Thursday, April 17, 2008

Time Travel: Can we change the past?

No, you can’t.

At least not according to Alexander Hartdegen, Professor of "Applied Mechanics and Engineering" at Columbia University, New York.

“I could come back a thousand times; she would have died a thousand ways”, so said Prof Alexander Hartdegen on his (second) attempt to save his fiancee Emma from being murdered during a robbery attempt at a park by travelling to the past in order to change it. She died (again) when she was hit by a carriage the second time around, after he managed to intercept her prior to the time she was murdered during a robbery.

Alexander Hartdegen was determined to prove that time travel is possible. His determination is turned to desperation by a personal tragedy that now drives him to want to change the past. Tried as he did, but he simply could not do it - change the past, that is.

But yes according to Dr Sam Beckett.

“Theorizing that one could time travel within his own lifetime, Dr. Sam Beckett stepped into the Quantum Leap accelerator and vanished .... He woke to find himself trapped in the past, facing mirror images that were not his own and driven by an unknown force to change history for the better. His only guide on this journey is Al, an observer from his own time, who appears in the form of a hologram that only Sam can see and hear. And so Dr. Beckett finds himself leaping from life to life, striving to put right what once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.”

So can we or can’t we?

Never mind that both characters are fictional! ;-)


Well, the first movie was from a novel by H G Wells published in 1895 and was made into movies in 1960 and 2002. The 2002 movie starred Guy Pearce and was directed by Wells' great grandson Simon Wells, and it incorporated a revised plot of paradoxes, which I hope to touch later.

The second character was taken from a popular TV Series The Quantum Leap starring Scott Bakula.

From Wikipedia:

Quantum Leap is an American science fiction television series that ran for 96 episodes from March 1989 to May 1993 on the NBC network. Reruns will air in primetime at 9pm on ION Television starting Monday, April 7, 2008 [1].

The plot involved scientist Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) leaping to various points in time, usually constrained within the period of his own lifetime.

The show overlaps a number of genres, including science fiction, family drama, comedy, social commentary and nostalgia, thereby acquiring a broad range of fans. Protagonist Sam Beckett occasionally has minor encounters with celebrities such as Buddy Holly and Michael Jackson as youths, often helping to inspire their eventual fame. These are examples of a type of predestination paradox.


  1. dont u know that in sufism time machine IS available? how we r all covered by 'hijabs' in every detail of ourlives. Have u never read or pondered the miracles Allah gave to few selected pure hearted souls? When Allah permits, none could stop. these mat salleh r talking thru logic and limited knowledge that Allah allowd them to have. Read imam ghazali's, u'll be mesmerized. Read and UNDERSTAND WHOLEHEARTEDLY hadith Rasulullah, u'll be soooo pleased.

  2. Actually you have a very good point. I have not ventured to that line but I would love to link this sufism time machine (as you put it) to time that is known in physics fraternity.

    Just like I would want to link those stories from the Quran on all those people (kaum Aad, Thamud etc) with the ancient civilizations that are known to the western historians.

    May be you can contribute a thought in this blog, if you have not done so in your own.

  3. m no master in this matter, d importance is that all of us cud get !st class knowledge n understanding when we read Sirah Nabi, a few books by imam alghazali, books about lives of wali2 allah/ahli sufi and perhaps put aside the theories made by d western for a while.

    Even scientists over d world recognise points in quran that r xtremely relevent to their findings.
    think ab that.

    we have that privileges given direct to us (by being a muslim that is) and yet, we loovvvveeeeee to acknowledge their limited so-called-discoveries. mind u, not that i look down upon their hard work.

    i'd be happy to pass u d books if u want, unless u wanna buy them urself..

  4. Gimme the titles and let me see if I can find them.

    I disagree that we put aside western scientific findings when reading sufism books or the wali2 stories. I think we should be reading them and ponder all those stories you mentioned and put them in the context of science as we know them.

    For example, chemical engineers like me are trained in the science of combustion. We know how to control it so that it serves our purpose (eg running boilers to generate electricity etc) - or at least we pretend that we knew it. In the case of prophet Abraham, he was put into the fire and yet came out unscathed. How did it happen? With the grace of God of course. But let me ask you the scientific question. How did fire, with its known heat of combustion, become cold so as not to hurt him - could it be that the exothermic reaction (where heat is released suddenly was reversed to become endothermic - that heat is aborbed and the fire become cold). Or did something happen to Abraham himself physically that the heat of the fire would not hurt.

    But even that explanation did not answer the question. While I do know combustion is exothermic, we chemical engineers would not be able to reverse it. Or at least I dont know how to do that lah.

    My question is can science answer some of these questions, and after the 7 why's and how's, then only we can say it happens with the grace of God.

    I believe we should be reading those stories you mentioned and put them in the proper context (as much as possible) of science as known to the scientific community, similar to what Harun Yahya, Dr Zakir Naik and Ahmad Deedat are doing or had done. I do know though science alone would not be able to answer all questions - that's for sure.

    Errr btw the entry is about fictional characters. I have not yet written about time travel as explained by science (eg books by Dr Stephen Hawkings) - not that I can ever fully understand the theory behind it.

  5. ok, i get ur point. Needless to say, science is soooooo NOT my xpertise.

    Wht i cud share with u is that everything (be it fire, whale, rock or even an ant) is a soldier of the Almighty. Whtever is the command, it will be done. Thus, hot fire become cool to prophet abraham etc.

    How it works scientifically, only Allah knows. It's amazing that people wants logic in everything that happen. However, life itself isnt always logical.

    so, wht next then?

    look at Rukun Islam. Believe in angels, believe in qada n qadar. Explain science/logic on those three items then please.

    what happend to phropet abraham xplains the level of faith in Allah. The rest follows.

    Your questions shud be, BY THE GRACE OF ALLAH first, then the 7 wh questions after that.

    Allah controls everything, it isnt science that make thngs happen. IT IS ALLAH. Allah is BIGGER than science.

  6. er, typo. Rukun Iman mind u. Not Rukun islam as mentiond earlier.