Friday, 4 January 2008

All the Time in the World


A few years ago I read a book called "Time On My Hands" by Peter Delacorte, who is a fan of old films. This book is a wonderfully entertaining time traval story. The protagonist gets his hands on a time machine and has to decide what he wants to do with it. In the end, he chooses to go back in time and kill someone in order to make the world a better place.

But who. Hitler? He doesn't speak German. What about Ronald Reagan? He decides that this would be the best idea, especially after watching some of his old films. He goes back in time and gets a job at the Warner Brother's studio, where he can get near Reagan, who he ends up becoming friendly with, and decides that he can't possibly kill him.

There's a lot more to the story, but I don't want to spoil it.

Anyway, I'm currently still reading Yiorgos Grammatikakis' "The Autobiography of Light". I've got past the half-way mark, and past the description of the scientific advances, such as Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and String Theory. One thing that he briefly mentioned was the possibility of particles that travel faster than the speed of light, which would end up going backwards in time. Apparently it's not thought that these, if they exist, would help you communicate with the past, but there are other possible phenomena that might.

So if we get our hands on a time machine, what do we do with it? Do we go back into the past and kill Hitler, or Ronnie, or Bill Gates?

The problem with doing something like that is that you don't know what kind of future you'd get. In the short term it might be better, but what about the long term? If you killed Hitler, would all the scientists who left Europe and helped develop the atomic bomb in the US have done it in Germany, and some other nutter taken over instead of Hitler and nuked everyone?

I'd vote not trying to change history, although stopping Hugh Grant taking up "acting" is a very tempting thought...

Instead, I think it would be better to use it so that you could travel further, for instance to other galaxies, come back and still be home for tea. You'd need to be able to either put yourself in suspended animation, or travel through a wormhole, but once you solved that problem the difficulty you'd have is that after travelling hundreds of light years you'd arrive back on Earth hundreds of years into the future. So the time machine could be used to put yourself back in the 21st Century. At tea time.

The other use for this machine would be to go forwards a few minutes or hours. Boring meeting? Just press the "skip" button on your time machine and you're done. You wouldn't need to wait for anything ever again. The only problem with this is that your body clock would get horribly out of sync with days and nights and stuff, until you'd either have to skip the best part of a day, or go back in time, risk meeting yourself and destroying your future or past or something.

Supposing that you had a blog post to do but didn't have time? Well, the next day you just go back 24 hours. Unfortunately, this doesn't actually give you any more life, unless of course you're destined to be hit by a bus on such and such a day.

What would happen when it went wrong? Supposing you pressed the wrong button? Supposing you went somewhere and couldn't get back?

Come to think of it, I'm sort of hoping that no-one gives me a time machine...

26 comments:

Klearchos said...

Καλή, χαρούμενη και ευτυχισμένη χρονιά!!

Dan said...

why would anyone want to kill Reagan ?
I think its impossible to time travel.
Dan

Bee said...

I haven't finished reading your post but I had to come over and yell [khmm excuse me!] YELL AT YOU FOR WANTING TO KILL HUGH GRANT!!!

Bee said...

::sigh:: What a day to get my head thinking! I have a meeting and now I won't be able to concentrate because I'll be trying to solve the space time continuum dilemma!

Bee said...

P.S.

I liked the other picture better. This one seems too air-brushed.

Jean Knee said...

when I first clicked over I thought it was another eyebrow post.
Ronnie has outstanding eyebrows I must say.

I thought nothing could go the speed of light cause the closer to the speed o light you get, the drag drags you down so you can't actually go that fast?

Brian o Vretanos said...

Κλέαρχε: ευχαριστώ!

Dan:

Kill Reagan:

They were Democrats and film lovers, though I think his complaint about RR's films was that the parts were rubbish rather than his acting.

Bee:

HG: I'd forgotten about your unexplainable fixation with HG - I didn't say kill, just prevent from becoming an actor.

Picture: It looks more current, but it's clearly been badly scanned from a newspaper or something, so I've had to "process" it a bit. Pictures are very hard to come by online, unfortunately.

Jean Knee:

My limited understanding is:

1. You can't start slower than light speed and achieve light speed

2. You can't start at light speed and go slower (though Quantum people would disagree in some way)

3. You can't start faster than light and go at light speed or slower.

This means that particles could exist (tachyons, I think) which are always moving faster than light, but no-one knows if they really do, and they don't think you can use them to communicate information (e.g. teleport people).

Brian o Vretanos said...

Dan:

Moving forwards in time isn't a problem - we all do it anyway (at about light speed), and you can travel forwards faster in time compared to everyone else by moving very fast (since the faster you move the slower time goes for you). Every time you travel in a plane, you age less than the people on the ground.

Moving backwards isn't so likely, but if wormholes exist in reality (they can in theory, they're shortcuts between two points), then you might be able to get somewhere faster than light would normally take and so go back in time.

Bee said...

How about we all just stay in our time and age normally? Deal??

Brian o Vretanos said...

Bee:

Do you really think that I'd pass up the chance to become younger than you? It would be worth missing 3 years (well I'd have to bring Helena along) just for the ability to gloat ;-)

Bee said...

I wouldn't take Helena if I were you, what if something goes wrong? As in, if I find out where and when you'll be traveling thru time, wrenches will be thrown!

Dan said...

You must be a Star Trek fan.
Dan

Brian o Vretanos said...

Dan,

Star Trek is okay, especially the 60's series when miniskirts were in fashion ;-)

But I'm NOT a fan, or a trekkie, or a geek...

(Not that there's anything wrong with it).

Dan said...

I wasn't trying to call you a greek, you just seem to be well studied on the subject.
I think Star Trek suck but I do ove the old Twilight Zone.
Dan

Bee said...

Dan, what's an "ove"?

Brian o Vretanos said...

GEEK not GREEK - I wish I could be good enough at the latter...

You know, I've never seen any Twilight Zone, old or new? I'm not sure why not...

Jean Knee said...

twilight zone is pretty cool, we had a marathon one day recently- I only watched one though.

I haven't seen star trek since I was little so don't know if I like it or not (now, liked it then)

I could make up some nonsense about let's see, truglegs, they go slower than the speed of light by only a smidge, after going light speed even though thety can't, they do. But you cant see them or anything, or see what they do. Now let's prove god is dead

Jean Knee said...

and, more importantly, why does Ronnie have better eyebrows than most women????

Bee said...

He had a good stylist?

Jean Knee said...

maybe, then why is he prettier than both Jane Wyman and Nancy Reagan?

Jean Knee said...

Okay, Hugh Grant is okay. he was in About a Boy? right ? the book was good and I think I did see the movie- but they had the part of the boy cast wrong, fools

I love babbling on over here cuz no one but Bee and Brian see what a ninny I am

Jean Knee said...

Dan doesn't count

Bee said...

I think Dan's wife would disagree with you... and my mom cuz he's a momma's boy! :o)

Jean Knee said...

awww, that is cute.


Brian, are you out having fun somewhere? god, I hope someone is

Brian o Vretanos said...

Jean Knee:

I did go out (change of childcare plans, so I had a free evening), but didn't really enjoy myself and came back early.

Jean Knee said...

you're gonna have to lie and say it was fun, then describe it

next time anyway