[Paleopsych] Wired News: Time Travelers Welcome at MIT
checker at panix.com
Thu May 12 00:45:10 UTC 2005
Time Travelers Welcome at MIT
By Mark Baard
02:00 AM May. 09, 2005 PT
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts -- If John Titor was at the Time Traveler
Convention last Saturday night at MIT, he kept a low profile.
Titor, the notorious internet discussion group member who claims to be
from the year 2036, was among those invited to the convention,
where any time traveler would have been ushered in as an honored
"We were hoping Titor might show up," said Massachusetts
Iinstitute of Technology grad student Amal Dorai, convention
organizer. "Maybe he's going to make a grand entrance."
The convention, which drew more than 400 people from our present time
period, was held at MIT's storied East Campus dormitory. It featured
an MIT rock band, called the Hong Kong Regulars, and hilarious
lectures by MIT physics professors. The profs were treated like pop
stars by attendees fascinated by the possibility of traveling back in
East Campus housemaster Julian Wheatley, also a senior lecturer in
Chinese at MIT, wore a name tag suggesting he had come back from 2121
to attend the convention.
"East Campus is known for taking a certain kind of zany approach to
science," Wheatley said.
Centrally located on the MIT campus, the East Campus dormitory
houses students with a reputation for turning out offbeat inventions,
such as a person-sized hamster wheel and a roller coaster built from
The East Campus dorm's peculiar reputation and the Time Traveler
Convention's far out theme may explain why so many people made the
effort to travel in driving rain to a two-hour event.
A fan of the Cat and Girl internet comic strip, which Dorai
credits with giving him the idea for the convention, drove a band of
jugglers up from the Yale University campus, in New Haven,
Others took Greyhound or Chinatown buses from New York.
"We thought it would be cool to be visited by ourselves from the
future," said Shauna Anthony, who traveled from New York with fellow
New School University graduate student Sara Moore.
The MIT convention was the second public attempt this year to draw
time travelers to a specific place at a more-or-less specific time. In
March, an Australian group called the Destination Day Bureau made
its own shout-out to time travelers in Perth, Australia, by placing a
welcome plaque in a public square. (Look up photos from MIT and
MIT's Dorai gave interviews ahead of time to major media outlets to
ensure that no one in the future missed his invitation: to share chips
and soda with people sporting tweed jackets and canes, and those
dressed-up as their favorite science fiction and fantasy characters.
But when attendees gathered outside for a raucous countdown at 10 p.m.
Eastern Standard Time, nothing appeared on the makeshift landing pad
at the coordinates Dorai set for the time travelers.
Fog from an aqueous smoke machine rolled across the empty landing
area, which lay at one end of a sand volleyball court in the East
Campus courtyard. One person in the crowd shouted, "Happy New Year,"
while another suggested the time travelers may have mistakenly set
their watches for Central Standard Time.
A group of students then raided a plate of treats set out for the time
travelers, while others snapped pictures of the scene with their cell
phones and digital cameras.
Conventioneers should not be surprised if people from the future pull
a no-show at a special event, said MIT physics professor Alan
If time travel were possible, a visitor from the future would not wait
for an invitation to come back, Guth said, in a lecture that had the
crowd inside MIT's Morss Hall in stitches.
Even if traveling back in time were forbidden, "You'd think some
teenager might take the keys to the family time machine," said Guth,
"and we'd see him streaking across the sky, with music blaring out the
But many of the convention's attendees were on edge in the minutes
leading up to 10 o'clock.
The audience gasped when the podium in front of Guth collapsed during
his lecture. A few minutes later, several sat up in their chairs when
a musician standing beside the stage dropped his guitar on a cymbal.
It's actually a blessing that no one from the future showed up on
Saturday night, said David Batchelor, the NASA physicist who wrote
"The Science of Star Trek."
Speaking on his own behalf and not for NASA in a phone interview,
Batchelor noted the same potential risks mentioned by speakers at the
convention, such as the displacement of matter in a finite universe
caused by the introduction of someone from another time. He also
touched on the paradoxes arising from such acts as going back in time
and killing one's own ancestors.
"We should breathe a sigh of relief," said Batchelor, who considered
his decision not to go to the convention a safe bet. "It means we were
protected from the chaos that would result if someone came back and
Shauna Anthony and Sara Moore, the New School University graduate
students, also fretted over what might happen if they got what they
came for: a visit from their future selves.
"What if the future Shauna came back with just one leg?" asked Moore.
"We'd spend the rest of our lives worrying about how and when that
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