| E.T. Went Home?
(What if Zeus actually existed?)
Einstein’s famous formula, E=MC2 (Energy equals mass times the velocity of light squared), gave us nuclear power. What else might it provide?
Well, if energy and mass are equivalent (as measured under the circumstances the formula indicates), then they're just different states of the same "thing," whatever that is. Scientists seem to think that energy affects, and is affected by, the things around it in at least one respect, just like mass. That “respect” is gravity. So what is gravity? Until Einstein, most people thought of it as a force. Some kind of attractive field which, like magnetism, pulled things toward each other -- the difference being that magnets attract, or are attracted by, only iron, while gravity attracts everything to everything.
Einstein, unhappy with this imaginary, invisible force concept, came up with another way of looking at gravity. He said that space -- the nothing between things like planets and dust particles -- only exists because the things exist. It is a component, an extension of the things, themselves. Furthermore, he said that time is a function of the existence of these things.
No things, no space. No space, no time.
He called this wedding of space and time, “space-time,” and it is now described as a “fabric.” Like a bed sheet or, for our purposes here a Scottish kilt. This, for the first time, explained why things orbit other things. Imagine a giant rug floating without any visible means of support. Drop a bowling ball in its center. It sinks down, turning the rug into a cone-shaped barrel. Now send some tennis balls scooting around the sides of that cloth cone. They travel in some kind of circle as they go around the bowling ball.
So, a circular orbit is actually a straight line in curved space. Now, add in Einstein’s proposition that space isn’t just space, but a plaid fabric woven of both space and time. Unfortunately, this means that time also (sags, bends) in the presence of mass (which includes energy, like light, since they are equivalent).
Some physicists took off from this starting point and came to the conclusion that if time bends like a horseshoe, then if you can figure out how to jump from one tip to the other tip, instead of going around the object, you could get from one “here” (Earth) to a very, very distant other “here” (another galaxy, for example) by traveling a much shorter “distance.” (The distance around a horseshoe is greater than the distance between the tips.)
This seems to mean that the shortcut through space includes a shortcut through time. To me, this would result in traveling to the future of the place you left, and arriving at the present of your destination. Going home, you would do it, again. A double time hop into the future. You would be a few moments older, but Earth would, with each jump, leap farther into your future.
Physicists who say that this technique could be used to travel into the past have not convinced me, yet, but there is an aspect to it all that could be tied to our past. Here’s what it is. Let’s assume that the processes of nature are universal. Life and life with intelligence happened here, so it has happened elsewhere in the cosmos. We build machines that travel in space, so other beings have built machines that have done the same. Technology travels too, and in only one direction. A well armed soldier of our time could take out a thousand soldiers of earlier times. This modern soldier would appear to have magical powers from the perspective of the warriors of ancient Rome.
Could this mean that the ancient pagan gods with their supra-human powers, were merely astronauts from a civilization circling a distant star? Just as Einstein’s space-time fabric changes a mysterious force into mechanical components that explain nature in a way that can be understood and manipulated, this concept brings those “gods” into the realm of reality.
It turns them into beings whose existence and seemingly magical powers makes sense in terms of current scientific thought.
© 2008 Oregon Magazine