Posted on Friday, October 29th, 2010 by Germain Lussier
Earlier this week, we were one of many sites to post a very intriguing video that hit the web. It was from the extras on the DVD of Charlie Chaplin’s 1928 film The Circus and showed what many believed to be a woman on a cell phone in 1928. George Clarke, the filmmaker and Simon Pegg lookalike who made the video, surmised the only thing it could be was a time traveler. And while we guessed that probably wasn’t the case, it was fun to discuss nonetheless. The video has since gone viral, getting picked up by major news organizations and more.
The Christian Science Monitor, however, has gone ahead and done actual research about this footage. And while they can’t say for certain, odds are the woman was just holding a primitive hearing aid called an ear trumpet. Check out a photo of an ear trumpet and read more after the jump.
Here’s a photo of an ear trumpet. It certainly looks like something someone would hold like a cell phone.
Here’s the are some quotes from Philip Skroska, an archivist at the Bernard Becker Medical Library of Washington University in St. Louis, who debunks the myth:
As you can tell from these, old-fashioned mechanical or resonating hearing aids were not necessarily long and rounded. Short, compact rectangular forms were not unusual. Besides, I would expect this woman to be over 50 years old, so using a late 19th century design in 1928 would not be a stretch I think. Now, I can’t really explain why the woman appears to be talking (other than yelling at the man who quickened his pace ahead of her). But I think it’s fair to say it would be a hasty judgment to dismiss the possibility that it was a hearing aid she was holding up to her ear.
So, sorry kids. We do not have our first evidence of a time traveler actually existing.
We do recommend, however, that if you are still fascinated by this clip and the possibility that it was a time traveler, you should head over and read the CSM article. It goes into a lot of the problems that physics poses for actual time travel and is a great read.