Read enough science fiction and sooner or later the subject of time travel will come up. I think we all agree that time travel is not only possible, it’s inevitable. We are always traveling forward in time at a more or less fixed rate.

TSCI say more or less because our rate of time travel is based on our perception not our time keeping instruments. Think about it, the journey from 11:00 to 12:00 is assumed to be a fixed rate for your watch. All the timekeepers in the world treat this as a constant. I was in the TSC (Thought Simulation Chamber) when I started thinking about time travel.

Is this really a fixed rate? If I’m hungry and have to wait until 12:00 before I eat, time moves much slower for me than it does when I’m reading a good book. I can’t hear you so I ‘ll say it for you, “Bah, that’s only our perception of time you’re talking about. The actual rate of time doesn’t change.”

If you think of time as a fourth dimension, the distance between 11:00 and 12:00 as measured in units of time never changes but how do we measure our speed through time? My perception is the only tool I have to determine how quickly or how slowly I’m covering the distance between 11:00 and 12:00.

The best description I’ve seen of this compares the flow of time to a stream. The stream flows at a constant rate and being part of the stream, we travel at the same rate. Mark a place on the bank and call it Monday morning, 5 AM, Dec 16, 2013. Make another mark and call it Tuesday morning, 5 AM, Dec 17, 2013. We all agree that the distance between those two marks is 24 hours. Our watches are calibrated to tell us when we hit that mark.

Did I have to sit in endless boring meetings for that 24 hours? Did I spend my time trying to create a difficult picture in Poser? Fortunately for me my company does not force me into 24 hour meetings, nor do I spend 24 hours composing pictures in poser.

Maybe our ability of change our rate of travel in time is limited and we use sleep to synchronize ourselves with the flow of time. Somehow that makes a lot of sense. If we go too long without sleep, we find ourselves unable to regulate our perceived rate of time travel.

What does this mean to us? Without extraordinary means, once we pass the marker, Tuesday morning, 5 AM, Dec 16, 2013, we can’t go back (I love science fiction too much to rule out extraordinary means). We can accelerate our progress in the time stream but since Tuesday morning is a mark on the bank, the only difference is the number of perceptions we experience getting there. Meaning, we can and do affect how rate at which we experience time flow.

Physics teaches us that as we approach the speed of light, our rate of progress through the time stream slows. Several experiments have shown that this seems to be correct. I accepted this all through college but while in the TSC, I started thinking. Speed is relative between two objects. There may be an absolute speed but I don’t know how we would prove it.

Think about this. Earth is rotating, while traveling on it orbit around the sun, which in turn is hurtling through the galaxy, the galaxy is moving through the universe and I’ll leave it up to the universe to decide where it’s going. All of these velocities mean that your speed varies greatly depending on the point of reference you pick.

Pick an object outside the universe and your speed with respect to that object may very well approach the speed of light. Does that affect your rate of time, its rate of time or do you split the difference? All you can surmise from this is that the rate of time between you is different based on your relative velocity.

This tells me the rate of travel through time is not a constant. Each of us experiences our time stream on our own terms. Once you start thinking of Tuesday morning, 5 AM, Dec 16, 2013 as a destination in time and the time between you and that destination as a distance, you start to question the flow of time as a constant.

Does that really matter? Even if I’m right, we’ll both arrive at Tuesday morning, 5 AM, Dec 16, 2013 at the same time. That’s like saying we’ll both arrive at the fence post in my pasture at the same location. If time rate is not a constant, does that explain people with faster reflexes or people that seem to think faster than average. Does it explain the time dilation effect in a crisis?

After reading this, my wife has put her own stamp on my personal time stream. My time in the TSC is now limited to five minutes a day.

Time Travel

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