Posts Tagged ‘time travel’

Save Sarah Conner from Termination

I just read at CNN that Fox is considering canceling my favorite TV show Terminator: Sarah Conner Chronicles.

I agree with Josh Levs that TSCC is worth saving. This show offers what I’ve always been looking for in science fiction, since I was a little girl: sci fi with a strong independent female point of view.

But it’s more than just that. One could imagine a shallow, empty TV show with a strong female POV. The POV is just one element in the total package.

TSCC has come up with the total package: an array of strong characters with heartfelt emotions and mysterious agendas engaged in a fight to the death that somehow manages to offer a rich and detailed commentary on human nature and the ongoing human relationship with technology.

As was pointed a number of times by the esteemed sci fi authors in the Sci Fi Grandmasters panel at the LA Times Festival of Books:

Since the future hasn’t happened yet, all stories dealing with the future are really about the present.

TSCC manages to say more about the present than any previous entry in the Terminator franchise. That’s partly because the story is set in the age of Internet worms and programmable unmanned military drones. We’re closer to building SkyNet purely by accident than we’ve ever been before.

This rich proximity to technology is both an advantage and a threat to Sarah’s campaign to keep her son alive and stop SkyNet. Sarah and John can find information on the Internet, but a Terminator’s brain can now travel online and search online records to find them too.

In addition, the advent of AI now gives us a reason to empathize with the machines. When Arnold came back as a reprogrammed Terminator to proptect John Conner, he was an appealing character, but there was never any ethical dilemma for John or Sarah as to whether he should be treated as equal to a human.

TSCC offers us Cameron, the girl version of Arnie’s Good Robot. Cameron is written as more than just a reprogrammed robot. She acts like a super-intelligent young woman who lives somewhere on the autism spectrum, as was pointed out by a child psychologist who interviewed the “Conner family” in one episode this season.

This seemingly casual reference to the autism spectrum digs much deeper into the human relationship with technology than any of the Terminator movies would have the time or energy to dig.

It appears that there is a new generation of TV writers out there who have some deep and complicated things to say about the human relationship with technology, and they’re using science fiction to say them.

I could go on and on about my love for this show. Instead I’ll just say — this is a show worth saving.

Get well soon Stephen Hawking

Me in Woody Creek

Me in Woody Creek

There’s a photograph buried in my closet that was taken in the old days of analog photography and has never been digitized and hopefully never shall be. It shows a much younger me reclining on the sand at Club Med in Marbella, topless, as is the norm in such places, holding in front of me a copy of “The large scale structure of space-time” by S.W. Hawking and G.F.R. Ellis.

The sublime Mediterranean sunshine, the water skiing lessons over the glittering waves, the entwined aromas of salt air and freshly caught fish sizzling on the grill — it all went away for an hour or so while I took a swim in Chapter 4 — The Physical Significance of Curvature.

This is an extremely sexy chapter, and not just because curves are sexy. What’s especially sexy about this chapter is the way it begins with the simple idea of the spacetime paths of massive and massless objects, and ends up laying out the basic mathematical conditions for spacetime singularities and time travel.

Now how does this happen? The key to all this is known as Raychaudhuri’s equation, discovered independently by Indian physicist Amal Kumar Raychaudhuri and Soviet physicist Lev Davidovich Landau. This fantastic equation, also known as the focusing equation, tells us when the spacetime curvature of a given gravitational system will force light cones to collapse and form spacetime singularities and when the curvature will keep them from converging, allowing conditions to develop where time travel is at least theoretically possible.

Time travel, water skiing and grilled fish make for quite a day at the beach.

Here’s to a beautiful man and to all of his beautiful books!