Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Ethics of Time Travel

After thinking so much about time travel while working on the only three chapters, I began to seriously consider the concept and what would happen if time travel were possible.

Unfortunately, the idea of time travel is possible in the realm of physics. It's a fascinating idea that should not be taken lightly by anyone regardless of how absurd it sounds. If it came to pass that a time machine was built and it found its way into the wrong hands, it could be more dangerous than any weapons of mass destruction we could ever dream up. What if a rogue nation were to possess this power and go back in time to prevent the foundation of another country such as The United States? We would never know the difference, theoretically, since we could only have the knowledge of what was and is.

Time travel is still pretty abstract at the present time and only possible in the realm of theoretical physics. While the idea of traveling back in time and seeing the world as it was or traveling into the future (if possible, see my last post) to see what things will be like, there are some serious moral and ethical issues to look at. This technology could quite possibly be more dangerous than any nuclear weapon we could create. Think about it, what would stop a rogue nation from going back to the mid-1700's to stop our founding fathers and preventing the formation of the United States? Nobody would know because the course of history would be changed and we would all know it instead of what we know now.

What about the idea of going back and changing things only in one's life? Surely there can't be any harm in that. There can be though, especially if it involves life-changing decisions that would ultimately affect key moments in life such as marriage or children. If one chose to pursue a college education rather than taking a factory job right out of high school, then he/she may not have met that special someone. I would love to determine at least one possible path of events that would result from altering the past. Even if it was meant as a noble deed, it could seriously alter history.

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Handbook of Time Travel: Chapter 3

This was the final real chapter that I wrote of this. I partially ran out of steam, but I also couldn't reconcile time travel to the future in my brain. It got to be so full of contradictions. At some point I will write out the issues I was having.

Coming Home

Once the weary time traveler has had his/her fill of the past it's time to come back to the present. It is important that the time machine is put back in the same spot where it came to rest. It cannot be stated enough, but coming home after the initial departure time is imperative. It is also critical that only approved souvenirs are brought back from the past. These can be found in the back of the monthly TTA magazine.

Placing the time machine in the same spot where it came to rest in the past insures that it will return to the present in that very same spot. Failure to do this could cause embedding in a wall. Experienced time travelers know how much leeway they have in the room from which they left. If the doors were locked prior to initial departure as discussed in Chapter 1, then the time machine will not come to rest on top of household pets or children.

Coming home after departure time is critical to survival and not ruining the vacation. It would be inconvenient to land directly upon one's present self prior to leaving as it would ruin the trip and it is untested, but could also cause an implosion of the brain. There is also that matter of possibly ripping a hole in the space-time continuum. This would be very inconvenient for everybody.

The TTA has set up a list of approved items that one may bring back to the present. There are somethings that are permanently banned such as people of the time, bugs, extinct animals and other creatures, diseases, germs, viruses and anything else that could affect the present world. One must always get the proper vaccinations before going back in time and fully sanitize before coming back.

As with departing, location is everything when returning. It is important to know where the time machine will come to rest in the present. It's also helpful to not bring it to rest on any pets or kids, so make sure the door is locked. As always, time is everything and returning early could cause some serious problems for both the time traveler and the whole universe. Bring back only approved souvenirs so as not to affect the present and future.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Handbook of Time Travel: Chapter 2

Going on Vacation

It's now time to take off for the past and a fabulous vacation. It's hard to know exactly what one might encounter, but preparation is key. Make sure the time machine is locked up securely and out of sight of any curious third parties. Remember where it's parked, though, as it is necessary to returning home. Keep in mind, what happens in the past does not mean it stays in the past. Aging is a concern, too, because the human body continues to age no matter where in time it happens to be. Finally, when coming home it is important not to get back earlier than the initial departure time because if one person talks to him/herself it could spoil the whole trip.

Things were different in the past, so it's difficult to tell what one will encounter when arriving in the past. Some times may be easier than others. Coming in during the late-1600's have pitfalls due to the superstitions of the time. Arriving in the middle of a war could result in death. Prehistoric man could go one of two ways, either the cave-persons will get scared and kill the time travelers or or revere them as gods (which may not be all bad). Pretty much, it's hit or miss on the people (or other beings), but it makes for an exciting trip.

Remember to stow the time machine in an inconspicuous location and don't forget to lock it up. The last thing history needs is a rogue figure changing things around. It also would not be be good to lose the time machine as it makes it much more difficult, though not impossible, to get back to the present. Communication from one time period to another is under investigation, the current technology means it is only possible to find another time traveler in the past and hitch a ride home. This is, however, a rare occurrence so keeping tabs on the time machine is a wise move. Being prepared and keeping the time machine safe are important, but there are some more important things to keep in mind.

One must keep in mind not to touch anything when traveling backward in time. Any action in the past can affect the present. It could also stand to reason that further back one travels in time, the smaller actions could impact the present more. It would also be a good idea to keep far away from relatives as any contact may affect present and future generations (no offense). This means that anything that happens in the past does not necessarily stay in the past (this isn't Vegas). If the time traveler meets an unfortunate end in the past, then he/she will not be returning to the present. This is, of course, a matter of debate if time traveling with another person since it would be easy enough for the non-dead member of the party to return to a minute or two prior to initial departure to warn the soon-to-be-dead party. It is thought that the instance of the same person appearing twice in the same plane of existence could cause the fabric of space and time to collapse. Because the idea has never been tested (for obvious reasons) it is only deemed, "NOT RECOMMENDED," by the TTA.

Aging is a consideration to keep in mind. Five years in the past will cause five years of aging on the time traveler. This would definitely be something to remember, especially if trying to hide a trip in time from somebody, but this will have to wait for the ethics guide. Aging cannot be halted in time. The TTA has tried to research the idea, but a solution has yet to be found.

The time traveler must be ready for anything as the people of the past may not be so welcoming to mysterious newcomers. One must keep the time machine safe and secure as it is the only realistic means of returning to the present. Touching things in the past may (and most likely, will) affect the present and future. This goes especially for people of the past. Death is a definite possibility and reversing it is difficult if not impossible. Aging is always a concern for the time traveler as the human body will age no matter what time it is. The most important thing is, though, have fun in the past.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Handbook of Time Travel: Chapter 1

I wrote a series of posts back in May 2009 that was supposed to be a larger project. I only wrote the intro, three chapters, and a semi-serious essay on the ethics of time travel. Going forward in time was far more difficult.

Before Leaving

Going backward in time seems simple enough, go back in time, see stuff, take pictures, buy ancient Egyptian souvenirs and return to the present. Well, hold it right there, Millennium Man (or woman), it's not that easy. As with any trip it helps to have a plan before one leaves. First and foremost, choosing a time period is a good place to start. Most people wouldn't wait until the last minute to plan a conventional trip, why do so for time travel? It would also make sense to find out if anything of interest took place around the starting location. Starting location is very important for many other reasons, as well.

Location is everything in time travel for numerous reasons. Most time machines only travel through the time dimension, but getting one equipped to travel in the space dimension at the same time is possible. These machines are usually expensive and are still wrought with problems that can be deadly. The best idea is to find a portable model and take it to wherever seems interesting. If a portable time machine is out of the question, check out what happened around the current area and use that as a starting point. This helps to make a vacation much more affordable. If the time machine was built in a sixth floor apartment, there may be an issue if traveling back further than the age of the building. One may also want to research what was on the starting location in the past will also be necessary. Many time travelers have expressed a lack of desire to be embedded in a tree 600 years prior. Taking measurements of the room one is leaving from and noting the positions of specific items in the room is also good planning. Locking the door to the room will prevent unwanted results from occurring, like accidently smooshing the family dog, cat or curious child. Following these guidelines will help make it a safer trip, but there plenty of other things to consider. It's helpful to consider the weather and atmosphere of the past.

When traveling in time, different eras may have some different weather to worry about. There is, of course, the ice age which is quite cold and does require a warm jacket. The very first days of the earth were quite warm, so short, a tank-top and flip-flops are definitely recommended. The atmosphere is also a factor to consider since the days of the dinosaurs saw high levels of ammonia which may make a bit difficult to breathe. The smart time traveler may want to pack some oxygen for the trip. Packing the right clothes doesn't stop at the weather, they may also keep one alive in the past.

Not only are functional clothes needed when going back in time, but clothing suitable for the era to which one is traveling. Looking like an out of place tourist may be fine for Florida in winter, but the Civil War in the summer could be fatal. It would be wise to brush up on fashion for the specific time, after all, dressing like a Yankee while in Georgia is a sure way to make it a very quick trip. This works in the opposite direction, too. Clothes can definitely save a life in more ways than one, but it also helps to brush up on the language and customs of the era one is visiting.

Things have always changed throughout history, like language and vocabulary. It would be very wise to study the changes in meanings of words between then and now as many words do not yet exist in the past and many others did not mean the same thing as they do now. It is incredibly useful if one knows the customs of the day that he/she is visiting. It pays to not insult the people of the past and possibly end up either jailed or executed. Leave all electronic devices, computers, mp3 players, cell phones, in the present. Cell phones will not work, even in the recent past of the 1980's and other electronics may be seen as tools of the devil in colonial America. This could result in the holder being accused of witchcraft. Information on what happens to witches can be found in The Crucible by Arthur Miller. It helps to know the culture of the period one is going to, however, all of this preparation may just be for naught if the word isn't there.

There are limitations to time traveling backwards when it comes to the era. The earth is about 4.5 billion years old and, frankly, the first billion or so years were pretty boring for the average time tourist. The first 10 billion years of the universe were quite volatile and unsafe and it is not recommended according to the TTA (Time Travel Association). Stay safe and keep the time travel to a point when the planet is actually there. Luckily, most time machines are equipped with safeties to keep from going back too far in time and prevent "Big Bangin'" as it is referred to by teenagers.

It is always helpful to have a plan when it comes to time travel. Keep in mind the starting location and the history contained there, it could make for an unexpectedly pleasant vacation. Remember to start off at ground level and find out what on that particular spot to prevent any catastrophic events. The clothes make the trip, dress for warmth, safety and survival (also, not looking like a tourist helps). Making sure that the planet is actually present helps make for an enjoyable trip since 98% of time travelers find that floating in an empty void does not make for the ideal vacation. Now it's time to buckle up and go back in time.

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Handbook of Time Travel: Introduction

The following was written back in May 2009 and was on the original version of the SGMR blog. Luckily, I saved all the old posts. The rest will be posted throughout the following week.

Time travel is an excellent way to spend a family vacation whether it's to witness the past or see what is possible for the future*. It's a good idea if one is looking for a way to spend an infinite amount of time to travel. Of course, infinite only means as long as a person is able to live. More on this a little later. First, some important logistical business must be tended to.

Before one can consider a time traveling vacation, one must obtain or construct a machine with which to travel through time. This device is known as a, "Time Machine" and there are several different styles to choose from.This concept may seem a bit difficult to grasp at first, but by the end of this volume, it will be simple. It is also recommended that one get in touch with the TTA (Time Travelers Association) and join. The fees and dues may seem a bit steep, but it's worth it for all of the benefits. Membership includes free time machine inspections.

One thing to note: This book does not explain the principles of time travel. Anybody wishing to know that might want to refer to Time Travel for the Inexperienced by Dr. Melvin X. Louis.He does an exceptional job of explaining it in only about 2500 pages. This is the shortest book on this topic to date.

This book is for folks who want to know what happens once they find themselves cruising along in the space-time continuum. It will teach such useful concepts as "Don't Touch Anything" and "Make Sure You Remember Where You Parked." The concepts taught will keep the amateur time traveler from erasing him/herself from existence or getting stuck in the late Cretaceous period. It will also keep one from accidently traveling too far into the future and accidently imploding in the possible singularity**.

Now that the formalities are out of the way, it's time to look at some of the useful concepts. First of all, it is possible to use a minute of free time to spend a year in Medieval England. A person could leave at 8:00am on May 19, go spend a year saving faire maidens and slaying dragons and come back at 8:01am on May 19. Coming home at the same time one left or earlier is discouraged as there is always a possibility of seeing oneself prior to leaving and it could ruin the whole trip, but it can also result in two occurences of the same person in the same instance of time. Time travel can also be useful for the kids with their history lessons. Imagine being able to go back in time and see the Civil War. It is recommended that one not interfere with history as it may affect countless lives that are seemingly unrelated. Imagine distracting a Union general and finding out that it was possibly that moment that allowed the Confederacy to win the war.

*It is possible to alter future events by traveling to the future. More on this in Part 2.
**According to many cosmologists, the universe will eventually collapse in on itself resulting in the singularity.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Superseded Science

I love science. Science is the current, best explanations for how things work in the universe stated through theory (scientific theory, which are well-established bodies of work supported through evidence, experiment, and constant testing, as opposed to Cletus' theory that moonshine makes him smarter). I, personally, have quit using the word "theory" in the colloquial sense because what I think is not scientific necessarily (OK, some things are, but most of it is me talking out of my ass). While writing a more serious blog post on scientific fact, I stumbled into the Wikipedia page on Superseded Scientific Theories. This is leading me down the Wikipedia hole from which I may never escape. Let me discuss with you some of my favorite superseded theories (I'm not going to shoot fish in a barrel, so the flat earth and geocentrism are both disqualified for being overqualified).

The Island of California
Apparently, early Spanish cartographers believed that California was an island separated by the Gulf of California. It was still believed to be an island and was drawn that way on maps despite the fact that explorers actually disproved it with their own eyes. It even took on mythical status as a paradise. I personally do not subscribe to this theory…I think California is a completely different planet.

The Heliocentric Universe
I know I said that I wouldn't discuss geocentrism here, but I will talk about heliocentrism. After the former was disproven by Copernicus, he came up with the latter. Of course, the sun was still the center of the universe, which meant the earth was not too far away. The theory didn't really take off until Galileo had something to say about because he probably had more Twitter followers. Today we realize that there is no center of the universe.

Luminiferous Aether Theory
The earth is moving through goo or some shit. I have no idea what the hell anyone is talking about here. Thank the gods that a couple smart guys from Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH would fail to detect it, and Einstein didn't listen to any of this and disproved it straightaway.

Phlogiston Theory
Apparently, people 500 years ago or so believed that things that burned had a substance in them that caused them to burn (also known as the fifth element [not that weird ass Bruce Willis movie]). From Wikipedia:

"Phlogiston theory states that phlogisticated substances are substances that contain phlogiston and dephlogisticate when burned. Dephlogisticating is when the substance simply releases the phlogiston inside of it and that phlogiston is absorbed by the air.
Growing plants then absorb this phlogiston, which is why air does not spontaneously combust and also why plant matter burns as well as it does."

My new favorite word is Dephlogisticating. Luckily, we now know about oxidation.

The Four Humors
Black Bile, Yellow Bile, Blood, and Phlegm (appetizing, no?) were at one time believed to be the four bodily fluids that must be balanced to maintain health. Today, we have science-based medicine which disproves all of this. Of course, like other theories that have been disproven, there are people out there who can't let go and still believe this bunk.

Tooth Worm
Oh thank the gods that this is not a thing. Yes, people believed that cavities and other mouth diseases were caused by "tooth worms".  Today, we know these things are caused by not brushing, flossing, and going regularly to the dentist (not a humoralist). AUTHOR'S NOTE: Do not click on Image Search after entering the words "tooth worm" into Google.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp Review

Anyone who has followed my blogging since I began will know that reviews are not my thing. I find them difficult to write, but a new app has caught my attention and when I first heard about it, I knew I had to play it. Nintendo has finally released their new mobile app, this time based on their popular Animal Crossing series, for iOS and Android. This is a franchise of games that I thoroughly enjoyed over the years.

Animal Crossing is a franchise for Nintendo systems (4 games for four systems) where your character moves into a village and buys a house, does favors for the animal neighbors, like gets them things back from other neighbors, plant flowers, go fishing, catch bugs, buy furniture for your house, and even trade on the "stalk market" to make more Bells (the money in Animal Crossing). Yes, the way I've described it makes it sound very mundane, but there is a charm and fun to this series that people have enjoyed for quite a while. It's more of a daily hangout type of game rather than an action-driven one. There are different special characters who visit periodically (to sell unique in game items, and offer gifts and services), and the holidays (in the original Gamecube version) are marked by visits from other characters (Jingle the reindeer and Franklin the turkey, among others). It's a fun playing experience, and when I heard they were planning an iOS and Android version of this game I couldn't wait to see what they had planned.

And then it came out...

Nintendo released Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp for iOS and Android. It looks and feels, on the surface, like another game in the franchise. It contains many of the familiar characters and objects and sounds. There are some marked differences between the console versions and this new version. This time, the game takes place in a campground where the player takes on the role of campground manager. The player makes friends with the different characters, builds up friendships with them, and invites them to the campsite. The campsite has a big area for characters to sit, sleep, or play with stuff. The player also has a camper that he/she can customize and furnish (more on this later). I had high hopes for this game.

First of all, I was not at all surprised to see that Nintendo would make it "free to play", which basically means that you can download it and install it and play the game just fine. In order to move the game along quicker, though, the player can opt to purchase in-game currency, Leaf Tickets, for real currency. Yes, there are two different currencies in the game. Bells are the money used to buy items in the game itself. They are earned by selling items or by doing favors for the animals in the game. The other currency is Leaf Tickets. These are earned by achieving goals in the game or by leveling up. These are used to speed up the gameplay. Where an item of furniture purchased might take eight hours (real time) to complete, the player could opt to spend a number of Leaf Tickets to forgo the time and get the item immediately. They are also used to get special items that are only around for a limited time, like two different chairs to attract two different very popular characters. These cost 250 Leaf Tickets each, which is hard to get and they're also expensive (600 Leaf Tickets will cost you $20.99). Again though, I understand Nintendo wanting to make money, so I won't fault them for this.

This game, going back to the original Gamecube version, there was a social aspect to the game. While it wasn't online, a player could have as many villages as he/she had memory cards for the system. When a new village was created it had only one kind of fruit tree and a small shop run by the friendly Tom Nook. There was an ingenious system where the player could travel to the town on another memory card. That town would most likely have a different fruit, the player could leave a note or gift for the player on the other memory card, and there was different stuff in the store to purchase. Also, the player could interact with the animals in the other town and then they would send letters and gifts and maybe even move to the player's village. It was a brilliant system that got better and better with each iteration. In the Wii version, the players could interact and even talk to each other if they had the microphone.

This new mobile version of the game contains exactly none of that. The player can visit another player's campsite and give kudos and that's it. No interaction with the player or with the animal characters. There's no shop to visit when visiting another campsite and there's nothing else to do either. Players can't even leave each other messages or give each other gifts. Players do have a market box, but they can only sell fruit, fish, bugs, and shells. Furniture and clothing are not allowed to be sold. By the way, there is no difference at all if players become friends within the game.
As the player makes his/her way through the game, they meet new animal characters and bring them stuff that they want (fruit, fish, bugs, and shells) and the player is rewarded with materials to build furniture or amenities. There is a friendship meter which is a good addition to the game, and once they hit a certain friendship level, they can be invited to the player's campsite. Before they will come, the player has to buy certain furniture because the animal characters are picky, have certain demands, or have a thing about feng shui (this is a common thing in Animal Crossing games). There are also "amenities" like tents and sets that are built, but they appear to only be used to increase the maximum friendship level of the animal characters. It's a common app trope it seems that in order to buy one thing, the player must pay to upgrade another thing to a specific level. It gets tired.

This is the part of the game that really takes me out of it. In the original games, furniture was purchased for the player's taste. There was a contest each week and the player would win Bells or other gifts for the design of his/her house design. Now it's nothing more than a "collect everything" type of game. Collect all the furniture, friends, fruit, fish, bugs, and shells (or so it seems). In the originals, the animal characters would reward the player with items of furniture that he/she could trade or sell. In this game, rewards are building materials for more furniture.

There is a market place with one of the Nook kids and the seamstress who sells clothes (and there is a shoe salesman who replaces her for a day). The Nook shopping area is very much like the original games in that there only specific items available for a period of time (I'm not sure if it's each day, or if they change every six hours or so). The Able Sisters' shop is a cut back version of the original. There are only three items available for the same period of time as Nook's. In the original, the Able Sisters offered shirts, hats, umbrellas, and flags that could be hung outside the player's house.
The player also has a camper that he/she apparently uses to get from place to place. It's very much like the house in the original games except that it's pointless. The house was where the player saved the game, and was rewarded for good design, and also where items were stored (there were eventually three stories to the house including a basement). The camper is sort of that, but there's no real reason for it. The animal characters gather at the campsite and don't even pay attention to the camper. I will suppose that it's simply a way to replicate the center point of the original games.

The campground is split up into different areas for different purposes. In the original games, the entire village was the playground. There was a lake, a river, trees, rocks, and a sea coast. There the player could fish, catch bugs, gather and plant fruit and flowers, cut down trees, and meet all of the characters. In the app, there is a beach area for fishing for sea fish and pick up seashells, there is a river area for river fish (there is no lake), there is an orchard to gather fruit, and an island to catch bugs. There is no planting of fruit or flowers here, and no chopping down trees (the axe is at the campsite and not usable). Fruit trees grow back in three hours after shaking them clean of fruit, or the player can spend Leaf Tickets on fertilizer to make them grow back immediately. In the original game, the trees took a couple days to replenish fruit, but there were way more of them. Then there's the quarry where the shovel comes into play. The player either needs five friends or twenty Leaf Tickets to enter the quarry to break rocks for treasure that are then exchanged for Bells. Also, I think the player earns some building material to buy more furniture.

The Good:
The game scratches that itch of Animal Crossing and makes me want to reconnect my Wii and play one of the console versions of the game. As Scott Johnson mentioned on Twitter, it feels more like a mini game. The touch control of mobile devices feels perfectly natural to the game, and it is cross platform. I have an iPad and an Android phone and I can play on both devices, but Leaf Tickets do not transfer between devices unless they are not removed the player's mailbox.

The Bad:
Nintendo found everything in the original Animal Crossing games that made them fun and charming and stripped them away in order to make a typical world builder (Simpsons Tapped Out, Futurama whatever-it's-called). The actual improvement of the friendship meter is totally negated by the need to buy furnishings to please the animal characters and bribe them to the campsite.. Frankly, if I have to buy new furniture for every friend I make, I don't think I want those friends. When it comes to real-life friends in the game, the inability to have interactions beyond a seemingly hollow gesture of kudos removes the social aspect of the game. If Nintendo is using this app as a vehicle to bring people to the console version of the game, then I think people who have never played an Animal Crossing game before will be scared off by this app.

The Unknown:
The game has only been out for a few days as I write this review. So far, as mentioned above, there has already been one new character introduced (the shoe salesman), so I'm guessing there will be more (possibly Sahara and Redd). There might be room for expansion and updating, but I feel that the core game as described will remain intact. I can't see them adding the post office or allowing players to interact when they're online at the same time.

My advice is, if you like Animal Crossing already, you'll get a bit of enjoyment out of this game. If you've never played any game in this franchise, do not use this app as the basis of your judgement, there is so much more in the console versions. I also advise to play it as is and don't spend your real life currency to buy in-game currency. Let's all hope that there is a new game coming soon for the Nintendo Switch in the near future.