The Science of Time

time cogs type 4

In this section I am greatly indebted to Paul J. Nahin’s indispensable book TIME MACHINE TALES: THE SCIENCE FICTION ADVENTURE AND PHILOSOPHICAL PUZZLES OF TIME TRAVEL. Professor Nahin is a Professor of Electrical Engineering and his mathematical scholarship is extraordinary. My aim here is simply to offer a layman’s summary of the Science of Time, with a brief historical perspective on some of the leading figures, and I acknowledge that in doing this I have drawn, at least in part, from Professor Nahin’s scientific expertise and scholarship.  – SJN

e equals mc squared

Sir Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Kurt Gödel

Until Einstein, the theory of gravity used by science was that of Sir Isaac Newton, but whereas Newton’s theory keeps time and space separate and distinct, the Einsteinium understanding of the universe is that of a united space-time in which time and space are intimately intertwined. In Sir Isaac Newton’s view, time and space could exist even if there was nothing, but, said Albert Einstein, “we know that time and space are not the vessel for the Universe, but could not exist at all if there were no contents, namely, no Sun, no Earth, and no other celestial bodies.” According to his General Theory of Relativity then, time and space would cease to exist if the universe were empty.

From 1905 it had been known that Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity allowed time travel into the future (from a paper published on 26 September 1905 entitled On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies). Time as we know it, said Einstein, is not universally absolute, for the rate of passage depends to a great extent upon the velocity. For example, the faster a person travelled relative to the Earth, the slower the tick-tock on the traveller’s wrist watch compared to that of an identical watch left on Earth. Put simply, time is not the same everywhere, it depends on local conditions.

But that was only Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, the General Theory of Relativity (final form published in 1916) took things even further. And it was Kurt Gödel’s 1949 paper that showed that General Theory of Relativity also allowed time travel into the past, but only under certain conditions. Kurt Gödel used Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity to show for the first time that General Relativity does not forbid time travel into the past. In retrospect, Kurt Gödel’s paper was a pivotal event in establishing the respectability of scientific time travel.

However, theory should be distinguished from imaginative fiction. These were mathematical calculations and essentially belonged to the theoretical physicist, but that didn’t stop storytellers with a speculative fancy from taking these ideas as starting points for Time Tales in novels and movies. But what was the big theory anyway?

Kurt Gödel was a great mathematician and he calculated that movement of mass energy could be achieved not only through space but also backwards in time along trajectories in space-time that now have been called Closed Time-like Lines or Curves (CTL/CTC). What is being talked about here is a material particle that is ‘closed’, that is it returns to its starting point. Such lines are finite in length but have no ‘ends’ as such. In other words, the line forms a closed loop in space-time. These lines or trajectories are such that if a human travelled along them, and always at a speed less than light – that is ‘time-like’, but not exactly at that speed – everything around that traveller would be happening in normal causal order, but eventually those CTL/CTC lines/curves would close back in on themselves and the traveller would be, in effect, in the past. In this sense a region of space-time containing closed time-like lines could be said to be a ‘time machine’.

However, as said previously, all this is only theoretically possible in certain special cases and for Kurt Gödel’s mathematical calculations this means a rotating, infinite, static universe composed of a perfect liquid at constant pressure. Or put another way, Kurt Gödel’s space-time universe satisfies the general relativity field equations, but the fly in the ointment is that universe’s time travel property does not match the space-time in which we live.

One solution put forward is negative energy or negative mass and there are those who have designed time machines using this method. However, once again the problem is negative energy or mass exists mathematically does not actual exists in life, or at least scientists haven’t discovered any yet. The mathematician Frank Tipler did conceptualise a time machine that does not require negative energy but the problem with his design was that it did require more energy than actually exists in our universe. When it comes to energy you can’t win, can you? There’s either too little or not enough minus.

What all this means is that is that the Time Travel World might as well be Never Land, Narnia, or The Wonderful Land of Oz. Besides, the emphasis in Kurt Gödel’s 1949 paper is not based on the idea that time travel to the past is achievable but rather that general relativity does not forbid it, which isn’t quite the same thing. There is subtle difference. In theory, there is nothing to forbid Yeovil Town before the decade is out from winning the European Cup. But let’s get real, it just ain’t gonna happen.

And there are other issues too. According to Professor Paul J. Nahin in his book TIME MACHINE TALES, the speed at which the time traveller would have to move in Kurt Gödel’s space-time universe is about seventy-one percent of the speed of light (a ‘time-like’ speed indeed) and for this to happen, argues Nahin, the size of the fuel tank needed for such a journey would be the equivalent of several trillion ocean liners. And before you even build that tank, of course, you’d need to find the right sort of universe. So, until those Dilithian Crystals are discovered, Time’s Arrow is one way. And the best Yeovil Town can hope for is a good draw in the FA Cup.

Einstein Rosen bridge

Wormholes or the Einstein-Rosen Bridge

Apples have real wormholes, with real worms that munch their way through real Granny Smiths from one end to the other. Annoyingly bookworms do the same with novels, even series as long as Robert Jordan’s WHEEL OF TIME. In time travel science fiction, a wormhole, a name borrowed from that hole the hungry worm makes, sometimes called an Einstein-Rosen Bridge. But such a ‘bridge’ isn’t real in the way an apple and a worm is real. This bridge is essentially a speculative structure that could link disparate points in space-time. But ‘could’ isn’t ‘does’. Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity predicted the possibility of the existence of wormholes in space-time. Masses that create pressure in different parts of space that could, in theory, link up and create a type of connection between them. This has been envisaged as a tunnel with two ends at separate places. The concept itself is there in the writings of Ludwig Flamm (1885-1964), who worked in various areas of theoretical physics and quantum mechanics and who was the first to describe solutions that lead to connections, or wormholes. But note the words ‘theory’, ‘speculative’ and ‘possibility’. Ah, but such caveats have never put off science fiction writers.

In the movies, Einstein-Rosen Bridges are often illustrated by someone taking a flat piece of paper and writing ‘A’ and ‘B’ on opposite edges, and then folding it in half or making a cylinder of said piece of paper, thus bringing points ‘A’ and ‘B’ together. And indeed mathematical wormholes do work on paper. However, as Stephen Hawking has pointed out, they are so unstable that they could only truly be theoretically. Add one molecule, he said, and the whole thing would destabilise and disintegrate. Again, that bit tends to be glassed over by writers of fantasy.

There are other problems too as set out in Paul J. Nahin’s book TIME MACHINE TALES. For example, the enormous gravitational gradient would dismember anything approaching it, and even if you could sort out that issue, your journey would almost certainly be a one-way trip. However, if you do fancy building one, the instructions can be found in M.S. Morris and K.S. Thornes Wormholes in Space-time and Their Use for Interstellar Travel: A Tool for Teaching General Relativity published in the American Journal of Physics in May 1988. In fact, the science fiction writer Carl Sagan (1934-1996) approached Kip Thorne for help in making plausible the interstellar travel or ‘subway system’ imagined in his 1985 novel CONTACT (later made into a film starring Jodie Foster).

In 1949, Kurt Gödel’s ‘time machine’ mathematics required an entire rotating universe but everything in science eventually gets smaller and that’s where F.J. Tipler comes in handy. In 1974, Tipler wrote Rotating Cylinders and the Possibility of Global Causality Violation and in it he wrote, “General relativity suggests that as we construct a sufficiently large rotating cylinder, we create a time machine.” You see, you didn’t need the whole universe at all! Someone always comes along and builds the same thing but smaller.  Other patents pending include J. Richard Gott’s ‘cosmic string’ (incredibly thin filaments of energy that are thought to run from one end of the universe to the other) and Miguel Alcubierre’s ‘warp bubble’, that surrounds a spaceship with warped space-time. They’ll be selling them in John Lewis next.

Einstein clock

Time Dilation

Time Dilation means the altering of the rate of timekeeping, as calculated by a standard clock, either by motion or gravity. In the theory of special relativity, a non-accelerating observer will experience the passing of time differently to that of one who is accelerating. This is often explained with two mirrors and a light signal going back and forth between them, sometimes called Einstein’s ‘Light Clock’. For example, technically speaking, the U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly, after travelling at great speed while orbiting the Earth in the International Space Station, came back a few milliseconds younger than his twin brother who was still on terra firma. This was due to the relative velocity at which he was travelling in space compared to that of his twin back on earth. An imaginative fictional twist on this concept can be found in B.W. Aldiss’s MAN IN HIS TIME where an astronaut returns from Mars three minutes ahead of everyone else. Not possible of course, but a great fantasy concept originating from actual science.

But how practical is time travel via Time Dilation? Photons that travel at light speed have energy and momentum but no mass. But a human being does have mass, so what would happen if a human being suddenly moved at the speed of light? Well, your mass would become infinite. And that’s big. Besides, the energy needed to achieve that speed would be that of an exploding star. All in all, not very practical. It should be noted too that Time Dilation as established in Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity allows for time travel into the future only.

That said, space-time can be altered. And of course another word for altered is ‘warped’, hence in science fiction Warp Speed and Warp Drive. Fairly familiar terms now, but not known by everyone. When the British actress Beryl Reid was playing Captain Briggs in DOCTOR WHO (1984), she was apparently a little confused by the term at the read through. “‘Send the ship’,” she said, “‘into Warp Drive.’” Beryl then paused. “‘Warp Drive?’” she said again, “Is that like ‘Acacia Avenue’?” And much laughter followed.

titanic newspaper story cover

Is the Past Fixed?

Could we go back in time and save the Titanic from sinking? The simple answer is: No. Does that mean the past is fixed? Yes. Well, that’s the answer a scientist would give. And science is a bit of a party pooper when it comes to Time Tales. Philosophers and theologians tend to agree with the scientists. Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics (written around 340 BC and probably named after or even set out for his son who was named Nicomachus), famously said, “The one thing alone even God cannot do: to make undone whatever hath been done.” Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) said essentially the same thing, but being a theologian put the emphasis rather differently, “It is best,” he wrote, “to say that what involves contradiction, cannot be done rather than that God cannot do it.” In effect, God is bound by his own rules and laws.

But what about time travel to the past and all those resulting paradoxes? Well even science fiction writers who allow for such things have doubts about their ability to actually change the past as such. Larry Niven set out many Laws of Time (“Any fool can predict the past” and “History never repeats itself”), and had an equal number of strictures and guidelines for would be writers (“The world’s dullest subjects are: Somebody else’s diet and How to make money for a worthy cause”), but he was also interested in the consequences of Time Paradoxes, such as the Grandfather Paradox. Ultimately Niven believed in a sort of ‘Law of Conservation of the Past’. His argument was this: if a message is sent back into the past then it will change history following its receipt, but this will include the event that sent it, and thus the message itself. Once ‘altered’ this ‘new’  message once sent back will change the past in a different way, and so on, and so on, until some sort of balance or equilibrium is achieved – the simplest being the first message isn’t even sent at all. This is sometimes known as ‘Niven’s Law’.

The more scientific way of expressing this can be found in Igor Dmitriyevich Novikov’s Evolution of the Universe where he said, “The closure of time curves does not necessarily imply a violation of causality, since the events along such a closed line may all be ‘self-adjusted’ – they all affect one another through the closed cycle and follow on in self-consistent way.” Professor Paul J. Nahin in his book TIME MACHINE TALES sees this as a self-consistency principle which essentially does the tidying up of any potential problems in theoretical time travel. Nahin gives the wryly comic example of Lord Dunsany’s 1928 play THE JEST OF HAHALABA where a man obtains a copy of tomorrow’s newspaper in which he read his own obituary, which, ironically, shocks him so much he expires, thus explaining the obituary itself. This simple obituary plot later became the inspiration for the 1944 film IT HAPPENED TOMORROW starring Dick Powell.

In fact, there are many examples of Time Travel tales where there is a wish to relive the past, yet when this is given, the results often end up very similar to the outcome that was hoped to be avoided. An example of this is REPEAT PERFORMANCE (1947), where a wife kills her husband on New Year’s Eve but is given the chance to relive the whole of 1946. Naturally enough she’s determined not to repeat the mistakes that led to his death, but events conspire in such a way that her husband still dies, only this time it is someone else who pulls the trigger.

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The Time That Never Was - Swidgers cover
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This happens in DARK, too, where coincidence stops Jonas from taking his own life when he believes this action will solve the conundrum. No it won’t, besides Fate won’t let it him do it. His gun won’t fire, someone comes in and interrupts. Likewise in IF I HADN’T MET YOU, (SI NO T’HAGUÉS CONEGUT), the ten-part Catalan television series, Eduard discovers that in each universe he visits, a tragedy of some sort, usually a car accident, follows him. Slightly different in each world, but a tragedy always ensues. A very unscientific summary of ‘self-adjusting’ or ‘self-consistency’ theory would be to observe that Father Time and his friend Destiny will always find a way in the end. Love sometimes does that too, if you believe in such things.

At a human level we all know that what is done is done. And perhaps what is more important is that what is said cannot be unsaid, even if sometimes we wish it were so. However, as Professor Paul J. Nahin points out, we do have the final lines from Ted Chiang’s 2007 novel THE MERCHANT AND THE ALCHEMIST’S GATE to offer some hope in that area. As many Time Tales do, the story explores the impossibility of changing the past and the mistakes we have made, but there is a moment of consolation in its closing words: “Nothing erases the past. There is repentance, there is atonement and there is forgiveness. That is all, but that is enough.”

subatomic particles

Subatomic Time

Those subatomic particles are real oddballs, aren’t they? You see, scientists believe that for subatomic particles there is no past and no future. And then further up the scale there are all those electrons and quarks. Well yes, Time does exist for them, only it has no direction. And yet here’s what really is odd: those particles and all those electrons and quarks are what make up what and who we are, that is, human beings who get old and experience the passage of time all too easily from one disappearing second to the next. For us, Time does exist and it does have a direction and it’s one way.

So how do you square that circle? How is the contradiction that we as humans may experience Time, but that which we are made of does not? It’s well weird.

To put this weirdness in a more scientific way: how does the subatomic become the macroscopic? And when exactly does Time become existent and gain a direction? As Professor Jim Al-Khalili of the University of Sussex has said, “If you zoom down small enough, there is no arrow of time. Somehow when you zoom out, the irreversibility of time emerges. Can we see the direction to time, the distinction between past and future, emerging from the very building blocks of reality?”

So where and when is the transition?

Perhaps the answer may end up like one of Zeno of Elea’s puzzles or that question of when does a man with a full head of hair become a man who’s bald? After losing one? After losing a thousand? The human head has about a hundred thousand hairs, so perhaps not. But do six hairs count as a full head of hair? If not, can we just call it ‘thinning’? Not really, it has to be one or the other: bald or not bald. There’s no baldish. It’s being pregnant. You are or you’re not. And that’s the point about Time: there is not a half way house between Time being existent and it not being existent.

Exactly what happens at the interface between the quantum world and what we may call the touchable world has puzzled scientists since the German physicist Erwin Schrödinger posed his 1935 Thought Experiment about a cat that could, according to the subatomic world, be simultaneously alive and dead (the paradox comes from what is known as Quantum Superposition, a fundamental principle of Quantum Mechanics that states that, any two or more quantum states can be added together – “superposed” – and the result will be another valid quantum state).

Science then has been grappling with this apparent irreconcilable weirdness of our world for over a century now. And the question ‘How can the blood and flesh of our fixed world ever be squared with the subatomic world from which it is created?’ has yet to be answered. Of course, the question of whether Schrödinger’s cat can be simultaneously alive and dead is a silly question. It can’t. Physics bows to biology and to some degree to common sense. Schrödinger’s famous Thought Experiment showed nevertheless that physics implied that the cat can be as dead as a door nail and alive with all nine lives still remaining – at the same time.

The ability of subatomic particles to have two ‘existences’ occasionally comes up in Time Tales. This is an extract from a lengthy lecture in particle physics that appeared in DEVS:

“Gun. Barrier. Sensor. The Dual Slit Experiment. I’m sure you are all familiar. A stream of single particles, let’s say photons, are fired at two slits in a barrier. Now, mysteriously, the single photon appears to pass through both slits at the same time, as evidenced by the interference pattern that starts to appear when the photon hits the back of the sensor. We conclude that the single photon is somehow interacting with itself. And now we have primer facie evidence of the superposition of quantum particles that they can exist in more than one place at the same time. That idea makes us uncomfortable. We’re not used to seeing things being in more than one place at the same time. It’s in conflict with our direct experience of the world. I am not in a superposition, I am standing only here. And you are not in a superposition, you are sitting only there. So we decide we need more information, we place a detector on one of the two slits, so we can tell when the photon is passing through. But as soon as the detector is activated, the interference pattern on the back of the sensor disappears. The superposition photon has suddenly collapsed to a classical single position. The photon is now only in one place. The act of observing the particle has somehow changed it. It’s a complex problem, which leads to a simple question. What the hell just happened?”

And scientists are still waiting for an answer to that question.

black hole

Black Holes and the Singularity

General relativity predicts that a sufficiently massive star – roughly four times greater than our dear little sun – when its fuel is nearly exhausted, will experience a total gravitational collapse. So fuel-starved and weakened, its radiation pressure would be no longer able to keep this large, elderly star inflated against the force of its own gravity. As a result, it would implode and crash into itself creating what is called a black hole, a dramatic term coined in 1967 by the Princeton physicist John Wheeler (1911-2008) in an address before the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

A black hole then is an object with a gravitational field so strong that even light cannot escape it, hence why it is called black, and at its centre is something called a singularity, a region even smaller than an electron into which everything is drawn, hence the word hole. Once gravity as it were runs out of control, space-time smashes itself out of existence at this singularity. Or, as Stephen Hawking put it, “a singularity is a place where the classical concepts of space and time break down as do all the known laws of physics.” Maths gone mad. Or, as one physicist put it, a space-time singularity is where God starts dividing by zero.

But writers of science fiction like nothing more than those places where ‘all the known laws of physics break down’. To such places and ideas they will themselves gravitate. And a pretty strong gravitational field it is too. But be warned, Black Holes are dangerous, for they are essentially one way trap-doors, and not, as many would have it be, a gateway to dinosaurs.

A singularity, it has been suggested, was the origin of the Big Bang itself. In fact, there are those who have conjectured the Universe created itself through time travel, not unlike those time travellers such as Dominick Hide in THE FLIPSIDE OF DOMINICK HIDE who become their own ancestors (or his own great-grandfather in the case of Dominick). There is also the theory that the Universe is like an elastic band that expands and contracts across eternity. Philosophers have also raised the interesting question that if Time was created at the moment of the Big Bang, would Time disappear if the universe collapsed in on itself and became a Black Hole and once again a singularity? Most physicists don’t believe the universe has enough mass to do this, nor do they support the ‘elastic band’ theory. Maybe so. But maybe too they just haven’t looked hard enough for the mass that is required. Might it not be simply hiding down a rabbit hole somewhere.

For those interested in such things, the term ‘black hole’, describing a weird region of space-time, actually appeared in a story called TYPEWRITER FROM THE FUTURE in Amazing Stories February 1950 by Roger ‘Rog’ Phillips (under the name Peter Worth). And that’s seventeen years before Wheelers address.

the fourth dimension

The Fourth Dimension

Aristotle said, “On the Heavens, the three dimensions are all there are.” And these dimensions are spatial. We have up and down, we have in front and behind, and we have right and left. Breadth, length and thickness. That’s enough surely, isn’t it? Not for physicists. They want to include Time, after all, what will be an object’s breadth, length and thickness tomorrow? And next week? Or the week after? For Einstein, Space is a three-dimensional arena, but it really needs Time to add a fourth coordinate and that is Time Directions. This is a fairly lengthy extract for H.G. Wells’ THE TIME MACHINE that goes into great detail as to why Einstein was right and Aristotle was wrong:

“You must follow me carefully. I shall have to controvert one or two ideas that are almost universally accepted. The geometry, for instance, they taught you at school is founded on a misconception.”
“Is not that rather a large thing to expect us to begin upon?” said Filby, an argumentative person with red hair.
“I do not mean to ask you to accept anything without reasonable ground for it. You will soon admit as much as I need from you. You know of course that a mathematical line, a line of thickness nil, has no real existence. They taught you that? Neither has a mathematical plane. These things are mere abstractions.”
“That is all right,” said the Psychologist.
“Nor, having only length, breadth, and thickness, can a cube have a real existence.”
“There I object,” said Filby. “Of course a solid body may exist. All real things—”
“So most people think. But wait a moment. Can an instantaneous cube exist?”
“Don’t follow you,” said Filby.
“Can a cube that does not last for any time at all, have a real existence?”

Filby became pensive. “Clearly,” the Time Traveller proceeded, “any real body must have extension in four directions: it must have Length, Breadth, Thickness, and – Duration. But through a natural infirmity of the flesh, which I will explain to you in a moment, we incline to overlook this fact. There are really four dimensions, three which we call the three planes of Space, and a fourth, Time. There is, however, a tendency to draw an unreal distinction between the former three dimensions and the latter, because it happens that our consciousness moves intermittently in one direction along the latter from the beginning to the end of our lives.”

“That,” said a very young man, making spasmodic efforts to relight his cigar over the lamp; “that . . . very clear indeed.”

“Now, it is very remarkable that this is so extensively overlooked,” continued the Time Traveller, with a slight accession of cheerfulness. “Really this is what is meant by the Fourth Dimension, though some people who talk about the Fourth Dimension do not know they mean it. It is only another way of looking at Time. There is no difference between time and any of the three dimensions of space except that our consciousness moves along it. But some foolish people have got hold of the wrong side of that idea. You have all heard what they have to say about this Fourth Dimension?”

“I have not,” said the Provincial Mayor.

“It is simply this. That Space, as our mathematicians have it, is spoken of as having three dimensions, which one may call Length, Breadth, and Thickness, and is always definable by reference to three planes, each at right angles to the others. But some philosophical people have been asking why three dimensions particularly – why not another direction at right angles to the other three? – and have even tried to construct a Four-Dimension geometry. Professor Simon Newcomb was expounding this to the New York Mathematical Society only a month or so ago. You know how on a flat surface, which has only two dimensions, we can represent a figure of a three-dimensional solid, and similarly they think that by models of thee dimensions they could represent one of four–  if they could master the perspective of the thing. See?”

“I think so,” murmured the Provincial Mayor; and, knitting his brows, he lapsed into an introspective state, his lips moving as one who repeats mystic words. “Yes, I think I see it now,” he said after some time, brightening in a quite transitory manner.

“Well, I do not mind telling you I have been at work upon this geometry of Four Dimensions for some time. Some of my results are curious. For instance, here is a portrait of a man at eight years old, another at fifteen, another at seventeen, another at twenty-three, and so on. All these are evidently sections, as it were, Three-Dimensional representations of his Four-Dimensioned being, which is a fixed and unalterable thing.

“Scientific people,” proceeded the Time Traveller, after the pause required for the proper assimilation of this, “know very well that Time is only a kind of Space. Here is a popular scientific diagram, a weather record. This line I trace with my finger shows the movement of the barometer. Yesterday it was so high, yesterday night it fell, then this morning it rose again, and so gently upward to here. Surely the mercury did not trace this line in any of the dimensions of Space generally recognized? But certainly it traced such a line, and that line, therefore, we must conclude was along the Time-Dimension.”

“But,” said the Medical Man, staring hard at a coal in the fire, “if Time is really only a fourth dimension of Space, why is it, and why has it always been, regarded as something different? And why cannot we move in Time as we move about in the other dimensions of Space?”

The Time Traveller smiled. “Are you sure we can move freely in Space? Right and left we can go, backward and forward freely enough, and men always have done so. I admit we move freely in two dimensions. But how about up and down? Gravitation limits us there.”

THE TIME MACHINE was written in 1895 but a few years later the concept of The Forth Dimension, well, took on another dimension. When Hermann Minkowski gave his famous address on space-time in 1908 he spoke of a ‘world-point’, he then went on to talk of a ‘world line’. “We will imagine,” he said, “that every ‘where’ and every ‘when’ there is something perceptible.” And it is from this everlasting career of the substantial that we gain the idea of the ‘world-line’. “We obtain,” he said, “as an image, so to speak, of the everlasting career of the substantial point, a curve in the world, a world-line…. The whole Universe is seen to resolve itself into similar world-lines, and I fain anticipate myself by saying that in my opinion physical laws might find their most perfect expressions as relations between these world-lines…. Thus three-dimensional geometry becomes a chapter in four-dimensional physics.”

It seems that creative fiction writers took three words from this presentation and ran with them. And those words were ‘between’ and ‘four’, which became more of a modifier when added to the third important word, ‘dimension’. And we’ve all heard the sort of dialogue that writers use to explain unexpected arrivals. ‘Where did the aliens come from?’ ‘The Fourth Dimension!’ ‘Where’s that?’ ‘Somewhere between their world and ours.’

In DIMENSIONS (2011) time travel is possible using, not surprisingly, other dimensions. And more words have emerged from this concept of the ‘Forth Dimension’ such as ‘subspace’ and ‘hyperspace’. Exactly what they mean scientifically is rarely expanded on, sometimes it’s simply enough to say, ‘They were hiding in subspace’ or ‘We will travel more quickly if we go into hyperspace’.

In THE OA, a television series built around the concepts of ‘dimensions’, it is suggested that in a Near Death Experience (NDE), if someone ‘comes back’ that person must have come back from ‘somewhere’. THE OA is part science, part metaphysics, part LSD trip, for it is the only time travel story in history to feature a telepathic octopus. Even Doctor Who, who has travelled to universe and back, has never had chance to bump into one of those.

granny and william with the power of hands

Where do Swidgers fit into The Science of Time?

SWIDGERS is a Time Fantasy Adventure book series featuring Time Beings who are human in form but with a unique power within them that gives then a brief insight into people’s Timepaths and so they are able, with ‘a sway, a switch, a nudge or a shove’, to alter them for the better. Some Swidgers discover when they come of age that they have unique abilities that are not found in others of their kind. One such is William and another is his Mentor, Granny. To say what these are would be to give away too much of the plot. Let’s just say their ‘gifts’ help them in their work.

So where does The Science of Time fit in? Well it should be said in the Swidger Universe there is a finite past. It is not a Block Universe as such, but rather one where travel to the past is possible and where multiverses are possible too, but only until Time decides which to choose. For Time in the Swidger Universe is essentially a sentient entity. However, those who can bend Time or travel along it are very, very rare.

SWIDGERS strictly speaking is a Time Fantasy as opposed to a Science Fiction Fantasy as Swidgers in the Swidger Universe use no machines or science as such in their endeavours.

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