Time Delay Story

Many, many, many years ago, there was a man who claimed he could turn off stars. Poof, just like that, the starlight would be off. It was a drastic claim, and not many people believed him. The king of the land was one such person. He thought the man was incredibly foolish and he wanted to rid his land of tomfools. So one night, he summoned the man to his lofty terrance, pointed at a star, and asked the man if he was able to turn off that star.

The man nodded, “of course,” he said, “but it is a long and tedious process, and I do not wish to do it.”

“But I am king,” the king replied, “you must do as I want, or face punishment.”

Back in those days, there was only one type of punishment, and it usually involved the victim no longer breathing the next day. So the man decided he would turn off the star. It was indeed a tedious process that involved lots of  mixing of colorful liquids, clanging of metals, and jumping and flailing around in rainbow colored garb while chanting meaningless sounds. But finally, at long last, when nearly every creature in the land was asleep, the man exclaimed to the king, “the star is off, your highness.”

The king was weary and cranky by this time. He had stayed awake the entire time watching the man prance about and tinker with his odd equipment. But despite how bleary eyed the king was, he could still clearly see the star in sky. It was unmistakable that the star still shone brightly, because on the man’s face was a look of confusion and disappointment and fear. The king dismissed the man to his guards, and told them to prepare the man’s punishment.

But here’s the punch line, the star the king had asked the man to turn off can no longer be seen today. This is because the man did in fact turn off the star. But because the star is so far away, and it takes light a considerably long time to travel across space, the starlight emitting from the star that the king saw after the man had turn off the star was from before the star was turned off. It wasn’t until much later that the effects of the man turning off the star could be observed in the night sky. Poor man, he was not foolish at all.

I heard this story, above, from my Logic Design professor. And I thought I’d share it, paraphrased, of course. My professor told us this story so we would be mindful to make our designs react quickly. But take from it what you whatever you please.

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