Timeline of the far future

On a similar topic to my previous post about the scale of the universe, I’ve been enjoying Wikipedia’s Timeline of the far future for equal amounts of mind-boggling scale. Really, once you hit 1020 years from now the numbers are pretty much meaningless to realistic human comprehension. But when you start hitting the exponents of the exponents? Like 10^10^50 (or to steal Wikipedia’s image: 10^{10^{50}})  then all you can really do is quote:

Although listed in years for convenience, the numbers beyond this point are so vast that their digits would remain unchanged regardless of which conventional units they were listed in, be they nanoseconds or star lifespans.

Followup to the Time Traveler Convention

Wired News has a followup article about the time traveler convention that I blogged about the other day. Apparently no one from the future showed up.

But when attendees gathered outside for a raucous countdown at 10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, nothing appeared on the makeshift landing pad at the coordinates Dorai set for the time travelers….

It’s actually a blessing that no one from the future showed up on Saturday night, said David Batchelor, the NASA physicist who wrote “The Science of Star Trek.”

Speaking on his own behalf and not for NASA in a phone interview, Batchelor noted the same potential risks mentioned by speakers at the convention, such as the displacement of matter in a finite universe caused by the introduction of someone from another time. He also touched on the paradoxes arising from such acts as going back in time and killing one’s own ancestors.

“We should breathe a sigh of relief,” said Batchelor, who considered his decision not to go to the convention a safe bet. “It means we were protected from the chaos that would result if someone came back and changed something.”

The thought that struck me as I read this was, if time travelers came from the future to attend the convention “after the fact”—wouldn’t our memories change to match the altered timeline? In other words, we wouldn’t know that no one from the future appeared, because they in fact did and time was changed.

Alternatively, travelers from the future did attend the convention, only that spun off into an alternate timeline and our own timeline is undisturbed.

The Time Traveler Convention

I don’t know whether to file this under “weird” or “science” or “brilliant”: MIT is hosting a time traveler convention on May 7.

What is it?

Technically, you would only need one time traveler convention. Time travelers from all eras could meet at a specific place at a specific time, and they could make as many repeat visits as they wanted. We are hosting the first and only Time Traveler Convention at MIT in one week, and WE NEED YOUR HELP!

Why do you need my help?

We need you to help PUBLICIZE the event so that future time travelers will know about the convention and attend. This web page is insufficient; in less than a year it will be taken down when I graduate, and futhermore, the World Wide Web is unlikely to remain in its present form permanently. We need volunteers to publish the details of the convention in enduring forms, so that the time travelers of future millennia will be aware of the convention. This convention can never be forgotten! We need publicity in MAJOR outlets, not just Internet news. Think New York Times, Washington Post, books, that sort of thing. If you have any strings, please pull them.

Great idea, I’d love to help! What should I do?

Write the details down on a piece of acid-free paper, and slip them into obscure books in academic libraries! Carve them into a clay tablet! If you write for a newspaper, insert a few details about the convention! Tell your friends, so that word of the convention will be preserved in our oral history! A note: Time travel is a hard problem, and it may not be invented until long after MIT has faded into oblivion. Thus, we ask that you include the latitude/longitude information when you publicize the convention.

You can also make an absolute commitment to publicize the convention afterwards. In that case, bring a time capsule or whatever it may be to the party, and then bury it afterwards.

I wish I’d thought of that. :)