Do you have a rubber band handy? Good. Now keep it in your hand for a bit while we run this little experiment and time travel into the past.
Let’s say you have two telescopes: a regular one, and another that views faster than the speed of light. To our right we have a regular-ass telescope. I won’t embarrass the garage door manufacturer adorning its entrance or university it comes from by naming it, but I will gives you a hint: it rhymes with University of Schmalabama. This telescope is pointed at a solar system of let’s say, 300 years away, at Planet A. This telescope relies on light to reach its lens and it will take 300 years to get here.
Below it we have a special “real time” telescope (it isn’t but let’s pretend it is) that can view stars and planets faster than the speed of light because it is synchronized with a given planet and sees through hyperspace, i.e. an area outside of space and time.
This telescope is also pointed at the same star system and planet but it can see things at street level, in real time that is synchronized with earth. Relative to an observer on earth using a regular telescope relying on light emissions, they would be looking 300 years into the past. The people of Planet A would be experiencing the present yet at the same time our past. If our synchronized “real time” telescope was next door to the regular telescope, we would be seeing 300 years ahead of our neighbors. They would come over and might even think we can look into the future, but we really can’t and aren’t. We are not looking into the future any more than someone on Planet A.
The future never exists materially as it is always amenable to change through the conscious actions of those within the present. We can see with great precision through probability and universal physical laws, e.g., all planets and suns will die, but no one can really travel into a concrete, set future and live there. He’d be like Schrodinger’s Cat, both alive and dead simultaneously. All that happened in our past, and that which happens every moment of the day with everything you say and do and even think, is a radiation of light energy that once released cannot be changed through mere observation. As for the future, how can we radiate energy that has yet to be generated? Since we can’t, it can’t be predictably observed or lived.
At best, the person on Planet A might view us as a spectator on one end of a parade where he can see what is happening on the end of a distant corner we are about to turn. He’s not looking into our future, however. He is looking into our probable outcome unless someone on the ground redirects the route. The person on Planet A might even have the wisdom to see the consequences of our collective idiocy and hate, and see the moment the “trigger” has been pulled in a series of inescapable events leading to nuclear annihilation years later. Is he therefore looking into our future? Not really, any more than we are when we look into the mirror and realize we were never immortal and eventually have to die in one way or another. We both see inevitability, and nothing more. In the former case, it doesn’t even have to be a complicated series of events.
So there you have it: you want to see 300 or thousands of years in the past? Look at the night sky. If your eyes were sharp enough, you would see their past and as an observer experiencing it: their people or creatures moving about and living life, but since your eyes would be relying on light it might look like you’re looking at them in real time but you aren’t. Ask a person on Planet A what he sees when he looks into a telescope to view earth, and he will also see 300 years into our past, perhaps even our present if advanced enough, but not our future.
Given his technology, he might even see our collective thoughts as radiated energy and create a living holographic image of our future. He could then say, with accuracy, change or a given event will happen immediately. That holograph, however, could change instantly with our awareness of a threat so it can in no way be compared with light emissions that have already transpired and passed into history. That is part of the woven tapestry of time, ahead of us the (mostly) unwoven and possible. The woven, that which is the pattern and the inescapable, would be the life expectancy of stars and planets, e.g. Albeit primitively, our scientists can already view the radiated energy of our thoughts and record them as EEGs or MRIs but only one person at a time, and in images useless in terms of representing our present role in the earth’s progression. This would be the first step in predicting our future, with extreme accuracy, should certain key decisions be made by world leaders; or if a given leader or candidate were elected.
It is a neat thought to think, however, that if we had a movie camera with a near infinite amount of pixel resolution, we could film a planet 50 million light years away and take snapshots of alien dinosaurs or the like in a state of evolution. On their planet, in real time 50 million years would have already passed and they may even have gone extinct long ago. It may be an advanced civilization by then. Still, we would see what these creatures see, because relative to us they are still “alive.” Look at your hand: that reflected light still has to travel through time because it has a finite speed, thus you’re seeing a very, very small fraction of a millisecond in the past, not the present. Gazing at the aforementioned planet we’re stretching out this fraction of a millisecond to 50 million years. In that sense, we truly are time travelers and, unknowing, living in the past.
Now you may ask what about time-traveling into our past? This is possible as well. If we took a ship and and traveled through hyperspace, bypassing space and time, and synchronized our time with a planet 300 light years away, an earthling could step into their present time and observe the light waves coming from our planet, experiencing it as did our ancestors 300 years ago. I say experience it because that observer, if unfamiliar with our history or a major given event, would not know what we planned to do next, and experience uncertainty as our forbears before they made the changes that brought us where we are today. It would all be a movie to that astronaut, but the most important movie in history because we would know the guilty parties of every coup, every murder, every disaster radiated in light energy.
In fact, it is recorded and it travels. There is visible light and light outside the spectrum visible to the human eye. We are talking about light we cannot see, as well. It’s all a matter of a interpreting this data and collecting it, because it contains all of human history. Every thought and action of every human to walk the earth has been radiated into space, through light, and exists as surely as a light wave from the sun. Equipment sensitive enough to filter the thought and emotional patterns unique to every one of us isn’t inconceivable with Moore’s law and the exponentially growing power and speed of computers. You’d have to cast a very wide net to capture the radiated light of long ago, but that also is not inconceivable given the advances we’ve made in virtually every field of science in ten years.
Still have that rubber band? You can put it away now. You never needed it to time travel, but you just proved you could.You could have traveled with a hat, too.
“Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a persistent illusion.”
Albert Einstein- Letter to the family of his lifelong friend Michele Besso, after learning of his death, (March 1955).
UPDATE: There is another way to time travel but it’s not so easy, and you have to leave this universe. In the multiverse postulated by string theory and now approaching scientific acceptance as fact, there are an infinity of universes. In the multiverse, you can travel to the past, even kill your grandfather yet still exist because you will be doing this in a parallel universe, bypassing the grandfather paradox. Still, we can experience and observe time travel into the future in our own universe. Sergei Krikalev, a Russian cosmonaut, aged 1/48th of a second less than the rest of us because he orbited the earth at very high speeds.This means he jumped into the future by a fraction of a second since he didn’t experience our present. It doesn’t sound like much, but approaching light speed that fraction of a second can become decades or more depending on the time spent inside the ship. If he had a viewing monitor synchronized with earth that operated on a quantum level, thereby bypassing the speed of light, he would probably see time fast-forward on earth in a blur.