Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so

| Jan. 11, 2008

Discover Magazine tells me time may not exist, which will be handy to tell my employer the next time I show up to work “late”.

The article’s point is that time is a bit of an oddball force in that it only ever moves in one direction. But I wouldn’t call it unique by that alone. One of the things that always bugged me in high school physics was that one could never have negative centripetal force, only a positive force from zero to whatever. And even velocity can’t have a negative value, just a different vector in which it’s moving. An object may be moving backwards relative to you because of its direction, but its velocity is still a positive value. It’s either moving or it isn’t. So is one-directional time really so unusual, or are we merely unable to perceive it moving in different directions?

Disintegration of the Persistence of MemoryMaybe it’s incorrect to assume that time moves in a strictly linear fashion. The Physics and Phenomenology of Time states that time may not necessarily move as the crow flies, but meander around like a vine on a pole, sometimes forward, sometimes backward, but it gets where it’s going in the end. I left home this morning and arrived at work afterwards; I didn’t take a straight line to get there — but I got there in the end. Just as the motion of subatomic particles occur on such a small scale that we don’t notice them, maybe that we’re all meandering through time on such a large scale that we don’t notice it, just as my car moved along various city streets on my way to work, but I didn’t change my position inside it.

Even the measurement of time may have cause and effect backwards:

“I recently went to the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder,” says Lloyd. (NIST is the government lab that houses the atomic clock that standardizes time for the nation.) “I said something like, ‘Your clocks measure time very accurately.’ They told me, ‘Our clocks do not measure time.’ I thought, Wow, that’s very humble of these guys. But they said, ‘No, time is defined to be what our clocks measure.’”

This illustrates the problem of time: it cannot be observed. The change in the state of objects (such as the hands of a clock) can be measured over a given period of, erm… time, but what’s being measured is just the objects themselves: the unwinding of a spring, the rotation of a cog, the pulse of an atom… but where is the “time” happening?

Now one question remains: if time doesn’t exist, why hadn’t I heard about this sooner?

Ron Paul winning elections in fake, made-up fantasy land

| Jan. 10, 2008

Ron Paul supporters recently marched on several of World of Warcraft’s cities in a show of support that, unless I missed something, still only qualifies as playing a video game. The Montgomery bus boycott this is not. And it looks like Paul’s support rally went over about as well as anything in a MMORPG that wasn’t vandalism or hopelessly perverse. When will people learn that virtual worlds are even stupider and less relevant than our real one?

Finally, they reached Orgrimmar, a ghastly, reeking city of the orcs, which Paul supporters had agreed would serve as a stand-in for Washington, D.C. If they could storm its gates, Lettuce B-Free says, they would be symbolically taking their country back from the Beltway elites.

Y’know, rather than actually taking back their country. It’s always fun to pretend.

So if you’re wondering why your protest inside WoW or your voting up an article on digg aren’t getting the earth-shattering change you hoped for, it’s because playing video games and surfing the internet is, second to none, the least you could possibly do.

Except maybe complaining about it on your blog. Ooh, zing!


| Jan. 3, 2008

Super Mario GalaxyIncidentally, I got a Wii for Christmas so you may not hear from me while I explore all of Super Mario Galaxy and re-conquer Mario 64.

I just realized that game is 12 years old. Well, Mario hadn’t changed in that time, why should I?

Slowboat to Hades & Super Mario Galaxy

Cartoons | Jan. 3, 2008

The navigation for the Gorillaz DVD Slowboat to Hades puts you, the viewer, inside the Gorillaz world as an ersatz crime scene investigator / tomb raider, skulking through the not-quite-abandoned Kong Studios and all its leaking, shorting, smoldering disrepair. Navigation can be either an immersive or a tedious experience (depending on your point of view) as you move from room to dimly-lit room, shining your flashlight over whatever strewn detritus it is that will unlock the next featurette.

Kong StudiosJamie Hewlett’s design and animation support the themes established in the Demon Days album which this DVD is derived from. The premise, shown in broken 52″ flatscreen TVs hung askew on puched-in, graffitied walls, and studio recording equipment connected through a dizzying rat’s nest of patched, mismatched cables, states that all the money and success you enjoy will not stop the world from falling apart, and all those creature comforts will too succumb to systemic decay.

It was while immersing myself in this (fantasy… I hope) world that I noticed it had something in common with a few other games I enjoy: Super Mario Galaxy, Mario 64 and Myst.

Myst islandEach environment is an island unto itself (sometimes more or less literally so). Each game establishes a series of very detailed worlds, each with its own flora and fauna, themes and internal logic. Each is a puzzle; constrained but with enough room to allow the visitor to move freely, to explore and interact with this unique, peculiar environment. It’s comforting to know that the experience is bounded, but not limited — there can still be a great deal of variation inside its isolated shores, and maybe finding out what those limits are is part of the fun.

And is it a coincidence that they all involve islands?

Super Mario Galaxy

This reminds me of when I asked an artist friend to paint me a picture of “an enclosed space”, not really knowing myself what it meant (neither did she, which is probably why my fine art collection is floundering).

Whether it’s Noodle’s flying windmill island, the Stoneship Age, or Mario making his way across the Gusty Garden galaxy, I find something captivating (no pun intended) about each game’s world.

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