Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Interstellar (2014) Time Travel

I just came back from the multiplex seeing Interstellar starring Matthew McConaughey, and I was very pleased with the science portrayed in the movie.  For statistical purposes, I am a Christopher Nolan fan and I appreciate most of the movies he makes.  From a pure ratings standpoint, I give it an 8 out of 10, with points off only for some unnecessary heavy-handed drama toward the end which could have been presented in a more natural way IMO.

Beware, spoiler alert.  I am going to attempt to explain my thoughts on a time travel issue  essential to the plot of this movie, so please don't continue reading if you haven't seen it yet (are excited to do so).  If you couldn't give a shit less about seeing it and are just hard up for some meandering thoughts about time-travel paradox resolutions, please continue on since my blog could certainly use some extra views.

Interstellar deals with messages through time, and it falls prey to the classic chicken & egg time-travel paradox most similar-type movies have limited ability to handle.  For instance, if a message is received from a "future" that turns out to be the sole cause for that "future" to even be possible, how did this particular "future" come into existence without the all-important message being received in the original timeline?  In Interstellar, Matthew McConaughey is led to a secret NASA mission to save humankind by certain binary messages he receives in his daughter's bedroom one dust-stormy day.  By him receiving these messages, he is able to do what he needs to do to be in a position to send back an important encoded message to his grown up daughter some 30 years later.  The problem: future Matthew is the one that sends the binary message to original Matthew.  If future Matthew doesn't exist or get there, original Matthew doesn't go to NASA and all of humanity is lost it seems.

This is a problem for a lot of viewers, I am finding out.  However, I believe I found a way for some of it to make more sense (at least in my mind) after pondering it for a few hours, so please let me explain.  We are told in the movie about 2 plans to save humankind, Plan A & Plan B.  Plan A is for current humans to solve a theoretical physics problem with time & gravity to build O’Neill Cylinder-inspired spaceships to take a significant portion of humans off our dying world and hopefully transplant them (eventually) on a Type-M planet in some other galaxy accessible through a newly-discovered wormhole.  Plan B is to simply continue the human race by sending embryos through the wormhole (with a caretaker) to start a colony on an agreeable planet and give up any rescue-plan for earthbound humans.  At the end of the movie (with lots and lots of heavy-handed drama thrown in for good measure), we thankfully find out both Plans worked, it seems, only because future-humans made it possible for the wormhole to exist and for Matthew to find a way to send the all-important messages back through time to himself & his daughter.

I concede that future-humans are necessary for the blackhole "tesseract" Matthew is able to use to send messages through time using gravity waves, as that is the only thing that makes sense.  My contention is that the wormhole was not future-human created and just appeared at a fortuitous time through natural or otherworldly means completely unrelated to Earth's current food predicament.

Ignoring the messages-through-time alternative timeline which we watched over a course of 3 freaking hours, the "original" timeline must have gone like this: Plan B succeeds completely without Matthew McConaughey flying the ship.  Plan A fails with everyone on earth dying.  Remember, they were going to launch anyway even before they met Matthew.  Future-human people (from Plan B) eventually figure out the extra dimensions and the possibility of sending messages through time using gravity waves, so a subset of them create the blackhole "tesseract" to enable a potential human to do this very thing Matthew does in the movie.  They probably had no idea whether it would ever be used or even work, but perhaps they heard about original Earth and Plan A and perhaps some of them wondered if it would be possible to, perhaps at this future point, save some original humans.

Unfortunately, this doesn't solve the future Matthew problem, but perhaps this can be one step closer to having this movie makes more sense.  Thoughts anyone?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Google Wallet Fail

Okay, I ordered one of them new fandangled Google Wallet physical "debit" cards because I wanted to look cool.

It arrived in the mail about 10 days later, and I promptly transferred some money to it from a prepaid VISA rebate card I just received from a drunken PSU purchase I made several months back at Newegg.  I set my purchasing PIN on the Google Wallet website and I went forth into the actual world to convert my virtual Google money into physical goods at the nearest Costco.

Silly me: I had this mistaken belief that since Google is one of the most forefront technologically advanced companies this world has ever known, surely my upcoming transaction at the cash register would go off without a hitch.  Nope, my shiny new Google Wallet physical card is unreadable and the purchase failed.   Of course, the credit card terminal had no problem reading my PNC debit card, but this was no way to impress the cashier.

I left dejected, only to try later that night at a bar.   The cool bartender took my fancy order of Grey Goose & Cranberry and I promptly handed him my Google Wallet card.  He was so impressed, told me this is the first one he's ever seen, and went to swipe my card.  FAIL again.  I curse Google under my breath, and ask the bartender to type in the entire card number to try to process the purchase that way.  Success, but wow what disappointment...

I know the problem: for some reason my magnetic stripe on my new card has lost its magnetism.  Okay, simple enough, I need to cancel the card and order a new one.  Looking on the Google wallet website, I easily find the "Cancel Card" option but it's silent on whether I can easily order a new one after doing so.  So, I call a friendly Google Wallet representative, (855) 492-5538 for those who may be wondering, and I expect to be greeted with the most knowledgeable technologically astute representative of all time.  Silly me: wrong again.  She barely understood the English language (understandable), she wouldn't listen to my clear description of the problem with the magnetic stripe, kept trying to solve a problem I wasn't having, and refused to transfer me to her supervisor when I started to get irate.

During an irritatingly long 5 minutes on hold, she must have finally talked to someone nearby who understood how credit card terminals worked, and told me to cancel the card online and I would then immediately be given the chance to order a new one.  Sheesh!  Why couldn't the website have just told me this to begin with?