Time Travel

My humorous speech this year.  Good enough to win the club contest, but not placed at area contest.  (At least I won the area Table Topics contest as consolation)


I am a time-traveller.  To prove it I will go forward in time and see who will have won the upcoming election.  The process will take about 2 days.

One thing I cannot do is come back afterwards to this present and tell you the result.  You will have to travel through time along with me and learn it at the same time as everyone else.  In other words, you will have to wait.

Contest chair, Fellow toastmasters and especially the esteemed judges.

Time travel, also known as chronomotion, is real. We all travel in time and all only in one direction.  Sometimes we may seem to be travelling faster than others and sometimes we have a temporal head wind and the transport from one time to another seems very slow. We go through time faster as we get older.

We are sometimes happy about the passage through time. We say “time heals all wounds” or ”in the goodness of time”. Mostly we seem to resent it.  We talk about “saving time”, “the race against time” or even “the ravages of time”.  Some of us dream of being able to “turn back the clock”.

To really turn back the clock would require a time machine like that envisaged by HG Wells,   or the Tardis of Doctor Who, or Harry Potter’s time-turner. If you do go back in time you have to be careful of changing your own history. In “Back to the future”, Marty McFly almost prevents his parents’ marriage which would have had existential implications for him.

One possible complication of time travel is a man could travel back in time and father a child who grows up to be him.  In that case he is his own father and grandfather and great-grandfather,… and so on.  Robert Heinlein wrote a story where the hero was father AND mother to himself.  Work that one out!

Fictional time travel tends to get complicated but in fiction, the paradoxes all seem to be resolved by the time traveller not changing the past, but actually enabling the present.  They act as they need to act to make the past line up with their experience.  Harry Potter went back in the past and summoned the patronus that he had seen before at the same time.  Nothing actually changed.  This is because fiction has to make sense.  We all know that reality is not so constrained.

So! what if we really could control time?  We could read next week’s newspaper to see the election result. Or would we look at the stock prices, or lotto numbers to make wise investments.  We could travel back in time to significant moments in history to meet the heroes or villains.  Or we could rescue extinct animals from the past.  Imagine having Moa in the Zealandia sanctuary.

Many of us would like to go back to fix some mistakes we have made.  Think of all the embarrassing moments that could just disappear.

At least it would be nice to be able to skip the boring bits.  Imagine going to an airport 2 hours before your flight, checking in and then immediately getting onto the plane as it is about to take off.  No wandering aimlessly among the shops, staring out the window at other people’s planes taking off, or drinking endless cups of coffee.  It would of course, not be welcomed by the duty free shop owners, which rely on a captive audience to attract our money.

But! Is it possible to change the flow of time?  Physics says the answer is a definite maybe.   There is nothing in the laws of physics that says time has to travel only in one direction.  It is possible that somewhere in the universe time runs backwards and all we have to do is travel there.

Wormholes are tunnels that connect two parts of the universe together, Like the Mt Victoria tunnel, the two ends might be in different places, but they could also be in different times.  We could travel through the tunnel and instead of finding an airport, we could see a swamp with Moa running around. Wormholes seem to be possible, but they would require enormous energy which could only be provided by harnessing the gravity of black holes. Unfortunately there are no black holes in New Zealand, apart from perhaps the airports’ duty free shops.

The possibility of time travel does interesting things to the language.  How do we talk about an event that occurred in a past time, but later in our personal time line? Did it happen, or will it happen, or will it have happened, or has it will have happened?

After coming back from a trip to the future do you tell people about the things you have seen will happen?

Can we we say we saw something next week, or promise we will do it yesterday?

If you meet yourself in another time what form of address do you use?  Is it appropriate to address yourself as “you”?  Or is it “Hey me”?

I can’t rule out the possibility of time travel, but I can confidently say that humans will never master the ability to travel backwards in time.  I know that humans will never control time because I know that humans cannot be relied on to control ourselves.  If we ever will have developed the ability to travel backwards in time then someone has will have misused it and travelled backwards and sold the technology to the future past.  That means that if time-machines ever exist then they will always have existed. You couldn’t hush that sort of thing up!

So now my time is up and I should teleport back to my seat one step at a time.  We have all travelled 7 minutes during the course of my speech. Isn’t the future a wonderful place? I hope that I have used my time wisely and that you will not think that I have wasted yours.

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