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…

35 responses to “Time Travel”

  1. Thomas, that was a great post. Have you studied quantum physics? I think many of your theories are spot on. The only thing I can add is that the understanding of what is ‘possible’ is limited by our understanding of science and scientific capability. 200 years from now (if we are still here), this post might be laughed at while 13 year olds teleport to Jupiter to go to the mall.. 😛

  2. You should see the movie Primer. It’s about some engineer friends who develop a time machine, and the aftermath. It’s been running on either HBO or Showtime for the past week.

  3. I saw Superman 2 and it shows that if you can fly around the Earth fast enough to reverse the spin you can actually go back in time!!!

  4. I spent some time last night time travelling. I was saving people from a sinking ship. Wha? Dreams don’t count? But, it was another dimension!

  5. Sadly for everyone who wants relativity to make sense, it’s my understanding that Einstein really did mean to make time relative. Hence the twin paradox, etc..


  6. Well, maybe he only got it half-right?

    Remember, people perceive and measure time by the movement of objects, so if you formed a theory about movement and energy, it would be easy to confuse it with time.

    If einstein was still alive today, just imagine all the new ideas he would have, as well as changes to his old theories.

  7. what I recall is that Einstein said as things travel faster time slows down. So if you take twins and put one of them on a space ship and the other on Earth. The one is space will age slower.

    This is not saying that you are going ‘back’ in time, just slowing it down.

  8. It always takes me longer to get somewhere that I really want to be, than it does to get somewhere I dont care to be.

  9. Ah.. but that’s where he got it wrong.

    You see, time itself doesn’t slow down (as can be verified by third party perspective).

    Only something’s movement can slow down.

    And since we measure time by movement, time “appears” to have slowed down.

    An atomic clock is a clock that uses the resonance frequencies of atoms to measure time. The advantage of this approach is that atoms resonate at extremely consistent frequencies. If you take any atom of cesium and ask it to resonate, it will resonate at exactly the same frequency as any other atom of cesium. Cesium-133 oscillates at 9,192,631,770 cycles per second.

    I was reading about an experiment that researchers performed with two atomic clocks. They put one of the clocks in a high speed plane, but they kept the other clock on the ground. They flew the plane really fast, and when they landed, they then compared the two clocks. What they discovered was that the atomic clock in the plane had ticked off less time than the one on the ground.

    They used this experiment to “prove” that they had slowed down time.

    However, if you look at the exact same results in a slightly different way, you will see that the experiment didn’t actually prove that they had modified time. What it, in fact proved, was that atomic oscillations can be changed by altering the speed of their movement through space.

    Once again, movement is confused with time.

  10. Time does not exist in any phisical form. Time does not move becouse it does not exist. We do not move through it forwords or backwords. Time is simply a relational mesurment used to keep the human mind from going insaine.

    Even with the use of string theroy of the Strotinger effect or even Quatum relation. You are still talking about mass and energy not time.

    To try and find a way to messure, calculate and change something that only phisicly exists as a human reverance. Is like trying to PROVE that there is or is not a GOD.

  11. There was this one time when I saw a windstorm that made a tree’s branches move really fast and resonate with a high pitched whistling sound.

  12. “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.”

    That’s actually not true. Your position and speed in space have absolute values. You can measure the speed of the earth.

  13. Hey Mick, thanks for those links. I’ve actually read all of the howstuffworks.com stuff about this topic and I personally disagree with them on a fundamental issue.

    They state that time can not exist without motion.
    My opinion is that time actually exists regardless of motion. Even if everything was to come to a stand-still, time would continue to pass, even though we may not be able to measure it.

    They also discuss the “time dilation” concept on this page, where they talk about the atomic clock experiment.

    The problem with their article is that they misinterpret the reason for the atomic clock results. They assume that the reason is because “time dilation” took place, when it reality, that’s not what happened. What happened was that the scientists merely slowed down the second clock by accelerating it through space, which produced the illusion of time travel.

    Scientists have created giant circular particle accelerators that allow them to speed a single particle up to near the speed of light, and one of the things they discovered was that the particle’s internal movement slowed down the faster they accelerated it along a path.

    Since atomic clocks are based on how many times an atom pulses, then it makes sense that the atomic clock would show a lesser reading if it was moved rapidly along a path. But make no mistake. Time was not modified any more than moving the hands back on your bedroom clock will turn back time.

    Another problem with Einstein’s theory of relativity is where it states that the speed of light is measured as constant in all frames of reference. We now know that this is not actually the case, because light has shown itself to be affected by gravity. This means that in extreme gravitational situations, light could possibly even be accelerated beyond it’s known speed. Not only that, but scientists have managed to make light actually come to a stand still, which you can read about in this article.

    So yeah. Einstein didn’t know everything.

  14. Creamy, do you have a link to an article or anything that tells how the absolute value of the speed of earth is measured?

    From what I’ve read, everything in the universe is moving and nothing is at an absolute stand-still. As such, there is no way to accurately measure the absolute speed of anything. All you can do is measure the speed of something in relation to another planet/star/galaxy.

  15. Thomas: If I’m driving down the freeway at 60 mph and a fly is flying inside my car and travels from the back of my car to the front of the car, is the fly going 61 mph or is it going slower?

  16. The speed of the fly is relative to what you’re measuring it by. If you measure the speed of the fly in relation to the car, it may only be flying at 1 mph.

    However, if you measure the speed of the fly in relation to the sun, that fly is moving somewhere in the range of 66,629 miles an hour.

    Yee haw.

  17. Thomas: Ok, does that 66,629 mph speed include me driving at 60 mph? Let’s say I’m driving west and the fly is flying east. Gosh, I so want to know.

  18. Damn. You’ve ruined any belief i had in Back to the future, those movies were awsome. Lol.

    While we’re on the topic of wierd science, what are your thoughts on teleportation or suspended animation?

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