Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Timey-wimey travel

A lot of us here in the United States would love to have a crystal ball and find out what's going to happen in the next few months.  After all, using logic to predict the direction our government is going is a seriously losing proposition.  As a student of mine put it, "I keep thinking things can't get any weirder.  Then they do."

So allow me to put all your worries to rest.  We now know what's going to happen.

Because a time traveler from the year 2030 has come back to tell us all about it.

His name is "Noah."  Why exactly he decided to come back here is a matter of conjecture, since he claims that we can't change anything he's predicting, as it's in his past.  But there are two things that he says will happen that are a little eyebrow-raising.

First, he says that Donald Trump will win re-election in 2020.  This is a little hard to fathom because I would have thought it'd be a little difficult to run the country from a prison cell.

Second, he says that in 2028, Yolanda Renee King, the granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr., will be sworn in as president.  This is kind of weird for a completely different reason, which is that she will be only twenty years old at the time.  Currently, you have to be 35 years old to run for president, so this would be a serious change in policy.

On the other hand, the cadre of Old White Men has fucked things up pretty badly, maybe it's time to let the Young People of Color have a chance.

Anyhow, Noah says an amendment to the Constitution will take care of the age issue.  Hard to imagine that getting any kind of traction in Congress, but five years ago, I'd have said the same thing about the likelihood of Congress looking the other way while a sociopathic serial adulterer used the presidency to line his own pockets.  While Billy Graham's son, of all people, called said sociopathic serial adulterer a "Man of God."

So things have to be pretty weird for me to say "no, that couldn't happen" any more.

As for Noah, he says he's not trying to change anyone's mind about anything.  "This is not an opinion, this is a fact from the future that actually happens," Noah said.  "I’m not here to persuade anyone to political opinions."  And apparently, time travel itself isn't all that much fun.  "I have many body implications and things all over myself," he said, "and I step in this giant dome and these things fire up and basically a large electronic weight basically pushes you through time.  It feels like if you got electrocuted."

Which brings up a series of questions, the most important of which is: what the fuck is a "body implication?"  I'm guessing he meant "implant," but who knows?  Eloquence doesn't seem to be emphasized in the schools of the future, if Noah is any indication.

In any case, time travel sounds pretty uncomfortable to me, making me wonder why he did it in the first place.  I mean, if he can't get us to change our ways and avoid the future he's predicting (because we can't change anything that's going to happen), what's his motivation?  From what he's saying, it sounds like pretty much everything is a Dr. Who-style fixed point in time.

So unless time is actually a big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff, I'm not really seeing the point.

Noah says he has proof, though, and he brings out an x-ray of his hand with a blurry blob on it that he says is an implanted device that is critical for time travel.  Because clearly that wouldn't be easy to fake, or anything.

Anyhow, that's today's dip in the deep end, thanks to a loyal reader of Skeptophilia who alerted me to the claim.  Predictably, I'm unimpressed.  This is hopeful in that it means there's a good likelihood that Trump won't be re-elected.  As far as the rest -- the Constitutional amendment and Yolanda King being elected in 2028 -- I guess we'll have to wait to find out.

Like I said, weirder things have happened.


This week's Skeptophilia book recommendation is Michio Kaku's The Physics of the Impossible.  Kaku takes a look at the science and technology that is usually considered to be in the realm of science fiction -- things like invisibility cloaks, replicators, matter transporters, faster-than-light travel, medical devices like Star Trek's "tricorders" -- and considers whether they're possible given what we know of scientific law, and if so, what it would take to develop them.  In his signature lucid, humorous style, Kaku differentiates between what's merely a matter of figuring out the technology (such as invisibility) and what's probably impossible in a a real and final sense (such as, sadly, faster-than-light travel).  It's a wonderful excursion into the power of the human imagination -- and the power to make at least some of it happen.

[If you purchase the book from Amazon using the image/link below, part of the proceeds goes to supporting Skeptophilia!]

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