Happy Halloween

This might not have anything to do with Murdoch Mysteries but I thought I might as well celebrate the occasion. That is my pumpkin it is from the Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. If you are pining for some Murdoch for Halloween I suggest Werewolves and Bloodlust they both feature classic movie monsters. Have a safe and happy Halloween!




If you ever wondered what the movie that Station 4 was so interested in the start of the episode Body Double? It is called Fred Ott’s sneeze and you can see a version of it below. It was filmed on a kinetoscope, one of the world’s first video cameras in 1894 at Edison laboratories. It claims the record for the first moving picture that was copyrighted in the United States. It was not the first film, that title goes to the The title of first film goes to the Roundhay garden scene filmed in France. The people of the Victorian era were fascinated by visual tricks and rudimentary animation. For the next four posts I will go through four ridiculously named devices that produce very good animations.

Snakes and Ladders

I always thought that snakes and ladders was a boring game with no strategy, entirely dependent on chance. For Murdoch, it was a very new game, having been introduced to England in 1892. The game actually dates back far before it’s English debut, it was invented in India around 200 B.C. Hindu scholars created the game call Leela to teach children the path to enlightenment, the snakes were bad deeds whereas the ladders were virtues. To attain enlightenment, and win, you had to reach the final square that was numbered 100. The game was originally played with shells instead of dice. Six shells were thrown and depending on how they landed depended on how many spaces you advanced. The board below was created around 1895, see what good acts and misdeeds there are. My favourite is the boy kicking the puppy only to have the dog turn around and bite him in the rump. The English version had 5 virtues and 13 vices, differing from the 8 vices that  Inspector Edward Scanlon’s board had. So next time you see a game of snakes and ladders, don’t dismiss it as a trivial children’s game, take a look and see what the morals of that board are. Soon we will be watching a sneeze, stay tuned.

If you haven’t seen the episode snakes and ladders, it is one of my favourites. It is the first episode of the second season.


Of the many famous historical figures that Murdoch has encounter there are very few who have captured the imaginations of the general public like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini. If you don’t already know Doyle was the creator of Sherlock Holmes and Houdini was a master illusionist and escape artist. In 1920 the man so often compared to Sherlock Holmes and his creator came together and became friends. In later years a difference in opinion about spiritualism drove them apart. Spiritualism was a fad in the 19th and early 20th century where people tried fervently to contact the spirit world through the uses of séances and mediums. Conan Doyle was pushed towards spiritualism when his father died and in the same month his wife was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Grief stricken he pursed the only avenue that was producing results in contacting the dead, spiritualism.  Harry Houdini was instead a skeptic, wanting to believe but he could not find a true medium and could easily spot them due to his years as an illusionist. To this end, he even put out a $10,000 reward for a legitimate medium but the money was never paid out. Houdini’s final and strongest argument against spiritualism was a pact with his wife that whomever died first would try to relay a secret message from the grave. In 1926, Houdini meet his tragic end and his wife Bess tried for ten years to receive the secret message on the night of his death, Halloween. Arthur Conan Doyle came to believe that Houdini was in fact a strong medium himself and that instead of debunking the mediums, he was blocking their power with his own. Houdini was unable to convince him that his tricks were illusions and this very publically ended their friendship. Next time we will look at Murdoch’s Scrutiny camera.


Modern Night Vision

There are three main types of modern night vision, image intensification, thermal imaging, and active illumination. We will talk about the first two and leave the last for another day. Image intensification is probably what you think of when hear night vision, it is the classic ghostly green glow that you see on tv. It works in a similar way to the old Cathode-ray tube TVs and computer screens. In old TVs, there is an electron gun that fires electrons at the screen and when they hit, they cause the phosphors painted on the back of the screen to illuminate, creating the image. Instead of an electron gun, the electrons are produce by a photocathode, a device that converts light (photons) into electrons. The problem is that the light is still too faint, because the device is essentially just converting photons to electrons and back to photons again. The whole point of converting the photons to electrons is because it is a lot easier to multiply electrons than it is photons. This is done by an electron multiplier. As the electron exits the photocathode it collides with a secondary emission material that produces between one and three more electrons. If there is a series of these, then the electrons will grow exponentially. With just 4 plates, we would have 1 -> 3 -> 9 -> 27 -> 81, 81% multiplication of electrons! Even more plates would bring it quickly in to the hundreds then thousands.

Thermal imaging on the other hand is much different than image intensification. Instead of using the visible spectrum, light that the human eye can see, they use infrared light. Infrared between 9,000–14,000nm (as a reference red light is between 620–750 nm)  is thermal radiation and can be used to produce a human visible image depending on the amount of radiation or the temperature of the object. With colder objects having less energy, closer to 9,000nm, and hotter objects having more. Since all objects emit infrared radiation, it is perfect for seeing when there is little to no visible light. Thermal imaging has to be a digital system link image intensification, with a digital camera for seeing the IR and a screen for displaying the picture. The camera will be specially tuned to only see the IR and have a filter that blocks out anything but the thermal radiation.

If you want to “see” infrared light for yourself, take a remote for your TV and point it at either a webcam or a camera on your phone. When you press a button you should see the LED in the front get brighter. The colour depends on how your camera processes IR, I’ve seen grey, red and purple before. Don’t be fooled though, the light would be the top colour on a rainbow if you could see it. Soon we will look at some of Station 4’s famous guests and how Murdoch uses active illumination.

Seeing in the Dark

One of man’s greatest fears is the dark, but it is not the dark that we fear, as much as what may lurk in the dark. Banishing the darkness is what we have tried to do for centuries, first lighting our houses and then our streets, but what if we didn’t have to use light to see in the dark? What if we had night vision. Murdoch set out to solve this problem with his night vision goggles.

 Murdoch’s design was probably  based off the Gregorian telescopes. If you caught it at the about the 15 minute mark of the episode Convalescents, Enid said she built a reflector telescope with parabolic mirrors, which would make the most likely candidate a gregorian telescope. We will use the telescope to get a better understanding of what is happening with the night vision goggles. As light enters the the front of the telescope, it is reflected back by a parabolic mirror. A parabolic mirror is a bowl shaped mirror that focuses the light in the center, or the focal point. At the moment this isn’t very useful because the light is now focused in front of the eye instead of on the retina. To do this we simply added another mirror at the focal point to reflect back into the eye.

The advantage to this design is that the image will be upright, unlike most other telescope design. This is critical because it would be almost impossible to navigate with your vision reversed. I cannot say whether or not the design is actually functional, I tried with a small reflector telescope to see if it amplified ambient light and it didn’t. If it did work it would not be like the episode. What we see is unity illumination, something that can only be accomplished  with modern night vision techniques something we will explore in tomorrow’s post. If you know someone with better knowledge of optics than me or even if you are willing to make one yourself let me know.