Interactive globe shows where your hometown was at various stages of Earth's deep geological past.
- If you love travelling, a pandemic like this is not the greatest of times.
- But here's a way to go somewhere else without even leaving the house.
- This interactive tool lets you travel up to 750 million years back in time.
Travels in the fourth dimension<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDUyNTI1Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjM5NjY5OX0.l5xmIbvn6QtGwzC6zg2GJWWfjc-N4pAHGhaF7JGOWxE/img.jpg?width=980" id="10f9f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="eb5f583d74333bece3f7e1f95dff6145" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="" />
Image: Ancient Earth Globe, reproduced with kind permission.<p><em>Berlin in deep time. Left to right: in the Neocene Period (20 million years ago), Berlin is on a vast plain that includes what would become the Baltic Sea; in the Devonian (400 million years ago), it's on the southern edge of a turtle-shaped continent; and in the Ordovician (470 million years ago), Berlin is on an island south of what was to become, many millions of years later, the Black Sea.</em></p><p>No matter where in the world you are, the virus continues to be out there somewhere, as keen as ever on making your acquaintance. The best policy remains: avoid contact with others, avoid unnecessary travel. In short: we're all stuck at home a whole lot more than we'd like to. </p><p><span></span>After the better part of a year spent under various forms of lockdowns and other restrictions, many are suffering from an increasingly itchy version of <em>wanderlust</em> – the urge to travel – and it's becoming harder and harder not to scratch. </p><p>Here's an interesting alternative: instead of traveling through space, why not stay put in the first three dimensions and travel through the fourth one instead? It's a trick performed to great acclaim by H.G. Wells in "<a href="http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/35" target="_blank">The Time Machine</a>." <br></p><p>The protagonist in Wells' 1895 novella travels to the terrifying future populated by Eloi and Morlocks and even further forward to the final days of Earth, without having to leave the laboratory attached to his house.</p>
750 million years into the past<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDUyNTI2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNDI3ODIxOX0.uFiLQ1OVzfnxyYXG2HBVQM69-9vr5JHpGZkU8frgQ2A/img.jpg?width=980" id="39f51" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8e079cb759c93a8f114d37670e2ca922" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image: Ancient Earth Globe, reproduced with kind permission.<p><em>New York City through the ages. Left to right: Early Triassic (240 million years ago), in the middle of a megacontinent opposite future Morocco; Carboniferous (340 million years ago), still coastal, but mirrored – the ocean to the west, the land to the east; Late Ordovician (450 million years ago), near the tip of a very Long Island indeed.</em></p><p>And thanks to the <a href="https://dinosaurpictures.org/ancient-earth" target="_blank">Ancient Earth Globe</a>, you can now travel 750 million years in the other direction, also without leaving your house. You don't even need a lab; just go to the interactive map built by paleontologist Ian Webster. Here's how it works.<br></p><ul><li>Type in the name of your hometown.</li><li>Its coordinates are 'geolocked' onto the globe.</li><li>As you scroll through the past ages of the Earth, the continents shift shape and change place.</li><li>Watch the surroundings of your location modify accordingly. Now you're high up in the mountains. And now you're getting your feet wet in the middle of a nameless ocean. </li></ul>There are several ways to navigate the deep past presented by the Ancient Earth Globe.<ul><li>From the drop-down menu on top, you can pick one of 25 specific times, from zero to 750 million years ago.</li><li>Or pull one of 19 significant events from the menu on the right-hand side: the time of the first dinosaurs or the first flowers, the time of the supercontinents of Pangaea or Pannotia, the Jurassic or Cretaceous era.</li><li>Or you can time-travel casual style, by using the left and right arrows on your keyboard to flip through prehistory. </li></ul>
The map of the world isn't 'fixed'<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDUyNTI3OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2OTA3ODQzM30.ANPjkSMiQWfrVNsoAE5DeO6nAWrzVrBgaPRR7FyAQ8E/img.jpg?width=980" id="f17d9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="17df49844a4d2fb9481c6d147946e084" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Image: Ancient Earth Globe, reproduced with kind permission.<p><em>Time travel in Buenos Aires. Left to right: Late Jurassic (150 million years ago), glued to Southern Africa; Carboniferous (340 million years ago), in the middle of a giant bay; Silurian (430 million years ago), on the north shore of a large continent, facing a Hawaiian-like chain of islands.</em></p><p>The purpose of the Ancient Earth Globe is to provide its users with an appreciation of the dynamic nature of our planet's appearance. The map of the world that we experience as 'fixed' is anything but. The tectonic forces that shift, split and collide entire continents are constantly at work. Except that our lives are too short to really experience the changes they bring about.</p><p>But go back far enough into the past, and what's familiar becomes strange. Dry land transforms into ocean floor. Seaside towns move to the middle of strange continents. Cold climes turn tropical, and vice versa. Imagining such exotic pasts may not be the same as actually going there. But it sure beats watching the news in this Groundhog Day of a year. </p><p><em><br></em></p><p><span></span><em>Images from the Ancient Earth Globe reproduced with kind permission by Ian Webster</em></p><p><em></em><strong>Strange Maps #1052</strong></p><p><strong></strong><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a><em>.</em></p>
Grandfathers, take heart. You'll survive the paradox that's been gunning for you since the 1930s.
A paradox primer<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ1MzcyOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNjgyOTE3Mn0.sdkQ7EF5R2l1zED3BzbpcNG6FFy5Rf1OjqS9u5RC1JU/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C75%2C0%2C75&height=700" id="03234" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9ca569af0bbe83100698d67202e4bcbf" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
According to the study, the universe would have worked things out whether Marty stole credit for "Johnny B. Goode" or not.
(Photo: Universal Studios)<p>The classic temporal thought experiment is known as <a href="https://www.space.com/grandfather-paradox.html#:~:text=The%20grandfather%20paradox%20is%20a%20potential%20logical%20problem%20that%20would,make%20their%20own%20birth%20impossible." target="_blank">the grandfather paradox</a>. It goes like this: Imagine you decide to go back in time to kill your grandfather. Yes, his election-year posts have been that embarrassing. You travel back and kill him before he conceives one-half of your parents. But then, how is it you can exist to go back and kill him? But if you don't exist, then who killed your grandfather? <a href="https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/neil-degrasse-tyson-explains-the-strange-paradoxes-of-time-travel" target="_self">Paradox</a>. The timeline is no longer self-consistent. (<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XayNKY944lY" target="_blank">Maybe</a>.)</p><p>You can play this game with most time traveling tales. In "<a href="https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088763/" target="_blank" style="">Back to the Future</a>," Marty travels back in time and interferes with his parents' dalliance, preventing himself from being born. But if Marty is never born, how does he interfere with his parents' dalliance? But if he can't interfere, what's preventing him from being born? And round we go.</p><p>One would think such worries limited to high-minded philosophy debates or low-brow movie riffs. But some solutions to Einstein's field equations allow time travel through <a href="https://www.thegreatcoursesdaily.com/did-einstein-prematurely-reject-godels-universe/#:~:text=A%20closed%20timelike%20curve%20is,encounter%20the%20same%20event%20again." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">closed timelike curves</a>. These theoretical paths would allow someone to be present at an initial event, travel through space and time, and return to that event again. Think a spacetime loop-the-loop. Importantly, the return point is not a repeat of the initial event. It is the initial event.</p><p>The implications of closed timelike curves lead to all sorts of wild time travel scenarios. <a href="https://bigthink.com/dr-kakus-universe/is-time-travel-possible" target="_self">According to physicist Michio Kaku</a>, these have included traveling through a wormhole, through a spinning black hole, around an infinitely-long spinning cylinder, and around two colliding cosmic strings.</p>
The universe is a self-regulating Time Lord<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ1MzczNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMTQ2NTA3Mn0.QawOiC0smajTijNpoJbY1UsnB4VhoRGds5swcKdowW8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C51%2C0%2C51&height=700" id="d0230" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="93e944fc3f902cadf33e6e7211efc84d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Dr. Fabio Costa (left) and Germain Tobar (right) discuss their findings. Behind them, a process function (w) interacts with localized spacetime regions with closed timelike curves.
Credit: University of Queensland<p>With time travel on the theoretical table, Tobar Germain, a University of Queensland undergraduate, wanted to test its consistency. Is paradox-free time travel mathematically possible? To answer that question, he teamed up with Dr. Fabio Costa, a University of Queensland physicist, to crunch the numbers.</p><p>"Some physicists say it is possible, but logically, it's hard to accept because that would affect our freedom to make any arbitrary action," Tobar said <a href="https://www.uq.edu.au/news/article/2020/09/young-physicist-squares-numbers%E2%80%99-time-travel" target="_blank">in a release</a>. "It would mean you can time travel, but you cannot do anything that would cause a paradox to occur."</p><p>According to their research, time travel can be consistent and free of logical paradoxes. However, that requires the outputs of all but two space-time regions to be fixed. In that case, despite the presence of closed timelike loops, entities can maintain their freedom of choice without resulting in a paradox.</p><p>"The maths checks out, and the results are the stuff of science fiction," Costa said in the same release.</p><p>To illustrate their findings, Tobar and Costa offer a thought experiment straight out of science fiction. Imagine you travel through time to stop the COVID-19 pandemic. You locate and quarantine patient zero. Mission (and paradox) accomplished, right? Not according to their research. The math suggests that temporal events would adjust to being logically consistent with any action you made. For example, you may catch the virus, become patient zero, and spread the pandemic anyway. </p><p>Therefore, future, erm, past you still has the stimulus that sent you back in time initially.</p><p>"No matter what you did, the salient events would just recalibrate around you," Tobar said. "That would mean that—no matter your actions—the pandemic would occur, giving your younger self the motivation to go back and stop it.</p><p>"The range of mathematical processes we discovered show that time travel with free will is logically possible in our universe without any paradox."</p>
Riding the timelike curve?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="26aeff2dbb93f6414170073a6f60c870"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/6yMiUq7W_xI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Of course, sayings paradox-free time travel is mathematically consistent is a wildly different statement than saying it is practically possible. Even if you could take the plunge into <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-chronology-protection/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a wormhole</a>, there's a good chance you'd be crushed out of existence before reaching the other end. Souped-up DeLorean or no. </p><p>It all depends on how the <a href="https://bigthink.com/surprising-science/physicist-radical-theory-of-gravity" target="_self">laws of quantum gravity</a> shake out, and physicists are still exploring that very open question. What about those other scenarios Kaku pointed out? In <a href="https://bigthink.com/dr-kakus-universe/is-time-travel-possible-part-ii" target="_self">a follow-up article</a>, he points out that none can be realized using known physical mechanisms.</p><p>So, while we may be the time lords of the whiteboard, the universe will be a one-way street for the foreseeable future.</p>
From cryonics to time travel, here are some of the (highly speculative) methods that might someday be used to bring people back to life.
- Alexey Turchin and Maxim Chernyakov, researchers belonging to the transhumanism movement, wrote a paper outlining the main ways technology might someday make resurrection possible.
- The methods are highly speculative, ranging from cryonics to digital reconstruction of individual personalities.
- Surveys suggest most people would not choose to live forever if given the option.
Immortality and identity<p>The paper defines life as a "continued stream of subjective experiences" and death as the permanent end of that stream. Immortality, to them, is a "life stream without end," and resurrection is the "continuation of that same stream of experiences after an arbitrarily long gap."</p><p>Another key clarification is the identity problem: How would you know that a downloaded copy of yourself really was going to be <em>you? </em>Couldn't it just be a convincing yet incomplete and fundamentally distinct representation of your brain?</p><p>If you believe that your copy is not <em>you</em>, that implies you believe there's something more to your identity than the (currently) quantifiable information contained within your brain and body, according to the researchers. In other words, your "informational identity" does not constitute your true identity.</p><p>In this scenario, there must exist what the researchers call a "non-informational identity carrier" (NIIC). This could be something like a "soul." It could be "qualia," which are the unmeasurable "subjective experiences which could be unique to every person." Or maybe it doesn't exist at all.</p><p>It's no matter: The researchers say resurrection, in some form, should be possible in either scenario.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If no 'soul' exist[s], resurrection is possible via information preservation; if soul[s] exist, resurrection is possible via returning of the "soul" into the new body. But some forms of NIIC are also very fragile and mortal, like continuity," the researchers noted.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The problem of the nature of human identity could be solved by future superintelligent AI, but for now it cannot be definitively solved. This means that we should try to preserve as much identity as possible and not refuse any approaches to life extension and resurrection even if they contradict our intuitions about identity, as our notions of identity could change later."</p>
Potential resurrection methods<p>Turchin and Chernyakov outline seven broad categories of potential resurrection methods, ranked from the most plausible to most speculative.<br></p><p>The first category includes methods practiced while the person is alive, like cryonics, plastination, and preserving brain tissue through processes like chemical fixation. The researchers noted that there have been "suggestions that the claustrum, hypothalamus, or even a single neuron is the neural correlate of consciousness," so it may be possible to preserve just that part of a person, and later implant it into another organism.</p><p>Other methods get far stranger. For example, one method includes super-intelligent AI that uses a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyson_sphere#:~:text=A%20Dyson%20sphere%20is%20a,percentage%20of%20its%20power%20output." target="_blank">Dyson sphere</a> to harness the power of the sun to "power enormous calculation engines" that would "reconstruct" people who collected a sufficient amount of data on their identities.</p>
Turchin<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The main idea of a resurrection-simulation is that if one takes the DNA of a past person and subjects it to the same developmental condition, as well as correcting the development based on some known outcomes, it is possible to create a model of a past person which is very close to the original," the researchers wrote.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"DNA samples of most people who lived in past 1 to 2 centuries could be extracted via global archeology. After the moment of death, the simulated person is moved into some form of the afterlife, perhaps similar to his religious expectations, where he meets his relatives."</p><p>Delving further into sci-fi territory, another resurrection method would use time-travel technology.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If there will at some point be technology that allows travel to the past, then our future descendants will be able to directly save people dying in the past by collecting their brains at the moment of death and replacing them with replicas," the paper states.</p><p>How? Sending tiny robots back in time.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"A nanorobot could be sent several billion years before now, where it could secretly replicate and sow nanotech within all living being[s] without affecting the course of history. At the moment of death, such nanorobots could be activated to collect data about the brain and preserve it somewhere until its future resurrection; thus, there would be no need for forward time travel."</p>
Pixabay<p>The paper <a href="https://www.academia.edu/36998733/Classification_of_the_approaches_to_the_technological_resurrection" target="_blank">goes on to outline some more resurrection methods</a>, including ones that involve parallel worlds, aliens, and clones, along with a good, old-fashioned possibility: God exists and one day he resurrects us. </p><p>In short, it's all extremely speculative.</p><p>But the aim of the paper was to catalogue known potential ways humans might be able to cheat death. For Turchin, that's not some far-off project: In addition to studying global risks and transhumanism, the Russian researcher heads the <a href="http://immortality-roadmap.com/" target="_blank">Immortality Roadmap</a>, which, similar to the 2018 paper, outlines various ways in which we might someday achieve immortality.</p><p>Although it may take centuries before humans come close to "digital immortality," Turchin believes that life-extension technology could allow some modern people to survive long enough to see it happen. </p><p>Want a shot at being among them? Beyond the obvious, like staying healthy, the Immortality Roadmap suggests you start collecting extensive data on yourself: diaries, video recordings, DNA information, EEGs, complex creative objects — all of which could someday be used to digitally "reconstruct" your identity.</p>But odds are you're not interested. Although Turchin and other scientists are bent on finding ways to avoid death and extend life indefinitely, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/may/16/dying-still-taboo-subject-poll" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">surveys</a> <a href="https://quillette.com/2018/03/02/would-you-opt-for-immortality/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">repeatedly</a> <a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutesvanity-fair-poll-the-afterlife/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">show</a> that most people would not opt to live forever if given the choice.
Does time exist? Here's what the debate is all about.
- Everything we do as living organisms is dependent, in some capacity, on time. The concept is so complex that scientists still argue whether it exists or if it is an illusion.
- In this video, astrophysicist Michelle Thaller, science educator Bill Nye, author James Gleick, and neuroscientist Dean Buonomano discuss how the human brain perceives of the passage of time, the idea in theoretical physics of time as a fourth dimension, and the theory that space and time are interwoven.
- Thaller illustrates Einstein's theory of relativity, Buonomano outlines eternalism, and all the experts touch on issues of perception, definition, and experience.
Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti get stuck in an infinite wedding time loop.
- Two wedding guests discover they're trapped in an infinite time loop, waking up in Palm Springs over and over and over.
- As the reality of their situation sets in, Nyles and Sarah decide to enjoy the repetitive awakenings.
- The film is perfectly timed for a world sheltering at home during a pandemic.