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Project: Krautkiller
June 29, 2012 8:25 PM   Subscribe

The Department of Defense staff has reviewed your application for permission to utilize your newly-developed Time Machine (US Patent #4004-BC-10100036, applied for but not processed) in order to, as you put it, "go back and kill Hitler".
posted by mightygodking (50 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Obligatory

Also Obligatory
.
posted by zarq at 8:29 PM on June 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Obligatory.
posted by newdaddy at 8:46 PM on June 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Well my obligatories have been obligatoried, let's get this Hitler killing party started!!
posted by yellowbinder at 8:48 PM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Party time
posted by hypersloth at 8:52 PM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know who else killed Hitler?
posted by yellowbinder at 8:54 PM on June 29, 2012 [45 favorites]


Darn! I shot Eleanor Roosevelt by mistake.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:57 PM on June 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Everyone must read Palimpsest
posted by leotrotsky at 8:59 PM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


> You know who else killed Hitler?

That thought is more recursive than the Hasselhoff underwear recursion.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:00 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Okay Hitler's off limits, but what about Stalin?
posted by hellojed at 9:00 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, just who are we allowed to kill then?
posted by arcticseal at 9:12 PM on June 29, 2012


Knock yourself out.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:12 PM on June 29, 2012


We've prepared a foolproof disguise.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:22 PM on June 29, 2012 [4 favorites]


Can't we just put him in a cupboard?
posted by ocherdraco at 9:37 PM on June 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, everyone else is pretty goddamn unimaginative. I went back and rescued Jesus from the Romans.

...

No, seriously, I did.

...

I'd have expected more to have changed as a result.

...

Frankly, I'm not sure that anything has changed.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:38 PM on June 29, 2012 [8 favorites]


Well, everyone else is pretty goddamn unimaginative. I went back and rescued Jesus from the Romans.

Great! He can help kill Hitler for us.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:47 PM on June 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Well, everyone else is pretty goddamn unimaginative. I went back and rescued Jesus from the Romans.

Great! He can help kill Hitler for us, these vampires.
posted by 445supermag at 9:53 PM on June 29, 2012


Dear Dr. Maureen Finkel,

You're very smooth. By which I mean you appear to have the cranial volume and frontal lobe structure of a young alcohol-preserved lemur, and I wonder how you found your way to the keyboard to reply without being distracted by anything shiny or more complicated than a piece of ripe fruit.

Apologies if that was harsh but of course I have tried killing Hitler as an infant, or pushing him in front of a train when he was a student. I'm smart enough to have invented a goddamn time machine.

At last count I have tried killing Hitler at precisely 1,510,089,004 times over the span of his normal life from birth to suicide. I have tried nuclear weapons, lasers, particle accelerators, simple wooden clubs, poison gas, an asteroid, poisoned apples, a self-destructing nuclear armed sexdroid. I even tried deleting the entire earth.

Despite the above paragraph - I have also successfully killed Hitler 752,899,104 times. Just not on my projected timeline or yours. Those 752 million timelines are pretty nice, though.

Each and every time I show up in our timeline - timeline zero, local baseline reference you'd hope, of course - I'm knocked into completely sideways into temporal decoherence by one or dozens or even hundreds of time travelers appearing in nearly the exact same location with their own time machines. And let me tell you it hurts like your entire body was an infected tooth.

Perspective - I'm in the bottom 0.001 percent of successful time travelers that have attempted to kill Hitler, or have actually killed Hitler in an forked line.

More perspective - At last reliable count the Universal record for time travelers appearing at the same general coherent point of time and apace in our local universe was at the Munich Olympics, peaking at about thirty seconds after Jesse Owens is awarded his final Gold Medal, but with spikes after every decisive win.

The peak simultaneous count of simultaneously appearing time travelers within the locally defined coherent time of 1 whole second currently stands at approximately 5 trillion. Total visitors in local timeline zero over the entire Berlin Olympics was 200+ septillion detected intrusions.

The openly running joke has been to make Hitler's head literally explode with the best comedic timing after watching Owens just own the competition right where it hurts.

But no one has been able to actually do it. Because too many people keep reappearing in overlapping spots and getting forked off into decoherence before they resolve on a stochastic ripple of various timelines.

Hitler's entire life in our local Universe and timeline is surrounded by a continuous overlapping flashmob of time travelers. He's surrounded by a bubble and fog of warped space time so convoluted and incestuous that it requires math so complicated it would give Stephen Hawking PTSD just to view the likely solutions.

Every second of his life there are the energies of a billion suns being wasted down trillions and quadrillions of manifold ripples in space-time as too many people warp into space to try to go back and kill Hitler.

Which is why he was so damn untouchable. Crazy shit comes out of his mouth and people agree enthusiastically. There have been millions of pieces of shrapnel, stray and aimed bullets, slippery tubs, heat attacks, choking on food, cracks and sidewalks and toasters in tubs that would have accidentally killed him just because the Universe just isn't that evil - and all have failed.

Why?

Every single person who makes a time machine takes a couple of trips to see the dinosaurs or some other touristy thing and then usually immediately makes hasty plans to kill Hitler.

In short, there's is and always has been and probably always will be an accidentally protective cloud of warped, fractured space time at energy levels exceeding supermassive galactic black holes, all swirling around Hitler due to the constant collision of these time travelers popping in and colliding with some other time traveler.

Are you with me so far, Dr. Finkel? Good.

However.

This exists at every point in his life except for one fleeting fraction of a second at an incredibly, impossibly awkward and boring party comprised entirely of an uncomfortably small number of unremarkable painters where everyone sat around politely drinking beer and schnapps until a very heated argument broke out about what kind of ready made burnt sienna with a tangential and equally heated argument about making your own paints.

The only reason why this moment of vulnerability exists is because the party is really, truly that awkward. Many time travelers have tried, and all have had the life, soul and funk sucked right out of them. There's a no-fly zone for time travelers, because it's totally ungroovy.

Critically - there is a very pretty and buxom girl there that Hitler is drunkenly trying to impress with his taste in Linseed oil, while a sour, squash-faced boy disagrees with him by screaming something about the quality of the can and lid.

For that 1-15 of a second, there is a non-zero chance that Hitler could be challenged to a fight by someone in the room apparently wimpy enough to be bullied and beat up so he can impress said girl, but actually strong enough to whoop his ass into a fatty bag of soup bones.

I tried, but I ended up nearly gnawing off my own face in the first 15 minutes of the party when someone began discussing the best kind of brush stand for painting pine trees.

Anyway, I can help you get someone there who is boring enough but tough enough and disturbed enough to finish the job. This is why I'm writing. I'm not just babbling gibberish at you, I have a plan that needs some support and refinement.

I await your reply from timeline 0.000355812911, where I totally killed all those people including Churchill and I'm having an incredibly groovy time having all my base needs cared for by little golden robots and we're starting to engage in trade with the galaxy. I would send you a Brownian hypertruffle to give you an idea of how nice things are over here, but it'll be elemental carbon before it gets there.

Yours in temporal hoopiness notften, foreven and ifwhen,

Dr. Helton.
posted by loquacious at 10:01 PM on June 29, 2012 [106 favorites]


Ah.

His grandfather, then!
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:07 PM on June 29, 2012


Argh, my last attempt to contact Dr. Finkel about this issue about "killing Hitler" was ruined and not taken seriously because of qubit translation errors, too, but I can't find a qualified VX framistat turbo encabulator technician on this timeline.
posted by loquacious at 10:11 PM on June 29, 2012


Can't we just put him in a cupboard?

Terrible idea. he'll just find out he's a wizard and you know what you-know-who did with his powers.
posted by littlesq at 10:18 PM on June 29, 2012


I'm surprised no one has linked this yet: Obersalzberg
posted by surazal at 10:27 PM on June 29, 2012 [3 favorites]


Many years ago I read a sci-fi story with the no-fun time travel refutation (for our timestream) that I still haven't been able to shake. Go back in time all you want, but it didn't work. Already.

Maybe the prophets and miracle workers of history are all failed time travelers trying to change things, who end up fulfilling their already completed destiny. Maybe Jesus is a modern time traveler going back to stop Herod's massacre of the infants, or meet John the Baptist, or just see Christ, and became him.
posted by msalt at 10:32 PM on June 29, 2012


You know who would want to kill Hitler? Attila the Hun. Everyone forgot about him after that punk Adolf came along. Project Krautkiller would be wise to go back further, recruit Attila, and bring him forward to the 1940's to kill Hitler. After that, he can go after Stalin.
posted by homunculus at 10:37 PM on June 29, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jesus Christ the number of moral/ethical dilemmas this creates are just too much to even consider, Dr. Helton's extensive and comprehensive explanations notwithstanding.

First of all, let's dispense even with the "killing Hitler" concept. Let's go back to something far more recent. Preventing 9/11, if done today, would be far less likely to produce paradox, as any engineers involved with the process would have been born long before the events of that tragic day and development, which we must assume would take quite some time, would likely have begun beforehand as well.

Still, while preventing the terrorist attacks would provide in some sense the purest form of "justice" (in the "making the victims whole" sense that torts and contracts law are built upon) it would undoubtedly cause irreparable harm to many more innocents. We scientists, being literally-minded and concerned with values of clear causation, tend to pin-point the clear lines of effect, but allow me to present a personal example of where my concern comes from. While childless myself, I have seven nieces and nephews, the oldest of which was born in mid-January, 2003, meaning that he was conceived a full sixth months after the attacks.

Beyond the questions of birth due to deceased parents or any other easily linkable chain-of-events, we must consider what I have euphamistically decided to refer to as "breeding patterns," by which I mean the vanishingly small chance that such a cataclysmic change to world events could allow any one spermatazoa to impregnate the same egg in the new timeline. In a sense, my nieces and nephews, while in no way directly connected to the events of 9/11 (and in some senses more directly related to the Enron fiasco, see supplementary materials to come) would cease to exist. While I have no doubt of the fecundity of my siblings to conceive of different children in the new timeline, we have thus erased the ones currently performing in school plays and adoring bored travelers in airport terminals.

Secondly, and in relation to that last point, we must then consider whether those alternate-timeline children have any rights w/r/t this process. If their existence hinges on stopping a horrible tragedy or not, then theoretically, couldn't they argue that they have a greater claim to it, being the offspring of a more just and prosperous future?

Thirdly (and we are truly diving down the rabbit hole here) are we then simply stuck in a situation of believing in a multiverse we cannot truly confirm the existence of, in order to justify whatever decision we make here? If we deny the existence of the multiverse in any meaningful sense, then all of our decisions regarding time-travel are made purely with self interest. If we accept it, then we reach the same conclusion, perhaps with even more carelessness.

Fourthly, there's the unavoidable lack of any accountability. No matter whose hands it is in, we cannot ever know what they have done with it, and all remaining trust in science, private industry, the armed forces and the political process go right out the window. Until any one of them decides to change things to fix that mistrust, which we'd never know about.

Finally, there's the basic question of living in a world where experience and memory are disassociated completely. While the existentialist quandary of never knowing whether you actually lived through an event you remember may seem like a small price to pay, you need to consider not just memories of witnessing your child's first steps, but also suddenly finding yourself in a timeline in which you are imprisoned, or estranged from your spouse, or fallen into destitute alcoholism, or worse. The change would seem seamless to you, but can you truly be said to have made the decisions which brought you to your new fate?

Frankly, these are thorny questions best left to the philosophers, with no easy answers. And that, my friends, is why we can't have a three-minute edit window.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:49 PM on June 29, 2012 [17 favorites]


Frankly, these are thorny questions best left to the philosophers, with no easy answers. And that, my friends, is why we can't have a three-minute edit window.

Your initial grasp is quite admirable if almost but not quite accurately inventive but this is precisely why we can't kill Hitler's parents or grandparents, because then we end up in time lines like 0.11899044-4 and above where we don't have stuff like toilets, popcorn, wheels and books.
posted by loquacious at 11:01 PM on June 29, 2012


Killing Hitler? Preventing 9/11? Those didn't work. Too embedded into the timeline.

All of the time travellers are busy preventing WWIII. The cold war didn't last 60 years by accident. They're kind of like the CIA: their failures are known; their successes are not.
posted by ceribus peribus at 11:23 PM on June 29, 2012 [9 favorites]


ceribus--

Funny. I was just mentioning to some reporter today the open conspiracy to prevent nuclear proliferation. What technology besides nukes was hard in 1945, and is still hard today? Nothing. It's not an accident.
posted by effugas at 11:55 PM on June 29, 2012 [1 favorite]


Event: ADOLF HITLER is KILLED by BULLET WOUND IN CROSSFIRE BETWEEN TIME-TRAVELING ANTI-NAZIS SENT BACK TO KILL HIM AND TIME-TRAVELING NAZIS SENT BACK TO PREVENT HIS ASSASSINATION (by MeFi's own jscalzi)
posted by kagredon at 1:29 AM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, no, no. You want to limit or at least delay the evils of the first half of the 20th century, you don't kill Hitler. You kill Edward Bernays.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 2:37 AM on June 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Frederick Winslow Taylor has a time bullet with his name on it too.

Following up on Navelgazer's comment, arguably all "dice rolled" after any timeline-splitting event would be re-rolled, and accordingly most random events would be completely different, and the entirety of history after that point would be completely different.

The alternative to this hypothesis is that something would be causing events to play out according to a plan or pattern, consciously or not.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:08 AM on June 30, 2012


There's a pretty reliable way of killing Hitler once you have your time machine, but it's a bit drastic.

So, first off, you have two parents, each of whom have two parents, and so on. This means that you have 2^n direct ancestors in each generation, where n=0 is you and n increases by 1 for every generation you go back.

By the time you've gone back 30 generations (and assuming that each generation gives birth to the next one at around age 30, that means going back 900 years), you've got over a billion direct ancestors (minus a bit for interbreeding), which is well over the entire population of the world back then.

Conclusion: Go back to 1100 or earlier, and if you kill anyone you will, by default, also kill Hitler.

The only slight problem with this plan is that you will not only kill Hitler, you will also kill everyone alive today, including yourself. Maybe they'll be replaced by someone else, maybe they won't, maybe the world won't exist - the timeline will likely be dramatically different.

Oh, and it gets worse - you don't necessarily have to actually kill anyone directly, just prevent any conception. And you can do that very easily - the man walking home from the fields sees an outlandishly-dressed stranger step out of the woods where his time machine just landed, and runs away screaming instead of going home to his wife where the two of them were about to conceive your great^30-grandfather. It's possible that just being there would change absolutely everything.

...maybe I won't build a time machine.
posted by ZsigE at 4:29 AM on June 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Pentagon would almost certainly not approve of preventing WW2. If it had not happened, the military would have remained a vestige of what it was at the end of WW1, and we would be bereft of wonderful developments like napalm, strategic bombing, nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers, and - of course - The Bomb. For the professional soldier class, it would be the Dark Ages.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:39 AM on June 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


Conclusion: Go back to 1100 or earlier, and if you kill anyone you will, by default, also kill Hitler.

The only slight problem with this plan is you will not only kill Hitler, you will also kill everyone else alive today


Er, no. Let us say that my great^30 grandfather lived exactly 1000 years ago. I travel back to 1012 CE and strangle the poor Irish bogtrotter. If my 10^29 grandfather and all his siblings are around already, it seems things will progress as they did for us.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:44 AM on June 30, 2012


Why've you gotta be such a dick?
posted by fullerine at 5:13 AM on June 30, 2012


If you're not the killing type, just go back in time and buy some of his paintings.
posted by tommasz at 5:44 AM on June 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


DoD: "ignore Hitler"
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:29 AM on June 30, 2012


Killing Hitler is all well and good, but remember, Mr. Spock went back in time not to kill Hitler but to kill JFK.
posted by briank at 7:03 AM on June 30, 2012


"Edith Keeler must..."

"NO...Spock... She...doesn'thaveto...die...now"

"Capt...Jim"

"Dammit Spock... i will whack that little bastard...myself...in another...time"
posted by clavdivs at 7:13 AM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your Guide To Practical Time Travel
posted by The Whelk at 7:26 AM on June 30, 2012


ZsigE:
By the time you've gone back 30 generations (and assuming that each generation gives birth to the next one at around age 30, that means going back 900 years), you've got over a billion direct ancestors (minus a bit for interbreeding), which is well over the entire population of the world back then.

Conclusion: Go back to 1100 or earlier, and if you kill anyone you will, by default, also kill Hitler.


You may be underestimating the amount of inbreeding going on. If I go back 900 years, I think whether I go to Australia or Austria will greatly change the odds of me finding a direct ancestor of Hitler.

Another estimate for a common ancestor requires you go back 5000 to 15000 years, not just 900.
posted by RobotHero at 8:42 AM on June 30, 2012


msalt: "Maybe the prophets and miracle workers of history are all failed time travelers trying to change things, who end up fulfilling their already completed destiny. Maybe Jesus is a modern time traveler going back to stop Herod's massacre of the infants, or meet John the Baptist, or just see Christ, and became him."

Maybe.
posted by kilo hertz at 9:13 AM on June 30, 2012


Funny stuff... thanks for posting it.
posted by ph00dz at 9:56 AM on June 30, 2012


I imagine eventually the community of time-travelers would boil down to a wikipedia-esque situation where lots of people want to change stuff but there's always that one really dedicated guy who is just camped out at one site watching for rogue time-editors who want to divert WWIII and every time he undoes whatever edit they enacted because, you know, he's the one who has put all the effort into maintaining space-time continuity here and maybe go prevent WWIII some other way?
posted by newg at 3:29 PM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Damn it I just read the wiki history link.
posted by newg at 3:41 PM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hey now some of us have tumblrs.
posted by The Whelk at 3:47 PM on June 30, 2012


Maybe Jesus is a modern time traveler going back to stop Herod's massacre of the infants, or meet John the Baptist, or just see Christ, and became him.

Perhaps.
posted by jokeefe at 6:59 PM on June 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Related.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:50 AM on July 2, 2012


The Whelk: "Your Guide To Practical Time Travel"

See also.
posted by zarq at 12:00 PM on July 2, 2012


You could just prevent Hitler's mother from conceiving him, but that doesn't work out, either.

For advanced students, the standard reference here is Niven's "The Theory and Practice of Time Travel."
posted by Chrysostom at 7:06 PM on July 2, 2012


At least they apparently did kill Hitler's son, at least in our timeline.
posted by homunculus at 8:03 PM on July 2, 2012


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