SMBC shows why I don't believe in time travel

By Phil Plait | May 20, 2010 1:10 pm

smbc_timetravelIf you don’t read Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, then you are a pinko commie*. Or a socialist. I dunno; I get these political epithets mixed up.

Anyway, today’s was great, as usual. But I wonder who this Professor Thorne is…?

* Zach Weiner, it turns out, is a feudal anarchist. Serf’s up!


Comments (38)

  1. Adam English

    Maybe we already discovered time travel, but it ruined our future so we came back in time to stop us from discovering it in our current time period. it has already come and gone! Haha.

  2. “But I wonder who this Professor Thorne is…?”

    Maybe Kip Thorne:

  3. Gunnar

    Surely you must have heard of Kip Thorne of CIT! Was your tongue stuck firmly in your cheek when you asked “But I wonder who this Professor Thorne is…?”

  4. Ray

    Anyone watch the latest Big Bang Theory on Monday? Had a scene where Sheldon had Leonard sign a paper that said if either of them invented time travel they would come back to five seconds after they signed the paper.

    So they wait five seconds, nothing happens, and Sheldon says “darn” (I think) and puts the paper down.

    Hilarious episode.

  5. Yes, everyone, I know who Kip Thorne is. It was a joke. :)

  6. I believe in time travel. In fact, I’m doing it right now.

    There. Just did it again.

    And again.

    And…(ad infinitum (et nauseum)).

  7. blakut

    How is one a feudal-anarchist?

  8. Andrew

    To add to Ray’s Big Bang reference:

    They were signing the often mentioned roommate contract, and it was one of the provisions. I believe Sheldon added “well that was disappointing.”

  9. jcm

    “If you don’t read Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, then you are a pinko commie*. Or a socialist. I dunno; I get these political epithets mixed up.”

    I think the opposite is true.

  10. but… didn’t G(how do you get the o with the umlaut?)odel say ‘ if there is TIME we can not travel through it, but if there is NOT time we could travel through it?… sometimes gives me a headache.

  11. Lorne

    How come you didn’t have this one in Death From The Skies?????

  12. Andy Beaton

    How come you didn’t have this one in Death From The Skies?????

    Time machine accidents could cover a whole chapter of potential ends-of-the-world.

  13. Nah, Time Travel is still on the table. It’s the “Perfect Party” that can never happen!

  14. RTW

    So…how many people would your need to equal the mass of a black hole?

  15. Buzz

    Uh oh sounds like Shadow Wrought doesn’t get invited to the good parties…

  16. Douglas Troy

    Phil, your sarcasm is a Thorne in my side.


  17. Aaron

    Wait a minute . . . does this mean that Doctor Who is gone?!


  18. Wasn’t there some writer, I think it was Larry Niven, who said that in a universe with time travel, and changable timelines, the most stable timeline would be one in which time travel was never invented, since it would never change after that.

  19. Allen

    I reject the notion of time travel based purely on the reason that I would prefer that I control my own life, and I’m not just reading from an already written book.

    Also, I’ve seen too many Star Trek episodes. The continuity problems make my head hurt.

  20. Jamey

    I don’t buy that, I fear. Thorne’s time machine is solidly rooted in General Relativity, and unless some quantum mechanical mystery shows up to prevent it – it’s not even that dangerous.

    Unfortunately, it pretty much destroys free will.

  21. Keith Harwood

    I think it was Jerry Pournelle who suggested that if time travel was possible, the only stable state was a universe that never found out how.

    On the other hand, when I was eight I decided to travel through time to the year 2000. It took me fifty years, but I managed it in the end. Just shows what can be done with effort and dedication.

  22. Ron

    I was expecting…9.2203T on Rotating cylinders and the possibility of global causality violation.

  23. Donnie B.

    Arik has it right, it was Larry Niven, in his essay “The Theory and Practice of Time Travel”. I think he was right, too.

  24. Speaking as a socialist who reads SMBC, I will have to side with jcm @9. ;-P

    On topic, though, yes, this episode was awesome. I came close to actually ROFLing.

  25. tony

    not to be a killjoy here…but….this SMBC took a segment out of recent episode of Stephen Hawking’s current documentary series, changed it to Kip Thorne and had time travelers actually show up.

    …or maybe its a subtle way of saying no one wants to go to parties hosted by Stephen Hawking.

  26. Gavin Flower

    Did anyone else notice the number of that apartment is 1 1 2 3, the first 4 numbers of the Fibonacci sequence… :-)

  27. Radwaste

    General relativity. Bah. You haven’t noticed that matter-energy equivalences count on the sum of both being a constant. Wanna travel? Either a type of charge or a type of mass must be displaced. TANSTAAFL.

    Say, Phil… still being mean?

  28. I dunno Phil, is your mind just too good at finding patterns? What’s next, Jesus on a piece of toast? 😛

  29. Greg

    I like the theory about Time Travel being possible only between two points in time by using Quantum Strings. The reason that we haven’t seen any time travelers is because the machine hasn’t been invented yet and you can only travel as far in the past as when it was started.

  30. Stan9FOS

    To #6 – kuhnigget: Old man, on his deathbed: These are my last words! No, these are my last words! No, THESE are my LAST words! No… (I think it was from Gary Larson)
    Also, the carton reminds me of a short story, I don’t recall the author, wherein humanity learned at last to build an FTL drive. Everyone on Earth watched as the ship got faster and faster, then promptly turned into a black hole as it accelerated to light speed. Oops!

  31. mike burkhart

    Time travel has many problems .One is this : Lets say I go back in time and meet my grandfather before he maired and cause his death ,now hears the thing: how could I be born ,go back in time,and cause my grandfathers death?And if we have devloped time travel, how come we haven’t been invaded by time travelers form the future? Hears another one:Lets say Phill goes forward into the future and attends a seminare in witch it is reveled that a major astronomical discovery is made a few years form now Phill come back to today and makes the discovery the next day,what will happen to the future that Phill visited ? consider 1Phill gets credit for the discovery insted of the astronomer who made it. 2 The discovery is made years before it was made .So the future that Phill goes in to will be very diferent.

  32. Sir Eccles

    Maybe time travel is possible, but only in one direction. No not the one second per second joke. I mean perhaps we are only allowed to jump forward in time, this would avoid any paradoxes because you wouldn’t be able to get back.

  33. Way

    The “Planetary” comic series by Warren Ellis had this one beat by several years. In Ellis’ universe, you cannot travel back before the moment the first time machine is switched on. Obviously it would become a major point of historical interest for visitors from the future.

    However, the future is supposed to be a hazy fog of unrealized probability waveforms. When every time traveler for the rest of eternity suddenly shows up after the first machine is switched on, the quantum states of the future all collapse into a single certainty. The effect this would have on the universe is uncertain.

    A good recent (2007) time travel book I liked was “The Accidental Time Machine” by Joe Haldeman.

  34. Philip

    @mike burkhart
    How about this: Mike goes back in time to teach himself how to spell.
    I really hope there are no typos in this post. :)

  35. squirrelelite

    Great cartoon Phil!

    I’m working on a presentation for some 4th and 5th graders at my school on time travel back to the late 18th/early 19th century and possible accelerations in the scientific discoveries and technological changes that actually happened during that time period (about 1785 – 1815).

    This will make a great intro!

  36. Cusp

    “Believe” in time travel?

    When is science about belief?

    There is nothing in the current laws of physics which forbid time travel (except for a few wishy washy partially thought out “paradoxes”). Belief has nothing to do with it.

  37. mike burkhart

    Ok ill work on the spelling.One more point .Recently scifi writers have tried to overcome the many paradoxs of time travel with a new idea:alternate reality .The idea is this I had our bad astronomer Phill travel to the future and find out about a major discovery made by a coleage a few years from now.He come back and based on what he found out makes the discovery .Now this would change the future he went into,or did it? The idea is that by time travel Phill created a new reality there are now 2 realitys : ours in witch the other astronomer made the discovery a few years from now and the 2nd in witch Phill makes the discovery.

  38. Bill

    I see someone has discovered Niven’s Law.


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