Bed time

Children never like going to bed, so the hands of the clock spelling bed time seem like the finger of doom for them. But who really makes the decision for bed time?

When I look back to my time at primary school, I never really enjoyed it. I remember that it finished at 3:30 pm and I couldn’t wait to go home. I used to watch the clock, not necessarily knowing how to read it, but knowing where the hands needed to be to signify that the teacher was going to allow me to go back home where I could do what I wanted and when I wanted.

After a while I realised other school ‘inmates’ felt the same way, and we devised a plan: during the lunch break we set the clock to read 3:30 and pointed it out to the teacher so that she was fooled into thinking it was home time.

We couldn’t time travel; so given the inability to travel through time we tried getting time to move.

Somehow this super intelligent ruse didn’t work 🙁

Much more recently my daughter tried a similar trick but from the other side. We’d arranged that one of her friends was going to come over for a play date at 11:00 am. She could hardly wait and was brimming with excitement, her eyes alternating between the door and the clock to see when the big hand was going to point straight up and signify the arrival of her friend.

“Daddy, can you just move the big hand so it’s eleven o’clock and my friend will come?”

I could move the hand up, but sadly her friend didn’t show until the appointed time which is when, of course, chaos reigned supreme in the Time2timetavel HQ. My little girl had lots of fun though, and for her time passed quickly.

The day ended up being a long one for me though, and the sprog finally went home (her mum turned up late to pick her up *growl*). We had our family dinner and bedtime approached, 7:00 pm. I let my daughters know and we made our way upstairs.

I got round to thinking that whereas 7 pm is effectively an arbitrary time for bed, 3:30 pm or 11:00 am were absolute times for specific events – no matter what the clock said, the event will happen at it’s pre-appointed time (notice I missed out “sprog collection”…).

I wish I could say the same about the girls’ bed time. Do I make the decision when bed time is? Or Time?

Come to think of it, I think it’s my daughters – who make sure it’s usually closer to 8 pm!

Paul

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Journey or destination

Some time travel novels focus more on the journey to another time, and how it’s done, than the destination itself. Other novels focus only on the “when” and pretty much ignore the time *travel* element. Which kind of novel works best?

“It’s not about the destination…it’s the journey”

Sometimes I think this is especially true for time travel novels.

The “Journey novel”

journey problems

I absolutely love The Man who Folded Himself (…the book ;)) which primarily focuses on time travel paradoxes and various complications arising from them. The journey through time and its implications are central to the read.

Running in the same vein are novels which focus on the actual mechanics of time travel itself.

These journey novels have the juicy stuff and work to separate time travel novels from other genres.

The “Destination novel”

On the other hand, I was extremely disappointed with Time and Again where someone goes back in time and pretty much nothing happens after that. The Mirror is a similar example of a time travel novel where nothing happens.

In these destination novels time travel is used to get a character into a different period and the historical or futuristic setting is described. The story is based in that period and the time travel takes a secondary role at best. It’s barely more than a scene setter.

destination of a long journey

This kind of book is interested mostly in the temporal destination and I don’t see how these destination time travel novels differ from a ‘regular’ novel. For me, these books aren’t ‘real’ time travel novels. (And I must admit to finding them rather dry, descriptive and not interesting…as you’ll see from my ratings.)

Time and Again could have missed out the time travel element and have simply taken place in its entirety in 1882 New York. Whether the character started out in present day New York and went back in time to 1882, or whether the book started off with “Once upon a time there was a man in 1882” makes no difference.

The destination novel can be about anything. It can use a time machine to go back (or forward) in time, or a car or plane to go to another place. The temporal and spatial mobility devices serve only to change the setting…from somewhere/when to…who really cares?

Preference

So for me it’s clear – I need time travel in a time travel novel to be more than a transporter. Some level of thought into the time travel element. But at the same time, would reading a novel concerned only with the nuts and bolts of time travel be like reading an instruction manual for a car, for example? Or is it chavvy to obsess about a vehicle and not care where/when it goes?

Characters must surely do something during or after their journey. I had a friend at university who was studying French. We used to tease him that without learning about anything else, he could go to France but do nothing. I think it’s a bit the same with time travel novels; you can go back to the past or forwards to the future, but once there surely something needs to actually happen.

So a bit of both, then. I like the science, the nuts and bolts, complications – and philosophy – of time travel…but given all of that, something actually needs to happen too!

Paul

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Missing meters, missing time

A spacious office leads to an analogy where a section of time goes missing, or a time stasis is set up.

A new spacious office leads to an analogy where a section of time goes missing, or a time stasis is set up. But first…money, time and space. What’s the connection?

Money

People say that money isn’t everything, yet most people want it. Lots of it. Having money often means that we can spend less time working – consider how many times we pay someone to do a job for us that actually we could do perfectly well ourselves. Cleaners for the house, painting and decorating, day care for our children, and so on.

Time

Perhaps we want time more than we want money. After all, in theory we can earn more money but we can’t always gain more time. Then again, if we don’t enjoy our work we can be in for a store of trouble. Cue the lottery, where without work (or at least, with minimal effort) we can attain vast amounts of cash.

Oh. Back to cash.

There’s a saying that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But there are those who would like to scoff and gorge themselves on the backs and work of others; lottery winners often complain of vultures and scavengers who want some (or all) of the winnings for themselves and will plague the cash recipient with various begging petitions of one kind or another.

(Missing) Space

It’s been a little bit similar since our recent office move. Now I’m in a new office (on a lower level, and strangely, with a new department coffee mug).

When it came to dishing out the new offices we could give preferences but finally who got what, with whom and where was pretty much a lottery. I (and my office mates) came out a winner!

My new office is excellent! It’s in a corner with windows on two sides and a nice view over Holland. Holland is famous for being flat, so I can see quite far. OK, head should be down when I work, but I do look outside for my inspirational moments!

Another nice feature of the office is its size. Size may not be everything, but it is a nice feature, and the square meterage I and my two office mates share is a cause of envy of many of our other colleagues.

Quite often people walk by and make comments that the space is underutilised, or give snarky comments that the 3 of us have more space than the discussion rooms which can at times hold 6 or more.

And so, like lottery winners, we live in fear of person or persons finding ways to take our space. To store various bits of crap (like a spare filing cabinet), to house a student on placement or some other part-time member of staff.

Or, as we’ve latterly been thinking…pure theft of square meterage.

What would happen if one day we came in and the wall had shuffled over by a meter? Could happen, but that would only benefit the office next to us.

missing area

So then we got close to a panic about a theft of an actual square meter. We’d come back from a tea break research focus meeting, and in the middle of the office is a shimmering square of non-space. We can’t focus on it because it’s missing. Simply not there. We can’t put things there, because there doesn’t exist. And we can’t step onto it, because…it’s missing.

But we’d be able to step over it. Actually, we’d touch one side with a foot and the foot immediately reappears a meter away on the other side. It’s like a worm hole, or a portal. Warp drive, except there’s no bending of space…it’s just not there. It’s missing. It’s been stolen.

(Come to think of it, it would be a volume theft not an area theft, much as smoking areas are really smoking volumes. Smoke doesn’t stay flat against the floor!)

All this might sound far-fetched or impossible, but the same already happens with time. For example, how often is it that you’re driving somewhere and suddenly think “I really don’t remember driving the last mile…”?

Maybe we were on autopilot of sorts…or that there was a time stasis allowing us to perform actions (such as driving) during that period when time doesn’t move with is. Or possibly it was a spatial jump.

Who knows?

Yes, the unknown can be a fearful thing.

And my profession? I work in research! 😉

Paul the brave!

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Que sera sera. Is Destiny really Fixed?

Darth Vader and Doris Day would make a good couple – they both believe the future is fixed. If that’s the case, the need for time travel may be under question. What do we expect from time travel if our destiny is fixed and the past cannot be changed?

Darth Vader and Doris Day would make a good couple – they both believe the future is fixed. And if that is the case, the need for time travel may be under question.

Que sera sera – Whatever will be will be.

Or as Darth Vader said…It is your destiny.

The future is fixed. You can’t change it. Get a grip and deal with it. Que sera sera. Whatever will be will be.

it is your destiny
Darth Vader: It is your destiny.
Image credit: destinationhollywood.com.
whatever
Doris Day: Que sera sera. Whatever… Image credit: dorisdaytribute.com

The sentiment behind que sera sera seems to be in line with one of the golden rules of time travel; that the past cannot be changed.

What has been, has been.

If the past cannot be changed, and the future is set, one might argue what is the point of time travel? Indeed, a philosophical question.

Maybe time travel is just there for the observational voyeuristic element.

That would certainly account for the lack of time travellers seen wandering amongst our hours and minutes of the present…although the Star Trek “Prime Directive” which nuttles down to respecting non-interaction between those who can and can’t, rears the silent head of a big brother who’s watching over us.

But would observation be good enough? Why travel through time when all we can do is hear and see but not do anything? What good is waking up and smelling the coffee if we can’t take a swig and truly experience the taste of it?

Then again, Luke Skywalker didn’t follow the destiny as described by Vader, did he?

Maybe we can control the future, even without a time machine.

Just wondering…

Paul

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Giraffe in the hole

I admittedly don’t know the hows or whys, but have you ever thought of what would happen if a giraffe fell into a black hole?

Giraffes have their head some 2 meters above the rest of their body, so in theory their head experiences a faster passage of time than their lower body which is in a greater gravitational field.

My bad hand writing lead my teachers to state that I thought quicker than my body – maybe it’s the same with giraffes too? Or the temporal variation across the length of their neck might explain why their heads lean forwards in front of their body when they run somewhere; their head gets there first.

Or it thinks it does.

Giraffe in a black hole
Giraffe in the hole

Somehow (and I admittedly don’t know either the likelihood of the whys or how this situation might arise…) I got round to thinking about a giraffe falling head first into a black hole.

Gravitationally speaking, the situation is now reversed – the head being in a greater gravitational force would experience time passing slower than their body which is further away from this gravitational monstrosity.

I see two effects here. One is that the giraffe will stretch as gravitational forces differ along the length of the giraffe. And in turn, this will exacerbate the gravitational difference leading to more stretching…and so on. It’s a positive feedback.

But the time dilation provides a negative feedback – time at the head end passes slowly whereas at the foot end it passes more quickly. Would the difference allow for the feet to catch up with the end, effectively providing some sort of asymptotic compression?

Maybe there’s some sort of equilibrium length for a neck. Say…about 2 meters?

Paul

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Time lines

One of the arguments used against the possibility of time travel is that there are no firm or proven solutions given the problems of paradoxes.

In this post I postulate against one of the commonly used get-out-clauses for the grandfather paradox…multiple time lines. Actually, the same holds true for multiple universes too.

One of the arguments used against the possibility of time travel is that there are no firm or proven solutions given the problems of paradoxes.

In this post I postulate against one of the commonly used get-out-clauses for the grandfather paradox…multiple time lines. Actually, the same holds true for multiple universes too.

time branches

The creation of a new time line / universe is often used to avoid paradoxes. The chap who goes back in time to kill his grandfather creates an additional time line or universe – one where he doesn’t exist as he’s killed his grandfather. The original still exists were he went back in time. So we have two time lines or universes, each containing mass and energy, and information relating to its present and past.

This is where I have a problem…where does all that extra mass come from, or the energy to organise it? What defines how and when a new time line is going to branch out, to subdivide, or even as I read in The Paradox War (CJ Moselely) rejoin?

One suggested solution lies in quantum mechanics where quantum particles can exist simultaneously in two states – such as Schrodinger postulated with his unfortunate cat. (Schrodinger’s curiosity likely killed it).

There is a line of thought where these quantum particles can also co-exist in 2 times – and hence allow, somehow, the continuance of a co-existing time line.

Cats, bunnies and rabbits.
Image credit: A Che

But let’s take the cat which has a finite mass. Now even if the continuance of one time line should stop to allow a second (or third, or more) time line to continue, then that cat must share it’s mass between these time lines. It needs to split, or to subdivide…so that the cat effectively permeates through all time lines is a catty multiplication.

Nine lives of a cat spread now run simultaneously over 9 time lines.

I just don’t buy it. Besides – perhaps we should be using rabbits as examples of self-multipliers. They’re rather famous for it.

A stitch in time saves nine cats from curiosity.

Paul

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Time travel through genetic projection

Having children arguably takes you back to your own childhood…if not they make you feel your own age. Here I present a corollary; children are not just the future – they are our genetic projections into it!

Having children arguably takes you back to your own childhood…if not they make you feel your own age.

Here I present a corollary.

We all travel in time. We’re born young, we experience moments and age as our minds gain wisdom and our bodies reach a peak in physical condition before embarking on a downward decline terminating in our demise.

teleportation
“Will Human Teleportation Ever Be Possible?”
Image credit: http://discovermagazine.com/

Star Trek has teleporters which work by mapping a person at one end, disintegrating them, and cloning them at another point in space. All memories and experiences are preserved in the map and are therefore conserved, and even though that reconstruction is only seconds old, their memories and experiences are exactly the same as the version of them that had had disintegrated. It’s therefore purported that they are essentially the same person.

Teleportation – a projection of a person through the spatial dimension.

Image credit: Cécile Graat (http://www.gracedesign.nl/)
Image credit: Cécile Graat (http://www.gracedesign.nl)

I wonder whether parents can in part say a similar kind of thing…that by creating a child with a similar (though admittedly not identical) genetic makeup, and raising them with shared experiences, and similar (though again, admittedly not identical – due to those genetic differences) moral values…can we say that our children are a projection of ourselves into the future?

If this is the case, parents are time travelers in a different sense than non-parents.

This time travel capacity of our children makes sense; each time my daughter topples over I yell out “Hey be careful there!” after the event!

Paul

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Time travel in nature

Sceptics of time travel might argue that it’s an abomination of the natural laws that are already in place. But time travel does appear in nature…

Sceptics of time travel might argue that it’s an abomination of the natural laws that are already in place. As Einstein said “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once”.

That might be true…but this cartoon strip of “The Snippers” I found in the Dutch newspaper “The Metro” last week may have hidden truths…

Nature's fast forward
Nature’s fast forward. From “Snippers” cartoon.

Rough translation: Why does it seem with sparrows as if someone pressed fast forward?

So that’s birds. Not quite time travel, but victims of time’s accelerated passage.

A few weeks ago I saw a phenomenon which had me puzzling over time’s role in nature. We’re often lead to believe that everything has it’s time – it’s just that I thought that everything had it’s time at the right time.

Spring. The time for daffodils and crocuses to sprout and inject a blast of colour after the blandness of a cold and white winter. All well and fine, except these Dutch daffodils found themselves a little temporally displaced.

Daffodils in January
Daffodils in January

…poppies for drugs, and Dutch daffodils for time travel?

Flowers in the snow
Flowers in the snow

Well anyway. So much for the high speed sparrows – in nature everything is in balance. Let’s finish off with the slo-mo sloth!

The sloth: natural slow motion
The sloth: natural slow motion

Paul

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Anti gravity train

The Dutch train service continues to amaze me! Today we have the anti gravity train – the sign on the Dutch train window shows objects flying free from the pull of gravity!

The Dutch train service continues to amaze me!

First, there was the Moment of Proof on the time travel train.

And now…there’s the anti-gravity service!!! Floating earphones, books and laptops – hold tight! (if you have arms…)

Anti gravity train
Anti gravity train – the sign on the train window shows objects floating free from the pull of gravity

Perhaps this is the alternative methodology for the hovering train!

Paul

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Year: A name or a number?

When we look at other units of time, there are a whole mix of names and counting systems. So is assigning a number to a year the best methodology for defining or specifying a year?

Much as I dislike astrology and have no time for it, I like the Chinese way of naming the year (as we do with days and months) instead of numbering them…

Time: What’s in a name?

So the new year is upon us. 2015! That’s 2015 years since the birth of Jesus Christ (or at least 2015 years since when people first thought he was born).

But is assigning a number to a year the best methodology for defining or specifying a year? When we look at other units of time, there are a whole mix of names and counting systems.

The year number is a continuous counter. It’s unlike the time of the day which counts seconds minutes and hours from the start of the sidereal day arbitrarily defined as midnight…the time when the sun is 180 degrees from zenith. And the time itself (here as the clock sees it) repeats each day.

Different lengths of time – different systems. Let’s take a stroll through!

Days

Numbers are not normally given to days. Days are given a names which are largely derived from gods of some ilk or the other. And every 7 days the naming cycle repeats with a weekly frequency.

Weeks

Weeks are numbered from 1 to 52 denoting their position within the year…though ironically week numbers are not commonly used except in accounting and tax circles were the year starts and ends in April and not January from which the weeks are numbered!

Months, years, and beyond…

But between weeks and years in terms of length are months where we go back to a naming rather than numbering convention. This repeats every 12 months that are in the year which as we’ve already discussed is numbered…as is the century or even the millennium it’s within.

Breaks from the norm

But there are some exceptions within the above general conventions.

Muslims begin their year count from 622 AD.

Within the geophysical sciences (and possibly within other disciplines) the Julian Day Number (JDN) is often used. These real numbers which refer to the number (and fraction) of a day since midday on 1 January 4713 BC (reference Wikipedia).

A similar system is used in computer programming languages and file formats such as netcdf.

These are still continuous counters, and ‘suffer’ the problem of negativity. For example, positive number are denoted AD (Anno Domini – year of our Lord). Preceding these numbers are the years before Christ, thoughtfully names, BC. But I defy you to find a coin or a letter or something with a date stamp of 200 BC, for example! The year counting system only works from the positive, or latter side, of the count start point. Despite the prophecies of the coming of Christ!

But there are other methods of identifying years. For example, car registration plates on the UK have a sequence of numbers and letters from which the year of registration can be derived if you’re familiar with the system.

My first motorbike had an “E” plate. It was registered in 1989. One of my previous cars had “02” plates (registered in 2002 simple enough) but my last car, registered in (August) 2005 had “55” plates.

It makes sense if you know the UK car registration system!

A personal preference: 12 hours, 12 months and 12 years

And here’s where I return from my apparent digression.

I like the idea of the Chinese year where years are named rather than counted.

Chinese years
Image courtesy: globerove.com/china/chinese-zodiac-sheep/1703#lightbox/0/

Granted, the Chinese year doesn’t start in January and end in December and it also seems to be based on 12 Chinese signs of the zodiac (as a scientist and an amateur observational astronomer I have no time for astrology) but naming years gives me a better sense of time’s passage and where I am in it.

A naming convention, be it on a weekly or a yearly cycle, is circular whereas a continuous count is linear. There’s an extension into the future; numbers are infinite and so is time. And that makes me feel pretty insignificant!

Yeah… Maybe I just want to feel a little more important and that I have my place in time.!

I mentioned that I don’t like astrology. Doesn’t stop me from skimming the [nonsensical] astrology page in the paper (if only to scrawl “you think this is the future? See for yourself with time travel!” and jot a link to time2timetravel and leave the free paper on the train!). But I might look at “my” sign. It’s (apparently) an identity. There’s some sort of connection.

OK. That’s fluffy talk. Especially when some may consider that according to my zodiacal signage, I’d be a virgin pig! And it’s true enough that I can just as easily have my place to the n-th decimal point on a time line (you know, like my birthday! 😉 ) …but…well…there’s no accounting for the sentience of the human spirit!

So however you call or mark or treat the new year, I wish you all a very very happy one!

Paul

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January: a time to look forward or backward?

The month of January is named after the Roman god Janus. Janus has two faces – one which faces forwards and the other faces behind. In January we look forward to the new year, but also take time to look back over the year that has been. In a platonic kind of a way, would our memories and desires be selective?

Janus – God of Beginnings

The month of January is named after the Roman god Janus. Janus has two faces – one which faces forwards and the other faces behind.

Janus: God of Beginnings
Janus: God of Beginnings. Image courtesy: www.rense.com/general92/janus.htm

A bi-directional outlook

January is at the start of the year, the time to look forward to the new year ahead, but also the time when you look back at the year that has been. (You know this from all of those endless best of year lists…)

I’m more of a night owl than a morning person. I prefer to cower under the quilt in warmth and fear of the day ahead. But once I’m up and about and had time to get my body clock accustomed to the local time and I’m busy with doing things, I’m really motivated and enthusiastic in what I do.

And I think it’s a bit the same moving from the daily to the yearly time scale; I don’t like the new year celebrations.

I love Christmas and I spend a long time looking forward to it. In January when Christmas is over there is nothing much new to look forward to – just cold weather (although sometimes winter time can be a good thing).

A cultural perspective

The Dutch celebration of the new year (or “oude-nieuwe” – “old-new” – as they call it) is quite different from the new year’s eve parties in England. In England we celebrate from say 8 or 9 o’clock to the midnight hour and then on into the new year.

In Holland the party doesn’t start until about 11:30 pm so it seems that the celebration is more to do with the arrival of the new year rather than the farewell of the old. That said, fireworks in Holland are ignited from around 8 p.m. and go on till 4 in the morning, whereas in England they are let off on the hour and go on for a duration in accordance with the size of the firework box.

Fireworks, apparently, follow a different timing schedule than the party-goers!

A comparison with nature

Looking forwards or backwards in time is strictly a 1D approach where time flows along a linear axis. In the Earth sciences we commonly undertake statistical measures to describe various transient phenomenon. ‘Playing’ with the time axis is a common approach – for example, the “yearly monthly mean” which looks at the mean value in several Januaries over several years.

This is still linear, but in a selective fashion.

I can’t help wondering whether our memories of the past or our desires for the future work in a similar way…

Paul

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Does time have a personality?

Old Father Time – a personification of time. But would you say he has a personality? A jovial old fellow who delights in our brief moments in time, or a grumpy old codger who’s seen and experienced it all before? I this recent experience of mine might show that he has a sense of humour!

Old Father Time (or “Kronos” or “Chronos”) is probably one of the most famous personifications of time.

Father Time
Kronos. Image courtesy: oldfashionedholidays .wordpress.com

Often pictured as an old man, Father Time looks after time, and according to , carries a time keeping device, interestingly, which monitors time in a uni-directional flow (source: wikipedia). This might suggest that Father Time doesn’t like time travel as he’s guarding the safe passage of time.

So he has preferences and desires.

So can we say that he has a personality? Would he be a jovial old fellow who delights in our brief moments in time, or a grumpy old codger who’s seen and experienced it all before?

Perhaps this recent experience shows the former.

I took this photo of a train station clock reading 16:50 which I took moments after the announcement that the 16:45 was leaving “in a few minutes”.

The clock has the last laugh
The clock has the last laugh!

Informational announcements on the train station are almost infamous for being a misnomer in that they provide very little useful information. Either this is a vampire clock which doesn’t show up in photos, or time has the last laugh by not humouring me and helping me show the stupidity of the station announcement!

Then again, maybe I had the last laugh. I took the (non)photo whilst waiting for the 17:00…and it came on time! 🙂

Paul

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The height of time dilation

The office move at work means a change in height for many departments. Will the time dilation as defined by GR be noticeable? Time will tell!

In a few weeks our department at work is changing floor.

Instead of being at the heady heights of the 3rd floor, we’re going down to the 2nd. This is to allow the IT department to move into our old office cubicles.

But I think I’ve found the real reason. According to GR theory, time passes slower in higher gravitational fields. In other words, time will pass slower for us on the 2nd floor than for those on the 3rd floor.

If we work in an environment where time runs slower, presumably we are able to perform more tasks in the same duration. It’s not that we have more time, but that we become more efficient.

Conversely, for the IT crowd up on 3rd floor, they won’t have less time for their tasks, it’s just that time will be zooming on ahead and if they’re not careful it will run completely ahead of them.

Will it make a measurable difference? We’ll duly find out. It already seems to take an eternity for the phone call to IT services to be answered without time actually running slower for us than for them.

Time will tell!

Paul

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A decision back in time

Do we have a free will when we make a decision with time travel? Is the past fixed, and the future a set fate or destiny? The linear model of time doesn’t account that knowledge of the future affects the past, when even logic would suggest that is so. Alternative (multidimensional) models, such as those given by quantum mechanics would perform better. The future is yours. So is your history!

A thermodynamic solution

Lightning follows the simplest route through the sky; the path of least (electrical) resistance. A river flows from inland to the coastline in a similar fashion, flowing where hydrodynamic friction is minimal. It costs less energy.

Maybe linear time flows in a similar fashion, following the easiest route, costing the least energy.

Time for lightning!
Does time flow like lightning?

There is an argument that the arrow of time can only move in one direction due to the second law of thermodynamics which says that entropy must always increase or stay the same. Entropy is the degree of disorder; a measure of chaos.

This is to say, that given any process it’s always easier to attain a disordered state than an ordered one. For example, it’s easier to sprinkle sugar into a cup of tea and let it dissolve, than it is to crystallise the sugar back out of the tea and collect the sugar crystals and put them back into the sugar bowl.

What this means in relation to time travel is that time is uni-directional; it can only move in the forwards direction because moving backwards would mean a decrease in entropy and that’s thermodynamically speaking, illegal.

An alternate history

I recently read a discussion on a forum which centered on a couple of members who expressed a wish to go back to their past and change it so that they could relive a new life. I made a comment that changing our past may cause the creation of a new timeline, or a new multiverse where an alternative version of ourself would indeed live a new life…but that the original version of us would still exist and not experience that ‘new’ life.

My comment was followed up with an insightful view on human nature, that “…we have a tendency to “make the same mistakes” over and over”.

When I read that, I wondered whether this is because of the “the past is the past and cannot be changed” nut which cannot be cracked, or whether it’s simply the easiest route to follow.

“An easy route…”?

It’s easier to fall with gravity than it is to climb against it. It takes less energy; it’s the easiest path, or ‘decision’.

Why do we make a certain decision? We take factors into consideration, weigh them up and make a decision based on the information at hand.

Even though the decision itself may be difficult (or following through with it), the answer is essentially the ‘easiest’ path to follow because it’s the outcome after the factors have been weighed and measured. By definition, it’s the correct solution, simply because it’s the outcome of the decision making process, whether it’s been made with our head or with our heart.

The easiest route for one person may not be easy for someone else.

Here’s an example. What shape fits into a round hole? Circle, square or triangle?

There’s an expression that “you can’t fit a square peg into a round hole”. So we’d say a circle.

And this is what we teach our children. At the same time, they might find it easiest to hold the sides of a triangle or a star rather than a smooth circle, and wedge that into the hole. They choose the easiest solution for themselves.

A case for free will?

Dr Cox said that time travel is like finding a teapot in orbit around Venus. There’s nothing in the laws of physics to prevent it, it’s just extremely unlikely.

This is sounding statistical!

On a statistical footing, Stephen Hawkins in his book The Grand Design puts forward the idea that on a physical and chemical basis, there is a pre-known outcome in every decision. Momentum, energy, pathways, velocities and reactions etc. of the atoms, molecules and neurons in our brain all follow a prescribed – and therefore predictable – course. Thus, every choice we make has an inevitable outcome. It’s already been made.

In reality, there are so many billions of factors and environments (i.e. variables in the ‘decision equation’) as well as the sheer multitude of combinations and permutations, that effectively a decision cannot be reasonably predicted – and so we lump them all up and call it “free will”.

But free will can be dealt with on a semi-statistical / empirical basis. For example, it’s more likely that a vegetarian will choose to eat a salad for dinner tonight than a roast chicken. The vegetarian has a free will, but we can predict his answer reasonably well.

But let’s say that the lettuce is teeming with disease-ridden caterpillars. The vegetarian wants to go back and inform his younger self to stay clear of the lettuce.

Would his going back in time, armed with this new information gleaned from hindsight (or foresight, in this case) alter the original decision and allow for a new history (and self) to be created?

How likely is it the vegetarian would choose the chicken? Or would he still go for the salad but try to pick out the caterpillars? After all, he is a vegetarian. (And please note, I’m not saying here that vegetarianism is a wrong decision).

In these posts about the importance of history (Part 1 | Part 2) I pointed out how knowledge of the past can significantly affect how we might choose to behave in the present.

decision making with time travel
Do we have a free will when making a decision with time travel?

Knowledge of the history can and does affect the present and the future. These states in time are not wholly independent from each other, they’re cross related…which can be difficult to describe in a linear model of time.

Likewise, the idea that knowledge of the future affects the past wouldn’t fit into the linear model well either. This misfit is the ontological paradox, yet it wouldn’t exist in a multidimensional model of time, such as could be afforded through a quantum description.

Quantum mechanics turns the linear model on its head. The set laws of classical physics don’t apply when it comes to quantum scales so it might not be the case that every particle is predictable. A quantum particle can exist simultaneously in two states, in two places and at two times, for example. It gives Schrodinger’s cat a fighting chance.

The ‘easiest’ solution, then, now operates on more dimensions than the linear time line. Predictability is thrown out of the window and into orbit around Venus with its friend, the teapot.

Free will triumphs. And time travel? It’s looking like it will open up the opportunity for alternate histories and futures which may well have already played out. The past need not be set, and the future need not be predefined as our destiny or fate.

The future is yours…so is your history! Go grab them!

Paul

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Mental time travel with imagination

I’ve had a double helping of mental time travel recently – I found a school exercise book from when I was about 10 years old, and I’d written a couple of short stories about clocks. Young children often have wild imagination, and I think that this should be nurtured – after all, the world is built on the backbone of imagination!

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” – Albert Einstein.


Reading diaries and journals in a way takes us back in time. (At least, it was the case in The Butterfly Effect! 😉 ) It’s a form of mental time travel.

This being the case, I’ve had a double helping. I came across an old school exercise book – there’s no year on the date, but judging from the content and the teacher’s handwriting, I think it’s from the 1982 / 1983 school year. (Apparently, like the UK tax office who start their year in April, schools adopt a different year to the standard Gregorian calendar…)

Reading through some of the stories, many of which were descriptions of my life at the time, really seemed to take me back. I was surprised at myself at how many of the events I could remember, and I could also remember how I felt. This in itself was an odd feeling…having different feelings back then than I would have now given the same circumstances. Time and experience has made me into a different person..but not in one go, rather, as a progressive series, building upon previous moments in my life.

A couple of stories struck me, and I’m posting them here.

They’re not quite time travel, but apparently I had an inkling of an interest in the theme of of clocks and time…

Hope you enjoy!

The Clock that Went Bonkers

17th November

Flying Scotsman

“I was riding along in a flying Scotsman. There was a clock that had a very loud tic…….TIC TOC TIC TOC. and so on. I was looking at this clock when it went bonkers. First the hands started to go whizzing round and then they broke through the glass, through the open window and then they started to fly round the flying scotsman.

They pointed at me and shouted “Supermonkey!” As the hands were off the main part of the clock, it started to make a humming whizz. Then the flying scotsman captain came and he put things right.”

Midnight Hour

5th February

Midnight hour

“I had just went to bed. The clock was going very fast with its tics……..TIC TOC TIC TOC. I changed the clock so it said 24.00. Then I sneaked out of bed, went to the sweet jar, and took some sweets out. I then went outside I saw a skeleton party I asked if I could join in, but they did not talk in my language. Well what did I do!. I started dancing but they threw me into the garden pond. I tried to swim out. Then I found myself rolling in my bed.”

And my teacher’s remark…

Paul, some of stories are becoming rather silly. You have a good imagination so don’t only use it for funny stories. I expect your work to be much more interesting to read from now on. See me.

Ah yes, the “See me.” comment! The true dread of a sensitive young schoolboy who wore his heart on his sleeve trying to write things down and getting called up in front of class to justify the wanderings of my mind to an elderly lady who couldn’t think past full stops and and capital letters (apparently she didn’t care for the definite article), and to the jeers of school mates hungry for some entertainment.

I was very sophisticated back then. I used my sleeve for wearing my heart and not my snot. I guess Miss Powell (name possibly changed…) would have had it otherwise. Some 32 years later, I still disagree with her. The world is built on the backbone of imagination.

I wonder what she’d make of this blog! I’d like to think that she’d approve of some out of the box thinking that has lead to reading some fantastic articles on other time travel blogs and websites, pieces of time travel fiction and watching time travel movies. To think that out of imagination come ideas which create and shape the world we live in. That through our minds, anything, if we really try, is possible.

But what do I know? The thought of my old school teacher being able to accept imagination is in itself…a product of my silly imagination! 😉

Paul

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The Dutch Masters of Time

Holland. Well known for being flat, tulips, clogs, windmills and bicycles. Now add hideous table clothes and a strange idea of the English calendar!

We know and love Holland (or “the Netherlands” as the locals would have you call it) for its tulips, clogs, windmills and bicycles. And for being flat.

In an earlier post I asked What is it with Holland and time travel? Indeed, I have even witnessed time travel here, to a certain extent. Perhaps!

Holland now presents to us a new view on time, or at least our marking of its passage. A couple of days ago I saw this rack of table cloths outside a shop called “Marskramer” (“Peddlar”). It’s basically a bric-a-brac kind of a shop which sells…well. Table clothes for one thing.

"June 31" :  The Dutch idea of the English calendar?
“31 June” : The Dutch idea of the English calendar?

Much as I hate this mnemonic, it does come to mind…

“Thirty days hath September, April, June…”

Well maybe we can forgive our Dutch friends for their strange idea of the English calendar (if not for their hideous taste in table cloths). The author of the novel The Go Between, L. P. Hartley, noted the following:

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” – L. P. Hartley.

I think the same applies for Holland; Holland is a foreign country, and they do things very differently here.

Take counting. You know, like you might count the days in the month, for example 😉 Cavemen counted with stones, my 2 year old can manage up to 8 (she must be a computer!), so counting can’t be that tough can it?

Let’s take 123

English: “One hundred and twenty three.”
Hundreds, tens, units. Simple and logical. Easy as, literally, 1, 2, 3.

Dutch: “One hundred, three and twenty.”
Hundreds, units then back in the middle to tens. It’s all over the place. Easy as…1, 3, 2?

Then take 123,456

English: “one hundred and twenty three thousand, four hundred and fifty six.”

Dutch: “one hundred, three and twenty thousand, four hundred six and fifty.”
1, 3, 2, 4, 6, 5
Confused?!!

(Oh yes. And there’s the use of a comma in place of a decimal point!)

And telling the time. This was possible as early as 1500 BC with sundials (source: Wikipedia.) So it shouldn’t be complicated, right?

Ha! In Dutch, “Half two” means “half one”. It’s an optimistic outlook where the Dutch look forward ‘two’ the hour rather than back to the ‘one’ that’s passed. (See what I did there?! 😉 )

It’s really tricky to remember 10 minutes later when it’s embedded in a string:

English: “twenty to two”

Dutch: “ten past half two”

Are we going backwards or forwards here? Is the big hand going 10 minutes past the 6, or forward to the 2? Who knows?

I think the Dutch are surely they are the true masters of time – they’ve even come up with an extra day in June!

Paul

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Temporal shifters

Nature is driven out to make way for these temporally displaced humans until it is safe, peaceful and clean again. And I think I count myself amongst those persecuted creatures. My natural aversion to time shifters makes me wonder. Would I be welcoming to a true time traveler if ever I should meet one? I hope so, but maybe evidence is pointing otherwise 🙁

This weekend we realign ourselves with astronomical time when we set the clocks back to a longitudinal basis and not one of human desire for lighter evenings.

This is good…

under rock

Summer time is like lifting up a stone or a rotten log when the insects, now exposed to the light, come out and play…pretty much like how people go out on their summer holidays, or venture out into their garden for the first time (in the boreal year) and bring with them their loud music, picnic hampers and state of panicked chaos.

Crowds hit open spaces, throwing or kicking balls and frisbees, screaming in excitement; exhibitionist boys vying for the role of alpha male in their prime, so too the girls, feigning disinterest in the testosterone driven spectacle despite layers of make-up plastered on and layers of clothing pulled off.

crowded_holiday

Nature is driven out to make way for these temporally displaced humans until it is safe, peaceful and clean again. And I think I count myself among those persecuted creatures.

So the return to natural time will be a blessing. I’ll have my dark evenings back again when I can look upwards at the stars at night, and I can do things in peace during the day. The rotten log has been returned; non compliant temporally displaced humans put back into place.

There is another bright side…the lie in. What used to be 6:15 am (and a severe difficulty to negotiate in getting out of bed) will now be 5.15 am…giving me an extra hour in bed. It makes my 7:00 am train less of a burden to catch.

I choose the lie in, but others who are tied or handcuffed more firmly to their rigid daily routine will rise out of their slumber an hour earlier and begin their day an hour early.

train_station

I have no problem with this…unless they usually catch the train at 8:00 am but now sit on my already over-crowded 7:00 am commuter train. Now there are less seats, less standing space, and more germs.

It will take a week or so before these time shifters revert back to their home time and their home train. I look forward to that time, as I also look forward to my arrival at my destination train station in one healthy piece.

Meanwhile, I sit at the front of the train. Upon arrival at most stations, the front carriage ends up furthest from the pedestrian exit, ergo, most people sit at the back of the train to give themselves a shorter walk. It suits me – I have a quieter spot, but I can’t call them lazy, after all, it’s me choosing the lie-in!

This aversion to these time shifters…it makes me wonder. Would I be welcoming to a true time traveler if ever I should meet one? I hope so, but maybe evidence is pointing otherwise 🙁

Still, there is another solution…

The final solution - sleeping on the early train
The final solution – sleeping on the early train!

Paul

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Image courtesy for cartoon: annthelogostnt.wordpress.com

In the zone

Another conversation with my daughter lead to the revelation of the paradoxical nature when telling the time.

Living in a different world time zone than your grandparents can be very confusing for a child. Actually, it can be confusing for me too!

Another conversation with my daughter lead to the revelation of the paradoxical nature when telling the time.

The setting

It’s 8 am here in Holland, where we’re an hour ahead of England.

World time zone

The talk

“We can’t skype Granny and Grampa because they’re not out of bed yet. It’s 8 in the morning here, but it’s earlier for them in England so they’re still sleeping.

“So when can we see them on the computer?”

“Later”

“But you said it was “earlier” there…”

The solution?

She’s right…but somehow there’s something amiss! We’re playing a geographical follow the leader along the time axis!

Paul

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An alarming sense of time

Do we have a subconscious perception of time? Something deeper than our inbuilt body clock and connects us intricately with other souls or times?

Most of us have probably heard of our body clock – the internal clock that roughly speaking helps us to know when-abouts in the day we are. It might get scuppered a bit with long distance travelling in the ‘wrong’ direction (jet lag), but generally speaking it does pretty well (maybe with the exception of some self inflated middle managers who can’t seem to hold meetings to time!)

Birds and other creatures of nature seemingly set their body clocks to natural phenomenon like sunlight; studies have shown that they go doolally during total solar eclipses when it gets locally dark at a time not in sync with their body clock. Some marine life uses moonlight, and in some cases, even moon phase.

Perhaps us humans are not so different from animals – every now and then our body clocks need calibration – why else do we check our clocks and watches to make sure that we’re on track?

I think this is shown most clearly in the act of waking up – our bodies often wish to continue to sleep, despite years of training, when external time would suggest that it is time to rise and shine.

OK, it’s a fair point that there maybe biological requirements for sleep and energy recuperation.

But does it go deeper than that? Do we have a more subconscious perception of time? Something which goes deeper than our inbuilt insular body clock and connects us intricately with other souls or times as some say dreams do?

Alarm clock
What does the alarm clock know that we don’t?

Why do we wake up just before the alarm clock rings? Are we subconsciously aware that the the time is nigh? Or that the ringing of the clock is timed with an event in our dreams?

Some say that dreams allow our minds to wander through time…to stir up memories or to presuppose the future.

Or are dreams, as spiritualists might dare to believe, Plato’s realisation that they are a memory of the future?

Either way, alarm clocks pull us out of them, and we either fight to resist it or succumb to their calling us back to the fixed temporal time line. To recalibrate our sense of time, or at least to the frost of social agreement, if not convention.

I’m not convinced that we really need alarm clocks anyway. I found a brilliant article written by “Big Guy” at bigguymoney.com who indirectly holds the same view – alarm clocks wake us up in the wrong part of our sleep cycle, so we wake up disorientated and groggy. We’re better off without them (aside from social requirements such as work!).

The timing of our natural sleep cycle is at odds with external time; arguably the alarm clocks offers calibration. But it’s not always wanted!

In that article there is also a video clip about the snooze feature – which generally I love (it gives me more time in bed) but my wife hates (it wakes her up several times and yet at the same time doesn’t provide enough time to return back to a deep sleep.).

She has a point – indeed, the video suggests that if you just get up when the alarm clock goes off you’re more refreshed and awake than getting up after using the snooze feature, or simply sleeping for an extended but uninterrupted period.

An experiment to sleep through

There may be truth in that and being a scientist I had to test it! I repeatedly hit the snooze button…so many times that without realising it the hour hand eventually moved over and past the alarm hand and no longer triggered the alarm.

Yes, I overslept.

The following morning I switched off the snooze feature and aimed to get out of bed as soon as I woke. But I was too tired to get up, I fell back asleep, and with no snooze to reawake me…

I overslept.

Conclusion: I’m screwed either way!

A crazy notion anyway…

The idea of alarm clocks is crazy – that we desire an interruption to our normal biological requirement of sleeping.

But they only work in the morning. Obviously you can’t wake up in the evening before you’ve slept (time travel aside…!) but I’m talking here of the attitude; the expectation of a right to sleep in the evening isn’t carried through to the morning where we take efforts to bring ourselves out of sleep with an alarm clock

We’re much more likely to hear our neighbour banging on the wall late at night calling “Don’t you know what time it is? I’m trying to go to sleep!” than having him at the front door at 11:00 in the morning complaining of noise and demanding his right to a lie-in.

Perhaps teenagers are the most sensitive to this conundrum – they don’t want to go to sleep at night and don’t want to get up in the morning. Are they out of kilter with society, temporally displaced by a few hours, or more in tune with their inner sense of time?

A natural call

cockerel or rooster
What we did before alarm clocks: A natural start courtesy of a cockerel or rooster

Before alarms clocks we woke with the sound of a rooster, who, I guess, woke with the rising of the sun. It seems to be more harmonious, more natural to our own internal rhythm.

Yes, using alarm clocks seems to be altogether cuckoo!

Further experimental trials

A far cry from the call of nature is a call from the differential of space (i.e. motion!).

Apps exist which monitor how your body moves whilst it’s asleep, and from that determines which part of the sleep you’re in and when the best moment to wake up is. So a use of spatial motion to call us to time.

My experiment on that didn’t work either – my wife’s movements ‘contaminated’ the measurements. Although a former (single) colleague told me he had tried the app..

He told me he had tried it…when he got into work late as he’d overslept.

First things last…

My last trial (which really as a baseline should have been my first) was to wake up completely naturally with no alarm clock…except my oldest daughter (coming on 5) ironically woke up earlier on a Saturday morning than on a school day, ran into my bedroom and jumped on my belly. (Which woke me up!)

Conclusions

The seemingly overall conclusion is that the mind is [sometimes] willing but the flesh is weak. That is to say, tired.

Exception to the rule: Unless you’re a child (i.e. younger than our late-nighter / lying-in teenagers)

And what can we learn from this? That indeed an hour before midnight is worth 2 in the morning? An improbable route for time dilation, (just as “a stitch in time can save nine” – though seemingly a lot more efficient!). I don’t think so.

So much for the morning calibration of our sense of time. It doesn’t always work, and indeed we often wake up with not only temporal disorientation (“morning already?”, “what happened last night?”) but also spatial (“where am I?”, or “who are you?”).

So we turn to validation.

(Calibration is setting ourselves to be the same as everyone else; validation is making sure it’s been done correctly.)

How does coffee sound? Or an energy drink (or some other caffeine based product), children, or pure requirement?

Or simple resignation – usually reserved for Monday mornings…if you know when that is!

Paul

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Dating for Geeks

Dating for Geeks cartoon strip asks: What would you like most if you were like Marty McFly in Back to the Future?

I found this cartoon in a Dutch newspaper (“Spits”) on the train this morning (click to enlarge). Dating for Geeks…with an ounce of time travel! 🙂

Dating for Geeks
Courtesy: www.spitsnieuwes.nl

And the loose translation into English is:


– What would you like most if you were like Marty McFly in Back to the Future?


– A time machine? A hover board? Shoes that tie their own laces?
– Hmm, no…


– I would like to choose something that in real life I would never get…
– What’s that then?


– A girlfriend.



Actually, it’s not that funny is it? I’m feeling sorry for him…

Then again, it seems as though the hover board and the self tying shoes might soon become a reality…so there’s hope yet for our geeky friend! 🙂

Hoverboard
Hoverboard as in Back to the Future II set to become a reality!
Courtesy: aliencyborgs.com/back-to-the-future-hoverboards-finally

self tying shoes
Courtesy: refinedgeekery.com/2014/03/04/is-this-hoverboard-video-real/

Paul

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Is energy released in time travel?

A huge obstacle in time travel is the vast amounts of energy needed to power it. What if we could borrow and pay back energy by moving it through time?

A thermodynamic conundrum

One of the biggest obstacles in time travel is summoning the vast amounts of energy required to power it. I’ve often wondered whether we could use the energy from one time and return it in another during the time travel expedition the same way as we move physical objects around according to our transient desires.

So far it would seem not; the laws of thermodynamics mean that there cannot be a creation (or destruction) of energy and moving it from one time to another (forwards or backwards) is essentially the same thing (removing it from one time is ‘destruction’ and replacing it in another time is ‘creation’).

Looking at it another way, does time travel imply that there is a creation or destruction of energy? Perhaps thermodynamics hints at the importance of direction, at least in the temporal field.

A matter of direction

Most of us have probably heard about the direction of time, or time’s arrow. In these cases the direction is linear, that is to say, forwards, backwards or if we’re being creative, sideways.

Equally creative, but perhaps more conventional given the motion of hands on a clock, have we ever considered a rotational direction of time?

Image courtesy: Google images.
Image courtesy: Google images.

In H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine (or was it that b***dy Baxter’s The Time Ships), the Time Traveller talks of a twisting of the spatial and temporal dimensions so that all 4 dimensions are transposed and travelling through time could be done so as easily as easily as travelling through space. Give or take a bit of nausea.

(Yes, it was Baxter. I remember now; he [appears to have] nicked the idea of rotating of the 4 dimensions (and inducing sickness from centrifugal and Coriolis forces from Poul Anderson, or at least the rotational aspect from Michael Moorcock’s Flux. )

It seems to me that if we’re going to play about with thought experiments and how time moves (or at least, how we move through an otherwise static time), then we should at least pay a bit of homage to the idea that it might twirl about!

Indirectly, my wife and I recently had a conversation which lead to these kind of musings.

I’ll say upfront that the conversation wasn’t directly related to time travel or even about time…but it did involve a clock. Note the manly pink colour, but please recall that I am a father of 2 daughters!

Rotated clock
Does time have a rotational direction? 10 o’çlock, 1 o’çlock or quarter past?

A few nights ago my wife exclaimed surprise that the bedside clock still worked even when the battery is put in with the knobbly bit on the wrong way reversed polarity. “Even the light comes on!”

Why wouldn’t it? In a general and simple electrical case (e.g. one without diodes), it’s not the direction of flow of electricity that makes light light or clocks tick (that’s an expression…digital ones don’t!) – rather, it’s the flow itself.

[Aside: an economist friend of mine once told me that the value of money is unimportant – it’s that it changes hands. Not spending a million dollars is the same as not spending 1 dollar. Movement, or flow, of money is important…though in this case the direction is important too…we’d rather receive a million dollars than part with it!]

My wife (who I should add, didn’t marry me for my money!) said that given all the warnings in the instruction manual about taking care to observe the correct polarity, she’d expected the clock to simply not work. Or blow up spectacularly.

At the very least, that it might run backwards.

Whilst this wouldn’t explain the workings of Edward Page Mitchell’s The Clock that went Backwards (which was a wind up Grandfather clock), the comment did lead to the usual cart-before-the-horse question: was our hypothetically backward running pink clock marking a backward motion of time, or was it actually driving it?

And if I can milk the driving metaphor, was our reverse polar battery the equivalent of the flux capacitor in the Back to the Future DeLorean time machine?

Now that the horse is well and truly trailing the cart, my wife and I turned to thinking about the local effect of a backward trip in time. As local as the battery squeezed in its compartment with the knobble against the spring.

In the usual case, the battery discharges and powers the clock. The corollary, if we’re going back in time, is that the battery is now charging – electricity is coming out of the clock and into the battery.

But if the battery isn’t discharging, then it can’t be powering the clock to drive the time backwards, and that means it should be discharging. We have the classic Grandfather Paradox…nullifying our speculative thought experiment!

Well! Paradoxes such as these are common place in time travel, so perhaps we’re on the right track…

But something else is at odds here – power is required to push time forwards (or to maintain it’s ambient rate of natural progression), and now it looks like energy is released in time travel when we go backwards!

This sounds counter-intuitive, but I wonder if it’s something else entirely…I think the clue is in the battery not being charged but recharged – the energy it spent in pushing time forwards is now being paid back.

It’s a subtle difference, but this idea of a return can be taken further in the case of time itself in that it’s not a backward motion of time but a return to some state of equilibrium, like an aeroplane doesn’t expend energy to fly downwards, but returns to the ground and gives up energy doing so.

This seems to be more in line with thermodynamic principles where energy is required to bring order and expended to return to chaos, and indeed…we have a battery with increasing energy.

A reversal of time is an increase in order(!)…the matter of the universe, going back in time, will become more ordered. Perhaps, into a singularity rather than an expanding universe.

So what’s all this got to do with rotational time?

Well OK, you got me! Clock hands rotating the wrong way doesn’t signify a rotational time direction any more than a digital clock counting backwards signifies time going backwards. Does it?

Maybe we’ll never know. If time is going (or rotating) backwards now how would we know? It would be normal to us; the definition of a direction would be a matter of convention.

I can’t help thinking though, that a time might introduce some twirling about, some seemingly random changes in direction, or loops or somersaults to avoid those pesky time travel paradoxes we’d have with a linear motion in time. And it would be a much cleaner solution that just making up a new multiverse to get out of the conundrum.

Don’t you think?

Well, we’ve talked and thunk ourselves into a tighter and ever decreasing circle, and like the Time Traveller, probably feeling quite dizzy and nauseous from it!

Paul

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3 theories of time travel

I found this excellent infographic over at techeblog.com which explains 3 theories of time travel; fixed timeline, dynamic timeline and multiverse.

As I commented on the original site, I have a problem with multiverses! They’re too much of an easy ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ card and I can’t find any sound scientific basis for the creation of all the additional energy and mass required to go round creating new universes willy nilly…let alone specify a defined moment for divergence.

So many problems, so little time…I think I have an idea for another blog post!

Image courtesy: www.techeblog.com
Image courtesy: www.techeblog.com

Paul

A game of patience

Patience isn’t something for time travellers.

As time travellers we don’t want to wait for a moment or an event to reach us at the ambient rate of 1 second per second. We want it now.

When I show frustration born from impatience, there’s always some idiot telling me it’s “…a lesson in patience”.

How the hell is that? All I’ve learnt is that I’m still impatient, and it’s usually the patient people trying to make me more like them; to be more patient whilst I wait for them to just get on with it.

The cure for impatience

Apparently help is available in dealing with impatience. Not that impatience is a disease…more like patience is a resignation to the idea that we can’t change (speed up, in this case) the rate of time. And I don’t like that!

The suggestion comes in two forms: either we either hold tight, or that we let go completely.

Here’s the thinking:

  • Holding on tight
  • This means keeping focused on the end goal, and working hard to achieve it.

  • Letting go of the end goal
  • Read here…forget it. Que sera sera (whatever will be, will be), and presumably, whenever whatever it is, will be ready. Do something else. Take your mind off it. Stick your head in the sand. Pretend like you don’t care.

    I reckon that sounds like giving up doesn’t it!

    Or…could we consider it more as parallel time line jumping? Fill your waiting time with another activity, i.e. instead of waiting on the same time line, jump to another parallel one and bypass the wait by doing something else. Then return to your original time line where the perceived time will seem shorter, like starting a chapter in a book which returns to a story line dropped a few pages ago.

    Time compression
    Apparent time compression through parallel jumping

    It’s ironic that the time will then seem to pass quicker when you don’t concentrate on it. Like a kettle boils quicker if you don’t wait for it. Friction works harder against you the more you try to overcome it (by pushing harder or going faster).

    The more you earn the more you’re taxed. Love comes to you when you don’t look for it. Yeah I know – it’s all messed up…so forget all about it! Besides, it’s not fair that this form of ‘apparent time travel’ comes quicker to those who don’t want it!

    The best things don’t come to those who wait. Those who wait are inefficient with their time and kid themselves that whatever they want to be doing now can wait till later.

    So should we hold on? I don’t think so. Carpe diem. Seize the day. Seize it by the neck and then strangle it and tell it to get a b***dy move on!

    Just make the most of it…or do something else!

    Paul

    A finger to the clock

    The distinct resonant tock of an old analogue clock. A hammer hitting nails in the analogue coffin. Their time is up, their glory gone in a sonorous din.

    Tick.

    I like the idea of analogue clocks because they measure time exactly.

    For example, the position of a hand on a clock face can indicate when the moment of a third of a second has been reached, whereas a digital clock is inherently incapable of this feat – at best it shows an instant in time in decimal notation to a limited number of decimal points.

    And for irrational numbers that’s not exact.

    But my problem with analogue clocks and watches is this: that the glory of analogue and continuous monitoring of time is punctuated. And how irrational is that?

    Tock.

    It is true that this is largely down to the inherent mechanical design of a clock or watch (although some models do have “sweep” hands) but what I find close to unforgivable is that the precise toiling of the cogs and sprockets and springs and things is deliberately engineered that it grates on the aural senses with an audible “tick tock”.

    Tick.

    Not just every hour, or every minute, but every single second. Actually, sometimes more; smaller watches have the rapid tick-tick-tick-tick, a tick every half second or so.

    This ticking and tocking is arguably worse than the Japanese water torture where the irregular dripping of water causes psychological neurosis. But the regularity of the tick-tock means that the next one is expected. So we wait for it. And the next, and the next and the…

    Tock.

    …next.

    It’s an irrational crime against Analogue to interrupt or to mark the passing of predefined moments in such a way.

    Tick tock cuckoo.

    In this post I revealed what a Dutch clock is. Dutch clocks and grandfather clocks are the worst culprits as the swing of the pendulum creates such a thud of a tock that the body reverberates in an anti-echo of antagonised yearning of peace; their analogue glory gone in a sonorous din.

    And if that’s not enough, most models mark the passing of each hour – sometimes even each half and quarter hour – with further exclamations emanating from the time piece to remind us of their presence. Aargh, the distinct resonant tock of an old clock.

    A hammer hitting nails in the Analogue coffin. Their time is up, especially for those which have cuckoos or hideous figurines which come out and make quite literally a song and a dance about the time.

    Pepper pot, Zwolle
    The “Peperbus” (“Pepper pot”) in Zwolle, the Netherlands. Image courtesy: www.cloudshots.nl.

    The chimes of Big Ben (London) are world famous. Not so well known is The Peperbus (Zwolle, Holland) plays a variety of songs (including the theme song to The A-Team) prior to donging local (and some not-so-local) inhabitants to near audible death. (Or how some Londoners might pronounce it, deaf! 😉 ) Noise pollution. And yes (and bear in mind I say this as an unbiased practising Christian) I find the sound of a church bell untuneful, dull, and sickly lacking in sonic lustre or attraction.

    Even my 2 year old daughter makes a more tuneful racket when thrashing a wooden spoon against the side of a baking tray (and admittedly I say that as a highly biased Dad!)

    The thing about digital watches

    The author of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams, made the comment in the first of that ‘trilogy’ (of 5…) that humans thought digital watches were “…a pretty neat idea”. And as a human, I tend to agree.

    Digital clock

    True, we need to read the time (numerically, in series) rather than ‘tell’ the time from a bizarre form of parallel (clock)face recognition.

    And it’s true that some morons set their digital watches to make an hourly chime.

    And it’s true that some digital watches have so many functions that the battery size required to power them all takes more space than my wife needs to parallel park.

    It’s also true some digital watches and clocks are too faint to read in daylight, or too bright to allow sleep at night and burn red holes in your retinas as you desperately try to count sheep.

    But digital watches and clocks are silent. There’s no noise with digital clocks. Silence is golden…they just simply let the time pass!

    A final thought: If analogue clocks have hands, shouldn’t digital clocks have fingers? 😉

    Paul