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How to time travel [5 film/literature examples]

March 10, 2011

Time travel?

 I don’t know if you knew or not, but we can’t do it. Not yet at least. Or can we? I mean, we could in Star Trek, and Back to the Future, and they felt pretty real, didn’t they? Well, before we go into detail on Kirk and McFly, let’s check out the current theories on the possibility of time travel made by clever people with government money who never leave their houses.


        1 – Wormholes

Two ways to do this. One, find a wormhole, go through it. This is harder than you think as wormholes don’t seem to want to come anywhere near us. Seriously, there aren’t any for miles, hundreds of miles even. Luckily there is another way. Two, we get in a spaceship, travel at the speed of light to wherever it is we wanna go, then set up some kind of link *insert hard science* so we can go through the wormhole Earthside and come out somewhere cool in the galaxy, and because of relativity even go back in time. Or forward. I forget which one. So in essence it’s like the telephone, only you come out of the other end and give the other person a hug.

         2 – Cosmic strings

Did you know there are cosmic strings lining the fabric of the universe? Did you know the universe had any fabric? Well it does, and someone smarter than me and you has said that these strings can be bent by a spaceship putting pressure on them [maybe by travelling at light speed, or being a really fat ship, I’m not sure], which will result in the fabric of the universe being pushed around a bit, and…err…then we can travel in time. The theory is a little more dense than this, but I think that’s the basics of it. So, where are these cosmic strings? How come we can’t buy them in the shop? Well, they’re pretty small, even smaller than regular string, so no sell, no buy. We’ve just gotta trust the clever guy who says they’re out there.


        3 – Time Machine

Get a car, a flux capacitor, a cheap casio alarm clock, plutonium from Libyans, and someone who looks mad and old then customise yourself a time machine. Easy.

        4 – Black Hole

This one is probably the loopiest of the lot. You go out into deep space, you find yourself a black hole…you’ll know it when you see it because it’s black like space…you fly into it, or get dragged into it, and get crushed to death by an unimaginable gravitational pull, and then…travel in time?

        5 – The Kerr black hole

This is the second loopiest. You find the black hole again, you fly in, and then, according to this guy called Kerr, you’ll find a nice little bit of space right next to the singularity of the hole [the centre] where you can fly around a while and…actually, we’re not sure what happens next…you get spat out into a different galaxy/dimension/time period?

So, there we are, a whole load of theories on how we can do it. But what about the results of time travel, if we do finally manage it? Well, i can think of two off hand. There’s the Grandfather paradox, where you go back and shoot your granddad and then, oh shit, how can you be born? And then we have the Volnikov theory of time travel, where you can’t shoot your granddad, it’s impossible, because you never did shoot your granddad to begin with. And if you had shot him then you wouldn’t be alive to consider it, which means the fact you’re alive and considering it also means you can’t ever do it.  And a third, the alternate realities/many worlds theory, where time just keeps growing all these different branches for every change you make. Got it? You probably do even if you think you don’t. And the way to show you do got it is to bring in the examples on film/literature. Here we go:


        1 – Back to the Future 2

An alternate dimension/history supporter, it supposes that Biff Tannern got the racing horse mag and became rich and owned 1985, with a dead George Mc Fly and an alternate Marty. So how is original Marty there? I suppose the film is saying that because he wasn’t on the original branch [his 1985 from the first film] when it was changed, he can go there and mess around while his other self is also somewhere there. Two Martys in the same year. But then…doesn’t this dispute the grandfather paradox? If Marty went back and shot his grandfather then because he wasn’t on the branch that was changed, he would still exist. This seem correct, but…Marty is not actually dead in the alternate 1985 so perhaps it is possible that his soul can be split in two and exist in two separate places/times, or that a slightly different Marty in Biff’s 1985 is still in essence the same as the other Marty. Does this make sense? Any of it? But wait…in Biff’s 1985, why would rich Marty be hanging around with Doc Brown? And if he wasn’t then how could he go back in time? It seems that this film has no time for the Volkinov theory and that anything goes when you’re in 1955…or maybe this explains it better?

        2 – All you Zombies by Robert A Heinlein

Try and keep up with this. A man is left as a baby outside an orphanage, grows up, gets pregnant and discovers he is both a man and a woman biologically, gets rid of the man parts, has the baby, meets a bartender who is his/her future self, is convinced to go back and stop himself-herself from getting pregnant, fails and instead gets himself/herself pregnant, is then recruited into some kind of time-travelling agency, gets older, goes back and kidnaps the baby and takes it back further in time and leaves it outside the orphanage. Yup, that’s right. The main character is his own mother, his own father, and his own tennis partner [probably]. Confused? I am, and I’m typing it. Basically, it’s the ultimate closed time loop, where the main guy is the chicken and the egg…and I’m pretty sure it follows the Volnikov theory that if it’s happened already then you can’t change it…but then…is there an argument against this? Maybe, maybe not…but it seems that the future self, the self who is the bartender, he knows what’s going on, so therefore could put a stop to it surely. If only he wasn’t insane. Look, this is him talking to himself: ‘I know who I am, but who are all you zombies?’

         3 – Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut

I’ll keep this one short. Billy Pilgrim is unstuck in time. He seems to go to different parts of his life randomly, including the time he was kidnapped by aliens and held in a human zoo. Yup, he’s probably insane, because of the whole world war he was caught up in, but still, there’s a theory here: Time is fluid, like a movie, that you can jump into at any point and relive…but cannot change. Basically, this is what some people believe happens when you die. All those memories, and a complete unsticking of yourself in the space-time thingy.


           4 – Twelve Monkeys

Another follower of the Volnikov principle, Bruce Willis goes back in time, many times, but just cannot seem to do anything right. What he’s trying to do is stop a deadly virus that wiped out half of Hollywood sometime in the past, but he doesn’t know the source of the virus. And in the end, he runs through an airport like a nut and gets shot. And who’s watching? Himself, as a child. That’s a neat loop. But then the crazy man who released the virus sits on an airplane next to one of the people from the future, and you think, well, they can stop it now, can’t they? And this is what I don’t get about the Volkinov principle. As soon as you have the ability to travel in time then you must be able to make changes. Is that right? But then, I suppose Volki is saying, no, no, no, you will have already made the change as the future is as you see it. But then we can say, no, Volks, that’s wrong, because you hold the time machine in your hand and you go back and you shoot someone that hadn’t previously been shot, and then what? Huh? You forget it ever happened? The universe erases your memory of how things were before? Bruce Willis comes to your house with fake hair and tells you to stop fooling around with things neither you nor he understands?


            5 – Star Trek: The City on the edge of forever

We hate Volkinov. And so does Star Trek it seems. In this episode, we have the many worlds theory again, or the alternate history theory, or…the one where one big change in the past changes their entire history. The plot: Dr McCoy goes nuts, jumps through a time portal on a deserted planet, which is controlled by the guardian of time [who doesn’t seem to care much who jumps through him] and goes back to the 1930s. Kirk and Spock follow, Kirk falls in love with Joan Collins [in 18 minutes!] who needs to die in order to restore history to the way it was before. Luckily, Kirk is enough of a bastard to stand back and watch her die. Tough love. So, problems? Yes. First, when the enterprise disappears because of the change in the timeline, Kirk and the others on the planet stay. The only reason I can think of is the protection of the time guardian, or some kind of pseudo-science where their closeness to the portal makes them immune to being erased. Convincing? It’s Star Trek, we’ll let it go. But the second problem…would Joan Collins have died if Kirk hadn’t been there? After all, she only runs across the road and in front of the truck to see him…doesn’t that mean…actually, I’m tired, I give up.

So, forgetting all of the above because they’re insane, if you really wanna travel in time, you either have to find a witch and get her to do it for you, or be like a young Frankenstein and never die. Just like these two.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. JukeBot permalink
    March 10, 2011 7:01 pm

    Hey, I’ve read the Back to the future part seven times now and I still don’t understand it. Marty didn’t shoot his granddad did he?

  2. March 10, 2011 11:00 pm

    Yeah, sorry about that. I read it too, and it’s confusing…but then so is the film, ha!

  3. March 11, 2011 10:42 pm

    And now Stephen King’s getting involved in the time travel fiasco…

  4. Carrie permalink
    March 15, 2011 8:16 pm

    If you are interested in Einstein’s opinions, you definitely should check out this interview I recently viewed. It is with Ron Mallett, PhD, a physics Professor from the University of Connecticut. In this interview, he explains his views on time travel, as taken from Einstein’s theories. It really is interesting to hear his life experiences and some of his ideas. Believable? You tell me.

    • March 15, 2011 11:14 pm

      Thanks, Carrie [Fisher??]

      We don’t actually know much about time travel theory as you can probably tell, so we’ll check out Prof Mallett.

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