kottke.org posts about time travel

How to Build a Time MachineMay 08 2014

How to Build a Time Machine is a documentary about two men on separate quests to build their own time machines. Here's a teaser trailer:

Ronald Mallett's reason for his search for a way to travel through time is quite poignant...he shared his story in a book and on an episode of This American Life back in 2007. (via ★interesting)

Searching Twitter for signs of time travelJan 06 2014

A pair of scientists recently searched the internet for evidence of time travel.

Here, three implementations of Internet searches for time travelers are described, all seeking a prescient mention of information not previously available. The first search covered prescient content placed on the Internet, highlighted by a comprehensive search for specific terms in tweets on Twitter. The second search examined prescient inquiries submitted to a search engine, highlighted by a comprehensive search for specific search terms submitted to a popular astronomy web site. The third search involved a request for a direct Internet communication, either by email or tweet, pre-dating to the time of the inquiry. Given practical verifiability concerns, only time travelers from the future were investigated.

Spoiler: they didn't find any. (via @CharlesCMann)

How to time travelOct 28 2013

This video dicusses three simple ways to travel through time (all of which you can do right now at home) and three not-so-simple time travel methods.

For more on time-travel, here are some works by physicist and time-lord Sean Carroll:

Rules for time-travellers - http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cos...

Learn more about time and time-machines in his book From Eternity to Here - http://preposterousuniverse.com/etern...

Visualizations of the spinning universe - http://iopscience.iop.org/1367-2630/1...

An engaging talk on the Paradoxes of Time Travel - https://vimeo.com/11917849

(via digg)

Stephen Hawking's party for time travellersOct 02 2013

Steven Hawking came up with a simple and clever way of seeing if time travel is possible. On June 28, 2009, he threw a party for time travellers from the future...but didn't advertise it until after the party was already over.

In an effort to improve the chances of the party invite being noticed by future generations, Peter Dean, working with approval from Hawking, has made this gorgeous hand-printed poster of the party invitation:

Hawking Party Poster

There's also a smaller less-expensive version of the poster in grey and a fetching yellow/orange.

Twelve Monkeys TV adaptation is in YOUR FUTUREAug 26 2013

Looks like Syfy has ordered a "cast-contingent" hour-long pilot for an adaptation of Terry Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys, with an eye to make it into a proper TV series. One of the producers of Gilliam's 1995 film is on board, and Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett, who both worked on Terra Nova and Nikita, wrote it. The model here is Battlestar Galactica: a movie reboot that could be a mini-series that could be multiple seasons.

Syfy's Mark Stern talked about it with The Hollywood Reporter, back when the pilot was 90 minutes long and still waiting to be approved for production while the network and producers figured out what the whole series would be about:

It's a return to our roots in terms of science fiction: cool, interesting push-the-genre science fiction. Some we're looking at doing straight to series, because you really want to give them the flexibility and do a closed-ended, arced run. Some of them are going to be traditional pilots, and then we'll decide and they may be a bit more episodic.

Given the time-travel theme, the fact that the source material (both Twelve Monkeys and La Jetée) are well-known, and the way TV's changed over the last ten years with jigsaw-puzzle series like LOST and the revived Arrested Development, I'm curious to see if the showrunners might mess around with the timelines a bit, jumping around, giving the audience previews of things the story doesn't explain right away, and generally making Doctor Who look like it's for precocious kids (which, really, it kinda is).

Via Adi Robertson at The Verge.

Digital time travelApr 22 2013

Flóra Borsi inserts herself into historic photos, as though she were there photographing events with a contemporary camera. This is my favorite:

Flora Borsi

Borsi states she was inspired by "a Charlie Chaplin movie", which is likely this clip shot in 1928 at the premiere of a Chaplin film which shows a woman who looks like she's talking on a cellphone. See also Girl with a Pearl Earring and Point-and-Shoot Camera. (via @coudal)

Time travel is depressingApr 08 2013

In an interview last month with Esquire's Eric Spitznagel, Michel Gondry talked about his newest movie, The We and the I, and about how time travel is depressing.

ES: In your real life. If you, Michel Gondry, found a time machine and could go anywhere, to any period in history, where would you take it?

MG: I would travel back a few years ago and fix some screw-up I did.

ES: A personal or professional screw-up?

MG: In my personal life.

ES: Can you be more specific?

MG: I would come back and say yes to a girl. That's all. Actually, I find the whole idea of traveling back in time to be profoundly depressing.

ES: Really? Why so?

MG: Because I know the future. Living in the past, it would feel weird to know what's going to happen next. You couldn't escape it. That future's already in your head. You know it doesn't get better.

ES: You'd rather not know about the future?

MG: The future is about hope. If you travel from the present to the past, you don't have that hope anymore. You know how everything turns out.

ES: There are no surprises.

MG: No surprises, exactly! To me, that just sounds so... depressing.

Time traveling neutrinos oopsie daisyFeb 22 2012

Remember those time traveling neutrinos that they found in Italy? It is likely that a faulty connection between the GPS and the computer collecting data is to blame for the time travel illusion.

According to sources familiar with the experiment, the 60 nanoseconds discrepancy appears to come from a bad connection between a fiber optic cable that connects to the GPS receiver used to correct the timing of the neutrinos' flight and an electronic card in a computer. After tightening the connection and then measuring the time it takes data to travel the length of the fiber, researchers found that the data arrive 60 nanoseconds earlier than assumed.

Neutrinos? More like Nintendo...they forgot to blow in the cartridge. (via @tcarmody)

Charlie Chaplin's time travellerOct 26 2010

Mesmerizing Zapruder-esque footage that seems to show a woman talking on a mobile phone at the 1928 premiere of a Charlie Chaplin film at Mann's Chinese Theatre.

According to this guy, the simplest explanation is that the woman is a time traveller. Stick that in your Occam's razor and shave it! (via geekologie)

2010 gadgets redesigned for 1977Jun 22 2010

1977 iPod

[I would] grab all the modern technology I could find, take it to the late 70's, superficially redesign it all to blend in, start a consumer electronics company to unleash it upon the world, then sit back as I rake in billions, trillions, or even millions of dollars.

Fantastic. Much more here. (via df)

How to build a time machineMay 07 2010

According to Stephen Hawking, there are three good ways to do it.

If we want to travel into the future, we just need to go fast. Really fast. And I think the only way we're ever likely to do that is by going into space. The fastest manned vehicle in history was Apollo 10. It reached 25,000mph. But to travel in time we'll have to go more than 2,000 times faster. And to do that we'd need a much bigger ship, a truly enormous machine. The ship would have to be big enough to carry a huge amount of fuel, enough to accelerate it to nearly the speed of light. Getting to just beneath the cosmic speed limit would require six whole years at full power.

The Higgs boson and the Enchantment Under the Sea danceOct 21 2009

Are the problems that have plagued the Large Hadron Collider and previous high-energy efforts (SSC, I'm looking at you here) a result of the Higgs boson travelling back from the future to meddle in its own discovery? A pair of scientists think it's a possibility.

"It must be our prediction that all Higgs producing machines shall have bad luck," Dr. Nielsen said in an e-mail message. In an unpublished essay, Dr. Nielson said of the theory, "Well, one could even almost say that we have a model for God." It is their guess, he went on, "that He rather hates Higgs particles, and attempts to avoid them."

This malign influence from the future, they argue, could explain why the United States Superconducting Supercollider, also designed to find the Higgs, was canceled in 1993 after billions of dollars had already been spent, an event so unlikely that Dr. Nielsen calls it an "anti-miracle."

That's heavy, Doc.

Update: Bread from the future halted operation of the LHC again.

Inventing the pastOct 13 2009

As stated previously, I love this kind of thing:

If you were to travel 2000 years into the past, how useful would you be in jumpstarting technological advancements? This 10 question quiz will help you figure out your technological usefulness.

I got a 6/10, which is probably more than I deserved...the invention of "new" technologies is not multiple choice. I wouldn't have the faintest clue where to begin in actually making concrete or steel from scratch. (via ettagirl)

Update: Phew, I'll just wear this shirt when I go back. (thx, runyon)

Rules for time travelersMay 20 2009

Sean Carroll lays out the rules for time travel for movies (but also more generally) based on our current understanding of physics.

1. Traveling into the future is easy. We travel into the future all the time, at a fixed rate: one second per second. Stick around, you'll be in the future soon enough. You can even get there faster than usual, by decreasing the amount of time you experience elapsing with respect to the rest of the world -- either by low-tech ways like freezing yourself, or by taking advantage of the laws of special relativity and zipping around near the speed of light. (Remember we're talking about what is possible according to the laws of physics here, not what is plausible or technologically feasible.) It's coming back that's hard.

Survival tips for the Middle AgesJun 10 2008

I spend far too much of my life daydreaming about scenarios like this:

I wanted to ask for survival tips in case I am unexpectedly transported to a random location in Europe (say for instance current France/Benelux/Germany) in the year 1000 AD (plus or minus 200 years). I assume that such transportation would leave me with what I am wearing, what I know, and nothing else. Any advice would help.

To which Tyler Cowen replies:

Find someone who will take care of you for a few days or weeks and then look for employment in the local church. Your marginal product is quite low, even once you have learned the local language. You might think that knowing economics, or perhaps quantum mechanics, will do you some good but in reality people won't even think your jokes are funny. Even if you can prove Euler's Theorem from memory no one will understand your notation. I hope you have a strong back and an up to date smallpox vaccination.

The comments are full of informative and entertaining options. I side with the commenters who feel that the most likely outcome is death within a few days. Unless you're skilled at wilderness survival, finding edible food, shelter, and potable water in a time when those things were much more scarce than now will prove difficult. If you do manage to survive, maybe you could set up shop selling goods that people could use:

I'd start a shop that did nothing but boil water and then sell it. I'd market it as "de-spirited" water and sell it to midwives, priests, doctors - anyone who would be charged with the health of another. The boiled, micro-organism free water would dramatically improve the health outcomes for anyone with cholera or plague or infection. Even marginally better outcomes using clean water would bolster my reputation and business. Of course, barriers to entry would be pretty low in my business, but if I were widely copied, I'd start a health revolution. For that quantum timeline anyway.

Again, assuming you survive, other commenters suggest that you "invent" something, sell it, and become rich so that your wealth will insulate you from further problems, stuff like gunpowder, mass production, long bows, guns, soap, steel, the printing press, double-entry accounting, whiskey, capitalism, and hot air balloons. I'm skeptical of this approach...how many people living in the US know how to make gunpowder from scratch? Given enough time, I guess I could build a hot air balloon that actually flies and carries human passengers but anything involving chemistry would prove tougher.

How would you survive if suddenly transported back to 1000 AD? Leave your suggestions for survival in the comments.

Temporal anomalies in time travel movies, anJun 15 2007

Temporal anomalies in time travel movies, an investigation of how time travel is represented in movies like Donnie Darko, 12 Monkeys, and Back to the Future. (via joshua)

Intro for Voyagers, a TV show fromMar 21 2007

Intro for Voyagers, a TV show from the 80s about time-travelling do-gooders. I loved this show when I was a kid, but it seems to have not aged well. (via cyn-c)

An incredibly detailed description of the eightDec 01 2006

An incredibly detailed description of the eight different timelines in the three Back to the Future movies.

Spielberg's new film...a wormhole movie basedJun 22 2006

Spielberg's new film...a wormhole movie based on the work of Kip Thorne?

rating: 5.0 stars

Bill and Ted's Excellent AdventureJun 02 2006

I know I'm going to get mail about my five-star rating for this movie, but it cannot be helped. One summer when I was a kid, a friend and I watched Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure -- no joke -- every single day for a span of 2 months. I still know every line by heart, the timing, inflection, everything. If there were a Broadway production of this movie, I could slide effortlessly into the role of either Bill S. Preston, Esq. or Ted Theodore Logan, no rehearsal needed.

In my high school physics class my senior year, we had to do a report on something we hadn't learned about in class -- which, I discovered when I got to college, was a lot -- and I did mine on time travel. I went to our small school library and read articles in Discover and Scientific American magazines about Stephen Hawking, Kip Thorne, quantum mechanics, causality, and wormholes. To illustrate the bit about wormholes, I brought in my well-worn VHS tape of Bill and Ted's (a dub of a long-ago video rental) and showed a short clip of the phone booth travelling through space and time via wormhole. I got a B+ on my presentation. The teacher told me it was excellent but marked me down because it was "over the heads" of everyone in the class...which I thought was completely unfair. How on earth is Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure over anyone's head?

Tags related to time travel:
time physics science movies video design Stephen Hawking

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