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.