. Hello?
First of all, he was brought up in a military household (uncle Marius)
he spent a year living in a swamp, refusing to divorce his wife—who was daughter of a political rival then in the ascendancy: lost that battle when he caught malaria and got caught.
Went to the Asian district to avoid assassination. Winner of his nation’s equivalent of the Medal of Honor, the corona civica, for saving the life of another soldier in battle…”Roman citizens who saved the lives of fellow citizens by slaying an enemy on a spot not further held by the enemy that same day. The citizen saved must admit it; no one else could be a witness.” He was also first over the wall in the battle for an Asian city. When kidnapped by pirates as a young man, he went to an Asian-area-of-operations base to call in old favors and led the expedition back to get the pirates; he served in Spain, another of the world’s trouble spots, where assassins and political zealots lived under every bush, and returned to Rome to stand for office only when it looked as if he was going to be the Roman army’s oldest lieutenant: you couldn’t get above that until you got a senate appointment, and he had to go back and make a deal with the devil (Crassus) to get it. THAT is when he got the appointment to Gaul, which brought him the legion Uncle Marius had created (the 10th), and who were suffering under a Sullan commander, that they didn’t like.
Novice? I don’t think so. The Senate kept saddling him with novices as tribunes, but they learned. Fast. Before the big dustup with the Germans, the tribunes were famously hiding in their tents drawing up their wills. Perhaps the Military Channel’s pet historian got these fellows mixed up with Julius.

‘S cuse me, I just had to vent. That is the stupidest thing I have heard out of a Discovery channel this decade.

64 comments to How accurate tv isn’t—

    • Walt

      You know, we could do this. What’s CJ’s book? The sequel to “Mad Marik” (not the right title, either–Hammerfall?) Forge of Heaven? If we had long endurance, mass produced probes running around the solar system, they could look for just the right asteroids and fly by to give them little gravitational nudges towards Mars, probably via slingshots around the Jovian planets. It wouldn’t be a short process, but after enough hits with ice meteors, the right bacteria, and maybe some orbiting Mylar reflectors to increase insolation….

      • paul

        But that doesn’t correct Mars’ fundamental problem, it’s too small. It couldn’t hold the primordial atmosphere and water it had, and it wouldn’t if that were replaced. To get it up to the point where it could, presuming you could add that much mass without destroying the topography, then it would have to live in a different orbit around the Sun, or you’d have to physically adjust its orbital velocity. And then you’d run into problems with orbital resonances. You could destabilize the whole system!

        • CJ

          One of the more interesting notions is to occupy the lava tubes near Olympus Mons: absent earthquakes, which one might believe absent in a deadlocked planet, sealing those to hold in atmosphere and provide shelter from solar activity (lack of an ozone layer) could provide a cheap-er alternative. That’s essentially what I had the Cyteeners do: colonize a lowlying canyon for starters, and then spread the wealth.

          Supplying water on a fairly endless basis could be done: the asteroid belt is pretty well inexhaustible in water; likewise. Whether the core is still alive to any extent is under discussion. They have picked up some indication of a magnetic field at the south pole, I believe, but they think this is ‘residual magnetism’ of the rocks themselves.

          Mars suffered a mammoth impact in the northern hemisphere, such that blew off a lot of crust and redeposited it in the southern one; but whether it had plates (I think it likely did) or how mobile they once were (I think to some extent) —that impact may have contributed short-term heat, but may have helped cool down the core in the long run.

          Could you do a hammerfall type restart of the magnetic field? It remains to be seen how cold and how locked. Could you pile up so many impacts and such mass that you could re-heat the core? Maybe. It would be on a definitely geologic time frame and scale. Mars wouldn’t be habitable in the interim, I’d think: the kickup of dust and the general mayhem…

          Marak and company had an appointed sanctuary, and technological help. But they still had to wait a geologic age to take advantage of it; and I postulated their world was larger, and that the climate suffered from a geologic lockup of comparatively recent date, with full-blown liquid oceans. {Pangaea was no paradise except along the coasts: a lot of desert.) THe point at which the dam breaks and admits water to the inland of the locked mass is also the point at which climate is going to get a lot more varied, and weather a lot more interesting.

          But Paul’s right: the equilibrium of orbiting bodies is related to their mass—and celestial real estate can start moving with disastrous consequences. A new theory has Jupiter and Saturn reversing position and flinging Neptune and Uranus outward in the very ancient past.

          • paul

            Yes, we might be able to occupy Mars, perhaps with the help of some of the “engineering” ;) Walt suggests, but it seemed to me he was dreaming of terraforming the surface. That’s just not possible without dire consequences.

            On the time scale I think we’re talking about, several billions of years, there’s speculation that the existing planetary layout might not be stable.

            I think the only way we survive the hydrogen death of the Sun is to vacate the premises, become interstellar. Or we accept that nobody lives forever.

          • GreenWyvern

            “I think the only way we survive the hydrogen death of the Sun is to vacate the premises”

            There’s a joke that a professor is lecturing about the Sun, and he says, “In a few billion years the sun will die.”

            A student jumps up and asks, “How long did you say?”

            “A few billion years.”

            The student sighs with relief. “Whew! I thought you said a few million years, and I was really getting worried.”

          • “Let’s see what’s out there.” — Earth may be home, but when you grow up, you usually leave the home you were born to and go make another home, friends, and family. Besides, I come from people who had itchy feet, wanderlust. Curiosity about what’s over the next hill, the next planet, the next star, is a fine thing. So is knowing what to do when you find out what’s there. :o

            I recently reread The Rolling Stones by Robert Heinlein, and he put that need for exploration, and for human survival, very well, as one of the points tucked away in the adventure. That’s ultimately what they do, is decide to explore further.

            (I noted a similarity or two to Firefly/Serenity in the book, besides. But then, Heinlein inspired a lot of later fiction.)

          • paul

            But, of course, the Sun won’t die! It’ll swell to a red giant, before which it will get seriously hotter, blow off a Planetary Nebula which will eventually disperse, and become a white dwarf ever so gradually cooling. (It’s much slower than one might suppose.) Even as a cold cinder, loooooong into the future, it will still be here. Perhaps it depends on one’s definition of “die”.

  • Raesean

    I suppose it depends on one’s definition of “civilization,” whether there was a “Celtic” civilization in the British Isles before the Romans. The traditional definition is “having cities,” which definitely knocks any pre-Roman inhabitants and places out of the running. One might also use a definition of “having a centralized form of government and laws, written literature, art… (or any combo of above).” Except for the “art,” (a very amorphous category), that too would knock the British pre-Roman Celts out. If one means “civilized behavior” versus “barbaric,” weellll… under what category would you put head-hunting and human sacrifice? The head-hunting continues nicely up into historic Scottish times, one of my favorite bits of “Celtic Continuity” is the Invergary’s “Tobar nan ceann.” It means “the well of the (seven heads),” and is a place where my favorite (and most bloody) Scottish Gaelic poet washed the severed heads of the seven murderers of his young, MacDonald clan chief in the mid-1600′s.

    I actually have always liked the Celts for their barbarity (and their cattle-raiding).

    • Raesean

      Oops, sorry, the above was supposed to be a rely to Deesha’s comment and the discussion under it, but in logging in I got bumped to the “end of the comment line.”

    • GreenWyvern

      All Celts were not in the same category, though. There were differences between the Celts of Gaul, Britain, Wales, Ireland, and Scotland, even though their cultures and languages were related.

      Caesar says that the southern Gauls were more civilized than the northern Gauls, and both certainly had cities.

      In Scotland, it’s interesting that the Scottish Lowlands were conquered by the Saxons, pretty much the same as England was. The Highland Gaelic word for non-Highlanders is ‘Sassenach’, which means ‘Saxon-people’. In the 12th century the Normans became dominant in the Scottish Lowlands as well as in England. They were invited to Scotland and granted lands by the Scottish King David I, who was a great admirer of the Normans and the manorial system of agriculture. That’s why Lowland Scots speak English (of a sort!) – the linguistic and cultural influences were very similar to those in England.

      The great Scottish hero Robert the Bruce was of Norman descent. His direct ancestor, Sir Robert de Brus, came over to England with William the Conqueror. (Brus or Bruys, today called Brix, is a town in Normandy.)

    • Raesean, good to see you back posting between semesters. :) You sound like a great prof.

      GreenWyvern, I’m not sure if you’re also a prof, but if so, I’d bet you’re a good one.

      It’ll likely be a while before I can seriously think of online or in-class classes. But meanwhile, I should get myself back into study habits.

      (I’m in my mid-40′s. Returning to complete a bachelor’s a bit more than midway through, with an associate’s degree, with all those college “kids” around…well, it could keep me young, I suppose. LOL.)

      • Raesean

        Thank you for the “welcome back,” I am indeed between semesters right now. Wrapping up grading for my anthro and my art history classes this weekend and prepping for geology (new course for me to teach=much prepping) and linguistic anthropology that start at the end of January. Boy, was December a doozy of a month! I lurked and read the blog about once a week or so, but posting was a bit beyond me.

        I teach in the evenings at an “adult” college, i.e. where most people are in their late 20s or considerably above, rather than having the luxury of going direct from high school straight into full-time college. They are holding down “real life” and doing college courses on the evenings and weekends. Gaining a college degree that way is certainly doable although not as easy or as quick as the recruiters make it out to be. The richness of experience and background that people bring to the courses is fantastic!

        • paul

          Love linguistic anthropology. :)

        • chondrite

          Don’t dis evening classes — that’s how I got my MLIS! I was working in the library as a paraprofessional full time, and had to burn vacation to take classes when they fell on evenings the library was open late, or mornings. Fortunately, I had an understanding boss, and vacation time to spare. My last class had a professional chef and a teacher, in addition to other library-related professions. You get all kinds.

      • GreenWyvern

        Many thanks for the compliment, BlueCatShip, but I’m not a professor. However, I’ve spent some years hanging around in online academic discussion forums. Classics (Greek and Roman), medieval history, and 18th century history and literature. Along with a fair amount of serious reading, that’s given me a reasonable knowledge of some areas of history, and the habit of a rigorous approach to history.

        I’m not sure whether or not I would have been happier in a university career. On the one hand, I like the knowledge and the intellectual setting. On the other, I don’t think I would have coped well with the politics of promotions, the ‘publish or perish’ philosophy, the post-modernist fads, and the relentless pressures on academics these days.

      • I originally attended Texas A&M, bud didn’t graduate there. Later, I went to a community college system which had a mix of college age and adult students going for university level courses and continuing education classes. So I got my associate’s degree while working, and took classes days or evenings, whenever I could fit them in.

        My university credits are a mix, mostly liberal arts and math and computer science. I began as an English major, heavy interest in languages, and tried to transfer into computer science. If/when I complete a bachelor’s, I essentially need to complete the courses for the major itself, with room for a few electives along the way. I estimate it’d be about two to three years full-time attendance, depending on how much I could pack in per semester, 12 to 15 credit hours.

  • GreenWyvern

    If you want some intelligent radio programs / podcasts to listen to, try the BBC’s ‘In Our Time’ series.

    There are hundreds of 40 min programs available for download, on a vast variety of subjects – history, philosophy, science, etc.

    In each program, 3 top experts on the subject are invited to discuss it. These are not media personalities, but serious scholars. They don’t talk down to anyone. They assume that the listeners are intelligent, educated people with a good general knowledge.

    The latest one is on “The Cult of Mithras”. A few other recent ones are “The South Sea Bubble”, “Crystallography”, “Hannibal”, “The Druids”, “Ontological Argument”, “Hadrian’s Wall”, “Marco Polo”, “The Battle of Bosworth Field’, “Fermat’s Last Theorem”, “Caxton and the Printing Press”, etc. etc.

    There are hundreds of them, and they are always erudite and fascinating. I always learn something I didn’t know before.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qykl

    Go to the ‘Free downloads’ section.

  • One of my favorite podcasts is 99% Invisible. http://99percentinvisible.org

    It’s about more than unusual design and architecture. Each episode covers some really neat topic relating to creative, off the wall thinking, on all sorts of subjects. It’s different and exciting each time. Episodes are typically 10 to 20 minutes long, every couple of weeks. The host is Roman Mars. Yes, that’s his name. He ends each episode with a quote from his very young son, who is a budding science geek. The little guy has said things about paleontology, canopic jars, all sorts of things, so you can see his mom and dad encourage learning.

    I’m on the lookout for a good language/linguistics podcast.

  • Andrew_W

    Accuracy in documentaries has been losing ground over the years. I am a fan of Ken Burn’s “The Civil War”. But his documentary on WWII was really bad. Some of the editing choices he made produced pictures of the war that were flat out wrong.

    It looked very much like he wanted to portray WWII in Europe as just another miserable slog just like Vietnam. And, he largely succeeded. But, he had to edit things in such a way that when he was talking about the hedge row mess right after Normandy he was showing an interview with a very sad and pathetic veteran who never served there. (You had to pay attention several minutes later to learn that this soldier served with forces that advanced up from the South of France and the time he was talking about was a couple of months after Normandy). And, to my great shock Patton was a mere footnote in his entire series.

    Documentaries now days really need to be examined carefully. There is a lot of real garbage out there palming itself off as legitimate study.

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