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August 25, 2006

phone sex with mars - or why latency matters as well as bandwidth

A long time ago, I used to teach some technology subjects at TAFE, an Australian system for vocationally oriented post secondary colleges. Students are often straight out of school, but also, we had many people from all walks of life (including very senior network TV executives, film makers, and so on).

For some reason, in a conversation with Brian Suda yesterday, I mentioned one of my little riffs I had for getting people to think about the importance of latency in networks (back then, everyone thought the panacea for the web was going to be increased bandwidth - I wanted people to appreciate that networks have other limitations on performance too). My question was "why will there never be phone sex between people on earth and people on mars, no matter how advanced our technology becomes".

Brian, demonstrating that he would have been one of those students I loved, but whom I also treated warily sent me the following email this morning, which I liked, so asked if I could publish. Given Brian is just finishing off a PDF only book on Microformats for the O'Reilly shortcuts series, and a presentation at EuroOSCON on the same subject, he was happy for me to post it - so here is how Brian thinks that it may be possible to have phone sex, or telephone conversations more generally, with mars one day.

OK, last night my mind was racing trying to figure out a way to actually make real-time calls to mars (for any reason).

I think i figured out a theoretical way to do it, so bear with me.

It has been awhile since my College Physics course, but i remember Tachyons

Some modern presentations of tachyon theory have demonstrated the possibility of a tachyon with a real mass. In 1973, Philip Crough and Roger Clay reported a superluminal particle apparently produced in a cosmic ray shower (an observation which has not been confirmed or repeated) [1]. This possibility has prompted some to propose that each particle in space has its own relative timeline, allowing particles to travel back in time without violating causality. Under this model, such a particle would be a "tachyon" by virtue of its apparent superluminal velocity, even though its rest mass is a real number.

So from that snipit and from what i remember, you CAN get tachyons to travel backwards in time. If they traveled backwards at the same rate as the speed of light, they would negate each other.

So, if the time to send a message between earth and mars is 10 minutes.

Senario 1


  1. I get on my tachyon voip phone and make a call from mars to earth at 9:00am it takes 10 minutes to travel there, but the tachyons travel backwards (so i think) that would be negated and arrive real-time

  2. 9:00:01am the person on earth hears it, and talks back.

  3. that message takes 10 minutes to travel to mars, but since it too is a tachyon phone that is negated.

Senario 2


  1. I get on my tachyon voip phone and make a call from mars to earth at 9:10am

  2. It travels back in time 10 minutes to 9:00:01am

  3. earth receives the call and returns it with a NORMAL telephone call 4. this takes 10 minuntes to reach mars - 9:10:02am

So how do you encode HTTP packets over particles? well from what i remember, atoms (maybe not sub-atomic particles) have a spin. Either clockwise or anti-clockwise. That's your binary 1 or 0.

I have no idea how we'd built a tachyon phone or if this would even work - but you never know.

August 25, 2006 | Permalink

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John Allsops got the Blog Post of the Month at dog or higher. He and Brian Suda have mashed together phone sex, quantum physics and VOIP in a perfect discussion of why latency matters. Its near impossible to excerpt so Im not even ... [Read More]

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Comments

How long have you been married John? You're already looking for interplanetary phone sex?

Or is this just you trying to cash in on the latest wave of VC technology interest?

Posted by: Cameron Adams | Aug 26, 2006 1:03:26 AM

Best. Post. Ever.
/comic book guy

This is just hysterical. But I could see it working. Would they be VOIPT phones? (Sub-atomic particles spin, of which the net, if I am saying it correctly, gives the atomic spin.)

Posted by: Patrick | Aug 26, 2006 2:08:47 AM

The sad thing for John, Cam, would be that he'd build the tachyon phone, master the time travel necessary to set up the call and the Martians would all have a headache :)

Posted by: Sara | Aug 26, 2006 8:55:20 AM

lips do not unpurse

Posted by: john Allsopp | Aug 26, 2006 8:59:59 AM

Man if you have to go all the way to Mars for phone sex you're one sad puppy...

It's not even very satisfying on earth (phone sex that is).

Posted by: chezza | Sep 19, 2006 3:39:40 PM

Cheza,

but on mars it's out of this world. Um, sorry, couldn't resist

j

Posted by: John Allsopp | Sep 21, 2006 10:15:54 AM

If we ever do have the technology to have phone sex with Mars and other planets in the galaxy and even the universe I will be available for all your therapy and psychology needs.

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