Thursday, March 5, 2015

DId The Past Really Happen?

In 1906 Van Tassel Sutphen wrote a book on how he saw New York City in 2015.

In 2015 Michael Stevens (YouTube's Vsauce) made a video called "Did The Past Really Happen?"

There are many obvious signs within the video that Michael is alluding to a theory. The music in the background is eerie and reminiscent of old monster movies, like Invasion of the Body Snatcher (1956).

"Last Thursdayism" is the belief that the universe was created...last Thursday. Around 4:53 a clip appears showing a surgeon with a futuristic medical tool that looks kind of like a weird phone. This is an interesting juxtaposition with 4:32 when Michael says "the past" and a clip of him walking by ancient Greek ruins is shown. These two signifiers work to contrast the past and present and leave the present in a state of "rock and hard place" where it is undefinable outside of its foundational neighbors. The present is just...not the past or future.

Another interesting idea is how the whole video takes place in a dressing room. The lights are constantly glowing in the background...but when did they start? They were always on. They have energy that can be dispersed, but Michael points out that all the energy in the system whether the lights were on or off is the same. Here Michael mentions the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that energy spreads and doesn't form (unless an ice crystal or a birth, but apparently these are not affecting the larger world - so it's okay). Here an animation of "energy" is seen transferring between two boxes. The separate colors between the two boxes both become purple to signify the equalization of the two areas.

When Michael pulls out a deck of cards (8:26) he reveals that the entropic condition of the Second Law does not change when the cards are rearranged (rearrangement of energy = chaos) but that the energy is actually left through his own body in order to shuffle the cards. "In order to shuffle the cards," he says, "my body has to do work. It has to take energy concentrated in my cells, and change and disperse that energy into kinetic energy movement." This symbol reveals the state of the natural world, where the micro-situations are formed by the expended energy of the macro-world.

Michael uses this explanation of an idea to further explain that an individual's (you) impact on the world, the ripples as he calls them, may be forgotten, but the effect will remain in the world. Thus, because energy spreads scientists believe this is how the world will end (in a "googol years").

The constant switching of topics is actually a symbol in itself. It reveals the interconnectivity of all things, eventually reaching a conclusion that all life affects the world, whether all life is considered or not. 


  1. Afer reading the analyses of other students, I think I totally missed the mark on this one. I hope there is a redeemable factor in there somewhere...

  2. What is redeemable is that this is SO interesting-- great analysis in general, and lots of application to poststructuralism when we get there. Also, you might like my class "The 'Real' World," so keep an eye for it (Spring 2017-- will you still be here?). However, not quite on point as a semiotic analysis, since we don't quite get the focus on a particular sign or set of signs, and how their meaning is made in the context that they are in... I think you probably get it after our class today, but do come see me if you want to chat more!