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Time Travel

What do our loyal brainfuel readers think about the concept of time travel?

My opinion/theory is that time is linear and takes place at a constant rate. You can not stop time. You can not move back or forward in it. All you have is here and now, which moves along at an unchangeable pace. The only thing that we are able to change is our perception of time. For example, if you put your consciousness on “pause” and go to sleep for 8 hours, when you wake up you have effectively moved your perception of time ahead by those 8 hours. You have not “time-travelled”, however, because time exists outside of your perception. This is evidenced by the fact that many other events continued to take place at their normal pace even while you were asleep.

The biggest thing that gets people all excited about the idea of time travel is Einstein’s theory of relativity, which basically states that, well, everything’s relative.

For example, there’s no way to measure how fast the earth is moving through space because that depends entirely on your viewpoint. If you are standing on earth, it seems like it’s at a stand-still. But if you’re standing on an asteroid that is zipping along at 1,000 miles a second past the earth, then the earth looks like it’s moving really fast.

People have taken the concept of relativaty where it applies to movement and they have mistakenly tried to apply it to time. The reason why they do this is because humans identify and measure the process of time according to the movement of things (i.e. movement of hands on clock, movement of planets and stars, etc…). Technically, if all movement ceased to exist, there would be no way to measure time, so it would appear to have come to a stand-still. However, time would still be moving along at it’s normal rate, even though nobody would be able to measure it. You can’t change time by moving things any more than you can go back in time by moving the hands on your clock.

Here’s another thing that confuses people about time travel, making them think it’s possible: The speed of light.

Light travels at 186,282 miles per second, and the distance it travels in a year is called a “light year”, or 5,878,625,373,184 miles.

The most distant galaxies that our human instruments can detect are at least 10 billion light years away. Some people would say that the fact that we can see this light is evidence that the universe is at least 10 billion years old, because the light had to take that long to get here. Others say that God just flicked a switch and made the all the light from those distant stars just “instantly” travel the distance to earth when He created it.

There’s no way to know for sure, but we at least know this: Light generally takes a long time to travel over long distances.

We also know that humans see using light. Light bounces off of things and hits the back of your eyes, where the resulting signals are interpreted by your brain.

Now here’s the interesting bit. Look up into the sky. If you were to see a star that was exactly one “light year” in distance from the earth, you would effectively be seeing *into the past*. The light hitting your eyes has been travelling that distance for an entire year and is just now reaching you.

When scientists look at a star 10 light years away and they watch it explode, that is an explosion that actually took place 10 years ago! Crazy, huh?

Let’s say we figured out how to travel faster than light, and we flew 100 light years in distance from earth. Then, using an amazingly powerful telescope, if we were to focus in on earth, we would be seeing light that was 100 years old. If you zoomed in a little closer, you might even see people walked around in 1906 clothing, doing whatever people did in 1906.

Does this mean you “travelled back in time”? No! All you did was change your perception of it! It would basically be like rewinding a video-tape to see previous footage. Can you interact with the footage? Nope. It’s just light.

On that same note, you should be able to understand why you can’t “move forward” into time. You can’t change your perception to something that hasn’t taken place! The best you could do would be move close enough to the object in question so that you could see it in the now, instead of merely distant light from the past.

Or at least that’s my take on things…

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34 Comments

  1. Tom, so far the only thing you have attempted to do is refute evidence of the *nature* of time, not whether time travel itself is possible or not. The claim that you appear to be resasserting (as you have consistently since you and I began discussing the matter) is that time is a)A single-state dimention through which all matter flows at a constant, unchanging rate b)That this rate cannot be directly observered, and that our entire perception of it is quite relative, because c)This dimension or material or whatever you perceive it to be is detactched from and uneffected by any and all matter and forces in the universe. Therefore, time is simply a byproduct of the existence of matter, a confining cytoplasm for all the “stuff” in the physical realm – matter, gravity, the nuclear forces, etc., are all inhabitants of a place that simply moves *through* time, not touching it, only able to observe the ‘ticks’ as each subatomic particle takes a step in a vast, complex waltz. You have, however, no evidence to support any of your assumptions, apart from the many examples you provide of the relative properties of any *observation* of time, which can be explained by several other properties of the universe.

    The problem lies in that space and time are fundamentally made of the same “stuff” – they are both dimentions through which matter and forces (which are not very different on a fundamental level) move. This is why gravity can warp both our perception of space *and* our perception of time; the two are so fundamentally intertwined (and as a poster noted early on, they are only the lower of many dimensions, read up on M-theory). You must realize that the perception of a force or behavior of matter is not necessarily the same thing as the force or the behavior itself. Consider this – I’m in a jet planet, and I accelerate to Mach 4. I feel intense forces pushing me back into my seat. Does this mean that the Earth’s gravity has been altered and its power increased, pulling me laterally instead of down, and with more intensity? No, it simply means that the force of my own mass in relation to the Earth’s gravity is pushing against the movement of the jet, creating the perception of a gravity-like force, as several times its strength. My body would feel the same force if I was on a planet several times the mass of Earths – but this does not mean the force in the jet was the same. In the same way, the frequency of the atoms on the Cesium clock is being effected by the dilation of time – frequency is a measurement of movement over time, and if the rate of time is altered as acceleration increases, then the observed frequency will change. The energy of the atoms is the constant, much like the speed of light is.

  2. Some of my thoughts will overlap with Tom’s. Some won’t. Here goes:

    I tend to think in metaphors, so my thoughts will be more “poetic” than practical. (Not that it matters, as this post is hypothetical anyway.)

    I think time is like the ocean.
    We are all born in this ocean called, “Time”.
    The closer we get to the land, the closer we get to our death.
    When we are dead, we live on the land.
    Time on the land is different than time in the ocean (I’ll save that theory for another post.)

    There is a huge undercurrent in this time-ocean and it’s moving everyone toward this big mass of land. The people who reach old age and die from “natural causes” are those who spend most of their life caught in this undercurrent. Those who die suddenly (heart attack, accidents, murder, etc.) are one’s who have left the undercurrent, but don’t know it until they find themselves washed ashore on an island.

    Which directions can we move in our time-ocean? I believe this question cannot be answered, simply because we do not have all the facts we need to even begin to answer the question. Here is my explanation, via another analogy. Look at this picture:

    squares

    Depending on how you look at it, you’ve either got 4 triangles, with a square in the middle; or you’ve got 4 triangles and what looks like a square in the middle; or, you’ve got a big square on the outside and a smaller square on the inside. I think the question about which direction we can move in time is like this (and just as mind-numbing, too!)

    The problem is that we don’t know if we are “in” time (like we are in the square) or if it only seems like we are in time (like we are in the space between all the triangles and it only seems like we are in a square. Confused? Basically, I’m confirming what Tom said – “The only thing that we are able to change is our perception of time.”

    So what IS time?
    Is time like a square that exists on it’s own or is time like the triangles that form a square (where time is something that only exists when certain other elements are in place)? I think time exists on it’s own. I think it’s like the ocean: We are born in it. We die out of it. We all move in it.

    It often seems like we can move in any direction, but the land edges ever closer. What is it about time travel that is so interesting? I think our interest in it comes from our struggle to comprehend fate vs. freedom of choice. Thinking about time travel is fun because it gives us control of something we have no control over – time.

  3. I’ll second the recommendation on the movie “Primer”. Possibly the first time-travel-based movie to get the plotline right. Possibly.

  4. Well, I just totally watched Back to the Future III and they had time travel and it was TOTALLY believable! I watched it!

  5. My perception of time, in reference to time travel is that space is expanding at a faster rate than the speed of light (186,282)per sec. Each solar system supported by its star are key pieces in the infinite cycle creating a “dynamo.” The death of a star is merely one step in the dynamo’s cycle. 1.Collapse-star has used all its fuel, gravity and mass have been in a constant battle. Mass no longer can with stand this force and a “blackhole” is born. 2.A blackhole I theorize is part 2 of the dynamo’s Cycle. A blackhole acts as a magnetic pole (north). When the star collapses and converts from mass to space it’s rate of expansion no longer follow the laws of time measured by light.Therefor exsisting time or light can look back and see the past(blackhole) but the past is pursuing at a faster rate and will eventually experience a speed faster than light -the event horizon. I believe when mass surpasses the speed of light mass converts to energy in the form of our four elements;Hydrogen,Oxygen,nitrogen and carbon. when energy is at this state,time does not exsist. To me 8 doesn’t represent infinite O does, because when the blackhole (expansion of space)has engulfed all matter or arriving at the expansion of time. When space and time meet infinite ZERO all the mass that has accumilated explodes from the battle between mass and gravity. Thus continuing time and space no end no beginning just the conversion of energy in different forms of mass.

  6. Is dimension suchlike a angular that exists on it’s own or is instance like the triangles that descriptor a rectangle (where clip is something that exclusive exists when fated different elements are in abode)? I suppose case exists on it’s own. I think it’s like the ocean: We are born in it. We die out of it. We all relocation in it.
    ————-
    Sean Cruz

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