A Good Reason To Think Twice Before Stepping Into That Time Machine

Illustration for article titled A Good Reason To Think Twice Before Stepping Into That Time Machine

There's a theory that fans of time travel stories like to toss around: Time travel not only hasn't been invented yet, it won't be in the future either. Otherwise, we'd see time-travelers popping up in history. Here's an alternate — and pretty unsettling — theory.

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After reading about the likelihood that any travelers who go too far back in the past would find themselves in dire need of an atmosphere suit, commenter Cool_Breeze shared this spooky theory about where we should look for time-travelers:

Not only does a time machine have to travel backwards in time, but also in space. Earth is constantly moving, and pinning down it's exact location x years ago can get tricky. Think about it:

1. Earth's rotation on an axis that shifts approximately 20 degrees every couple of million years. The Earth's wobble must be taken into account;

2. Earth's position relative to the Sun;

3. The Solar System's position relative to the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Our system orbits once every ~250 million years;

4. The position of the Milky Way Galaxy in relation to other galaxies, and their gravitation effects on the Milky Way;

5. The position of the local galactic cluster in relation to other clusters, and its position relative to the gravitational effects of the big bang; and

6. Any number of random gravitational encounters that may affect any of the above, including but not limited to rouge stars disrupting our Sun's orbit around the galaxy, rouge planets' and stars' gravitational effects on Earth's rotation around the Sun, past and future galactic collisions (Milky Way v. Andromeda, etc.), Plate tectonics and climate changes on Earth that affect the location, altitude, and existence of various places ON Earth.

Get one of those wrong, and the lack of oxygen in Earth's atmosphere will become a very minute problem.

My theory is that the reason we don't see any time travelers now is not because they don't exist - but rather because they calculated wrong and are floating in space somewhere, never to be seen again.

Of course, there are other options than time travelers being stuck out in our planet's surrounding space debris: Perhaps our time period is just considered too dull to visit or maybe time-travelers are also exceptionally clever at blending in. Still, we're curious — would you cheerfully take the risk of not returning or even surviving, in exchange for the possibility of moving a little further beyond the confines of our own little patch of time? And, if you did, what is it that would convince you — a demonstration of technical safety or simply the call of adventure? Tell us in the comments.

Top Image: "Sling-Sat", a possible space debris removal system designed at Texas A&M

DISCUSSION

This isn't new.

However it has a lot to do with the idea that there is somehow a fixed grid of space on which everything moves, and ignores the relative nature of spacetime.

Here's the real question: is there such a thing as a perfect, non-moving point in space? Is there a grid of such points defining space? A fabric of static space which the motion of particles are moving relative to? This theory assumes that there is. But is there really?

Einstein has already pointed out that all motion is relative. ALL motion is relative. It's relative to whatever object in space time you want to measure its relationship to, not some fixed framework. So movement in time can be relative too. If you can move in time, don't you automatically stay fixed in relationship to the object you're moving on right now? Relative to it, you haven't moved in space, just time. It's all the rest of the universe that's moved.

If you want to go back in time to (for instance) San Francisco 1986, and you leave from San Francisco, your time machine has to move in relationship to the wave-front that is San Francisco of 1986. Irrelevant of the spacial coordinates, which don't really have a meaning anyway except as they relate to San Francisco. San Francisco and its whales are thataway some millions of miles and 28 years, but our time machine isn't moving in relation to where it was then, but when then was now. Same place, different time, older observable universe.

...and if I try to explain it any more today my skull will crack open and my brain will try to escape and beat me brutally until it stops being funny.