The Oracle of Delphi

The heat of the summer sun beat down on us as we climbed the steep winding path up the southern slope of Mount Parnassos. With my eyes burning from the brilliant glare of sunlight off of the cliff face of the Phaedriades I regretted not being able to bring my sunglasses. Perhaps that would have made a better gift for the Pythia, who most in my time know as the Oracle of Delphi. I now believe that I have made the best choice in gifts. In such sunlight, the solar-powered calculator should run for the next several hundred years. The sheer cliffs of the Phaedriades (meaning “shining ones”) rise 2000ft (700m) on either side of the path. The springs above will be a welcome sight when we finally arrive later in the afternoon.

Priestess of Delphi (1891) by John Collier

Priestess of Delphi (1891) by John Collier

How fortunate I am to make this ascent with Aeschylus and his companions. Perhaps when we arrive at the Castalian spring he will recite some verses from The Eumenides where the Furies drive Orestes from Argos where he then makes his way to the Temple of Apollo. It is the same Temple that we are climbing to, is it not? I am not sure. Oh, but then, perhaps Aeschylus has not yet written this tragedy. I have no idea of the timeline. Whatever verses he recites, I will be grateful. For that and the cool water of the springs to wash my feet and hair.

I have not yet shown my gift to Aeschylus. Of course, Aristotle thought the calculator to be a mystical wonder. But he was far more struck by the Furby, which is a little automated robotic toy that people fight over at Christmas time in Walmart. The particular one I had bought was in Voodoo Purple, which puzzles me since I am not quite sure what voodoo has to do with the color purple. I attributed Aristotle’s fascination with the Furby to the love of automata by the Greeks. They adore automata, especially on the Isle of Rhodes. Pindar described them in his seventh Olympic Ode as

The animated figures stand
Adorning every public street
And seem to breathe in stone, or
move their marble feet.

Perhaps the Furby would have been a better choice. Why did I leave it behind in Lykoreia with the pie pans? I had just imagined the calculator to be eminently more useful, first because it allowed you to easily perform calculations, which might be helpful to an Oracle, and second because it was solar-powered. The Furby would eventually run out of batteries, which I would imagine it to be then relegated to a dusty old shelf. But then again what need does an Oracle have of a calculator? Calculation is not the nature of prophesy.

As we hiked higher up through the Phaedriades, I recalled that I had once been skiing on a resort on this mountain. Its hard to imagine that there will be ski resorts here some day, especially in this summer heat. As we climb higher, I notice the rocks. I recognize this mineral, its bauxite. Aluminum! There’s irony! My third choice for a gift to the Oracle was a set of aluminum pie pans. I thought that the Oracle may treasure eating dinner from plates made from a metal that she has never seen; lighter than any other metal and so amazingly flexible. In this world these simple pie pans are far more valuable than gold. Yet here we are surrounded by bauxite, the mineral from which aluminum is derived.

We arrived at the Castalian spring about two hours before sundown. There we spent a wonderful evening of storytelling under the stars surrounded by the waters of the muses. I asked Aeschylus if he had a tale of Orestes, but he did not know what I was talking about. Perhaps I have unwittingly planted a seed.

The next day we made our way to Delphi. However today it is not at all ancient. Instead it is a resplendent sight full in its glory! I am reminded that ruins are mere shadows; two-dimensional in age.

The air here has a funny smell perhaps that of methane and hydrogen sulfide. It smells rather like a volcanic hot springs. Here and there I can see vapors coming up from cracks in the earth. Perhaps this is the pneuma that the Oracle breathes when she prophesies. I cannot imagine that breathing these vapors for any amount of time would be healthy, but they could perhaps induce visions. I myself am nearly seeing stars!

Here we stand at the Omphalos, or center of the Ancient World, with its former guardian Python upon whose grave Apollo’s Temple sits. Upon entering the Temple we are greeted and taken to a place where the gifts received by the Oracle are presented and displayed. Oh what an amazing array of artifacts—not old—but brand new. Shiny Macedonian shields with the image of Medusa, delicate vases depicting battles of old, and gold, gold, and more gold. It is an archeologist’s dream! There are objects here forgotten from history: clockwork mechanisms like that from Antikythera, a steam-powered bird, and a beautiful clear glass vase. And what is this furry little thing way back in the corner? Is it some strange taxidermy? It appears to be a little purplish rat of sorts. I move an automaton that looks like a spring-powered car to find…

On my God—it can’t be—its a Furby!

Guided Time Travel Tour: Evolution of Pterosaur Flight

Image of Painting of Pteranodon Sternbergi by Mark Witton

Pteranodon Sternbergi by Mark Witton

Chronobiologists Dr. Jaques DeVille and Dr. Rachel Winters are pleased to offer a guided tour through the Mesozoic Era to explore the evolution of pterosaur flight. Pterosaurs were winged reptiles which were the first vertebrates to undertake powered flight. At the time of this writing, the Pterosaurs are subdivided into the Rhamphorhynchoids and Pterodactyloids. The Rhamphorynchoids, which have long tails, teeth and mostly clung to branches and trees appeared in the Triassic and were extinct by the end of the Jurassic. The Pterodactyloids, which have longer legs, short tails, beaks, were mostly quadrupedal, and lived throughout the Cretaceous.

The tour will last two weeks and will consist of several visits:

Site 1
Species Dimorphodon Macronyx and related species
Location Jurassic Coast (Dorset-Devon, England)
Time Hettangian Period (Lower Jurassic) circa 197 MYA
Duration 3 nights
We will visit the Dimorphodons of the Jurassic coast of England circa 197 MYA from a lagoon encampment. Sandy beach provides some relaxation opportunities though swimming is unsafe and is prohibited. Seaside species will be observed along with nesting sites. An afternoon visit to an inland lake may yield two additional species.

Site 2
Species Dorygnathus and Campylognathoides species
Location European Archipelago of southern Germany
Time Toarcian Period (Lower Jurassic) circa 180 MYA
Duration 4 nights
We will cruise the European Archipegalo via SaucerShip for 4 nights. Marine species of Dorygnathus and Campylognathoides will be the focus. The trip will culminate with a visit to the pterosaur nesting sites on Grand Lias Island. We will also have some opportunities for fishing.

Site 3
Species Pteranodon Longiceps and Pteranodon Sternbergi
Location Western Interior Seaway of Kansas
Time Coniacian Period (Upper Cretaceous) circa 85 MYA
Duration 4 nights
We will cruise the Western Interior Seaway for 4 nights. The Pteranodon species Longiceps and Sternbergi will be the focus, with the possibility of the smaller pterosaur species of Nyctosaurus. The flightless bird Hesperornis as well as a number of marine reptiles, such as plesiosaurs, mosasaurs and sea turtles are likely. Fishing will not be allowed on this segment of the trip due to the hazards that marine reptiles pose.

Site 4
Species Quetzalcoatlus northropi
Location Semi-arid plains of Texas on the east coast of the Western Interior Seaway
Time Lancian Period (Upper Cretaceous) circa 68 MYA
Duration 3 nights
In addition to observing a colony of Quetzalcoatlus, we will also have the pleasure of viewing the titanic sauropod Alamosaurus, which was one of the largest dinosaur species in North America.


The figure to the right shows an approximate map of North America during the late Cretaceous (the second half of the tour).

Image of the Western Interior Seaway of North America

Western Interior Seaway of North America during the Late Cretaceous

Meals based on local foods at local times will be provided by the DeVille team. The security team consisting of five agents armed with electromagnetic stun cannons and equipped with active night vision will be provided by Mesozoic Security Inc. Human security will be augmented by six robotic ground and three robotic aerial sentry units equipped with radar. The DeVille team will provide medical support. Pink algae fever vaccinations are required for the late Cretaceous portion of the trip while standard Mesozoic vaccinations are recommended. The ozone layer is relatively dense during the time periods we will be visiting and sunscreen is unnecessary.

Local time oceanic transportation will be provided by SaucerShip both in the European Archipelago (SS Lias 180) and the Western Interior Sea (SS Chalk Sea Transport). Dimenhydrinate will be available for sea sickness.

Weaponry of any kind is expressly prohibited. Participants are required to be eco-compliant. Specifically, note that biological quarantine will be in strict effect. Level 3 skin suits are mandatory and will be provided. Pre-Tertiary Angiosperm Quarantine Laws will be strictly enforced. Remember that this means that there will be no fruit provided for the trip. In addition, no one is allowed to eat fruit within 5 days of traveling. Anyone attempting to transport seeds of any kind will be detained and turned over to the authorities.

Interested parties can email me at or contact Dr. DeVille directly via chronomail at deville@chronobiology for further details on cost, payment options and meetup locations and times.

24th Century Moon with City Lights

Moon with City Lights

Crescent Moon with City Lights

One thing that I can’t quite get over having been born in the 20th century is how the Moon has city lights in the future. I will time and time again catch myself looking up at the Moon and thinking, “Wow! Look at the city lights.”

You can just make them out in this photograph that I took while camping. I had to go for a long exposure so that you could see the lights, and this led to some purple fringing around the bright daylit region on the eastern limb. You can clearly make out Tycho City in the south, as well as the sister cities of Copernicus and Aristarchus. Some of the mining outposts in the southwest and the western edge of the Sea of Tranquility are also just barely visible.

Quiz: The Time Traveling Hipster

Time Traveling Hipster taken at South Fork Bridge, Gold Bridge B.C. in 1941

Today we have a quiz for my time traveling pupils! First, can you find the Time Traveler in this 1941 Photo?

Yes, he is the one with sunglasses (which did exist in 1941). Now that you see him, can you name all of the mistakes this time traveler made? If so, please leave a list of his mistakes in the comment section.

This photo was taken during the re-opening of the South Fork Bridge in Gold Bridge, British Columbia, Canada in 1941. The picture is from the virtual collection of the Bralorne Pioneer Museum.

Here are some additional references that discuss the Time Traveling Hipster:

Atomic Thommy of the 24th Century

I met Atomic Thommy in a NYC diner on an exceptionally hot day in July of 2347 A.D. I was the only customer in the restaurant, probably because the air conditioning was malfunctioning, and also because the diner was on transport level (street level), which is underground and hidden from the pastoral walkways that weave amidst the stratoscrapers that tower into the clear blue sky. Anyone with any sense that day was at Union Square Beach to escape the tropical summer heat or enjoying a gondola tour of the Financial District canals. But I cannot help but to dig deep into a culture and experience that gritty underside that always seems to remain constant throughout the ages.

The heat was also probably why one of the server bots was a bit off and kept accelerating only to run into one table after another. Atomic Thommy was the only person on staff and he was trying to corral the wayward bot into the kitchen where he was probably going to have to beat it with a frying pan to get it under some kind of control. Sure enough, shortly after following the bot into the kitchen I heard the not too unexpected “CLANG!” followed by another “CLANG!” and then SILENCE…

I jumped on hearing the third “CLANG!”, and relaxed a bit as he emerged from the kitchen with my sandwich and selzer.

I am not sure if I was drawn to him because of his name tag, which simply said “Atomic” or the unnecessary violence that he employed to put down the server bot. Whatever the reason, I am certain that it was when he told me that he was writing a script about several college students who went back in time to save the world that compelled me to offer to take him on a trip to a time and place of his choosing.

Atomic Thommy was born in Tycho City on the Moon and was currently living in Hoboken, New Jersey. In the mid-24th century, the excitement of Lunar tourism had long faded and Lunar society was further culturally depressed after jobs again and again had moved off-world first to Mars, then to the Jovian moons, and more recently to the nearby star systems. Not many people born on the Moon are able to break through those social barriers and make it back to Earth. Now that I know him better, in Atomic Thommy’s case, I attributed his successful return to greener pastures (even New Jersey is better than the Moon) to his personal vision, his drive and resourcefulness.

I was surprised to find that Atomic Thommy made extra money on the side by lounge singing. He led a band called Atomic Thommy and the Radioactive Busboys, which consisted of himself and three droids (the busboys), he regularly rented from his neighbors, who play drums, sax and violin. I was later even more surprised to come to experience that it was in fact because of Atomic Thommy and his musical connections that the Roman Emperor Hadrian was compelled to build his wall in 122 A.D. But that is another story altogether, and for now I will leave it at that.

In years that passed, Atomic Thommy became my trusted companion as well as playing the role of my security officer—not really because he was trained in security or anything like that, but because of his fortitude, his tendency to react to tense situations with violence, and he time travels well.

Time Traveling: A Quick Reference Guide

I stumbled on an excellent article today from Cosmos online titled “Time Traveling: A Quick Reference Guide” by Dr. Friedman of Good Times Inc. As many of you know, Good Times Inc. has been in the time travel business for a very very long time, and advice from their scientists and staff is always welcome.

Yes, the article has the usual requisite comments about not pissing off Velociraptors. But people often do forget to carry a light snack with them. While Snickers are rich in dextrose and come in handy in a pinch (Alexander the Great absolutely *loves* them! Get the 48-count box and save yourself some money), keep in mind that Clif Bars are a more healthy alternative.

Among the advice, the comment about Vikings not appreciating designer labels on clothing really hit close to home and explains a lot about why my Kenneth Cole Reaction Briefs seemed to really set them off during what is now referred to as the Lund Sauna Incident of 1062.

Last, a reminder to grab that coupon for free water, apparently it saves you a lot more money that I would have thought!

Roman Cloth and Asbestos

I just learned that the Romans used asbestos in their table cloths, napkins and sometimes clothes. After dinner they would simply throw the napkins and table cloth into the fire to burn off the food, and the cloth would come out whiter than before. This is why they called it “amiantus” meaning unpolluted.

The problem is that the last time I was in Rome, I bought a really nice tunic. After learning that they sometimes wove asbestos into the cloth, I decided I had better test it. Sure enough, its fire proof.

Now what the Hell am I gonna do with an asbestos tunic! The thing is an environmental hazard!

I guess I am just going to have to take it back.
Back to the time machine!

Handy Time Travel Tips Chart

RatBoy’s_Anvil_2 posted the Handy Time Travel Tips chart.

Chart showing Handy Time Travel Tips Please visit his page by clicking on the chart. Once there you can click on the chart again for a larger copy.

The chart is a set of crib notes on some basic technological achievements up until the year 2000 or so. He suggests to hang this chart in your time machine. If you get stuck in the past, you may be able to capitalize on some of these achievements, or at the very least use some of these yourself to make yourself feel more at home in the past. Just be careful to not get busted for sorcery!

Time Travel Bans

Last April, China made a curious move and outlawed time travel as a plot topic on television and movies. The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television stated that “Producers and writers are treating serious history in a frivolous way, which should by no means be encouraged anymore.” In a country where the ruling party relies on scientific Marxism for its doctrine and media control, time travel provides a way for characters to fantasize about escaping the current political situation and returning to happier times.
More details can be found in the following articles:
CNN: China Bans Time Travel for Television
FOX: China Bands Time Travel TV Shows
HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: China Bans Time Travel Films

Time Travel Gear

Safe and effective time travel into the very distant past or future requires serious background preparation as well as security, safety and local transportation mechanisms. Regulations governing quarantines and transportation restrictions are strictly enforced.

To protect against disease transmission from and/or to the local environment requires complete body covering. The most commonly accepted coverings are of the skin suit class. Skin suits are typically skin tight breathable suits that act like a second skin. They come in various types and levels of protection. Some suits simply act as a sunscreen. Others prevent insect bites or bacterial exchange. Still others, usually heavier and thicker, offer temperature or pressure accommodation. Kevlar suits offer some degree of protection against cuts, scrapes or even projectiles. Skin suits can be used in conjunction with artificial respiration to accommodate minor atmospheric variances as well as underwater environments. They can sometimes be mounted over a helmet giving the impression of the wearer having an enormous head.

Image of Protective Gear

Skin suits can often accommodate vision enhancement lenses. These range in capabilities which usually range from something similar to a pair of sun glasses to block glare, to passive and/or active IR (infrared) goggles. In extreme cases, vision enhancement lenses can act as heads-up displays performing active threat assessment. Such heads-up displays can be implemented at the goggle-level or contact lens-level as the figure below illustrates.

Image of Nano-Implanted Contact Lens

Transportation in the very distant past (or sometimes present or future) is often handled by SaucerShips. An early example of a SaucerShip is seen here. SaucerShips can be used in flight, on or under sea surfaces, and even as land-based encampment.

SaucerShip image


Run around your present neighborhood in this gear, and you risk being mistaken for an alien!
Admittedly fun!