Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Sound Of Thunder - by Ray Bradbury

One of my favorite time travel movies was Ray Bradbury's "A sound of thunder" . I have read the short story, the comic book, I have seen the TV version on the Ray Bradbury theater and then the 2 film adaptations. It is a pretty good story based on the "Butterfly effect" we have all heard about.If you get a chance, check it out. you might like it.


A Sound Of Thunder - by Ray Bradbury

Originally published in the June 28 1952 edition of Collier’s magazine, Bradbury’s seminal tale of a hunting safari sent back in time to kill a dinosaur has been reprinted more than two dozen times in collections and anthologies. A film adaptation of Bradbury’s A Sound of Thunder features Ed Burns as Travis Ryer, the leader of the safari and Ben Kingsley as Charles Hatton the owner of the safari company.

The encounter with the Tyrannosaurus forms the heart of the story with Bradbury’s eloquent prose transporting the reader along with the hunting expedition sixty-million years into the past.
Bradbury’s tale serves not only to entertain but also to speculate on the dangers of time travel. His illustration of a ripple effect on the timeline caused by a seemingly unrelated events over a long period of time is not only demonstrated by the climax of the story, but is also explained in the context of the story. The following passage is an exchange between Travis, the leader of the safari and Eckels one of the businessmen.

While Bradbury does an excellent job illustrating the point, he tends to over simplify the ripple effect since he assumes the timeline to be static and that by removing the mouse from the equation a void is created that multiplies up the timeline. It seems more likely that true effect might be equally as dramatic, but unfolding over time in a much more dynamic way. Using Bradbury’s example a lack of mice might mean something other than the fox evolves and thrives on the land, or perhaps the fox adapts to another food source altogether.
The climax of the story involves the return of the hunting party to the office of Time Safari Inc. which still oddly enough still exists, but the language has evolved differently.
More importantly they discover that the presidential election has been influenced and that the fascist candidate Deutscher was elected president instead of the moderate candidate.
While dramatically effective, the ending virtually contradicts Bradbury’s earlier example of the ripple effect and the mouse. The ending suggests that while the players remain the same, namely the presidential candidates Keith and Deutscher, that their environment and the evolution of the human language has been influenced.
It’s an interesting coincidence that Bradbury chose a butterfly to symbolize the chaotic effect multiplied over time. The term Butterfly Effect did not originate until MIT research meteorologist Edward Lorenz discovered in the early 1960s that small variations in his computer model caused wildly divergent results. Lorenz later went on to write a seminal paper on Chaos Theory based on his experience.

Bradbury’s short story also inspired The Simpsons segment Treehouse of Horror episode in a segment called “Time and Punishment” from Season 6. In the episode Homer accidentally discovers time travel when he jams a fork in a broken toaster trying to fix it. Homer’s first unplanned trip to the past takes him to prehistoric times where he stomps on a bug and changes the course of history in hilarious ways.
Bradbury’s time travel story serves to point out how small actions can have big consequences.

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