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 Post subject: Directions without a sun
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 6:36 pm 
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My fantasy world Erde is a flat plate that does not spin or rotate. It also has absolutely no celestial beings of any kind; just pure light that "turns on" and fades gradually throughout the day. Therefore, it has no poles, no meridians, nothing.

As I was pondering this, I realized... if they don't have a sun to gauge things off of, how do they decide directions?

While they don't have seasons, there are specific climate regions through out the planet. The "north" is cold because of the elements on the Underside (the backside of the world) in that region, with the "south" being the opposite. Is it sufficient to designate the cold regions as being "north" and have that be generally accepted throughout the earth?

However, if that's the case, how does one know which direction they are facing at any given point? A compass wouldn't work because there isn't a magnetic pole to measure off of. Would it be more realistic for the people on this planet to have some other way of judging directions?

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 Post subject: Re: Directions without a sun
PostPosted: Wed Dec 14, 2011 7:06 pm 
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I seem to recall that in your world before the Great Darkness there were celestial bodies visible from the surface. It seems reasonable to me that roads and whatnot might have been built aligning with them, and that after life settled down after the Great Darkness large landmarks might have been built (working from the roads etc.) to serve the same purpose of indicating directions. Also, why couldn't Erde have a magnetic field? It would probably work somewhat differently than Earth's---"north" being a single direction no matter where you are, rather than pointing toward a single pole, perhaps---and would probably be fading with the rest of the cosmos (or might come and go with the light), but I think putting some sort of magnetism into your worldbuilding would be entirely reasonable.

As for what to call them: Perhaps you could have words meaning "warmer" and "colder" to replace "south" and "north" (I'm not sure how much of the Erde-ish (by the way, what is the proper adjective form of Erde?) dialect for such things you'll put in without translating---if you prefer quasi-English, "warmwards" (or "warmthwards") and "coldwards" might do), and something meaning "left" and "right" (attached to the "north" or "south" equivalents, or with an implicit "of north" or "of south"; my first thought was "dextral" and "sinistral", which are mangled Latin forms of "right" and "left" respectively). But as your POV character is from Earth (right?), especially if you put in a magnetic field, he could just think in terms of "north".

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 Post subject: Re: Directions without a sun
PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2011 5:29 pm 
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You amaze me sometimes, kingjon. You always have such well thought-out posts with a good attention to detail. Thanks for the thoughts!

While I could put a magnetic field in my earth, I'm not sure how that would work given the structure of my world. However, using words that refer to changing temperatures for directions is absolutely brilliant. That might work fantastically. The Volk (which are the main people group of book 1) are of German descent, so I could use German words.

Also, I need to double-check my map, but I believe all rivers flow southwards. So that's one way that north can be designated whenever you are near water.

Probably, to be realistic, each culture has their own way of telling directions... Cultures near rivers would use the river flow, while that wouldn't be helpful for people in the plains. I might also be able to do something with wind flow, since, generally speaking, I have cold wind blowing down from the north and warm wind blowing up from the south.

Thanks for the help!

The adjective form of Erde is either "Erde" or "Erde's." So you'd say "Erde's magnetic field," just like you would say "Earth's magnetic field."

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 Post subject: Re: Directions without a sun
PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2011 5:18 am 
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Aubrey Hansen wrote:
You amaze me sometimes, kingjon. You always have such well thought-out posts with a good attention to detail. Thanks for the thoughts!

Thank you; I do try to make my words few and ones that count. I'm glad to be of help. And I find your concept of Erde fascinating; it's one of the few concepts that make me wish that I could have come up with it.

Aubrey Hansen wrote:
While I could put a magnetic field in my earth, I'm not sure how that would work given the structure of my world.

I was sort of imagining one of the layers of rock on the bottom being essentially a large bar magnet, and either fading with the rest of the world or (like the light) renewed every day.

Aubrey Hansen wrote:
Also, I need to double-check my map, but I believe all rivers flow southwards. So that's one way that north can be designated whenever you are near water.

Is the north (in general) higher elevation, then?

A sudden thought: In the Bible, "compass directions" were rare; in the land especially, directions were given as "toward such-and-such city" (or larger landmark), or, especially, "up" (toward Judah, in the south) and "down" (toward Israel, in the north), referring to physical elevation.

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My blog includes the following "departments":
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  • Strategic Primer, a strategy game I'm developing, played by email, assisted by programs I'm developing. The current campaign (moving slowly, less than one turn a month) always needs more players.
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 Post subject: Re: Directions without a sun
PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2011 10:03 pm 
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Thank you very much! I'm honored to hear that. :)

While the earth as a whole is relatively flat, the largest mountains are all in the north. Therefore, it would be easy enough to say that the level areas in the north are slightly elevated relative to the southern plains.

That's a fantastic thought about the Biblical directions. I'm wondering if something like that might make more sense given the culture and the setting. It's a small world (literally) divided into a lot of distinct cultures and climates. Therefore, when traveling, it's probably realistic to mostly give directions in relation to where you are going - towards the central plains, to the northern mountains, etc. If you travel any significant distance you'll be passing into a new climate or cultural area. Hostilities are also generally high between different cultures, and cultures do not relocate often (it's a young world, too), so that's another reason why giving directions based on landmarks makes sense.

I had another thought regarding the magnetic field. The earth is falling apart; the extreme south is crumbling, and deep in the mountains in the far north there is fading and collapse. The central lands are still stable, however, because they're predominantly made of a different stone/earth. Therefore, if I had a magnetic field, it would probably weaken with the earth. So might it almost make sense for the "pole" of my magnetic field to be the center band of the earth? I hope that made sense.

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 Post subject: Re: Directions without a sun
PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2011 10:56 pm 
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Aubrey Hansen wrote:
I had another thought regarding the magnetic field. The earth is falling apart; the extreme south is crumbling, and deep in the mountains in the far north there is fading and collapse. The central lands are still stable, however, because they're predominantly made of a different stone/earth. Therefore, if I had a magnetic field, it would probably weaken with the earth. So might it almost make sense for the "pole" of my magnetic field to be the center band of the earth? I hope that made sense.

The thing about magnets in our world is that the magnetism is a cumulative effect of the magnetic fields of all the individual particles lining up in the same direction. (This is why you can turn a nail into a magnet by stroking it with a stronger magnet.) If you break a magnet in half, each half is a magnet. So if a layer of the ground is, effectively, a big bar magnet, the ends falling apart wouldn't affect the middle much. Just in the farthest north a compass might stop working.

On the other hand, I could also imagine a single magnetic pole somewhere (in the middle, perhaps) and "north" by the compass being "toward that point". I don't think that would work very well with the rock-layer-as-bar-magnet model---it fits an unexplained dynamo of some sort far below better---and it might confuse your Earth-raised POV character somewhat :), but it could work. (Having the "pole" be a "band" doesn't make much sense, though---a "pole" has to be a point like an "axis" has to be a line. The closest you could come would be to have "magnetic north" be what we'd from your map call "east" or "west" and have the strongest part of the magnetic field---its axis, so to speak---be below the central area.)

Hope this helps!

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Originally inspired to write by reading C.S. Lewis, but can be as perfectionist as Tolkien or as obscure as Charles Williams.

Author of A Year in Verse, a self-published illustrated collection of poetry: available in paperback and on Kindle.

My blog includes the following "departments":
  • Background on the Shine Cycle, my planned fantasy series, spanning over two centuries of an imagined world's history, several universes (including various alternate histories and our own future), and the stories of dozens of characters (many from our world).
  • Strategic Primer, a strategy game I'm developing, played by email, assisted by programs I'm developing. The current campaign (moving slowly, less than one turn a month) always needs more players.
  • My poetry.
  • Miscellaneous essays.


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 Post subject: Re: Directions without a sun
PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2011 4:51 am 
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Yes indeed, that helps a lot! While I love the idea of a compass ceasing to work because the earth is dying, I think it might make more sense to go with locations based off of temperature ("coldwards"), river/wind flow, and landmarks. In general I think each culture would have a slightly different approach, which will be complicated but fun. :) I'll work on details as I have time and share what I come up with.

Thanks so much, kingjon! Other opinions are still very welcome, for all you lurkers. ;)

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 Post subject: Re: Directions without a sun
PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2011 4:58 am 
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Aubrey Hansen wrote:
While I love the idea of a compass ceasing to work because the earth is dying, I think it might make more sense to go with locations based off of temperature ("coldwards"), river/wind flow, and landmarks. In general I think each culture would have a slightly different approach, which will be complicated but fun. :)

That sounds good. :book:

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 Post subject: Re: Directions without a sun
PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2011 6:14 am 
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*has been lurking and loving what's been said*

Jonathan Garner wrote:
That sounds good. :book:

Agreed.

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 Post subject: Re: Directions without a sun
PostPosted: Sat Dec 17, 2011 4:35 pm 
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*grins* Thanks, gentlemen. :D

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 Post subject: Re: Directions without a sun
PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 12:16 am 
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Really nothing for me to add here, except that I loved reading the brainstorming and the originality here. Nice job, Aubrey on the creative world and Kingjon on the out-of-the-box ideas. :D

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 Post subject: Re: Directions without a sun
PostPosted: Mon Dec 19, 2011 4:34 pm 
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Thank you so much, Ciela! :D

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 Post subject: Re: Directions without a sun
PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 6:33 pm 
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Very good thoughts here. :D

One thing I was just pondering, without a directional sun, does that mean that there are no shadows? I dealt with this a bit in a book once, and wondered if you'd thought about it. :) That would affect direction perception.

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 Post subject: Re: Directions without a sun
PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 9:50 pm 
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Yes, right now I have it that "objects in Erde do not cast shadow, only shade." Since the light is kind of "omnipresent," you only get shade underneath something, when it blocks light from above. What do you think?

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 Post subject: Re: Directions without a sun
PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2012 12:22 am 
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I don't even think you'd get shade underneath something. If the light is coming from everywhere but the ground, you'd have to block every direction to get shade, so you'd have to have walls as well as something to be under.

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 Post subject: Re: Directions without a sun
PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2012 4:05 am 
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Hmm, good thoughts. Right now I'm saying that the light comes from the sky; it's just constant across the sky, like a sheet of light. So I see it coming "down" on the earth in a solid blanket, and therefore you'd have shade. Thoughts?

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 Post subject: Re: Directions without a sun
PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2012 5:17 am 
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If the light only travels downward, then that would work. The light will probably bend a little around the edges of whatever is blocking the sunlight and create some partial-shadows at the fringes of your shade (which would look just like the shade, only a shade darker (pun intended ;))), but only a little.
Since light settles downward in your world, is it oppressive in any way? What happens if the light is reflected or refracted? Or does the 'heavy' aspect of the light keep it from deviating?

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 Post subject: Re: Directions without a sun
PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2012 4:55 pm 
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Hmm... it's hard for me to visualize how that would work, but I think I see what you mean. :) It still seems it would come from the sides some, though, though it's hard to figure out if the world is flat. o.O I can't visualize a flat horizon, so it's hard for me to say...

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 Post subject: Re: Directions without a sun
PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2012 4:59 pm 
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Those are questions I haven't answered yet, Mark. I've only written a rough description of Erde's atmosphere; I need to go back and refine it. I'll do that when I'm released from the death grip of novel revisions, and I'll come back to your questions then. :D

Thanks for getting my mind going, Gracie and Marketh! ^_^

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 Post subject: Re: Directions without a sun
PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2012 5:54 pm 
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If light comes from the sky as if it were an illuminated dome (which is how I envisioned it ...), I think you might get some "shadow" nearly everywhere, but only a very slight shadow beyond directly-below (and even that is somewhat doubtful ..) everywhere that's not near the edges of the world. But objects would cast a shadow when under the light of a lamp, candle, fireplace, or other artificial light source, or when the natural light is coming from only one direction (through a doorway or window).

The point about light bending is a good one; light tends to refract (bend) slightly around obstacles.

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Originally inspired to write by reading C.S. Lewis, but can be as perfectionist as Tolkien or as obscure as Charles Williams.

Author of A Year in Verse, a self-published illustrated collection of poetry: available in paperback and on Kindle.

My blog includes the following "departments":
  • Background on the Shine Cycle, my planned fantasy series, spanning over two centuries of an imagined world's history, several universes (including various alternate histories and our own future), and the stories of dozens of characters (many from our world).
  • Strategic Primer, a strategy game I'm developing, played by email, assisted by programs I'm developing. The current campaign (moving slowly, less than one turn a month) always needs more players.
  • My poetry.
  • Miscellaneous essays.


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