Monday, December 25, 2006

First the effect, then the cause

I enjoyed this Seattle Post-Intelligencer article on physicist John Cramer of the University of Washington, who plans to test whether photon signals can be sent backward in time.
Roughly put, Cramer is talking about the subatomic equivalent of arriving at the train station before you've left home, of winning the lottery before you've bought the ticket, of graduating from high school before you've been born -- or something like that. ... "People tell me it can't work," Cramer says, "but nobody seems to be able to explain why it won't."
Besides being a scientist, Cramer -- whom I met, briefly, when he visited Clarion West 1994 -- is a science-fiction novelist, an Analog columnist, and the father of prominent sf/fantasy editor Kathryn Cramer.

At the end of the article, Cramer says, "If this experiment fails in reality, maybe I'll write a book in which it works." This is the Will Jenkins approach. Jenkins, the lifelong inventor who wrote science fiction as Murray Leinster, used to say that if he decided an idea could work, he patented it; if he decided it couldn't work, he wrote a story about it instead.

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