Sunday, August 28, 2011

Time Travel: Why, How, When, Ever?

The subject of Time Travel has been beaten to death over the course of the last two thousand plus years, perhaps beginning with the Japanese legend, Urashima TarĊ, where a fisherman rescues a turtle and is rewarded with a visit to The Dragon God’s temple under the sea. The fisherman spends three days within the palace, but when he returns to his village, he discovers that three centuries have passed in his absence.

But, even with being repeatedly beaten to death, there is a reason the subject is continuously resurrected time and again, so that now it exists here, fully alive in our current time. I believe--other than the fact that humans are a thousand times more curious than the most curious of cats--that the subject is sustained and not buried for good because Time Travel is possible, and we as humans can’t permanently put the subject to rest until every possibility is examined and executed, pass or fail.

Humans had been writing about going to The Moon and Mars long before 1969, or the earlier Mars 1M (Soviets) and Mariner (USA) missions, and many skeptics and detractors at the time felt that reaching either of those cosmic bodies was impossible and should be left to fiction. But those who believed fought to keep the ideas alive and pushed on through to attain those goals and prove to those skeptics and detractors that they were dead wrong.

Why did those believers fight on and their supporters rally around them in a battle centuries long, with no clear victory in sight? Because they all knew it was possible and knew they just had to arrive at the right point with the proper tools in order to prove it so.

So why not Time Travel? Because the very concept seems so farfetched? Think about this: If someone from 2011 were to go back to one night in 1711 and told whoever cared to listen that in two hundred and fifty-eight years there would be a man jumping on the surface of The Moon, that individual from 2011 would more than likely be tried and executed as a witch.

On the other hand, if someone from 2269 were to come back to us and tell us of Time Travel, that individual would turn into an instant celebrity rather than a martyr. But still, like going to the past and telling of voyages to The Moon, the talk of Time Travel in this current time has the same lack of weight to it. No, no one will be arrested or executed for speaking of it, but the majority--and even longtime peers--will laugh them out of the room for speaking on the subject in anything close to a serious tone.

But before I continue on with this topic, why am I even speaking of it in the first place? Why Time Travel at all?

There are a number of answers to that question. One of those answers I already gave above: Because we humans are dangerously curious animals. We desire the facts over the “what ifs?”; we want to know for certain or not if there really was a second gunman on that grassy knoll, or if John Wilkes Booth really lived to old age after he killed Lincoln, instead of dying in that barn on Garrett Farm. We want to know what really happened to the dinosaurs, and who really was the first to “Discover” The New World; Columbus? The Vikings? The Chinese? Martians? What about Atlantis? And we all yearn to know what life will be like a thousand years from now after we’re all long dead and dusted to ash beneath the turf.

Although, I believe, there are more practical reasons for wanting to know what happened or will happen both before and behind us. The chief reason definitely concerns the prognosis of the continued survival of the human race. What did the ancients know, and what could they tell us that might help us in our time to perhaps avoid any mistakes that might have been made by the ancients which may have ultimately caused their own undoing? Do we here in the present need to know why so many similar structures, such as obelisks and pyramids, existed in so many far-flung cultures, from Japan, to Mesoamerica, to Egypt? Was there a specific reason for that design other than purely architectural, which only their builders knew of but were unable to pass on for whatever reason? Did we miss the window for action? Does or did a window of action exist? In other words, are we missing a huge piece of the puzzle? the one that could save us from complete disaster?

And think about all the arguments that could be settled if we could just go back a ways and ask the Mayans about their long count calendar. Is the world going to end on December 21 2012? Or did the Mayans simply run out of room on the calendar? And if the world is to end, what can we do in 2012 to avert that fate.

And that brings us to other events concerning the future. 2012 aside, we know that in a few billion years at the most, the sun is going to get so red and fat that it’s going to eat Earth and everything on it. By glimpsing into the future, we might be able to determine if we found a way to either get off this rock to safety, or if humankind and all earthlings are doomed to one massive, world-ending firework display. If the latter ever proves true, I can picture the societies of the world splitting and evolving into two groups: Those who will still work towards a solution, and those who will party like it’s 2012 for the rest of their lives.

But back to the main subject.

Earlier, I touched briefly on the “why” of Time Travel. Now, on to the “How” of Time Travel.

That’s the $25,000 dollar question. If we had the right of it, I wouldn’t be writing this article right now. But, while we don’t have the right of it, we do have the basic concepts as to how the mechanism could work.

Many people believe that wormholes, black holes, or massive machines that run on Ultra-Plutonium or flux capacitors are needed in order to achieve jumping out of This Time and into That Time, then back again. And while I believe those devices may prove helpful in the cause, I think there are a lot less resource-draining ways in which the process can be executed.

Take sea-monkeys for instance. Those little shrimp-like creatures have already perfected a version of Time Travel—-with the help of humans of course. Their average life span in captivity is two years. From egg to adulthood, the average time between is about two-weeks. So, in a perfect sea-monkey world, the most they can expect to live is roughly two weeks over two years.

But these magnificent creatures have discovered how to Time Travel on a limited level. The mechanism is called “Cryptobiosis”. Any living thing within a cryptobionic state can, in theory, survive indefinitely until environmental conditions become suitable to life. That means a creature, such as a sea-monkey, could realistically be in this state for fifty years or more, then spring back to life fifty years into the future when conditions warrant. Of course, their metabolic clock resumes ticking and they then live out their normal life spans. But if that’s not Time Travel, then what is?

I have no knowledge if this mechanism has been tried by any public or private parties on humans, but—-movies aside—-I’m sure simply freezing a body and then thawing it out after fifty years just wouldn’t work. Humans aren’t constructed for such an unusual journey without vast modifications. The trick, I think, would be to place the human subject into a type of “active coma” where their heart was still functioning, but at a rate slow enough as to not burn it out. Next would be stimulation of the brain or, more specifically, the mind. Sleeping for a century or more straight can’t be a good thing for a human body to endure, so some kind of in-house entertainment would be needed and could most likely be delivered via electrodes or some such. The subject would also need to have their body exercised regularly to prevent blood clots and atrophy, and need to be cleaned and nourished as well. Unfortunately, real life hasn’t reached the “Jetsons” way of life yet, so these tasks would have to be performed by living people, or highly advanced automatons.

Of course, unforeseen complications could arise from this even so, the least being the inadequate care of the subject, to politics and funding, and to the state of the future. Since this type of Time Travel is not spontaneous, the subject would awake to his caregivers and there would be little benefit from the experiment—save that it could be done in the first place--since those in the future already know what happened in their own time and the subject would have no one to report back to in the past because they would all be dead.

And that leads to many more complications, both moral and ethical that can be pondered over at another time.

So, what else is there? Is there any other realistic way to Time Travel, and to do so within our time?

Well, in my opinion, we’ve been doing it in its simplest form since forever. No, not the exciting version of being blasted through the space-time continuum to find sterilized societies in flying cars and space complexes, or fallen deep into tribal-like barbarian castes.

No, this procedure we can do without even thinking about it. In fact, we have little choice in the matter. See, the basic structure of Time is made up of The Past, The Present, and The Future. We think of this as, we’ve been to the past, we are always in the present, and we will hopefully arrive at the future at some point, which then becomes the present, then quickly the past. That smacks of time travel to me.

Sure, in this way we can only go back in time for as far as our memories will let us, and only as far into the future as long as we still live and breathe--but it is Time Travel. Even now, dear reader, you are blasting into the future. By my definition, the present lasts for less than a fraction of a second before getting tossed into the past; and the future, while infinite, lasts for us just as long. Therefore, every moment we are alive, every one of us is Time Traveling, in the most basic sense.

Yes, I know, it isn’t “long-distance” Time Traveling. But does that way even exist? The masters in the field make some very good points as to why “long-distance” Time Travel is impossible. The famous Grandfather/Mother Paradox is a favorite weapon of the detractors. The paradox states that you could not go back in time and kill your grandfather or your mother, or any other ancestor because that would mean you would never have existed to go back in time and kill them in the first place and so on, therefore, it would make Time Travel, or at least going into the past, impossible.

While the paradox brings up a good point, I don’t wholly agree with it. I could bring up parallel worlds with branches of our time connecting to them to fix whatever damage done by a potential time traveler, but for the sake of this article, I’m going to stick to the same time line. Here’s my theory; I go back in time and kill my great, great, great grandfather. I don’t cease to exist and time doesn’t unravel. Instead, time goes on, my great, great, great grandfather is dead, the locals search for his murderer and hopefully an innocent man isn’t charged, but I go back and am safe in my own time. I’m alive, my mother and aunts are alive, as are my grandparents. Why? Because they were already alive and mostly well long before I went back in time to kill my great, great, great grandfather.

So, what happens in my great, great, great grandfather’s time? Nothing much besides a funeral. Time goes on with hardly a change. Perhaps my great, great, grandfather is born from another man, and I’ll still come along eventually. Or maybe I wont, because maybe there is no schedule for the space-time continuum.

Or, maybe I proved the theorists of the Grandfather/Mother paradox correct, at least partially so, and messed up big time.

Either way, as of now it’s just a counter idea to the norm.

Another good issue was proposed by the highly-respected Stephen Hawking who thinks that the lack of “Time Tourists” from the future suggests that Time Travel will never exist--the way we want it to at least. But didn’t Doc from Back To The Future already explain why that is? If tourists went back in time and encountered themselves, those meetings have the potential to disrupt the whole line of the time continuum and unravel reality, as it’s known. So, with all respect to Mr. Hawking, I believe there are “Time Tourists” within our midst, but they aren’t allowed to reveal themselves for very good reasons.

Then again, if we here in the present/future are facing a crisis in 2012, and these tourists ultimately fail to mention it, then that would just be a cruel joke on people like me.

And what of the prophets who are gifted with visions of the future, or psychic mediums who can speak to those long dead? While neither of those are strictly Time Travel, it suggests, if true, that both the future and the past can, at least, be tapped into, and that those planes of existence are, in fact, tangible.

Another possibility that struck my mind recently after watching something on TV was: What if all these Alien/UFO encounters throughout history were and are in reality just our decedents checking up on our progress, perhaps waiting for the day for us to be ready so they can reveal themselves to us and give us the pointers we need to continue on. Then again, those Alien/UFO encounters could still just be present-day…well…aliens.

Or highly advanced “weather balloons”. But the “what if?” there is still relevant to the subject.

Okay so, the “how” of Time Traveling is still effectively elusive, but I think in time, we as humans shall find the solution. If nothing else but curious, we are a doggedly determined species.

And now on to the “When”. When will we all be traveling through Time like we were going to Disney world?

Unfortunately, the answer to that question lies in the Future…a possible distant future. But I hope to witness the beginnings of the operation before I die. It will happen though…it will just take a little time. From Earth to The Moon, from The Moon to Mars, from Mars to our salvation.

Thank you, dear reader, for taking the time to read this. In the words of my Mayan tour guide, “Smile, 2012 is just around the corner.”

Jason J Sergi, Author of The Hero of Twilight, Book 1 in The Road To the Golden Griffin Series.

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