FTL neutrinos and time travel?

From an article entitled Neutrinos still faster than light in latest version of experiment, the Guardian optimistically posits the possibility of time travel. A tad too optimistically, in my view.

There’s a real problem with time travel, in that it can, quite reasonably, be argued that the past no longer exists and the future hasn’t happened yet – so neither are in any meaningful way “there”.

But assuming, for the sake of argument, that both do exist in some tangible form, locating them in space-time is a hell of a challenge. Even Mars probes have to be aimed not for Mars, but for the point in space where Mars is going to be in the future, when the probe arrives.

A time probe will not only have to take into account time, but the rotation of the earth, its orbit around the sun, and the solar system’s movement as the galaxy rotates, along with the galaxy’s own movement as the universe expands. Even last Wednesday (November 9), is a hell of long way away in terms of miles. Well’s Time Traveller, setting his machine to go back 9 days would emerge into the vacuum of space – assuming no other body was occupying that spot at the time – in which case there’s be a hell of an explosion.

Visiting the Battle of Hastings, say, would be an even greater challenge. Not only is it 945 years away in time – it’s also millions (billions?), of miles away in space, on a complex, winding, route as the earth, solar system. and galaxy trundle their intertwined way through the universe.

The same principle applies to voyages into the future. Calculating exactly where we’ll be in time and space on, say, Shrove Tuesday, 3529 is an insurmountable challenge as there is no knowing what currently unknown variables might affect such calculations.

Good luck with that. It’ll take more than neutrinos on steroids. Wells’ Victorian Time Traveller would simply have vanished forever.

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8 thoughts on “FTL neutrinos and time travel?

  1. spoilsport! a factual commentary like this will undermine the credibility of kilometres of columns of ignorant blathering by journalists and such who might be forced to fill the blanks with something sensible.

  2. It would be nice though, to be “beamed” in the here and now, from one place to another, without going on buses, trains or aeroplanes. #trekkie fan!

      • Not if I could help it. I’d have a “beaming” machine at home, so no queues or kids, and only me with too much luggage! Unless, of course, replicating machines were around, and then I could replicate my clothes…

        • Mind you, you’d have to get past the Star Trek beaming gizmo design fault first – not having a receiving station, anything transmitted is likely to be spread very thinly throughout the cosmos!

  3. As a journalist I agree with your point about sloppy interpretations of science findings. But as a lifelong science fiction fan, I won’t let the truth stand in the way of my enjoyment.
    And if you think of most science fiction as “speculative fiction”, always asking “what if?” then what could be more interesting than imagining what would be different if we could change either our own history or the history of some unfortunate future?
    I’m loving your work :)

    • Thanks Pat!

      Actually, I think s-f and speculative fiction are two very different genres (the latter, perhaps, best exemplified by Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, or 1984, which are clearly not s-f, though I accept there can be some overlap). In s-f the science has to work (or, at least, work within the limits of its own contemporary science), though I have no problems with conventions like hyperspace, Dirac transmitters, FTL starships or any other device needed to make an s-f tale credible or, even, work at all.

      Where s-f falls to pieces, for me (and for this reason I was never a Star Trek fan), is in impossibilities – like the Enterprise, traversing the universe to encounter, wherever they go, English-speaking humans, or humanoids, at least, or their matter transmitter that could never work. If the writers had, at the start, posited a millennia-old human diaspora (as in Dune), and had the Enterprise sending down a remote teleportation receiver from orbit, then for me, at least, it would have worked far better. Though the language issue would still grate, but I do realise that, within the time-frame of an hour-long show, one is pretty much stuck with it! That old s-f standby, the “instantaneous translator” would, in reality, take weeks or even months to collate enough data to work reliably.

      And yes – I know I’m a picky sod. ;)

      By the way, http://www.manybooks.net/categories/ has a substantial stock of Golden Age (and later) s-f for free download in a wide range of formats.

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