Monday, May 02, 2005

Attention, All Time Travelers 

MIT is having a Time Traveller Convention. Set your coordinates for:
May 7, 2005, 10:00pm EDT (08 May 2005 02:00:00 UTC), East Campus Courtyard, MIT, 42:21:36.025°N, 71:05:16.332°W, (42.360007,-071.087870 in decimal degrees)
That's on the Eastern cost of North America, along the James River; in case calendars have changed, navigate back in time to the day Pope John Paul II died, and then be at MIT thirty-five days later.

This really isn't as whacked-out an idea as it sounds, despite Stephen Hawking's assertion that, did/does/will time travel exist, we'd be innundated with visitors from the future. Carl Sagan commented on Hawking's idea thusly:
"One of Hawking's arguments in the conjecture is that we are not awash in thousands of time travelers from the future, and therefore time travel is impossible. This argument I find very dubious, and it reminds me very much of the argument that there cannot be intelligences elsewhere in space, because otherwise the Earth would be awash in aliens. I can think half a dozen ways in which we could not be awash in time travelers, and still time travel is possible."
For example, I'd imagine that time travelers would do it on the sly, trying not to stand out. I'd also imagine that you'd find time travelers at certain big events, but of course not knowing something big was going to happen, we'd have no way to watch for them or to notice their arrival or disappearance. For example, we have no way of knowing that Dealy Plaza wasn't full of time tourists on November 22nd, 1963, or that New York City wasn't crawling with the future curious on September 11th, 2001. In the ensuing real-time chaos after such events, it would be time for the visitors to leave, having seen what they came to watch.

Of course, how I don't expect a time traveler to behave is the way the infamous John Titor did. He appeared abruptly on a public forum in November 2000, had some enigmatic and evocative conversations, and then dropped out of sight in March, 2001. While he made some predictions, mostly in physics (although he claimed to not be a scientist), he didn't predict or allude to certain rather obvious world events that have occured in the four years since he vanished. Still, the whole Titor saga is a rather interesting bit of netlore. Check it out.

Otherwise... I'm mentioning the MIT Time Traveler Convention here as a way of putting the word out, and encourage others to do the same -- although it's best to do it in a hard-artifact form, something that will last. Who knows what the web will be in fifty or a hundred or more years, or if the information will even be accesible.

I do think this convention is a good idea, and I plan to attend -- at some point in the future. It may turn out to be a total bust, attended by a handful of tinfoil hat loonies, but it's one of those "nothing to lose" propositions. Either a bunch of MIT folk have a fun time and talk about the idea of time travel, or they get their future tourists en masse.

I'll try to keep an eye on this story and post a follow-up after the fact. If I had a time machine, I'd do it now. But I don't. Yet.

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