Monday, June 22, 2009

Waiting for 2010 #39: Ronald Mallett's Time Travel Quest



We'll have to call this temporal irony.

At a young age, Dr. Ronald Mallett resolved to time travel to save his father's life, who died in 1955. In the process of fulfilling this lifelong dream, Mallett learned physics, earned a Ph.D., is now a tenured professor at the University of Connecticut, and is apparently close to having his space-time bending machine prototype come to life. He's a real-life Daniel Faraday, I suppose.

Unfortunately:

The hypothetical only works from the moment it is turned on and forward into time. Therefore, Mallett cannot travel back to 1955 and thus fulfill his life's mission.

Which is good because:

If Dr. Mallett actually saved his father by travelling back to 1955, young 10-year old Ronald would never have been truly inspired to become a physicist on a mission to build a time machine. Young Ronald would not grow up to become time travelling Dr. Mallett, and no one would go back in time to save Ronald's father, thus inspiring Ronald to become a time traveling physicist, who would go back to save his father - and creating a crazy on/off time loop paradox, not to mention the ramifications for everything else in the universe (and the grammar of this sentence).

But then again:

Without telling anyone else, Dr. Mallett might have been able to figure out how his space-time machine could travel to 1955. In which case, Dr. Mallett could have tried to save his father in 1955, but since whatever happened, happened, he failed. And young Ronald was still inspired to become a time traveling physicist.

Alternatively:

Dr. Mallett probably realizes the consequences and possibilities of time travel. If he could physically travel to 1955 (or earlier), instead of preventing anything, he could just find a way to hang out with his dad for a day. Then he'd mysteriously travel back (or elsewhere) later. Since whatever happened, happened, whatever Mallett does in his travels is what was supposed to happen anyway.

On the other hand:

Who's to say that Mallett's time-bending machine will be any stable for use? Will the machine itself provide a constant location for time travellers to go from Time A to Time B? If not, it might send people to another time, but to a random location - whether another part of the Earth or a location along Earth's orbit around the Sun. If the latter, that would not be good for anyone.

Finally:

Maybe Ronald Mallett should take a cue from Daniel Faraday and try to make himself (and others) unstuck in time instead, via consciousness time travel. 64-year old Dr. Mallett could zap himself (or take some crazy drugs or hypnosis or whatever) back into his childhood, aware of his present but happy that he can spend some time in the past, probably not being able to change anything to affect the future.

The moral of the story is:

Make sure all your memories are happy and/or interesting. If consciousness time travel exists, you wouldn't want to be caught in bad times. In any case, make the most of your experiences.

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