Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Fixed Point in Space

In the Welcome post I mentioned that the time machine could possibly open a "so-called 'gateway' at a fixed point in space".  There have been some  questions as to what that phrase would mean.  One sharp individual notes:

"...if we accept that the Earth rotates and moves and such, doesn't time travel also necessarily involve space travel? I mean, "a fixed point in space" is always relative. You walk into a "gateway" on a hill in Buffalo in 2012AD. Why would you expect to exit on a hill in Buffalo in 600BC (or whenever) and not be left out screaming in the "fixed point in space" where the earth is no longer at? Or caught in solid rock or some such?

Of course John is right.  I think, though, the problem is just semantic.  Where I used the word space, I should have used the more accurate term space-time.  To stick with his above example, Let's instead say that the gateway connected two points, a current location and a destination; both of which exist in space-time.  It isn't enough to say the location is a hill in Buffalo.  A hill in Buffalo in 2012AD is a totally different location in space-time than a hill in Buffalo in 600BC.  Typically one would think of the hill in Buffalo as the location and then there is the matter of when (600BC vs. 2012AD), but, as John points out, this model doesn't seem to make sense for time travel as we want it.  We have to imagine the fourth dimension as being simultaneous, not sequential; A hill in Buffalo in 2012AD and a hill in Buffalo in 600BC both exist along side each other.  It helps me, when thinking about such things, to reduce all the dimensions.  See the below diagram:

The three spatial dimensions are reduced down to a zero dimensional point.  Therefore, the line, being one dimensional, can represent time because it has one extra dimension than a point.  Point A represents a hill in Buffalo in 600BC and Point B represents a hill in Buffalo in 2012AD.  Points A and B do not exist in the same "dimension" because in a zero-dimensional universe there can be only one point.  The only way to have more than one point is to add at least one more dimension.  Think of our three-dimensional universe the same way.  Let's use "universe" to mean all that exists at any given present moment.  So like the point in  zero dimensions, there can only be one "universe" in three dimensions.  And in the same way that the distance between two zero-dimensional points can be traversed by traveling on a one dimensional path (line), the distance between two three-dimensional universes can be traversed by traveling on a four-dimensional path (time).  Here we are understanding the universe today and the universe tomorrow (or a hill in Buffalo in 600BC and a hill in Buffalo in 2012AD) as two distinct things, in the same way that two points along a line are two different things.  So it's important to think of space and time as not being two independent things, but rather think of time as a sort of a fourth spatial measurement.  So if we we are on a hill in Buffalo in 2012AD and want to get to what we would think of as that same hill, but in 600BC through some sort of a gateway, I guess it would mean that we'd have to somehow give our time machine coordinates and it would then connect the two "points" in space-time by bending the fourth dimension.  Now look at the next diagram:

If we want to get from Point A to Point B we have to travel along the line of time; in other words, we wait.  But if time is bent, the two points can be brought together and the "distance" between them made small.  This would be where the gateway would happen.  This is what I meant by, "a fixed point in space".  It's better to say, "a specific location in space-time", or maybe better yet,  refer to the gateway as a threshold that connects two specific locations in space-time.

As a footnote, we can infer by this method of thought that if time is to be bent in such a way, there must be a dimension above time for it to be bent into.  The two zero-dimensional points on the one-dimensional line are brought closer to each other without affecting other theoretical points along the same line (relative to the line) by using the second dimension.  So if the line is time, then the area it is bent into would be a fifth dimension.  Thoughts?


  1. So a question i have. Lets say you create this fixed gateway connecting two specific space-time locations. Lets say we create it tomorrow on a hill in buffalo at 10:26am, and it connects to a gateway at 3pm in the year 606 on december 12th. I think a problem that would be signifigant would be making it continue to connect at 10:27am and 3:01pm (and not 3:00pm again (i.e. it doesn't matter when you enter the gate on our end)(yes that was a nested parentheses)).

    In one regard this relates to any continuous to discrete problem. In any event, i'm tired and just got back from the ER with my 3 year old. Sorry if this didn't make any sense.

  2. This assumes that the 4th dimension functions like the first three. We can't connect the three points of a triangle because it's physically impossible, but why not attach the future triangle to itself?

  3. Barry. That's a really good point and I've been thinking about it for a few weeks. It seems like you're imagining this (I hate to use the word portal as it sounds a little cheesy) gateway like it's a window that stays open for an indefinite period of time. You look into and can see where you're going to go, and the folks on the hill in Buffalo in 600BC can see you; and they are totally freaked out because, whoa, what is that thing. I guess that's how I sort of imagined it too, but, as you brought up, that seems sort of ridiculous when you really think about the implications. But I think I might have an answer. Tell me what you think of this: If we take the initial idea of connecting to points in space-time, then the gateway would only be open for the smallest instant. I guess to a person on a hill in Buffalo in 600BC it wouldn't look like much of anything; just the time traveler popping into the world out of nowhere. Maybe there'd be a cool sound as the time traveler displaces air molecules. And lets say there'd be a flash of light because that seems about right.