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Re: Time Travel?....To What Exactly? / OO-Universe

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Posted by HeadHurts/">HeadHurts on August 8, 1999 22:00:17 UTC

>>I do think you MAY have missed my point a >>little, or at least in some cases >>misinterpreted what I was trying to say.

My interpretation was that you where trying to use our arbitrary bias towards using base ten as a case that could be generalized to infer that our perception of time might be as arbitrary. My problem was the 'impedence mismatch' that resulted in my brain when I attempted to follow the argument through. The base ten issue is an issue of representation, not misperception - numbers still do what they *should*, regardless of the base they are expressed in. If time did not behave the way it *should*, i.e. if a person or group has the perception that the past or future are "actual physical states of existence", but it is the case that they are not, then that is genuine misperception. The person of group who held these ideas would not simply be representing them in in arbitrary fashion - they would be just plain wrong. >> It’s all in good clean fun anyway right?

Of course, I doubt that the mysteries of time and space are going to unfold before us on this board ;0

>>If it where the case that switching the >>representation of a value to a different base >>somehow invalidated what we know about >>mathematics (like 1 + 2 = 3 but 10 + 01 11 - >>as in: oops, that law of addition stuff was >>only in my decimal thinking head), then the >>analogy with our perception of time (or lack of >>it) would be relevent. >>: :::::::::::::: >>: I think you are making my point for me here.

You lost me. I can't see how I am making your point. I though I was demonstrating the reason I believed that you had over generalized from your base case...

>>: Sorry, compilers and function libraries may >>make it easier for the higher level language >>software developer who works in Visual Basic, >>Foxpro, Java, and HTML to write code that does >>not itself have to deal with manipulating the >>conversion required to store decimal numbers in >>binary format maintaining the integrity of the >>decimal point and the degree of accuracy, but >>the people who write the compilers, >>interpreters, and assemblers do. It still has >>to be done AT SOME LEVEL whether the ‘90’s >>application programmer has to deal with it or >>not.

I think all this was done a while ago with any mature language running on a mature platform. I suspect that even the compiler writers are simply reusing existing code, and are only occasionaly revisiting the code when they are translating an existing language to a new platform with different op-codes and/or register layouts, or they are developing a new high level language altogether. Neither of these events occurs all that frequently (I'll qualify this by limiting universe of discourse to commercially viable application programming languages - who knows how many homegrown interpreters/compilers there are out there for special languages like CAD, CNC, DMIS, etc). My point is that C++ compiler code that handles basic floating point types on the I386 platform isn't all that volatile :) Without out a doubt, *the vast majority* of programmers never give this issue a second thought in their day-to-day activities, and probably couldn't tell you the specifics of how this is accomplished without looking it up. (I dare say that there is a large subset of folks who write code for a living these days who still wouldn't get it even if they did - but they are still capable of producing useful work output as programmers).

>>(By the way, “The Commodore” was one of my >>favorite heroes and I had the pleasure of >>attending 3 of her lectures. I used to have a >>Bulldog I named after her.)

Cool.

>>I agree here with you also but it still would >>not alter the fact that binary representation, >>in and of itself, is the ONE math base that ANY >>civilization could use for cross communication >>with another.

I'm afraid I don't buy this. I believe that any civilization that understands mathematics need only see the value tokens enumerated from least to most significant, and the arithmatic operator and equality symbols demonstrated with a few simple equations(0+1=1,0+2=2, etc); they would get the drift pretty quickly. Throw in a few model equations and/or drawings for, say, the area of a rectangle, circle, etc., and it seems even more likely that they would get it PDQ. The only advantage that binary has is that they would need only learn two symbols, but, if they understand math, it shouldn't be any harder for them to understand how to change bases than it is for us. Once they get the idea that you're doing mathematics with your symbols, and not conveying the directions to the nearest McDonalds, it's all downhill from there.

>>Whether THEY would use it to develop computers >>is not an issue to my overall point. It is >>probably the only math base you could make >>this “universiality” statement about however. >>It's why we put it on the Voyager spacecraft >>and sent it as a signal from Arecebo.

If it is a fact that we use base ten due to our physiology then this is a demonstration of one of our *natural* biases. But we don't just start out biased, we are blessed with the wonderful ability to go off an cook up an infinite number of *man-made* biases. The idea that we use base ten because we have ten fingers sounds good to me. But, isn't it possible that the reason that we use a base of higher order than binary is that when we discovered that math was something we wanted to do, it was just too damn hard to chisel all those ones and zeros to do any practical calculations with a reasonable degree of precision?(I wonder what the area of my field is? - Damn! Better go cut some more stone...) Compactness of representation is also good reason *not* to use binary in everyday computation.

Sure, *we* would find it real handy if we received a binary encoded signal, since that's how *our* computing machines and communications infrastructure operate. Is it at all possible that the reason "..why we put it on the Voyager spacecraft and sent it as a signal from Arecebo" is because of our tendency to extrapolate everything we "know" as being "universal". If you ask me, the analog VHF television signals that we have been sending out are as (un)likely to be of any use to another civilization as other signal we send, regardless of how we encode it. Regardless of the *sophistication* (gasp) of the signal we broadcast, it seems very likely to me that the only purpose it will serve is that of a beacon that shouts out "we have intelligence and here we are", assuming that ET is looking for, or even knows what to do with, an RF signal in the first place.

>>My original dissertation is aimed at the folly >>of thinking that going to “the past” or “the >>future” as if they are genuine tangibles, is >>the issue.

The human imagination is a wonderful thing, isn't it? It's like our brains work overtime trying to connect all the dots, even where there are miles of empty space between them.

Maybe where the trouble starts is when things get too abstract. Let's see if I can agree with you by bringing this high falutin' physics stuff down to a level that I can relate to.

It seems pretty clear that after you burn a piece of wood, what you end up with is heat, ash, and smoke, - and also *no* way back. In this specific case, one does not expect there to be a way to "unburn" the piece of wood by recombining these end products of combustion. Traveling backwards in time would be like unburning all of the fires in the universe at once! How the hell could one expect to do that, when it seems pretty obvious that there is no way to undo the effects of one fire, let alone a universe full of them!

Velocity often gets linked with this notion of traveling into the past, so let me explore that idea. If I where to observe a star, located 100 light years away, blow up, even if I could travel to there at that same instant (remember light took 100 years to travel the same distance, so I am really m-o-v-i-n-g), wouldn't I still be 100 years too late to do anything about it (assuming that I am able to do something that can halt a star's destruction in the first place)? If I can't get ahead of cause and effect traveling at infinite velocity, why then should merely traveling faster than the speed of light change anything? Maybe I am missing something here, but I tend agree with you, at least in this 'direction' of the 'timeline' (sometimes we are the innocent victims of our own language).

"Travel" to the future is a different story. If I accept the fact that any "travel to the future" is done on a one way ticket, then yes, I believe I can "travel" to the future. Since we all are "traveling to the future" simply by continuing to exist, let's take "travel to the future" to mean "at a rate greater than what I am currently experiencing". To do this, I simply pack my bags into my frame of reference, step on the gas (a.k.a the differential rate of time controller), head out for a bit, and come back, and let time dilation do all the work. Since my working definition of "travel to the future" only requires that *I* experience this 'movement through time' at a rate greater than what I was experiencing in my old frame of reference (which I return to when I finished my joyride), it's mission accomplished! Of course, it would be easy to overlook the fact that the 'future' that I am arriving at wasn't already there, the way that the state of California would be if I where to travel to it. No, it came into being precisely as I arrived in exactly the same way it would have if I did not take my trip, and just sat around waiting for it to happen. In fact, I still waited for it to happen, just not as long ;)

Having conducted this little excersize, I find that we are in complete agreement, one can no more travel through time than one can wait for a distance. (Damn! A simple check for dimentional consistency would have saved me from all this!)

I've just got one little unresolved issue that you may be able to shed some light on. What if during my journey to the future (as described above) I accidentally stepped on the gas too hard, and achieved 100% light speed? Wouldn't my differential rate of time with respect to *any* other frame of reference be infinite? It seems like I might then be in *real* trouble because I would, quite literally, "run out of time". With no way to go back to the past, it looks like I'm toast - what do you think? Of course there is always an upside. Since time stops in my frame of reference, I get to live forever. Also, I could travel *any* distance, in what appears to be an instant in my frame of reference. But if that's true, then I must be everywhere at once! Let's see, I live forever and I'm everywhere at once, this begs the question: If I achieve light speed, will I become God?!

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