Thursday, 2 December 2010

Infrared Y: Swirly-swirl went the snow

It doesn't usually snow in the south of England in November, but we live in interesting times, and so I decided to take my infrared camera out into the swirling snow and take some pictures. I was curious to see what snow looks like in infrared. See, you'd instinctively expect it to look black when photographed with a thermal imager, because it's cold, but on the other hand my camera isn't a thermal imager, it only records near infrared, which is a different kind of cider altogether. Less gassy, with no strong aftertaste. Ahh, Leslie Neilsen. All things must pass. All things must pass away.

Ahh, George Harrison. Sorry, I'm drifting from the topic. Like a snow drift! Drifting. Snow. But does snow look black through a thermal imager anyway? My child-like curiosity led me to this discussion thread about the computer game Modern Warfare, which is a game that has some levels set in the snow, and you have a thermal imager. The game apparent renders snow as white when seen through the thermal imager, whereas in real life it would be grey, according to some young men who play Modern Warfare. And this video on YouTube, which has a man loitering around near some cars in the snowy darkness.

As you can see, my camera records snow as snow, presumably because the snow is reflecting near infrared radiation from the sun (which is in turn being filtered through the clouds; it was a cloudy day).

The shop in the picture is a butcher, Harrison Bros. This butcher, in fact. Shining out in the snow like a beacon of meat.

Have you ever eaten a whole bag of mints? You start by putting individual mints into your mouth, sucking them slowly until they melt, and then eventually the lust consumes you, overwhelms your fear, and you start to chew the mints instead of sucking them, and then you put several mints into your mouth, in a kind of mint orgy, and then the mints are all gone.

Don't feel sorry for the mints. Somewhere in the universe there is a planet where mints are the ruling species, and they use human beings as snack food. They pay for the food with little bits of tin foil. The mints have evolved over time into different breeds. Some are round with a hole in the middle - they are the female mints - some are semi-transparent, like an ice cube, very masculine, and some are coated with chocolate; these mints were once enslaved by the other mints until they won their freedom. Nonetheless they are still excluded from high-paying jobs and are forced by economic necessity to live in poor-quality housing. The mints worship a giant tongue who is simultaneously their god and their devil. They brush their teeth with meat-flavoured toothpaste. Such is life on the planet of mints.

They have a space programme. They plan to send a probe to their moon, which in their mythology is made out green chalk (of course). Because chalk is the opposite of cheese.

I bet you're wondering where "swirly-swirl went the snow" came from. This. Page 86 of the March 1988 issue of Sinclair User. Preview of Yeti, a clone of Exolon, which was a game where you were a little man that waddled slowly across the screen, and you had a gun and - this was the thing - a rocket launcher in your backpack. When you launched the rockets they went WHOOSH! up into the air, leaving a colourful trail behind them.

In hindsight the game was slow, boring, the gameplay was a throwback to a bygone age. Gunrunner, from the previous year, published by the same company, was conceptually similar but more sophisticated. But Exolon was more colourful and it had the rocket launcher, and so it was a big hit and spawned a load of clones. Raffaele Cecco had a yen for polishing up obsolete gameplay concepts with slick programming and production. Cybernoid was essentially Underwurlde or Starquake or any number of 1984, 1985-era games, but with a little spaceship, and just like them it was unfairly hard and no fun at all to play. But it had colourful explosions and a fantastic soundtrack (overshadowed by the C64 theme for Cybernoid II, though) and it sold loads.

I just had to get that off my chest. Twenty-two years of silence. No more.