Search Search

MACH 33: "The Last Flight of the Mercenary"

[Other Past MACH 33 Shows]

by Karen Howes
Special Alumni Weekend event!

  • Performance Date: May 16, 2015

A romantic comedy of science and love.

At a bed and breakfast perched above the Saanich Inlet in British Columbia, a young woman’s plan to marry the perfect man is thrown off course when a physics professor constructs a time machine so that she may alter the circumstances of her future and discover what went wrong in her life. This is a play of science and love, Shakespeare, nights without stars, and the latest in quantum information theory.

Written works by Karen Howes include credits in television, documentary and stage. She is currently a member of Skylight Theater's PlayLab development group in Beverly Hills. As a journalist, Karen has written hundreds of magazine features on science and technology, which have been published throughout the world and translated into numerous languages.

Director Kathryn Bikle is well-known at Caltech for directing plays such as Major Barbara by George Bernard Shaw and The Tempest by William Shakespeare.

Science mentor Aidan Chatwin-Davies is a PhD student at Caltech in the Particle Theory Group where he works on problems where gravity, quantum information, and cosmology intersect. Aidan is particularly interested in the quantum nature of spacetime and what we can learn about fundamental physics from cosmology.

Of their work together in Mach 33, science advisor Aidan Chatwin-Davies and playwright Karen Howes write:

"Utmost appreciation goes to Aiden Chatwin-Davies, whose patience and knowledge enabled the use of quantum information theory as a means to discuss time travel outside of the context pure science fiction. Aidan and I worked amazingly well together. I attribute our synergy to the fact that we both wanted the play to work. I wanted to lift time travel out of the realm of science fiction, and he had the specifics to help me do it.  In early drafts, I was trying to connect the play to multi-dimensional string theory (which was the science darling of the time). When Caltech got hold of the script, they introduced me to Aidan and he introduced me to Quantum Information Theory.  Once I understood the concept, I knew it was exactly the theory I needed to make the play a good piece of theater. As a result, audiences no longer got stuck on the whether or not time travel was possible. Suddenly, the time travel aspect of the play wasn’t extraordinary at all. It was completely plausible and held a natural place within the dramatic action and climax of the play."  - Karen

"For me, it was a chance participate in outreach and to engage the public in a new and interesting way, namely, through theatre. It's certainly a medium with which I have very little experience and would not have come into contact with were it not for Mach 33 and Karen's work! On a scientific level, it was also a chance discuss ideas like time travel in a grounded, yet also unrestrained way. The play never tries to directly explain nor explicitly realize time travel, which would likely result in a lot of physically incorrect things being said. To the contrary, the play never says too much; scientifically, it's an invitation to the audience to think about what time travel might mean in the context of physics that we know about." - Aidan