I Solve Your Fictional Problems about Time Travel

by johannespunkt

Fictional people often come to me with their Problems. They are very distressed until I calmly technobabble at them until it all seems to make sense. So, I thought I should offer my services to the public. Are you a fictional person? Do you have a problem? Email me at johannes.punkt at gmail dot com and pose your problem and I will try to explain it away.

Now, without further ado, today’s problem is about time travel. The question was illustrated in the form of a picture of a DeLorean several thousand miles into space, with Earth in the background, and a pithy explanation that the Earth moves in space.

Q: How come time machines also seem to be space machines and always know exactly where to go???

A: There are two ways I have found to solve the problem of ‘but the earth is moving‘ in Time Travel Stories.

The first one – the simpler one – is that all time machines come with quantum signature readers. This easily locates the same place in space and lands you there, safe and sound. This is a good handwave, but it’s only satisfying as an answer if you move on directly. If you think about it too much you must wonder, where did H.G. Wells’ characters come up with quantum signature readers?

Hence the real answer, which I favour. It can be thought of as a sort of extension on that first idea. Like the way you tell children that Santa is real, and then gradually introuce the blood sacrifices needed to keep St. Nick happy.

It is the idea that we are in fact in the centre of the universe. It is a well-established fact of science that the universe is expanding. It is a slightly less known fact that we’re probably not in a 3-dimensional universe, but something of a 4-dimensional bagel (or worse, some plusquintuple-dimensional unimaginable pastry (with fake sugar)). If you go far enough to the right, you enter the left of the screen, right? So there is no exact ‘centre’ of the universe. Or, more precisely: we’re in the centre of the universe all the time. Every single atom is in the centre of the universe (note, they are not the centre of the universe themselves, they just occupy it). Therefore, the DeLorean does not have to move in space while going back in time.

I mean, that image can’t be using absolute coordinates, since there is no such thing as absolute coordinates. The earth is spinning along its own axis and orbiting the sun. The solar system is rotating, and followning a groove along the galaxy. The galaxy is pirouetting and moving around in the cluster …

To the obvious followup question (i.e. ‘but everything is expanding, and how did you just get around the problem of everything moving by scaling it up?‘) I say, think of it like an apple expanding. No matter how much it expands, it’ll still have a core (or it woudln’t be an apple) and if you place a little RFID chip in the core you will still find its radio frequency even if the apple is full of cores and nothing else. It will still be the original core. Do you capisce?