Friday, 29 October 2010

Time Travel - the proof?

Now, those who know me will be aware of my fascination with space and time travel. I've read interesting papers on the prospects of both, and there is some great work out there if you want to peruse in greater depth.

The past few days have seen an explosive meme flashing round the aethernet. Depending on where you see it, this is either conclusive proof of the possibility of time travel, a complete misconception of what the alleged proof shows, or inconclusive-what-do-you-think. It has already been spoofed, although many are taking it seriously, and it has hit the mainstream media.

So, what is this meme? Well, independent film maker George Clark, based in Belfast, presented his short film to the Yellow Fever Independent Film Festival. According to the film, Clark has spent a year puzzling over a small clip of film contained in the 'extras' component of the complete Charlie Chaplin DVD set - he explains exactly where in the film itself, and he invites the viewer to explore this for themself.

The vintage film clip was taken at the premier of Chaplin's The Circus at the Chinese Theatre in 1928, and shows a heavy-set woman walking across the screen, holding her left hand (closest to the camera) in a particular manner, and apparently talking. Now, she does not appear to be accompanied by anyone - the male in the shot is striding ahead of her, and taking no notice of her - but she does seem to be speaking, and acting in a way which is familiar to modern audiences.

Clark explains how he believes the woman is speaking into a mobile/cell device, and with this context set in mind, you could believe this to be the case. However, it has been noted that the device she may be holding is a hearing aid, and it could be similar to one of these or these, although how it would be powered is another unanswered question, as these were designed for mains power. It has also been suggested that she is holding an icepack. Other more technical comments include the notion that cross-fading was not a developed technique in 1928, although this is a bit of a straw man, in that this footage has been edited since it was first shot - seeing unedited footage would likely not help in seeing what the person is doing, but would enable better research. Another straw man is the lack of mobile/cell phone towers in 1928 to carry a signal - I should imagine that if you had invented time travel, you'd have invented a way of communicating. Has no-one seen the recent Dr Who re-boot and his superphone?

Given that George Clark works in the industry and comments on new developments in film art, it has also been commented that this could be a promotional activity, as he is involved with the Yellow Fever Film Festival.

Anyway, take a look at the footage, see for yourself.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Space: constellations, signals, and ignition for steampunk spacepilots!!

Those who have visited this little corner of the aethernet prviously will know my passion for retro-future, and space in general. Recently, I have been bitterly disappointed, so, given that President Obama has decided to effectively shelve his predecessor's (admittedly half-hearted) commitment to return to the moon, and, subsequently, to place humanity on Mars for the foreseeable future, I thought I'd bring some cheer in the wake of the decision to cancel the Constellation programme.

First, news (albeit a little belated), that a signal may have been heard from the stars. Whilst not in the league of the famous WOW signal of 1977, intruiging news that Dr Ragbir Bhathal, of University of Western Sydney Macarthur appears to have 'heard' something back in December 2008. Bhathal, as part of the SETI project, sweeps the sky searching for repeating, regular, laser pulses, rather than radio signals. As a true scientist, he is reticent, and is checking his equipment and other explanations, and sweeping for a repeat pattern in the same area of space, before being able to put his proposals forward for peer-review, and then, perhaps, be able to state that the source is of intelligent alien origin. However, when seen in conjuction with other news, the possibility becomes more intruiging.

The area of sky from which Bhathal spotted the pulse is that of Gliese 581e, only 20.5 light-years away in the constellation Libra. Wow, I hear you say - not Gliese 581e! Surely not! Well, sarcasm will get you nowhere...

According to the European Southern Observatory,

Well-known exoplanet researcher Michel Mayor today (21 April 2009) announced the discovery of the lightest exoplanet found so far. The planet, “e”, in the famous [see!] system Gliese 581, is only about twice the mass of our Earth. The team also refined the orbit of the planet Gliese 581 d, first discovered in 2007, placing it well within the habitable zone, where liquid water oceans could exist.


With the discovery of Gliese 581 e, the planetary system now has four known planets, with masses of about 1.9 (planet e), 16 (planet b), 5 (planet c), and 7 Earth-masses (planet d). The planet furthest out, Gliese 581 d, orbits its host star in 66.8 days. “Gliese 581 d is probably too massive to be made only of rocky material, but we can speculate that it is an icy planet that has migrated closer to the star,” says team member Stephane Udry. The new observations have revealed that this planet is in the habitable zone, where liquid water could exist. “‘d’ could even be covered by a large and deep ocean — it is the first serious 'water world' candidate,” continued Udry.

Whilst this seems all very coincidental - a possible laser pulse in an area of space with a solar system and planets within the 'Goldilocks' zone - a short flight through known space may help you put this in perspective...

From the American Museum of Natural History:



And, back in the steampunk universe, Warren Ellis's new production is hot off the presses!

You may remember, from my other blog Strange Dreams, that Ellis is the author of the rather spiffing Freakangels. He previously authored the excellent Ministry of Space, which chronicles the push of the British Empire into space following the end of the Second World War.

Now, with artist Gianluca Pagliarani, he brings us his the new miniseries Ignition City. Pop over to Strange Dreams to discover more.