NED HUSTON'S CHRONOVERSE
Can the Past be Reached through a Wormhole?
Perhaps your preference for Travel through Time is through a wormhole, a portal, or a time gate. Perhaps you find this credible. Scientists do not, but screw them, right? If it was up to them, there would be no time travel. They only want to poo-poo the notion. So—what if wormholes are possible?
A natural wormhole is like an elevator shaft through the fourth (or higher) dimension. You still need an elevator car to travel in. It has to have some means of propulsion. It has to have brakes, an ability to maneuver. Floors are not pre-set. The force of gravity and other forces still operate. You do not reach the next floor instantaneously. Once you reach your floor, you still have to travel through more space to reach your destination, because the elevator shaft does not lead everywhere, only from floor to floor. Unless your destination is the floor lobby, you’ll have to hike down the hall to reach the “room” you seek. If every floor is a year, you still have a journey ahead of you to reach the day you want, even longer if you seek a different location on earth (or off Earth, for that matter). And if every floor is a century or a millennium, your journey through space can be quite long, even with the help of a wormhole.
But what if you artificially create a wormhole by “warping” space? Take the two dimensional analogy of folding a piece of paper so points on either end now meet. That may work fine out in the emptiness of outer space, but how are you going to warp space full of solid matter? That’s what usually happens in time travel stories: time travelers move through the Earth, not in space. So in making your instantaneous journey from Shanghai to New York, are you going to fold the Earth so that Shanghai kisses New York? What will happen to the Earth if you do that? What will happen to New York and Shanghai?
It’s fine to use an analogy of folding a two dimensional piece of paper, but folding real space is not going to be so simple. A four dimensional solid is not going to be easy to fold. But let’s say you can “fold” some of the emptier parts of outer space, accordion them to create a short cut. This will bring you closer to your destination perhaps, but not point to point. You will still have to journey through space, perhaps even a long way.
The distances to overcome in many time travel stories are enormous—light years, even parsecs. You would literally need a spaceship to make the journey, something on the scale of the U.S.S. Enterprise. And you couldn’t travel through matter, not even an atmosphere. If you’re going to make your time travel through space, you still have to get into space and back.
But the problem with folding space is space is not empty. The theory of space has progressed since Einstein’s time. Space has structure and matter in it. Space may not be so simple to fold.
Wormholes, warping space, faster than light travel—these are not things scientists find credible. There is no evidence for any of them. All three violate the laws of physics as we know them.
So if you want to Travel through Time why not change the laws of physics? They are primarily laws of motion, after all, and as I have said, motion is an illusion. The chance that the laws of physics as we know them are inaccurate or incomplete is 100 percent. Let me repeat that. 100 percent. Just as a for instance, consider that scientists today believe most of the universe is made up of dark matter and dark energy—and they don’t even know what it is. The composition of most of the universe is—wait for it—unknown.
Scientists have discovered our universe is not just expanding, it is accelerating. That is a violation of inertia, people. How can the universe be accelerating? Our laws of physics clearly are in error.
You may as well fuel your Time Machine with dark energy if you’re a science fiction writer. Let it travel through dark matter. Come up with a theory of dark matter travel, and that may be the key to explaining how Time Travel is possible. But don’t define time in pre-Wellsian or pre-Einsteinian terms. Don’t envisage instantaneous travel. Don’t try to move solid matter through solid matter. Don’t treat your reader like a dummy and make actual Time Travelers laugh at you.
The quick way to circumnavigate a four dimensional solid is not a wormhole. You can leave the solid and Travel around it, preferably through something that isn’t space, something you can go many times the speed of light through, something that can be easily folded. Then you can re-enter the solid wherever you like. Through the fourth dimension you can reach any point on Earth. The voyage will not be instantaneous, but it will cut down the vast distances involved in Time Travel to a manageable size.
I concede I do not know everything. Not even a Time Traveler knows all about Time. The subject is even more complicated than I think, and there are possibilities that I am ignorant of and aspects of Time that elude me. That does not change the basic outline of the subject, however.
If you want to write about Time Travel without actually having done it, go ahead. But what can most help your story be believable is not what is already known but future advances in science, the ones we aren’t even aware of yet.
Next time: what does it matter whether a story’s theory of time is scientific or credible?
WHAT YOU CAN LEARN ABOUT TIME FROM AN ACTUAL TIME TRAVELER?
Do You Really Want Your Illusions Shattered?
There are a lot of misconceptions among the Locals about Time and Time Travel. They prefer stories of magic rather than science, of impossibilities rather than possibilities. They don’t realize that Time Travel can exist only if certain things are true. These basics elude them only because they have never Traveled in Time. Once you have actually Traveled, you lose your illusions.
People no longer write stories of flying carpets or trips to the Moon on the wind. The reality of flying has changed our conception of flight. The reality of the space program has changed our conception of spaceflight. People no longer expect to fall asleep and wake up on the Moon or Mars. The Moon and Mars are different places now that we know more about them.
The same is true of Time Travel. Once you know how it is actually done, you can no longer entertain ridiculous ideas of it. And most stories of Time Travel are just plain ridiculous. Of course, the ridiculous has its appeal. A ridiculous story can be appreciated for it pure preposterousness. But science fiction stories are to be appreciated for their possibilities more than their impossibilities.
I could teach the Locals a few things about Time Travel, a few of the basics. Not the technical details, of course. That would be illegal—and dangerous. Just a layman’s knowledge. Enough to tell the difference between a real story of Time Travel and a fake. Enough to know what to expect if they were confronted with the real possibility of a Trip through Time. Enough that the Time Travelers may stop jeering at them.
What I have to say will take a few installments, less than a dozen. It’s best to proceed a step at a time. If you’re interested in real Time Travel, you can have a look. But really, if you’re a Local and want to stay that way, you would probably rather not know. You will not enjoy having your cherished ideas undermined. You are inextricably attached to your own conception of time. You will have a hard time believing, even understanding any other. You will want to quibble and object. But there is no quibbling with an actual Time Traveler. I will only laugh at you. I have little patience for those who cling to their primitive outdated notions.
You may have read some guides to time and time travel before, such as So You Created a Wormhole or How to Build a Time Machine. This is different. I am serious. This is a new theory of time, that is, new for you.
I warn you Time is not what you think it is, and if you continue reading these installments, you will not get what you expect. Your perspective on Time will be radically challenged and your view of the universe warped. What good will that do you? You will find it difficult to ever go back to your old ideas of Time, but you will find it impossible to let go of them. You will be trapped between the new and the old conceptions. Even Time Travelers have this problem.
Read on at your own discretion.
A Prospectus of Installments about Time
An installment will be published on my Web Site nedhuston.com at the end of every month until I have nothing else to say.
1. February Do You Really Want Your Illusions Shattered?
2. February What is Time?
3. March Where are the Past and the Future?
4. April What about Portals, Wormholes and Time Gates?
5. May What does it Matter Whether a Story’s Theory of Time is Scientific or Credible?
6. June What does it mean if the Universe is a Four Dimensional Solid?
7. July Q and A about Quantum Time Theory
8. August Readers’ Questions Answered
9. September Special Relativity Reconsidered
WHAT YOU CAN LEARN ABOUT TIME FROM AN ACTUAL TIME TRAVELER?
What is Time?
H. G. Wells’s formulation that time is a fourth dimension of space was our first inkling that time is not what we’ve always thought it to be. Einstein’s theory of relativity proved he was right. So if time is not what we’ve always believed it to be, what is it?
Lucretius gave us an answer over two millennia ago: “Time itself does not exist, but from things themselves there results a sense of what has already taken place, what is now going on, and what is to ensue. It must not be claimed that anyone can sense time by itself apart from the movement of things.” P. D. Ouspensky made a related observation almost a century ago: “Time is the tracing of a three dimensional object through four dimensional space.”
If time is space (and it is), then time as a separate phenomenon does not exist. Things move in Sequence, but the sequence is spatial. The coordinates are all spatial. The universe has no need for time. Time is merely a concept in our heads. We mistake motion for time passing—there is no time frame. It is entirely an illusion of ours. Things move in a Sequence. No time passes. That is the truth of the universe.
So why are we unable to see things this way? Why are we unable to think in any terms except time? Because we are never still, never at rest. Motion always accompanies us. We are never apart from it even though we are not always aware of it. We mistake this constant motion as time passing and are unable to escape the habit of conceiving of things in temporal terms. Temporal terms and ideas permeate out language and our thought.
Yes, we can imagine abstractly a universe of space and motion without time, but we inevitably revert in our thinking to there being a time frame within which things happen. Even H. G. Wells fell prey to this flaw in perspective. In The Time Machine he imagines time as a fourth dimension of space and the universe as a four dimensional solid. But then he makes the mistake of writing, “our consciousness moves along it.” Once he expresses himself in these terms, he brings the human time perspective into his conception and introduces a time frame outside our universe along which our consciousness moves while traversing the fourth dimension.
Not only is it unscientific to postulate a consciousness that moves by itself, thus embracing the mind/body duality, but this conception also stops treating time as a fourth dimension of space and reverts to the idea that time is an absolute frame against which all thought happens. There is no such frame. All is spatial. There is no need for a time component—except for the sake of our conventional perspective.
So why are we such time-bound creatures? Why can’t we escape this notion of a time frame along which all happens? Partly it is because movement is sequential (in spatial terms), but more so it is because we are constantly in motion ourselves but not constantly aware of our motion.
At first I thought we were sensing, at least unconsciously, our planet’s motion in space even when we ourselves are at rest. I thought we may be dimly aware of the rotation of the earth, its revolution around the sun, perhaps even our movement through a fourth dimension.
I no longer think this. We do not sense the earth’s rotation or its orbit or our galaxy’s motion or any movement we may have along a fourth dimension. The movement we constantly sense is our own internal movement: our breathing, our heartbeat, our sensations and biological processes, our circadian rhythms. We cannot escape the notion of a time frame because we ourselves are biological clockwork.
It is true that modern culture is especially clockwork oriented in its thinking and there are other cultures that are not so time-centered. But all cultures think in terms of days and years and lifetimes, in seasons and in terms of youth and old age. We cannot escape our biological perspective of a constant time frame. We are a ticking watch, but the time we are marking exists only from our perspective. We think of motion and events in a time frame because that is how we experience them. We don’t identify time as space because we don’t experience it as space. We are unaware of most of our motion.
You have moved thousands of miles through space while reading this. Your blood has coursed for miles, your breath cycled in a cloud that would be miles long if laid end to end. Your nerve impulses have spanned miles of neurons. Molecules have scattered all over your body. Yet you have experienced this interlude as being at rest. From your perspective only time has moved. That is because there is a flaw in your perspective.
No time has elapsed because it does not exist. Matter has moved to different coordinates. That is all. But you will never see it that way because you are trapped in a biological perspective, a perspective that you are never without and cannot escape. Your clockwork body is the context for everything in your life, even when you are in motion. Thus, you believe clockwork must frame everything.
But you are wrong.
Clockwork frames nothing. Just because other clockwork agrees with you does not mean your perspective is true. Time is a mass delusion, a stipulation universally accepted because everyone is clockwork. Things move through space. No time is necessary for this to happen, yet we think time is essential because for us clockwork accompanies everything.
The conception of time is ingrained in our language, our thought, and our culture. It has been universally accepted, and it rules our lives. We cannot think outside of the biological context we exist in. For us time is an essential interpretation of our existence.
The only problem is it doesn’t exist.
What Can You Learn about Time from an Actual Time Traveler?
WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM AN ACTUAL TIME TRAVELER ABOUT TIME?
Where Are the Past and Future?
We live in an ever-changing Present. Every day we move 24 hours from our Past to our Future, but we actually never inhabit either. We inhabit only the Present.
Do these realms of Past and Future even exist? And if they do, where are they and how can we reach them?
H. G. Wells laid all this out over a century ago in his novel The Time Machine. We can Travel through Time to Past or Future only if Time is space. Space can be travelled through. It is the only thing that can be travelled through. You cannot Travel through an abstraction or through solid matter. Only through space. Thus, we can reasonably depict Time Travel only as long as we conceptualize Time as a dimension of space and abandon our outdated notions of Time as being something else. You cannot Travel through a cause-effect chain. You cannot Travel through a phenomenon of duration. You cannot Travel through an absolute of temporal before and after.
Wells’s Time Traveler moves through a fourth dimension of space, but writers coming after him depict Travelers who “move” instead through antiquated conceptions of time (which does not exist). They move through causal loops and cross space instantaneously, in vessels with no spatial propulsion or in no vessel at all.
Wells’s own description of his Time Machine closely resembles a bicycle. It is a device for moving through space. He did not stop to think how fast the Earth is moving through space, our solar system through the galaxy, our galaxy away from the Big Bang. His time bicycle had to move in excess of the speed of light to span the years it crossed. Of course, he could count on our planet for much of the movement, but still his time traveler should have experienced the friction of a plummeting meteor. It would have vaporized him. Still, he did move through space to cross time, and he did not instantly arrive at his destination.
Time Travel writers after Wells depict their characters crossing these gulfs of space instantaneously—because they conceptualize time not as space but as some magical property that can be leap frogged without movement.
Magical properties cannot be Travelled through. Only space can be Travelled through.
But let us put that aside for a moment. As a convenience to writer and reader, let us skip the tedious expedient of depicting or reading a long journey through space. Let us allow for shortcuts—wormholes perhaps, that let us travel from A to Z as quickly as from A to B. That still leaves us with a journey, even if it is short. Going from A to B is not instantaneous. But we have set that consideration aside, right?
That still leaves the question of where are we Travelling to. If I travel in space to where the Earth was yesterday, I will find only empty space. The same is true if I travel to where the Earth will be tomorrow. I can visit Past and Future only if the universe is a four dimensional solid as depicted by Wells in The Time Machine. Otherwise, there is nowhere to visit. Only empty space where the Earth used to be (or will be).
If Time is actually motion, and what we experience as Time is merely motion, that implies there is no Past and no Future, just an ever-changing Present. There is no need for a fourth dimension to account for time.
But as a Time Traveler, I can assure you there is a fourth dimension. It is full of space, and that space must be crossed to reach the Past or the Future. You cannot Travel through matter. Jet planes do not fly through buildings or mountains or trees, no matter how fast they go, yet Time Travel writers have their characters do so. Instantaneously.
If the universe is a four dimensional solid, how are you going to Travel through it? It is solid. You can only go around it. Okay, maybe you can fly through the air (how would you deal with the friction?) and maneuver around objects (at speeds faster than light?). But if you are part of this solid, connected to both past and future, how can you move at all? You are sandwiched between past and future selves and anchored to both. If the universe is a four dimensional solid, motion is an illusion.
So it is not just time that does not exist. Motion does not either.
I suppose you’re expecting I’m going to say space doesn’t exist next, but I’m not. I wouldn’t do that to you. I am being serious.
In a four dimensional solid, how can we account for consciousness, for our illusion of motion? It can’t be accounted for unless the four dimensional solid is dynamic rather than static. Things must be capable of change. Matter must be capable of changing position. The solid can grow and change internally. The fourth dimensional solid is not time itself (which is an abstraction and does not exist) but an arrangement of matter, a physical record of the past, a kind of fossil record left behind by a moving Present. It does not have to remain immutable.
I confess a time frame has crept into our discussion here and also motion, which likewise does not exist. We are incapable of even discussing the subject of time without framing it in temporal terms or matter in terms of motion. But for the sake of our discussion, please bear with me.
You cannot travel to the actual past. To do so creates impossible paradoxes, and the existence of a paradox merely proves your conception of time is wrong. You began with faulty premises and therefore arrived at an untenable conclusion, a reduction ad absurdum.
Time paradox stories can be entertaining, but they tell us nothing about actual Time or Time Travel. They warn us of false premises. Time cannot be Travelled in if it is a cause-effect chain. However, you can Travel through space, and if you can enter a fourth dimension, you can visit the Past if a solid version of it exists there. And if the solid is dynamic rather than static, you can make Changes, even Changes that propagate forward across the four dimensional solid and Change the Present.
But where is the Present? On the four dimensional solid, what is Past, what is Present, and what is Future? The answer is relative to your position. To someone at one end of the solid, the entire solid is Future. To someone at the other end, the entire solid is Past. However, if this is a dynamic four dimensional solid (and it is), then there is still movement in the Present, and it is still leaving a physical record of itself behind as it moves, and that would mean the Present is at the far end of the solid, and the rest of the solid is all Past. There can be no Future beyond a moving Present.
Can a four dimensional solid be dynamic without being open-ended, without the Present still in motion? Perhaps, but the question arises how did it get that way and why isn’t it static? The end of the universe is pre-determined in such a solid. It is hard to view life there as anything but pointless.
A fake time travel story can be recognized if the Travelers journey instantaneously, travel through matter rather than open space, and don’t have to cross any space to reach their destination. A fake time travel story does not treat time as space but instead as a phenomenon of cause and effect. In a fake time travel story, travelers visit the actual past and actual future, not merely a physical artifact of them. Paradoxes are rampant because the premises of the story are false. The story’s theory of time is false because time does not actually exist. Only space and motion exist. But motion is not motion as we conceive it but merely a change in position.
Fake Time Machines need no fuel, no life support, no supplies. They need no propulsion. They are magic.
How can you have Time Travel without motion and without time? And what about wormholes? They make instantaneous travel possible, right?
Next installment: wormholes.
Chicago at Night. Image was taken during summer in 2004 by Mjw23. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.