Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Time Travel: Wit vs Wisdom

*From the archives yet again...or from the future. We're not sure at this point, but fitting to review on the cusp of a new year and end of the first decade in the New Millennium...speaking of the future, this is the last posting in this blog for 2009...beyond that..?*

Time travel. The stuff that dreams, legends, fantasies, science fiction and entertainment are made of. Perhaps, if we manage to outlast our more primal notions in the New Millennium and continuing Nuclear Age, Mankind will live to see the genuine advent of time travel.

Or maybe we already have.

Makes you wonder, doesn't it? Perhaps, as in The Terminator, someone from the future has already paid us a visit in our present (their distant past). Maybe they've changed a future outcome for the better. Or worse.

We won't even know when (or if) it happens, if it was meant to be as it is. Or as it was and now isn't. Let alone, if it now isn't, and someone else comes back to 'fix it' back the way it was intended. Kinda makes the head spin ala Congress and their hellthscare 'reform'.

Time travel, of course, could be a wonderful thing: travel back to see how things truly were, be it a historical event that's shrouded in the mystery of time (for instance, the siege of Troy from Homer's Iliad, as well as being able to photograph and preserve many of the historical and no-longer extant writings by the renowned philosophers of the time), or see the world at the time of it's birth, or during the heyday of the dinosaurs (without becoming the hay they dine upon). See the reality of the Last Supper; witness the death of Pompeii in 79AD; observe the reality of the Knights of the Round Table; be present at the signing of the Magna Carta; or the landing of the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock. Photograph the actual Colossus of Rhodes -- one of the Eight Wonders of the World -- before it was destroyed by an earthquake almost 2300 years ago. Be present at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, or see the West as Lewis and Clark saw it in the early 19th Century.

Or go ahead a few centuries, and see where we have evolved, if we found the wisdom to. Pretty heady, compelling stuff.

Of course, there's a caveat to it: being able to see the events as they occurred, and not affecting their outcome in the process. Being able to witness the events as they occur, without mixing with or changing them or the world they're a part of, would be mandatory.

Wouldn't it?

Granted, Scottie and Dr. McCoy got away with it in Star Trek IV; so did Admiral (before and after Captain) Kirk, who had to get hisself a girl friend from the 1980s, since the ones in the 23rd Century already knew his schtick. What they did, didn't seem to have a negative impact on the immediate future beyond the 1980s.

Or maybe it did. More on that in a mo'.

Let's be honest: how many of you have farted in an eleva...er...oops, wrong subject. Who hasn't dreamt of going back in time to undo a misdeed, mistake or misstep? In Robert Heinlein's Door Into Summer, a taken-advantage-of inventor and his precocious cat get just that opportunity. He gets to go back, knowing (too late the first time) of the treachery of his trusted associate and spouse, and fix everything a second time around (before they can spring the treachery). He then gets to return to the future (via the frozen sleep method) with his cat, and even winds up getting to marry his cherished niece as a bonus.

Which could bring me to an aside about Arkansas and in-breeding, but I digress. So I'll stick to the real key issue that time travel would present, philosophically and practically: wit vs wisdom.

The wit comes from various TV, movie and novel stories of time travel and what can and does happen in the imaginary world. Dr. McCoy inadvertently affected history from 1935 onward in a Star Trek episode (The City on the Edge of Forever), wiping out the 'present' in the 23rd Century, by changing the past with the act of saving one life; an act that Captain-Admiral-Captain Kirk had to rectify, to the continual detriment of his acting/singing lessons and forever-frustrated love life (possibly fixed in the 1980s, as aforenoted). The Three Stooges inadvertently went back to Greek antiquity, but didn't start a millennium of eye pokes, slaps and nyuk nyuk nyuks until the 1930s. We think.

In the short-lived but memorable TV series The Time Tunnel (1966-1967, 30 episodes), Drs. Newman and Phillips started out by trying to alter the outcome aboard the RMS Titanic; they failed. Or did they? Was the RMS Titanic meant to sink, as a result of an iceberg collision, or did their attempt at intervention from the future cause the crew to be distracted, and not taking action they would have otherwise taken to avoid the disaster? In any event, what if Drs. Newman and Phillips hadn't failed? What might be different today?

What if the USS Nimitz in the late 1970s, had actually encountered a magnetic time storm, propelling them back to December 6, 1941, and they knew of the pending attack by the Japanese against Pearl Harbor (as theorized in a movie, The Final Countdown). What should they have done about it? And what affect would it have had on subsequent history? How different might today's world be, if such were the case?

What impact, millennia later, might one have if visiting the Jurassic Period, and inadvertently stepping on one bug that otherwise wasn't stepped on then? Would you return to the world as you left it, or something vastly different?

Marty McFly and Doc Brown got away (perhaps) with time meddling in a De Lorean; Dr. Sam Beckett got away with making changes for the better in the lives of ordinary individuals for 97 episodes of Quantum Leap; the Three Stooges perhaps pulled it off while dropping a BC-era Roman tyrant off in front of a charging Souix war party in the 1870s, without significant alteration of the status quo. At least, as far as we know (who's to say, since they did this in 1962, and we don't know if what followed was meant to have followed).

Far as I know, three technicians from the Bonco, UnInc Labs, that took out for a test spin my All About Time Accelerator/Decelerator & Travel Device by Bonco, haven't yet affected the future or the present...then again, I don't know if they've gotten there. They may be making a muck of the past. Or of the shed in your backyard, as they just flew through it, screaming all the way.

Is today the result of history as we know it, or the result of time travel and meddling -- for better or worse -- by Gary Seven and Miss Lincoln, which in turn may or may not have been affected by Kirk and Spock's intervention from a century two-three in the future from our own? How can we know? When can we know, if ever?

If time travel hasn't already come to a time period during or either side of you, perhaps it may, soon. How will it affect us, if or when it does? And if you get the opportunity...should you take it?

Like, for example...there's that ad floating around the Internet (Wanted: somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. PO Box 322, Oakland CA 93022. You'll get paid when we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.). It's probably a scammer, like AlGore's AGW nonsense. Then again...what if the time travel in the ad actually works?

And, of course, there's the current debate about the Mayan Calendar, and it's "end" on December 21, 2012, and what it "means". Does the future here on Earth extend beyond then, or just elsewhere, in the vastness of space? Will it be "the End"...or just another Y2K and Al Capone's Vault?

On the edge of a new year -- unless one stands on the cusp of crossing the Rubicon into a time portal to other dimensions, and can behold a city that truly stands on the edge of forever -- should we live in our time, and leave the past and future to those whose time it was and will be?

On that note, I bid 2009, as twilight descends upon it, farewell. Or not, if time travel IS in the future. Or the past. Time will tell.

20 Comments:

Blogger Herb said...

I loved "The Door Into Summer." Bradbury wrote one about a hunting trip to the Jurassic, perhaps that's what you refer to? It is fascinating. I remember the "Time Tunnel" episode where they went back to the walls of Jericho. Art Bell (claims he) went into semi-retirement because of a time traveller. Do you think that, if you had been present at the Last Supper that you could have changed it? Perhaps some things are meant to happen, as in the aforementioned "Time Tunnel" episode, perhaps?

Interesting thought to wake up to...

13 May, 2006 05:34  
Blogger FTS said...

If I could travel back in time, I'd go back and tag along behind myself and nock me over the noggin with a two-by-four every time I was about to make a dumb mistake. Which means I wouldn't be alive now because I would have died from a massive noodle hemorrage. Which means I would cease to exist. Which means I couldn't travel back in time to save me from myself. Which means I end up right back where I am now.

Proving once again that time travel can't exist except in an endless loop.

13 May, 2006 11:07  
Blogger Skunkfeathers said...

FTS: just what I need to hear...if I ever time travelled, I'd wind up in a 'Ground Hog Day' loop.

Unless it's a good day... ;)

13 May, 2006 11:38  
Blogger Skunkfeathers said...

Herb: I couldn't recall who wrote it or the title; perhaps it was Bradbury. The clumsy time traveller stepped off the path and stepped on an ant; when they returned to their time, everything was different.

13 May, 2006 11:40  
Blogger Miss Cellania said...

If I could go back in time, I would have skipped that one husband completely, I would have said YES to the PhD program at USC, and I would have gotten my kids when I was younger.

And this might have ripped the space/time continuum into shreds.

13 May, 2006 22:58  
Blogger Herb said...

That is the story I was thinking of. It's Bradbury but I can't recall which collection. Cool topic, but I haven't seen the ad you refer to. Wonder how much he's charging.

14 May, 2006 07:00  
Blogger Karen said...

As cool as it is to think about traveling back in time, I think we'd all be surprised at how "romantic" of a picture a lot of the time eras have. The medeival era, for example, wasn't all knights coming to the lady's rescue but they were treated as property. As much as I've dreamt about going back in time, I doubt I would be able to survive one day of all they had to endure.

What about Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure? Back to the Future Trilogy? ;-) I did love Quantum Leap.

15 May, 2006 12:45  
Blogger Monica said...

I wanna travel back in time...to where you said yes to Seymour going to Japan and not Texas!!!

15 May, 2006 13:47  
Anonymous Stacy said...

I'd go back and get the journalism degree first and the M.R.S. second, rather than the M.R.S. first and never getting around to finishing the degree.

16 May, 2006 15:08  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Titanic was RMS not HMS

30 November, 2008 08:54  
Blogger Da Pixie said...

Hmmm... the idea of time travel frightens me. I mean, who would want to go back to the point BEFORE microwavable popcorn? However, the concept is interesting. Even I, the ultimate -blonde- Pixie can't take my magic wand and just POOF back three years.

Now I have a question/thought:

If traveling back in time takes twice as much time as moving forward- cause think for a sec, you are taking a force so powerful that Earth starts revolving the opposite direction, reversing everything, time included- then when you returned to you proper time period, how much time has passed? How old should you be, and how old do you look? How old are you really? @_@
Jeez, I've got a headache....

Interesting thought. I'll probably end up thinking about this all night!

-Pixie

30 November, 2008 09:37  
Blogger Little Lamb said...

I think we would find something to change if we were allowed to time travel.

30 November, 2008 15:56  
Blogger Skunkfeathers said...

Anon: details, details ;)

Pixie: y'know...ah never thunk about it that way. However, the easiest way to time travel I know is to do a warp 'whip' around the Sun, and slingshot backward, making sure one is working on all braking thrusters, first. And it probably doesn't hoit to have a good timer attached to the braking thrusters (I dunno if an egg timer would get 'er done or not). And THEN, assuming your dylithium crystals don't degenerate into powerless, dirty old crystals, you have to reverse the process in such a manner asto achieve a reversal of your reversal, to wind up from whenst you started.

More or less.

As for lost sleep, eh...I lose sleep all the time. See how it doesn't affect me?

LL: yeah, events of today could have been fixed by some smart person going back 31 years and stopping all this. Then again, maybe a smart-arsed person DID go back 31 years to stop all this, and inadvertently (or deliberately) started it. Like the dude in that newspaper ad.

Now that I've wrecked everyone's sleep, 'nite all ;)

30 November, 2008 18:20  
Blogger Hale McKay said...

You have resurrected memories of some of my favorite movies involving time travel.

IN addition to the "Back to the Future" trilogy and "The Terminator" films:

The Philadelphia Experiment
The Final Countdown (You cited)
Time Cop
Time Racer

Time Racer was interesting in that a motor cycle racer was transported back in the time of the old west. There he met, bedded and impregnated his grandmother - who birthed his mother - who birthed him ....
...If he hadn't gone back he wouldn't been born? Or he went back so he would be born?

These things can mess with your mind.

Great post!

(the word verification letters: "grinso")

30 November, 2008 23:40  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And don't forget the time travel done by the Stargate flagship team SG-1. They worked hard not to change anything when they ended up in the past (solar flare interfered with their wormhole; took them back 30 years to 1969; in their attempt to return they overshot the mark by thousands of years and had to be helped back by a friend who was ascended). They did, however, alter the future (in a good way) by sending a message to the past from 2010 ("Do not visit this planet").

Methinks it's a good thing we cannot travel through time yet. Man is not smart enough to handle it.

01 December, 2008 08:23  
Blogger Debbie said...

Time travel is very interesting. Have you seen Final Countdown? It's an amazing movie, military of course, plus you are presented with all the problems, questions, and opportunities that time travel presents.

Debbie
Right Truth

01 December, 2008 11:54  
Blogger Skunkfeathers said...

Anon: I haven't seen Stargate, but I reckon they were rather shocked by the overflight on the return, only to find themselves viewed as antiques by the futurists. Kinda like us old folks are viewed by teens, but I digress ;)

Debbie: yeah, I have seen Final Countdown, and referenced it in the piece. An interesting dilemma it would pose, eh?

01 December, 2008 20:56  
Blogger The Things We Carried said...

Hmmm, I would like to time travel but just for small blips of time. I don't know if I would change a thing... You know, The Butterfly Effect :).

Well, 2009 is almost done and I am glad to have met you. Hope to see you still here in 2010.

29 December, 2009 21:46  
Blogger Serena said...

Crikey! I have a hard enough time in the here and now. I can't even think about that. Happy New Year, Skunk.:)

30 December, 2009 19:38  
Blogger Debbie said...

Time travel may be closer to reality that ever. Wouldn't that be something!

Debbie
Right Truth
http://www.righttruth.typepad.com

30 December, 2009 20:11  

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