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Searching the Internet for evidence of time travelers.
January 3, 2014 1:25 PM   Subscribe

Time travel has captured the public imagination for much of the past century, but little has been done to actually search for time travelers. Here, three implementations of Internet searches for time travelers are described, all seeking a prescient mention of information not previously available. (SLarXiv; PDF)
posted by Mistress (69 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Candidate for the Ig Nobel prize, surely.
posted by Melismata at 1:34 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


I know that they won't find anything.
posted by Benjy at 1:35 PM on January 3 [9 favorites]


This has got to be one of those jokey scientific papers like the British Medical Journal Christmas Edition. Obviously any time traveler from the future would be aware of the Prime Directive and not leave any clues.
posted by bleep at 1:39 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


John Titor, pls txt asap.
posted by rdone at 1:40 PM on January 3 [7 favorites]


Time travel is the easy part. But, you're also existing in space, as well. That part is the tricky bit. If, say, I wanted to travel back in time even a mere 200 years ago, from the spot I am now, there's a very high probability that I would emerge in the middle of a dense hardwood forest, if not in the middle of a tree. You need to know the landscape of your destination time, and account for it.

Go back millions of years and now you have to factor in plate movement and a whole range of geologic change. I mean, leaving your time and emerging at a point when the topology was several hundreds of feet lower is going to end your fun really fast.

This is why land-based time travel just doesn't work easily. Especially for the amateur explorer. The best approach is to construct your time machine as an aircraft. Emerging in the past up in the air reduces a whole raft of potential problems. True, if you go back to more-or-less modern times, you're going to engender a lot of "Mysterious goings-on at Proctor's Well" and other such UFO stories, but, as we've seen, those largely get laughed-away.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:48 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


That's what they did on Futurama (all of those things).
posted by bleep at 1:50 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


> If, say, I wanted to travel back in time even a mere 200 years ago, from the spot I am now, there's a very high probability that I would emerge in the middle of a dense hardwood forest, if not in the middle of a tree.

Oh, it's trickier than that. There's a much higher probability that you would emerge in the middle of deep space. The solar system has traveled a bit in 200 years. This has happened to too many time travelers. Don't ask me how I know.
posted by languagehat at 1:50 PM on January 3 [31 favorites]


If, say, I wanted to travel back in time even a mere 200 years ago, from the spot I am now, there's a very high probability that I would emerge in the middle of a dense hardwood forest, if not in the middle of a tree.

If you went back, like, even a few hours you'd end up in space, no?
posted by jason_steakums at 1:51 PM on January 3 [6 favorites]


The earth is moving with respect to the [cosmic microwave background radiation] at a speed of 390 kilometers per second.

Seatbelts on, gentlemen!
posted by ook at 2:00 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


A time machine has to operate in relative terms, in both time and space. Nothing else makes sense. Er, I mean, that makes more sense than all the other options?
posted by jjwiseman at 2:01 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


The earth is moving with respect to the [cosmic microwave background radiation] at a speed of 390 kilometers per second.

Seatbelts on, gentlemen!


So actually, going back any time further than about 32 seconds, if you're on the "forward"-facing side of the Earth and on the equator, puts you in space. Any shorter you're stuck inside the Earth.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:04 PM on January 3


I just converted that to units I can comprehend: we're moving 872,405 miles an hour just sitting here. Now I feel like this guy
posted by ook at 2:05 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


time machine has to operate in relative terms, in both time and space. Nothing else makes sense.

This. The nature of the problem becomes obvious with a bit of thought.

It's not just the case that the Earth is spinning, and revolving around the Sun, and the Sun is travelling in the galaxy, and that the galaxy itself is moving with its cluster, and the whole cluster is itself moving too.

It's that the idea is premised on the concept of an independent, stationary, objective reference frame, and those don't exist.
posted by JHarris at 2:07 PM on January 3 [14 favorites]


When people say time travel they really mean time travel backwards. We are already time traveling forwards and have no means of stopping it. I guess that is the core problem really.
posted by Colonel Panic at 2:14 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


So a time machine could jump back the right number of seconds to make the furthest jump back and still stay inside the atmosphere, wait 12 hours for the earth to swing around again to your start point, then repeat over and over and over and over again and travel into the future sliiiightly slower than everyone else (around one minute per day) by traveling backwards in time. (If you only consider the movement of the Earth around the sun and not the movement of everything else in the universe during that same time frame, of course. Considering that may make your jump back shorter or longer and necessitate starting your jump from a different point on the Earth.)
posted by jason_steakums at 2:14 PM on January 3


I've mentioned before that I have a neighbor who claims to be a time-traveler from 100 billion years in the future. With some trepidation I went over to show him this page, but he wasn't home.

But then I remembered that yesterday, nonsensically, he knocked on my door, said "Like they could ever find us," without context, and walked away.

I didn't think much of it at the time because he's always saying random things like that, like turning up unexpectedly in a park, saying "Aardvark," and wandering off. Sometimes they make sense some time after, and sometimes they don't. It's given me to wonder if he's planned for this, that he says random things at odd moments in order to set up the expectation that he's a bit loony, in order to give cover to those times when he's speaking non-temporally.
posted by JHarris at 2:14 PM on January 3 [13 favorites]


It's that the idea is premised on the concept of an independent, stationary, objective reference frame, and those don't exist.

Well, not any more. Not since... the incident.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:15 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


Jason steakums i think you said it- if time is defined by relativity which itself is a delta. That delta is always positive.
posted by Colonel Panic at 2:17 PM on January 3


Because of these problems, current time-travel technology is only practical for sending electromagnetic signals back in time less than half a minute. (The exact length of time varies over the course of a day.) We currently plan to launch a network of satellites, that will enable us to broadcast up to 37 seconds in the past, but more importantly that will be reliable throughout the entire NYSE trading day.
posted by RobotHero at 2:18 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


While we're on the subject I'd like to take a moment to recommend Ted Chiang's novelette "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate", which is available in eBook form for about 3 USD. It's easily my favorite story about time travel.
posted by Doleful Creature at 2:18 PM on January 3 [8 favorites]


Are you banging on about Black Mesa again, Henderson? You cause one little resonance cascade and everyone's all conspiracy theories about G-Men and alien worlds.

We currently plan to launch a network of satellites, that will enable us to broadcast up to 37 seconds in the past, but more importantly that will be reliable throughout the entire NYSE trading day.

Sure, why not, that would make about as much sense as what they're doing now.
posted by JHarris at 2:22 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


I read the paper-- spoiler, they found no time travelers. Their main method was to do a web search for the early use of unlikely terms like "Pope Francis". Curiously, they find that reliable time-dating is actually missing for much of the Internet-- e.g. Facebook allows you to back-date posts, which makes it regrettably useless for detecting time travelers.

My personal test for time travel is, do I own a rideable dinosaur with side-mounted lasers? Because if I ever got access to time travel, I would get one of these and give it to earlier me. And so would anyone. Posting stuff about Pope Francis in 2011 would be far, far down the list.
posted by zompist at 2:29 PM on January 3 [4 favorites]


Time travel is easy. In fact, I have here - for sale, cheap - a time machine that is guaranteed to propel you into the future at the dizzying rate of 3600 seconds per hour. It is compact, portable, and powered by easily available batteries, but due to the sophisticated temporal modulation technologies involved, I cannot ship internationally.

Serious enquiries only, please.
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:31 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


Well duh, time travel is only used to dispose of mob corpses and unwanted hitmen.
posted by benzenedream at 2:39 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


I read the paper-- spoiler, they found no time travelers. Their main method was to do a web search for the early use of unlikely terms like "Pope Francis". Curiously, they find that reliable time-dating is actually missing for much of the Internet-- e.g. Facebook allows you to back-date posts, which makes it regrettably useless for detecting time travelers.

posted by zompist at 2:29 PM on January 3, 1998 [+] [!]


Clearly, they were looking in the wrong places.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:45 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


Dear God! You, Boy in the Street, what day is it?!
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:46 PM on January 3


Maybe you can't time travel because the past is full - the universe is made up of a specific mix of particles and forces at any given moment and nothing more, nothing less. You can't fit all the particles that make up a time traveler and their machine into a different moment because the universe can't contain more than itself. The only way to do it is to look at each and every atom and particle and force that makes up you and your time machine and make 1 for 1 trades with the same kinds of bits and pieces back in the past universe. And then you'd have to switch them out with you and your machine, instantaneously, at your point of departure, bringing this glob of raw material into the present to fill the void you left while carving out a space for you to fit into the past. Of course, this would likely cause cascading butterfly effects just by the instantaneous displacement of all of these various particles and forces, but hey, what can you do.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:50 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


Of course, where time travel is really useful is space travel. If you travel back far enough in time, the Universe is compressed and by going a short distance in the Early universe you can travel many light-years in the current era.
posted by Kattullus at 2:50 PM on January 3 [6 favorites]


I also like the idea of a "full" universe that can't fit more stuff in it because I just creeped myself out thinking about the idea that dark energy is caused by something pressing really hard on the outside of our universe trying to get in. Would-be time travelers splatting on the windscreen of our present universe, and huge scary interdimensional things trying to kick in the door.
posted by jason_steakums at 2:58 PM on January 3 [11 favorites]


Or go in 1-second increments to move 390km.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:58 PM on January 3


Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:59 PM on January 3 [6 favorites]


time machine has to operate in relative terms, in both time and space. Nothing else makes sense.

So let's think this through. Before you turn on your time machine you're moving 800,000 mph in space and 1hph in time. After you switch on the machine to reverse your direction in time to say -1hph, you still have spatial inertia moving you 800,000mph in one direction but the earth which relative to you is now moving the opposite direction in time to you, therefore its apparent motion is reversed, so you're speeding apart at 1,600,000mph. But since you're traveling backwards in time that would reverse your spatial inertia, since inertia is a function over time which is now reversed, so in fact you and the earth would remain stationary relative to one another, and oh hell we're all traveling backwards in time right now aren't we
posted by ook at 3:04 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


the instantaneous displacement of all of these various particles and forces

Oh that's just normal vacuum fluctuations those happen all the time HEY WAIT A MINUTE
posted by ook at 3:08 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


You'll never find any evidence of time travel since the temporal janitorial staff always go back and clean up all of the traces.
posted by octothorpe at 3:14 PM on January 3


So, some scientists invent a time machine, but it is useless. It just materializes stuff deep inside the earth's mantle or whirling wild across space. Rocket scientists hear of the antics being had by the other scientists and demand access. The scientists explain to the rocket scientists that it is useless, and illustrate the futility by sending a tea kettle into the floor. The rocket scientists shook their head, and out swung the big lab doors, and in rolled a tarp laden cart. Behold, they announced, pulling off the tarp to reveal a micro-satellite. Brilliant, the scientists exclaimed. But no more words were to be exchanged among these great minds. They were once again at their chalk boards, laptops, pencils, and papers.

Sets of numbers were produced. A time, a date, and specific geographical coordinates. The scientists approached the president, and the president gave a thumbs up. With absolute precision the micro-satellite was placed, and with absolute precision the micro-satellite was sent back in time, and into orbit. They threw their head sets into the air in celebration.

There was a knock at the door. The astronomers were here. They had seen a satellite appear out of nowhere, and demanded answers. The rocket scientists pointed up at the sky. The others pointed at the kettle embedded in the linoleum floor. The astronomers nodded their heads. A sheet of paper detailed the mission.

The other scientists crowded around and looked up with amazement. Two hundred and thirty eight million years ago?

Gliese 667, they answered.
posted by TwelveTwo at 3:31 PM on January 3 [7 favorites]


This is times-travels face-bag.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:21 PM on January 3


While we're on the subject I'd like to take a moment to recommend Ted Chiang's novelette "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate", which is available in eBook form for about 3 USD. It's easily my favorite story about time travel.

Or listen to it being read aloud by an excellent reader for free on the Starship Sofa podcast.
posted by straight at 4:26 PM on January 3 [5 favorites]


time machine has to operate in relative terms, in both time and space. Nothing else makes sense

Not really. I was in the same location 20 years ago that the Earth was in. So if I went back in time 20 years, why wouldn't I be there?
posted by straight at 4:30 PM on January 3


That's Quantum Leap-style time travel. Totally different!
posted by jason_steakums at 4:45 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


I spent two minutes scanning this paper only to find the conclusion was that they were not able to use the Internet to find time travelers. Disappointing.
posted by pashdown at 4:45 PM on January 3


On the Internet, nobody knows you're a time traveler.
posted by Pudhoho at 4:52 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


Some of us know who might have been a time traveler if we hadn't intervened.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:06 PM on January 3


I can't see spending the energy and resources of time travel just to go back and blab on the internet.

A better text for time travel would be to examin the stock market to see if there are stock portfolios that appear to be anticipating the ups and downs of the stock market.

Of course a basically intelligent time traveller would know if his stock manipulations have been discovered, simply by looking in the history books. Then again, that doesn't mean he can take action to avoid discovery- if the history books say time travel was discovered via observing stock manipulation, and that's why he has a time machine, then he may not be able to change anything.
posted by happyroach at 5:40 PM on January 3


If you took a one meter measuring stick back in time or could even just project it, would it stay the same size? Or would it appear to be bigger or smaller because it came from a point in time when the universe was more spread out.
posted by humanfont at 6:10 PM on January 3


The best approach is to construct your time machine as an aircraft.

...CHRONO TRIGGER?
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:49 PM on January 3 [1 favorite]


Since the metre is defined as the distance light travels in a very small fraction of a second, it shouldn't, as light speed isn't changing over time. Or at least, I hope not.

Alternatively, if you define it as the length of this stick here that we call 1 metre long, it still wouldn't change (much) as local gravity is keeping us in place relative to earth and the earth to the sun (obviously effective gravity does fluctuate a bit based upon distance, which does change over time given we're not in a perfectly round orbit, so you could measure that, theoretically). While the universe overall is expanding, various bits of it are pretty static relative to each other, such as our solar system, and probably the galaxy as a whole due to the super-massive black hole that's postulated to be in the middle.

Though depending upon how far you go in either direction, if you get to a point when you're seeing radical changes, such as the formation of the solar system or the collision between the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy, you would have more pressing issues like your face melting.
posted by ArkhanJG at 6:50 PM on January 3


You're all thinking about this in a decidedly un-wibbly-wobbly way.
posted by Biblio at 7:08 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


happyroach - Of course a basically intelligent time traveller would know if his stock manipulations have been discovered.

(Tongue in cheek) That could explain our current bubble economy - worsening cycles of economic boom and bust. If time travel's effect had some non-infinite propagation speed (part of what annoyed me about the movie Jumper), successive waves of future time traveling entrepreneurs kept buying in earlier - inflating the bubble, and pulling out earlier - deflating the bubble faster that's causing our double/triple/(quadruple?)-dip "recession." Question is, what assets can a time traveler bring back to now to convert to specie where they can be legitimately redeem for stocks and for those stocks to be legitimately sold. Or is that what all these non-prosecuted disgraced financiers for? Or are some of *them* the time travelers?

(Tongue removed from cheek) But I'm a "plate of spaghetti" time travel kind of person. Once you leave your strand of spaghetti, you end up getting lost in the sauce and you just ended "forward" time for only yourself. As the "sauce" you can roam around and experience all of what could have happened but would find it difficult/impossible to know if you where in your own strand-of-spaghetti past.

Personal "time travel is amusing" theory ripped off from a sci fi short I once read and liked as a kid - it might have been in an "best of" anthology.

I also like the "past is full" theory; everything that ever could has already been done. Every permutation of every possible movement every single particle/quantum-of-energy has already happened and can't unhappen or happen otherwise

(Is there a formal term for this? This is kind of like the "every moment branches off into an infinite next moment and the each of the next infinitesimal moment branches off into an infinite next moment, &c. Multiverse? M-brane-something?)

jason_steakums - Brilliant! You should give Charles Stross a nice email =)
posted by porpoise at 10:05 PM on January 3


At a party once I heard a budding tv producer's pitch: "It's an hour long special. At the beginning of the hour we show ourselves going to the bank and depositing ten thousand dollars in a savings account. Then the next part of the hour is the advertising we put out on a long standing basis - and I mean like hundreds of years. The ads say, "come to the past, to the time and date of our broadcast, with conclusive proof and collect the necessary information to collect the money in this bank account." Then the last ten minutes of the show are waiting for the time traveler to show up."
Guy was so damn happy with himself, you could tell he was pretty sure he had just knocked it out of the park. I was duly impressed, as well. For a keg party in some garage in Flatbush it was one hell of a pitch.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:04 PM on January 3 [3 favorites]


I swear I've read this somewhere before, and I like the idea: time travel is constantly invented over and over again in the myriad shifting futures, but every time it happens the time traveler comes back to meet themselves at their lowest point in the struggle to invent it, to try and cheer themselves up in those long dark years of banging their head against the desk trying to figure it out by saying "look! you did it!"

And then, with their future success assured, their past self always gets sloppy and lets it slide because they don't have the drive to do it anymore, they don't have the motivating struggle. They never invent it. And it happens all over again with the next person, and the next, and the next.
posted by jason_steakums at 12:26 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


I think it was Larry Niven who posited that time travel was impossible because any timeline that invented time travel would continually alter the past until it reached a point where time travel was never invented. Hmm...I wonder what happened to the Neanderthals...
posted by happyroach at 1:39 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


Travelers from the future keep a low profile! -->Happy Accidents

Ed Wood thinks he's meeting Orson Welles --> but it's really that time traveler again.
posted by 0rison at 1:58 AM on January 4


Nonsense. Nothing relating to any sort of divergence point can be affected - including a discovery of time travel sooner than it should happen - because the continuum won't allow it. Likewise, we won't lose anything that isn't soon to be destroyed because the time-drops won't open for statistically significant objects.

We're only being observed, and that's not too horrible, I suppose.
posted by cmyk at 2:11 AM on January 4


Suppose that the universe is just two dimensions on a plane and the rest of it is just a virtual projection from that plane, a kind of hologram. Now mark the universe with gridlines. Then imagine that this flat universe is stretched, or inflated like a ballon. All the grid lines are father apart from the point of view of an external observer. However from the planes perspective everything is exactly the same distance. Something 3 gridlines away is still 3 away. Cut a square out of this imaginary plane. Now send it forward to where the plane has expanded and set on the plane. Now it is smaller. Take the square back to a point, now the square is larger when placed on the plane. This conflicting resolution between material from the past or future could result pixelation or other weirdness.
posted by humanfont at 9:09 AM on January 4


(Please note this comment in a neighboring thread)
posted by mwhybark at 12:25 PM on January 4


First!
(in 2025, that will be funny)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:34 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Looking for evidence of time travel, you need some theory of time travel. There are various ways it could work, each more implausible than the last!

Justin Rye's Chronophysics page surveys several types from pop culture (and it's very funny).

(Actual physics is mostly a wet blanket on the subject, though I like Richard Feynman's view that antimatter is just matter moving backwards in time.)
posted by zompist at 3:36 PM on January 4


Am I the only one who thinks this is a poorly set up experiment? The search terms are horrible. What are the changes that someone is going to come back in time and post about some random pope? We don't even know if he is a particularly important pope yet. Also, comets? We have a fairly bright comet every few years, why would they come back in time for that? What you need is a big historical event with little foreshadowing, like a Tsunami. However, people probably won't tweet about an event before it happens. What you need is a bit of slang coined by a song or a specific event, then search for its use before the triggering event. Like, the use of "Bazanga" or whatever Sheldon says before Big Bang Theory goes on the air.

Interestingly I was just talking about where the time travellers REALLY are. The Beatles stopped playing live shows for years and years, then one day go up onto the roof and do a live concert, probably their best ever as it has a small enough crowd that you could actually hear them play. Yet, it still had a very large crowd. Think about it, I bet half that crowd is time travellers who wanted to hear the Beatles play live.
posted by Canageek at 5:29 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


So, you're saying-- the experiment was sabotaged by time travellers?
posted by TwelveTwo at 6:30 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


They must not have been looking very hard if they couldn't find evidence of time travelers on the internet.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:21 PM on January 4


List of actual time travellers:

1. Warren Buffett
2. Leonardo da Vinci
3. ?
posted by storybored at 9:28 PM on January 4


My favourite proof of the impossibility of time travel uses the stock market. The idea is that traders seize on market inefficiencies and make them disappear. For example, if you know thay IBM will go up tomorrow (because you read tomorrow's paper today), you will buy IBM today and sell it tomorrow. In other words you are taking advantage of arbitrage. Arbitrage is knowledge of a mispriced asset, and time travelers are the best arbitrageurs.

The sad fact is that arbitrage only is profitable if few people know about it. If everyone knows that IBM will rise tomorrow, everyone will buy IBM today, and IBM will rise today, not tomorrow. There goes your advantage. Now IBM is too expensive, and you can't make money on it.

So there is a theorem in finance that arbitrageurs function to make market inefficiencies disappear.

So here is an argument against time travel: if it existed, time-travelling arbitrageurs would have eliminated all stock price fluctuations, by buying early stocks that were about to rise, and shorting stocks about to fall. Their prescient trading would make stocks move early. Hence stocks would not move at all. Hence the market would be flat. Since markets fluctuate, time travel is impossible.

this is not my idea.
posted by Zpt2718 at 11:15 PM on January 4


Zpt2718: That would only happen if you had a lot of very stupid time travelllers, wouldn't it? Suppose the technology remains highly regulated, and only a few people are active in all of history; say, a couple dozen. They could each have their own favourite era to invest in, so they don't screw up each others predictions too much, and keep their investments small so that they don't mess with the big stack of newspapers they brought back with them.

Heck, it isn't like they need an overnight return; Go back to Apple's lowest stock point, then go its its exact peak and sell. Do the same with IBM, Nortell, Breex (sp?) etc. Who cares about the day-to-day fluctuations when you know the exact highest and lowest points?
posted by Canageek at 11:40 PM on January 4


> Am I the only one who thinks this is a poorly set up experiment? The search terms are horrible.

Of course. It was set up to fail. They want you to think there are no time travelers. I leave the explanation of that fact as an exercise for the reader.
posted by languagehat at 10:51 AM on January 5 [2 favorites]


In the era I come from, time travel never really caught on. The were too many risks, too many regulations, too many things that could go wrong.

For a while it looked like the tourism industry would revive it, but...well, you've seen what a group of tourists can do to any moderately vacation-worthy spot in the present, now imagine a throng of fannypackers milling around the greatest events in human history, taking selfies and complaining about how expensive everything is. The past has enough troubles; besides, there's already "time travel" Dreambox sims, which most people prefer anyway...the real past has a tendency to look fake next to the movies.

No, we mostly use time travel for heating and cooling. The technology has gotten so small and cheap that all the vents in our homes, cars, modules, whatever are actually miniature time machines. In summer they grab winter air from six months ago and pipe it through. In winter they chronoshift warm sunny midsummer breezes.

It's been like that for over forty years, but now we're on the brink of environmental disaster, all thanks to our selfishness and shortsightedness. We've displaced so much air that winters have grown warmer and summers have grown ever cooler. Within ten years, the entire globe will be room temperature.

That's why my colleagues and I have come back...not to relive the past or settle academic debates or help our ancestors acquire wealth. No, we're here on a desperate mission to gather the finest minds in history, in hopes of solving the greatest threat our planet has ever faced: Global Lukewarming.
posted by Ian A.T. at 10:57 AM on January 5 [8 favorites]


Maybe time travelers aren't manipulating the stock market because societal change between the present and their future means the money is worthless or inaccessible.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:59 AM on January 5


Oh, and I don't want to start a derail, but also we've just found a way to travel to alternate realities. It's still a pretty new thing, used by scientists mostly.

Anyway, one of the alternate Earths is populated by sentient telepathic trees, who are natural time travelers. They can't move from where they've grown, but they can slide their consciousness anywhere on their life stream, like a bead on a thread.

There, the nerdier trees debate whether space travel is possible. Could tree scientists one day find a way to travel across the woods, or even into another forest? They can travel to any time along their long lifespans as easy as you and I walk across the room, but they can't move from where their seeds sprouted. The very concept of moving is a controversial scientific concept.

And here's the kicker: they have a worldwide telepathic entertainment network, and they even have their own Doctor Who! In their version, though, the tree Doctor and his companion trees travel the world in the SARDIT, a big blue planter on oversized octagonal wheels. It's a hugely popular show.
posted by Ian A.T. at 11:13 AM on January 5 [8 favorites]


Funnily enough, saw this, about Stephen Hawkings' party for time travellers. That Steve, what a fucking card. I'm so glad he's around. Seriously.
posted by From Bklyn at 6:48 PM on January 5


happyroach: "I think it was Larry Niven who posited that time travel was impossible because any timeline that invented time travel would continually alter the past until it reached a point where time travel was never invented. Hmm...I wonder what happened to the Neanderthals..."

Yeah, in "The Theory and Practice of Time Travel." It's online, if you look. It's a pretty good survey of SF ideas that had been used to that point, although he really comes down pretty hard on the idea (especially given he had been much more forgiving in another piece, "The Theory and Practice of Teleportation").
posted by Chrysostom at 8:48 PM on January 11


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