Archive | November, 2007

Invalidating time travel into the past

24 Nov

Suppose it is possible for a device that allows time travel into the past. It is in its preliminary stages so understandably scientists are wary of using human subjects. Instead, they use an object – a ball, for example. Now, in these initial testings the traveling can only go as far back as a few minutes. What should conceivably happen is this – the ball would appear in its future position a few minutes before the experiment is initiated. How can the scientists involved prove that the ball in the past is indeed the ball from the future? For example: The ball is ‘sent out’ at 10 AM and appears in the room at 9:54 AM, going back six minutes. A very primitive method of confirmation (as they do in magic tricks) would be to ask one of the audiences for an object to attach onto the ball at 9:58 AM. A ribbon from a woman’s head, for instance.

Now comes the complication. The ribbon should appear before it has been decided as a piece for evidence. There are two reasons why this is impossible.

1. The ribbon would be present in the room the same time the ribbon is on the woman’s head. This would require the object to be present twice in the same moment, going against the Lavoisier’s law of conservation of mass.

2. Human choice is as capricious as chance. As far as we know the universe cannot predict our behavior, not to say the vagaries of the choice of a single ribbon (suppose she had many?) So to have the ribbon confirmed as an object from the future requires that the choice in the future is already set in stone, or else we could be facing a ping pong situation in which time is constantly on a standstill fluctuation due to the indecisiveness of the future individual. Either that, or it’d all just split into separate universes and take care of itself that way. That is a fanciful aberration, however. In all rationality, for the ribbon to be proven necessitates the chance of human choice. There is also the question of future actions influenced by past occurrences. What would happen if the ball were later decided not to be sent in tot e past after seeing the ball in the past already? Would we (a). Forget it because it never happened.(2). Be forced by some supernatural power to send the ball back (thus erasing human will or becoming hostage to our earlier choices?)

After contemplating these impossibilities mankind often comes to the conclusion of fairness – the human idea of fairness, that is. In a way, traveling into the past presents an unfair advantage to the party concerned in contrast to the other elements of the universe, so a punishment must be exacted. A scenario like the hopelessly bad future in The Butterfly Effect, perhaps. (Which I absolutely hated because I abhor sad endings) Punishment as a balancing element, however, is a fairly human concept that can in no way be judged for absolute fairness according to the standards of nature that we have observed so far. (For example, we punish people for crimes they commit, and that seems to create a measure of equality in situation – having them ‘pay’ for their crimes. This system, however, in no way assures that people really ‘get what they deserve’. Prison is not an equal punishment for people of all temperaments; some stand it better than others.)

Ps: This is a purely theoretical work that just came to my mind while I was staring into space in class. I have nearly no understanding of time theories in the world of physics or the land of science fiction, so please excuse me if this comes out sounding amateurish. I would very much enjoy it if someone could correct me.