Arrival has some moments, many deep loud sounds and a cool circular alphabet, but is burdened with yet another trite spin on our perception of time. The fact is that we human are constrained to a linear understanding of time due to gravity – not only the rotation of the earth but that of the moon and sun as well.
Our feet are firmly planted to this ground. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in Slaughter House Five: Transfalmadorians saw time like they were looking across a desert at a mountain range on a day that was twinkling bright and clear. They could look at a peak or a bird or a cloud, at a stone in front of them, or even down into a canyon behind them. But among them was this poor Earthling, and his head was encased in steel sphere which he could never take off. There was only one eye-hole through which he could look, and welded to that eye-hole were six feet of pipe.
Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, humans not limited by that six feet of pipe, have made us aware that time is relative, not a constant, but a variable. This idea of time being a dimension is gold for science fiction – including my own Anori Trilogy – because the author is only limited by perceptions, able to contract and pause, even reverse what we thought could only be one way. And yet the startling concept is regularly fumbled, beginning with H.G. Wells rudimentary application in The Time Machine.The incipient pattern has continued. Inception created a childish world where the rate of time slows by halves in the subconscious, while a vast array of movies – such as the Terminator franchise – send messengers from the future to wreak havoc on today. Interstellar offers the tritest concept of all: a physical space where moments may be checked out of a galactic library. Arrival doesn’t do much better than this. (Spoiler alert unless you’re reading this in the future.) The opening presents itself as a flashback, only to be revealed at the end as the future – not a sleight of hand but a lie.
It, like Passengers, was doomed from the get-go, as Hollywood knows nothing about time, except that it’s money and that the first box office weekend better not be a black hole.
The most provocative film on time would have to be Primer; everything it lacks in budget ($7,000) is made up for in concept, the kind of thing even Einstein might enjoy.
Along with ourselves, there are seven planets in this solar system: Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury.
As well, there are dwarf planets – like Pluto – asteroids, comets and moons.
We have a rough idea of what these worlds are composed of and are quite certain that none of them can sustain us. Exoplanets are the planets outside our solar system, all of which invisible by telescope and instead detected by the disruption in light from distant stars. Kepler 22b, 600 light years away, is an exciting find because it is similar to earth in size and orbiting distance from its sun.
It is estimated that there are some 100 billion planets in our galaxy alone and a septillion – a thousand billion billion – planets in the universe. As Carl Sagan says, that’s more than all of grains of sand in all of the beaches on Earth. There is little doubt that many of the planets out there have life on them; the question is in their level of intelligence and what kind of shenanigans might occur when we finally meet.
As simple as Stephen Hawking apparently tried to make his explanation of the universe in A Brief History of Time, the read is quite a challenge. One needs to understand imaginary time, the theory of relativity, that light is both a wave and a particle and our universe is likely one of many. I have moments of clarity amongst others that are not so clear, black holes as it were. Hawking did say something recently at the California Institute of Technology that was simpler to comprehend: “We must continue to go into space for the future of humanity. I don’t think we will survive another thousand years without escaping our fragile planet.”
I took a blog break of a week or so for a couple of reasons. First of all, I was technically impaired – something wrong with my cache – and second, I was immersed in Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. It is a challenge to absorb his lucid examination of worlds both extraordinarily small and massive, so much so as to inspire a kind of vertigo. A couple of the more dizzying facts he offers: Our galaxy is one of some hundred thousand million, each galaxy containing some hundred thousand million stars. (48)(T)here is no unique absolute time, but instead each individual has his own personal measure of time that depends on where he is and how he is moving. (44) Apparently, on Earth, sea level is the place to be.
my bad side is done. And I’ve started something new. It’s to be the first in a trilogy on leaving this planet. I have always been enamored of science fiction, and yet, have been, for the most part, disappointed by the story elements. There’s a good idea to start – a journey to the centre of the earth, to the sun, a dystopia, a mirror world, robots becoming human – but it drifts into fill-in-the-blank characters, story arcs and trite resolutions. Is this because the cosmos are beyond our conception? Or is it because science fiction writing tends towards the spectacle? One thing is certain: I’m out of my element. I’ve started my research with the Hubble Space Book and The Definitive Guide To The Universe, reading Stephen Hawking and Brian Greene and consulting my brother, who can translate anything of the universe, all of the neutrinos and dark energy for someone like me. One thing I know: Deirdre (from my bad side) will be the voice.
The destination is as of yet unknown…and it’s time to figure out what’s beyond.