Friday, October 25, 2013

Back to the Science of Time Travel

by +Brad Naylor

Being the closest thing to a resident scientist, the task of analyzing the science of time travel in the Back to the Future series falls upon my shoulders. As far as anyone knows, time travel is still just a theoretical concept, even though there are people who claim to have traveled through time.

The Time Machine
Voting machines in Florida just got more complex
There are numerous theories regarding time travel and how it works. BTTF did not go into the details, they just asked you to accept that it is possible using a modified Delorean and 1.21 gigawatts of power (generated in many different ways across the 3 movies). Incidentally, it's pronounced gigawatts not jiggawatts as Doc Brown led us to believe. EDIT: Or is it?

While time travel in itself is a risky business, there are other more widespread dangers to consider when traveling back in time. Theorists suggest that any 'praetempus' or travelling back in time is dangerous because of causality, and the Butterfly Effect, meaning even the most microscopic of changes in the past can alter the timelines drastically and create a paradox in the future.

A simple and comprehensible example of a paradox is described in the BTTF movie when Marty's mom falls for Marty and not Marty's dad leading to the future relationship between them not happening and Marty and his siblings not being born. Essentially Marty would have killed himself about 15 years before he was even born. Then just as a mindfuck, if he wasn't born, how could he go back in time to mess things up in the first place??? This is a more understandable scenario not relying too heavily on causality and chaos theorems, but the danger of paradox is always present when going back in time, however innocuous your journey may seem.

Travelling into the future seams to be less harmful since theory states that the future is not yet written. When you consider the theory of the Quantum Multiverse which states that the timeline splits with every divergence of events creating new timelines so that each possible combination of events is played out simultaneously in adjacent parallel universes, just as Doc Brown describes in BTTF2. You can travel forwards along only one timeline which is dependent on the events of the past. To change timelines you must identify the point when the timeline split and travel back to that point and change events to follow the other timeline.

OK, enough of the science. I can hear your brains exploding. The whole purpose of this post was to deliver this visual time travel pun.

Great Scott! A Paradox
Oh, homophones; you are so punny
I agree, it wasn't worth the effort, but I can't travel back in time and undo this post...

1 comment :

Static said...

The multiverse theory is untestable and doesn't provide any sound evidence, or explanation that proves it's existence beyond a reasonable doubt. Quacks like "Doc" Brown will peddle their woo to anyone willing to pay them for their metaphysical hypotheses. But then all discoveries started with an idea first. Behold the internet!

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