Friday, October 17, 2014

Wish They Could'a Seen It

I'd apologize for not blogging in nearly a month if I had a sense anybody dropped by regularly only to go away disappointed by lack of new content. The way it seems to work these days is I blog, I tell everyone on Facebook I blogged, they come to read it, then they comment about it on Facebook. In fact, Facebook absorbs a lot of the nibbles and dribbles I once would have posted here. But I still enjoy this outlet for longer and longer-lasting pieces, and know from experience that my blogging output naturally ebbs and flows.

Also, not everybody uses Faceboook.

In point of fact, this post was inspired by a Facebook conversation with Friend O' The Blog Jim O'Kane about pioneering rocket scientist Robert Goddard, who invented in obscurity and dreamed of spaceflight decades before anyone else shared his vision. He was born in 1882, patented multi-stage and liquid-fueled rockets in 1914, launched many test flights in the Twenties and Thirties, and died in 1945. I told Jim I wished he'd lived to see the first Moon landing in July 1969. He would've been 86 years old.

So that's today's game: What do you wish you could show somebody from the past? 

Rules: Let's make it easy and say "no family." Everybody wants their dead grandparents to meet their great-grandchildren. Maybe no religion: let's not pop Jesus or Mohammed in a time machine and show them how messed up/wonderful their modern followers are. Also, maybe no Ben Franklin. For some reason, storytellers love to bring Franklin into the modern world and amaze him with our technological marvels. (In fact, I still intend to write a short story about researchers who pluck Franklin from the past only to find him completely unimpressed and pissed because they're the 59th group of time travelers who've done the same thing and he just wants to be left alone. So don't steal that idea.)


I wish I could show Robert Goddard the Apollo XI Moon landing.

I wish I could show Isaac Newton a pocket calculator.

I wish I could show Thomas Jefferson a topographical map of North America.

I wish I could show Walt Disney "Toy Story."

I wish I could show Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace an iPad.

I wish I could show Mark Twain a gigantic pallet of his autobiography for sale at Costco.

I wish I could show all the Allied soldiers who died fighting in World War II that the good guys won (we always forget that, at the time, nobody knew how it was going to turn out).

I wish I could show 20-year-old me 50-year-old me (not sure if I'd be impressed or horrified--probably both).

What've you got?
Here's something on the theme: I'm not a fan of "Dr Who" (don't ask me why; it's the sort of thing that should appeal to me greatly but just doesn't), but in one episode The Doctor and his Companion Amy take Vincent Van Gogh to see his paintings in the modern Musee d'Orsay. I think it captures the great appeal of the idea while bringing a tear to your eye. Mine, anyway. Wouldn't it be nice if the universe were at least this compassionate and just?

Sorry about the commercial.


Sherwood Harrington said...

I wish I could show Johannes Kepler my laptop computer BEFORE he spent about 20 years doing by hand what this machine could do in about 20 minutes. Showing it to him afterwards would just be mean.

Brian Fies said...

Good one!

Tim said...

It's not quite as big a deal, because he died in 1989 when computer chips had many thousand transistors, but William Shockley would be amazed to know that the current chip I'm working on contains 8.06B active devices (plus about the same number of decoupling capacitors and diodes) on a single piece of silicon.

Brian Fies said...

Tim, also a good one. I thought of a few folks like Shockley who essentially DID live long enough to realize what their work had wrought, even if not to the modern day. For example, I recently mentioned Orville Wright in some other context and was surprised to be reminded he lived until 1948. The last flight of his life was aboard Howard Hughes's Lockheed Constellation, which he noted had a wingspan longer than his first flight! That ain't bad.