20 May 2009

Time Travel

Say hello to Darwinius masillae! Her friends call her Ida.

She is a remarkably well-preserved 47 million year old fossil of an early primate.
"[S]he is the most complete and best preserved primate fossil ever uncovered. The skeleton is 95% complete and thanks to the unique location where she died, it is possible to see individual hairs covering her body and even the make-up of her final meal – a last vegetarian snack.

"This little creature is going to show us our connection with the rest of all the mammals; with cows and sheep, and elephants and anteaters," said Sir David Attenborough who is narrating a BBC documentary on the find. "The more you look at Ida, the more you can see, as it were, the primate in embryo."

"This will be the one pictured in the textbooks for the next hundred years," said Dr Jørn Hurum, the palaeontologist from Oslo University's Natural History Museum who assembled the scientific team to study the fossil. "It tells a part of our evolution that's been hidden so far. It's been hidden because the only [other] specimens are so incomplete and so broken there's nothing almost to study."
Here's a feature-chocked, explanatory Flash of the above picture. Here's a slide show.

Fossils are one of the ways we have to "travel" back in time. Ida gives us a snapshot of a creature that roamed the planet an unfathomably long time ago—for many people, their backwards time-horizon is somewhere between five and ten thousand years. Still, what if we could travel in time? What sort of protocols would we have to follow? In honor of the new Star Trek movie, this blogger over at Discover has tried to think it through:
0. "There are no paradoxes.
1. Traveling into the future is easy.
2. Traveling into the past is hard — but maybe not impossible.
3. Traveling through time is like traveling through space.
4. Things that travel together, age together.
5. Black holes are not time machines.
6. If something happened, it happened.
7. There is no meta-time.
8. You can’t travel back to before the time machine was built.
9. Unless you go to a parallel universe.
10. And even then, your old universe is still there."

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