Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Beginning of the End

On this day in 1914 Gavrilo Princip assassinated the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, and his wife, Sophie, on the streets of Sarajevo. Princip and his co-conspirators were recruited and organized by the “Black Hand,” an organization headed by the Chief of Serbian Military Intelligence.

Gavrilo Princip during his imprisonment. Too young to receive the death sentence in Austria, he was instead sentenced to 25 years. He died of tuberculosis in 1918.

The Austro-Hungarian empire responded with an ultimatum to the government of the Kingdom of Serbia. The demands made in this ultimatum were impossible for the government of Serbia to meet (likely by design), and so after a month of desperate diplomatic wrangling and confusion between the great powers, the Empire declared war on July 28. Russia, as protector of the Slavic people and unwilling to see the Empire expand its power in what was viewed as Russia’s sphere of influence, began to mobilize.

A day later, Germany began to mobilize in support of their Austrian allies and in anticipation of the intervention of Russia’s ally, France. Germany invaded Belgium on August 2 as part of their planned outflanking of the French, and two days later Great Britain declared war on Germany in response to their violation of Belgian neutrality. The Great War had begun.

It is darkly amusing in hindsight that Franz Ferdinand was unpopular with the government of his uncle, Emperor Franz Joseph I, partly on the grounds that he favored a more cautious approach to the Empire’s relations with Serbia.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.


Sophie, Dutchess of Hohenburg and wife of Franz Ferdinand.

Inquisitorial Blackship “Anatolia”

My fiancée and I have been working for some time on a novel set in the Warhammer 40K universe, specifically about an Imperial inquisitor named Alexandra North. Last night I had a sketchbook handy and decided to freehand a drawing of her ship, a Firestorm-class frigate named Anatolia after the birthplace of the Emperor.


Click for full size

The Anatolia is broadly similar to the standard Firestorm frigates serving in the navy: loaded mass of 64.4 megatons, maximum acceleration of 0.2 g, mass ratio of 1.55, delta-V of ~130 km/s. She differs in having a larger reactor and a much larger bow lance (soft X-ray laser), on par with those carried by battleships. The lance has a very low rate of fire, around one shot every 10 minutes, due to Anatolia’s limited capacity to eliminate the waste heat of the titanic weapon. It does, however, allow her to open an engagement with a shot capable of punching through the shields of opponents double her mass.

Despite some slight perspective distortions due to being a freehand drawing with minimal construction lines, I’m pretty happy. I haven’t sketched more than a quick landscape (usually for RPGs) in years. I’m also pleased with the fact that there is not a single piece of “greeble” on the entire ship. Everything from the big hexagonal phased-array radar panels to the anti-ordnance turrets to the statues of the Primarchs and Emperor has a purpose, functional or symbolic.

Pacific Rim: Why Giant Robots Are (Usually) Silly

I’ll start this off by saying I really like Guillermo del Toro’s body of work, and that his characteristic blend of physical effects and CGI really shows in the quality visuals I’ve come to expect from his films. These two trailers for the upcoming Pacific Rim indicate that it will not be an exception to this rule.

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Mechanical Principles of Small Arms

This Army Pictorial Service training films does an excellent job of explaining the fundamental mechanical principles of small arms through the use of oversized physical models, not unlike the Hamilton Watch Company film I referenced in an earlier post.

The first half takes us through all the basic operations of a single-shot magazine-fed firearm like a bolt-action rifle.

While the second and third cover semi-automatic and fully-automatic actions.

Tip ‘o the helmet to Isegoria.

How a Mechanical Watch Works

I’m particularly fond of this video, produced by the Hamilton Watch Company, that showcases the inner mechanisms of a mechanical watch. There’s something about the tangible way the model parts are assembled and operated that does a much better job than CGI of explaining how it works.

The analogies they use are very helpful for understanding the key principle of the system: controlling the flow of energy; and I also found the delicate, sand-grain sized components that make up the watch to be an amazing feat of engineering.