Time Travel

May 5th, 2017

Time Travel

It’s one of my favorite topics in Science Fiction and there have been lots of treatments in literature, movies and television. Lots of them are silly, but several are very, very good, at least in my opinion. Netflix’s Travelers, Continuum, Twelve Monkeys (the book, the movie and the TV show)The Time Machine, Millennium, Quantum Leap, 36, The End of Eternity… the list goes on. They all pay attention to the problems associated with time travel such as paradox and causality and they take different approaches to explaining why time travel can work within the fictional universes where they dwell.

My take on all of these shows is that they lean towards a kind of determined fate where time travel is concerned. Everything that happens was meant to happen which is why the people (in most cases) can return to a future just like or very nearly like the one the left. If you made changes in the past it was because that is the way things actually happened in the past and here we are in the future. Oh, happy day.

Larry Niven postulated that if time travel was possible its implementation would lead to a universe where time travel was never discovered- the sweeping changes implemented in the past would finally collapse into a timeline where there was no time travel, otherwise time could never move forward. I like that treatment because it is having your cake and eating it, too. Time Travel is possible, but it destroys itself by its very nature and the time we live in is the result of lots of time travelers messing with reality until they broke it.

Of course, I have my own theory. Time travel is possible, but it has a ghastly price- the annihilation of the time traveler’s future, as well as all of history beyond the point of arrival, stranding him/her/them in the past. The past is now the present and the future doesn’t exist. I come to this conclusion based on my admittedly dim grasp of quantum physics- by sending a conscious observer into the past time travel causes a catastrophic shift of the quantum states of EVERYTHING that observer interacts with. It is a cascade effect- each change spawns more change and the possibility of the future the traveler came from ever existing is driven to zero so close to instantaneously as to be impossible to halt or redress.

So, if time travel is possible, but it costs the annihilation of all that came after to moment of arrival, who would try it?

The truly desperate. Those facing the total destruction of their people, perhaps, and not just humans. Assuming there is sentient life elsewhere in the universe the destroyer of all we know could be millions of light years away. How is that for a happy thought on a Friday evening?