Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Cause And Effect

Poul Anderson, "Flight to Forever" IN Anderson, Past Times (New York, 1984), pp. 207-288.

When the passenger-carrying time projector struggles back through time:

"Radiated energy made the cabin unendurably hot." (p. 215)

This explains why the house had burned down before 2008. The missing automatic time projectors had moved back through time until they generated so much heat that it burned the house. MacPherson, Saunders and Eve Lang occupy the house in 1973 and, thanks to the gerontology of that year, could live until 2073. They will ensure that the house is unoccupied at the turn of the century. They might even watch the house burning, knowing that this had resulted from their earlier experiment, also knowing that Saunders and Hull will be in the burned out basement in 2008 and 2013, then in the resulting pit in 2023, 2043, 2053, 2063 and 2073.

In HG Wells' "The Chronic Argonauts," the time traveler moves into an empty and shunned house, travels backwards in time while remaining in the house, is attacked as an intruder by the then occupants, a man and his two sons, accidentally kills the father in self-defense and returns to his present while the sons are convicted of killing their father, which is why the house becomes empty and shunned. I have only just realized that there is this degree of similarity between "The Chronic Argonauts" and "Flight to Forever."

How long does it take to travel through time? For Poul Anderson's Time Patrolmen, each time jump is subjectively instantaneous whereas his mutant time travelers, like Wells' Time Traveler, see external events rushing past. The Time Traveler can accelerate the Time Machine and feels an unaccountable sense of head-long motion. In fact, he remains motionless while fast forwarding or rewinding everything else. When Saunders and Hull pass from 1973 to 2073, a few minutes elapse inside their time projector. However, when returning, they take half an hour to struggle from 2023 to 2013, then two hours from 2013 to 2008. Trying to return to 1973, they have used three quarters of their stored energy by 2008 and need more each year the further back they go.

Trying to travel back a century turns out to be like trying to reach the speed of light: impossible because requiring infinite energy.

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