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Time Travel

 
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jabailo



Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 1273
Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Tue Mar 11, 2008 7:49 pm    Post subject: Time Travel Reply with quote

The Grandfather Paradox. It doesn't make sense to me...not in the traditional paradoxical not making sense, but in the why would you even ask sense.

The idea is that if you could go back in time and kill your grandfather, you wouldn't exist, so how could you go back in time and...

And so on.

The key idea is what does it mean to go back in time. If, you were to go back in time, does it mean, like in most movies, that you would be an external bystander to some event that you remember. So you would be a 40 year old scientist (or an accountant who got caught in a time machine) and you would be transported back 30 years. Of course, you would turn a corner and then see yourself playing on a swing, with your grandfather pushing you.

At this point, you could ask -- did you really go back in time? How could you, because when that past originally happened, there wasn't a 40 year old version of your standing there. So, then what you've done, is created a near perfect image of the past, into which you've inserted yourself. That takes us into the multiverse theory of all possibilities of events branching off from a single point and representing all possible outcomes. So, you work backwards from now, and you have the inverse set of multiverses. Then you insert yourself into one of your choosing, and work forward from there.

It's a real combinatatorial problem though. What you really want to say, is that if you have enough energy, and could put Humpty Dumpty back on the wall and start over from some situtation that you remember, but which you want to change, then you could spawn that "verse" off from the present.

Example. Imagine you are a disconnected mind/brain in a white room/box. There are no clocks. There is a red ball on the floor that you can see in a corner of the room. The ball is moved (using magnets under the floor by a mysterious scientist) to the center. Then it is moved back. Every minute. If you're good at math, you can start counting the minutes and relate other things that might happen. Maybe a green ball is inserted after four red ball movements (minutes). Then it's taken away after 8 redball movements. You then, might long for the days of the green ball and wish, that maybe you had tried to reach down and grab the green ball instead of just watching it. So, now, suppose instead of moving the ball into the center, it just goes around the room into each corner. Well, that's a bit disorienting, lets say if you are this uni-eye looking down from the top with no sense of direction. You might in fact, lose touch with time. Or you might try and keep counting. But suppose you lose track and have to start again...is that like going back in time?

The other day I was listening to Marvin Gaye's What's Going On. I was drawn into the music. Suddenly I felt like it was 1971 and I was living in some West Coast ghetto and Marvin Gaye was singing about me in my tenament. In 1971. It felt real. Is hearing that music, made in that time, like losing count of the ball. When we disconnect from the outside changes of matter, and only have our counting process, and we mess around with it...then could time for us change?

The other interesting thing is that we don't really want to "time travel" -- what we want is to change the past so that some other outcome (better life, marrying the girl of our dreams) is here today. (Unless we simply want to be physically younger...but that could be accomplished with some super duper drug.) But that's more like spatially jumping between the multiverses. I think of the Star Trek episode where all the multiverse possibilities collide and each can see the outcomes of all the other. Geeze...what mess that was! Then we get into the hope that you don't get what you wish for because of course there is usally some price to be paid for getting one thing (ok, you get the girl of your dreams, but you die of cancer in 3 months after you get married...and so on...)

Then, what we really want is some optimal future in which everything is controlled. That ends up being boring ( cf. Twlight Zone ).

I'm not a big believer in the multiverse. It seems like it would just take too much work for not a lot of gain. Example: from a single "verse" if you could use intelligence to estimate what the other "verses" would be like, well, that's just as good as having them. So, the entire multiverse of possibilities could be encapsulated in a single verse. Example: a coin with two sides can represent a future of 1 million coin flips and possibilities...but you don't have to flip the coin to figure that out.
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2008 5:35 pm    Post subject: Re: Time Travel Reply with quote

Very interesting post. This is a topic that I've given a fair
amount of thought to.

The crux of the matter comes down to what model of time
travel you start with.

We are all time travelers, of course. We travel forward at
the rate of one day per day. Traveling forward at higher rates
is relatively conceivable (at least compared with traveling
backwards). If we could put ourselves into a stasis for a
period, then the effect would be to accelerate our movement
through time.

But where are the paradoxes, and what should we think about them?
There is no paradox in sending messages to the future. Happens
all the time. Oddly enough, there is also no paradox in getting
information from the past. So, there would be no paradox if
you could go back as a disembodied observer to see you and
your grandfather on the swing. You could observe details that
nobody observed at the time, and bring them back to use in your
present life.

jabailo wrote:

... created a near perfect image of the past, into which you've inserted yourself. That takes us into the multiverse theory of all possibilities of events branching off from a single point and representing all possible outcomes. So, you work backwards from now, and you have the inverse set of multiverses. Then you insert yourself into one of your choosing, and work forward from there.


Presumably, moving backwards in time would not involve the
multiverses so much. Speculating, there is only one multiverse
that corresponds to one minute back in my past, the one that
actually happened, and which I have a fairly good degree of
familiarity with. Whether by quantum differences, or by human
choices, multiple possible futures are generated from a present.
It is hard to see how there would not be a virtually infinite number
of futures deriving out of a single "present" moment. Hence the
combinatorial explosion you mention.


Quote:

...I felt like it was 1971 and I was living in some West Coast ghetto and Marvin Gaye was singing about me in my tenament. In 1971. It felt real. Is hearing that music, made in that time, like losing count of the ball. When we disconnect from the outside changes of matter, and only have our counting process, and we mess around with it...then could time for us change?


This is an example of non-paradoxical time travel. For all we know,
you *were* transported back to the past. Since you had no "presence"
there, and did not alter anything, there would be no paradox.

Quote:

The other interesting thing is that we don't really want to "time travel" -- what we want is to change the past so that some other outcome (better life, marrying the girl of our dreams) is here today...

Some games allow you to undo your last move and try a different one
Later in the game, there may be no indication that you once tried a
different path. To accomplish this in our day-to-day reality would
not require physically returning to a past time. One need only send
a message to your past self: "when going to work today, turn left
instead of right on Elm street". Although sending a message to our
past selves seems quite a bit easier than actually transporting ourselves
there, the paradox remains.

It may be that there generally are no multiverses, that the progression
of events from a single moment do not normally divide into possible
outcomes. There may be no free will, and no real choices to make.
Hence no infinite possibilities that the multiverse is needed to contain.
Still, backwards time travel may be so rare, that it does generate
a splitting off from the clockwork, fore-ordained, singular universe,
in which case, there may not be an infinite number of them.
In this case, there might be two.

I guess I could imagine multi-verse travelers. You don't like how
that bet turned out, so you go back 3 minutes and fold. Depending
on your conception of time, that universe, the one where you folded
exists and is just as real as this one where you didn't. You might
prefer to shift over to that universe. Time travelers would tend
to be not so admirable then, jumping to the realities where the
weather is good and the beer plentiful, and without much loyalty
to "our" reality and our efforts to make it better. They'd all end
up in a wonderful reality, but they'd be one of the worst aspects
of it, lazy, selfish characters with little stake in the outcome of
their choices. Freeloaders in paradise.

Quote:

I'm not a big believer in the multiverse. It seems like it would just take too much work for not a lot of gain. Example: from a single "verse" if you could use intelligence to estimate what the other "verses" would be like, well, that's just as good as having them. So, the entire multiverse of possibilities could be encapsulated in a single verse. Example: a coin with two sides can represent a future of 1 million coin flips and possibilities...but you don't have to flip the coin to figure that out.


I have a character in a role-playing game that has some time-travel
skills. As you might imagine, paradoxes are not much more welcome
there than they are here. Time travel "magic" was allowed to a certain
extent. Traveling back and making changes that led to paradox was
disallowed: one way? something always goes wrong before you can
make that paradoxical change. Guns jam. You stumble on the way
to the swingset, etc. It turns out to be a very dangerous thing to
one's physical well-being to attempt such an action.

Generalizing from this principle, I used the idea of traveling back
and making changes that did not contradict known features of the
world. So you might observe you and your grandfather, so long
as you wouldn't be noticed or remembered. This is a pretty subjective
criteria, and wouldn't likely work well outside the context of the game.
Disturbing a single grain of sand could lead to paradox on a large
scale, though in a more typical scenario it would not even be
noticeable centuries into the future.

I think the best evidence for time travel, the messages sent to the
past variety, is in intuition. A message sent in this way, however,
would generate a paradox, which would require a splitting
off of universes.
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jabailo



Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 1273
Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2008 9:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
This is an example of non-paradoxical time travel. For all we know,
you *were* transported back to the past.


This idea has also been explored in the movie Somewhere in Time. One wonders if "entanglement" can operate over time...or, more simply, the recording of "What's Going On?", having been done in 1970, carry with them some type of "vibes" from that era (this is where you slap my hand and say "Solid!"). But seriously, say, in some type of holographic way, a part of 1970 was stored in the recording's waves (some we know about...others?)...so each time we listen, those waves are re-emitted, and we are retangled, re-resonated with the past and perhaps our environment as well, providing a small (or large) sphere of 1970.

Quote:
and making changes that did not contradict known features of the
world. So you might observe you and your grandfather, so long
as you wouldn't be noticed or remembered.


I guess that I would not be able to distinguish that from "recreating" the past, doing something from that copy of it, and moving forward.

Imagine if you had infinite energy, and could push back, or rearrange every quark into the position it was in at some point in the past. Then, going forward, you are still there as yourself. You make your changes and then you either wait around, or travel near the speed of light to fast forward and see what happens. So, at no point do you "go back in time", but the effect would be the same and, perhaps, indistinguishable.

Quote:
Although sending a message to our
past selves seems quite a bit easier than actually transporting ourselves
there, the paradox remains.


I'd like to know more about how that is done, although if it's common physics that I'm unaware of, I would need to read up on that. Again, the end result seems to be making some change in our current present. So, in the long form, I would send a message to the past, the past would play out, and I would be a millionare in the present (because I told my former self to invest in Yahoo -- like the movie Frequency). But again, I could equally apply energy to the present, maybe lots of energy, that shifts things around and makes me a millionaire. For example, if I could materialize money, or figure a stock tip, or any other of a number of things, I would be a that same place.

So, there seems, at first thought, an equality to going back in time, changing something and letting it play out and then being in that reality and just moving things around. Or, if you're a fan of the multiverse, that reality exists on "another channel" and you're more interested in hopping to that version of your life.

For me, in terms of elegance and economy, I reject going back to the past and the multiverse in favor of the transformation of the present.
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brian-hansen
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Joined: 17 Mar 2006
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 16, 2008 2:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

jabailo wrote:
I guess that I would not be able to distinguish that from "recreating" the past, doing something from that copy of it, and moving forward.

Imagine if you had infinite energy, and could push back, or rearrange every quark into the position it was in at some point in the past. Then, going forward, you are still there as yourself. You make your changes and then you either wait around, or travel near the speed of light to fast forward and see what happens. So, at no point do you "go back in time", but the effect would be the same and, perhaps, indistinguishable.


I agree that, depending on how powerful you were, you could recreate
a situation that seemed as if you had gone back in time. If one took
this idea seriously, and wanted to do a complete job, though, the effort
involved would rank with the creation of the universe. Consider that
various stars have gone nova during our lifetime. These provide
external clues as to where we are in time. At the opposite extreme,
you could make a Hollywood set that might fool someone until they
looked backstage.

On the other hand, the whole know-the-location-and-velocity
conception of physics has been pretty much discredited in the
last 100 years by Heisenberg. It is not possible, given our
current understanding, to know these things, let alone recreate
them


Quote:
... end result seems to be making some change in our current present. So, in the long form, I would send a message to the past, the past would play out, and I would be a millionare in the present (because I told my former self to invest in Yahoo -- like the movie Frequency). But again, I could equally apply energy to the present, maybe lots of energy, that shifts things around and makes me a millionaire. For example, if I could materialize money, or figure a stock tip, or any other of a number of things, I would be a that same place.

There are a lot of things less fungible than money. Lost loves, missed
opportunities, etc. It seems likely that no matter how much you
studied up on stock tips and materializing money you would probably
not be elected president in the next 10 years.



Quote:

So, there seems, at first thought, an equality to going back in time, changing something and letting it play out and then being in that reality and just moving things around. Or, if you're a fan of the multiverse, that reality exists on "another channel" and you're more interested in hopping to that version of your life.


That equality is very dubious to me. One takes the power of a god
and (to recreate / move around things) in the present, and violates
Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, and the other finds a way around
a paradox, but other than that, no other godlike powers may be needed
(just a bunch of lasers in a research lab in New Jersey - ha!).


Quote:

For me, in terms of elegance and economy, I reject going back to the past and the multiverse in favor of the transformation of the present.


Given that any of these kinds of time travel, especially the paradoxical
ones, are not feasible technologies, we're left with the old ways:
transmute our regrets and missed opportunities into actions in the
present, or just accept them and get on with life.

It may be a sign of your mental health that you have no regrets
so overpowering that you put much energy into the idea of changing
the past.
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Time Clock



Joined: 11 Sep 2008
Posts: 47
Location: Vancouver, WA

PostPosted: Wed Sep 17, 2008 7:52 pm    Post subject: Hollywood time travel perspectives Reply with quote

In the movie "Next" ....hmmm I just realized this is a spoiler...

Ok I'll blather on a bit, but please skip this paragraph if you have not seen "Next" with Nicholas Cage, it gives a whole different perspective of time travel, and the theory itself makes sense. Seriously, you'll enjoy the movie but you'll enjoy it less if I ruin any chance of surprises, so if you're still reading this I take only a small portion of the blame. The main character travels in time as was mentioned in the above posts, not by actually doing anything, but by knowing the future. So as was said about the infinite possible outcomes, they can be calculated and therefore don't necessarily have to be experienced. As the movie progressed I loved the way they presented the multiple possibilities, and although I don't have much of a vantage point to understand God, it wouldn't surprise me if God doesn't operate in this way. A little trailing blather to assist speed readers (they read an entire line at a glance, right?) who don't want the movie spoiled either.

And from another angle I recently enjoyed, "Journeyman" (TV show) - The fun part of that show was that the main character took pains to avoid himself, and in fact could return more than once and see two of himself if he knew where to look. It did not have himself kill his grandfather or anything, but he did once change his love life slightly only to discover upon return to the present that he's had a daughter rather than a son.

He missed his now nonexistent son, and so worked to get things back to the way HE remembered things, but his current version of his wife was VERY upset that he planned to eliminate their daughter, which of course she loved very much and had spent years watching her play and grow up, (and the innocent daughter loved her dad also), but he was walking around with only the memories of the son. He couldn't have both realities, so he had to choose.

I see a few "rules" being broken here, but the show was an absolute joy to watch, and hey, he had an iphone so I enjoyed the show on multiple levels :)
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