Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Future of Cricket

The ICC really seem to be dragging their heals over the continued development of the game of cricket. The latest decision has been based on the financial concerns of their partners rather than concern for the future of the game.
The ICC had laid in place plans for a Test World Championship to be played in England in 2013. The top four ranked teams in the world would play off in two semi finals and one timeless test final. It would have been a spectacle to show case the most elite level of cricket in the world.
The current four top ranked test teams in the world are:
1. England
2. India
3. South Africa
4. Australia
Previously, Australia had been streets ahead of the rest, but they have now dropped back in to the pack. Recently Australia were ranked fifth behind Sri Lanka. A series win against Sri Lanka in August, a competitive tied series in South Africa and now a win against India at the MCG have shown that although Australia is playing catch up, they have not lost touch in remaining a competitive test outfit. In fact there may not have been a time when test cricket has been as competitive as it is now.
The ICC planned to stage the tournament in 2013, but ESPN Star Sports, who are the broadcast partners for the ICC indicated that they would prefer to broadcast a ICC Champions Trophy instead. The Champions trophy is a largely redundant tournament, considering there is still a ODI World Cup played. A Champions Trophy will yield 7 days of cricket in total. A test world championship would yield 15 days. Considering that the biggest market for watching cricket on tv is in India, it is surprising that ESPN believe that a Chamions Trophy would rate better.

This poor planning is rooted in a far bigger problem. There has been a perennial problem through out the history of cricket; the battle between conservatism and progress. Even from the early days in England there was a battle to stop gambling among the lower classes on cricket matches and to keep the game in the hands of the socially elite. When Australia (a nation with convict roots) defeated England in the first test match in 1877 it was seen as the "death of cricket" by many in England. It is interesting that the conservative forces in cricket have always been concerned about the game's "impending death."

The forces at play in England are interesting. In post war England much has been done to advance the game. The national team was opened up to working class players, which eventually led to a multi racial team. (England have been world leaders in equality- which seems quite contradictory to traditional notions of history.) One day cricket was invented in the 1960s in England. Then in 2003 Twenty 20 was also invented in England.
While England may have been the source of conservatism in world cricket in the past, that seems to have shifted. The ICC was originally a body heavily dominated by English and Australian representatives, based at the MCC at Lords in London. The ICC have now broken free of London and based themselves in Dubai. They have a strong Asian influence, but somehow they have carried with them the conservatism of old.

While England have provided the intellectual property for the last two cricket revolutions, Australia and then India have provided the momentum. World Series Cricket in the late 70s and early 80s made one day cricket the exciting contest that thrilled a new generation. The Indian Premier League has now brought the same thrill to Twenty 20 cricket.

People were once afraid that one day cricket would kill test cricket. But thirty years of prolific one day cricket around the world have not damaged test cricket at all. In that time the game of test cricket has sped up, thanks to the evolution of skills from the one day game. The popularity of test cricket has ebbed and flowed but it has overall maintained its appeal.

The ICC seem to be losing sight of the way forward in international cricket now. The glaring problem is that the calendar is overfull with meaningless contests. There is so much one day cricket played around the world, the games counting for very little. The World Cup itself has lost its appeal too. To some the way forward seems clear, but the ICC are stuck in the mud. Graeme Swann, a professional cricketer from England seems to be the first to publicly call for the sacking of the one day game.

A new plan:
Phase out one day cricket altogether. 
-England has already reduced their one day games at domestic level to 40 overs a side.
-Australia have a 45 over per side game with split innings of 20 and 25 overs.
This experimentation is due to the 50 over game losing interest among the public.

Expand Twenty 20 cricket significantly.
The birth of the Indian Premier League and the Big Bash League in Australia has seen the prominence of the T20 game grow. The revolution in cricket is seeing the game switch from being a representative based game (club, province, state, country) to a league based game.
To keep things simple and allow the easy transition to a league based game, T20 should only be played at international level on rare occasions.

Only play T20 internationals as part of a T20 world cup, or as preparation and qualification games for such a tournament.

Create windows in the yearly schedule where T20 tournaments can be played and when international players are free to play also.

In Australia this could look something like:

- An 8 week window for the Big Bash League, with all Australian players available. (No ODIs, no Twenty 20 internationals.) This would create a demand for the league as the only variety of the short game available to watch.
- The rest of the Summer dedicated to first class cricket at state level and to test matches.
- A lead up period at the start of the season where all Australian team players play first class cricket for their state.

At Associate level it could look something like:

-Maintain the first class four day competition between the Associate nations.
-Encourage the Associate nations to compete in Twenty 20 leagues around the world. I.e Canada compete in the Caribbean competition (already occurring); Kenya, Zimbabwe, Namibia in an African Twenty 20 league; Netherlands, Scotland, Ireland in a European Twenty 20 league.

In short, the game should be simplified to two fields- First class cricket (including test cricket) and Twenty 20 League cricket (but with a World Cup, the same way that soccer has league matches and then internationals).

This change would allow for the Twenty leagues to flourish, which would actually expand the game at domestic level in all countries, while at the same time giving some of the focus back to test cricket as the premium international contest.

It remains to be seen whether the ICC have the foresight to allow for these changes. Their role is to be custodians of the game not motivated by their own financial interests.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Is time travel possible? (Einstein, Mallett and the Large Hadron Collider)

I wrote very briefly back in 2006 that I think time travel is possible. I have always believed that time travel is possible. What I have not known is whether it could come about in my life time or not. I have never gone into this deeply on my blog, mostly because people do not like to entertain this topic. Some of my recent reading has led me to realise that it is an area of physics that is now being seriously researched. Finally I can begin to explore this topic.

Einstein's theories prove time travel forward is possible
Einstein opened up the possibility of time travel being a serious scientific concept through his two theories: the general theory of relativity and the special theory of relativity. The special theory of relativity says that when an object travels fast enough time slows down.

I.e  Repeated experiments have shown the following:
- An atomic clock was placed on a jet plane.
- A corresponding atomic clock was placed on the ground, with exactly the same time.
- The jet plane flew in the sky at a speed approaching sound.
- When the plane landed, its clock was fractionally behind the clock on the ground.

As mentioned, this experiment has been carried out many times. There was nothing wrong with the clocks. This experiment was carried out by physicists seeking to prove Einstein's special theory of relativity. The pilot on those flights had actually jumped forward in time, although only by a very small amount.
Travel at much faster speeds would allow the traveler to jump even further forward in time. Consider a space ship that traveled out into space at close to the speed of light. Traveling at that speed for a journey of two years and back would occur while over 200 years passed on earth. This is based on exactly the same theory as the jet plane and atomic clock experiment. This a widely accepted theory in physics that says that it is possible to jump forward in time.

There is another method of jumping forward in time that is theoretically possible. Black holes can bend space and time, allowing a jump forward or back in time. Black holes could of course tear part what ever objects traveled through them.
Another method again is a worm hole. A worm hole is currently theoretical, but it connects two different places of space and time.

Building a time machine employing the physics of a black hole would require the ability to manipulate the energy of an entire star. So it is still very theoretical.

What ever the case, it must first be established that time travel forward has already been proven as theoretically possible.

Examples of time travel in every day life

I am sitting on the couch here typing my blog on the laptop. My son is currently sitting in another room playing with his toys. I can see him and hear him, yet he is actually in the past. The light traveling from him and the sound traveling from him take time to get to me. All people around us are actually in a different frame of time to our own.
Another example comes from the form of videos and photos. We are capable of watching past events that have been recorded on film or video. This would not be possible if the machine (video camera) that captures these past events had not yet been made. This means, that it is impossible for us to view events before the camera had been invented. The camera does give us a glimpse into the past, a sort of time travel for the brain.

Backwards time travel has always been refuted
Many have argued that although it is theoretically possible to travel forwards in time at great leaps, that it is impossible to travel backwards in time. There is however a modern physicist whose research questions this very notion. His name is Dr. Ronald Mallett, and he is a professor of physics at the University of Connecticut. He has an interesting story. His research boiled down says that gravity can affect time (as in a black hole), and that light can affect gravity. His research has been in black holes and lasers for much of his career. His theory is that light by affecting gravity, can affect time.

Mallett explains that light can make space swirl around, in the same way that a teaspoon can stir water in a coffee cup. If a cube of sugar is thrown into the swirling coffee it can be observed swirling around. In the same way a particle thrown into swirling space can also be observed.
Mallett theorises, that when such a machine is built it will be possible to send particles back in time, but only to any point when the machine is already switched on. I.e If it were switched on today, December 15h, 2011, then from any point in the future a particle could be sent back to today or any day after today. A particle could not be sent back to December 14th or any earlier day. This is much the same as the fact that film can not be made before the date that the camera was invented.

If Mallett successfully makes his time machine, we will not be able to travel in time as people, but it will be a significant leap in the theory of time travel.

The Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.

The Large Hadron Collider is a large underground tunnel 27 km in circumference, not unlike a synchrotron. Its designed purpose is to collide protons and other sub atomic particles with one another. It is hoped that many things will be discovered about the nature of sub atomic particles. Further than that it is hoped that layers below the sub-atomic such as the existence of a Higgs-boson particle can either be proven or disproven. It is also hoped that the nature of dark matter can be understood through experiments.
All of these experiments will no doubt bring far greater understanding to the nature of physics, giving greater context to the concept of time travel.
Before the collider was switched on there were some people who tried to take out legal injunctions against its procession. They claimed that the experiments could open up black holes that could suck the earth up. It is true that experiments at the collider could indeed create black holes, but none with any sufficient power to suck the earth up. It has also been postulated that the experiments could open up tiny worm holes.
And now for the slightly tongue in cheek question. Are they actually building a time machine at CERN in Switzerland?
(For now I am happy to take all experiments as above board. But I do find it uncanny that the Large Hadron Collider is capable of sending protons at "3 metres per second less than the speed of light." This sounds potentially like a very large model of what Dr. Ronald Mallett is currently attempting to build.)

It is actually possible that activities at the Large Hadron Collider could be paving the way for time travel to occur, by the creation of worm holes, or at the very least by a far deeper understanding of physics.

The physics is there to theoretically prove that time travel is possible. Personally I get excited by this stuff. The practicality for people to time travel could still be a long way off. The possibility of sending particles through time may not be far away. It may even be possible to send messages through time.
For someone to travel backwards in time, there would have to already be a working time machine on the date in the past. Therefore if someone claims today that they are a time traveler the easiest way to test this is to see their time machine.
The possible existence of wormholes however could contradict the theory that a time machine must be present in the past. It may simply be possible to travel through a worm hole. It may not be possible however to choose where and when these worm holes go, and if it is possible to return.