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.
September 17, 2012 § Leave a comment
B3: In reading “Wormholes and Time Machines” from Kip Thorne’s Black Holes and Time Warps, several things became eminently clear to me. Among them, the fact that the hard science of these subjects is anything but eminently clear to me, though there are a number of astute specialists hard at work (or perhaps, more aptly, thought?) exploring this realm of knowledge. But above all, I came away with two overriding impressions:
1) There is a very, very small chance that wormholes (on anything more than a subatomic scale) and time travel are within the realm of possibility. And even if they are, mankind is very, very far away from being able to use them.
Thorne explains that no wormholes have ever been observed, and he proceeds to describe two possible strategies for their construction. The first would be to pull and expand a wormhole from “quantum froth.” Disclaimer(s): Mankind does not possess a microscope that could view matter on this level — let alone get remotely close. Especially since we have very little understanding of quantum gravity, expanding this wormhole is easier said than done. Oh, and one last thing, there’s a chance quantum foam doesn’t even exist. As for the second wormhole creation option, two holes would be torn in adjacent regions of folded hyperspace and sewn together. Alas, the act of tearing space also gets into the uncharted realm of quantum gravity, so it may not be possible after all.
After delving into time travel, Thorne ultimately admits the likely truth of Stephen Hawking’s chronology protection conjecture, which states, “Every time machine is likely to self destruct (by means of circulating vacuum fluctuations) at the moment one tries to activate it.” I found it funny that time travel could be dismissed by a provision at once laughably simple and scientifically complex. However, it is not the entire story, as Thorne follows up his summary of Hawking’s conjecture by concluding, “we cannot know for sure until physicists have fathomed in depth the laws of quantum gravity,” which leads me to:
2) If wormholes and time travel are, in fact, feasible, and humans acquire the understanding necessary to create and manipulate them, the possible applications are immense.
Thorne touches on several interesting aspects of time machines, but to me, the most compelling was the billiard ball case study prompted by University of Texas professor Joe Polchinski, who took the problematic human element out of the classic grandfather paradox. Eventually, Thorne and two students resolved the paradox (two solutions are displayed below).
What’s more, there are actually countless solutions to the paradox, with — according to quantum laws — various probabilities. To apply this concept broadly, time might work in a number of different ways, all resting on chance. One trip to the past might possess the capacity to produce future A, or B, or C, etc…, and there’s no way to tell. It makes the prospect all the more exciting, or dangerous, depending on your point of view.
It’s crazy that a genre grounded in a scientific base can turn so often to the highly improbable domain of time travel. Still, with its tantalizing possibilities, as long as it hasn’t been disproved, that appears to be enough for SF writers to keep coming back to it.
And honestly, that’s enough for me, too. If nothing else, time travel makes for some pretty cool stories…
September 17, 2012 § Leave a comment
Blog 3: After reading “Wormholes and Time Machines,” I must say I am impressed by all the thought put into the possibility of a wormhole creating the ability for an infinitely advanced civilization to travel through time. However, were I to bet on a more probable theory, my money is on Stephen Hawking’s skepticism.
Say wormholes exist. Say we are an infinitely advanced civilization capable of creating and sustaining the exotic material required to keep the wormhole open. Say we could control where those wormholes exist and therefore use them to travel through time. Would the laws of the universe allow it?
I have my doubts. I agree with Hawking’s opinion that nature abhors time machines. I can understand Hawking’s explanation that circulating vacuum fluctuations would destroy the time machine. Not being physics major, however, I have to come up with my own example.
I thought about earthquakes. It is said that all materials oscillate at certain frequencies. If the frequencies caused by an earthquake match those of the oscillating material of, for example, a building, the building will engage in harmonic motion, vibrating at the same frequency, and will essentially be destroyed. If similar frequencies of oscillation can take down a building, I can see how circulating vacuum fluctuations which equal the oscillations of the wormhole could destroy it.
To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, right? So if the universe could stand for the creation of a wormhole, surely there is also an opposite which may oppose it, like matter and antimatter. So while the wormhole is being created, so too is its downfall, the energy required for the circulating vacuum fluctuations. Because the two cancel each other out, I doubt the possibility of the ability of a wormhole to be stable for any extended amount of time useful for human manipulation.
In order for the infinitely advanced civilization to create a wormhole capable of use for time travel, the civilization would have to combat the laws of the universe. Is it possible for a part of the whole to recreate the whole? As part of the universe, could any civilization ever manipulate the laws of the universe and disobey their fundamental laws? The only way I see this ever being possible is if we radically misunderstand the laws of physics today.
Of course, that has happened before.
September 17, 2012 § 1 Comment
Time travel is a prominent theme of many science fiction stories and movies. However, is it actually feasible? Most authors will present a short description of how the time machine was created, but there are always numerous feasibility issues if one tries to fully analyze how the time machine is functioning. After reading about the science of time travel, although a time machine is theoretically feasible, I don’t believe that the creation of a time machine is actually possible.
Although some science fiction stories use black holes as a means to travel through time, scientifically it is impossible to travel through a black hole to another part of the world. In Kip Thorne’s book, Black Holes and Time Warps, he discusses the possibility of creating a time machine through wormholes instead of blackholes. There aren’t any reasons why our Universe would give rise to a wormhole, but instead an extremely advanced civilization could capitalize on wormholes as a means to travel through time and space. However, because it is all theoretical, we are unable to know for sure if wormholes can truly be converted into time machines.
The science of time machines can definitely be confusing, and even more confusing when quantum mechanics is thrown in the mix to someone like me, who is a non-science major. However, another interesting topic that Kip Thorne brought up was the matricide paradox. For example, if someone uses a time machine and goes back in time to kill his mother, he prevents himself from being born and from going back in time to kill his mother. This paradox highlights the issue of free will and time travelling – would you be stopped from killing your mother to ensure that you are born? In my opinion, it seems like if an extremely advanced civilization was able to manipulate wormholes to create a time machine, the concept of free will would no longer exist. Luckily, because there is no natural way for a wormhole to be created in our Universe, our concept of free will can remain in tact and the time travelling paradoxes can remain theoretical, for now.
-Lexi Zarecky, Blog 3
September 10, 2012 § Leave a comment
Although time travel has remained a popular theme for science fiction stories over the decades, every author has a different perspective of what the future holds. For instance, in H. G. Wells “The Time Machine,” the human race has bifurcated into two species in the future – one species that has become the predators who reside below ground in the dark and another that has evolved into the prey. In comparison, Robert Heinlein’s story “By His Bootstraps” portrays future humans as docile and compliant individuals who have lost their drive in life.
Heinlein’s future human race and Wells’ human prey species are similar in the fluid language individuals communicate in as well as their primitive intellect. I similarly believe that language will evolve into a simpler and universal form, but I don’t believe that the human race will become a docile species or divide into multiple species before becoming extinct in the future.
I’ve always been fascinated by what the future will be like in thousand years. I believe that if we were able to use a time machine to travel to the future, we would find an extremely intelligent and technologically advanced human race. However, it would truly surprise me if human beings remained on earth – instead, the future would be a place where humans have created habitable environments on other planets. If the earth becomes uninhabitable, I think that our species’ drive and fight to survive will lead us to explore options beyond the planet we know.
It’s possible that little might be left on earth in the future and the atmosphere will completely change, such as what occurs in Wells’ “The Time Machine.” However, I believe there would be the opportunity for people to travel to various other planets or space stations, and that the human race would still exist far into the future.