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...