1203: "Time Machines"

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1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Quicksilver » Wed Apr 24, 2013 4:04 am UTC

Image
http://xkcd.com/1203/
Alt Text:"'All time machine systems nominal ... T-minus ten ... eleven ...'"
Why would it go back in time before the launch?

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby LucasBrown » Wed Apr 24, 2013 4:05 am UTC

What's with the wailing?

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby rhomboidal » Wed Apr 24, 2013 4:05 am UTC

It works about as well as every digital watch I've ever owned.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Quicksilver » Wed Apr 24, 2013 4:06 am UTC

LucasBrown wrote:What's with the wailing?
They're the screams of thousands of souls trapped in time loops.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Wed Apr 24, 2013 5:05 am UTC

Should be "systems normal," no?
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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Eternal Density » Wed Apr 24, 2013 5:07 am UTC

LucasBrown wrote:What's with the wailing?

That definitely isn't Sarah Connor.
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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Fire Brns » Wed Apr 24, 2013 5:14 am UTC

LucasBrown wrote:What's with the wailing?

Cooling fans for the immense amounts of heat radiated from the energy being used?
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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Istaro » Wed Apr 24, 2013 5:33 am UTC

I find it pretty cool that Randall can make it so obvious that a stick figure with no facial features is looking at its hands.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby slartibartfastibast » Wed Apr 24, 2013 5:36 am UTC

Why'd the plug change?

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Zylon » Wed Apr 24, 2013 5:38 am UTC

The problem with time machines is... that you can turn them off?

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Hremsfeld » Wed Apr 24, 2013 5:53 am UTC

The time machine sent him back in time to when the time machine was off; look up "useless machines" on youtube for ones that don't jump around in time. watch?v=Z86V_ICUCD4 for example.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Fire Brns » Wed Apr 24, 2013 5:56 am UTC

Zylon wrote:The problem with time machines is... that you can turn them off?

When he turned it on the time machine reversed the flow of time which made the universe rewind itself until it got to before it was turned on and when it reached the "off" point it could no longer rewind time.
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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby manvandmaan » Wed Apr 24, 2013 6:21 am UTC

It reminded me of the Most Useless Machine.
Last edited by manvandmaan on Wed Apr 24, 2013 7:01 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby dbosst » Wed Apr 24, 2013 6:22 am UTC

Fire Brns wrote:
Zylon wrote:The problem with time machines is... that you can turn them off?

When he turned it on the time machine reversed the flow of time which made the universe rewind itself until it got to before it was turned on and when it reached the "off" point it could no longer rewind time.


Looking at his hands, his first thought was:
"What just happened?"

Baffled, he decided instinctively not to tempt fate and never turned on the machine again.

But, the resulting paradox, indelible in his mind, kept him awake every night onward ...
"Why can I remember it?"

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Wooloomooloo » Wed Apr 24, 2013 6:39 am UTC

Ok, have to admit, this one is baffling me completely again. What happened after turn-on? What was expected to happen? Why is it a problem? Otherwise, this is one of those subjects with potential to spark a rather lengthy discussion, I'd expect. We just have to define how exactly a time machine is supposed work - what does it move in time - itself only, itself and its "user" (like the stick figure here), or the entirety of the universe? - and whether or not we want to go the paradox route... :P

P.S. The forum definitely doesn't run on T3 (Time Travel Technology) - I tried to post first and log in later, it didn't work...

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby SpookyAction » Wed Apr 24, 2013 6:40 am UTC

I wonder if this was purposefully done after "Impossible Astronaut" Day?

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Randomizer » Wed Apr 24, 2013 7:06 am UTC

So, the problem with time machines... is that the author of this comic hasn't clearly illustrated what the problem with time machines is?

It just looks like he turns it on, then turns it off again before it had a chance to do anything. I was hoping that the alt text would explain it, but nope.

Fire Brns wrote:When he turned it on the time machine reversed the flow of time which made the universe rewind itself until it got to before it was turned on and when it reached the "off" point it could no longer rewind time.

That makes sense, but I couldn't really get that just by looking at the comic. Who knows if that's what Randall actually meant. :p
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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Gargravarr » Wed Apr 24, 2013 7:34 am UTC

Shouldn't is say "KCILC" in the 3rd panel?

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Angelastic » Wed Apr 24, 2013 8:05 am UTC

There's no way to tell the difference between 'he moved the switch between frames' and 'the switch moved by itself between frames' (at first I thought that in the first frame, he'd just turned it off, and in the second frame, it was mysteriously on again so he had to turn it off again) but Fire Brns' interpretation makes sense. Thanks! I guess if you have a time machine whose only interface is an on/off switch, it's logical that while it's on, it simply goes back in time, because we can go forward in time without a time machine, so without a speed/destination time control there'd be no point making a time machine to do that. And there's no way to tell it when to go back to, so naturally it would keep going back in time until (litnu?) it was off. So the moral of the story is, add a destination control to your time machine.
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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby speising » Wed Apr 24, 2013 8:09 am UTC

clearly, the trouble with this time machine is that the switch is on the outside.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Wooloomooloo » Wed Apr 24, 2013 8:27 am UTC

Ok, we're clearly not getting far with this one. Here's something else instead: who else finds Hawking's "proof" of perpetual infeasibility of time travel (announcing a party for time travelers on a fixed date then waiting for them to show up from the future) seriously disingenuous? He surely must realize after all there could be about a zillion other reasons preventing any willing time traveler to participate...?!?

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Batos » Wed Apr 24, 2013 9:07 am UTC

Angelastic wrote:There's no way to tell the difference between 'he moved the switch between frames' and 'the switch moved by itself between frames


Actually, If you notice his hands in frame 3, they are on the bottom of the switch, indicating that the switch moved on its own. If he had flipped the switch off himself, he would have done it with his hands on top of the switch, pushing downward. Though whether the time machine pushed his hands downward while going back in time, or if he also went back in time to the point where his hands were in the "ready to switch on" position, we may never know.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby xorsyst » Wed Apr 24, 2013 9:10 am UTC

Clearly the problem with this time machine is that the switch is upside-down

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Antior » Wed Apr 24, 2013 9:18 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Should be "systems normal," no?


No. Ever watched the live stream of a NASA launch? They always use 'nominal'. This means the systems are operating within the range they were designed for. It's a more exact and clearer wording than normal, and also a kind of jargon.

dbosst wrote:Looking at his hands, his first thought was:
"What just happened?"

Baffled, he decided instinctively not to tempt fate and never turned on the machine again.

But, the resulting paradox, indelible in his mind, kept him awake every night onward ...
"Why can I remember it?"


The problem is, he doesn't remember it. All he remembers is moving his hands to the switch with the full intention of turning it on... and then for some reason not turning it on.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby OP Tipping » Wed Apr 24, 2013 9:24 am UTC

I thought maybe the time machine had taken his hands away.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Narmitaj » Wed Apr 24, 2013 9:47 am UTC

Maybe he turned on the machine and it moved forward or backward in time as it was supposed to, but so did he and the entire universe as well so it is hard to tell. A bit like when someone asks me where I will be in six months' time I say I'll be 180 million miles away on the far side of the sun (albeit along with everyone else).

If our man didn't switch the machine off himself, I'd say the power supply was a clue... he turns it on, it fires up (making a whining noise), but as it starts to move away from its current time it no longer has power, so it switches itself off and "whines down" again. But as drawn it doesn't switch itself off, so that doesn't work. Unless he switches it off because he can already hear it winding down.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Rzah » Wed Apr 24, 2013 10:37 am UTC

I think from his perspective the switch won't budge, it appears to be jammed in the OFF position for the reasons stated above.Annoyingly, the switch will toggle just fine if you unplug the machine.

Just don't grab a friend to pull the plug just as you switch it on, because then you're going to be stuck with a plug that can't be put back in the socket.
Last edited by Rzah on Wed Apr 24, 2013 10:41 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby rmsgrey » Wed Apr 24, 2013 10:39 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Should be "systems normal," no?

"normal" could mean "broken, just like always"

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby fr00t » Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:04 am UTC

So, the joke is that altering the flow of time in a physical system is meaningless for an agent whose own cognition is a subsystem of that same system?

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Sandor » Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:12 am UTC

Antior wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Should be "systems normal," no?

No. Ever watched the live stream of a NASA launch? They always use 'nominal'. This means the systems are operating within the range they were designed for. It's a more exact and clearer wording than normal, and also a kind of jargon.

My dictionary says this usage of "nominal" is specific to the space industry. I guess I should contact the dictionary's compilers, and let them know it's actually the space-time industry that uses the term.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Neil_Boekend » Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:20 am UTC

If he didn't remember it, the universe would be stuck in a loop:
1. Queball Flips the switch form "Off" to "On"
2. Machine starts
3. Time reverses
4. Machine "unstarts" (starts in reverse?)
5. Queball Flips the switch from "On" to "Off" (step 1 in reverse)

But Queball doesn't know what will happen, so he flips the switch to "On" again. Repeat ad infinitum.
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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby egc52556 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:28 am UTC

Now he has time on his hands.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby squig » Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:29 am UTC

I assumed that the trouble with this time machine is that it only sends you forward in time, at a rate of 1 second per second.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Electrowolf » Wed Apr 24, 2013 11:37 am UTC

It's a really smart one that is true for all time machines that just reverse time instead of place you "at a certain point of time, be it the future or past".

the nasty bit is, and what the comic might actually got wrong, is that you'll end up in a loop:
* Turn it on by moving the switch up
* Time reverses, switch moves down, machine turns off
* Time reverses (again, so now it goes forward again), you instantly turn it on again
* Time reverses, switch moves down, machine turns off
* Time reverses, you instantly turn it on again
* Time reverses, etc etc etc....

This happens since the motion of your arms/the switch will always going up as soon as the machine is turned off and you'll be turning it on again instantly!

The only way to prevent this, since you don't know you've turned it on before, is the have some external party observing you (hoping the machine has some area of effect that is small enough) and stopping you from turning the machine on (again). This might be easier if there is some sort of delay.. but then you'll have the same interesting story for the delaying mechanism...

So, I guess, it boils down to: NEVER EVER make a machine that "just" reverses time! You'll be stuck in turning it on forever all eternity (but the good bit is that you won't know :twisted:).

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Plutarch » Wed Apr 24, 2013 12:01 pm UTC

OP Tipping wrote:I thought maybe the time machine had taken his hands away.


Me too! I thought it was something to do with leaving his hands in the future. Or the past.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby rlh » Wed Apr 24, 2013 12:12 pm UTC

I don't like this comic.

It's to wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby thevicente » Wed Apr 24, 2013 12:17 pm UTC

This was the first time I went from xkcd to xkcdexplained instead of the forums.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby project2051 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 12:21 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Should be "systems normal," no?

"normal" could mean "broken, just like always"

I think that SNAFU would be the acronym for this.

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby Lord Cathbad » Wed Apr 24, 2013 12:32 pm UTC

I thought this was just a variation of http://xkcd.com/209/

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Re: 1203: "Time Machines"

Postby fifiste » Wed Apr 24, 2013 12:34 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Should be "systems normal," no?

"normal" could mean "broken, just like always"

Bwahahaha!
Would probably be quite accurate for Soviet space program.
The "broken just like always" - brings to my mind a hazy quote by some Russian politician, it went something like this :"We tried our best but things worked out like they always do." :lol:


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