The Time Travel Journals: Shipbuilder will be out in a little over a month. It’s a genre-bending book, a time travel story that is both historical fiction and science fiction. It’s also alternate history. And it has biographical aspects that cover the life of Thomas Andrews.
But what are the time travel journals? The first answer is that they are scientific notebooks kept Sam Altair (my fictional scientist) as he researched time travel and developed a way to actually do it. But these journals were also kept by Casey Wilson after her accidental trip through time with Sam, and by Thomas Andrews, when he eventually learned that people from the future had come to his world.
I thought it would be fun to run a series of journal entries in preparation for the book’s launch. None of these entries actually appear in the book. Consider them backstory. I won’t be posting them in any particular order or frequency. While the posts will always appear here, they’ll also be archived on the TTJ: Shipbuilder page. Look under Journal Entries.
By the way, I’d love it if anybody has a comment or question to debate about time travel. We won’t find any answers here, but your ideas may help me solidify my own thinking on the subject. Shipbuilder is written, and the next book, Bridgebuilders, is more than half done, but I’ll admit I sort of gloss over the science part of this. My background is in geology, not physics.
We’ll start with Sam as he ruminates on his experiment on this date, July 18, in 2005. This is six months before the fateful experiment that sends Sam and Casey back to 1906.
July 18, 2005
“What’s the use of time travel?”
A visiting scientist asked me that question today. I bloody well hate that question. My first reaction is always to protest, “Why do I have to provide a use for it, before I can study it?” But of course, I can’t be rude to visiting scientists, if for no other reason than I might need their assistance some day. No use having a reputation as a jerk.
So I string off the usual blarney. The more we understand about time, the more we’ll know about our own universe. We’ll be able to study the beginning – any point we want to, actually. And in truth, anything we learn about the universe, and the physical laws that govern it, is a damn good thing.
Knowledge doesn’t have to have a practical application. And frankly, somebody nearly always comes up with a practical application eventually. The point is, it’s not my problem.
Figuring out how to do it – that’s my problem.
I’ve nearly got the mechanism down. We expect to have the machine ready in a few weeks. We’ll start with a toy. I bought a box of Leggo pieces. We’ll paint a number on each of them and begin sending them back in time. But there are questions to answer, before we do that.
How far back do we send the toy? That sounds like a simple question – pick a time and go for it. But as with everything in this bloody project, this simple question is anything but simple. Because we have no clue what happens to us if we send something back in time.
Say we send the toy back five minutes. The Leggo is in the lab, on a table. It’s in the isolation field, an area mere millimeters larger than the toy (so the whole bloody lab doesn’t implode on itself.) We set the time machine for five minutes and press the button. The toy disappears.
But where does it reappear? “Where,” to me, is far more important than “when.” I know the “when” – it’s five minutes earlier. “Where” does not refer to the table in the lab, either. We’re not moving the toy – it will appear in the exact spot it’s already in.
Our debates on this are endless. No one knows where “where” is. Will we all (the observers in the lab) suddenly find ourselves five minutes in the past, gazing at the toy on the table? How can that be, if we are careful to send only the toy back? What about the rest of the world? The rest of the universe? Does a tiny, five-minute time experiment on Earth affect anything in the Andromeda Galaxy? The Horsehead Nebula?
It’s the time paradox. It will always be the problem. If the toy appears in our past, why didn’t we see it before we did the experiment? If we have to perform the experiment first (which makes sense to me), then did we create a “new” past, where the toy was always there? If it’s a “new” past, where is that past? Did it replace the old past, molecule for molecule? If so, do our lab notebooks then report the existence of the toy on the table, five minutes before we put it there (in “our” past)?
Bloody headache, is what it is.
Jin said something about alternate timelines. I’m going to think about that a bit, but in another entry. I’ve got a meeting to get to.