Monthly Archives: September 2012

TimeTuesday: We’re All Time Travelers

Greenwich clock, appropriate for a time post including the DoctorI have this theory, it might really mess with your head, but it’s worth thinking about. We’re all time travelers. Well, maybe that isn’t a fair way to put it. We’re all actually time travelling machines.

One of the problems we have in modern science is a definition of what time is. I’m so enthralled by this problem that I’d like to dedicate Tuesdays to trying to figure it out (bonus points if you know the literary reference beyond the alliteration.) So here’s the basic premise I’m working with, it comes from math more than science but it’s a good working model.

A single point requires no units, thus it is unit^0 (we’ll use meters from here on out, just for clarity, so: m^0) This is fine, and when you realize that a single point is non-defined without any form of measurement, you put it on a line. There are numbers to the left and right of it, and this makes sense. It’s more than some, less than others. That line gives the point value, and thus we have a length (m^1). When you want to frame the value of that line segment, you put it on a plane. The plane can then be used (m^2 found with the formula: l*w) to find area, and to valuate it, you put it in a 3d space. To do something with the 3d space you measure volume (m^3 found: l*w*d) but then what? What is m^4 as a physical reality? Is it just an abstraction?

To determine this, I’d like to propose a look at Mythbusters.
What is being discussed in this video is a measurement of surface area covering a span of time. The results are interesting, but when you consider each drop of rain is also moving, basically we have a mathematical nightmare. So, it isn’t so much that we can’t determine m^4, but that it’s just way to big for us to compute (or at least write a handy formula for.) Or is it?

The TARDIS from Doctor Who, a simple blue police call box?Enter the TARDIS. If you don’t know Doctor Who I’ll explain. The TARDIS is Doctor Who’s time travelling box, bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. TARDIS stands for Time And Relative Dimension In Space (yeah it violates the rules of time, so of course grammar is not a concern with the acronym.) Now, when you think of time traveller, Doctor Who might be the first type to come to mind, and surely a guy that can pop in and out of any situation he wants is pretty impressive. But we are time travelers in a much different way. We’re actually a lot more like the TARDIS (bigger on the inside.)

See, we travel through time by default. We happen to see this travel as a straight line, but it isn’t so much straight as it is inexorable. We are more than just what is here and now. Our physical (m^3) self is only the outside of the box, on the inside we are much more than that. We are a collection of our experiences. We are, essentially, a Time And Relative Dimension In Space. We move through space in much the same way, actually, because the space around us is also moving through time. Think about a spot you grew up in, and when you return it isn’t the same. You may say, ‘but we can travel in all sorts of different directions.’ To which I say, ‘but we are always moving from here to there.’ Very similar problem with time, until we break the rules on that problem by relying on past experience. Now, if you can find that neat equation to sup up m^4, you’ll probably be a millionaire in no time. Until then, embrace your time travel machine self.

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Have You Winked at the Moon Yet?

Neil Armstrong in astronaut suit.If you have not taken a moment to wink at the moon in honor of Neil Armstrong’s passing, you should do so. You missed the last Blue Moon until 2015, but the darn thing’s there every night. Why are we winking at the moon? Well, because that’s what his family wanted.

The truly interesting thing about Neil Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012) is how much of an undersung hero he was. Right now our country is embroiled in it’s recurring 4 year battle for identity. Men who will become the biggest name in the world for the next four years are constantly invading our YouTube videos with 30 second ads that we wouldn’t watch if we didn’t care for the content on the other side (and I have turned off a few for that reason.) These men, who will have their proverbial 15 minutes of fame, will be remembered for a few decades. Point in fact, I challenge you to name more than 1 in 4 of our presidents without looking them up (that’s only 11 names, see how quickly you can get there.) Now, tell me a quote from each of them. Long after the USofA is gone, however, Neil Armstrong will be a name for humanity to remember. They’ll even, likely, have a quote.

That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.

You see, the thing about milestones is, they tend to resist instant or contemporary fame. Marco Polo, for example, probably was not a household name during or shortly after his lifetime; you’d be hard pressed to find someone in the West who didn’t know his name now, however. The moon, as I said, is always hanging right there in our line of sight. Every night, for thousands on thousands of years we’ve been staring up at it, wondering what it would be like to be there. Our collective first experience of astronomy is looking at the moon, and discovering there are stars beyond it. It’s the stepping stone to the universe. The first man to actually set foot on that path will be remembered throughout history, but only if we go to the stars.
Astronaut descending the ladder of Apollo 11.
That quote is a sword, a very well wielded sword that will cut us to the quick if we allow it. That small step, off the ladder of Apollo 11 onto the dusty surface of the moon really wasn’t that big. The implications of it can not be avoided. It tells us, we have taken a leap. The question it begs is, will we continue, or will we fall?
If it can ever be said that it is fortunate when a man dies, the timing of Mr. Armstrong’s death was so. Just a few weeks before his death, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory landed the Curiosity Rover (the largest, most complicated to date) on Mars. The fanfare over this landing was phenomenal, and NASA has been doing a wonderful job of getting their message out on social media. The strength of seeing one era pass into another will hopefully carry all of us on to new explorations beyond the moon. As we take these baby steps in to space, we’ll certainly remember the first man to do so. Remember to wink at the moon, in honor of Neil Armstrong’s next small step, a giant leap we will all make someday into the unknown.