Is Time Travel Worth the Effort?


Here’s a recent question from a relative concerning a new novel I gifted her: “I find the book intriguing but I question the plausibility of time travel. I’d like to know what you think after I finish the book.”

This made me question do I believe TT is possible or total science fiction? Wouldn’t we all love to sprint ahead for a glimpse of what is to come or to drop back several decades and have a “messed up – do-over” for ourselves or the world at large?

TT seems to be a currently popular device used in creative fiction (Interstellar, Back to the Future, Somewhere in Time, The Time Traveler’s Wife, … ). And if we swallow today’s zombie craze or little people with furry bare feet being chased by Orcs – why not time travel? And it certainly would solve the embarrassment of being proved wrong about a predicted outcome that turns out to be dead wrong once the world has lived through it. (Note to self: avoid attaching specific years to future events — think 1984, 2001, etc..)

So some quick research debunked a few current TT myths:

  • Time travel has never been achieved. “Au contrair” is Brian Clegg’s response. He should know, being a physicist educated at Cambridge. Apparently GPS satellites do it all the time when they out distance the earth’s rate of rotation. So if you like to fly and don’t mind crossing the Atlantic weekly for forty years, you will travel 1/1,000th of a second into the future. Hardly seems worth it.
  • If you just depress the destination button, voila! You arrive. But no, you don’t dematerialize and then reassemble. Rather you travel cross time but also space and it takes gobs of energy to get up near the speed of light. Hardly seems worth it.
  • Forward? Backward? No problem. Actually it is. You don’t get to reverse time – only to a place where time has been running more slowly. Hardly seems worth it.
  • If the earth were to spin in reverse, time would follow suit. Our planet going round and round gives us a way to measure time but Mother Nature doesn’t actually control time. But, my it was a nice way for Superman to save Lois Lane. Unless you know how to find about ten neutron stars and get them spinning together in a circle, you’re SOL (space outta luck).
  • Stopping your parent’s birth will set things straight. Sorry, but Professor Clegg says that might get you shifted into a parallel universe – definitely not worth it.

Of  course, authors get to be God in the universe they create in their books, so none of the “rules” need apply. Or, more accurately, the author gets to choose the rules that apply in the  particular universe in which the story is set.

So I guess I’m a believer. Now if I could just rent a TARDIS for a day or two…


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