Saturday, 24 September 2016

Time Ravel

Do you know how to time travel?

If you do, go back in time the few seconds spent in reading this and do something constructive in the mean time.

If you don't, read on.

Sixteen-and-half years into the new millennium, we are accustomed to the pleasures and pains of this century. You may be a millennial-generational freak to boot hell-bent on rocking the entire planet to your psychedelic tunes, or you may be one of those geriatric oldies lamenting the early demise of the gone-by era - the vagaries of this century are unfamiliar to none. So not many of us would be at a loss to appreciate the multiple paradigm shifts the world has gone through in the last few centuries. To a nineteenth century kid thrown into 2016, what he sees around him is nothing short of sheer fantasy and inconceivable absurdities to his overwhelmed 1800's mind and body. Likewise, I fear I shall be a complete misfit in any social gathering of 2116, were I thrown in there today. So, while in the company of Today, my good friend, I casually put my dreaming spectacles on, and get ready for a double-blind-date with two charming maidens, namely Yesterday and Tomorrow...

Fiction has been at it for a long time now.
It is a passionate wish to know the unknown and see the unseen which has driven our civilization to where it is today. We are all idolators of Science and Logic; Technology and Engineering fascinate us. But what was it in the first place which initiated the logical human brain to drive our limits further and not rest till the unconquered has not been conquered? It is not science, nor logic, but an illogical and emotional urge. This urge is compelling us to keep straining at anything which by nature binds us. Tell a child "Fire is dangerous!" and he'll have an immediate desire play with it, a desire would probably not have been so strong in the first place had the Fire Rule not been stated. We never grow out of our childhoods, so the men of Science have been at this since eternity, trying to break the rules that Nature has apparently put down for us. Lo and behold, we keep on succeeding! Prior warning; this is not a scientific journal article, and hence should be read in right spirit.

We perceive reality (as of now) through four dimensions, of which the first three constitute the realms of Space. Now these three have been conquered, conquested upon, pummeled like punching bags, and made to adjust themselves in every way thinkable for human convenience. It is no longer a big deal to conquer space by traversing through it. NASA's Voyager 1 has left the solar system and has started interstellar travel, and that should be seem like long enough a journey for most humans, some of whom find even the distance between the bed and the water bottle on the dining table so immense that they have to make do with feeling thirsty... Inertia, you see. But jests apart, the bigger picture says that Coordinate Axes X-Y-Z, you don't stand a chance in front of us. Which, in turn, brings me back to my speculative double-blind-date for the day!
Voyager 1

"Yesterday is History; Tomorrow is a Mystery; Today is a gift, and that is why we call it Present!" An old adage, encountered by me for the first time as a twelve-year-old. That seventh-grader back then was an innocent naïve kid all wide-eyed and gullible, just starting to explore the world. The proverb did not make a lot of sense back then. "Today" seemed nice enough a friend, but how exciting it would be to relive Yesterday and have a short glimpse of Tomorrow! Also I was slowly getting interested in time-travel paradoxes and other stuff back then, so the past and the future were super-exciting prospects. Well, not that I would have particularly wanted to kill any relatives, or get involved with strange-acting bartenders (check the links for explanations, in case you you have not got them already!), but speculative prospects of time travel were nevertheless exciting!

There comes the problem. The fourth dimension called Time is as rigid and inflexible as they get. Strain and fight as you may, but you do not have an iota of control over the tick-tick-tick of your wall clock. I am tempted to say that in all likelihood we never shall, but what justification can I provide for that? It probably is ingrained into our mindset. We have been brought up with the counsel time is valuable beyond all, and time lost once is lost forever. These statements while being made to a child unwilling to study are not spoken as assertions of scientific facts, but in order to imbibe the general virtues of punctuality, obedience and whatnot within the kid. This has resulted in us all growing up with a feeling of reverence towards time. "Time" is absolute, unalterable and immutable; something akin to what a dog feels while pushing at a wall it cannot move.

But has the dog ever heard of a thing called a bulldozer? It probably hasn't. Perceptions change over time. Just a century and half ago, a journey from India to England meant a journey of months, and you were not too sure if you would embark alive from the boat or packed in a wooden casket. Could it be imagined back then that one day we will be able to perform that same round trip in 24 hours and be back to have dinner with the family? Such suggestions would probably have been scoffed at. But then the Wright brothers appeared, with a crazy scheme and an even crazier contraption purported to give man wings. The rest is aviation history. My regards to their engineering prowess, but spare a thought for the change it brought to human perspective and vision as well...

The Wright Brothers' airplane
Why do I wish to unravel the mysteries of time? Primarily, to learn from the past and to build for a better future. I would wish to see how my city looked like fifty years younger, to know when (if at all) cancer finds itself a cure, and to waltz in the ballrooms of The Titanic as it left the ports of Southampton! Does that mean I am not satisfied with the present I have built for myself? Oh I sure am. If my life is a snowstorm then every single day is a snowflake, beautiful and pristine. When layers and multitudes of exquisite snowflakes descend together, the beauty of the snowstorm is captured. As a flake is slowly floating earthbound, there is no point in looking down at the ground for erstwhile crystals now lying in the mud, or gazing up at the clouds hoping to discover more snow yet to come. Focus instead on what is in front of you and what you see is a sparkling-white landscape in all its glory.

Excuse me for now; I have a date to attend!

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning." - Albert Einstein.

P.S.: Thank you Wait But Why for the idea behind this post. I recommend all readers to go through it and become disciples of awesome Tim Urban.