Tag Archives: time travel

Could You Go Back In Time And Change History?

Nov 09, 2011

Okay.  This may be the single most important blog entry I have ever written, asking the deepest, most important question known to mankind.  I have gotten into heated arguments and nearly lost a friend over this question (Tammy Martin, I’m looking at you!)  Here it is….

Can you go back in time and change history?

I have heard so many answers to this question, from the scientific to the fantastical, from mathematicians, historians, writers, artists, philosophers, and crazy people.  For whatever reason it’s something that can spark an argument in no time flat.

Here’s my answer:

No, you can’t go back in time and change anything.

Because history already happened the way it did.  Anything that anyone from the future who goes back in time to change things does is what has already happened in the present.  Meaning you can’t go back in time and save Lincoln from being shot because he was already shot.  It’s a done deal.  You can’t go back and kill your own ancestor, thus negating your existence, and you can’t go back and stop Hitler from coming to power.  Because it already happened.

In this reality.

I do, however, think that you could go back in time and change something, stop Lincoln from being killed, kill your ancestor, or stop Hitler from coming to power, but it would create a splinter reality.  You would then find yourself living in a reality where Lincoln WAS saved, for example.  But you would no longer be a part of this timeline anymore.  In other words, you can go back in time but if you change anything you won’t be able to return to the same future that you left from.  You will effectively cease to exist in that timeline.

I have an idea for a series of novels that deals with this issue.  In it someone has discovered time travel.  Only it’s an academic pursuit.  It’s not public knowledge.  Very few people know about it.  Time travel is part of a particular university’s graduate studies program.  Only a very few people are selected to take part.  Think of it as research by immersion.  You sign on to be a part of this program and are sent back to the time period of your study to live for a limited number of years.

Throughout history in this world there are carefully guarded safe-houses where students in the program live.  They are equipped with all the modern technology the program needs to transport people and messages to and from the era of history.  But the natives to the time period can’t get wind of them, so they’re hidden.  The people of history are sorted into three categories: green, yellow, and red.  Students of the program can interact with “green” people all they want because they are completely unimportant Joe Nobodys.  “Red” people are absolutely off-limits.  They are the well-known figures of history, Lincoln, Hitler, anyone related to you.  Even speaking to them could spell disaster.  Then there are the “yellow” people.  Those are the people who might be important but no one is quite sure.  Students are ordered to stay away from them too, just in case.  But of course since this is a story they would have to be involved in the plot.

So yeah, that’s my idea.  I need to come up with a few good plots to make it work.  I will someday.  There would have to be something about a student being discovered, someone from history going back to the future, a whole alternative universe being splintered off by accident, maybe even connecting splinter universes somehow.  We’ll see.

Now, back to the original point at hand.

NO. Just ... No.

No, I don’t think you could change history at all if you went back in time.

Do I think time travel is possible?  I mean, really possible?

*sigh*  I really want to answer yes to this question.  But no, no I don’t.

What about you?  Time travel or no time travel?  Could you mess up history or not?