So I’ve had this little idea brewing for a few months. It’s a series of narrative poems that involve time travel. But, it must be time travel of the sort that you can go back and change things without messing up other things quite so badly. But I haven’t really started writing it yet. A couple notes here and there. However, I have started accumulating a list of things I want to read before writing it.
First, I stumbled across this video of Karyna McGlynn reading from her collection of poems, I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl. I now have to buy and read this book—if nothing else, so I can be sure I’m not doing something too similar.
Then I talked to one of the science professors at my school, who recommended I read N. David Mermin’s It’s About Time: Understanding Einstein’s Relativity, and meet up later with ideas and questions about time travel. I have reserved the book at the library, but I haven’t picked it up yet. (I have a library fine. And shame. This is my irrational excuse for not having done this yet. I am sorry, library.)
I am nearly done rereading Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, which is entirely relevant for some reason. I’ve been pecking at it here and there.
For a little while, I was discouraged. I’m not sure why. I think it’s because I don’t feel well-equipped with knowledge about theories of time travel. Or of quantum physics. Plus, a common reaction when I described an event in my project to other writers was “but then won’t she die?” It seems that the common perception of theoretical time travel is the model used in “Back to the Future,” in which the grandfather paradox is a significant conflict.
I kept responding with “well. . . I . . . uh. . . I want to use a different concept of time travel. One that involves quantum physics, and so involves conflicting possibilities to coexist. But then I need to figure out if it even makes sense for the protagonist to be able to travel from one timeline to another. I mean, which part of her is really traveling? Her body? Her consciousness?” and I would continue rambling, often met with a “. . . huh.”
Of course, people are still supportive of my idea, but it’s pretty clear that the project itself is still in its infant stages.
Anyhow, I was going through my blog reader yesterday, and found an article about this fantastic paper fresh out of MIT. I am no longer afraid that my convoluted ideas about time travel are completely invalid. The paper examines an idea of time travel in which the grandfather paradox is not a problem. Here’s the abstract:
This paper discusses the quantum mechanics of closed timelike curves (CTC) and of other potential methods for time travel. We analyze a specific proposal for such quantum time travel, the quantum description of CTCs based on post-selected teleportation (P-CTCs). We compare the theory of P-CTCs to previously proposed quantum theories of time travel: the theory is physically inequivalent to Deutsch’s theory of CTCs, but it is consistent with path-integral approaches (which are the best suited for analyzing quantum field theory in curved spacetime). We derive the dynamical equations that a chronology-respecting system interacting with a CTC will experience. We discuss the possibility of time travel in the absence of general relativistic closed timelike curves, and investigate the implications of P-CTCs for enhancing the power of computation.
I’m adding it to my list. I’ve accepted that I will not understand a great deal of it. I’ve skimmed a little bit of it, but I think I have to read Mermin’s book first if I want to get more out of it. I fear that I may also need to add some readings on CTCs.
It’s a good kind of fear.