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Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Time Travel Part 2 (Physics)

('wormhole' painting by Andrew Leipzig)

Science will always be sceptical of science fiction. Let’s face it. IF time travel is a possibility, it is probably a very complex process. Lots of things have to be considered:

1.      How does one manifest in each moment in time? Can there be ‘more’ of you at the same time and place?
2.      How does the past affect the future exactly? If you go back in time and get killed, would you exist ANYWHERE?
3.      How can you affect something that is linear? Time is a progression that cannot be easily defined or predicted. Let alone manipulated like that.
4.      Are there specific ‘places’ that you can travel to and from in time?
5.      Are there any particular points in space or time that hold more weight than others? (I have based one of my novels on this question.)
6.      If you go back, do you know for sure that you’d be able to CHANGE anything? Or would you only be a spectator to the unraveling events?
7.      If you go forward and die, what does that mean to your life? Have you never been born? Have you suddenly disappeared from the face of the Earth?

The basic premise of time travel is that Time is the fourth dimension in the spacetime continuum. Time travel dates as far back as approx. 400s BC. Basically, ever since there was intelligent life, there has been imagination and time travel. What is more, travelling backwards in time, according to Physics, is much more complex and unlikely than traveling forward. This is because of Einstein’s Relativity Theory. In fact, Stephen Hawking made the excellent argument that if there are no ‘future tourists’ in the present, then time travel is probably not developed (and probably still impossible) in the future (known as 'the Hawking’s Paradox'). 

On the one hand, ‘forward travel’ can be done (but only in books) by the means of time dilation, which is when you travel in space at the speed of light, then slow down, turn around, and go back to Earth. According to this model, you may have ‘skipped’ a few thousand years on Earth. Yet another way to accomplish the same is suspended animation. We all know about that one. I love it and use it in my own books as well as cryonics. It’s when your bodily processes like breathing, heart-beat, aging, and stuff are slowed down, but not terminated. Cryonics is when you are frozen for some time period.

Ah, the beauty of science.

Travel backward, on the other hand, is theorized to be ‘possible’ in three ways: speed-of-light travel, black holes, and wormholes. When Sagan went to Kip Thorne for advice on time travel, he got a useful piece of advice. He said that wormholes are probably more reliable than black holes. Wormholes are more like shortcuts through time and space. You’re here now, and the next moment you are in another time. Brilliant, no?

I am sure you already know where I’m going. Modern day example? Undying classic? That’s right. It’s DOCTOR WHO. What’s even more amazing, I don’t think there is a person who has not heard of Doctor Who. (I must admit, I haven’t watched the series, but heard and seen enough to know the basics.)

On the other hand, black holes are dangerous, and if you go into a black hole, I won’t lie to you: you ain’t ever coming back. Or perhaps you’ll go somewhere that is gazillion light years away and you’ll die before you can even begin to come back. Yikes.

So don’t jump into any Black Holes, okay? Stay here. There’s nice people here. :)

Next (Part 3, Ethics): Teleportation, parallel worlds, and genetic engineering.
Question: Which method would YOU use in your scifi book? Do you use one already? Tell us more about it.


jasonmckinney said...

My wife hooked me on Doctor Who to the point where I have a preference for my Doctor. lol I like the idea of cryo transport. First movie I saw it in was the original Planet of the Apes. the thought of freezing a person for long distance travel without damaging them physically is a pretty cool idea.

Lyn Midnight said...

It is! I was hooked as soon as I found out about it! It make so much more sense than simply jumping from place to place like the Doctor does. And why is he called a Doctor anyway? lol Thanks for commenting!