Vitamin D, Divider Of Good And Evil? We Don’t Think So
Jan03

Vitamin D, Divider Of Good And Evil? We Don’t Think So

At the end of 2013, two researchers in the U.K. published a report suggesting a reason why good typically triumphs over evil in the realm of sci-fi/fantasy: vitamin D. Virtuous characters typically get a lot of sunlight, and villainous ones keep to the shadows, where ultraviolet light can’t help their skin produce the “sunshine vitamin,” the scientists argue. They back up their claim by evaluating characters in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” (the second installation of which is still kicking butt in theaters). Although we admire these nerdy researchers’ efforts, we in the Newscripts gang were skeptical. So we once again turned to our resident Tolkien expert, Ty Finocchiaro. The following are his thoughts on the vitamin D-evil connection. He’s not buying it: To think that a few hours of sunlight and a proper breakfast meant the difference between the Dark Lord Sauron's victory and defeat at the close of the 3rd age is fairly preposterous. But that's just what a curious paper entitled “The Hobbit - An Unexpected Deficiency” by Joseph and Nicholas Hopkinson hints at. While the article is a fine initial effort, I'd like to take a bit of time to point out a few inconsistencies and oddities in its methods and results as well as shed a bit of light on further discussion topics. The study chose to concentrate on dietary vitamin D intake along with average sun exposure levels of the main races and a few dramatis personae from ”The Hobbit.” Seven were picked to represent the side of Good and four the side of Evil (see Table 1). The authors assigned a “Vitamin D Score” from 0 to 4 for each race or character. Right off the bat I take issue with a few glaring omissions on the side of Evil. For one thing, where are the Wargs? The canine beasts are a huge part of “The Hobbit.” They hunt lead dwarf Thorin and the rest of his company after their time beneath the Misty Mountains and are a major player in the Battle of Five Armies. To leave them out of the study is quite suspect. They do not fear sunlight like the bulk of Evil's minions nor live in total darkness. As such they will provide a noticable boost to Evil's Vitamin D average. On the other side of the coin, I'd be remiss not to add the Giant Spiders of Mirkwood to the Evil roster. They are quite numerous in the region and would likely have been present in some form when the White Council came for the Necromancer in Dol Guldor. These creatures detest light however, so they’ll drag the...

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Disputing A Dragon’s Worth
Apr26

Disputing A Dragon’s Worth

In this week's print Newscripts, I wrote about Forbes.com's recent yearly ranking of the top 15 wealthiest fictional characters on page and screen. Smaug, everyone's favorite bone-crunching, treasure-hoarding dragon from "The Hobbit," came in seventh on the list, and Executive News Editor Michael Noer wrote a fun op/ed piece describing how the dragon's fortune was calculated. Noer hangs out his geek flag for all to see, making assumptions based on details from the book and using mathematical formulas to provide a minimum conservative estimate of Smaug's worth ($8.6 billion). I consulted C&EN's resident J. R. R. Tolkien expert and Web team member, Ty Finocchiaro, about whether Noer's calculations were sound. He had a bone or two to pick--Smaug's worth should be higher, he says--and I'm sharing his musings here, proving that the Newscripts gang can out-geek the best of geeks any day of the week: I applaud the playfulness of Mr. Noer's efforts to use logically sound formulas and scientific postulations to calculate a conservative base worth of a fictional dragon. (As opposed to all the real dragons that keep scorching my finely manicured lawn.) However I have a bone to pick with some of the proofs he has based his calculations on. Proofs that, if shifted even a few percentage points, would move ol' Smaug up to a solid third in the Forbes Fictional 15. Which is where he deserves to be, dang it! 1. The claim that 30% of the volume of Smaug's mound of treasure is air created by space between goblets, helmets, coins and bones. Dwarf bones are, for one thing, quite small! Not to mention the vast majority of the victims in Erebor would have been incinerated to dust during Smaug's assault, leaving no bones behind. Besides, a creature as meticulous as Smaug (who noticed a single cup missing from his pile in "The Hobbit") would never leave large amounts of his dinner crumbs in his beloved bed of glittering gold. Thirty percent seems a bit much to begin with, I'm more comfortable knocking this volume percentage down to 10%. This would boost the gold and silver coin value up $0.9 billion. 2. Making a case for only the diamonds encrusted in Smaug's belly. To focus on only the gems that formed Smaug's armored underbelly is pure folly. Undoubtably, there are gemstones in Smaug's hoard crafted by both Dwarf and Elven hand that reach back centuries to the First or Second Age. And these would number in the hundreds! Such gems of lesser hardness might not be useful in stopping a blade or bow, but they're certainly worth millions to a collector or covetous Noldorin Elf. Having valued Smaug's diamond studded belly...

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