Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Terminator Got Him!

So the actor who played John Connor in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines is missing.  Nick Stahl, who also starred in Sin City, The Thin Red Line, and Disturbing Behavior among countless other films, played an adult John Connor, once again trying to elude the Terminator model T-X with the help of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s inferior T-101 (800 or 850 series for all of you Terminator buffs).  I liked this movie, almost as much as T2, although it didn’t do quite as well at the box office as the first two and was essentially just one big chase scene.  Anyway, apparently Nick Stahl’s estranged wife reported to police that she’d last heard from her husband a week ago, and they believe drugs and/or alcohol may be a factor in his disappearance.

I don’t mean to make light of what could be a very serious and sad situation, but wouldn’t it be just absolutely crazy if Nick Stahl met his demise from an actual Terminator?  I mean, we know NASA and the SETI program (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) are constantly sending radio and video signals into space hoping that intelligent life out there will receive it and communicate back.  Perhaps they sent out Terminator 3, the signal found its way into a wormhole, and it was recovered by intelligent machines on Earth a couple hundred years from now.  Not knowing the movie was a fictional tale, they created a time machine and sent back a Terminator to take Nick Stahl out, thinking he would someday lead a resistance against them.  Highly unlikely, but theoretically possible?  Maybe?

The biggest question is whether or not time travel is possible.  And, surprise, it is!  I’m serious.  It’s been proven.  Einstein theorized it.  You see, as an object’s speed approaches that of light, time dilation occurs.  Time dilation is basically the difference of elapsed time between two objects moving at different speeds.  So if humans could build a spaceship that travelled at the speed of light, and an occupant of that ship and someone else both had a stopwatch, and they both started them at the same exact time, the person’s stopwatch on the ship would be behind the other’s.  Depending on how long that person in the ship travelled, that person could have aged 9 years as opposed to the other's 10.  Likewise, gravity and the mass of objects can affect the speed of time in a similar manner.  In space, time moves more quickly, because there’s nothing of substantial mass slowing it down.  Picture heavy people walking slowly through the mall while skinny people zip around from store to store.  Not really the same scientific principle, at least I don’t think it is, but you get my point.  Maybe that's why bigger folks tend to die earlier--because they age faster.  Just one more reason I need to shed a few pounds!

Seriously though, all of this time travel stuff has been scientifically proven through tests over the past fifty years.  That being said, travelling backwards through time is still up for debate.  Not only could it create time paradoxes, where an effect of an action in time could potentially alter its cause, thereby nullifying itself, but the math and science and theoretic proposals behind it just aren’t really there to substantiate it.  Yet.  I mean, when I consider the instance above, it seems to me that the person in the spaceship has actually traveled backwards in time, because he’s a year younger than the other.  But he didn’t travel backwards in his own time, and perhaps that’s the sticking point.

The thing is, though, there is so much about the cosmos that we have yet to decipher.  We’re still chasing the existence of the Higgs boson, the particle that scientists believe is responsible for mass.  I tend to look at it all as if we are all still cavemen, writing on the walls of our caves with mud and poop and having not the tiniest inclination that the sun is a huge concentration of burning gases or that some day little children will walk around with iPads flinging cartoon birds at pigs in the same way we spear our dinners.  There’s just so much we still have to learn, and that will never change.  As scientists continue to work and study the fundamentals of our existence, all we can really do is sit back, take in all they tell us, and maybe write some crafty stories and scripts like Star Wars, Star Trek, and the Terminator that lean on both the proven and unproven theories.

As I was thinking of new ideas for a novel about a year ago, I read a story about how metamaterials are being used to create cloaking devices.  Metamaterials are man-made materials created by meshing together certain elements in a way that the material itself behaves as a whole rather than as a sum of its parts.  Scientists have found that light travels over the threads of the material entirely rather than through it like it does through a thin cotton T-shirt.  If you cut a hole into the metamaterial, light still travels around it and not even through the hole.  Thus, if you put something into that hole, that object becomes invisible.

Now taking this thought one step further, if light bends around this object, and time moves at the speed of light, could time bend around this object as well?  I’m totally oversimplifying the idea there, but apparently other scientists thought along similar lines and used metamaterials to test the theory.  They found that time still does travel through metamaterials even though photons pass right over and around them.

These results, seemingly disproving time travel, were discovered after I’d already finished the rough draft of my novel, but I was a “sharp tool in the shed” and had included in my novel references to a fictional sub-atomic particle as well that worked in conjunction with metamaterials to make time travel possible.  My novel, Paradox, takes some fictional liberties with all this and relies more on the action to tell the tale, but if you are curious or want to check it out, an excerpt is below.

In the meantime, we can all just wonder, can’t we?  I think that’s one of the things that makes humans so remarkable: our imaginations.  I can’t imagine dogs and cats sitting around contemplating about time and space and how they interact with each other.  My in-laws' dog, Candy, seems more interested in figuring out how he can get into every trash can in the house.

And hopefully Nick Stahl is just hanging out somewhere, playing it cool, safe and sound.  But, if the Terminators did get him, well, I suggest we all better stock up on lots of guns and ammo.  And liquid nitrogen.

An excerpt from my novel, Paradox:

As his mind raced with the implications of being a suspect in a campus bombing, a strange ticking noise began to emanate from near the door.  The sound was odd, like a tap-tick-tap-tick-tap-tap-tap.  It sounded a little like the second hands of several clocks moving out of synchronization, but he looked around the door and didn’t see anything.  In fact, the room was very drab—gray-painted cinder block walls, a thin, high window with steel mesh on the outside of the glass, the large mirror, the table, and the two chairs.

The odd noise continued—quiet and ominous—and Jon stood up and walked the few feet over to the door.  He had no idea if people on the other side of the mirror were watching him, but nobody came rushing in the door, and so maybe they thought he was just stretching and nobody else heard the sound.

Jon listened by the wall, then by the door, then by the edge of the mirror, and he couldn’t quite pinpoint exactly where the sound was coming from.  It’s source seemed to be inside the room—definitely not outside—but each time he moved, the sound seemed to come from somewhere else.  Was his mind playing tricks on him?

As he moved back closer to the table, he noticed that the sound was getting gradually louder.  He also felt a breeze, like a fan, blowing behind him.  The ticking-tapping sounds began to intensify, and Jon realized that the breeze was actually more of a sucking feeling—like a giant invisible vacuum was pulling the air into the middle of the room.

Jon took a few steps back, and as he watched in awe, a tiny orb of light began to appear in the space in front of him, floating in mid-air between the table and the door.  The sound became louder—so loud that anyone outside would have definitely heard it—and the orb began to both grow in size and become brighter—like a tiny little star forming in the middle of the room.

Jon scurried back into a corner, both amazed and terrified at the sight before him.

As the air began to be feverishly sucked into the middle of the room, Jon felt himself begin to be pulled as well.  It wasn’t strong like a tornado, but it still brought his horror to an entirely new level, and he hunched down and stuck both his arms out onto the adjoining walls to support himself.

The orb grew and grew, and it began to shine with such intensity that he was blinded.  The sound became deafening, and Jon closed his eyes and tried to cover his right ear into his shoulder—fearful that if he moved his hands from the walls, he would get sucked in.

When the sound became so loud that he thought his eardrums were going to shatter, it suddenly ended with a dull pop, and the light and vacuum vanished just as quickly as they had appeared.

Jon opened his eyes, unable to see at first because the light had been so blinding, and he blinked them several times before he realized that someone was in the room.  He rubbed at his eyes, and as his vision finally began to return, he shrank back in horror.

Standing in front of him was the gunman in the strange, shiny, grey-black suit.

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