Don’t Kill Hitler! & 4 Other Helpful Tips To Avoid Time Travel Paradoxes

Posted by Tensor on August 4th, 2011

Time travel has been a staple of science fiction since its inception.  As early as 1895 HG Wells, arguably the father of modern SciFi, wrote about time travel and its implications in “The Time Machine” .   Now a days we get at least one time travel movie every year, mostly centered around paradoxes.  Paradox is the term physicists use for the illogical effects of a careless time travelers. The most famous is one in which a time traveler kills his ancestor in the past. If this happens there is no logical way for the time traveler to be alive to kill the ancestor.  This is called the Grandfather Paradox.

In modern times, experimenters have observed time reversal in  particles and theorized how to use moving wormholes to build time loops.  Physicists have recently even shown how a time machine can be constructed.  Of course, if such a device is possible, even in the far future, care should be taken to prevent possible universe destroying paradoxes.  The following is a simple guide on how to keep yourself,  and the universe, safe, should you decide to take that vacation to the Precambrian Era.

First of all, the basics.  We don’t really know what kind of time traveling the universe allows.  There has been many scientific papers on the mechanics of possible universes.   Both Science and Fiction have narrowed down the possibilities for us:

Type I: The Back to The Future Universe, in which there is a single timeline that can be altered and produces paradox opportunities galore.

Type II: The Time Cop universe, in which every trip produces a myriad of splinter universes with different colored Statues of Liberty, etc.  JanClaude Van Damme lives in all of them.

Type III: The Doctor Who Universe in which time travel is possible but the universe itself prevents and corrects inconsistencies.  This is the currently  accepted scientific standard but things change often in this field .

Regardless of which universe we inhabit we have a few simple rules that will keep you from fading away and keep  the time space continuum running like a Canton Hegemony built  chronometer:

Get your tips AFTER THE JUMP…

1) Lock your Time Machine up.   We can’t stress this enough.  Regardless of what kind of conveyance you use to mess with the basic fabric of reality,  do not allow others access to it,  be it Morlock  or Eloi.  Keeping track of your own comings and goings  is hard enough without allowing  locals to mess with the timeline as well.  Again and again your device will be stolen, misplaced  and used to go back and give your enemies advantages.  So lock up,  password protect, or at least take the front wheel off your temporal traversing device when you are not using it.  Never leave your time traveling car parked with the keys on the ignition. It will lead to no good at all.

2) Keep a Diary.  Time traveling can be confusing.  If you inhabit Universes I and III you will need to keep track of your visits and the people you meet.  This will be helpful to prevent you from messing with your own nested timeline.  It is extremely bad manners  to not say hello to people you have not met yet. Keeping a good annotated diary, be it digital or analog, will insure you know when you are about to  destroy a whole civilization by taking the wrong train or selecting the wrong floor on an elevator. Besides, you might want to know if  Jim the Fish has happened yet.

3)  The Past is Done!  Do not change the past.  Let me say that again:  Do NOT change the past.  No matter what universe we live in, it is a bad idea to change anything on purpose.  Every small change can have huge  and unexpected repercussions.  Specially , do not kill Hitler,  it obviously won’t work and you will look like a fool trying.  To be safe,  stay within all of the misreported and undocumented portions of  history.  This will insure  that the future you go back to will always be agreeable.   It is no fun to go back home only to find your planet populated with damn dirty apes.

4) Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute!  The easiest way of creating time Paradoxes is to leave your futuristic junk  laying around and having some local yokel pick it up.  He will inevitably conquer the planet with your nuclear powered toe clippers or sonic nose hair trimmers.  Tiny inconsequential objects have a way of becoming artifacts of power and destruction.  It does not take a T2000 to figure that if you leave a few future microchips in the past you will, invariably, end up with Skynet. The farther back you go the worse the effects.  So if you want to go home and be invited over to dinner at the Morloks’, by all means. leave your future crap laying around in the past.

5) Do NOT Seek Or Condone Romantic Relations With Vaguely Familiar, Alluring Members Of The Opposite Sex. Perhaps the most important rule of all is so obvious that it is often overlooked with continuum devastating results. They invariably turn out to be your ancestor. No matter how hot grandma was  back in the thirties,  or  how dashing you look in your period clothes, keep it strictly platonic!  Otherwise, this practice is ikky and in terrible bad taste and in universes type I and II could lead to the destruction of the timeline. However, in case you are in Universe Type III , or what I like to call the “everything  goes” universe:  Go wild ! For all you know, you are indeed your own grandpa.

In many ways, Time Travel is like a greek tragedy:  no matter how hard you try to avoid it you are bound to end up like Eadipus. Some will say that the only safe time travel is to observe without interacting and will spout terms like “Temporal Time Directive” and such.  I think they just like to watch.  So, should you  refrain from this particular abuse against nature? I say it’s all about having fun and using protection.  If you follow our simple rules, you can enjoy yourself and keep the universe safe at the same time. Be a nice tourist and learn some of the local language and  dress period.  For the adventurous, time travel can be fulfilling, romantic, and profitable.  And remember, don’t stare directly into the time vortex, you might go blind.

  • Ben Baker

    Actually in the linear theory if time is stretching out behind us it makes sense that it is also stretching ahead, and we are just travelling along at a point on the time line which already exists from beginning to end. If that where the case then everyone who has ever traveled through time has already done so timeline wise. So we would already be experiencing the effects of all time travel ever taken to a point behind us.  Just a theory from a non scientist.    @nordum912:twitter 

  • http://twitter.com/lauraeno Laura Eno

    Ah…the ’80s. :) All this time travel talk gives me a headache – or did I have it yesterday?

  • busterggi

    okay, I won’t kill Hitler this time but I’m still saving Lincoln.

  • Tensor

    Ben, you are quite right. If time is linear time travel is reduced to a predestined acting out of a part.    Of course the time traveler exercises free will but all of his actions result in the original  past timeline. Of course we are not certain that this is case.  We might live in a world where time travel produces a jump from one universe to another in which case most paradoxes are meaningless because there is a whole new timeline to mess up.   
    Thanks for the thoughtful comment. 

  • Tensor

    It’s up to you but if you end up in the Thunderdome, remember, Master Blaster rules Bartertown.

  • Dennis Owens

    The Bill & Ted theory.

  • Lab_monkee

    darn it, I’ve misplaced my keys again. Anyone here know where I should begin my search?