It Must Be Done.

September 9, 2015 § 2 Comments

It must be done. I nervously glanced down at my watch, calibrated to detect the precise instant in time I had entered as well as to keep track of the relative time that had passed since I had begun my travels. It was 6:43 pm, September 18, 2139. Ten minutes until show time.

I discovered the mechanism for time travel approximately five days prior to now; or, rather, I have lived five days since I began traveling in time. The mechanism of my travels is rather simple, yet it took me years to create. Any child past 7th grade (or is it 6th grade curriculum now?) knows that the space-time continuum of Minkowski Space may be manipulated by an extremely strong gravitational well.  It is also known that it is possible for this well to bend the plane of space-time so much it that it doubles back upon itself, creating a kind of “hole” where the two points in the plane intersect that connects one part of the plane to another and therefore connects two instances in time. Most believe that this kind of hole only occurs within the vacuum of space and would be impossible to create here on Earth. I, however, managed to achieve this feat, an accomplishment I now regret with the deepest passion. I created a machine that uses gravitons, the boson particle that carries the force of gravity, to create a strong enough gravitational well to bend space-time and create a doorway that remains contained and closable through the use of counteracting anti-gravitons that act as a kind of “push to the pull,” per say. It took a lot of calculating, but I managed to figure out how to calibrate the machine so that I can control what instance in time that the door opens into down to the second. The machine is a masterpiece. And now I hope to make it so that the masterpiece never comes into existence.

7 minutes until I complete my mission. When I created the machine, I never thought of any negative implications. I understood the hypothesis of the ripple effect, that a small change in the past could greatly alter the future, but I was a stark believer in my own hypothesis, that the ripples would have negligible effects on human life and that so long as you mapped out the effects precisely, you could travel freely into the past, altering it in whatever which way you want. I believed this earnestly, and spent five days mapping out paths, planning a test, a simple test, to see if my hypothesis was true. All I did was pick some flowers, five to be precise, a simple week before my own time. I brought these flowers back to my original time (creating a pretty decoration), and checked to see if my simple action had any effect at all. It had.

After studying the incident my action had altered, I concluded the following had occurred: the flowers I had picked were to be admired by a young three-year-old girl precisely two days after I had picked them; her stopping to simply smell the flowers had allowed the girl’s mother time to grab her before she mindlessly ran out into the middle of the road; without the flowers, she did not stop, and was hit and killed immediately. I had removed the flowers; I had killed a three-year-old girl.

Two minutes left. I wait patiently for my past self to leave the lab; it is the day before my inspiration, the day before the invention of the time machine. I know what I have to do, but still fear and doubt creep into my mind as I prepare to destroy my life’s work. It is not just the years spent conceiving and designing the machine that I will be losing; when I destroy the machine, I am consciously destroying any version of myself (and truly any version of the world) that had contact with and was affected by the machine. In that way, this mission is suicide. I am destroying the version of “me” that I know as me. I feel like I am facing death, but at the same time this “me” will actually never have come into existence, so is it really death at all? These questions make my head reel; I cannot think about them now. I must complete my mission. The experiment that led to the death of the little girl is only an incident that will repeat and be amplified a million fold if the machine is allowed to come into existence, for if not I then others using my work will create such machines and affect many futures. One small ripple can combine with many ripples to form a tidal wave, and I cannot allow that to happen.

One minute. I walk into my lab seconds after my past self walks out. I leave the note I have written outside the lab, explaining everything about what happened, why I must do this, and why I, or the past me, should discontinue all research on time travel. I am not sure whether or not the note will cease to exist with my own existence terminating, but no matter; I mustn’t bother with the petty details and just do what I have to do.

I insert the drive into my computer, implanting a virus I created specifically to wipe out any electronic trace of my work, deleting everything. Smiling softly, I turn on the gas nozzle of an old burner, letting the smell of rotten eggs fill the room. I know once I light my match the room will go up in flames, but I do not worry about burning. I will cease to exist, never having existed in the first place. I know what I have to do. It must be done.


A wormhole connecting two sides of space-time By Panzi (English Wikipedia) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

A wormhole connecting two sides of space-time
By Panzi (English Wikipedia) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons


A Letter From a Future Self

October 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

Dear PJ,

Hello from the future!  I’m not sure what kind of paradoxes sending you this letter will lead to.  Surely it couldn’t have warped the space-time continuum too much or anything like that because apparently I still survived to write this letter to you.  Or maybe another Universe has been created and you are not really me.  I’m not sure.  But no matter what situation you find yourself in, I would like to offer you a few words of advice.   Below is a list of 10 things for you to remember as you grow older.  I can only hope that by taking these words to heart you will grow up to be a slightly wiser, holier, and all around better man than the one who writes this letter to you.

1. In a few years, you will be taking a test called the SAT.  The answers to the first 20 questions are C,A,C,C,B,B, D, A,C,A,B,C,D,D,B,C,B,A,C,D.

Haha, just kidding.  Those aren’t the right answers.  I’m sure you know that you/I would never cheat like that.  But at least you know you still have the same corny sense of humor when you get older.

2. Don’t forget to pray.  Every day.  No matter what.  Nothing else will give you the kind of peace, joy, and love that God will give you through prayer.  And nothing else is more important.

3. Listen to Mom and Dad and do what they tell you.  Yes, they really are a little harsh sometimes.  And yes they are more strict than they should be.  But they are still your parents.  By respecting them, even when they are wrong, you will be showing your love for them in one of the best ways possible.  But let’s face it, in reality they are almost always right, and you are almost always wrong.

4. Don’t try to be so independent.  Believe it or not, there will come a time when actually miss your family.  You will miss all of the things that Mom used to do for you that you have to do yourself now.  Like laundry.  So enjoy it while you can.

5. Hold fast to what you know is true and right.  I don’t really have to tell you this, because you are stubborn enough as it is.  It takes courage to go against the crowd, but it is worth it.  As you will later read from G.K. Chesterton, “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.”

6. Don’t watch so much TV and read so many books.  Spend time with real people.  I know you always want to retire into the recesses of your own mind.  But you need other people.  They bring you out of yourself and into the beauty and adventure of the real world.

7. Never tire of giving of yourself in love.  No one ever looks back on their life and says “I wish I had been more selfish.”  or “I wish I had never woken up early to help my little brother with homework.”  It will be tiring and exhausting.  But it is worth it.

8. In the future people will start using the phrase “YOLO.”  DON’T DO IT.

9. Also, in 2002, bet all of your money on the Cubs to win the World Series.  No, they won’t win that year (or anytime in the near future for that matter).  But the video game you were going to spend that money on will take up way too much of your time and distract you from living life in the real world.

10. And finally, go to Canada, find a kid named Justin Bieber, and give him some books to read or a sport to play or something.  Just make sure he doesn’t take up singing.  The world will be eternally indebted to you.

Life is an adventure.  Make it an exciting one.  And on the night of October 9, 2012, don’t forget that you have a letter to write.  Make it a good one.

Your friend,


-PJ Jedlovec (pjjed) (B5)

Mathematical Career DNE

September 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

I consider myself to be a passionate student of mathematics. I have always enjoyed mathematics, but my fondness for the subject developed into love after taking more abstract courses in college. Topology, for instance, offers the opportunity to create, analyze, and compare abstract spaces. After college, I hope to go to graduate school for mathematics and eventually become a professor. However, I once almost made a choice that would have most likely prevented me from realizing my love of this subject and derailed me from the path on which I now find myself.

During my freshman year, I enrolled in a mathematics course that was, at the time, quite difficult for me. It was my first real experience with a non-computational mathematics course, and I found the unfamiliar nature of the material somewhat overwhelming. At one point, I considered withdrawing from this course because I was planning to major in cellular biology and did not “need” to take such a difficult mathematics course. I remember thinking seriously and for a long time about this decision. In this universe, I eventually decided that, even though I felt like a sponge under a waterfall of information, I still enjoyed the material too much to give it up. Hence, I finished the course and went on to other mathematics courses, where I found that the background I had developed gave me a degree of mathematical intuition and an understanding of rigor from which I will benefit for the rest of my career.

Consider a universe in which I did drop the course. I probably would have majored in cellular biology or neuroscience. Perhaps I would have continued on to medical school or graduate school to become a physician or a researcher, respectively. I have done immunological research and thought it was fascinating, so I certainly do not want to depict this alternate universe as the bleak actualization of a mistake where I would spend my days contemplating my possible career as a mathematician. I might take the MCAT instead of the GRE or be a resident physician instead of a postdoc, but I am comfortable saying that I would most likely be quite happy if I pursued this career path. Nevertheless, I cannot disregard the fact that I would miss out on the exhilarating feeling of solving a problem with a clever proof and of constructing interesting spaces in which my mind can wander. Therefore, I do not think that dropping the course would have resulted in an unpleasant future, but there is no guarantee that I would feel as fulfilled as I do by mathematics.


A Twist of Time

September 20, 2011 § 1 Comment

It’s a common joke in the Starnes household. Many siblings can say that they have been competing since the day they were born. My brother and I might be the only ones who can honestly beat that. The story goes that I was “Baby A” the entire time our mother was pregnant and was all set to be born first. Then, with just a month left to go, my brother threw his foot out and stepped in front in typical Bobby fashion. Four short weeks later we were born, Bobby having won the first of many races that would culminate in the closest friendship I have ever known.

Entertaining the idea of the multiverse for a moment, in many other worlds I must have not choked at the finish line and won this first race. (As a quick clarification, this would have made my name Bobby because my dad chose to assign names based on who was born first. This should make the story a little easier to understand.) What follows is what could have happened after (or did depending on your belief in the multiverse)…

Everything was just as it always had been. I woke Joey up at seven, and we took a jog to the Clemson University gym for our morning workout. He followed me there, just like he followed me into this world. Just like he had followed me to South Carolina for college. Just like he had followed me to a private high school. And just like he had followed me into the end zone on countless Friday nights under the small-town Ohio lights. That was how we both liked it, so there was no reason to change. Besides, I was the older brother and that was my job.

One short year ago we had been on the verge of splitting up. Being more reserved and focused on his studies, Joey had gotten into a slew of colleges that had all decided I was only worth an indefinite spot on the wait list. I tried to convince him that he should go to the best school he could. Every time I brought it up he just made that awkward little half grin he always does and said, “If you’re not good enough for them, then they clearly don’t know what they’re talking about anyway.”

In hindsight, I feel guilty about that. I suppose I always will. To me, high school had been a great time in my life that was more about living in the moment than worrying about the future. I was smart enough to get by without trying too hard, and so I did just that. I got by. Sometimes I can’t help thinking that my lack of effort held Joey back from where he could have gone. Then I remember the good times I forced him to have. The nights I made him put the stupid books away and just be a kid. I’ll never know how it would have been, but life had turned out all right.

As we take a leisurely jog back to the dorm, I think about a recent lecture in my pre-business psychology class. The professor seemed convinced that being the oldest or youngest child had a huge effect on the person one eventually became. With this in mind, I asked the off-handed question,  “Do you think things would be different if you had been born first?” His blunt reply resounds in the thick southern air.

“No,” he says.

– Joey S

All the Myriad Fermis

September 16, 2011 § 2 Comments

I don’t believe in a multiverse. And yes, that’s a pretty strong statement. So consider this an ad hoc thought experiment to see if one part of that belief is justified. As the name of this post implies, the idea is a product of joining some of the concepts from Larry Niven’s “All the Myriad Ways” (specifically, the company called Crosstime) and Fermi’s Paradox.

My assumptions are the following:

-An infinite multiverse exists that is the product of the continuous and infinite branching, the forks of which are formed when a decision/observation presents itself to a cognizant inhabitant of that universe, and the branching of which occurs when a decision is made. The resultant multiverse reflects at least one universe for all possible outcomes.

-There was a time, however brief, when this quantum multiverse was a single universe. Necessarily, that time would end with the creation/evolution of intelligent life (the appearance of the highest level of observer which we know to be possible). Therefore all branches of the multiverse are connected.

In our universe, we’re blissfully unaware of any other universes. After all, we don’t have the technology to leap from branch to branch. But suppose there is a sister-universe which has much more advanced technology—suppose, say, that in this particular sister-universe the computer was invented 1,000 years earlier or something of equal import happened that did not happen here. We can imagine this because, in a quantum multiverse, these sister-universes actually exist.

One of these sister-universes therefore has technology vastly superior to our own. This means that, in all likelihood, they would have a deeper understanding of the connections between the universes and may even be able to contact their siblings. Here’s the kicker—if such a thing is possible in just one universe, then the choice to utilize that technology for that purpose has been made in the affirmative for an infinite number of other universes. Not only that, but our universe must be the target of at least one of those universes even if it could choose just one universe to contact. Why? All of the choices have been made. We are a choice; we have been chosen. And at least one of those choices put the whatever-it-was close enough to earth to be detected/found.

So where is our sibling? Or, to put it in terms of Fermi’s paradox, why is the multiverse silent?

Yet it may be impossible to contact one branch from another, which of course does not disprove the multiverse theory. Those sister-universes may also be more technologically advanced than we are, but not yet capable of jumping from branch to branch in such a way that we could perceive them. (Not that these are the only possible explanations.) There is no answer to the first exception. To the second, we will only know with time.


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