Thursday, February 8, 2024

X marks the spot (OR "Travelling through hyperspace ain't like dusting crops, boy!")

 Star Wars is going to join the Xanadu party today, if that is OK with everybody.

The revelers in Xanadu could be said to follow a road or a path in the opening part of the Xanadu finale as they continue their chant of "Xanadu!  Ho!"  In a few scenes you even see sort of hitchhikers standing on either side of the entrance stairs along this road holding out a hitchhiking sign as if looking for a ride:

Doesn't look like they have brought along the proper footwear or dancing shoes, however.

The roller procession proceeds for some time along these various paths the groups are following.  As they do their Xanadu chant, they make a very interesting sign with their arms, forming a cross:

In making this "X", they are obviously alluding to Xanadu, which starts with an X.  However, in looking at this symbol, and then at the giant X of the name of this place, I realized that we have seen this symbol before.

The symbol of the crossed keys.  

I've included both the "Mormon" version as well as the Catholic version because I view both religions as two sides of the same coin.  Organizations holding false (i.e., non-existent) keys.  I say Mormon version for the one on left, by the way, because of the music video Iron, where we have poor Brigham carrying that banner (and having the keys tattooed on his neck!).  See my post "Stones and Keys, part 2:  Desperate Thieves"

And of course standing astride both of those abominable organizations is Saruman, reading from his own book of crossed keys (again, Mormons and Catholics are some of the nicest people I have met... but you can be both nice and part of an abomination - they aren't mutually exclusive)

So lots of forgeries, fakes, and claims to have things that people and organization don't have, maybe.

These people, however, who are on their way to Xanadu seem to have the right Keys, and they are showing them as they skate on to their destination.  They have the proper footwear.  They have John-Aragorn-Danny McGuire-Santa Claus leading them on.  Things are good.  And then they arrive in Xanadu, everyone sings, dances, and life is great.

I have said what I believe these Keys are that ultimately open the path to go to  "Xanadu".  They are Stones.  Specifically, the Anor and Ithil Stones have been on my mind, obviously, and have the most specific, direct reference to Gold and Silver Keys.  But we have the Sawtooth Stone and likely the Orthanc Stone (since John-Aragorn is involved) as well.  And likely many more Stones than that are involved.  Joseph Smith said everyone who goes to the Celestial Kingdom receives their own Stone, with their own New Name, and that Name is the Key.  Seems like it is a bit of a ticket, or something like that, unique to each person that receives one.

But, again, I've covered a lot of that before, and some stuff I haven't, because I frankly don't understand things well enough.  It still isn't clear in my mind what all of that means, if anything.  

Dead Reckoning

Over on William Tychonievich's blog, he brought up the movie Dead Reckoning in his post "What's the second key?"  A few weeks ago, while on my way back from Keystone, I watched that movie on the plane (or rather, only the first part because the flight from Denver to Minneapolis is fairly short).  We had taken the kids to see it last year when it was out in theaters, though, so I remember most of it.  

I took notice of one of the major plot elements which is the recovery of two keys that need to be joined together in the form of a cross.  Once joined together, this combined key will unlock something, presumably granting control of the "Entity" (a sort of all-knowing, AI nemesis).  But the characters themselves don't actually know what or where to go with these keys, or what they even do, really, for sure.

The name of the movie itself is interesting.  I had just learned what dead reckoning meant in terms of navigation from a book called The Wager, by David Grann.  For some reason, I thought plotting one's point at sea was rather 'easily' done by ships throughout history.  I say 'easily' meaning that people onboard a ship had the instruments, charts, and knowledge to know where they were.  Pop out your sextant, look at the stars, reference a chart, and there you are.

No so!  At least up into as late as the 1800's.

The problem can be summarized with the same word or concept I discussed in some of my Black Hole posts:  Time.

Computing latitude is pretty much how I indicated above.  That was the 'easy' part.  The equator is a fixed point or belt around the Earth - an apex from which various angles can be used in looking at position relative to stars to figure out how far away from that fixed line one is.  It also does not change its position relative to a ship as time progresses.  Meaning, as time passes, the equator remains a fixed point because it is a line that lies in the direction of the Earth's rotation.  It takes some calculations but was readily doable (and for illiterate sailors, they even had just tables that could be easily referenced - Latitude for Dummies).

Longitude, however, was a completely different animal.  There was not fixed point to reference off of (initially), and even if you did agree on a fixed point or line, that line did not remain constant as time passed.  As the earth rotated, that line would move its position relative to your own.

The first of those two problems was solved with establishing London (or more specifically Greenwich) as the fixed point.  This is why all maps and time zones work off of Greenwich time.

In doing this, then, the solution to the second problem was that of time keeping.  If only a ship had a clock that could accurately measure and keep time, you could determine longitude.  The clock would keep Greenwich time, and local time could be determined by the position of the sun.  Determining the difference between those two time measurements would then help you determine at what longitudinal line you sat.

The massive problem, however, was there was no clock that could keep that kind of time onboard a ship.  I had used the example of a pendulum clock in one of my Black Hole posts.  This was the standard type of clock that existed in these early naval periods (the story of The Wager is set in the early-mid 1700's), but was unsuitable for a ship.  A pendulum clock needs a stable base to keep a steady tempo, and the motion of the sea and ship provided anything but that.

The issue was so vexing, it turns out, that the British Parliament created the Longitude Act and set a reward ($4 million in today's money roughly) for anyone who could solve the riddle.  Eventually, George Harrison invented a clock with enough accuracy to do so (and an alternative lunar measurement methodology became more accurate as well, though Harrison's clock was a more accurate way).

In the absence of longitude, many ships were required to plot their position using dead reckoning.  They would plot speed, heading, and the passage of time to calculate distance travelled.  Typically, a ship would let a rope that had knots tied at regular intervals roll out for a period of time as measured by an hourglass.  The number of knots that rolled out in a particular time period would give them a rate of travel or speed that they would infer or extrapolate over a longer period.  This is why today boat speed is measured in 'knots'.

It was pretty imprecise, obviously, and didn't take into account one very important factor: the medium they were travelling in (as well as winds).  The water current itself would move the ship off of its desired line of travel ('drift'), and thus introduce significant errors in the calculation of distance along that hypothetical line.  Even if they could do everything right, they really had no way of measuring the current, and thus no way of avoiding potentially large errors.

Over short distances, the errors might be small enough to get you close.  However, on long voyages (such as trans-oceanic trips) the errors would accumulate and compound daily, and you could be off by huge margins.  I mean, just massive errors occurred in trying to understand where ships were from a longitude standpoint.  

In fact, I was surprised to learn that quite a lot of shipwrecks can be blamed on the inability to measure longitude and the reliance on dead reckoning in trying to fix position.  

Why did I go down this tangent of positioning, dead reckoning, and navigation?

Well, as I thought about this, I thought about longitude and latitude lines as being somewhat similar to our symbol of the crossed keys.  They are two intersecting lines, and at least in two dimensional travel on a plane, you need to know both in terms of knowing where you are and/ or where you want to go, at least with any precision.

It is at the intersection, or coordinates, of those lines that would let a person know where they need to go (and also where they are).

This brings me back to Xanadu, keys, and those people roller skating around.  They have the right footwear or mode of transportation to get to where they need to go.  Great.  That is only part of the solution, though.  They need to know where they are going.  And the journey is pretty far, I think.  I mean, those people, while still having a good time I grant, were rolling around for a whole 2 minutes just chanting away.  In terms of getting them to where they wanted to go, dead reckoning was not going to cut it.  They needed coordinates, or the location, and I one might infer that they do indeed have that location by their showing the sign of the X as they chant Xanadu.

In other words, X marks the spot, and they have the coordinates, the map, and the means to get there.

"Travelling through hyperspace ain't like dusting crops, boy!"

This notion of coordinates being important for long travel brought to mind Star Wars, which is where that story now makes its grand entrance.

As Obi-wan, Luke, Han Solo, and Chewbacca are flying off of Tatooine pursued by an Imperial Star cruiser, Luke wants Han to just punch it into 'hyperspace' or 'lightspeed' (a strange name, given that they will be moving much faster than the speed of light).  Han, however, knows that without precise coordinates (and a well calculated route) they themselves will be shipwrecked, and not in a very survivable way:

Given that in my story we are talking about space travel to locations that I think are very, very far away, the implication or analogy here should be pretty clear.  We need both coordinates (precise ones) and a means to get there.  There may also be other attributes and characteristics of this ultimate destination that require such precise coordinates.

As an aside, I think it is interesting that the Millenium Falcon is portrayed in Star Wars as a 'piece of junk'.  Compare that description and the visual of the vintage 'U-body' type minivans that have come up in my posts.  Both look like crap, but there might be more than meets the eye in terms of what they are capable of.

And thinking more on this 'location' as a both a key in itself, but also something understood as a result of keys, note that the major objective of the Empire in Star Wars:  A New Hope, is to find the location and the coordinates of the 'hidden rebel base'.  This is also the major objective in the opening or first part of Empire Strikes Back.  There is a hidden rebel base that the Empire knows about, but cannot access because they don't have the coordinates.  They lack the Key.

My guess?  Tirion currently serves, in our reality, as an analogy to that hidden rebel base, with other Good Beings also having other small, hidden areas they reside in.  As Nephi foresaw, we live in a world that is surrounded by 'many waters' (space) over which the Great and Abominable Church rules.  I don't think they, at this time, know where that location is, as I think though what makes most sense in this story.  How that is, I don't know.  It seems based on the history of 'Jerusalem', that this would be a known place, but perhaps not.

In any case, based on Nephi's vision, Ungoliant's rule (if that is the 'Mother' of harlots and leader of this darkness) is pretty much the name of the game in our universe, and anyone who is on the side of Good would be considered a rebel or outlaw.  

I also just realized this notion of bad guys trying to find the location of a hideout of Good so they can destroy it is also captured in the original Matrix, where Agent Smith (hopefully his first name isn't Doug!) is trying to access Morpheus' brain for the 'key' to Zion.

Kind of weird, and could either be a theme that supports this view - another connection - or something that would make us suspect the plot or scenario I just articulated above is the result of watching too many science-fiction films with similar set-ups and making some dodgy connections.  There seems to be universal story elements involving a small group of Good Guys hiding out from an Evil force intent on obliterating them.  I mean another one just came to my mind right now:   Avatar, with those really tall Blue People - both the first and second movies.  Same deal.  Maybe I've just co-opted that element since it's everywhere.

In any case, if there is any truth to the story that perhaps a large group of people will be leaving this world in something like a modern day Exodus, then they will need both the way and location, as well as have the means of transport to get there.  The 'keys' as envisioned (if not fully imagined as to how) may give them both.

1 comment:

  1. There's a Pokemon cartoon episode involving Santa and a Lapras.

    If interested: