A Time Travel Dialogue

A Time Travel Dialogue

John W. Carroll
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Open Book Publishers
Pages: 94
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1287jzp
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  • Book Info
    A Time Travel Dialogue
    Book Description:

    Is time travel just a confusing plot device deployed by science fiction authors and Hollywood filmmakers to amaze and amuse? Or might empirical data prompt a scientific hypothesis of time travel? Structured on a fascinating dialogue involving a distinguished physicist, Dr. Rufus, a physics graduate student and a computer scientist this book probes an experimentally supported hypothesis of backwards time travel – and in so doing addresses key metaphysical issues, such as causation, identity over time and free will. The setting is the Jefferson National Laboratory during a period of five days in 2010. Dr. Rufus’s experimental search for the psi-lepton and the resulting intractable data spurs the discussion on time travel. She and her two colleagues are pushed by their observations to address the grandfather paradox and other puzzles about backwards causation, with attention also given to causal loops, multi-dimensional time, and the prospect that only the present exists. Sensible solutions to the main puzzles emerge, ultimately advancing the case for time travel really being possible. A Time Travel Dialogue addresses the possibility of time travel, approaching familiar paradoxes in a rigorous, engaging, and fun manner. It follows in the long philosophical tradition of using dialogue to present philosophical ideas and arguments, but is ground breaking in its use of the dialogue format to introduce readers to the metaphysics of time travel, and is also distinctive in its use of lab results to drive philosophical analysis. The discussion of data that might decide whether time is one-dimensional (one timeline) or multi-dimensional (branching time) is especially novel.

    eISBN: 978-1-78374-039-0
    Subjects: Physics, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-v)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-2)

    Theoretical physicists take seriously the idea of time travel; some, including J. Richard Gott and Paul Davies, have published monographs, accessible to the layperson, describing the extraordinary work that has been done. Experimental physicists have on occasion even come face to face with the possibility that time travel to the past is real. This book is built on conversations set in 2010 at the Jefferson National Laboratory where unanticipated data led distinguished physicist Dr. Carlene Rufus to investigate a hypothesis of backwards time travel.

    The conversations are of philosophical interest. In addition to Dr. Rufus, the other participants in the...

  5. 1. Monday
    (pp. 3-14)

    Carlene: Tad, would you mind showing William to the control console? Do you go by ‘Bill’?

    Willie: ‘Willie’, actually. It looks like you’re running a pretty powerful system. You must have two dozen new HP-UXs in here.

    Tad: Twenty, actually, with about eighty Motorola VMEs for input–output control. Coffee?

    Willie: Thanks, but it’s a little late in the day for caffeine.

    Tad [pouring another cup]: Suit yourself.

    Willie [looking around]: Where does the funding for all this equipment come from?

    Carlene: The Department of Energy, primarily, but NASA, the NSF, and a few research universities are interested in what...

  6. 2. Tuesday
    (pp. 15-32)

    Carlene: Good morning, gentlemen. Would one of you mind pouring me a cup? I was up all night thinking of ways to test our time-travel hypothesis.

    Tad [pouring Dr. Rufus a cup]: That makes three of us, but maybe you had better luck than we did. I, for one, couldn’t get over the idea that we’re taking time travel seriously.

    Carlene: Please try to get used to it and think about ways to test our hypothesis. Where’s the printout from yesterday?

    Tad: Let me get clear on what the hypothesis is exactly. You’re claiming that—despite appearances—there’s only one...

  7. 3. Wednesday
    (pp. 33-44)

    Carlene: It looks like we’ll be gathering a lot more data about our mystery particle in the coming weeks. I might even say Ihopeit’s time-traveling.

    Willie: I’m still thinking about Dr. Twitchell’s talk; it’s always struck me as odd to describe the universe as expanding. What’s it expanding into?

    Tad: I don’t know about that, Willie, but something similar has been bothering me about our time-travel hypothesis. I’m wondering where the particle could go.

    Carlene: I don’t understand.

    Tad: If the psi-lepton reverses its direction in time, traveling from the present to the past, then we should acknowledge...

  8. 4. Thursday
    (pp. 45-56)

    Tad: Wow, I thought that I was getting an early start!

    Carlene [looking up]: Oh, Tad, I didn’t hear you come in; we’re having an absolutely stimulating conversation.

    Tad [yawning]: I think I need to have some stimulating caffeine before I can have any stimulating conversation.

    Willie: Sorry, Tad.

    Tad [seeing empty coffee pot]: Hey, don’t you know that the first one in is supposed to make the coffee?

    Willie: I do, and I did.

    Willie: It was good to the last drop.

    Tad: Uh oh, what does that much caffeine do to a philosopher?

    Willie: Hey, if the Department...

  9. 5. Friday
    (pp. 57-76)

    Carlene: What’s got you so chipper this morning?

    Willie: Do you mind, Tad? It’s far too early for that.

    Tad: Okay, so I’ve been doing a little research, and I spent last night brainstorming about our tricky little test subject, especially the result from yesterday.

    Carlene [listening carefully]: Please continue.

    Tad: I still think that one-dimensional time travel is impossible. How can someone go back into the past and change it when that would change the future? So on and so forth. It would create direct contradictions.

    Willie [shaking his head]: Well, no, Tad, because, even if someone were to...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 77-78)
  11. Credits and Acknowledgements
    (pp. 79-82)
    John W. Carroll
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 83-87)