Saturday, August 22, 2009

Waiting for 2010 #100: How to Be the Chrononaut, and Not the Time Traveler's Spouse

This is the 100th installment of our daily "Waiting for 2010" series. This explanation really doesn't benefit you, but it helps me jog my own faulty memory why I've prefixed these 1oo entries as such: I'm waiting for next year, and more specifically, I'm waiting for the final season premiere of the TV show LOST. Whew! That was a relief; I thought I couldn't remember things well again.

In any case, let us continue these ravings of an undereducated madman (yours truly), who incidentally, wrote about such quasi-science years before this pop cultural, television renaissance of all things science fiction. Yes, I even put forward this craziness while taking an online college course. For credit. I passed with flying colors, so that could either mean: 1. I did well in the real stuff, or 2. What were they thinking?

OK, a handful of days ago, I mentioned an article by a physicist critiquing the logistics of the recent film The Time Traveler's Wife. Having not watched the movie, nor read the book from which it was adapted, I will discuss the rules the physicist listed in the article:

1) This is the only universe you've got.
2) You can't visit any time before your time machine was built.
3) You can't kill your own grandfather.
4) You don't have nearly as much free will as you think you do.
In other words (as spinned, spindled, and mutilated from my point of view):

1. There is only one course of history, and no diverging, parallel, or otherwise alternative timelines.
2. You can only travel within your own timeline - from when you first received consciousness (and arguably, sentience or even sapience) to when you finally lose it.
3. You can't prevent your own conception (see number my spin on number two, above).
4. I covered how free will is subjective, fate is objective, and both are valid realities yesterday.

Using today's technology, and following the above rules, how can one time travel?

Short of being irradiated by electromagnetic energy like the LOST fictional character Desmond Hume (and short of television writers gifting electromagnetic energy with paranormal qualities), the best hope for time travel to your past is through one's memories. I'm not talking about tender reminiscence or post-traumatic nostalgia, where you still know that you are in the present while thinking of the past. I'm talking about full-blown immersion in the past in terms of time and space.

The House episodes "House's Head" and "Wilson's Heart" provide some hints of possible, feasible techniques:

1. Hypnosis
2. Drugs
3. Simulated location

Once immerse in the past, you might possibly lose any sense of deja vu, or even a remembrance of the present, in that you would do the same things you did originally. Being immersed in the past in this way follows the rules set by our aforementioned physicist (I've neglected to mention his name earlier: Dave Goldberg):

1. You will be immersed in the past as it happened when you lived through it before.
2. You are limited by your own body's presence (and mind's presence) in space-time when traveling to the past; this is consciousness time travel.
3. Duh, you can't prevent your own conception or even your own birth through this method; you'd be as powerless as the newborn baby you are if you travel to the day of your birth.
4. Whatever happened, happened. You'd do the same things you did, while believing that you're making these decisions as originally and freely as possible.

Using today's technology, how can one travel forward in time to the limits of one's own existence?

Unlike past memory/consciousness time travel, this journey might be a bit crude: You'll have to get yourself in some sort of suspended animation, and hope-against-hope that future technology will be able to revive you to see the future. You'll have to contact a cryogenics lab, and it's not a very feasible option for curious people in good health. However, if you manage to freeze yourself, you'd still follow the physicist's rules (at least how I redefined them):

1. You're not going to change the future by freezing yourself.
2. If you're still around when they revive you, then you're still in your own timeline.
3. This point, relating to your own origins, is pretty irrelevant if you're traveling to the future.
4. You're still subjectively perceiving free will while doing what you're supposed to do in the objective big picture, even though freezing yourself was a pretty silly act.

Having traveled to the future via cryogenics - which takes no time at all to an ultra-comatose point of view - you can still travel to the past, using today's technology (in case the future doesn't invent anything better). Unfortunately, you can only travel back to the moments of consciousness during your hibernation (if any) and during the live you've lived before then. Again, this will follow the four rules:

1. You will be immersed in the past as it happened when you lived through it before.
2. You are limited by your own body's presence (and mind's presence - moments of blacking out don't count because how would you know?) in space-time when traveling to the past; this is consciousness time travel.
3. Duh, you can't prevent your own conception or even your own birth through this method; you'd be as powerless as the newborn baby you are if you travel to the day of your birth.
4. Whatever happened, happened. You'd do the same things you did, while believing that you're making these decisions as originally and freely as possible.

There you have it: Crude time traveling for time tourists who don't want to change anything anyway (which is a moot point because they can't). Tomorrow (or the next day or later), we'll see what we can do about the fifth dimension - and I don't mean the band The 5th Dimension.

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