Friday, September 21, 2018

My Thoughts on Time Travel

Article written by Christian R. Mills, 2018

One of the most exotic and amazing concepts ever used in science fiction is Time Travel. The ability to get into a machine, pull a lever, and travel into the distant future, or even the distant past, is enticing. Whole television shows, books, and films have all relied on Time Travel as a plot. Many of these culminated in all sorts of complex paradoxes, all for the sake of drama!

The ability to time travel would open up so many possibilities to learn and to observe, both the past and the future! However, with it comes a whole host of dangerous problems. Among these are some of the most popular and most discussed paradoxes, the grandfather paradox. "The name comes from the paradox's common description: a person travels to the past and kills their own grandfather before the conception of their father or mother, which prevents the time traveler's existence" (Wikipedia article of the same name).

"Similar to the Grandfather Paradox which paradoxically prevents your own birth, the Killing Hitler paradox erases your own reason for going back in time to kill him. Furthermore, while killing Grandpa might have a limited “butterfly effect”, killing Hitler would have far-reaching consequences for everyone in the world, even if only for the fact you studied him in school. The paradox itself arises from the idea that if you were successful, then there would be no reason to time travel in the first place. If you killed Hitler then none of his actions would trickle down through history and cause you to want to make the attempt. A Predestination Paradox occurs when the actions of a person traveling back in time becomes part of past events, and may ultimately causes the event he is trying to prevent to take place. This results in a ‘temporal causality loop’ in which Event 1 in the past influences Event 2 in the future (time travel to the past) which then causes Event 1 to occur, with this circular loop of events ensuring that history is not altered by the time traveler, and that any attempts to stop something from happening in the past will simply lead to the cause itself, instead of stopping it. This paradox suggests that things are always destined to turn out the same way, and that whatever has happened must happen." (See footnote 1)

These are only a few examples of popular paradoxes, but there are many more. So much more in fact that one might get a headache just from thinking about it! No matter what will be said about time travel, there will still be reputable Physicists who will dedicate their lives to the study of and (hopefully) the eventual discovery of time travel. Despite the fact that every one of us are currently traveling into the future at a rate of one second per second, I hope to show here that there will never be "time travel." And yes, like many other things in this blog, I will be using some theological reasons to support my claim as well...

To start off, I'd like to use a direct quote from Wikipedia. I know, I know, no respectful person uses Wikipedia as a source... But hey, Wikipedia is one of the more accurate places to gather information. It can be immediately updated with the most accurate information, the sheer number of contributors (including reputable ones) are very possessive of the information and tend to keep it as accurate as it can be, it is constantly under "peer review", and there is a growing number of citations on each page pointing to where the information is coming from. Now, I wouldn't use it to base an entire research paper on, but it is reputable enough to use for information... Which is exactly what I'll be doing here...

An article titled Conservation of Mass has this to say, "The law of conservation of mass or principle of mass conservation states that for any system closed to all transfers of matter and energy, the mass of the system must remain constant over time, as system's mass cannot change, so quantity cannot be added nor removed. Hence, the quantity of mass is conserved over time. The law implies that mass can neither be created nor destroyed, although it may be rearranged in space, or the entities associated with it may be changed in form." Now, let us consider the entire universe as a whole to be a closed system. If it were not a closed system, then the big bang becomes meaningless, and there was mass and/or energy existing outside the "universe" before it went"bang." Also, I like to use the quote from the book Doctrine and Covenants, which is a book of scripture used by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. In Section 93 of the same, we read (italics added)
29 Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
30 All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence.
31 Behold, here is the agency of man, and here is the condemnation of man; because that which was from the beginning is plainly manifest unto them, and they receive not the light.
32 And every man whose spirit receiveth not the light is under condemnation.
33 For man is spirit. The elements are eternal, and spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fullness of joy;
34 And when separated, man cannot receive a fullness of joy.
35 The elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples; and whatsoever temple is defiled, God shall destroy that temple.
36 The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.
I use this quote because it is very reminiscent of the Law of Conservation of Mass as well as the First Law of Thermodynamics. Thus, we are to understand that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, only changed from one form to another. Meaning, with Einstein's famous equation E = mc2 giving us the conversion factor between matter and energy, there must be a finite amount of the sum of all the matter and all the energy existent in the universe. The Biblical word used in Genesis is "create," but I like to think of it more like "organize." Thus God "organized" the earth and all that is on it, mostly out of matter that already existed somewhere, just in another form, or possibly void of any form. Simple matter or energy in open space that needed a bit of a kick to get going...

Just looking at this information, if a person were to invent time travel some time in the future (distant or near, doesn't matter), just sending something or someone forward or backward in time would lead to dire and disastrous consequences. Imagine, if you will, a man sitting in his time machine and setting the dial to take him back to, say, the year 1985 (I wonder where I got that year, lol). The machine with the time traveler dissolves from our time only to appear in 1985. Seems like it would be awesome, right? Now, the material with which the time machine and the time traveler are made of, every particle - electron, proton, neutron, quark, or vibrating strand of energy (for those who subscribe to string theory) - already exists in 1985. Hopefully I don't need to give a heavy discourse on the "circle of life" (thank you Disney and Elton John). I will say that we should already know that every particle with which everything around us is made already existed before it took the form it is currently in. Every tree is made of carbon, oxygen, and water. That water came from the soil. That soil contains nutrients that came from dead and decayed biomatter, such as animals and other plants. Other animals come along and eat those plants, and in many cases, something else comes along and eats those animals and so on. So, this time traveler and his machine are both composed of particles and elements that have existed somewhere and will continue to exist somewhere for the rest of time and for all eternity. Therefore, the instant the time traveler and the time machine materialize in 1985, the elements with which the pair are made instantly annihilate, vaporize, or disappear because those materials automatically recognize that they already exist somewhere else!

Now, if they don't automatically vaporize, then the material that would have existed in the location where the machine and traveler materialize would have to go somewhere. If you read about the "butterfly effect," you'll know that even the slightest tremor in the space-time continuum would cause rippling effects throughout all of the known universe. I'm exaggerating, of course, but you get the idea. However, in all reality, either the matter with which the traveler and machine are made cannot be duplicated in any other time or place, or the matter that the traveler and machine are composed of would cease to exist wherever it was located before the traveler and machine materialized. If this were not the case, then it would be possible to steal matter from either the future or the past and bring it to the present to do whatever we wanted to do with it. That opens up a whole other issue of potentially doubling the amount of matter or energy in the universe which would cause it to collapse in on itself...

The next thing I would like to add to the discussion deals with "cause and effect." When the paradoxes were listed above, many of them dealt with the results of cause and effect. However, what we sometimes fail to realize is the magnitude of the issue. In the 1996 film "The Time Machine," with Guy Pearce as Alexander Hartdegen, the protagonist loses his fiance to an accident, and thus builds the time machine to go back and save her. He succeeds at first, only to find out that she dies another way. The viewer is left wondering at some point how many times Professor Hartdegen travels back in time to try and save her only to watch her death over and over again in as many different ways. It's not until later on in the film that Hartdegen has a conversation with a person in the future and we learn that the only reason he built the time machine was because Emma (his fiance) dies. If she doesn't die, he doesn't build the machine. If he doesn't build the time machine, he never goes back to save her. Thus, the paradox.

In most cases I can think of, the future invention of the first time machine would be followed by the use of said machine by the first time traveler to go back to a specific time period for the sake of doing something specific. Whether it's to witness the destruction of the dinosaurs, to watch the parting of the Red Sea, be present at the birth of Jesus Christ, attend the signing of the Declaration of Independence, or to find out who actually shot President Kennedy, there is always a reason for the time travel. In some cases, a person might travel back into one's own past in order to inspire greatness (as in the case of Back to the Future II, where Marty McFly takes a copy of a sports almanac from 2015 back to himself in 1985, but accidentally loses it to Biff in 1955), or to correct a big mistake that led to a regret. In cases such as these, once the deed has been done and the source of regret taken care of, the person no longer has the reason to travel into the past to begin with. Not to mention the moral and ethical implications of never having learned from the action at all!

The 1999 film Galaxy Quest contains a plot device called the Omega 13. At the end of the film we discover that the device travels the entire universe backwards 13 seconds. The character Tawny Madison (played by Sigourney Weaver) asks, "What good would it do to only travel back 13 seconds?" Commander Peter Quincy Taggart (played by Tim Allen) responds, "It would be just enough time to redeem a single mistake." Sure, the Omega 13 plot device plays heavily into the finale of the film, but redeeming a mistake equates to never getting a chance to learn from it.

Part of who we are as a people, and individually as a person, is the sum total of every experience, decision, sight, sound, touch, feeling, emotion, and memory that we have ever had. If we travel back into time to change an event on purpose, then we never have the opportunity to experience that event (whether for good or for bad) and we change the very essence of who we are, or were, or used to be, or could have become (temporal mechanics gives me a headache). The result being, we never give ourselves a chance to actually learn the difference between good and evil, or experience joy and pain, or any of the other things that bring us closer to becoming who we should ultimately be becoming. Even more disastrous would be the time traveler's desire to not change something from their own past but to actually change the past for someone else. In this case, they would not only be affecting their own free will or moral agency, but also affecting the agency of others... And agency is a universal law of existence! Not to get overly religious here, but agency is not free, it was paid for by the blood and body of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. We may not be able to control the world around us, but it will always be in our power to control how we react to it. Traveling through time to change a decision, or to "redeem a single mistake," removes that power.

In conclusion, time travel may be a wonderful plot device for science fiction films and stories, but it will never be possible, and cannot be possible! As fantastic as it would be to witness some of the world's greatest events, we will be stuck reading about them in our history books, and left to make history ourselves.

- Christian R. Mills


Image Credits:
1. The Time Machine (1996), with Alexander Hartdegen played by Guy Pearce, in the Time Machine.
2. Back to the Future II (1989) with Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd.
3. Doctor Who (2011) with Matt Smith as The Doctor, posing with the TARDIS.
4. Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989), with Alex Winter & Keanu Reeves, movie scene.
5. Galaxy Quest (1999), the intrepid crew of the N.S.E.A. Protector.

Personal Potential - Sunday Talk

The following discourse was written by me and delivered in a Sunday service in August of 2017.

I have a question I don’t want you to respond to, but to just ponder: How many people here today know for a fact that they will make it to the Kingdom of God, also known as the Celestial Kingdom?

My wife had an experience many years ago in a Gospel Doctrine class where those in attendance were asked that very same question by their instructor. Only a handful of members present in that class responded in the affirmative. This bothered me when she related this experience to me shortly thereafter, and my wife and I have had conversations about this topic on numerous occasions.

My feelings are that many people do not understand, or they limit their own understanding of, the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I don’t pretend to fully and completely comprehend it either. But it may be possible that I either have a different perspective on the Atonement than most, or I have never been taught that I am beyond the ability to be perfected through the Atonement.

In this most recent General Conference, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave a talk at the conclusion of the Saturday morning session titled “Be Ye Therefore Perfect – Eventually.” In this talk he says, and I quote directly:
Around the Church I hear many who struggle with this issue: “I am just not good enough.” “I fall so far short.” “I will never measure up.” I hear this from teenagers. I hear it from missionaries. I hear it from new converts. I hear it from lifelong members. 
What I now say in no way denies or diminishes any commandment God has ever given us. I believe in His perfection, and I know us are His spiritual sons and daughters with divine potential to become as He is. I also know that, as children of God, we should not demean or vilify ourselves, as if beating up on ourselves is somehow going to make us the person God wants us to become. No! With a willingness to repent and a desire for increased righteousness always in our hearts, I would hope we could pursue personal improvement in a way that doesn’t include getting ulcers or anorexia, feeling depressed or demolishing our self-esteem. 
To put this issue in context, May I remind all of us that we live in a fallen world and for now we are a fallen people. We are in the telestial kingdom; that is spelled with a t, not a c. 
My brothers and sisters, except for Jesus, there have been no flawless performances on this earthly journey we are pursuing, so while in mortality let’s strive for steady improvement without obsessing over what behavioral scientists call “toxic perfectionism.” We should avoid that latter excessive expectation of ourselves and of others and, I might add, of those who are called to serve in the Church,which for Latter day Saints means everyone, for we are all called to serve somewhere.

The Atonement literally is the right to all wrongs, and that which satisfied the demands of justice. It is infinite and eternal. Those two words have no boundaries or limits. And neither do we. We were eternal beings long before our Father in Heaven gave us spiritual form. We were eternal beings when our Father in Heaven gave us our spiritual bodies before we came to this planet. We continue to be eternal beings now that we have received our physical bodies. We will continue to be eternal beings long after this life is over...

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, "Because we have all “sinned, and come short of the glory of God” and because “there cannot any unclean thing enter into the kingdom of God,” every one of us is unworthy to return to God’s presence. Even if we were to serve God with our whole souls, it is not enough, for we would still be “unprofitable servants.” We cannot earn our way into heaven; the demands of justice stand as a barrier, which we are powerless to overcome on our own. But all is not lost. The grace of God is our great and everlasting hope. Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the plan of mercy appeases the demands of justice “and [brings] about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.” Our sins, though they may be as scarlet, can become white as snow. Because our beloved Savior “gave himself a ransom for all,” entrance into His everlasting kingdom is provided unto us. The gate is unlocked!"

What does the phrase "eternal progression" mean? Elder D. Todd Christofferson said in 2015, "It is important to recognize that God’s ultimate purpose is our progress. His desire is that we continue “from grace to grace, until [we receive] a fullness” of all He can give." He also said, "No one is predestined to receive less than all that the Father has for His children."

As a mathematician, I am bound every day to axioms, postulates, and theorems. As a physicist, I know there are universal laws by which the universe is governed. One universal law of heaven is the Law of Justice. President Ezra Taft Benson taught, "God’s law is irrevocable. It applies to all, whether they believe in God or not. Everyone is subject to its penalties, no matter how one tries to rationalize or ignore them."

However, perhaps the most important universal law of heaven is free agency. Free agency cannot be revoked or denied. Lucifer tried, and failed. As long as we are exercising our agency to continue on the road to perfection and exaltation, we will continually be allowed to progress.

God's work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. His work and glory is to lead others in the direction of being like him. We were all intelligences before the foundation of the world. Our intelligence was given a spiritual frame. That spiritual frame was given a physical body when we kept our first estate and came here. The resurrection, granted to all of us by the resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ, guarantees the inseparable connection and perfection of the combination of the three. The Atonement satisfies the demands of Justice. Our obedience allows the Atonement to work on our behalf. The Atonement will never expire.

D&C 45:3-5 states, "Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life."

Once again, the Atonement is both infinite and it is eternal. There is no one single "judgement day" in the classical sense. I always imagined in my youth that my judgment day would be this horrible experience where all of God's creation would sit in a movie theater and watches every embarrassing and regrettable moment that has ever happened in my life. I often need to remind myself that the Lord would not give us a commandment that he knew we could not keep.

D&C 58:42 says, "Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more."

Elder Bruce R. McConkie said in an address in 1982, "everyone in the Church who is on the straight and narrow path, who is striving and struggling and desiring to do what is right, though is far from perfect in this life; if he passes out of this life while he's on the straight and narrow, he's going to go on to eternal reward in his Father's kingdom. We don't need to get a complex or a feeling that you have to be perfect to be saved. You don't. There's only been one perfect person, and that's the Lord Jesus, but in order to be saved in the Kingdom of God and in order to pass the test of mortality, what you have to do is get on the straight and narrow path, thus charting a course leading to eternal life, and then, being on that path, pass out of this life in full fellowship. I'm not saying that you don't have to keep the commandments. I'm saying you don't have to be perfect to be saved. If you did, no one would be saved."

Elder Holland quoted Elder George Q. Cannon in a talk given in 2016, “No matter how serious the trial, how deep the distress, how great the affliction, [God] will never desert us. He never has, and He never will. He cannot do it. It is not His character [to do so]. … He will [always] stand by us. We may pass through the fiery furnace; we may pass through deep waters; but we shall not be consumed nor overwhelmed. We shall emerge from all these trials and difficulties the better and purer for them.”

So, next time Satan gets you down, or next time you feel like you'll never make it, or next time someone asks how many of you can guarantee that you will make it to the Celestial Kingdom, don't sell yourself short! If you want to be there in the end with God, then by all means, keep trying!

To quote my favorite poet, Robert Frost,

I shall be telling this with a sigh,
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Elder Holland finishes his talk by adding, “If we persevere, then somewhere in eternity our refinement will be finished and complete.”

Stay true to the faith, "try to cross the straight and narrow as often as [you] can," keep the commandments, and we will all see each other again on the other side of the veil. This is true Gospel. God loves us.

In the name of our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Bryan Koberlein article - AN ELEGANT WEAPON

Published on the Brian Koberlein blog at, and found in G+ as a post to an Educational community.

An Elegant Weapon

Mathematics is the language of science. From arithmetic to group theory, mathematics builds the very foundation of scientific models. We might be inspired by an idea or analogy, but the precision of science requires a mathematical structure. Perhaps the most fundamental thing we’ve learned about the cosmos is that it has a deep connection to mathematics.

This connection has raised the question about just why mathematics is so effective. Perhaps it’s simply due to the fact that we follow mathematical models where they are useful, and discard them where they are not, making applied mathematics self-selecting. Perhaps it’s because as evolved primates within this physical universe the mathematics we think is “pure” is simply a reflection of how our universe works. Regardless of the cause, mathematics seems unreasonably effective as physicist Eugene Wigner once argued. It’s so powerfully useful that some folks such as Max Tegmark have proposed that the structure of the Universe could simply be the structure of mathematics itself. Gallons of ink have been spilled on all sides.

But the very power of mathematical models within science also raises a wall separating those with the mathematical training to understand these models from those without. This is particularly seen in the popularization of science where (with some exceptions) equations never appear, and the focus is on broad analogies rather than the underlying maths. This reinforces the misconception that established science can be overturned simply be a new idea, and that the mathematics is merely a minor detail. The reality is that an idea can be a spark, but fire of knowledge is only captured with specific mathematics, and it’s in the mathematics where much of the beauty an elegance of a scientific model lies. The mathematics of science can be deep and subtle, and its nature is not often discussed.

So for the next several posts I’ll try to present some of the mathematical beauty behind several scientific theories:

Geometry – From Aristotle’s conception of earthly lines and heavenly circles, to Kepler’s elliptical forms, geometry has played a central role in astronomy. As we followed geometry into more abstract concepts, it opened the doors to the beginning of time.

Vectors and Fields – Forces have both a quantity (magnitude) and direction. In mathematics we call them vectors. From that simple mathematical concept arose the first unified field theory.

Complex Numbers – It was long thought that any number multiplied by itself is a positive number. But what if a number multiplied by itself was negative? This idea was so odd it came to be known as imaginary. It turns out that imaginary numbers open the door to very real physics.

Group Theory – We often think of mathematics as numbers, or at least equations. But it can also be about relationships and connections. Often how different parts of a model connect is the key to understanding the model on a deeper level.

Formalism – Is mathematics simply a set of connected rules, or is it something more? Does mathematics limit what we can know about the physical universe?

We’ll start with geometry, and how a simple curve tracing the motion of a planet led us to an exploration of space and time itself. It all begins tomorrow.

Paper: Wigner, E. P. The unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences. Communications on Pure and Applied Mathematics. 13: 1–14 (1960). DOI:10.1002/cpa.3160130102

Paper: Max Tegmark. Is “the theory of everything” merely the ultimate ensemble theory? arXiv:gr-qc/9704009 (1998).

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Working on it!

After a year of transitioning over to the new host here on Google, I'm still working on making this place as functional as it once was.  I have also been in the midst of a very stressful year at work, which resulted in a resignation, job interviews, a new job, and a move.

Thanks for your patience during this time, and I hope to get this site up and running like normal here soon!


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Transitioning To The New Site

Hello all!

It will take some time to transition to the new site, but I am working on it bit by bit. I plan on using Google to transfer my site's domain name,, over here so that it still directs users to this page.  We'll see how easy it is!