Posts Tagged ‘Back to the Future’

I assume that I am not the only academic who has wished for time travel (and not just because I want to drive a cooler car or take advantage of the stock market).  Grading a stack of papers today reminded me that it is incredibly easy to manipulate the speed at which time passes.  For example:

  • In order to slow time to a crawl, grade an error-prone student’s essay with the knowledge that there are 25 more waiting for you when you’re done.  Keep an eye on the clock to note that time has, indeed, nearly stopped.
  • In order to accelerate time, take a break to check your e-mail or log onto Facebook.  While you can try to keep an eye on the clock while doing this, you will quickly realize that time has accelerated to the point at which each glance at the clock (seconds apart when grading) reveals the passage of 30 to 40 minutes.

Unfortunately, at this point I have only been able to manipulate the passage of time in the forward direction.  This may be for the best, since I hear there are risks of incest and bleeding ears when traveling backward in time.

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Every time I write “2010” on something I feel like the future has arrived.  Maybe I just don’t remember the way I felt ten years go, but I don’t remember any of the previous “new” decades* I’ve witnessed feeling like the future.  At any rate, we are now so far into the current century that the events of Back to the Future Part II are only five years away.  I rewatched Marty McFly’s adventures in the Hill Valley of 2015 over break and although we don’t have hoverboards, flying cars, or Mr. Fusions, there were a surprising number of things that will either be possible or outdated in five years (check back in five years for the final tally).

Perhaps the strangest thing about the future as depicted from the late 1980s is the lack of computers.  For example, there is talk of dust-resistant paper but nothing about e-books.  I’ve talked about e-book readers (and their competition) in the past, and I hope to see the day that textbooks are digitized.  Today, Apple unveiled what they surely hope will carry students further down that road, the iPad (no, not that iPad).  It seems somewhat pointless to criticize an Apple product (after all, the reveal was preceded by more hype than money can buy and Apple paid no money at all for it) but the hype may have worked against the iPad, resulting in a collective “a big iPod Touch?  That’s it?”  In 2015 I’ll probably look back at this post from my own iPad while my students complete the course readings and take class notes on their own iPads and laugh at how foolish I was.  For now, though, the future doesn’t seem quite as cool as I had hoped.

*Memoirs of a SLACer does not care that there was no year zero.

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