delirium happy

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Time travel and miracles
delirium happy
I hate the way that time travel is often portrayed in science fiction (particular in Star Trek: Voyager). Something bad happens, our intrepid heroes go back in time, stop it from happening in the first place, and everything is hunky dory. Except that it doesn't make any sense. If it never happened in the first place, then they wouldn't have gone back in time to stop it, so it would have happened, so they'd have gone back, thus stopping it from happening which would mean... It's little more than a weakly disguised version of the grandfather paradox (what happens if you go back in time to kill your grandfather?).

Now admittedly, sometimes you've just got to channel Kryten (from Red Dwarf) and say "The laws of time and space? Who gives a smeg?" but with shows or books that take themselves too seriously (yes, we're back to Star Trek: Voyager again) it drives me absolutely nuts. The way that I tend to interpret them is to have them be an explanation of why a seemingly plausible event could not ever happen. They're saying that some normal event would eventually causally lead to the preclusion of itself. X would imply (not X) and the universe's logic would be in trouble.

I tend to take the impossibility of paradox as axiomatic, and then work from there. As such, if there are two possible outcomes and one will lead to paradox then the other outcome will be the one that actually happens. So, if you take Schroedinger's cat and rig things up such that if he lives he will travel back in time and kill his grandfather, then you'll find out that he'll die every time, because the universe abhors a paradox.

Now, one of the fun things about quantum mechanics is that pretty much anything is possible. At a party, it's possible that the hostesses undergarments may suddenly jump a foot or so to the left; it's just very improbable. (I occasionally try walking into walls in the hope that in an unprecedented display of large-scale tunnelling I will wind up on the other side, but I've yet to be successful.)

However, if we assume that the above theory of paradox aversion is correct, what would happen if almost all possible futures from an event led to paradox? Well, naturally, you'd end up with one of the vanishingly small number of outcomes which didn't. Even if they were otherwise hopelessly improbable. If the party from the last paragraph was being thrown in celebration of the creation of a time machine, possibly errant lingerie would be just the thing to distract the revellers from their plan to assassinate their forebears.

Miracles become possible.

So under this framework, we can then re-examine certain religious scriptures. Why was it that the water at that wedding in Canaan suddenly transmute into a rather complicated concoction of organic compounds that bore a staggering resemblance to wine? How was it that random atoms out of the air suddenly found themselves situated so as to form a good facsimile of five loaves of bread and two fish? and so on and so forth. Clearly, that's how things happened -- despite the staggering improbability -- because anything else would some day lead to paradox.

The fact that Jesus did what he did changed the face of the Earth in such a way that it would prevent a time machine from being invented that would allow people to go back in time and change the past. How this might happen would be anybody's guess. Possibly the USA will get taken over by militant fundamentalist zealots who will start a holy war with Islamic militant fundamentalist zealots and blow up the planet before we reach that level of technical sophistication. Or possibly the guiding hand of religion will teach humanity sufficient sense and humility that they'll never build a time machine even when they acquire the ability to do so.

Either way, it all makes a whole lot of sense, right?

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It is an interesting idea and seems to me to have a lot in common with the quantum immortality / quantum suicide speculations.

If the Everett many-worlds interpretation of QM is correct (I will admit to liking this idea to some extent, even if I don't really believe it) and we take as given that a paradox is a Bad Thing. Then we shall not observe paradoxes has happening because they would prevent us being present to observe them.

I wonder just how tied into the universe consciousness really is and whether an intelligence exists or will ever be constructed that sees the universe differently.

It's interesting.

Personally, when it comes to time-travel and paradox, I like the Feng Shui RPG's explanation, which basically says that the soul of anyone who travels in time becomes detached from the "reality" of the world, and is immune to being crushed out of existence by changes in the past.

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