BIG NEWS! BIG NEWS!
Well, yeah, observation of gravitational waves is big news. But I was a bit surprised how the newspapers seemed to be taking it up. It's a bit esoteric for the average newspaper reader.
Then my wife pointed out a bit of editorializing in the Yomiuri Shinbun (Japanese) yesterday. The editor mentioned how much time it took from Einstein's proposal to the confirmation. This is important! It shows how people can cooperate and do meaningful things!
And he was rhapsodising about Doraemon's time traveling and the sci-fa staple of launching a rocket "through" a black hole. And dithering about real rockets we wished hadn't been launched like North Korea's five-stage test last week.
Sigh. Science Fantasy. If you make a distinction between escapist fantasy and fiction as a means of discussing the future and other alternatives.
I know, sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.
I think many people are seeing this as the proof that, real soon now, we'll be flying between the stars and traveling back and forth in the river of time.
And there is the fascination: time travel.
Einstein did not predict time travel. Not at all. He set a speed limit that seems to put the other stars out of the reach of mortals. Breaching that speed limit would imply time travel, and that is why, he said, the limit can't be breached.
Later theoretical physicists demonstrated that there were solutions to Einstein's equations that seemed to involve something we would call time travel, although not implying people going back in time to fix things.
So many things that we regret. So many things we wish we could go back and fix.
If I had only known in 1981 how useful a hobbiest/open spec for a FORTH capable "toy"/personal computer would be in laying trenches for the future IT wars, I'd have made the sacrifices, got floppy disk drives, built the disk controller to make that computer I built generally usable, and published the circuits, the drivers, and the source in Popular Electronics. That's one of my fantasies, anyway.
Time travel won't fix it, even if the chain of assumptions might have worked.
It's easy to look back and think we know what we should have done. Hindsight, so we used to say, is 20-20.
(The difference between knowing we got it wrong and knowing what we should have done so often goes unnoticed.)
Time travel is a metaphor for regret, and a poor substitute for repentance.
So this doesn't end on a negative note, the solution is easy:
The problem we are each assigned to work on at any point in time involves the present, not the future, and not the past. At least, as long as we are mortal, at any rate. If we work from where we are, not where we wish we were, that's what gains us happiness.
We don't need to go back in the past to fix the things that really need to be fixed.