Note: This is an extract from a larger essay I started with a friend last year, which deals with time travel in the media. We never got around finishing it, but we agreed that it contained an interesting discussion whether time travel could be possible in reality that could well stand on its own and deserved to be made public. And here it is.
                                                       [Edwina Carson, February 2006]

~ Vagaries of Timetravel ~
by Edwina Carson & Eddy Kowalski

"If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts."
(Albert Einstein)

Always having been great fans of science fiction literature and film, we have often found ourselves getting into wild discussions as to what is possible and logical and what is not. We were therefore confronted with the prospect of timetravel at an early age and literally grew up with the question whether timetravel would ever become reality. And if so, if it would be anything like the timetravel we know from TV.

When you talk about timetravel, asking for empirical evidence is redundant. There just isn't any. Scientists have not yet managed to accomplish time travel, and therefore could not have collected any data concerning its nature or its regularities.

It is quite obvious that mankind is not originally made to travel in time. A human being can do no more than sense its passing and measure it, but we do not have the means to travel within this fourth dimension. Therefore it is understandable that mankind has so much trouble grasping the concept of timetravel.

We try to approach it with scientific theories and logic, which is exactly the problem. No one ever said that time travel must necessarily be logical. So we try to use our imagination, and what comes out mostly isn't at all logical and makes no sense, so we reject the idea as impossible as soon as it comes up.

Only that time as well as time travel - like any given scientific phenomenon - follow their own rules. Rules we have not yet had the opportunity to probe or explore. Time travel is probably more complex than quantum physics, which is quite a lot. I'm no quantum physicist, but I can tell you from experience that quantum is not something easily grasped with logic.

So it is the opinion of both the authors that there is no mystique about time travel. It is scientifically explainable, or will be so. It is nothing more than traveling in another dimension that we don't know much about just yet. Who knows how many other dimensions exist that we'll never even be able to perceive, let alone travel in.

Man conquered the sea in ships, traveled to the sky in airplanes that seem to defy gravity and about which many people said that they were not going to be possible. Mankind even traveled to space, an environment not inhabitable for this species until we developed the technology to prove otherwise. The homo sapiens has a long history of overcoming his limitations, so it is not unthinkable that he will overcome this one, too.

This does not mean to say that - without any trace of doubt - timetravel was possible. And most certainly not the way it is presented by Hollywood. You can never be sure if anything will work until it has been done. But tell me this one thing, why should time travel not be possible? Maybe we can't travel in time with the technology we have today, let alone without the aid of appropriate technical devices. Maybe we can't quite figure out how timetravel works yet. That is no evidence that it isn't possible at all, though. Or will be in the future. Of course, it is no prove that it is, come to think of it.

But when Jules Verne wrote "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" and "From the Earth to the Moon" in the late 19th century, he was considered what we call a science fiction or fantasy writer these days. And while many aspects of Verne's books are indeed unrealistic, he had a lot more hits than he was credited for in his time.

If you had told the people 100 years ago that it would be possible to send a human into space - or even to the moon - they'd have laughed at you. Yet Juri Gagarin was the first human in space, and Neil Armstrong became famous for being the first to set foot on the moon. If you had told the people 2000 years ago that the world is an elliptic sphere rather than a disk, they'd have crucified you for blasphemy.

Now we know better. Now we know that many theories labeled science fiction only a few years ago are actually possible. I always liked that quote from MIB: "1500 years ago, everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. 500 years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat. And 15 minutes ago, you knew that people were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll know - tomorrow." Although Kay wasn't talking about timetravel when he said that, it does show that just because something is considered true by the majority of people, it mustn't necessarily be the truth.

So it must be said in conclusion that, to the common man and also to many scientists, timetravel will remain impossible - until someone actually travels in time.

"Every moment we live, we are moving through time. We have earned the right to chose in which direction."
(Vosk, ST: Enterprise: "Storm Front, pt. II", 2004)

© September 18, 2005

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