HISTORIC AMERICAN BUILDINGS SURVEY CHAUNCEY BUCK - PHOTOGRAPHER - MARCH 14, 1934 VIEW FROM NORTH - John Marshall House, Shawneetown, Gallatin County, IL. This image or media file contains material based on a work of a National Park Service employee, created as part of that person's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, such work is in the public domain in the United States. See the NPS website and NPS copyright policy for more information. Note the levee built behind the house along the Ohio River.
NED HUSTON'S CHRONOVERSE
Front of the John Marshall House Museum, located on Main Street south of Adams Street in Old Shawneetown, Illinois, United States. Built in 1974, it is a historically inaccurate reproduction of the original John Marshall House, which was built on this site in 1808; it was one of Illinois' first banks and brick houses, but it was demolished in 1974 specifically so that this inaccurate reproduction could be built. Enough of the original house remains (e.g. foundations) that the site of the original house has qualified to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Photograph taken in 2013 by Nyttend. I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide.
WHAT YOU CAN LEARN ABOUT TIME FROM AN ACTUAL TIME TRAVELER?
3 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we can reasonably depict Time Travel only as long as we conceptualize Time as a dimension of space and abandon our outdated notions of Time as being something else.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 and matter 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.
BONUS NONFICTION FROM THE FUTURE