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Time travel on a bicycle using the “lost cat” principle. No. Really. Well, almost.

September 10, 2015
Old Schwinn.

Old Schwinn.

From reading Kurt Vonnegut Jr.,s “Cat’s Cradle,” I considered time travel. I want to meet my uncle, the one who died in 1944, before I was born. You can imagine other advantages. Take as much time as you need.
Anyhow, going back in time interests me. Therefore, I ordered the massive anthology of stories about time travel compiled by Ann and Jeff Van DerMeer. I think the time travel stories have probably all been written.
Using the principle of the “lost cat,” that has served my adult daughter well, and that I firmly believe in, one searches for the answer to a perplexing problem, such as time travel, close to the “front door.” This principle has worked for other things too.
I can’t remember her cat’s name, but when she lived in southern California, her cat bolted. Gone. Out the apartment door. What was the cat’s name? Kevin? Maybe. It’ll come to me later. Kevin was gone and she was heartsick. I think she searched around the apartment building calling. She left food out, nothing. I imagine tears and “lost cat” notices, but I don’t remember. Days passed and no cat.
Then a friend told her that missing cats are often to be found just a few feet from home. I doubted that, but it turned out to be true! She looked within about 10 feet of the door where the cat escaped. Her apartment was on the second floor of a nice airy southern California apartment building, and on a kind of rooftop, perhaps 5 feet lower than her porch. Sure enough, she found her cat. Kevin, I think. Hot, thirsty, hungry.
What does that have to do with time travel?
Remember, according to Einstein’s theory, time and space change when an object approaches the speed of light. Time slows, objects shorten, that kind of thing. Of course, who can accelerate to such a speed? My answer, don’t laugh, is a kid on a bicycle. Here’s how it can work.
Although we seem to be stationary, sitting in our overstuffed chairs, playing with our laptops, we are not really motionless. I remember seeing a post on Facebook that illustrated how the planets of the solar system actually move through space. You know, we’re used to visualizing the sun, there, and the planets orbiting in almost concentric circles. But no.

The reality is that the planets trace a spiral path through interstellar space because the sun is orbiting our own galaxy, the milky way. In turn, the milky way, and its galactic neighbors are also sailing through the inky void. All of this speedy motion adds up.
We’ve got the earth’s rotation, etc. etc. How fast are we zooming along? Well, according to the what I read on the internet, it depends on the “frame,” but perhaps 1000 km/second (rounding up). Well, the speed of light is only about 300,000 km/second. There you have it. We need to go about 300 times faster, is all. We just have to go the right direction.
What is light? Wikipedia has an article outlining the properties of light as electromagnetic radiation. In some ways light behaves like it is made up of photons. Other times, like waves. I like photons because of my chemistry background. A dozen photons can react with a dozen molecules. Both are measurable. Well, the molecules are.
Space-time seems like a kind of webwork, or 3-D fabric that engulfs everything. It gets warped by big items in the cosmos.
Then there is the kid on the bicycle. He just needs to go some arbitrary direction to increase his already great velocity through the cosmos. Then he goes forward or backward in time. That is until someone calls him home for supper. Well, even time travelers have to take a break sometimes.

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