Avast! Thar be spoilers ahead!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Time Travel

I often revisit an argument that my mother and I have about once a year. I've been trying to keep the argument to myself this year because I know she gets worn out by it even though I love it. I don't believe in time travel, at least not the type of time travel that causes a change in history. I believe in the forward moving, approximately one second at a time type of movement that corresponds with a similar shift in space, the type of time in which we experience reality. You know, linear and forward/future moving. Or maybe we are actually moving backward through time and space, but I don't think words like forward and backward make a great deal of sense. Linear time, sure there is sense there. Movement in a single direction along a line that does not intersect with itself. Which was we designate forward or backward doesn't change my sense of free will at all.

So, I am trying to figure out something about matter. One of my chief objections is that matter cannon exist in two places at the same time. So, a few proteins cannot be in my right pinky at the same time it is in a plant leaf. But, if that matter can exist in . . . darn, I just lost the reasoning here. I will have to dig up that Stephen Hawking book again and it will probably take me several months to get back to this stage again.

I started thinking about our ability to see into the past, in a universe way. For example, let's say that a star went super nova 28 billion years ago. That same star is 28 billion light years away from us. So today we can aim our totally-not-at-all-magical telescope out toward that star and watch it go nova 28 billion years after this even actually occurred. This is because the light from the even just traveled all that distance and reached us. So, while the matter did not transcend time (ie that star is not currently going super nova and going super nova 28 billion years ago at the same time just because we are observing it from the future). But the light, because it is both a wave and a particle, can travel through time. And now I can't figure out what that means about matter being in two places at one time since light can be in one place at two times. I mean, it isn't still there 29 billion light years away, we just perceive it now. And of course it has actually traveled the amount of space necessary to travel through that amount of time.

This is the point where I have to accept that there are many things that mankind can know that I will never understand. Hopefully, a few more years will get my brain there.

My mother also imagines that we at our present are the furthest point in history so the future does not exist yet. I am not sure how she conceptualizes the past, whether it has a limit or not. I, on the other hand, view the future exactly like the past. Travel in one direction and everything has a cause and effect, but the physics of one direction are the opposite of the other. So, just as I can no more reach into the past to change things, I cannot reach into the future. the only difference is that in our perception, time moves from past to future and our memory is stored that way.

Think of time like a book that you are reading for the first time. While you are reading it, things are traveling from the left book end to the right book end. Your knowledge of the story goes in the order you are reading it. But what is on page 156 is on that page if you read from pages 1-155 first or if you suddenly skip from 33 to 156 or if you throw the book open and read page 156 before reading any other page or if you read it from 298 (end)-157 before getting there. Of course, if you are reading in Hebrew or in Arabic, reverse the directions I said before (page numbers still apply). The goes for stories written without linear plots.

Oh my. Imagine if our brain organizes the plot of our minds in a linear fashion but we are actually experiencing things in jumps. Like if a book has a prologue that begins in 1948 but the first chapter is written in 1867 and the following chapter is 1888 when the main character turns 21. Or imagine life as written by Proust and all time is merely a reflection back on life from the vantage of a single point in time. All life as reminiscence.

But a dream, indeed.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Best and Worst of Prose

Work. Such a foul four-letter word. I have had little time to read anything, even the back of a shampoo bottle. It is not that I work long hours but that I work with miserable managers, impatient guests, and a computer system which I think has developed sentience and uses its power only to freeze the system at crucial moments.

About a month ago, however, I did manage to read Dandelion Wine, my first Ray Bradbury book ever. It is not a work of science fiction but I have come to understand that song a little better. I don't think I would call him the best science fiction writer in that I doubt very much that the science in his fiction is as good as Le Guin. But he is perhaps, in the genre of science fiction, the best writer of well crafted prose. Although, I am currently straying from sci-fi and rereading Invitation to a Beheading and Nabokov puts most writers to shame. So my sense of comparison is a little off.

Since I am being so indulgent as to read Nabokov, I thought it would be an interesting experiment to read the worst piece of science fiction ever. While I am sure there are plenty of contenders (one day, I may even throw my own hat into that ring), I have accepted the challenge of reading The Eye of Argon. I have barely made it through the first few paragraphs but already I can tell this will be a challenge. I might need to actually print off a copy and go at it with a red pen so soothe my spelling and grammar OCD.

There is a possibility that this will lead me to reread Dune, since it is generally recognized as the best science fiction story ever written but the Jesus and Lawrence of Arabia motifs irk me a bit and I might skip it.