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Lord of the Rings Science

The Climate of Middle-Earth 163

sciencehabit writes "One does not simply model the climate of Mordor; unless, of course, you are the University of Bristol's Dan Lunt, who has created a climate simulation of J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Using supercomputers and a model originally developed by the U.K. Met Office, his study compares Middle-earth's climate with those of our (modern) and the dinosaur's (Late Cretaceous) worlds. The Middle-earth model reveals that the Shire — home to the Hobbits — would enjoy weather much like England's East Midlands, with an average temperature of 7C and about 61 cm of rainfall each year. An epic journey to Mount Doom, however, would see a shift in climate, with the subtropical Mordor region being more like Los Angeles or western Texas." The full academic paper is available in English, Elvish, and Dwarfish.
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The Climate of Middle-Earth

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  • by LoRdTAW ( 99712 ) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @02:43PM (#45627849)

    I thought Texas was Mordor?

  • by femtobyte ( 710429 ) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @02:43PM (#45627851)

    We need this translated into Orcish, too, so the professional global warming denialists can properly read and respond to it.

    • by SQLGuru ( 980662 )

      Don't forget Trollish...... :)

    • No need. Orcs mostly speak the common tongue or else their own tribal dialect. The Black Speech -- as devised by the Dark Lord in elvish runes -- was a failed attempt to linguistically distinguish his followers from those of the Alliance. It didn't take among the Orcs, but strangely the East End London accent did.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Dahamma ( 304068 )

      Oh come on, every knows Orcs an global warming denialists don't read!

  • by Type44Q ( 1233630 )

    with an average temperature of 7C

    (Insert hick accent) Yeah, but what's that in degrees?

    • (Insert physics hick accent) That's 280 kelvins, and don't let me ever hear you spewing that "dee-grees" nonsense in my house again!

    • As a tool, let me actually ask why is the word "degrees" used with "celcius"?
      • As in OED definition 1a,b [], in the sense of a "step" on a scale --- each "degree" is one of 100 steps on the (somewhat arbitrarily chosen) scale between the freezing and boiling points of water (at standard pressure).

      • Because "degrees" is used with every unit used to measure temperature, as in degrees Celsius, degrees Fahrenheit, degrees Kelvin, degrees Reumur.
        Usually you won't write it, but 'say' it while reading, or you even ommit the unit.
        In europe no one says / writes degrees Celsius, or says the temperature is 35 celsius, you only say: it is 35 degrees.

        • Unlike the degree Fahrenheit and degree Celsius, the kelvin is not referred to or typeset as a degree.


          • Wikipedia does not count :)
            Ofc every one I know 'says' degree to kelvin, too.
            However strictly speaking as a physicist, you ommit the degree part and only use the unit, just like in feet vs. meter.

            • I was taught Kelvin does not use the "degrees" qualifier but the others do, I thought it was some weird quirk of the English language so I never asked for an explanation.
              • As I see it we have a "discrepancy" of used language versus what a physician would say.
                In the "used" language, most people (well, can only talk about germany) like to add the "degrees" and then mention the unit (Fahrenheit etc.)
                Or only use degrees and assume the "assumable" unit. Or they simply use the unit, if they are in a situation where this is relevant. I mean, in germany they say: temperature tomorrow is 12 degrees average. (implying 12 'degrees' celsius)
                But in a physics experiment they would say it i

    • This in an article that amounts to a nerdgasm over academics spending their efforts to model the climate of a fairy tale.


      • They probably learnt something about their models, I haven't read it so I'm not sure why anyone would publish it in a journal?
    • Does the region referenced really have an average temperature of only 44 degrees Fahrenheit? Rather unpleasent place, hovering a mere 11 degrees above freezing. Of course, one assumes that is a yearly average, meaning much warmer and cooler temperatures are experienced during the sumer and winter months respectively.

      The point is, telling us the 'average' temperature does little to describe the actual temperature. Thats like saying the average temperature on the moon is only -23 degrees Celsius. Sure, the
  • "Elvish" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Arancaytar ( 966377 ) <> on Saturday December 07, 2013 @02:48PM (#45627885) Homepage

    ... that's not even badly transliterated. Without even looking at it closely, you can tell the entire text lacks vowel diacritics. They probably selected the text and changed the font, which works about as well with Tengwar as it would with Arabic or Hebrew.

    • Re:"Elvish" (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Arancaytar ( 966377 ) <> on Saturday December 07, 2013 @02:51PM (#45627905) Homepage

      (And if this kind of griping sounds overly nerdy, keep in mind they're the ones who decided to model the climate of Middle-Earth. :P )

    • That's it exactly. Cut-and-paste into Emacs and it's in English. And no, I have not installed mod-auto-elvish-translate.

    • Re:"Elvish" (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Sun ( 104778 ) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @03:39PM (#45628197) Homepage

      OT, but I couldn't resist :-)

      Actually, non Arabic natives could gain from doing precisely that. The cursive nature of the writing, coupled with the amount of characters that are only differentiated by the number of dots they have, make it a relatively hard language to learn to read. The multiple forms each letter take depending on its position in the word don't help either. In fact, some elementary schools in Israel teach spoken Arabic by using Hebrew letters, not bothering with trying to teach reading or writing.

      As someone who went through the motion of pretending to try to learn literary Arabic in school, I actually don't think that's a bad idea. Get some vocabulary and grammar going, and only then dump trying to decipher the text on students. After all, that's also the order in which native Arabic speakers do it.

      As for Hebrew, there are some madmen who tried something very similar. See, for example, []. Needless to say, it did not gain any significant traction.


      • by Smauler ( 915644 )

        As someone who went through the motion of pretending to try to learn literary Arabic in school, I actually don't think that's a bad idea. Get some vocabulary and grammar going, and only then dump trying to decipher the text on students. After all, that's also the order in which native Arabic speakers do it.

        Do native speakers of any language do it any other way?

        • by Sun ( 104778 )

          I remember reading somewhere, and I do not remember where, that a study found out that Arabic was the language most difficult to read/write from all the languages that use consonants as a writing basis (i.e. - not Chinese). I vaguely remember that they connected this to the cursive nature of the writing, but as this is all from memory (and a while ago), I cannot tell you how.


    • Came here to post the same thing. Also, Dwarvish is a secret language, and even if Radagast knew it he wouldn't publish a paper in it (nor would anyone writing on paper in whatever language use the Cirth, since the Tengwar were designed for that.)

    • you can tell the entire text lacks vowel diacritics

      So did the writing reform that came out of Beleriand, where vowels were promoted from tehtar (points) to full letters. Remember Durin's gate on the west side of Moria [], noted for the weak default password that Narvi set and Celebrimbor leaked? The inscription on that was written with vowels as letters.

  • Do they even know what LA weather is like? It's about 300 days of sunshine here. On the other hand, Mordor is a barren wasteland, riddled with fire and ash and dust, the very air you breathe is a poisonous fume.... from all that volcanic discharge from Mount Doom.

  • Yes but... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Lije Baley ( 88936 ) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @03:07PM (#45628013)

    ...what are we going to do about Middle-Earth warming?!?

  • East TX (think Houston) would be more appropriate, as it is truly a subtropical climate. West Texas is semi arid.

    • Well, Texas *does* have more Trolls than anywhere else, if Patent Litigation is any indicator.

      • Egads, that was supposed to be...

        Well, East Texas *does* have more Trolls than anywhere else, if Patent Litigation is any indicator.

    • Yeah, if you look at a climate map [], West Texas, as you said, is clearly arid or semiarid, depending on exactly where we're talking about. East Texas is classified as subtropical, but, then again, so is almost all of the southeastern US, and I'd imagine that a place like the backwoods of the deep South is hardly what most people have in their head when they think of what "subtropical" looks like, despite the fact that it actually is.

      But Houston is a great example. Houston is essentially a massive marsh that

  • by Petersko ( 564140 ) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @03:21PM (#45628097)

    This story broke my nerdometer.

  • fishing (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fche ( 36607 ) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @03:24PM (#45628109)

    Fishing for an Ig Nobel Prize perhaps, good luck!

  • by cervesaebraciator ( 2352888 ) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @03:27PM (#45628131)
    It's not translated. It's just using elvish and dwarfish scripts.
    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      ... as were nearly all examples of tengwar and dwarf-runes we have from Tolkien's own hand.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        A lot of Tolkien's tengwar writing was English, but it was actual English writing, where the ‘t’ tengwa stood for the ‘t’ sound and the ‘a’ tehta stood for the ‘a’ sound.
        But even a glancing look* at TFA shows that they just selected the text and changed the font. If it had been transliterated English, that would have gotten them some points in my book, but this...
        * There are no tehta (vowel diacritics) anywhere, nor any full-mode vowel characters; that should

    • And it's not even using them properly. You can transliterate English into Tengwar script pretty well (though you have to decide whether to go with phonetic or English spelling), but whatever happened to this text makes it just a bunch of random letters that can't be pronounced.

  • They have taken themselves far too seriously.

  • Just a few stores below in my feed, I see this

    Physicist Peter Higgs: "I wouldn't be productive enough for today's academic system" []

    I'm not against screwing around with the lab computer on off hours and make it model "Middle Earth"...that's a fun, I'm mortified that this became an official research project and was published.

    It proves what Peter Higgs was saying in the most weirdly fun yet depressing way....

    • by femtobyte ( 710429 ) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @04:11PM (#45628401)

      Proves? You mean, disproves. This publication isn't in a peer-reviewed journal; it's not contributing to the author's official publication count. Instead, it's an example of a researcher being able to follow his own interests, and do personally-motivated stuff with no short-term payoff in "publish-or-perish" terms; in other words, exactly what Higgs is worried researchers today aren't able to do. This one isolated counter-example doesn't prove that Higgs' concerns aren't valid, but it certainly does not support them.

  • with the subtropical Mordor region being more like Los Angeles or western Texas.

    I do believe that anyone that bothered to read the books would know that Mordor was arid, volcanic in climate, hardly subtropical. L.A. is temperate bordering on semi-arid, and West Texas is certainly semi-arid to arid, a bit more like Mordor minus the volcanoes, fishers and orcs. (And, did I forget to mention the giant spider, spawn of Ungoliant at the back door?) That Mordor? Texas ain't anything like that Mordor. But, then again there is evil that lives there. Hmmmm....

  • This kind of research is exactly what the government needs. Another excuse to blame Global Warming on some computer model. First they did this on upper Earth, now it's Middle Earth.

    I can see it coming, CO2 taxes to 'save Middle Earth'..

  • I find it very hard to believe that Tolkien created such a perfect world that its climates would naturally be just as he described.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Models work from assumptions. The assumptions you put into them don't have to be plausible; a model simply spits out the consequences of the initial conditions you choose. Thus you could start a simulation of the Earth which started with the tropical seas being frozen and the polar seas being at 38 C. Those initial conditions are impossible, but the computer program will faithfully spit out *some* kind of result.

  • New Zealand (Score:5, Funny)

    by luckymutt ( 996573 ) on Saturday December 07, 2013 @05:31PM (#45628861)
    Couldn't they have saved a lot of time and just pulled up the data we have on New Zealand?
  • Finally, climate models find a world where their accuracy doesn't constitute a risk; a world where their results aren't partial lies or won't be used for political or financial gain.

    Just keep them out of reality, thanks.

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