Timestream Post: A note from 07.19.2011

19 07 2013

Greetings from the past!

In this case, the date is July 19, 2011, and I’ve just returned from the first of a two-day assessment of a radiological laboratory outside of Charleston, South Carolina.  While I’m supposed to be knee-deep in schoolwork, I’ve found a little extra time to continue this a-chronistic endeavor.

When shall I send this?  When, oh when indeed?  I’ve written enough of these trans-temporal notes that picking an appropriate delivery time is starting to seem a little… difficult.  (-Is is chronistically gouche to deliver messages from two separate points in time to the same or similar destination dates?  Is that the time-equivalent of double-booking an evening date?  Hmm…)

I think I’ll send this a cool two years forward.  There are a number of things in play that I believe should be resolved – or at the very least resolved – by that point.  With a limping truck, a start-up company in play and my (somewhat obscured) face in Newsweek, a kid in the works, a potential brewing TV show, and a looming foreclosure of my ill-timed and financially ruinous townhouse…  I truly have no idea what the future holds.

So, future, how about it?

On this business trip, I'm cheating on my truck with this dashing machine...

Let’s go down the list.

Do I have a new vehicle in the future, or have I continued to resurrect my trusty 2000 Ford Ranger, “Wolfsburg?”  I must admit that I am quite taken with my rental car this trip, a fortuitously neglected Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport, which I received instead of a compact car from the rental agency.  It handles as well as a sturdy truck, has decent visibility, and one can even remove the top!

I’m smitten.  Does the burgeoning romance lead anywhere?

(After all, there’s not much room for a car seat in the truck…)

Spaceflight Fitness!

Second, what’s happening or has happened with Astrowright?  (Will that link even still work?)

Right now, I’m desperately trying to find time to iron out remaining services and organizational literature, promotional material, and I’m working to scrape up initial clients.  Truthfully, I’m having a hard time before having a child in my midst…

Is it folly to think I can do it all – work, school, side business, be a father – and be successful while maintaining my sanity?

What does 2013 have to say?

Though, I should also admit that the current spaceflight developments aren’t all stressful.  I was pleasantly surprised on my way out to South Carolina a couple of days ago to find myself in Newsweek Magazine article entitled “The Next Space Race!”

Yep. That's me on the left! (Credit: Newsweek)

As it would turn out, the Newsweek writer embedded with us while in scientist-astronaut training at the NASTAR Center had his story picked up to coincide with the final Space Shuttle launch – and so there it was, on page 59 of the July 18th issue, staring at me as I wandered through the airport!

So, yes, my face is covered by a respirator mask, but there I am, flightsuit sleeves rolled up and ready to go.

Also, by this time in the year 2013, we should be approaching the second birthday of my first kid!  I’m banking on it being Grayson James McGee that we’ll be meeting here in a bit, and he’ll likely be clipping through the milestones on his way to the “terrible twos.” =)

Will he want to be an astronaut like his dad?  (If so, will that freak his dad out?)

Also, while not spaceflight per se, I’ve got a meeting tomorrow afternoon with representatives from Ping Pong Productions – a television production house that filmed a demo for a UFO-crash-site archaeology TV show they’re interested in doing with me, if a network picks it up.  Apparently, they have news.

Honestly, I’m a little terrified.  I’m not a TV personality, and getting involved with a popular “UFO-hunter”-styled show will likely stretch my scientific credibility.  -But, it will likely be an adventure, to be sure.  It borders on too bizarre to feel real, but in just a day I’m going to be on the phone to find out…

What they heck are they going to tell me?  TV show?  If so, do I take the gig?  If so, was it a good idea?

8408 Majestic View Ave. Still in my tenuous possession in 2013?

Rounding out the things on my mind is, unsurprisingly, my townhouse.  As it stands, my cousin and her boyfriend are renting it from me, though prices have dropped so dramatically that I’m taking an incredible loss every month.

What am I doing?  It’s sufficiently destroyed my savings, and I feel like the last one to not ditch the now incomprehensibly underwater investment.

I ask again – what am I doing?  I’m not sure I’ll be able to afford it at all after having another mouth to feed in a few months.

Does 2013 show that I’ve hit the lottery and was able to hang onto the thing?

Like the Man says – there are no problems, only solution.  All times are good ones if we but know what to do with them, right?

Here’s to pretending I know what to do with this one.  =)

Cheers,

Ben

July 19, 2011.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011. 2:30pm.





Jumping the Timestream: A Note from 07.20.2011

20 07 2012

I’m writing today one year into the future because I can’t stand not knowing what’s going to happen in the next few hours.  (Strange, I realize, but I can’t just publicly ask my future self in a few hours due to contract obligations relating to the answer… so I have to send this far enough out to not cause any legal troubles.)

In short – I’ve got a phone meeting in a few hours that may result in my getting offered to participate in a TV show, and I have no idea what will happen and/or what I should do(!).  The show relates to my paper on xenoarchaeology – it triggered interest in a show on investigating suspected UFO crash sites from an archaeological perspective…  If there is an offer, accepting might stretch my scientific credibility – not to mention that my pregnant wife may object to my leaving to perform fieldwork for weeks at a time with a newborn at home.

What to do?  What to do?

So, future self: What happened?  What the heck happened?  What did you do?  Was whatever you decided to do a good idea?

Out of my mind with anticipation,

Ben

July 20, 2011.

July 20, 2011. 12:54pm.





Science as the language of time-travelers

16 04 2012

A note today on something that is implicit in many of the popular treatments of time travel that I’d like to make explicit.  Namely, I’d like to explore the answer to the question:

Presuming backward-and-forward time travel to be possible, how could we communicate with those from different times?

This is something that actually comes up quite frequently in science-fiction.  More often than not, the answer to the protagonist’s communication woes is simply: Science. 

More specifically, science is the means by which a character from a less-advanced culture is able to understand and quickly adapt to and utilize new concepts.  -And I think it’s spot on.

Allow me to illustrate what I mean.

The Time Traveler interacting with an artificial intelligence expert system at the future New York Public Library. (Credit: Warner Bros)

The Common Element

Take the recent film incarnation of “The Time Machine” as an example.  When the Time Traveler begins his journey into the future, he does so from the same spatial location – his house in early-twentieth-century New York city – to arrive in a futuristic New York City that looks to be mid-to-late 21st Century.

In attempting to answer his own question about the nature of causality in the universe, he is able to meaningfully interact with a computer system from the future to quickly digest advanced concepts.  (Further, on a related note, the backwards-compatibility of scientific concepts allows the computer to understand him.)

Take this exchange, for example, (bearing in mind it essentially occurs between two characters hypothetically separated by what could be nearly two centuries):

Time Traveler:  “What are you?”

Computer:  “I’m the 5th Avenue Public Information Unit, Vox Registration NY-114.  How may I help you?”

Time Traveler:  “You’re a stereopticon of some sort.”

Computer:  “Stereopticon?  Oh no, sir.  I am a third-generation, fusion powered photonic with verbal and visual link capabilities connected to every database on the planet.”

Time Traveler:  “A photonic?”

Computer:  “A compendium of all human knowledge.  Area of inquiry?”

Time Traveler:  “Know anything about physics?”

Computer:  “Ah.  Accessing physics.”

Time Traveler:  “Mechanical engineering.  Dimensional optics.  Chronography.  Temporal causality.  Temporal paradox.”

Computer:  “Time travel?”

Time Traveler:  “Yes!”

Very quickly, the Time Traveler is able to accurately communicate the advanced concept of technical time-travel to the point that the artificial intelligence from the future is able to anticipate his inquiry.  No small feat!

Crossing the Generation Gap

For another example, let’s take the more recent film “Tron: Legacy.” 

But wait, astute readers might say.  There’s no time travel in that film!  I beg to differ.

Programmer Kevin Flynn learns about the outside world from his son, Sam, in Tron: Legacy. (Credit: Disney)

In the story, programmer Kevin Flynn is marooned inside a computer system for nearly two decades.  Based on his technical background, he is easily able to digest the existence of technology twenty years ahead of the world he knows during a conversation with his son, Sam, (which is essentially like talking to someone from 20 years in the future).  He asks his son what the world he’s been separated from has changed:

Sam Flynn:  “I don’t know.  The rich are getting richer, poor getting poorer.  Cell phones.  Online dating.  Wi-fi.”

Kevin Flynn:  “What’s Wi-fi?”

Sam Flynn:  “Wireless… interlinking.”

Kevin Flynn:  “Of digital devices?”

Sam Flynn:  “Yeah.”

Kevin Flynn:  “Huh.  I thought of that in ’85.”

A Universal Language

And let’s not forget that this principle – the idea of science as a universal language – was essentially the basis of Carl Sagan‘s landmark book, Contact.

Dr. Ellie Arroway, moments from receiving an extraterrestrial signal using math and scientific principles to communicate engineering plans across space and time. (Credit: Warner Bros)

Being that it’s impossible to separate the distance of space from the passage of time, (and one of the reasons that my two passions – space exploration and time travel – are not too dissimilar,) any electromagnetic signal received from an extraterrestrial source comes from the past and must be able to communicate to future civilizations – whether technologically advanced or inferior.

This is why science is (or will be… or has been?) the language of time travel.

-Just a fun aside to keep in mind during your next millennial jaunt.





Timestream Post: A note from 04.29.2011

2 11 2011

So, who are you?

I’m referring to you, my offspring, who as I type this is not yet half way toward growing into a self-sustaining future person.  Jordan (my wife) and I have decided to wait to see what you are, so I don’t know yet if I’m addressing my future son or daughter…  But I can’t wait to meet you!  (-And what more perfect vehicle is there to project my question into the future than my Timestream Project?)

Whose traits will you share?  Whose aptitudes?  Likes and dislikes?  -And I’m dying for an answer to the epic pregnancy question: Blue eyes like me or green eyes like Jordan?  (Or a different color entirely?)  There are so many things I can’t wait to share and explore with you – it’s been a long time coming, but I’m quite excited to be a dad. =)

We’ve got a couple of names at the top of the list, Rowan if you’re a girl and Grayson if you’re a boy.   Though these are top-secret at the present time and may not stay at the top of the list, I feel safe sending them into the future when the point will most likely be moot!  So, maybe-Rowan or maybe-Grayson, welcome to the McGee clan!  (I suppose that’s technically redundant, but whatever.)

I’m sending this forward only a few months, (I’m impatient,) to the projected date of your birth.   By this point, we think it’ll be about Election Day, 2011.  How was the pregnancy?  The delivery?  I can’t wait!

So, best wishes to Jordan for a speedy and uneventful pregnancy, and welcome to Earth, young McGee!

Writing anxiously from the past and with love,

Ben

April 29, 2011.

04_29_2011, 02:28pm.





Time travel physics in flux

4 10 2011

Something is rotten with the state of time travel/lightspeed physics.

To “c” (the symbolic designation for the speed of light), or not to “c”? 

-That is the question plaguing physicists in a number of recent studies with apparently conflicting results.

The "Flux Capacitor," a fictional device enabling instantaneous, bi-directional time travel. (Credit: Universal)

Traditionally, the speed of light is viewed as a barrier to physical movement.  According to conventional interpretations of Special Relativity, due to the time-slowing effect physical matter experiences as the speed of light is approached, movement through time is believed to stop at the very moment something hits “c.” 

As a result, lightspeed appears to be a barrier to movement, (see: lightspeed barrier,) and many have come to speculate based on certain geometric and philosophical arguments that moving faster than light might equate to backwards travel through time.

So, here’s where things get interesting. 

This summer, scientists at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology announced that in a meticulous data transfer experiment, they verified that photons don’t break the lightspeed barrier, and their effects don’t appear to even slightly precede their cause.  Hence, lightspeed is a barrier and causality is confirmed, thus ruling out backwards time travel.  (On a side note, Stephen Hawking has also endorsed this view.)

However, research published just last month by researchers from the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy appears to demonstrate that neutrinos do travel faster than light, throwing everything else into question.  In the study, scientists analyzed the speed of neutrinos being emitted from the particle accelerators at CERN and discovered them arriving faster than “c” by 60 nonoseconds(!) 

While fractionally small, this is a definitely measurable quantity of time with today’s instruments.

The Time Machine, from the movie of the same name. (Credit: Warner Bros/Dreamworks)

So, it appears that lightspeed might be traversable after all.  What is currently most unclear is whether or not these findings mean that backwards time travel is possible or simply that objects may continue to move faster through space than speed c.

(Note: I fall on the latter side of the fence, predicting allowable faster-than-light movement in my 2006 Kronoscope article.  This is due to what I believe is a Newtonian conceptual parasite infecting modern Relativity interpretations.)

In any case, it’s a very exciting time for time physics – the discovery of conflicting results at the margins often heralds the imminence of a new discovery!





Digital Time Capsule note from 2010

18 07 2011

With the ubiquity of our digital infrastructure, it occurs to me that one possible means of transmitting information across vast stretches of time may, in fact, be to simply schedule it for much-delayed delivery.

How far will this work in principle?  I feel confident I can trust WordPress’s existence for six months.  One year?  Still feels reasonable.  Ten years?  Fifty years?

So, with that in mind, I am writing this note on Sunday morning, July 18th, 2010 and sending it exactly one year into the future.  As for events occurring in my time, BP (formerly British Petroleum) has just put a new, advanced cap on the now-infamous leaking oil well in the Gulf of Mexico.  The polarizing topic of the day seems to be how to deal with illegal immigration on our country’s southern border.  Temperatures are high here in the Las Vegas desert, pushing into the “eleventy-hot” zone during the late afternoon.  Yesterday, I planted a new flowering fruitless plum tree in the front yard, which I hope will survive the heat.

Now, I have a few questions for you.  Does 2011 appear, like years before, not much different than 2010?  I suspect as much.  Does this message find me, my readers, and those I care about in good spirits and health?  I sincerely hope so.  Did the tree I just planted survive its first summer and winter?

Even if I can’t bodily travel through time, at least right now my information can.  Let’s see how many of these time capsules make it to the future.  =)

Remember, when in doubt, make the choice you’ll least regret.

This is Ben McGee, from July 18, 2010, signing off.

July 18, 2010; 09:32am local time.





Ultimately, Time Travel is essential for Space Travel

17 04 2011

Long-time readers may note that this blog bounces (veers?) between space-related content and time/temporal physics-related content.  Today, aside from admitting that (not surprisingly) the two topics are primary passions of mine, I’ll tell you why they’re related, and intimately so.

It’s all Einstein’s fault.

After an interstellar trip, a faulty suspended animation chamber reduces an astronaut to an ancient corpse. (From Planet of the Apes; Credit: 20th Century Fox)

Put very simply, according to Relativity: When dealing with events in the universe, it is impossible to separate the distance of space from the passage of time.

This is why astrophysicists and cosmologists speak of actions in the universe occurring and affecting “space-time.”  (Hence the “space-time continuum” that makes such a frequent appearance in sci-fi technobabble.)

What does this mean for us?  Well, in day-to-day experience, not much more than the odd reality that the moon we see is 1 second old.  Similarly, the sun we see is lagging 8 minutes behind us in time.

Why?  Well, it takes the light that bounces off of the surface of the Moon 1 second to cross the 230,000-mile distance between the Earth and Moon to strike the retina of your eye, and it takes 8 minutes for the light that leaves the sun to cross the 93-million mile orbital void to get to Earth and reach your eye.  As a result, we see the Moon and Sun as they appeared when the light left them, not when the light reaches us.

The same can be said of distant stars.  The farther away a star is, the older it is. (Even if it’s 200,000 light years away – then you’re seeing it the way it looked 200,000 years ago.)

So, quizzically, yes – this means that universe we see is actually a horrible garble of apparent objects from intermixed times.  Fortunately for us,  compared to the incredible speed of light, we’re close enough (distance) to everything we need to experience, (e.g., our limbs, food, loved ones, walls, etc.,) so that this time lag is unnoticeable.

But when we start peering out into the rest of the cosmos, this distortion really matters.  Many of the stars we’re studying may have already exploded… but if they exploded a few years ago, we won’t know it until light from the explosion reaches us, which could take millions of years if the star is far away.

Now, let’s take our time-distance thought exercises a step farther and ask what happens if we score the holy grail of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.  What if, for the sake of argument, we receive and translate a friendly message from an incredibly advanced race of aliens?  And what if, by fortuitous happenstance, they (hoping to aid other, younger life-forms) offer unlimited knowledge to any beings that can meet them on their world, face-to-face?  Well, the offer doesn’t do us more than a hill of beans of good if it takes us 200 years for a multi-generational craft to get there, only to find that the benevolent race has gone extinct due to a problem with their parent star.  We want to reach them as soon as we translate the message.

We want to separate the distance of space from the passage of time.

So, if we can conceptually and technologically conquer time travel, we will have in essence conquered space travel.  If one can manipulate the passage of time, then the time taken to cross the distance of space with any type of propulsion system becomes an almost trivial tally – little more significant than the miles-per-gallon of a modern automobile.

Conventional propulsion systems will get us around in space for the foreseeable future, and more exotic systems will likely take us to the nearest stars.  However, I believe it will be the mastery of time that will transform our race from provincial planet-hoppers to truly savvy, galaxy-trotting, cosmic-colonial game-changers.

Something to think about.





Timestream Post: A Note from 10.7.2010

12 12 2010

10/07/2010; 09:04am

It’s October 7th, and in a few moments I’m heading out to the National Archives in Chicago in search of NERVA (the joint NASA-Atomic Energy Commission program to develop nuclear thermal rockets) material and program files.

As this is another of my digital time-travel experiment messages, I’m sending this far enough out to encompass a time-span necessary to answer my questions…  (As I see it, anyway.  My Nuclear Rocket Program term paper is due in early December.)

What will I find?  Archivists tell me I’m the first to have seriously requested access to these records in nearly three decades.

I’m terribly excited! – the anticipation!

Will I find the photos of phoebus reactors I’m looking for?  Do I unearth management information for my space studies class term paper?  Any surprises in store?

I can’t wait!  =)





Timestream Post: A Note from 10.21.2010

8 11 2010

Almost time...

-Just a short-range temporal pot-shot this evening, and one I imagine (won’t know for certain until we get there) will be the first of these digital time travel experiment messages to actually land in the future.

The date is October 21st, 2010.  Honestly, I’m really hoping to be where you are, intrepid reader: The future.

I’m just about to proctor a geology 101 practical midterm on mineral and rock identification at the community college, and this is only the beginning of what I expect will be one of the longest, most sleep-deprived weeks of my life so far.  Due to an unfortunate coincidence of schedule shifts, I now have three midterms of my own to take within the next week-and-a-half, in addition to two rather hefty papers to write, and a radiation physics problem set sprinkled on top to complete within the next week.  (This is in addition to finding time to grade and submit the midterms I’m going to be giving here in a few minutes.)  All after work, of course.

That, and I’m staring the final hours of my 20s in the face.  Daunting is the word of the hour.

So, I’m very curious and a bit apprehensive:  Will my 30s begin with a bang or a whimper?  Can I still pull college-style, all-nighter-cram-sessions?  Do these next weeks all pan out with positive results?  Let me know!

Hopeful about the future on 10/21/2010, 5:35pm





Another Time Traveler found in 1928 film?

29 10 2010

Chatty time traveler in 1928 movie scene background?

Just as with this 21st-Century hipster discovered at a Canadian bridge dedication in the 1940s, another historical anachronism has been spotted, this time in the 1928 Charlie Chaplin film, The Circus.  As reported by the U.K. Daily Mail, a Chaplin film expert discovered an older woman walking alone across the background of a scene in The Circus, and she is talking toward an object she is holding to her ear.

For all the world, she appears to be using a mobile phone.  (I highly recommend checking out the Daily Mail link, which includes an embedded video.)

Excitingly, this is the second high-profile anachronistic discovery within the last year, and if “time tourism” really does come into being, we can expect to discover more as the common body of historical material becomes digitized and universally search-able/accessible.

Without any compelling alternative explanations for what it is the woman is doing, it is tempting to leap to the conclusion that this is an legitimate “find.”  -And, if we take a moment to deconstruct the logic of such a scenario, interesting issues and implications arise:

  • Taking the position that the object is a phone in the hands of a genuine time-traveler, this could not possibly be a standard “cellular” phone.  The transmission network to process a signal from modern-day phones wouldn’t come to exist for nearly another 70 years.  (So, at the very least, to be useful at that time the device would have to work more like a 2-way radio.)  So, is it a “phone” …?  Probably not.  A communication device?  -Plausible.
  • Who is she talking to?  -Can we now infer that time-travelers, (like all good field explorers,) employ the buddy system?
  • Time travel cannot be very physically-demanding, as this woman (appears) to be in relatively ordinary physical condition.  (i.e., unlike the time-traveler in the 1940s image, she’s not a young, fit “field” type, and she has evidently made the trip.)
  • What are the odds of catching this on film?  Would a time traveler be unaware of the filming of a Charlie Chaplin film and be careless enough, (presuming leaving evidence of temporal tinkering is considered to be a bad thing,) to walk in front of the camera?  Does this imply an incredible coincidence?  -Or are time-travelers ubiquitous in history?

All in all, a very interesting development.  -Keep your eyes peeled next time you’re in the local library or museum.








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