The wisdom of seventh graders: What to do with a time machine (part 1)


All the students at a local school were asked to composed an in-class essay on the following topic: "Your science teacher has invented a time machine. You have been selected to take the first trip. Explain in a multi-paragraph letter to your teacher where you will go and why." (Students were given two hours, plus one additional hour upon request. In practice, many students were finished early and almost nobody requested the third hour.)

(Aside: Sometimes I think my readers believe in time machines. For example, one of them wondered why OLE/COM uses HRESULTs instead of Win32 error codes. Um, when OLE was invented, Win32 didn't exist.)

The students really enjoyed this topic. Too much so, however, for more than a few of them turned their essays into a narrative rather than sticking to the assignment. One student was so excited that the essay consisted of a single five-page paragraph. Well, technically it was two paragraphs, thereby meeting the letter (if not the spirit) of the "multi-paragraph" requirement. About halfway down page three was this sentence: "The essay continues in the next paragraph."

Roughly two thirds of the students opted to go into the past; one third chose to go into the future. One student didn't travel in time at all (!), choosing instead to visit Europe in the present day "to see castles and ruins". Psst, you've got a time machine. Why not go and see the ruins before they are ruined? (Actually, some friends pointed out to me that travelling to the present day is still handy. You can use your time machine as a teleporter. And you can even set the time machine to zip you backward, say, eight hours. That way, when you travel from Seattle to Europe, you arrive without any jet lag!)

Boys were more likely to want to travel back in time to get rich, although their plans for doing so were not necessarily fully thought-out.

  • Go back in time, steal an invention, and then bring it back to the present.
  • Go back in time thirty years and invest all your money in Google, Amazon, and Microsoft.
  • Go back to the time of Jesus and sell a bag of candy to the king in exchange for gold and gemstones.
  • Go to the 1970's buy up land in California, and then return to the present and you'll be filthy rich.
  • Go back in time, bury some everyday objects, then return to the present and dig them up. Bingo, instant antiques! (This one had a chance of working.)

(Good luck getting anybody in the past to accept today's money.)

Girls were more likely to travel in time to meet themselves or close ancestors.

  • Go back in time to meet your grandparents who died when you were very young.
  • Go forward in time to see how you did. (These people were very susceptible to lapsing into speculative fiction.)

A few students confused a time machine with regressive therapy, choosing to go back in time to re-live a cherished moment from a year or two ago. Psst, if you use a time machine to go into the past to visit yourself on that awesome vacation to Hawaii, you won't re-live the vacation. You'll be watching the other copy of yourself enjoy the vacation. (And that's assuming that the other copy of yourself doesn't see you and freak out.)

Several students wanted to change world history.

  • Go back to Los Alamos and convince the scientists not to detonate the first atomic bomb.
  • Go back to New York City on September 11, 2001.
    • One student has a clever plan: Run into the World Trade Center buildings and pull the fire alarms eleven minutes before the planes collided with the buildings. By the student's calculations, that's enough time to get everybody out of the building but not so much time that the firemen will have arrived.
    • Another student wanted to prevent the planes from crashing into the Empire State Building. (I think he succeeded!)
  • Go back to Phuket in December, 2004 and warn everybody about the coming tsunami. (The student acknowledges that he will likely fail but he wants to try anyway.)

Many students wanted to go back in time to observe and experience a historical period. One student wanted to ask Jesus to teach him how to walk on water. (Step one: Be the son of God.)

Coming up in Part 2, selected sentences from student essays.

Where would you go if you could take one trip in a time machine?

Comments (96)
  1. Anonymous says:

    Go back and convince Brian and Dennis that the string functions should all take buffer sizes from the beginning…

  2. Anonymous says:

    > Good luck getting anybody in the past to accept today’s money.

    Well you can travel back one year at a time (you have a time machine = no hurry) and in 30 steps you should be able to have the right kind of money.

    > Where would you go if you could take one trip in a time machine?

    Back to the 80’s and patent a number of trivial (but perfectly patentable as current standards go) software ideas I had when I was 15. Mmm on second thought, I would go back to patent the hell out of all I’ve seen in this 15 years, and then watch either a completely different IT world.. or a completely different scenario in my pocket :) Hey this idea works also going into the future!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Kill my own Great-great grandmother.  I never met her, and it’d be interesting to know who’s theory is right, wouldn’t it?

  4. Anonymous says:

    "I’d just like to be able to demonstrate that they don’t reliably document any actual historical events"

    Yeah but when Flying Saucer Cults (or Christianity) set a date for Something Momentus to happen (Flying Saucer Landed, Second Coming), and it doesn’t, that actually reinforces their faith.  Wouldn’t this be the same thing?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Go back to the Jurassic period and see some dinosaurs!

  6. Anonymous says:

    When asked that my answer is always the same:

    David Bowie at the Hammersmith Odeon, London, July 3 1973.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’d follow Matthew and go back at least 20000 years and collect proof so that I can convince my colleague here who states that nothing existed until approximately 6000 years ago (6000 B.C maybe, so 8000 in total).

    May of course happen that the time machine displays an (friendly!) error message on that value saying the year is out of range. Then I’d go back 10-15 years and go to church very often :)

  8. Anonymous says:

    What is time machine, alogrithum+data. In the future we do not have any data, for the past no alogrithum. Time machine only an illusion.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I always had this freaky idea that I’d like to bring a U.S. carrier with me, complete with F-18’s and a decent-size infantry force, and go back to ancient Rome.

    I can see it before me… The armies of the Roman empire massed up on that huge field, advancing towards us… And then two tiny F-18’s roar over them, out of the blue, at low altitude… The armies scatter in terror…

    Of course, it would be quite a time machine to take U.S.S. Ronald Reagan along. ("Betcha that thing makes a hell of a cappucino.")

  10. Anonymous says:

    The prudent thing would probably be to visit the future only, to avoid changing the past… That said, if time travel is possible at all, I believe in the theory of there being an infinite number of universa. At each moment, our universum splits into an infinite number of subuniversa that combine all possible choices and randomness. If you would go back in time, you would immediate start traversing a different part of that tree. Sure you could kill you grandmother, but you end up in a different universum where your grandmother isn’t needed anymore for you to be born. You don’t need to be born, because you got into that universum with a time travel machine. That wouldn’t be as much fun, but it would definitely solve all time travel problems!

  11. Anonymous says:

    I think some ground rules should have been set for time travel:

    1.) You cannot see yourself as it would cause a rift in the space-time continuum.

    2.) The time machine needs to hit 88 MPH in order to generate the necessary 1.21 gigawatts.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I hope that if I had the opportunity, I wouldn’t use it. I’m not sure whether that’s strength or cowardice.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Another student wanted to prevent the planes from crashing into the Empire State Building. (I think he succeeded!)

    Actually, there was a plane that crashed into the Empire state building

    http://www.damninteresting.com/?p=179

  14. Anonymous says:

    Psst, if you use a time machine to go into the past to visit yourself on that awesome vacation to Hawaii, you won’t re-live the vacation.

    How do you know a time machine wouldn’t work that way, Raymond?  

    In all seriousness, before the armchair physicists slam me for lack of knowledge on the quantum nature of reality, I’d just like to point out that time machines probably do not exist and therefore, may have multi-dimensional results that are unexpected to our 3-d minds.

    Anyone remember the John Titor hoax from 2000? http://www.johntitor.com/ That is one of the scariest time travel works I’ve ever read (no, I don’t buy it, but it’s incredibly well constructed).

    Patrick Farrell

  15. Anonymous says:

    The self-centered get-rich-quick idea: I’d use about five years to issue quarterly press releases that make accurate predictions of what will happen in the tech industry, and then use that reputation to get VC funding for a new company.

    The largely-insane idea: Use similar predictions of the future to position myself as a religious leader, take a lot of poeple’s money, and build a church. It worked for Hubbard.

    The acceptably-patriotic idea: equipped with the names and locations of the 9/11 terrorists, phone in anonymous tips earlier in the year to make the plan impossible to carry out.

    The radical-activism idea: I’d concoct some way to prevent Woodward and Bernstein from blowing the whistle on Watergate, which IMO is what has turned mass media and politics into the mess they are in today.

    The completely-silly idea: I’d go back in time one day and warn myself not to go back in time, just to see if I’d still do it.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Going there, doing that.

    About two years ago, I walked around the corner from my then-workplace to the main shopping street of Northampton (UK), heading for a sandwich shop. An old man (maybe 70 or so) watched me walking past him with undisguised curiosity; I caught his eye and it seemed as if he knew me.

    I later realised that he looked pretty much like I will look if I live to that age (30 years hence); so my conclusion was that, some time in the future, I will have a time machine, and come back to observe myself going to lunch on a normal work day.

    You’d think I could find something more interesting to do with a time machine than that. Maybe age will have shrivelled my imagination.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Sorry about the url formatting on my previous post.  I forgot this software won’t allow html.  How bout a preview button instead of immediate posting, Raymond?

    [I don’t control the software that runs the site. -Raymond]
  18. Anonymous says:

    My trip would be a whole lot simpler…I’d go back in time about 2 1/2 years and warn both my mother and grandmother that they should perhaps go to the doctor a bit sooner than when they did…in an attempt for them to catch the lung cancer that claimed both of their lives…

  19. Anonymous says:

    About a hundred years into the future. What I’d DO once I’m there would depend a lot on both the rules of time travel and the state of the world (and the human race) when I arrived.

    If I’m going to be returning to my own time, and have the opportunity to shift the course of the future, my priority would be gathering as much information as possible on the last hundred years… both for my personal benefit and the betterment of mankind.

    If I was going to be stuck there? I’d submit myself to a group of wealthy anthropologists so they can study me. =)

  20. Anonymous says:

    I’m not sure what I’d do with a time machine, personally.  I’ve thought about it many times and never come up with a good answer, since anything worth doing with it probably should be disallowed (can’t save Lincoln, for example, ‘cuz that wrecks history).

    That way, when you travel from Seattle to Europe, you arrive without any jet lag!

    Umm…  wouldn’t you still have jet lag if you stayed there for any reasonable period of time?  The sun’s still going to set 8 hours sooner than your body expects, no matter whether you get there by 747, by Concorde, or by teleporter.

  21. Anonymous says:

    The problem of getting people in the past to accept today’s money could be remedied by taking along gold bullion (without a date stamp or anything), then trading it for local money in the destination time.  Precious gems or other intrinsically-valuable commodities could also be used for this purpose.

    And, even if one could not invest in certain companies retroactively, one could pass that information on, say, to one’s parents/grandparents.  Return to the future, instant "old money."

    And Steve, the time machine you’re referring to (an Emmett Brown flux-capacitor type) requires BOTH the kinetic energy of traveling at 88 MPH AND the electrical energy of 1.21 gigawatts to engage the time-travel effect.  It will not work with just ONE of those components, and one certainly does not generate the other.  (Hence the need for a strategic bolt of lightning in the first movie, and for a train engine in the third.)

  22. Anonymous says:

    I would invent a new form of tourism: Historical Tourism. I’d take tons of tourists (at some astronically high fee) to various historically significant times and places.

    Of course, They’d have to sign a waiver, and I couldn’t be held responsible for their effect on the present. :)

  23. Anonymous says:

    I would go back to the 1970s and convince the FAA that with the current run of hijackings they need to mandate new cockpit saftly rules, including heavy doors, in and out procedures and rules to the effect that in a hostial situation no one is allowed into the cockpit and they are to land saftly as soon as possible.

    Basicly the same safty rules they implimented after 9/11, and the only really efective changes that would have stopped it cold.

    30 years early.

  24. Anonymous says:

    I would go back to the 1970s and convince the FAA that with the current run of hijackings they need to mandate new cockpit saftly rules, including heavy doors, in and out procedures and rules to the effect that in a hostial situation no one is allowed into the cockpit and they are to land saftly as soon as possible.

    Basicly the same safty rules they implimented after 9/11, and the only really efective changes that would have stopped it cold.

    30 years early.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I’d go back about 2000 years to the Italian peninsula and take:

    1. A metal lathe

    2. An ethanol engine

    3. A still

    4. An iron/steel metallurgy textbook

    5. Notes on the Haber process

    6. A Latin professor

  26. Anonymous says:

    maybe you should just go back in time 50 years to convince them to quit smoking ?

  27. Anonymous says:

    Jimi Hendrix!  I was two when he died.  Also, The Who in about 1972.

    As far as get-rich-quick stuff, I’d just go back to 2000 and tell myself to sell my stock ASAP and not hang on to it. :-(

  28. Anonymous says:

    —–"I always had this freaky idea that I’d like to bring a U.S. carrier with me, complete with F-18’s and a decent-size infantry force, and go back to ancient Rome.

    I can see it before me… The armies of the Roman empire massed up on that huge field, advancing towards us… And then two tiny F-18’s roar over them, out of the blue, at low altitude… The armies scatter in terror…"—–

    Great fun when you run out of gas mate.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Go back in time, stop the Kennedy Assination and find out how much better our lives today would have been.

  30. Anonymous says:

    Wouldn’t you need to time-travel in 1 year increments to ensure that land will be beneath your feet when you stop?  If you travel just 6 months, won’t the planet be on the other side of the Sun and you’ll just pop into outer space?

  31. Anonymous says:

    Go back to see a Gilbert and Sullivan opera!

  32. Anonymous says:

    Scott: actually things are more interesting, because the Sun doesn’t sit still either, and our galaxy moves about, etc. etc. Another problem for time-machine people to figure out~.

  33. Mike Dunn says:

    Scott is right – you can’t travel only in time, you have to travel in space too if you want to end up on the Earth. If you traveled even one minute into the past, without moving in space, you’d wind up in the middle of empty space because the Earth was in a different position in space one minute ago. The only time-travel story I know of that has addressed this problem was the TV show "7 Days."

    I would go back to the early 90s and buy a bunch of domain names like computers.com, download.com, news.com, etc. Then I’d travel forward a couple years and sell them all for big money to CNet.

  34. Anonymous says:

    "Wouldn’t you need to time-travel in 1 year increments to ensure that land will be beneath your feet when you stop?  If you travel just 6 months, won’t the planet be on the other side of the Sun and you’ll just pop into outer space?"

    Well, since our sun is moving relative to the center of the galaxy, "[u]sing speed measurements of the gas at different distances from the Galactic center, the Sun appears to be cruising along at 200 kilometers per second".

    Thus I don’t think time travel without space travel is too useful.  If you can make your time machine move you through space relative to the Sun (the take 1-year increments approach), you can just as easily (hopefully) do the same relative to not only the Earth, but the time machine’s initial position on the Earth, so you don’t have to worry about rotation either.

  35. Anonymous says:

    If i were to take the first trip i would never go because i wouldn’t know if the time machine would actually work as expected.

  36. Anonymous says:

    I’d go back in time about 90 minutes and say hi to myself. I’d then wait until now and repeat the process 30 times. Then I’d split into two teams of 15 and play soccer.

  37. Anonymous says:

    I’d go hunting for dinosaurs: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Sound_of_Thunder

    (Not really, but I always liked that story.)

  38. Anonymous says:

    "The only time-travel story I know of that has addressed this problem was the TV show "7 Days.""

    Robert Heinlein’s The Number of the Beast.

    Spider Robinson’s Callahan’s Con.

    And I’m not well-read enough in scifi to come up with more, but there probably are plenty.

  39. Anonymous says:

    One student wanted to ask Jesus to teach him how to walk on water.

    (Step one: Be the son of God.) – Check

    (Step two: Be the Son of God.) – Doh!

  40. Anonymous says:

    Go back, win the lotto (if under 18, have parents win the lotto…).

    I would be betting on things left and right.

    Use the money from the lotto to invest in huge quantities of Google stock maybe?  Bleh.  I’d find some sporting event in the recent past that the underdog team won on, 10:1 odds or some such.  Bet all the lotto money on that.

  41. Anonymous says:

    "At each moment, our universum splits into an infinite number of subuniversa that combine all possible choices and randomness."

    It wouldn’t be infinite, just a lot.

  42. Anonymous says:

    Surely travelling through the first three dimensions is trivial compared to going through the fourth? :o)

  43. Anonymous says:

    I always had this freaky idea that I’d like to

    bring a U.S. carrier with me, complete with F

    18’s and a decent-size infantry force, and go

    back to ancient Rome.

    Man, that was a cool movie… from the 70s I think? Except they went back to WWII right near Pearl Harbor and the debate was whether they should engage the Japanese fleet they knew was approaching (and, with a modern carrier, they could do massive damage to.)

    Oh duh, "The Final Countdown." Named after a Europe song. Or vice versa.

    Anyway, I’m not such a meglomaniac as you… I’d just grab my little iBook and go back to WWI and help calculate artillery trajectories. And I wouldn’t have to worry about running out of power, because they could produce good enough electricity in the teens. Plus I’ve always wanted to salute those brave men who marched into the trenches– now THAT takes some cojones.

  44. Anonymous says:

    I’d grab a copy of Motion Mountain (http://motionmountain.net/), a similarly comprehensive chemistry book, and travel back to the Renaissance. The society then should be able to absorb that amount of knowledge, and I’d be able short circuit 500 years of scientific evolution.

    Either that, or just permanently go anywhere into the future past the singularity point (http://www.kurzweilai.net/articles/art0134.html)

  45. Anonymous says:

    the planet be on the other side of the Sun and you’ll just pop into outer space

    Time-travel has already been invented 23 times, and no-one heard about it because each time the inventor tests it a bit quickly and mysteriously disappears… ;)

  46. Anonymous says:

    Reading the comments here people seem to have such whimsical things to go see or visit.  Does no one have a true purpose that they would use this for?

    Almost two years ago I was supposed to meet my husband downtown for lunch on my birthday, Valentine’s day.  I was waiting for him in the park and saw him on the other side of the street.  We waved, and maybe I distracted him because as he crossed the street he was hit by a taxi and thrown to the ground.  He died that night at the hospital.

    The past two years have been the loneliest of my life.  I miss my husband more than ever before and the boys miss their father.  They cry at night in their sleep and I can’t comfort them.  I would give anything to go back to that moment and stop him, or cancel that stupid plan altogether.  I don’t care what anyone says about changing the past, or future.  I would do it in a heartbeat.

  47. Anonymous says:

    Red Dwarf also had another great time-travel episode where (don’t quite remember the details) they rescued President Kennedy before his assassination, and he was remembered as a mediocre president so they took him back in time where Kennedy was his own assassin (so he would be remembered as he is now).

  48. DavidKlineMS says:

    @Avner Kashtan

    "When asked that my answer is always the same:

    David Bowie at the Hammersmith Odeon, London, July 3 1973."

    For me, it’s July 26, 1965 to see John Coltrane perform ‘A Love Supreme’ at the Festival Mondial du Jazz Antibes, Juan-les-Pins, France.

  49. Anonymous says:

    I’m not sure exactly what I’d do with a time machine, but I can almost surely guarantee it’d have something to do with boobies.

  50. Anonymous says:

    Caliban sez:

    The self-centered get-rich-quick idea: I’d use about five years to issue quarterly press releases that make accurate predictions of what will happen in the tech industry, and then use that reputation to get VC funding for a new company.

    Bah, go back to the last big megamillions jackpot (like last week, even), buy a winning ticket and slip it into your filing cabinet while you’re at work.

    The acceptably-patriotic idea: equipped with the names and locations of the 9/11 terrorists, phone in anonymous tips earlier in the year to make the plan impossible to carry out.

    Not gonna happen. People already tipped of the feds and Clinton warned bush of this scenario on his way out. What say we camp out on top of WTC 1 and 2 with stolen SAMs?

    Sergio:

    I’d grab a copy of Motion Mountain (http://motionmountain.net/), a similarly comprehensive chemistry book, and travel back to the Renaissance. The society then should be able to absorb that amount of knowledge, and I’d be able short circuit 500 years of scientific evolution.

    And get burned as a witch…

  51. Anonymous says:

    …so they took him back in time where Kennedy was his own assassin

    So, would that be suicide or homicide?

  52. Anonymous says:

    Ben, Jim Loy has published a few stories in analog in that vein, some of which are available on his web site:

    http://www.jimloy.com/fiction/archimed.htm

  53. Anonymous says:

    I spent 20 years building a time machine in my basement.  The first time I turned it on I tried to go back 20 years and teach myself how to build a time machine.  Unfortunately I didn’t explain myself to myself very well and I got myself onto the wrong track, and as a result I spent 30 years building a time machine in my basement.

    That’s just silly.  Let me go back and try again…

    I’m developing a time machine right now.  So far it only travels into the future at 60 minutes per hour.  I’m working on a way to turn it off.

    That’s just silly.  Let me go back and try again…

    I have a time machine around here somewhere but I never found much use for it.  I can’t travel into the past because the past is immutable and apparently I never did.  And I don’t dare travel very far into the future because it doesn’t exist yet and I don’t want to get there before it does.  Eventually I stopped fiddling with it.  I haven’t used it in 15 years.  I think.

    That’s just silly.  Let me go back and try again…

    Actually I invented the time machine in 1897.  But like most of the posters here, I couldn’t find a good use for it.  So I jumped into the future until the internet was developed, then I sold it on eBay.

    That’s just silly.  Let me go back and try again…

    Oops — out of time.

    -Wang-Lo.

  54. Anonymous says:

    Contrary to appearances. I do not think it is funny to submit a post about time travel three times!  As God is my witness, I hit the [Submit] button only once.  The site software has farkled again.  Maybe Raymond can remove two of the redundant posts.

    If I thought it was funny I would have submitted the five tries in five separate paragraphs.  Five tries three times doesn’t make any sense.

    -Wang-Lo.

    [I deleted the two redundant ones. -Raymond]
  55. Anonymous says:

    Wang-Lo: Maybe the other two instances of your time-traveling self did it to you.

  56. Anonymous says:

    I’d use it to download Dr. Who episodes more than just one year in advance.

  57. J. Edward Sanchez says:

    I’d travel back in time to September 29, 2006. Then I’d camp outside a Best Buy and place myself in cryogenic suspension for precisely three weeks, so that when I awakened, I could be the very first person to own a Nintendo Wii.

  58. Anonymous says:

    I just need to travel back in time a couple hours so I can buy the correct lottery ticket.

  59. Anonymous says:

    re James’ Jesus-and-time-travellers-story: a better one is Moorcock’s ‘Behold the Man’, in which Karl Glogauer goes back in time to see Jesus, finds out the ‘real’ Jesus is a retarded hunchback, and so uses his influence over the cultish group of Essenes who initially encountered him to become the ‘biblical’ Jesus…

  60. Anonymous says:

    I know what I’d like to do, I just don’t know how I’d do it, or when or where I’d need to go. It may be that I’d need multiple trips anyway.

    I’d like to get concrete evidence, not seriously doubtable by anyone with half a brain (although there appear to be fundamentalists from most faiths who appear to take delight in demonstrating that *desipte* believing their God(s) gave them one, He/She/It/They did not intend for them to use it.), that all the teachings of the world’s major religions were just a bunch of good ideas about how to live your life, _in the period they were written_, coupled with incentives to actually live by them.

    I’d just like to be able to demonstrate that they don’t reliably document any actual historical events, or happenings of a supernatural nature, and that if culture has changed somewhat in the last X-thousand years, at least *some* of those teachings might be out-dated and worth not bothering with anymore.

  61. Anonymous says:

    I would be interested in going back to the big bang and then inch through it frame by frame watching how the universe formed.

  62. Anonymous says:

    Orson Scott Card wrote an interesting book about traveling back in time to prevent Columbus from conquering/discovering the New World, the point in history that they theorized led to their current state of pollution/standard-sci-fi-dying-world-crap. Once they started researching for this mission, they discovered the reason Columbus went to the New World in the first place is that other time travellers from the future directed him there instead of to the Crusades. They end up sending back people to immunize the native americans again European diseases instead, IIRC.

  63. Anonymous says:

    Well, first I would use it so my best friend and I could do a killer high school history report and presentation so that he wouldn’t get sent off to boarding school by his parents which would prevent our band from forming leaving the world a worse place because of it.

    Second, I would alter history to make run on sentences considered correct.

    And third, of course, to meet chicks.

  64. Anonymous says:

    Research the the most recent and largest lottery jackpot being shared by the least amount of people, taking into consideration inflation and other the dollar market value.

    Arrived to the time period several months before winning  number is selected.

    Obtain a fake I.D. since I don’t exist or am not my current age yet.

    Beg for $1 dollar with a fake mustache, beard and hair to conceal my identity and obtain money from that present time.

    Buy the winning lottery tickey.

    Pick the cash option.

    (If discovered, go back to future and try again.)

    Deposit the funds in a bank account that does not require people to identify themselves. (Swiss?). Make sure the back account still exists in the future.

    Time travel back to the future. (flee!)

    Withdraw funds.

    Enjoy.

    It works, trust me, I did it.

  65. Mike Fried says:

    I would go into the future and read this blog, find out what it was that Raymond predicted (http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/archive/2006/05/23/604743.aspx), and write it in my post to this message…

  66. Anonymous says:

    Go back two days, post a comment, and warn people not to try guessing who I am.

    Been there, done that.  See?  Time travel doesn’t change the present.

  67. Anonymous says:

    Sorry, Bob.

    And William, if you’re only going back two weeks, just bring some cash – you can leave the lottery ticket in your house until the two weeks pass and you won’t have changed the past (much).

  68. Anonymous says:

    > Umm…  wouldn’t you still have jet lag if

    you stayed there for any reasonable period of time?  The sun’s still going to set 8 hours sooner than your body expects.

    The idea is you teleport *and* go back in time 8 hours, so you leave Seattle at 8:00am local time and arrive in London at 8:00am local time, maintaining synch with local clock and daylight hours.

    Also, when you open your suitcase and realize you forgot something, you can call yourself back in Seattle and remind yourself to pack it.

  69. Anonymous says:

    I would go back in time to prevent Matthew and Paul Hill from making stupid comments.

    After that, I would perform a series of experiments on world history to answer the question of how much difference one person actually makes in world events by killing future world leaders while they’re young. I’d start with (going backwards from the present):

    * George W. Bush

    * Adolph Hitler

    * Voltaire

    * Christopher Columbus

    * John Calvin & Martin Luther

    * Constantine

  70. Anonymous says:

    Some of their ideas and comments suggest that they’ve got many of their ideas about time travel from different science fiction outlets. Different sources write their time-travel stories based on different premises.

    Taking just TV shows as an example (since, sadly, they seem to stick in my mind more than written fiction):

    * Quantum Leap had its protagonist going back in time and actually taking control of *other people*.

    * Star Trek loves the idea that you can go back in time and change the past while yourself being unaffected by the change. They also love the resulting paradoxes, such as in Voyager when it is revealed that the first microcomputers were a result of a human from several millenia into the future accidentally travelling back to the ’80s with technology that was itself evolved from the first microcomputers.

    * Doctor Who (a British sci-fi drama) maintains that causing paradoxes causes our reality to be invaded by a bunch of weird bat-like creatures.

    * Red Dwarf (a British sci-fi comedy) made a joke out of the fact that their time machine was able to travel in time but not in space, so the characters travelled back in time to "drink in the heady, medieval atmosphere of pre-renaissance deep space", though the writers promptly threw that idea out of the window by having a visit from their future selves who had quite clearly managed to travel in both time and space with the same device.

    * Some science fiction (sadly, I can’t think of any examples for this one) maintains that you can’t actually change the past, since it’s already happened. Instead, you just discover that you caused what you already knew as history, usually via a dramatic plot twist!

    Of all of these ideas, I’m most confortable with the latter, though you do have to ask yourself why, if it were possible to go back in time, that there haven’t been several documented encounters with time travellers. We can only assume that the creation of time travel itself brings apon the end of the universe, or at least the permanent extinction of all sentient live on Earth.

  71. Anonymous says:

    For all the talk of time machines, does the math actually say that traveling back in time could be anything different than rewinding?  You know, go back one year there’s no machine going with you, you’re just back as you were one year ago with no knowledge of the future?  

    Anyway, if I could go back I’d go back to a time I knew I could directly influence my past choices.  I’d tell me one thing I felt was the worst choice (and the outcome) or a choice that I felt would be a substantially better one to make.  Then I’d say change it, and say when the time came for that me to travel back in time, to repeat the process again unless I had no significant regrets, needs, or desires.  I’d get myself in a tight time travel loop, lasting perhaps trillions of iterations, until I was reasonably content with my life.  Since all I would be changing would be my choices I’d limit damage to things I could have caused anyway.

    Of course I could end up in an infinite loop if I was greedy or picky or indecisive, in which case I couldn’t return until the future had been decided.  Or I could end up in a groundhog day of sorts, trying to figure out how to get out of the loop.  Or I could just make myself one nasty mess of my life and accidentally cause the machine not to be built in which case I’d be stuck in a living hell when I got back.

  72. Anonymous says:

    You all miss the point of using it ONLY ONCE.

    So, I will use it to travel to the time where I own the damn thing and nobody can tell me how many times I can use it.

    How’s that for a start?

  73. Anonymous says:

    Ben: One example of your last scenario I recall had people travelling back to see Pontius Pilate and the crowd sentencing Jesus to death. To avoid changing history, the time travellers have been told they must blend in by shouting for him, rather than Barabas, to be executed – when they do so, they realize (too late) that *everyone* shouting for this is a fellow time traveller – the natives were all shouting for the other option, but they were outnumbered!

  74. Anonymous says:

    Paul Hill:

    Yeah but when Flying Saucer Cults (or Christianity) set a date for Something Momentus to happen

    As far as I know Christianity has never set a date for something to happen, you confuse Christianity with Jehova’s Witnesses.

  75. Anonymous says:

    Igor: Perheps that time never exist, because if it is possible to alter the past, no government will want to give out that power. You’ll never know what your enemy did in your past if time machine is publicly available.

    Even if that day exist, how do you predict when will it be? A day too close then you still cannot own it easily, if you choose a day too far, probably the technology won’t exist for whatever reason(like human civilization disapear for whatever reason).

    It’s not quite possible to choose the correct time without a peep to the future first.

  76. Anonymous says:

    If you really want to reuse the time machine, a more workable plan would be to go back to the past just before the teacher test on the working one, steal the blueprint and then tweak the time machine a bit to make the experiment fail. In that way, you own the unique time machine without letting anyone else knowing it, and you may use it as you wish.(Ha ha, I’m evil.)

  77. Anonymous says:

    I’m surprised that no-one’s suggested travelling to Digital Research in 1979 and trying to persuade Gary Kildall of the importance of getting the contract to supply the OS for the IBM PC. Or taking a copy of Minix or FreeDOS back and trying to get the contract themselves.

  78. Anonymous says:

    Honestly, I think the preferable thing would be to jump forward a year at a time and keep track of the political climate so that you won’t get arrested for travelling through time or landing in a time-travel-free zone. Can you imagine how unfortunate it would be to travel 100 years into the future only to be arrested and have your time machine confiscated? I’d convince the teacher of the necessity of that before attempting time-travel.

    I’d go forward, download a library of blueprints (taking care to also download the blueprints for the machines to make the machines, and the machines to make them, as well as the formulas for making the necessary materials) and then return to now. I’d wait a few hours, and if I don’t tell myself not to do it I will then begin the process of advancing our civilization. Then I’d time-travel forward to see if this screwed anything up, and if so, go back and tell myself not to.

    Once I have technology from the future, I would hope that I have either cloaking devices or microscopic cameras. Then I would send cloaked or microscopic camera bots to observe various events in history, such as WTC and the Pentagon on 911 (put Michael Moore out of business), see what all those UFOs are (assuming I didn’t find that out in the future), observe any number of battles in any number of wars, watch Shakespeare’s original plays and the Greek tragedies (of course, I would have to hire someone who studies ancient greek to sub the plays), find out what Jesus really looked and sounded like, find out what’s up with Mary Magdalene, see Capurnicus, Galileo, and Newton, and any number of other events. Settle the academic disputes about history once and for all.

    And by using invisible cameras, it will nanoize the impact on future events.

  79. Anonymous says:

    Okay, if i had one time-travel for free. Heres what i would do:

    I would travel to future, 50-150 years and grab as much information as i could.

    Lotto/Sportevents, searching the internet(if it still exists) for everything, that could be useful and save it to 1,44 MB floppydiscs(;)). Then i come back and use them for my everydays life. Like getting rich, prevent desasters, heal diseases like cancer and so on.

    This i think is the best method, if i only have one try.

    And i dont think the universe spilts into different sub-unvierses onto each decission and so on. Because i think there is no randomness, you could calculate and predict everything, if you know exactly how it works.

  80. Anonymous says:

    I’d make a CPU that could do infinte amount of cycles in that second so I would have the world’s fastest CPU!

  81. Anonymous says:

    "Go back and convince Brian and Dennis that the string functions should all take buffer sizes from the beginning…"

    LOL DavidE – you just made my day :-)

    James

  82. Anonymous says:

    And here it is interesting to me, when in Microsoft will make notepad so that could work normally?

  83. Anonymous says:

    I’ll go to future to see if time travel is possible :)

  84. Anonymous says:

    If I ever get my hands on a time machine in thef future, I’ll come back to 2006-12-05 14:20 GMT and land right next to me.

    Damn!

  85. Anonymous says:

    Time travel to the past isn’t possible or:

    1) humans die before learning how to do it

    2) after the technology was developed humans started travelling back, post today, and destroyed the species before travel to our time became commonplace

    3) humans evolve to be intelligent, reponsible, errorless, selfless beings capable of producing foolproof technology before learning how to do it.

    Given that (3) is the only way there’s a positive outcome possible, and it’s astronomically improbable, I’d agree with those who would go into the future and learn of events to come.

  86. Anonymous says:

    Coming up in Part 2, selected sentences from student essays

    Followed by lots of red faces as many of the people posting comments realize their sentences were worse…

  87. Anonymous says:

    Tipler cylinders (a semi-possible form of time travel) postulate you can only go as far back as the construction of the cylinder and don’t seem to have a provision for forward time travel.

    Some other time travel theories are forward only theories.

    Therefore, the evidence we have now does not preclude time travel, only makes it rather improbable.

  88. Anonymous says:

    Raymond writes: "if you use a time machine to go into the past to visit yourself on that awesome vacation to Hawaii, you won’t re-live the vacation. You’ll be watching the other copy of yourself enjoy the vacation."

    Correct me if I’m wrong but the Spec for the time machine did not include any constraints on the versioning problem.  This student was applying a "different from Raymond’s" model of time travel which is totally legitimate in a work of speculative fiction.  

    The teacher clearly set the precedent for speculative fiction when they asserted that they had created a time machine.  

    Fabulous assignment,  I’m working on it now,  I need the extra hour…

  89. Anonymous says:

    I would make multiple stops into the future, at 10-year intervals up to 100 years from now, and while I’m there I would use the "Internet", or whatever, to research the world’s biggest tragedies and catastrophes that have happened in that period.  Once I have sufficient data, I would return to the present.

    Then I would use that data to attempt to influence the future, and come up with schemes to make the world a better place.  I would also probably fund my schemes with winning lottery numbers, because the bigger the tragedy, the harder it will be to avoid.

    For example, if I had simply walked into the World Trade Centers and politely told them that Al Qaeda was going to fly planes into the building in the future, they would either not believe me, or they would arrest me.  I’d have to come up with a better, more effective plan, and that might require a lot more money.

  90. Anonymous says:

    "I’d have to come up with a better, more effective plan, and that might require a lot more money."

    Like blowing it up the night before while it was vacant?

  91. Anonymous says:

    I’d go back and teach George and Barbara Bush about the benefits of contraceptives…

  92. Anonymous says:

    I would travel back far enough to see if Atlantis really existed, and if so, how their supposely advanced technology works. We even might be able to learn something from them!

  93. Anonymous says:

    You could find out about some nice mysteries there. E.g. go back to a certain warehouse in Dallas November 22, 1963. But the save the world things are much more noble.

    Or, go forward a few hundred years to see if it is worth it, and perhaps researched how you died (you’d probably find you died at a certain day, from a hart-attack due to the stress of knowing that you were going to die that day from a heart-attack due to the stress of …)

  94. Anonymous says:

    If I had a working time machine I’d take it part to see how it worked.

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