Look-Back Time


“Due to the amount of time required for light traveling through the cosmos to reach the Earth, astronomic observers are always viewing the past—an effect known as ‘look-back time. The Sun has a look-back time of eight minutes, while the Andromeda galaxy’s is two million years.”

From Lapham’s Quarterly.

Of course, look-back time also occurs in our day to day experience; i.e., the amount of time it takes light from a building to hit my eye, and then perception-time, the amount of time it takes the cells to process that photon into some sort of image.  Human beings don’t see the present, ever, we perceive only what has already occured perhaps 1/60th of a second ago.

chronotype (n).

“refers to the behavioral manifestation of underlying circadian rhythms of myriad physical processes. A person’s chronotype is the propensity for the individual to sleep at a particular time during a 24-hour period.”

In other words: are you an early bird, or a night owl?

Rather than focus on such a simple binary based on psychology/circadian rhythms, chronotype might be more useful when extended to the wider variety of potential temporalities–your chronotype refers to what type of time you personally most often experience.

chronosynclastic infundibulum (n)

n. A point in space where, upon a person entering it, that person’s existence in space-time ceases to be linear, becoming discrete. This means that a person that has entered a chronosynclastic infundibulum exists at multiple points and lines in space-time. For example, such a person could exist at all points in time in one place and also appear at another point for five minutes.

From Kurt Vonnegut’s “The Sirens of Titan.”

Winston Niles Rumfoord’s entrance into the chronosynclastic infundibulum allowed him to exist simultaneously on Titan and also occasionally on Earth.
[This text copy-pasted from Urban Dictionary]

Semiotic Phantom (n)

related noun: semiotic haunting.

The Semiotic Phantom was invented by William Gibson.  According to William Gibson, semiotic phantoms  are “bits of deep cultural imagery that have split off and taken a life of their own, like the Jules Verne airships that those old Kansas farmers were always seeing…Semiotic ghosts Fragments of the Mass Dream.” From “The Gernsback Continuum.”  The invisible presence of a past imagination of the future, or an erased past that, nonetheless, survives as pentimenti.  There’s no such thing as a past, because the past is always present.  A strange variation on the Ghost of Christmas Yet – the haunting of futures that weren’t.
For example: this is a recent semiotic phantom–the recent discovery of Newgrange Henge, which revealed itself as if drafted by some giant architect with invisible ink directly onto the landscape—a reminder that the past never passes.

A hallucinatory experience (or perhaps entirely real?) resulting from studying microhistory too much.  The ruins of previously imagined potential futures, ruins of desire, ghosts of never-realized entelechies.  Often the result of hallucination, drug use, or studying too much history, one finds oneself suddenly swept up in a world that could have been but never was.  The pentimento of intention/desire.

According to Gibson you can be cured of these semiotic hauntings by really bad media: think porn, binging Netflix, Tom Swift novels.

“Hell of a world we live in, huh?” The proprietor [asked as I sat] anxious to….submerge myself in hard evidence of the human near-dystopia we live in. “But it could be worse, huh?”

“That’s right, I said, “or even worse, it could be perfect.”

He watched me as I headed down the street with my little bundle of condensed catastrophe.

Related: entelechy, pentimenti, if-only, future shock, mellagia.

negentropy (n)

synonyms: negative entropy, syntropy, extropy, extropy, and entaxy.

adj: negentropic

A word that gives new meaning to “negging.”

It means things becoming more in order. Time in science is defined as the direction of entropy. This makes it very hard to talk about ideas of time that would apply to negentropy or its effects.

From Wikipedia:

“The concept and phrase “negative entropy” was introduced by Erwin Schrödinger in his 1944 popular-science book What is Life?[2] Later, Léon Brillouin shortened the phrase to negentropy,[3][4] to express it in a more “positive” way: a living system imports negentropy and stores it.[5] In 1974, Albert Szent-Györgyi proposed replacing the term negentropy with syntropy. That term may have originated in the 1940s with the Italian mathematician Luigi Fantappiè, who tried to construct a unified theory of biology and physics. Buckminster Fuller tried to popularize this usage, but negentropy remains common.”

retrofuture (n)

retrofutures (pl); retrofuturistic (adj)

(Latin: retro “backward” — futurus.. [essere – to be; futurus – about to be])

If “futurism is sometimes called a ‘science’ bent on anticipating what will come, retrofuturism is the remembering of that anticipation.” — Guffey & Lemay

Cf: steampunk, world’s fairs, the world before you knew Santa wasn’t real.

chronoclasm (n)

chronoclastic (adj)

plural chronoclasms

  1. The intentional destruction of clocks and other time artifacts (politics)
  2. The desire to crush the prevailing sense of time, due to a conflict regarding the fixation of linear time in a community
  3. A temporarily frazzled mental state resulting from confusion over what time it is.
  4. (science fiction) An interference with the course of history caused by time travel.

mellalgia (n)

mellalgic (adj)

The opposite of nostalgia, mellalgia is a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the future, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

Ety. Greek: μέλλο: “future” + ἄλγος: “pain.”

Inspired by the late Svetlana Boym’s wonderful book, The Future of Nostalgia. Mellalgia is the topic of Proust’s unfinished book, Remembrance of Things to Come. C. J. Cherryh experiments with the idea of mellalgia in her short story, “The Threads of Time,” in which she describes her time traveling protagonist experiencing such a feeling:

He lived scattered lives in ages to come, and remembered the future with increasing melancholy.

I totally made this word up in the name of academese.