Sunday, May 08, 2005

A Party for People From the Future & Us

Time Traveler Convention at MIT

Luckily I was watching Saturday Night Live tonight. Weekend Update mentioned that some MIT students and profs were holding a party that they hoped time travelers would attend. As the people throwing the party pointed out, they only needed to have one such party. Time travelers could attend it whenever and as many times as they liked.

Damn, I just missed it! I didn't find out about it in time to travel up there from Florida because I haven't perfected my time traveling skills. And this was so my kind of party!

In 2001, I happened upon a website called MadSci network (love that name!) that invited web surfers to submit science questions. I was excited that I might get an answer to a question that had been plaguing me for quite some time, ever since I had gotten my first computer in the late 1980s, a dedicated terminal from France called a Minitel. The MadSci network's online form asked me what grade level and school I was in! Why is the mad scientist limiting his answers to kids' questions? Our culture wouldn't be discouraging us from asking questions, now, would it? My question's subject line was "Can an ET send an earthling an e-mail message?"
Here's what I wrote. (Note that the URL in my 2001 question is no longer my website, personal or otherwise.)

The MIT student who came up with the whole idea for the Time Traveler Convention is
Amal K. Dorai. Here are a few excerpts from his convention announcement page, which featured a Q and A format, with the questions being ones that might be asked by the general public:

Why do you need my help?
We need you to help PUBLICIZE the event so that future time travelers will know about the convention and attend. This web page is insufficient; in less than a year it will be taken down when I graduate, and futhermore, the World Wide Web is unlikely to remain in its present form permanently. We need volunteers to publish the details of the convention in enduring forms, so that the time travelers of future millennia will be aware of the convention. This convention can never be forgotten! We need publicity in MAJOR outlets, not just Internet news. Think New York Times, Washington Post, books, that sort of thing. If you have any strings, please pull them.
Great idea, I'd love to help! What should I do?

Write the details down on a piece of acid-free paper, and slip them into obscure books in academic libraries! Carve them into a clay tablet! If you write for a newspaper, insert a few details about the convention! Tell your friends, so that word of the convention will be preserved in our oral history! A note: Time travel is a hard problem, and it may not be invented until long after MIT has faded into oblivion. Thus, we ask that you include the latitude/longitude information when you publicize the convention.

You can also make an absolute commitment to publicize the convention afterwards. In that case, bring a time capsule or whatever it may be to the party, and then bury it afterwards.

Isn't time travel impossible?

We can't know for certain. The ancient Greeks would have thought computers were impossible, and the Phoenicians certainly wouldn't have believed that humans would one day send a spacecraft to the moon and back. We cannot predict the future of science or technology, so we can only make an effort and see if any time travelers come to our convention. If you would like to read more about time travel, check out our reading list.

I'm from the future, and I'd like to attend!

We're not sure how you're e-mailing us from the future, but we'd love to have you! Come as you are! No dress code whatsoever. We do request that you bring some sort of proof that you do indeed come from the future, and haven't just dressed like you do. We welcome any sort of proof, but things like a cure for AIDS or cancer, a solution for global poverty, or a cold fusion reactor would be particularly convincing as well as greatly appreciated. (No RSVP required.)

Amal has asked that we include the mapping coordinates of the convention, should anyone from the future be reading this at some point when M.I.T. is no longer at that address:

The Time Traveler Convention
May 7, 2005, 10:00 pm EDT (08 May 2005 02:00:00 UTC)
(events start at 8:00 pm)
East Campus Courtyard, MIT
3 Ames St. Cambridge, MA 02142
42:21:36.025°N, 71:05:16.332°W
(42.360007,-071.087870 in decimal degrees)

Another exciting thing about a Time Travel convention is that in the future a lot more people will be eating raw-food cuisine and the recipes and exotic produce that people bring to the convention will be fab!

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