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June 21, 2005

Trying to Break the Planck Constant of Time

Someone asked, “What’s the big deal with the Planck constant?”

There are many theoretical ways that one can time travel: wormholes, time machines, and cosmic strings are just some of the speculated theories.

A wormhole.

One suggested way to achieve time travel is to be able to travel faster than the Planck constant. What is the Planck constant of time (not to be confused with the other Planck’s constant, which relates how the radiation given off by an object relates to its temperature), or Planck’s time?

Simply put: Planck’s time is how long it takes for light to travel Planck’s length.

The Planck length is the smallest amount of length with significance, as below this length quantum laws reign, meaning all measurements are nonsense. The speed of any object is limited by Einstein’s laws of relativity, which state that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum. The distance d traveled by an object traveling at constant speed s in time t is given by the equation d = st. Since we know the Planck length and the speed of light, we can insert these values into the equation to get the Planck time. Thus the Planck time is equal to 1.616 ร— 10-35 m / (299,792,458 m/s) approx 5.39 ร— 10-44 seconds.

Bottom line, if I can figure out a way to go faster than that, time travel is possible, and world domination will be an easily achievable goal with my new found powers. But is time travel safe? In a post written during my days, I came across a science fiction story that made my head spin…

this made my head spin (originally posted February 18, 2004)
A time paradox is a logical inconsistency that arises when one deals with theoretical time travel. Typically, these can be broken down into two main types:

1. Meeting your parents before you are born (as in Back to the Future). This of course raises the famous question, “What if you were to kill your grandfather when you go back in time?”
2. Ending up with no past at all

The first one is quite played out; we’ve seen in many movies what happens if someone goes back in time and tries to alter the past. The changing of one event often has widespread rammifications on the future, often altering the entire future such that the ‘present’ (the time from which the time traveller left) ends up being nothing like what it was when the traveller returns. Of course, this also assumes that you have free will when you go back into the past; it also assumes that “you” in the past know what your choice was and can thus change it… perhaps a discussion for another time.

But the second one is even stranger. i think the best example of this is a short story written by Robert Heinlein in “All You Zombies”:

A baby girl is mysteriously dropped off at an orphanage in 1945. “Jane” grows up lonely and dejected, not knowing who her parents are, until one day in 1963, she is strangely attracted to a drifter. She falls in love with him. But just when things are looking up for Jane, a series of disasters strike. First, she becomes pregnant by the drifter, who soon disappears. Second, after the complicated delivery, doctors tell her that Jane has both sets of sex organs, and that in order to save her life, they are forced to surgically remove the female ones, thus effectively making “her” into a “him”. Finally, a few days later, a mysterious stranger kidnaps the newborn baby from the delivery room.

After these disasters, lonely and depressed, “he” becomes a drunkard and drifter. Not only has Jane lost her parents and lover, she has also lost her baby. Years later, in 1970, “he” stumbles into a lonely bar called Pop’s Place, and spills out his sad story to the bartender. The sympathetic bartender offers him a chance to avenge the stranger who left her pregnant and abandoned, on the condition that he join the “Time Traveller Corps”. Both of them enter a time machine and the bartender drops this “drifter” off in 1963. The drifter is strangely attracted to a young orphan woman whom he meets, who then subsequently becomes pregnant.

The bartender then goes forward 9 months, kidnaps the baby girl from the hospital, and drops off the baby in an orphanage in 1945. Then the bartender drops off the thoroughly confused drifter in 1985, to enlist in the time traveller corps, as per the agreement. The drifter eventually gets his life back together and becomes an elderly and respected member of the Time Traveller Corps. He then disguises himself as a bartender and has his most difficult mission: a date with destiny, meeting a certain drifter at Pop’s Place in 1970.

Who is Jane’s mother, father, grandfather, grandmother, child? The girl, the drifter, the bartender…. they’re all the same person, and if you try to work out the complicated time paradoxes involved, its enough to make your head spin. Try to draw out Jane’s family tree: you’ll find that the branches are all curled inwards unto themselves like a circle, leading to no beginning or end. Enough to make your head spin.

My work here is done.


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  1. you have read Stephen Hawking waaayy too much..
    ::sigh:: so have I.

  2. Anonymous permalink

    what the hell was all that abou…its friggin 1:44 a.m….i got a microbio test tomorro that im screwed for…and i was STUPID enough to read this post…
    now im REALLY confused…awwwww sh….

  3. Anonymous permalink

    That story sounds very familiar. I think I’ve read something like it before.

  4. Stephen Hawking is such a freakin stud… to continue being such a stud after his handicap… that’s worthy of mad respect.

  5. Anonymous permalink

    Dang… that WAS mind boggling. Props only to the Hawk. not you

  6. Damn Kamran, this shi was tight

  7. Anonymous permalink

    6.626 * 10 ^-34 !

  8. props to the new music (ima lovin the jazz)  and can admire that you actually know something about the Planck constant of time, but should give you no props because you’re resurrecting an old post and gave me a headache…Really, what is it with you and world domination???

  9. Anonymous permalink

    Friggen hawkings said this crap isn’t possible.. after i took the time to read that long ass book of his, the next week he had some announcement on the television that his whole wormhole theory was not plausable. friggen he said matter enters a blackhole but is released in really small quantities essentially being vaporized. he ended up owing some scientist cat a subscription of penthouses after loosing the bet. Wormholes were believed to be the exit of blackholes but not anymore. hmm.. you should be the brain and make fiddy pinky… He loves pinky…you ugly as hell…disproved the hell out of your post whaaaaaaaaaaa

  10. The only thing that doesnt make sense is that he doesn’t recognize himself as the girl that the drifter made love with. Cuz if he was that girl at one point, he should remember how she looked at that time. So when he went back in time, it doesnt make sense that he falls in love with him/herself, so the story itself has a lot of flaws. Anyways props for just knowing the planks constant and stuff.

  11. to elektron9: the number you wrote is the Planck constant that relates radiation and temperature. i mentioned earlier that this is not to be confused with the Planck’s constant of time (aka Planck’s time or the ambiguous term, “Planck’s constant”)
    to datubelite: guilty as charged. i have new readers now, so sometimes when i have nothing else to rant about, i resurrect these old posts
    to isaac: you ugly as hell.
    to xpika1x: yeah, i agree with you there on that point. i guess the story assumes that when he travels back in time, his memory “stays” in the time that he left, meaning that when he goes back he doesn’t recall that he was once the girl. but then again, that’s just my interpretation of what Heinlein is thinking when he constructed the story.

  12. crazy stuff… as twisted this time as it was the last

  13. Anonymous permalink

    Thanks for subscribing! You seem to have the most interesting posts out of all my subscriptions.

  14. lol nice entry bro…..yeah i agree stephen hawking is a stud. now that you posted this, me gonna ponder on my physics/string therory books……. at least i know i’m not alone lol.

  15. Yeah, what electron9 said KR. Don’t let this get to your head, but honestly, in the Muslim world of Xangas, yours has to be the best… or at least one of the best.
    And I know you wish you’d get more eprops… but what’re you gonna do, people don’t know how to appreciate.

  16. thanks for subscribing

  17. this xanga sucks because the readers too kunjoos with their eprops..

    there.. i said what you were thinking kr.
    i read you like a friggin book.

  18. Anonymous permalink

    I apologize for singling you out. but mystified child is ugly as hell too as well as fat. eat a salad with grapes!!!!

  19. pk, that’s so true… i oughta resign from xanga cause of this stinginess. wanna join me?

  20. Yes. I’d love to.

  21. Jazz reminds me of Charlie Brown.

  22. Dear Mr. KR,
    Please find my eprop as promised.  When you badger me about it– you lose a prop.  Therefore, I suggest for you to mention it once and only once to me as I am currently busy w/ other pressing matters.  Furthermore, if it wasn’t for the fact that you mentioned time travel, I would not have read the post in its entirety.  Continue your discourse of scientific principles and more interestingly, those that involve medicine.  In conclusion, I’ld like to say: “stop beggin’ for da props, biotch!”  Now, go study some stuff for the step1!

  23. Darth Vader is Jane’s father.
    Great story =)

  24. confusing, but interesting story. ๐Ÿ™‚  the family tree would look more like a round bush than it would a tree.

  25. I still think it’s weird how Japan is two days ahead of us.I loved The Butterfly Effect. U should see that for a time-travelling story.What’s a chappal slap?

  26. to zts: shut up you tool
    to tonymontana: hehehehe, that’s funny
    to sliksak: thanks for the props… you’re right, it’d be more like a circle rather than a tree
    to bluejai: i think japan is one day ahead of us? but yeah, that is pretty weird. butterfly effect was a great movie, i saw it last year… the ending nearly blew me away. chappal slap is what a renamed eprops as… “chappal” is urdu for sandal and a saying in urdu is “usko chappal say maro” (hit that person with a chappal), especially said to little kids when they do something bad. i’m using that same term for eprops

  27. such craziness….but pure genius…I feel stupid, disconnected, and have a headache now…..thanks.  ๐Ÿ™‚

  28. Anonymous permalink

    okay, enough about these hyperworms, siriusly.
    kamran, HYPE UP TAKIN IT TO THE STREETS! 2 days away nikga!

  29. KR = Jane.

  30. Anonymous permalink

    kinda creepy…but interesting

  31. Interesting…unfortunately my brain no longer functions the way it used to (3 kids…kill brain cells) so I’m not even going to attempt to think about this post at any depth.

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