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Posts Tagged ‘Time Travel

“Yes, and imagine a world where there were no hypothetical situations”*…

 

From Les Maîtres du Temps (1982)

If the Universe came to an end every time there was some uncertainty about what had happened in it, it would never have got beyond the first picosecond. And many of course don’t. It’s like a human body, you see. A few cuts and bruises here and there don’t hurt it. Not even major surgery if it’s done properly. Paradoxes are just the scar tissue. Time and space heal themselves up around them and people simply remember a version of events which makes as much sense as they require it to make.
― Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Interstellar has made quite a stir, and occasioned hosannas for its originality.  But as the British Film Institute reminds us, it comes on the heels of a long line of time-travel films…

…from the arthouse masterpieces (La Jetée, 1962), the slacker comedies (Bill &Ted’s Excellent Adventure, 1989), the canny satires (Groundhog Day, 1993), the conundrums (Donnie Darko, 2001), the nostalgic fantasies (Midnight in Paris, 2011), and the high-concept thrillers (Looper, 2012) [to] the comic-book escapades (X-Men: Days of Future Past, 2014)…

Find a more complete (and completely fascinating) history, and a list of worthy, but under-appreciated options at “10 great lesser-known time-travel films.”

* Jasper Fforde, First Among Sequels

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As we check our watches, we might recall that it was on this date in 1884 that Levant M. Richardson was awarded the first U.S.patent for the use of steel ball bearings in roller skate wheels– which reduced friction, creating wheels that allowed skaters to achieve previously unreachable speeds.  Indeed, in 1898 Richardson started the Richardson Ball Bearing and Skate Company, which provided skates to most professional skate racers of the time.

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Written by LW

December 9, 2014 at 1:01 am

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once”*…

 

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H.G. Well’s The Time Machine is widely credited with having popularized the prospect of time travel (though Edward Page Mitchell”s short story, “The Clock That Ran Backwards” surely deserves a nod).  In fact, the notion of travel into the future dates back to the Mahabharata; and travel into the past, while more modern, to the 18th century (e.g., Samuel Madden’s 1733 novel Memoirs of the Twentieth Century).  The concept flowered in the 19th century– e.g., Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle”.  And of course, it has flourished in our time, bot in countless novels and in the newer media of radio, film. and television.

At our post-relativity times, scientists have increasingly taken the concept seriously, looking for theories that might suggest that traversing time might be possible (both backwards and forwards) and investigating claims that time travel has already happened.

So it should come as no surprise that scientists are exploring a new frontier, the internet for evidence, of visitors from another era…

Two researchers from the Department of Physics at Michigan Technological University decided to search the Internet for such evidence and have completed the study, “Searching the Internet for evidence of time travelers,” submitted on December 26 on ArXiv. Authors Robert Nemiroff, professor of physics, and Teresa Wilson, a PhD candidate, said, “The modern ubiquity” of the Internet lends itself to far-reaching methods to search for time travelers. They said a benefit from their effort, given the great reach of the Internet, is that their search is “the most comprehensive to date”…

Read more at PhysOrg’s “Michigan researchers hunt for Internet remnants from time travelers.”  It’s a fascinating read, though– spoiler alert– none were found.

Still, as Randall Monroe reminds us, we’re all time travelers…

 xkcd

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-01-michigan-internet-remnants.html#jCp

* Albert Einstein

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As we check our watches, we might recall that it was on this date in 1582 that Italy, Spain, Portugal and Poland introduced the Gregorian calendar.  While this was “October 5” in the rest of the world, those four countries, adopting Pope Gregory XIII’s innovation, skipped ten days– so that there, the date shifted from October 4 the day before to October 15.  With the shift, the calendar was aligned with the equinoxes, and the lunar cycles used to establish the celebration of Easter.  Britain and its colonies resisted this Popish change, and used the Julian calendar for another century and a half, until September 2, 1752.

From a work published in 1582, the year of the calendar reform; days 5 to 14 October are omitted.

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Written by LW

October 5, 2014 at 1:01 am

“There is nothing permanent except change”*…

 

Your correspondent is off for his annual retreat to the family seat, and a chance to compete in “the Talladega 500 of eating contests,” the Pawleys Island Marathon Meat Meet (your correspondent’s category: free-style).  Regular (Roughly) Daily service should resume on or around August 11.

Meantime, to keep readers amused, a pair of tools that enable armchair travel– through time as well as space.  Y’all be good!

 

315 Bowery in lower Manhattan: once the omphalos of Punk and New Wave, now a John Varvatos boutique…

From Brian Foo at the New York Public Library Labs…

As a web developer who works on a screen and an illustrator that works on paper, I have always admired those who could paint big—often on impossibly large and inconveniently placed walls—only to be erased in a matter of weeks or days. The ephemeral nature of street art is what makes it simultaneously appealing and frustrating as a viewer. However, Google Maps recently rolled out a feature allowing users to go back in time on its Street View. I immediately thought to check out the well-known wall on Bowery & Houston and found that Google captured the painted wall dating back to 2007. Here’s a sampling from 2007 to present. I added a few images of the wall that I found while perusing the web to fill in some of the gap years that Google didn’t capture.

Foo developed two tools, both available openly on the NYPL site:  the first corrects and aligns the perspectives of the different angles in street-view photos over time.  The second, the one used on the photo of the late-lamented CBGG at the top of this post, allows one to layer views from different times by “painting” one view onto another.  Try them out (and see more of his examples) at “Peeling Off The Painted Layers of NYC Walls: Experiments With The Google Street View Archive.”

* Heraclitus

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As we check the tags, we might send insightful birthday greetings to Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville, born on this date in 1805.  After a trip to the U.S. to study its penal system, de Tocqueville, whose observations had, happily, ranged much more broadly, published De la Démocratie en Amérique (Democracy in America), a pioneering work of (the not-yet-named fields of) sociology and political science– one still powerfully relevant to those concerned to understand the United States.

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Time travel…

 

Chino Otsuka, 1980 and 2009, Nagayama, Japan

In the photo series “Imagine Finding Me,” photographer Chino Otsuka revisits her childhood by digitally inserting herself in old photos of her as a child. Otsuka likens her double self-portraits to a kind of time travel:

“The digital process becomes a tool, almost like a time machine, as I’m embarking on the journey to where I once belonged and at the same time becoming a tourist in my own history…”

Chino Otsuka, 1975 and 2005, Spain

See (and read) more at Laughing Squid and at AGO.

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As we revisit Memory Lane, we might spare a thought for Kurt Friedrich Gödel; he died on this date in 1978. Considered (with Aristotle and Frege) one of the most important logicians in history, Gödel published the work for which he is probably most widely remembered– his two incompleteness theorems— in 1931 when he was 25 years old, one year after finishing his doctorate at the University of Vienna.  He demonstrated that:

  1. If a system is consistent, it cannot be complete.
  2. The consistency of a systems axioms cannot be proven within the system.

Gödel’s theorems ended a half-century of attempts, beginning with the work of Frege and culminating in Russell and Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica and Hilbert’s formalism, to find a set of axioms sufficient for all mathematics.

As the Anschluss swept Austria, Gödel fled to the U.S., landing at Princeton, where he joined Albert Einstein at the Institute for Advanced Studies.  In 1951, as a 70th birthday present for Einstein, Gödel demonstrated the existence of paradoxical solutions to Einstein’s field equations in general relativity (they became known as the Gödel metric)– which allowed for “rotating universes” and time travel… and which caused Einstein to have doubts about his own theory.

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Written by LW

January 14, 2014 at 1:01 am

Deja vu all over again…

Further to “Pardon me, but do you have the time?…,” an epic effort from David McCandless and InformationIsBeautiful.net:

As for his next project, McCandless is recruiting: “So who wants to work with me on the Dr Who one? I’m serious. Email me.”

As we check our watches, we might recall that it was this date in 1998 that Scholastic published the first book in the Harry Potter saga, re-titled Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone for consumption in the United States. The changes went beyond the title (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the original UK incarnation): illustrations were added to the start of each chapter, and British spelling, punctuation, grammar, and vocabulary were “translated” into American English. The first print run was 50,000 copies. (The initial UK run was 500 copies, which occasioned an extraordinary scramble at the printers…)

Scholastic was behaving in a time-honored way, recognizing that (as Wilde or Shaw or Churchill; it’s variously attributed) observed, “England and America are two people divided by a common language.”  When Samuel Goldwyn was preparing the U.S. release the film adaptation of Alan Bennett’s wonderful play, The Madness of George III, he insisted that the title be changed to The Madness of King George.  Goldwyn was concerned that American audiences might take the original title to mean that the film was a sequel.

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Pardon me, but do you have the time?…

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

Image via Wikipedia

M. Joseph Young is a writer and game designer who shares your correspondent’s affection for time travel movies.  The disciplined Mr. Young has created a site– Temporal Anomalies in Time Travel Movies—  that systematically critiques the (sub-)genre.

Time travel has been a staple in Science Fiction since H.G. Wells.  Unfortunately, much of what passes for intelligence in this area is poorly considered…  For example, it is not possible to return to the past without changing the past in some way; nor is it possible to change the future based on information from the future.  Doctor Who realized early on that changes to history were hazardous, and avoided them assiduously. Movies built on a time travel theme frequently become dissatisfying when the thread of time is closely examined.  In Millennium, once the era in which the time machine exists is destroyed, aren’t all of those rescued survivors returned to their own times?  In The Twelve Monkeys, doesn’t it appear that the disaster which the main character was to prevent would not have happened had he not interfered?  In Timecop, would any of that have happened had it not happened?  Even the venerable StarTrek has created numerous anomalies which it has failed to resolve.  Pasts which are dependent upon futures dependent upon those pasts should make us cringe.  However, from time to time something works…

Readers will doubtless be as relieved as your correspondent was to learn that Mr. Young counts Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure among the (relatively) successful…  after all, “would any of that had happened if it had not happened?”

As we reset our watches, we might spare a celebratory thought for Andrew Warhola, born on this date in 1928 in Pittsburgh, PA.  Better known as Andy Warhol, he was a role model for a generation of post-modernist artists; he provoked us think more clearly about the relationship of reference and referent… and he made us (well, most of us anyway) smile.

Self-Portrait, 1986  source: National Gallery of Art

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