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Friday, July 25, 2014

Chronilogical Chaos

Repost from 5/14


Upon talking about yesterday’s blog with a co-worker earlier today the discussion took the inevitable turn all conversations about time travel do.

“I would go back to the late 1930’s,” he said proudly oblivious, “and take out Hitler before World War 2 started.”

“I would jump to tomorrow night,” another added, “and find out the winning numbers to the Powerball drawing. Then I would come back and buy a ticket.”

Which one of these scenarios is the most nobel? Before you answer that question, think on it.

Going back into the past and averting WW II is a dignified cause indeed, but, when you follow the chain of events, what would be the consequences? At the time the war broke out the US refrained from joining the confrontation for quite some time. As a nation we could not endure such a strain on a weak economy. We quickly came to the aid of the English when Germany began bombing London, but we did not gear up for battle until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December, 7th, 1941. The next day the United States declared war on Japan. It was only three days later did we declare war on Germany.

Think about that a moment. At that time Japan had a superior navy, in numbers and skill, to any other in the world. Germany was a military juggernaut with massive numbers of tanks and men. America, spurred by great feelings of nationalism, could no longer stay out of the World War. Everyone from youngsters to famous people like Elvis Presley, were signing up for the war effort. Everyone was buying up war bonds to support the cause. The nation’s economic machine switched into high gear and within a year and a half the factories across the States were churning out ships, tanks and planes unlike any industrial nation had done before in the history of the world. As one Japanese Admiral put it, “we have awakened a sleeping giant.”

We all know the results from there. Without World War 2 the United States would have never become a superpower. Not only a superpower, but we would have never gone as far into space as we have. Why do I say this? Follow the line of reasoning. After the war the US brought over Nazi Scientists in Operation Overcast to begin engineering military and scientific rocket systems. At the head of the project was Wernher von Braun, the German Scientist who developed the V-2 rocket that killed so many allies and civilians within the early part of WW2. As a result the Apollo rocket system was born out of the ashes that war.

Scientists called this the butterfly effect.  “In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions, where a small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state. The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane's formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before. The death of Hitler and the nonexistence of the world conflict would have changed the course the United States was put upon. Would the nation be the post war country it became? How would the political and economic landscape have been affected?

The thing is, and everyone of the younger generation of our society should learn from this, every action has a consequence. Today’s youth does not grasp this concept because they live in a world removed from the physicality those of us older grew up with. When we communicated, we were face to face (or ear to ear). We could not post thoughts in virtual space and reach the audience these folks do today. Not having true physical proximity to our audience injects certain bravado into some people’s attitude and the consequences become a mere oversight after all is posted and published.

I digress…

Let us revisit the co-worker who wanted to win the lottery by finding out the numbers beforehand using our Time Machine. Although his intentions seem much less scrupulous than the murderous employee who wanted to off Hitler, this man wanted to go forward in time leaving set history untainted. The consequences of this suddenly wealthy man’s trip would be far less devastating to our nation. The best part of the whole scenario is the fact that I am this coworkers newest friend.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Coolvian


It was 1980 and I was in my pre-teens. School had ended and summer vacation had come along and, after the frenzy of freedom from Junior High classes had worn off, the hot days settled into a laid back and lazy routine. My brother, sister and myself were what we would call in these politically correct days “latch key kids”. Mom would leave for work early in the mornings and, being the oldest at 13, I was in charge.

Back in that decade we did not have a plethora of entertainment to choose from like we do today. There wasn’t Facebook, laptops or smart phones. We relied heavily upon adolescent imagination and creativity to pass the time.

Television viewing then would have been considered abysmal by today’s on demand standards. We had three TV stations; two networks and PBS. Soap operas and preschool programming were the order of most days and these shows had little hold on our young minds.

But, one bored afternoon, something life altering and amazing happened. While manually giving the control knob (what is a remote control?) a turn on the old console Zennith, an action hero with a mangled bush of curly brown hair and a long flowing multi colored scarf materialized across the screen on our Public Broadcast Station. I was instantly mesmerized by this British accented, sonic screwdriver wielding super hero as he fought off aliens who threatened planet Earth. I had discovered Tom Baker’s version of the alien Timelord known as Dr. Who.

I will save the history lesson of the show for another blog post, but, for those who have never discovered it I will give a brief description as described from Wikipedia: Doctor Who is a British science-fiction television program produced by the BBC. The program depicts the adventures of the Doctor, a Time Lord—a time-travelling humanoid alien. He explores the universe in his TARDIS, a sentient time-travelling space ship. Its exterior appears as a blue British police box, which was a common sight in Britain in 1963 when the series first aired. Along with a succession of companions, the Doctor faces a variety of foes while working to save civilizations, help ordinary people, and right wrongs.

The program was high brow, action filled fun catering to my every nerdish whimsical passion. Upon arriving at school following that first Whovian summer, I had a whole new repertoire of discussion with my nerdy friends. The cool kids had no clue what we were talking about and it was almost as if us “smart kids” were part of a secret society as we carried on about Daleks and Trans dimensions at the lunch room table. It was more than just a show… it was a concept.

Today, with its later generations of doctors and expanded budget for special effects the show has burst into the main stream here in the United States. Dr. Who has become cool. But, to all of us nerds of the eighties the rest of the world is just catching up on what we always knew.