Apr
09
2008

Make yourselves presentable: Time travelers from the future to arrive this summer?

This is embarrassing: Come on people! Let's get it together! They could show up any day now!
This is embarrassing: Come on people! Let's get it together! They could show up any day now!Courtesy Bifford The Youngest
All this time I’ve been saying that we’re living in the future, and now I’ve been made to look like a damn fool.

It turns out that this isn’t the future at all. It’s only, like, the present. Or maybe even the past. God, I feel so trashy. It’s like when I spent all that time walking around in my cool sweat pants, and then it turned out that sweat pants were, you know, never cool.

How do I know it’s not the future now? Because pretty soon a huge new piece of science may make time travel possible. Not from now to the past, but from the future to now…making us the past. It’s too much! It’s like we’re stuck at the lame table in the lunchroom!

Deep breaths… I’ll back up here.

This summer will see the completion of the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, “the most powerful atom smasher ever built.” Now, as usual, this atom smasher is all about studying the weirdest, most dizzyingly small pieces of existence, but the most relevant upshot of this (as far as JGordon is concerned) has to do with time travel.

Some scientists think that when the energies of the LHC are concentrated into a subatomic particle, the fabric of space and time—“spacetime,” to save a valuable wordbreak—may do something embarrassing, like rip its pants. (Check out a link or two on spacetime if you feel like getting punched in the lobe.) This rip in the pants of spacetime can be characterized, rather unfortunately, as a wormhole.

A wormhole: English majors fall into it and die.
A wormhole: English majors fall into it and die.Courtesy Benji64
According to one school of thought over time travel, a wormhole might be used to travel through time. Or, really, as a shortcut through time, since we’re all kind of traveling through time anyway. The idea, as best I can manage it, is that one end of the wormhole exists when it was created, the present (I like to think of this as “inside the pants”), and the other end is accelerated to some point in the future (“Outside the pants,” if you will).

No, I take it back. As much as I like to think of the future as outside my pants, maybe it’s better to think of it like this: We, in this god-awful, no flying cars present, somewhere in the left leg of the pants. The future, in all its pill-meal, robot-pet glory exists in the right pant leg. Now, to reach this corduroy promise land, we could just walk up the left leg and down the right leg like a bunch of saps (or wait for it to come to us, seeing as how we’re dealing with time) or we could build a Large Hadron Collider, something that could punch a hole right through the fabric of the pant leg, so we could just hop from one leg to the other, without screwing around on all that inseam.

What this means, if we’re talking about time again, and not pants, is that we haven’t so much created a time machine as a tunnel through time. This theory also explains why we haven’t had any travelers from the future yet: because while they might have the technology to keep their end of the wormhole open and traversable (which would require a sort of energy we mostly only theorize about at the moment), they can only go as far back as the original creation of the wormhole, which is now (or possibly this summer). My own theory as to why no tourists from the future have shown up here is a little more simple—why would anyone from the future want to come here? It’d be like someone who lives in Disneyworld (Mickey Mouse?) going to Fargo for vacation.

But who knows? Maybe this summer we can all get our pictures taken by people from the future.

Another school of though on time travel.

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