Thursday, 5 January 2012

Time Travel - Part Three

I have a very serious confession to make. Before I tell you, I want you to know I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt you, it just started out as fun. But now I respect you too much to keep lying to you. I hope after I tell you this that you’ll still respect me too. I’ll understand if you don’t. Here goes:

I’m not actually a time-traveller.

I hinted at being one in both Part One and Part Two of this time-travelling trilogy, but it’s not true. I know; it’s a shock. It was a shock for me too, when I realised. Turns out I’m totally not who I thought I was, and my adventures across time have just been hallucinations caused by uncooked pork and cheap vodka watered down with nail polish remover.

But I did promise that I’d tell you how to build a time machine, so I’ll do my damn best. Based on a lifetime of extensive research, there are two ways to do it – the easy way and the difficult way. First:

The Difficult Way

Wormholes. They’re theoretical, but apparently maths supports their existence so strongly that they’re a safe bet. Wormholes are good because they’re exciting, instant highways around spacetime. Their entrances and exits may not need to exist on the same fourth-dimensional plane – they can move you across both time and space. If you calculate it right you can take the express lane to the future or pop back to the past. Then again, actually creating a useable wormhole in the first place involves exotic matter and negative energy and all kinds of other theoretical doodads. I might as well be telling you ride into the past on a golden unicorn which talks like Morgan Freeman – but then I did say this was the difficult way.

Obligatory joke about ‘exotic’ matter. Whatever, you’re not even reading this

In an article written by Stephen Hawking (for the Daily Mail, weirdly) he describes the problem with wormhole time-travel. Sure, the photo captions have failed to understand the basic premise of Stargate, but I’ll ignore that for the benefit of the Professor.

Only slightly more complicated than scaremongering, hypocrisy and puns

Basically, he believes the problem with wormhole time-travel is feedback from universal background radiation, similar to audio feedback that can break entire sound systems if left unchecked. But on the other hand, feedback takes a while to build up to a terminal level in sound systems, right? Maybe the same will be true of wormholes.

He also describes several other ways to time travel using relativity, but they’re all just shortcuts to the future. If the past is off limits, what’s the point? That’s no time machine; it’s just a fancy time capsule.

Of course, as I’ve stressed several times, if you jump through a random wormhole you will almost definitely end up in an incredibly weird universe – that is if you somehow win the lottery (times a million) and end up in an atmosphere you can breathe rather than the massive, unforgiving void of space. What you really need is a map of the relevant, safe and stable wormholes.

These guys got it absolutely 100% correct

The Easy Way

The universe is plural, in case you hadn’t gotten the message in Part One. There’s a multiverse out there with all kinds of differences, from individual neutron-spins to completely different galaxy clusters and everything in between. It’s mind-bogglingly huge. So, somewhere out there in all the calculable possibilities of existence, there’s probably a universe where things are exactly as you want them. This has, in the past, been used to devastating cultural effect to conclusively prove the existence of Santa.

People also use this same technique to argue about the existence of God – if everything possible is happening in infinite different universes, there must be a version of reality somewhere with an omnipotent God, right? Maybe even a God so omnipotent that it can break through the ‘walls of reality’ and become God of this world, too, for its own inscrutable reasons. Sadly the problem with this argument is the same as the problem Stephen Hawking had with his time-traveller party from the article I linked to earlier: in that case where is everyone?

Disclaimer: Physicists actually have crazy wild social lives

Whatever. This means there’s also someone out there in the infinite multiverse who’s trying to beam time travel directly into your brain. I mean, it’s a mathematical certainty, right? We’re talking about an infinite multiverse here! So just close your eyes, tilt your head back and prepare to receive the secret plans or teleporter beam or whatever the hell it is that comes for you. It might be that you need to be imagining it first, setting up a brainwave pattern as a signal – like an inter-dimensional emergency flare. Try that now.

If you’re still reading this, it probably didn’t work. But that’s because you’re one of the billions of versions of you to whom it didn’t happen, rather than the small number of versions of you to which it did happen (technically, both amounts are infinite. Infinity is tricky like that). But keep trying, you’ll get lucky one day. Of course, there's an small chance (infinity again) it will be the same day that God occurs in our probability-cluster, resulting in broad-spectrum hyperspace interference and completely ruining your neural rendering of the time-machine's detailed schematics.

Yeah, I'm pretty good techno-babble myself, actually.

In Part Four, the final part (phew), I’ll be giving you essential advice to surviving time-travel and making it work for you! And I should know, SINCE I AM A TIME-TRAVELER!!

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