Arrival to The Story of Your Life

Watching Arrival reminded me of The Story of Your Life (Ted Chiang) which I read whilst Arrival was being made. Then I read it again. There’s something a little circular going on…

Arrival

Thumbing through the DVD collection at the local library I stumbled on Arrival, described on the back cover as a scifi thriller.

Arrival DVD

I didn’t understand the rest of the description as it was in Dutch, but “sci-fi” was enough to get it from the library shelf and into my DVD player.

It’s a slow moving movie, but it wasn’t long until the story line started to seem a bit familiar. It turns out that Arrival was based on a short story I’d read previously.

Dutch description of Arrival

The Story of Your Life (Ted Chiang)

“Here, read this, it’s not quite time travel but I think you’ll like it.”

I was passed The Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang.

It’s a long short story, or a short novella, about a linguist who has contact with aliens who have arrived on Earth. Who they are and what they want is unknown, and it’s Louise Banks’ task to find out.

But first she needs a line of communication with them. I was pleased that the Hollywood arrogance of teaching everyone (including extra-terrestrial Aliens) the English language was cast aside, and the focus moved more onto learning the language(s) of the visitors.

Actually I mentioned this in my recent review of Patterns on Pages (CR Downing) – that linguistics can effect culture – as well as the way of thinking. And this is the key to the plot – and where the “…not quite time travel” element comes into play.

Compare and Contrast

Of course there are always some differences between plot lines when printed on 2D paper or projected onto the silver screen, but generally speaking I think the movie remained pretty faithful to the original written word. (Perhaps this is obvious because I recognised the book from the movie!) It makes it all the more impressive then, that Arrival plays more with the idea of time travel without screwing up the original plot!

That said, there’s more specific detail given in The Story of Your Life regarding the complexities of time. For example, there’s a description of a “Book of Ages” which contains every detail of the future. If it’s read then our future is known and pre-determined. This opens the question of free will – are we actually able to choose to live out a different path than what’s already been written?

It’s an interesting point. In a Greek tragedy, so Ted Chiang continues to write, there’s no freedom of will – and events will conspire to force us to live out what has already been written. I think this makes sense because it’s similar to the “past is fixed” argument. Recall that the Book of Ages will have been written in the (or “a”?) future, so today’s events are effectively those in the (unchangeable) past.

Arrival Alien Language - a circle
Image credit (and header): www.wired.com/2016/11/arrivals-designers-crafted-mesmerizing-alien-alphabet/

Arrival was released towards the end of last year which means that in all likelihood I was reading The Story of Your Life around the same time. And oddly enough, after watching Arrival I was motivated to reread the novel. It seemed familiar. Deja ‘Read’. It seems circular. It’s almost as if…no. Or could it?

Perhaps next time I’ll have an easier time making sense of the DVD back cover. I already seem to have advance knowledge of what it will be about…!

Paul

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A Single Life (a short time travel animation)

“A Single Life” is a short animation where time is bi-directional on a single time-line. “You might think your life is never ending” – but only for as long as the duration of your life.

The Netherlands does it again!

I’ve written several times about how the Netherlands is making its stamp when it comes to things time travel. An appearance in one of the first time travel novels, the time travelling train, the temporally challenged table cloth and months to name but a few instances.

And now Joris from the “Job, Joris & Marieke” animation studio in Utrecht (the Netherlands! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) has alerted me to a brilliant time travel animation: A Single Life.

I could mention that A Single Life was nominated for the 87th Academy Awardsยฎ in 2015 for best animated short film and that it’s been awarded with 40 prizes. But pictures paint a thousand words. Come to think of it, a movie trumps the lot – so here it is!

Groove-y eh! ๐Ÿ˜‰

A Single Life operates on a beautifully simple idea; that time follows a single time line but that it’s bi-directional. A straight-forward (and backward! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) idea, but one which got me thinking about a few issues.

Dead end

If the vinyl record (or “single”) plays the soundtrack to your life, maybe there’s an underlying story. A book of life, maybe. And as many authors are aware, there’s a beginning a middle and an end. Time travel is allowed only during this person’s life. The middle. Obviously there’s interesting stuff going on here!

A Single Life - as a baby

But time travel to before or after isn’t possible; it’s a hard stop. A point of singularity beyond which you can’t say “actually I zoomed on a bit too fast there, I think I’ll go back and not die/not be unborn” because there is no “go back” when you’re on a point. The line has literally ended; time travel in “A Single Life” isn’t possible beyond the point of death, or birth.

A smooth progression?

So time is progressive within boundaries – but it can also jump.

A Single Life - with a record player

I love the idea that the needle follows a scratch in the record and causes a time hiatus, a moment where two discontinuous points in time are adjacent to each other (an idea played with (rather badly) in Time’s Eye by Stephen Baxter and Arthur C. Clarke).

(Come to think of it, this seems to be a little similar to the idea of wormholes in space which connect two otherwise separate locations).

Time for progress?

Music enthusiasts would have us believe that the analogue sound quality of a record player is superior to the digital formats from CDs and MP3 players.

A Single Life - vinyl single

I’m not one to judge sound quality – or in this parallel, the quality of a person’s life, but it would be interesting to consider different kinds of music players as a time travel machine.

How would a time travelling CD track play out? The laser reads digital points located at specific locations on the disk, so in theory, with programming this could give us the same result as a needle following a groove (or scratch). We know this because we can easily skip from track to track, for example. This wouldn’t be so simple with an audio cassette when it comes to time jumping. I’m guessing an MP3 player would act similarly to the CD player – although perhaps we’d be open to effects due to corrupted files. Anything can happen with viruses

The personal touch

That’s the time travel machine – this one needs an operator / operatee…

One of the things which first struck me whilst watching this animation is that the hand was always able to remain on the record whilst the surroundings were changing in response to a change in time. It brought to mind my earlier thoughts about the time in a time machine (see my comments in my review of “Piercing the Elastic Limit“).

Naturally, the hand is connected to the rest of the body, so in which case I’m interested in what happens to the person during time travel.

Whilst biological changes are evident (she gets older / younger), her mental state is not so clear. She can remember that she needs to keep her hand on the record, for instance, but is there a more general preservation of memory? What’s the difference between living life (or a part of it) the first time round and say the fifth time? In the latter case, the memory of how to ‘play’ the record makes sense, but are there life experiences to recall? I’d guess not, but it seems inconsistent.

Several novels and movies have dealt with this issue. Memories are clearly kept in Groundhog Day allowing Phil Connors to cumulatively educate himself. And in the movie Click (where a remote control allows fast forwarding through life) Michael Newman’s mind goes into zombie mode whilst his body plays out the actions without a real mental presence. And of course I should mention Buckyball by Fabien Roy where a particular musical track brought about time travel and replays (memory preserved).

The cast of "A Single Life"
The cast of “A Single Life”

Whether memories are preserved during replays or not, or whether it’s a good idea to go forwards past seemingly dull moments in life, I think the take home message of the animation is clear:

We have one single life – live it! ๐Ÿ™‚

Paul

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Portugal – land of time travel?

Reverse archaeology where we’ve dug up a piece of ceramic from the Portuguese future?

I’ve noticed on several occasions that Holland has a bizarre relation with time. It’s featured in one of the first time travel pieces of fiction, there are the time travel trains, and don’t forget the extra day in June.

Now it seems that Portugal is putting in a bid to be the land of time travel. Here’s a discovery I found: one of my baking dishes…

Made in Portugal 18944
MADE IN PORTUGAL 18944

In case you missed it, here’s a zoom:

In case you missed it: MADE IN PORTUGAL 18944
In case you missed it: MADE IN PORTUGAL 18944

It seems to me like this is reverse archaeology where we’ve dug up a piece of ceramic from the future!

Paul

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Summer time in Spring

Spring seems to be a forgotten season. It’s more of a stepping stone to summer; a time of change. Is that why we turn to summer time in Spring?

Summer time in Spring

So Spring officially started on Monday 20 March 2017 at 11:28. Last year Nature marked this event with a total solar eclipse. And Nature marked that event with full blown cloud cover. (*Growl*)

Naturally the onset of Spring means that 6 days later we enter the misnomer known as summer time (summer being another 3 months away).

I’ve commented before about the misuse of the extra hour we gain as we enter Winter time (in Autumn), so now that we’ve learned our lesson we get to give the hour back and get out of bed an hour earlier. On a Sunday, the day of rest.

I think we’ve messed up again…

Spring – what’s the point?

What's the point of Spring?
What’s the point of Spring? Image credit: Gilbert Tremblay.

But that’s summer time, and I want to get back to Spring. It seems to be a bit of a forgotten season and I think it’s because it’s a sort of stepping stone into the warmth and brightness of Summer.

I postulate that Spring isn’t really a season in itself. It’s fake and superficial. The sun shines, but it doesn’t really warm things up. It still hangs low in the sky and gets in our eyes. The wind is cold, and morning frost is always possible. It’s the worst possible combination of all kinds of weather.

Protecting against Summer
Protecting against Summer. Sitting in the shade with sunglasses. Image credit: Sanja Gjenero.

Maybe we should be pleased; in summer the sun comes out and we do everything we can to avoid its benefits. We sit in the shade under trees, wear shorts and T-shirts to cool down, smear sun-cream on our skin to avoid its contact and wear sunglasses so we don’t see its lighting effect.

Spring does all that work for us, so we should be happy – and I suppose most of us are. But I think our cause for happiness is false. I think we like Spring for another reason.

A time of change

Spring marks a change from the dreary whiteness of winter. Daffodils and crocuses are sprouting, injecting welcome colour and scent into a new temporal landscape. Birds are returning from the south to build their homes in trees from which green leaves are budding. Cheerful tweeting fills the air.

It’s not just different – it’s change. Is this what spring is then – not a season in itself but a change?

Now this makes more sense. In Spring (and Autumn) we’re at the vernal (autumnal) equinox – when the sun is over the equator. In other words, the sun is passing from the southern hemisphere to the northern. From negative to positive latitudes. A change.

In terms of the sine wave which models these kinds of latitudinal changes, we’re now at the point of maximum gradient.

Maximum change in Spring
The day numbers, along the x-axis, commence with 1 on 21st March (the vernal equinox) and continue to 365 when the next vernal equinox is reached. Image credit: Astronavigationdemystified.com.

We notice this by how much lighter it gets in the evening by larger increments of time at the equinoxes; take a look at the sunset times – they get later with each successive day by greatest amounts around now.

Spring – the journey

I’ve often noted in my reviews of time travel novels that they may take on either a journey or a destination approach. I think it’s fairly clear that if Spring were a time travel novel, it would be more about the journey – how we progress from the cold and bleakness of Winter to the warmth and life of Summer – than about the jumping lambs and daffodils made out of egg cartons by kids.

Clock change – Spring forward

For now, it’s nearly time to change the clocks. It’s the ‘easy one’ – putting the hour forward. Most digital clocks don’t allow going an hour back, so we end up putting the hour forward by 23. It sums up time travel – easier to go forwards in time than back. Still. In human terms it’s the difficult one as we get up an hour earlier.

I read a facebook post earlier today. (OK, obviously it was earlier…) It mentioned that it’s ironic that parents lying in for half an hour tomorrow are still getting up half an hour early!

I’m going to ease myself in slowly, and start changing my clocks now on Saturday night. I’ve already done the clock setting on my thermostat so that the heating will come on at the right time in Summer…

Ah yes. It’s still Spring so maybe that’s not as daft as it sounds! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Paul

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Eternalism, time dilation and the land of nod

Eternalism is where all moments in time co-exist. Can dreaming give us a clue as to how we can train our brain to access the past or future as well as experience the present?

Eternalism

There’s an idea called eternalism which is where all moments in time co-exist. There’s no past, present or future – just time, and different segments of that time can be experienced by calling on it (though on a practical footing, I’m not sure how…)

This idea came to mind a few days ago when I was watching a video clip on youtube. Being an English gentleman I naturally wanted to be sipping a cup of tea during my viewing pleasure so I clicked pause and put the kettle on. Whilst I was waiting for it to boil I took a moment to look out of the lounge window.

There’s something in the air

The sun was shining, sending forth its electromagnetic radiation of multiple frequencies. Despite this, my neighbour had smoke chugging out of his chimney from his wood fire. A couple of planes were scratching contrails across the sky. So much for the visible – I knew that the pilots would be in radio contact with air control. A gaggle of schoolgirls were texting on their data connected smartphones as they walked by. I could see the TV was on in the house over the road (the one with the satellite dish), and cars zipped by with open windows, music from the radio streaming outside.

I couldn’t help wonder about all stuff in the air. Some things we put there for our convenience (thought sometimes it’s inconvenient for others…) It’s all there for our taking. Like my own WiFi connection which I was planning on reconnecting to in a few moments. At my convenience.

Sadly I’m no technical buff, but I find technology immensely interesting. Whilst I can use WiFi and understand its basic principles, I don’t actually know how it really works – how does information get carried along a wave?

And how can a video be on pause on WiFi? Is the electromagnetic wave also on pause? Does it now stand stationary, or temporarily reduce it’s frequency from a number of gigahertz to zero, awaiting for my beck and call? Is my paused 40 minute video stored somewhere along a wave of a fixed length to hold the length of the film clip? What if I move my phone around in my lounge, would it encounter a different part of the em wave and I’d be watching a different part of the movie?

And this is just my paused video! What about all of the videos? Or the other information out there on the web? Other media, sound files, web pages, all kinds of things, all co-existing somewhere out there waiting for me to access them at any time I like. Things off the web even. Pick up a phone and you can start talking to anyone about anything you like. They’re all waiting for your call…

Frasier Crane - I'm listening!
Frasier Crane – I’m listening! (Image source: http://utbblogs.com/your-apps-are-listening/)

Is all of this information out there floating around waiting for me to access it?

Accessing time

Is this like eternalism, that all time is out there, waiting for us to access it? Can we choose which bit we’d like to access? Any moment, and we call it the present?

I suspect that in my WiFi reality, I’d request certain information, and that part wings it way over to me along optical fibers and WiFi airways. Much like when someone asks me to remember a specific moment and we can choose to ‘relive’ a certain part of our history.

I can’t remember which famous person said it, but someone had problems remembering his future, and I must admit that I suffer the same problem. (Notice the irony that I also can’t remember bits of the past too…). But I think dreaming comes quite close – we dream of brighter futures, for instance.

The land of nod

Those of us who remember our dreams often find that they are complete stories.

A colleague once told me that this is because our brains aren’t capable of producing a movie-like plot each and every night in real-time; when we dream we actually dream in snippets and our brains are clever enough to interpolate through the gaps (much like it’s able to recreate sight in our blind spot) to produce a seemingly continuous dream.

In this way, dreams might appear to span several days or even longer – a ‘dream feature’ alluded to in the movie “Inception” where time passes faster in dreams than in the real waking life.

In other words, when our brain joins the dots its net effect is to stretch out time.

The idea of stretching time isn’t so far-fetched – I expect that most of us have heard of time dilation, and further, I expect that we’ve all hit the snooze button on the alarm clock and been surprised at how quickly it goes off again. I know this: I never have enough time in bed!

If interpolation can stretch time can we somehow get to extrapolate it so that we can get into the future?

You are feeling sleepy…

Hypnotism - an alternative path to the land of nod
Hypnotism – an alternative path to the land of nod. Image source: www.guideopedia.com

Under hypnosis (a dodgy form of suggested dreaming) a person can allegedly transfer their point of view from one point in space to another, or to more accurately recall certain moments in their visible history. Once we find the temporal analogue to this then perhaps we can say that we’ve cracked eternalism.

Perhaps we’re already closer than we thought. “In 1996 a National Institutes of Health panel judged that hypnosis might help alleviate pain from cancer and other chronic conditions.” ๐Ÿ˜‰ (emphasis added, source.)

Hmm, I think I’ll sleep on this…

Paul

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Strapped For Time

It seems to me that we’re obsessed with time enough as it is, and by putting on watches we’re strapping ourselves to time even more literally! We want more degrees of temporal freedom – but there’s a paradox…

As time travel fans we often feel the need to understand the nature of time so that we can have an idea of how we can travel through it. Or scramble out of the River of Time and splash back into it at another time / location. Or some other way of bypassing time’s normal flow or passage.

However, the precise nature of time seems to elude us. Qualitatively, it’s unclear, but in some ways time travel is more concerned with its quantitative nature – how much of it there is. Indeed, it seems a logical prerequisite that in order to verify time travel we need a means of its measurement.

But why the clock?

Are we as time travel enthusiasts different from others when we obsess about one of the 4 dimensions? I don’t think so, especially when we consider that often we look more at the measurement of time rather than at time itself – how many time travel sites and authors use the image of a clock as an icon (ahem…look at the favicon of this site! ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

Other sites obsess over other dimensions and units of measure: health and fitness, weight loss (mass). Holidays and travel (temperature, distance), 18+ sites (size, proportions, not just linear, but their differentials (curves…)).

Of course – I’d argue that the dimension of time trumps the lot – it’s intrinsic to our state of being; when we talk about the meaning of life (love) we talk (and sing) about our hearts beating as one. Our heart defines our natural rhythm, “the old ticker”.

An obsession with clocks and watches

It seems to me that we’re obsessed with time enough as it is. From the moment the alarm clock goes off in the morning to when our body clocks alert us through some biological means that we’re tired and that we’ve had enough awake time, we depend on time.

By putting on watches we’re strapping ourselves to time. We catch the commuter train at a specific time (allegedly – bar delays and cancellations) to take us to work which begins (note: not ends…) at a set time. Meetings are scheduled to start at a set time – and we righteously become aggrieved when those meetings demand more time from us than originally allocated.

Everything is run by time. Einstein is quoted as saying that “the only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once”. Makes sense.

One handed watch
Would it make a difference if it was 3:41 or 3:42? Image courtesy: https://www.slow-watches.com/

I have a friend who showed me a watch he’d received as a gift from his wife – a special watch which at first I thought was faulty because it only had one hand! It turns out that’s its special feature!

Having only an hour hand means that he’s not tied to time – always watching the minutes and seconds and using them to dictate his life. He’s got a greater degree of freedom by vanquishing such precision – more room, more time for movement. He knows it’s around 2 pm, or somewhere between 2 and 3 pm.

Whilst such a watch won’t help me catch my train (though I suspect I’m sure that many train drivers use such a watch) I love the idea! Not being tied to time, not literally strapping ourselves to it and enjoying a certain kind of freedom! Surely it’s a better way to truly live in the present and to seize the day!

And when the day’s over? We turn to bed and sleep; our minds are untangled from time and we enter a place – the land of nod – where as the movie “Inception” reminds us, time flows at a different rate, or indeed, exhibits an entirely different behaviour than in our normal waking hours.

The paradox

Seems to be a paradox that we wish to free ourselves of time in some way, and perhaps this is one of the key drivers for a desire to time travel. Yet at the same time, in order to time travel we need to be keenly aware of time…

Paul

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Time’s Arrow

“The Arrow Paradox” and “Time’s Arrow” work in space and time respectively and each have limitations. Can they be reconciled to allow time travel?

Seen the movie?

When I watched “Clock Anti-clock” by Deepak Sharma (Paragravity Films) it made me think about an altered state of physics.

Just last week I stumbled upon a description of the “Arrow Paradox” (sometimes called “Fletcher’s Paradox”) which is a much more succinct way of putting what I think I was trying to get over!

In my earlier post there was a snapshot of a plane in flight. A photo, or snap shot, is independent of time because time is essentially reduced to zero duration. I made the point that physics must be behaving differently if there’s no time; the plane which we see in the photo is stationary in the air. Velocity is a function of time (and there’s no time in a snap shot), and with no speed there can be no lift.

Plane doesn't fall
Plane remains in air with no lift

With no lift the plane must fall (OK, admittedly this would be a velocity, or a reaction to the force of gravity (acceleration – another function of time)), but we don’t see that happening (or expect it). We assume that the plane will continue to carry on its original flight path.

Now read the theory

The Arrow paradox follows a similar argument, using an arrow in flight as an example, and ultimately concludes that motion is impossible. It’s a clever argument – but flawed because we know that motion through space is possible.

Mix and retreat

You’ve probably seen the link coming a mile off – The Arrow of Time and the Arrow Paradox.

The Arrow of Time is a basic model of time which says that time can ‘move’ only in one direction. There’s a brilliant video describing it here:

But does having a limitation on (the direction of) motion sound familiar? ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’ve noticed that many authors play the H.G.Wells ‘trick’ and twist the space and time dimensions around when it comes to conjuring up a method for time travel. And I must admit that I have also played around with a few ideas in the past wondering that if space and time can be considered equal in terms of dimension then by space’s analogy we can think up some interesting temporal counterparts.

But I was interested to read a statement by Arthur Stanley Eddington (this is the astronomer who came up with the concept of Time’s Arrow):

“I shall use the phrase โ€˜time’s arrowโ€™ to express this one-way property of time which has no analogue in space.” – Arthur Stanley Eddington

What does this mean for us then? That time is bound to a single direction whereas this isn’t true in space? I suppose this is nothing new – it’s our base position because it fits in with our everyday experience in life. We can walk to the bar, have a drink, and walk back home again. But we can’t go back in time and wish we hadn’t got into that bar fight.

Maybe the clue isn’t in the direction of travel within a dimension, but in exploring the number of dimensions. Space has 3 (“length”, “width” and “height” – which I’ll label here as “X”,”Y” and “Z” respectively) and Time has one (“time” – let’s call it “T”.)

Even if we move along only the X axis in space, we know that movement along Y and Z is also possible. These are at right angles to X and effectively constitute a move into imaginary space. And if that’s possible then moving in a negative direction is child’s play.

With time it’s different. Having only one temporal dimension means that we’re restricted to movement only within that dimension along that one axis (and apparently, only along one direction).

Given that string theory is able to come up with as many as 26 dimensions this seems a little unfair! How come time only has one?

According to superstringtheory.com time was introduced by Einstein as a dimension “…to describe an event in spacetime” – in other words, so that things can move (in space) and happen at a given time. Or in Einstein’s own words (possibly…) “…the reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”

Of course, I’m not one to argue with Einstein (because that would require a working time machine… ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) but I’d like to question his empirical approach where he’s constructed a set of parameters which describe what we have. Is there space (or time, *giggle*) to keep searching within string theory to find another temporal dimension?

Being at the back of the list, number 27, I expect it’s going to be tricky one to find. But that’s the thing when it comes to finding the secret of time travel, isn’t it? ๐Ÿ˜‰

A (Re)call to View

Time’s Arrow dictates that we cannot go backwards in time the same way that we can in space. This of course assumes that we can go backwards in space – though I’m sure that physics would take a funny turn…

Meanwhile, here’s the link to “Clock Anti-Clock”. If you recall, I mentioned this movie at the start of this post. Memory? Isn’t that the only way we can currently go back in time? ๐Ÿ˜‰ (see header image!)

Enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚

Paul

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The New Year: Is it worth all the fuss?

The new year is a time which is traditionally celebrated by most people. But is it really worth all the fuss?

It may seem at first that this post is a bit late.

Apart from the fact that actually it is, by the time you reach the end of it I hope you may have changed your view…

The New Year: Is it worth all the fuss?

So here we are in 2017 – we’ve clocked up another year, another notch in the calendar’s bedpost.

Happy 2017 everyone! ๐Ÿ™‚

Fuss over the new year
Happy new year! Image credit: http://diak.tk/new-year-celebrations/

My wishes for a joyful year ahead also go to the Chinese who will celebrate the beginning of their new year (of different duration) on 28 January thanks to a lunisolar calendar and to Muslims who use a lunar calendar system who celebrated their new year last September (and who count their years from 622 AD).

The point is this: the passing of another year is arbitrary. We celebrate birthdays, wedding anniversaries, time spent at work and so on, all of which are annual milestones in our lives (funny how we refer to a temporal landmark with a spatial one…).

These are important reminders for how we spend our time (and who with), and celebrated by those who are closest to us (and I include colleagues here who may be closer in the spatial sense for more of our time than in the personal and spiritual sense). Naturally, these anniversaries are spread throughout the year.

What makes the new (solar or lunar) year celebrations different from other annual celebrations is that the date is common between us – this date means the same to everyone. My birthday, for example, is likely to be different from yours and likely to hold no significance to you. But if we follow the same calendar then 1 January is equally important for both of us.

Actually…is this date really important? New years’ resolutions might suggest so – until we read the statistic that 25% of new year resolutions by Americans are doomed to failure after just the first week, rising to 36% by the end of January. Additional sources suggest this rises to as high as 80% by the second week of February – though I’d suggest it’s unwise to compare stats from differing sites using dissimilar statistical methods and samples.

Broken new years resolutions

The point is that no matter how significant the beginning a new calendar year seems, these high fallout rates suggest that after the party, back home from Christmas holidays and the return back to work and to ‘normal life’ everything is forgotten. January 1st may as well be any other day (or date).

A twist on eternalism:

I wish it could be Christmas every day!

No-one likes Monday mornings, and equally there seem to be few people up and about at 9 am on January 1st ‘enjoying’ the bliss of the new year that they’ve just been celebrating coming in.

What gets us into such a frenzy in the first place? The Christmas spirit? The holiday season? The new year’s eve party where someone asks us what our resolution is and we feel impelled to say something ‘worthy’?

Ultimately, I’d postulate that the start of a new year calendar year means very little in real terms.

Every day is the beginning of your next year. Let’s just celebrate this by celebrating today instead! ๐Ÿ™‚

Paul

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Header image credit: http://www.newyear.quotesms.com/

The Paradox of the Winter Solstice and Daylight Saving Time

As we approach the winter solstice on 21 December 2016) a paradox looms ahead of us. And it’s in cahoots with the daylight saving time.

A few months ago we switched off Daylight Saving Time (“DST”) and re-entered the normal time pertaining to our timezone on planet Earth. In this article I commented how the adjustment of an hour actually exacerbates the (perceived) problem of darkness and uses up daylight hours in the summer.

As we approach the winter solstice (21 December 2016) I see the same thing happening again, but now on a natural footing.

Days get longer after the winter solstice.
Days get longer after the winter solstice.

After the winter solstice the days begin to get longer because the angle of the Earth’s axis of rotation with respect to the sun decreases (i.e. increasingly points towards it). The trouble is that Winter begins on the winter solstice, and as a meteorologist will tell you…this is when it gets cold.

(Note that I’m ignoring here the meteorological definition of Winter which is defined as starting from 1 December. I have no problem here; we ignore the weather forecast due to inaccuracies so I’m happy to do the same here with their unastronomical definition of the seasons! ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

The bottom line is that this means we have increasingly longer days in which to be miserable about the cold weather.

At this point I should note that our friends the meteorologists will tell us that the reduced temperatures continue reducing after the winter solstice because of a thermal lag (“lag” here as in “behind”, not thermal lagging as in “padding around a hot water cylinder”). Lag doesn’t explain a reduction of temperature prior to the winter solstice!

So what is it with daylight saving time then? Should we use the model as a basis to implement a temperature saving time? Or do we use DST in an effort to emulate nature’s natural clock which appears to be playing a joke on us?

Paul

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The Disturbance of a Temporal Doppelganger

There were repercussions when I met my doppelganger in space; when I see temporal doppelgangers on the same day there’s a similar disturbance in the force…

Happy in the Past

I had a late and very enjoyable night last night and this morning I overslept. That meant two things – the first is that I’d miss my usual train. The second is that instead of tiptoeing out of the house to get my train whilst my little girls were still sleeping, they were now awake and asking what I was doing.

And what I was doing, was explaining to them that I wasn’t able to get my usual train, but one which leaves half an hour later. I could wait a few minutes extra at home instead of at the station, and “It’s handy isn’t it sweetie because I can give you a cuddle!”

You’ve guessed it – by the time I’d disentangled myself from a forest of arms and legs and questions ranging from “Why is the sea wet?” to “Why are two things sometimes different?” I’d missed yet another train.

The Present

So eventually I’m sitting on a train which is departing an hour later than the train I was originally aiming for.

OK, I’ll make the most out of a bad situation and seize the moment and catch up on some reading. I pull out Buckyball by Fabien Roy. Well, I say pull the book out, but I actually mean my phone. I’ve only a PDF copy and my ereader hasn’t arrived yet, so I’m stuck to reading it on a phone. It’s a brilliant read, but a terrible experience; one which is full of welcome distraction, and I look around the train carriage frequently.

Doppelganger!

I’ve written before about my doppelganger, but now I notice that I’m witness to a similar but slightly different phenomena. Sitting just opposite me is someone else’s doppelganger – but an earlier version of him!

He’s reading his newspaper with a fold-up bicycle by his feet (in rush hour – recall that this is Holland…) and appears to be a younger version of one of my colleagues by some 20 years. Darker hair, sitting more upright and wears thinner glasses. He looks healthier than the creature I see sitting crouched in the office.

They dress the same; smart shoes, jeans, shirt and a jumper, and the fellow on the train also has that certain air about him which says “This is how I do things; it’s how I want them done and it’s how I’ll always do them.”

And judging from the appearance of my older colleague, he’s right – at least for the coming 20 years or so.

My colleague is classic passive aggressive. With retentive tendencies. I see no wedding ring and I wonder if living alone boxes us in our lifestyle – certainly I’ve found that living with my wife and kids I’ve made a lot of compromises in how I do things.

Happy in the present

Happy in the present!
Dressing up with my daughters – this is not my usual look (honest!)

I wouldn’t have it any different. If I had my time again (like in Buckyball, Groundhog Day or Replay) I’d do it the same way to end up again where I am now. I don’t mean to be conceited by insinuating that my life is ‘perfect’ but rather to say that I’m very happy with it as it is now! ๐Ÿ™‚

A couple of movies spring to mind where characters have a glimpse or experience of an alternate version of their life (“Sliding doors” 1998, with Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah; “The Family Man” 2000, with Tea Leoni and Nicholas Cage). Especially in the latter of these movies the question is raised about how would things be done to achieve certain changes in your life.

On a personal footing, the question I’d face following my own reinsertion back into the time steam would be whether I chose to live through the crap bits again to bring about the same knock on effects leading up to my present in the here (Holland) and now (on the train)?

Would I have missed last night to catch my train? Or given up my cuddles and precious moments with my daughters in the morning?

No, I don’t think so.

What will I do tonight / tomorrow morning?

I don’t know. But for now, looking at the temporally static doppelganger sitting opposite me on my late train, I realise that I’m happy with the consequences of my decisions that I’ve made in my life. I’ve made the best ones I knew how to at that time without any fore knowledge of the future. I mean, that’s all I can do, right?

Perhaps they’re not the right ones but they’ve brought me into a family and a home where I’m blissfully happy!

The disturbance in the (gravitational) force

I hardly ever talk to my colleague so I don’t know him very well. He’s not very approachable but I do hope that he’s equally as happy as I am in his own way.

And I’ll tell you know what’s odd. Today there was a lunch talk where an expert told us about the results of the discovery that gravity waves exist and can be measured. My colleague was there, and I ended up have a chat with him at the coffee machine afterwards. (And it turns out that he’s quite a nice chap!)

Whereas things happen when doppelgangers meet in space, I can’t help thinking that when I see the temporal doppelgangers on the same day, that there is undoubtedly a disturbance in the (gravitational) force…

Paul

Header image credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller (www.sciencenews.org)

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Time Waves and a Sound of Thunder

The movie of Ray Bradbury’s “The Sound of Thunder” uses time waves or ripples to perpetuate changes from the past into the present. But is it accurate? Should we wave goodbye to them?

People often ask whether we’re subject to changes in time that someone else has initiated but where we’re none the wiser. The idea of time ripples which propagate changes from the past into the future is one attempt which attempts to dispel this idea because when those ripples reach the present we notice the change.

I recently watched “The Sound of Thunder” – the movie version of Ray Bradbury’s short story of the same name. The long and short of it is that someone steps on and kills a butterfly in prehistoric times and comes back to the present to find that it’s been dramatically altered.

Sound of Thunder movie (2005)

An idea is presented in the movie where a change in the past causes ripples in time into the future – these are readjustments to climate, nature, evolution etc. and which of course cause a few problems for our beloved main characters.

Time behaving as a fluid, whether it be as the famous River of Time, or something more like a vast lake isn’t a new idea, but I thought that the idea of ramifications extending from past to present not as an instantaneous change but as a time varying progression to be an interesting one!

In the movie there isn’t just one time ripple, but a series of ripples. Each ripple lasts a few moments, and where in true Hollywood style we see a wall of blurry skyline hurtling (through space) towards the camera and bringing with it various changes. There’s a pause, and then the next ripple hits.

Of course in the movie, the final ripple is the one which will knock out the humans and is the clinch point of the movie – the nail-biter and the source of tension.

An interesting idea…but there’s a flaw.

Wave dispersion

Here’s the thing about the ripples. The first is fairly obvious and I’ve already mentioned it: the ripples are seen to move over space and not time. We see the wave moving (i.e. it has a speed – distance divided by time) so it’s moving within time, and not across it. But I’ll give over to this and put it down to Hollywood dumbing down and dramatics.

For me the main issue is the wave dispersion principle. Stand on the shore of a river and listen to the waves lapping the shore after a boat passes. At first the waves are large and slow, and as time goes on the waves become smaller, but quicker. The wave dispersion principle: that waves with smaller wavelengths and wave heights travel slower than larger waves.

Exactly the opposite happens with the time waves in this movie which get bigger and further apart…

Water waves and time waves

Is it fair to assume a direct similarity between time waves and water waves?

Time behaving as a river or some other mass collection of some sort of fluid is only a model or souped up ( ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) analogy. It may seem to hold true in some areas more than in others (as is the case with many models) – but it does afford us the chance to explore some “what if” scenarios.

Peaks and troughs

Waves are most noticeable by their peaks – a fact given over even to the measurement of waves – the “significant wave height” for example, which is defined as the mean wave height of the highest third of the waves. We use the highest third because the human eye is predisposed to preferentially see these – just as it’s easier to see the peak of a wave than its trough. A fact attested to by the fact that we see the peaks of the time waves in the movie, and nothing else.

(Actually, there are energetic arguments too; that small changes in increasing wave height give large amount of additional energy – but the above point still holds!)

Time waves

The time wave, if really a wave, would consist of a peak (as seen in the movie) and a trough (which isn’t seen in the movie).

This got me thinking about another possible scenarios which could have played through – that readjustment might also happen in the troughs.

What would this mean?

Different parts of a wave move its medium in different directions. The peak moves forwards (e.g. a surfer on or just in front of the peak is pushed forwards by the water underneath his board). With the trough the reverse is true – there is movement backwards.

So in other words, if a temporal readjustment were to happen in the troughs, we’d regress into…actually, I don’t know what! (And given wave asymmetry, it’s also likely that we’d spend a longer period of time in readjustment in the trough…especially given the Hollywood induced longer wavelength!)

Wave orbital motion

Additionally, if we look more closely at the motion under a wave, fluid dynamics dictates that there is no net movement (aside from a little “Stoke’s Drift”); the forward motion at the peak is countered by the reverse motion in the trough. Actually there’s also equal and opposing vertical motion on the leading and trailing sides of the wave too.

time wave orbital motion
Image credit: http://wavestides.weebly.com/wave-motion.html

This makes sense – throw a pebble into a pond and the waves emanate from the epicenter – but all the water doesn’t move away from the location where the pebble landed; there’s no gaping hole left in the middle of the pond. (Although if you drop a meteorite in the middle of the Jurassic Period wiping out the dinosaurs, then certainly a crater is left…! ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

time ripple
The idea of time ripples probably doesn’t work…

So no net motion means no net change – no readjustment. Time ripples used as a chronic temporal readjustment can’t work…

Closing

The idea then, that we’re made aware of changes in the past through some sort of chronic time ripple doesn’t seem to hold much weight. Or is there just nothing? No waves, ‘just’ the creation of a new time line? Or to extend the analogy, the creation of a new pond?

Who’s to know? This is always been the argument.

The time ripple idea often seems to assume a rapid change, but by the arguments given above it is also likely that we might be in a prolonged readjustment period. One which happens so slowly that it’s imperceptible. Maybe it happens so slowly that it actually happens in real time – in other words – we create our own future.

Now how awesome is that!

Paul

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Misuse of an hour

The daylight saving hour – do we use it wisely? I don’t think so, and in which case can we really be trusted with time travel?

I’m late with this post, but in a way it doesn’t matter because it’s not that I benefited from setting the cocks back one hour at the end of last month. 7 am became 6 am, so that meant a lie-in – right?

Not with 2 small daughters who haven’t yet synced their body clocks to our artificial clocks. And certainly not with 2 small daughters who are excited about going to the zoo!

I suppose I can hardly blame them – it’s now light again outside in the mornings, and it is this fact which made me question why we bother with this “daylight saving time” – surely it’s a case of daylight enhancement?

daylight saving clock

As we move through Autumn and towards the Winter solstice, the change in inclination of the Earth with respect to the sun means that darkness descends earlier each evening. Setting the clock an hour back speeds up this process; by putting the clock back an hour it’s now even darker at the same (clock) time. We exaggerate – not combat – the darkness.

The converse is true in Spring when putting the clock forward an hour adds to the lightening effect. It stays light for longer, and even more so once the clocks have advanced an hour. We’re not saving daylight, we’re actually using it up quicker.

Isn’t this misuse of that hour?

It seems to me that if we can’t properly deal with a single hour then it’s a good deal that we’re not yet able to time travel!

Misuse of an hour
Can we be trusted with time travel?

Paul

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Happy Birthday HG Wells!

The Time Machine by H.G.Wells is not the first time travel novel, and as far as time travel novels go, it doesn’t have much time travel in it. But both he and this novel have opened up the world of time travel. Happy birthday Herbert!

Today, 21 September 2016, marks not only the day before the 2016 autumnal equinox but also the 150th birthday of H. G. Wells.

H.G.Wells
Author H. G. Wells (Image credit: www.biography.com/people/hg-wells-39224)

Herbert George Wells – or H. G. Wells – is of course the author of The Time Machine, arguably the most famous of time travel novels. It was one of the first novels which brought the concept of time travel to the reader – and it still does today.

But to be honest I’m a little upset because I believe that H.G. Wells is credited with too much when it comes to time travel.

For example, he is often credited with being the first time travel author by writing The Time Machine – but this simply isn’t true! Just like the moonwalk existed before Michael Jackson mastered and performed it for us, time travel existed (in literature) well before H.G. Wells wrote The Time Machine.

Now admittedly it is pretty terrible, but H. G. Wells’own The Chronic Argonauts was written before The Time Machine (some consider it as a prequel, or at least a foundation). And before that is the (bloated) The Clock that Went Backward (Edward Page Mitchell) where the title clearly gives the game away!

Just two examples within the same decade of publication as The Time Machine – a simple internet search I’m sure would throw up many more earlier examples of time travel in fiction, and from even earlier.

And what of The Time Machine itself?

It’s heralded as being the Bible of time travel – the ultimate time travel novel that all other time travel novels should aspire to being.

But I disagree.

The Time Machine book cover
Image source: en.wikipedia.org

Well, it’s OK. I mean, it’s not fantastic as time travel novels go. The Time Traveller goes into the future, meets the Eloi and the Morlocks, and makes a few assumptions about present day sociology. Aside from the description of time being the fourth dimension quote, the actual time travel aspect in The Time Machine is pretty crap; the novel could have started off with “Once upon a time there was a chap living in the future and saw a load of Eloi and Morlocks.”

Take the time travel out of The Time Machine, you’ve still pretty much got the same novel as before – although the title would probably need changing!

But I don’t mean to slag off The Time Machine – or H. G. Wells! After all, the novel has been responsible for bringing many readers into the realm of scifi / time travel, and indeed H. G. Wells has written some brilliant scifi novels in other areas.

And it’s also inspired other authors to write sequels for it. Stephen Baxter, vice-President of the international H. G. Wells Society, wrote The Time Ships which is the official authorised sequel. And I’ve also read Epilogue (Jaime V. Batista) which to my mind is a far superior sequel to The Time Machine than The Time Ships.

(You can read my interview with author Jaime on Time Travel Nexus.)

Another worthy mention is The Map of Time – an extraordinary novel by Felix J. Palma which features H. G. Wells as the main character and either has or has no time travel within it, depending on how you view it! Brilliantly written!

So OK. H. G. Wells isn’t the first time travel author, and on top of that The Time Machine isn’t the best time travel novel, but there’s no denying that H. G. Wells has certainly popularised the genre and inspired many readers and authors alike!

Time is an arbitrary measure when you have a time machine, but all the same I’d like to sending my birthday wishes across time and back to H. G. Wells.

Happy 150th birthday, Herbert! ๐Ÿ™‚

Paul

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Clock Anti-Clock – a time travel short movie

How does time flow in Clock Anti-Clock? Is there personal time, is it a matter of perception of time, or does time actually flow backwards?

Clock Anti-Clock is a time travel movie produced by Deepak Sharma (Paragravity) with the simple premise of a time traveler who meets himself. But there’s a twist…

I’ve only got one issue with this movie, and I only noticed it because it accentuates the first of a few of my thoughts when I watched Clock Anti-Clock: Is time personal?

It relates to the construction; when the character is experiencing a backward flow of time, he stares at everything running backwards; it’s strange, it’s unusual – it deserves a good look.

But why was no-one staring at him? Relative to their time frame he’s also walking backwards etc. and would be strange to look at. He seems to be in a personal time bubble.

Personal time

In my post A Unique Signature of Time I alluded to the question: Is time personal?

In Clock Anti-Clock the question is very relevant because I think it explains a situation at the end of the film where otherwise there’d be a paradox.

We hear the door knob rattle. He puts his glasses on and from then on it seems that time runs backwards from around 12:00 pm. This is inside the room where we see the clocks going backwards, and also outside where he observes people walking backwards, taps dripping upwards, etc..

By the end of the movie we have a better perspective on what’s going on outside. The ‘experienced’ version of the character tries to open the door (causing the door handle to rattle), and realising it’s locked, walks away.

But here’s the thing: if time is running backwards for the guy inside his room and opening the door (to find no-one there) why hasn’t he seen the guy outside walking backwards back towards the door and trying the handle?

In other words, time appears to be flowing in different directions by the door – or at least, in different directions for each character.

I think it’s clear by the end of the movie we’ve figured out that it’s the glasses which cause the change of flow direction for time (though whether time actually flows backwards, or that things look like they’re going backwards can be questioned!). Since only one person can wear a single pair of glasses at the same time, it seems reasonable to assume that time is indeed personal and that there is a time bubble or something around our guy. After all – he’s still walking forwards whilst everyone else is walking backwards.

The Perception of Time

The flip side of this is that no matter what direction time flows, we perceive it as forwards – rather like applying a modulus function on time ( -2 seconds becomes 2 seconds).

This already happens in physics; I remember a cretinous teacher who took joy in deducting a mark from me when I was calculating “work done”, given as force times distance. We were told that distance was measured positive from left to right, but in the example the force was applied to an object moving in the opposite direction, so I gave it a negative sign. Of course, this gave me a negative product, but since work done cannot be negative I applied the modulus and gave the final work done as a positive number.

Mr Cretin took a mark away because he didn’t even want to see the negative number in a work done calculation. I still disagree with him. But the point remains – having a closed mind and removing a negative sign completely, or being a budding scientist to be and applying the modulus are just 2 ways in which direction is made a non factor.

So why not with time? Maybe wearing these glasses “opens our eyes”!

(As an aside, you might like to read my guest post on the perception of time and its relevance in time travel on the Theory of Space Time blog.)

Time running backwards

The question of time either being personal and acting under its own rules within personal space, or being perceived to be so, brings me onto my final point – time actually running backwards.

Time travel seems to be obsessed with moving from one point in time to another, but for the large part, time flows in one (forwards) direction. It’s often referred to as the “Arrow of Time” – a term developed by astronomer Arthur Eddington which basically says that there’s an obvious direction or flow of time reference: Wikipedia.

(Sometimes we experience time appearing to move backwards from the viewpoint of a time machine making a backward trip, but I’d suggest that this is little more than illusion – parked cars don’t really move backwards when we walk forwards alongside them, for example.)

So how does physics work when time runs backwards? For example, we saw in the movie a plane flying backwards because time flows backwards. But for the plane to remain in the air, complete with its aerodynamic design, surely physics must have changed to keep it airborne?

Plane flying backwards

To the left is a snapshot of the plane in the sky. It’s not falling, yet it’s not defying gravity. The force of gravity is an acceleration so has a time term, but here in this snapshot time has simply been removed from the equation. Is the gravitational force now working in the opposite direction so keep the plane airborne?

Physical processes at the microscopic level are believed to be either entirely or mostly time-symmetric: if the direction of time were to reverse, the theoretical statements that describe them would remain true. Yet at the macroscopic level it often appears that this is not the case: there is an obvious direction (or flow) of time. Reference: Wikipedia

In practice, I don’t know what this actually means and how that relates to the (macroscopic) plane, but I wondered further about the sign of time in vector physical equations. For example, velocity. Where speed (a scalar) is concerned only with how fast something goes, velocity is more specific; direction is also important.

Usain Bolt is the fastest human on the planet and ran 100 m in 9.58 seconds (reference: Guinness World Records). (That’s a speed of 10.43 m/s – he can run further in 1 second than he can fall if he fell off a cliff in the same time!) But Usain wouldn’t have won the Olympics unless he ran in the right direction – i.e. from the start line to the finish line. He needed to have the fastest velocity.

Where speed can’t be negative, velocity can (e.g. if Usain ran in the opposite direction). We’re back to my work done calculation here…where we can switch the sign for distance and come up with a negative velocity, can we not equally change the sign of time instead? We’d end up with negative velocity – and it would explain why everyone would be walking backwards…

Personal, perception or actual?

So how is time flowing in Clock Anti-Clock? Is there personal time, is it a matter of perception of time, or does time actually flow backwards?

The more I think about this movie, the more intricacies I find. And getting someone to think can only be a good thing!


You can see more of Deepak’s productions on his website (paragravityfilms) and follow him on Facebook and on Twitter (@deepaktrivadi).

Paul

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About time for a reflection

Is there a future with optic fibers and warped mirrors as time machines? Or are these just some random thoughts from the reflection of a wrinkly old man day dreaming in front of a mirror?

As I stood in front of a mirror a few days ago I saw wrinkles on the man in the reflection. Sadly the wrinkles weren’t from the mirror itself, but an unwelcome sign of my increasing age and my ongoing one-way movement along the time line.

I’m sure they weren’t there a few days ago…but what’s a few days in the scales of the infinity of time?

It got me thinking…

In a guest post I wrote a couple of years back, I commented that we perceive a reflected ray of light as an extension into and beyond that of the reflective surface. In other words, the reflection is a construct which our brain has put together. What this means for time and time travel is outlined in the full article on the Quantum Time Travel Institute.

In this post I’d like to revisit this idea of light rays and their parallels with the time line.

Admittedly this post is a little long as I briefly describe a couple of optical properties, but you can jump straight to the time travel bit here if you wish! (Time is a precious commodity, after all!)

Commutative

Reflection is commutative – in the same way that the order of the factors in multiplication is irrelevant (e.g. 2 x 3 is the same as 3 x 2), the same can be said for the direction of a light ray. i.e. the angles of incidence and reflection are interchangeable.

Or to put it another way, the direction of the light beam can go along either pathway – from source to destination, and the vice versa.

Torch rays and reflection
The torch can be moved from the left of the line to the right, but the ray of light follows the same path. (Image source: http://spaceguard.rm.iasf.cnr.it)

Here’s a practical example: shine a torch at a mirror in the dark, and you’ll see an illuminated spot on the wall where the light beam from the torch has been reflected. Now shine the torch from the illuminated spot on the wall onto the same spot on the mirror, and the new reflected spot will be in the place where you were just standing. Source and destination are interchangeable!

Note that the same principle also holds true for refraction, where a ray of light (partially) enters another medium of a different optical density and follows a different direction.

Total internal reflection

In optics there’s a condition called “total internal reflection” where a ray of light doesn’t enter and refract into a medium of a different optical density, but is instead reflected within the same medium as it’s source. More simply put, the interface between the two optical mediums becomes a mirror, even though this particular mirror can under other conditions allow light to pass through it.

Incidentally, this is the principle behind fiber optics – the light stays within the optic because it’s totally internally reflected (it doesn’t pass out of the fiber optic cable).

Image source: http://askmichellephysics.blogspot.nl/2012/04/light-and-sound.html
Image source: http://askmichellephysics.blogspot.nl/2012/04/light-and-sound.html

It’s also the principle that a certain 7 year old tried putting into practice by sticking a torch in his mouth and taking a leak in the dark to see if the fruit juice he’d just drunk glowed in the dark when it came out… I’ll let you conduct the experiment yourself if you’re interested in knowing the outcome…! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Critical angle of incidence

Between reflection and refraction there’s an interesting phenomenon.

As the angle of incidence away from perpendicular is increased, there comes a certain angle (the “critical angle”) where on meeting the second medium there is a line of light which is reflected along the interface. The light ray doesn’t bounce away, and it doesn’t penetrate through – it simply zooms of sideways! It’s explained well in Mr Cutlife’s Web Pages where I also found the image below.

Progression (left to right) from refraction to reflection
Progression (left to right) from refraction to reflection. Note the ray of light parallel to the interface third from right. Image source: http://www.edu.pe.ca/gray/class_pages/krcutcliffe

Recall from commutativism (?) that the torch in the above graphic can be moved to the top of the picture and the rays would propagate downwards.

And put it all together…

Now this is the juicy bit!

Let’s take that case third from right in the above image. The torch shines from the blue side, and the resulting ray travels along the boundary. But we know that light rays are commutative, so we can expect that if we now place the torch on the line between the blue and the white and aim it to the left, the ray of light will bend down and enter the blue.

Here’s the thing: at what point along the boundary (and how) does the ray of light change its horizontal direction downwards?

This is a paradox, because actually that single point is undefined – it can be anywhere at any and every point along the light ray. And further, what physical mechanism exists to cause the light ray to change its direction? It’s scientifically possible but (currently) inexplicable!

(My high school physics teacher tentatively suggested there’s a small irregularity on the reflecting surface, but I disagree – the effect occurs with a perfectly smooth interface.)

Arguably, the above paradox could be considered to be an inverted version of the scientific explanation of time travel mechanics in physics; there’s nothing in physics to say that it can’t happen, but we don’t know how it can happen – let alone know how to explain it!).

Finally…the time travel bit!

Now let’s compare the line of light to the time line.

The time line is probably the simplest model of time that there is – that time progresses linearly from past, through present and into the future.

Many mechanisms for time travel in science fiction refer to a ‘river of time’ where it’s a little easier to visualise the flow of time in one direction. It allows for certain modifications and adjustment to the simple time line model, thus providing ways to allow time travel. For example, inserting loops and meanders into the river of time, creating eddies, or just getting out the river completely, walking along the river bank and jumping back in again.

(I’ll momentarily interrupt myself here to point out that moving away from the traditional time line has been discussed in my imaginary yet complex post post.)

In short, we have some form of time travel if we’re able to deviate away from the regular and unbroken) linear flow of time.

Using our light ray example, can a fiber optic be seen as a parallel with a time machine, causing us to jump out of a time line?

Optical fiber as a time machine
Image source: http://www.edu.pe.ca

Such a time machine would maintain the basic principle of optical / temporal straight lines, yet provide a physical mechanism for the same net result as a departure from the linear condition.

Timewarp – a change in reference

There’s another way we can add curves to our time line – by changing the viewing reference.

Now after a very complimentary comment on my post about complex time I do feel quite self conscious about my following example which this time, yes, I read from Stephen Hawking (“The Grand Design“).

This particular example examines the view which a goldfish has of the world whilst viewing it the confines of his goldfish bowl. The water and curved glass make straight lines outside of the bowl appear distorted and curved, but for the fish, that ‘means’ straight. That’s his reality and a question of perception.

(You might be interested to read my guest post on Mihir’s Theory of Space Time blog on the Perception of Time).

View from a goldfish bowl
Image source: http://www.scientificamerican.com/

Perhaps we can imagine the life of a goldfish more readily when we see the wobbly shadow of a straight stick on the rippled surface of a beach. From the sun’s view, that wobble is a straight line because the dimension of (sand ripple) height is projected – and to use the Matlab programming term, squeezed – onto the 2D surface of the Earth; it becomes hidden in perspective. As our viewing angle changes, that third dimension comes of out hiding and becomes visible.

Going full circle and coming back to the mirror – or at least going on a trip to the funfair and visiting the hall of mirrors – we put ourselves into a kind of goldfish bowl; an altered state of fixed reference where normal images and lines appear distorted thanks to optical trickery and misdirection of rays of light.

Wobbly mirrors play with our perception of straight.
Light travels in straight lines but our perception is otherwise. Image source: www.static-ip-85-25-168-52.inaddr.intergenia.de

If we consider travel between two points on that warped image, where they’re stretched apart if follows that travel between them will take longer. The inverse is true for points which have been compressed or squeezed together. Of course we know that these points aren’t really at differing spatial distances and the speed between them must be constant. Yet we see them differently.

But could we consider a possible explanation in having a change in local time to account for these differences in speed? This is covered in General Relativity.

Can we achieve time travel by changing our point of reference?

Like most things, it’s easier said than done. We can’t jump into the mirror and become the reflection, although we can certainly influence it’s behavior. And recall that a reflection, after all, is a construction from our own perception of optical rays of light based upon our knowledge that it always travels in a straight line. Maybe if it’s in our head we can totally immerse ourselves after all.

But perhaps our analogy with time may still hold.

Aside from the synergistic view, we can assume that the total travel time of all light rays must be equal to the sum of the individual components from all directions. By definition, the average speed will then be the baseline norm given with a flat mirror where all light paths are straight and parallel to each other. But if we could get a handle on local variances in the speed of time effectively trading moments of low speed for high speed (or vice versa depending on your point of view) then maybe time travel would be within our reach.

Oddly, this brings us back to the optic fiber based time machine I mentioned earlier. The paths of individual some rays of light will be longer than others, depending on the number of internal reflections it’s suffered. Whether all travel durations take the same amount of time, or that we simply cannot perceive the fractional differences in arrival speed from within the fiber is a question best directed to general relativity specialists.

Is there a future with optic fibers and warped mirrors as time machines? Or are these just some random thoughts from a wrinkly old man day dreaming in front of a mirror?

Paul

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Punished for Punctuality?

Punctuality seems to be a rare commodity, yet it’s presence isn’t recognised. I’d like to think that punctuality to time is a matter of temporal precision and should be rewarded!

The doctor appointment was set for 14:20, and I was requested to ensure that I turn up on time. No need to tell me – I say it myself but punctuality is one of my strong points!

Doctor's receptionist misses the point of coming in a little early

So I did. I was still waiting at 14:35 when the doc came out – but he wasn’t looking in my direction.

“Miss Jones?”

The lady next to me stood up and started straightening her dress. “Finally!” she muttered. “Late as usual…” She gathered her bags and followed the doc.

The door closed behind them, but another opened on the other side of the waiting room. A smartly dressed gentleman walked through and reported at the front desk.

“Jeff Smith. I’m here for my 14:40.”

The receptionist covered the mouthpiece of her phone and looked up.

“You were requested to be here 10 minutes early to avoid being late” she barked, and went back to her phone call. “Sorry about that – you were saying something about satin?”

Aside from the personal phone call, the receptionist had a fair point – people often do turn up late and really mess things up for others. Building in a time buffer zone helps to reduce the likelihood of this problem; pseudo punctuality.

Waiting for the plane which is already there.
Waiting for the plane which is already there.

It’s like when we’re asked to turn up 2 hours early before a flight. How people can look forward to a holiday for months ahead, and then still not factor in delays and still turn up late is beyond me. At Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, the automated announcement on the loudspeaker is classic Dutch directness when a poor soul hasn’t been punctual and able to check in on time: “John Smith you’re holding up the flight. Please check in immediately”. Yep – nothing wrong in a bit of public naming and shaming when you’re causing hundreds of other people to be late because you can’t tell the time!

Anyway. In the doctor’s waiting room it was a different story because the receptionist had completely missed the point – Jeff was actually in time for his 14:40 appointment (which was itself running late).

Still thinking about Miss Jones and her late appointment, I started to question how it is that it’s acceptable for doctors and dentists to keep patients waiting, but seemingly never the other way around.

This is crazy! If we’re late, we miss our appointment, or the plane leaves and takes off without us or whatever. It’s our fault and we suffer the consequences. But if a doctor is late by 5 minutes it doesn’t affect him; not because he’s salaried but because the consequences are carried on to the next patient…and the one after that and so on until it’s closing time.

In other words, there’s a knock-on effect. Doc is late by 5 minutes, and the following 20 patients are also late by 5 minutes – a cumulative value of just over an hour and a half. It’s getting on for the butterfly effect where a small change leads to much bigger ones. Maybe it does here too – a patient is late for his job interview and doesn’t get his job.

Or someone misses his plane… ๐Ÿ˜‰

From planes to trains

Ah yes, back to our airport scenario where we’re called to arrive early to ensure that we’re not late for the plane. But isn’t it more common that it’s the plane or the airport staff which keeps us waiting? And if that plane takes off 5 minutes late, the total man hours of delay accumulates very quickly. Butterfly effect? You’d think that aircraft staff would be especially keen to avoid hurricanes! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Surely punctuality should be rewarded – but it seems that the opposite is true; being punctual doesn’t count for anything, even penalised.

Take for instance, the train conductor on my morning commute. He walks along the carriage asking for tickets to inspect. Although people see and hear him coming they wait until he’s standing over them and asking for their ticket before they start rummaging around in handbags and wallets to pull out their ticket ready for inspection.

Personally, I like to be ready in advance (besides, knowing I’m going to be interrupted from reading my book isn’t handy!). He walks towards me, he sees me, my arm is holding out my ticket ready for his cursory glance, and…he asks the person on the other side of the aisle for their ticket(!). Said passenger bends down to pick up her handbag. She rummages through it and pulls out a purse. Flips it open and fumbles to find her ticket.

And me? Forgotten, and kept waiting. *growl* ๐Ÿ™

It seems that good time keepers just aren’t recognised.

Problems at the roots?

Anyway. That’s planes and trains – infamous for tardy time keeping. (Begin sarcasm tag) It’s not like they need to run on a timetable or anything…(end sarcasm tag).

Some time ago I wrote a post about how being late is sometimes unavoidable, but measures can be taken to alleviate some of the problems that being late can cause.

Sometimes though, being late really can’t be helped, and I’ve learned to try to get morning appointments so that accumulated lateness is minimal. Like today though, it’s not always possible and I’ll need to literally join the queue of other patients.

But – sometimes being late is inevitable, or even avoidable. The power hungry doc receptionist who’ll spend 5 minutes tapping away at a screen before checking someone in, or chatting away “Oh doctor, giggle giggle, yes, what? Oh this. Yes, I just threw it on. Do you like it? It’s made of satin.”

receptionist-doctor-late

Admittedly I don’t have patience for these kinds of people. These are the people who have turned being punctual into a sop for other people who can’t keep time.

Lateness ripples through the waiting patients downstream in the river of time. As the cause of lateness, perhaps this explains why Public Service Agent Miss Blond 00:07 is so keen on holding a tight rein on the appointment schedule.

Psychological problems

All that said, I should mention that in fairness it’s not always the fault of the receptionist – or the doc. It’s the patient.

A German flatmate once told me about some research she’d read where it was found that if someone talking in a public phone box (which, incidentally, dates the research!) knew that someone was waiting for them then they would spend longer on that phone call than otherwise.

Whether this is a psychological phenomenon (“Look at how popular I am – people want to talk to me for so long“) or that they were made to wait so they’ll do the same I’m not sure. Perhaps it’s perceived time dilation by those waiting for their turn. I mostly suspect that they realise the importance of time on the phone so they make the most of it.

I think the last comes into play with patients who are called in late for their appointment.

Having invested so long in waiting for their appointment and their time with the doc, some people wish to make the most of it whilst they’re there, or even spend 10 minutes complaining about being late – making the problem even worse!

Time’s up!

It’s 14:50. I’m late, I suppose as I always knew I would be. The doc walks in and calls me through.

“I’m running late, so I’m going to have to rush you.”

“That’s fine. I understand.” Yeah, I understand you can’t tell the time and can’t apologise for it.

He leads me to his room and spends a few minutes staring at his monitor, then asks me what my problem is. Funny – I was hoping he was going to tell me. Anyway, we have a discussion at the end of which he looks away from the monitor and for the first time looks at me.

“Mr Wandason, this is very serious. You should have come in earlier!”

It would have made no difference doc – you can’t even handle it when I’m on time.

He writes out the prescription and I leave, walking through the waiting room which has evidently fills up faster than the rate the patients are being seen.

Jeff is visibly narked off for being kept waiting. I understand how he feels.

I walk into the pharmacy to pick up my prescription. There’s a customer ticket machine there which dispenses numbers so people know who got there first and who’s turn is next, so I take my ticket. It turns out I’m next but I can see the assistant pharmacist is stirring her coffee and facing the opposite direction.

I sit down and wait, presumably, for her coffee to cool, till she’s had a sip and feels that she’s ready to see me.

Ah well. Being punctual doesn’t just mean turning up on time – it means we need to be flexible enough to accommodate for those around us who can’t be ๐Ÿ™

Paul

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Temporal Disentanglement

We’re deeply entangled in space and time – but if people can’t deal with different cultures or with people who change location how can we expect to deal with time travelers?

On 23 June 2016 the UK voted to leave the European Union. When I say “the UK”, I should clarify: statistics show that older voters were more likely to vote to leave the EU and opt for a regression back to pre-European times than voters younger than 49 years.

Temporal origins

Presumably the elderly are more tied up with the(ir) past and olden day values than younger generations who may not have been around much before the eighties or who have experienced and remember happier more recent times.

And of course being mortals, older people have less ties with the future than younger generations who will see more of it. The descendant argument applies to both age groups.

To be clear: I don’t intend the above to be ageist (that would be nonsensical) but to point out that differing age groups have differing strengths of ties and attachments with different temporal origins.

Spatial origins

And for the immigrants in the UK who are cruelly beaten, mocked and despised in these post brexit racial attacks (carried out by lunatics across all ages)…they are permanently reminded of their spatial origins, however long ago they (or their ancestors) shifted their spatial location.

What's worth more - experience with age, or from location?
Is time passed more important than space traversed? (Image source: www.thedailybeast.com)

My youngest daughter is growing up and is well out of her baby years. But bring on the sound of a baby’s cry and both my wife and I are brought straight back to those times of disrupted nights, continual nappy changing and bottle feeding.

In much the same way, reading about these post Brexit racist attacks brings me right back to the eighties – those British days where I was bullied at school and shouted at in the streets just because my skin colour is different from the local majority. It seems that like it or not, I have a tie with the past, albeit in part to my spatial origins.

(And I should publicly add here, that despite a few tongue in cheek comments about the Dutch, my experience with them over the past 7 years or so has been very good! It’s a turn of the tables – in Holland I have an English origin; in England I was made to feel I didn’t.)

Politics has had its time

It is evident that campaigns for and against Brexit needed to address how people perceived their ties with the past and their hopes for the future (however the ratio of the balance of duration between their past and their future is weighed). Apparently for some, disentanglement from their past was difficult and called into question the essence of their being.

Anyway, this is all fickle politics – whether it’s correct or not is a separate issue.

Entanglement with time

It is easy to understand that people have ties with their country of origin and culture etc., but less prevalent are the temporal ties. How tangled are we with our past, or to a deeper level, to time itself?

Many time travel mechanisms in time travel fiction refer to the flow of time as being like a river (The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers is an excellent example); a river in which we are bound, for example, in some sort of marine vehicle which by design is attached in some way to the water (so to time, in this analogy). Being able to travel in time means separating from the river. To disentangle ourselves from time.

Or there are more biological forms of time travel where our bodies are intrinsically linked to some ethereal omnipresent time cloud or something. Just as we’re immersed in our usual 3 spatial dimensions we have a ‘place’ or point in time from which drugs (or a virus) can extricate us.

Drugs which alter our physical existence in one way or another sound harsh – a more softer approach (arguably…) is hypnotism (for example, in Richard Matheson’s Somewhere in Time) where we play with our perception of time, or take on a more spiritual awareness of it around us. Mental techniques can be enough to separate the body from time, with memory being the simplest example.

Time slips through our fingers but we can’t escape it. We think about it, and are ruled by it, and apparently in some books (and on some blogs! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) we can’t stop going on about it!

entanglement in time
Image: Gabriela Barreto Lemos

In Bonnie Rozanski’s The Mindtraveler there were a series of experiments which lead to the conclusion of a temporal entanglement – I remember it because shortly afterwards I read an article in New Scientist which reported evidence of quantum entanglement.

I’m expert here, but entanglement isn’t simply the joining or merging of two otherwise distinct entities, but something much deeper which an intrinsic union of inherent

I’m struggling to find a good example, but perhaps this comes close: The birth (or actually, the news of an impending birth) transformed me into a father. Whether my kids are with me, or separated from me, I still feel and think as a father. I’m entangled with them because when I think about them I smile. The fatherhood entanglement, once created, cannot be uncreated.

And so it is with quantum entanglement; we don’t simply exist in a moment (or spread of moments) in and across time, but rather we’re both embedded within time and time in us. And separating the two may not be easy.

Some argue that one reason why we like swimming is because we’re tangled with our evolutionary past when at some stage some bright fish suggested a walk on the beach instead of swimming along-side it. Apparently we want to return back to our watery roots. We’re tangled in both time and space.

Will we ever be free from time, or are we destined to be forever ruled and tangled up by it? Or do we just leave that to the politicians and voters?

Brexit racism against refugees.
If we can’t deal with people who change location how can we deal with time travelers? (Image source: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jun/27/brexit-racism-eu-referendum-racist-incidents-politicians-media)
If people can't deal with different cultures how can we expect to deal with time travelers?
If people can’t deal with different cultures how can we expect to deal with time travelers? A halal butchers in Walsall that was firebombed. Photograph: DD Maxwell/FameFlynet UK (Image source: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/29/frenzy-hatred-brexit-racism-abuse-referendum-celebratory-lasting-damage)

So perhaps the time travel dream is going to be a tough nut to crack. If we can’t get on with freeing ourselves from spatial origins, how can we deal with doing the same with time?

Feel free to comment, but please let’s keep it time travel! I’ll remove political / racist / ageist commentary. Time binds us all – or does it…?

Paul

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Action Cut: Echo Back – The Time Travel Virus

The Echo Back Action Cut shows the physical strain of time traveller Vance’s fight with the authorities, and his frustration that he needs to repeatedly go through this fiasco. He learns and becomes wiser – but they don’t.

First time around

A little while ago I watched Echo Back – The Time Travel Virus. A short online movie written and produced by William Rosenthal and Tristram Geary.

Biological time travel in Echo Back
Biological time travel in Echo Back

As well as the underlying plot line of the reaction of the masses (and authorities) should time travel be preferentially ‘available’, Echo Back also lead me to think about the reality of time travel using biological processes, and how that might stand up against current (or future) technological advances.

Echo 1: Action Cut

Now comes another installment. It’s not a sequel or a prequel (or any other kind of a ~quel) but more of a subset – an “Action Cut”. Will explained that some viewers of the full version really wanted to see what the fight scenes with Vance looked like by themselves, so he and Tristram edited it all together without the stock.

I suppose that just as cuts through a solid object give us a better idea of what’s inside that object, perhaps the same can be said in the filming / editing business. In this case, the Action Cut offers us another view into the original film. Actually, it’s the same stuff, but the focus is different.

Personally, I think this Action Cut version shows more clearly the physical strain of the fight that Vance has with the authorities, but what I particularly like is how his mental frustration of having to go through all of this again also comes through really well.

It’s this latter point which got me thinking about repeating various parts of your life. Again.

Echo 2: Oh no, not this again!

The idea of reliving part of your life again and again is not new. Indeed, it seems to come round again and again! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Replay, Groundhog Day, and my recently reviewed Buckyball all have this theme, for example.

Phil Connors clearly shows frustration to the point of self harm in Groundhog Day until he grabs the bull by the horns and steers his own destiny. Jim in Buckyball, perhaps being younger (at first), is much more open to the possibilities which are available when you effectively have second chances.

(And to be blatantly honest here – I can’t remember any more what happened with Jeff in Replay regarding this angle).

Phil and Jeff have no control over their replays or repeats, whereas Vance and Jim do. Control is a much sought after commodity, but both Jim and Vance have another variable which they can’t control – other people.

Vance in the Action Cut of Echo Back.
Other people are the problem for Vance in the Action Cut of Echo Back.

But back to Vance in Echo Back. It strikes me that he’s just had enough. He’s learning with each iteration, quite literally so that he can get on with his life. But the trouble is the people around him – they’re not learning or becoming wiser because they don’t know any better. For them, it’s the first time that things happen.

Vance in Echo Back: Frustration.
Vance in Echo Back: Frustration.

Reliving a part of your life again sounds like it might be fun, sometimes – but only if other people are willing to let you.

The choice is yours?

Would you choose to relive a given day or moment again? People around us wouldn’t behave differently, but we would. Our accumulating experience would make sure of that.

In some ways some of us already do relive the same moments in our lives – and we’re not impressed. And thee are others of us who bring a stop to their enjoyment, or at least, make their lives a living misery.

I remember my first year at university. We played many practical jokes which at the time we thought were blindingly comical – and original. But here’s the thing – what we thought was new and original had already been done before by previous year groups. And of course the staff were never impressed – they’d seen it all before. They had to relive these first few days of first year students every year.

Or there’s the time at secondary school when an overly self-conscious version of me is taking a leak and a female cleaner walks in. I rapidly zip up.

“Don’t worry!” she says, “I’ve seen it all before!”

Yeah, but not MINE!

So the point is that a repetitive life isn’t always a good thing. Production line workers need variation in their schedule before they numb themselves with boredom. Like them, and the university staff, Vance seems tired of it all. Wouldn’t you be?

Einstein’s sometimes quoted (perhaps incorrectly) as saying that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity.

But I think the question remains: who goes insane – the time traveller, or those around him?

Paul

PS: Here’s the link to the full version of Echo Back – The Time Travel Virus:

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Complex 3D Time

Can complex number theory be applied to time? Would a “complex time” component would effectively turn a time line into a time plane (or time volume?) possibly allowing for multitasking?

complex wall clock

Here’s my wall clock. Again. I ‘introduced’ it and its angle on warped space time in this post back in October 2013. That’s not really that long ago, but the clock’s given up the ghost now and moved on to places and times beyond the ken of humankind.

I admit it – I’m playing with your perspective here! Naturally the wall clock’s off the wall, but it’s also been in the hands of my young daughter (after the time of death! ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

Do you ever have time on your hands? My daughter did – and this is how my clock looks from another angle after she’d finished with it.

My old knackered clock

Her child’s play got me thinking about the ‘normal’ movement of hands around a clock. What if they could move not only clockwise on the plane of the clock face, but also in the third dimension?

It sounds like it might be complex…

Complex time

Time moves linearly – usually forwards – hence we have a time line. We also have number lines (also linear) which range from lower integer values, through real numbers to the next highest integer, and so on. Or in reverse if we count backwards.

Linear number line
Linear number line (image credit: www.math.tutorvista.com)

But perpendicular movement is possible on the number line – “complex numbers” (multiples of the square root of minus 1, often denoted by i or j) explain a deviation away from the time line along the “imaginary axis”.

Complex numbers provide perpendicular movement
Imaginary numbers (denoted j) provide a way for perpendicular movement away from the number line (real axis) (Image credit: http://cnx.org)

So can complex number theory allow for a similar methodology to be applied to time? Can there be a “complex time” component which effectively turns a time line into a time plane? Or a time volume?

complex time is similar to a sundial

Admittedly, this might look a little like a sundial with pturned hands casting time shadows across the clock face area.

I remember watching a lunar eclipse and someone nearby mentioned that this was the largest shadow that there was. Being keen on astronomy (and a nerd with no social skills) I was compelled to mention that actually the shadow on the moon was just a 2D image of the 3D shadow of the Earth which projected into space and struck the moon.

Perhaps as sundials signaled the advent of clocks and telling the time, they may also signal the beginning of an understanding multi-dimensional time.

Now, I’m not a mathematician but is this idea of complex time something which can be worked out further?

is complex time the solution for multitasking?
Is complex time the solution for multitasking? (Image credit: www.moebiusnoodles.com)

Practically speaking I’m guessing the realisation of complex time into the real everyday world would be something similar to multitasking (something my wife’s good at).

Worth a try, surely? Is 3D time so complex? Or is it just child’s play? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Church Bells – a link with history?

Can we accept that church bells chiming โ€œnowโ€ aren’t for โ€˜justโ€™ now but that they’re a link through time where the past is connected through the present and into the future?

A couple of decades ago I was sitting in my English literature class which I was destined to fail. We were reading DH Lawrence’s “The Rainbow”. This – according to my teacher – was a novel where a spade wasn’t a spade. A horse in a field wasn’t a horse, it was a phallic symbol, for example. A church spire wasn’t a church spire, it was a vertical connection between Heaven and Earth.

Today, as church bells toll a couple of decades later, I am reminded of the nonsentities of literature – and of how much I hate church bells.

The bells, the bells ๐Ÿ™

Old church bell.
Are church bells really as old as they look, or do they have an apparent age? When they toll it seems like they go on forever ๐Ÿ™

The passing of time doesn’t need to be clanged out for us, especially by the bell in my local village which clangs every quarter hour – dark, ominous and with a terrible sense of foreboding . And then there’s the ordeal on the hour – or some other randomly allotted time – when the clanging is seemingly as relentless as Einstein’s use of a hot stove as a chair. It goes on forever ๐Ÿ™

There’s nothing inspiring, there’s nothing but…a clanger whacking the side of a piece of circular metal which has hung there for God knows how many decades. Perhaps centuries.

Spatial synchronisation

Church bells link time and nature?
Church bells ring out across nature and nations

The bells in my village aren’t the only ones causing this nationwide – in fact – international, sonorous display of monstrous monotony. The bells clang at the same time as other bells in other towns and villages, other countries and continents. Stamping out time’s beat at the same time in different places, a spatial synchronisation even across time zones.

They’ve always done it. Today. Yesterday. Last week. Last year…and all through the ages.

The spatial synchronisation is clear, but I think there’s an argument for a temporal synchronisation too.

Temporal synchronisation

My wife says that she likes the sound of church bells not for the sound they make (seriously…who does?) but because they represent a connection to history.

Clanging church bell disturbs

Can it be true that the church bells connect each moment in time? That the chime on the hour marks not only the passing of the hour here and the passing of the hour across the world, but that it also marks it for days gone by?

In other words, the one o’clock chime today also marks one o’clock yesterday, last week and all of the one o’clocks back through history? (And by extension – in the opposite direction – all of the one o’clocks in the future?)

There was a TV commercial several years ago which was trying to flog watches. According to the advert a watch didn’t tell the time, it marked the moments of memories and gave promise for moments in the future.

Much as I hate to agree with marketing directors, I agree. We celebrate dates with no question – birthdays and anniversaries, for example. Why not increase the temporal resolution to monthly, weekly, daily…or hourly? (It makes sense – young couples celebrate in this manner!) Passing hours on a clock are of huge importance, not just for now, but also for what has gone before as well as what it to come.

So perhaps we can accept that “now” isn’t ‘just’ now and that it’s a link through time where the past is linked through the chiming present and into the future.

Church bells then. A noisy insult to nature – or working with(in) it giving us a direct link across time?

Paul

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Film: Echo Back – The Time Travel Virus

Echo Back – The Time Travel Virus (William Rosenthal and Tristram Geary) is an action Sci-Fi film about how the world would react if time travel was a virus. Does biological time travel have a head start on us?

Echo/Back – The Time Travel Virus

A couple of weeks ago William Rosenthal shared his film with me and asked what I thought of it. Will co-wrote and co-produced “Echo/Back – The Time Travel Virus” with director Tristram Geary. In his own words, “it’s an action sci-fi about how the world would react if time travel was a virus.”

A question of authority

The premise of the film is a simple one – that authorities who control us don’t like the idea that history can be changed. In some ways I echo their sentiment, though with the authorities it’s more sinister – they wish to remain in control and “Time travel dissolves their power”.

The ability to time travel is not attained through technology but by contracting a virus. There are echoes of the X-Men movies where the infected (i.e. those who are different to the societal ‘norm’) are forced to register or submit to the authorities.

In Echo/Back – The Time Travel Virus we identify with the main character, Vance (as we tend to with the X-Men), who in a way for us represents the underdog, albeit infected with the time travel disease (or who has advanced powers).

But it’s a possibility that there may be others who have less scruples than Vance and who would use time travel for more sinister purposes. For example, not just stopping the authorities making our decisions for us, but standing in their place, or other reasons for self gain and harm to others.

Then again, we don’t really know why Vance is being hunted, do we?

Biological time travel

We don’t always need a time machine to time travel.

In X-men: Days of Future Past biological time travel comes through accelerated or staggered evolution. In Edge of Tomorrow a time loop is set up through contact with blood from an “Alpha Mimic” (an alien).

And here Echo Back is similar – time travel comes to a select few through contracting virus. There’s no time machine, no flux capacitor and no TARDIS. Time travel is of a more natural origin – albeit unwelcome (by some).

The neanderthal reaction to something we don't understand is to club it.

I can’t help recognising the basic Neanderthal reaction in Echo Back – if we don’t understand it, whack it over the head with a club. Or a gun. It seems a shame (perhaps) that the authorities don’t think to approach the problem intelligently. Why not try to develop a ‘cure’ for the time travel virus? Or come to think of it, deliberately contract the time travel disease themselves to keep themselves ahead in the game?

Neanderthal reaction in Echo Back - The Time Travel Virus
Neanderthal reaction in Echo Back – The Time Travel Virus

(One of these guys is played by Will…)

Biological problems often require biological solutions.

Actually, technological problems often require biological solutions too and we see that technology frequently seeks to emulate nature. Nature is often just much better at things than we are – she can provide the strongest materials, the strongest glue, the most beautiful artwork, etc. and generally speaking it seems that we try to mimic nature where we can. Bullet-proof vests, velcro, swimming technologies…

We’ve always done it, and to quote the source of the image below, “Stone Age man copied Nature by wearing the fur of slaughtered animals to keep warm.” (sciencenordic.com).

Nature's echo - technological problems often require biological solutions
Image source: http://sciencenordic.com/top-10-best-copies-nature-part-2 (Illustration: Mette Friis-Mikkelsen)

Whilst we can sit with a pen and paper and work things out, even develop computers or other tools to help us do that quicker, it’s much more difficult to develop biological solutions to assist us with life’s obstacles. Copying, or being inspired by Nature is much easier.

My personal thought is that for whilst theoretical physicists are beavering and banging away at Einstein’s equations to find out if – and if so, how – we can travel in time, Nature is probably busy finding it’s own way. Maybe it’s already got there. And when it’s found or evolved or contracted, we’ll imitate it with our trailing technology.

Or maybe just whack it on the head.

Interview with William Rosenthal and Tristram Geary

In this interview with director, writers and producers William Rosenthal and Tristram Geary we get a behind the scenes view on Echo Back, as well as their personal thoughts behind some of the ideas they’ve written into their film!

Time is a precious commodity – Will and Tristram, many thanks for giving us some of yours!

The fight between the authorities and Vance might be viewed as a clash between technology and biology. Given enough time for development / evolution, would you consider technology or biology to have the upper hand?

In the earlier stages, while the ability is new and underdeveloped, technology (and existing power structures) would very easily mobilise to control it. However, time travel is such an incredible advancement that it simply couldnโ€™t be contained forever. Ultimately, we feel technology and human ingenuity would make time travel more efficient, and expand its possibilities. It may be positive or negative, weaponisation or integration, but as long as we humans have such inquisitive minds, it feels like our biology will always be shackled to our technology.

Physical limitations are well known when it comes to operating technology and we see how you’ve incorporated biological limitations into your time travel method – avoiding cleanly the grandfather paradox and the creation of ‘major’ alternate histories! Were there any aspects of time travel that were difficult to incorporate into Echo Back and how did you solve them?

Oh absolutely! Time travel in fiction is so tricky, partly because you need to make something physically impossible at least internally consistent, but also because it needs to be emotionally satisfying in some way.

Logistically, it was quite difficult to come up with a scenario that would clearly demonstrate the power of small time jumps. We eventually figured out that we needed a clear space or object- something that moved or reverted whenever Vance jumped back in time.

The action also helped, as the audience can see Vance learn through trial and error (and injury!)We wanted to show that despite the huge advantages of this ability, there are still plenty of limitations. We also needed to work out some tactics and technology that would give the police an upper hand.

Can you explain the “Echo” aspect in the film title?

Well firstly of course, thereโ€™s the idiom โ€˜to echo backโ€™, meaning to evoke something similar from the past. The way in which the world reacts to time travel is similar to other, world-changing phenomena; excitement, fear, and ultimately a desire for control. The nature and mandate of governments means that theyโ€™ll always aim to regulate things, the internet for example. Sometimes thatโ€™s a helpful step, other times, less so.

Itโ€™s also a reference to the mechanism of our form of time travel. In the film, Vance jumps through what is essentially the same scenario many, many times. Each variation shares the same key features, but is slightly distorted from its predecessor; like an echo.

To turn things upside down, how do you think people would feel if their local authority was able to time travel and they weren’t?

As regular citizens, weโ€™re already very much at the mercy of our systems and those more powerful than us. Authorities can monitor your phone activity, control the legitimate use of violence, and make decisions daily that most of us will never know about but which will profoundly affect our lives. Now, these arenโ€™t always bad things- you could argue theyโ€™re necessary components of a government- but time travel would probably just be another (albeit near-omnipotent) string in their bow.

However, who knows, a shift in power this enormous might actually galvanise many people into protest and defiance. Instead of being the ultimate weapon for control, time travel could be the catalyst for a regimeโ€™s unravelling.

Are there any plans for a sequel / prequel to Echo Back?

Actually, weโ€™ve drafted a screenplay for a feature film, so weโ€™d love to see the concept explored further!

How did you go about writing Echo Back? Did you write, then ‘convert’ it into a screenplay, or did you write it as a screen play from the outset?

We always intended to convert the basic time travel mechanism into some sort of film, but we initially had very few specifics beyond that. Our excitement about the premise meant that we spent some time throwing ideas at each other. How would it work on an individual level? How heavily could it shake the worldโ€™s establishments? What would it mean for how we perceive death? Given our miniscule budget, we were obviously limited in what we could show, but we still wanted to express as many of these possibilities as we could- hence the narrated sections.

As a scientist I’m told that I need to spend about an hour in preparation for each slide I present at a conference. I can’t help considering that a movie comprises many frames per second, and arguably the story line is much more important! How long did it take to make this film?

We spent roughly three months on pre-production, including design, costume, rehearsal, choreography, and searching for locations.

We were extremely fortunate to get David on board to play Vance. On the day of filming, he spent about 16 consecutive hours being beaten up. Our budget limited us to just one day with the camera and shooting gear, so we had to make the most of it! He and the rest of our small, brilliant crew of volunteers were consummately professional and seriously hard workers.

Our tiny post-production crew spent the next months editing, sound editing, scoring, and crafting effects. It really was a huge undertaking for a small number of dedicated people.

I love the interplay between the narration (done by Tristram) and the action sequences which show the more physical side of the battle between the authorities and time travellers. Were there times when you struggled to mesh these two techniques together?

Fantastic to hear you liked it! It was definitely a difficult pairing to balance. We wanted to expose the audience to a larger world, while not encroaching too heavily on the emotional flow of the action sequence. The parallels with broader time travel struggles also hopefully reinforced Vanceโ€™s motivation and determination. However, we also couldnโ€™t get too specific in describing these events, as it could jerk viewers out of his immediate predicament. Definitely a challenge!

Will and Tristram, many thanks again for your time – for both the interview and for creating Echo Back – The Time Travel Virus! I’m really excited to hear that you’ve got plans for a feature film!!

Follow Echo Back – The Time Travel Virus on Facebook and Twitter (@EchoBackMovie).

Edit: Will and Tristram have since compiled an “Action Cut” of Echo Back – The Time Travel Virus which offers us (yet) another view into the original film. Vance’s physical exhaustion and also his frustration in his need to endure the authorities and the masses really shines through in this cut. I’ve written a short piece (with the link to Action Cut) which touches on the ideas of other people’s role when you relive your life. It’s clearly not always for the better!

Paul

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Groundhog Day…again?

The classic movie Groundhog Day makes the basic assumption that February 2 will repeatedly come around again and again. It sounds like a dangerous approach…

After reading Buckyball (Fabien Roy) I somehow got round to watching Groundhog Day. Again.

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is the classic 1993 movie where grumpy chops weather man Phil Connors repeatedly wakes up at 06:00 on February 2nd (“Groundhog Day”). No matter what he does, everything excepting his memory resets. “He’s having the day of his life…over and over again”.

Calendar for the movie Groundhog Day
Image credit: http://montygog.deviantart.com/art/Groundhog-Day-267071440

Of course Groundhog Day is all Hollywooded up, but it’s still a great movie which asks the question: how would you spend your day if you lived it again and again with no consequences?

Poster for Groundhog Day with heads
Phil has it in his head that he’ll relive today

In the movie the main character Phil Connors assumes that no consequences means that you can do whatever you like. We see him driving recklessly, stealing money, being violent and eating ‘badly’ (a big no-no for Hollywood types I guess!) – all because he knows that February 3rd won’t come around and that any actions he takes (or causes other people to take) will be wiped away. No consequences.

Of particular note is that memories of other people are also wiped away, and Phil utilises this to manipulate people by memorising what he thinks are the right or correct answers to elicit certain actions from them the next time February 2nd comes around.

In other words, Phil operates with the certainty that tomorrow won’t come. After all, “It didn’t yesterday.”

And for me this is the sticky point. How does Phil know that he’ll get to relive February 2nd all over again with a clean slate? What is going on, why and what the boundaries are, are not fully known. It’s certainly not fully understood.

So it seems to me like a big risk to take. Phil steals money, but if the phenomenon vanishes as mysteriously as it came in the first place, then Phil will be (rightfully) facing a term in jail instead of reliving the day to steal that money again. The deadly outcome of his suicide attempts is morbidly clear.

I touched on the morals of changing the past last week. But is the past actually being revisited here in Groundhog Day, or are the events simply happening again?

There aren’t two versions of Phil so it’s probably not a revisit.

Whereas Phil retains his knowledge every time February 2 comes around, other characters don’t. It seems that for them this is the first time that they’re experiencing this day.

Surely this can’t be true? My wife noticed it as well – if February 2 is having multiple versions, then the other characters in the novel must be experiencing this day for multiple times too…even if they don’t realise it. The question is: why is it that only Phil realises that this phenomena is happening?

On a time travel front, the Groundhog Day producers don’t attempt to provide any explanation or answer any questions at all. At best, once Phil gets the girl they live happily ever after.

Yet again, I can’t help but realise the importance of now. I used to think it lasts only for a fleeting moment – affected by the past and affecting the future. But now I wonder if it’s an infinitely short moment in time stretched out to last eternity.

Live now wisely – we don’t know how many times we’ll get to live it!

Paul

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Should you change the past?

“What would you change in your past” is a common question, but often not much thought is given over to the morals of changing the past. This article explores whether we should change our past at all.

“A change in my past?”

I recently posted this link on the time2timetravel Facebook page. In that video the question is asked: What would you change in your past?

It’s an interesting question. Though I think I probably have a different angle on it – Do I want to change my past? or even, should I change my past?

I have two concerns. The first is fairly obvious (I think); if I change my past then my current no longer exists – a current which for the most part I’m pretty happy with. I had to go through some messy relationships, for example, so that I could become the person I am today who my wife loves. And have my children.

Evolutionary caution

Admittedly this the same argument that pro-evolutionists provide in response to the idea that life as we know it exists in a very small Goldilocks zone: we can live only within a very narrow window of environmental conditions – exactly the right temperature, atmospheric composition, gravity strength, etc..

The reason, they say, is that life evolved to fit into this environment, the same way that the shape of a puddle, for example, fits exactly with the ground on which it lies. Change the shape of the ground, and the shape of the puddle will adapt and change.

In a similar way then, it can be argued that my own evolution in time – how I changed and reacted to events in my history (read “temporal environment”) means that I’ve simply adapted to it and end up ‘placed’ in my present.

I met my wife because she’s the one who was at the same place at the same time that I was. If my history was different, I’d have been at another place at another time and met a different lady and I might have fallen in love with her instead.

My marital status, and with whom, has adapted in the same way as the puddle that’s sitting comfortably on the ground.

Changing my past then, means I’ll evolve into someone else who either won’t be loved by my wife (from now), or even won’t love her. Or simply that I wouldn’t have even met her. So no loss with a changed history as I’ll have some other woman (or let’s be conceited – let some other woman have me).

Even though my no wife may not mind (as the same applies to her temporal environment too) I find this an egocentric point of view, and unacceptable…which brings me onto my second issue – changing my history changes other people’s histories too – and I don’t think I have the right to do that.

Morality or mortality?

The movie “About Time” and a time travel novel I recently reviewed (Buckyball by Fabien Roy) both cover issues where children no longer exist thanks to a historical change. Not just different children, but actually not there. If I’ve removed their presence, isn’t that akin to murder?

The get-out clause is that these children never get to exist so who have I murdered? But…they already have existed (see why why time travel grammar gets tricky?!) so I still maintain that such a change in history would be unethical.

Am I being too strict here? If I change history then people die (or at least, never get to exist). It’s true that the other side of the coin is that other people get to exist who wouldn’t otherwise exist – but I think it’s pretty obvious that creating babies to justify murdering others has a very dodgy moral foundation.

Are we really in control?

Perhaps my issue is made clearer if we put the shoe on the other foot and rephrase the original question. Lets change it from “What would you (or we) change” to “How would you feel if the Government was able to change history?”

Or the military. Or your idiot next door neighbour?

Feel safe? I don’t. It’s a loss of control.

Whilst Buckyball is more to do with reliving history than changing or rewriting it, it does touch on the idea that your present can be taken away if someone else is in control. It’s a worrying thought.

So changing your past? Yeah, you can do that, but then a second later someone else might change theirs and that might affect yours. Better to go last then, I think. Better to wait and let all the chips fall and see where they lie before making any decisions.

Or maybe we should just wait indefinitely…

Of course, the above arguments assume that whoever is in control of the time travel technology is also in control of the changes and the effects of those changes. It’s easy to imagine a version of the present which we’re not happy with, whether it’s instigated by ourselves or by a third party. That’s been the subject of countless Hollywood time travel movies. We’ve been warned.

Personally, I think that generally we should take responsibility for our actions in the past, and leave the past well alone.

Living with the consequences…

But I also acknowledge that it’s true that sometimes we need to deal with the consequences that others have caused and I guess that this is where the grey area makes itself known. If some idiot politician orders an army to raid a town or village then why should the families of those innocent victims have to live with it? Then I think messing about with the past to harmlessly fix other people’s mistakes might be justified.

But that’s the time travel version of a first aid bandage. I like the Alex’s philosophy in Sherrie Cronin’s z2. Alex maintains that from now we have the capability of creating and shaping the future which lies ahead of us – and ahead of others. That makes now really important because it’s effects can ripple forwards in time indefinitely.

…or creating new ones?

I’ll finish with a quote from Churchill who saw history from a futuristic viewpoint:

“History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it”

Or to paraphrase: “I’ll write my present so that my future will be good to me.”

Shouldn’t we all just agree to leave the past alone, and concentrate on creating a new and better future?

What do you think? Are there morals involved when it comes to changing the past?

Paul

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Site announcement: Thank you for your patience!

You’ve probably noticed that things have been quiet on the time2timetravel front recently. This hiatus will soon be over!

Hi fellow time travel fans!

You’ve probably noticed that things have been quiet on the time2timetravel front recently. This hiatus will soon be over!

My time’s been spent on fixing some back-end site issues, but I think all is now solved – along with a new site layout which I hope will keep those of of you on mobile devices even happier!

I really appreciate your patience over the past days, especially given some odd site behaviour but hopefully now everything is back on track (though that said…if you notice anything strange please let me know!)

So now I can finally get back to writing and posting! ๐Ÿ™‚

Next up will be a review of Time Bangers (by Luna Teague and Ivery Kirk) which was a very different – but welcome! – read from usual! And I’m about half way through my current read, d4 – another instalment from Sherrie Cronin’s “46.Ascending” series which includes the excellent z2. So that’ll be the following book review!

In between reading and reviewing, I’ve got some more ideas on time travel (or why or even if we should time travel) which I’m planning on writing up and posting.

So stay tuned – exciting stuff is on its way! ๐Ÿ™‚

Paul


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