This comic is not funny. It is a cautionary tale. In fact, if you are at all ready, you would have discerned the punch line from the first panel, and by the third panel, you would have felt I was patronizing you. You might have even been offended.

What am I talking about? I’m talking about time travelers walking among us! If you were really in the know, you would have looked at those two guys and immediately knew them for who they were. If you cackled with glee, if you chuckled in amusement, if you smirked at the wrinkled folds on the cranium of the man on the right (you sicko), you have failed the test, and we are that much weaker in the defense of our time stream from time invaders masquerading as 21st century average joes. But luckily that’s not really the case!

The above comic is based on one of my favorite (albeit weaker) time travel paradoxes. It’s a weaker one because it assumes only one time ‘stream’ when its much more likely that it is multi-dimensional, with each dimension occupying a different superposition of events. I’ll talk more about superposition and wave functions in a future comic. But the idea of time travelers trying to blend in among us has been oft visited in literature and in popular culture. My favorite is Ray Bradbury’s short story The Fox and the Forest out of his Illustrated Man collection, which is about a time travelling couple on the run. Classic pop culture cases involve a woman on a cell phone in a Charlie Chaplin film, and an apparent ‘hipster time traveler’ caught on film in 1940. Both of these cases are presented, investigated, and explained by Enjoy! Oh, and just keep an eye out, okay?

Time travel is that really hot chick that you met once at a party that didn’t pay any attention to you. You want it so bad, but you know deep down, you’ll never have the pleasure of going on a cosmic journey together. But damn, is it fun to think about.

If I had to make a list of my interests it would be

  • Time travel
  • Halflings with magic rings
  • Muscular men in colorful tights
  • Sexy sex with sexy women.

Pretty much in that order. Hmm…

Were was I? Ah yes, Time travel. I love the stories, I love the science and I love the fiction. I even took a time travel class in college. No kidding, this happened. Credits and everything. I don’t want to blow too many loads about the subject just yet but suffice to say this is an area that Maki and I will be exploring in future strips.

So just what the hell is time anyway? We all take it for granted but is it tangible? Is it actually a force of nature, or is it just a handy concept employed by our brains to differentiate between one arrangement of matter and another arrangement of the same matter. Does time flow? We seem to think it does, everything moves about seamlessly according to our eyes, but cameras can capture frames much faster than our eyes can (as do some animals) so we can’t trust our senses here.

What is the minimum amount of time that can pass between two events? The Planck scale of time seems to be 10-44 seconds. And the smallest interval of time directly measured by our instruments to date has been 12 attoseconds, about 1024 times larger than planck time. If time flows like a stream then it’s conceivable that there is a past behind us and a future ahead. But though we can remember the past, there is no evidence for the future. Of course absence of evidence is not evidence of absence but it is at least conceivable that it does not exist. So maybe there is no future. Maybe time is the frames of a film in the highest speed camera conceivable, and it builds upon itself one planck unit at a time, and we are all falling though it at the speed of light, like an infinite 4th dimensional hole. Literally falling though it, at the speed of light, one second per second and we’re at the end of it as it creates more of itself, all the time. And that’s why the speed of light is what it is and why it is an impassable barrier, and why we are not overrun by future time-travelers. Or maybe it’s not. Either way if trying to wrap your mind around these things doesn’t loosen your brain veins like a double dose of mental Viagra, well then I’m sorry, but you’re just not paying attention.

This comic was brought to you by Phosphorus (P).

If you’re really hungering for the information on superposition I dangled in front of your faces, check out this video about Schroedinger’s Cat.