To “boldly” go…

I thought anyone reading my rather gloomy recent posts could probably do with a laugh so I thought I’d put this up. It’s something I posted a while ago, in fact, but the video links on that have long since evaporated; a newer version appeared recently on Youtube so I thought I’d update it and re-post the piece.

This clip contains a short item  I did about twelve years ago for the BBC series Space, which was presented by Sam Neill. It was subsequently screened outside the UK with an alternative title, Universe. Originally we were going to demonstrate wormholes using a snooker table, clever editing and reversed video. However, the producer, Jeremy,  decided that wouldn’t look spectacular enough so instead we went to St Anton in Austria: I was flown over the Alps in a helicopter and then driven through the Arlberg tunnel in an impressively fast car. Well worth the cost to license fee payers, I’m sure, even if the three-day trip to Austria by me and a crew of six as well as the hire of the helicopter ended up as a mere three minutes of screen time…

The episode I was in, the last of 6 in the series, was called To Boldly Go. I remember suggesting to the producer that the only way to travel faster than light in the manner required was with a split infinitive drive, but they didn’t use that in the final script.

The segment I’m in starts at about 18:00 on the video. Notice how, in the helicopter sequence, I give the appearance of being completely terrified. A fine piece of acting by me, I thought. *Cough*

The item is daft, I know, and I don’t really believe any of that stuff about wormholes, but it was great fun doing it and I have to say the camera guys took some amazing footage of the mountains from the helicopter.

P.S. The next sequence, after mine, explains how the Anglo-Australian 2dF Galaxy Redshift Survey was done in order to provide a map for future generations of intergalactic space travellers. Really?

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11 Responses to “To “boldly” go…”

  1. VASTNESS AND FASTNESS OF sPACE – ALWAYS DAUNTING. Anything with fellow NZer Sam Neill (also a fbk friend of mine, we were at Canterbury Uni together in 1960s) is good value! Glad you got to meet him too. Cousin Gerard Gilmore was on one with him too I believe. And yes Peter you looked very intense.Kia kaha Juliana ( Aotearoa )

    • telescoper Says:

      Actually I never got to meet Sam Neill. All the bits with him were filmed much later, after all the other footage had been edited. His contributions were filmed near his home in New Zealand.

    • “we were at Canterbury Uni together in 1960s”

      That explains everything. :-)

  2. Alan Penny Says:

    If you go through a wormhole and arrive somewhere quickly, you have in actual space moved from A to B faster than light. Doesn’t this mean that in a suitable reference frame you have made a time machine? And doesn’t the grandfather paradox prove this impossible?

    • Actually, the grandfather paradox is not. It assumes that a) one has free will and b) one would actually kill one’s grandfather. Since in the future of the past one returns to, one does exist, then the grandfather lived long enough. (David Deutsch might say that killing grandpa would create a parallel alternate universe in some sense similar to those in the many-worlds interpretation of QM.)

      • Alan Penny Says:

        Well, I’m not expert enough for a detailed discussion, but …

        To simplify things. I go back, in the same and not an alternative universe, and shoot my old self. Then my old self cannot then go back and become me, and so I cannot shoot myself. Even if my act of shooting my old self creates an alternative universe, this is after the shooting and thus in this alternative universe I am still dead.

      • “in the same and not an alternative universe, and shoot my old self”

        This is a contradiction, since in this same universe you did not die.

        Maybe you exist only because you time-travelled to the past?! :-)

        Many stories have been written about people travelling back in time, or sending information back in time, not to change the present, but to keep it as it is. One such time traveller found he had to answer to the name of Judas (no, not at Bob Dylan’s concert at the Manchester Free Trade Hall).

        Interestingly, it took a while before science-fiction writers could just write a story happening in the (far) future. Many early science-fiction stories which happen in the far future have nothing to do with time travel per se, but have a prologue in which a modern person travels to the future. Sometimes, this can be necessary as a literary device (fish out of water), but sometimes it seems necessary in the sense that to describe the future, one must first have to get there (of course, since time machines don’t yet exist, the prologue is often set in the near future).

    • telescoper Says:

      Indeed a wormhole could be a time machine because it would involve closed time-like curves. To prevent paradoxes of the sort you mention would need additional postulates, but such have been suggested.

      “Free will” is an interesting concept. What does it mean? I might decide of my own free will to walk around upside-down on the ceiling, but I can’t do it as the laws of physics don’t allow me to do so. Likewise there might be something in the laws of physics that prevents closed curves intersecting themselves…

    • Alan Penny Says:

      “additional postulates”? Let’s try some of them.

      Free will does not exist: Suppose I build a time machine and also a little robot which will crawl into the time machine, switch it on, go back in time and destroy its old self. Then as it cannot do that, “something” must stop me from building the robot. What? Will a hand appear out of nowhere and hold me back?

      Your action make an alternate universes: See above.

      Time travel means going to an alternate universe: But wormholes connect places in this universe.

      You can’t change the past: For time travel to mean anything you must at least be able to observe the past, and observation means measurement, and measurement alters the system.

      Causality isn’t a rule: The existence of things like atoms depend on causality.

      Anything else?

      But we know that closed time-like loops can exist, for example in a rotating black hole. So does some law, knowing that it has to prevent paradoxes, prevent the construction of such loops?

  3. Who hasn’t read Isaac Asimov’s The End of Eternity should. It was written as a sort of time-travel story to end all time-travel stories, time travel of course having a long tradition in science fiction.

    I also recommend Time Machines by Paul Nahin: it covers science fiction, technical literature and everything in between.

    • Phil Uttley Says:

      I agree – Nahin’s Time Machines is an excellent book and I think contains the answers to Alan’s objections/questions above. Alternate universes are an easy way out, since any act which causes divergence from this universe is sufficient to spawn new universes. E.g. the alternate branch starts with the universe at the point where you show up in a time machine with a pistol, not at the point where your past self is shot in the head…. As I recall, the main issue with time travel in a non-quantum Einsteinian type space-time is that since in space-time all events (where I use ‘event’ in the strict physical sense) are actually fixed points, you cannot in fact go back and change anything. If time-travel does exist, it’s effects are already ‘built in’ and paradoxes are not possible. Incidentally, I think the best movies to deal correctly with the logical aspects of time-travel are Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (seriously!) and Twelve Monkeys. Perhaps the worst are the Terminator and Back to the Future series’ (great entertainment though!).

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