Recent movies like “Paradox” and the “ARQ“, among others, have been addressing more and more the conundrum of a time paradox. And, while there certainly are a lot of possibilities, the unfortunate reality of the confusing twists and turns of these labyrinths of thought leaves many questions unanswered. While I have no answers myself, I thought I would take a brief moment to examine one of these tormenting twists in time!!
1. The Grandfather Paradox: Starting with one of the more time-tested and well known paradoxes is the confusion stemming from the “Killing Your Grandfather” paradox:
Now, in scenario 1, your grandfather and grandmother give birth to your mom. Your mom and your dad give birth to you. You … travel back in time! Yay! You’re Marty McFly!
However, in scenario 2, for some sick and demented reason (to which we won’t delve), you decide to do grandpa in. No grandpa … no mom. No mom … no you. This means that the you in the future did not exist to go back in time to be the you in the past that killed your grandfather. However, there is another level that is often forgotten:
You in the past … “if” you do not disappear or spontaneously *poof* out of existence … continues to live. Now, I’ve addressed the issue in this post about time being able to sort itself out regarding the objects or people that leave and enter the time stream to overcome paradoxes. However, for argument’s sake, let’s say you don’t disappear … NO poofing! And, for equal argument’s sake, let’s say that you travel forward in time to the precise moment you left. Here’s the issue: Do you get to keep going forward? This is the fun of a time loop. See … the paradox can be partially resolved if, whilst you are at the moment in time that you first left, but do not exist to travel back in time, that you now travel back in time to kill your grandfather, and thus – an infinite time loop.
Ahh! Brain hurting yet? (It’s okay … this is an existentially complicated concept). In fact, what if you didn’t want to travel back in time to kill your grandfather? Well, since the you that was you doesn’t exist to travel back in time to kill your grandfather, then your grandfather now lives. This is a double paradox! (Having fun, yet?)
Okay … so … let’s see if we can work this out:
You traveled back in time and aced grandpa … ergo … you were never born and could never exist to travel back in time to ace grandpa … so grandpa actually lives. Thus, there is no way this paradox could exist. However, if people don’t spontaneously disappear from the time stream and you’re still alive and now you travel to the future to the moment in which you left, you would still be there to still yourself leave (try saying all that in one breath!). If you *poofed* or only lived a normal lifespan, you wouldn’t live long enough to see yourself leave. But, wait, there’s more!
YES! You go back in time. You kill your grandfather. You are never born. But, you are born because you were never born to kill your grandfather. So, time would have to forcibly loop you back in time in order to maintain consistency. See, if you are able to kill your grandfather and are not born, knowing that this would be impossible, a paradox is created and the universe goes .. kersplatter! So, the easy solution is that 1) You can’t travel back in time to kill someone in the past because the paradox prevents it from happening (like I can’t fix my car because the laws of physics absolutely prevent me from having those skills); or 2) there is a loop in the time stream in which you will always go back to kill your grandfather and yet, still be born to loop back and do it again (which is to say .. impossible .. and would look like a horrifying glitch on the time stream)! This brings me back to a previous question:
Could you travel forward in time and keep going if you don’t disappear? I will argue that ‘no’, you cannot because you “do” disappear. Here’s why. The second you take a knife and swing down onto grandad’s back (wow … this is a terrible topic, isn’t it?), you would instantaneously vanish – thrust out of the time stream like a cork in a wine bottle. GIGANTIC *POOF*. Literally, the moment of existence and non-existence collide in you, and you cease to be. And, the cycle repeats itself, where you try to kill your grandpa, but never succeed. Think of it like a gigantic fail safe. For example, if you tried to osmosis through a wall at high speeds (DON’T … DUHHH …), you will fail. Why? Because, you can’t osmosis through a wall as it’s impossible. Either the wall will give way, or your body will come to a crushing halt. In order to preserve the laws of physics there are certain fail safe’s in place. Another possibility under the fail safe clause is that you will always fail when trying to kill your grandfather. The most recent Alice in Wonderland movie addressed this where Alice could not change the past and what she did there was always what happened as she was already in the past at the time she was there … whether she knew it yet, or not! (<- Although, that’s something that would probably sound more reasonable being said by the mad hatter … hmmm…).
But – all of this is predicated on the idea that time is linear. In linear time, events happen sequentially in motion, or, if you don’t believe in motion, as a sequence of events (still in a logical order). In this scenario, you can’t have even traveled back in time in the first place to kill grandad because you weren’t there to kill him in the first place and events in a linear fashion must happen in a linear fashion. Think of dominoes falling down. In a linear time stream, you can’t go back in time to stop a domino from falling because .. it’s already fallen down. Another reason that you can’t go back in time (within the confines of a linear time stream) is because, otherwise, at the same moment in time (from the very first second you go back), you exist in multiples – and the Universe can only handle 1 of each person (thus relying on parallel universes and dimensions for the rest … lest there be 1000 Dr. Who’s at any given time with how frequently he buzzes around the time stream). Of course, there’s the theory of time all at once and living outside the time stream …. but I digress …
Fun, isn’t it? Okay .. I could go on with this – but I think that’s enough convoluted passages through time for this … “time”. 🙂 Meanwhile – hope you enjoy and that I wasn’t too confusing or paradoxical! Wait … is a blog about time travel paradoxes that creates a paradox in its own logic, a paradox in and of itself? Ouch … brain snap…..