Looking back in time (literally) and forward (fictionally)
I had a brainstorm the other day and frantically started jotting notes down so that I might scout the internet later. Sadly, I was not the first to consider this possibility, and spent an hour surfing the many high-level nerd forums where people discussed this at length.
My idea revolved around the speed of light. Light may seem instant, but it has a speed limit just like the speed of sound. Where sound travels at roughly 700 miles per hour at sea level, light travels at around 186,000 miles per second. Yes, that’s pretty fast.
We’ve all heard a jet, fast car or train pass by, noise arriving in force only after it’s gone past. That’s the sound it makes catching up to it.
Light is the same way; it takes time to travel. Take our sun; it’s about 8 light minutes from Earth. Put another way, we’re seeing what the sun does 8 minutes in the past. Go outside and look at the sun right now. For all you know, it just blew up or was stolen by alien pirates. You’ll find out for sure in 8 minutes when the light that was emitted at that moment finally reaches us.
Scientists talk about learning more about the creation of the universe by looking through telescopes such as the Hubble, which is seeing galaxies that are thousands or millions of light years away. They could have fostered sentient life and collapsed into black holes last week, but we won’t know for untold ages yet.
So, how can I use this to my advantage? 🙂
What if I was to create a wormhole and travel to a point 250 light years from Earth? I’d turn around and look at the planet and would then be seeing the light that was emitted 250 years ago. I could view the Industrial Age, revolutions, countries being born, etc etc. All I’d need was a powerful enough telescope. Imagine if a computer could catch and record all the light that passed by and build for us an interactive world of the past?
This is a close parallel to an old Isaac Asimov short story I read years ago called The Dead Past. It’s about a government funded research project that allowed them to see a limited distance into the past. There was a catch, though, and an impatient professor finally found a way to build his own telescope. Caution: there’s a really fun twist ending, and I’m not going to spoil it for you. Imagine that; a twist ending in the 1950s!
I also turned my thoughts to the future, once again inspired by books and movies. The love of apocalypse and dystopia is still alive and well in modern fiction, but rarely do you ever see the long term run-out of events. Sure, the Walking Dead, Revolution, Falling Skies, The Last Ship, Maze Runner, and tons more deal with the plucky survivors of whatever cataclysm torches life as we know it, but it’s always pretty much present-day.
I always wonder, though, about what comes after. Imagine the zombies are all dead (again/for good), the planet is clean, people are ready to behave, all of that. Now what?
Few shows or books ever centered on rebuilding. But it begs the question: how hard would it be to reorganize a government, a ruling cadre? We put up with it, accept it as it were, because that’s what we all know. And I’m sure everyone complains about having our money taken via taxes, fees, surcharges, etc, and spread around in ways we probably don’t all agree with.
So what if you just spent years scraping by, toughing it out and managing to live through the apocalypse? And then one day a guy with some police, troops, etc, comes by and says “Good job not dying out there. Now, we’re going to need thirty percent of your stuff so that we can tell you how to go about your business once again”.
Would you tell the man to shove it? Doesn’t that sound a lot like Negan from the Walking Dead? Give me your stuff or I’ll beat you, says the villain. Give us thirty percent of your money or we’ll put you in jail and take it anyway, says the government.
Damn, makes me think longingly of invading aliens. Ahh, those were simpler times…