Time Travel: The Bug on the Windshield

Bug on Windshield

Bug on Windshield (Photo credit: fauxto_digit)

Today let me introduce you to my concept of the “Bug on the Windshield” in the context of time travel.

To understand this concept, think of the bug as the time traveler and the windshield as the world. The bug can go to any spot on the windshield by crawling around. It stays in the present as it crawls around, never leaving the windshield or traveling through time, except in the normal forward progression of the time stream.

The outer surface of the windshield is the only world the bug knows. Suppose the windshield is attached to a car that is rolling along slow enough the bug doesn’t realize the windshield is moving. Suddenly the bug gets the urge to travel through time and jumps into the distant future. What happens to the bug with respect to its location on the windshield?

The answer depends on how time travel works. It might be a locally relative effect. By that I mean the bug jumps forward in time and reappears in the future still on the windshield. The car could have made any number of turns, accelerations, stops or reversals during the period elapsed between the bug’s departure from the present and its arrival in the future. No matter what the car does or how much the bug jumps around in time, the bug remains stuck to the windshield.

On the other hand, time travel could be a universally relative effect. By that I mean the bug jumps in time and reappears in the future still in the same place it was relative to something universal, such as the center of the universe, wherever that is. The windshield could easily be in a different place in the future than it was when the bug initiated the time jump. The car and windshield have been moving, as has the earth, the solar system and the galaxy. The bug could easily arrive in the future somewhere quite different from the world it knows. The chance is not zero that it would arrive in the future on some other planet, in some other solar system, some other galaxy, or on the windshield of some other car. But most likely the bug would end up in the vacuum of space. Oops.

Think about that bug the next time you consider time traveling. You’re lying there on your bed looking up at the ceiling and on a whim decide to pop into the future. If you’re still on your bed when you arrive in the future, then thank your lucky stars the bug was stuck to the windshield.

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2 Comments

Filed under Time Travel

2 responses to “Time Travel: The Bug on the Windshield

  1. atroll

    With time travel being so effortless, that one can just think it and go, then if one arrives in outer space, one should quickly go back in time to the moment you left–thus not only avoiding gruesome death, but the whole trip, because if one didn’t go back to the exact moment, one would still miss the safety of having a world there when one returned. If one goes back to the exact moment of forward time jump and doesn’t do it, then there was no trip.

    • Ken, thanks for your comment. Our views on time travel differ perhaps a bit. My view is that if something is done, then it’s done, and no amount of jumping around in time will change that. If I jump forward in time and stay there for any amount of time, from a nanosecond to a lifetime, and then jump back to the exact point in time that I originally left from, that does not cancel out the trip. I made the trip, and when I return to the point in time I left, my body has aged by the amount of time I spent wherever it was I jumped to and back from. Even if I were in outer space for only a nanosecond, I’d still have the memory of having been there for that nanosecond and making the decision to come back right away.

      As to coming back to the exact same moment in time that one left from, that brings up a question regarding what happens if you jump in time and “materialize” at your destination time frame in the same physical location as something else, even if that something else happens to be you in the past. To avoid colliding with my past self, I’d want to come back in the moment immediately after the one from which I left.

      Personally, when it comes to fiction, I prefer the bug being stuck to the windshield, so that when you jump back and forth in time, you do so within the local context rather than the universal context. Appearing out in space after jumping into the future a few days would make for some pretty dull time travel stories.

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