Home > My Fiction, Science, Star Trek > Ars Technica interviewed me on STAR TREK time travel

Ars Technica interviewed me on STAR TREK time travel

Ars Technica, a science and technology news site that also covers SF and media, has posted a lengthy, in-depth article by Xaq Rzetelny exploring the science of time travel in Star Trek and discussing my attempts to reconcile and rationalize it in my Department of Temporal Investigations books. I was interviewed for the article, and there are some quotes from me toward the end — and even a quote from an actual physicist reacting to my quotes. You can read the whole piece here:

Trek at 50: The quest for a unifying theory of time travel in Star Trek

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  1. Michael
    February 13, 2016 at 8:08 am

    Hi, Christopher, I read the Ars article by Xaq and it was a really fun read. Thanks. I was thinking that there could be different species of chronotons and these are what determine which type of time travel will occur. Just like quarks, you may have 3-4 different flavors, and the mix of these flavors when creating a time portal/event/whatever would determine whether the time travel event results in forming a new, parallel universe, a consistent universe, or an ever-changing timeline. This also allows for the hybrid models, where a mix of chronotons are (on purpose or inadvertently) used to initiate the time shift and therefore results in a hybrid experience.

    After all, we are talking SF here, so why not invent different chronotons for different purposes?

    What do you think?

    • February 13, 2016 at 8:39 am

      That seems unnecessary. The same basic laws of physics can produce widely different results given different initial conditions. The same laws of physics that produce an Earthlike planet can also produce an asteroid, a gas giant, or a star if the conditions are different. You don’t need to invent a different type of matter as the source for each one. Similarly, the laws of gravitation that make you fall down on Earth are the same laws that let astronauts float in the ISS. The same force is in play, but the conditions produce radically different results. Physical laws are mathematical equations, and the results you get depend on what numbers you insert into the equations.

      This is why I said in the article that I don’t understand the common assumption that there’s any need to reconcile the different outcomes of time travel. It’s natural that a single physical principle should produce a range of different outcomes in different conditions. So there’s no point in inventing arbitrary new particles to explain something that really does not need explaining. Physics tends to follow the principle of elegance — the right answer is usually a simple and straightforward one, with a minimum of excess elements. Believers in Ptolemy’s geocentric Solar System piled on dozens of nested epicycles to try to reconcile their observations of planetary motion with their assumptions of uniform circular motion with the Earth at the center, but Kepler realized the right answer was the far simpler one that the planets orbited the Sun in elliptical paths. If you have to make up multiple, arbitrary new things to force the data to fit your assumptions, then your assumptions are probably wrong.

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