Time Travel via YouTube

By Sean Carroll | July 7, 2012 12:39 pm

Via everywhere on the internet, here’s Jeremiah McDonald, who used a 20-year-old videotape of his younger self to carry on a conversation across time. (Seems legit at a casual glance, but I suppose it could be faked.)

Sadly we can’t actually transfer information into the past. If we could, I would have started writing this book a bit earlier.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Time
  • James Gallagher

    It’s obviously faked.

    But this kind of stuff is being done legitimately, eg all the montages of a photo from every day of a person’s life http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18075986

    Just need to video instead of taking a photograph, then you can do a legitimate backwards in time conversation video (in a few years time) :-)

  • http://www.flisser.com Bob F.

    Darn good thing there was no YouTube or video cameras when I was a kid or I’d be in a lot of trouble right now…

  • Meh

    I was thinking about something similar to this the other day. I realized that a good way to test a person’s personality if you can’t get a read on them is to ask them if they’re embarrassed about any previous period of their life. Any normal person who is absent of most major personality disorders will of course say YES. Who wouldn’t be embarrassed about their perception of the world & personality in: middle school, high school, college, their 20s, 30s, etc. General rule of thumb, anyone who can’t name at least one period of time in their life where they were: stupid, arrogant, immature, etc. is probably a prick. If you don’t think you’ve grown as a person for every 10 years of your life, you’re doing something wrong, even if that growth is in some insignificant part of your life and is miniscule.

    boobs.

    trying not to get too serious about a funny video.

  • Tony Cusano

    James, your observation does seem to raise the question of what role memory plays in our perception of time, and what time really means without memory. Sean, does the universe have memory?

  • May

    It’s a good thing he found the right medications.

  • James Gallagher

    Tony (#4)

    I believe the universe does not have a memory in a very precise sense, that we must subtract the past universe in the global evolution equation. Only the present exists in any ontological sense.

    However, I believe animal brains can store biological models of the past, to enable learning and adaptation.

    Evolution’s very subtle/clever, and of course so is modern technology, since we can record the past in all sorts of high definition ways nowadays.

    (I few years back I found a cassette tape of a recording during my student days with some friends and a guitar, it made me cry so much, the impact of re-experiencing anything from your past can be immense)

  • Ray Gedaly

    Most amazing of all is that he was able to find a working Betamax player.

  • http://www.johnderbyshire.com John Derbyshire
  • Jesse M.

    James Gallagher, why do you think it’s “obviously faked”? The montage of photos at the beginning shows a pretty seamless transition between the guy at 12 and the guy now. Also, if you look at the “uploaded videos” section of the guy’s youtube channel he has some other videos he apparently made as a teenager in the 1980s, like this one where he looks slightly older than 12 but still recognizably the same kid (there’s also this super 8 star trek fanfilm he made with his older siblings, where he looks a little younger than 12). Plus in 2006 he also uploaded a less polished draft of the “conversation with my 12 year old self” idea, you can see the video of the 12 year old is the same but the adult side isn’t quite as funny or well-filmed.

  • James Gallagher

    Hi Jesse M,

    but it doesn’t look seamless to me , it looks like the face changes by more than ageing when he is a teenager. The quality of the 20 year old video tape transcription looks too clean, although I concede a professional could probably do this better than me. The 12 year old’s monologue seems unnatural, even if he is trying to ask questions about the future, I’d like to see the unedited version of that recording. The handwriting on the videotape looks like it was written by someone older than 12. Worst of all, Star Wars wasn’t big in 1992, but I guess that a 12 year old could own a toy (more suitable for a 7 year old), but not Doctor Who, no way would a 12-year old in 1992 be a big fan of TOM BAKER as Doctor Who, that’s more like 1982 era.

    However, I suppose it’s a little more plausible on second inspection with the evidence you provided in the links, especially with the earlier rough draft.

  • Jesse M.

    but it doesn’t look seamless to me , it looks like the face changes by more than ageing when he is a teenager.

    Faces change pretty dramatically at that age, I looked quite different in my own 7th grade yearbook picture (nice lasers huh?) than I did in my 9th grade picture.

    The quality of the 20 year old video tape transcription looks too clean, although I concede a professional could probably do this better than me.

    The intent was comedy rather than literal accuracy, so why would he bother showing the actual tape in a silly establishing shot (along with him pouring himself a stiff drink)? “Do not watch until future” is probably funnier than whatever label was on the original tape.

    The 12 year old’s monologue seems unnatural, even if he is trying to ask questions about the future

    Again, the piece was comedic, and with fake comedy “interviews” it’s all about editing the person’s comments to make for a funny exchanges with the interviewer, much like with Weird Al’s celebrity interviews.

    Worst of all, Star Wars wasn’t big in 1992, but I guess that a 12 year old could own a toy (more suitable for a 7 year old)

    You must not know many sci-fi geeks, we often have a love action figures at all ages, and the original Star Wars trilogy is like a holy text to pretty much every sci-fi geek I know who grew up in the 80s, regardless of whether they saw them in theaters or only later on video. There just wasn’t much competition in terms of epic cinematic space opera back then…many of us also got into the original Star Trek even though that was way before our time.

    but not Doctor Who, no way would a 12-year old in 1992 be a big fan of TOM BAKER as Doctor Who, that’s more like 1982 era.

    Well, the video only shows Doctor Who memorabilia owned by the adult version, not the kid, so we don’t really know for sure which Doctor he was into. But in the US in the 80s I think a lot of PBS stations only had bought the rights to broadcast Tom Baker era Doctor Who (see here), some had Pertwee too, but often they wouldn’t show any of the later ones. I wasn’t a big Doctor Who fan at the time but I definitely remember tuning in occasionally and only seeing Tom Baker episodes…based on the house I remember watching them in, those memories would have been in the tail end of the 80s or the early 90s. Plus, don’t understimate the older sibling effect! The Star Trek fanfilm seemed to show him as the youngest in a family of geeks, often when that happens the older ones will get the younger ones into the same things they’re really into.

  • Chris

    Take a picture of your young child. Run it through age advancement software to about 16 years old. Place the picture in a prominent place in the house. Your child will see this picture growing up. Eventually he will notice this picture looks like him. Then you convince him that he is in fact a time traveler.

  • Patrick

    Why all the haters? It’s legit. My girlfriend grew up with his family and having met him a few times, there’s no question.

    You have to remember, 20 years is only 1992. STAR WARS was buyable/rentable on VHS at this point. DOCTOR WHO was on every weekend on 2 different stations between Maine & New Hampshire PBS Stations. STAR TREK was not only NEXT GEN but shown all of the time on WPIX CH 11 out of New York City. There also was a time when penmanship was mandatory, not to mention the fact that his dad is a writer so he probably learned it from there,

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Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

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