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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Time Travel "Impossible"

This story is stupid. Scientists in Hong Kong claim to have proven that time travel is impossible.

This type of research gets good headlines. It's actually very silly.

This is false. It is *IMPOSSIBLE* to prove that time travel is impossible. It is *IMPOSSIBLE* to prove that faster-than-light travel is impossible. You can never be 100% sure that you didn't make a mistake somewhere.

The fallacy is that you can never be sure of "I understand the laws of physics perfectly." There always can be loopholes and special circumstances you missed. Even current mainstream physics has problems, such as combining relativity and quantum mechanics.

It's impossible to be 100% sure of anything. For example, a Statist says "I'm 100% absolutely sure taxation is not theft!" That leads to problems, because you're trapped in your false beliefs.

The correct way to analyze real-world problems is with Bayesian Reasoning, and not true/false logic. A more accurate headline, but less sensational, is "It's extremely unlikely that time travel is possible." It's *IMPOSSIBLE* to be 100% sure of anything. In fact, it's impossible to prove that the generally-accepted axioms of arithmetic aren't contradictory. You can never be 100% sure that there's some contradiction you missed.


dionysusal said...

I don’t know if you ever heard of this, but there was a guy on the Internet who called himself “John Titor” and claimed to be a time traveler from the future. His story was quite plausible. He claimed that the principles of time travel would be uncovered because of CERN and the creation of artificial black holes. This was way before anyone had even heard of CERN. And things are going pretty much the way he said they would as far as CERN goes. He made a number of predictions (which to him were simply recounting the past, if you can believe him) and many of them have come true, although quite a few didn’t (at least not yet). You can even argue that one of them was a prediction of 9/11. I personally think he was either a gifted psychic or futurist, and for reasons known only to him tried to pass himself off as a time traveler. Anyway, I agree that it’s silly to emphatically claim that something like time travel is impossible. Many things in the past were incorrectly declared impossible.

Scott said...

I sympathize. But I am 100% sure that taxation IS theft, defining theft as taking something from someone else that they own without their permission.

Anonymous said...

The correct statement they should have used was "Under our current theories, we believe time travel to be impossible"

Though even that's not quite true. There is an effect known as time dilation, where time seems to pass more slowly for a fast-moving object than everything else around it. This has been seen on satellites (GPS satellites have to correct for it). At the speed a satellite moves, this effect isn't very large, but if you had, say, a spaceship moving at three-quarters of the speed of light, it's quite a big effect. You could take a five-year trip away from Earth and come back to find that twenty years have passed in your absence. Yet you will only be five years older than when you left. This could be seen as a form of time-travel into the future, that is known and perfectly doable (barring the minor issue of getting a spacecraft to a significant fraction of lightspeed). The only drawback is that you can't go back.

There is no known way to travel into the past. However it isn't forbidden by any laws of physics that we know of. As Stephen Hawking once said [paraphrased] "We feel it should be impossible because of the paradoxes it could cause, but it's not prevented at all by any universal law".

Anonymous said...

"It's *IMPOSSIBLE* to be 100% sure of anything."

Are you sure it's not possible to be 100% sure of something?

I enjoy your posts, but this is a self-detonating statement.

It's like when someone says, "Nothing is absolute!" what they are saying is "Everything is relative!" and that is an absolute statement. It blows up in the face of the person making the argument.

And round and round we go.

FSK said...

No. It isn't.

When I say "Taxation is theft!", I really mean "I'm 99.9999%+ sure that taxation is theft!" I write it the short way, because I look like a fool if I always give the full Bayesian qualification.

These are not contradictory statements:

1. There is an absolute universal standard for truth.
2. It's impossible to be 100% absolutely sure what that truth is.

Both (1) and (2) are true.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that land is not fairly distributed.

Each citizen should be allowed to own some land outright. Our army die in overseas wars, but none of them actually own any land in the country they are supposedly fighting for.

In the UK the Royal Family own a lot of land.

If each citizen owned a patch of land, when they suffer a period of unemployment they can grow their own food.

With cheap electricity and cheap home-grown food and no rent to pay, most unemployed people could feed themselves and create their own businesses.

There needs to be land reform.

Land and capital should be more fairly distributed.

Taxes are so high they create economic drag and they stop businesses starting up and real, productive work getting done.

There should be less taxes and they should be something like 5 - 10%, not well over 50% (when everything is added up).

Banks and government are just w***ing each other off and not helping the real economy.

Anonymous said...

1. There is an absolute universal standard for truth.
2. It's impossible to be 100% absolutely sure what that truth is.

Both (1) and (2) are true.

You did it again. Are you stating with 100% certainty it is impossible to be 100% absolutely sure what that truth is?

If both 1 and 2 are true, are you stating so with the full Bayesian qualification?

I am 100% sure "taxation is theft". If someone comes to my door and takes my money at gunpoint or threatens me will jail (where I would be likely raped), does it matter if they give half the money to charity? If the mafia comes to my door week after week to steal my money but they sweep the street or build a school, is there theft moral?

If we say initiating force is wrong and a universal principle (i.e. it applies to all, everywhere, at all times), then we cannot have governments as governments are people and the principle would apply to them. You can say principle X is universal then exempt yourself from it.

If we say initiating force is right and a universal principle (i.e. it applies to all, everywhere, at all times), then we cannot have governments as we could all initiate force against each other and there would be no distinguishing difference between government and people. We could all tax each other for a negative sum game...or worse.

Applying Bayesian reasoning to everything is dangerous because it permits a moral/ethical challenge by pro-State trolls. If you say, "I am 99.9999%+ sure taxation is theft!", the troll will say, "But you're not 100% sure, therefore we dare not risk removing the state.". Just like when they argue we need a massive government/de-education complex because some kid in 12th century Latvia didn't get an education.

Someone once argued with me that I can choose poverty to minimize taxation. I asked her, "So what you're saying is a mugger has every right to be at your door but it's up to you how well you hide your money?". Incredibly she said, "Yes.". I thought for a moment and asked her, "If a rapist comes to your door, is the degree of the severity of his assault on you directly correlated to the degree of provocative clothing you wear? In other words, if you answer the door in a burka, you get a slap, but if you answer the door in a French Maids outfit, can we say you deserve full on rape? Or maybe you answered the door in a bathrobe and the rapist had a fetish for robes?"

She got it in a hurry.

You're fine to say "I am 100% sure taxation is theft!" without looking like a fool.

FSK said...

"It's impossible to be 100% absolutely sure of anything!" is a Math argument based on the Incompleteness Theorem (or Halting Problem).

I'm nearly 100% convinced that "taxation is theft!". However, to avoid making the ssme error as Statists, I'd open to the possibility of new evidence.

For example, at one time I wrote "All psychiatric drugs are harmful!" I've had a favorable reaction to Seroquel. Now, I say "Most psychiatric drugs are harmful!" I'm open to new evidence.

If I was absolutely 100% sure that all psychiatric drugs are harmful, I wouldn't have seriously considered that Seroquel might actually help me, although all the other drugs I tried were awful. For example, Seroquel partially cured my color blindness, which is evidence that it's beneficial.

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