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[techbooks] REVIEW: "The Toyotomi Blades", Dale Furutani

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  • Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Tr
    BKTYTMBL.RVW 20000108 The Toyotomi Blades , Dale Furutani, 1997, 0-312-96667-9 %A Dale Furutani %C 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010 %D 1997 %G
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 17, 2000
      BKTYTMBL.RVW 20000108

      "The Toyotomi Blades", Dale Furutani, 1997, 0-312-96667-9
      %A Dale Furutani
      %C 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010
      %D 1997
      %G 0-312-96667-9
      %I St. Martin's Press
      %O 212-674-5151 fax 800-288-2131 www.tor.com www.stmartins.com
      %P 212 p.
      %T "The Toyotomi Blades"

      Furutani's mystery is readable, well-written, and intelligent. As
      only one example of the realism, he has a sleuth who does *not* take
      every chance to run off after the crooks himself, while avoiding
      giving any information to the authorities.

      The central character is a programmer, but technology does not play a
      large part in the story. Computers do get used twice, one time a
      little better than the other.

      First, the not so good. At one point in the story, a fax is received
      where an image can't be made out because of poor resolution. So, our
      hero suggests that computer enhancement be used to bring out the
      details. There is even some discussion of finding edges in an image,
      and all that.

      Unfortunately, there are two problems with the computer image recovery
      as described. The first is that computer enhancement of images
      requires a lot of understanding of optics, something which the author
      doesn't seem to have. Computer enhancement works well for bringing
      out detail in, for example, images where the contrast is very low.
      This has been used to find, for the first time, that Uranus has bands
      just like Jupiter and Saturn. Computer enhancement can also be used
      to sharpen fuzzy images. However, it does this by calculating, and
      then subtracting, effects due to optical dispersion and interference.
      In fact, the process described in the book, which eliminates small
      "errors," would ruin any possibility of doing this kind of image
      enhancement.

      The other problem is that the image in question is a fax. This means
      that it has already been digitized, at a very low resolution and
      contrast, which would, again, damage the chances for a successful
      image recovery.

      On the other hand, the computer mapping application used in the book
      is quite marvelous. The images that are of importance in the book
      turn out to be parts of a map. Not just any map: a treasure map. Our
      hero does not have all of the pieces, and the placement of some pieces
      that are available is unknown. But by comparing the possible
      arrangements of map pieces against known terrain, the characters in
      the book are able to come up with a reasonably short list of potential
      sites. This is quite realistic. In fact, it has been used in
      classical studies, not with maps, but with fragments of text on
      papyrus. By comparing snippets of text (I seem to recall one instance
      of four characters on two lines) with known works, researchers have
      been able to identify and even reassemble fragments that otherwise
      would have remained so much confetti.

      Overall, it's quite a delight to find something that uses computers
      realistically for once.

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 2000 BKTYTMBL.RVW 20000108

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      http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade
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