Time Paradoxes

December 17, 2017

A ‘Time Paradox’, also sometimes known as a ‘Temporal Paradox’, is basically a contradiction of time. To be clearer, a time paradox is a paradox in the sense that there is a contradiction of time, or there is a logical contradiction associated with the idea of time and time travel. The word itself is pretty much self-explanatory. However, it is quite hard to understand what time paradoxes actually are. To understand this, we need to understand how they can occur, what are some types of time paradoxes, how do they work, and what could be the many possible consequences of these types. To understand these, some examples/references must be kept in mind while trying to understand this term/s.


A time paradox is an ‘interference’ with the time, or the past, to be clear. The type of ‘interference’ can vary. There are many types of interferences that can occur. The ones below are the most commonly brought up:

  • Causal Loop

  • Grandfather Paradox

  • Polchinksi’s Paradox.


Causal Loop


A causal loop is a paradox of time travel that occurs when a future event is the cause of a past event, which in turn is the cause of the future event. Both events then exist in spacetime, but their origin cannot be determined. A causal loop may involve an event, a person or object, or information. The terms bootstrap paradox, predestination paradox or ontological paradox are sometimes used in fiction to refer to a causal loop. To be clear, a causal loop is a series of events (action, information, object, etc.) in which an event is among the causes of another event, which in turn is among the causes of the first-mentioned event. Such causally-looped events then exist in spacetime, but their origin cannot be determined. Many scientists argue that self-fulfilling prophecies are part of causal loops, as they are one of the reasons of the event that is done, and the event that happens, is majorly because it was already stated that it would happen. This theory about Causal loops has been debated upon for several years.



Grandfather Paradox


The time paradox most commonly talked about is the Grandfather Paradox. The grandfather paradox is a paradox of time travel in which inconsistencies emerge through changing the past. The name comes from the paradox's common description: a person travels to the past and kills their own grandfather before the conception of their father or mother, which prevents the time traveler's existence. A lot of people have talked about what would happen if someone, not necessarily the same person, had killed an ancestor of theirs. Well, the answer is simple, you would just not exist in this world. The world will have a different future in which you would not be part of it. However, in this paradox, the multiverse theory can also be introduced. A multiverse, or “many-worlds” hypothesis, basically states that an alternate parallel universe or timeline is created each time an event is altered in the past. Time Paradoxes and Multiverses go hand in hand. However, the Predestination Paradox can be applied here. This is an example of a multiverse, in which your grandfather, or the ancestor you are killing, has a chance of survival. In this, the ancestor can live along with scars, which will eventually lead to a slight change in the future with him being present with scars in the future.



Polchinksi’s Paradox


American theoretical physicist Joseph Polchinski proposed a time paradox scenario in which a billiard ball enters a wormhole, and emerges out the other end in the past just in time to collide with its younger version and stop it going into the wormhole in the first place. Polchinski’s paradox is taken seriously by physicists, as there is nothing in Einstein’s General Relativity to rule out the possibility of time travel, closed time-like curves (CTCs), or tunnels through space-time. Furthermore, it has the advantage of being based upon the laws of motion, without having to refer to the indeterministic concept of free will, and so presents a better research method for scientists to think about the paradox. When Joseph Polchinski had proposed this paradox, he had Novikov’s Self-Consistency Principle in mind, which basically states that while time travel is possible, time paradoxes are forbidden. However, a number of solutions have been formulated to avoid the inconsistencies Polchinski suggested, which essentially involves the billiard ball delivering a blow which changes its younger version’s course, but not enough to stop it entering the wormhole. This solution is related to the ‘timeline-protection hypothesis’ which states that a probability distortion would occur in order to prevent a paradox from happening. This also helps explain why if you tried to time travel and murder your grandfather, something will always happen to make that impossible, thus preserving a consistent version of history.


Example of Metal Gear Time Paradox: when you kill Ocelot in MGS3: SE



These theories, though some contradicting each other, are all possible in their own way. Though some argue that time travel is not possible, many are in support of time travel as a whole. Time Travel, which sounds rather philosophical and fun, can be very dangerous. Some people argue that the past cannot be changed, which could leads to the possibility that if you are killed after you have time travelled to the past, you ‘will’ be killed again and again in a continuous cycle, which is pretty scary. Opinions and theories will come and go, but unless or until man has created time machines, or even a single time machine, we may never prove these theories as facts, and that is a fact.



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