Category: Time Machines

Reality versus free will, escaping the Holodeck, are the laws of physics “more guidelines than rules”?, and more!

I’m doing five panels and my Physics of Paradox talk at the Philadelphia Science Fiction Convention, starting in a few hours.

Quite a lot of fun subjects for my panels:  Augmented Reality (for those who can’t get enough reality), Time Travel & Free Will, Are the Laws of Physics Laws (or really more just Guidelines?), Is the Universe a Hologram (& can I leave the Holodeck?), my Physics of Paradox talk in its final & perfected version, & What Came Before the Big Bang (& are we in trouble with whatever it is?)

[I’ve augmented the reality of the Physics of Paradox slides by adding the spoken text to them:  see the Keynote (for Mac users), PowerPoint (for PC users), and  annotated pdf version.]

My complete schedule is:

Fri 10:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two (1 hour)
AUGMENTED REALITY
[Panelists: John Ashmead (mod), Earl Bennett, Rock Robertson, Bud Sparhawk]
We’ve all heard about virtual reality and the potential it holds for gaming, learning, medicine etc., but augmented reality, while less well-known, is more likely to have a major effect on everyday life. Imagine wearing a pair of glasses while driving that produce flashing arrows to indicate your turns, or looking at a city street through your cell phone screen and seeing each building labeled by name and type of business. Learn what’s happening now and what we can expect in the future.
Sat 11:00 AM in Plaza VII (Seven) (1 hour)
DOES TIME TRAVEL ALLOW FOR FREE WILL?
[Panelists: John Ashmead (mod), Michael F. Flynn, John Grant, Helen Collins, Lawrence Kramer]
Suppose that  three weeks in the future I come back and sit on this panel,does this not imply that nothing can happen in the future toprevent me from getting in a time machine and coming back? Does this mean that time travel implies that the future is pre-determined?
Sat 12:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two (1 hour)
YE CANNA CHANGE THE LAWS O’ PHYSICS! OR CAN YOU?
[Panelists: Paul Halpern (mod), John Ashmead, Jay Wile, Tony Rothman]
Are the laws of nature really the same across all space and time? No principal is more fundamental to physics than the idea that the laws of nature remain the same at all times and in all places. Much we believe to be true about the universe depends upon this concept. However, new observations have revealed anomalies that suggest that such physical laws as the fine structure constant and the speed of light may actually have changed over time. Will we soon have to rethink our ideas about physics and cosmology
Sat 2:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two (1 hour)
IS THE UNIVERSE A HOLOGRAM?
[Panelists: Paul Halpern (mod), John Ashmead, Jay Wile, Tony Rothman]
Is the universe a hologram? One of the strangest ideas to come out of modern physics is the holographic principal, which speculates that the universe may be a multi-dimensional projection of information encoded (in Planck length-sized  squares, each containing one bit of information) on a two-dimensional boundary called the cosmological horizon. A new experiment searching for gravity waves may have accidentally found evidence for this theory that was predicted by supporters.
Sat 3:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two (1 hour)
THE PHYSICS OF PARADOX
[Panelists: John Ashmead (mod)]
There is nothing in modern physics to rule out time travel, save paradox.  And — thanks to quantum mechanics — it seems any potential paradoxes would be self-canceling.  Therefore the only thing standing between us and time travel is not knowing how to go about it, exactly.  But several recent papers have proposed ways to use the Large Hadron Collider at CERN to create particle loops that
go backwards in time.  Now what?
Sat 5:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two (1 hour)
WHAT CAME BEFORE THE BIG BANG?
[Panelists: John Ashmead (mod), Paul Halpern, Eric Kotani, Tony Rothman]
Was there a time before the beginning? As incredible as it seems, new discoveries have given scientists clues about what may have existed prior to the beginning of our universe. Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania have developed a mathematical model that traces through the Big Bang to a shrinking universe that exhibits physics similar to ours. Measurements of the Cosmic Microwave
Background radiation reveal an imprint from the earliest stages of the universe may also shed light on what came before. The following links are offered as jumping off points to potential panelists who would like to investigate this topic:

The Physics of Paradox — Followup

Gave the Physics of Paradox talk at the Library of Congress Thursday (10/21/2010) & then again at Capclave Saturday (10/23/2010).   Good audiences both times, lots of good questions.  At Capclave talk was standing room only & Brent Warner, from the Goddard Space Center has asked if I would be interested in doing it there this spring.

I made some changes to the talk over the weekend, in response to audience feedback & further reflection.  The latest version is now up as Keynote (for Mac users), PowerPoint (for PC users), PDF in slides-only and also annotated forms.

I’d like to thank Dick Ladson, Walt Mankowski, Bruce Bloom, Shelley Handen, Ed & Marguerite Rutkowski, & of course Ferne Welch for their feedback at the dry run, which improved it immensely.  And I would like to thank Nathan Evans of the Library of Congress & Colleen Cahill of Capclave (& as it happens the Library of Congress) for having me.  Lots of fun!

Physics of Paradox

This talk — scheduled for the Library of Congress & for Capclave next week — is now up.

It was a lot of fun to put together:  I discuss time in relativity & quantum mechanics, kinds of time, some possible time machines, the three kinds of paradox (grandfather, bootstrap, & freewill), the Hawking & Novikov consistency conditions for avoiding paradox, some ways to implement those conditions, paradox noise, what the world might look like if paradox avoiding time travel were possible, and of course why this is likely.

I’ve got the talk on line as Keynote (for Mac users), PowerPoint (for PC users), PDF in slides-only and also annotated forms.

I’m doing a practice run on the talk in two days at the Radnor Memorial Library in the Winsor room from 6pm to 8pm (when we have to be out).  I start the actual talk about 6:30pm.  This is a dry run (well more of a wet run really) for the talks next week.

If you are not too far from Wayne, PA & have an interest in time & paradox (but then if not why are you reading these words?) please feel free to come!

Paradox Noise

saberhagen - after the fact “YOUR ONLY CHANCE LIES IN PREVENTING THE ASSASSINATION OF PRESIDENT ABRAHAM LINCOLN . . .”

“What?”

A burst of audio and visual static reduced reception to unintelligible noise. Then the paradox-generated interference was gone again, as suddenly as it had come.

” . . . Fourteenth of April at Ford’s Theater –” blast, crackle.

“. . . you must be within two meters of the President . . . just before the bullet smashes into Lincoln’s brain. Your total window of opportunity will be three seconds.”

– Fred Saberhagen’s After the Fact


If the block universe view is correct, if time is “nothing but” a space dimension, then we should be able to travel in it. Leaving aside the fact that we don’t quite yet know how to do this (but see some of the books under references) shouldn’t time travel be forbidden by the paradoxes it would otherwise make inevitable?  There are three kinds of paradox to consider:

Three kinds of paradox

Grandfather paradox

Why pick on grandfather? It seems that the only way to prove that time travel is impossible is to cite a case of killing one’s own grandfather. This incessant murdering of harmless ancestors must stop. Let’s see some wide-awake fan make up some other method of disproving the theory.

– 1933 letter to Astounding Stories, as quoted in Nahin’s Time Machines: Time Travel in Physics, Metaphysics, and Science Fiction

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The Large Hadron Collider — Followup

Paul Halpern‘s talk on The Large Hadron Collider at Philcon on 11/21/2009 came off well.  I’ve since had a chance to read his Collider: The Search for the World’s Smallest Particles since.  The talk was basically the book light or, if you prefer, the book is the talk heavy.   Good jobs either way.

Paul had  a lot of fun with the idea that someone (from the future) is maliciously trying to keep us pitiful humans from building a high energy collider; first the money difficulties the Superconducting Super-Collider had in Texas and then the explosion at the Large Hadron Collider.  But now that the LHC is in fact colliding (if not yet at full strength), perhaps the little blue men have given all this up as a bad job.
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References on Time & Time Travel

Updated 12/2/2009

Recommended popular books on time. All of the authors know their physics; none are mortal enemies of the English language.  Enjoy:
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Five Popular Talks

Over the last ten or fifteen years I’ve done a number of slide talks at Balticon, Philcon, & Farpoint, three local science fiction conventions. A number of these have been relatively heavy on the physics – within the context of a science fiction convention of course – and I thought it might be fun to post them. As Rod Sterling might have put it, presented for your consideration:
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How to Build a Time Machine — Talk this evening

This evening, Friday, November 21st at 7:00 pm,  David Goldberg & Jeff Blomquist, are doing a talk:

How to Build a Time Machine

This is at the Philadelphia Science Fiction Convention, in Cherry Hill, PA. Directions and so forth at www.philcon.org.
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The Large Hadron Collider – Talk Tomorrow

Followup post posted 12/2/2009.

Tomorrow, Saturday November 21st at 7:00 pm,  my friend Paul Halpern will be doing a talk based on his latest book, Collider: The Search for the World’s Smallest Particles:

the Large Hadron Collider

This is at the Philadelphia Science Fiction Convention, in Cherry Hill, PA. Directions and so forth at www.philcon.org.
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