Posts Tagged ‘time travel’


What’s the difference between a theoretical physicist and me?

For starters, in the last third of my life I’m writing a book about wild sex, but can only dream of getting a grip on mathematical formulas, while today’s premier theoretical physicist … also of a certain age … publishes volumes based on complicated math, and can only dream about wild sex.

Yes, I’m notoriously crap with numbers and Stephen Hawking has ALS.

I would never presume to have anything in my head that comes anywhere close to the vast stores of knowledge the professor carries around. The man is a genius whose dumbing-down for the masses even gives me a massive headache.

I have read “A Brief History of Time” … many times … yet still can’t even begin to wrap my head around a black hole, those massive light-gravity-time suckers that he not only understands, but can prove.

Nope. I’m a simple poet; a writer of fluff and nonsense and speeches and status updates, a mere mortal handicapped from birth with a math aversion.

So … there are some differences.

But, what’s the same? We both dream. And we both think. We both ponder.

And one of the things we ponder separately in our parallel universes … his being the rarified atmosphere of academia, while mine is this island … is time.

Over the past days I’ve been watching all the YouTube vids available on the Professor, the topic of time and his theories on traveling through it and have come up with another difference between us.

Professor Hawking sees time travel as an eventual possibility given the physics involved and future potential for building the sort of equipment necessary to take advantage of the laws of the universe and travel fast enough to hit the groove of time’s warping.

I see it as a sure thing for every one of us as soon as we manage to get rid of the sort of equipment that makes it impossible.

Although I have no doubt that he’s spot on with the numbers, it seems the Prof is missing the point … or, rather, making a point that will end up being rather pointless, which is, after all, what theoretical science is often about, adding to the wealth of knowledge humans can mull.

One thing science knows is that the law says nothing in the universe can travel faster than light; Hawking puts this well within even my grasp when he clearly signposts 186,000 miles per second as the universal speed limit. Interestingly, anything approaching that speed has funny things happening to time, and as Einstein so succinctly put it with his E = mc2 thingy — go that fast and you’re no longer you, but the energy of you, which is kind of the same, but different. Go just a bit slower and you’re still you, but what passes for a year in some places happens in a week.

The equation E = mc2 indicates that energy always exhibits mass in whatever form the energy takes. Mass–energy equivalence also means that mass conservation becomes a restatement, or requirement, of the law of energy conservation, which is the first law of thermodynamics. Mass–energy equivalence does not imply that mass may be “converted” to energy, and indeed implies the opposite. Modern theory holds that neither mass nor energy may be destroyed, but only moved from one location to another. In physics, mass must be differentiated from matter, a more poorly defined idea in the physical sciences. Matter, when seen as certain types of particles, can be created and destroyed, but the precursors and products of such reactions retain both the original mass and energy, both of which remain unchanged (conserved) throughout the process.

Yeah … headache stuff, but stick with me …

So … mass / energy. What are we? At the moment, both, and that’s where the time travel thing goes tricky. Check this:

“The brain is the ‘local’ creator of time, space and space-time as our special maps of reality we ‘observe’ and participate in” (Catalin et al., 2005). “Time is a fundamental dimension of life. It is crucial for decisions about quantity, speed of movement and rate of return, as well as for motor control in walking, speech, playing or appreciating music, and participating in sports. Traditionally, the way in which time is perceived, represented and estimated has been explained using a pacemaker–accumulator model that is not only straightforward, but also surprisingly powerful in explaining behavioral and biological data. However, recent advances have challenged this traditional view. It is now proposed that, the brain represents time in a distributed manner and tells the time by detecting the coincidental activation of different neural populations (Hitchcock, 2003).

Linear time “past-present-future” is psychological time. Physical time is run of clocks in a space. Motion that we experience through psychological time happens in space that is timeless; past, present and future do not exist in space. There is no physical time existing behind run of clocks.

Somethings to think on …

The brain creates time. Space is timeless. “Matter, when seen as certain types of particles, can be created and destroyed, but the precursors and products of such reactions retain both the original mass and energy, both of which remain unchanged (conserved) throughout the process.”

And the kicker: Time is a fundamental dimension of life.

Yep. There’s the key to time travel … kick the life habit.

The body of knowledge gathered from Near Death Experiences, a misnomer since the peeps reporting back were not near death but dead, suggest the limits imposed by our biology.

A recent study by Dr. Sam Parnia (despite his acknowledgment that he was initially a skeptic), shows that such patients are “effectively dead”, with their brains shut down and no thoughts or feelings possible for the complex brain activity required for dreaming or hallucinating; additionally, to rule out the possibility that near-death experiences resulted from hallucinations after the brain had collapsed through lack of oxygen, Parnia rigorously monitored the concentrations of the vital gas in the patients’ blood, and found that none of those who underwent the experiences had low levels of oxygen. He was also able to rule out claims that unusual combinations of drugs were to blame because the resuscitation procedure was the same in every case, regardless of whether they had a near-death experience or not. According to Parnia, “Arch sceptics will always attack our work. I’m content with that. That’s how science progresses. What is clear is that something profound is happening. The mind – the thing that is ‘you’ – your ‘soul’ if you will – carries on after conventional science says it should have drifted into nothingness.”

Although Richard Dawkins would disagree with my self-evaluation, I consider myself an atheist. Dawkins, you see, considers us nothing more than our biology, when I see our physical form the least of us but having more to do with science than anything god-given.

What the heck, heh? It’s a Jedi master that sums it up in my book:

Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.

Okay, Yoda is very much not Stephen Hawking, and the limits of the imagination that created him still have that future depending on flying machines. (We’re hooked on gadgets, we are … and I’d blame it on being a boy thing, and could be right about that. Look back at visions of the future past and recognize that we’re not getting around in flying cars, but we ARE connected by the millions, and what comic book ever had Skype superheroes?)

Machines are still where the mind goes because we’ve yet to get a grip on the fact that when the mind goes we have no need of the bloody machines. We are no more our brains, nor our brains us, than our hearts are the repository of our love.

Given the brevity of the human lifespan, it’s no wonder that the idea of traveling through time during it captures the imagination. Truth is, though, I suspect, that it’s old hat to us as we bounce around in time and space, but beyond our capacity to recall … seeing the home movies we have of vacation from flesh and bone only run in our sleep.

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Yes, today it’s about time. It is also about immortality. A weird mix, perhaps … especially in a post starting out with the intro from one of the dumbest shows in TV history … but in actuality is where the rubber meets the road we travel.

Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That signifies nothing. For us believing physicists the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion. ~Albert Einstein

I like it. There’s something William Penn in that, since he did say, “For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity,” and that seems a freeing conversion.

But I’m not dead yet and today is an illusion. Hm. Does that mean I can just go back to sleep? Sure. But if today is an illusion, and so is tomorrow … the past, present and future … it’s probably a better idea to pay attention and see if I can figure at least some of it out. After all, if someone was to saw me in half someday, I wouldn’t sleep through that, even if it was merely deception of the entertaining kind.

Instead of plopping back to the pillow, I’m giving my mind a wander around the wonder of time, a favorite confused meander, prompted by this article in the Huff Post titled: Is Death the End? Experiments Suggest You Create Time.

We watch our loved ones age and die, and we assume that an external entity called time is responsible for the crime. But experiments increasingly cast doubt on the existence of time as we know it. In fact, the reality of time has long been questioned by philosophers and physicists. When we speak of time, we’re usually referring to change.

Philosophers have been taking this on for as long as there have been philosophers, going back to the oh-so-cool-named Zeno, who came up with the Arrow Paradox mentioned in the article.

Zeno states that for motion to occur, an object must change the position which it occupies. He gives an example of an arrow in flight. He states that in any one instant of time, for the arrow to be moving it must either move to where it is, or it must move to where it is not. However, it cannot move to where it is not, because this is a single instant, and it cannot move to where it is because it is already there. In other words, in any instant of time there is no motion occurring, because an instant is a snapshot. Therefore, if it cannot move in a single instant it cannot move in any instant, making any motion impossible.

… this paradox starts by dividing time—and not into segments, but into points.

Wrapped your head around that one? Then take on the the idea that “space and time are forms of animal intuition”, simply “tools of the mind and thus don’t exist as external objects independent of life.”

An experiment published in 1990 suggests that Zeno was right. In this experiment, scientists demonstrated the quantum equivalent of the adage that “a watched pot doesn’t boil.” This behavior, the “quantum Zeno effect,” turns out to be a function of observation. “It seems,”said physicist Peter Coveney, “that the act of looking at an atom prevents it from changing”. Theoretically, if a nuclear bomb were watched intently enough — that is, if you could check its atoms every million trillionth of a second — it wouldn’t explode. Bizarre? The problem lies not in the experiments but in our way of thinking about time. Biocentrism is the only comprehensible way to explain these results, which are only “weird” in the context of the existing paradigm.

We are limited by our biology, peeps, packed into a container that can only perceive space and time in relation to our point in both.

Oh! For Stephen Hawking’s brain, who said, “There is no way to remove the observer — us — from our perceptions of the world … In classical physics, the past is assumed to exist as a definite series of events, but according to quantum physics, the past, like the future, is indefinite and exists only as a spectrum of possibilities.” The guy who finds thinking about paradoxes great fun and probably never gets headaches like the one I’m developing just writing this bloody post.

The whole series, plus another 5-parter, is on YouTube, so if you have the inclination you can fill up on his ideas … since it seems time is not a problem.

Check out the bit in the episode above about the worm holes that are everywhere. Tiny, yes, but I can’t help wondering what that’s all about and what would be different if there weren’t there.

Yes, those tiny, tiny passages through time exist in the quantum world, but is that not our world, too?

But this “two-world” view (that is, the view that there is one set of laws for quantum objects and another for the rest of the universe, including us) has no basis in reason and is being challenged in labs around the world. Last year, researchers published a study in Nature suggesting that quantum behavior extends into the everyday realm. Pairs of ions were coaxed to entangle, and then their properties remained bound together when separated by large distances (“spooky action at a distance,” as Einstein put it) as if there were no time or space. And in 2005, KHCO3 crystals exhibited entanglement ridges half an inch high, demonstrating that quantum behavior could nudge into the ordinary world of human-scale objects.

Do you realize that we all see our own noses all the time? It’s right there in our vision every time we open our eyes, but our brain ignores it. Our noses are big … some more than others … not anything close to microscopic, yet invisible to us unless we consciously focus attention. What in the nanosphere is just as ‘there’ that we’re missing?

Okay. So we know time is not linear, and although it’s trippy to watch someone talking on a cell phone in footage shot in 1928, that’s really not the point. Time travel … backward, forward, sideways … sounds like fun, sure — who wouldn’t want to hear Lincoln deliver the Gettysburg Address or tool around in a flying car or see themselves young and their lost loved ones walking around — but if there is no time, aren’t we doing that already?

Maybe we’re just missing our noses again …

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