By Juliana L.
Mistakes. We’ve all made them. Perhaps you forgot to study for that final test, or you messed up a meeting with a very important person. You may have even made a decision poor enough to mess up someone’s life. Now, sitting at home drowning your woes in a stream of TV and junk food, replaying all scenarios in your head, you would give anything and everything for a reset button. If you could just go back and tell your younger, senseless self exactly how you went wrong, well then, all your problems would be solved. Then say, perhaps, that you take it a step further and think about having a reset button for every occasion… like a time machine! Wouldn’t that be great? You could fix everything for everybody!
Hold up. Before you go off fixing your mistakes, you need to think about how you’re going to do it. There are many different theories regarding how time travel would be possible in today’s society, such as the discovery and manufacturing of the wormhole. The concept of a wormhole goes back to 1935, when Albert Einstein and Nathan Rosen presented the idea of paths through landscape of space-time. In order for humans to be able to travel through these wormholes safely, however, they would have to be large, stable, and fall in very precise locations. Unfortunately, technology today is not sophisticated enough to manipulate wormholes, especially due to the fact that wormholes have been predicted only to exist in a microscopic state.
Black holes, while also being a popular time travel theory, have their disadvantages as well. In this case, the traveller would have to fly around a black hole at light speed. In this manner, time for him would pass half as fast as it would for us. When he returned to earth, say, in ten earth years, five years would have passed for him. Unfortunately, it is not yet possible for us to move at the speed of light with the current technology. Additionally, one would have to question the purpose of such an exercise. Even if they aged at half the rate, who would enjoy spending years upon years in a spacecraft only to get back and see how everything has changed without him and how much life he’d missed?
Another popular problem with time travel remains the paradoxes. Since we have absolutely no experience with real-life time travel, we are forced to rely on science fiction in this aspect. Unfortunately, media is not consistent in portraying their time traveling methods, so one must consider all depictions of it.
- The Fixed Timeline: No matter what happens to this timeline, everything stays the same. That’s because all events remain as a fixed point, already written down in history. For example, if a man goes back in time to prevent a forest fire by putting out a campfire, he will inadvertently start another by dropping a cigarette, the ensuing blaze being blamed on the campfire. This makes the grandfather paradox (which, if you are not familiar with it, involves a time traveler going back in time and interfering with his birth by killing his grandfather, causing himself to never being born at all) impossible, because in the fixed timeline the traveller would not exist if he interfered and thus has not, is not and never will interfere. Imagine this timeline as the navigation on a video; no matter how far you fast forward or backward, the video itself does not change and you will witness the same events.
- The Dynamic Timeline: This timeline is extremely fragile. Everything you do in the past can and will affect the present. For example, if the man goes back in time to stop the forest fire by putting out the campfire and he manages not to drop a cigarette, he will have successfully stopped the forest fire. Now the grandfather paradox really comes into play. Should the man kill his grandfather, he negates his own birth, his trip back in time and, thus, his grandfather’s death. Alive, the man goes back in time again to kill his grandfather… and an endless cycle ensues, creating a paradox.
- Multiverse Timeline: Upon time travelling, the traveller inadvertently creates a new parallel universe among the infinite parallel universes. Anything the traveller does in this universe will have no effect on the universe he came from other than the fact that in that universe he mysteriously disappeared. Should the traveller time travel again in the new universe he will create yet another parallel universe, and so the cycle continues. Should the man travel back in time to stop the forest fire, he will create another universe in which the forest fire never happens, but leave another where the forest fire does. If he kills his grandparents, he only creates a universe in which he does not exist, leaving the other in which he did, successfully averting paradoxes.
Still want a time machine? Well, if you do, at least now you know how it works. Time travel is tricky business (especially in the Dynamic timeline) and, undeniably, should humans eventually manage to find a way to travel through time, we would most likely mess it up. Maybe one day we will be able to suitably control time travel so the timeline stays relatively stable. Until then, try apologizing for whatever misdeed you committed, and if you’re lucky enough to be alive when time travel is perfected… well, just try not to make a mistake.
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