Dr. Jeremy Stone: Do you believe in time travel?
Dr. Angela Noyce: Sure! As much as I believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. That is just to say that I love the idea but I’m dubious about the reality. But I love the idea, I’m all for it! For some like me who is always running late, it will be a God send.
—- Andromeda Strain (2008)
One of the first science fiction books to impress me at a young and tender age was The Time Machine by H G Wells. It opened up a whole world of possibilities that A Knight in King Arthur’s Court did not. Rather than the rosy, optimistic visions of the future that everyone was promising, it offered up a bleak and terrifying world where evolution went wild.
It’s no surprise then that I’ve read thousands of novels and short stories, seen hundreds of films and TV shows, and listened to a few dozen radio dramas, all based on the premise that you can go home again … and again … and again.
All this preparation has allowed me to formulate ‘The Unwritten Rules of Time Travel Physics‘!™
I’m calling the first and most important one the “Forest Gump Singularity” ™.
In the movie FOREST GUMP, Tom Hank’s titular character had a knack for improbably interacting with every important person in his era, or being present at every important historical event, even if the reason for him being there was tenuous at best. Forest met every president from John Kennedy to Gerald Ford, a famous football coach (Bear Bryant), a couple of influential singers (Elvis Presley, John Lennon), a comedian (Bob Hope) and Dick Clark. He was even present at both the Watergate break-in and the Robert Kennedy assassination.
Sawyer: Time travel’s a bitch.
— Lost (TV series)
Gump’s proclivity for being in the right place at the right time allowed me to consider the implications, and I discovered a previously unknown property of each moment and place in the time stream — temporal mass.
No, no, don’t run away! This won’t get too technical. I promise …
By way of explaining, I point out that last year we observed the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the ocean liner RMS Titanic, which was an important event for several reasons.
First, it led to major changes in maritime regulations to implement new safety measures. Oh sure, the wimmen, children and men in drag all go first, but at least now there’s a little more seating available for the Poor and Unfamous.
Second, the sinking was ironic because it was the ship’s maiden voyage and it was designed and touted as ‘virtually unsinkable’. Uh huh … and – “I’m from the government and I’m here to help …”
Finally, its important to my theory because historians have told us there were only 2,223 passengers aboard and it sank because it hit an iceberg.
Luckily you have me around to let you in on a secret – the historians have it wrong!
My meticulous research has revealed there were actually 17, 814 people aboard the Titanic! It was therefore overcrowding and not a wayward iceberg that gave James Cameron Hollywood clout and Celine Dion a Las Vegas career!
Oh sure, you can argue there are no official records documenting all those additional stowaways. But that’s only because all that extra ballast came in the form of — wayward time travelers!
Don’t scoff! Who you going to believe? Some stodgy old historian locked away in a library or l’il ol’ me and the internet?
It was through the Titanic incident that I noticed that some moments in time are hot spots for time-lost travelers!
If time travelers know where they’re going, their machine usually brings them to a mega-personal moment where they can alter or ensure their own destiny. Marty McFly takes a DeLorean joyride and sees that his parents meet and sperminate; and the Schwarteneggar T-100 goes back in time repeatedly (as long as the franchise makes money) to make sure there is no spermination.
But those unwary souls suddenly sucked through a random time portal after exiting Walmart – yup! I’ve seen it happen! – always ALWAYS land smack dab in the middle of one of history’s defining moments.
It happens far too often to be a coincidence, so I deduced that every tick … tick … tick of time has the temporal equivalent of mass. You recall mass from high school science, right? The planet Jupiter has lots of it, so runaway comets and space rocks the size of Texas visit and self destruct more often than Charlie Sheen.
Explained another way, the number of seats that get filled around a girl at a bar is directly related to her accessibility and looks. Think of the sinking of the Titanic as Megan Fox in a bikini, intoxicated and needing a ride home.
These high temporal mass historical events are typically cataclysmic, and their ripple effect through pop culture is wide ranging. Hapless time travelers wandering aimlessly in the time stream simply can’t avoid getting sucked into their grasp!
There’s also a spatial component to the “Forest Gump Singularity” ™. Time travelers accidentally falling into worm holes don’t just emerge on the correct date, but within yards of the event’s location! The unlucky victim doesn’t just arrive on April 15, 1912 on the deck of uneventful booze cruise in the Bahamas, but at 41° 46′ North 50° 14′ West on the Titanic’s deck just prior to that poor iceberg getting all the blame.
Jessica Jones: Is this a time travel thing? ‘ Cause I hate time travel things
– Young Avengers
Just look at the evidence! Tony and Doug, in the very first episode of TV’s The Time Tunnel end up there unexpectedly. They fall into a malfunctioning time machine and – bam! – there’s a Kate Winslet lookalike posing on the bow!
Sam, in Quantum Leap, in true Alice In Wonderland fashion, also found himself up a current without a paddle.
The 11-year-old hero of Time Bandits arrives aboard and starts treading cold water.
And on and on the evidence against Forest Gump builds! There are numerous other incidents that have been recorded in episodes of the Night Gallery and Twilight Zone.
While the Titanic sinking is easily the most massive object and / or prettiest girl in time, there are a few others that rank right up there in impromptu visitations.
Victims of wayward time portals are equally likely to appear —
… during the sinking of Atlantis! Bill and Ted arrive and have an excellent adventure, not during commuter rush hour nor during the finale of a chili cookoff, but moments before the volcano erupts and the whole island sinks.
… at Hiroshima, precisely when the Enola Gay flies overhead and makes everyone wish they had booked a voyage to Jamaica.
… on the streets of Dallas during President Kennedy’s motorcade or when Abe Lincoln finally gave in to his wife’s nagging and went to the opera.
… on horseback during Custer’s bad hair day.
… or during the San Francisco Earthquake.
It’s almost guaranteed that he will NOT appear on Sunday, April 11, 1954. Thats the day computer scientists with access to nearly unlimited computing power and too much free time, used 300 million facts, and calculated it to be the most boring day in history.
So then what is The Second Rule of Time Travel? If your Horoscope advises you to “Dress warmly”, don’t pick that day to visit any of your mad scientist friends or volunteer for secret military experiments.