The Viscosity Of Space/Time And The Impossibility Of Time Travel
By Donne E. Puckle
October, 2004

The question needs to be raised: is space/time viscous? We begin with Einstein's theories of relativity and the nature of space/time. The speed of light in a vacuum has been established. In addition, the speed of light through a medium such as air, water, or a gravitational field can be determined. A balance is established which maintains the conservation of mass/energy.

The nature of space/time precludes the acceleration of a mass to the speed of light. Space/time resists the acceleration; that is, the viscosity of space/time rises as energy, "pressure", is increased.

C. L. Dodgson, Master of the House and Lecturer in Mathematics, Christ Church, Oxford, has determined that, under certain circumstances, an infinite input of energy would be needed to break through an infinite gravitational field. The balance of space/time is demonstrated and proved. His description, published in 1871(!) precedes the work on relativity by Einstein (1905, 1915), and black holes by Schwartzschild (1916), and Hawking (1974ff), et al. by almost half a century.

The Newtonian absolute space, absolute time as distinct and unrelated elements were currently in vogue in Dodgson's time. He anticipates Einstein's description of space/time and the nature of gravity and the difficulty of escaping the pull of the black hole.

As has been noted in previous articles1 careful consideration must be given to the energy levels required for time travel. A brief listing of the attempts made in the past are appropriate at this juncture: Well's The Time Machine, Star Trek: The Movie V, Time Bandits, Stargate SG, Time Cops, Back to the Future, Doctor Who, Carl Sagan's Contact. These2, and so many other movies and television programs, make note, one way or another, of the tremendous amount of power needed to operate the time machine. The one exception, perhaps, is Well's The Time Machine, which has a self-contained energy source which can be moved from place to place by a single individual. The other examples show us huge facilities filled with complex machines, control panels, and heavy cables coming from hydroelectric plants or nuclear generating facilities. (There are those time travel examples which do not rely on external energy, but depend on dreaming, magic, or hallucinations. These do not enter into our consideration at this time.)

The emphasis on energy and technology ties in with the understanding now that the faster one attempts to travel (in space/time) the more energy is required as one approaches the speed of light. To break through the time barrier, or rather, to by-pass it, would require energies beyond that needed to reach the speed of light.

Here the work of Dodgson must be considered. His anticipation of Einstein et al. is found in his seminal work Through the Looking Glass. Because of possible opposition from physicists and mathematicians still holding an unwavering conviction in the credence of Newton's description of time and space Dodgson wrote this treatise on space/time and time travel under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. Submission of his work under his own name through the traditional technical scientific and mathematical journals would have been rejected by the overly conservative editorial process.

In order to demonstrate his theory Dodgson takes his place as the Red Queen explaining to the (Newtonian) scientific community, represented by Alice, the impossibility of time travel. The Red Queen takes hold of Alice and they run as fast as they can. They experience the effects of moving: wind blowing in their hair, fatigue, etc. When they stop Alice comments,

“Why I do believe we've been under this tree all the time! Everything's just as it was!”

“Of course it is,' said the Queen: 'what would you have it?”

“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you'd generally get to somewhere else -- if you ran very fast for a long time, as we've been doing.”

“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”3
The Red Queen notes that the space/time effect of gravity ties one to the present reality. The experience of Alice and the Red Queen running (in place as it were) parallels the space/time universe in which we find the smallest particle under the same gravitational constraint as the most massive black hole. Each runs in its own place, kept there in its universal connection with its companions: the universe itself. Therefore Dodgson’s conclusion that the viscosity of space/time is such that the energy needed to broach the time barrier would have to be infinite. QED time travel is impossible.

One might argue, on the contrary, that the Red Queen's reference to "you must run at least twice as fast as that!" is to the tachyon. The tachyon, which is superluminal even in its rest state, would allow for time travel. This would only be possible if the traveler was elsewhere, other than through the looking glass venue. But we are not elsewhere, we are here.




1. D. E. Puckle: Time travel and entropy. Mensa Bulletin Internet Companion, April/May 2003. Articles in Borderline Mensa M-Bassador (a.k.a. The BoMB), October 2002, January 2003, February 2003, March 2003, April 2003, September 2003, August 2004.

2. For additional listings see: Nahin, Paul J. Time Machines, AIP Press/Springer-Verlag, New York. 1993.

3. Carroll. Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. J. M. Dent & Sons, London (reprint 1981), p. 140.


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