Why There Are No Time Travellers: They Always Do This
They Always Go For Hitler
International Association of Time Travelers: Members' Forum
Subforum: Europe - Twentieth Century - Second World War
At 14:52:28, FreedomFighter69 wrote:
Reporting my first temporal excursion since joining IATT: have just returned from 1936 Berlin, having taken the place of one of Leni Riefenstahl's cameramen and assassinated Adolf Hitler during the opening of the Olympic Games. Let a free world rejoice!
At 14:57:44, SilverFox316 wrote:
Back from 1936 Berlin; incapacitated FreedomFighter69 before he could pull his little stunt. Freedomfighter69, as you are a new member, please read IATT Bulletin 1147 regarding the killing of Hitler before your next excursion. Failure to do so may result in your expulsion per Bylaw 223.
At 18:06:59, BigChill wrote:
Take it easy on the kid, SilverFox316; everybody kills Hitler on their first trip. I did. It always gets fixed within a few minutes, what's the harm?
At 18:33:10, SilverFox316 wrote:
Easy for you to say, BigChill, since to my recollection you've never volunteered to go back and fix it. You think I've got nothing better to do?
At 10:15:44, JudgeDoom wrote:
Good news! I just left a French battlefield in October 1916, where I shot dead a young Bavarian Army messenger named Adolf Hitler! Not bad for my first time, no? Sic semper tyrannis!
At 10:22:53, SilverFox316 wrote:
Back from 1916 France I come, having at the last possible second prevented Hitler's early demise at the hands of JudgeDoom and, incredibly, restrained myself from shooting JudgeDoom and sparing us all years of correcting his misguided antics. READ BULLETIN 1147, PEOPLE!
At 15:41:18, BarracksRoomLawyer wrote:
Point of order: issues related to Hitler's service in the Bavarian Army ought to go in the World War I forum.
At 02:21:30, SneakyPete wrote:
Vienna, 1907: after numerous attempts, have infiltrated the Academy of Fine Arts and facilitated Adolf Hitler's admission to that institution. Goodbye, Hitler the dictator; hello, Hitler the modestly successful landscape artist! Brought back a few of his paintings as well, any buyers?
At 02:29:17, SilverFox316 wrote:
All right; that's it. Having just returned from 1907 Vienna where I secured the expulsion of Hitler from the Academy by means of an elaborate prank involving the Prefect, a goat, and a substantial quantity of olive oil, I now turn my attention to our newer brethren, who, despite rules to the contrary, seem to have no intention of reading Bulletin 1147 (nor its Addendum, Alternate Means of Subverting the Hitlerian Destiny, and here I'm looking at you, SneakyPete). Permit me to sum it up and save you the trouble: no Hitler means no Third Reich, no World War II, no rocketry programs, no electronics, no computers, no time travel. Get the picture?
At 02:29:49, SilverFox316 wrote:
PS to SneakyPete: your Hitler paintings aren't worth anything, schmuck, since you probably brought them directly here from 1907, which means the paint's still fresh. Freaking n00b.
At 07:55:03, BarracksRoomLawyer wrote:
Amen, SilverFox316. Although, point of order, issues relating to early 1900s Vienna should really go in that forum, not here. This has been a recurring problem on this forum.
At 18:26:18, Jason440953 wrote:
SilverFox316, you seem to know a lot about the rules; what are your thoughts on traveling to, say, Braunau, Austria, in 1875 and killing Alois Hitler before he has a chance to father Adolf? Mind you, I'm asking out of curiosity alone, since I already went and did it.
At 18:42:55, SilverFox316 wrote:
Jason440953, see Bylaw 7, which states that all IATT rulings regarding historical persons apply to ancestors as well. I post this for the benefit of others, as I already made this clear to young Jason in person as I was dragging him back from 1875 by his hair. Got that? No ancestors. (Though if anyone were to go back to, say, Moline, Illinois, in, say, 2080 or so, and intercede to prevent Jason440953's conception, I could be persuaded to look the other way.)
At 21:19:17, BarracksRoomLawyer wrote:
Point of order: discussions of nineteenth-century Austria and twenty-first-century Illinois should be confined to their respective forums.
At 15:56:41, AsianAvenger wrote:
FreedomFighter69, JudgeDoom, SneakyPete, Jason440953, you're nothing but a pack of racists. Let the light of righteousness shine upon your squalid little viper's nest!
At 16:40:17, BigTom44 wrote:
Well, here we frickin' go.
At 16:58:42, FreedomFighter69 wrote:
Racist? For killing Hitler? WTF?
At 17:12:52, SaucyAussie wrote:
AsianAvenger, you're not rehashing that whole Nagasaki issue again, are you? We just got everyone calmed down from last time.
At 17:22:37, LadyJustice wrote:
I'm with SaucyAussie. AsianAvenger, you're making even less sense than usual. What gives?
At 18:56:09, AsianAvenger wrote:
What gives is everyone's repeated insistence on a course of action which, even if successful, would only save a few million Europeans. It would be no more trouble to travel to Fuyuanshui, China, in 1814 and kill Hong Xiuquan, thus preventing the Taiping Rebellion of the mid-nineteenth century and saving fifty million lives in the process. But, hey, what are fifty million yellow devils more or less, right, guys? We've got Poles and Frenchmen to worry about.
At 19:01:38, LadyJustice wrote:
Well, what's stopping you from killing him, AsianAvenger?
At 19:11:43, AsianAvenger wrote:
Only to have SilverFox316 undo my work? What's the point?
At 19:59:23, SilverFox316 wrote:
Actually, it seems like a pretty good idea to me, AsianAvenger. No complications that I can see.
At 20:07:25, Big Chill wrote:
Go for it, man.
At 20:11:31, AsianAvenger wrote:
Very well. I shall return in mere moments, the savior of millions!
At 20:14:17, LadyJustice wrote:
Just checked the timeline; congrats on your success, AsianAvenger!
At 10:52:53, LadyJustice wrote:
At 11:41:40, SilverFox316 wrote:
AsianAvenger, we need your report, buddy.
At 17:15:32, SilverFox316 wrote:
Okay, apparently AsianAvenger was descended from Hong Xiuquan. Any volunteers to go back and stop him from negating his own existence?
At 09:14:44, SilverFox316 wrote:
At 09:47:13, BarracksRoomLawyer wrote:
Point of order: this discussion belongs in the Qing Dynasty forum. We're adults; can we keep sight of what's important around here?
Robert Heinlein "All You Zombies."
A baby girl is mysteriously dropped off at an orphanage in Cleveland in 1945. "Jane" grows up lonely and dejected, not knowing who her parents are, until one day in 1963 she is strangely attracted to a drifter. She falls in love with him. But just when things are finally looking up for Jane, a series of disasters strike. First, she becomes pregnant by the drifter, who then disappears. Second, during the complicated delivery, doctors find that Jane has both sets of sex organs, and to save her life, they are forced to surgically convert "her" to a "him." Finally, a mysterious stranger kidnaps her baby from the delivery room.
Reeling from these disasters, rejected by society, scorned by fate, "he" becomes a drunkard and drifter. Not only has Jane lost her parents and her lover, but he has lost his only child as well. Years later, in 1970, he stumbles into a lonely bar, called Pop's Place, and spills out his pathetic story to an elderly bartender. The sympathetic bartender offers the drifter the chance to avenge the stranger who left her pregnant and abandoned, on the condition that he join the "time travelers corps." Both of them enter a time machine, and the bartender drops off the drifter in 1963. The drifter is strangely attracted to a young orphan woman, who subsequently becomes pregnant.
The bartender then goes forward 9 months, kidnaps the baby girl from the hospital, and drops off the baby in an orphanage back in 1945. Then the bartender drops off the thoroughly confused drifter in 1985, to enlist in the time travelers corps. The drifter eventually gets his life together, becomes a respected and elderly member of the time travelers corps, and then disguises himself as a bartender and has his most difficult mission: a date with destiny, meeting a certain drifter at Pop's Place in 1970.
The question is: Who is Jane's mother, father, grandfather, grand mother, son, daughter, granddaughter, and grandson? The girl, the drifter, and the bartender, of course, are all the same person. These paradoxes can made your head spin, especially if you try to untangle Jane's twisted parentage. If we draw Jane's family tree, we find that all the branches are curled inward back on themselves, as in a circle. We come to the astonishing conclusion that she is her own mother and father! She is an entire family tree unto herself.
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
A man named Harper Curtis living in depression-era Chicago comes upon a house – or House, as it is capitalised in the novel – that is a portal to other times. Inside there's a dead man on the floor, and on the walls a constellation of unrelated artefacts, among them a pair of butterfly wings, a baseball card and a contraceptive pill. Next to these objects are the names of women, scrawled in Harper's own handwriting. When he looks out of the window the world beyond seems to be in a time-lapse film: "The houses across the way change. The paint strips away, recolours itself, strips away again through snow and sun and trash tangled up with leaves blowing down the street."
We know Harper isn't much troubled by conscience because he throttled a blind woman to get the key to the House in the first place, and once inside he is quickly overcome with the urge to kill the "shining girls" signified by the names and keepsakes. His motives are mysterious. There are hints of the bliss-in-murder mysticism found in Alan Moore's graphic novel From Hell, but for the most part his reasons don't go any further than a penchant for cruelty, worked up by the inexplicable forces of the House.
And so he moves between 1929 and 1993, slaying his predetermined victims as he goes and leaving anachronistic items with the bodies. For an extra kick he enjoys masturbating over the scenes of his crimes, decades before or after he commits them: "He likes the juxtaposition of memory and change. It makes the experience sharper."
Not all his attacks are successful. Kirby, a young woman living in 1989, survives one of his assaults and vows to find her would-be killer. She becomes an intern at the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper to get her hands on evidence of a possible link between her ordeal and a series of other murders, befriending a lovesick old hack to help her with her quest. Meanwhile Harper is looping the loop through time, hoping to bump into Kirby again so he can finish the job.
Beukes has enormous fun with the concept. When Harper travels to 1988 he "stands entranced by the whirling and flaying brush strips of a car wash". He visits the Sears Tower under construction in 1972, and then returns a year later – or a day later, in his time – to take the elevator to the top. "The view makes him feel like a god."
Yet it is 1930s Chicago that is the most pungent and evocative era in the novel. Beukes's writing is at its most surprising here, recalling the cadences of Denis Johnson: when Harper surveys the sorry patients of a run-down hospital, they are described as having "the same look of resignation he's seen in farm horses on their last legs, ribs as pronounced as the cracks and furrows in the dead earth they strain the plow against. You shoot a horse like that."
Finding Time Travellers
There’s a lot we don’t know about time travel. Whether it exists, for example.
Just for the sake of argument, let’s assume time travel is theoretically possible. Even so, the fact that we aren’t aware of any time travelers isn’t particularly surprising. Making a big change far in the past, one that would conclusively announce to the world that time travel is real, could potentially change history such that the time traveler would never be born in the first place.
But according to a real study conducted by pair of physics professors at Michigan Technical University, there may be a way to locate time travelers - and it involves Twitter.
Released late last month, ‟Searching the Internet for evidence of time travelers” attempts to find real-world Marty McFlys by searching for information online that couldn’t have been posted without foreknowledge of the future.
‟Were a time traveler from the future to access the Internet of the past few years, they might have left once-prescient content that persists today,” the authors speculate. ‟Alternatively, such information might have been placed on Internet by a third party discussing something unusual they have heard. Such content might have been catalogued by search engines such as Google...or Bing...or remain in posts left on Facebook...Google Plus...or Twitter.”
For their analysis, the authors selected a pair of search terms that would have been completely unknown before a specific date in recent history and then looked for Internet traffic relating to those terms before the sets dates. The terms they looked at were ‟Comet ISON”, a comet first discovered on September 21, 2012, and ‟Pope Francis,” the name selected by Jorge Mario Bergoglio on March 16, 2013 when he ascended to the head of the Catholic Church.
The researchers dug through everything from Google data to Twitter hashtags in an attempt to find any mention of Comet ISON or Pope Francis in the time leading up to when those names became widely known.
Many search avenues were stymied by technological limitations. Namely, the ability to backdate Facebook status updates, making them appear as if they were posted earlier than they actually were. Additionally, Google Trends only shows results for search terms that have already received a large amount of interest, which makes it hard to find a time traveler’s single post predicting Pope Francis would be named Esquire’s Best Dressed Man of the Year.
In addition to looking for evidence of time travelers online, the researchers also reached out to any potential time travelers directly by writing a post on an online message board asking people from the future to tweet using one of two pre-specified hashtags before a certain date that had already occurred. The hashtags (#ICanChangeThePast2 and #ICannotChangeThePast2) were aimed at letting time travelers tell the researchers about the nature of time travel and whether actions taken while traveling in the past can change events in the future.
Famed physicist Stephen Hawking attempted something similar in 2012 by throwing a party for time travelers but only sending out invitations after the fact. ‟I sat there a long time,” Hawking told an interviewer, ‟but no one came."
Sadly, the reachers looking for time travelers on the Internet turned up similarly empty-handed on all fronts. No convincing prescient information was located anywhere on the Internet about Pope Francis or Comet ISON, and no one tweeted using the specified hashtags before the request to do so was posted.
‟Although the negative results reported here may indicate that time travelers from the future are not among us and cannot communicate with us over the modern day Internet, they are by no means proof,” the researchers wrote, noting that it’s possible a time traveler’s changing the past in any way could "violate some yet-unknown law of physics.”
Or maybe time travelers just aren’t all that interested in the new pope.
Would You Want a Time Machine?
You want a time machine, don't you?
Because one in 10 Americans do—at least that's what they said when Pew Research Center asked what futuristic technology they would like to own.
That's a notable percentage of people, especially when you consider that survey respondents came up with "time machine," unprompted, out of every possible future invention they could imagine. (Naturally, flying cars were popular, too.)
The curious thing is that Pew found people's level of interest in time travel had a lot to do with how old they are. About 11 percent of 30-to-49-year-olds said a time machine was the one futuristic device they'd want to own, but only 3 percent of people older than 65 said so.
And looking across demographics of the entire study group, people under 50 were way more into time-travel than people older than 50.
Why is that?
It's not as though time-travel is a concept tied to a certain generation. Such stories have been around for centuries. And a "major time-travel work" has come out pretty much every decade since H.G. Wells published "The Time Machine" in 1895. That's according to Kij Johnson, associate director at Kansas University's Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction. She also sees why the concept may become less appealing to someone as she gets older.
"What do people do when you give them time travel? They go right to the unhappiest moment of their life and they go back again and again and again trying to fix it," she said. "As an older person, there are more of those events. I'm 54. Do I really want to go back to the core terrible experiences and reengage with them, or do I feel like I've moved past them or around them?"
"Technology changes people."
James Gunn, 90, is the founding director of the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction. Gunn says for the first time in his life he can now acknowledge the fact that he won't read everything he wants to read. He'd no longer take a trip to outer space if given the chance. But he would like to revisit his childhood and see his parents when they were young, maybe offer some romantic advice to his younger self.
"If I had an opportunity to use a time machine, I probably would," Gunn told me. "I'd maybe tell my younger self to be a little more sociable, less bookish."
Later, having given the question more thought, he emailed with more ideas about his itinerary through time. "My older son died of problems associated with colon cancer. I wish I could go back and make him have a colonoscopy as soon as problems began to appear. Or put a light in the hall so my wife didn't fall over our cat in the middle of the night and break her leg. Or [tell] my younger self not to go out golfing with my brother in shorts and get a bad sunburn on my legs... Nothing that would affect the course of life but would avoid pain."
But the Pew study offers another interesting layer by which to assess differences in generational attitudes because researchers also asked how people feel about real-life technology.
The older respondents who were less likely to say they wanted time machines were also much less interested in future inventions of any kind. Some 15 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds and 15 percent of those who are 65 and up said they weren't interested in any futuristic inventions. Even larger percentages of those groups (25 percent and 41 percent, respectively) said they simply didn't know what futuristic device they might want.
These older adults were as optimistic as younger people about long-term changes associated with technology, they just weren't as engaged with the specifics. In other words, Americans older than 50 are less enthusiastic about both emerging technologies and imagined ones.
"Technology changes people," Gunn said. "I find myself at this stage in my life saying I don't really need a cell phone. I don't need a tablet. I'm far more interested in simplifying existence rather than complicating it."
The interplay between science fiction and reality can be revealing. How we think about technologies that don't exist is directly connected to how we think about the devices that already do.
"If you're 70 years old, your brain is a time machine."
Maybe it's just the realism that comes with life experience. The Pew study asked respondents for all kinds of predictions about the next 50 years of science technology, and the oldest cohort tended to have more modest ideas about what might be achievable.
"Whether that's the eternal optimism of youth or the eternal realism of people who have lived a lifetime and seen the scope of change, you could definitely see a lesser expectation of what humanity can achieve among older folks," said Aaron Smith, a senior researcher at Pew.
These differing expectations—about real science and science fiction—also say something about how aging might affect the way we engage with questions about where humans are headed.
"If you're 70 years old, your brain is a time machine," said Pew's Smith. "You have seven decades of technological, social, geopolitical change. People who are going back in time would be going back to things you remember and already lived through."
Of course the lesson in most time-travel stories echoes what we learn from even seemingly minor technological shifts: The smallest changes yield important, unpredictable consequences. Usually it's not worth it, we discover. Adapting to the future is easier than screwing around with the past.