Time dilation and cellular automata representation of physical space


One of the plot points of the movie Interstellar  centers around the idea that travelling through a wormhole to get someplace distant and then returning would result in the same time dilation as if the astronauts travelled at near light speed in normal space to and from the same object.  That is, if you travelled through a worm hole and came back, what you returned to would be much older than what you left.

It would be fun to take a cellular automata model of physical space which was correct for relativity, and fold it over and pinch it to connect two distant points in the cellular space, and then see if the predicted time dilation effect was reproduced in the model.

I Googled “cellular automata relativity” and it seemed the only two papers written on this topic are by two Canadian electrical engineers, Tom Ostoma and Mike Trushyck, in 1999.   They never published again.  I read through these papers and they talk about cell propagation and the number of rules per cell, with the cells being of volume related to Planck constant and the universal clock time for the whole automata, operating outside of time within the automata, such that the speed of light, viewed as velocity of propagation of information between cells, was reproduced.

Subsequently I found the 1994 MIT PhD thesis by Mark Andrew Smith on Cellular Automata Methods in Mathematical Physics which plows similar ground. However, as with Ostoma and Trushyck, publishing on this topic appears to be a career-killing move, as I can find no subsequent trace of this author.   Smith bylined briefly in 2001 as a member of the Harvard Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and after that I can truly find no trace of him on the web.  So, a seven year gap between publications, and then nothing.  One fears the worst, especially as he mentions in his thesis that

My first years at MIT were ones of great academic isolation, and I would have dropped out long ago if it were not for the fellowship of friends that I got to know at the Thursday night coffee hour in Ashdown House.

Or are the missing cellularautomatophysicists here, one wonders:


The idea of physical space quantized into cellular automated seemed satisfying until I looked through the window.  My eyes could see a lot of visual information coming to me from a distance.  That’s not counting a lot of non-visual information such as radio waves and magnetism and so on.   Presumably everything I am seeing at a distance is propagated to me and summarized on a cell by cell level by a complex of information representing all of this information that is arriving to the cell from all of these sources at the same time.  It doesn’t seem like it can be summarized in a single bit.  So, how many bits are needed to represent the information being received by a single cell?  If one posits an “operating system” or collection of common rules that is replicated in every cell, what are the implications for the size of that rule set to manage and store the amount of information being received from each neighboring cell?

Dear readers, do you know of any other credible published work on cellular automata models for relativity which are concrete enough to be programmed as simulations?  What are your thoughts on the bits-per-cell problem and how we perceive, at a single point, light arriving from a distance from many sources?

Spring binge watch: Patriot


I watched this dreary, arty, self-conscious and beautifully photographed series on Amazon over the past month or two.  It is 8 hour-long episodes but seems longer.  I fell asleep several times.   Variety harshed it completely.  Critics label it a rip-off of the Coen Brothers shtick. I’m not sure I see that.  I see that it’s kind of there but I didn’t like the Coen Brothers output so much that it takes away from the originality of this show.  The show is original.  It’s just a one-joke story with some gratuitous violence thrown in on occasion, some largely undeveloped characters other than the central few, a Maltese Falcon MacGuffin that wanders through the plot, and a conclusion that begs sequel.

The show is about an all-American midwestern assassin with a Dad with Oliver North ambitions.  Father and son are psychopaths, Dad a cheerful one and son more sombre.  There is also a kid brother with a conscience.  The opening credits show a pair of rowdy boys doing various Americana-level boy things like jumping off swings, riding sheep, flinging rocks with slingshots, riding motorcycles, smoking and firing a rifle.  There is no backstory for the transition from adolescence to assassin, but some kind of military career is assumed.

I wanted to like this more and there were some surprising and nice unfoldings of characters, but by and large the artistic range was thin.  This film is blues and jazz, and I’d recommend it as a detour for viewers who like pretty jazzy things and don’t mind the lack of plot.

Spring binge watch: The Worricker Trilogy


This is a pleasant trio of 90 minute films centered around the character of Johnny Worricker, late middle aged MI5 executive.  He gets trotted through various anti-James Bond scenarios with a worried frown and a slight grin on his face at all times.  It is shot beautifully and acted fairly well.  It is somewhat implausible and trots out many tropes of English upper-class bureaucratic life:

  • How to make a proper salad
  • A bitchy and foul-mouthed meeting in a conference room of senior politicians
  • An MI5 secretary in a burqa
  • Hiking up four flights of stairs in #10 Downing St
  • Meetings at various posh country houses
  • Train riding
  • Wine buying
  • A posh art opening
  • Driving on the wrong side of the street
  • Meeting in basement rooms, presumably unbugged
  • Oxford high table with dinner jackets, robes and undergraduates below the dais

I found it quite enjoyable if frustrating at times.  In short, utterly Masterpiece Theatre.

The second part of the trilogy was the one I wanted to like the most.  It features Christopher Walken in a Caribbean island plot,


along with the mean grumpy divorce lawyer from The Good Wife, sporting a large burn or birthmark made up on his face to add to his sourpuss qualities, along with one other Good Wife regular.

The episode also features an unrecognizable Winona Ryder, doing an extremely good impression of crazy person.  This just goes by way of illustrating how important casting is, because the character in the film is that of a crazy person.  Since I remember only the pre-shoplifting gamine Winona, I did not recognize her in this film until after a double-take at the credits and a rewind.  Winona’s done some hard time, and it shows, but this made her a pretty good casting choice for the role.  But, I hate to say, it’s sometimes hard to tell whether she’s acting crazy or just being crazy or just a crazy person trying to act like an actor acting crazy, and to that extent, willing suspension of disbelief becomes somewhat muddied.

Chrisopher Walken was cast in character as an elderly, paunchy man who does an extremely good Christopher Walken impression.  Every vocal tic and gimmick that screams Christopher Walken was gotten out of the actual Christopher Walken.  It made me uncomfortable the whole time, because he was playing Gangstery Christopher and hanging out with gangstery characters, but he was supposed to be some kind of CIA officer, and the whole mishegoss was just not believable.  I kept wanting to like it more,  but willing suspension of disbelief just would not come, and I found myself on the outside looking in the whole time, distracted from the plot by the hope that Christopher Walken would stop playing himself playing Christopher Walken, and would just relax for a few minutes and play the character.


This sense was heightened somewhat by the two add-ons to the trilogy, a pair of documentaries between episodes, in which the director and cast congratulated themselves and each other on just what an extreme privilege it was to be able to perform with such important, talented and accomplished people as each other.  These documentary interludes were a bore and did not do much to enlighten the stories.  This was not such a great loss, because the stories themselves were boilerplate spy movie tropes pulled out of a mechanical plot generating device.  What saved the episodes was not the plots or dialog but rather the actors, sets, settings and photography and music.  In other words, everything but the plot.  To the extent that I would have to say that the plot was a shaggy store serving as a context and binder for a tone poem about the characters themselves.  Not the destination but the journey, that kind of thing.

Winter binge watch: Interstellar


Fishing around for sci-fi movies on Amazon Prime, I watched Interstellar, it turns out for the second time.  I fell asleep 2/3rds of the way through.

This is a preachy, stagey melodrama which plays out some pretentious scientific side-effects of wormhole travel and ends with a whopper about a tesseract.


Things by and large end badly until they get more or less magically sorted out.  Anne Hathaway looks like someone you sort of wanted to date in high school who was in the National Honor Society and ended up going to Brown or Wellesley, but she was too stuck up to ask out.


Her portrayal of a Serious Scientist carries with it echos of Dr. Christmas Jones.


I don’t mean to sound so angry about this film, but I just didn’t buy it, and I kept (re-) watching it hoping that something good would happen, and I just found myself being progressively more and more disappointed.  In particular, the whole plot was a MacGuffin for a sort of beer/car commercial about the pleasures of Midwestern farm life.  The whole thing was literally and figuratively corny from begin to end.


Winter binge watching: Mars *spoilers*


Mars is a strange half-fiction half-documentary production of the National Geographic Society.  It is 6 hour-long episodes.  It has many faults.

It starts with a James Bond-y, overly-long credit sequence with dreary theme music best classified as Doors Lite™.  It’s like 2 minutes of bummer time and sets a sour mood.

Apparently to save casting budget, one woman plays both lead executive and lead astronaut.

Half of the fiction sequence time is taken up by a parody of nattily-dressed executives running around the C-Suite making bad decisions.


Documentary segments featured too many fast jump cuts to really be able to see or appreciate what was going on in the historical segments.

The penultimate episode centers around a moment where a stir-crazy botanist opens a door to the outside and lets all the air out, thereby killing himself and all of his plants.  Yes, that’s right:  A door to the outside.  Not an airlock.  A single door.  Like on your garden shed.  Like that would be an OK and obvious design decision for a habitat facing onto a low-pressure alien atmosphere.  And it kills 6 other people, because there are no hatches between habitat sections.   Like that would be another OK design decision.


For another take on a downbeat scenario with a considerably more optimistic tone, see The Martian with Matt Damon.  Don’t slog through this.  I did, because I thought it would be educational for my son, but with a sense of increasing disappointment, when I didn’t find myself napping through sections.  Hollywood agrees.  I guess I would say it’s a bit of a lost opportunity.  Or maybe just what you’d expect if a bunch of non-profit bureaucrats decided to make an educational disaster scenario with an aging and sonorously morbid Opie.

Winter K-Drama Binge Watching: 치즈인더트랩 Cheese In The Trap


This is a 16-episode series about an empathy-challenged, unselfconsciously and effortlessly manipulative chaebol college student with level 1 autism, and the girl who loves and suffers for him.  In the end, his estranged adopted sister pushes the girl into traffic out of jealousy, she recovers and continues to love him, and he dumps her and makes her more miserable on the theory that he is protecting her from his dickishness.   3 years later (the standard cut time for the K-Drama transition from adolescence to full adulthood), he returns, eventually reads one of her emails, and in the sketchiest and laziest wrap-up to a K-Drama that I’ve ever witnessed, the narrative hints that they are reunited happily ever after in the last 2 or 3 seconds before the final credits and series recap photo montage.

Blog critics in the K-Drama world hated this series as being an unfaithful adaption of the webtoon that it is based on.  Apparently, and can you believe this, the author of the webtoon was not consulted on all details of the adaptation by the experienced female director that helmed the series.  Even more outrageous, the male lead was not given enough scenes towards the end of the series,  in particular where it diverged from the webtoon, and in consequence, he either decided to skip or was not invited to go to the wrap-up party, and didn’t do much publicity for the series.  All of these details are apparently quite scandalous to native K-Drama and K-Webtoon enthusiasts.

Be that all as it may, I soldiered on through the whole 16 hours.  Many of the K-Drama reviewers did not, because of the severe defects cited in the previous paragraph.  I rather liked it.  I kind of respect it for staying with the logic of its dramatis personae.  I found the ending, up to the last 3 seconds, to be somewhat reasonable.  The relationships between characters were reasonably well fleshed out, and they were mostly compelling.  There were stretches that were rather painful to watch, not because poorly produced, but because they explored emotions and situations that are not typically classified as entertainment.  I bought it.

So let’s set this one aside as an acquired taste.  It is for the more advanced connoisseur of the kind of K-Drama that walks the line between comedy and the kinds of creepy familial over-reactions that only seem to arise around 38 North.  So I appreciate the honesty and the vibrant emotional colors of a detailed, workmanlike portrayal of daily, mundane yet intimate life.  Also, who knew henna hair coloring was so popular in Korea?