The Star Crystal

Be an Interplanetary Spy!


“The Star Crystal” was an eye opener for me. I was maybe nine, when my brother borrowed it from a friend. The logic puzzles were fun (and still are), but it also introduced strange and exciting ideas.

It was my first encounter with the Moebius Strip. There was this ship called the Moebius Express where the action takes place, and yes it was shaped like a Moebius Strip! Not only was it my first encounter with the fabulous mathematical object (that I can make with paper! And therefore a project well within reach of kids), it was also my first encounter with unusual spaceship design.

When you’re nine, you think all spaceships look like ye olde rocket ships. The Moebius Express broke that mould. I realized that ships could look like anything, needles, saucers, rubber bands. Suddenly Soyuz capsules didn’t seem ugly. Other Interplanetary Spy books had ships looking like three-domed greenhouses, rolling pods, ships that looked like flying houses.

But the Moebius Express was unforgettable!

In later years I accepted the ship designs of Babylon 5 without batting an eyelid. All those exposed struts, unaerodynamic EarthForce ships, organic Vorlon and Minbari designs, and frankly Soviet-looking Narn ships. Some viewers hated it, it didn’t correspond to what they think ships look like.

It was Moebius Express that primed me for unusual ship designs.

It was a first encounter with aliens with different biological requirements and who saw the world differently. There were aquatic aliens with an underwater habitat. And while nine-year-old me was still grasping the idea that not all aliens breathed air, it turns out that, having eyes at the side of the head, the aliens saw the world differently as well. One of them transmitted a telepathic image of a corridor as he would see it and the reader had to interpret it according to how humans would see it.

Aquatic telepathic aliens with a very different view of the world due to different body shape! Mind blown! I’d like to think that it made me more tolerant of different points of view. Someone who grew up in a different environment might see things a little differently, express the same thing in different words, or use the same words to mean different things.

Also, don’t judge an alien just because you don’t understand what he’s saying.

There were optical illusions galore because a sculptor on board uses a… Warp Chisel! One “bad ending” has the sculptor accidentally using the chisel on you with picturesque results. My first introduction to optical illusions.

The robot designs were simultaneously interesting and simple enough that I would try to draw them (they’re boxes and spheres stuck together). It helped me to draw people later on when I realized that artists used figures like those robots to start with. It also made me realize that robots didn’t have to be symmetrical.

It was also my introduction to the multi-path adventure books that were so popular in the 1980s: Choose Your Own Adventure, Fighting Fantasy, GrailQuest, Lone Wolf, Ninja!

Choose Your Own Adventure seemed a bit limited and I soon left it. The other books, especially the GrailQuest series had me rolling dice for hours.

Unfortunately the Interplanetary Spy series is out of print, and I had to find some scan-pdf for my nostalgia strip. Indeed the whole multi-path adventure book genre seems to have petered out. Had to cheat one of the puzzles, it involved folding the corner of one page and joining the illustrations of one page with another. How am I supposed to do that with a pdf on my phone?

The Star Crystal is a favourite among old Interplanetary Spies and widely regarded as the best of the books. (On the opposite side, Robot Rebellion was pretty bad). And to my pleasure, upon finding an online copy, it’s just as good 30 years on as it was then.

Not all childhood revisits are happy. I watched The Flight of Dragons and The Last Unicorn and they were actually quite awful. Whoever wrote dialog like that? Re-reading Treasure Island? How stupid were those pirates once they got on the Island! But the Interplanetary Spy series seems to be just as fresh as it was 30 years ago.

Well, apart from some blocky drawings meant to imitate computer graphics in some of the books. Computer games really were blocky back then and it made the book seem cutting edge and computer-ish. Now it’s just silly.



y(t)*\psi(t) = \int \limits_{-\infty}^{\infty} x(t) \psi(t-\tau) d\tau = X(\omega)\Psi(\omega)

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$latex i\hbar\frac{\partial}{\partial t}\left|\Psi(t)\right>=H\left|\Psi(t)\right>$

i\hbar\frac{\partial}{\partial t}\left|\Psi(t)\right>=H\left|\Psi(t)\right>

Okay. So to do equations on WordPress, I have to use LaTex…

$latex m\frac{d^2 y}{dt^2} = -b\frac{dy}{dt} -kx $

will become
m\frac{d^2 y}{dt^2}  = -b\frac{dy}{dt} -kx


Oy vey. I have a new markup language to learn. And by keyboard’s debouncer is wacked. I keep double typing letters like ddouble or bouncce.

Okay… here goes…

$latex s’=H’_1 T_1 H_1 s + \sum\limits_{n=2}^N [ (\prod\limits_{m=1}^{n-1} L’_m) H’_n T_n H_n \prod\limits_{m=n-1}^1 L_m] s + (\prod\limits_{n=1}^N L’_n) (\prod\limits_{m=N}^1 L_m) s   $


\large s'=H'_1 T_1 H_1 s + \sum\limits_{n=2}^N [ (\prod\limits_{m=1}^{n-1} L'_m) H'_n T_n H_n \prod\limits_{m=n-1}^1 L_m] s + (\prod\limits_{n=1}^N L'_n) (\prod\limits_{m=N}^1 L_m) s  

\sum\limits_{i=1}^n i^2

Okay that works.
$latex \begin{bmatrix}
1& 2\\
3& 4

\begin{bmatrix} 1& 2\\ 3& 4 \end{bmatrix}

\begin{matrix} \alpha& \beta^{*}\\ \gamma^{*}& \delta \end{matrix}

\psi (t)*x(t)= \int\limits_{-\infty}^{\infty} \psi(t- \tau)x(t) d\tau

$latex \tau \tau \sigma \Sigma \gamma \Gamma $

\tau \tau \sigma \Sigma \gamma \Gamma

Turkish Ballad

O DEDI YOK YOK (But she said no, never)

(Translation by YouTube user Türk Arkı)

Seher vakti gördüm gözümün sultanını; / I saw the sultan of my eye when it’s dawn
Dedim: Sultan mısın? O dedi: Yok, yok. / I said: Are you my sultan? She said: No no.
Gözleri ateş yeri, kolları kınalı; / Her eyes are land of fire, her arms are hennaed
Dedim: Çolpan mısın? O dedi: Yok, yok. / I said: Are you Venus? She said: No no.

Dedim: İsmin nedir? Dedi: Ayhan’dır. / I said: What’s your name? She said: It’s Ayhan (Moon Khan)
Dedim: Yurdun nere? Dedi: Turfan’dır. / I said: Where is your homeland? She said: It’s Turfan.
Dedim: Başındaki? Dedi: Hicrandır. / I said: What’s on your head? She said: Separation.
Dedim: Hayran mısın? O dedi: Yok, yok. / I said: Are you lover? She said: No no.

Dedim: Aya benzer, dedi: Yüzüm mü? / I said: It’s seems like moon. She said: Is it my face?
Dedim: Yıldız gibi, dedi: Gözüm mü? / I said: It’s like star. She said: Is it my eye?
Dedim: Alev saçar, dedi: Sözüm mü? / I said: It flares. She said: Is It my words?
Dedim: Volkan mısın? O dedi: Yok, yok. / I said: Are you volcano? She said: No no.

Dedim: Çatık nedir? Dedi: Kaşımdır. / I said: What’s beetle? She said: It’s my brows.
Dedim: Siyah dalga nedir? Dedi: Saçımdır. / I said: What’s black wave? She said: It’s my hair.
Dedim: On beş nedir? Dedi: Yaşımdır. / I said: What’s fifteen. She said: It’s my age.
Dedim: Canan mısın? O dedi: Yok, yok. / I said: Are you sweetheart? She said: No no.

Dedim: Deniz nedir? Dedi: Kalbimdir. / I said: What’s sea? She said: It’s my heart.
Dedim: Rana nedir? Dedi: Dudağımdır. / I said: What’s beauty? She said: It’s my lip.
Dedim: Şeker nedir? Dedi: Dilimdir. / I said: What’s sugar? It’s my tongue.
Dedim: Ver ağzıma. O dedi: Yok, yok. / I said: Give it to my mouth. She said: No no.

Dedim: Zincir vardır, dedi: Boynumda. / I said: There’s a chain. She said: On my neck. Dedim: Ölüm vardır, dedi: Yolumda. / I said: There is death. She said: For me.
Dedim: Bilezik? Dedi: Kolumda. / I said: Bracelet? She said: On my wrists.
Dedim: Korkar mısın? O dedi: Yok, yok. / I said: Are you scared? She said: No no.

Dedim: Neden korkmazsın? Dedi: Tanrı’m vardır. / I said: Why don’t you scared? She said: I have God.
Dedim: Daha başka? Dedi: Halkım vardır. / I said: Else? She said: I have my people.
Dedim: Daha yok mu? Dedi: Ruhum vardır. / I said: Is there else? She said: I have my soul.
Dedim: Şükran duyar mısın? O dedi: Yok, yok. / I said: Are you thankful/contented? She said: No no.

Dedim: İstek nedir? Dedi: Gülümdür. / I said: What’s wish? She said: It’s my rose.
Dedim: Savaş var? Dedi: Yolumdur. / I said: There’s war. She said: For me.
Dedim: Ötkür nedir? Dedi: Kulumdur. / I said: Who’s Ötkür? She said: He’s my slave. Dedim: Satar mısın? O dedi: Yok, yok. / I said: Do you sell him? She said: No no.

Lyrics by: Abdurehim Ötkür Beste ve Seslendiren / Music by and Sing by: Abdürehim Heyit

The song was written in 1948, so it is relatively modern. But the mode of singing seems to be ancient.


For Sommerlund!

Think Sommerlund and its people the Sommlending, you think Kai Lord, right? Warrior priests of Kai, master of the Kai disciplines, the chosen race of the forces of Good in the world of Magnamund. (I do wonder if there have ever been any non-Sommlending Kai Lords?)

Well, most Sommlending are more like these two.

 And even this buffoon falling off the coach trying to pull out his sword is a Sommlending:

Well, it takes all kinds of people to make the valorous Kingdom of Sommerlund. Somebody has to bake the bread and cut firewood.