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A three-dimensional being trying to comprehend the possibilities

available in a four-dimensional spacetime is like a two-dimensional figure


attempting to understand those of a three-dimensional world: a cartoon man
is two-dimensional and cannot imagine whats possible beyond the x- and yaxis world. Our cartoon man looks and acts in only one direction, unawares
of the ability provided by the added layer of depth (the z-axis) in the thirddimension that permit him to turn around.i An analogous misperception of
our relationship to the next dimension (time) is apparent in Kiekebens work
Three Time Travel Problems. In the piece, we are led to conclude that time
travel is logically impossible due to the following premises: 1) If someone
travels to the past, they may succeed in changing it, and 2) If the past is
changed, then an event at a particular location and time both did and did not
occur. Personally, I feel the obvious logical contradiction occurring in (2) of P
and P is due to a discrepancy in the physics and semantics grounded in our
idea of time. In the case of the cartoon mans reality, the possibility of
making a 180 turn utilizing the z-axis would seem impossible as it goes
against their supposed common sense view of the world. We are trapped in
a reality called now just as he is trapped facing one direction. However,
similar to the visual of creating a third-dimension from rolling the plane into a
three-dimensional torus1, the gaps perceived between one end and the other
can be closed to form a loop.

1 Tires and doughnuts are examples of tori shaped objects.

We experience time as a fluid sequence of individual moments that


progresses unidirectional, and thus time travel appears a product of sciencefictions pseudoscientific imagination. However, this is a misunderstanding of
time due to our anthropomorphic perspective of it: we measure so many
hours in a day due to the speed of Earths rotation on its axis; we measure so
many days in a year due to the speed of the Earths orbit around the sun.2
These notions of time are grounded entirely by the physics relative to our
hurling through space at a speed of 2.7 million miles per hour though we
may feel as though we are completely still. Thusappealing to the principles
of special relativitywe cannot use pre-constructed notions of flowing time
as applicable when considering the nature of spacetime as a whole.ii Our
knowledge of the universe is based upon our relative experience to it, and as
we ought to accept that our understanding necessarily follows suit.
To be sure, physics has already determined that travelling to the future
is mathematically possible by travelling at speeds approaching the speed of
light. A huge component within the laws of physics is that nothing can travel
faster than the speed of light (approximately 300,000 km/s), and if
something comes close to this cosmic speed limit, time will actually slow
down in regards to the moving object in order to compensate. Therefore, in
effect one could travel (externally speaking) 100 years into the future while
only experiencing (personal time) perhaps 5 years. Though the idea of
travelling into the future has become fairly established within the scientific
2 We are we are inconsistent in this too, however, as we excuse an extra day every
fourth year to make up for the errors in calculations.

community, traveling into the past is exponentially more difficult to figure


out.
Imagine the whole of spacetime to be one big balloona Gods eye
perspective so to speakwith each tiny quark within said balloon
representing a different spatiotemporal location; ergo, this balloon contains
all things at all times. The quarks within an actual balloon individually have a
plethora of choices at every moment (though they may behave in
probabilistic ways). Yet, regardless of which movements are chosen at any
moment, the balloon will essentially remain the same. Such is also the case
when considering the whole of spacetime due to the innumerable
spatiotemporal locations and their derivatives possible: granted each
movement will affect those immediately surrounding it in the grand scheme
of things, each is fairly arbitrary. In this way, similar to the balloon, the time
traveler is unlikely to hurt the whole of spacetime, and even if he succeeds in
changing a huge event in respect to human history, the only effect man
can have on the past is on mans past itself. Admittedly, this will not provide
much solace to those sympathizing with Kiekeben, as the seemingly
inevitable contradiction mentioned previously (that changing an event P
would entail that an event both did and did not happen) is still staring us
down. To remedy this, Id like to delve further using the scope of an episode
of The Twilight Zone entitled Back There.

We open the scene on a high society gathering in the year 1961, in


which a group of men are philosophizing about the possibility of time travel.
Then the camera pans to Rod Serling3 for his classic opening narration:
Witness a theoretical argument, Washington, D.C., the present.
Four intelligent men talking about an improbable thing like going
back in time. A friendly debate revolving around a simple issue:
could a human being change what has happened before?
Interesting and theoretical, because who ever head of a man
going back in time? Before tonight, that is, because this is The
Twilight Zone.
In their discussion, the men ask what the others would do if transported back
to October 24th, 1929 (the day before the stock market crashed, igniting the
Great Depression). One man (our protagonist) states that he would be an
anachronism, and that [the Great Depression] exists as an event in the
history of our time [that] cannot be altered. We must notice here his use of
the word our in regards to time, and recognize that events in the history of
man are occurrences that have no necessary connection to their
spatiotemporal coordinates within the whole of space time. The date October
24th, 1929 is simply a measurement of the Earths position in orbit around the
Sun and the estimated number of orbits since a religiously historical date.iii
So, even though to us there seems to be a necessary relationship between
events in human history, they are not essential to time, but simply
components of our own evolution. As considered in the spacetime balloon,
the ever-changing, possibility-laden nature of the universe permits wiggle

3 Of course while smoking a cigarette.

room without much consequence. Regardless of how tightly woven we


believe the fabric of spacetime to be, inevitably there will be small gaps.
These tiny gaps are where modern physicistsmost notably Dr. Ron Mallett
believe the possibility of travelling to the past can be realized. Inspired by
H.G. Wells The Time Machine, Malletta theoretical physicist at the
University of Connecticutwas determined the solve the problem of time
travel because of his fathers untimely death when he was just ten years old.
According to Dr. Mallett, the advancing our understanding of the nature of
black holes is crucial in the realization of travelling to the past. As stated
previously, the speed of light is a fixed cosmic speed limit in the laws of
physics, yet black holes are able to warp space and time due to their
intensely strong, dense gravitational singularity. Indeed, black holes warp
space time so severely that, once past its event horizon, not even light can
escape; however, it is not due to the lights mass that it falls into the black
hole (as light has no mass), but rather its energy causes it to be trapped.
Admittedly, this is where things get really cool: by appealling to Einsteins
famous E = mc2 equation, Dr. Mallett was able to establish an equation to
show that light energy also possesses the ability to affect gravity. Ergo,
according to Dr. Mallett, we could develop a circulating ring of lasers that
mimic the gravitational effects of a black hole, and, perhaps, use this to twist
space-time into a loop. Just as was the case with our cartoon man, in
forming a time-loop, we can bypass the seeming unidirectionality of time,
and turn ourselves around. Though we are obviously just approaching the

experimental phase of circulating lasers in regards to time travel, Dr. Mallett


has been able to prove mathematically that time travel to the past is indeed
theoretically possible.

WORKS CITED
Brain, M. (n.d.). How fast are you moving through the universe right now?
Retrieved February 26, 2015, from
http://www.brainstuffshow.com/blog/good-question-how-fast-are-youmoving-through-the-universe-right-now/
Episode 2: Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Wimey...Stuff: The Science, Logic and Other
Really Cool Stuff of Doctor Who. (2010). In C. Lewis & P. Smithka
(Eds.), Doctor Who and philosophy: Bigger on the inside. Chicago:
Open Court.
How long have we been here? (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2015, from
http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/life/human-origins/modern-humanevolution/when/index.html
Light-year. (n.d.). Retrieved February 26, 2015, from
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light-year
MacIsaac, T. (2014). Time Travel Is Possible: How to Send a Message to the
Past. Retrieved February 26, 2016, from
http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/1037968-time-travel-is-possiblehow-to-send-a-message-to-the-past/
McDearmon, D. (1961). Back There [Television series episode]. In The
Twilight Zone.Rod Serling.
Nichols, R., Smith, N., & Miller, F. (2009). 'Three Time Travel Problems,' by
Franz Kiekeben. In Philosophy through science fiction: A coursebook
with readings. New York: Routledge

Redd, N. (n.d.). How Old is the Universe? | Space.com. Retrieved February 26,
2015, from http://www.space.com/24054-how-old-is-the-universe.html

i Think of it like trying to look at ones full self: because of where our eyes are
situated in regards to the rest of our body, we utilize a mirror to mimic another
point of perception. The mirror is an extension, an added dimension to our field of
vision, allowing us to better understand our surrounding reality.
ii We use the term light year, counter intuitively, as an increment of distance: it
is the distance traveled by light in one year. The speed of light is constant at
about 300,000 km/s, meaning that 1 light year is approximately 10 trillion km.
The closest neighboring star is 4.37 light years away, the closest neighboring
galaxy is 2.5 million light years awayyou get the picture. Our increments of
measurement are completely ludicrous in the grand scheme of the universe.
iii In the time since this supposed year 0 the Earth has traveled roughly 1/5 the
distance of 1light year.