Assuming that you assumed correctly…

September 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

Blog 3: When reading Kip Thorne’s chapter on wormholes and time-travel, the common person (me), must realize/ realizes many things.  1. That you are not and probably will never be Kip Thorne.  2. As such, you probably do not understand more than 30% of what he is talking about.  You love the idea, but can you really picture negative energy from the time frame of a person within the wormhole? Really, can you?  3. You probably had to reread each paragraph 1-10 times.  4. When rereading you probably noted several variations of the word “assumption.”  And when reading this I was particular struck by the amount of assumptions.  Assuming that I am Kip Thorne, and assuming that I understand what I am talking about, and assuming that didn’t have to reread my own thoughts, I still have to make assumptions.  That is why I was not surprised to find his ultimate solution equates to “we humans must first become experts on quantum gravity’s laws.”  Well duh.  That is why his friends kept calling him up to make sure he was sane as word got out he was studying the plausibility of time travel through wormholes.  Time-travel, it appears, holds a very negative stigma in the realm of physicists precisely because of our lack of knowledge, technical ability, and the amount of assumptions that must be made.  We know the desired end result, but the path toward that result is unclear.  Better yet, the end result has yet to be proven physically possible.  If wormholes exist, who is to say what it will look like?  We can speculate.  If they exist, who is to say where they will meet?  And one of the biggest ifs of all, what will such a reaction between the mass of a human form and the mass of a wormhole do to a human?  Now, I surely do not critique Kip Thorne on his studies, as he has been very careful to acknowledge the inconsistencies behind his ideas.  Yet his attempt to pinpoint single possibilities for time-travel demonstrates the near impossibility of it ever happening.  Stephen Hawking argues that time-travel is innately barred from existing by natural laws.  Kip Thorne himself admits after peer-review that wormhole time machines will likely self-destruct by some cause should one ever be harnessed.

Coming into the course, I was of the mind that anything is physically possible.  Whether humans will ever have the technology, desire, or the right luck to perform any task is remains to be seen.  But after reading this article, I recognized that leading physicists are dealing with what is mathematically plausible at the threshold of plausibility.  Thorne nicely describes these impossibilities as, “what things do the laws of physics permit an infinitely advanced civilization to do, and what things do the laws forbid?”  And to provide relevancy to the course, his next sentence reads, “We physicists, I believe have tended to avoid such questions because they are so close to science fiction.”  In that manner, I look back to the time-travel science fiction we have read.  Each story seems to have found a way to safely place a human within another time.  Now, issues do arise and are addressed, but what about stories that deal with the issues of plausibility of time-travel in general.   Compelling stories may address time-travel of single particles over brief seconds of time.

Regardless, enjoy this video from the Stephen Hawking documentary that explains some issues of time-travel in relation to speed of light.

-Kevin M.


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