The Time Traveler's Life - Part One
By Allan Eastman
When Would You Go?
At a certain point in their lives, I bet that everybody has a fantasy about traveling in Time.
On the simplest level, maybe it is only a desire to go back and visit with a dear departed loved one or perhaps to travel into the future to see how your kids turn out and what their families are like.
Or to try to fix some emotional or social disaster that has been haunting you ever since it happened.
A lot of people would think it a good thing to travel back in Time to rid History of any number of murderous Tyrants before they got a chance to set off on their genocidal careers. Many others would love to be able to personally witness the passion of the Christ or sit at the feet of the Buddha or join up with Mohammad’s hejira. Or maybe, just be a Time Tourist – stroll the marble piazzas of Augustan Rome in its prime, or lounge on pristine Copacabana Beach before the people and the ugly buildings arrived, or stand in the pit of the Globe Theatre to watch Will Shakespeare act in the first production of Hamlet.
Do you wish to witness Lady Godiva’s ride? Check out the Beatles in the Cavern Club? Fight alongside Davy Crockett at the Alamo? Where you might go is all just a matter of personal interest. But is Time Travel possible?
Well, yes. And, no. Sort of.
In fact, every one of us is a Time Traveler, of course. From the moment we arrive squealing into the world, we travel forward in Time as we learn to perceive it. We are born, we spend a certain amount of duration growing, loving, surviving, prospering, suffering - being alive. Sooner or later, our bodies fail. The dates inscribed on our tombstone write our own personal Time Travel story.
OK well, that’s a start but it’s not what most of us think of when we consider Time Travel, right? We want to get into a machine, adjust a read out, push a button and go. We want that DeLorean with the Flux Capacitor technology so that we can just zip off to anywhen we really want to travel to.
How about that? Is that possible?
Time is infinitely strange, the deeper you get into trying to understand it. It seems to be irrevocably linked up to the other key forces in the Universe, like Space and Gravity. But the short answer is that according to our best scientific understanding at the present moment, Time Travel is absolutely possible in one direction – forward into the Future. Some experimenters claim to be doing it already and lots of others say that they know how to do it.
As to the other “direction” – back into the Past – officially, there are no laws of Physics that forbid it but many of the people that think about such things believe that it is a far less likely prospect than forward Time Travel.
There are many theories on why Time Travel should be feasible but just as many on why it isn’t. And as soon as you delve into the subject, many aspects of traveling in Time quickly spiral off into the problems of Paradox.
So, getting a grip on Time Travel - like with so many other areas of Time we’ve looked at - is slippery, to say the least. We need to consider it from the viewpoints of Physics, Philosophy and informed conjecture. So let’s give it a go and later, we’ll bring in one of the greatest Science Fiction writers of all time, Joe Haldeman, to tell us what he thinks.