Real or virtual caving? What’s the difference?

Grjótagjá caves near Mývatn lake, Iceland. Fra...
Grjótagjá caves near Mývatn lake, Iceland. Français : Grotte et source de Grjótagjá près du lac Mývatn, en Islande. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A bit less than a year ago I posted about caves virtual and real. I’m going to expand a bit on this today.

I worked for many years as a Linux Systems Administrator, a job which I loved and to a large extent brought home with me. I run a number of Linux systems at home, including the computer that I am writing this on. I have a system that I refer to as my “server” which I use for backups and for things that might get in the way on my desk computer.

Tux, the Linux penguin
Tux, the Linux penguin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Minecraft was a craze some time ago I didn’t get involved at first but when my grandkids got into it I became interested. In Minecraft you can build elaborate structures, but to do so you need to find and extract the necessary materials, and, depending on the server that you are using, fight off automatic monsters (“mobs”) and other players.

I installed the Minecraft client, tried it out and liked what I saw. However, playing on other peoples’ servers soon became less than satisfactory. I didn’t like the unrealistic ability to “fly” (not fall down when unsupported by things) and the combative aspects of the game were found on many servers.

Embed from Getty Images

So, I investigated and tried running my own Minecraft server. This is possible, and not particularly tricky, you still have to pay for the client. There’s nothing wrong with paying for things, of course, and I did pay for it, but being a Linux user I’m always interested in seeing if there is a free version out there. Not of the actual Minecraft naturally, but of a similar program.

Minetest is a very similar program to Minecraft, works in much the same way, but is free, and there were Linux packages available, meaning that the install was simple. So I installed the packages and started playing. (I later downloaded the source code and compiled it, but that is another story. The packages worked fine).

Install debian
Install debian (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pretty much everything that you can do in Minecraft you can also do in Minetest. The differences are minor. So everything I say from here on will probably apply to either program.

The game is all about assembling resources to build things, and you assemble resources mainly by mining. You whack a block (say stone) with a tool (say a steel pickaxe) and it disappears and appears in your inventory. When you have enough blocks you can build a wall of them by taking them from your inventory and placing them appropriately. That is the start of your fortress or palace.

English: Old house with flint front wall, John...
English: Old house with flint front wall, Johnson Street, Ludham This house on the A1062 has a beautiful front wall made of squared-off blocks of flint. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A plain stone building is boring, so you will want to acquire some fancy blocks to smarten it up and that is where the game shines. You can make fancy blocks to place on your building, but to do that you need to acquire resources and fabricate or “craft” them. The resources are found under the ground, which requires you to dig down to get them, which is of course where the “Mine” part of the name comes from.

If you dig downwards (on a slope, so that you can return to the surface eventually) you will sooner or later encounter a void or space where there are no blocks. Hopefully you will avoid falling to the bottom and dying. If you carefully climb down to the bottom of the void you are are the bottom of a virtual cave.

The Cave Automatic Virtual Environment at EVL,...
The Cave Automatic Virtual Environment at EVL, University of Illinois at Chicago. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The cave may have blocks which look slightly different to the normal blocks. These blocks contain resources, usually ores, that can be collected and used to make other special blocks. For instance a block with iron ores in it can be used to make steel ingots, which can then be used to make steel pickaxes and other useful tools.

The game’s caves are similar in many ways to real caves. The topography of the caves is varied, with narrow passageways in some places, deep clefts in others, potholes, and sometimes openings to the surface.

English: Middle Washfold There are several cav...
English: Middle Washfold There are several caves and pothole entrances near here. The top layer of limestone pavement seems separate from the rock beneath which has eroded in a different way. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course it is dark underground. That means that you need to manufacture torches and carry them in your inventory if venturing underground. A torch placed on the wall will illuminate a small area of the cavern leaving dark voids beyond the torchlight which might be interesting to explore!

The game’s caves often have, just like real caves, uneven floors and there will be much jumping over obstacles, and climbing up and down. Some caves do have flatter floors, as do many real caves.

English: Subglacial pothole on Pothole Dome.
English: Subglacial pothole on Pothole Dome. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some game caves have sloping floor, much like a staircase, and the roof also may slope down, giving the impression of a sloping slit, as is often found in real caves. It is not advisable to skip down the slope into the darkness, of course, as the slope may end in a drop, as may also be found in a real cave.

Game caves are often elongated, just like real caves, and may form large interlinked caverns. Cross passages may start way up on the walls of the caverns, just as happens in real caves. It’s often possible to travel some distance more or less horizontally before one has to climb up or down to continue.

Game caves do not often contain water, which is unlike most real caves, and when they do the water is either in the form of a waterfall or a lake. Long flowing river of water are not common in game caves. Sometimes a cave will contain a lake of lava, or a lava fall which often looks spectacular. Both lava and water may form short flows but will quickly “seep” into the rocks.

Some of the potholes are spectacular. As they are underground and dark, one cannot see the bottom. Often they can edged or mined around and descended that way. Looking back up one can see the torches that one placed on the way down as tiny lights, often to spectacular effect.

An abandoned mine near Yerington, Nevada, Unit...
An abandoned mine near Yerington, Nevada, United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve explored both real caves and game caves, there is a great deal of similarity in the experience. In both cases, one has only limited visibility around one, one has a sense of void, and a sense that one may fall. There’s the thrill of discovery as one explores, and a sense of achievement. Unfortunately in the game caves, there are no stalactites and stalagmites to decorate the cave, but perhaps someone will write some in some time.

Entrance to the REACTOR, at the , a cultural /...
Entrance to the REACTOR, at the , a cultural / history museum in Athens. The REACTOR is a CAVE virtual reality system sold by Trimension. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




Would you Adam and Eve it?

A fig tree in Autumn colours. Willowbank Reserve, Tawa, New Zealand

I’ve been re-reading the story of Adam and Eve in the Bible and I believe that Eve has been given a raw deal! Nowhere in the Bible does God forbid Eve from eating fruit from the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve had not been created when Adam was given the prohibition!

Secondly, before Eve ate from the tree, she would not have known that it was wrong, as she would as yet have no idea of right or wrong. She would not have known that what she was doing was evil.

English: Adam and Eve are being sent out of th...
English: Adam and Eve are being sent out of the garden of Eden Русский: Адам и Ева изгоняются из Эдемского сада (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thirdly, why did God put the tree there at all? He had no need of it? The Garden of Eden was put there for Adam’s use, with two trees in the centre which Adam was told not to touch. What did God think was going to happen, given that both Adam and Eve were innocents and didn’t know Good and Evil?

And the serpent, described as “crafty” in the New International Version of the Bible. Its intent was obviously not good. Had it already tasted the fruit from the tree? Poor is loaded with the burden of the Original Sin and it should probably have been just the serpent that got the boot from the Garden of Eden with all his offspring.

Anglo-Catalan Psalter or The Great Canterbury ...
Anglo-Catalan Psalter or The Great Canterbury Psalter, folio 1 recto: Genesis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While the Bible cannot literally be true, given that we appear to live in a deterministic scientifically describable Universe, and the events in the Bible, the miracles, seem to be both non-deterministic and scientifically highly improbable, we can use examples from the Bible to investigate moral and ethical matters.

The Bible story is an early attempt to investigate moral concepts. A mountain exploding is neither good nor evil, but if we tell a little story about the original people and how they came to know good and evil we can begin to get some idea of the concepts.

English: Bible of Lilienfeld
English: Bible of Lilienfeld (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to the story God is responsible for the whole shebang. Why on earth did he introduce good and evil into the world? For that matter, what are good and evil?

In the story the Original Sin was Eve doing something that a higher authority (the Highest Authority!) told Adam, and by extension Eve, not to do. This then opened a Pandora’s Box of things good and evil, like not romping around with no clothes on.

Philosophers note that this does not actually answer the question of where good and evil, bad and good, arise from. It doesn’t answer the questions of what exactly good and evil are and why they exist in the first place. The Universe would no doubt be a less interesting place without the concepts.

While good and bad are similar to good and evil, there are differences and the word “good” is used in a different sense in the two pairs of concepts. A good harvest means a plentiful one and there is no moral aspect to it (except possibly if it is a reward for serious toil), whereas giving part of the harvest to someone in need is a good deed and is good in a moral sense.

Charity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Similarly a bad harvest is a light one, and again has no moral aspect to it, but refusing to spare a part of the harvest with those in need or stealing the harvest of someone else is morally bad thing to do. It is an evil act.

So, Eve was set up. She had no concept of good and evil, she was persuaded by the serpent who it appears might have already sampled the fruit, and God had placed the trees in the Garden of Eden to tempt her, and for her to be the channel by which good and evil entered the world.

English: Bronnbach Abbey. Choir stalls by Dani...
English: Bronnbach Abbey. Choir stalls by Daniel Aschauer (1778): Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil Deutsch: Kloster Bronnbach. Chorgestühl von Daniel Aschauer (1778): Baum der Erkenntnis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The end result, apart from the expulsion, was the question of what was allowed and what was not. Obviously, doing what you are told by authority is high on the list, as is walking around with no clothes on.

Theologians of all religions have spent a great deal of time and effort deciding what is good and what is bad. Much of the thinking is encapsulated in the “Ten Commandments” (in Judaism, Christianity and Islam at least), and Jesus’ First Amendment to love others as one loves oneself.

The place of Ten Commandment made from Murano ...
The place of Ten Commandment made from Murano glass at Kedumim Synagogue SHetibe, up from the stand. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Other attempts to codify the concept of good and evil have been attempted over time. One such is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as advocated by Eleanor Roosevelt. This document is good in its intent, but lacking in its understanding of the realities of life. For example, during a war many of the so-called “Human Rights” may need to be abrogated.

For instance, an individual should never undergo torture. However, what if torturing one individual one can save millions of others? I don’t answer this question – I merely pose it. Indeed did God breach the Human Rights of Adam and Eve by evicting them from their home in the Garden of Eden, perhaps?

Adam and Eve ( )
Adam and Eve ( ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Arguments like this abound – is it acceptable to transport a man to “the colonies” for stealing a loaf of bread? What if he did it, not for himself, but for his family? The law, which is at its base a codification of good and evil, said at the time that this was acceptable, and indeed necessary, but today it seems barbaric. Morals seem to be mutable.

Poor old Eve gets the blame for everything. Literally everything. For pain, childbirth, and the whole Human Being thing, not to mention venomous snakes. Snakes may, if they were conscious beings might consider themselves hard done by, because after all, if God had not put the tempting tree there would have been no problem.

Red milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum syspil...
Red milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum syspila) User licence kindly provided to Wikipedia under the GFDL by photographer: Mike Pingleton Mike’s page (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What about all those fleas and mosquitoes too? They have probably killed more people than snakes ever have. Maybe it wasn’t the serpent’s argument that persuaded Eve. Maybe it was a mosquito whispering in her ear that tipped the tables.

It’s a great story, a story of innocence lost. It conveniently encapsulates a reason for good and evil, and accounts for the fact that humans have to toil for a living, either by tilling a field and fighting weeds and thorns, pest and crop diseases, or by piloting a desk in a modern city.

Embed from Getty Images

But it is unfair that Eve gets all the blame. If Eve were being tried in a court of law, I’d believe that she would have a good case, being set up by God and beguiled by His servant the serpent, all when Eve was in a state of innocence, not knowing at the time that what she was doing was wrong. Yes, I reckon she’d be let off with a caution.

Depiction of Adam and Eve being cast out from ...
Depiction of Adam and Eve being cast out from the Garden of Eden in the Dispersed Falnama (Photo credit: Wikipedia)