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Nick Herbert

in Vega. That’s definitely faster than light, as Vega is some tens of light years away. So these aliens have mastered this time tunnel technology. Carl Sagan asked these guys if this was possible, and they said “Well, we’ll think about it.” So they came up with this actual scientific paper on how one might really build a time tunnel, like Carl Sagan’s. So here’s a situation where science fiction inspired science.

DJB: Isn’t that the case a lot, actually?

NICK: Ah, not really. I guess there are some things. Of course Jules Verne wrote about trips to the moon long before we went.

RMN: Maybe a lot of people become scientists, after reading science fiction.

DJB: I would just imagine that many scientists had read science fiction when they were young.

NICK: I certainly did. I read a lot of science fiction when I was young. I loved it. Still do. But I don’t know about specific inventions coming from science fiction–where someone reads a science fiction book, and then goes out and works on that particular idea. I think the influence is more general. But this is one example where a specific science fiction story–Carl Sagan’s Contact–influenced, at least in principal, a time machine. The other possibility for faster than light-travel, aside from using space warps, would be to somehow use this Bell connection. I don’t think we can send anything concrete this way, but maybe information or mental influences could go between minds faster- than-light. But, unlike these three CalTech people, there’s no demonstration of how one could do that. I spent about three or four years trying to use Bell’s connection to send signals faster than light, using thought experiments and such, and every one of them has failed. It looks as though this Bell connection is something that nature uses to further her nefarious ends, but people can’t use the Bell connection.

RMN: How would you test the results of a time travel experiment?

NICK: Wouldn’t that be easy? If you wanted to send something back in time… Ah… I guess, you’re right, it would have already happened, wouldn’t it? Well, a lot of these time travel experiments depend on what your opinion of the past is. Is the past always the same, or is it changeable? Are there alternate universes? It’s a good question. That really depends on your model of the past. If the past is not changeable, then you can’t go back in time, or you already have, and you’re the results of it. One of my best guesses is that the past is partially changeable–there are things there that are frozen, that you can’t change, and there are other things that are up for grabs, that are still in the quantum potentia, and those things you could change. So, when you went back there you could have some funny restrictions on your activities, and basically you could only make changes that were consistent with what we already know to have happened here. We have this present. There’s a lot that we know has happened. There’s lots of things we didn’t care about, and nobody knows whether they happened or not. Those things you could change. But you couldn’t change something that some human being knew had happened already.

DJB: As long as it’s an ambiguity, and hasn’t become a actuality.

NICK: Yes, as long as it hasn’t become an actuality you could change it.

DJB: Why do you think it is that time appears to flow in one direction only?

NICK: God, who knows? That’s a good question. It’s a psychological reason I think. Einstein said something about how the past and the future are illusions. Physics makes no distinction between past and future. The present doesn’t have any special status in physics. In four-dimensional space-time, it’s all just a huge block universe that’s eternal. So, the fact that time seems to flow is a kind of illusion that our kind of existence gives rise to. It’s an illusion of consciousness rather than anything in physics. It’s funny that if we didn’t know any better, if we just took the equations of physics as truth, we wouldn’t even know about this flow of time, this illusion. The universe would seem to be a kind of eternal, ever-present process.

RMN: You have asked, “Why does nature need to deploy a faster than light subatomic reality to keep up merely light speed macroscopic appearances.” Could you venture an answer to your own question?

NICK: That’s the idea that, although Bell’s theorem says of Reality that once some things are together they are always connected faster than light, Appearance is not. You don’t ever see anything like this. Why does nature bother to go to so much trouble? Underground connecting everything, and yet above ground it’s not connected. Why bother? Sounds a little bit like God, doesn’t it? This omniscient entity lying behind the phenomena that keeps its kind of divine providence, so that nothing gets lost. I don’t know. That’s still a puzzle to me, why that is. I would not like to believe in an omniscient divine providence, because it

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