After reading the beginning of Ruby Red (a book in which the main character carries a gene for time traveling abilities), we (mod mods Emily and Lindsay) started talking about time travel. The more we talked, the more tangled and confused we became. Of course there was only one place to get informed: THE INTERNET! According to Wikipedia (which is always right), there are basically three theories of time travel. Here, we take on the two most popular theories, and duke it out.
TIME IS STATIC
“This doesn’t change the past, this is the past.” The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Douglas Adams.
I like to affectionately call the “Time is Static” theory Rope Theory.
This is the “you can’t change the past because it happened in the past” theory, where whatever you do in the past is okay because you’ve already done it. Your individual thread is part of a single rope. Your thread may loop around in the rope, but it is still part of the rope at all times. It can’t change the rope or escape the rope, even if the thread’s path isn’t constantly moving along the rope.
Examples of this include The Prisoner of Azkaban, wherein HP and the gang is all timid about changing the timeline only to realize they interfered with their past selves frequently and just didn’t know that it was them. Their actions don’t change the past; instead, they fulfill the past.
Pros: You can’t change the present. You can go back in time without massive consequences. Your teenaged mom can get a crush on you without getting you erased from the future. You can drag historical figures through time and space for a high-school project. You can take yourself out for ice cream if it floats your boat.
Cons: You can’t change the present. No averting great tragedies. Also, no profiting from a knowledge of the past. If you go back and buy your mother a winning lottery ticket, that always happened in the past. So unless your mom is a millionaire RIGHT NOW (in which case, hello new best friend), buying the ticket won’t accomplish anything.
FLEXIBLE TIME: That timey-wimey stuff
In this time theory, time travelers can go back in time and change the course of history. As in: I’m transported to 1933, I kill Hitler, WWII happens differently, and when I come back to the present it is a very different world than the one I left.
This makes time travelers really powerful. It also makes controlling the effects of your traveling really difficult. Even the smallest thing a time traveler does can change the course of world history. I go back in time meaning to kill Hitler, but on the way there, I cut someone off in the street and they trip, which means they arrive at their house a minute later than they were going to, which means their son (who just came home from school) found the house empty and went to the next door neighbor’s house, and while he was there he accidentally choked on a cookie…you get the idea. What I mean is: time gets messy.
Pros: You can prevent bad people from doing bad stuff (Doctor Who-style). You can potentially save the world a lot of suffering. Also good for the little stuff. Remember that test you failed? Go back and pass it it, now that you know all the answers. Wish you hadn’t said that thing to your significant other/mother/teacher/friend? Go back and unsay it.
Cons: It’s impossible to predict the full impact of your actions. If you failed that test, you would have gotten detention, where you would have met the love of your life. You can’t make the world perfect, you can only make it different.