Mysteries of Time

By 2Tall (formerly known as Alvin/Nah-Kolor)

The future is unknown. The future is now, now is then. We sometime look at the future with anticipation, at other times with dread just as we tend to look at the past with a sigh of relief or a sadness that it's already gone. Our young and careless lives are behind us and our old age is ahead of us. We are all, in one way or another, at the mercy of time.

Time might be a strange topic to feature in a mag and I would probably agree. The topic started churning through my mind a couple of weeks ago as I watched and old sci-fi action flick called Timecop starring Jean-Claude Van Damme. In my opinion, the movie is awful and I wouldn't have watched it if it wasn't for the fact that my wife wanted to see the whole thing after she saw the first 10 minutes. I tell you, if I can get my wife to watch any sci-fi, I'll take it!

Timecop is essentially a movie about this power hungry politician that uses time travel to go back in time to fund his bid for the presidency of the United States. A time cop agency, established to police the travel through time, is in hot pursuit and eventually manages to overthrow the attempt by a classic time travel problem: if you kill yourself in the past, you must also cease to exist.

Although the movie isn't that great, it has some time travel "science" in there that makes your mind spin.

Fast forward until January 12th, 2008. A new television series based on the Terminator movies, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, launches. Once again, the Terminator world comes rushing back to me and the implications of time travel once again nudges my mind into action.

I'm sure there's not one reader that reads this that has not seen at least one of the Terminator movies. The plot of the movie is simple. In the not so distant future, robots rule the world and are on a mission to exterminate humanity. Humans are forced on the defensive and fight back. The robots realized that if they send someone back in time to kill the leader of the human resistance, they will automatically win.

That's where Arnold comes in. Traveling back in time, his mission is to kill the mother of the yet to be born resistance leader, in effect rendering the fight in the future mute. What the robots don't expect is that the resistance sends someone else back in time to prevent this from happening. What follows is an interesting set of events.

The protector is sent back in time by John Connor, the resistance leader, his mission being to protect John's mother and the unborn John. As it turns out he ends up being the father of John and the destroyer of the Terminator before he himself dies. So there already is an interesting concept. Imagine that you send your best friend back in time to protect your mom and it turns out he's actually your dad? Imagine what that might do to a friendship.

Terminator 2 is a classic by now and follows pretty much the same line of thought. Bad robot goes back in time to kill the son that was born. Good robot (aka Arnold) goes back in time to protect son. Bad robot ends up dead, so does Good robot. In the end, Skynet, which is the computer system that is supposed to create the intelligent robots, is supposedly destroyed when its creator is killed.

End of story? No, T3 comes along and a somewhat chubby Arnold is back, now fighting a female Terminator. Sarah Connor is at this time dead, John lives on. Once again, same basic plot.

It makes you wonder, doesn't it? Where do all these robots keep coming from? If the robots failed in the first one and the second one, shouldn't the future have been changed enough to prevent yet another Terminator from coming back?

Apparently not. The Sarah Connor Chronicles prove this. Taking place sometime after T2, we will now be able to follow Sarah and John on a weekly basis, battling through time to destroy Skynet as well as trying to escape the Terminators from the future that always seem to be around. At their side, a new female Terminator sidekick that kicks some serious Terminator butt. After watching the two first episodes, I have to say it's looking promising although it's strange to see someone else in the shoes of Sarah and John.

But enough about Terminator. I had not intended this article to be an expose about the Terminator universe. My intention was to bring forward some of the interesting concepts that come up with the whole notion of time travel.

I think most people would ask if time travel really is possible. Well, like I mentioned in the first paragraph, the future is always now so in a sense we're always living in the future even though it's always now. In another sense, this whole planet is living in a bubble in time. How? Just go outside on a dark night when there are no clouds and look at sky, at the stars. In essence, you're looking into the past when you look at the stars. Even during the day when you look at the sun, the light you see is 8 minutes or so old. If the sun went out, it would take 8 minutes for us to even notice that the light was gone. Looking out in the universe, we see light that has traveled billions of lightyears to reach us. Events we see in the universe have already happened. Isn't that fascinating to think about?

Now, going back to time travel. Most movies tend to deal with going back in time because it is more plausible that one would be able to go back in time. There are of course plenty of problems with going back in time as well. If you could go back in time and change something, will you even be born? Will your wife even exist or will you suddenly have a wife when you get home (or maybe a different one)? If Jesus had not been crucified, for example, most of our Western world would be different (yes, I know, that's a completely different discussion). If Mohammed had been killed before he had his vision and founded Islam, what would the Middle East look like today? If someone went back to kill Hitler (or prevent his death), how would Europe look today? Interesting questions, would you not agree?

The future is even more problematic. How can you travel into a future that hasn't even been written yet? Good question. How could you travel back from the past to a rewritten now? What if you went back 10 years and killed yourself by accident or, God forbid, became you own father?

I've always wondered that if time travel really is possible, why haven't we seen visitors from the future yet? Wouldn't it be obvious that if we could do it, we would have people coming back all the time?

Or maybe we do? Maybe that's what UFOs are? History seems to tell of frequent visits by strange phenomenon in the sky and frankly, if you ask me, I'm more likely to believe that if UFOs are actually real that they are travelers in time as opposed to aliens from plant Blob.

Will we ever know? Who really knows? Time will tell I guess. Until then, we can continue speculating and writing great stories and watching action packed movies like the Terminator series.

"I'll be back!"