Friday, October 7, 2011

Remember that time traveler?

Note: This post refers to photos that are in the original post. You can see this post with photos here.

I'm usually bored by what catches the public's attention. You know the sort of thing: the little fly-by wonders that are covered on the news each day and they're the most important thing in the universe -- until the next day when a new, shiny object is brought forth.

But there was one story I liked. It was about the discovery of a time-traveler. Reports said a woman who appeared in a Charlie Chaplin film made in 1928 seemed to be speaking on a cell phone. Since this is clearly impossible, she must be a time traveler -- or so the theory went. That's her in the image above, and here's MSN's take on the story.

I love the idea of seeing a time traveler in an old photo. Something like this -- if it was true -- would be the breath of fresh air I've been waiting for since 1948. Alas, the image was explained away and there was no time traveler. Drat!

While looking this incident up on the net, I discovered a similar event. This one I knew nothing about. In this story, a man seen in a 1940 photo seemed "out of time" because he was wearing "modern" sunglasses and a type of shirt that can only be produced today. Here's a very sensible blog entry about it and that is the picture above and to the right. Note the guy in the right-center, wearing the sunglasses. He does look too modern for 1940, doesn't he? But once again, no go. He's not a time traveler. Sob. (The blog entry explains the solution, if you're interested.)

It's fun to think there may be evidence lying about that proves people from the future traveled back to our time -- or rather, to a time before ours. (This possibility becomes more interesting in light of the recent report of faster-than-light neutrinos. Previous to this [unconfirmed] discovery, scientists said traveling to the past was impossible because of the limit imposed by the speed of light. If that limit has been altered, time travel may be possible.)

It's a wild thought: Will you or I visit our old aunt's attic and find a sheaf of photos, one of which contains a distinctly modern person or machine? That would be exciting.

Stephen Hawking took the possibility of time travel to heart when he published a notice in several newspapers, inviting anyone from the future to a little gathering at his house, with time and date clearly indicated. No one showed up.

But we can still wonder. One type of time travel is absolutely possible -- or will be, once we invent spaceships that can travel almost as fast as the speed of light. If you rode one of these spaceships to a huge and distant black hole, and remained near it for three years, you would come back to a future Earth.

This is not fantasy or conjecture. Einstein's theory of relativity demands that this be true. The black hole's immense gravity warps local spacetime, slowing time down for all within its vicinity. It would seem like a normal three years passed if you were aboard that ship -- but hundreds or thousands of years (depending on many variables) would have passed on Earth in your absence. I love this, that time is not the same everywhere.

This is an interesting universe. I think I'll stay here.