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Time Travel

Fancy brass grandfather clock face

Excerpt from Finding George Washington: A Time Travel Tale  •

“If we examine the literature,” the Berkeley professor continued, “we see many examples of travel forward and backward through time, some of which also involve a change of physical location. In Twain’s Connecticut Yankee, for example, the main character, an engineer from New England, experiences a bump on the head and wakes up centuries earlier in Old England.

“In Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is able to travel forward and backward in time to see himself as a hopeful youth and as a friendless, unmourned miser, in various locales around metropolitan London.”

He sounded scholarly and learned, and I wanted to believe him. Matt nodded slowly, enraptured by his mentor’s wisdom. General Washington looked nonplussed. Twain and Dickens meant nothing to him.

“H. G. Wells’ Time Machine was capable of moving his time traveler to new times and places, as was Doc Brown’s DeLorean in the Back to the Future movies,” Professor Kronos continued. “In The Time Traveler’s Wife, the main character is suddenly transported through time and space without warning—and without his clothes. But in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, Gil, the Owen Wilson character, needed only to show up at a given corner in Paris as the clock struck twelve, and he’d be transported to an earlier era, in the same location.”

Why was everyone talking to me about movies and books? “But Professor Kronos, there’s one problem.”

“What’s that?”

“These are all examples from fiction.”

“Well, naturally. The concept of time travel is impossible and violates the laws of physics.”

“Impossible?”

“Well, theoretically possible, I suppose. But physically impossible. I’m not a physicist. Time travel does have a long and checkered career in fiction, of course. And yours is a compelling narrative.”

Is that why we were here? To impress him with our story?

“What department do you teach in, sir?” I asked.

“Comparative Literature, of course. I was LaMatthew’s adviser after he declared his major.” I shot Matt a dirty look. I thought we were going to see a scientist, some whiz-bang, string-theory egghead who would drone on about molecular regrouping and expedited temporal shifting. Not a guy who taught novels, movies, and story arcs. Examining the literature. Literally.

“Hasn’t there been scientific discussion of time travel?” I asked.

“Great minds have been brought to bear on the subject, including that of Stephen Hawking, and there have been some physical experiments.”

“You mean, scientists have tried to send people through time? For reals?”

“No, but some physicists have attempted to transmit photons through a tube of cesium gas in a way that suggests they exited the tube nanoseconds before they entered.”

“But only nanoseconds? And no people?”

“No real objects of any kind, actually. Have you ever seen a photon?”

“No.”

“Exactly.”

Slavery and the Washingtons

Aurora

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