Tuesday, May 13, 2008
As time goes by
Last week I finished up a mentoring project with a high school senior who wanted to research the plausibility of time travel. He put out a request for a mad scientist to help him, and came up with me.
B. D. and I read several science fiction books together, from the Jack Finney classic "Time and Again" to more recent ones like Michael Crichton's "Timeline." The idea was to come up with a chart listing all the ways that time travel is presented in sci fi and compare them to what we know from conventional physics (not that worm holes are that conventional). How far off, if at all, are these stories?
It was fascinating enough to explore the texts and match the sci fi writers imagination with that of 20th century physicists. I called on fellow mystery writers Ann Parker and Simon Wood for their insight also.
But as the student and I were talking during our last session, I couldn't help make it personal.
What if I could travel in time? No hand-waving, like, "well, it can happen on the quantum level where particles live for only fractions of a billionth of a second." What if we life-size people could travel back and forth in space-time?
The dream of time travel isn't new. But the reality of it has never seemed closer. Reading just one issue of a high tech magazine can lead us to believe it's no longer an academic question.
Would I take that trip in time? Would I go back to the past or ahead to the future? For what purpose? To interview some of my heroes, like Amelia Earhart and Susan B. Anthony? To watch the world's first dollhouse being built? Or, just to be nosy?
How about you? Maybe you'd like to see your 6-year-old granddaughter — in the future, when she's a grandmother herself. Or interview Agatha Christie.
Would it matter if you couldn't come back?