Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Time Travel - No Lack of Motion

I'm not sure exactly what this has to do with Buddhism. In part, the goal of Buddhism is to experience/understand reality as it is.

I have a collection of thoughts I carry around in my back pocket that simply fascinate me about reality as it is. And like a ball of string, when I come across a thread of 'knowledge' or 'insight' I add it to the thought. Eventually some of these aggregates reach critical mass and I just have to talk about it. I think this is one of those, and it hooks with the previous phasor post on how our self-ish-ness informs sci-fi representations.

Time travel is an interesting concept. I will not be addressing the whole possibility of it, just one part. The part of where you are when you travel. Have you ever seen the old movie "Time Machine?" A guy had a cool sled with a big roulette-wheel looking thingy on it that would spin. There was a recent remake of the movie that included, I think, Jeremy Irons.

What I liked about that movie is that the machine had an extent of atmosphere around it that would travel with it. A bubble of sorts. The movie took into account geologic activity. When the hero went back in time sometimes he was surround by rock because a nearby erupting volcano covered there place where he was traveling through with lava. As accelerated time went on, we saw the rock erode away from rain etc... I always thought that was spot on.

Some of the sci-fi and sci-fact presentations of time travel represent time as fourth dimension, and posit the possibility of moving in that dimension while the other three remain fixed. That's fine. Keep your same position, just slip down the time axis to earlier or later. I'm cool with that. ...then I started thinking a bit more.

Nothing is still...ever. Of course relative to another object there can be stillness. But time travel presumes an absolute reference frame and in that respect nothing is ever still. Consideration of this stacks up pretty dramatically. Yes, you are sitting still in front a computer reading this (thank you). But...

  • The surface of the Earth moves something like 300 miles an hour (depending on your lattitude).
  • The Earth orbits around the Sun at something like 67,000 miles an hour.
  • The Sun orbits the center of the galaxy at around 490,000 miles an hour.
And now things get really fuzzy. Everyone seems to accept the universe is constantly expanding. I'm not sure if the concept of the "middle of the universe" is valid, but none the less, pick any reference point and our galaxys is zooming away from it at mind bogglingly large speeds.

The point being if you traveled even a few millseconds back in time keeping your current, absolute, position in space, the Earth, and certainly your postion on it, would be far gone. Most likely you would be in space. You most certainly would not be on the same cozy point of this mad pony ride we call Earth that you started from.

It seems that all sci-fi representations of time travel I have seen ignore this fact. They presume, that somehow, the laws of physics let you travel back in time but keep you tethered to your relative, madly changing, location.

There's a lot of relatavistic aspects of this thought experiment I could probably delve into, such as the effects of inertia, but I think the summary outcome is still the same. You might envision a way to slip up and down the time axis, but everything will have moved on (or not be there yet) when you arrive in a new time.



Jordan said...

Driving to work this morning, the way I always do, at one point I had a brief sensation of disorientation. Like I had never been there before.

Some how I thought that experience was related to your post here.


Lauren said...


[Grinning]Yes, depending on your absolute point of reference you have never been here before...or here...or here...


Jordan said...

Then of course, there is always this guy.

Uku said...

I saw old "Time Machine" years ago, I loved it.

You might envision a way to slip up and down the time axis, but everything will have moved on (or not be there yet) when you arrive in a new time.

In the beginning of your post, you asked what your post has to do with Buddhism. I think that quote above has something to do with Buddhism. ;)

Thank you, take care!

Simon said...

Beautiful bridge between the reality of flowing nowness and hypothetical time travel.

I found your post while googling for information about a point a friend made about Zen Buddhism and time travel. He'd read something that posited:

"present becomes past and past becomes present. What I understood from that is not that time travel in the sci-fi sense is possible, but in a different, but often equally real way, the past can become the present by focusing your mind on it and reliving it. If we had true control over our minds we could theoretically relive a moment with the same clarity and openmindedness that we experienced it the first time. It seems to me a matter of consciousness more than anything else."

The same point you make in your post about physical positioning can be applied to one's consciousness... one's mind moves very fast. There are millions of chemical reactions and brain functions occurring at any moment and these moving mind pieces that shape our consciousness will never again be in line with their positioning of any past experience.

Maybe the most trained minds can approach re-living moments with opened mindedness, which may well be the close we get to time travel, but it'd be impossible to 'get back to where you once belonged'.

Joram Arentved said...

The most important part of time travel is of course The Tachyon Field that I don't know, don't think, if I can fail to mention to you, thus welcome to receive a few
more letters of mine, 1st & foremost that my labor situation still deserves to be controlled by myself, an innocent issue that my Danish mother didn't understand, so that I can of course become & e.g. like yourselves believe in & so on that 'just' depends on, who told me what, why & when, greetings,, there to be continued, H. N. Year, 2465, The Right & Calculated One.

Anonymous said...

Continued, The Wrong One, there is a new addr. of mine, also which one it is,, note: Some news trends
to contradict me about a totally irrelevant issue, deliberately that I right now return to you all, so I can find out & so on, greetings, 'J.A.,' Stgo., Chile, Merry Christmas etc., note: God still doesn't exist as truer <-> happiness than that money ideal, so I exist with no 'relevant' obligation, whatsoever that I can hide that much, if anything, from you, let alone from myself.
While I grew up, there was often very bad
& sad news with & from me, if it was not my Danish mother, it was her husband, who,
however, certainly gave me no idea, whatsoever that I could fail to be 'just'
myself, since he was incurably envious of me, my work situation, here my plan: Just
to try & employ myself as A Private Eye, any suggestions, please?

Anonymous said...

My addr. changed last year, despite why, Lauren, if you want to hear it, my
own instinct is still a symbol & a repetition of my relevant fact that I'll do anything to try & qualify as a good tachyon scientist to be, this year, the sooner, the better, note: This is May of 3216, I was wrong to claim that it was 2465, it was many more centuries, some 600 years+, something, I still remember, once promised, always promised, so I can find out & so on, greeitngs, 'J.A.,', there & with pleasure to be continued, extra note: Deep Blue can exist as A Good Super Computer, maybe yet to be.