The Green Balloon


This fell into our backyard last night.  I’m not sure where it came from.  I’ve thought of a few likely scenarios.  All of them very sad.

I hope the message made it to its intended recipient in heaven before it deflated and fell back down.

It’s at times like these that time travel is very comforting to me.  Einstein said it’s possible to the point of inevitable (4).

Here’s the way I see it.  If time travel is possible then everything & everyone always exists.   Nobody EVER dies.  Death is an illusion based on perception like thinking the world is flat or that we’re at the center of the universe.  Here’s why I say that….

You can’t travel to a place that no longer exists.  If we can travel to December 2, 1999 8:30:15 AM from November 7, 2011 7:12:02PM then 1999 never went away.   Just like traveling  from North Dakota to Texas.  Everyone who was in North Dakota is still walking around & business is ticking along as usual even though we’re in Texas now & can’t be a part of it from here.

I think time works the same way.  We go through life driving from 1950 (North Dakota) through South Dakota (1970) and Nebraska (1990) all the way to Texas (2011) and possibly onto Mexico if we’re lucky enough to be in a vehicle that lasts that long, we maintain it properly & we don’t get into any major accidents along the way.  Our vehicle drives at a constant speed in a straight line, only carries one passenger and only starts & stops once.  If you leave someone behind in Oklahoma you’ll never ever be able to see them again without hopping out of your vehicle and turning around.

In this scenario the vehicle is the human body.  I don’t think time travel is possible in a human body – just don’t see it.  Everything about us physically reinforces our perception of time.

BUT a grad student (neurologist) wrote a paper.  He said if you made an EXACT copy of your brain and put it into another body… that person would think it’s you. That’s why you can replace almost any human organ or tissue and still be you.  Since then people have built upon this concept.  You could build a replica brain and put it in a machine – that machine would think it’s you.  And even a computer program.  The computer program would think it’s you.  If done successfully there would essentially be two yous.  It’s all theory.  Nobody knows how to replicate a human brain in practice.  IBM is trying (3) but only in a general AI sense.

Okay… so here’s my theory.  My theory is this:  the human body won’t be able to travel through time but the human mind can.  If you replicate it exactly and package it as data.  We already know how to transfer data from point A to point B in space.  If we’re able to send it through time through via extraordinary means [like a natural worm hole or DARPA’s atom smasher(1) or like what Wash U’s John Cramer is trying to do with a UV laser(2)], direct it somewhere specific and someone at the other end has the technology to transfer that data into a machine or a body… “you” with all of your memories and your personality could go back to 1999 and hug your mom.  You could even tell her when she passes away & what happens after her death (“you have three grandbabies.  One’s in college, one just got married, one is running for president.  We all miss you and love you very much, etc.”) because your memories & feelings would be included in that package.  In present day you wouldn’t have any memory of this happening until the data was repackaged and sent back then converted.  And even then it’s just a record.  But your mom would be aware of it. 

Anyway… that’s why I’m comforted by the thought of time travel.  Even if nobody converts my brain and sends me back in time, I like the idea that nobody ever dies and that its possible.

Until then, I think sending a balloon to heaven is a really nice thing to do.  And I’m glad it ended up in my backyard.  Even though I’m very sorry that family can’t be apart of their mom’s life.  Their mom is still living at one time.  And I hope one day it’s possible for all of us to send ourselves back in time to express our love to our  loved ones.

The end.

OH!  And one more thing. I talk about time travel a lot with friends.  People think it’s dangerous because you could go back and change a lot of things.  Put a quarter in a newspaper stand instead of two dimes & a nickel… and all of the sudden the Empire state building is gone.  The butterfly effect.  I don’t think time is like that.   The trick is to stop seeing time as events in a sequence – like a timeline.  If you think of past, present, future all laid out at once like a terrain it’s easier to understand.

Back to the analogy of North Dakota & Texas.  You can vacation toNorth Dakota year after year and you won’t have the exact same experience twice.  You can change what you do, where you stay, who you mingle with and what you say, but overall North Dakota is still North Dakota, and under normal circumstances everything within will progress as it would have if you’d never visited.  It is outside your control.  It’s bigger than you.  If you did something significant (like bomb North Dakota) things would change.  But probably not to the extent you’d think.

In the case of time travel… If you went back to 1999 and told your mom how she was going to pass away she might be more cautious when she reaches that part of her journey.  You might be able to buy her a little extra time with your input.  But eventually her vehicle will give out and her journey will end.  Some things you can’t change. 

Another analogy… when you get back from vacationing out of state things are generally as you left them.  A few things might be different (like the amount of money you have in your account if you gambled it away on your vacation) but overall your furniture will be in the same place, you’ll have the same food in the fridge, the same dog will be there to greet you.  I think time travel is the same way.  You can go back and try to change as much as you want – and will likely have a completely different experience in 1999 than you previously had – but it’s still 1999.  2011 will still be 2011 with all of its main features. 

I don’t think people should fear the concept.  If anything they should be encouraged by it.  Nobody ever really dies.  Everyone and everything we’ve ever been in contact with still exists.  The possibility of interacting with it is very legitimate.

Okay now – really – the end.

Roll the credits…

(1) Darpa’s Atom Smasher & Time Travel Article

(2) Physicist trying to send signal back in time article

(3) IBM replicates brain activity

(4) Einstein: Time travel is possible


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