Time Travel Stories Never Account for This One Thing

Don’t be surprised to see flashing lights behind you and hear a police siren while you read this blog post. And it’s not because that slightly illegal prank you pulled in your youth has finally caught up with you.

You’re speeding.

Yep. Sitting in your chair, sipping your coffee or munching on your favorite snack, you are moving at a pretty ridiculous clip.

We experience day and night because the Earth rotates. Being an inhabitant of the Earth and subject to its gravity, that means we are spinning along with it. Standing at the equator, you would be moving at the rate of just over 1,000 miles per hour. In the middle latitudes, where most of the human population resides, it’s roughly two-thirds of that, or six-t0-seven hundred miles an hour.

And your mom always complained about you being so slow to get ready for school in the morning!

We can’t stop there, though. We all know the Earth revolves around the sun. How fast does it have to move to do so? Pretty damn fast, as it turns out. In order for the Earth to make a complete trip around the sun in the span of a year, at a distance of ninety-three million miles away from the burning ball of hydrogen, it has to move approximately 66,000 miles per hour.

You’re really booking it! No wonder the cops are after you!

But, back to the headline of this post: time travel. Why is this movement through space important?

Let’s look at one of the most famous examples of time travel from popular culture: Doc Brown’s first experiment with Einstein the dog in Back to the Future.Bf1firetrails In the movie, Doc sends his pooch, strapped into the famous DeLorean, one minute into the future to arrive at the exact same spot. Yet, in order to do that, he would not only have to travel through time, but space as well. Consider how far you move, sitting in your chair, in the span of a minute.

Rotationally, spinning along with the Earth, you travel ten or eleven miles in that single minute. In addition, you’ve moved about 1,100 miles with the Earth following its orbit around the sun!

“All right then,” you say. “Maybe we can travel through time in exact-year increments.”

Interesting thought, but we’re not done calculating your speeding violation.

In addition to the Earth rotating and revolving around the sun, the sun is also moving at a pretty astounding pace, and dragging all of us with it in the general direction of the star Vega, within the constellation Lyra. That motion is calculated at roughly 43,000 miles per hour. Yet, even that isn’t all. The sun and our solar system also orbit within our Milky Way galaxy as it spins. Our speed as we waltz around the mysteries at the center of our galaxy? Merely 483,000 miles per hour.

That’s over 8,000 miles per minute. And we’re still not done.

The Milky Way itself is also moving, hurtling away from a universal central region we associate with the Big Bang. That speed? 1.3 Million miles per hour, or over 21,500 miles per minute.

So, in a single year— one trip around our sun— the Earth is displaced several billion miles through space from its starting point across a number of vectors of direction.

In order to travel through time to visit our own past or future, we must travel vast distances through space as well. I turned 50 years old this past year. If I wished to witness my own birth, I’d have to not only pass through those years of time, but also half a trillion miles of space!

Don’t get me wrong, I adore time travel stories— I’ve written a few! And Back to the Future is one of my all-time favorites, but it’s also fun to think about the bigger picture of time travel and what it entails. Our universe is an incredibly complex mechanism that we’ve only barely begun to understand. Maybe one day we’ll crack the code that will allow us to bounce around willy-nilly through space and time. Until then, we’ll just have to let our imaginations wander the reaches and laugh at the exploits of Doc Brown and Marty McFly.

“I’m sorry, Officer. I had no idea I was going that fast.”

Advertisements

About Alan Tucker

Writer, Dad, Graphic Designer, Soccer Coach … not necessarily in that order!

Posted on March 10, 2017, in Books/Writing, SciFi/Fantasy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. To be fair, I think a lot of people who read and write time travel stories just sort of assume that the temporal field the device generates (or whatever made up tech is being used) a point-to-point link through hyperspace reducing distance and thus travel time to either zero or some small, reasonable value.

    • Probably true, but it’s fun for me to ponder the totality of the thing. Time travel is an awe-inspiring concept all by itself, but taking in the even bigger picture makes it even more impressive to me. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Honestly, I believe that we never invent time-travel in the practical sense. You can tell this because no one pops in saying “We’re from the future”. Whether this is because we only figure out half of the problem in traveling time/space, only time will tell.

  3. Alan,

    I ended up here after getting through about half of “A Measure of Disorder,” which I found through your BB promotion. I absolutely love this book and will be buying the others in the series. I am a writer as well and will be publishing my first middle-grade book series later this year. I only hope that I am able to bring as much imagination, and as many original ideas and terrific characters into my books one day as you have in this one. Thanks for writing such a great book!

    I can’t comment on the time-travel question. The little grey aliens told me that I’m not allowed to talk about it. ;p

    -Gabe

    • Gabe,

      Thank you so much for the kind words. Please send me a link when you send your book out into the world, I’d love to have a look!

      The aliens are pesky and persistent about that aren’t they? 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: