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Friday, June 15, 2007

US professor plans to send message back in time

I have just finished reading Stephen Baxter's Exultant (which kinda sucked, by the way), where a future war is fought using pre-knowledge of events thanks to closed-timelike curves. In this fictiotious future, FTL ships sometimes get back from battle before they actually leave the docks, so that strategy can be planned based on what is known to have already happened (in the future). Understandably, our language, isn't fit for such a messy loopy time threads. This is just Sci-fi, right? Yet, now someone is trying to do it for real.

A West Coast scientist who believes it may be possible to transmit information backwards through time has been funded by individual donations after established mad-scientist groups refused to cough up.

from the original article on "The Register":

A West Coast scientist who believes it may be possible to transmit information backwards through time has been funded by individual donations after established mad-scientist groups refused to cough up.

John Cramer, a physicist at the University of Washington, reckons that "quantum retrocausality" could "involve signalling, or communication, in reverse time."

The El Reg science desk passed this one over to us at the engineering-degree-a-long-time-ago desk, and all we really know about quantum is that it's pretty wild stuff.

We do know about DARPA, though, the US military's famously wacky research bureau. DARPA has happily funded all kinds of crazy stunts, including Terminator cyborg moths, mind-reading electrode hats, terror casinos - you name it. "Mad scientists are good scientists" is almost the DARPA motto.

But DARPA wouldn't fund Cramer. It said his planned experiment was "too weird". Coming from them, this does seem unfair. All Cramer wants to start with is a few lasers, prisms, splitters, fibre-optics, and suchlike doodads. He's not asking for a beautiful girl strapped to a table, living brains in bubbling jars, lightning, dead bodies, enormous monkeys, fossilized dinosaur DNA, or anything seriously outre.

"I'm not crazy," he told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "I don't know if this experiment will work, but I can't see why it won't. People are skeptical about this, but I think we can learn something, even if it fails."

Others think so too. A diverse collection of private donors has apparently chipped in $35,000+ to get Cramer's experiments underway. They include a Vegas music-biz exec, a biotech scientist, and Richard Miller, an artist and photographer based in Washington state.

"I would say the predicted failure of this project is probably a good omen," Miller told the Post-Intelligencer. "Most predictions are wrong."

"Artists have experienced non-local space all along, we just can't prove it," he added mysteriously.

Cramer plans to attempt some basic instantaneous faster-than-light communication next month with his donation-funded rig. If that's successful, he reckons that mainstream funding will arrive and he can have a crack at sending information back though time.

It does seem a trifle odd, if the theory is sound, that Cramer hasn't already received advance notification of his success. Perhaps he has, and is keeping it secret. If one dons one's tinfoil hat, this line of thinking might easily lead to an explanation for DARPA's otherwise unaccountable lack of interest, too.

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