kottke.org posts about time

21 years a familyJun 25 2014

Beginning in 1991, Zed Nelson took a photo of the same family (father, mother, and son) in front of the same backdrop every year for 21 years. Here's the first photo:

Zed Nelson Family 01

And the most recent one:

Zed Nelson Family 02

There are many more such projects, including the Goldberg family's annual portraits, Nicholas Nixon's annual portraits of The Brown Sisters, and Noah Kalina's Everyday.

Five lifetimes to ShakespeareMay 30 2014

Ran across one of my favorite little pieces of writing the other day: Sixty Men from Ur by Mark Sumner. It's about how short recorded human history really is. The piece starts out by asking you to imagine if you view the history of life as the Empire State Building, all of human history is a dime on top.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., one the United States' great historians, is less than two lifetimes removed from a world where the United States did not exist. Through Mr. Schlesinger, you're no more than three away yourself. That's how short the history of our nation really is.

Not impressed? It's only two more life spans to William Shakespeare. Two more beyond that, and the only Europeans to see America are those who sailed from Greenland. You're ten lifetimes from the occupation of Damietta during the fifth crusade. Twenty from the founding of Great Zimbabwe and the Visigoth sack of Rome. Make it forty, and Theseus, king of Athens, is held captive on Crete by King Minos, the Olmecs are building the first cities in Mexico, and the New Kingdom collapses in Egypt.

Sixty life times ago, a man named Abram left Ur of the Chaldees and took his family into Canaan. Abram is claimed as the founder of three great religions. A few lifetimes before that, and you've come out the bottom of that dime. You're that close to it.

See also human wormholes and the Great Span, unlikely simultaneous historical events, and timeline twins.

Update: From Wired last year, Sam Arbesman writes about Kevin Kelly's concept of touch generations.

I was recently listening to a lecture by Kevin Kelly where he introduces the concept of touch generations, the idea of a list of people based on when one person died and when the next was born: one person is in the next touch generation of someone else if they were born when the other person died. So Galileo and Newton, while unrelated, are in successive touch generations because Newton was born the year that Galileo died. Essentially, it's a way of connecting lifetimes across the years.

Time zone offset mapFeb 28 2014

Stefano Maggiolo made a map of how much the time zones of the world vary from solar time. The darker the color, the more the deviation.

Time zone offset map

Looking for other regions of the world having the same peculiarity of Spain, I edited a world map from Wikipedia to show the difference between solar and standard time. It turns out, there are many places where the sun rises and sets late in the day, like in Spain, but not a lot where it is very early (highlighted in red and green in the map, respectively). Most of Russia is heavily red, but mostly in zones with very scarce population; the exception is St. Petersburg, with a discrepancy of two hours, but the effect on time is mitigated by the high latitude. The most extreme example of Spain-like time is western China: the difference reaches three hours against solar time. For example, today the sun rises there at 10:15 and sets at 19:45, and solar noon is at 15:01.

Something to note: China is about as big across as the continental United States and has only one huge time zone. (via slate)

Where does time come from?Feb 27 2014

Nice short video tour of the U.S. Naval Observatory with Dr. Demetrios Matsakis, Chief Scientist for USNO's Time Services.

I refer to my clocks as my babies...and that I must take care of them.

Unlikely simultaneous historical eventsFeb 20 2014

A poster on Reddit asks: What are two events that took place in the same time in history but don't seem like they would have? A few of my favorite answers (from this thread and a previous one):

When pilgrims were landing on Plymouth Rock, you could already visit what is now Santa Fe, New Mexico to stay at a hotel, eat at a restaurant and buy Native American silver.

Prisoners began to arrive to Auschwitz a few days after McDonald's was founded.

The first wagon train of the Oregon Trail heads out the same year the fax machine is invented.

Nintendo was founded in 1888. Jack the Ripper was on the loose in 1888.

1912 saw the maiden voyage of the Titanic as well as the birth of vitamins, x-ray crystallography, and MDMA.

1971: The year in which America drove a lunar buggy on the moon and Switzerland gave women the vote.

NASA's Gemini program was winding down at the same time as plate tectonics, as we know it today, was becoming refined and accepted by the scientific community.

Spain was still a fascist dictatorship when Microsoft was founded.

There were no classes in calculus in Harvard's curriculum for the first few years because calculus hadn't been discovered yet.

Two empires [Roman & Ottoman] spanned the entire gap from Jesus to Babe Ruth.

When the pyramids were being built, there were still woolly mammoths.

The last use of the guillotine was in France the same year Star Wars came out.

Oxford University was over 300 years old when the Aztec Empire was founded.

Related: true facts that sound made up, timeline twins, and the Great Span.

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)

Why do you wake up before your alarm?Nov 20 2013

Your body clock alarm is just as accurate as the one on your phone: your body naturally takes note of what time you want to wake up and wakes you up.

There's evidence you can will yourself to wake on time, too. Sleep scientists at Germany's University of Lubeck asked 15 volunteers to sleep in their lab for three nights. One night, the group was told they'd be woken at 6 a.m., while on other nights the group was told they'd be woken at 9 a.m..

But the researchers lied-they woke the volunteers at 6 a.m anyway. And the results were startling. The days when sleepers were told they'd wake up early, their stress hormones increased at 4:30 a.m., as if they were anticipating an early morning. When the sleepers were told they'd wake up at 9 a.m., their stress hormones didn't increase -- and they woke up groggier. "Our bodies, in other words, note the time we hope to begin our day and gradually prepare us for consciousness," writes Jeff Howe at Psychology Today.

(via digg)

The man who invented the calendarNov 01 2013

For the New Yorker, B.J. Novak writes about the guy who invented the calendar.

February 1st-Another small fuckup: I put an extra "r" in all the copies of the calendar I handed out, even though I already told everyone the next month coming was called Febuary. But Alice came up with the best solution! She said, "Just tell everyone it's spelled 'February' but pronounced 'Feb-u-ary.' That way, they'll feel stupid!" Alice is the best.

February 14th-Alice stuff weird. Tonight we were having a nice dinner at the same place we always go, but she was unusually quiet. Finally, I asked if anything was wrong, and she said, "Do you know what day it is today?" I said, "Yes, of course I do, I invented the calendar. It's February 14th. Why?" She smiled a really tight smile, said, "Yes. Yes, it is," and then walked out. What's that about?

February 15th-So cold.

February 28th-I hate this month. I can't take one more day of it. This month will just have to be shorter than the rest, and if people don't like it they can go fuck themselves.

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.

Time corrections for Big Ben's chimeSep 13 2013

The universal availability of accurate synchronized time is taken for granted in most areas of the world today, but 'twas not always so. When Big Ben was built in 1859, charts were issued to show the allowance that had to be made for the sound of the bell, traveling at ~768 mph, to reach different parts of London. This one is from 1875:

Big Ben Ring CorrectionBigger version here. The correction at Paddington Station was 6 seconds, 8 seconds in Notting Hill, and 13 seconds at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, itself the seat of a fledgling universal time standard. (via @michalmigurski)

Seamus Heaney, RIPAug 30 2013

Irish poet Seamus Heaney has died at 74. The Guardian has a brief account of his life; The Telegraph grapples more directly with the work There's also his long, insightful interview with The Paris Review, from 1997.
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"Heaney's volumes make up two-thirds of the sales of living poets in Britain," the BBC wrote in 2007, calling him "arguably, the English language's greatest living bard."

One of his best-known poems, "Digging," compares his trade to that of his father and grandfather, who were farmers and cattle-raisers. These are its last two stanzas:

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap

Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge

Through living roots awaken in my head.

But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests.

I'll dig with it.

One of Heaney's great later achievements was his translation of Beowulf, which I bought and read along with his Selected Poems when I was in college.

Heaney's take on the Anglo-Saxon most reminds me of the first of Ezra Pound's Cantos, a weird mix of old epic and contemporary free-verse imagery and meters, a translation of a translation of Homer that begins "And then" and ends "So that:"

When Swinburne died, W.B. Yeats is said to have told his sister, "Now I am King of the Cats." When Robert Frost died, John Berryman asked, "who's number one?"

I note this not to pose the question "who's number one?" now that Heaney has died, but to observe that just as champion boxers and sprinters often have outsized competitive personalities that seem like caricatures compared to other athletes, even among writers, and even when they resist, as Heaney did, being drawn into literary feuds or political debate, great poets are often magnificent and terrible and troubling and glorious and weird.

In living memoryAug 28 2013

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The full title is important because the right words are important.

It's important because the Great March itself was a compromise, an evolution of the movement A. Philip Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters had forged decades before during the Roosevelt and Truman administrations to force the government to desegregate the army and provide more economic opportunities to black Americans. Before 1963, each time the March was about to happen, the government made concessions and it would be called off.

Randolph was 74 when the March finally materialized, with him as its titular head. He was the only figure with the credibility to unify northern labor leaders and southern pastors: radical enough for the relative radicals -- the radical radicals saw the March as a distracting sideshow or were actively asked not to participate -- and institutional enough for the wary moderates.

Bayard Rustin was Randolph's lieutenant, and did the bulk of the work organizing the March. Rustin was gay, had been a Communist, and couldn't be the event's public face.

Everything that happened at the March, from the arrival of more than 100,000 people straight through all the speeches, all the songs, all the signs painted, all of the 80,000 cheese sandwiches made, distributed, and eaten -- each and every one of those moments -- happened in one day. Television stations were able to carry the event live. No one but Bayard Rustin could have pulled it off.

John Lewis was 23 years old and the March's youngest speaker. He is the only one of that day's speakers who is still alive. He had recently been made head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC (pronounced "snick"): a new independent civil rights organization that had proven itself integrating lunch counters in Nashville, on the Freedom Rides with CORE protesting segregated busing and bus stations throughout the south, and working with the NAACP and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Albany, Georgia.

If you're serious about the civil rights movement, you have to learn a lot of organizations' names and abbreviated titles. You have to learn that the leaders of these organizations rarely agreed with each other about goals, methods, or priorities. You have to know that even within each organization there were equal amounts of discipline and dissent.

They were organized not because they agreed, but because they had to be. They were disciplined because they had to be. They were allied because they had to be. It was all fragile. At any moment, it could all fall apart.

John Lewis had been part of both series of Freedom Rides and badly beaten during the second in Montgomery. The state highway patrol that had promised the riders protection -- at the insistence of the Kennedy administration and with the reluctant assurance of Alabama's governor, George Wallace -- abandoned them to a white mob waiting at the city's station house. Lewis was 21 years old. His friend Jim Zwerg was also 21. Zwerg bravely walked out the door of the bus first to meet the waiting mob, and was nearly beaten to death. He received a particularly savage beating partly because he was first and partly because he was white. Jim Zwerg is still alive. It's amazing any of these people are still alive.

Lewis was originally going to give a much more provocative speech at the March, singling out the supposedly liberal Kennedy administration for its lukewarm support of civil rights. (A less polite word than "lukewarm" would be "half-assed.") On behalf of SNCC, Lewis planned to argue that the civil rights legislation proposed by the Kennedy administration was (in Lewis' words) "too little and too late." But each of the March's major figures, including Rustin and Dr. King, urged Lewis to moderate his speech. They had a testy but evolving relationship with the Kennedys that they didn't want to jeopardize or aggravate. It was only A. Philip Randolph who finally swayed Lewis. Rustin went into the crowd to find Randolph, then brought the two men together.

Lewis was 51 years younger than Randolph. Lewis later said of Randolph that "if he had been born in another period, maybe of another color, he probably would have been President." Randolph had been an actor as a young man, and his voice has that deep, archaic, clear-toned, echoing-from-infinity quality that you imagine is the voice of history itself, the voice you imagine reading the Gettysburg Address and Declaration of Independence.

Lewis and the other young leaders of SNCC were quite rightly in awe of him.

He was 75, and here we were, you know, one-third his age and, you know, he was asking us to do this for him. He said, "I waited all my life for this opportunity, please don't ruin it." And we felt that for him, we had to make some concession. [Courtland Cox]

The day's speeches were already underway. This all happened in one day. Lewis was sixth on the program. So Cox and Lewis and James Forman went to the Lincoln Memorial -- no bullshit, they went and sat together at the foot of the Lincoln fucking Memorial -- and rewrote Lewis' speech. It's still pretty fierce.

To those who have said, "Be patient and wait," we must say that "patience" is a dirty and nasty word. We cannot be patient, we do not want to be free gradually. We want our freedom, and we want it now. We cannot depend on any political party, for both the Democrats and the Republicans have betrayed the basic principles of the Declaration of Independence...

The revolution is a serious one. Mr. Kennedy is trying to take the revolution out of the streets and put it into the courts. Listen, Mr. Kennedy. Listen, Mr. Congressman. Listen, fellow citizens. The black masses are on the march for jobs and freedom, and we must say to the politicians that there won't be a "cooling-off" period...

We must say, "Wake up, America. Wake up! For we cannot stop, and we will not be patient."

I was amazed recently to discover that Reverend Doctor Joseph E. Lowery, one of the co-founders of SCLC, is still alive at 91. He has three videos of interviews up at "His Dream, Our Stories," a site devoted to the March. Lowery was a pastor in Mobile and helped lead the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama -- which, people forget, went on for over a year after Rosa Parks' arrest. Lowery later, along with John Lewis, Hosea Williams, and others, led the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery march. Ten years after Emmett Till's murder and the Montgomery bus boycott, two years after the March on Washington, and a year after the Civil Rights Act, the Selma marchers were attacked by Alabama state and local police for asserting their right to vote.

In 2008, Lowery gave the benediction for Barack Obama's first Inauguration. He is still alive. He is 91 years old.

The March all happened in one day; the Movement happened over years and years and years.

Rosa Parks was 42 when the Montgomery bus boycott began. She was 50 at the time of the March (where she was honored along with Little Rock's Daisy Bates, SNCC's Diane Nash Bevel, Gloria Richardson of Cambridge, Maryland, and Mrs. Herbert Lee in a speech by Myrlie Evers-Williams, then listed as Mrs. Medgar Evers). Lowery was 34. King was 26, not much older than Lewis was when he was called to lead SNCC and speak in Washington. Randolph would live to be 90 years old, just a little younger than Lowery is now.

We've lost so much. We've forgotten so much. We've asked so few to stand in for so many. We're doing it still.

Copyright lawyer Josh Schiller recently wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post, "Why you won't see or hear the 'I have a dream' speech," examining how the King estate's vigorous defense of his speech's copyright has prevented its popular reproduction.

One place you can both see and hear King's speech is on PBS's Eyes on the Prize website. Eyes on the Prize is a landmark documentary on the entire modern civil rights movement, from Emmett Till's murder through the 1980s, when it first appeared. Its producers know more than a thing or two about the thorniest issues of copyright: the documentary's rebroadcast and distribution were held up for years while rights were cleared for its music, photographs, and videos. (Eventually, some of the original media was replaced.) I'm pretty sure they've done their work and paid the right licensing fees to get King's speech on the website.

Watch Dr King's speech. It's not the entire thing, and it's a crummy little QuickTime video. But it includes footage of the marchers arriving, A. Philip Randolph's introduction, and footage of President Kennedy meeting with the March's leaders, plus Walter Cronkite's contemporary commentary.

Remember this is history, which means we are still within it, even when those for whom it has been living memory leave us. Remember that it is the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Remember how fragile it all was. Remember A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, Joseph E. Lowery and Jim Zwerg.

Remember Martin Luther King, Jr., that thickly-built, still-young man, rooting his feet in our history and turning himself into a column of pure energy, like a beacon through time and space, a light so bright we can't look at him directly, but have to turn away and look only at his half-remembered shape, still impressed on us when we close our eyes. Remember that day, when he all-too-briefly became a single still point with the granted power to bend straight the crooked lines of history.

Remember that fifty years after the Emancipation Proclamation, A. Philip Randolph was organizing the Shakespearean Society in Harlem. Fifty years after that, he was meeting a President who now owed him more than he probably ever knew. Fifty years is a long time and yet not so very long. If so much can be done in just one day, how much more could we do, now that we know we have another fifty years?

Colorized King, Randolph, Kennedy et al.jpgImage colorized by Mads Madsen for NPR.

A short history of child starsAug 27 2013

There's a history here.


It's not only uncanny when performers we first knew as girls age into women; it's awkward when boys become men, too. Molly Shannon used to have the same agent as Gary Coleman (story starts around 2:40).

(Shannon tells a longer/uncensored version of this story on Marc Maron's WTF podcast.)

Clearly, not everyone gets to have Ron Howard's or Judy Garland's career. (And even Judy Garland's life was the opposite of a success story.)

But what about the alternative? What if child stars never changed their acts, and just aged in place? Wouldn't that be equally unsettling? On Comedy Bang Bang, Scott Aukerman, Reggie Watts, Seth Rogen, and the great Bob Odenkirk try to answer that question through the life of champion birdcaller Tommy Chalders.

Actually, maybe that would be beautiful. I wish Judy Garland had lived to sing "Over the Rainbow" at an auto show.

But time never stands still for us to paint its portrait. As Marshall McLuhan would, and, what the hell, very well might have said: "we look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We twerk backwards into the future."

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.

How to make your own slow jamsAug 26 2013

A couple of weeks ago, a slowed-down version of Dolly Parton's classic ballad "Jolene" went viral. A lot of people who heard it loved it, a few people didn't, but everyone seemed to agree that it was like listening to either an entirely new song or the same song again for the first time.

One of the things that's eerie about this is that if you listen closely, everything is just a little bit out of tune. There's conflicting information about exactly how much the track has been slowed. Some people have said that it's simulating a 45 RPM record played at 33 1/3, which is certainly the most common way people who lived with record players heard popular songs at slower speeds. But that would actually be quite a bit slower and lower than this.

The other figure I've seen (forgive me for not citing everything, I'm typing as fast as I can) is "Jolene" has been slowed by 17 percent, which sounds about right and would explain why all the notes seem just a little bit sharp. Here's the formula for slowing or speeding up a recording to shift the pitch but generally stay in tune:

(2 ^ (semitones change/12) - 1) *100 = Percent Change

So -- as one does when procrastinating from remunerative work -- I made an Excel spreadsheet.

If you want to drop two semitones, you shift the speed down by 12.2462 percent; drop three, you shift by 18.9207 percent, which significantly changes the track. To imitate a 45 RPM record played at 33 1/3, that's about 25.926, but very few records still sound like something a person actually made at this speed. All of these slowdowns are interesting, even the ones that don't work.

You can do all of them in the free/open-source audio processing app Audacity; it's very fast and very easy. (If you want to get freaky, you can also use Audacity to change pitch without changing tempo, or vice versa, or to start out slow and go fast, and all manner of lesser and greater perversity.)

But after messing with Audacity for longer than was strictly necessary, I can tell you that some songs and transformations work out better than others, and they tend to be those that share a lot of the same characteristics as Jolene:

  • A mix of quick and slow instrumentation, so there's a lot of information density. It almost has to be fractal; the more you slow it down, the more minute structures you find. The original song itself can actually be slow or fast; many fast songs really don't work, and quite a few slow ones do.
  • High-pitched, typically (but not always) female vocals, so the song sounds like a person singing and not a voice-distorted growling dude from To Catch A Predator.
  • The song needs to be fairly popular, so you can listen to the slow version and keep the regular-speed version in mind. This kind of continual allusion just makes it a richer experience.

And so, here are some of the results:

I described this Prince track as sounding like the slowest, sultriest, funkiest Sylvester song you've ever heard.

Mazzy Star surprised me. I always thought Hope Sandoval's vocals were gorgeous but a little warbly, which gave them character, but that's almost entirely a production effect. When you slow it down, you can really hear how clean and sustained her notes are.

My Bloody Valentine is the best example of that fractal quality. You can slow it down almost indefinitely and it still sounds like My Bloody Valentine. At this rate, though, it really just turns Bilinda Butcher's vocals into Kevin Shields'.

There's more at my Soundcloud page, including The Breeders' "Cannonball," "House of Jealous Lovers," Hot Chip's "Over and Over," Grizzly Bear's "Two Weeks" (which I actually sped up), and more. (Finally, if slowing a track down and posting it online somehow breaks copyright, let me know and I'll take them down.)

Update: Andy Baio tips me to a second remix of "Jolene" that slows down the track, but corrects the pitch. Sounds great.

Update 2: Here's Michael Jackson's "P.Y.T." slowed from 127 BPM to 110 BPM, leaving the pitch as-is.

About an hour of Christian Marclay's The ClockJun 10 2013

Here are a few clips from Christian Marclay's The Clock that have been surreptitiously filmed and uploaded to YouTube and Vimeo.

The clips are crappy bootlegs that cut off part of the screen, but I still totally get sucked in after 30 seconds of each clip.

The watches of Fantastic Mr. FoxMay 22 2013

Of course the watches worn by the characters in Fantastic Mr. Fox are going to be classic 70s and 80s timepieces.

Watches, Fantastic Mr Fox

Perpetual motion: the "time crystals" editionMay 01 2013

Normally when someone says they've thought up a theoretically possible perpetual motion scheme, you roll your eyes and pass the dutchie to the left hand side. But when that someone is a Nobel laureate in physics, is not generally off his rocker, and has published his idea in a prestigious peer-reviewed journal, people pay attention. Frank Wilczek believes he's invented something called time crystals.

In February 2012, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek decided to go public with a strange and, he worried, somewhat embarrassing idea. Impossible as it seemed, Wilczek had developed an apparent proof of "time crystals" -- physical structures that move in a repeating pattern, like minute hands rounding clocks, without expending energy or ever winding down. Unlike clocks or any other known objects, time crystals derive their movement not from stored energy but from a break in the symmetry of time, enabling a special form of perpetual motion.

"Most research in physics is continuations of things that have gone before," said Wilczek, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This, he said, was "kind of outside the box."

An effort to prove or disprove Wilczek's theory is underway...let's hope it holds up to scientific scrutiny better than Time Cube. (via digg)

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.

Petition the White House to eliminate daylight saving timeMar 10 2013

Ask anyone with young children what they think of daylight saving time and you'll probably get a stabbing in the eye. It just totally fucks your world for two+ weeks a year with zero benefit. This petition needs 100,000 digital signatures for the White House to issue an official response to it. Sign it or I might get stabby.

Update: I honestly don't care which time we keep (DST or standard time), as long as the biannual time switching nonsense stops.

The Twitter version of Marclay's The ClockMar 19 2012

Chirp Clock finds tweets containing the current time and displays them on the site.

Chirp Clock

Nearly every second, a user on Twitter tweets about what time it is. It could be groaning about waking up, to telling a friend when to meet, to an automated train scheduler altering when the next one is coming. By searching Twitter for the current time we get a tiny glimpse of how active and far reaching the social network is.

See also The Clock by Christian Marclay. (via @noahkalina)

Ten things everyone should know about timeDec 06 2011

From Sean Carroll at Cosmic Variance, a list of facts and very strong opinions about the nature of time.

4. You live in the past. About 80 milliseconds in the past, to be precise. Use one hand to touch your nose, and the other to touch one of your feet, at exactly the same time. You will experience them as simultaneous acts. But that's mysterious - clearly it takes more time for the signal to travel up your nerves from your feet to your brain than from your nose. The reconciliation is simple: our conscious experience takes time to assemble, and your brain waits for all the relevant input before it experiences the "now." Experiments have shown that the lag between things happening and us experiencing them is about 80 milliseconds.

5. Your memory isn't as good as you think. When you remember an event in the past, your brain uses a very similar technique to imagining the future. The process is less like "replaying a video" than "putting on a play from a script." If the script is wrong for whatever reason, you can have a false memory that is just as vivid as a true one. Eyewitness testimony, it turns out, is one of the least reliable forms of evidence allowed into courtrooms.

Why 60 seconds and minutes but 24 hours?Jul 22 2011

Why are there 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour but 24 hours in a day?

Thanks to the ancient civilizations that defined and preserved the divisions of time, modern society still conceives of a day of 24 hours, an hour of 60 minutes and a minute of 60 seconds. Advances in the science of timekeeping, however, have changed how these units are defined. Seconds were once derived by dividing astronomical events into smaller parts, with the International System of Units (SI) at one time defining the second as a fraction of the mean solar day and later relating it to the tropical year. This changed in 1967, when the second was redefined as the duration of 9,192,631,770 energy transitions of the cesium atom. This recharacterization ushered in the era of atomic timekeeping and Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

Meaningful clocks in photosMay 12 2011

This photo was taken recently by Sergey Ponomarev in Miyagi Prefecture in northeastern Japan:

Tsunami clock

The line on the wall is the high water mark from the March 11 tsunami and the time on the clock is when the water crested (Wikipedia puts the max readings right around 15:20 local time). Each element alone is documentation of a thing...together they tell a story.

I have a soft spot for storytelling clocks in photos. Joseph Koudelka's 1968 photo of the empty streets of Prague before the Soviet crackdown of The Prague Spring is one of my favorite photos. And obviously I love the photo taken by my wife of me holding my son Ollie when he was exactly 20 mintues old. It was the first time I'd held him and oh crap I'm crying at work again... (via in focus)

Stopping the worldDec 01 2010

Oh, this is lovely. Someone took a high-speed camera and instead of pointing it at something fast, they put it on a fast-moving train and shot footage of the platform moving by.

Wonderful illustration of the concept of frames of reference. (via capn design)

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)

A movie that tells timeSep 22 2010

Christian Marclay is working on a 24-hour film called The Clock.

"The Clock" is a montage of clips from several thousand films, structured so that the resulting artwork always conveys the correct time, minute by minute, in the time zone in which is it being exhibited. The scenes in which we see clocks or hear chimes tend to be either transitional ones suggesting the passage of time or suspenseful ones building up to dramatic action. "If I asked you to watch a clock tick, you would get bored quickly," explains the artist in remarkably neutral English. "But there is enough action in this film to keep you entertained, so you forget the time, but then you're constantly reminded of it."

Love that Marclay. Back when I was still doing 0sil8 -- man, what a time capsule that is -- one of the projects that I started working on but never got close to finishing was a clock made up of photographs...1440 photographs, one for each minute of the day.

What's your time perspective?Jun 04 2010

A fascinating 10-minute animated talk by Philip Zimbardo about the different "time zones" or "time perspectives" that people can have and how the different zones affect people's world views.

The six different time zones are:

- Past positive: focus is on the "good old days", past successes, nostalgia, etc.
- Past negative: focus on regret, failure, all the things that went wrong
- Present hedonistic: living in the moment for pleasure and avoiding pain, seek novelty and sensation
- Present fatalism: life is governed by outside forces, "it doesn't pay to plan"
- Future: focus is on learning to work rather than play
- Transcendental Future: life begins after the death of the mortal body

Find out which time zone you're in by taking this survey.

Fun fact: Zimbardo conducted the famous Stanford prison experiment in 1971. (thx, sean)

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.

Be there in a jiffyFeb 10 2010

A "jiffy" actually has a formal definition. More than one, in fact.

In electronics, a jiffy is the time between alternating current power cycles, 1/60 or 1/50 of a second in most countries.

In astrophysics and quantum physics a jiffy is the time it takes for light to travel one fermi, which is the size of a nucleon.

In computing, a jiffy is the duration of one tick of the system timer interrupt. It is not an absolute time interval unit, since its duration depends on the clock interrupt frequency of the particular hardware platform.

AccelerationSep 02 2009

Somewhat related to the apple video from the other day is Jake Lodwick's Acceleration.

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.

rating: 4.0 stars

Star TrekMay 11 2009

[Note: spoilers.] Bones did it for me. As soon as he sat down next to Kirk on the shuttle, I was hooked. Loved Star Trek, wanted to go again as soon we got out.

J.J. Abrams did something kinda crazy with the film though. He took the entire Star Trek canon and tossed it out the window. Because of the whole time travel thing, the events that occurred in The Original Series, The Next Generation, Voyager, DS9, and the previous 10 movies will not happen. Which means that in terms of sequels to this film, the slate is pretty much clean for Abrams or whomever he passes it off to.

Well. Almost. Events in this alternate timeline unfold differently but the same. Even though the USS Kelvin was destroyed with Kirk's father aboard, Kirk and the rest of the gang somehow all still end up on the Enterprise. But the destruction of an entire planet and 6 billion people should have a somewhat larger effect going forward.

Also worth noting is how the time travel in Trek compares with that on Lost, a show Abrams co-created and currently executive produces. On Lost (so far), the universe is deterministic: no matter who travels when, not much changes. Time travel can affect little details here and there, but the big events unfold the same way each time and every character remembers events unfolding in the same way, no matter when they are on the timeline. Star Trek's universe is not that way; characters before time travel events remember events unfolding differently. According to the older Spock, the Romulan ship going back in time changed things. Kirk knew his dad, Vulcan wasn't sucked into a black hole, etc.

On the excellent Bad Astronomy blog, Phil Plait doesn't cover the time travel aspect of the film but reviews the rest of the science in the film.

And yeah, we do hear ships whoosh as they go to warp and all that, but that's what we expect to hear, having evolved in an atmosphere which whooshes when things fly past us. I'd prefer that we hear nothing, but I accept that as a filmmaker's prerogative to make the audience comfortable.

But I'll add that for years I have complained about sounds in space, saying that done correctly, making things silent can add drama. That sentiment was proven here; the sudden silence as we leave the ship and fly into space with the doomed crewmember is really eerie and unsettling.

In the NY Times, David Hajdu tackles time travel of a different kind, arguing that the original Star Trek was not about science or the future; it was a nostalgic lens through which to view pop culture.

"Star Trek" was an early manifestation of our contemporary absorption with the pop culture of the past. The show's creator, Gene Roddenberry, was a gifted hack writer for TV Westerns like "Have Gun, Will Travel" and cop shows like "Highway Patrol," and "Star Trek," though set in a nominally stylized future, was essentially a Western cop show. In fact, Roddenberry pitched the series to NBC as "Wagon Train" to the stars; and, as Captain Kirk noted in his log, the ship would venture out on "patrol," cruising the galaxy like a city beat.

Steampunk GPSMay 04 2009

Christopher Fahey on the watchclock, a device built to keep track of the movements of night watchmen.

The mechanism itself has barely changed for a century: although some more recent models incorporate GPS and other technologies, the mechanical key-based watchclock system is still in wide usage, with many buildings still employing the same keys and the same clockwork devices they've used since the 1940s. It's a genuine example of an "if it aint broke, don't fix it" kind of technology.

(via df)

Flower and bee clocksMay 01 2009

On the Zeitgedächtnis, or time-sense, of honeybees.

Flowers of a given species all produce nectar at about the same time each day, as this increases the chances of cross-pollination. The trick works because pollinators, which in most cases means the honeybee, concentrate foraging on a particular species into a narrow time-window. In effect the honeybee has a daily diary that can include as many as nine appointments -- say, 10:00 a.m., lilac; 11:30 a.m., peonies; and so on. The bees' time-keeping is accurate to about 20 minutes.

The time loop theory of LostMar 04 2009

Your Lost prep for the evening: The Time Loop Theory. Spoilers.

All of the "werid" things that we see happen in seasons 1 & 2 of LOST are a result of the Losties now existing in the year 1996 on the island. This is why Locke can walk, and why Rose is Healed -- their bodies are now existing in a time prior to them contracting their illnesses. This is also why some characters, such as Walt, have extraordinary perception -- because they're technically from the future.

This is Lost as Primer (note the Primer timeline map).

1234567890 DayFeb 11 2009

This Friday, in addition to being Friday, is also 1234567890 Day. At 6:31 pm EST on that day, the Unix time will be 1234567890.

Unix time [is] defined as the number of seconds elapsed since midnight Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) of January 1, 1970, not counting leap seconds. It is widely used not only on Unix-like operating systems but also in many other computing systems.

(via scribbling)

Regarding meetingsJan 21 2009

As a general rule, meetings make individuals perform below their capacity and skill levels. This doesn't mean we should always avoid face-to-face meetings - but it is certain that every organization has too many meetings, and far too many poorly designed ones.

-- Reid Hastie, behavioral scientist

Only readable every 12 hoursDec 05 2008

Every twelve hours, these 500 clocks align to form a readable message. (via quips)

At 10:10, a watch smilesDec 04 2008

Ten minutes past ten o'clock, which forms a smiley face on a clock and "frames the brand" nicely, is the go-to time for watches in advertising. Timex sets their watches to precisely 10:09:36 while Rolex waits almost a minute until 10:10:31.

The Hamilton Watch Company was among the first to clock in at 10:10; that time is favored in ads dating at least as far back as 1926. Rolex began consistently setting watches in ads at 10:10 in the early 1940s. Timex appears to have begun the transition in 1953, when its Ben Hogan model showed 8:20 while the Marlin model was set to 10:10.

Apple usually uses 9:42 am for the iPhone, which is approximately when it was introduced at MacWorld 2007. Until recently, the icon for Apple's iCal displayed July 17 when not in use; iCal debuted at MacWorld 2002 on that date.

Personal light conesDec 02 2008

When I was born 35.2 years ago, a light cone started expanding away from Earth out into the rest of the universe (Minkowski space-temporally speaking, of course). Thanks to updates from Matt Webb's fancy RSS tool, I know that my personal light cone is about to envelop the Zeta Herculis binary star system, located 35.2 light years from Earth in the constellation Hercules.

With a mass some 50 percent greater than the Sun, however, and beginning its evolution toward gianthood (its core hydrogen fusion likely shut down), Zeta Her A is 6 times more luminous than the Sun with a radius 2.5 times as large. Nevertheless, the star gives a good idea of what the Sun would look like from a great distance, in Zeta Her's case 35 light years. The companion (Zeta Her B), a cooler class G (G7) hydrogen-fusing dwarf with a luminosity only 65 percent that of the Sun and a mass about 85 percent solar, orbits with a period of 34.5 years at a mean distance of 15 Astronomical Units (over 50 percent farther than Saturn is from the Sun). A rather high eccentricity takes the two as far apart as 21 AU and as close as 8 AU.

Hercules is of course named for the Greek hero, Heracles. Next up is Delta Trianguli, another binary star system, in about two months.

A fashion model for the agesNov 20 2008

Vogue Paris has an editorial in the November 2008 issue which features a 20-year-old model photographed as if she were 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 years old. The hands betray her true age in the 40, 50, and 60 shots but the 10-year-old photo is a little bit of brilliance...just the right angle and lighting. (via the year in pictures)

Timeline twins, music and moviesNov 14 2008

When I was a kid, "oldies" music and movies seemed ancient. Even though I'm now in my 30s, the entertainment that I watched and listened to in my youth still feels pretty recent to me. Raiders of the Lost Ark wasn't all that long ago, right? But comparing my distorted recall of childhood favorites to the oldies of the time jogs my memory in unpleasant ways. For example:

Listening to Michael Jackson's Thriller today is equivalent to listening to Elvis Presley's first album (1956) at the time of Thriller's release in 1982. Elvis singles in 1956 included Blue Suede Shoes, Hound Dog, and Love Me Tender.

Thriller/Elvis Timeline

If you're around my age, how old do you feel right now? Here are some other examples of timeline twins:

Watching Star Wars today is like watching It's a Wonderful Life (1946) in 1977. It's a Wonderful Life was nominated for an Oscar the following year along with Ethel Barrymore (b. 1879) and Lilian Gish (b. 1893).

Listening to Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit today is equivalent to playing Terry Jack's Seasons In The Sun (1974) in 1991.

Watching The Godfather today is like watching Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times (1936) in 1972. Modern Times was a silent film (Chaplin's last).

Listening to the Sex Pistols' Never Mind the Bollocks (1977) today...well, they didn't really have rock or pop albums back in 1946. But popular songs on the radio were sung by Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Nat King Cole, and Dinah Shore, as well as many performers and their orchestras.

Back to the Future (1985) --> To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Die Hard (1988) --> Bullitt (1968)

Radiohead, OK Computer (1997) --> Bon Jovi, Slippery When Wet (1986)

For sale: Albert Einstein's watchSep 19 2008

Among the watches being auctioned at a sale in October is a watch once owned by Albert Einstein.

For the Einstein fan, we have a Longines that was owned by the scientist himself. It is a unique and historically important wristwatch, made in 1930.The watch was presented to Professor Albert Einstein on February 16, 1931 in Los Angeles. It is a fine, tonneau-shaped, 14K yellow gold wristwatch accompanied by various photos showing Prof. Einstein wearing the watch. Estimate: $25,000 - $35,000

You'd think that the price for timepiece once owned by the man who changed our conceptions about time and space would be substantial, but it's one of the lower priced featured watches. And the price is not even close to the world record:

In 2002, Antiquorum established the all-time world record price for a wristwatch at auction when it sold a platinum Patek Philippe World Time Ref. 1415 from 1939 for an astounding CHF 6,603,500 (US$ 4,026,524). This record-breaking price more than doubled the previous world record price for a wristwatch at auction. Another record price for a modern watch was achieved in 2004, the unique white gold Calibre 89, also by Patek Philippe, was sold for SFr. 6,603,500 (US$ 5,002,652).

(thx, sam)

Soulja Boy reviews BraidSep 17 2008

Video of rapper Soulja Boy reviewing Braid, an innovative Xbox 360 game in which a player can rewind the action to travel back in time to change previous actions in different ways. Soulja Boy *really* likes the time travel aspect of the game. I wish all game reviews were this exuberant. (via waxy)

Word ClockSep 05 2008

I love the linear version of the Word Clock. Completely impractical but lovely.

ThumberJul 07 2008

Thumber is a OS X app that screencaps one-second intervals of movies and stitches the results together into one big image. Inspired by one of my favorite art projects, Cinema Redux by Brendan Dawes.

An Informal Catalogue of Slit-Scan Video Artworks and Research - FlongJul 07 2008

Attention time merge media fans: do not miss Golan Levin's extensive collection of slit scan video projects as well as Eddie Elliott's related list. (via migurski)

Liquid Time SeriesJul 01 2008

Camille Utterback's Liquid Time Series project modifies the playback of a video according to a person's motion in front of the screen. The closer a person is to the screen, the faster the video plays in that area. Kinda hard to explain...just check out the video. See also yesterday's time slicing Processing video.

Younger than we used to beJun 18 2008

While we're on the topic of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Andrew Sean Greer wrote a book with a similar premise published in 2004 called The Confessions of Max Tivoli. It was based in part on the same Fitzgerald story as Fincher's film.

Mr. Greer is candid about the precedents: F. Scott Fitzgerald told a related story in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," and that in turn was inspired by a remark of Mark Twain that the best part of life came at the beginning and the worst part at the end. Later Fitzgerald found "an almost identical plot" in Samuel Butler's "Note-books." In "The Sword and the Stone," which Mr. Greer read as a child, Merlin ages backward. Mr. Greer carries it further back, to Greek mythology, and forward to "Mork & Mindy," in which Jonathan Winters played a baby. And at one book signing, he said, a reader asked him if he knew about the "Star Trek" episode in which ----

Actually, when he began the book he was thinking more of Bob Dylan. In 2001, having published a collection of stories and in the middle of writing a novel, he found himself singing "My Back Pages" -- "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now" -- and he had what amounted to an epiphany. "I thought that could be a book not like anything I'd written before," he said. "It sounded like a wild adventure that no one's going to want to read, but it could be a lot of fun, and maybe that's the point of it."

This passage from a NY Times review of Tivoli provides a good sense of what the tone of the film might be:

For when the repercussions of Max's reverse aging are eventually understood, the tragedy of his predicament becomes clear. Not only does he have the exact year of his death forever staring him in the face (1941, when he will complete his 70-year process of anti-decay), but he must also live his entire life, except for a few brief months in 1906 when his real and apparent ages coincide, being something other than what he seems.

Oh, and Shaun Inman quotes from Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five about WWII moving backwards:

When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating day and night, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground, to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody again.

(thx, jamaica)

How to synchronize five metronomesMay 01 2008

How to synchronize 5 metronomes. If you only watch one metronome video in your life, make it this one.

The One Day Poem Pavilion uses theApr 25 2008

The One Day Poem Pavilion uses the sun to display a poem one line at a time over the course of an entire day. (via stingy kids)

Jsh Alln explains why the perfect popApr 16 2008

Jsh Alln explains why the perfect pop song is two minutes and 42 seconds long.

Here's the problem: "More Than a Feeling" is four minutes and 47 fucking seconds long. I don't have time for that kind of nonsense. That's, like, one-seventh of my recreation right there.

Don't get me wrong, slugger. I love "More Than a Feeling." Those who don't are your basic a-holes. But it's like: We get it. The riff, the handclaps, the 10,000 multi-tracked guitars-nice. But then there's another verse and another chorus and infinity more solos and just a really ridiculous amount of balderdash.

If you've got the time, there's a related collection of 2:42 songs to listen to.

The 7th in a series of helpfulApr 15 2008

The 7th in a series of helpful posts for the time traveller**: here's how to invest your money wisely in 1998.

If you'd bought 3,298 shares of Apple stock in 1998, for $99,995, at $30.32 a share, it would now be worth $1,997,797. The stock has split twice, so you'd now have 13,192 shares at (as of last week) $151.44. Buy yourself an iPhone to celebrate!

** The first six posts will be published at some point in the future.

Slow motionApr 11 2008

Long rumination on the use of slo-mo in movies, particularly in Standard Operating Procedure. Being a slo-mo fan myself (especially when wielded by Wes Anderson or by NBC Sports during football games), I enjoyed this description of it:

Slo-mo can be a mesmerizing revelation of the grace inherent in the ordinary.

Slo-mo was invented and patented in 1904 by an Austrian priest-turned-physicist named August Musger. And who was working in the patent office in Austria in 1904?

My fantasy now is that Albert Einstein -- working in the Swiss patent office in Bern in 1904, when Musger patented slo-mo in (relatively) nearby Austria -- might have become aware of Musger's slow-motion patent (perhaps it even crossed his desk?) and that contemplation of slo-mo might have influenced Einstein's thinking about the nonabsoluteness, the relativity, of time.

Two other sort-of-related bits of Errol Morris news: 1) part 2 of his short series on re-enactments is now online, and 2) Morris will be talking about his new movie at the Apple Store in Soho on April 23 at 6:30pm. Prepare to wait in a long line. (thx, findemnflee)

Posts from the International Association of TimeMar 20 2008

Posts from the International Association of Time Travelers forum.

At 14:52:28, FreedomFighter69 wrote:
Reporting my first temporal excursion since joining IATT: have just returned from 1936 Berlin, having taken the place of one of Leni Riefenstahl's cameramen and assassinated Adolf Hitler during the opening of the Olympic Games. Let a free world rejoice!

At 14:57:44, SilverFox316 wrote:
Back from 1936 Berlin; incapacitated FreedomFighter69 before he could pull his little stunt. Freedomfighter69, as you are a new member, please read IATT Bulletin 1147 regarding the killing of Hitler before your next excursion. Failure to do so may result in your expulsion per Bylaw 223.

At 18:06:59, BigChill wrote:
Take it easy on the kid, SilverFox316; everybody kills Hitler on their first trip. I did. It always gets fixed within a few minutes, what's the harm?

ThinkGeek is selling a WiFi alarm clockJan 04 2008

ThinkGeek is selling a WiFi alarm clock that donates money to an organization you hate every time you hit the snooze bar. I believe this is some sort of joke, but what an idea! (via magnetbox)

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)

How to think about the scale ofMar 12 2007

How to think about the scale of human history: "Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., one the United States' great historians, is less than two lifetimes removed from a world where the United States did not exist. Through Mr. Schlesinger, you're no more than three away yourself. That's how short the history of our nation really is. Not impressed? It's only two more life spans to William Shakespeare. Two more beyond that, and the only Europeans to see America are those who sailed from Greenland. You're ten lifetimes from the occupation of Damietta during the fifth crusade. Twenty from the founding of Great Zimbabwe and the Visigoth sack of Rome. Make it forty, and Theseus, king of Athens, is held captive on Crete by King Minos, the Olmecs are building the first cities in Mexico, and the New Kingdom collapses in Egypt."

A man outfitted his family minivan withMar 08 2007

A man outfitted his family minivan with high-precision cesium clocks to demonstrate to his kids that they gained 22 nanoseconds of vacation time on their mountain camping trip than they would have at a lower altitude.

Daylight saving change and computer systemsFeb 01 2007

Not too many people are paying attention, but the Energy Policy Act of 2005 lengthened daylight saving time by four weeks in the US. Instead of beginning the first Sunday of April and running through the last Sunday in October, daylight saving time will now stretch from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November. The Washington Post has an article today about the change and what impact it might have on automated systems:

The change takes effect this year -- on March 11 -- and it has angered airlines, delighted candy makers and sent thousands of technicians scrambling to make sure countless automated systems switch their clocks at the right moment. Unless changed by one method or another, many systems will remain programmed to read the calendar and start daylight saving time on its old date in April, not its new one in March.

The article mentions that older Microsoft products like Windows XP SP1 and Windows NT4 might require manual updates and Daring Fireball has had a few updates about how the switch effects Mac users, including this piece at TidBITS. But what about everything else? Is the version of Movable Type I'm using going to make the adjustment? What about Wordpress? Perl? Ruby? PHP? Java? Linux? I'm sure the current versions of all these programs and languages address the issue, but are there fixes and patches for those running old versions of Perl on their server?

If you've got any information about programs, applications, and languages affected by the change and how to address the problem, leave a comment on this thread. I'll update the post as information comes in.

Why are most watches in advertisements set to 10:08?Dec 13 2006

Why are most watches in advertisements set to 10:08?

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.

A 2000 year-old Greek computer accurately tracked theNov 30 2006

A 2000 year-old Greek computer accurately tracked the motion of the sun, the irregular orbit of the moon, and predicted lunar eclipses. "Remarkably, scans showed the device uses a differential gear, which was previously believed to have been invented in the 16th century. The level of miniaturisation and complexity of its parts is comparable to that of 18th century clocks."

Beautiful-looking 2007 calendar designed by Paula Scher andNov 29 2006

Beautiful-looking 2007 calendar designed by Paula Scher and her team at Pentagram.

Every year, my friend Leslie does anNov 25 2006

Every year, my friend Leslie does an online Advent calendar (she's #1 on Google for "advent calendar"). This year, she's asking for people (like you!) to submit their favorite holiday stories for use with the calendar.

Physicists at the University of Washington areNov 17 2006

Physicists at the University of Washington are hoping to use entangled photons to send information back in time. "Here's where it gets weird."

A timeline of timelines.Nov 15 2006

A timeline of timelines.

Happy birthday, universeOct 23 2006

According to the Ussher-Lightfoot Calendar, today is the 6,009th birthday of the universe. Based on James Ussher's interpretation of the Bible, God created "the heaven and the earth" on October 23, 4004 BC. Happy birthday, everything!

Note: I'm doing Mr. Ussher's precise chronology a disservice by fudging the Julian calendar date that he derived with the Gregorian calendar we now use. For that, I apologize.

More and more people are using theirAug 28 2006

More and more people are using their mobile phones to tell time instead of watches. Telling time has always been the #1 function I use on my phone.

The Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher SocietyAug 07 2006

The Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society recently included a report on the 28-hour day. "There are apparently plenty of advantages to switching to a 28-hour day, including four-day work weeks, fewer daily chores, longer weekends." This diary of someone who lives a 28-hour day is interesting.

Clever McDonald's sundial billboard. "The billboard featuresJul 12 2006

Clever McDonald's sundial billboard. "The billboard features a real sundial whose shadow falls on a different breakfast item each hour until noon, when the shadow of the McDonald's arches are dead center."

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?

Jim Holt asks Freeman Dyson, Lawrence Krauss,Oct 31 2005

Jim Holt asks Freeman Dyson, Lawrence Krauss, Ed Witten and other in trying to figure out how the universe will end. Further reading: Time Without End by Freeman Dyson, Frank Tipler's Omega Point theory, and The Physics of Extra-Terrestrial Civilizations by Michio Kaku.

Discover Magazine on a prototype of theOct 26 2005

Discover Magazine on a prototype of the fascinating 10,000-year clock being built by Danny Hillis and The Long Now Foundation. Here's more info on the prototype and some photos from its launch party.

Reap is an art project "exploring theOct 24 2005

Reap is an art project "exploring the notion of marking and capturing time: time as memory, as process, as moments, as metamorphoses and metaphors". I like the apple rotting one. (thx susan)

Streetclock: using building shadows and road markers as urban sundialsAug 02 2005

Streetclock: using building shadows and road markers as urban sundials.

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