Sunday, February 13, 2011

Proof of Time Travel! -or- Giving your hoax a makeover

Let's talk about time travel today.

First, watch the video.



The story in short: This guy is repairing a sink, he climbs deeper and deeper into cabinet under the sink, and then... comes out the other side. On the other side, there is his future self, about seventy years old. He has the presence of mind to take a cell-phone video of him and his older self, which is shown in the above television clip.

He doesn't mention coming back. Unless the future he went to was now (which would put his origin time in the pre cellphone-camera era) we have to assume that he... I don't know. Woke up back in his kitchen?

The television production value of this clip, which is pretty interesting at first glance, makes it a little more emotionally compelling than the homemade stuff you see on YouTube. Of course, if you watch Fox News, (or any news at all, to a lesser extent), you know that the people who give you your television don't think much of your intelligence. Even if nobody involved in a program like this believes in the report, it will still make its way to our screens, because we, as a viewing audience, love it. Honesty only rarely gets in the way of cashflow.

To be honest, I'm almost embarrassed to cover this video. In my mind, it's a very weak hoax. But, keeping in mind that the rest of the world doesn't necessarily see things through my eyeballs, I'll spell out my thoughs.

First, his story of climbing under a sink strikes me as sci-fi. And I'm not talking about fantastic, Contact-by-Carl-Sagan sci-fi, but more like silly Johnny Test sci-fi. He doesn't describe if the undersink had become a tunnel, or if the tunnel's floor, ceiling and walls had the texture and character of the walls under the sink. If maybe he was mesmerized, and didn't notice that the back wall of the cabinet, that was inches from his face, had disappeared. He didn't mention if there was more plumbing, or another can of Comet, five feet back from the doors. He only says that he climbs under, doesn't describe the compulsion to keep crawling (usually, working on a sink, your butt or knees are on the kitchen floor), doesn't mention how he gets past the p-trap and all that. It's the kind of thing that makes me put down a bad novel, and mark the author's name on my mental blacklist.

Tattoos don't stay sharp
Image by Deanna Wardin
And then the video, there to redeem the inadequate story, instead seems to add a nail to its coffin. For one thing, as many many YouTube commenters have pointed out, the thirty-year-old arm-tattoo seen in the video is crisp, sharp and dark. Skin is not actually archival. While tattoos never go away on their own, they sure do get crummy after a decade or so.

Secondly, and more important to me, the two men in the video only slightly resemble each other. And by slightly, I mean maybe a family member. Something that movies have made us forget is that people's looks don't change that much over time. Two different actors have to play normal Will Smith and kid Will Smith. In real life it's all played by the same actor. We all have a basic face, sometimes seen through a fat filter, or an age filter, a drug-addict filter, but always the same basic image (barring some surgery, of course). I have gained height, weight and a beard since middle school, but I still run into people from that long-ago time who stop and say, "Oh, wow! It's you!" If I knew this guy, and then ran into that older guy a few years later, I can't imagine there would be any recognition. They look more like son and dad than self and self.

Assuming that this is a hoax (I am, of course, assuming that) let's fix it. Let's make it more believable.

Step 1: Fix the older tattoo. Draw the thing on with your marker, and then rub at it for ten minutes. If you're going to age yourself, age every part of yourself.

Step 2: Fix the older guy. Find an older guy with a weaker jaw, nose and brow than you have, and then spend a few bucks on some good Hollywood prosthetics. I'm not talking about Klingons, or anything, but if you match these three features up on a guy that's your color, and your height, you just might drop a couple of jaws.

Weta Workshop could hoax the pants off of me.
Step 3: Attention to detail: Make your little cellphone video with your house in the background, but change things around a bit, get rid of that tarp, maybe build a temporary facade of an additional room. Experts will "discover" these things, and back you up, revealing your made-up evidence to the world.

Step 4: Give your story a remake. You could go on Elance.com and find professional writers who could come up with something good. A nicely filled-out story might cost you less than $100, and much less if you hire from a firm in India (Please look at reviews. Reckless clients will find that a language barrier is the least of their problems).

The story that I would have come up with: I was reading out by the pond, and I kept looking up, because it looked like a person was moving around, but I was only seeing it in the corner of my eye, right at the edge of the water. When I looked directly there was nothing there. I thought I was seeing a ghost or something, so I started trying to just keep watching it out of the corner of my eye. 

But then I saw it get up, and was walking toward me, and I was scared, because I thought that if I looked at it, it would go invisible, but it would still coming toward me. I eventually gave in, though, and I looked up, and it was still there. I thought he was just an old guy, and I was freaked out at this point, so I was going to just leave, but then I noticed... well, that he looked just like me. 

The area looked different, the walnut tree was about ten feet taller. We were both confused, and we eventually figured out that I had somehow, as crazy as it sounded, traveled forward in time. It was 2038, and I was talking to my future self. We talked for hours, and he said he remembered this happening when he was younger, and he told me that he had taken a cell-phone video, because the older him had told him to, so I did it.

I don't remember coming back to my time. I just remember kind of shaking my head, and realizing that I had been standing by the pond for a while, like in a daze. If it wasn't for the video, I wouldn't have told anybody. I wouldn't believe it myself.

I was just happy that I never had to climb under a sink.

Thanks for reading.

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