# Why we can't go back .

Mentat
Why we can't "go back".

I explained the paradox of backward time travel, in the old PFs, and I would like to do so again.

Here is why it is impossible to travel backwards in time (and it doesn't matter how far backwards):

As soon as you travel to a time that is before the exact time when you started traveling, you create paradox. If I start traveling at 5:00 A.M. (I know that using minutes, as a way of measuring exact time, is crude, but it should get the point across), and I travel back to 4:59, I have yet to start traveling. But, if I have yet to start traveling, how did I get to 4:59? The answer: I didn't, it's impossible. Unless someone can prove me wrong, it makes no sense to imply that I can start traveling, after having already arrived at my destination.

Mentat
Some people have suggested the "Pretzel Time" idea - which basically states that if (in the future) I travel back in time, then my future was already going to be in the past. I disagree with this idea.

I'm not going to get into a discussion of free will (that's for the Philosophy forum, and not really relevant to my argument).

However, there is the question of whether there are an infinite amount of "Mentats" in any given place. Because, if not, then there is no way that I am involved in some form of "loop time traveling", as the "Pretzel Time" idea will imply.

You see, if it is part of my future, to go back into the past, then it must be determined to be so. But I would thus, have to have been there, at that point in time. Then, in a universe where I was already there in 1987, I was about to be born the next year - and the "Mentat" that is born in 1988 will eventually travel back to my (the Mentat in 1987) time. We might, perhaps, meet each other, or maybe not, it's not really important; but both of us know that, soon, another one of us (the one that will be born next year) will pop up (of course, this is not true, the "third" Mentat would appear at exactly the same time as the other two - and so would the infinite "other" Mentats).

If this point needs clarification, just ask. I realize that it is a bit of a strange concept.

Mentat
People have also drawn up the "Different T dimensions" argument. This argument basically states that there are many (possibly infinite) different time dimensions; and that a person could travel back in time, but would be traveling, not to that point in time in his/her original T dimension, but in another (identical) one.

My side of this is that it is demonstrably true that every point on the T dimension, corresponds to every point on the 3 spatial dimensions that we know of. I would have to assume that this same reasoning applies to the rest of the spatial dimensions (but I can't know for sure). And, if this is true of all of the spatial dimensions, you cannot travel to a dimension that is "outside" of the one T dimension.

Zefram
Say an electron interacts with some photons and flips around in time at 5:00; to observers like you and me it looks like two different (forward-in-time-travelling) particles, an electron and positron, annihilating in a flash of photons. However, that positron was really only the electron traveling backwards through time (after the flipping around in time). At 4:59 we therefore see the electron at two different stages of its life, one in which it's going forward and one in which it's going backwards. Can there be no positron because at 4:59 it hasn't started traveling backwards through time yet? Of course not, positrons are very real.

The analogy Feynman originally used to describe that whipping around in time for particles and their antiparticles was:

It is as though a bombardier flying low over a road suddenly sees three roads and it is only when two of them come together and disappear again that he realizes that he has simply passed over a long switchback in a single road.

Since Feynman's interpretation of antimatter has been out there for over 50 years and apparently works well enough and is consistent, I would think it as least shows that traveling backwards through time isn't blatantly paradoxical.

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
You see, if it is part of my future, to go back into the past, then it must be determined to be so. But I would thus, have to have been there, at that point in time. Then, in a universe where I was already there in 1987, I was about to be born the next year - and the "Mentat" that is born in 1988 will eventually travel back to my (the Mentat in 1987) time. We might, perhaps, meet each other, or maybe not, it's not really important; but both of us know that, soon, another one of us (the one that will be born next year) will pop up (of course, this is not true, the "third" Mentat would appear at exactly the same time as the other two - and so would the infinite "other" Mentats).

You don't get an infinite number of Mentats looking from a non-Mentat perspective:...

In 1987, a fully grown Mentat appears in the universe.

In 1988, a baby Mentat was born.

In {future date}, the younger Mentat (which is the same age and has the same knowledge as the older Mentat did when he appeared) vanishes from the universe.

This "timeline" is perfectly consistent with you (instantly) traveling back in time, but yields no more than 2 Mentats at any instant.

Hurkyl

Mentat
Originally posted by Zefram
Say an electron interacts with some photons and flips around in time at 5:00; to observers like you and me it looks like two different (forward-in-time-travelling) particles, an electron and positron, annihilating in a flash of photons. However, that positron was really only the electron traveling backwards through time (after the flipping around in time). At 4:59 we therefore see the electron at two different stages of its life, one in which it's going forward and one in which it's going backwards. Can there be no positron because at 4:59 it hasn't started traveling backwards through time yet? Of course not, positrons are very real.

The analogy Feynman originally used to describe that whipping around in time for particles and their antiparticles was:

Since Feynman's interpretation of antimatter has been out there for over 50 years and apparently works well enough and is consistent, I would think it as least shows that traveling backwards through time isn't blatantly paradoxical.

First off, that means that it's still impossible for me to travel back in time; because, even if I had an anti-Mentat, he would travel back in time, not me.

I will continue this response later, I have to go now...

Zefram
First off, "he" would be you.

Second, I thought you were arguing that time travel into the past in general is paradoxical and impossible. Hence:

I explained the paradox of backward time travel, in the old PFs, and I would like to do so again.

Here is why it is impossible to travel backwards in time (and it doesn't matter how far backwards): ...

Was I incorrect in that?

Mentat
Originally posted by Zefram
Say an electron interacts with some photons and flips around in time at 5:00; to observers like you and me it looks like two different (forward-in-time-travelling) particles, an electron and positron, annihilating in a flash of photons. However, that positron was really only the electron traveling backwards through time (after the flipping around in time). At 4:59 we therefore see the electron at two different stages of its life, one in which it's going forward and one in which it's going backwards. Can there be no positron because at 4:59 it hasn't started traveling backwards through time yet? Of course not, positrons are very real.

The analogy Feynman originally used to describe that whipping around in time for particles and their antiparticles was:

Since Feynman's interpretation of antimatter has been out there for over 50 years and apparently works well enough and is consistent, I would think it as least shows that traveling backwards through time isn't blatantly paradoxical.

Alright, to complete my response...

I would like to point out that Relativity states that an object's movement through time is inversely proportional to it's motion through space. Thus, the positron would have to be going much faster than the speed of light, and this isn't possible.

Mentat
Originally posted by Hurkyl
You don't get an infinite number of Mentats looking from a non-Mentat perspective:...

In 1987, a fully grown Mentat appears in the universe.

In 1988, a baby Mentat was born.

In {future date}, the younger Mentat (which is the same age and has the same knowledge as the older Mentat did when he appeared) vanishes from the universe.

This "timeline" is perfectly consistent with you (instantly) traveling back in time, but yields no more than 2 Mentats at any instant.

Hurkyl

Let's imagine that I was born in 1988, and then later traveled back to 1987 (because that was what I was predestined to do - my time was "looped"). Now the universe has two of me - as of 1988, that is - and the one that was born on 1988 (in a universe where there are two of that same person) travels backward...

Now, I'm not sure (anymore) but it seems as though this Mentat (the one that comes from a universe of two Mentats) should meet the other Mentat (that appeared in 1987), and so now the universe has three Mentats, and so on...

Zefram
Originally posted by Mentat
Alright, to complete my response...

I would like to point out that Relativity states that an object's movement through time is inversely proportional to it's motion through space. Thus, the positron would have to be going much faster than the speed of light, and this isn't possible.

Hmmm, I know Feynman gave lecture called "The reason for antiparticles" in the '80s (they have it at Amazon and I'm considering buying it) in which he demonstrates:

"If we insist that particles can only have positive energies, then you cannot avoid propagation outside the light cone. If we look at such propagation from a different frame, the particle is traveling backwards in time: it is an antiparticle. One man’s virtual particle is another man’s virtual antiparticle.”

So, as I said above, apparently his ideas work very well. And time travel looks possible (if only at the quantum level).

Zefram
Originally posted by Mentat
Let's imagine that I was born in 1988, and then later traveled back to 1987 (because that was what I was predestined to do - my time was "looped"). Now the universe has two of me - as of 1988, that is - and the one that was born on 1988 (in a universe where there are two of that same person) travels backward...

Now, I'm not sure (anymore) but it seems as though this Mentat (the one that comes from a universe of two Mentats) should meet the other Mentat (that appeared in 1987), and so now the universe has three Mentats, and so on...

You admit that both Mentats are the same person but you're not seeing what that means: the Mentat that exists in the past beside his younger self is the time traveler that the younger one will grow into. So you won't meet a third one unless you travel back to 1987 a second time. It seems to me that the number of one way time trips n creates the possibility of only n+1 Mentats existing in one slice of time (though of course it needn't be that many; you could go back to ancient Greece and never run into another version of yourself).

Mentat
Alright, I guess I withdraw the refutation of the Pretzel time idea. I was wrong.

However, Zefram, are you saying that Feynman ignores Special Relativity? That's a pretty good indication that he's wrong.

Originally posted by Mentat
Zefram, are you saying that Feynman ignores Special Relativity? That's a pretty good indication that he's wrong.

Or that special relativity is wrong...

Mentat
Originally posted by climbhi
Or that special relativity is wrong...

You've got to be kidding.

Originally posted by Mentat
Let's imagine that I was born in 1988, and then later traveled back to 1987 (because that was what I was predestined to do - my time was "looped"). Now the universe has two of me - as of 1988, that is - and the one that was born on 1988 (in a universe where there are two of that same person) travels backward...

Now, I'm not sure (anymore) but it seems as though this Mentat (the one that comes from a universe of two Mentats) should meet the other Mentat (that appeared in 1987), and so now the universe has three Mentats, and so on...
I don't see how there would be a third Mentat and so on. It's possible for the time-travelling Mentat to meet the new-born Mentat in 1988. But that's it. Where does the third Mentat come from? The new-born Mentat will eventually grow-up and travel back in time to 1987. When he travels back in time one Mentat will exit from the loop while another one will be introduced in 1987. So it seems there are only 2 Mentats in the loop.

Originally posted by Mentat
As soon as you travel to a time that is before the exact time when you started traveling, you create paradox. If I start traveling at 5:00 A.M. (I know that using minutes, as a way of measuring exact time, is crude, but it should get the point across), and I travel back to 4:59, I have yet to start traveling. But, if I have yet to start traveling, how did I get to 4:59? The answer: I didn't, it's impossible. Unless someone can prove me wrong, it makes no sense to imply that I can start traveling, after having already arrived at my destination.
Not sure if I understand why it's a paradox. If you travel back to 4:59, wouldn't you meet the other you who is about to embark on a time-travel?

Mentat

Originally posted by les
Not sure if I understand why it's a paradox. If you travel back to 4:59, wouldn't you meet the other you who is about to embark on a time-travel?

How many of you are there, les? If, by traveling back ward in time, you can create as many of you as possible, what's the point of cloning ?

Seriously, if I go back in time, without chaning my position in space, I could not see the "other me" (even if such a thing could exist), because we would be occupying the same space.

Why do we assume that "the past" is a place that exists?

While I wish I had some math to support my hypothesis, I simply do not see any evidence that "the past" is a place that exists. And it follows, of course, that travel to a place that does not exists is impossible.

I firmly believe that time is an effect of expansion. Time is what appears to happen after one universe is replaced by the next. A single frame of a movie film has no "time". Time is only perceived when you look at successive frames of the film, one right after the other. It is not time that exists. It is the ability for our universe to allow for motion and/or action that is real. Time is an artifact of this process.

Gold Member
Originally posted by Mentat
Alright, I guess I withdraw the refutation of the Pretzel time idea. I was wrong.

However, Zefram, are you saying that Feynman ignores Special Relativity? That's a pretty good indication that he's wrong.

Feynman was a strong proponent of relativity, having been involved in the creation of relativistic quantum mechanics. I think this is what he got the Nobel for.

Anyway, he certainly demonstrated that our notion of time travel needs re-thinking. As I see it, time travel - at the quantum level - is not just possible, it is reality.

Loren Booda
Why restrict the arrow of causality to past-->future? As stated earlier, quantum processes are time symmetric, that is, they can proceed both ways. Some macroscopic entropic phenomena have localized anentropy (Prigogine), suggesting there an effect analogous to time reversal. Hawking claims that a "big crunch" following the big bang would maintain time direction, but if the universe is indeed isolated, given enough time quantum interactions will influence a repetition of its overall temporal history or overtake macroscopic physics as a whole.

The topology of spacetime, however, by its very nature may forbid the paradoxical interchange of past and future. Perhaps the present is a singularity that disallows relativity (except for "fuzzy" quantized spacetime) continuity of travel back in time along the time line.

It seems to me like time can go backwards, it just doesn't because time is more likely to go forwards than backwards.

Flow from order to disorder is identical to flow of time. Can time go backwards? Yes, it just doesn't happen because every proton, electron, and neutron in the universe would have to move back in time at the same exact moment. So the chances of that is about 1 : 10^90.

As for traveling back in time with some contraption, I just don't see that happening.

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wuliheron
How do we know this very moment is not just another repetition, another temporal loop? Is it live, or is it memorex? Are we living out the lives we were destined to or are we destined to live free? In the final analysis, which each of us makes for ourselves, does it really matter? I don't think so. What matters is we take it in as it comes and make the most of the situation. For that, all you need is acceptance.

CJames
Reverse time travel indeed seems like a paradox to me. Situations such as the grandfather paradox seem to completely rule out any case in which the past is changed. However, even cases that don't change the past seem to completely and utterly violate the conservation of energy, considering that one second nothing is there, and suddenly you are there in the past.

Zefram
Reverse time travel indeed seems like a paradox to me. Situations such as the grandfather paradox seem to completely rule out any case in which the past is changed.

Well, suppose the past is indeed written out like a history book and nothing can be changed; that would mean that time travelers are already a part of that history and so fulfill it rather than changing it (kind of like in 12 Monkeys if you've seen it). That would seem to suggest a kind of predestination, however. Perhaps that notion could even be extended to the future: you can't change that either, you can only, uh, fulfill, I suppose, it.

If real sci-fi type time travel really is possible, then past and future wouldn't mean much more than right and left. Your past might be in the future, your future might lie in the past. Strange thoughts.

However, even cases that don't change the past seem to completely and utterly violate the conservation of energy, considering that one second nothing is there, and suddenly you are there in the past.

I'm not sure on this one; for you to "pop" into existence in some other time (and so add some small amount of energy to the universe), you (and that bit of energy) would need to "pop" out of it at some point in time. So you wouldn't really be adding energy to the universe from nowhere, more like displacing some.

Or not. Deep questions.

Mentat
Originally posted by DrChinese
Feynman was a strong proponent of relativity, having been involved in the creation of relativistic quantum mechanics. I think this is what he got the Nobel for.

Anyway, he certainly demonstrated that our notion of time travel needs re-thinking. As I see it, time travel - at the quantum level - is not just possible, it is reality.

Perhaps you could give the reason why you think this is possible?

Also, if Feynman was such a strong supporter of Relativity, why did he suggest something that contradicted one of GR's principles?

Mentat
Originally posted by CJames
Reverse time travel indeed seems like a paradox to me. Situations such as the grandfather paradox seem to completely rule out any case in which the past is changed. However, even cases that don't change the past seem to completely and utterly violate the conservation of energy, considering that one second nothing is there, and suddenly you are there in the past.

I agree about it's being a defiance of the conservation of energy (since going backward in time would decrease entropy). Good point.

Mentat
Originally posted by Alias
Why do we assume that "the past" is a place that exists?

While I wish I had some math to support my hypothesis, I simply do not see any evidence that "the past" is a place that exists. And it follows, of course, that travel to a place that does not exists is impossible.

I firmly believe that time is an effect of expansion. Time is what appears to happen after one universe is replaced by the next. A single frame of a movie film has no "time". Time is only perceived when you look at successive frames of the film, one right after the other. It is not time that exists. It is the ability for our universe to allow for motion and/or action that is real. Time is an artifact of this process.

Very good point, alias. The past is not a place that exists (and is thus not a place), because something that "does exist" exists in the present (as "does exist" is a term in the present tense).

Oh but it is my friend

Mentat first off i would like to say that i respect you for your thoughts, but i would have to completely disagree. i think that the theory of multiple universes will help me out very much here. Everytime you make a new decision or do something different, a new universe is created for every alternate choice you could have made. I don't kno if this is the true theory, but if it isn't than i have made some modifications. I think that once you have figured out how to stay in the same universe to travel along "your" stretch of time (or the universe in which you believe you exist in right now reading this) then you can easily travel backwards and fowards. I'm not sure this is possible, for i have created a theory for when people ask me the question "But why aren't there time traveling tourists?" Well, perhaps in an alternate universe (one in which time travel is possible) there are. So what they should really be asking is why are there not universe traveling tourists and my answer to that is simply i do not know. I don't quite believe the whole "pretzel time theory" but i believe that time is a straight line that can be manipulated. if time is relative than it can indeed be manipulated and molded. If it is a matter of how to do so, then i believe that going into the future would create a sort of pretzel. Its like if u pull on a fishing line hard enough it come back with twists in it. I believe that if you travel into the future enough times than u will actually create this "pretzel" effect. Once this happens i believe that u will have only a certain amount of time before the time "line" straightens back out and can no longer be traveled on. Once you have the pretzel effect, u should be able to "jump" from one coil of the line to the other side of the coil. This would indeed put stress on the coil and the more peole that are jumping from one particular coil, then the speed at which it straightens will be quickened dramatically. I think I've written a lot, so read this and ask any question u feel like. Late
P.J.
Oh and check out my thread that i started on time traveling.

quantumcarl
Originally posted by Mentat
The past is not a place that exists (and is thus not a place), because something that "does exist" exists in the present (as "does exist" is a term in the present tense).

By your reasoning, mentat, if the past exists... it exists in the present and we are "traveling" through it as we type. Therefore, "time travel" is happening now.

Lets remember the old axioms:

"Tommorrow never comes."

"Yesterday's tommorrow is tommorrow's yesterday" (or today).

"Today is tommorrow's yesterday" and so on and so forth.

Therefore, logically, we are at the crossroads of change and we exist in the past, present and future simultaniously or in a quantum manner, now.

We could define this as traveling in the past, present and future... but it is more like being in the unique position of being able to change all three, now.

If there is a mathmatical way to say this please feel free to quote me in that language.

Mentat

Originally posted by ElectrikRipple
Mentat first off i would like to say that i respect you for your thoughts, but i would have to completely disagree. i think that the theory of multiple universes will help me out very much here. Everytime you make a new decision or do something different, a new universe is created for every alternate choice you could have made. I don't kno if this is the true theory, but if it isn't than i have made some modifications. I think that once you have figured out how to stay in the same universe to travel along "your" stretch of time (or the universe in which you believe you exist in right now reading this) then you can easily travel backwards and fowards. I'm not sure this is possible, for i have created a theory for when people ask me the question "But why aren't there time traveling tourists?" Well, perhaps in an alternate universe (one in which time travel is possible) there are. So what they should really be asking is why are there not universe traveling tourists and my answer to that is simply i do not know. I don't quite believe the whole "pretzel time theory" but i believe that time is a straight line that can be manipulated. if time is relative than it can indeed be manipulated and molded. If it is a matter of how to do so, then i believe that going into the future would create a sort of pretzel. Its like if u pull on a fishing line hard enough it come back with twists in it. I believe that if you travel into the future enough times than u will actually create this "pretzel" effect. Once this happens i believe that u will have only a certain amount of time before the time "line" straightens back out and can no longer be traveled on. Once you have the pretzel effect, u should be able to "jump" from one coil of the line to the other side of the coil. This would indeed put stress on the coil and the more peole that are jumping from one particular coil, then the speed at which it straightens will be quickened dramatically. I think I've written a lot, so read this and ask any question u feel like. Late
P.J.
Oh and check out my thread that i started on time traveling.

I thank you for your participation, ElectrikRipple.

Actually, there is one problem with your idea. You see, while there are many alternate universes (according to Multiverse theories), I think that there is only one time dimension for all of them. I believe this because the "splitting apart" - that occurs whenever you make a decision (as you pointed out) - happens at a certain point in time, and it continues forward in time, even though they are entirely different space.

Mentat
Originally posted by quantumcarl
By your reasoning, mentat, if the past exists... it exists in the present and we are "traveling" through it as we type. Therefore, "time travel" is happening now.

Lets remember the old axioms:

"Tommorrow never comes."

"Yesterday's tommorrow is tommorrow's yesterday" (or today).

"Today is tommorrow's yesterday" and so on and so forth.

Therefore, logically, we are at the crossroads of change and we exist in the past, present and future simultaniously or in a quantum manner, now.

We could define this as traveling in the past, present and future... but it is more like being in the unique position of being able to change all three, now.

If there is a mathmatical way to say this please feel free to quote me in that language.

quantumcarl, no offense (seriously, don't take this the wrong way), but are you trying to confuse the issue with weird posts, or was there a genuine point that you were trying to make and that I failed horribly at noticing?

Re-read my post, I said that the past can't exist (IOW, "exist now") because "now" is the present.

Is there evidence that the past continues to exist somewhere, such that we might go there? I don't think so.

Paradox is not why travel to the past is impossible. It is not that traveling to the past would create insoluble equations. The answer to "why not" is that the past does not exist.

Of course, for the purist, this sucks because you can't use the same argument about the future. While the future does not exist either, it is possible to 'nearly freeze' yourself (by traveling at relativistic speeds)in your present state so that you might travel to a distant future. Unfortunately, there's no going back.

There may be something important to learn from this unreflexive argument. Somehow being good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander.

Royce
Why can't we go back

exactly. Logically time travel implys a deterministic universe. Our language and minds cannot coupe with time travel so logically it is impossible but physically if we were made of antimatter or could convert ourseves to antimatter without encountering normal matter we would of course be traveling back in time. Then when we got to where we want to be we would simply convert ourselves back into "normal" matter; but, if we encountered ourselves traveling in normal time we would of cours annialate both of ourselves . Personally I would rather crawl through a worm hole and pull it in after me.

Remember, wherever you go in life, there you are. Candis Bergen

Mentat

Originally posted by Royce
exactly. Logically time travel implys a deterministic universe. Our language and minds cannot coupe with time travel so logically it is impossible but physically if we were made of antimatter or could convert ourseves to antimatter without encountering normal matter we would of course be traveling back in time. Then when we got to where we want to be we would simply convert ourselves back into "normal" matter; but, if we encountered ourselves traveling in normal time we would of cours annialate both of ourselves . Personally I would rather crawl through a worm hole and pull it in after me.

Remember, wherever you go in life, there you are. Candis Bergen

Hold on a second, Royce. You are saying that anti-matter paticles travel faster than the speed of light through space?

Mentat
"Arriving before leaving", a logical impossibility.

Perhaps this thread belongs in the Philosophy Forum, but it is an off-shoot of another thread (in this Forum) of mine, and so I just posted it here.

People have pointed out the idea that there are anti-particles that move backward in time. I don't think these people realize the consequences of such travel - viewing it as just like traveling backward through a spatial dimension. This is not so because traveling backwards through time = arriving before leaving. IOW, I would have to get to point B (my supposed destination), without ever having left point A (my supposed starting point) - without, in fact, every having been on point A (my supposed starting point). This makes no logical sense - unless someone would care to prove otherwise - and thus the idea of particles that travel backwards in time cannot be true.

I now ask that everyone post their comments (whether for or against my reasoning). Any contructive comment is appreciated.

As this isn't really a new subject and just a continuation of another thread, I'm merging this with the original thread.

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