Dark and Time Travel

My wife and I have just finished the first season of Dark on Netflix. I’m not a sci-fi fan–I know, it’s a real, moral shortcoming on my part–but Dark poses questions about time travel that wakened my inner philosopher. I can say this about one of the story arcs without giving away too much: a character walks through a wrinkle in time and comes out in the same place he had been, but 33 years earlier. One of his friends figures out what happened, and goes to 1986 to try to bring him back. However, if the first person is rescued and comes back to the present, he would not become a father. What would happen to people he never created?

Philosophers and physicists have long debated the efficacy of time travel. The conundrum these two characters face is known as the grandfather paradox:

The dead giveaway that true time-travel is flatly impossible arises from the well-known “paradoxes” it entails. The classic example is “What if you go back into the past and kill your grandfather when he was still a little boy?”…So complex and hopeless are the paradoxes…that the easiest way out of the irrational chaos that results is to suppose that true time-travel is, and forever will be, impossible. (Asimov, 2003, 276–7)

Other philosophers have raised valid objections to Asimov. It seems that the Theory of Relativity also opens up the possibility of time travel because of the existence of closed timelike curves.

So. . .to get back to Dark, what’s the easiest way to articulate the possibility that time travel exists AND that traveling backwards in time can result in changes to the present?

Posted in Pop Culture, Science | 12 Comments

Most Painful Super Bowl Ad

Last night’s Super Bowl was just what the NFL needed: an exciting, well-played game, largely devoid of controversy, full of compelling drama.

The ads, however, were duds. The Alexa commercial was clever. The NFL’s house ads with Eli Manning and Odell Beckham brought a chuckle or two. Some, though not many, thought the Tide commercials scored points.

Yet one ad drew criticism before the next snap of the football: Ram’s ad with a Martin Luther King, Jr. voice over. Although I’m willing to extend the benefit of the doubt to Ram and say that the ad was designed with good intentions, I have a list of reasons why it’s cringeworthy. Your thoughts? I’m also interested in your thoughts about what makes a Super Bowl ad good.

Posted in Politics, Pop Culture, Sports | 15 Comments

Public Health v. Ethics

State Rep. Andy Gipson (R-Braxton) has sponsored legislation that would allow parents to object to having their children vaccinated on the basis of religious objections. What might be unethical about vaccinations? According to critics, they’re forced rather than voluntary. (In Mississippi, by the way, parents may choose not to have their kids vaccinated, but those children are not allowed to attend day care or schools until they are.) The religious objection comes from the fact that some vaccines were derived by using the tissue of aborted fetuses.

Mississippi actually leads the nation in the percentage of kids who receive standard vaccinations. HB 1505 will provide an interesting case study of the way our state’s citizens weigh professed religious faith against common sense.

Posted in National Politics, Science | 13 Comments

Making #metoo Connections

It should not have taken me so long to post this.

Silence breakers who are part of the #metoo movement won Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” award. I’ll post later on the significance and the complexity of the movement. For now, though, I’m curious: what characters from literature or film might have joined the movement? Explain why you think they would in your response.

Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments

State of the State

Gov. Phil Bryant gave his state of the state address last night. Here’s the full text; here’s the Democratic response from State Rep. Jay Hughes of Oxford.

An addendum: here’s a fact-check from mississippitoday.org.

Posted in Politics | 7 Comments

A New Year’s Surprise

At today’s beginning-of-the-semester convocation at MUW, Pres. Jim Borsig announced his resignation, which will be effective in June. He will be sorely missed–his leadership has been instrumental in moving MUW, however belatedly, into the twenty-first century. He is hard-working and level-headed; he is also (and many overlook this) inspired.

I have no idea who will step into his place. However, because we’re in a transitional period of sorts, I’d like to ask how you envision the relationship between MUW and MSMS. What sorts of things can be done at MUW that would make MSMS a better place? What can MSMS do that would be of benefit to the W? Keep in mind that your suggestions should be beneficial to both institutions. They should probably also be affordable–the IHL anticipates more cuts from the legislature this year.

Posted in Education | 18 Comments

The Brain Drain

Welcome aboard, IHL Commissioner Glenn Boyce! In a talk at the Stennis Institute of Government, Boyce claimed that access to higher education in Mississippi is phenomenal, but that too few students are prepared to complete their undergraduate degrees. The brain drain in Mississippi doesn’t merely result from our best and brightest students leaving the state; it results from the fact that too may students from Mississippi go to college and drop out.

Commissioner Boyce, I can help you with this. Give every MSMS a free ride to a public university in Mississippi. It’ll cost you less than $400,000, and you’ll have a cohort of scholarship recipients far less likely to drop out before completing their degrees.

On a related note, a recent study determined that those planning for a career in nursing are far more likely to stay in Mississippi than those who get degrees in STEM fields. I can understand the former–the sick will always be with us–but why the latter?

Posted in Education | 12 Comments

For Readers of The Hate You Give

Following a recent class discussion of Angie Thomas’ The Hate You Give, I received an email from a student wanting to know if we could revisit a death scene in the beginning of the book from the perspective of the police officer who does the shooting. Here’s part of the email:

First off, I don’t understand why the police officer is so heavily blamed for shooting Khalil. If you were in the police officer’s shoes and if you were to tell a black man (that you were already pretty suspicious of) to not move and you were to hear his car door open, would you not panic and react a similar way? That police officer clearly told him not to move and Khalil had to have known to do everything that the police says (especially since they tend to normally act more harshly towards black people). What would you do if you tell a black man (even if he wasn’t black! a man in general) not to move while you go back to your car and then hear his car door open. Not to mention that it was clearly late at night and black people are normally more difficult to see at night. So basically you just see this shadow going into his car. You have absolutely no idea what he was doing. The police officer probably thought that Khalil was going to pull out a gun or something. And then it would’ve been the police officer dead.

The student raises valid points about what takes place in the novel. (We later find out that the officer had seen something he feared was a pistol in the victim’s car. It turned out to be the handle of a hair brush.) So here’s the question: how can police manage tense situations like these in ways that prevent them from escalating to the use of deadly force?

AN ADDENDUM:  Based on conversations I’ve eavesdropped in Hooper, I can tell that this post strikes a nerve. Please keep the necessity for civility in mind if you post on this topic. The student made the inquiry in the spirit of open-minded and genuine curiosity. It wouldn’t be fair to ostracize anyone for that. Remember this as well: if you can’t convince other people you’re right, you may as well be wrong. Civility in discourse will win the day more often than not.

Posted in National Politics, Race in Mississippi | 16 Comments

Buckle Up. The First Draft of Next Year’s Budget is In

The Clarion-Ledger has reported that the first draft of next year’s budget is in. Republican leaders are “unapologetic” about the fact that it comes in at $76 million less than last year’s budget.

House Speaker Phil Gunn has reiterated that government must ever and always appreciate the need for efficiency in spending citizens’ money. I am certain that taxpayers want their money spent wisely. However, I am not certain that the state can continue to spend less, but to expect more from its agencies. This budget essentially kicks the can down the road when it comes to improving the state’s infrastructure. There’s a 4% cut for universities, and a whopping 39% cut to the Mississippi Development Authority. The budget also institutes a 3.9% cut to general education and administration, which is one source of funding for MSMS.

I respect the fact that most taxpayers don’t want to spend more on government. However, I wonder if we have reached a tipping point when it comes to balancing efficiency and legitimate expenditures. To wit: in a global economy, where we must compete with people from around the world for jobs and scholarships and development opportunities, when will our leaders see education, infrastructure, and development as investments rather than obligations? It would appear that we would rather starve on a penny than work for a pound.

Posted in Politics | 14 Comments

And People Wonder Why I Make Jokes about Alabama

I have no idea whether Roy Moore sexually assaulted teenage girls when he was a prosecutor in his early thirties. However, the reactions of his supporters are as politically tone deaf as refusing to remove a monument of the ten commandments from the state’s judicial building, or telling probate judges to ignore the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling.

Moore sounds like a caricature of an early twentieth century Dixie demagogue, but the abuse of power by a prosecutor is no laughing matter. Nor is sexual assault. Thank goodness Moore lives on the other side of our state line.

Posted in Gender Issues, National Politics, Politics | 24 Comments