Blog

Uneven Numbers in 16th Century Italy

From pulpcovers.com

It’s the 10th of October, 1582. Except that it can’t be. Not just because time travel isn’t possible, but because the 10th of October 1582 never happened. Neither did the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 11th, 12th, 13th, or 14th of October in that particular year. And just to be clear, the rest of the year was present and correct, but those dates were skipped. If you had a birthday in that period, well, you were just fresh out of luck.

And the reason why it was skipped speaks to humankind’s desire to assert order on the universe, and how the universe really couldn’t care less about what we desire.

War of the Cotswolds - Poster Boaster

War of the Cotswolds poster

The finished poster. Fine work (you can click it for a larger version).

At Action Science Theatre we pride ourselves on exploiting giving creative people opportunities to collaborate with us and show off their talents. Any regular listeners among you will have noticed the fine baritone vocal craft of Mr Matthew Kirk, the chirpy chimes of Miss Sreya Rao, the husky lilt of Miss Amy Wackett, and indeed the virtuoso musical talents of one Producer Dan. On top of these fine people (not literally) we have the many other cast members who have so memorably and unforgettably brought characters from previous episodes to life (but whose names escape me right now… um… some of them may have been Irish?).

Turn off the lights and I'll glow

The sun isn’t a tidy sphere. If you go a little closer, you’ll see it looks a bit… fuzzy. Its plasma doesn’t sit as a smooth surface; it’s a roiling sea, throwing itself high above the sun, responding to magnetic fields that would tower many times over our entire planet in a way that would make any sane person feel very tiny indeed. So best not to think about the scale of it too much. We get enough existential panic from the possibility of a Michael Bay remake of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Some of this plasma gets enough of a kick to leave the pull of the Sun altogether, and it heads out into the universe. It’s barely there – just some electrons and protons held together by the merest hint of a magnetic field. But it’s there. After about 18 hours, if it’s lucky, it’ll hit the Earth. Now, it might have whizzed passed Mercury and Venus, but the Earth is slightly different – we have a magnetosphere.

Editing Episode 10 - When the Boat Comes In

Growing up in the north-east of England, it was impossible to remain unware of the region’s industrial heritage. In particular, shipbuilding on the Tyne has a distinguished 800-year history. As a child of the 1970s and 80s, however, it was also impossible to ignore the decline in shipbuilding – indeed, in all forms of manufacturing industry – in northern England at that time. Unemployment rose, and once-busy docks and slipways fell into disuse, lending a melancholy air to the river, and a sense of dispair to the region as a whole.

Since then there has been massive regeneration. Like similar areas in cities such as Sheffield and Birmingham, Newcastle’s Quayside has been transformed into a centre for arts and culture, as well as new housing developments.

So what does all this have to do with Editing Episode 10? Well… not much. But after 10 episodes, I’m rather running out of things to talk about.

The Anatomy of an AST Script

As runners of a moderately successful free audio drama, people often ask us what the hell we’re doing in the garden, and threaten to call the police. But we’ve stopped garden dipping recently, and have instead spent more time on our scripts.

Scripts on the floor

You spend hours working on a script, and it ends up like this.

So, how do we do it? Well, we’d recommend Celtx – it’s free! And it does all the formatting for you. Which is good for us because we’re quite lazy. So that’s the tool, what about the constituent parts? The anatomy, if you will, of an AST script?

Let me take you through it:

Title

My favourite part of the whole thing. A great place to stick in a pun, play on words or, better still, something that is almost a pun or play on words but actually isn’t. Nothing like confusing the minds of a select group of the population. And you are a select group aren’t you? Of course you are. Look at you, sitting there. Reading this. Probably eating something sticky. Don’t let other people judge you. We don’t judge you. We think you rock. Have another one, handsome.

Our place in the Universe

So any time there’s a transit of Venus, everybody gets excited. Astronomers go on special trips, physicists prepare sensitive equipment…okay, not *everybody* gets excited, but a lot of scientists do.

But what is so exciting about it?

Well, for a start, it was how we first worked out where we are.

Editing Episode 9 - More Cable

Marvel Comics' Ghost Rider

Why yes, I would like to borrow your
Zoom H4n Handy Recorder

At the end of last month’s thrilling instalment, you may recall that the heretofore reliable AST technology had undergone catastrophic working-properlyness failure. Episode 8 was eventually rescued by a man on a motorbike, but we couldn’t rely on that happening every time. So, I had to find a way to make sure that we could get safely through Episode 9. For reasons that now escape me, the first step involved inviting Action Dan and Science Brian to my house and feeding them steak and chips.

Seriously – I’ve got to work out what they’re putting in my water.

How much does a kilogram weigh?

IPK

The International Prototype Kilogram is under all of those bell jars

This is a picture of the international prototype kilogram, or IPK. It is exactly, and always, a kilogram. It’s a big lump of metal which the world has agreed is how much a kilogram weighs. It was made in 1879, and it is still beautifully, perfectly, and exactly the same as it was then.

Er, more or less. And that is the problem.

Becoming Producer Dan

We then ran to Producer Dan and said, “We have no idea how to actually turn all this into reality! Help us!”

– Science Brian

That, in his ‘how it all started’ blog, is how Science Brian described the moment he asked me to get involved in Action Science Theatre. It’s quite charming, in its way – glowing with the enthusiasm of a young Irishman making his way in a strange, faraway land, hope shining in his eyes, alight with the realisation that all his Christmases have come at yearly intervals.

It is, of course, a thin, supermarket-brand, single-ply tissue of lies.*